Thursday, 10 July
I ate very well the last week, and Thursday was possibly the best of all. However, my fine dining experiences would have to wait until lunch, because in the morning I had the oral defense for my rapport de stage - a five minute oral presentation presenting my internship, followed by about 10 minutes of questions from a panel of 4 professors and internship coordinators. I got the grade for my stage a few days later - an A- overall, which is completely irrelevant because I am not bothering to transfer the credit to Hopkins, since I have enough credits to graduate and it won't count towards my major.... OH WELL, too bad I spent so many hours on the rapport... I'll get over it.
After the presentation, I went to the Marché de la Bastille, just like every Thursday. My friend Julie came with me, and we got fruit and wandered for quite a while. It's interesting, I hadn't noticed before how many more clothing and non-edible wares are at the market on Thursday as opposed to Sunday, when the vast majority of the stands are foods. After the market, I walked through the 4e to get to a restaurant recommended by many sources - my book of patisseries, my former TA Cosimo, and Isabelle, amongst others - Mariage Frères, Paris' premier Traiteur du thé - a tea house. I had visited a few days prior to get my mom's souvenir, a jar of tea, but since then Cosimo had highly recommended their Thé au chocolat - a chocolate infused tea. Unfortunately, they did not have their menu posted outside the restaurant as most restaurants do, so I was unable to check the prices until I sat down... I should have realized that if the tea alone sold for 10-15E / 100g, the lunch would be pricey.... They had a carte for 35E that gave you a plat, a tea, and a dessert... And since I had come to have all three, I decided to get the carte, which was less expensive than ordering individually. Here is my table :
All very pretty. Here is my tea :
I was all for trying the thé au chocolat, but my meal came with a recommended tea, and when I asked my waiter if it would be odd to substitute the thé au chocolat for the recommendation, his reaction told me it certainly would be odd. Nevertheless, he brought out thé au chocolat and thé au chocolat caramel for me to smell. The chocolat caramel smelled just delectable, but I stuck with the recommendation which was tasty, but pretty much just tasted like tea. I really am lacking in the sophisticated tea-tasting palate area. Here was my meal :
As pretty as it was delicious - veal in a special tea-based sauce, with a small side salad and roasted vegetables. It was quite lovely, but whether it was especially complemented by the recommended tea was beyond me.
Of course there was dessert as well:
I got a tarte à la fraise which was very good, but I'm not sure that it was worthy of the "best dessert ever" title I had heard given to the desserts here. Nevertheless, a very satisfying meal.
After lunch, I walked home to study for my final exam for a little while before heading out to wander through the 5e before dinner. I got off the metro at the Gare d'Austerlitz and meandered through the 5e towards les Fontaines, the restaurant where I was meeting Killian... but back to that later. Coming out of the station, I walked through the jardin des plantes, the garden I visited a few weeks earlier where all of the plants are labeled. The garden is also home to the Natural Science Museum of Paris :
Which is guarded by this formidable figure:
The landscaping in Paris, especially in the parks, is often simply breathtaking...
Such a force of perspective walking through the garden!
There is also a menagerie at the jardin des plantes, which you have to pay to get into (welcome to Paris - you have to pay for everything.) However, these lil guys were hanging out outside :
Wallabies! pretty awesome.
I also passed by this sculpture, of, erm, a nymph beating a fish?
I have no idea.
Leaving the jardin, I passed by one of Paris' many universities, Paris 6 :
The universities in Paris all have numbers instead of names, like American universities. Lionel, the professor for my class, works at Paris 8. Evidently Paris 6 is linked with Mme Curie.
Turning the corner, I came by this fountain :
And then found myself in another park, that is really quite unusual for Paris...
What is this big open space? In walking around, I found a sign that said
Lutèce was the name of the Roman settlement that developed into Paris over the next two millenia, so this was their "physical training area," evidently. Another sign explained that this area was created in the 2nd century, CE, to display gladatorial combats as well as theatrical productions - it was a center of civic life. Pretty crazy to find it today!!! Europe is so old!!
Eventually I wound my way around to the restaurant, which Cosimo had recommended as "la vraie cuisine française." Killian and I had been talking about dining there for about a month and finally in this last week we made it. We ordered off the carte, where we could each get an appetizer, main course, and dessert for 28E - quite a steal after my lunch!! For our appetizers, Killian got a salade niçoise, and I had a tatin de tomate :
A tatin is a tart that is baked with the crust on top, and then flipped upside down so that the crust is on the bottom to serve. My tatin is on the left, with a small salad of greens on the right. Delicious. Then the plats principals - Killian had a bifteck et frites which was served with a bearnaise - an incredible sauce that I shudder to think what it does to the arteries... but it does taste wonderful! I had the canard - duck :
The square to the top is potato, sliced very very thin and then roasted, I think... Flaky and delicious! Everything was just lovely. Including, of course, dessert. I had a crème brulée (how much more classic French can you get?) :
Killian got a "tiramisu aux fraises" which wasn't much of a tiramisu, except that it was in layers, but was light and lovely, with pistachio ice cream on top -
The lady at the table next to us was alone, and when she was debating ordering Killian's dessert we recommended it to her, and then spoke with her for the next ten minutes or so. She used to work at the Sorbonne, but now she is retired. It was awesome to get to see that I am comfortable enough with my French that we could have that conversation - I am not sure I could have done that when I arrived.
Dinner, in true French fashion, lasted a little over two hours - just past 7h30 until about 10h00, at which point we had to head home to study for our final exam the next morning. Or, well, maybe he studied... I just got home and fell asleep. Such a nice end to a good day of eating!