Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 7 in Paris, part 2 - Opera Garnier, Tuileries Garden, Best French Dinner

It was lunch time when we arrived at Printemps but there was not much choice for lunch, either the restaurant at the 6th(?) floor or some health food at the basement which was no really to our liking. I was hoping for something similar to the self-service food court in Galeries Lafayette so we went outside to continue our search. Not much eateries in the front main street so we went onto the back road. There were quite a number of Italian eateries and the French ones were filled with the lunch crowd. In the end we settled for a Chinese traiteur as the food was fast, cheap and pretty good for our palate.

After our lunch, I split with my wife as she continue her quest for souvenirs at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette while I walked outside to capture more memories of Paris.

The star attraction in this area is of course the Opera Granier that always look grand from afar

and also in close-ups.

There are always people on the stairs and street vendor outside.

I wanted to do a tour inside the Opera Garnier but then found out that the performance hall would not be opened to the public because of a rehearsal and I did not go in since it would not be worth the 10E entrance fee.
I moved on and there were also many magnificent buildings all around.

I then walked down Rue de la Paix, passing more shops and hotels

before I arrived at Place Vendome that is dominated by a hugh column topped by a statue of Napoleon dressed up like a Roman Emperor.

Details of the relief at the base of the column

Around the square were expensive boutiques and jewellery shops

and one of the most famous (or infamous) hotels in Paris, the Ritz.

This was where Princess Diana had her last dinner before her fatal accident in Paris.

There was another gem of a find that I came across by chance. It was a small piece of art on the wall of one of the buildings at one corner of the square.

Don't know what it is but note what looks like a small IC chip embedded near the bottom left corner. This is the only such piece of wall art I found but there could be more in the streets of Paris. I left the square and walked a little on Rue Castiglione where the names of the shops are on the floor of the corridor.

There were also some chic shops in hidden courtyards along Rue St. Honore

I then walked back to the Opera and finally into Galeries Lafayette to meet up with my wife. Below are the parting shots of Printemps and Galeries Lafayette before we got into the Metro.

We got out at the Tuileries stop and I left my wife to do her final round of souvenir hunting along the Rue de Rivoli while I had my last few shots of Paris at the Tuileries Garden. I was able to laze on the green garden chairs like many others around the peaceful pond

and pondering life as a care-free child

or free as a bird.

Time to wake up as time was running out. I moved towards the Lourve to capture more memories of Paris. Here is the Arc du Carrousel

and the Pyramid at the Lourve

The shots below show how well-planned the monuments in Paris are. From one side of the Arc, you'll see the Pyramid and the Lourve

From the other side, you'll see the Obelisk at Concorde Square and the Triumph Arc further down, all in a straight line.

It was then time to get back to the hotel for our dinner. We needed to change at Bastille to get to Porte Doree. Funny how I passed the colourful murals of the Revolution at the Bastille stop and never stop for a shot except at this last time.

Finally, a shot of the Arsenal Basin (also taken from the Bastille stop) that links the River Seine to the St. Martin Canal.

We had a short rest at the hotel before we went out for our last dinner in Paris. For this, we went for a full French dinner at a restaurant located just round the corner from the hotel. This was the Bistro de la Porte Doree. The dinner turned out to be the best French food that we had in our entire trip in France.

As an aperitif, we had sparkling champagne that was complementary. OK, this was a fixed price menu that had about 9 or 10 different items each that you can choose from a list of starters, main course and dessert.
Bread and tuna spread was provided while we waited for our first course. For starter, I had escargot in garlic and parsley. Just look at the escargot simmering in the molten butter in its own compartment. Mmmm.

My wife had scallop with crayfish in an exquisite mix. This even tasted better than my yummy escargot. Wow.

As the main course I had the confit de canard or duck thigh with sauteed potatoes. The skin of the duck was so crispy that it just melts in your mouth while the meat was still tender and not dry. The potato is also crispy on the outside and soft inside. It just tasted wonderful.

My wife had the rack of lamb with sauteed potatoes with a small dose of ratatouille. Again this was very good.

Finally for dessert, I had sherbet in 3 different fruity flavours drown in raspberry sauce. Yummy.

The dessert for my wife was even better, it was profiteroles. Three puff filled with ice-cream bathed with thick chocolate sauce. This is something to die for if you are both an ice-cream and chocolate lover, like me. It makes my mouth water just looking at the photo!

You will also get a bottle of wine ( for 2 diners) that you can choose from a list. We only had a glass of Bordeaux each since we are not great wine drinkers and did not want to have a hangover on our flight home the next morning. The cost of the meal? Just 73 euros for the two of us! This was definitely the best French meal that we had in the whole of France and well worth the price we paid. Highly recommended!

After the wonderful dinner, we went back to our hotel to pack for our trip home, not without a tinge of sadness.

(I have now come to the end of my report on Paris; the rest of France is covered in my new Blog here, My Tour de France with Cosmos.)

Ronald Kwok  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 7 in Paris, Part 1 - St. Germain, St.Sulpice, Luxembourg Garden

We had breakfast in the hotel this morning before we set out for the day. For some unknown reasons, we have walked more on the Right Bank (north of the River Seine) so far and for today we will give it a bit more balance and walk around part of St.Germain on the Left Bank, south of the River Seine. We got off at Saint Germain des-Pres and was greeted by a statue of a literary figure (cannot figure out who yet)

and also what appeared to be remains of some old building or a commemoration of some kind that look very nice.

After going round the corner, we went into the church of St-Germain des-Pres, the oldest church in Paris.

Some shots on the interior of the church.

Outside is the busy Boulevard St.Germain

and just in front of the Church is another branch of, oh no, LV. Luckily, my wife just went inside to clarify on the VAT refund form so no damage done. Very friendly staff, according to her.

Right next door to LV is the iconic cafe, Les Deux Magots, the haunt of Hemingway and others.

Further down the corner is another famous cafe, the Cafe de Flore where Sartre frequented.

On the opposite street is the famous Brasserie Lipp, another favourite of Hemingway and also of current movie stars.

We then made our way to St.Sulpice going along the shopping street of Rue Bonaparte. We passed the flagship store of Nespresso, the one to look for if you are shopping for a coffee making machine and all the accessories.

At the square in front of St. Sulpice, there was a fair; such fair seems to spring up everywhere in squares all over Paris during summer.

Unfortunately, the canopies of the fair had obscured the lower part of the famous Fountain of the Four Bishops seen from the St.Sulpice.

The entrance of St.Sulpice is very grand with imposing columns and flowery ceiling.

Inside are many beautiful statues and paintings.

Surprisingly there was no crowd, I suppose the fame brought about by the Da Vinci Code has now worn off. We left the twin towers of St.Sulpice and went for our next sites.

After the indoor visit, it was time for some outdoor sights and we went towards the Jardin du Luxembourg. On the way we passed some government buildings flying the tricolour with almost audible cries of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"

We finally entered the Luxembourg Garden by the side of the Luxembourg Palace which now houses the French Senate.

The first thing that caught my eyes was the beautiful Medici Fountain

and then this lady flexing her muscles.

There is a big pond in the middle where you can sit around and choose as the background, the Eiffel Tower,

the Montparnasse Tower,

or the stately Luxembourg Palace.

You could sit here the whole day relaxing in the shade and admiring the surroundings and watch the people and the world go by without a care.

But alas, since this was the last full day of our trip in Paris, we still had some unfinished business to complete and so we went off to look for the nearest Metro station, the Odeon. On our way there, we passed the historical Odeon Theatre

and also another famous French restaurant, Le Comptoir, where you are supposed to book months ahead for dinner.

From Odeon, we crossed back to the Right Bank and got out at Harve Caumartin, right at the door step of Printemps. By now, you would have guessed it, the missus had to complete her purchase of souvenirs before we leave Paris tomorrow. Details will be in my next post.

Ronald Kwok.