Monday, April 1, 2013


Some of the exquisite pastries and macaroons that have made Laduree one of 
Paris' most famous bakeries

Honestly, I should be in a hospital in traction right now. Instead, I'm in my hotel room and in pain. Everything hurts. Jean-Francois, our intrepid host walked us to death today. We did take the Metro over to the Champs Elysees this morning and then walked down it, and walked past the Minister of the Interior's home and down the big strip of the Rue Faubourg St. Honore where you see the windows of all the city's great fashion designers. This is the biggest concentration of high fashion names from passe Pierre Cardin through all the great fashion names:  Chanel, Givenchy, Sonia Rykiel, and many others. We stopped at Laduree for tea, coffee and some of their famous pastries. They are famous for their macaroons, which come in so many colors. I had a phenomenally pretty and fragrant chocolate cookie, covered with chocolate ganache, and a chocolate truffle, hand turned and dipped in chocolate and then tossed in dark chocolate powder. It was decorated with a small piece of sugared orange peel with gold leaf. John and J-F decided on the the fraise tart over cook fresh rhubarb and then covered in tiny, fresh strawberries--the first of the spring. Laduree has been around Paris since the late 1800s and are famous for their double-decker macaroons--those brightly colored almond-egg cookies filled with ganache, selling some 15,000 a day. There are even macaroon cakes with a tall cone of macarons decorating a funnel top over the small but fantastically expensive cake. The entire floor in two rooms was packed with no extra tables to be had and a cue lined up just inside the door.

The Palais Garnier, perhaps the most famous opera house in the world

J-F then continued the Paris equivalent of the March to Bataan. We trudged through the Rue de la Paix, the just around the corner from the Palais Garnier, which is mostly home to the Paris Opera Ballet and its school for young ballet students. We trudged through the Place Vendome, where the famous Hotel Ritz was being completely overhauled for a new generation of hotel guests (the Crillon, just closed its doors in a complete redecoration which is expected to take two full years). We stared gape-mouthed at the emerald necklaces and other impressive and fanciful jewelry on display at Cartier. So many major jewelers: Buccellati, Tiffany, Bocheron, Rolex, Bulgari, Chaumet, are tightly packed into this small area. The Grand Hotel had such an impressive lobby, we had to walk into to get this photo:

The impressive glass roof over the main entry, palm court and check-in of the 
Grand Hotel near the Rue de la Paix

We had a 3:00 PM reservation for a new and popular art exhibit of the works of Marc Chagall at the Musee du Luxembourg, so we walked over to the Rue de Rivoli, and crossed into the Tuileries Gardens, where we took a break in front of a large round fountain. Here all of Paris seem to have convened as the sunshine and the holiday conspired to take up most of the walking space We saw the impressive Grand Palais on one side--a huge glass-topped exhibition hall. There is a wide fountain in the middle of the Tuilleries Gardens where young boys have been sending out small toy-like sail boats for generations. We reached the Musee du Luxumbourg in the Luxembourg Gardens in time for our appointed visit to view a large new March Chagall exhibit, which was packed the to rafters with a cue around the back that went on and on. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait, but I saw the whole show in less than a half hour because there were simply too many people crowded into this show. I'm not normally a Chagall fan. All the elements of his mature works rarely appeals to me. The religious symbolism of flying Jew, the young married couple (she always with a veil and he with his arms wrapped around her), the crucifixion and other fanciful elements have held little appeal to me, though I did enjoy his earlier works. We repaired to a little cafe next door where J-F and John had a fancy version of tarte tatin, which was exactly that--fancy.

Place Vendome 

Shopping arcade just off the Place Vendome

The Ritz, all wrapped up during it's complete face lift. 

The magnificent Grand Palais exhibition hall photographed from the Tuilleries Gardens

Boats to rent, a tradition for little boys at the Tuilleries

J-F walked us back through the Tuilleries where we saw the magnificent facade of the Luxembourg Palace--home of the French Senate. We finally caught a bus home.  I have a two-hour window before doing to dinner. I need a nap.

John showed us the charm of Place Furstenberg in the St. Germain neighborhood. This
 is where I would like to live in Paris, that is when my ship comes in!

Delacroix lived here. I don't blame him.

Out the door at 7:15 PM, the weather is still cold with a bitter mistral-like wind that won't quit. We headed back to St. Germain for dinner at Alcazar which has a rotating group of chefs who apparently are associated with a French TV version of America's Top Chef. It certainly is a chefy-looking place--big (it used to be a theater), modern, with waiters dressed semi-formally in suits. There was a prix fixe menu with three courses for 43 euros. We all went for the chilled fois gras with paper thin slices of green apple and a spicy apple chutney to go with it and the toast.  It was rich and very nice if not to subtle.  John and J-F ordered chicken, but I wanted the cod fillet which came with a smokey eggplant puree, an artichoke heart, a whole peeled and seeded tomato and cilantro with a few crunchy threads of daikon. Both entrees were served in these large white bowls with wide rims, so the food had to be dug out--great for pasta, but not my favorite way to eat food which was meant to be fanned out on a plate. Three small samples of pot au creme in chocolate, vanilla and coffee finished our meal on a high note, accompanied by a delicious bite of a sort of madeleine. Pinot Noir was our wine again, a real bargain at 30 euros. I would have preferred less of a distraction of a young, hip crowd in this large barn of a restaurant. There was care involved, though the waiters are stretched and not always attentive.

I bought a red Eiffel Tower for my desk. It was such a cheerful and tasteful-looking version. There are so many in Paris, including ones that twinkle with stars to replicated this landmark's nighttime look.

Back at the hotel, I hit the bed with a giant thud. Slept intensely before waking at 4:15. I didn't fight sleep, I simply got up and packed. We're on our way to Sanaray where J-F has an apartment. The speed train will take four hours. I love trains, especially in Europe. We're going to rent a car there. Hope it is warmer further south (Provence).

Forgive any typos. This is the French language, a minefield of errors and this blog won't allow any accent marks.

1 comment:

  1. As every day, Greg, your detailed descriptions absolutely take me back to Paris! And my mouth waters. More! More! Continue having a great time and sending your diary entries -- with or without accents!