Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday 25 December - Christmas Day - Le Grand Colbert and La Bastille

The metro was running a reduced service today.  Trains were running at 4-5 minute intervals instead of the more usual 2 minutes.
Lunch was at Le Grand Colbert a fashionable Bistro in the second arrondissement.  We were a little early and walked around in the area including the Jardins du Palais Royal
Pink pigs stuck in book crevasse.
Passage Vivienne
Seen in the Passage Vivienne - not sure I would want a metallic crocodile skull
Christmas Tree in the Passage Vivienne
Le Petit Canon in the garden of the Palais Royal.  It was commissioned by a clockmaker in 1756 and placed on the meridian. It was placed in its present position in 1799 and was used until 1914.  It has been used again on a daily basis at midday since 13 July 1990.
Le Grand Colbert.  The family of four at the left started with a shellfish platter then the boy in front had beef tartare with ketchup.  Unusual for kids that age to eat such food.
The meal started poorly as we waited a little while to get our order in.  The Maitre'D gave the waiter a telling off and he came over to us in a bad mood.  The meal could have been a disaster but we saved the day by talking pleasantly to him, explaining that we understood that he was very busy on Christmas Day.  He then turned right round and became very chatty, smiling profusely and cracking jokes to us.  He cleared up the table when the family of four left.  Picking up a crab leg from the floor he showed it to us and said "Le tip!".
We started with a glass of champagne each and I had 6 oysters in the shell.
Bottle of Saumur Champigny - a Loire valley red we have always liked.
As a starter Mary had the pickled herring and boiled potatoes - both came in large pots and Mary served herself.  I had a salad with green beans and duck breast.  The table was full and Mary suggested that the waiter take away the pickled herring.  He eventually did so but promised to bring it back if she wanted more. He asked her several times if he should bring it back.
For the plats Mary had a risotto with scallops.  Most risottos are made with stock but this one was made with cream.  It had the consistency of a rice pudding and the scallops were cooked just right.  I had a veal kidney (complete) with fries.
We hadn't intended to have dessert but the cafe gourmand comes with small helpings of three house desserts- baba au rhum, creme brule and chocolate mousse.
Our friendly waiter helped Mary into her coat.

Having eaten very well we decided to walk back to the apartment in the sun.
Au Printemps is a spectacular building in its own right - the crowds were enjoying the windows

A quick detour through Gare St. Lazare revealed another goodie but oldie
The conductor at the final curtain
Mary had managed to score two tickets for Bizet's Carmen at the Bastille Opera.  To do this she was on the internet at 0400 the day the box office opened in early October.  Christmas Day was the only day available.

In the row in front of us was a couple, the lady wearing an evening gown - right next to them was a couple who had come by scooter - they had brought their helmets with them.  The Bastille Opera was built on the site of the Bastille railway station which was opened in 1859 and closed in December 1969 and where art expositions were held thereafter until its demolition.  The Opera was inaugurated on July 13, 1989.  It has 2,723 seats, every one of which has an unrestricted view of the stage.

The performance was excellent.  Most of the music is well known and I had listened to it on my iPod.  We had also read up a commentary which I found in a book at home and photocopied.  The singing was good but so also was the choreography.  There was always something interesting to look at.  The cast was enormous and included jugglers and acrobats.  Michaela made her entrance riding around on a bicycle.  At one point it looked as if she would ride into the orchestra pit but this was probably planned.  The torreador made his first entrance as an Elvis look alike complete with white double breasted suit and dark glasses.

There was only one intermission in this long production and the beginning of the third act was marred by the flutist coming in off key.  We finally saw the torreador in his bull fighting outfit in Act 4.  There were two sets of rails laid across the stage.  Two wagons, complete with buffers and handbrake wheels were hauled across the stage.  The one in front was the spitting image of a British Railways "Lowmac" wagon - the French railways must have had something similar.

Getting back was amazing.  We were on the platform of the Metro in five minutes from the curtain coming down and we were not hurrying.  We had to wait four minutes for the train but made it back to Villiers station with a transfer at Etoile in half an hour.  In Ottawa patrons of the NAC will have to walk a long way to even get to the LRT station.

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