Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wednesday 4 January - Return to Canada

We set out with plenty of time to get to Charles de Gaulle airport.  Metro line 2 was just running into the platform (the next one was 3 minutes behind) and we had an easy walk from La Chapelle to Gare du Nord platform 43 for the RER to the airport.  It was warm.  The airport train lost a couple of minutes waiting for the train ahead to make a station stop and get into the clear at Bondy.  At the airport station, the RER have improved the exits so that it is now much easier to get through them with airline baggage.

CDG was strangely quiet although still quite busy.  As we walked past four armed soldiers Mary said to me "After check in we'll go back there for a coffee."  One of the soldiers said to me, in a London accent, "I wouldn't mate, a cup of coffee costs 4 euros there."
I said back, "Thanks.  But you are not French are you?"

He replied, "No, and a bloody good job too."
I laughed and wished him a Happy New Year - first time I have ever talked to one of the armed soldiers as I like to get away from them as fast as possible.

At Air Canada we moved right to the front of the line because we had already checked in on the web.  The lounge that Air Canada now use is spacious and orderly.  My impression of CDG is much better now than previously.

The incoming plane was 30 minutes early because of the winds.  Of course this meant that we were delayed getting back into Toronto by headwinds.  However, the customs and baggage halls were quiet and we and our bags made our connection to Ottawa easily.

We arrived at Ottawa in a snow storm with the snow blowing horizontally.  What a difference Paris +14 - Ottawa -11.  The stewardess said to me as I left the plane "Drive safely." to which I replied, "Don't worry, I'm taking the bus."  There was a 97 waiting and we got home on schedule after a great trip.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday 3 January - Getting ready to go home

It was cloudy and blustery today.  I walked down to the gare St. Lazare to get a Transilien map.  The maps put out buy the RATP do not show all of the lines in the area, in particular the line to Versailles Droit and the second line to St. Germain-en-Laye.  According to the man in the information office the reason is that the RATP does not operate all lines.
Decoration on the school on rue de Rome

Entrance to Gare St. Lazare.
For our last meal in Paris we decided to eat at Le P'tit Canon at the bottom of the street.  The meal was first rate.  The chef has a very good touch and the service was excellent.  The waitress comes from near Sancerre in the Loire valley ( home of good wine and goat cheese she told us).  She speaks with a very pure Loire Valley accent which is said the be the most pure of the French language.  We had made a reservation and the greeted me with "Bon soir M. et Mme. Churcher," and she remembered by name thoughout.  Great sense of humor and a wicked smile.

We both started with the filet of herring which was pretty much a meal in itself what with all the boiled potatoes.  I then had the confit of canard, which turned out to be two confits, crisply fried potatoes and vegetable.  Mary had saute de veau in olives with fettuccini.  We had a bottle of Chinon - lots of character, full bodied, yet quite light and easy to drink.

The waitress brought us chocolate cups with liqueur as we were too full to eat dessert.

I explained we were returning to Canada tomorrow and said, "A la prochaine," and we parted with cheek kisses.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday 2 January 2012 - Invalides and St. Sulpice

It turned out a bright sunny day after heavy overnight rain.  The sun was shining brightly when we arrived at the Invalides metro so we made a detour to see the golden dome highlighted in the sun.
The golden dome of the Invalides shone brightly in the sun
Les Invalides
 With nothing further in mind we walked along rue de Grenelle and then Saint Germain to look at the newly restored church of St. Sulpice.  The work has been done very well and the square is beautiful.  We took a look inside - the church is enormous and somewhat dark although the sun shining through what windows there are helped to brighten the place somewhat.
Rue de Grenelle
Rue de Grenelle

The exterior restoration of St. Sulpice is excellent

St. Sulpice

The fountains in front of St. Sulpice were playing - a tribute to the very mild weather

Coming back to Villiers we found that the barrier machines at the metro had not been altered from the weekend so we had a free ride home.

WE had dinner this evening at Le Bistrot des Vignes, just around the corner on rue des Dames.  We have always eaten well here and tonight was no exception.  We arrived after 1930 and were the first there.  The serveuse was excellent, she spoke very quickly but we got along very well with her.

Mary had veloute de potiron avec chataignes (a type of pumpkin soup with grilled chestnuts) and salmon.  I had a terrine of rabbit followed by the special of the day which was souris d'agneau (smile of lamb) which turned out to be a lamb shank with salad and a construction of thinly sliced potato in a cream sauce.  We had a bottle of Chinon with it.  We decixded to have dessert.   Mary had the gourmet coffee which included pannacotta, raspberry coulis, a creme brule and a chocolate cake with a melted chocolate sauce in the center and a deca allonge coffee.  I had apple sorbet with Calvados.  Another example of a small local restaurant which puts out excellent meals and with a great atmosphere as well.

We sat in the window and watched the passers by on rue des Dames.  There was a scooter parked outside.  A man came along with three day's growth of beard and a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth.  He put on a pink helmet and rode off with the cigarette still hanging out the side of his mouth - only in Paris!  Maybe he was a supporter of Stade Francais Rugby Club.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday 1 January - La Madeleine

I was walking along rue de Levis this morning with a baguette when an old lady passed me coming the other way.  She held up her hands and shouted "Bonne annee, tout le monde," to no one in particular.  She was quite sober - just happy

We decided to go to another free organ concert in La Madeleine.  It was with some misgivings as the one last Sunday was awful.  However, it was warm and we enjoyed the walk there and back.  This time the music played was a little more tuneful:
Charpentier - suite de Noels
J.S. Bach - Prelude and fugue BWV 547
Widor - two movements from Symphony No. 4
Tchaikovsky - improvisations on the Waltz of the flowers from the Nutcracker.
Perin (the organist) improvisations on themes of Noel.
The last piece was, by far the worst, and we quickly walked out.

The Waltz did not come over very well.  It was choppy and did not flow well, the rhythmn was not good.  I liked the Bach even though I had not heard it before.  It was instantly recognizable as a piece by Bach.  The prelude started with a very simple theme which was worked on in different registers and styles.  It built up to a crescendo when the music hit the roof and we were surrounded by a lot of notes falling down around us.

Saturday 31 December 2011 - Valencay Pyramide and Saint Sylvestre at Aux Iles Marquises

Went for a short walk this morning between the showers to look at the Batignolles Organic market.  People were out in droves and there were line ups at the more popular locations.  We came back through Square de Batignolles and the north end of Levis.  I decided to buy a Valencay Pyramide goat cheese.  There was a mournful looking Cocker Spaniel sitting just outside waiting for his mistress to complete her purchases.  Another lady came in with her shopping cart and dragged this into the store forcing the dog to move in as well.  Shorty afterwards we walked past a butchers only to see that he was sitting patiently there as well.  If a dog could talk.
The next best thing to going to Valencay on the Blanc a Argent Railway is to eat some cheese.  It has a covering of ash and a pure white paste.
For New Year's Eve we had reserved a table at Aux Iles Marquises.  This year all Paris transport was free from 1700 on the 31st until noon on the 1st.  The metro was crowded but there was a peak service running so we didn't have to wait more than 2 minutes.  The train was full but the usual Parisian politeness allowed people to get on and off easily.

We were greeted at the restaurant like the old friends we are.  It is pretty small with only about 15 tables but the food and the service were, as always, excellent.  We had the Saint-Sylvestre menu which has the advantage in that there are no choices to make, the food just keeps coming and coming -- and coming.
- Amuses gueules. (mussels, salmon spread on toast, oriental style dumpling with a shrimp)
- Bloc of foie gras with toasted brioche
- Lobster on a bed of salad greens - there was an empty lobster head, with long feelers for decoration.
- White fish filet with some large slices of truffle in a rich butter sauce sauce accompanied by various vegetables.
- Granite de champagne with orange flavor.
- Venison with vegetables and redcurrants in a rich sauce with dollops of deep flavored apple sauce
- Dessert - four delicacies including a chocolate sponge with rum or brandy and a small creme brule with raspberry sauce and spun sugar decoration, semi-freddo and a large pitted date
- Mignardises - canneles, gellees, tiny macaron, lemon cream open faced macaron (intense lemon flavor)
We washed this down with a bottle of champagne and a deca allonge
Creme brule
A family of four came in with a baby in a carrier.  They were seated in the room at the back.  The baby frequently cried loudly and some other diners complained to them.  At this, Madame marched down to talk with them after which they left with sheepish looks on their faces.

There was a couple sitting opposite with a small boy of about seven.  He was engrossed with a video game and was extremely good throughout the meal.  The parents had the full menu and he had an abridged one.  He started with an enormous bloc of foie gras.  He promptly made a sandwich and wolfed it down.  His parents ate the salad greens that accompanied it.  He then had the fish course and quickly ate the fish while his parents ate the truffles and vegetables.  As we left, he was attacking the dessert although he didn't seem to like the chocolate sponge, possibly because of the alcohol or he might have been pretty full by then.
Every time we come to Paris we visit this restaurant.
We had a very pleasant meal and when we said goodbye to Madame I said "Ne changez pas".  Rue Gaite was busy as we made our way to the metro.  The theatre performance had just finished and several people entered the restaurant for a late meal.  People were sitting outside the cafes on the sidewalk enjoying the very mild, if damp, weather.  Our return to Villiers was very quick with a transfer at St. Lazare.  We ran and just caught a train at St. Lazare, although I don't know why we bothered as there is always another within five minutes or so.  There were a few drunks/rowdies but it was pretty quiet.  A lot of people got off at the Champs Elysees so that was probably busy.