Paris Trip Report and Photos

Mar 2nd, 2007, 07:05 AM
  #1  
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Paris Trip Report and Photos

Although I posted my food reports, I didn’t post my trip report and pictures. My friend moolyn has been riding me unmercifully about this so here goes.
The trip is from April/May 2006, but perhaps some of you scheduled to go to France this spring will find something useful or fun.
Here is a link to the photos which go along with this portion of the trip
http://tinyurl.com/2loo2v
Click on “view album as guest” and ignore the AOL propaganda.
Each new day begins with the name of the week so it kind of coordinates with the report. I have resisted putting in any food pictures (except where absolutely necessary). They are available elsewhere on this forum by entering “robjame food photos” in the search box.

Saturday 22/04/06
Checked into BA lounge in Toronto 4 hours ahead of flight scheduled for 6:30 pm.
We like to do this as we use BA miles to purchase business class and we enjoy getting to the airport and relaxing. We are excited and feel that our holiday starts here.
We were upgraded to first class on the way over but honestly couldn’t see that much difference between first and business. As we had taken our dinner in the lounge prior to boarding, we settled in to the sleeper seats and tried to sleep. About a week before the flight I begin going to bed earlier and getting up earlier so this morning I had gotten up at 4:30 am, so this seemed like a normal bed time. Uneventful flight.
Sunday 23/04/06
We had time to visit the lounge in Heathrow and then continued on an uneventful flight to Paris. We like to arrive on Sundays and CDG was fine. A €60 taxi ride had us arriving at Hotel Monge by noon. As our room was not ready we walked Moufetard and lunched in the Arenes de Lutece with a sandwich baguette. This is a favorite picnic spot which we share with the locals – children playing footie, old men playing boules and lovers playing what lovers have played for thousands of years.
After a short rest (sleep) in our room we purchased our Carte Orange without incident and wandered down to Ile St Louis to watch the people, the many street performers and the Seine stall merchants. We happened upon the Deportation Memorial and as we had never visited this, we wandered in. What a moving experience. The juxtaposition of the stark concrete allowing restricted views of the Seine is very effective in translating the experience of the deported Paris residents.
Walking back to our hotel it started to rain so we ducked into Le Petit Cardinal for our first drink.
Sunday dinner that first day is always a problem partly because of restaurant closings and partly because we don’t know what we feel like. We returned to Moufetard and settled on Le Jardin d’Ivy where Sandra started with a flambé of scallops in cognac accompanied by a mosaic of steamed white leeks. I couldn’t resist my first opportunity for homemade duck foie gras with onion chutney. We shared a skewer of king prawns wrapped in rosemary leaves with a side of Provence ratatouille. A rather good bottle of St Estephe 1999 helped us wash this down.
As we lay in bed with the balcony doors sprouted to allow in the Paris essence, I thought, “We are retired and are fortunate enough to be able to travel. My God. We are in Paris!”
Sleep comes gently with such thoughts.
Monday 24/04/06
We slipped easily into our Paris habit of breakfast at Café Arenes. €7 buys Sandra a café elongé and a croissant and me an espresso and a buttered baguette with confiture. The owner was nowhere to be found and his mother was “manning” the busy café. This was a challenge as my shoddy Canadian-accented French clashed with her Arabic-French. During the week this was overcome as we became regulars and our morning ritual became automatic - so automatic that any change from our usual order would have been impossible. We later found that the owner was busy qualifying for his driver’s license.
Our walk took us down to Ile de la Cité, the flower market where we made some souvenir purchases at a toy merchant’s stall, St Chapelle, Concierge where we purchased a 3 day museum pass and made reservations for an evening concert. We take the opportunity to walk through any park that we happen upon where we sit for a minute and soak in the Parisness. Watching some models engaged in a fashion shoot added to the fun.
Lunch was at another of our favorites, Taverne Henri IV at Place Dauphine where I had tartine pieds-porc, while Sandra opted for the salade de l’été and one of the proprietor’s featured wines. We slip in among the businessmen, the regulars and few tourists and are always made to feel welcome.
Walking down Ste Michelle we spent some time at Luxembourg Gardens. There is always something to see here and we never tire of visiting this park. We meandered back to the hotel via rue St Jacques and rue des Ecoles where we saw 30 or more police vans and wagons. This was obviously a staging area for riot response units. This was the only awareness of the riots that we came upon while there.
After some time in the Cyber café by Metro Jussieau and a rest in the room we attended an 8:30 guitar concert at St Chappelle. What a wonderful venue for an intimate presentation although the young musician made me again conscious of my own inadequacies with this instrument. As we hadn’t had dinner yet we walked over to Le Remminet at close to 10 o’clock and were fortunate to slip into the one available table – probably vacated by an early diner. Entres of asperges vinaigrette with a tartare of fine herbs and foie gras, plats principals of lamb with tomato confite of garlic and olives and eggplant covered with mozzarella, and calves liver with cranberries and garlic potatoes were perfect. Accompanied with a St Emilion 200 grand cru and desserts of crème brulé and a bourbon vanilla pod and a sabayon de champagne - who could ask for more. This is Paris.
Tuesday 25/04/06
Stupidly forgetting that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, we headed over there today. As a consequence we walked around for awhile, headed through the Tuilleries, past the Obelisk Champs Elysses to the Arc de Triomphe. After the shops of Ste Honore we walked past Jack’s house (Palais de l’Élysée). We headed back to Jussieau where we had a late lunch at Buisson Ardent. Pea soup, a salad with cottage ham, followed by boeuf étuvé avec legumes, fromage blanc with chestnut jam and a white chocolate mousse with crème de menthe were great. This place is wonderful, filled with local business people.
We then headed up to Place Contrescarpe for a coffee. After a short rest in our room we decided to go forgo dinner and go on the evening Seine cruise. As we walked there we marveled at the changes that the dusk light makes to the usual places – Notre Dame, Seine, buildings. A bottle of French red and two croque monsieurs, we settled back to enjoy one of our favorite pleasures in this magnificent city. Just another day in Paris.
Wednesday 26/04//06
Back to the Louvre. Today it was open. I was thoroughly impressed with this place. We followed the short tour pamphlet which took us past some of the major pieces. I know it is in vogue to disdain DaVinci Code and therefore the Mona Lisa, etc but I thought she was breath-taking. The recreation of Napoleon’s quarters is a wonderful exhibit where you can spend considerable time amid opulence.
Lunch was at Brasserie Delayrac which we came upon and consisted of a quiche and a salad. It was disappointing and the experience, despite the wine, reinforced in my mind why we choose to plan where we want to eat and not depend on stumbling upon a decent spot.
An afternoon stroll through the Passages Vivienne and Choisseul made everything right. What fun these areas are and we both are always willing to return. We made our way back to Hotel residence Monge in time for a nap before the night’s adventure. We were welcomed at La Truffiere which is our splurge spot. We had prearranged the degustation menu with accompanying wines so there would be little thought behind the night – only gustatory indulgement. Or so we thought. When we ordered our pre-dinner kir royale, the waiter asked us if we would like to try their specialty aperitif. This was to be a perfect night so I said, “No”. The waiter added, “If you can guess the five ingredients, the meal is on me.” So I said, “Yes”. The drink was delicious and I paid the bill. The degustation meal with the wines is an amazing experience. Little samples of each of their specialties – some 15 or so items arrive with the sommelier’s choice of accompanying wine. As truffles are their specialty they are added in many fashions to the dishes. We sat down for dinner at 8 o’clock and toddled back to our hotel, arm in arm, well after the witching hour. Worth the flight to Paris.
Thursday 27/04/06
This morning we spent our time at the Rodin Museum. This is a treat because you can wonder into the building and see the exhibits as well as stroll the gardens to enjoy the flowers and sculptures. As it is primarily a rose garden, it wasn’t at its best this time of year but, nevertheless, wonderful.
We had wandered by Lenotre – that cooking school, restaurant, culinary store place – above the Obelisk on Champs Elysee. I am sure you have passed it and wondered just what is is. Well, it’s a restaurant, cooking school and culinary store. Actually it is quite a famous pastry cooking school begun by a very famous French pastry chef. We had made reservations and, filled with anticipation, we went. Sitting outside we enjoyed partially cooked foie gras, chicken breast with ricotta and crunchy vegetables and quiche with a salad. As it was cool we went inside to partake in two of their famous pastries. Maybe pastries can’t really be made any better than they are at the many patisseries throughout Paris but I was underwhelmed.
We headed over to Musée d’Orsay in the late afternoon. The spaciousness of this railway station with its several floors off to the sides makes is very pleasing. We headed right up to the impressionists and spent our time wandering in and out and around the many rooms of Cezanne’s, Renoir’s, Monet’s Degas’s until we felt satiated.
Chez Robert is a small bistro off Place Contrescarpe that we had wanted to try. It was neither good enough nor bad enough to stick in our memories or cause me to write it up. We had the formula meals while sitting in the front open window close enough to grab the passersby and pat the cat that seemed to hang around but was totally disinterested in Robert’s food.
Friday 28/04/06
Things started well by taking the metro to the Opera Garnier where we had seen a memorable performance last year. We walked around Place Vendrome and shopped and found ourselves in the ritzy stores of St Honore – Hermes, La Maison du Chocolat.
Returning to Arenes de Lutece we enjoyed a picnic lunch of ham and gruyere cheese baguette from the Monge boulangerie and a Cahors wine from Champion.
The rest of the afternoon we had planned to write postcards and pack some items for shipping home. We purchased two shipping boxes from the post office. The price included the postal cost. A frustrating hour was spent shuffling the purchased items in and out of the boxes which suddenly seemed a lot smaller as we tried to pack them. Blame was floating back and forth quite freely. In exasperation we asked Julie at the Hotel if she had storage for some bags until we returned in 3 weeks time. She did and we returned the shipping boxes to the post office for a refund. The time and words were irretrievable.
There seemed to be sunshine ahead as we had a dinner reservation at Violon d’Ingres. We Metroed to the area of the restaurant. Although we had only a few numbers to walk down the street it seemed a long way down rue St Dominique. We had great expectations, but as this was a holiday weekend, apparently everyone had left Paris. The restaurant was nearly empty all evening, there were no specials beyond the menu and the staff didn’t have enough to do. Our over-attentive waiter hovered all night, not a habit we normally deal with in Paris. As well he had a terrible cold which caused me to remember him a few days hence. The amuse bouche was a bowl of soup. For entres I had foie gras with a gingerbread crust and Sandra had scallop salad. We both had sea bass crusted in almonds on a baby spinach salad. We finished with a shared cheese plate which was disappointing as it was three cheeses of their choosing but all three very usual French cheeses. We had a lovely Languedoc 2000 white which was as good as expected.
Saturday 29/04/06
Armed with a storage solution for our over spending on souvenirs, we headed back to Place de la Madeleine. There was a store dedicated to ballet that we wanted top visit to pick up an item for our granddaughter. As well the area is always fun to walk and drool. We remarked on the tiny hotel balconies, their railings festooned with green plants. Continuing down to Pont Neuf we noted that Samaritaine Department store windows were still painted and carried smallish English signs indicating that they were closed for a long duration due to security reasons.We decided to stop for lunch again at Taverne Henri IV. A lunch of a salad with chicken and a tartine topped with tomato, zucchini and chevre with the wine of the day kept us going.
After walking to Place St Michel, St Severin we followed rue St Jacques towards our hotel.
Still full from lunch we spent the evening in our room, finishing up some picnic supplies and a bottle of red wine that had been hanging around for a day or so. We relaxed and watched French television where there was a game show and the moderator was mimicking the Quebecois accent by yelling loudly and speaking through his nose. The audience howled so he must have been right on the stereotype. I am always intrigued by the way different countries perceive the accent of others.
Sunday 30/04/06
We started with a walk down to the flower market. Seeing the rows and rows of flowers is the essence of spring.
Today was market day and the market at Place Monge was in full swing so we headed there to soak up the atmosphere and load up on foie gras from the Lafitte stall.
Having the market itch, we scratched it by heading to Mouffetard, watching the singing and dancing and enjoying a crowded street scene. People don’t look that happy while shopping at home. We wandered up the street washing in the wonderful food stores and restaurants. This street always feels more vibrant with the influx of young people, students, and their joie de vivre. What a lovely way to spend the last day in Paris. As we were heading to Lyon tomorrow we resisted impulse buying though we did buy a couple of our favorites – tied bundles of bouquet garni that are mandatory in our recipes for boeuf bourguignon and lamb shanks, and a bottle of white truffle oil. Thank goodness Julie had agreed to our leaving bags of items at Residence Monge while we toured. We have a rule that if we want to buy something, we do it then – oft times we never get back to make the purchase. It did kind of gnaw at me that we still had to get these things back to Canada.
Dinner that night at Couscouserie at Place Contrescarpe was quite pleasant. Sandra is not a fan of couscous so ordered lamb chops and frites which were great. For me, the lamb brochette and couscous were perfect and I vowed to search out couscous more often. These types of restaurants are quite common in the Latin Quarter and usually a bargain and a change from French cuisine. We both felt like a small salad that night and, though not on the menu, the request brought us a small plate with bib lettuce, red, ripe tomato slices and a few cubes of feta. Happily it was drizzled with that wonderful creamy vinaigrette that seems to be beyond the abilities of North American chefs (Ya want Kraft Ranch, Kraft bleu cheese or Kraft thousand islands?)

Tomorrow - Lyon

robjame is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 07:25 AM
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Sounds lovely. We too always enjoy Le Reminet and look fofrward to our visits. I'm glad I'm not the only one who was disappointed in LEontre's pastries!!

Looking forward to Lyon...we were there this past year too and I want to compare your thoughts with mine!

jody is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 07:28 AM
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ira
 
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Thanks for sharing, Rob.

>We were welcomed at La Truffiere....<

Ummmm, yum.

ira is online now  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 10:27 AM
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robjame, I printed your report to read on my bus commute tonight but I HAD to watch the slideshow. Great pics - as my Alabama mother would say "they carried me right back". Can't wait for this years trip. I leave in 48 days (but who's counting).
Margaretlb is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 10:43 AM
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Thank you! I've long wondered what you and your wife did on your trips besides all the excellent dining!

I'll be in Paris and the Dordogne, hmm, in 27 days, so I really appreciate this. Terrific photos, too.
Leely is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 10:46 AM
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nice report rob! I also usually try to do one degustation menu when traveling -- painstakingly researched with friends as we try to narrow down which restaurant. It's usually a highlight of the trip and totally unforgettable.
fishee is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 01:20 PM
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Great report, it leaves me wanting to have couscous in Paris, as I often have couscous at home I have never actually had it in a restaurant. Do you know the address of the Couscouserie? Also do you remember the cost and approximate size of the postage boxes? This is something I have been thinking about for my next trip in September.
happytotravel is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 02:30 PM
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Thank you for your kind comments.
jody - the Lyon portion of this trip report is now posted at:
http://tinyurl.com/386esd
Leely - I will try to have the Dordogne portion of this trip posted in the next week or so.
happytotravel - The couscous restaurant is called La Couscousiere
83, rue du Cardinal Lemoine - very close to Place Contrescarpe
I think that the boxes were about 18" cubes and included was the postage - maybe €20. I could be way off on this.
01 46 33 69 04
robjame is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 03:02 PM
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very nice report. you describe everything with such a pleasant style.
lincasanova is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 02:44 AM
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robjame, this really is a delight to read. I have always been fascinated by your choices of restaurants and food, and like Leely, I've wondered what else you do. Now we all know. (By the way, that apartment we just rented is almost directly across rue des Petits Champs from Passage Choisseul. I'm working on the report.)


I noticed in the last photo that you had a bottle of Badoit in the table. That's our preferred brand as well. I wish we could buy it in Canada.

Anselm
AnselmAdorne is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 03:17 AM
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Thanks, robjame..I'm on my way !

Had a chance to look at your lovely photos of Paris and really enjoyed them.

Isn't retirement grand!!!!!!!
jody is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 04:27 AM
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robjame, Fantastique!
tudorprincess is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 08:30 AM
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jody - retirement is grand!
Anselm - Until we went to France I didn't know about the different waters. We have found that people don't tend to drink Perrier with meals because of the amount of carbonatiion. I love asking for "une grand bouteille de l'eau avec petit gaz s'il vous plait". We have had some interesting ones but Badoit is a favorite. Maybe I'll start a thread on France bottled waters.
robjame is offline  
Mar 5th, 2007, 07:44 AM
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Bob, I'm so glad you listened to my plea to finish the trip report you started while in France last summer! I will save all the segments for future reference. You are a great resouce!
moolyn is offline  
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