Friday, July 2, 2010

Paris, le deuxième jour.

We awoke and proceeded to mentally prepare ourselves for the task of opening our eyes.  It took a while, as it was hot and we had just been sleeping.  "Pastries," I thought.  "Where are the pastries?"

We found them across the street.  O, Paris!

One raspberry tart, and one rhubarb.  The rhubarb one had pie crust instead of tart crust, though.  Both were incredibly appropriate breakfast items.  Shut up.  They were delicious.

My intense plans for our journey included the purchase of two Paris Pass packages, valid for two days, which included: unlimited metro usage in central Paris, a Paris Museum Pass, and the Paris Pass itself.  It was supposed to offer us a minimum of hassle, a plethora of sightseeing choices, the ability to skip lines at popular museums, and to top it all of, a bundle of saved euros.  The metro pass turned out to be extremely useful and probably a good financial choice.  The other two passes, however, were a massive waste of money.  Although we did get to skip the lines at the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay, those were exactly the only two museums that we went to the whole time that we were in Paris.  The Paris Pass didn't get used at all.  The main appeal of said Pass was a free wine tasting at O Chateau, which, as it turned out, was not offered on any of the days that our Paris Pass was valid.  We tried to go on the free "Bateaux Parisiens" river cruise, but it was so touristy that we both got headaches and stomped home grumpy.  So don't buy a Paris Pass.

We decided to go to the Louvre after breakfast.  Sophie and I aren't that big into the visual arts, being the sorts of people who like to be able to physically consume works of beauty, but we knew that we had to go to some art museums in Paris or suffer the wrath, or at least stern looks, of everyone we knew when we got home.

The multimedia guide person wanted our passports as collateral, but there was no way that I could have enjoyed the museum worrying about my passport, so we decided not to get them.  Sophie knew that she couldn't stand me worrying about it, so it was a mutual decision, you see.  We began our multi-hour meander through the museum, guided mostly by our desire to make sure that we saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo because they are so absurdly famous.

Unfortunately, because Sophie and I are not skilled painters, drawers, or sculptors of any kind, we realized that had we not known in advance that these paintings were famous, we probably would have just glanced at them as we walked by.  Instead, we lingered for about thirty seconds and said things like, "Gee.  I sort of wish that I knew why these are famous.  Where are those multimedia guides?"  There were big plastic cards in each room that were supposed to communicate important and interesting bits of information about the art to the reader, but invariably some other American had already come by and decided that he or she was obviously the most deserving of said information and stolen the cards.  Spanish cards, Italian cards, even Russian cards were there by the thousands, but English cards were nowhere to be seen.

The thing about the Louvre is, although it is incredibly beautiful, it is also incredibly overwhelming.  You have no idea how whelmed were Sophie and I.  Every.  Where.  You.  Looked.  There.  Was.  Something.  To.  See!  For miles (literally).  And normally, you see, I am the kind of person who doesn't notice things.  So when I am forced to notice lots of beautiful, important things, all at once, I start to fidget and bite my lip.  But I did learn a few things about myself.  I love, for example, any work of art that contains one or more birds.

I also found a compelling piece of historical evidence that Pontius Pilate was, in fact, working for a completely different Empire.

We really did enjoy the Louvre, but I think that we would have enjoyed it a lot more if it hadn't been so crowded.  Crowds are noisy and I really hate them.  Especially in royal palaces.  Come on, people!  Show some respect.  Kings used to live here.

Outside the museum, we found a completely different kind of art.  Giant bubbles!

I love giant bubbles.  So does Sophie.  They're a key part of our compatibility.

Exit plaza.  Enter metro.  Ride metro.  Exit metro.  Consult map.  Arrive Pierre Hermé, highly regarded purveyor of fancy macarons.  Sophie Dual Mode ENGAGE! Excited/Hungry.

Oh my God.  These macarons weresogoodthatmywordsruntogetherwhenItrytotalkaboutthem.  You might have noticed that they don't look anything like a classic American coconut macaroon (twice the letter "o"), and they're not.  They're more like tiny meringue-and-frosting sandwiches, but the meringues are chewy and delicate (they're actually almond cookies) rather than being, well, crunchy and delicate.  They would be crushed by the weight of a butterfly.  Our favorites were: olive oil and vanilla, chocolate and passion fruit, and jasmine.  If you ever, ever get a chance to eat these, you must.  I don't care if you have to take a trillion Lactaid.  Just do it.

The macaron shop was close to the Musée d'Orsay, so we walked.  I started to crave real food right about the time we wandered into an artisanal bakery.  I would have bought some bread, but I really needed some vegetables, so I bought a little pre-packaged salad.  Here's what I love about France: they love food so much that it shows even in the cheap to-go stuff.  Their culture seemingly doesn't allow for crap food.  The salad had fresh, non-iceberg lettuce, Italian cured ham, grilled eggplant, and a little summer squash salad brunoise (the smallest dice) that was all well seasoned and delicious.  Even the little container of salad dressing just had olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt.  So much better than Kraft Italian!  Of course, places like New Sagaya offer similar fare, but even New Sagaya doesn't brunoise their vegetables.  Anyways, my point is that in the States a place like New Sagaya is rather exceptional, whereas in Paris, it is not.  I think.


Some call it snobbery, some call it passion.  But, as an example of how the French feel about their consumables, I offer you this quote from later in our trip.  "I know in the United States that you mix Champagne with orange juice.  It is called, what, Mimosa?  Mimosa.  In France," the sommelier said, "you can really go to jail for that."

La Musée d'Orsay!  Old train station!  Lots of Impressionist paintings!  My favorite Monet: the girl on the hill with the parasol.  Van Gogh is dreamy.  Matisse gives me a headache.  No pictures allowed.

We decided that we wanted to eat one fancy meal in Paris, but didn't want to spend loads of money.  After lots of Googling, we asked the concierge to make us reservations at a restaurant called "Le Pamphlet."  Excerpts from two reviews, as recorded by memory:

"For those of you who love everything about haute cusine except the price..."


"Chef Aljsfnakn Fnsifduin could easily charge twice as much for his menu, but don't tell him that..."

Sold. Getting there was difficult, as it turned out that the tiny street that it was on wasn't on our map, but because Parisians eat so late we were the first there anyways. Rather than describe the food with words like "Mmm!" and "It was delicious!" and "Delightfully acidic!" I'm just going to show you pictures with captions. Discussion later.

An amuse bouche of cantaloupe puree.

An appetizer of shrimp, snap peas, grapefruit, and chervil.

A terrine of rabbit and foie gras with calamari, baby romaine and rabbit jus.

Roast duck breast with polenta, roast apricots, and a sauce of black currants.

Filet of John Dory with mashed potatoes and sauce délicieux.

Roast cherries with pistachio ice cream.
There were also some roast apricots with vanilla ice cream and some petits fours, but the light was bad and we couldn't get any good pictures.  I rate this as my second favorite fancy (read: French) meal ever, after Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert's three-star restaurant in New York City.  Sophie said it was one of the best meals that she had ever had as well.  Everything was executed spot on, and the food wasn't needlessly complex, as can sometimes happen with fancy food.  The roast seasonal fruit tasted so, so good.  I cannot tell you.  Another reason I love France:  In the US, more often than not, if you ask a waiter or waitress for a wine recommendation, they will ask, "Well, what do you like?"  I really don't have a vast preference for one or another type of wine, especially if I'm eating.  I want whatever wine will best complement the food, so I find the question-answered-with-a-question approach sort of frustrating.  When I asked the waitress at Le Pamphlet what glass of wine she would recommend to go with my terrine, she said immediately, without provocation, and in an endearing French accent, "I will choose for you."  Hooray!  I knew she knew best, and so did she.  What fun.

After dinner, for reasons that will soon become clear, I told Sophie that we should take the long walk up the hill of Montmartre to the cathedral Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart) for the romantic view of Paris.

Although Sophie was just fine standing in the square with the crowd, I insisted that we find someplace secluded to sit.

And that is when I got down on one knee, told her that I loved her a whole lot, and proposed.

She said yes, and we kissed and held one another and watched Paris glide silently through the night.


  1. Best. Post. Ever. Joe is a smart, smart man both in choice of proposal and bride. Muah!

  2. Well, it made me hungry and made me cry--so sweet in all senses of the word... :-)

  3. Me, too. (The crying part.)

  4. I found out via facebook, unfortunately, and not via this charming post. I love the story. Congrats on the fantastic food and becoming engaged!