Saturday, December 17, 2011

Paris left

Crisscrossing the Left Bank of Paris takes some hours. Crisscrossing it twice in one day takes a love of urban crawling. I have that love. Give me the countryside to live in, give me Paris for a day of sauntering at a good and lively pace.

That’s what I’ll post for you on this day – the left bank, back and forth – then, increasing the orbit further, back and forth once more. There were intermittent clouds and cloudbursts and, in the late afternoon there were strong gusts of wind, but feeling happy and rather carefree, I could not be bothered to notice or mind.

So, here we go, round number one (this one with Diane and Ernest):

We start with Diane, photographing the bulldogs at one of my favorite chain clothing stores, Maje:


Ernest is curious about men's hats at Hermé. I'm taken in by the flowers there:

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We dry off from the rain at the Bon Marché (department store). I'm not in the buying mode today, but I do like my little bottle of juice at the cafeteria. Here, even the casual looks well put together.

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I do love the clever perfume ads in this store. Like this one:


We leave the store. It has stopped raining for a bit, but I'm itching for a solid Parisian lunch. Is it coincidence that I am often ready for it when I walk the Rue du Bac? Where you'll find the ever bustling, ever full of friendly and oh so professional waiters Café Varenne? Here's one, dashing out across the street to the bakery, to restock the supply of baguettes.


Let me put up a photos of my friends at lunch. (Just for my own log, I'll note that I ate a plate of lentils with a poached egg and I ordered what I thought was a small, quarter carafe of rosé but turned out to be a demi -- way too much for lunch, but I suffered through and had a goodly portion of it. Thank God for strong noisette espressos!)


I say goodbye to my friends who are wanting a speedier return to the hotel and take the long way back -- along the river. Now your attention should switch to the sky. It may give you a hint of the weather for the afternoon. Tumultuous. This is the first time that I have seen waves on the River Seine.


For a while, it looked like it might clear.


But no. In fact, the clouds came back with a vengence. And Paris looked beautiful anyway. Stunning, actually.


But really windy. Have I said this enough that you're convinced? What, you need a photo of the wind? That's a tough one. Let's try this:

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...and then take one more look at the breathtaking views onto the Pont Neuf. Last year, it was the snow that caught me (and my daughter) by surprise at this bridge. This year -- it's all about the wind.


Alright. I'm back at the hotel. I check up on my friends -- they're taking it easy this afternoon. But I am just so taken in by the drama in the sky that I cannot help myself. Out I go again, with the goal of reaching the Tower, THE Tower, the much photographed but never ever am I tired of it Tower. But it's a long jaunt, so first, a few photos from going there, a tad away from the river this time.

First, into the Luxembourg Gardens, just before they close (16:30 in the winter):


French are to scarves like Wisconsin men are to shorts. It's a three season thing. And they start young.

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Speaking of seasons, perhaps I haven't shown enough of Christmas in Paris. In the less commercial neighborhoods, it can be a subtle thing. But every once in a while you'll come across a window that is so lovely and so seasonally well put together that it catches your breath.

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The school day in France ends later than back home. On the other hand, there aren't the extracurriculars to keep you from going home. When the final bell rings, all kids head out. This girl left the lycee with the rest, then angled off to one of the side streets.

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The sun has, by now, dipped below the horizon. I'm at the Eiffel Tower at last.

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No, just one photo wont do. You'll see a handful. I can't help it. It's a camera magnet.

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I'm at the river again. there are a few merry-go-rounds and a very ho hum Christmas market. I'm taken in by the sky again.


By the time I reach the Place des Invalides, it's dark. This is my classic view of the Eiffel Tower. It always looks great here, but never more so than at night.

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I've neglected the pastries, haven't I...  Sorry. They should be given due respect.


And now I'm back at the hotel. Diane is ready for a short run to a museum. It's 7:30, but the Palace de Luxembourg has a gallery that is open late. And there is (for three months only!) a special exhibition of Cezanne's paintings in and around Paris. You can't take photos at special exhibitions, but from the gift shop cards, you can get an idea of what was inside.


Diane and Ernest aren't quite up for a dinner out, but I am and I go to a new place. For me, anyway. I want bistro food and I see that this one (La Ferrandaise)  got the bistro of the year award in 2006. (The French have this thing about giving awards and rankings and stars and forks and points to their eating establishments, so I suppose if you wait long enough, some recognition will come your way one way or another.)

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But wait. Before I go inside, may I show off a Paris street (one hugging the edge of the Luxembourg Gardens) at night after the rain? Maybe my head is too full of Impressionist art, but to me, it looks as dreamy as a canvas from that period.


Alright, a word about dinner: it was superb. Scallop over a carpaccio of beetroot, followed by lamb, cooked for 8 hours (the menu tells me), over braised endive. With Ed on the other side of the ocean, I'm eating meats that I never choose with him across the table. Veal yesterday, lamb today, I can almost hear him wince.

I'm forced to order dessert (how sad) since it's a fixed price meal. There's no question -- I'll take the chestnut soufflé with a dash of Grand Marnier flavor. I almost opt for the profiterol with honey ice cream. Next time.