This Chic In Paris – Part III

In Part I of my post on Paris I spoke a little about the people, Part Deux covered food, I would be remiss if I did not cover …

L’Art (The Sites) –

Myth busting: All of Paris is not old brick, marble, cobblestone streets and fancy ironwork. Granted all of that beautifully exists and there are several sections which strive to maintain, as much of that old world look feel as possible. The Les Halles section where I stayed on the East Bank and the Latin Quarter on the West Bank of the Seine River are excellent examples of such. After all, that is part and parcel of the Paris charm, no? However, I promise you, smooth paved asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks are nicely intermixed, especially along the main traffic drags and shopping areas, thank you. North of the city, but very much a part of Paris proper, is where things become very modern. Take a cruise along the Seine and you will see this easily enough. Classic or nouveau in style, the architecture of the museums/monument/sites is as fantastic and varied the art housed within.

I should warn you, I am not critiquing specific works in this entry. In fact, I won’t discuss much art at all. This is just a written snap shot of a few of the places I chose to visit this go around.

L’Musées and Monuments and Sites

Musée Du Lourve

Musée Du Lourve

Let’s get it out the way – Musée Du Louvre. I do not care how many times you are told the museum is huge, if you have not seen it with your own eyes, you are not prepared for the expanse of it. Those who have been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City will understand what I am about to say here. Take every square foot of the MMA, triple it and you will FEEL like you still only have perhaps one-third of the Louvre. (Edited to say FEEL as a commenter below and a couple of other friends were nice enough to point out that the MMA in fact id 3x larger than the publicly accessible parts of the Musée Du Louvre.)
And yes, that harlot Mona Lisa gets the bulk of the initial attention. Do yourself a favor, get in, follow the signs to go see her, attempt to get your obligatory photo with it and get out of the area as soon as possible. You can say you’ve seen her, were surprised by the size of the painting like the rest of us and move on to the other attention seekers of the place. Speaking of attention whores – next, do a run by the other famous strumpet of the museum, the gorgeous Venus De Milo. When you see the beauty of it up close and personal, you can understand why so many replicas exist in the homes of many wannabe art collectors and most half-naked woman enthusiasts.

A word of advice to first-timers: do yourself a favor, get a schedule for the “Highlights” tours and let a guide take you around to all the presumed good stuff first in the Louvre. Then return on your own and explore the sections that captured your fancy at your leisure. Let’s face it, unless you work there, you may never see everything in the Louvre; not to mention the exhibits that change on a regular basis. Believe me, even if you had a month to do nothing but walk the Louvre every day, you would likely still miss something. Seriously, the place is that freaking HUGE!

Other favorite places of my trip:

Musée d'Orsay

Musée d’Orsay

Musée d’Orsay– more into the modern than the classic arts? This is your museum. Housed in what was once a train station building, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Degas and so much more find a home here. I also discovered a couple of new artists whose work captured my attention enough to write the information down, so I can look up their names and see what else they may have done.

Musée Rodin – The art is housed in Rodin’s former home and gardens. If the only thing you know of Rodin is The Thinker you are so in for a surprise as to the extent of his works. Let’s just say, Mr. Alighiere–Rodin did ya proud with The Gates of Hell, dude.

Versailles - Hall of Mirrors

Versailles – Hall of Mirrors

The Château de Versailles. This is a day trip on its own to make the most of it. The grandeur of the King and Queens Apartments, the majesty of the Gardens and splendor The Hall of Mirrors had me in awe for the sheer beauty of it. What was once a simple hunting lodge gradually transformed into a palace where king and queens displayed their power in ostentatious fashion until the French Revolution. And truth be told, I can understand why the impoverished populace wanted off with the heads of their monarchy after seeing it. Don’t forget to include a visit to Marie Antoinette’s little farm near Versailles, when she wanted to get away from burdens of wearing the crown.

Notre Dame – Flying buttresses and the rose window – enough said. The lines can be long, but they move quickly. Go for the bell tower tour. It’s the only way to really see the beauty of the flying buttresses the church is famous for.

Sainte-Chapelle – If the lines of Notre Dame, however fast-moving still galls you, across the courtyard is Sainte-Chapelle’s Church. A beauty in its own right with its famed glass windows this church is worth a visit.

Note: Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle and several other churches worth visiting still function as houses of worship. You will not likely to be able to tour most of them during services, especially Sunday services.

Eiffel Tower

Tour Eiffel / Eiffel Tower

Honorable mention of course to the most recognized and famed tourist attraction of all of Paris – L’Tour Eiffel (that’s the Eiffel Tower for you English speakers). Visit there in the day time to see wonderful views of the city from up high. Visit it at night to enjoy the loveliness of the Tower itself all lit up. Especially after sundown, where every hour on the hour it sparkles like sunlight on ocean waves reminding you of why Paris is called the City of Lights.

There is so much more I saw that I loved, but I have to draw a line somewhere so I stop here.

Next up – Is That All?

This Chick In Paris – Part Deux

Bon soir!

In Part I of my post on Paris I spoke a little about the people, now it’s about …

The Food –

Myth busting: Contrary to a friend’s popular belief, Parisian cuisine is not all bread, cheese, butter and wine. She forgot the potatoes. I kid! I kid! (Sorta.)

Breakfast/Brunch – I must say I was quite surprised to see that according to the menu – a French Breakfast consisted of a buttered baguette, a croissant and smattering of preserve. I mean were we not in the land of the infamous french omelette? Where’s the jambon (ham) and oui, le fromage (cheese) and other goodness most Americans associate with a breakfast omelette? Yes, it is bread and butter, plus a croissant which is naturally buttery, but really? That’s it?

This gal wanted some meat and since it was closer to lunch time, ordered a Croque Monsieur. For those unfamiliar with this, truth be told, a Croque Monsieur is a glorified grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Oh, but what a sandwich!

What makes it worth it is the Gruyere cheese. This favorite of French cafés and bistros also switches genders and becomes a Madame when topped by a fried egg. And speaking of eggs…

Lesson learned – I don’t know if was just that specific restaurant where we dined, or part of the culture, but one should definitely learn how to say I want my eggs cooked well if you do not like your fried/sunny-side/boiled/scrambled eggs runny. Different breakfast meals with types of cooked eggs, same results. It did not bother me, but J & M were quite perturbed when their sunny-side up egg was served considerably less than, as J put it “crispy”.

A pleasant lesson learned is how they serve coffee. They do not steam the milk Italian style, but it is served hot. You get all the flavor, but do not lose the heat and it’s not frothy like a latte. I actually liked that.

Lunch/Dinner – I had duck, beef, seafood dishes (two as part of multi-course meals), and one sausage dish. We started learning the first night pretty much everything was served with some form of potato, the most common thing being frites (fries). By the fourth day, when someone ordered Moules Frites I was not surprised at all to see mussels served with fries. I will say I took complete pleasure in seeing a bottle of good ol’ Heinz Ketchup (in English!), appear every where fries were served, oh yeah!

The only meal that was disappointing for me a sausage and mashed potato dish from a place which came nicely recommended. I, and the only other person that ordered it, both found it to be overly salty for our tastes and couldn’t eat it. Other than that, every thing else ranged from very good to oh damn this is good.

Late night – Every major metropolis has their hole-in-the-wall 24 places to get some grub, and Paris was no exception. You know the type of place. We’re not there for the ambiance or the nutritional value of the meal. It’s not cuisine – it’s food: they’ve got – we want it – that’s all. The major difference is I’m not getting a ham & cheese crepe at 4am in New York City. I am in Paris after all.

My three favorite dishes:

Caprese Salad
No. 3: Now tell me – how can something with only two damn ingredients and some seasoning be so divine? That was the caprese and side salad. In season tomatoes at their peak flavor and fresh mozzarella are truly the key here. They were simply wonderful by their selves. With the wonderfully flavorful pesto sauce drizzled across – they were sublime.

Pan Roasted Duck with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
No. 2: I wish I had thought to write down the name of the dish. The duck was nicely trimmed of fat, so tender and perfectly cooked. The broth of tiny diced vegetables and raisins was savory. The Parmesan mashed potatoes with a tiny sprinkling of chives balanced well with the duck. It was oh so freaking YUM!

Risotto with Shrimp
No. 1: The seasoned shrimp and risotto. I need to give a tiny be of back story here. The duck dish above and the shrimp/risotto were both from L’Amazonial and were literally the first french foods to grace our palettes. I had ordered the duck and M ordered the risotto. Typical tourists we are sampling from each other. Each of us gave pause when the risotto hit out tongues. Creamy, cheesy and still somehow perfectly firm. It was served atop of a sauce that tasted a whole lot like the broth served with my duck sans the veggies and raisins. As much as I loved the duck (drool), the was risotto was my first oh damn this is good moment. We all also agreed though nicely seasoned and very delish, the shrimp was a little dry. I presume that seemed to be the style of the dish as repeat orders had the same results. Notice I said repeat orders? After some sight-seeing, when we returned for dinner, three of us ordered the dish and we came back the next day for it. Yes, it really was that good.

Desserts – Oh you didn’t think I was going to leave it out did you? For shame! The bad news – because I choose art over food as my focus this trip I did not make any specific food runs. I know, what kind of fat girl am I, right?! It happens. The good news – I did have a few desserts. I am a fat girl after all. It happens. The two best were an apple galette with vanilla ice cream and of course a crème brulee.
Apple GaletteCrème Brulee

The apple galette was mouth watering on sight. The crust was perfect. Not over buttery, too sweet, not so dense you wanted a hacksaw to cut through it, but not so flaky it turned to dust at the lightest touch. The apples were tender, delicately sweet and just spot on good. The caramel swirls were just – well icing on the cake – lol. The crème brulee – oh what can I say. The sugar topping was expertly torched. If I had a toothpick to get to the edges, I could have lifted the shell as a whole disc. The crème was simply ooh la la riche! And for once not served in some little squat ramekin as generally served at restaurants here in the US, but in a nice wide one. Plenty of torched sugary goodness and even more crème to enjoy.

We enjoyed two three multi-course meals. One at wine pairing event, restaurant and another while cruising along the Seine. Were they delicious in their own right? -yes. The wine pairing dinner introduced me to something called a dorade. The menu card that came with the meal simply called it “Dorade with avocado and mango salsa.” The fish was so delicate in flavor that the avocado and mango nearly washed it out, but it was tasty. I actually looked up the word dorade to confirm it was indeed fish. The river cruise had this interesting soup, pairing a warm puree of zucchini, green beans and Lima beans, with cool pieces of its composite vegetables within. Two unique tastes and textures I would order again. Otherwise the two meals would be unfortunately forgettable were it not for the marvelous company of my dining companions.

Other than breakfast, wine or some form of liquor was a part of nearly each meal. Still, I was not any where near laden down with all this famed butter and cheese and I have to say a part of me is highly disappointed dammit. Perhaps this richness is in the outer regions of Paris. Probably where all the fat Parisians are hiding also. Next trip to France I must go in search of them and their famed über rich food.

Trip-Advisor et al, have their uses as an excellent resources, for where to dine, but please don’t let it be one’s only deciding factor. If I only followed those suggestion I may never have discovered that risotto. Overall, while I enjoyed nearly every morsel that crossed my lips, the meals I enjoyed the most were in the places we simply happened across in our travels. I would suggest the same to other first-timers.

Bon appetit? Indeed!
Me and a famed baguette

Next – L’Art (The Sites)