Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Le Tour de France: Paris Day 7

Wednesday, July 9
Our last full day in Paris, the days went by so fast. After breakfast at the apartment, we biked to Du Pain et des Idées. The bike lane on Boulevard Richard Lenoir runs along the center median, making for a pleasant ride. After dropping off the bikes, we walked across Canal Saint-Martin and saw paparazzi on Rue Yves Toudic! Fancily dressed ladies emerged from a row of black Mercedes, and there was a flurry of flash bulbs. After the excitement, we got in line at the bakery, and saw a dog jump off a scooter and eat a pastry off the ground! The rider tried to chase after him, but the dog was too fast. I think the rider was a regular, because he bypassed the line and emerged from the bakery with a bag of goods. Then he picked up the dog, put him in a satchel, and rode off. I was more excited about the pastry-eating dog than the paparazzi. I got two kinds of bread, Pain des Amis and Mouna, and two escargot pastries, chocolat et pistache for me, and citron-nougat for Dan.

Les escargots

We were sitting at the table outside the bakery, when the paparazzi swarmed again. The ladies were exiting the building and posing for photos. The gentleman who had been on his laptop at the table before we arrived, opened his suitcase and started packing up equipment. Dan asked what was happening, and he said there had been a fashion show. Then some of the ladies and paparazzi lined up at the bakery. The whole thing felt like performance art.


Post-fashion show line

Then we strolled along the canal, and Dan spotted a beagle! I ran to meet him, his name was Whiskey. I think he was a puppy, so cute. We went in a few boutiques, then watched a Canauxrama boat pass through the locks. It was neat to see a bridge move to the side, and the ducks scattering in preparation. Also, I think it is a long, slow cruise down the canal because there are many locks.

Dan checking out the locks

Opening the lock
Water rushing through opening lock

Moving bridge

Eventually we made our way to Place de la République, where we picked up bikes and rode to Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse. It smelled so good! We sampled a few chocolates, and bought some to take home.

Place de la République

Cacao beans

Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse

We picked up bikes at Place de la Bastille and rode to Île Saint-Louis for Berthillon ice cream. It was raining, so we sat in the tea salon and got a piece of tarte Tartin with salted caramel ice cream. YUM. Then I ordered a chocolate ice cream. Yum yum yum. Two pre-lunch desserts, haha.

Second dessert

I had read that there are great views from the roof of the Institut du Monde Arabe, but the rain was coming down, so we walked back toward the apartment. Maybe next time. We stopped at the Deportation Memorial, since it was closed on our visit two years ago, but it was closed again! We crossed Pont de l'Archevêché, the bridge behind Notre-Dame, which is also covered in padlocks. Sad.

We had Pain des Amis, duck confit, and salad for lunch. The bread was very good, especially with butter. Mmm. After lunch, we saw jets fly by, like at Opening Day for a baseball game. I wondered if it was a practice flyover, maybe for La Fête Nationale. But then many different aircraft followed, it seemed like the entire French Air Force was en route somewhere! Dan had fun identifying the different kinds of planes, and we forgot to take photos.


After a respite, it was time for the Louvre. I had hoped the rain would stop, but no luck. Since the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre Metro station was closed, we decided to bike through the rain. Seemed easier and faster, though maybe a bit wet. Not the best bike ride, but not terrible. We entered through the Carrousel du Louvre, kind of strange to go to one of the world's largest museums through an underground mall. At one point I turned around and didn't see Dan. I was in a panic, but thankfully he reappeared. He was following someone else who he thought was me, hmph! The security line didn't take very long, but then I saw that the ticket machines do not accept cash! I had read that they did. I was concerned our US credit card (not chip-and-pin) wouldn't work, and when I saw a magnetic strip error message flash during another person's transaction, I decided not to wait. It was after 5 pm, and some of the ticket booths were already closed. The lines were long. I was ready to give up entirely when I remembered the tabac in the mall sold tickets. I asked the security person where the tabac was, got tickets, went through security again, and voilà. Not exactly the quick entrance I had hoped for, but better than waiting in line.

Louvre pyramid

Dan had been to the Louvre before, so he let me decide what to see. We entered the Richelieu wing and started in Napoleon III Apartments. Fancy.  

Napoleon's apartments

Dining hall

Since the Louvre is massive, I knew we wouldn't see everything. My friend had loaned me his guide, and I marked the paintings I wanted to see. When I couldn't find something, I pointed to the picture and asked the museum employees. There was one gentleman who was super helpful, he walked us to the room with the Marie de Medici cycle by Rubens and explained the paintings to us. Wow! We spent most of our time looking at the Dutch and Flemish paintings. I loved seeing Vermeer's The Lacemaker. I also enjoyed the views outside.

Rainy day in Paris

What is up with the red neon squiggle?

Then we went to the Sully wing to see George de La Tour's The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs. There was another painting with Magdalene and a candle flame that I couldn't find. The lady I asked didn't know either, she said maybe it was on loan. Before leaving, we headed toward the Denon wing to see the Mona Lisa. We turned a corner and saw Winged Victory! What a regal statue, it was quite a thrill. It looked like work was being done on the staircase, as there was plastic sheeting covering one wall. There was no one around either. The light was dim, and I didn't take a photo. But I was pretty excited. Then we proceeded on to see the Mona Lisa. It was near closing time, so there was just a small crowd. It seemed like everyone was taking selfies or photos with the painting, which I do not understand. I am glad we went later in the day. Also looked at the other Da Vinci paintings and a few by Raphael. And The Coronation of Napoleon, I remember seeing a version of it at Versailles two years ago. There is so much to see in the Louvre, I'll have to go back again.

It was still raining after dinner, so we took the Metro from Tuileries to Hôtel de Ville, and walked back to the apartment. I spotted another beagle on our street! Her name was Bohémienne, and I got to pet her. Two beagles in one day!

The next morning we ate the Mouna bread with breakfast (delicious with butter) and packed our bags. Walked a few blocks through the drizzle to Saint-Michel station and took the RER to Charles de Gaulle (an express train, yay!), then the long journey home. Despite the rain and crowds, I still want to return. Dan says we are on the every-other-year plan and will go back in 2016. I hope so. Maybe next time there will be more sunshine...Paris, je t'aime!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Le Tour de France: Paris Day 6

Tuesday, July 8
Started the day with coffee (for me), yogurt, and fruit at the apartment before packing a picnic and biking to Blé Sucré for pastries. I had a pain au chocolat, and Dan had a chausson aux pomme. Both were very flaky, and my croissant was still warm. (Also got a religieuse caramel pastry for later.) We ate the pastries outside, where there was a group of English speakers on a pastry (or food) tour. We overheard the guide explaining how to identify butter croissants. Then three ladies sat down next to us. They had six pastries on a tray and were taking many photos. One of them seemed like she wanted to start eating, but the other two were snapping away. We asked if they would like a photo together, but they just wanted food photos. Hahaha. Also, I wondered if they would eat all six items? After second breakfast, we browsed in a few shops, including Monoprix, which I think of as the French version of Target. Dan observed a gentleman spraying lots of cologne. Then we walked along the Promenade plantée, an elevated garden pathway. It was very pleasant, and there is a nice view of the pretty buildings in Paris.

Promenade plantée

View from Promenade plantée

I found it to be a serene and peaceful setting. We saw a few joggers, people strolling, and a French-speaking walking tour, but then...several people riding bicycles! How did they get up there? And how would they get down? The path is quite narrow, didn't seem seem right for bikes. The Promenade plantée goes all the way to Bois de Vincennes, I think we descended somewhere between Gare de Lyon and Gare de Bercy, and walked back along the Viaduc des Arts, peeking into shops where artisans were making things. We saw a gentleman working with copper, jewelers, woodworking, embroidery, painting, art restoration...there was even a fancy parasol shop. Then I saw a PBGV! His name was Happy, and I got to pet him. The people walking him were very nice and told us he is a French dog (Petit Bassett Griffon Vendéen).

Then we picked up bikes and rode to the Marais. We walked by the Musée Carnavalet and popped in for a look. The (free) museum of Paris history is in two old mansions, and has a huge collection of paintings showing Paris throughout the years, also furniture and other artifacts. The signs are all in French, but it was still quite interesting.

Musée Carnavalet

Painting of Dan

I was getting hungry so we left the museum and got a falafel to supplement our picnic. We began our picnic at Places des Vosges. The sky looked ominous, so we packed up and went under the covered walkways surrounding the square, found some steps and sat down to finish our lunch (and religieuse caramel pastry for dessert) and watch the rain. It was a huge deluge of rain, and then it hailed! 

Picnic at Place des Vogses

Rain and hail

Place des Vosges

The rain stopped after maybe half an hour, and we went back out to explore. Looked in a few shops and galleries, then walked up Rue Turenne for hot chocolate at Jacques Genin. There are only a few tables, so we had to wait a bit. [It seems in France one can have the table for the whole day, plus there were comfy couches. One lady was reading a novel, and two young ladies were on their smartphones.] The hot chocolate is served in a giant teapot, and the sugar bowl was topped with four chocolates. So yummy. Sadly, the mille-feuille was sold out, so we got a walnut caramel tart, which was very good. It came with four pâtes de fruits, also delicious. 
Hot chocolate at Jacques Genin

While we were there, we saw another English-speaking tour group, perhaps on a chocolate tour. And we saw Jacques Genin, who waved as he went upstairs to the kitchen. We stayed for quite awhile, enjoying the hot chocolate. Then we got some caramels to take home. [When we left, the lady was still reading, and a third young lady had joined the other two.]

We picked up bikes and rode toward Place de la République, what a huge square! There was a big sound stage, perhaps there are concerts in the summer? We biked back to the apartment for a rest, then walked to dinner at Les Papilles, stopping for a quick photo at Jardin du Luxembourg.  
Jardin du Luxembourg

Les Papilles has a set prix-fixe menu of four courses. We started with cauliflower soup, served in a giant lion's head bowl that we scooped over individual bowls of garnish. Delicious. I went downstairs to use the restroom, there was a big communal table of gentleman eating dinner and watching the World Cup match on a big-screen television. I reported the score to Dan, and later he went down to watch the game for a few minutes between courses. The main was duck, which was very good, but I had been spoiled by the magret de canard at Le Timbre. The cheese course was amazing. Blue cheese with a prune stewed in red wine reduction, the combination of flavors was divine. Dessert was panna cotta topped with red berry sauce, a perfect end to the meal. 

Cauliflower soup  

Crazy delicious cheese course

After dinner we walked back to the apartment, stopping on Rue Soufflot to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle. It was another great day in Paris! Dan and I were both sad that the next day would be our last.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Le Tour de France: Paris Day 5

Monday, July 7
The was shining when we woke up, hooray! I sat on the balcony and lingered over breakfast while Dan packed a picnic. Today was the Behind-the-Scenes Eiffel Tower tour, which I had reserved online at the end of April. 

Breakfast on the balcony

We picked up bikes and rode to Le Bon Marché to see the foodstuffs at La Grande Épicerie. It is a large and fancy food emporium, but I was expecting a more impressive display of chocolates and bonbons. Dan got a few jars of Fallot mustard (oddly the best price we had seen on the trip), and I got a Miella, a honey almond cookie/pastry. I was perusing the candy while Dan waited to checkout. When I joined him, he had decided to use the self-checkout machine, but I thought our non chip-and-pin credit card would not work. And he didn't select English from the menu. I was making a scene (I'm not proud), thankfully a nice Canadian lady intervened and translated the prompts on the screen. But the card couldn't be read, eventually an employee appeared and made it work. I was very cranky at Dan, although it all worked out and really wasn't a big deal. From there, we biked to the Eiffel Tower and went to the meeting spot for the tour, in front of the bust of Eiffel under the North Pillar. Several other tours were meeting there, but none were ours. I was kind of freaking out as I tried to find someone to ask, when I looked at the voucher and realized the tour started at 12:30 pm. I thought it was noon. Oops. Haha. So we sat on the grass by the North Pillar and ate the Miella.

Dan and I both enjoyed the tour very much. Our guide Thomas was informative and also quite humorous. [I told him we had toured the Palais Garnier, and he said he refuses to do that tour. Of all the Cultival tour guides, he is the only one who refuses. His tip for visiting opera houses is to get a standing room performance ticket.] It was interesting learning about Gustave Eiffel, and the history and evolution of the tower. We started in the bunker, where the food for Le Jules Verne is prepared! We saw the different colors of the tower over the years (red! pink!) and old photos of wireless telegraphy and the first radio transmission. Next, we went in the elevator room, where Thomas explained how the old elevator worked. Then we rode the (modern) elevator to the second floor, and he pointed out various landmarks in Paris. We also went to a filming platform, and peeked through the glass roof of Le Jules Verne.

Champ de Mars

View from Eiffel Tower

From the Eiffel Tower


After the tour ended on the second floor, we could have bought tickets to the top, but the wait was an hour, which was too long for me. Maybe next time. We walked down to the first floor, ate our Kouignettes from Georges Larnicol, took more photos, also stepped lightly on the new glass floor. [Thomas said the construction on the first floor was supposed to be done two years ago...and maybe it will be complete in two more years.]



Glass floor


We took the elevator down from the first floor, and as we walked toward the Champs de Mars, saw an unattended giant horse on a grassy plot. Strange. Did the horse escape?

Giant workhorse

We had a late lunch picnic on the Champ de Mars, watching children go on pony rides (and a French burro), people taking selfies and leaping photos, and ignoring the petition girls. Also saw a couple having wedding photos taken. We wondered if they lived in Paris or were visiting from elsewhere.

Picnic time

Wedding photo shoot

I had read that the vault at Société Générale could be viewed, so we biked toward les grand magasins, but it was too late by the time we arrived. We went up to the rooftop terrace at Printemps, lovely views! The exterior of the store is pretty too. Some of the gold decorations were having work done.


Printemps rooftop terrace

View view view!



Then we looked at the white porcelain tableware at La Vasallaerie, where I bought a glass citrus juicer. [I got a wood lemon reamer at E.Dehillerin on our last trip, so maybe juicing tools will be a Paris tradition.] We also went into Galeries Lafayette, which has a gorgeous dome and another rooftop terrace with beautiful views. [Also the restrooms are free and very nice. Printemps charges for restrooms.]

Galeries Lafayette


View of Palais Garnier

Eiffel Tower

We observed that Printemps has Ladurée macarons, and Galeries Lafayette has Pierre Hermé. Dan thought the shop would have more selection, so we walked down Avenue de l'Opéra and got some macarons and chocolates at Pierre Hermé. It was raining so we took the Metro back to the apartment (also bought RER tickets for CDG at Saint-Michel). I made a fennel, radish, and avocado salad, and used my new lemon juicer for the dressing (worked very nicely). Salad and leftovers for dinner. And cheese.


We listened to a few chapters of David Sedaris reading from Me Talk Pretty One Day while we cleaned up. Then macarons for dessert. Our time in Paris was going by too quickly!