Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Le Grand Tour: Paris Day 6

I wanted to explore the Abbesses area during our stay in Paris, since it was near the apartment and also featured in the movie Amelie. We had walked up Rue Lepic a few times for dinner, passing Cafe des 2 Moulins where Amelie worked. But many of the shops were closed by then, so on Friday morning we continued onto Rue des Abbesses for breakfast at Le Coquelicot. I had a big bowl of hot chocolate and brioche with jam, and Dan had a poached egg in brioche, and a croissant amande. We observed the gentleman next to us slathering butter on his baguette, and though he did not speak much English, he expressed that it was very delicious...reminding me that I had read about how wonderful French butter is...at the time, I did not think butter could be so different, but now I decided that we would have to try some. We picked up a baguette and set off to explore.

We passed Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre, which has gorgeous tile mosaics, and the Abbesses Metro station. I love seeing all the beautiful buildings and the different signs for shops.

Pretty tiled church

Accordion player at Abbesses Metro station

Charcuterie cuisine

We wandered into a store devoted to buttons, so many different kinds! I did not buy any, but I love that there is store devoted to buttons. At the time, I did not realize this area is known for its fabric shops...silly me...this may be a good thing, as I have more fabric than I need at home. But I would have enjoyed browsing. Next time, perhaps. We also popped into a shop that sells pretty colored lights, and I was very tempted to buy a string of them. We walked by the carousel in front of Sacre Coeur and eventually made our way back to Rue Lepic. I was thinking about lunch by now, so we went into a fromagerie and bought a bit of salted butter from the giant mound behind the counter. (I wish I had taken a picture.) Then we stopped at a traiteur for some cabbage salad with gruyere and walnuts, and saucisson sec, which I think of as the French version of salami. Next, a wine shop for a bottle of Bordeaux. It was hard to choose a dessert at Les Petits Mitrons, a little patisserie, but eventually I decided on a beautiful fruit tart. At the spice shop next door, I bought some fleur de sel de Guerande to take home, and Dan got some sausage de Toulouse at the boucherie.

Spice shop
The spice shop smelled divine


It started to rain, so we quickly made our way to A l'Etoile d'Or. Though the owner did not speak much English, and I don't speak French, we were able to communicate in the language of chocolate, and I bought some chocolates and buttery caramels to take home, for us and for gifts. (Though I wish I had bought more, as I am nearly done with my supply.) Also, I forgot to take photos. The owner told us that soon she would be closing up the shop for several weeks for her annual vacation...I'm so glad we made it there before that!

We returned to the apartment and had a great spread for lunch. I put some butter on a baguette and instantly became a French butter convert. I only wish I had tried it sooner, instead of waiting until the sixth day. After lunch, Dan read his book, while I researched how to get to the airport on Sunday. We decided to try a bus route to Gare du Nord, find the RER entrance, and buy RER tickets to the airport while we there. Then we took the RER to Jardin du Luxembourg.

We started out walking along Avenue de l'Observatoire, the panhandle of the gardens, where people were playing ball on the grass, and there is a giant fountain with spitting turtles and dolphins at one end.

Spitting turtles
Spitting turtles

At the main entrance of the garden, a sign warned to keep off the grass. We did not see any children sailing boats on the octagonal pond, probably since it had been raining. But it was nice to sit in the pretty green chairs and admire the many statues in the gardens and the view of the Pantheon, and we saw children riding ponies. At the other end of the garden is the Palais du Luxembourg, which houses the French Senate. We also found the Medici fountain.

Please, keep off the grass
Keep off the grass

Luxembourg gardens
Pretty green chairs & view of the Pantheon

Carol in Luxembourg gardens
Carol at Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg
Palais de Luxembourg

Medici fountain
Medici fountain

We saw on a map that there were beehives in the gardens! So we walked through the orchard to see them. Fancy French beehives with copper rooftops. Dan even risked stepping on the grass for a closer look.

Dan & French beehives
Dan & French beehives

Dan on the grass!
Taking a closer look

We decided to go to the Pompidou Center (but the French don't call it that, apparently they call it Beaubourg) and headed toward the Metro station. On the way we stopped at Boulangerie Julien and picked up a baguette for later...and I had a chocolate eclair. We also stumbled upon Les Bonbons, a cute little confiserie, but I didn't buy any candy since I had purchased chocolate and caramels earlier in the day. Dan also pointed out that I was eating a chocolate eclair, though I don't see how that relates to candy.

We had seen lots of space invaders and other street art during our visit, though I forgot to take pictures. We spotted Oscar the Grouch near Les Halles. There was more street art by the kinetic sculptures in the fountain outside the museum. And performance artists too.

Oscar the Grouch
Oscar the Grouch

Outside the Pompidou
Outside the Pompidou

We headed up the hamster tube escalators to take in the views of Paris. The signs said to carry your dog on the escalator.

Pompidou (Beaubourg)
Hamster tube escalators at Pompidou

Carry your dog on the escalator
Carry your dog on the escalator

The views of the city were lovely, but I was disappointed the doors to the patios with sculptures and fountains were locked. Maybe because of the rain?

Eiffel Tower from the Pompidou
View of Eiffel Tower from Pompidou

Looking down from Pompidou
Looking down toward St. Merri

Sculptures at Pompidou
Patio with sculptures, Sacre Coeur in the distance

Then we looked at the art. They have a huge collection of modern art! I enjoyed the Kandinsky paintings and learned that he worked in print as well. I also liked the Matisse collages and a few of the Picasso paintings, but much of the contemporary art was beyond my understanding. It was raining when we left, and we decided to head back to the apartment for dinner. Later in the evening, we went to a bal des pompiers (fireman's ball) at the fire station a few blocks away from the apartment, since it was the eve of Bastille Day (though the French don't call it that). There were lots of people, but not much dancing on the outdoor square since it was raining.

Bal des Pompiers
Bal des pompiers

It was neat to see Parisians gathering for the national holiday. We hung around and people-watched for a bit, then headed back to the apartment for bed. It had been another busy day in Paris! I was sad the next day would be our last...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Le Grand Tour: Paris Day 5

Since the long line deterred us from going up the towers of Notre Dame earlier in the week, we decided to get there early on Thursday. (Unfortunately it is one of the places you cannot skip the line with the Paris Museum Pass.) Even though we arrived before it opened, the line was already very long. In fact, longer than it had been on Monday! Grr. But we were running out of days in Paris, so we decided to wait. To make things worse, the weather was much colder than the forecast. Dan waited patiently in line, while I wandered around the cathedral, hopped up and down, and tried to contain my crabbiness.

Part of the long line
Part of the long line (Dan is in back)

More of the long line
A different part of the long line (Dan in front)

About 25 people were admitted every fifteen minutes, so it was a long wait. Eventually we made it to the front, and it was our turn to ascend the spiral staircases. Even though I am very bad at waiting in line, I really enjoyed seeing the statues in the chimera gallery up close. And the views of Paris were spectacular, even on the overcast day.

Contemplating the city
Contemplating the city, Sacre Coeur in the distance

Notre Dame
Chimera gallery

Shock & surprise

Overlooking the city
Overlooking the Seine (and the long line to get into Notre Dame)

Left Bank
Left Bank

After all that waiting and climbing 400 stairs, it was time for lunch! We crossed the Seine and walked by the Hotel de Ville to Le Trumilou. Dan was pleased to see a crock of mustard on the table. We were the first to arrive, but later the place filled up a bit. All the other patrons were speaking French. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch and shared a carafe of the house red wine. For entrees, he had the charcuterie plate, and I had a giant artichoke. Then for the plat, roast goat for Dan (we think, as the menu was French...chevre is goat, right?) and beef bourguignon for me. Everything was delicious, and it may have been our favorite restaurant during our stay in Paris.

Hotel de Ville
Hotel de Ville

Charcuterie plate
Charcuterie, ready for mustard

Giant artichoke
A giant artichoke

Then we walked along the Seine toward Musee d'Orsay. It started to rain, so we hopped on the RER. The Orsay seems to be the favorite Parisian museum of many, and it was crowded. But the former train station is a beautiful space, and I enjoyed viewing the collection.

Musee d'Orsay
View from the top floor

Clock at Musee d'Orsay
Backwards clock, Jardin des Tuileries in the distance

After the museum, we walked toward Rue du Bac in St. Germain, and stumbled upon a little shop filled to the brim with old and new china (Bain Marie, maybe?), so many lovely things! Then we made our way to Deyrolle. I can't remember where I read about it first, but what an incredible place. It really feels like a museum... taxidermy animals of all kinds, and an astounding collection of beetles, butterflies, and more. Dan wanted everything, but it was slightly out of our budget. Photography is not allowed, you need to see for yourself!

I was ready for a snack, so we headed to Laduree on Rue Bonaparte. I had hot chocolate and a plate of macarons, and Dan had an amazing millefeuille. Mmm.

Teatime at Laduree
Teatime at Laduree

I wanted to try the macarons at Pierre Herme too, but it was wet and rainy outside. We hopped on the Metro and picked up a box at the shop, then walked over to St. Sulpice to see the Delacroix paintings. By then I was feeling tired and the rain was coming down. I looked for a bakery nearby, and we found our way to Poilane, where slices are sold by weight...perfect! We picked up a few slices, then on our way to the Metro passed a little traiteur where we got some beet salad. Back at the apartment, we made a little dinner with our bread, beet salad, and some cheese, pate, and wine. Then Pierre Herme macarons for dessert, yum! (I thought they were better than Laduree.) Another great day in Paris, despite the crowds and rain.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Le Grand Tour: Paris Day 4

We decided to begin Wednesday with a visit to St. Chapelle. We had gotten the Paris Museum Pass, which I highly recommend as it not only can save money, but also valuable time since you can skip lines at many museums and monuments. However, the security line at St. Chapelle cannot be skipped as it is located within the Palais de Justice. We arrived before opening, and there was already a line! Luckily we did not have to wait too long, though I was still a bit cranky about it. But the stained glass windows in St. Chapelle are lovely.

St. Chapelle
Jewel box

St. Chapelle rose window
Rose window

Later in the week we met a gentleman with binoculars who uses them to look at stained glass.  He said it is "mind-blowing." Usually Dan takes binoculars on bird-watching trips, perhaps next time he'll bring them to Europe for church-watching. After St. Chapelle, we wandered toward the Louvre, as I wanted to see the pyramid.

Carol at the Louvre
Carol at the Louvre

Many people at the Louvre
Lots of people

Dan had already been to the Louvre, and there were other museums I wanted to visit, so we did not go inside. Next time! It was time for a mid-morning snack, so we went to Angelina for the famous hot chocolate as well as some pastry. It was good, but the hot chocolate at Le Boulanger des Invalides is still my favorite. We crossed the street and walked through Jardin des Tuileries to Place de la Concord. I love the green metal chairs in the gardens of Paris.

Place de la Concorde
Carol at Place de la Concord

Then we went to see Monet's waterlilies at Musee de l'Orangerie. It is a small museum that used to be the orange house of the palace. In addition to Monet's waterlillies, there is a nice collection of Impressionist art that belonged to an art dealer whose name I cannot remember.

Earlier we saw an ad for a Babar exhibit at Musee des Arts Decoratifs, so we went inside to find it and promptly got lost. The museum is huge, parts of it were undergoing renovation, and the stairs and elevators seemed to lead to different parts of each floor. We did see some interesting Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces, as well as a nice view of Jardin des Tuileries and the Eiffel Tower. 

View from Musee des Arts décoratifs
View from Musee des Arts Decoratifs

Eventually after asking several different people and returning to the entrance lobby, we found the Babar exhibit, which was quite charming. Dan enjoyed watching the interview with the author, and I liked looking at the illustrations of the elephants and other animal friends, especially those set in Paris!

It was time for lunch, so we headed to the Marais. We had a pastrami sandwich and spinach pie at Sasha Finklsztajn, then cheesecake for dessert. Dan also picked up a few more goodies for later in the day.

Lunch at Sasha Finklsztajn

After lunch we walked through the Marais to Rue Montorgueil, another shopping street. We got pastries at Stohrer, cheese at La Fermette, baguette aux cereales at Eric Kayser, and pointy triangular strawberries I had never seen before. Then we went to G. Detou, a wonderful food shop where we bought several mustards and chocolate and caramels. Then a stop at La Drougerie, a pretty shop with yarn, ribbon, fabric, beads, and more. It was neat to see Parisians buying their crafty supplies. I limited myself to just a bit of trim. From there we found E. Dellerin, the cooking supply store where Julia Child used to shop. It was fun exploring the many cooking implements, including a stockpot bigger than me in the basement.

We were feeling tired by then, so it was time for a nap back at the apartment. We had cheese, pate, cucumbers, sausages, wine, and the yummy baguette for dinner, and I tried the pointy strawberries, which were tasty. We also ate a few of the pastries, then headed off to the Arc de Triomphe!

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe

It is huge and stands at the center of twelve avenues (I think). The views are spectacular. We could see the Sacre CoeurChamps-Élysées, Eiffel Tower, and La Defense. 

Carol & Dan
Atop the Arc de Triomphe

Eiffel Tower at dusk
Eiffel Tower

La Defense
La Defense (square arch) at sunset

We decided to wait until 10 o'clock to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, and it got more crowded as we waited. But it didn't sparkle that night! So odd, as we had seen it sparkle the previous evening. I was disappointed, but luckily I had brought an eclair from Stohrer. I observed that chocolate eclairs in Paris have chocolate on top and chocolate cream inside. Yum.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Le Grand Tour: Paris Day 3

After coffee and yogurt at the apartment on Tuesday morning, we set out for Les Invalides. Across the bridge from the Grand Palais, Dan was solicited with the gold ring scam, but he didn't fall for it. Eventually we found our way to the bright golden dome.

Cannons at Invalides
Cannons outside Musee de l'Armee


Dan had already been to the army museum, so we skipped that and went inside the Chapel of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, then checked out Napoleon's tomb. It is ridiculously huge. Apparently there are seven tombs inside, kind of like babushka dolls. 

Inside the dome of Invalides
Inside the dome

Napoleon's giant tomb
Dan & Napoleon's huge tomb

Outside the complex is a hospital with pretty gardens, and the Eiffel Tower in the distance. From there, we walked to Musee Rodin, the site of where he lived and worked. It is a lovely setting. Dan liked the hydrangeas in the garden.

Carol at the Rodin Museum
Carol at Musee Rodin

Dan and the Burghers of Calais
Dan & the Burghers of Calais

The Thinker
Le Penseur

Then, it was time for lunch...and desserts! I had the most amazing hot chocolate at Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur.

Dessert & hot chocolate
Hot chocolate & three desserts

Fortified with dessert, we headed toward the Eiffel Tower. It is very big.

Eiffel Tower!
Eiffel Tower

Bust of Eiffel
Bust of Eiffel
Carol & Eiffel Tower
Carol at Eiffel Tower

Champ de Mars
Champ de Mars

Disco balls were being installed for Bastille Day, but the French don't call it that. The number of people lined up to go up was overwhelming, so we skipped it. Also, people are allowed on the grass at Champ de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower. From here, we headed toward Rue Cler, stopping first to admire the Art Nouveau at Square Rapp.

Rapp Square
Square Rapp

Eiffel Tower from Rapp Square
My favorite view of the Eiffel Tower

Art Nouveau
Dreamy Art Nouveau

We picked up fruit, tomatoes, cucumbers, pate (we saw a pooch at the boucherie who got a treat), cheese, and baguettes on Rue Cler, then headed back to the apartment for naptime and dinner. We enjoyed our goodies with a bottle of wine, then headed back out to Pont Neuf for a boat cruise on the Seine. It was neat to see all the people hanging out along the Seine, having picnics or just relaxing. The Eiffel Tower lit up during the cruise, and then it sparkled, so pretty!

Eiffel Tower at night
Eiffel Tower at night


Musee d'Orsay
Musee d'Orsay

Pont Neuf
Pont Neuf: 365 different faces, and only one woman

City of light
City of light

We saw Notre Dame lit up from the boat cruise, and afterward we walked over to see it up close. Spectacular!

Notre Dame at night
Notre Dame at night

There was a flame throwing show in front with many people watching, and Dan saw a rat. A Parisian rat! This after the guide on the boat cruise pointed out the restaurant that Ratatouille is supposedly based on. Luckily, I did not see it.