Friday, April 19, 2013

Paris Diary 4/20/13

Maccarons in St. Germain. Mangez!
St. Sulpice Church, key in The DaVinci Code

I just can't sleep on planes, so here I am, as my husband snores lightly next to me, organizing my photos and thoughts at one in the morning Paris time.

Cour du Commerce St. Andrea in St. Germain

We are staying in a very cute boutique hotel in the St. Germain area, which is the 6th arrondissement. Paris is divided into arrondissements or little neighborhoods that each have the feeling of little villages with their own unique character. They spiral outward from the original city island in the Seine, called Ile de la Cite, like the swirls of a snail shell. In the 6th arrondissement, you find the area of Paris known as the Latin Quarter, because it's the part of town that contains several universities, including the Sorbonne and the University of Paris. The University of Paris is the oldest university in the world, in fact, the faculty of the University created that word 'Universita', which was the name of the guild they formed for their new trade as educators. In the Middle Ages, the students actually spoke Latin to each other, Latin being one of their main courses of study, which became a common language for students from all over Europe, so that's how this little neighborhood came to be known as the Latin quarter.

Hotel Esprit St. Germain

The hotel is called the Esprit St. Germain, or the spirit of St. Germain, and it's on Rue St. Sulpice, which fans of The DaVinci Code may remember for the church of the same name, where is found the Rose line, which is supposed to be the meridian line of Paris. There is a plaque on the floor where the sun shines through a lens in a window and dramatically hits key points on the summer and winter solstices and the equinoxes. This configuration was designed by the famous French astronomer Sully in the 18th century.

But enough history! What have I been eating? The short answer is: too damn much.

Duck foie gras at Le Comptoir
Le Comptoir's Filet
Saumur white wine and crusty bread at Le Comptoir

The recent Paris episode of Bourdain's The Layover inspired us to wait in line for Le Comptoir, where we ordered the filet of beef because we kept seeing it go by and it looked and smelled so delicious. It was a lot of very pink delicious beef. Amazing poivre wine sauce. The beef tastes better, richer more minerally, and yet lighter than our beef in the States. There was some kind of buttery mashed potato and parsnip wine sauce vat o joy on the side that we simply could not stop eating, even though it seemed to contain an entire stick of butter. I had the duck foie gras because it's amazing stuff, and because L.A. has outlawed it. LIttle baby romaine, caramelized pickled onions, wine reduction, plummy mustardy jam on the side, and some very lovely round Saumur white wine with some tropical fruit and stone fruit notes to wash it all down. The wine was so reasonable! The steak was not reasonable at all. Wow! Yum!

Le Comptoir has gorgeous mini rack of lamb, lots of different kind of terrines, including Bourdain's fave, the black boudin. We're thinking of going back tomorrow to try more things off the menu, since it's just down the block from our hotel. The Bourdain episode means this place is packed with eager American foodies, so better to eat here late, around two or so, like we did. As we enjoyed our wine and it got later, we noticed the kitchen staff coming in with bags and bags of fresh produce for the impending dinner service. We also saw that as it got later, the English-speaking tourists gave way to lots of passionate French foodies, a good sign.

Le Comptoir is near a nexus of major streets, so it's an optimal place to people watch. French men really love to rock the brightly colored scarf, and they make it look so good. They are not allergic to pink, as are their American counterparts. I must try to take more street style photos.

My husband was so thrilled we ended up on this double decker airbus with Air France. It was very comfortable, even in coach, and there's loads of carry on luggage space. The screens on the back of the seat in front of you have the all-important on demand media center with plenty of TV and movies, and there's also a live map to show you where you are, and views outside the plan from three cameras, one mounted on the tail facing forward, one on the nose, and one on the belly of the plane showing the clouds and landscape below. Very fun! Stoney kept telling me were were not on a plan but a really cool spaceship.

The chocolate and maccaron stores in St. Germain are ridiculous and tempting and wrong. Yes, I've eaten more than my share of chocolate truffles now and I'm only one day in. Trouble, people. Thank goodness I'm biking for a week starting Sunday.

Chocolate Fishies
Candypalooza in a French Newstand. Buhbye, Diet!
More Crazy Candy!
Art de Chocolate
What exactly do they serve at Schmuck's?

Menu at Schmuck's
Just down the street from Le Comptoir is a restaurant called Schmuck's, which serves something called a Schmuck Burger. Would you try it? Now I do speak a bit of Yiddish, and I'm very concerned.
Menu at Schmuck's

Well, that's it from today's Paris Diary! Thanks for visiting my blog!


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