Chapter Four: Tragic Collection, Magic Confection & Restaurant Perfection

P1060485Chapter Four: Tragic Collection, Magic Confection & Restaurant Perfection

DAY FOUR – Hip To Be Square, Our House Is A Very Very Very Nice House, Tragic Story, Never Too Soon For a Macaron, A Visit To Little Poland, Louis And Marie Were Here, Visiting “That Street” For Another Smoky Lunch, Too Much Data, Too Hot To Visit Our Girlfriend, Decorative Stop, Wine Time With Thierry’s Crew, Sweatin’ To The Oldies and Our Second Best Parisian Dinner Of The Trip

Being the considerate husband that I am (usually), I told Tracy we didn’t have to wake up as early this trip, so we took our time in the morning and didn’t leave the apartment until after 9 a.m.  I was a little concerned about Mickey, because there was no sign of the little fellow, so I just assumed he went out to a local Mouse rave with his buddies late at night and hadn’t returned.

P1070100Tracy and I grabbed some coffee and croissants at the corner pâtisserie and sat on a bench attempting to be laid back Parisians. I’m not too good about being laid back (even if I am from Southern California), so we gulped down our coffee and hastily ate our croissants.

P1060451The metro took us back to our new favorite Parisian Park (Monceau).

P1060482 - Version 2 Tracy and I strolled (I believe you walk everywhere else, but you must stroll through a park) about Parc Monceau, and once again the area was busy with moms and their kids, plus plenty of dogs frolicking about. I think our corgis would love this park, too.

P1070116We were headed back to the Museé Nissim de Camondo, which was closed on our last attempt.  Similar to Musée Jacquemart-Andre, we enjoyed our visit to this beautiful residence, although it was tinged with the knowledge of the tragic history of the family who owned it.

P1070102Moïse de Camondo was originally from Turkey (Istanbul) and had the mansion built (1911) in the likeness of the Petit Trianon at Versailles.

Moise-de-Camondo-tnHe had purchased beautiful furnishings to make this home his not-so-little castle, but wealth can’t buy happiness or good fortune.

P1070104First, his wife left him not too many years after their marriage, and then his son Nissim was killed in World War I, leaving Moïse a distraught man.

033_Nissim_1916When Moïse died in the mid-1930s, the house was left to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and the house (along with everything in it) was made into a museum to honor his fallen son’s name.

P1060485In 1943, Moïse’s daughter Béatrice (who had converted from Judaism to Catholicism and had ignored warnings regarding her safety), her husband and two children were taken to Auschwitz where they were killed.  There is a marker on the outside of the building in their memory.

P1070117 Tracy wondered why, after his death, Moïse didn’t leave the house to his daughter, but she was left a substantial amount of money.

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Museé Nissim de Camondo was included on our Paris Museum pass, and there is an audio tour that helps describe the rooms and the history of the family as you travel throughout.

P1070114The home is nothing less than gorgeous.

P1070106Moïse had added the caveat that all the furniture, artwork and objects be left in exactly the same place they were at the time of his death.

P1070111Museé Nissim de Camondo reminded both Tracy and me of our visits to The Frick Collection in New York City and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (both highly recommended).

P1070105The tour took just a little under an hour.

P1060490Back outside, it was another hot day in Paris.  The skies were blue and the leaves were turning.

We walked by our restaurant we had eaten at a couple of days earlier (no sign of The Amazing Smoking Woman), and turned right at Boulevard Malesherbes on our way to a church I had read about.  But destiny (and calories) awaited us on the right.

P1070118Since all we had eaten on this day were a couple of pain au chocolats, we decided to continue our unhealthy eating habits at a place called Pierre Hermé, who I have subsequently learned is a famed French pastry chef known for his uniquely flavored macarons. If you’ve never tasted a macaron, then you have missed something.  Going back to my unimpeachable wiki source, it says a macaron is a “French sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond and food coloring.”  I mean what’s not healthy about that?

P1070119Due to the fact that Pierré is known for his unusually flavored macarons, Tracy tried the crème brûlée, while I had a citrus-flavored one (total €4.80 for deux).  By the time we had finished, we had gained back all the weight lost yesterday on the Pompidou Escalator Sauna.

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It was a short walk to Église Saint-Augustin de Paris, located in an area once known as little Poland. This is the church that Napoleon originally wanted as his final resting place. It was also the first church so big to utilize a metal frame.

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Tracy’s notes read, “The church is large and dark, in need of restoration.”  I was still in macaron heaven, so I’ll go by her description.

P1070128Incorporating my incredible map reading skills, we started toward our next destination, the Chapelle Expiatoire.   Needless to say, we walked three blocks in the opposite direction on Boulevard Haussmann before realizing I had us going the wrong way.

P1070134The Chapelle Expiatore has never been on our radar before, but it and the gardens have quite a history.  During a fireworks display celebrating the future Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s wedding (which had been held a month before, but the fireworks display were postponed due to bad weather), a fire and an ensuing stampede killed more than 130 people at the place de la Concord.  Those killed were buried in the gardens and, I assume, received no thank you notes from Louis and Marie.

Then, in 1792, while trying to protect Louis XVI and Marie, more than 300 of the Swiss Guard were killed protecting the Tuilleries Palace (painting below by Jean Duplessis-Bertaux) while the King and Queen hightailed back to Versailles. The 300+ bodies were buried in the cemetery located here…and soon the remains of Louis and Marie joined them here, both tossed into a pit with no pomp or circumstance.

Jacques_Bertaux_-_Prise_du_palais_des_Tuileries_-_1793When Louis XVIII regained the monarchy (now a constitutional monarchy) after 23 years in exile, he searched for the remains of his brother and Marie, and once he found them, he had them (or what was left of them) taken to Basilique Saint-Denis. An architect was found, and the chapel was built to forgive the crimes of the French Revolution. The Chapelle Expiatore was put on the historic register in 1914.

P1060491We arrived at Chapelle Expiatore about 12:30, which was a half hour before it was due to open, so we walked around the surrounding jardins (Square Louis XVI), where even more Parisians were enjoying the late summer sunshine eating their lunch.

At 12:45, we happened to be near the entrance again, and they were letting people in early, so we joined them.

P1070136We walked into the courtyard that was constructed to look like a cemetery (it does).

P1070135 Inside the chapel are the two big-ticket items, a couple of marble statues made in the 19th century.

P1070137On the left as you walk in is Marie Antoinette Supported By Religion.

P1070138On the right, you’ll see Louis XVI goes to heaven with a little assist by an angel.  Below is the main altar.

P1070139The circular stained glass window also caught our eye…

P1070140…and the corridor from the crypt out was pretty impressive, too.

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We were glad that despite my poor navigational skills, we were able find it.  I’m constantly surprised that no matter how many times we visit Paris, there are so many things we’ve never seen, or sometimes, we’ve never even heard about.

With only coffee, croissants and macarons as our sustenance for the day, it was time to eat a real meal.   We caught the metro to the loved…and reviled…rue Cler, a place we always enjoy, much to the consternation of those who pray at the altar of “I hate Rick Steves.”

P1070146I’m constantly reminded when we visit the rue Cler that despite the naysayers who preach that the street is only filled with Americans carrying blue travel books, that the predominant language I hear spoken when we’re here is French.  Mon Dieu!

P1060494Tracy always finds the colorful shops and florist shops wherever we are.

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We dined al fresco at the must-be-touristy Café Central, and much to our dismay, all the American tourists must have been Rosetta Stone savants, because they were speaking mostly French…and smoking.  The only difference was that this time, instead of the Duchess of Marlboro, we sat near the Earl Of Kent, although in comparison, he was a lightweight smoker, so he should survive until at least his mid 40s.

P1070145Our lunch was quite good. Tracy tried the pizza sampler; ham and mushroom, pepperoni and arugula along with a delicious blue cheese (she didn’t get much of that one because some guy across the table from her started sneaking bites while she drank wine).

P1070143I had a very tasty spicy gnocchi…

P1070142…but as I was about to finish lunch a message came on the phone from AT&T saying something to the effect: “Hey moron, I don’t know what you did or did not do before you left, but obviously you didn’t shut something off, and now we’re going to charge you an exorbitant amount of money very soon for using too much data. Do something quickly…or you might not be able to afford dinner.”

Our original plan had been to walk to (and up) the Arc de Triomphe, but since it was so hot and, I was being charged for overage after only 72 hours, there was only one thing left to do.

Of course, most people go to the Louvre for its renowned art collection.  My main purpose was to go to the nearby Carrousel de Louvre and find The Pomme Store (ok, it’s the Apple Store, but Pomme just sounds so much better).  We descended to the underground mall, stopped in the store and talked with one of the Apple core of experts, who shut off a program on my phone.  Voilà, we were now fine to go, and I would not be put in debtor’s prison. As we left, he said, “Be careful where you roam,” which I think had two meanings.

As long as we were at the famed museum where Tracy and I once became lost in the Egyptian Sarcophagus section and stayed there so long that we were nearly mummified, we decided to head inside to beat the heat.  At first, it was mission accomplished.

Somehow we had never seen much of the Statue Town (I’m sure there is a more formal name for it) section of the Louvre.

P1070148There we saw a guy stabbing a wild beast…

P1070147…Napoleón awakening to immortality…

P1070149…a bronze person sitting in a chair…

P1070151…and the helmet of Charles IX that might keep me out the ER the next time I fall on my head while on blood thinners.

P1070153Good stuff!

P1060500We walked further into the Louvre and saw the 2nd century BC Winged Victory statue again. I’ve always liked that statue.

P1070157However, faster than you could say, “Pompidou Escalator Sauna revisited,” Tracy and I realized we were indeed melting with the masses, so we decided not to pay a visit to our friend Mona on this trip.

1280px-Ceiling_of_a_room_in_the_Louvre_museumFearing we would be turned into the Louvre’s Fall Of Icarus ceiling fresco (photo above from wiki), Tracy and I departed, but not before being tempted by another macaron shop.

P1070160Tracy is a big fan of the Home and Garden Network (a terrible byproduct of my 105-day hospital incarceration back in 2010…that, and learning how to use the remote).  So, to placate her insatiable desire for fine home furnishings, we stopped at the nearby Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

P1060504Although part of the Louvre, it has a separate entrance to a building that has nine floors of everything from beautiful art to Middle Age altarpieces to a bed of a Parisian courtesan. Right now, a bed for taking a quick nap seemed even more pleasurable. Damn, I’m getting old.

P1060505I think we probably gave this museum short shrift because (1) it was (really) hot inside and (2) we were pooped.

P1060507The museum contains numerous interesting and beautiful items, and I would return (on a cooler day).

P1060510It was a short metro ride to our stop, and we walked up the stairs at the Hôtel de Ville station into a driving rainstorm. However, as quickly as it started, it suddenly stopped. “I guess we can’t call that the rain of terror,” I told Tracy. I could see by her expression that French Revolution humor was not going to sit well with her this afternoon.  Before she pulled out her portable guillotine, we headed back to the apartment by a cute little design on the side of one of the buildings.

P1070170We walked by Dennis, who was sitting in the stairwell, and up to the apartment. We hurriedly cranked up the AC, and looked for Mickey.   He’d left a note saying he was out looking for cheese to go with our wine.  Actually, we didn’t see him much during our stay here.  He’d make a brief appearance here and there, but for the most part he was out of sight…probably a loner.

After about a 30-second power nap, we showered and readied ourselves for the evening that lie ahead; wine with Thierry and The Apartment Dwellers (CD on sale soon) if we could get there on time, and then on to another restaurant where our expectations were quite high.

We walked hurriedly so we could get to Thierry’s get-together before they all left. We were trying to find a little place called La Réserve de Quasimodo, and when I saw the little restaurant/wine bar, I had a hunch they’d all be in the back.

3 gargoylesInside were Thierry and people from the United States, Australia and Canada, who all had rented from one of Thierry’s 20 properties. After a few minutes a woman at the far end of the table asked, “Are you MaiTaiTom and Tracy?”

At first, I was worried that this might have been one of the pedestrians I nearly ran over in 2012 while circumventing Paris and driving illegally in the taxi lane, however it turned out to be a woman from the Fodor’s Travel Board, KTtravel.

We were going to meet she and her husband next Tuesday for wine, and as events turned out, they were two of the last people in Paris to see me alive (figuratively speaking, of course). I believe it was KT who had the apartment that looked out over Notre Dame (Note to self: Spend the extra money next time cheapskate).

Since it was nearly the end of “Thierry Happy Hour” we didn’t get to spend too much time with the group, but you could tell they loved Thierry and his apartments, and it was fun to chat with them, albeit for a short time.

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After talking with KTtravel and her husband, we took some late afternoon/early evening photos at Notre Dame and along the Seine.

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Although still quite warm, it was a beautiful evening.

P1070179We then took the metro/walk combo to our dinner spot.

L’Estrapade (15 rue Estrapade) was one of my top choices to visit for a dinner, so were happy to have scored reservations at this small restaurant.   By the time we reached it, Tracy was melting (no, I did not call her Icarus).

P1070180Our charming hostess/proprietor gave her a couple of napkins to help wipe her face off (I believe her smile below is saying, “Tom if you take another photo of me sweating, I just might have to kill you.”).   Now it was time to sample the fare that makes L’Estrapade such a popular restaurant choice these days.

P1070181First of all, L’Estrapade is what my friend, Kim, would call, “a felony cute restaurant,” and it was hopping when we arrived at 8:00.

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A bottle of 2011 Côtes du Rhône would accompany what we hoped would be a great dinner.  It was even more than that.

P1070182Starting with an amuse bouche (olive tapenade on toast)…

P1070186…I followed up with escargots in a garlic cream sauce, while Tracy opted for the foie gras with fried toast, which Tracy deemed a “Wow” dish.

P1070187Knowing we were hot, our server mentioned that a table had opened up outside if we’d like. We thanked her for her generosity and said everything was fine. Nice gesture, however.

For the main course, I had the filet of beef special with an incredible shallot sauce. L’Estrapade was living up to its advanced billing.

P1070191Tracy raked in another “Wow” with her Veal Chop with blue cheese and mashed parsnips. The mashed parsnips dish (which I stole more than a couple of bites) is something we need to learn how to make. The parsnips were mashed with golden carrots, butter and cream. It was the healthiest way to harden your arteries I’ve ever tasted.  Sadly, the photos do not do it justice.

P1070192For dessert, when in France go for the French toast, of course. Topped with whipped cream, this dessert was very, very good.  Tracy being full, passed on dessert…meaning I could not steal it.

P1070193Throughout dinner, I was really digging the music playing at a perfect noise level in the background, and finally realized it was the American Graffiti soundtrack, which I hadn’t heard since Ron Howard had hair.

ron-howard-americangraffiti-4It seems our young husband (chef) and wife (server extraordinaire) had recently returned from the United States where they had visited a number of national parks in a motor home. The American Graffiti soundtrack was on their playlist, and they loved it.

“How about that,” Tracy said. “I’ve been sweatin’ to the oldies.” I don’t know where she gets it.

We had a nice talk with some people at the next table who were in London for a Kate Bush concert and decided to pop over to Paris for a couple of days. Coincidentally, one of them happened to know Tracy’s aunt from Napa, California.

L’Estrapade contains the ingredients for a successful restaurant, from its incredible food to its hard working, personable owners.

Bidding “au revoir” to L’Estrapade, Tracy and I took a nighttime walk of Paris on the way back, and when we found ourselves near Église Saint Séverin, we were able to take a very nice nighttime shot (it’s not often one of these turns out well for me).

P1070194We finally arrived to our side of the Seine…

P1070197…took a few more photos and we were back home.

P1070202Right before we turned the AC on, we started to hear that wailing sound again that was coming from one of the apartments. We would find out whom it was coming from in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, tomorrow would turn out to be an interesting and historic (at least in terms of our marriage) day. Tracy really wanted to go somewhere that we had not visited since the late 1990s. I did not particularly want to return to this place.  But since this was our 20th Anniversary Trip, I deferred to her.  And tomorrow…perhaps for the first time in our marriage…after our visit, Tracy would say to me, “Tom, you were right.”  Damn, where was that tape recorder when I needed it?

Next: DAY FIVE – RER ERR, Strangers On A Train, Cattle Call, Are You Following Us, Mirror Image, Unique Selfies, Best Orange Juice Since Dubrovnik, Gorgeous Jardins, Grand & Petite, Are You Still Following Us, Change Is Bad, The French David Spade, It Won’t Be Lung Now and It’s Not Really Open Friday Night

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