Joel the Foodie gets his Fix

Since Nick and I to stay for a weekend, during which we gave him all manner of vehicular treats, I have been looking for opportunities to treat his siblings the same.  So my second opportunity involves a special something for Joel.  Joel is an easy recipient – he is fascinated by food and cooking.  blogtagineLuckily for me my neighbour Claire, a Parisienne who has a second home in St Vaast, has stumbled on a website which offers Secret Food Tours.  They run them in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin and Barcelona.  When I make further enquiries I find that the Paris tours take place around Montmartre which is on the doorstep of our friends’ apartment off Pigalle and the meeting point will turn out to be at the Anvers Metro which is just round the corner.

So Joel and I board a train at Valognes and travel for three hours to Paris St Lazare.  From the station it is a fifteen minute walk to rue Victor Massy.  We offload our bags then head into the centre of Paris for an afternoon activity.  There are so many possibilities and I had planned to take the Metro to Jardin des Tuileries and perhaps slip over to the Musee d’Orsay.  But Joel mentions that he would love to see the glass pyramid above the entrance to the Louvre since it features in the novel and film of the Da Vinci Code.  editimg_4727-2So it is that we spend a couple of hours at the Louvre and this is thoroughly enjoyable as we take in some French and Italian Renaissance art, we talk about the pictures and those that we like in particular and of course we gaze upon the loveliness that is the Mona Lisa.  Personally I have never thought that she is that lovely.   As Joel and I stand and regard La Gioconda, we are very much in an ethnic minority.

editimg_4729-3I would say that 90% of the ‘audience’ consists of far Eastern tourists armed with their mobile phones and selfie sticks.  I noticed this before when I came to see the Mona Lisa and also when visiting other parts of the exhibitions.  Many people view the museum through their devices.  They arrive in front of a work of art, capture the image on their device and move on without stopping to consider the painting they have just photographed.   As we continue our exploration we find ourselves at the Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.  We both really enjoy looking at the sculptures, artefacts and face masks.  blogimg_4730-2 blogimg_4731-2 blogimg_4732-2  We round a corner and are confronted with a huge stone head and neck carving.  “Gosh” I say, “that looks just like one of the Easter Island statues!” Well, of course, it is one.

By now it is almost time for the museum to close so we make our way to the nearest Metro and back to Pigalle.  We are going to eat at one of the local restaurants and I have chosen the one that offers north African fare.  We choose tagine and Joel and I tuck in heartily.  After we have paid the bill the owner regales us with anecdote and advice for the budding chef.  The advice is well meant but not entirely appropriate and I should have kept my mouth shut!

Next morning we are up early and clear up the flat of such untidiness as we have made, which is negligible, and head out for breakfast at a local café before meeting up with our tour guide at Anvers Metro.  blogimg_4736-2 blogimg_4738-2 blogimg_4739-2Her name is Solene, a lively young woman who steers her motley group around the set course with skill and humour.  We are an American family of three, an Oriental family of three, an American librarian who lives in Dubai and Joel and me.  We sally forth.  Our first port of call is the Chocolaterie Maison Georges Larnicol.  This establishment carries the award Meilleur Ouvriers de France, something to look out for when choosing where to buy goods.  We are shown fabulous sculptures in chocolate, the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame……  And we get to choose two handmade chocolates each.editimg_4745-2

Our morning progresses; we are taken to a Patisserie whose speciality is Macarons, thence to a Fromagerie, a Boulangerie and a Boucherie where Solene makes various purchases.  Slightly uncharitably I think she is doing her personal shopping.  However, we fetch up in a small café bar where we then proceed to have a tasting of bread, cheese, charcuterie, washed down with red and white wines and our Degustation is wound up with eclairs and coffee.  During this delightful interlude we hear some wonderful food-related anecdotes, most notably an explanation as to why French bread comes in a stick shape.  And why we chink glasses when we toast each other.  blogimg_4724-2Eaten over a couple of hours the little nibbles amount to a good meal and Joel and I merely need to buy a sandwich at Gare St Lazare whilst we wait for our train that will carry us back to Valognes.

Parisian Pursuits

Between our planned city visits we spend a day of decourverte in Paris.  Allowing drizzle to ease off we left the flat at about 11 o’clock and rode the metro to Denfert Rochereau only to be confronted by a queue for the Catacombs which we had been hoping to visit.  Whilst we might have tarried a while when a rather surly doorman told us we could expect to queue for 3 hours we abandoned the idea.  We ate delicious boudin noir and mash at a nearby restaurant and ten took the metro to Trocadero where we had planned to visit Musee de Quai Branly principally for the vertical gardens which Marian had described to us.

But on the way we spotted Palais de Tokyo and, my, did we enjoy the art installations therein.   It is a building dedicated to modern and contemporary art and we loved it.  Especially the Henrique Oliveira ‘tree’ and the Venice Lagoon experience.

Time for a quick selfie with the Eiffel Tower then on to Branly and that building contains a fabulous collection of Oceanic, Asiatic, African and American primitive art.  The interior decor uses a terra cotta coloured leather as it’s principal raw material which is so earthy and atmospheric.  But the display cabinets are densely positioned and contain lots of objects and the route around is not easy to trace.  You have the unsettling feeling you might hae missed a chunk.Blog-ParisEiffelSelfie  This Museum will require a second bite as I loved the plethora of shelly artefacts and when we emerged at 1900h we were tired.  Feet beginning to blister – note to self I must buy a reeaallly comfortable pair of shoes.

Despite tempting ideas for terrace bars and riverside strolls flagged up by Claire we repaired to rue Victor Massy for a quick freshen then supper at Deux Cocottes.  (Thank you for all your Parisian serving suggestions Claire, oh for more hours…….energy  too 😉

 

Paris Interlude

Our lovely neighbours in St Vaast offered us the use of their apartment in Pigalle. We took a week out in the middle of the Perryman visit and caught the train from Valognes which took us into the heart of Paris, from where a 15-minute walk took us to our base for the week. The apartment is compact and full of character and lovely things. We settled in and decided on a gentle afternoon stroll to offset the 3-hour journey.  Our way took us north and before we knew it we were faced with several flights of steep stone steps up to Sacre Coeur. Our reward was a stunning view from the summit and a pleasant walk back to the flat afterwards.

Our week in Paris was stuffed full of art.   We had thought to include a trip to a show and some shopping.  In the end we did go to Galeries Lafayette where we walked circuits of the floors of women’s fashion, looking at the clothes for ideas for colours, shapes and styles.  We sat and had a coffee break at a tiny café and gazed out over the atrium to the various floors we had just walked around.  Looking up you can admire the Art Nouveau stained glass dome.  The department store celebrated its Centenary of the Dome on October 16th, 2012, The Dome was designed by architect Ferdinand Chanut and glass artist Jacques Gruber and is 43 meters high, made with metal and glass and capped with a metal lantern.

During the week we also took an impromptu dining cruise along the Seine which was the closest we came to the Eiffel Tower.  For the rest we wallowed in arty things: rich and celebrated paintings, sculptures and so many beautiful objects.  In addition to the Natural History Museum – which was something of a disappointment – we visited the Orangerie, the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and the Petit Palais.  One day we walked along Boulevard Saint Germain to find the Café de Flore, celebrated for its famous clientele.   It retains its Art Nouveau style and it played host to most French intellectuals in the post-war years.  We went there on the recommendation of our friend Georgy.  There I ordered tea and ate the most expensive and most delicious Tarte aux Abricots that I have ever tasted!

After days spent on our feet we headed for our bijou base to freshen up.  We played a hand of cards with a glass of wine then walked round the corner to dine from the choice of local restaurants.

We returned to St Vaast, to the gorgeous summer weather and some good beach time.