Friday, October 30, 2015

A Day Trip to Rouen

My French teacher suggested that a trip to Rouen would be fun, and she was right.  It takes just a few minutes over an hour to get there by train.  All I knew about Rouen was that Monet had done a series of paintings of the cathedral and that Joan of Arc was put to death there.

The cathedral is very impressive, both inside and out.

There's also a beautifully restored clock tower, which looked a little too steep for us, so we didn't take the tour.

We had lunch at Pascaline, a place recommended by our son.  It was a great meal.  I had oysters for an appetizer and scallops with rice for my main dish.  Bill had marinated scallops for his appetizer and pot au feu (a boiled dinner served in a cast iron pot) for his main dish.  We both liked our meals a lot.

We saw the spot where Joan of Arc was put to death, but it's marked only by a garden in the old market.  This neighborhood also has the oldest auberge (inn) in France.  There are lots of half-timbered buildings in Rouen, some of which are probably authentic.  It's a very picturesque town.

We did climb the tower (124 steps) of the old chateau where Joan of Arc was held and tried by the British.

I was a little disappointed that we didn't have time to see the Flaubert museum because I think Flaubert is among the best novelists of all time.

Oh, and to top it off, Bill bought a very nice piece of Camembert at the market in Rouen, and when we stopped at the boulangerie on the way home from the Métro, the bread was still warm!

All in all, a very pleasant day.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

More Public Art

There were two more murals on my list of public art and today we managed to see both of them.  The first one is by Shepard Fairey, the artist who did the Obama Hope poster.

The second one is near the Pompidou Centre and is by Jef Aerosol.  It stands across from the gothic Church of St. Merri.  Interesting contrast, isn't it?

Several years ago our son recommended La Tartine, a wine bar near the Marais district.  We liked it as much as he does and we usually eat there at least once each time we come to Paris.  Ordinarily we get charcuterie or a cheese plate and today Bill got a mixed plate with both charcuterie and cheese.  We were early enough that the lunch specials were still available, so I had steak frites, which was one of the specials.  It was a delicious lunch.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Salon du Chocolat

Today is the final seasonal event for this trip - the Salon du Chocolat, a huge trade show with hundreds of vendors.  As always, there was chocolate fashion.

This year there was a huge bear (maybe 12 feet tall?) carved out of chocolate.

The Tokyo Chocolate booth was making bears out of what looked like pancake batter and then decorating them with chocolate.

My favorite display had to be the  chocolate Venus flytrap.  We had lots of samples and really enjoyed the spectacle.

On the way home we changed trains at the Concorde Métro stop.  It is covered with tiles spelling out the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wall Advertisements and Street Art

We devoted today to finding some of the remaining wall advertisements from the early 20th century as well as finding some street art.  These types of projects can be frustrating because the advertising can have been painted over or be so faded as to be unreadable.  We were fairly lucky today.  We found the street art we looked for and of the three advertisements we looked for only one had been eradicated.

The Chocolats Rozan ad is in reasonably good shape.  This brand of chocolate used to be made in the Pyrenees until it was acquired by the Swiss chocolate company Lindt.

I think the Kub ad is for an upholstery company.  Originally done in the 19th century, it was refreshed in 1990 and is in excellent condition.

The street art project Cyklop is by Olivier d'Hondt.  He has taken street furniture and added animal fur patterns and one eye to each of the poles.

Today was probably our last visit to Le Petit Canard for this trip.  I had slices of duck breast while Bill had an entire duck breast.  I realize it looks very similar to what we had the last two times we were there, because it is.  They have a very small menu of things that they do very well - exactly the type of restaurant I like.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Day at the Opera

After we bought our train ticket for a Friday day trip to Rouen, we took a tour of the old opera house.  It's over the top ornate, both inside and out.  It was built during the reign of Napoleon III and apparently the budget was unlimited.  My favorite part though, was the Chagall ceiling which was installed in 1964.

We had another splurge lunch, at le Comptoir du Relais, a very tiny but popular restaurant.  I had roast pork served with lentils while Bill had tuna with chestnuts.  We were both very happy with our meals.  We shared a dessert of baba au rum, which had a little too much rum for my taste.

We finished off the day with a stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens, a beautiful park not far from the Latin Quarter.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Gardens of L'École du Breuil

Apparently the French call potstickers "ravioli."  Today we wanted a quick inexpensive lunch so we went to a small restaurant in Belleville that specializes in potstickers.  Bill got black mushrooms in addition to his potstickers, and I got sautéed eggplant.  Not exactly low calorie, but it was quick and relatively inexpensive.

For today's project, we decided to go see the gardens of the Breuil School.  This school was established in the 1800's to train gardeners for the city of Paris.  The school has water gardens, wooded gardens, a huge arboretum, a rose garden, and much more.  I had been tempted to visit these gardens on Heritage Days week-end, but they're located out in the suburbs, and the directions for finding them were not as straightforward as I would have liked.  However, once we actually made the attempt, we located the gardens with relative ease.

A bug-infested tree.  Hope we didn't bring any home with us.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Splurge for Lunch Followed by House Envy Near Parc Montsouris

When we got sick, we stopped spending money, so today we could afford to eat at a more expensive place than usual.  We've been to the Cocottes de Christian Constant before and thought it was a good value.  Constant has an expensive upscale restaurant next door, but this place is more like an upscale brasserie.  I had scallops with endive and Bill had roast veal with artichokes and gratin potatoes.  The food was delicious.  For dessert we shared a clafoutis, fruit (in this case prunes) baked in a thin batter.

Designed by Le Corbusier?
Afterward, we went to the Parc Montsouris area in the southwest corner of the city.  We had visited this neighborhood before, but wanted to see it again.  The street I was most interested in has a building designed by Le Corbusier at the end.  However, I was actually more attracted to some of the more traditional buildings in the neighborhood.

Friday, October 23, 2015

First French Fries

Today rather than choose a neighborhood and look for a place to eat in that area, we chose a specific place listed in our guide book as a "traditional bistro," Le Pure Café.  It's very picturesque on the outside and a bit shabby on the inside.  Bill had a vegetable quiche which came with fries and salad.  I had hanger steak, which also came with fries and salad.  It was a very satisfying meal.


This restaurant is on the east side of the city, and we were feeling well enough to walk to the Marais to visit one of our favorite candy shops.  On the way we passed by Hôtel de Sully, which was actually built as a private residence in the early 1600's.  It's quite impressive.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Parc de Bercy

Bill wasn't feeling well today, so I went out on my own to complete my very important yarn shopping.  I also had a salad for lunch at the tea salon affiliated with the yarn shop.

After that, I took a stroll in Parc de Bercy, an attractive park in the southeastern corner of the city.  Even though it is late October, the gardens are still beautiful.

There's a commercial area on the east end of the park filled with restaurants, a movie theater, and clothing stores.  Today they had an art exhibit of magazine covers in the style of the New Yorker if it were the Parisianer.  I've subscribed to the New Yorker for many years and love their cover illustrations.  These French versions were very entertaining and enjoyable.

Sorry I don't have more.  Those of you who are good at reading between the lines have probably picked up on the fact that we're trying to make the most of this trip even though neither one of us is feeling particularly healthy.  And actually, we're very lucky that we're dealing with bad colds rather than a serious illness.  Nevertheless, I keep expecting things to improve any day now.  This period of self pity has now officially ended.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Tetramorphs of St-Gervais St-Protais

A tetramorph is a creature (oxen, eagle, lion, or a winged man) associated with each of the four evangelists.  The pulpit of St-Gervais St-Protais, located behind the Paris City Hall, has a representation of these tetramorphs next to each of the evangelists.  The photograph shows the oxen (you can see the horns peeking out from the right) and the eagle (which you can't see very well at all).

After we found this, we walked over to the Sorbonne to see if it was possible to see Cardinal Richelieu's tomb.  The tomb is topped by a statue of him in the act of dying.  The Internet research I found on this was vague, and I suspected that the Chapel of the Sorbonne would not be open to visitors.  Sure enough, that's the case.  Security personnel was requiring student ID to get into the Sorbonne.  I don't know if students can get into the chapel.  We could, however, catch a glimpse of the Baroque dome of the chapel.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Pelican on Top of St-Sulpice

The book "The Definitive Guide to the Da Vinci Code" claims that in the past there was a myth that pelicans who were not able to find food for their chicks would tear the flesh from their own bodies to feed them.  This, of course, became a symbol of Christian self-sacrifice, and that's why there's a sculpture of a pelican over the sacristy of the church.  It was surprisingly easy to find.  I realize that this was a modest sightseeing goal for the day, but we can't take a chance on having a relapse.

We ate at a restaurant claiming to make "traditional cuisine."  This is not an unusual claim.  I would guess that about 25% of restaurants make the same claim.  At any rate, my traditional cuisine was hazelnut encrusted cod served with polenta, while Bill had salmon and perch with a creamy pepper sauce and vegetables.

Today's bread store was unusually attractive.  Notice that the farmworkers pictured in the side windows are wearing wooden clogs.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Foodie Mecca

Today we both got out of the apartment but just for a short time.  Neither one of us is feeling great, and the damp cool weather here in Paris doesn't help.

After lunch we set out to find G. Detou.  On the way there we passed Tour Jean sans Peur (Fearless John's Tower), a medieval remnant.  As you can see, it's not very tall, maybe three stories.  Fearless John got his name because he ordered the assassination of his cousin, who was also the brother of King Charles VI.  Fearing reprisals, he had the tower constructed as a nighttime refuge.  I know this doesn't make sense, but, hey, it was the Middle Ages and logic was not anyone's strong suit. You can visit this tower, but although we've passed by it several times, so far we haven't taken the tour.

Who knew there were this many kinds of sardines?
G. Detou is a food store that specializes in baking ingredients.  It's name is a pun, sounding like the French for "I have it all."  In addition to baking ingredients, it has a great selection of sardines, mustards, and other food items. It was a fun stop, and we may be making a return trip later in our stay.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Picasso Museum

I apologize for the recent interruption of the blog.  We both came down with colds, and have been spending the last few days staying home except for brief forays out for food.

Today, I was feeling well enough to go out, but Bill wasn't .  I went to the Picasso Museum, which I had visited perhaps 20 years ago.  Unfortunately, only two of the four floors were open due to preparations for an upcoming show.  Nevertheless, it was a very interesting museum.  In one room there were 7 paintings inspired by Manet's "Luncheon on the Grass."  One thing I had liked on my previous visit was a room devoted to the artwork Picasso himself had collected.  Unfortunately, this wasn't available today.

We did have a couple of iconic lunches in the last few days.  We had crepes at Café Breizh in the Marais.  Savory crepes are actually called galletes and they're made with buckwheat flour.  Bill's had anchovies, cheese, ham, tomatoes, and an egg, while mine had bleu cheese and salad.  For dessert we shared a buckwheat crepe called "Dame Poire," with pears, other fruits, and vanilla ice cream.  Delicious!

No trip to Paris is complete without lunch at L'As du Falafel (the Ace of Falafel), and I stopped by their takeout window today for a falafel sandwich.  I took it to a nearby park to eat, and it's exactly as messy and challenging to eat as it appears.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Who Doesn't Love a Parade?

This week-end is the wine harvest festival in Montmartre and we've taken full advantage of it.  We had festival street food for lunch both yesterday and today.  Many of the vendors were selling tartiflette or some variant of it.  Tartiflette is sliced potatoes cooked in a huge pan and covered with reblochon cheese which melts into it.  Yesterday I had a tartiflette with sausage slices and Bill had one made with a bleu cheese from the Auvergne region.  After we had eaten our potatoes we came across a booth where they were roasting hams on a rotisserie and making ham sandwiches.  That looked delicious, so we came back for that today.  Festival food is fast and relatively inexpensive, but the festival doesn't provide seating, so if you can't find an empty spot on the church steps you end up eating while standing up.  That's why I don't have a photo of the ham sandwiches.

Today we watched the parade and it was insane.  Shortly before the parade began, there was an elderly man wearing a blue satin jacket who took a seat across the street from us and people clamored to take his picture.  After awhile he moved to a seat at a sidewalk table outside the brasserie across the street and sat there with what appeared to be a retinue.  To me he looked like an aging rock star gone to seed.  We were very curious about who he was, so I went across the street to take his picture, planning to see if I could research it on the Internet.  When I got back, Bill had asked some other bystanders about him, and found out that he was Michou, a famous cabaret performer.

But, back to the parade.  It's the most disorganized parade I can imagine.  People crowd around the parade marchers to take their pictures and have their own pictures taken.  Many of the photos I took aren't very good because the parade participants were looking the other way to see Michou.  Some of them even left the parade to go over to the brasserie to see Michou up close.  Marching in the parade were people from all over France, many of them wearing regional costumes.  I ordinarily hate parades because I'm too short to actually see much.  However, I was able to get a spot on the edge of the street and had a pretty good view.  A very fun day.