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Most Americans have at least heard of Bastille Day, July 14, which marked the beginning of the French revolution in 1789. The Bastille was the infamous prison which was the prison that was symbolically linked to the end of the arbitrary rule of the monarchy and the beginning of democratic ideals. This monument stands where the prison was and is now the site of markets, demonstrations, a traffic hub, and numerous cafés.

Since part of the reason for the revolution was food, and most notably bread,

I headed over to Café Des Musées for lunch in the nearby Marais. Filled with a truly international crowd, including Japanese, Australian, and French tourists and locals. I loved that the waiter asked if I spoke French rather than assuming that I did not; I realized when some local Japanese came in that they were used to locals who may look like tourists and tourists who may look like locals, so they never made judgments. That attitude made me smile, as much as the fact that they opened a new bottle of wine for me once I asked for a glass of red, and actually gave me a taste to approve before serving me (of the house red whch was less than 5€ or $7)!There are five locations of this Café in the area, so if you’re in the 3rd or 4th arrondissement, this is a great place to come. They have set menus from just 13€ (about $18USD).

They had a variety of menu items ranging from fresh fish to duck, and entrecôte de boeuf (steak), but the lamb special caught my eye and for 24€, this delicious tender roasted lamb with a side salad, roasted onion, and potatoes was presented to me by the chef himself! The meat was lightly salted, the fat was crisp, and the bone portion was so good I wanted to pick it up and chew on it (but I didn’t, somehow I cut off every sliver of meat with a knife and fork). This was a very hearty portion (for Paris) and I still managed to finish every bite. Service was efficient and friendly, a rare combination in any capital city, so I would come back

I wanted a crêpe to make up for the really bad ones I had on Île Saint-Louis, so I walked around and found a small stand called OH 58 where I got a wonderful crêpe a sucre (with sugar). It was tender, hot, perfectly sweet with a hint of butter and only 2€ (about $3USD). This stand is directly across the street from Monoprix, on Rue Saint Antoine, about two blocks from metro stop St. Paul.

I wandered over to the Place des Vosges with its impressive arches, sheltering art galleries and restaurants overlooking the green square in the center.

There was an exhibit off one of the arches to commemorate Breast cancer survivors; those are pink ribbons set onto two sculptures.

A bit of video inside the Place des Vosges looking back to the arches from inside the square.

The top of this church looked “normal”,

but the entrance had red doors!

I saw a store specializing in Bordeaux with HUGE bottles called La Maison des Millesimes in the 6th arrondissement. Their prices were not great, but if you want something rare, this is the place to find that rare vintage or cru if you can’t find it anywhere else.

A day that started in the Bastille and ended with Bordeaux, what could be better?

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The Hôtel de Ville is the city hall of Paris and it is a magnificent sight even on a stormy day.

The most famous of all Parisian landmarks is La Tour d’Eiffel, and the view from the expansive Champ de Mars gives it a majestic feel.

A wedding was taking place right behind the Champ de Mars with the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop 🙂

If you want a sweet treat nearby, Pralus has great temptations both outside and inside their shop.

Since it started to get both cold and rainy, I headed to Chez Janou, a provençal bistro for a bit of warmth. This cozy place has a covered outdoor patio that would be lovely in sunny weather, but even in rain, it is a haven. The lunch formule was a choice of either entrée & plat or plat & dessert for 14,50 € or about $18 USD. They were already of out the sauteed mushrooms entrée and the coq au vin plat by the time I sat down at 2pm, so I ordered the velouté de cresson (watercress soup) and saumon avec tagliatelle des legumes (salmon with tagliatelle of vegetables). The soup was perfectly made with a smooth purée of watercress in a well seasoned soup. It was also a hearty serving, easily enough for a full meal if you are not very hungry. Grilled garlic bread was served on the side, but I preferred dipping the regular bread into the bowl to sop up the last bits of this liquid green jewel.

I don’t usually order salmon, but since the plates next to me looked great, I’m glad I gambled and chose the special instead of the sea bass on the menu. The skin was crisp, the fish was fresh, and the surprising tagliatelle of zucchini and carrots in the beurre blanc sauce was divine.

I had a wonderful glass of red with my meal even though they are known here for their selection of 80+pastis; if I had chosen a pastis, I doubt I would have been able to find the metro after my meal! I ordered a café and it came allongé (long instead of a short espresso). It came with a nice little nougat that bore the restaurant logo. If you want dessert here, I would definitely order the chocolate mousse; I saw it on a nearby table and they literally bring a HUGE bowl with a giant spoon which you use to serve yourself as much as you want!

 

After a leisurely brunch with friends who have 3 young children, it was time for a stroll to regain a sense of peace and quiet. There was a cystic fibrosis fundraising event in the park with raffles, archery, kite flying, and antique cars.

The Austin Healeys were as appealing to me as the Detroit muscle cars were to the French. There was a Rolls Royce, a Ferrari, and a Porsche but coming from Los Angeles, all of those cars were “normale”.

For me, the Citroen 2CV was the car I found the most rare, but the French locals all ogled the Mustang and the Dodge on display. I imagined Inspector Closeau in the 2CV and they imagined Steve McQueen in the Mustang 🙂 Perspective of what is considered rare depends on which side of the Atlantic you’ve spent the majority of your time.

The Paris Brest and éclair are two of the most classic pastries, and the children’s dessert.

The Paris Brest is named after the cycling circuit (it is shaped like a wheel).

The adults all shared the 8″ wild red berry and pistachio tart garnished with star fruit from La Gerbe d’Or for 18€ (about $25 USD) It was as delicious as it looks; a tart berry topping over a smooth pistachio pastry cream, and a shortbread crust that was perfectly crumbly yet held together enough to eat without falling apart.

Even though it rained on and off all day, the treats of spending time with people you like, while strolling among classic cars, and eating works of art that taste as good as they look, are the pleasures that make life worthwhile:)

Eons ago when I first came to Paris, the Centre Pompidou was a brand new structure that contained the newest technology and cultural exhibitions. They remodeled the entire space in 2000 and about 16,000 people visit it daily, so it’s considered successful in fulfilling its mandate of exposing people to culture in the middle of Paris. The adjacent Les Halles is being remodeled into a multi-story atrium work/shopping space called Canopée which is due to be completed in the next few years (as anyone in construction knows, every estimated completion date is a guess at best).

If you are coming to this area, you should be aware that although it has been “cleaned up” from all the drug dealing days of years past, it is still rife with street people both performing and begging for spare change. Keep your valuables at home and just be as conscious of where your wallet and camera are as you are of the antics around you, especially around Rue St. Denis.

My favorite part of this area is the space next to l’église Saint-Merri where there are several outdoor cafés and the Stavinksky Fountain with colorful whimsical pieces by Niki de Saint Phalle and her second husband Jean Tinguey.

Her pieces make me smile as much today as they did over 30 years ago when I first saw them, and I think that is the best indicator of art appreciation 🙂

Choosing a favorite chocolatier is like choosing a favorite pair of shoes or a favorite song, it depends on my mood that day, but there are always old favorites and new ones to try.

Located on Rue des Saints-Pères in the 7th arrondissement, Debauve & Gallais was my first taste of luxurious chocolate in Paris. They were founded in 1800 and began selling to the public in 1913 because before then they only sold to royalty. My favorite here is the palet d’or, and they have an online store in the US which is (hopefully) temporarily offline.

Chocolates were “hygieniques”or hygenic which would translate to being good for your health! The fact that this shop is directly across the street from the Medical University must mean that students are encouraged to eat chocolates for their health 🙂

Chocolaterie Grandin in St. Germain-en-laye was founded more than two decades later in 1822 and still does a thriving business even though it’s located outside of Paris and next door to both Nicolson which sells Berthillon ice creams and chocolates, and Confiserie Yvin. A few blocks away are Patrick Roger with his fanciful chocolate sculptures, and Pascal Le Gac, another award winning chocolatier.

One of the things I love about buying chocolates here is they put as much care into the presentation of the package as the making of them. After all, we all eat with our eyes first and the festive bonbon wrapping is a subliminal suggestion of sweet treats to come.

The smallest gift box looks like it contains jewelry (which it does in that the gold stamp is a signature of Grandin and the town emblem which reminds everyone that King Louis XIV was born here).

This video shows you more of the interior of their shop, which also sells pastries, and they do catering for parties (including non sweet items). The box contains two layers, so 16 chocolates total (which you can customize) for 10,50€ (about $15 USD). Each one is a dense rich exquisite bite of flavors so fresh and intense that one or two pieces would be the perfect ending to a meal.

A new MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) Patissier-confiseur just opened his shop literally two blocks away from Patrick Roger’s original shop on Blvd. St. Germain in the 6th arrondissement.

Georges Larnicol has beautiful window displays for Halloween.

He has a chess set in white and dark chocolate, kouign amann, mendiants, caramels, and of course chocolates. His shop is more casual than any MOF establishment I’ve ever entered, with bins of self service varieties so you can pick as many or few of his creations as you would like and items are weighed at the counter. His designs are literally works of art, recreating eggs, mussels, and truffles but made with chocolate!

Of course I didn’t just buy three pieces…

After all I have to taste a variety from the caramels to the seashells to see which one I like best! With so many choices, I’m taking my time tasting every one 🙂

Île Saint-Louis may be the most exclusive address in Paris. Like Coronado or Balboa island in Southern California, the residents who live there either inherited the property or are paying much more for the privilege of living on an island adjacent to a cosmopolitan city.

Like any island, it is connected with bridges to the city that flanks both sides.

Being on an island means there are fewer choices for everything, including the meat and poultry available close to home, but the one shop has won awards for both their sources and their products.

The chickens are from Bresse, which means they are the most famous in France (and also the most expensive at about 26 € a kilo or about $20 USD per pound).

I ate a very mediocre meal at one of the creperies in town called Au Lys D’Argent. The only reason I chose this place was because it was one of the only ones without an English menu and where I actually heard French people talking in the restaurant. It was probably one of the better choices, but after my meal, I would have gladly eaten somewhere off the island in the nearby Marais.

The menu at 10,90€ (about $15 USD) included a warm goat cheese salad on lukewarm bread swimming in sauce.

A galette complet with egg, ham and cheese in an overdone crepe,

and a sweet sugar crepe that was so dry I only tasted the middle before giving up on it completely.

Thankfully the island is home to Berthillon, the most fabulous ice cream maker in France. And even though the original location was packed, every stand or cafe sells their ice cream to go.

For 2,50€ (about $3.50 USD) a scoop of their chocolate melted my memory of bad food instantly.

For those who love cookies, the island has one of the branches of La Cure Gourmand where you can chose an assortment of cookies and have them boxed in tins or bags to go.

They also sell caramels and chocolates, but I would prefer going to a chocolatier.

I took my ice cream cone and went down to the quai.

A view like this is dessert for the eyes:)

 

Walking is the best way to explore and discover any city, and when it’s Fashion Week the sights include tall thin young people with great bone structure in chic outfits all over the city, with an especially dense concentration around Place Vendôme. Private tents were set up in the Tuileries Garden and private security was stricter than TSA.

The throngs of tourists at the Louvre didn’t seem to care that they weren’t invited to the haute couture events taking place behind them. Seeing the crowds in the middle of the week in September, I can only imagine how much worse it is in the Summer, so if you are planning a visit, get a Paris Visite Pass for the day (you can also buy 2, 3, or 5 day passes) to save yourself a few hours of waiting.

There are beautiful quiet spaces between the Tuileries and the Louvre with benches and sculptures. A Paul foodtruck was parked nearby, so you can buy a sandwich or snack and have lunch before or after your museum exploration.

Walking along the Seine is a scenic way to explore the city and it helps you keep your bearings for where you are in the city, especially if you are as directionally challenged as I am 🙂 Here you can see you are heading towards Île de la Cité because there is an island in the middle of the river.

Behind is the Eiffel Tower with the touristy Bateaux Mouches passing under a bridge. Locals still love taking the sunset cruise, so don’t shy away just because it’s a huge tourist attraction. There’s also Batobus if you just want a waterway hop on hop off shuttle.

Eventually I walked up from the quai to street level and found myself in front of the Palais de Justice where justice has been administered for centuries. Marie Antoinette was imprisoned in a part of this huge complex before being executed. You can tour Sainte Chapelle next door, but not the administrative part of the complex.

Of course you can always opt to tour the most famous church in Paris, Notre Dame, but be forewarned that like the Louvre, the lines are tremendously long.

To give you an idea of the crowds, this is near the entry point, but the beginning of the line starts literally at the beginning of the island and snakes around like lines at Disneyland.

Even from the outside, the Cathedral is an homage to Gothic architecture from all angles.

Nearby at the Pont de l’Archevêché, the famous locks of love have taken up every possible place.

With locks locking on other locks, the idea was that people were committing their love to each other in a permanent spot. Mine would say “Elaine & Paris” 🙂

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