Five Days in Paris: Day 3, posted March 18, 2009 at 12:07 AM
Despite Stephanie's desire to get an early start on Thursday, she let me sleep until 9am. We began our day with a small breakfast of tartines and coffee in the hood, then attempted to go to the Delacroix Museum--alas they were closed for the week. Merde!
So we walked to the Musée d'Orsay and thrilled ourselves with Delacroixs there. And lots more! This is one of the great museums of the world. I mean, the Louvre is the Louvre and that goes without saying. But this collection of works--broken off from the Louvre's collection (or more accurately the Musée du Jeu de Paume (on the Louvre grounds)) when the museum was opened in 1986--is so refined and perfect it defies accurate description. It houses late-19th-century through early-20th-century art--mostly French, all of it freakin' awesome. On this visit I was particularly taken with Henri Fantin-Latour's group portraits. We saw three paintings that reveal something about the cultural life of the late 1800s: A Studio at Les Batignolles, By the Table, and Homage to Delacroix. In By the Table we see Verlaine and Rimbaud on the left, Rimbaud's back to the others (turns out that none of the other poets in the painting went on to literary fame at all). It's great. A few of the big famous Manets the museum owns were not there--must have been traveling--which was a bit disappointing, but there was still so much to see. This museum is to be returned to on every trip to Paris. Period.
We ate lunch at the museum's beautiful restaurant. We both had leg of lamb served on a bed of bulgar wheat. The meat was succulent and rich. The glorious cheeseplate afterward was verbally approved of by the gentleman at the next table! We had a delicious light Pinot Noir, too.
We broke from High Cultcha to enjoy Le Shopping in the 6th and 7th. The best cheese store--Bérthélemy--was closed for the week. Alas! They must have run off with the staff of the Musée Delacroix for some intramural scarf-knotting competition or something. I found my favorite shoe store, Jean-Baptiste Rautureau, but didn't fall in love with anything in the moment (though I confess to having pangs of regret in the days since for not paying more attention to these boots). C'est la vie. Next stop was Marcel Lassance, where I DID fall in love, with a cotton sport coat that has a black-and-white flower hand-painted on the lapel. I loved EVERYTHING in the store, actually, but restrained myself by splurging only on the jacket. (No picture of it--you'll have to join me in NYC for my birthday in June if you want to see it). Next stop: Bon Marché! Stephanie and I split to cover this department store separately, which suited me fine as I was shopping for underwear. Let me just tell you: all American men should do their underwear shopping in Paris. Not only are the cottons softer, but the cuts are better, the colors are more varied, and you can easily have two or three salespeople, as I did, running around snatching boxes of underwear off of various shelves in whatever color and size you ask for. Talk about a stimulus package! I can only imagine what women's lingerie shopping must be like there!
Having satisfied our urge for foreign retail, we headed to church: first was St. Sulpice, which is huge and gorgeous with three wonderful Delacroix frescos, and is situated on one of the best plazas in the city; then came St. Germain-des-Pres, where we admired the beautifully patterned stained-glass windows. We went back to our conveniently nearby hotel to change, and then it was off once more--to the Bastille for dinner!
The Bastille is so lively and open and bustling and urban. We sat at one of the many cafes lining the huge circular plaza, and we drank two glasses of champagne each (the sweet waitress misheard our absolutely perfect French accents and brought us chablis instead of champagne but that was a glitch that was very quickly corrected!). We were just in time for our 8pm reservation at Bofinger around the corner.
I had wanted to return to this classic brasserie, as my first visit had been alone and I was shuffled off to a side table--and while I enjoyed my meal immensely I had not really even had a taste of the appealing ambience. So up we went to our nice window table in the upstairs dining room. In fact, ambience is what this place is all about, because while we both enjoyed our meals, it was probably the least memorable of all of our scrumptious dinners. I ordered escargot, which were served in the shell--salty and delicious. Stephanie started with a half-dozen raw oysters (also in the shell. Heh). She followed that with a duck breast served on a bed of cabbage that was shredded and sauteed. I had a filet of beef, cooked rare, with potatoes that were sliced and cooked in a casserole with butter, garlic, and a hint of cheese. It was all very tasty. We shared an amazing round of raw cow's milk cheese, then shared an apple crumble for dessert. The cheese was outstanding, but the crumble was a bungle--bland and dry and totally pointless. Shrug.
More interesting than our own meal was that of the four Parisians at the next table. A young woman with two young men and one older gentleman shared a seafood feast the likes of which I have never seen. Two huge platters stacked one on top of the other, each piled high with shrimp, oysters, crab, and lobster. We admired it aloud when the bottom layer appeared, but we literally cheered along with the folks at that table when the second layer arrived and was placed on top. Only the fact that I was a guest in their country prevented me from whipping out my camera to capture their meal in all its glory. It was extraordinary.
We hopped the Metro back to the 6th, and landed at the famous Café de Flore on Blvd. St. Germain. We enjoyed a nightcap of armagnac, as well as the comings and goings of a lot of crazy-looking locals. It was great fun, and the perfect conclusion to a lovely evening.