Sunday, March 31, 2013


John Baker and Jean-Francois at the Portland Airport just before we begin our awfully big adventure. 

Finally pushed myself out of bed this morning for the long trip ahead to Paris. It's 1:30 AM and I've woken up every hour on the hour since going to bed at 8:30 PM the night before. So it's off to Paris to celebrate Jean-Francois' 70th birthday. Jean-Francois and I have been friends since 1975 when we were both young and callow youths in New York.  Jean-Francois, as many of you know, lives in Portland and it was his residency here that helped contribute to my decision to move to Portland, now nearly four years ago.  We're with John Baker, Jean-Francois former partner and good friend. Jean-Francois has organized the trip in a very precise and complete way. We've barely any free time. We'll be in Paris for two days and then go to his apartment in Provence (the town is called Sanaray) for three days, returning to Paris for the final few days, which will include a big party at a restaurant in the city next Saturday. I fly home on Wednesday.

John Baker needs to brush up on his packing skills!

Archie is being well-cared-for at my friend, Sara's home. She's a fabulous dog lover, and will take very good care of my wonderful pup. Bit is staying in the house, and my friend Carol will look in on him every other day, collect mail, and water the plants. Ironically the weather in Portland is glorious. It was due to get up to 70 degrees F today--unheard of in rainy Portland. John Baker picked me up at 3:15 for the trip to the airport. It's a much longer flight from Portland to Paris then it was in New York.  We'll arrive in Paris at 7:30 AM and will have to wait until about 12:00 noon to get into our hotel rooms. The flight into Newark was very turbulent and I got nauseous as we landed. That never happened before.

It doesn't matter that we arrived early in Newark, the plane is delayed and we wait more than four hours for our connecting flight to Paris. It's a long ride and we arrive exhausted and ready to sleep. Paris is very cold--28 degrees F. We arrive at the hotel at about 9:30, but the rooms are not ready yet. Off to breakfast and I'm kicking myself for not bringing a scarf or gloves. My jacket is just a bit too light.

Around the corner we go for a restorative caffe and croissant. The first bite and you know you are in Paris. Nowhere else can you get such a tender pastry--flaky, slightly warm, buttery and addictive. Back at the hotel we sit down and fall asleep in the lobby waiting for our rooms. Finally at near 1:00 PM, we are cleared to take possession of our rooms. I fall into bed for deep sleep of two hours. Mustn't sleep more than that. I'm going to wake up in the middle of the night.

This makes for a different pizza topping!

At 70, Jean-Francois is fit and thin and a life-long walker. John and I, however, are portly and slow and stairs become something to be endured with grim set faces. Jean-Francois speed walks us through four Arrondissements and my camera goes crazy. We find ourselves on the ancient Rue Mouffetard, a narrow, cobble-stoned street packed with many restaurants, charcuterie, boulangerie, fromagerie, creperie, and other food shops. I pass something called Speed Rabbit Pizza and fortunately it was closed. I would have been tempted to give it a try. The next thing you know we're near the Luxembourg Gardens, and on to Blvd. St. Michel. I didn't realize the three famous restaurants on the blvd. St. Michel--Brasserie Lipp, Cafe de Flores and Les Deux Magots are close to each other. Still packing them in more than 80s years after they were first sought out by Hemingway and other artists of his time, these cafes are now a big destination for Parisians out walking, and they also attract tourists. Today is Easter and anything that is open is packed. Naturally we can't get into them, and instead, settle for Cafe Bonaparte just down the street.

Brasserie Lipp

Les Deux Magots

Cafe de Flore

We now have been past the Pantheon, the Sorbonne, St. German des Pres, the Odeon, and other famous landmarks. It's beautiful--all of it. A glass of wine, and some tzatziki and grilled toast, and we're ready to find a Metro and head towards home. The Paris Metro is very efficient--cars arrive promptly every few minutes, even on an Easter Sunday schedule, but the up and down stairs are tough on this old body, and I emerged completely out of breath. Now I understand why older people prefer taking the bus. Jean-Francois has carefully looked for restaurants opened on Easter. Paris spent its Easter holiday at the cafes, walking around, and enjoying the cool, but still sunny weather. Monday is still the Easter holiday with offices closed and that means most of the shops will also be closed.  Tonight we'll go over to the Right Bank in the 13th Arrondissement for dinner 

Prices are sky high in the restaurants and cafes of Paris. A large glass of rose for John and me, a large espresso, my little Greek snack and frozen dessert for Jean-Francois cost 47.60 Euro! L'Apprenti is an attractive brasserie on the Avenue Daumesnil. It's cozy with lots of wood paneling, and reasonably spaced tables. The food is conventionally Parisian--a bit old-fashioned, but well made. Jean-Francois and I both ordered the same thing--a bowl full of saffron-infused broth with lots of seafood such as tuna, mussels and cod with lots of chopped chives for garnish, while John began with escalops of fois gras with a mesclun salad and a sweet compote of red berries.  Both were fine dishes, though the soup could have been warmer. The dish was pretty and satisfying. The fois gras was rich with the fruit cutting some that richness.  

Jean and I also ordered grilled veal hangar steak over potatoes Dauphinois, with a rich, cream sauce on the side. A bit overkill but still I liked the steak--the veal tasted less beefy. John tried the lamb noisette with a mirepoix of eggplant, and onions. It too was excellent. We chose a modest bottle of Pinot Noir. Still this was a pricey meal at about $216. for the three of us.  

Rue Mouffetard

Tomorrow we hit our first museum, the Musee Rodin--my first visit to admire the sculpture. More tourist photos here:  

The Pantheon--lots of impressive names from the Republic are buried here!

I seem to recall passing many churches with familiar names yesterday. For the life of me, 
I can't remember this one's name!

A Louis Vuitton outpost--one of several in Paris. 

The planners of Paris have been very smart to keep the skyscrapers outside of the center of the city. This lone building, erected in the 60s is an exception, standing out against the tradition architecture of the city.

I don't think anyone can argue that Paris is the most beautiful city in the world!

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