Tuesday, December 09, 2014


To paraphrase Adam Gopnik -- a writer who lived in Paris for a number of years -- it's the everyday that's so beautiful here. I so agree. The parks. The boulangeries. The cafes where people eat lunch or merely pick up a quick espresso. These are the pieces that make up a day in Paris and you could bypass all the art and ignore the architecture and you would still walk away satisfied.

But I didn't ignore the art or architecture today. I packed it in. The sun made me do it!


Just as predicted, Paris wakes up to a beautiful, sunlit day.

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(St Sulpice, as seen outside my window)

That does put a bit of pressure though. I can tell you right now, I'm not going to waste the morning reading the NYTimes on line.

I'm thinking, too, that I need to free myself to go out at night for dinners. Too many evenings of eating bits and pieces of stuff at home. On the one hand, it saves money, but on the other hand, I'm missing Paris at night. So, dinner out tonight and henceforth.

But that has consequences. I can't hang in there on one croissant until the ungodly hour the French open up the kitchens for their night time meal.  Maybe it's time to have a quintessential lunch omelet to tide me over. I google where in heavens I can get an excellent, best ever omelet here.

You may find this to be a ridiculous exercise!  But it's not a given that this classic French dish should be good. I've had many that were not. At the same time, I do think that when it's good, the French omelet is the best of the best.

The initial search points me to expensive hotels. No. I wont do that. But I then find an interview with Ina Garten (do you know her? The Silver Palate cook book person). She appears to have an apartment in Paris (don't they all...) and she proclaims that an exquisite omelet can be had at Cafe de Flore, which, coincidentally is a block from where I am staying.

Working backwards, breakfast will have to be cheap. How about here -- standing,  at a brass bar along with the locals?

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It's the Cafe Raspail, right next to the Tuesday farmers market on the Blvd Raspail. It's a fine market, an interesting market, but I think I've given you enough market photos to last a while. You don't need to see more chanterelle mushrooms and root vegetables. I read somewhere that Catherine Deneuve is a regular at this particular market, but I can only remember her face from the movie The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which dates back to1964. She's probably changed some. In any case, if she was there, I did not know it. I'll post, instead, a photo of this happy couple, going shopping together, hand in hand.

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After, I allow myself another poke into the Luxembourg Gardens, from the southern end...

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And then I take a peaceful little walk along the Rue Madame. I regard the street name as particularly lovely. It's the street of the Mrs. (I believe this particular mrs. was the wife of one of the Louis kings, but I'm not sure which one.)

I do encounter two animated madames.

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And, too, I pass a preschool joined to an elementary school. So I pause to look at the posted lunches for the week. Here they are:

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I wont translate the whole thing, but the ministry has proclaimed that today, for example ("Mardi"), children from age 3 through 10 shall eat: a salad of chopped endive for starters, along with chinese cabbage with an herbal vinaigrette, then they will proceed to roast veal with a puree of butternut squash (which shall be organic), this will be followed by two cheeses -- emmental and mimolette (the latter, btw, was banned by our FDA because of the way it is manufactured -- the rind depends on some mite activity and the FDA appears not to like that), and finally, there seems to be a choice of two desserts -- a flan, either chocolate, or vanilla with caramel sauce. This is the main meal of the day for French kids. Supper at home is a light and simple affair.

As I make my way home, I pass my beloved bakery. Which pastry do you think I picked for myself for tonight?

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Ha, it's a trick question! None of the above! As I'll be eating out, I limit myself to a few choice macarons. Four, to be precise. Selected from this bunch:

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Well now, how about my own lunch? At the Flore, I really have to stick to just the omelet. It's expensive enough.

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And it is excellent. Thin, rolled, with fresh herbs. And I have a first row seat allowing me to admire the comings and goings of the waitstaff which here is 100% male. (This is not unusual: the higher you go in the price category, the fewer women you'll find in the kitchen and among the waitstaff, both here and in the States.)

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(a bevy of waiters)

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(my waiter)

Okay, but lunch is not the sole afternoon activity. Today, I want to visit the second (and last) museum exhibition on my "I absolutely want to do this" list. It's a bit of a walk, so follow along, taking in some of the street scenes.

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The exhibit is at the Jeu de Paume -- right at the corner of Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries Gardens. So I am on the Right Bank of Paris now.

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And you may regard this exhibition as an odd choice. But I'll say it right up front: I loved it! If you're in Paris between now and February 8th, do not hesitate!

But here's the real oddity: the exhibit is of an American photographer (Garry Winogrand) who took photos of people in street scenes, all around the U.S. (Well, actually in select cities: New York and L.A., but deliberately not San Francisco. He explains, in a documentary I watched at the exhibit -- people in S.F. are too obsessed with being regarded as cultured. In NY, LA -- they go about their business and do their own thing, not worrying about how they may appear.)

One consequence of going to an exhibition of an American is that the audience will be entirely French. The museum was quite crowded and it surely was fascinating to listen to the comments by the French on the depictions of America in the the 60s and 70s.

There is so much that I want say about both the photographer and his work! But I do understand that I can't raise your enthusiasm with words alone and unfortunately, this was the more common exhibit where I am not allowed to use my camera inside the museum walls.

I do sneak one photo, feeling that I didn't dishonor the exhibition, as the photo does not include any of the displayed art. Here it is -- a group of school kids. Maybe 14 yrs old. Their leader asks questions on what's different about the period in the photographs (the 60s) and now.

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The kids throw out possibilities (car models! more cigarettes! hair styles! no cell phones!) and those of us who lived through those times have to smile at the way we appear to kids, looking back.

After, I walk back to my Left Bank apartment just as the sun sets to the west of the Eiffel Tower.

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It took a lot of self prodding, convincing and chastising to get myself out yet again in the evening. Too, I had picked a place to eat that is easily a 45 minute walk from where I'm staying. (Though it is a pretty walk.)

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But I need to branch out beyond my neighborhood in terms of eating choices. So I select a place that has a reputation for being market driven and affordable. The food here (Au Bon Accueil) is very good. It's seems odd that it should be so -- the eatery is right at the toes of the Tour Eiffel -- but it's tucked away from full view and it clearly does care a lot about ingredients and preparation so I'm very glad to have made the effort.

I am way too tired to give you more detail. Nor do I think you need it. I'll leave you with just a couple of nighttime classics, from my walk back home. On a day to day basis, I don't really think of Paris as the "city of lights." In my quiet neighborhoods, nighttime comes and the street lamps are illuminated as they would be anywhere else -- enough to keep you safe. But along the Champs Elysees, at this holiday season, all hell breaks loose and Paris does, indeed, sparkle over and beyond what you would regard as reasonable or conventional. Here we go then -- Paris, city of lights:

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