Saturday, 16 November 2013

Last days in Paris ~ sounds just as sad as it was

Well, we're down to the last 4 days in Paris of our 9th trip to my favourite city in the world.  It's always amazing to me how a trip that I spend about 9 months planning goes by in the blink of an eye.  When we landed at CDG on September 28, we had the luxury of 15 glorious days in Paris ahead of us.  Before we knew it, most of it was behind us and we are counting down the days until our flight back to Montreal.

After 2 full days of walking through Paris and London, you'd think we would want to take it easy and relax, but you'd think wrong.  Although it was a cool overcast day and we had talked about going to some small museums we haven't visited yet, neither of us could bear not being out and about the streets of Paris, drinking in the sights and smells of the city.  We decided to take the metro to Montmartre.  It was the first day of the yearly Vendage, which we had enjoyed a few years ago.  Also, the threat of rain actually made Den happy, since he loves to take pictures of Paris in the rain.  So off to Montmartre we went, getting off at Lamarck Caulaincourt, the picturesque station made famous in Amelie Poulin for its beautiful twin staircases just outside the metro exit.

We spent the next few hours just wandering around, going up and down the many steps of this village on the Northern outskirts of Paris.  We walked over to the very touristy Place des Tetres looking for the Vendage stands and the street food outlets but they were still in the process of setting them up so we went back into the little back streets of Montmartre as fast as we could.  Place des Tetres is just not our cup of tea unless they are giving away free wine and offering foie gras and duck magret baguettes on the street, lol.

more Paris doors!

last vineyard in Paris

little train of Montmartre

just setting up for the Vendage

lots of stairs in Montmartre
I want to live on this tiny dead end street called Villa Leandre
this tiny place apparently serves some of the best roasted chicken in Paris
another great little bistro, Jeanne B

one shot of Sacre Coeur and we were out of there!

Once away from the tourist hordes, we spend the rest of the afternoon walking the little streets of Montmartre, stopping for lunch at a typical cafe near Abesses metro.  I was in the mood for the ultimate Parisian tourist food, crepes.  Den had the other ubiquitous French food, onion soup, which actually really hit the spot on a cool, rainy afternoon.  Our waiter was friendly and funny and offered to do a house swap with us!  

We ended up walking down rue des Martyrs again since we both love this perfect little Paris street (and Den bought more underwear).  Took the metro at Notre Dame de Lorette and relaxed in our apartment for a few hours.  We had dinner reservations at Pirouette, another well reviewed restaurant on Paris by Mouth, Chowhound and John Talbott's Paris. We walked slowly through the Marais and into the 1st arrondissement towards Les Halles.  Pirouette is just behind this monstrous shopping center located in the old outdoor marketplace of 19th century Paris. We had another fantastic meal and Den finally got his long awaited sweetbreads.  The decor is modern and clean and there's a wall of wine, what more could you want!  Our lovely waitress recommended a Minervois which went perfectly with both our meals.  

A slow walk home to digest our wonderful meal ended another perfect day in Paris.  The next day I had lunch plans with old friends and new at Dans les Landes, a great little Basque tapas place in the 5th.  Den opted out of this girls lunch and went (underwear) shopping on his own.  I took the metro to rue Monge and walked around a little until it was time to meet my lunch mates.  I was excited to meet Mary Kay after enjoying her wonderful blog about living in Paris, Out and About in Paris.  We were joined by Nancy, a friend of Mary Kay's and an internet friend of mine who was enjoying her own time in Paris.  We got to know each other while enjoying some great little plates (and some wine, of course ~ we couldn't be ladies who lunch without the wine!) We were soon joined by Dawn, a very dear friend I met on our last trip to Paris last spring but who I feel I have known forever.  Dawn was treating her niece and sister to a short trip to Paris to celebrate her niece's 16th birthday, that very day!  I had bought Zoe some Pierre Hermé macarons to celebrate this momentous occasion.  We had a nice long lunch and bonded over our love of Paris.  Mary Kay and Nancy left before us as they were on their way to Pere Lachaise for the 50th anniversary of Edith Piaf's death.  (Mary Kay was the one who had recommended the Caroline Nim concert we saw last Friday, so I am very grateful to her.)  I walked Dawn, Zoe and Julie back to the right bank where I met up with Den and we parted ways from the gals.  Den ended up having a crappy hamburger from MacDonalds for lunch (really Den, in Paris??).  

 Den and I stopped for a cafe creme on the way home and then had a little rest in the apartment.  We had ~ you guessed it ~ reservations for dinner at another little find in the 11th near Oberkampf, Ober Salé.  It's a 2 person show ~ the chef in his tiny kitchen and the very friendly and sweet waiter working the front room by himself.  Dinner was very good, if a little white with lots of foams, fish and white chocolate desserts, lol.

Cirque d'Hiver on the way home

As another day in Paris comes to a close and we only have 2 full days left, we have a full and exciting Friday ahead of us.  We are meeting several Parisian Chowhounds for a gastronomic feast at Chez l'Ami Jean, chef Stefane Jego's temple to Basque culinary excess.  This is my third time at CLJ and today will be the pinnacle of our eating in Paris this trip. We take the great 69 bus to the Eiffel Tower and I guide us to avenue Rapp to see the beautiful Art Deco buidling at 29 ave Rapp.  It's one of the most photographed buildings in Paris and Den takes his fill of pictures of the architectural details  that combine to make this place a true work of art.

We all arrive at the bistro around the same time and are seated at the prime table, right by the kitchen where we can watch Jego in action and hear him yell out his orders to pick up at the poor harried staff.

We are joined by David and Nancy, our ex-pat American friends who live in Paris, Stefan, a food connoisseur extrodinaire who worked at Dean and Delucas in NYC and my lovely Dawn.

What awaits us is an 8 course tasting menu designed by Jego specifically for us after we are asked if we would like the chef to "take care of us" by Mario, a longtime waiter at CLJ.
We start with complimentary Basque ham thinly sliced, various homemade sausages and the most wonderful paté I've ever had.  David orders a bottle of Irouleguy, a very good Basque wine and the first course arrives ~ parmesan soup poured over crunched bits and raw leek bits.  The food orgasms have started and we are moaning with pleasure.

Second course is a just cooked piece of pristinely sourced tuna topped with green apple and turnip.  Next comes my favourite, an orzo risotto with the freshest, almost rare scallops.  More food orgasms ensue and we are starting to realize how very special this meal really is.  Fourth course is abalone topped by seared foie gras and covering wild hare in a wine stew which is so over the top rich and gamey.  You wouldn't think these would go together, but oh my, they so do!  Fifth course is swordfish with a side of pheasant aspic paté.  We all think this is the last main course and that we will be served dessert soon but no, there's much more to come.

OMG, this was good!

a master at work

Our sixth course in this orgy of food is Den's favourite, sweetbreads, a huge portion of meltingly tender sweetbreads, especially considering all the food that's come before.  We do our best but most of us can't finish and it breaks my heart to watch the plates go back with so much deliciousness left on them.  But wait, dessert is next and there's always room for dessert, right?  In keeping with the theme of excess, we first get served CLJ's famous rice pudding, along with the salted caramel sauce and candied nuts to sprinkle over our huge bowls.  Then comes a beautifully plated and presented platter of 4 side desserts ~ chocolate mousse, red fruit pannacotta, pina colada ice cream and Paris Brest.  Everyone gets one of these huge platters and we are in the last throes of food orgasms as we all gamely try to finish the sweet masterpieces in front of us.  We do what we can and then we thank our chef, our benefactor, our fiery genius and creator of this temple of food.

a rock star and his groupies

 We had no idea how much this extravagent feast would cost us and were prepared to pay about 100 euros per person.  Imagine our shock when the bill came and it was 55 euros per person for all of this unbelievable food, all those impeccably sourced, high end ingredients, all those many courses of pleasure after pleasure.  With 2 bottles of wine, tax and tip, each person's share is 75 euros ~ you wouldn't get one course in a Micheline star restaurant for that price and you wouldn't have the fun and the thrill of waching a genius at work.  Add in the bonus of eating with such a wonderful group of like minded food enthusiasts and you have the makings of one of the best meals of my live.

We all have to walk off our huge intake of food and so we walk along the Seine to my favourite bridge in Paris, Alexandre III.  Nancy, David and Stefan leave us at this point but Dawn continues walking with us through the Tuilleries and we finally part ways at the Louvre-Rivoli metro station.  Den and I have the Fleetwood Mac concert at Bercy tonight and we need to rest from our 4 hours of sitting and eating, lol.

The concert is awesome, over 2 hours of songs we all remember and can sing along with.  Neither of us realized what a great guitarist Lindsey Buckingham is and he blows us away with a solo acoustic rendition of Looking Out for Love.  Memories of this concert are even more special and bittersweet when we read a few weeks after we get back that John McVie has cancer and that Fleetwood Mac have cancelled the remainder of their tour.

We take the metro home and still can't face any food about our multi course food extravaganza.  Our bed feel great and we fall into it, knowing this is the last night we go to sleep with a full day in Paris still ahead of us.

We wake up late on Saturday morning and talk about what we want to do on our last day.  We never make any plans for our last day, we know we have usually done everything on our list by then and we like to see what we will feel like, what we might like to repeat and what last thing we want to fill in.  This has been such a great trip, filled with lots of walking, discovering new neighbourhoods and renewing our love of old ones, fantastic meals at places new and old, meeting up with such great friends, seeing some amazing concerts and just revelling at the joy of being in Paris.

We know how lucky we are to be able to take these trips, to spend time with each other and still enjoy each other's company after 31 years of marriage (OMG, that makes me sound so old!).  Throughout this trip, we would look at each other and and just smile and shake our heads that we were once again in the city of light, together.

So we decided to just stay and walk around our neighbourhood today.  There's so much more to the Marais than Place des Voges and rue de Franc Bourgeois (although I love them both too).  We also decided to keep the meals easy, with no reservations meaning we didn't have to be anywhere at anytime. We knew nothing could top the meal at Chez l'Ami Jean yesterday and we weren't even going to try. We started by walking south to explore the area around St Paul Village.

We made our way to La Tartine, a little cafe we had read about on rue Rivoli.  Although we got there around 2pm, the place was packed with locals and we had to wait a few minutes for a table.  We loved the casual atmosphere, the friendly waiters and the menu full of easy French classics.  The waiter proudly told us that the day's specials were all home made and that the boeuf bourgignon was especially good.  We opted for open faced sandwich (tartine) and salad instead and had a good simple meal.

can't get enough of Paris rooftops

my hubby!

We spent our last hours doing some more walking and just trying to absorb as much of the city as possible.  We ended up at the cozy little bar across from our apartment, the Lizard Lounge, where Den had a pretty good hamburger and I had an ok salad.  It was all good though, I wasn't looking for culinary fireworks today, just one last day with my honey in the city we both love.  We called it a night around 11pm, ambled across rue Bourg Tibourg and climbed up our 2 flights of stairs one last time.  We had finished most of our packing that morning before we left the apartment so we could just fall into bed and try to go to sleep, knowing we were leaving at 9:30 tomorrow morning for the airport.

Our driver from Shuttle Inter was right on time and we were at the airport in about 40 minutes due to the light Sunday morning traffic.  We did some duty free shopping and got 2 bottles of Champagne to enjoy back home and remind us of Paris.  The flight was smooth and uneventful and we were back home by late afternoon.  The hugs we got from our 2 sweet grandsons made us (almost) happy to be back.

PPD is always worse right after we return and this time was no exception.  But I found the perfect cure.  Exactly one week after we got back, I booked flights to Paris through an Air Canada seat sale and managed to book the same sweet apartment from Thierry for 8 nights in April, coming back on Easter Sunday.  Just imagine the Easter chocolates Sebastian and Charlie will get!

So another trip has come and gone ~ I have no final words except ~ Paris, je t'aime.