Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Paree Is for You and Me--Day Six

This day we decide to Champs-Elysses it, so since our favorite patiserrie is on the way (Secco, shown here, but you can't quite see how good those almond croissants are--there's even a hint of chocolate in them), as is our favorite copper counter to stand at for cafe creme at Tabac de l'Universite, we eat, drink
and are off across the Seine on the ridiculously ornate Pont Alexandre III. Figures if you do an artistic mash-up of Belle Epoque France with the waning glories of Tsarist Russia, you're bound to have something a tad over-the-top.

Just across, the skies open up with rain at a 45 degree angle, but then the sideways rain turns into sleet. Along with many others we take our useless umbrellas and scamper under the welcoming portico of the Grand Palais, which unfortunately has no show right now so we merely get to glimpse in. Luckily it's mere minutes till it blows over and we're up the rain-soaked avenue. With the Arc de Triomphe at its crest, it's a grand boulevard indeed, but instead of a Bastille Day military parade we get Catholics out for a Good Friday procession, for some reason guarded by police (or maybe the police were there to make sure none of us innocent bystanders accidentally got dragged off to Golgotha). We take the turn down Avenue Montaigne to see the fashion houses, with the guards eager at the doors as if we aren't too intimidated to even peek in, and try to figure out how anyone justifies that several thousand dollar outfit. Still, the stuff in Harry Winston's window makes it clear why starlets drape themselves with it--for free--at the Oscars. Best of all, at the street's end there's this great frame for that Tower that won't stay out of my camera's viewfinder.

Back on the Champs Elysees we continue up the street past a storefront that proves Paris is one of the best places in the world...

Actually, it's a promotional store/bar for Pelforth, which makes a tasty dark beer and an ok light. Still, it's a heartwarming sight as the clouds roll back in, well, roll isn't quite right, the clouds rock 'n' roll back in with wild winds that whip through the Arc de Triomphe and make tourists shriek. The collective high-pitched "wooo" is worse than wind itself, actually.

Fortunately this statue is inside the Arc, so you couldn't see it and hear the noise, or you might be sore afraid. Yes, we did the Arc's inside to get to the Arc's top--it's a tourist's duty to climb everything they can jam a spiral staircase into, after all. The panorama is impressive, even in a drizzle and stiff wind. Here's the closest we got to the Arc la Defense. We did figure it might make a good test--lay down underneath every day when you visit, and when your stomach hits the top you've eaten too long in Paris. Enough croissants for you, buddy.

And since I'm legally obligated to provide one, here's an odd-angled shot of the Arc de Triomphe itself (herself? himself? does triumph have a gender? in France, or at least in French, no doubt it does.)

We decide we need to east a real lunch today, so end up at Tokyo.Eat that's in Palais Tokyo. This place is so hip it has its own music video, and is certainly the polar opposite of something like Domaine de Lintillac. Still, it's welcoming enough, despite the waiter suggesting we were from somewhere barbaric as our credit cards don't have our pictures on them. When we said we were from the States we admitted we thought it was barbaric sometimes too, which opened the door for him to share a joke we still don't get--he said, "We say the USA is the United States of Albania--with the light on." The food lives up to the affect, though, especially my cream of celery soup that made me realize it's worth having soup made from celery. It certainly didn't hurt there was pungent Spanish chorizo sliced in it and some sort of savory "ice cream" that melted into the soup. A perfect lunch for a blustery day. with wine, it was a very civilized break, and at this point our feet were starting to fight us, hoping for a vacation on a beach instead of this sightseeing regimen.

Next we tour the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville Paris, and were done before we finished saying its name. Seriously, it has some great stuff, especially for free, including Derain and Delaunay, both of whom I am a sucker for their colors. After an impressive Christian Boltanski room it sort of devolves into conceptual art I have less and less truck for as I move further from being an "academic"--stones on floor. Woo. After that we head back across the Seine and criss-cross streets as clouds criss-cross us.

Back at the hotel we rest up for our evening cocktail and dinner extravaganza. and I'm not using the term hyperbolically for we Metro to Tulliere and after a quick jaunt find the Ritz Hotel (it's as big as a diamond). You can almost breathe the money here, especially if you walk in the front from Place Vendome and hope to go to the Hemingway Bar, which is all the way in the back, a block away. That means you pass all these windows from vendors set up in the hotel, and it puts Avenue Montaigne to shame. Alas, it's a Friday so the tiny-esque Hemingway Bar is packed. We opt to sit right across the hall in the Ritz Bar, full of Louis XVI furniture, bare trees decorated with colored martini glasses, and quietly pumping mild Euro-techno. It's like the set of a Madonna video, but in a good way. You order from the same menu as the Hemingway, which you can take home for 5 Euros. But you won't, as the cocktails are 26 Euros. A piece. So now we can say we've had 2 drinks for about $80. They were good drinks--mine was a Coboulette, a Champagne cocktail (it's the Ritz, after all) with Cognac, and pear liquor, served over ice. Amy had a Miss Bonde, that brought her champagne with raspberry infusion. The homemade chips were good. The service better, our clearly English waiter completely welcoming even though $80 might be our usual weekly bar tab. So you have to hand the Ritz that.

Needless to say, we had no plans to eat at the Ritz, as we would have spent all our food budget for the rest of the trip. Instead we struggle to find, but do discover, A Casa Luna, a charming, stonewall Corsican gem. The food is a nifty mix of Provence, Italy, and North Africa--some couscous as an amuse; scallops tartare, doused in fine lemon and olive oil; a cured pork and cheese plate that features a hearty Corsican cheese called tomme corse; an eggplant cheese bake; and a wild boar stew served over polenta. We washed it down with a great Corsican red wine, Domaine Fiumicicoli Corse Sartene, as hearty and full as the boar. For dessert we shared Croustillant Chocolat Praliné aux écorces d'Oranges Confites--English doesn't do it justice. Great chocolate mousse on a tuille pastry, but the crowning achievement was the candied orange, sliced in tiny shavings so you always wanted more and they never over-powered. Then they give you a myrtle liqueur for free, sort of an eau de vie, but more tree-y, less leaf-y, if that makes sense. In a word, milder. Plus a plate of little cookies, fig and lemon curd.

I want to go back right now.



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