Today was our only full day in Paris. We made a decision to spend more time in Provence rather than Paris, but Paris has an allure that's hard to resist. We woke up early and sat on the balcony looking at all the people walking past.
We headed to Musee du Louvre to try and beat the crowds. We walked through the archway and saw the iconic glass pyramid that spans the entrance in the centre of the vast square. We paid our 9 Euros each and promptly got lost within the maze of museum.
Musee du Louvre.
Elysia studies the map while Iain clowns around.
We headed for the Mona Lisa to again to try and beat the crowds, had a very quick look and strolled past the rest of the Italian classics. We saw Iranian, Egyptian and Greek antiquities; classical French portraits; and the Venus de Milo. By the time we left, several hours later, the entrance part of the museum was packed, there was a queue to get in, and hundreds of people were milling about in the square.
3000 year old dead cats!
We then made the short walk to the Palais Royale. Its beautiful central avenue was spectacular with its straight rows of trees and huge fountain. Unfortunately, being a Monday most of the shops surrounding the garden were closed, but we did catch a glimpse of Restaurant Vefour, the first-ever restaurant in the world. It has been trading since the Revolution when the private chefs of the very wealthy (who were executed) all lost their jobs and needed something to do. It still serves some of Paris's finest haute cuisine.
The trees in the Palais Royale.
We liked the look on his face as he looks at the pigeon ("Oh get off me!").
Better history than the Louvre!
We left the Palais and walked up Rue de Rivoli that runs parallel to the Louvre, but it was a bit touristy so we crossed to Rue St Honore, past the big names in world-fashion shops, on our way to Laduree to get some macaroons. The queue was spilling out of the shop but it was well worth persisting. We chose six macaroons, a carnel and a little fig gateau. The servers in Laduree are very, very well-presented and spoke very good English.
We crossed the to the steps of La Madeleine to eat our treats. We had blackcurrant and violet, raspberry, pistachio, lemon, bergamont and rose petal. They were all light, soft, colourful and beautifully flavoured. For those of you who aren't 'au fait' with classical French pastry, a carnel is made in a little fluted tin is lined with melted bees' wax and left to cool. Then a thick batter is poured into the mould and its baked very hot. The wax melts and kind of fries the batter on the outside creating a crunchy exterior and a soft interior. The wax then cools and creates a seal that keeps the outside crunchy and stops the moisture escaping from the centre.
This one was framboise (raspberries) mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!.
The fig gateau was a wonderful thing. A collar of bright-purple sponge was filled with cream; a mixture of macerated dried figs; fresh figs; more of the sponge; and then topped with a fan of fresh fig. It was moist and creamy and looked great.
The box containing the fig gateau.
We walked to the Arc de Triomphe and back down the Boulevade Haussmann, named after the planner who bulldozed the slums of Paris to create the wide boulevards and avenues that the city is famous for today. We stopped in at a little bistro called Le Friedland for a cote du boeuf and a plate of charcuterie. The beef was barbecued to perfection and came with loads of pommes frites. The charcuterie was a mix of ham, jamon, salami, pork rillettes and wild boar terrine, all very good. We washed it down with a couple of beers and walked on.
Sorry, but we made an effort to get up there to see it.
Steak and chips.
We had to find a large suitcase to accommodate all the things we have bought, and found one in a large department store that made the David Jones on Burke Street Mall look like a shed. We trundled it back to the apartment.
We dumped the new bag (yeah and maybe a few other bits a pieces, PARIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and headed just around the corner to E. Dehillerin, the very famous kitchen equipment store. It's rustic to say the least and has a good range of the products it carries but it wasn't for us (think Tas Hotel and Club Supplies but dustier, more cluttered and no Steve!). We walked two blocks to Mora which is much more nicely laid out and had the things we were after: a poly-carbon chocolate mould and some long aluminium cylinders.
Iain with a really big spoon at E. Dehillerin
Dinner time was already upon us so we headed back out to find a meal with the idea that we would try and find something a bit funky to see what that end of the market is like. We struggled, funky seems to equal the same as back home: a fancy fit-out but lacking in food and service.
This was our last night in Europe and it was a shame to end on a low note. The place was called Cafe Marcelle Etienne, the waiter was quite good and had a joke about the language barrier after he had warmed to us a little (he was a bit 'Paris' first-up) the food was only OK. A piece of Angus beef with frites and Bearnaise and three lamb chops also with chips and a salty jus (we did get tomato sauce, opinion was divided on this addition though). Not to say it was bad, it just wasn't good. A little bit cold and the Bearnaise was split. We had a bottle of white burgundy from 2007, also OK.
Steak at dinner.
Lamb at dinner.
Wine at dinner.
We stopped for a Cornetto at the late night corner store (that has Verve and Ruinart in the fridge) and returned to the apartment for the last time to pack, expecting a 7:30 departure in the morning and a 36 hour flight home.