Friday, August 15, 2008

Dernier weekend

Saturday, 12 July

On my last Saturday in Paris, I headed out South towards the Louvre. I had visited my first time a few weeks earlier with the intention of returning, and now that it was almost time to leave and I had never made it back again, it seemed like time to finally get back and see the rest of the collection. However, on my way I visited a few other sites, such as this building :



I had seen this before - it is the round building right in front of the round courtyard by the parks at les Halles, but I had never seen it from this side - it is the Bourse de Commerce - the stock exchange. Who knew?

Continuing on my way, I passed this passage :



This was one of the passages we visited with my class, but as I had been taking notes I didn't get the chance to take any pictures. Unlike the galerie Vivienne, which I had returned to for lunch and pictures a few weeks earlier, this passage is a little older and less ornate. That is not to say, however, it is undecorated.



As you can see, the interior is a little simpler - no arches, no mosaic tiling on the floor. However, the classic components - the glass roof covering a hallway with 2 stories (the lower for shops and restaurants, the upper for apartments) are all there. The ceiling is also pretty wonderful :



After leaving the galerie, I passed this building :



I'm not sure what this was, but I love the metalwork covering the entire facade.

Continuing on my way - here is the metro stop for le Grand Palais - just next to the Louvre. While the Grand Palais itself is elegant and ornate, holding the Comedie Francaise where I had seen Cyrano, the metro stop is a somewhat different style... :



I continued on to visit a boulangerie called '215,' so named because its address is 215 rue Saint-Honoré. After being appalled at the unbelievable rudeness of the American in line ahead of me ("I'll just have a crusant." confused look from employee. Louder: "I want a CRUS-ANT." No "bonjour," no "parlez-vous anglais?" that was definitely the most ashamed I have been to be an American while in Paris. I couldn't believe this girl!) I ordered a focaccia aux légumes - a flat bread, heated for me, covered in vegetables, a little like pizza but no sauce - and a flan. I ate a lot of flan in my last few weeks in Paris, and I can tell you, this was the best. Perfect texture, perfect flavor, not burnt like some of my other flan purchases. Excellent.

I ate on the go, as I finally made my way to my destination at the Louvre. I had plans to meet Killian a little later in the afternoon to give him a tour of one of my favorite sections of the museum, the Italian renaissance. However, before he arrived, I visited a couple of sections I had been unable to visit before, including the collection of ancient textiles, where I saw this one which dates, if you can believe it (or even if you can't) to the 4th or 5th century CE. Incroyable!!



I also visited another favorite - the ancient Roman sculptures. I'm sure it goes without saying that their collection incredible. I loved getting to see some of the works I had studied in my Roman Art Class during my freshman year. Also going without saying, the art is in an incredible venue as well :



I also visited the decorative arts section, where I was impressed to find the best ivories I have ever seen, and some of which I am sure I studied in my Early Christian and Medieval art class sophomore year, including this piece :



After a few wonderful hours amidst the art, I left and headed across the river, contemplating a visit to Pierre Hermé, when I was distracted by Poilâne. Poilâne is certainly one of Paris' best known bakeries (some restaurants will set a higher menu price for a sandwich made on Poilâne bread than for one on generic bread) and while they are best known for their sourdough I am sorry to say I never experienced it while I was there. This, however, I could not resist :



Une tartelette aux pommes (apple mini-tart), that I watched them put into the window display right after it came out of the oven. It was warm and flaky and sweet and cinnamon and PERFECT. I debated going back for a second, but instead I decided to visit Le Bon Marché, the first huge indoor shopping complex in Paris. My patisserie book recommended their "Delicabar" - the small café/restaurant inside. I ordered a tartelette à la rhubarbe meringuée, à emporter (rhubarb meringue tart, to go) and then hopped on the metro to return chez moi, a necessity after a longgg day on my feet. After making dinner and eating my rhubarb tart (good, but not the best dessert I had in Paris) I had the intention of going to hang out with friends on my last saturday night in the city, but after my dearth of sleep the night before and my many hours of walking across the city, I crashed pretty early.

Sunday, 13 July

Sunday was, of course, my last day to go to the market. So many lasts and so many goodbyes in the last days - I hate goodbyes, and these were especially hard, not knowing when, if ever, I would get to see these wonderful friends again, both people and city sights. On my way walking to the market I took pictures of a few of my favorite oddities, including this false front :



Eventually there was actually a building, with real windows and apartments behind, but here at the edge there was clearly only a wall. Who knows why!

I also took video at the market to try to fully capture its essence - although I must say this does not fully succeed at conveying its life and atmosphere. Do note, however, the roasting chickens turning on their spits, as well as the potatoes underneath catching all of their drippings.

video

I bought some of these potatoes, as well as a cuisse de lapin - a rabbit leg - from these roasters, to have for my dinner that night. I also said au revoir to my fruit vendors. My would be suitor I was sorry to leave; however, my other friend I was sorry to leave... not only because of the incredible deals he gave me on the fruit I bought!

After the market, I set out through the 5e to visit a tarte shop for lunch that my patisserie book had recommended, but as it was Sunday, the shop was closed - lame. So instead, I made my way down past the jardins du Luxembourg into the 6e, where I discovered Le Procope :



According to a sign on the outside of the Café, this is "The oldest café in the world (founded in 1686), and home to the most famous center of the literary and philosophy worlds. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was frequented by La Fontaine, Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Danton, Narat, Robespierre, Napoléon Bonaparte, Balzac, Hugo, Gambetta, and Verlaine." (to name a few).

Ok, well that's cool.

The interior represents perfectly this old and stately setting :



As amazing as it was to eat in such a historical place, I will admit that that was not the reason why I decided to come in. In fact, this was :



LES ESCARGOTS. Perhaps the ultimate in French Cuisine, and proving the point that the French will eat anything that moves. I had not yet partaken of this delicacy, and seeing it offered on the menu here was enough to make me come in. I will admit, though, that when my waitress actually came and set them before me on the table I had a moment of terror. Oh my god, I can't do this, I can't eat SNAILS! But then I reminded myself that (1) they were the entire reason I had come in, and (2) I had PAID for them, so I was damn well going to eat them. So I grabbed on to one with the grabby-thingy and pulled one out with the mini-fork-thingy and took a deep breath, and ate one. The flavor, from what I could tell, came pretty much entirely from the garlic butter sauce they were covered in, and the texture was similar to that of shrimp or lobster, but perhaps less chewy (although I will admit I am not much of a fan of lobster and shrimp so I haven't had it on that many occassions to really be able to compare it). While it was not really a bad thing to eat, psychologically it was too much - I had to give myself a mini pep talk before every bite. Thus, in the end, not bad, but I don't think I would order it again.

For my plat principal, I ordered un joue de boeuf braisé (a braised ox-cheek), which was served in the mini dutch oven it was cooked in, with juices and carrots and potatoes :



The meat fell apart on your fork, and was just incredible. This I would absolutely order again.

For dessert they offered their house ice cream, which they have been making for centuries and undoubtedly is very good; however, it was a flavor I didn't especially want (mango, perhaps?) and I anticipated a golf-ball sized serving just like at Berthillon, for only an additional 6E to my bill, so I decided just to go with a coffee instead :



The fact that I did not get dessert here of course does not imply that I did not get dessert at all! Instead, I walked just a few blocks over to an Amorino, a chain store selling gelato across the city. I ordered two kinds - noisette et tiramisu (hazelnut and tiramisu), which the adept ice cream professionals shaped into this flower :



So much more ice cream, for less money - only 4E. And this ice cream was just wonderful. (though perhaps more than I needed after such a lunch, but that is a minor detail indeed.)

I had chosen to pass through the 6e because I wanted to make my last stop into Pierre Hermé to pick up some macarons to take back to the states. I am sorry to say that while the flavors more or less kept over the course of a week or so, the texture sadly was not nearly as magical as when they are fresh from the shop.

I then turned South from Pierre Hermé and walked down to the Tour Montparnasse - the only sky scraper in Paris. At 56 stories tall, it is both a "blight on the Paris landscape" as well as offering an unparalleled view over the city. On one side of the top floor, you can pay some exorbitant rate like 7E to take an elevator up to the top to see the view. However, on the other side, there is a restaurant. Isabelle had told me that it was not very good food (although plenty expensive, to dine with such a view! At least 50E for dinner, easily.) But if you just get a drink, you can experience the view at approximately the same cost as just taking the elevator to the other side (my drink was 9E, but I could have had a coffee for 6). Plus, if you go at a weird time, such as, say, 4:00, like I did, then there is no one there - so you get a table at the window, and you don't feel bad for taking a table at a busy time.

So here I am, overlooking the city...



And here was my view!!



To be able to see the city sprawling before me was pretty incredible. This is a view to the west. To the North, I could see the Place de la Concorde, and the Madeleine and the Opéra, and the Louvre; however, with the way the windows were it was next to impossible to capture these monuments in a photo.

I sat in the restaurant for nearly two hours, soaking in the sights. Eventually, I decided I had better leave. On leaving the tower, I found another open-air market, much like my marché de la bastille, except that instead of selling food and household goods, this market was for artists to sell their art.

Oh Paris, comme j'aime tes surprises!

I returned home to reheat my roasted potatoes and rabbit. I had never had rabbit before... It tasted like meat. I couldn't really discern anything too foreign about it. The potatoes were greasy and delicious, cooked in the roasting chicken juices.

After dinner, I made my way to Pont Neuf, the bridge that crosses the western tip of the Ile de la Cité, to watch the sunset. I don't think these next images require any captions.






After the sun had set, I sat on the tip of the island with some friends from the Boston program, enjoying this last evening and soaking in the city.

Paris me manque.

Il ne reste qu'un jour que je dois racconter.

A bientôt, à vous et j'espère aussi à cette ville que j'adore.

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