Chapter Three: A Hot Time In The Old Town Today (and Tonight)February 6, 2015
Chapter Five: Playing The PalaceFebruary 17, 2015
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.
Tracy 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.
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.
We 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.
In 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.
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.
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.
Since 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?
Due 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.
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.
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.
Incorporating 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.
The 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.
When 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.
We 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.
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.”
I’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!
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.
Our 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).
…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.
However, 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.
Tracy 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.
Although 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.
It 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.
We 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.
Inside 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.
After talking with KTtravel and her husband, we took some late afternoon/early evening photos at Notre Dame and along the Seine.
Although still quite warm, it was a beautiful evening.
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).
Our 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.
A bottle of 2011 Côtes du Rhône would accompany what we hoped would be a great dinner. It was even more than that.
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.
Tracy 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.
Throughout 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.
It 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).
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