Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Saturday, June 3rd: Welcome to Paris

When Fumiyo and I were driving down the coast from Vancouver to Southern California in November, 2015, we heard about the Bataclan massacre and other terrorist attacks in Paris. We decided to go to France, to show our solidarity.
Fumiyo hiked across Provence with her friend from May, 19-31. Upon her return, she told me the flight was claustrophobic and I should get a seat that would be more comfortable. I went to the Air France website and chose what I assumed would be a more comfortable seat. When I got to Vancouver airport, I discovered I'd chosen a seat on the return flight. The flight to Paris would indeed be claustrophobic. I watched a pretty good movie about how the McDonald's empire emerged from theft, listened to some Earth Wind and Fire on the free headsets, enjoyed a free glass of champagne, read the April issue of The Atlantic and several chapters of Montaigne's essays and had two decent meals. The first, “dinner,” promised chicken in lemon sauce. The lemons never appeared on my palate, but the meal was pretty good, particularly the apple sauce which included a number of different fruit instead of just apples. Also pumpkin and wild rice, which was quite tasty. My glass of white wine suffered from turbulence, spilling onto the tray and soaking several courses. I should not have poured it into the plastic cup. What I didn't do was sleep. Arriving at Charles De Gaul, we were bused to another terminal and then forced to stand in line for 2 hours to see the passport people. I was exhausted and sore from the flight, and standing for hours made things even worse. As I finally approached the passport folks, a loud bang was heard. The security people were alarmed and scurried about. Apparently it wasn't a bomb. After getting my passport stamped, I acquired my suitcase and then had to wait another hour before I was allowed to leave the airport and catch the train into Paris. In my studies of desirable places to eat in Paris, I kept reading about the wonders of a creperie called the Breizh Cafe which apparently had Japanese-inflected crepes and only took reservations from 9:30 to 11:30 in the mornings. I tried to call from Vancouver but no luck. I tried to call from the airport with the same lack of luck. After a long, uneventful train ride to St. Michel station, I got off at the wrong exit and had to ask several people where Shakespeare and Co. was. I was to spend most of my trip asking people for directions. My hotel was next door to the great English language bookstore. Upon checking into my ancient hotel, The Esmeralda, I was given a room on the 4th floor. “I hope you're strong,” says the concierge. An ignorant hope. Already exhausted from the flight, I somehow climbed up to my room, only to be told a few minutes later that a room had just opened up on the 1st floor, so I could save several steps a day! Lucky me!
I'd bought books at Shakespeare and Co. on my previous trips to Paris, in 1980 and 2002. Planned to buy one this trip to. However, what most excited me about the store was that it now had a cafe. I could order in English. I did. Unfortunately I ordered a quiche and a cidre. A salad came with the quiche which had a tasty balsamic dressing. The Sassy cidre (from Normandy) was drinkable and necessary on a muggy day. The quiche was a disaster. Not a good beginning to my culinary adventures in Paris.
I had booked a reservation into the Louvre for 2:00. It was great to avoid the long lines. My favourite painting (Joseph the Carpenter, by La Tour) is in the Louvre. I saw it in 1980. Unfortunately its room was closed in 2002. Closed again this time. I knew that, but wanted to see the Louvre's new (since 2002 anyway) collection of Islamic art. I had been very impressed by the Islamic art I'd seen in Spain in the 2002 trip. This art was not impressive at all. I asked about the Vermeers, which had thrilled me on both previous visits. They were gone too. I'd seen a sign on my way into the Louvre courtyard advertising a Vermeer exhibit that ended in May. Not only were the borrowed Vermeers gone, so were the Louvre's. The Louvre WiFi didn't work for my phone either. Bad Louvre!
In my search for great French food, the restaurant Les Bouquinistes had been recommended. Run by Guy Savoy, whose restaurant in Vegas is one of my faves. Close to my hotel too. I was there when it opened at 7:00. Would it be as good as the Savoy in Vegas? It was considerably cheaper, though it had a Michelin star. The amuse wasn't promising. I had thought of ordering the cheap fixed price meal, but the Mushroom and Prawn Ravioli, Ginger and Lemon Grass Broth wasn't on that menu. I went with the prawns. First whiff reminded me of Lobster Bisque, but far more complex and palate-enchanting, as I expect from Guy Savoy Every bit as good as Savoy's Vegas food. As good as I anticipated. Phenomenal food. Next up, spiced tuna with a pea risotto and potatoes. Not only superb but very filling. Not spicy at all, just the way I like it. Both courses paired perfectly with a glass of Chablis.

 Neglecting the quiche, which deserves all the neglect it can get, this was my first Meal in Paris and it was good as I'd hoped. In spite of the thundering bells from next door Notre Dame, I easily went to sleep by 8:30. Unfortunately, I awoke at 11:30, not because of noise but because of my skewered sense of time. I eventually went back to sleep and arose for a busy Sunday.


At 2:27 PM, Blogger Elayne said...

Ah, there it is, the first post, posted last! Any reason you did these in reverse order? Made for some very confusing reading.


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