Category Archives: Trips

Paris — 27 September 2015

Today is “A Day without Cars” in Paris. This I gotta see! I’m not sure the car-drivers in our neighborhood got the message–there are just as many cars today as every other day.

Happily the neighborhood bakery is open at about 7am. I buy several loaves of bread to eat and freeze; croissants for breakfast this morning; and tasty sweets for the next couple of days. The covered market is also open so I can buy items we need for today’s rabbit dinner. (It’s Sunday so we are looking forward to a traditional Sunday meal.) But, alas, the wine shop is not yet open. Guess we will need to count on our champagne “cellar” to get us through the day.

Howard is going home with something he didn’t have before we left: pink underwear. The washing machine and dryers take HOURS to complete a cycle. I try to limit the amount of time by washing all the dirty clothes together. Big mistake…

We both have a bit of a cold. My symptoms began a few days ago and have been VERY slowly getting a tiny bit worse. Howard feels like it has hit him all at once and woke up feeling not so good. So I have volunteered to get everything we need for our Sunday lunch. Most of the shopping was done much earlier but it’s 1pm and if we are to have red wine with our lunch (we only have champagne) I must go out now. The weather is soooooo beautiful! It is a perfect day. But there are no fewer cars than usual…

The wine shop is open! Many shops in France close at noon on Sunday. There are a couple of other people in the shop so I help myself to the wines I want rather than waiting for the proprietor to help me. I feel him cringe as the bottles clink a little as I carefully grab what I want. French shop people are so sensitive to Americans helping themselves. If it were a green grocer, I would never help myself but “I can handle wine bottles,” I say silently to myself.

On our last visit to the shop the man suggested a Cote Du Rhone Villages wine (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) that we liked and it is not too expensive. It’s Domaine Elodie Balme and it was about 13€. I also buy the winery’s Appellation wine (Rasteau: Grenache, Syrah, Carignan)) which was a couple of Euros more. When I exit the shop, I’m tempted to keep walking because it’s so nice but I return to the apartment building. Howard meets me on the 2nd floor to help with my wine burden. He feels bad that I had to go out but he’s cooking lunch so we’re even.

We have a wonderful rabbit dinner with pasta and haricot vertes. We share a Cerisaie sweet. I am trying to find a recipe for that very, very delicious treat. I hope I’m successful.

We read and relax and go to bad early.

Paris — 26 September 2015

It’s a day in Champagne! I slept very well last night. I woke up at 12:30; heard the kitchen commotion next door; flipped them off; and went back to sleep.

The neighborhood Metro route is direct to the East Train Station in Paris. In 45 minutes we are in Reims, a city of 200,000 in the Champagne region. Reims is pronounced “raw-ss”–go figure…

We meet Ina, our tour guide, and 6 other Americans at 9am at the train station. Ina gives us a nice overview of the region and we are off. We drive through the forest and see lots of cars by the roadside. Ina says people are looking for mushrooms. Wish we could too! One couple in the van say they will be seeing Jimmy Buffet in concert in Paris. We tell them we have tickets in October for the LA concert. I ask if this will be their first JB concert and they say No, they have enjoyed JB since they were kids when their folks were fans. So now we realize we are the “old folks” in the tour!

Our first stop is to see a vineyard; notice the chalky soil;

Premier Cru Soil
Premier Cru Soil

and get a quick lesson in the life of a grape vine. Ina tells us about Dom Peringnon who discovered how to make champagne in late 1861. God bless him!!

We stop at our first champagnery, Fernand Lemaire, and have a tour and explanation of the champagne making process. We are treated to a demonstration of the daily bottle turning (to eventually disgorge the wine) by a man with a butt crack–guess that visual is the world over! We taste 3 delicious champagnes and buy a brut rose and a premier cru (which we THINK was a third each of Chardonay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunière grapes). It is a very small vineyard–the production is in the thousands (of bottles per year). Today the third generation is involved in the champagne making.

The second place we stop is a much larger producer, JM Gobillard & Fils–the production here is in the millions. We taste 4 champagnes. For the last tasting Ina has a volunteer from our group use a saber to open the champagne! We have certainly heard of this but we have never seen it in person. I can’t wait to try it myself but maybe not in the Paris apartment…

Ina tells us that 10am is the best time to taste wine because your pallet is clean–we like that idea! One YOUNG woman on the tour decides that #10amchampagne will be the Instagram name. Wha???? (Later I am amazed that I find her photograph post on Instagram. Maybe I CAN understand all this social media stuff!)

Ina says in France the people drink the wine of their region almost exclusively. So the people in Champagne always drink champagne! (I wanna live there!) She says they are able to get to know the vintners and find the champagne they like at a reasonable price from the winery direct. The champagnes we bought were 15€ to 20€–very reasonable for such great champagne! She recommends champagne with every type of dish. If the dish is red meat, have a champagne made with Pinot Noir grapes.

Ina gives us a tour of the church. This was Dom Perignon’s church. It was originally part of the monastery but the monastery is long gone. Ina points out one interesting thing: If you see anything painted blue in old France, it means it was a precious thing. The color blue was taken from the Lapis Lazuli semi-precious stone. There is a side alter at the church that is painted blue with gold leaf accents.

Ina’s husband recommended Racine for lunch. The chef is Japanese but his dishes have a French flare. Ina says it will be no surprise when the chef gets a Michelin star and says we will love it…and we do. We have a table on the second story at the window so our meal entertainment is people watching. Here’s the guide to our 2 1/2 hour lunch:

We start with a glass of rose champagne.

Amuse Buche: The first plate is a long tray of 4 little bites (mostly seafood tastes) plus a large spoon with what looks like a red blob. The blob is gelatin filled with liquid–it is an incredible taste of gazpacho! The second plate is a beet and green apple concoction. The little beet parts look like mushrooms with little thin rounds of beets as caps. The apple is sliced paper thin and rolled up tight. (There are LOTS of labor intensive vegetable accents and garnishes during our meal. They must have many 14yo apprentices in house.)

1st course: Roasted pigeon with butternut squash made to look like those cute mushrooms and a tamarin vinaigrette. It is served with more rose champagne. It is really delicious–nicely roasted.
2nd course: Cod (perfectly cooked) served with a small cube of potatoes Daphinoise and some tasty little vegetable accents with curcuma oil.
3rd course: Smoked Iberian pork (topped with very fine toasted seasoned bread crumbs), salsify, celery with mustard seeds served with a burgundy wine.
4th course: Dessert of pear and chocolate-flavored cake and ice cream served with a nicely sweet Vouvray wine.
“Gourmet Coffee” (coffee served with sweets) with 2 small sweets, a little bit of pudding and a tisane sweet drink…plus espresso coffee, of course.
Total cost $240

We visit the HUGE church, Notre Dames de Reims (Our Lady of Reims).

Norte Dame de Reims
Norte Dame de Reims

The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where King Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. Twenty five French kings were crowned here from about 750 to 1825AD. One noteworthy site is the beautiful stained glass window designed by Marc Chagall (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reims_Cathedral#/media/File:Chagall_windows_Reims_Cathedral.JPG) and built in 1974.

Our trip back to Paris is quick and comfortable. We stop by the neighborhood bakery and patisserie on our way to the apartment but it is PACKED with people!!! Maybe tomorrow it will be open early.
Sent from my iPad

Paris — 25 September 2015

I hate those people next door! I happened to wake up at 2:30 and moments later I hear the front door latch open. They had dinner and cleaned the kitchen. I could hear the TV for hours because I never went back to sleep!

Today we begin our day at the Petite Palais. It is a free museum and it is our first time to see it (continuing on our quest to see new sites). I’m not sure I can summarize the museum’s theme of artistic offerings. But I will say that the first couple of painting galleries just knock our socks off. (Of course we pick up after ourselves as we leave.) It is the “grand format” paintings that are so incredible. Leon Lhermitte has a painting of the old Paris market, Les Halle. There are two very erotic lesbian paintings by Gustave Courbet. Fernand Pelez’s Grimaces and Misery is particularly incredible and his Without Roof is notable because of the current refugee situation here. Charles Giron’s Woman Wearing Gloves is beautiful in person because you could see the details on her gown. George Clarin’s painting of Sara Bernhardt is soooo dramatic–as it should be! There is a Monet, Sun Setting on the Seine. And Victor Schnetz has grand French Revolution paintings. About 2/3 of the museum is uninteresting to us but the first part is unforgettable.

We next head off to the Quai Branly Museum. We have a nice lunch at the Museum’s cafe which is situated in a very interesting garden. I have a Caesar Salad and Howard has Steak Tartar.

Opened in 2006, the museum is dedicated to the civilizations and arts of Africa, Asia, Oceana and the Americas. The collection includes nearly 300,000 works dating from the 2nd millennium B.C. to the start of the 21st century. The temporary exhibition was “Tattoos.” The walk to the entrance is really neat! There is a “stream” of words projected on the floor–looking just like a flow of water. The words evoke the theme of the museum: river, family, community, art, etc. The words flow up along the edges of the walkway just like water. It is a really effective visual as we make our way to the heart of the museum.

You could spend hours in this museum! The primitive art is truly incredible. The tattoo exhibit looks interesting but our feet are aching and seeing videos of people being pounded by needles and ink just does not turn us on. We happily take a taxi back to the apartment.

In our past visits to Paris, we never considered taking taxis; we always took the Metro. But the taxis are not that expensive (normally about 10€) and it is sooooo nice to get back home quickly.

As we recuperate and put our legs up at home, we hear the sound of a non-stop trumpet player. It is an elderly man who frequents our neighborhood playing his trumpet. I think he does it because he likes it–not because he is busking. (We “enjoy” his music many time over our remaining time here.)

We originally had planned to stay at home and have a rabbit dinner. But we are too tired to make dinner and decide to visit a Greek restaurant we have been to many times while in Paris, Evi Evane. The last 2 times we were here we had our sweet poodles with us, Leo and Lucien. It is a bittersweet memory for us! It was raining really hard when we brought them in their cute yellow rain slickers. The server was welcoming and set us at a table for 4 with plenty of room. (In Paris normally we were only able to sit at a meager 2 person table with absolutely no room for the dogs.)

We arrive at 7 which is a sure indication that we are Americans–all other people arrive at 8. But we have the full attention of a very sweet young lady for our entire meal. We tell her about our last visit with the dogs. Poor thing, she asks where the dogs are now. We say in heaven and the three of us look sad.

We had an incredible meal! We enjoyed a red Greek wine that our server recommended. We started with an octopus salad for Howard and Dolmas for me. We both thought our dishes were incredible. And the pita bread is home-made!!! We both had the traditional Moussaka for our main dish. We could only finish half of our moussaka so we sheepishly ask if she could package it up for us to take home. In France, doggie-bags are unknown! And that sweet girl did just that for us.

I had baclava for dessert (it was incredible!!!) and Howard (stupidly) had lime sorbet. It was a wonderful evening. Our server helped us with her English and of course we tried with our meager French.

I hope we can make it back before we leave.

Paris — 24 September 2015

Our thoughtful neighbors were cleaning their kitchen earlier last night. The cleaning brigade was on duty from 11 to midnight night. I suppose that’s better than 3am! Or maybe not…

We make a plan for our last 6 days here in Paris. Today we are off to the Ille de Cité, the center of France and the center of Paris.

When we were in Portland, OR a couple of years ago, we found the Stray Boots tours. You sign up on your smart-phone and pay a minimal amount per person. The phone tours take you to places you never would have found! You answer questions as you find your way through the city and take selfies or other photos to show you have been in the places suggested in the tour. We loved the Portland tour.

Our Paris Stray Boots Tour is a disaster from the moment we start. The first 3 questions do not have accurate directions and the answer to the second question is wrong. We call it quits on the tour.

We stop back at the cooking school to purchase a few items. Cynthia and Bruce bought some cheese at the market last night and forgot to take it home. The receptionist at the school is happy we have their phone number. I get their VM and tell them about the cheese and that there are 2 slots open for the trip to Champagne.

The forgotten cheese was Mont d’Or. Chef Eric said to cut the round cheese in half crosswise; to the open side add garlic and a splash of white wine; put the top back on and wrap in foil; and cook until hot and serve with bread. He said there will be no leftovers even if 2 people share the rather large round of cheese. I hope Cynthia and Bruce got to make their cheese treat!

We decide to next visit a famous cooking shop, E. Dehillerin, in the 1st Arr. We have a bit of a walk ahead of us so we look for a cafe to eat and rest our feet. On the way we pass a taxidermy shop. The famous Paris taxidermy shop, Deyrolle’s, is on our to do list. This shop is not Deyrolle’s but we will try to get there before we leave.

We stop at the cafe we frequented on our visit to Paris in 2000, Le Comptoir Dauphine. Our server is very nice and seats us at the window in very comfortable seats. Howard has a composed salad of smoked duck breast, duck confit, chicken gizzards confit, foie gras and warm goat cheese with toast (a heart attack on a plate) and I have Croque Monsieur (essentially a ham and cheese grilled sandwich). The lunch rejuvenated me. We move on to find the kitchen shop.

Dehillerins was a favorite of Julie Child. The place is incredible; we’ve been here once before. There are dimly lit hallways with items that have not see the light of day in decades! No items are priced; there is a big printed book with all the prices at the front desk. We find a small, heavy saucepan–we’ve been looking for such a pan. And Howard cannot resist buying a kitchen knife.

Our declare our work done today! We are ready to get home and put our feet up. It’s a good thing we are here for 2 weeks because we need twice as long as anyone else to get done what we want to do!

Paris — 23 September 2015

Today is an take-it-easy day. We walk around beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, just around the corner from our apartment. Howard takes pictures with his new camera. We have a simple lunch at home: cheese, pate, bread and wine.

Four o’clock is our cooking class.

Cooking School
Cooking School

Eric is the Chef. We meet Cynthia and Bruce from Seattle right away. We are surprised to discover that Cynthia’s mother lives the next town over from Ashland; Cynthia was born in Ashland. Another couple is from Boulder and there are 2 woman who immediately are annoying and stay that way the entire class.

Eric is taking us to the street market and we will choose items for dinner. Everyone but one of the annoying women (AW) wants meat of some kind. The AW just insists on seafood. What a jerk! But Chef accedes to her wishes. We buy vegetables (carrots, romesco: a green swirly cauliflower, red peppers, leeks, mushrooms, fennel, onions, butternut squash, fresh herbs, potatoes), cod and cheese. We take a little tour around the neighborhood and Eric points out several sights. We visit the bakery he likes and he tells us about the “Meilleur Ouvrier de France,” a prestigious award in France that can be given for any trade. In the case of a bakery, the bakers compete for the award; they practice for months. The winner is able to use the designation for the rest of their life. So if you see a bakery with the “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” sign you can assume that it is an excellent bakery.

Our menu is:
1st course: Butternut squash soup topped with slightly whipped cream flavored with a little nutmeg and cinnamon and poured over sautéed mushrooms.
2nd course: Cod en papillote–cod on a bed of very small matchstick size pieces of carrots, fennel, leeks and small pieces of romansco. A splash of olive oil and wine is added and then the fish and veggies are encased in foil. It’s cooked at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes and served with a sauce of onions and red peppers (the peppers and onions are sautéed and then simmered in a lot of creme and puréed into a sauce. Mashed potatoes with chives are molded into a perfect disc and served with the fish.
3rd course: 3 cheeses–Comté, Reblochon and an aged goat cheese.
4th course: Chocolate lava cake “swimming” in creme anglais.

Eric was funny and certainly did a great job of creating the menu on the spot and making sure everything was completed at the right time. As we were leaving, Cynthia and Bruce whispered to me Should we tip him? I said I had not thought about it and did not have any cash! So poor Eric got no tips (I didn’t see anyone else tip him). But we all gave him a hearty Merci!

Before we split up, Cynthia and Bruce said they were interested in the Champagne tour we told everyone about. We exchanged phone numbers and I’ll call the tour company to see if there are two more openings.

Paris — 22 September 2015

Our destination today is the Marais district. This was the aristocratic district of Paris and it hosts many outstanding buildings of historic and architectural importance. In the 17th century nobility built their mansions here. The district spreads across parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in Paris.

After the nobility started to move out of the Marais, the district became a popular and active commercial area, hosting one of Paris’ main Jewish communities. At the end of the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th, the district welcomed many Eastern European Jews who reinforced the district’s clothing specialization. But, during World War II the Jewish community was targeted by the Nazis who were occupying France.

The Marais is still the major centre of the Paris Jewish community, which has made a comeback since the 1990s. Public notices announce Jewish events, bookshops specialize in Jewish books, and numerous restaurants and other outlets sell kosher food.

It is raining today and we actually get a 60 second downpour at one point. We decide it’s time to get out of the rain and have lunch. We find ourselves at Chez Hanna. Their fare is Middle Eastern and we are ready for falafels! We are not disappointed; it is a great meal.

Our next stop is the Picasso Museum. We read that the government received the Museum’s Picasso works in exchange for estate taxes upon Picasso’s death. After visiting the museum I can guess that the heirs gave Paris the very least valuable items of the estate. There are pieces of scrap paper with scribblings, truly awful paintings, illegible letters, and, in my mind, pretty worthless stuff. At least we can say we saw it but it was a waste of time, I think.

I guess it’s for sure… I AM OLD! Even the people of Paris give up their Metro seats to me. Today as I am sitting down on a seat given to me by a young man, the Metro lurches to a start and I nearly fall into the lap of the man seated next to me! It is pretty embarrassing. As we change Metro lines, we come upon an orchestra playing a beautiful classical music piece in the Metro. The music resonates off the tile walls and it just sounds wonderful! It is quite a change from the usual buskers that we see.

We make a stop at the department store to find a bread knife for the apartment. I can’t believe there are no useful knives here. We find just what we want. When I get home I cut myself a couple of times removing the price tag. I can’t get the glue off the handle. Then I have a flash of ingenuity. I use olive oil and it comes right off!

As we start to unwind at home, I decide to take a quick look at our cooking class details. My calendar says the class is in 2 days but I look at the detail information and the class is tomorrow!!! Thank goodness I looked; we would be bummed to miss it.

Paris — 21 September 2015

To follow-through with our idea to only visit new places this trip, we hop on the Metro to visit the Orangerie Museum. We had to buy Metro tickets (pack of 10) first and we each wasted our first ticket! We both expected the gate to open automatically (like in London) when we inserted our ticket but we finally realized you have to push it open. So our first tickets got validated (cancelled) but we missed going through. Now we know!

The Paris Metro is much more efficient than London, I think. We had to go through one of the oldest stations and it was in pretty bad shape though. In the 2 stations we were in, there were fewer stairs than London. So far I would say Paris wins in the Metro competition in efficiency and ease of walking.

On the first floor, the Orangerie Museum houses Monet’s Water Lilies. All together Monet painted 1,950 square feet of canvas to complete the Water Lilies series.

Water Lily Detail
Water Lily Detail

The series is shown in natural light through a huge skylight. The basemernt floor houses select works from the personal collection of Paris’s trend-spotting art dealer of the 1920s, Paul Guillaume. The collection includes works of Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Laurencin (very interesting; I’ve never seen her works before), Modigliani (my favorite), Derain, Rousseau, Utrillo and Soutine (I really liked many of these–he’s a new artist to me).

It’s past lunch by the time we exit but the Grand Palais and Petit Palais are next so we walk in that direction in hopes of finding a place to eat. As we pass the Petit Palais we see that it’s not open on Mondays. I guess we should have thought to look! So we keep walking and as we approach the ritzy part of the Champs-Ellysses, we veer off the main road and find a nice cafe. We both have a Kir Royale as an aperitif and then large salads for each of us: Howard has prosciutto, potatoes, and cheese on his and I have chicken and eggs on mine. They were very satisfying and we need more greens!

We decide to forgo the Grande Palais because the exhibitions there now do not look very interesting; there is not a permanent collection. We’ll try to go back to the Petit Palais when it’s open. We are kind of near the Jaquemart-Andre Museum so off we go.

We are so happy that we chose this museum. It’s more than just an art collection; it is showcased in the lavish home of a wealthy, art-loving, 19th century Parisian couple. You get a glimpse of what life was like for the “middle-class.” (This couple was not middle-class but that’s what the audio tape calls them!) Edouard Andre and his wife, Nelie Jacquemart spent their lives and fortunes designing, building and then decorating this sumptuous mansion. The art collected is by Rembrandt, Botticelli, Uccello, Mantegna, Bellini, Boucher and Fragonard. Each room has a photo of the room as it was in “the day.” And the first floor is decorated in period pieces. We loved our time here and it was well worth the walk.

Howard discovers he left his hat at the restaurant. I call and happily I am able to communicate in “Frenglish” and they have the hat. Hurray! So we retrace our steps back to the restaurant. On the way back we pass the embassy of the country Burkina Faso. Just a couple of days ago I asked Howard about Burkina Faso because there has been a coup. I’d never heard of that West African country but there are probably LOTS of countries in Africa I’ve never heard of! Amazingly we happen to walk right past that embassy!!

Once we retrieve the hat, I feel like I cannot walk another step so we flag down a taxi and arrive back home in no time. But we need some wine for the evening. Our trusty wine shop across the street is not open! Quelle horror! We walk around the nearby 2 blocks and finally find an Italian deli with wine but as I open the door a man tells me they are closed; I see all sorts of equipment on the floor and I think they were repairing the floor. Darn! We give up and are walking to our closest bakery when we find another Italian deli…with wine! Of course we must buy more than wine. We buy some Iberico ham–6 thin slices for 20€!

We happen to buy the best of the bunch (the price should be the hint): jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn). This ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during the last period before slaughter. The pigs’ exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months. The delis have the pig leg (with the hoof) set up at room temperature in a special contraption that holds the leg while super thin pieces of meat are sliced off. It’s a very dramatic presentation. And the meat is incredible. Almost slightly sweet. I’ve always wanted to try the Iberico ham and now I have!

Last stop is the bakery for bread, croissants for tomorrow and a couple of sweets. We notice the bakery has wine too! But it’s sold at a premium price. At least we know it’s there if we get desperate! At the end of the evening when I have my little sweet thing, I cannot believe how delicious it is. I MUST find out what it is and see if I can make it!

I think I’m coming down with a cold…

Sent from my iPad

Paris — 20 September 2015

Today is our 35th wedding anniversary! We have reservations at the renown restaurant, Jules Verne, in the Eiffel Tower at 1:00. We can’t wait. We both bought nice new outfits for the occasion. Fortunately we hit Nordstrom during one of their sales so it only cost us an arm and a leg. I found some shoes that I wore in my business days–cute patent leather flats. They are perfect with my new Eileen Fisher dress. It’s a beautiful day–sunny and no rain in sight. We take our time getting dressed up and we look very elegant, I must say.

Our taxi driver is very entertaining. He tells us Eddie Murphy is his cousin (I think he was pulling our leg) and asks us questions about US states vs. cities. And then starts to joke about Sara Palin. We say she’s a joke to us too.

He drops us off in front of the Eiffel Tower but we see that we cannot actually walk under the Tower to get to the elevator for the restaurant; there are barricades all over. So we start to walk around the Tower but we keep encountering barricades between us and where we want to go.

At some point along the way, I notice one of my shoes is feeling quite loose. I look down and my cute, OLD shoes are falling apart! The soles and heels are disintegrating–big pieces are falling off.

Lost Soles
Lost Soles

One heel is entirely gone. Every step I take leaves behind more of the shoes. I cannot believe this! I realize that by the time we arrive at the restaurant, I will be standing in my bare feet.

We approach the entrance to the elevator but a policeman is stopping us from going forward. He is yelling at me to move across the street. I finally am able to say in French that we have reservations! He directs us to what looks like the employees elevator where LOTS of people in uniform are standing around. Finally we are able to find someone who speaks English. And he tells us:

At 9:00am a man (other accounts said 3 men) with an oversized backpack was seen climbing up the Eiffel Tower. Security immediately shut the Tower down and put up barricades. They were concerned he was either a terrorist or a base jumper. So there we stood for about an hour. Someone had pizzas delivered to the employees while they waited. When the barricades finally came down, Howard walked and I shuffled over to the elevator. Within a short time the restaurant manager came over and said they would not be serving food for a long while. They had not had time to prep the food before they were told to evacuate. He said they would call us and reschedule our meal.

Of course we were disappointed but I was a bit relieved. I had visions of the maitre d’ saying “Madame, I believe you’ve left something behind you on the floor…” So we hailed a cab and back to the apartment we went. Now the challenge was to find a restaurant so late in the afternoon. And of course to change clothes AND SHOES.

One of the apartment guests had left business card for a nearby restaurant. We checked the map and it was close by so off we went to find it. When we found the place, we were happily surprised to see that a Greek restaurant we loved in past visits to Paris was just across the street. In fact we had taken the dogs there more than once. It was closed so we vowed to go back another time. The recommended restaurant took us in as the last customers for the afternoon and they gave us a charming little table at the window. Great for people watching.

The server was very nice and helpful. We both ordered oysters to start. And they were delicious! Howard ordered duck breast with risotto and I had pasta with shrimp. Our server recommended a Saint-Joseph wine, from the Rhone region of France made with the Syrah grape. It was perfect and it is one of my favorite wines. For dessert we had a chestnut parfait: chestnut paste, chocolate, merengue and whipped creme. Yum! We were entertained during dinner by a cute bat-eared French bulldog at the table next to us.

So our anniversary dinner was saved! We had a wonderful time and our dinner cost ($175) probably 25% of what our Jules Verne meal would have cost. Besides, I need to save money to buy another pair of shoes!!!

Paris — 19 September 2015

I was awakened again last night by the neighbors but this time it was a little earlier: 12:30am. Why on earth are these people fiddling around in the kitchen at that hour??

image
Toby at Christmas

We are completely lazy all morning. We have a breakfast of delicious melon, baguette with butter and mirabelle jam, and Mamie Nova yogurt. I work on the travelogue and Howard tries to put it on the website with photos. He gets frustrated because every time he tries to post a travel photo, a photo of Toby in silly Xmas reindeer antlers pops up. I guess the dogs are sending us a message that they don’t want us to forget them. We sure miss the little guys. Patty has been sending us photos of them every-so-often. In spite of the time Howard has spent on the travelogue, nothing gets posted.

I try to call a restaurant that we’ve liked in the past to make reservations for lunch. I get sooooo frustrated because there is no hope of communicating with the woman on the line! She will not even try and I hang up on her!

About 1:00 we finally get out the door. I have found another restaurant to try and we start walking in that direction. We find ourselves in the midst of a WILD electronic music street festival. The kids are pretty out of control (in fact one young man later dies from a fall off a statue) and the music is breaking our eardrums (and wreaking havoc with Howard’s hearing aids). We veer off course to get away from the craziness and have now lost our way to the restaurant. We keep wandering until we find ourselves at Rue Buci, a great place to be. The traffic is horrible because the street festival has blocked off numerous streets. In frustration, horns are honking and cars are trying to edge one another out on the tiny Rue Buci side streets. We find one of our favorite cafés, Au Chai de l’Abbaye, and take refuge there from the craziness. It is quiet inside in spite of the bottleneck of cars outside the windows.

Our server, a middle-aged professional waiter, asks what we would like to drink. He says “Champagne, maybe…” It doesn’t take much persuading for us to order champagne! I order steak (it is delicious) and potatoes Dauphinois, and Howard orders duck breast and white beans. We each have a glass of red wine with our meal ($105). There is a sweet dog with a single lady about my age. The dog clearly knows how to get all the treats he wants and is very entertaining!

We then stop by our favorite wine shop, Le Derniere Goutte (The Last Drop/Taste). The lady who helps us has been there for at least 10 years; we remember her. She is American and speaks French so poorly I wonder how French customers put up with it. But, mission accomplished–we buy one of our favorite roses, a Sancere white, and 2 nice reds. That should hold us for 8 hours–HA!

We grab a few items for a light dinner and head home. I nurse my swollen legs and my still sore derrière to get ready for another day in Paris.

Paris — 18 September 2015

Paris September 18, 2015

Last night was not restful. I woke up at about 2:30am to people shouting on the street (those damned drunk teenagers!) but also to sounds like someone was at the window. We are on the 4th floor so I know that could not be the case. I finally realize that the sounds are coming through the wall at the head of the bed. At 2:30am the neighbors are washing and scrubbing at the kitchen sink–no doubt about it. And the sink is just on the other side of the wall where we were sleeping. They are talking and working like it was in the middle of the day. I am amazed at how thin the walls are! These walls should be thick and silent! I almost get up to find the broom to whack the wall! So sleeping pill in mouth and I am pretty quickly out like a light.

Today our new site to visit is Notre Dame church and the crypt. The last time we were here (8 years ago) we were with the dogs. I took a very brief look into the church while Howard minded the dogs. So really neither one of us has seen the church.

The line looked long but it takes no time at all to get into the church. It is a huge church with many side alters. They are hearing confessions in several areas. The church is well-known for its Rosetta shaped stained glass windows. There is an interesting series of videos with narratives showing how the church has changed over the millennium. They first broke ground in 1163 but it took about 200 years for the church’s dedication.

There are signs all around demanding “Silence!” All of a sudden we hear this very LOUD, very long “SSSSSSSSSSS” shushing us! It was a recording and much worse than nearly any sound we all could make. The shush preceded the mass but I think the loud snake sound was out of place!

Much of the history of France is beneath our feet. We make a visit to the Paris Archaeological Crypt–the entrance is at the front edge of the Notre Dame plaza. The place is deserted! No one takes the time to see this VERY interesting exhibit. The exhibit is underground and shows the Roman ruins of ancient buildings that are now covered with the current buildings (from approx 50 B.C.). The very effective movie projections illustrate how the ruins might have been seen originally. So a projection of a complete pier on the Seine River fills in the missing parts of a few large stones giving you a more complete picture of what the area was like. They even add the imagined sounds at the pier. There are also very interesting interactive videos that tell the stories of the time.

We’re hungry! We find a tavern that we have been to in earlier visits. The man and his son who own/run the place are very congenial. We both have cheese tartine (an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich) and it is perfect. We don’t want to eat too much because…

We are taking a dinner cruise on the Bateux-Mouche boats!

Cruising the Seine
Cruising the Seine

This is one of those things that is soooo Paris but we have not yet enjoyed. We get all dressed up–we are both wearing our new clothes and I think we look great. We take a taxi; we can’t wear such lovely clothes on the Metro. And besides, it’s raining!

It is a lovely evening. We sip champagne while we wait to take off. Our server is young and very nice. Our table is just a couple tables back from the front of the boat. The boat is all glass so we have a perfect view of all the sights. The dinner cruise is about 2 1/2 hours showcasing the many iconic monuments along the Seine River.

Our dinner is really a delicious surprise! We enjoy champagne and an amuse bouche of cheese puff pastry. For our 1st course, Howard has smoked salmon with caviare and I have a cold lobster salad. For our main course, Howard has lamb with olives and artichokes and I have veal with mushrooms nesting in an open-faced square of pasta. For dessert Howard has the iconic profiteroles and I have Mille-feuille pastry with vanilla creme. It really was a perfect evening! We would absolutely do this again! Why did we wait so long?

Back home to bed.

Bedroom in Paris
Bedroom in Paris

This apartment is in a very old building. The bedroom floor slopes quite dramatically. I find myself sliding down the bed until my feet hang over the bottom. It’s like Diana, our RV, if we have not leveled her properly!