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!
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!
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.
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!