Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Let’s Rock ‘n Roll; No April Fool!

I remember my first battery operated totally portable transistor radio. What a concept, free to listen to music wherever you wanted. Now, I liked listening to music at a very young age. When it was nighttime, and I was supposed to be asleep, yet there I was under the covers listening to this magic. It was the birth of Rock ‘n Roll. And while I enjoyed it then, I really got into it later. I came to find out, I must be pretty weird. I loved the Beatles and the Stones and Motown. So my first morning in Paris, maybe to help me keep up with locals walking pace, maybe it’s the weather (overcast and drizzling), maybe I feel my soul is simpatico with Paris, in any case, I find myself singing: “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day”; yep, the Tempations – “My Girl”

My First Full Day in Paris,

Tues Mar 10th, Day II
I have sketched out an itinerary for the first week, but I told myself to relax; not to push with doing stuff I put on a list. After dreaming of a great croissant, as George Harrison wrote “I got my mind set on you”. My first full day in Paris and my itinerary read: 7AM – Marché Popincourt

I made it there well before noon!

  • On the Marché: Food is like a religion for the French. There was a program about 25 years ago on ‘Sixty Minutes” called the French paradox. To paraphrase, how come the French eat foods that are high in fat and cholesterol, yet they stay thin? The investigators concluded the answer was that red wine contained Resveratol, which is supposed to be really good for your heart. And they drink a lot of red wine. Now, I don’t doubt there’s truth there, but I also believe the French exercise (walking) and have an obsession with high quality food. It is hard to find processed foods in France. Another overlooked factor is they drink pretty much all their wine with food. So, it is a French tradition to buy the freshest foods, so they shop almost daily and here’s where the Marché comes in. Most Parisian neighborhoods have a Marché. Some are in permanent buildings, more are open air, some are 6 days a week, many are 2 days a week. These are all filled with small stands of the freshest fruits, vegetables, nuts, olives as well as meats, seafood and of course cheese. Some of the larger markets have new and used clothing, household goods and almost anything else you can think of; I think that element is related to the popularity of flea markets. Also represented are prepared foods and bakeries, which I found to be of a significant lesser quality. Another major reason to attend the Marché is the entertainment value. The lively atmosphere, the hawkers patter, the diversity of ethnicity and eye-catching displays, not too mention the sheer size. More Marché pics

In my neighborhood, the Marché d’Aligre was open 6 days a week, but, this day – Kevin Bacon in Tremors: “I got a goddamn plan!” The Marché Popincourt is only open Tues & Thurs and only a couple blocks away, one of the best bakeries in Paris. So, two stops on the Metro, a few steps and I arrive at #32 Rue de Turenne, “Au Levain du Marais”. Moments later I am walking a couple blocks to the Marché while slowly inhaling the deep heavenly aromas and the light, crisp, flakes of a great croissant! I also bought a demi-baguette for later – a daily ritual as well. Now, with so many stalls, all looking pretty enticing, how to choose which one. Past experience had shown me (since I wasn’t buying a lot), to purchase all I needed at one place. First I thought to look for which stand was busy, but it wasn’t very busy anywhere (maybe the weather) and then it hit me; I saw a sign “Biologic”. Soon I was headed home with my goodies ensconces in the nice plastic bag I brought from my US home. Now, all my everyday shopping needs were not filled by the Marché. For other things, it was best to find a Supermarché. There was a chain of small ones called Franprix and large ones called Monoprix. They had a good selection of most things found at the Marché, plus; this time it was coffee and milk. The only coffee I found was (not surprisingly) espresso. I was set to make my breakfast at home as I would every morning. Have a fresh croissant, orange, banana and make my own coffee with a little milk.

  • On coffee: Now, at my US home, I’m used to buying one half pound per week at a local small specialty store. Then grinding my beans every morning and using a simple drip machine. I found a drip maker in my apt and a maker using the (filter free) French Press Method. I just found out about this method watching a Modern Marvels episode on coffee while using the on demand feature of the Airbus I rode in on! When I was out, I would just order café, which we call espresso.

After breakfast, I headed to find a wine shop I had scouted out. I just wanted to have a bottle around. By now, you probably know what steps were taken - Short ones to the Metro, a couple stops, another short walk to #30 Rue Folie Mericourt; Cave l’Insolite. I was greeted warmly and offered a taste of wine. Moments of my poor French, his poor English and I inquired about the owner Michel (who I knew spoke English well); was told he was upstairs. A quick thought – it would be an insult to insist on Michel helping me, especially since I was not about to spend a great deal. With enough wine knowledge in common, I was able to make an educated guess and I returned home to leave my little treasure.

Then it was out again to walk the “Buttes-aux-Cailles” in the 13e. I basically followed directions in the “Eyewitness Travel Paris” book, which had eight 90 minute walks detailed nicely. This is a lovely village on a hill which reminds some of Gene Kelly’s Paris from “Singing in the Rain”. The walk takes you quickly, from the bustling Boulevard of modern Paris into quiet of charming, narrow cobbled streets and the architecture of another time with their old-fashioned street lamps. More Buttes-aux-Cailles pics

There were many small shops and restaurants that were closed (discovered it was much more active in the evening). In a small square, I was took some pictures of what I later found out to be a “Wallace fountain”

  • On Wallace fountains and Paris water:

  • Wallace fountains are public drinking fountains designed by Charles-Auguste Lebourg that appear in the form of small cast-iron sculptures scattered throughout the city, mainly along the most-frequented sidewalks. They are named after the Englishman Richard Wallace, who financed their construction. A great aesthetic success, they are recognized worldwide as one of the symbols of Paris. – Wikipedia
  • Paris tap water tastes great and I never felt I needed bottled water. When I was out I just asked for “carafe d’eau”. I did not get to see the Wallace fountains in action. They are turned on when the weather is warmer.

After walking for quite awhile, I felt like a little something to eat. A Teahouse was on my list; they were closed. Now, I had read such good things about this Teahouse (the owner had her own blog), but it would have been somewhat dark and away from the street. I found a little café with lots of windows on a fairly busy square. Great people watching while I sipped thé and nibbled on my sandwich of saucisson. Again refreshed, I went to looking for a Monoprix or other stores and perhaps some clothes shopping.

  • On clothes shopping: Not that I needed anything new, but I felt most clothing here seemed the same and I thought it might be fun to get something with a different style. Good news: some fun interesting things. Bad news: everything, including used items are outrageously expensive – scratch that idea, but it was fun looking!

Found myself at Pont Louis Phillip for sunset. It cleared up a bit and was quite nice, then home for a nap.

Fashionable shop on Rue du Pont Louis Phillipe

Left home for dinner at 9:30PM (21:30h, Eurotime). Whereas I usually took the Metro from Bastille, the line I needed was only available from the Gare de Lyon (a major train station). The building (and what a spectacular sight inside and out) is not any farther away from home than the Bastille, but is more convoluted, to make reaching my launching point more difficult and yet, down deep below street level was actually the most modern part of the Metro I saw.

Gare de Lyon, main floor inside (bottom) and out

My goal was a neighborhood wine bar in Bercy near a very modern business area and the largest sports stadium (Palais Omnisport de Paris) in Paris. Coming out of the Metro stop very near the stadium they were a couple of cafés, then I turned the corner to walk down the dark narrower part of Rue de Bercy, looking for #4. I passed many good sized fairly modern dark apartment buildings with no lights in sight. Gauging by the street numbers, I had a bit more walking to do. I was determined, and eventually I saw a couple small lights which I gauged to be small restaurants – they were, just not the “Bihan Café”. Just then, I almost tripped on it, no lighted sign at all, a glance inside, it was packed! I peeked in and was allowed to sit at alone at the bar, although not very warmly, I felt like an intruder, but I walked all this way and figured to stay and see what developed. I noticed the signs on the wall, that it was under new management (Marion & Benoit) Now, the review that lead me here was not the most recent, so that was a little disconcerting too! With my little French and their little English, I finally managed an order of bœuf, a glass of Cote du Rhone rouge. I tried to point out how I had walked all this way to find them and how happy I was to be there and enjoy their hospitality. Now, Marion wanted me to have a glass of Bordeaux (it was already open), but I did ask again for the CDR. She opened a bottle, it was quite nice and then I figured it. Except for the cook in the kitchen, what we have here is a couple who are new to this and are working very hard. I am dealing mostly with Marion, who is behind the bar and is a somewhat distraught at all the difficulties in running the business (drops two glasses and almost a carafe) and she probably doesn’t need some tourist to deal with too. Benoit is mostly serving from the kitchen and clearing; he is handling the stress much better and smiles at me. Clearly, all the seated customers are having a grand ole time and both Marion and Benoit are warm and at ease when some of these regulars leave. I am now having big plate of bœuf and frite. Some of the flavors are new to me, but it is quite good and I order another glass of wine (from Benoit). I have dessert, a café and ask for l’addition. It arrives with only one glass of wine on the bill. I pointed out that Benoit had neglected to add it on and I was now a friend. Some of my best convivial French is returned in kind and I have a nice walk to help with digestion before hopping the Metro home.

No comments:

Post a Comment