Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Paris, August (part 2)

Saturday in Paris was supposed to be warm and beautiful. After we bought our tickets, the weather forecast stayed consistently at 80 and sunny. I was actually worried it would be too hot, and that our only choice would be to picnic in the shade with fresh bread, pungent blue cheese, and some sort of local saucisson.

Alas, a few days before we left the weather got colder, and the overcast, occasionally rainy day never felt close to the mid-70s it was supposed to reach.

We spent Saturday morning wandering the area around Boulevard Saint-Michel looking for a decent restaurant for a light breakfast, but most of the boulangeries we'd heard about were closed (though I am still, somewhat obstinately, pleased by any business that has the gall to shut down completely for even 1 week of the year, much less 4-8). We stopped in at a random place for a pain au chocolat to tide us over, and while it was as tasty as chocolatey butter bread should be, it was nothing special. Breakfast of croissants, espresso, and orange juice was equally forgettable, but at 5 euros was at least not the insane price gouge of many of the places we passed on.

We did find time along our walk to admire the insanely productive window boxes in many of the buildings - I don't think the picture above quite captures it, but keep in mind those are full-size windows nearly covered by enthusiastically growing flowers!

Our first stop after breakfast was one of the smaller flea markets on the southern edge of Paris, Le marché aux Puces de Vanves. We only managed to snap one picture, at this stand selling cute children's toys, but there were several blocks of stalls, and each stand had a distinct aesthetic. The sporadic rain caused several of them to close up early, and for those that didn't we were frankly aghast to see piles of books and records lying unprotected and damp - which perhaps explains why we didn't walk away with anything. Some of the stuff was typical thrift finds (boxy blouses, wide & flimsy ties, pleather everything), but there were definitely some things that fit our aesthetic - old industrial lighting, patined wooden tools, anonymous drawings in thick black lines. I'm sure we'll be back to this flea market, and eventually to the big one at St. Ouen - if nothing else, this article convinced me it will be entertaining.

After a slow lunch in the 1st arrondissement (just on the northern, or right bank, close to the Louvre), we wandered the expensive shopping streets of Paris. I'm afraid we're far too self-conscious to do anything but saunter coolly by the likes of Lanvin and Hermès, but don't let the lack of pictures fool you - we had a fantastic time, as the French saying, window licking (perhaps the polite thing to do would be just throw in faire du lèche-vitrine and leave you to look up that inelegant yet precise phrase yourself). We took a meandering route up from the eastern edge of the Tuileries, towards the manigificent Opera house, and down to the Arc de Triomphe and the FDR metro stop.

I was totally unoriginal, and made Nisha stand in the middle of the Champs-Elysees, while she caught me slouching around next to some flowers.

After walking around all day, we earned ourselves a looooong break at Le Garde Robe, the type of wine bar every good city should have in abundance but is never easy enough to find. Close the the Louvre-Rivoli metro stop (and just around the corner from Spring, a restaurant that's gotten a lot of attention in recent years as Paris moves towards hip, relaxed settings for awesome food). We were happy to see several wine options from Jura, a mountainous region in eastern France that has become one of our favorites for its unique style of wines. After the waitress patiently put up with our many questions and comments, I took a nicely spiced glass of red from the nearby Savoy, a blend of.... I can't remember any more, I was just pleased the waitress continued to gamely respond to all of my questions in French, though it must have been obvious from my blank face that I barely understood anything I hadn't uttered myself. Nisha ended up with a highly oxidized white from Arbois in the vin jaune style, though technically not aged long enough to be given that official designation. Somehow both tart and sweet, it was definitely a wine meant for cheese, and we ordered a mixed cheese & charcuterie plate that turned out to be popular with everybody that night - at the table next to us, a mother and her two sons each ordered one, perhaps to distract the palate following the mom+14 year-old son prolonged cigarette break. The wine bar had filled up to the point where we didn't have a chance to ask about the 3-4 types each of meat and cheese we received, but everything was served at the perfect temperature, and we were content just to enjoy each bite.

But when you're in a wine bar, you have to have some wine. We ordered a Poulsard from Arbois (sticking with the Jura theme), which was fruitier than other Jura wines we've had but still with a lot of personality. Not that we really know what we're talking about - I think Nisha's expression here captures her feeling when I eagerly agreed with the suggestion that the wine would be better decanted, when in fact I was happy just to be holding onto the threads of the question and maintaining any hope of an intelligible response.

Wine inspired us to end the night with a cocotte boudin, a cooked dish of blood sausage, potato, and onion, served with toasted bread. We're always game for some weird cuts of meat (does blood even count as meat?), but this was just downright delicious, satisfying and filling like great barbeque. If you ever come eat with us and you don't like to try weird stuff, I would just tell you that it's pulled pork, and I bet you'd love every bite (shout out to my sister, who wondered what kind of baking could turn out the awesome "sweet breads" at Acacia).

A bottle of wine and 2 glasses of later , we danced into the night looking for one more memory, and it seemed entirely reasonable to take the inevitable trip to the Eiffel Tower. Arriving from the RER Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel train stop on the southwest side of the tower, we came through a surprisingly tranquil park area. There were a few families and couples sitting in the grass, but it was not at all the noisy touristy scene that I was expecting.

Once we got to the base of the tower, we saw the sort of craziness you'd assume would be there, with scores of young guys doing a brisk business in light-up helicopter toys that, of course, looked far more impressive in that setting than they will anywhere else.

We were content to lie together in the grass, and enjoy one of the world's most famous sites by finding ourselves alone and happy.

(...okay, and maybe a little bit drunk...)


  1. This is fantastic! Ken and I are getting married in 5 weeks and spending our honeymoon in Paris. And to be perfectly honest...we're going for the food. Sounds like we should definitely check out the wine bar. We are also the kind of couple that appreciates weird cuts of meat. Let me know if you have any other suggestions for great food. Enjoy your time abroad - sounds like it will be a great year!


  2. Thanks for checking in! It's definitely a wine bar worth going to, and in the immediate area the restaurant and wine shop run by Spring sound like they'd be great destinations as well. It's unfortunate they went on holiday just as we arrived...

    At the top of our list for our next trip would be a trip to Yam'Tcha, which serves French-influenced Hong Kong style food, and offers individually-prepared teas as a pairing option. Would be especially nice at lunch if you don't want to sleep the afternoon away.