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PARIS, FRANCE Fall 2000 (4)
Knowing we had a noon lunch at Le
Grand Colbert, 2-4 rue Vivienne, 75002, 01-42-86-87-88,
we slept late and skipped breakfast. (Honest, we did.)
Walking west across rue Rambuteau from rue Vieille-du-Temple
was a challenge. There were long lines at the bakeries,
pastry shops, prepared food places, produce stores and
the delicious aromas were very stimulating to the senses.
It's no wonder we arrived with hearty appetites. The
ambiance in this beautiful brasserie is completely
conducive to relaxing and enjoying a long, leisurely meal
while admiring the surroundings. We settled into a corner
of the intimate, leather banquette in a section facing
the magnificent wooden bar topped with polished brass.
Attractive globes of light are clustered around the slim
pillars and tall palm plants line the perimeter on a
shelf behind the seating area; the walls are mirrored.
The professional, extremely accommodating service is
paced for your satisfaction and pleasure.
There are two menus: one for a large variety of
shellfish, the other of traditional as well as updated
brasserie offerings. The two appetizers we chose were
each a wonderful meal but we were hungry and no one was
rushing us. Linda's salad Grand Colbert was indeed grand
- romaine lettuce, anchovies, sliced hard cooked eggs,
pimento, red onion rings and Parmigiano cheese slices
with an oil and balsamic dressing. I had a repeat of
herring and boiled potatoes that I had so enjoyed at
Astier. This rendition was just as good, a huge pot of
filets, onions and carrots and a large bowl of potatoes.
I will not divulge how many filets I consumed. (At Astir
it was two but now I was more experienced.) It was cool
making eye contact with our neighbors who nodded and
smiled approvingly while we held hands and grasped the
romantic moment. The staff encourages this people
watching by pacing the service accordingly.
Our main courses arrived in due course. Linda's
tagliatelle topped with two poached salmon filets in a
tomato, butter, parsley concasse and my thick filet of
fresh cod, perfectly grilled and served with mashed
potatoes presented in a fanned design with shavings of
black olive. This was comfort food to be slowly eaten and
thoroughly enjoyed. We were now entering our third hour
and thinking we might not have dessert and just finish
with coffee. Bad idea - we saw a mound of profiteroles
arrive at the next table and our fate was sealed. How
could we miss rich vanilla ice cream sandwiched between
puff pastry cups and smothered in warm chocolate sauce?
Finally we finished with the coffee. This perfect
Parisian Sunday lunch was 360FF. We loved it so much, we
thought our friends Fabio and Cova would too, so we made
reservations for the four of us for the following Sunday,
before they would be flying back to Switzerland and Spain.
Needing a good stroll, we wandered north to Boul.
Montmartre and proceeded east along Boul. Poisonniere and
Boul. de Bonne-Nouvelle. These wide streets were filled
with families enjoying the bright, sunny day. We headed
south on rue Saint Denis where we had found an Internet
cafe with an English keyboard and very helpful staff. It
was Sunday but no break for the prostitutes, sex shops,
peep shows, etc., which line this colorful, sleazy street.
South of rue Rambuteau, the attraction becomes fast food
and cafes. The Internet spot is above one of these cafes.
I want to call to your attention two parallel streets,
which run north-south through the 3rd and 4th
arrondissements. If you are looking for fashionable men's
clothing in nice shops at good prices, rue de Turenne is
the place. And for women's hats, scarves and accessories,
rue du Temple is lined with wholesale/retail shops.
The day that we found these shopping opportunities in the
Marais, we also happened upon a pure neighborhood lunch
spot at the corner of rue Vieille-du-Temple and rue de la
Perle, A Bon La Heur. The place was very busy and through
the window we saw most folks eating chicken in a pot, one
of the daily specials. There's a long counter for eating
standing and tables along the window and in a small area
to the side. The environment is manic, lunch hour madness.
Our order was quickly delivered and we dove into the pot
of boiled chicken (large leg quarter), Savoy cabbage,
potato, turnip, carrots, leeks and celery. It was simple,
natural, delicious and cheap at 120FF for two.
Our dear friend Barrie, here in Toronto, urged us to try
Restaurant Le Soufflé that he had thoroughly enjoyed
some years ago. (The treasure hunt never ends!) It is
located in the 1st arrondissement at 36 rue du Mont-Thabor,
near Place Vendome and Place Concorde, 01-42-60-27-19.
After window shopping along the fashionable rue St.
Honore and admiring the exquisite Place Vendome, we
arrived for lunch. The two front rooms were filled and we
were seated in the rear room with a mirrored back wall
with paintings and prints adorning the cream colored side
walls. Red carpet and upholstery completed the pleasant
Soufflé it is, there are other traditional dishes
available but who cares? The soufflé menu offers choices
in all three courses. We each chose a main and a dessert.
Naturally, the soufflés are made to order, so it's not a
place to go when you are in a rush. It's a light, lovely,
luscious experience. Linda had Roquefort and nut and mine
was mushroom. Our intention was to share but neither of
us was interested in changing horses mid-stream. Dessert
was chocolate for Linda and pistachio and chocolate bits
for me. This was a super lunch idea (260FF).
We passed on coffee to go around
the corner to 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001, 01-42-60-82-00,
to the famous Angelina for the very best hot chocolate we
had ever had. This grand, old cafe with marble topped
tables, antique chairs and mirrored and muraled walls
climbing to a high glass pane ceiling is a total charmer.
Fortunately, the line-up was short and we were seated
within minutes. It would have been worth it even if the
wait had been longer. We were each served a pot of hot,
rich, thick chocolate (it's actually made of melted
chocolate) and a dish of real, unsweetened whipped cream.
A pot contains two cups and at 37FF each is a bargain
fare to heaven - thank goodness we didn't share!
Believe it or not, there were times when we were not in
the mood for a dining experience but for something very
casual, less time consuming and close-by. Of the three we
found, the gem was the Little Italy Trattoria, 13 rue
Rambuteau, 75004. This tiny place has authentic (meaning
as good as you'll find in Italy) prepared dishes, hams,
sausages, cheeses, walls filled with wine, olive oil,
balsamic, coffee, goodies and tables against the walls at
which you can enjoy wondrous pasta dishes and salads.
They jam about 30 people at the tables (more in better
weather at the tables outside) and from lunch time on,
there is a line-up. Once seated, the service moves right
along but everything is cooked to order so be patient. We
were there twice and had pasta both times. Ravioli filled
with cheese and mushrooms in cream sauce and ravioli with
cheese in arrabiata sauce the first time and linguini
Amalfi, with fresh baby clams and shrimps in fresh tomato/basil
sauce, and ravioli Norma, filled with ricotta and
eggplant in tomato/cream sauce. Homemade pasta, fresh
ingredients, superb sauces, great bread = return
engagements. The pastas we had were 70-75FF each.
If you like Middle Eastern food, Chez Marianne, 2 rue des
Hospitaliers Saint-Gervais, 75004, is the place. There's
a main dining room and an annex next door. Both exude
Middle Eastern atmosphere and aroma. The Zakouski (appetizers)
are the feature attraction and they can be ordered
individually or combine as many varieties as you wish. We
had a platter of six with pita and half a bottle of very
good house red. The hummus, eggplant salad, Turkish
salad, tuna salad, tzaziki and falafel were as good as it
gets and a steal at 140FF.
Finally Epices et Delices, 53 rue Vieille-du-Temple,
75004, is a great place for salads, appetizers and light
mains. The major influence is Middle Eastern and a few
basic French preparations. As in many places, there is
year-round outdoor seating with heat lamps. A large, semi-circular
bar greets you along with the exuberant staff. Inverted
orange lamp shades, dark green walls and huge colorful
paper flowers create a lively feeling. As soon as you are
comfortably seated, you are presented with a welcoming
aperitif, on the house. Linda had a marvelous Greek salad
with outstanding feta cheese and garnished with walnuts.
I had a daily menu of superb pureed lentil soup and
braised chicken leg quarter with tasty hand-cut fries -
excellent value at 155FF.
Rain had been a nearly constant companion during our stay
but this day the sky was blue and the sun shone brightly.
We walked briskly along rue Faubourg St. Honore, admiring
the endless designer shops and showrooms. We passed the U.S.
and British embassies and the President's Palace and
worked our way north in the 8th arrondissement to our
first destination of the day, Parc Monceau. Entering from
the south, we began to encounter the luxurious private
mansions that surround much of this lovely green space.
Many seniors were strolling or sitting on benches, taking
advantage of the sun's warming rays. Moms and nanny's
were watching their toddlers in the kids play areas.
Decorating the park is a rotunda built by Ledoux, the
oval-shaped basin of Naumachie, attractive statuary and
monuments and flower beds that must come beautifully
alive in the Spring. Green space, green trucks, green men
- there's a lesson to be learned here!
A visit to Paris is not complete without a visit and a
photo-op at the largest triumphal arch in the world, Arc
de Triomphe, and the historic avenue, Les Champs-Elysées.
Rather than challenge the busiest traffic hub in Paris,
we arrived from the north via rue Balzac. The Arc de
Triomphe is always an awesome sight standing as it does
about 160 feet high and 150 feet wide with attractive
sculptures and engravings adorning it. We joined the
hordes of Parisians and tourists parading down the wide
avenue past fast food outlets, automobile showrooms,
cinemas, fashion stores, airline offices, cafes and
restaurants. Take a detour down the side streets but be
sure not to miss the equally famous Place de la Concorde.
We crossed Pont de la Concorde to the Houses of
Parliament, which reside in the imposing Bourbon Palace.
Just west of Pont de la Concorde is Pont Alexandre III,
the most elegant bridge in Paris, which was inaugurated
for the 1900 World Exhibition with its unique arch and
Due south a few minutes away in the 7th arrondissement is
the spectacular Hotel des Invalides with its glowing gold
dome and complementing the setting is the expanse of
green area at the front affording the viewer the luxury
of an unencumbered vantage point.
A few blocks away is the delightful rue Cler, a
neighborhood market street with food shops and a few
budget hotels, which are quite popular.
We noted that the wide Avenue de
Suffren is lined with exquisite apartment buildings as we
made our way towards the Eiffel Tower. By now it was late
afternoon and the sky was still blue but dusk would soon
be upon us. Night falls quickly here and we were on a
mission; our goal was to get a series of photos of the
Eiffel Tower in various lighting conditions. As we got
into photo range, we noticed a couple taking turns
snapping photos of each other with the giant erector set
in the background. We offered to take one of the two of
them together, which delighted them, and that's how we
picked-up Ilene and Neil from Flint, Michigan, who joined
us and Cova for dinner that evening. As you can see, we
accomplished our mission - just perfectly.
Covadonga is a member of our Internet travel discussion
group and a marvelous contributor. She has traveled
extensively and, in addition, knows and loves her native
Spain. She is always willing to share her experience and
knowledge with the other Ziners, as we affectionately
call our members. You cannot imagine how delighted we
were when she told us that she would come to Paris to do
some Christmas shopping during our visit.
We met for dinner at a place Cova suggested after we told
her that we had been to the Greek place and would prefer
another choice. When she suggested Au Bascou, 38 rue
Reaumer, 75003, 01-42-72-69-25, we recognized it as
having been on Jack's recommended list so we knew it
would be a good choice. Shortly after we arrived at the
restaurant with Ilene and Neil, in walked Cova and we
recognized her immediately; there was that smile that
showed through in her posts to TheTravelzine and in her e-mails.
The tone was set as we entered by the warm welcome of the
owner Jean-Guy Loustau and our fabulous waitress for the
evening who guided us to our table. The wood beams and
warm tones reflect the Basque region of France, and the
menu is a tribute to its great cuisine. While we were
comfortably getting acquainted over our wine, the aromas
wafting from the kitchen were intoxicating. Our waitress
spoke English and cheerfully translated the menu with a
detailed description of each and every preparation.
Linda started with piperade Basquaise, eggs lightly
scrambled with tomato, pimento, ham and served with
greens. My pimentos del Piquillo farcis was a red pepper
stuffed with cod fish in a light tomato sauce. Both were
presented beautifully and were delicate and divine. We
both love duck and rabbit and tonight, in keeping with
the kitchen offering only the freshest seasonal fare, we
chose the baby duck and wild hare. When the dishes were
presented, we just wanted to inhale and stare. It was a
pity to destroy the precious arrangement of each item on
the plate - but somebody had to do it! The baby duck
rested in a rich, savory sauce along with a combination
of mushrooms and chestnuts in a delicate pastry shell.
Linda's hare quarter with mashed potatoes was in a sauce
enriched with mushrooms and dotted with tiny croutons.
Each item was incredibly tasty on its own but taken
together were a symphony of intensely harmonic flavors.
Never leave this place without having dessert! Neil did
manage to squeeze in a sheep cheese with cherry marmalade
before dessert, which we all sampled and loved. Beret
Basque was a chocolate dream in content and presentation.
Chocolate mousse is topped with chocolate ice cream
wearing a chocolate beret. All the chocolate is made with
the finest ingredients and is unforgettable. Duo de
gateaux Basque was two slices of typical Basque cake, one
with an almond filling and the other with prune. I
savored every last crumb. The presentation of these
desserts was a work of art. Over coffee we sang the
praises of this marvelous meal. The tree courses with
wine and coffee was 466FF for two, an exceptional value
Our dear friend Fabio arrived the next morning for a day
of heavy rain. It was no problem because we enjoy just
being together. The only downside was that his darling,
sweet wife Cornelia was unable to come, and we missed her.
During 2001 we will get together to celebrate our five
years of friendship.
We went to our favorite boulangerie Malineau to pick-up
sandwiches, pizza and pastry and dashed over to Columbus
cafe to sit and devour our treats with delicious coffee.
Later in the afternoon, it was time for high tea at
Mariage Freres, where we waited in line for half an hour
drying off from the downpour which soaked us despite our
In the evening we joined Cova, Ilene and Neil at Le
Colimacon, 44 rue Vielle-du-Temple, 75004, 01-48-87-12-01,
which had been recommended by our Ziner-friends, Anne and
Kirk from Virginia. The house of this very typical bistro
was built in 1732 by the Royal architect Louis LeTellier.
The facade of square hewn stones, the old carved work of
the courtyard gate, the grimacing face above the central
part, the heraldic figure above the central window and
the court of paving stones and the open stairs and
banisters in wrought iron are a testament to the age of
this structure. The front side of the house was restored
in 1993. This old wood and stone beauty oozes
conviviality and was a perfect place for old and new
friends to meet. The first floor has the mandatory bar
and several tables and a narrow, circular staircase leads
to the cozy dining room upstairs. Reservations are
recommended as there is limited seating.
The offerings are basic French bistro available a-la-carte
or as three-course menus at 133FF for dinner, which we
chose, and 93FF for lunch. The waiter was delightful and
the service beautifully paced so that we were quite
comfortable dining while sharing travel talk and
experiences. Starters of moules a la crème and soupe de
poisson maison avec sa rouille were both superb
preparations of these traditional favorites. The medium
size, tender mussels were in a luscious broth of white
wine, cream, onions and the natural juice of the mussels.
Garlic mayonnaise, cheese and croutons were served
alongside the thick, hearty seafood soup reminding Linda
of the first time we enjoyed this particular version when
we traveled through the French countryside with Pierrette
and Louis so many years ago. As mains, which were served
with shoestring potatoes and steamed veggies, Linda had
lamb chops and I ordered the loin of pork in honey and
vinegar sauce. The desserts, tarte aux fruits and tarte
tatin both on vanilla sauce, were perfect. It was a
delightful evening of friends meeting, enjoying each
other and a very good meal. In fairness, the perfection
of dinner the previous night was a hard act to follow.
Fabio arrived mid-morning to join
us for a walk to Le Grand Colbert where we would meet
Cova for a parting lunch. We walked along rue de Bretagne
where a Sunday morning antique and flea market was in
progress; the street was jumping. It wasn't easy to pass
the grilled sausage stands, the chicken rotisseries nor
the shops selling cheeses, breads and crepes. In the
middle of it all, at the corner of rue Picard is the off-street
Petite Marche, an enclosed market with tantalizing
offerings including couscous, chocolates, flowers,
produce, breads, pastries, seafood, prepared food - get
us out of here!
The four of us had a marvelous get-together, enjoying our
friendship and the same wonderful environment, food and
service that Linda and I enjoyed when we visited Le Grand
Colbert the previous week. Cova headed off to Spain and
Fabio joined us on our walk back to our hotel along the
other side of rue de Bretagne through the market madness.
Fabio retrieved the suitcase he had earlier left in our
room and he departed for Switzerland. We crashed, all the
eating was beginning to catch-up to us.
On the next to last day we did some shopping at BHV, a
department store on rue de Rivoli across from Hotel de
Ville. We had never heard of this store but wandered in
out of curiosity and found it to be one of the best
merchandised department stores we had ever seen.
Particularly strong in merchandise for the home, the
departments offered helpful service, in-depth selection
and merchandise presentation that made shopping fun.
It was time to get organized to leave and for our last
dinner we decided to try another nearby restaurant we had
passed a million times, which was always busy. Les
Philosophes, 28 rue Vieille-du-Temple, 75004, 01-48-87-49-64,
is on a corner and surrounded by tables and heating
lamps, covered by a large awning. Folks are at these
outside tables regardless of the weather enjoying a
beverage, snack or meal while watching the world go by.
It's a pretty basic place inside with a small bar and a
stone wall adorned with posters and traditional French
bistro fare on the menu.
We both chose to have three-course menus; Linda had the
daily special for 128FF and I, a 152FF combination. My
wife loved the creamy squash soup to start and was
equally pleased with the coq au vin served on noodles
with broccoli florets. There was no way she could pass on
the "Coupe Yiddish" for dessert, a pear, apple
and raisin compote with vanilla ice cream. My starter was
a glorious tomato tartin, cooked tomato and herbs on a
slice of soft dough served with a crisp green salad, a
house specialty, as was the succulent duck leg quarter in
honey and pepper sauce with delicious sliced, fried
potatoes and more salad. Rice pudding is my ultimate
comfort food and this version with cinnamon resting on a
lemon and honey sauce was to die for. The house red wine
was quite good. Our only regret was not finding this
place earlier in our stay - a bargain at 322FF.
It was our last day and we were up bright and early to
enjoy breakfast in our room before departing for the
airport. There was a knock on the door promptly at 07:00
and we were presented with a large tray of the same
wonderful goodies we enjoyed in the breakfast room
earlier in our stay along with an International Herald
Tribune, which we saved for later.
The morning was clear so we decided to walk to Chatelet
Les Halles and take the time to appreciate the early
morning life in the city. The directions to the RER are a
bit confusing but we got all the help we needed from
friendly commuters. In short order we were at Terminal 2A
at the Air Canada counter.
As in Toronto, the staff was extremely obliging and
before long we were comfortably seated, coats hung in the
closet, carry-ons stowed, ready for take-off. The plane
was the same one we had coming over - only the crew was
different, but no less professional nor caring.
Flying west in daylight is always easier on the body and
the senses and before we could refuse yet another
beverage offering, we were landing in Toronto ready to
plan our next adventure.
beginning of Paris travelogue
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