Wandering and Eating around Paris

Back in Chicago, after a most marvelous week in France, with dear old friends from college. Thanks R and P, for your generous hospitality and fun times, and Angela for providing the comedy.

What a packed trip it was too! Here’s the brief itinerary run-down of our time in Paris (Saturday through Tuesday):

Saturday:
Arrived late Saturday afternoon, whereupon I took the Roissy bus to Opera Garnier to meet R&P. Too bad the opera house was not open for a visit that day. R&P picked me up, and immediately brought me to a couple of wine shops for a poke around. How well they know me! We then grabbed a quick bite at one of the many cafes in the area (the tables in French cafes are soooo tightly packed together; that would never fly in America), before returning home to digest in time for a big dinner.

Read R’s review of our delectable dinner at La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix here. I’m still dreaming about those pig ears!

From April in France

Sunday:
Museums are free every first Sunday of the month, so bright and early, we trooped to visit a medieval church, now converted into a museum, the Musée de Cluny. It’s now half in ruins, but in its day it dwarfed Notre Dame. It houses the six La Dame à la Licorne (The Lady and the Unicorn) tapestries, dating from the late fifteenth century. It’s supposedly one of the greatest works of art of the Middle Ages in Europe, though none of us seemed particularly impressed by it. We spent an hour and a half wandering around, before succumbing to our hunger at Vins et Terroirs, a lovely cozy little restaurant tucked in a cobblestone street on Saint-Germain-des-Prés. For 11 euros, we each got a plate of entree and mains. What a deal!

It took some encouragement from R&P, but I decided to try one of the most French dishes on the menu – veal liver in mustard sauce. The waiter wanted to double check if I knew what I was getting into, gesturing at his liver and looking quite concerned. Ah well, when in France… but it was turned out to be pretty tasty. The Dijon mustard sauce masked most of the earthy smell of the liver, which was meaty and quite satisfying.

From April in France

While R&P had worship rehearsals at their church, I wandered around Jardin du Luxembourg, the sprawling gardens at which the Senate is located with an American mother and daughter I’d randomly bumped into outside their church. The day was gorgeous, not too hot, not too cold, with bright blue skies, and there were crowds of people lounging in the sun, reading, dozing, and laughing. Little kids rented sail boats that they prodded along in the large fountain in the center of the garden, and it was funny to watch their excited faces as they chased after the boats.

After church, we had about an hour to kill before the restaurants opened for dinner (why do the Europeans eat so late!?!), so we decided to get some exercise in and walked all the way to Lao Lane Xiang, a Laotian restaurant in the Indochin part of Chinatown. I’d asked to go there, after having read R’s rave review of the food, and wasn’t in the least disappointed. 🙂 It’s evidently a super popular restaurant, because a mere FIVE minutes after the doors opened, the restaurant was completely packed.

From April in France

Monday:
I spent the entire day with Thomas – he brought me out to the famed forest of Fontainbleau for a taste of bouldering. I’ve never bouldered outdoors before, and honestly, I don’t think I ever will again. Haha, give me a top rope please! Thomas tried unsuccessfully to convince me that I wouldn’t break anything falling onto his giant crash pad, but I’m a klutz, so I contented with mostly traversing along just a few inches off the ground. I did clamber up a few boulders, but it took a lot of frightened curses on my part, hehe. It was a beautiful day out though, with cloudless blue skies, and it was just so peaceful to be out in the countryside, feeling the soft fine sand under my bare toes, away from the smog and the din of the city.

From April in France
From April in France

Thomas was up to joining us for dinner, so R made last minute reservations at Le Casse Noix, a small restaurant hidden away in a quiet residential neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower with its flashy disco lights. Delicious fare, paired with a lovely bottle of French Viognier that was bright and refreshing, minerally with a touch of grapefruit; went well with our (mostly) scallop entrees and my fish steak main. Read R’s review here.

Tuesday:
Angela had arrived the evening before, so while R&P were in school Tuesday, the two of us headed out to explore Paris. First stop, the Lourve. We took our requisite picture, but unfortunately the museum itself is closed on Tuesdays (what a random day to close!), so we strolled through the Tulleries Gardens and stood in line for more than an hour to get into Musee D’Orsay.

From April in France

For dinner, we went to Chez Dumonet at R’s recommendation. She’d warned us that the portions were huge, and were they ever. By the time we were finished with the mains, we were sadly too stuffed to even think about dessert. On her urging, we ordered the duck confit and Boeuf Bourguignon. The latter was surely one of the best I’ve had – the beef so tender it melts in your mouth, and you could taste the wine with every bite. Speaking of wine, sadly, that was the closest I got to drinking any that night. Chez Dumonet had an absolutely amazing wine list – with bottles of first growths dating back to the 1960s – but all they had for wines by the glass was some generic table red. I asked for a sample to taste, and decided that the cooked wine sauce in the beef Bourguignon was better.

From April in France
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