Dad and Julie arrived on Saturday morning, and it’s been a lovely visit so far, with mostly gorgeous weather for November. Today is overcast and freezing, and I did spend the morning out and about (discovering the Place Vendôme and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, where they are shockingly friendly and helpful), so I’m allowing myself to curl up under the covers with my laptop to blog a little about the last few days.
I had planned my morning around Dad and Julie arriving in time for lunch, so by the time they did arrive, having been delayed by weather, I was ravenous. They were staying at Les Clos Medicis, which is an adorable little hotel a stone’s throw from the Jardins du Luxembourg and the Sorbonne (it’s also on a street with about six different Japanese restaurants, but that’s neither here nor there). We started walking towards the Sorbonne, when I suddenly saw Rue St. Jacques and remembered that there is a crèperie across the street from my school that I had been dying to try, but had been saving. So off we went to La Pomme d’Amour (they don’t have a website, but check out their Facebook page!).
As soon as we sat down, Dad said that this was the kind of place he’d hoped to go in Paris. It’s tiny, first of all, with only maybe four tables in the storefront part of the restaurant (they do have additional seating in the basement, accessible by spiral staircase). The menu includes a lot of Breton specialties–that is, coming from Brittany–including galettes, which are like crèpes, but made with buckwheat flour (thanks, Anthony Bourdain!). Dad ordered onion soup to start, and when it arrived it was light and not too salty, with only a little cheese. Dad and Julie both liked it, but I have to admit that I prefer my French onion soup to have more calories than you can count. Then we each had a different galette. Mine was boudin (or blood sausage–thanks, Joanne Harris!) with cooked apples and onions, Dad had the special with andouille, cheese, cream and mustard (which was too mustardy for me, but which he praised for not having too much cream), and Julie’s involved tuna, tomatoes and cheese. We washed it all down with a pitcher of cidre, which is almost apple cider, except it’s not as sweet and it’s a little fizzy.
All in all, an excellent meal, which we then walked off, all the way to St. Michel, Notre Dame, the Seine and Île St. Louis. I have to say, whatever malaise I was feeling about Paris (spleen, you might even call it) disappeared almost entirely from showing it to someone who had never seen it before. Dad even liked Rue de la Glacière, even when I pointed out that it was not the most attractive part of Paris. It is, after all, still Paris!
On the Île St. Louis, we started to get cold, so we stopped into Les Fous de L’Île for hot chocolate (me) and wine (them). My hot chocolate was exactly the rich, dense kind that I like best (here you know you’re going to get that when they call it “chocolat chaud à l’ancienne”), with chantilly whipped cream. Yum! Then we parted ways. Later on I had brussels sprouts for dinner.
Sunday I ditched Dad and Julie to go to a Thanksgiving party at Hallie’s, which was such a wonderful time. They had procured what had to have been the biggest turkey in the city, and for the first time I had horseradish-cranberry relish, which I will be making for next Thanksgiving, even if I’m the only one who eats it.
Yesterday Dad and Julie moved into the apartment where they’ll be staying for the rest of their stay in Paris, so around lunchtime I stopped by. Dad and I went out for lunch right around the corner, though I can’t remember the street name, or the restaurant name. But it was after 1 PM, which means that the French were actually having lunch (I always feel like I’m going to be the only person eating if I sit down in a restaurant and order something before at least 1), and we were the only people speaking English in the place, because why would any tourist seek out a little bistro on a side street with nothing else of note on it? Anyway, I had an awesome salad with smoked duck and foie gras on it (it was called La Périgordine, which made me smile), and Dad had steak-frites. They put out a little bowl of popcorn to snack on before we ordered, and my salad came with homemade, still-warm croutons. Success.
Which brings us to yesterday evening. I had to be in Versailles to rehearse with Heather and Jake for our concert at 4 PM–the concert wasn’t until 8:30 (!!), so Dad and Julie arrived around 6:45, having managed to negotiate the utterly impossible RER system with only the slightest of snags. We had to eat something beforehand, and on Monday night in Versailles, it turns out that most things are not open. So we decided on Chinese food. In a French Chinese restaurant, they have all of their dishes out on display in a glass case, and you can order by weight. If you decide to eat in the restaurant, they’ll warm up your meal for you. Represented at the table we had noodles, sautéed vegetables, shrimp dumplings, a couple of different kinds of chicken (I didn’t taste Dad’s, but mine was awfully delicious. Something I like about French Chinese food as opposed to American is that the chicken has clearly been cut off a chicken fairly recently, and the pieces aren’t all the same size, or flattened out.), and a sort of poor imitation of fried rice (it had egg and peas and ham–??–in it, but it didn’t seem to have been, er, fried in any way).
The concert went as well as it could have, I think. Jake, Heather and I performed “Ich folge dir gleichfalls” from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. I was a little less than thrilled about having four and a half hours to kill between rehearsal and performance (during which time I did manage to introduce Heather and Jake to Q.I., the show which convinces me that I’m on the wrong side of the Channel), and then singing in an utterly freezing church. The concert was all music for organ and voice or other instruments, with a couple of straight-up organ pieces thrown in. It started late and then every piece had to be explained and introduced, so it was somewhat longer than I had anticipated. And then it took us absolutely ages to get back to Paris–I didn’t make it back to Cité Universitaire until after midnight. Yikes!
And then this morning I struck out on my own, because I’d been putting off getting my Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris card and needed to just get on the train and get it done. They have an astoundingly good music library, and inside the music library they have a practice room with a piano where you can take the score you’ve just found and play/sing through it. Take note, American music libraries! But riddle me this: if one isn’t allowed to make photocopies of more than 10% of a work that isn’t in the public domain, AND one isn’t allowed to give concerts using photocopies from the library, how on earth does anybody give concerts of really obscure but not that old music?
After that I started walking, intent on finding Le Petit Vendôme, where they apparently make the best sandwich in Paris. But I got sidetracked by a Japanese “fast food” restaurant that smelled so good I couldn’t walk past. I bought a bento box:
This is minus what may or may not have been a slice of French Toast Bread Pudding, which I ate on my way over to Place Vendôme, sandwiches completely forgotten. The rice ball on the right had salmon in it, and the one on the left looked like this:
There was a pit inside, so I’m assuming sour cherry, or a cherry that was pickled in some way. Speaking of pickles, the yellow things on the side of the box were pickles of some kind of vegetable that were amazing, and I would like to buy a whole jar. Maybe I’ll go back there the next time I’m at the library–there’s a whole host of Japanese groceries in that area.
I did actually find the Place Vendôme, and I was kind of shocked by how many times I had been by the opera house without walking three blocks in that particular direction.
It’s so festive and upscale! I love it.
And now, maybe a nap before I meet up with Dad and Julie again at dinnertime–the location of which is as yet a mystery to me. They had wanted to go to the Jules Verne restaurant on the Eiffel Tower, but apparently it’s impossible to make reservations the day you want to go, so we’re going to try again on Friday.