Tag Archives: Paris

18 Jour – Refuge des Fondus

10 Jul

Yesterday we decided that the last few days would be about relaxing, shopping and just hanging out. No more sightseeing! A girl has her limits, after all. I came to realize that my feet also have limits which is why we started taking the Open Air Bus. Several companies own double-decker buses with the top level open. What luxury! we could sit in comfy seats, enjoy the sights and, if we wanted, listen to some history. Of course we chose to sit on top – nice breezes and better views!

We were on our way to Montmartre again, but this time we would shop and eat fondue. The 3 meals we had to have in Paris were soufle, crepes and fondue.

Once the bus let us off in Montmartre, we strolled the neighborhood looking for last minute gifts. After little success we decided to have a drink at a cafe – Rose of course.

It was finally time for fondue. We walked up at hill to the restaurant and found a line out side waiting for the doors to open. Once opened, the fun began! As each couple entered the small, dimly lit space, the owner offered his hand to help the woman of the pair climb (yes, climb) over the table to sit against the wall. It was a narrow room with two long tables along each side. There were no openings between tables so hence the climbing. Fun! Luckily I was in pants. As decoration, the walls were covered with signatures and messages from past patrons. We meant to buy a sharpie on the way there but forgot. Oh well, we’ll just have to go back!

We had a choice of cheese or meat fondue. We chose the meat. After ordering, we were brought a plate of pickled and savory appetizers – dips, pickles, pate and cornichons. We were also asked whether we preferred white or red wine and were brought baby bottles filled with our choice. The baby bottles were a clever way for the owner to get around paying taxes on serving wine. Apparently if an establishment serves wine in glasses, it has to pay taxes. No one said anything about baby bottles, though! What a clever way to get around paying taxes! Not to mention a great gimmick written up in all the tour books.

17 Jour – Catacombs, Musee Gustave Moreau & Crepes

9 Jul

Can you say creepy? Then you’ve described the Catacombs of Paris. The Catacombs are an underground ossuary located south of the former city gate (the “Barrière d’Enfer” at today’s Place Denfert-Rochereau).

A bit of history from Wikipedia: The ossuary holds the remains of about 6 million people and fills a renovated section of caverns and tunnels that are the remains of Paris’stone mines. in the early 18th century, the cemetaries in Paris were overfull and creating less than sanitary conditions in the city. They decided to move the bones to this ossuary. Behind a procession of chanting priests, began a parade of black-covered bone-laden horse-drawn wagons that continued for years to come. In work overseen by the Inspector General of Quarries, Charles-Axel Guillaumot, the bones were deposited in a wide well dug in land bought from a property, “La maison de la Tombe Issoire” (a house near the street of the same name), and distributed throughout the underground caverns by workers below. Also deposited near the same house were crosses, urns and other necropolis memorabilia recovered from Paris’ church graveyards. The Catacombs were opened in the late 18th century. The underground cemetery became a tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century, and has been open to the public on a regular basis from 1867.

I thought it would be cool as in a wax museum kind of way. However, it was quite disturbing to see bones and skulls piled high. I kept thinking about who these skeletons belonged to, what their life had been like…I felt sad.

Since I needed something a bit uplifting after that, we visited the Musée Gustave Moreau. This charming little museum is dedicated to the works of Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau (1826-1898). The museum was originally Moreau’s house, transformed by his 1895 decision into a studio and museum of his work with his apartment remaining on the first floor. Today the museum contains Moreau’s drawings, paintings, watercolors, and sculptures. A very enjoyable (and happy) way to spend a couple of hours.

Some of you know I have been dealing with a leg injury. Today for the first time, it acted up. So we decided to take an open air bus. And let me tell you – it was a joy just to sit back, be driven around and feel the breeze in our faces. A welcome change to the Metro.

Since it was Saturday and we only had two more days, we decided to go to restaurants dedicated to traditional French food. Tonight would be crepes, tomorrow would be fondue. The restaurant we chose was near the Eiffel Tower and was amazing! 142 Creperie Contemporaine was a truly French Parisian experience. We were the only tourists in the place! I had a salmon and spinach crepe and Jeff ate one with Mozzarella and ham. These were accompanied by side salads – tres fresh! To wash it all down, we chose cider. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this but it was perfect with the crepes. Great meal to end a terrific day.

16 Jour – Opera Garnier & Cafe Universal

8 Jul

Our friends Kathy and Bob met with us before we traveled here to give us some “Paris tips”. She told us that the cafe to the right of the Opera Garnier is exquisite. Indeed it is! It was hard to get good pictures, but if you’re ever in Paris, definitely have a drink or lunch here. We had a light lunch before we visited the Opera. Delicious and the service was attentive and friendly. By the way, I want to say a word about the service in Paris. It was great! Every waiter was friendly and wanted us to be happy with our meals, etc. We did not find any of the typical stereotypes applied. Everyone was friendly and polite. We always made an effort to speak French. With our broken phrases and gesturing, it all worked well. I think they really appreciated our efforts. I always like when I can prove a stereotype wrong.

The Palais Garnier is one of my favorite buildings in Paris. A little history: It is the thirteenth theatre to house the Paris Opera since it was founded by Louis XIV in 1669. It was built on the orders of Napoleon III as part of the great Parisian reconstruction project carried out by Baron Haussmann. The project for an opera house was put out to competition and was won by Charles Garnier, an unknown 35-year-old architect. Building work, which lasted fifteen years, from 1860 to 1875, was interrupted by numerous incidents, including the 1870 war, the fall of the Empire and the Commune. The Palais Garnier was inaugurated on 5 January 1875.

As you probably know, this is the Opera House of Victor Hugo’s Phantom of the Opera. As we walked through, I could see why it inspired the tale – mysterious, grand and beautiful. We took the tour and got to see the theater, complete with the ceiling painted by Chagall. I loved every minute. A definate favorite!

The Grand Foyer at the Opera

After we left the Opera, we walked over to Jardin du Tuilleries. In the summer they set up a little carnival for children. There is a huge ferris wheel, so of course we had to get on it! Wow, the views! My favorite is always seeing Sacre Coeur in the distance. So beautiful!

After dinner we walked over to Cafe Universal to hear some jazz. There was a duo playing. The pianist was wild. He was all over the place. Made it a little difficult for the violinist. He kept getting this confused look on his face, like he was thinking, “Where in the hell is he going with this?” They did, however, do a great rendition of My Funny Valentine – really beautiful. Yet another great day in this amazing city.

15 Jour – Notre Dame & French Cooking Class

7 Jul

Our goal before we visited Notre Dame was to read The Huntchback of Notre Dame. As you can imagine that didn’t happen.  C’est la vie! There was a long line but it went quickly. I’ve found that while standing in a line in Paris you have to be rather diligent that someone doesn’t just waltz right in and cut in front of you. This happened in a bakery and at Note Dame. Both times I was able to maneuver my body in front of them to regain my rightful place and of course they didn’t say anything ’cause they knew they cut the line. Okay, I know, petty on my part – just sayin’.

Notre Dame was beautiful. The center of Paris from which all streets flow. Fascinating history and great pictures!

In the evening, we took a cooking class at La Cuisine Paris. They have classes in both French and English (we chose English) and in a variety of formats.

We cooked a simple, traditional French meal:

  • Agneau a l’ail, romarin et moutarde
  • Ecrase de pomme de terre au piment d’Espelette
  • Crepe aux fruits rouges
Sounds fancy, but essentially it was lamb chops and mashed potatoes, with fruit-filled crepes for dessert.

Our classmates came from around the world. Texas, Michigan, California, Melbourne, Vancouver, and even Paris (one expat couple who had lived there for nine years). We had a great time with a fantastic bunch of people and enjoyed a wonderful meal that we cooked.

And for the record, Jeff was the first to successfully flip a crepe in the pan without a spatula.

The Class
Smashing potatoes
Getting ready to cook the crepes
Lamb Chops
Smashed Berries
Cooking Class