Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sept. 9, Friday-Canal St. Martin and dinner at La Regalade

An ancient hospital near the canal
Our last day this trip included a walk along the Canal St. Martin and dinner at La Regalade - one of the fine baby bistros that happens to be in the 14th not far from our hotel.

Fish and Pork - see a pattern here?

Grand Marnier souffle - TERRIFIC!

Sept. 8, Thursday-lunch at Les Ministeres and the Carnavalet Museum of the City of Paris

The best thing we learned while finding our way to Robouchon's yesterday was a sandwich board sign across the street at Les Ministeres listing 19 oysters for 20 Euros. Wellll, we had to come back for lunch. It is a quintessential Paris restaurant for people of normal means - food is very good, service professional & friendly, menu traditional, but interesting. It's what we long for most when we're away from this city.

After lunch we took the Metro over to the 3rd near the Place des Vosges to the Carnavalet museum of the city of Paris. Surprising that we've never visited it before. It's a real treat, housed in two 16th c. townhouse mansions with rooms brought from other mansions that have been destroyed, plus room after room of interesting collections. For more info. see:

Les Ministeres

Louie with Proust's room! Think Madeleines.

Carnevalet gardens

Sept. 7, Wednesday-Deyrolle (an unusual store!), lunch at Joel Robouchon's in Saint Germain, and a walk in the Palais Royal gardens

A quiet day in Paris. On our way to a late lunch at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the finest food, but NOT the finest overall dining experience, and WILDLY overpriced), we happened upon Deyrolle - a historic taxidermy/shell/naturalist shop that's a huge surprise - a bit horrifying, but it draws you in like a zoo or aquarium. It appears in the latest Woody Allen film, "Midnight in Paris." Apparently, lots of their business is based on renting out the collections.
Before you take out a contract on our lives, here's their web site. Decide for yourself.

Palais Royal garden - gorgeous, top-line shops along the arcade. 

Beautiful children playing under the watchful eye of their nannies.

Note the ominous sky - but we got home before the skies opened.

Sept. 6, Tuesday, Rouen. Alert! Museums are closed on Tuesdays.

We chose to visit Rouen for our day trip outside Paris because it's an easy, 1 hour train ride from Gare St. Lazare, it has an interesting history (including Joan of Arc's demise here), a cathedral that Monet painted 31 times, one of France's finest collection of medieval half-timbered houses still in use, and an excellent art museum that's rarely crowded. It was supposed to be a sunny day, too.

Wellll, we struck out on most counts, but everything was salvaged by a pleasant train ride along the Seine, a fine leisurely lunch in a corner restaurant, and some fun Christmas shopping along the pedestrian streets. We certainly hope to return and spend more time, but NOT on a Tuesday. Imagine a librarian failing to do her homework before the visit! Shocking, eh?

This is the square where young Joan met her fate, but the modern church carrying her name is soooo ugly we refuse to show it!

Sadly, they are building a very modern apt. building abutting the left side of the Cathedral. Sigh.....

Did I mention we had an excellent lunch in a small cafe - Lili Jean? My omeltte and Louie's confit of pork cheeks were terrific.

Sept. 5, Monday - Institut de France and good food

We set off from the 14th with no strong plan in mind except to walk, soak in the city, eat oysters, and dine at Brasserie Balzar on Rue des Ecoles. The latter was recommended to us in 2000 by our friend, Debby Brudno, and it is still one of our favorites.

Stumbled upon the Institut de France, where a professor on his way to lunch stopped to chat and recommended that we visit the Mazarine Library across the square. Eureka!

The Institut was founded in 1795 and is called the "Parliament of the Learned." Here's more info.
Cardinal Mazarine's library was opened to the public in the mid 17th c., so it is known as France's first "public library." It's public nature saved it during the Revolution in the late 18th c. What a joy to have accidentally found it today. Since no photos are allowed inside the library, see their web site. It's amazing, and the staff are surprisingly tolerant of tourists, including librarians.

Here I sit at the famous old bookstore near the Seine where Sylvia Beach fostered Hemingway, published Joyce's Ulysses, etc. I heard a rumor that it's closing. Hope not.

Notre Dame from the small garden on the left bank across the river from the cathedral.

Delicious, briny oysters at le bar a huitres

remembering Debby at Brasserie Balzar near the Sorbonne

Sept. 4, Sunday, Cite de la Musique and Bassin de la Villette in the 19th

After a long, restful sleep, we had a big brunch at the hotel and took the Metro over to the 19th to explore the Musee de la Musique museum, walk along the large canal-Bassin de la Vilette.

Musee de la Musique

The museum is a new building in the Parc de la Villette and part of the Cite de la Musique, which includes a huge music venue and exhibition space. Organized chronologically, the collections and exhibits (in ALL formats) focus on Western music from the 17th century to today. With 1,000 instruments and art objects, the displays include gorgeous to occasionally grotesque instruments once belonging to Chopin, Django Reinhardt, Frank Zappa, and other famous folks. It was much more interactive than our photos show, and we could have spent a week here. Seeing, hearing, and reading really is the best way to learn. Hope son, Will, will have that chance some day!

The big music venue is behind Louie
Walk along the Bassin de la Villette

The Bassin connects two early 19th c. canals and is beautiful and full of commercial and pleasure boats. In a typically Parisian way, the area is beautiful, as well as functional. The life along the Bassin and the canals is rich, diverse, and fascinating. Fortunately, I'd read an article about this area early in 2011, so it's opened a new playground for us in Paris. Here's the Wikipedia link, in case you want more information:

Canal lock and lockmaster's house

That's a Holiday Inn Express behind us. 


Ping pong canalside

a restaurant/bar canalside

Yep, right on the sidewalk!

La Rotonde, where we had an excellent meal - fish for me and pork knuckle with fresh peas for Louie.

Sept. 3, Saturday, saying hello to Paris once again

Given the twists and turns of the past year in the Cochrane-Middleman household, we decided to use our airline and hotel points to spend Labor Day week in Paris for our favorite kind of R&R. We've always wanted to visit in September, but the start of school prevented it. NOT this year.

After an uneventful flight on Air France from Dulles to Charles de Gaulle, we checked into a Marriott in the 14th arrondissement very close to two Metro stops. It's a leafy area of the city not far from Montparnasse. After a short nap, we took the Metro to the end of the line at Etoile (Arc de Triomphe), had lunch at a cafe on a quiet side street, then strolled down the Champs Elysees until we got hot and tired, at which point we jumped back on the Metro so we could walk through the Ile de la Cite and Saint Germain as we wended our way back to the hotel for a good rest.

Drooling at Laduree, the world-famous macaroon/candy/tea restaurant on the Champs Elysees