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Tails From the Vienna Woods

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Paris

Paris is always a good idea. Especially if you like to eat.

And eat we did. Sucre crepes from the street vendors?  Check. The simple perfection of a ham and salted butter baguette sandwich while on the go? Probably one too many to count. Our sit-down meals were no less pleasurable. The beauty of Paris, as with Vienna, is that between the walking and the second hand smoke, I likely lost weight while on my short holiday. 
As with most casual French restaurants we dropped into, the plat du jour at a bistro in Saint Germain was inexpensive.  €10 bought a plate of pate de campagne (with my favorite tiny French cornichon), chicken paillard in a Norman-style mushroom creme sauce, and just the right sized wedge of apple tartin for me. For Tony, the French onion soup, Boeuf Bourguignon, and a chocolate pot de créme.  With a small carafe vin rouge, lunch was but €28. 
I have already spoken about the steak at our Sunday evening brasserie supper, unadorned so as to allow the dinner guest not to be distracted with sauces or condiments. Just as steak should be. But the dessert cheese!  This is the oozy, ripe, round of creamy and just a wee bit tart Saint Marcellin, expertly paired with a warm cherry sauce and simple salad. The waiter who brought the cheese was as excited as I that I loved it so. Our cost for the plat du jour supper? With carafe vin rouge, of course, a mere €42.
On our last evening we snagged a table at a brasserie that had been rather busy the previous night, and with two couples milling about outside waiting for an open table. We took that as a sign that we should eat at this most unpretentious restaurant, tucked down a side lane and having only ten tables.
From the warm and welcoming maître d’hotel to the chefs who obviously delighted in the culinary works of art served to their guests, to the new friends we made (the tables were very close!), our evening ranks among the top ten dinners we have experienced.  
To start I was immediately drawn to the novelty of angel hair wrapped prawns with homemade guacamole. An unusual combination I am now anxious to recreate at home. 
Tony selected the sautéed gizzards with bacon. I suspect it was the bacon that captured his attention. This poultry food-grinding organ, gently tossed with crisp bacon, was so heavenly that I have added this, as well, to my list of dishes I am anxious to recreate at home. 
Then came the main entrée. Do you see that impeccably roasted duck on my plate? Each morsel, paired with a small bite of the cabbage mousse (Oh, yes! The chef went there!) was its own experience, for which Tony gave me my culinary privacy.  (For the record, I did not lift the plate and lick the remaining sauce.) 
Once again, my darling husband honed in on the Alsatian beef roll with bacon. The chef, as we learned, is from the Alsace region and likes to influence Parisian cooking with recipes from his mother. 
Our long evening, including lovely conversation with the group seated next to us and not one, but two small carafe vin rouge, lightened the pocketbook by only €65. 
I am not of the habit to discuss the cost of my culinary outings; however, while taking the long walk back to the apartment that evening, Tony and I commented together that on the previous weekend the four of us had enjoyed an ordinary Austrian lunch, with neither starter nor dessert and but one glass of wine each, that was not much less than the sum of the three extraordinary meals we experienced in Paris, and we wondered why that was the case.
Once back in the apartment, I just happened to search the restaurant on the Internet to see if it was known in Paris. Imagine our surprise to learn that we had just left a restaurant ranked by several travel sites as a “Top Ten Dining Experience in Paris!”

Because photos of the Eiffel Tower are too obvious.

Galeries Lafayette has a map for their shoe department. Any further questions about why I love Paris?

They also have a pretty Christmas tree is their stained glass-domed atrium. (And strategically placed coffee bars for the husbands to relax in while their wives shop.) Reminds me of the old Marshall Field’s in Chicago.

Paris Metro seating is chic, be it the purple plastic at Opera (I think?) or minimalist acrylic at Louvre-Rivoli.

Paris is the perfect place to make new friends…

 …and keep the old, even if the friend is on an extended midday pause.  Whenever I am in Paris I seek the tonic that is the hallowed, creaky, wooden floors of Julia Child’s favorite kitchen store. But not this time.

 Paris without an agenda means there is time to appreciate beautiful scenes.

 Place des Vosges

Saint Germain

No introduction necessary for this cathedral celebrating its 850th year

 A modest man in the Musee Cluny

 Along Boulevard Saint Germain

 Time spent making a decision is time well spent in Paris, be it for wine or tea.

 Eventually, though, one has to make their way home each evening…

Sheep on the Tarmac, Beer Halls and Ad Hoc Massage Parlors. We’re in Paris!

This is my fifth visit to my favorite city in the world, and with each visit I never cease to be amazed at what the City of Lights has in store for me. (Yes, poor spoiled me, tagging along on Darling Husband’s work trip again.) 
Walking through the Habitrail that is Charles de Gaulle airport I commented to Tony, “That looks like an animal shed.” 
And it was. Just outside Terminal 2F the sheep may safely graze?
For this visit we’re in Le Marais, Paris’ 4eme on Rive Droit (Right Bank). (I strategically positioned us myself to be near to the list of stores on my Christmas shopping list. Smart, no?)

 Classic restored 18th century building, steps from the Pompidou Center. Literally.

After settling in, checking with the children, and a most amazing Italian lunch at a place nearby, we wasted two hours on my least favorite Parisian sport: grocery shopping on a Sunday. Though I am loathe to criticize my favorite city in any way, c’mon Paris!  Even Vienna doesn’t shut travelers out of milk, coffee, and bath tissue on Sunday!

The afternoon light fading, what better way to spend a December evening in Paris than with the half-million other visitors at the Paris Village de Nöel, along the famed L’avenue des Champs- Élysées.

Oh. My. Goodness. If ever Munich’s Oktoberfest, America’s Infomercial Channel, and the Wiener Kristkindlmarkt were to have a love child, it would be the Paris Village de Nöel.

Our walk through the lighted and loud 200+ stalls began pleasantly enough…

We rather enjoyed some of the international offerings, too. Canadian sweets and treats?
 
Norwegian salmon or Catalunyan sausage?
Or how about a Santa Claus Matruschka? Ponder that, if you will.
In the mood for some bratwurst or German beer (we weren’t), the Paris Village de Nöel has you covered.
Rockin’ around the Ice Rink and Psychedelic jumbo slide with pop music on the Jumbotron!
A “zoo” along the boulevard was big with the villagegoers. Because animated mountain lions and coyotes in a desert scene oozes holiday cheer. 
The Jolly Old Elf himself could be found with a little effort, mixed in with Infomercial booths for “Scarves that double as hats!”, “Singing Bowls–Amaze your Friends”! and other useless tchotchke.
Tucked high up in the corner of a furry hat stall was a Nativity, the only one we found.
Tired from all that walking?  These ad hoc masseuse were at the ready to sooth those aching muscles. 
Sadly, all of the pretty photos of Le Tour Eiffel that we took from Pont des Invalides were a little blurry. I can not be certain, but perhaps our glasses of holiday cheer had something to do with that. 
We escaped the Village safely and made our way back to Le Marais and a cozy brasserie window seat by which to enjoy the plat du jour, perfectly grilled steak with peppercorn sauce.

 As well as a dessert cheese (Saint Marcellin) so luscious I brought one home for breakfast in the morning.

I love Paris.

A bientôt, Paris

Beautiful Blue Boulangerie.
Somehow “Faux Filet” doesn’t do sirloin steak with pepper sauce justice.
Furry.

 Furry with Flip-Flops.

 For a moment I thought Macy’s had opened a store in Montmartre.

 Could easily be mistaken for an El station in The Loop.

 Hotel de Ville

View from Petit Pont

Fair-weather French Street Vendors.
Introductions not necessary.
Can you smell the butter and sugar?

 Charcuterie.

 Chocolates displayed like fine jewelry.  As they should be.

Paris is always a good idea. (Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina)

Montmartre

The sun still shining, I caught a train to Montmartre, Paris’ 18th arrondissement and home to Sacre Coeur. We’ve seen the Basilica previously, but had not wandered the area much. The walk up the hill was easy given all the vineyard hiking I’ve been doing. Place des Abbesses was quiet; a few people milling about but not much else. A big wine festival had ended the day before I arrived, so perhaps Montmartre residents were at home enjoying the quiet.

I then overheard an English-speaking guide, and followed the voice to a pretty garden and the “I Love You” wall.  I took the guide’s word on authority that “I Love You” appears in over 300 different languages.

Didn’t make it to your favorite Paris museum?  No worries. At €5 a pop, you can create your own personal museum of the masters.
And speaking of art, and tourists, before long I found myself in Place du Tertre.  All of the artists were very eager to paint, sketch, or caricature me, and I became easily annoyed with the constant, “Madame, Madame, I paint your picture?” every five steps. 
Won’t she be surprised when she sees the finished sketch?
Worse were the “artists” who suddenly appeared in front of you with a sketchpad to create the next “masterpiece.”
Dodging the artists gave me an appetite, and this little restaurant down a relatively quiet street called to me.   No more than eight tables, and run by a non-nonsense grand-mere; I settled into a table in the back for an enjoyable lunch.
Somewhere between the pot au feu and the apple tartin of my prix fixe lunch I lost my interest in wandering over to the Moulin Rouge, so I decided to wrap up the afternoon with a stroll past Sacre Coeur. 

Sweet. A wedding photo shoot.
I wonder if she’s wearing tennis shoes, too?

I’m adept at avoiding the guys hawking tourist junk and knock-off handbags, but I did stop to ask this street vendor if the corn really was from Virginia.  I was more tempted by the roasted chestnuts, though, just the snack to enjoy as I made my way back to the apartment.

"Touch Me"

There was something wonderful about not having a “Top Ten Must See” agenda for my, ahem, fourth visit to my favorite city in the entire world. No crazy itineraries for maximizing the Paris Visite card or calculating the best transit pass options, either. Very unlike me, I know.

Still, it is good to have goals; no sense completely idling away my time.  So I let the weather guide me. After le petit dejeuner in the apartment I was out the door to Pere Lachaise. The sun was peeking out occasionally from the clouds (and was an ideal time to play with some of the filters on my camera.) Pere Lachaise  is the largest cemetery in Paris, with scores of notable persons buried within. One in particular, fits the theme of the post title and the photos.

Did you guess Jim Morrison? (Get it? All the “Doors” in the photos?) Finding his location is not difficult; I just followed the tour guides. I’d read that once upon a time there were guards protecting his gravesite; now there is just barricade fencing. 
Shameful how fans have graffitied his gravesite. Explains the fencing.
Oh, wait. That’s not his site. Moron fans have defaced someone else’s site.
Probably morons like these two, who obviously don’t realize they’re the reason for the fencing.
The cemetery is a beautiful green space, the above scene notwithstanding. I roamed here and there for another hour or so, snapping photos when inspired.

Bonjour, Paris!

Autumn in Paris, 48 blissful hours.  The two days beforehand, not so much.

On Saturday evening the Nice Family living in our house in the States telephoned to report that the kitchen drain seemed to be irreparably clogged. We assured them that these things happen in 70 year old homes, and recommended they call a local plumber familiar with the old homes. Thankfully the cost to snake the drain was only in the three digits, or my shopping in Paris may have been slightly curtailed.
Shortly after said telephone call, we started the dishwasher in our 200+ year old rental home and tripped the main circuit, possibly damaging the server that houses all of the media that the boys have finely cultivated over the last three years or so in the process.  Tony did not have time for a full diagnostic exam of the server because he left for Paris at midday on Sunday, and I don’t concern myself with these matters. I was busy scuttling Anna Grace to AIS for her honors orchestra audition in the morning, and then preparing meals for the children while I’m away.  By Sunday evening three dinners had been prepped, and I even found time to throw two black sweaters into my suitcase. Voila!  I was packed.  
On Monday afternoon I boarded my new favorite airline for Economy Class, Air Berlin’s Niki.  (Austrian Airlines holds top place for Business Class.)  Haven’t figured out the giant insect theme, though.
Punctual, and they board people starting at the back of the plane, just like I would do if I ruled the world.  Plus, my OCD side loved, loved, loved the constant streaming of the plane’s position for the duration of the flight.
Don’t blink!  You’ll miss Luxembourg. 
Bienvenue Paris!  A little Hava Nagila at the Saint Michel Metro.

My darling husband was waiting on the street level with the welcome kit of wine, cheese, bread, and “secure” chicken (inside joke, always will be).  We dined quickly in our charming Saint Germain apartment, Google chatted with the children, and then took advantage of the beautiful evening to indulge in one of the most quintessential Parisian scenes.

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