Chapter Seventeen: A Beautiful Day In ParisOctober 12, 2012
Days Nineteen and Twenty – Planteé Lovely, Free Musée, The Butt Heard Round The World, Your Table Has Waited For You, One Last Look At History, This Sure Beats The Water Lilies, Shop Till We Drop, I See Dead People, Dinner With An Attitude and Au Revoir Beautiful Paris/Bonjour LAX Hell
Never in a million years would I think that one my all-time favorite day of meals would actually begin with a quick stop at McDonald’s, but when this group needs caffeine, it’s any port in a storm. Showing my disappointment with our stop below (ok, I might have not been that sad to be in McDonald’s), I bought a café au lait, and we were on our way to Promenade Planteé.
It was overcast, but not yet raining as we found the stairs that took us to Paris’ version of New York City’s High Line, but Promenade Planteé came first. The pathway follows the old Vincennes railway line. Construction started on this walkway in the late 80s and was completed by the mid 90s.
According to various sites, Promenade Planteé was the first elevated park in the world, and the path stretches nearly five kilometers.
On this morning we ran into joggers (not literally) and folks out for a leisurely Saturday morning stroll. It’s a beautiful greenbelt that affords some nice views of Parisian architecture from a different perspective.
Just like if I lived in NYC and had the High Line at my disposal, if I lived in Paris, Promenade Planteé would be a place I would take many a walk (no jogging). The little cat in the window seemed to enjoy watching us all walk.
We did not walk the entire length of Promenade Planteé, because we had only sipped some coffee and now needed something a little more substantial.
A nearby pâtisserie in the 12th arrondissement, about a block from Promenade Planteé, beckoned us, and we devoured the best croissants, pain aux raisin pastries and caramel éclairs we had eaten on the trip.
Back on the metro, we headed to our ‘hood and the colorful Bastille metro station), which pays homage to French history with a nod to the events which took place not far from the station. Speaking of history, we walked over to the Musée Carnavalet, which tells the history of Paris through furniture, paintings, sculptures and a myriad of other things.
Being the revolutionary sadist that I am, I was quite partial to the art depicting the guillotine, showing the victims as they went out of their heads spilling blood into a bucket.
There are lots of great paintings, artifacts and stained glass, so I look forward to learning more on our next visit.
We looked at a few more paintings and it was time to depart.
After our museum visit, Kim and Mary headed in one direction, while Tracy and I were off to the Centre Georges Pompidou, not to go inside the museum, but to see a recently unveiled statue I had see on CNN International a couple of nights previously.
This statue had nothing to do with ancient history, but (or should I say “butt”) it was from pretty recent history. Outside the Centre Georges Pompidou is a 16-foot statue of Zinedine Zidane’s head butt of Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup. Hey, anyone can go see the Mona Lisa. This is art, baby! I hope they didn’t hurt that little kid (below).
I guess I haven’t killed all my brain cells, because soon we were standing in front of Chez Fernand at 9 rue Christine. The rain started pouring down, and fortuitously the restaurant was open.
It sure was. It was the same table we dined at in 2006. Now if only the food was as good as we remembered. As it turned out, it was better than we remembered.
We started with a Kir Royale to toast the trip and our return to one of our favorite Paris restaurants. Tracy started with a green bean salad with toasted hazelnuts and then had the Crab bisque. Tres delicious!
I opened with escargots and for my main course I had the “Legendary” beef bourguignon (that’s what it says on the menu). The beef bourguignon basically melted in my mouth. I was in culinary heaven. It would soon get better when dessert arrived.
I had never eaten a “normal” Baba au Rhum, just the fancy and delectable one we had ordered at Le P’tit Resto in Bayeux. Our server brought over a rum-soaked sponge cake with Chantilly on top. She drizzled some rum on top of that, and then put the bottle on the table. “If you want more, pour as much as you want,” she said.
Obviously, she had never met me. To be honest, there was more than enough booze on the Baba au Rhum, and it was delicious, too (I must have put too much rum on, because, as you can see above, my photo was rather blurry). I think the bill was about 100€, but it could have been twice that and I wouldn’t have cared (I guess that’s why I have to work for the rest of my life). It was the perfect lunch experience for our final day in Paris.
The rain was still heavy, which was ok with us since we had one more museum to explore. Not too far away was the Musée national du Moyen Âge (Musée de Cluny). Cost to get in was 8€, which included an audio guide.
There are some statues of heads that were originally on the façade of Notre Dame, a couple of rooms with beautiful stained glass windows and lots of other antiquities. We walked into a room that contained six 15th century tapestries called The Lady And The Unicorn.
The last time I sat in a room and stared at a series of art was in 2006 when we visited L’Orangerie to see Monet’s Water Lilies. Although I am in the minority, the Water Lilies did absolutely nothing for me except make me go temporarily blind. The Lady And The Unicorn Tapestries, on the other hand, impressed me very much. Que sera!
For the better part of 90 minutes, we walked through this museum, and I was glad I finally had the chance to visit Musée de Cluny. But that was enough enough history…it was time for shopping. Hopping on the metro, we were on our way back to Hediard for some Christmas shopping. As we stepped inside, who did we see? No, not the people from Seattle, but there were Kim and Mary who had the same idea. It’s no wonder we travel with each other.
Tracy bought about 100 bags of Hediard’s Herbes de Provence, which Tracy swears is the best in the world. She gives them out as Christmas gifts, and always runs out, which I think is just a ploy on her part to get us back to Paris (like that’s a hard sell).
We also purchased some white peppercorns, and the best jam in the world, Hediard’s Peach and Raspberry preserves. I should have bought ten of them, because the jar was empty within one week of returning home.
Tracy and I left to go back to the hotel, while Kim and Mary were not far behind. It was about 4:30 when blue skies could be seen outside our hotel window. Tracy was napping, so I knocked on Kim and Mary’s door. They were playing cards, and I could tell they were done for the day, too.
Not me dammit! I only had a few more hours of Paris sunlight so outside I went with no plan (my usual MO).
My first stop was Chez Janou, about a five-minute walk from the hotel. Our hotel had made reservations for that evening at my behest, but after reading some reviews I was a little worried about my choice. I don’t think I have ever read so many mixed reviews about a place, including many who said the greeter was somewhere between “Witty,” “Brusque” and “Attila The Hun.” I sat at the bar and had a beer. The guy didn’t kill any patrons while I sipped my brew, and the restaurant looked like a French bistro right out of the movies, so I figured, what the heck, we’re on.
As I got closer, I realized many of these people were covered in blood.
For a just a minute, I thought I had wandered into the filming of one of the “Twilight” movies. I hadn’t seen this much blood since the Limoges Train Station. There was everything from Pirate Zombies to Military Zombies to Hot Chick Zombies to a Zombie who was a fire-eater. I asked someone what was going on.
Proudly I stated, “I am Sir-Bleed-A-Lot from California.” I never knew I could scare a zombie, but he did stick around long enough to tell me that this was the annual Zombie Walk (I guess it was the Time Of The Season). For the next 20 minutes, I walked around with the undead snapping pictures on a now gorgeous late Saturday afternoon.
I finally had to bid au revoir to my bloody friends on a now gorgeous autumn Paris day in the late afternoon.
As I walked back under the arch I saw a man in a red and black hat with a long blue scarf singing some incredible opera arias or whatever they’re called. I was already missing Paris, and we hadn’t even had our final meal.
I rousted the other undead (aka Tracy, Mary and Kim) when I returned. We had 8 p.m. reservations at Chez Janou, and I didn’t want to be late just in case Attila (I mean the maître d’) decided he wanted to throw us out on our keisters.
We arrived at Chez Janou (2 Rue Roger Verlomme) a few minutes before 8, and I wandered inside. The server asked if we all were there, so I hurriedly herded our group inside, and we were seated at a table that somewhat straddled the inside of the restaurant near the bar and the outside patio. Chez Janou was already packed.
The maître d’ everyone had written about stood next to our table holding four menus, which we assumed were for us. Not wanting to incur his possible wrath, we waited for him to make the first move.
Then, in a Magic Johnson behind-the-back-pass moment, as he was talking to someone else, he deftly placed the menus behind his back and whipped them all to Kim in one swift motion without uttering a word to us. It was, for lack of a better term, a “magic” moment.
Dining at Chez Janou was a hoot. The food was good, the wait staff was friendly and the ambiance was pure Paris (at least how I picture it in my mind); loud and fun.
I had an incredible Goat Cheese in a Ratatouille to start and a good entrecôte de boeuf for the main course. Tracy started with a green bean salad with smoked duck and a delicious Risotto with Scallops.
Kim decided to have mussels in pesto that he enjoyed and lamb chops for his main course. Mary had the consensus best meal starting with her French Onion Soup and transitioning to a fabulous lamb shank with mashed potatoes.
Then came our very fun dessert, the Mousse au chocolate. It was so good, we even forgot to take a photo of it! I was the bottomless pit who had ordered it, but instead of a small bowl of chocolate mousse, I was given an incredibly large bowl of thick, rich and delectable chocolate mousse. The waiter said, “You can have as much as you want. Just don’t eat out of the bowl.”
Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) has a story where she tells how her husband ate the entire bowl at a restaurant, not realizing that isn’t really what you’re supposed to do. Knowing that if I ate too much of this dish our plane might have a hard time taking off the following day due to the extra weight, I kept my gorging to a minimum. Dessert was fantastic!
The Chez Janou experience capped off our terrific day of dining and, in essence, capped off another unforgettable trip to Europe. Tomorrow, we would head to the airport early for our flights to Los Angeles and San Diego.
From the bridges and monuments of Paris…
…to the beauty of the Dordogne….
… to the lovely Loire and its incredible chateaux…
…to Normandy and all its history…
…we all had more fun than four people deserve to have in 20 days. Torn skin, riverboat rides, endangered ducks, gorgeous chateaus, the D-Day Beaches and delicious dinners were now only memories (except for the bandages still on my arm).
We flew back on Sunday morning and arrived at LAX at about 2:30. It took us nearly 2 ½ hours to go through Immigration and Customs on that Sunday, but not even those idiots (I believe the snails I ate in France moved faster than Customs in L.A.…even after death) could put a damper on our wonderful France vacation.
Our friends met us at the airport, bearing our traditional welcome-home meal of tacos (of course, thanks to our friendly, slow Customs officials, they weren’t quite as hot as they had been two hours before). On the drive home, when our friends asked what our favorite part of the trip was, the answer was easy and immediate. “All of it!”
Vive la France!
Enjoy The Journey! Attitude Is Everything!