La Belle France 2012

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In order by date

Charles de Gaulle Airport
Nuits St Georges
Savigny les Beaune and Beaune
Rue Cler Market, Paris
Rodin Museum, Paris
Left Bank, Paris
Cluny Museum, Paris
Marais, Paris
Les Vosges, Paris
Carnavalet Museum, Paris
Notre Dame, Paris
Louvre Museum, Paris
Opera House, Paris
Eiffel Tower, Paris

In alphabetical order

Beaune and Savigny les Beaune
Carnavalet Museum, Paris
Charles de Gaulle Airport
Cluny Museum, Paris
Eiffel Tower, Paris
Left Bank, Paris
Louvre Museum, Paris
Marais, Paris
Notre Dame, Paris
Nuits St Georges
Opera House, Paris
Rodin Museum, Paris
Rue Cler Market, Paris
Savigny les Beaune and Beaune
Les Vosges, Paris


Atelier de Robuchon
Auberge de 2 Roches,
Bar a Vins Sandrine
Café Richelieu
La Fontaine de Mars, Paris
Le Fleury, Beaune
La Garaudière, Levernois
La Garaudière, Levernois
Gourmillion, Avallon
Hostellerie de Levernois
Latitude, West Springfield, MA
La Petite Perigourdine
Violon d'Ingres

Salem, NY to CDG (Tuesday and Wednesday, 4 into 5 Sep

Lilly, the lynx point siamese, knew something was happening and hopped into the suitcase in an attempt to be part of it. Alas, she had to stay home, but we did get a house-sitter so she had company in our absence.

We drove to Boston, stopping at Latitude in West Springfield (across from the entrance to the Big E) for a great lunch: shrimp salad and a steak sandwich with a bottle of Robert Sinsky's Pinot Noir. We parked in Braintree, south of Boston at Logan Express. Parking is a mere $7 per day, about a third of the cost at Logan Airport. The bus to the airport was another $22 round trip per person.

We used miles to get free tickets on American directly to Charles de Gaulle Airport northeast of Paris. The flight worked, which is more than I expect from airlines in this century. It was fairly full, showed a kiddie movie, and offered mediocre wine and food, but it took off and landed essentially on schedule. We were herded down landing stairs and crowded into a waiting bus. The bus delivered us to a stairway heading up to baggage and immigration. Stairs, a bus, more stairs, how quaint.


The baggage took over an hour to arrive, but again, in this century, one should be happy to be reunited with one's baggage. This led to the usual scrum at the tiny exit door featuring the finest in French manners. Our visit in 2008 taught us to look for a money change kiosk before departing the airport, as there are no longer change kiosks on every corner in Europe. Alas, the signage is sorely lacking at CDG and we got all the way to the car rental circle of CDG hell without changing money. Sixt Car Rental was the cheapest I found on line and they did have my reservation but seemed to have a computer with the speed of a 286 from the early 90s. Eventually it printed out a contract for a Ford Cmax diesel station wagon. The car is always a surprise as you only can specify a certain class of car, not a certain car. As we were about to leave, we asked where a change kiosk might be and neither clerk knew. At this point, Martha headed back up to the terminal information kiosk and found a change place. The exchange rate was horrid. The rate was about 1.25 and their spread was 1.10 to 1.40, they would sell you a euro for $1.40 of buy one for $1.10, a truly breathtaking profit margin. entrance

We installed our own Garmin nuvi 2370 into our car, now named Max, and headed for Levernois, five kilometers from Beaune, about a four hour journey. The Garmin can be set to several languages and has both masculine and feminine voices in several dialects of English. We chose Jill for American English and she produced several risible pronunciations. Rue, as in the word for street in French, is pronounced essentially the same as the English word rue, but Jill pronounces it as Ri, with a long i sound. She also insists on pronouncing the silent letters at the end of many French words and pronouncing all the letters in many dipthongs. Moreover, she recognizes St as the abbreviation for street rather than saint. Thus, one of the most important towns in the northern slopes of Burgundy, Nuits St Georges, becomes New its street George es.

It took quite a while to get around Paris and onto the toll road heading to the south, but after about 45 minutes we were cruising at 80 mph toward Beaune. Around noon we found ourselves approaching Avallon where our old Michelin Guide recommended Le Gourmillion. As in most restaurants in France, one can order a la carte, but there are generally several menus that offer a choice of appetizer, main course, and a dessert at a favorable price compared to ordering each individually. Smaller lunch places often offer a plat du jour featuring a plate with a starch, veg, and a bit of protein plus a drink and/or dessert. Martha had the plat featuring a shoulder of lamb with a small bottle of water and a trio of small desserts including a creme brullee and isles flotant. I had the 19.50€ menu starting with foie gras, adding onglet (hanger steak) as a main course and ending with a small cheese plate. We drank a half liter pitcher of local red wine and I added an espresso for the road (which I sorely needed after about 24 hours without sleep). Total cost, about $55 with a minimal pour boire (tip) as service is included.

Avallon to Levernois - Wednesday, 5 Sep

The autoroute to Beaune cuts through some of the better Savigny Les Beaune vineyards as it comes down off the central massif to the plains of Burgundy. It eventually reaches the outskirts of Beaune where we stopped at the Leclerc supermarket for some provisions. We arrived at our gite, Vers La Grand Père, in Levernois at about 4PM. Our hostess, Catherine Pion, had told us the key would be in the door and we should make ourselves comfortable, but as it was the first day of school for two of her children, she may not be at her nearby home when we arrived. Crime is obviously not a problem in Levernois as the door was wide open when we arrived.

We moved the luggage inside and sat down. It felt good. We did manage to set out some cheese, paté, and a baguette with a bottle of Haut Cotes de Beaune Rouge for dinner and despite having been sleep-deprived for 36 hours, we lasted until 10PM, essentially putting us on French time. We did sleep for almost 11 hours that night. On the right is the sunny entrance to our gite with Martha enjoying a cup of coffee on our first morning.


Nuits St Georges - Thursday, 6 Sep

The mural is on the side of a building in the center of town. It announces that you are in Nuits St Georges and has a few advertisements, but is much easier on the eyes than your average billboard. We had scheduled an 11AM tasting at Chantal Lescure in Nuits St George with Sylvain from Select Wine Cellar. A Google search brought up the Lescure website and after putting the address into our Garmin, we were on a twenty minute drive to the north. Francois, the winemaker, led us into the cellars, starting with a barrel tasting from the 2011 vintage. He mentioned that the 2012 vintage was very difficult, especially for them, as they are an organic (bio, in French) producer. They suffered from mildew and insects, cold weather right after flowering, and hail. Some vineyards will have a mere 30% of normal production from hail damage. Mildew and insects are difficult to control organically, the cold weather during flowering means that the flowering takes longer, making the ripening process occur over a longer time frame. This requires more than one picking by hand to get only the ripe berries.

The tasting was spectacular, starting with several samples from the better 2011 vineyards that were still in the barrels. Francois explained that the organic vines went deeper looking for nutrients and in doing so, found more trace minerals from the chalk and limestone under the soil. These rocks are very close to the vines in the upper vineyards, a bit further away on the lower slopes, and non-existent in the plains. The plains tend to make village wines, a mere Nuits St Georges or possibly even a more mere Borgogne. The lower slopes make the premier cru wines and a bit further up are the grand crus, but oftentimes the very highest vineyards are not the best. All this means that they probably have to be picked at different times, vinified in different ways for different times, and aged in barrels (some new, some old, it depends) for different times. Making wine is a simple task, making great wine requires great skill.

Nuits San George

I won't bore you with the tasting notes, except to say that the 2011 shows promise and that makes three good vintages in a row. That should help to keep prices from rising too much for the small 2012 vintage, but you should stock up soon. We did go into the shop and taste several more bottles and the 1997 Pommard Vignots was most impressive. I bought some for that evening's cocktail hour with the owner's of our gite. We asked Francois where we should have lunch and he made reservations for us at La Cabotte, a short walk from the winery.

The restaurant was rather small and sharp looking with a chef-owner - all the things I like. Sylvain ordered a Chambolle-Musigny at 58€. We started with an amuse bouche and all choose the same menu at 28.5€ with the same options. We all had the snails in a crunchy pastry (below left) and all agreed they were an interesting assemblage of tastes and textures. We all chose the veal with sweet potato purée for the next course, but I switched to the same preparation with duck breast when it was offered. Both were wonderful. There was a dessert or cheese course and we all ended with espresso. The total was 156€ or about $200, a bit pricey for lunch, but I can assure you dinner was at our gite and minimal.

snails veal duck

After lunch we walked to Pages Vedrenne at 6 passage Montgolfier to pick up some Supercassis crème de cassis. Kir is a local drink made by mixing a shot of cassis with chilled Bourgogne Aligoté. It's an excellent warm weather aperitif, perfect for SXM, and for Burgundy in the current heat wave which is bringing the temperature up to the 80s.

We then drove south on the N74, stopping in Corgoloin to visit Sylvain's brother, Emmanuel who has a cheese shop. We had a tasting and left with some Morbier-like goat cheese and a spicy goat cheese. We continued further south and just before Beaune is Aloxe-Corton. The town features Corton, one of the finest vineyards in the Cote de Beaune, and Chateau Corton with its beautiful roof. There are two entrances to the town both featuring an alley of plane trees and one leads straight toward the church steeple.

caillerets vineyard view nameplate
That evening we gathered at the home of our patron and enjoyed the wine I had bought. Our host is a wine merchant with a large cellar at the house in Levernois. He went down into the cellar, plucked out a similarly aged Burgundy, and presented it as a gift. The gite had a list of bottles for sale and we ordered a brace of the 2002 Savigny-les-Beaune. We were well prepared for the week.

Chassgne-Montrachet, Chagny, and Meursault - Friday , 7 Sep

On Friday 7 September we headed south to an 11AM tasting at Domaine Guy Amiot in Chassagne-Montrachet. Fabrice Amiot led us on a taste treat through his property. Just in back of the winery and up the hill from the winery is the Caillerets vineyard. The first shot shows the upper end of the vineyard and the winery on the right. Caillerets is a premier cru vineyard and it extends just a bit beyond the domain's holdings, but does not reach the top of the hill. As usual it is the lower or middle part of the slope that produces the best wine. The ipper part is generally too steep to hold rainwater or good soil and the flat plains, generally on the east side of the main road have too much good soil and not enough minerals from rocks to produce great wines. We tasted several wines from the 2010 vintage, both red and white, and the results were as expected. The better vineyards produced wine that that seemed better, even at this early date. The 2010 Chassagne-Montrachet from Clos St Jean was spectacular. The 2007 vintage is not so highly rated, but a good winemaker can produce a very good wine from a good vineyard even in a mediocre year. The 2007 Chassagne-Montrachet Les Vergers is an example of this ability.

view nameplate caillerets vineyard

Fabrice called L'Escale just slightly south in Chagny for lunch reservations. We had the 13€ menu that started with a bit of foie gras followed by a plate of sardines with zucchini and yellow squash and pasta (right) and ended with isles flotant. Our wine was a white Rully Premier Cru.

We headed north to Meursault for a 3PM tasting with Pierre Morey, starting with some refreshing 2009 Bourgogne Aligoté and eventually bought two bottles to go with the cassis from yesterday. This wine and the 2009 Bourgogne that followed came from the plains but the Aligoté came from the east side of the highway while the Bourgogne that followed came from the west side of the highway, closer to the slopes. Both were perfectly good and would make fine chilled aperitifs in a warm climate. We moved on to a 2009 St Aubin, a lesser known area, back in a valley running off to the west. I have often thought that this was one of the bargains in the white Burgundy region. A 2009 Meursault showed a bit more promise and a 2008 Meursault Premier Cru Les Charmes was even more powerful, having been on the lees for quite some time. Morey has also moved into red wines, offering a Meursault, Volnay Santenots, Pommard Epenots, and an Aloxe-Corton - all 2009 and all quite good.

sardine plate

You may have noticed no mention of dinners on the first two nights. I'm not forgetful, merely full. The multi-course lunches on the first two days were quite filling. Today's lunch was a bit simpler, so we walked about 100 yards down the street in Levernois to La Garaudiere, a grill restaurant, for dinner. We sat in a dining room watching the grill chef throw logs on the fire as he grilled many of the main courses. They had a menu at 17€ during the week, but on the weekends, you had to have the 22 or 36€ menu, both four courses. Martha went with the 22€ menu, having a farm salad (soft boiled egg, bacon, and greens) and a joue of beef (like beef bouguignon), followed by a fromage blanc and a dessert. That is a lot of food for about $25! I had the 36€ menu starting with foie gras (below left) and moving on to veal with morels. This was followed by a baked cheese salad and a dessert. It's hard to believe that you can get foie gras, veal, and morels plus another course and a dessert for $45. Martha had the pear dessert (below right) and I had essentially a strawberry shortcake (below center). I apologize for missing a few photos, but we are just getting into the swing of things. Service was fine and a bottle of Bouchard's Beaune du Chateau (our wedding wine) was wonderful, although at about $60, it brought our total bill up to about $140. Dining room with wood fire
foie gras Strawberries Pear

Savigny-Les-Beaune and Beaune - Saturday , 8 Sep

On Saturday 8 September we headed west to an 11AM tasting at Domaine Jean-Jaques Girard in Savigny-Les-Beaune. Aloxe-Corton is along the highway just north of Beaune and Pernand-Vergelesses wraps around the south side of the hill of Corton to the west. Extending further from there to the west is Savigny-Les Beaune. The first shot on the left is Savigny in the foreground and Pernand-Vergelesses in the background. The middle shot is across Savigny to the west and the last is the village of Savigny marked by its church spire. Savigny is not as well known as Beaune but makes some very good wine, possibly better wine for the same price as its more well-known neighbor. Domaine Girard has a village wine and two premier cru Savignys including Les Laviere which I think rivals the premier crus of Beaune. Jean-Jacques proceeded to bring out some recent wines from elsewhere starting with a fantastic Beaune Clos du Roi and moving on to a Volnay, an Aloxe-Corton, and a Pommard. All of these reds were 2010. Jean-Jacques noted that the Pommard vines were completely destroyed in 2012 which was particularly bad as this was the best village plot, bordering the premier cru Les Epenot. Somewhat backwards, we then moved on to white wines: Aligoté (2010 and 2011), two Pernand-Vergelesses premier crus, and a Savigny. To top everything off, we had a 2011 Corton-Charlemagne barrel sample and the 2010 from a bottle. WOW! I believe next season's house wine at our SXM condo will be one of the reds, although I await the pricing. Sign

Savigny to Pernand-Vergelesses Savigny to Pernand-Vergelesses Savigny to Pernand-Vergelesses

Jean-Jacques called Le Fleury and secured the last outdoor table on a beautiful summer afternoon. We parked outside the ramparts of the walled city and walked in past this church (right) to arrive at the restaurant as the Saturday open-air market was packing up. I had the menu de marché (see the poster board). We started with an amuse bouche featuring a beet root foam atop a fresh herb foam (below center). I started with the foie gras (below right), two slices of foie gras atop toasted bread with a bit more beet root foam. Martha had a typical Burgundian dish, a jambon persillé (parsley and ham), basically ham, gelatin, and parsley (next row down). In this case, there was both ham and pork in the dish and it was called epaule. We ordered Girard's 2009 Savigny Les Beaune which is drinking well at the moment and should get better for years. My main course consisted of slices of turkey with wonderful oven roasted potatoes, small tasty carrots and a flavorful sauce. My menu came with a dessert, but I asked for just the smallest taste of some epoisse to go with the remainder of our red wine. I received two slices and some salad greens with a tart dressing. Our total bill was 87.5€, about $120, not bad for a lunch that is beagle-approved.


menu board Amuse Bouche Foie Gras

Turkey wine
beagle movie
On the way out of town we headed to Lapalus P, a boulangerie that supplied the bread that we liked. We walked past this mural. The missing left side showed a movie director filming this scene.

A short tour of the Hautes Cotes de Beaune - Sunday, 9 Sep

On Sunday 9 September we headed west to to the Hautes Cotes de Beaune. The wine is not as good, but the scenery is more beautiful. Unfortunately, we were very low on diesel and our US-based credit card does not work in the totally self-service gas stations. They only take cards with an embedded chip, or as they say here: puce (a flea). After a short tour, we headed back to a picnic at a convenient table alongside the road and then home, looking forlornly for diesel. Alas, it was not to be as even the few places that had a cashier's station were not manned on Sunday. As a consequence, we walked to La Garaudiere for dinner again. The weather has been wonderful, about 10F above average for this time of the year with no rain to bother the winemakers. As a consequence, we ate in the covered courtyard next to this lovely window looking into the dining room. We did the same menus again (22 and 36€), but the meals were different because there were several choices for each starter and main course on each menu. Martha had the same farmer salad again (below left) and I had a cold lobster, a tasty concoction somewhat like a thermidor. Our main courses were the duck breast for Martha and a beef steak with epoisse cheese for me. window
farmer salad lobster wine
duck beef

A longer tour of the Hautes Cotes de Beaune - Monday, 10 Sep

On Monday 10 September we again headed west to the Hautes Cotes, making it to Autun to see the Cathedral of St Lazarus, an excellent example of Romanesque architecture from the early 12th century. The photo on the right is the Last Judgement Tympanum with signs of the zodiac on the outside ring and a headless Christ in the center. Check the previous link for the full story. Here's a link to a larger photo. The house below was next to the cathedral. house

We had a simple cheese, paté, bread, and wine lunch on the side of the road because we were having dinner at Le Hostellerie de Levernois, a one star Michelin restaurant that we could walk to from our gite. Dinner started with Taittinger rosé in the garden listening to a jazz combo. The champagne (right) arrived with a platter of tasty bits. We ordered dinner and our wine as we enjoyed the lovely evening and, eventually, we were invited into the dining room where we received an amuse bouche (below left). Martha's ap was calf sweetbreads in a tartelet with vegetables in a barigoule and date dressing (below center, 39€) and I had a risotto with garlic, snails, and frog legs (below right). Martha's main course was the breast of a locally raised pidgeon, millefeuille of chard, tortellini pasta, and balsamic sauce (far below left, 47€) and I had the roasted loin of veal, panfried carrots with a bone marrow sauce (far below, center). I had the Discovery menu at 68€ which the included the ap and main course plus a cheese course and a dessert. Our wine was a 2009 Aloxe-Corton (far below, right, about 150€). These prices are higher than what has come before, but the setting here was absolutely beautiful, from the well-kept grounds, to the terrace, with the jazz combo, and on into the dining room. champagne
amuse bouche sweetbreads risotto
pidgeon veal wine
Moreover, the dishes use fine ingredients and require more preparation. My risotto was more complicated than plain rice, of course, but it also included snails and deboned frog legs. Martha's sweetbreads take a bit of prep time and they were in a pastry shell. Another area where the starred restaurants earn their stars (and cost) is the cheese tray(s). As the photos below show, there were a lot of cheeses. On the left is the cow's milk cheeses and on the right are the goat cheeses. There were about 40 in all, they were in perfect condition, and they were all artisinal. The maitre'd knew the story behind each one. I saw someone take about eight different choices. I took four and the maitre'd insisted that I try a fifth.
cow cheese goat cheese
The dessert was another tour de force, but Martha had to take it, as I could not continue. We did run out of wine and I had to order another half bottle. The wine list and cellar are another category that separated the stars from the regular restaurants. I believe that there were over 2000 bottles in the cellar and about 500 different wines on the list. The total bill was a bit over 400€, about $540, a not insubstantial sum, but it was one of the best meals I have ever had. The owner of our gite is a wine merchant and spends quite a bit of time in Paris. Over a bottle of wine early in our visit he allowed that he thought this restaurant was equal to or better than most of the one star restaurants in Paris. We walked home and as we strolled we took a photo of this lovely bridge lit up with a reflection in the very still waters of the Bouzaise Stream that flows through Levernois.


A long drive to Macon - Tuesday, 11 Sep

barrels On Tuesday 11 September we Sylvain arrived at our gite and got in our car for an hour's drive south to Macon to visit with Thevenot. There were actually three vintners making three different wine from three different plots at this location. Much of Macon has cooperative wine making facilities. The wine is not the equal of the best from the Cote d'Or, but they certainly make some very good wines that rival the premier crus and village wines from up north. barrels

We were deep in the country and there were few restaurants, but eventually we found Auberge de 2 Roches, Inn of the two rocks. We were quite close to Saulieu, a prehistoric site featuring large rock outcroppings. In earlier times, our ancestors used to drive mastodons over the cliff and have a banquet. This restaurant was actually between two outcroppings like the one shown on the left. There was no mastodon on the list, but there was a nice menu at 17.5€ offering an ap and the roast veal (among others) shown below center plus a cheese course and a dessert course. Martha and Sylvain had a calf's foot appetizer while I had a paté. Our wine was a sturdy Moulin a Vent (22.5€) from the Beaujolais region, a bit to the south. Martha had a fig dessert (below left), Sylvain went with the raspberry in a crisp shell, and I had a molten chocolate cake with creme anglaise - all wonderful, and all quite inexpensive at 83.2€, a bit over $100.
rock veal" wine
fig raspberry chocolate cake

Tasting at Chambolle-Musigny - Wednesday, 12 Sep

On Wednesday 12 September we met Sylvain at 11AM for a tasting at Amiot-Servelle in Chambolle-Musingy. We tasted a 2009 Meursault that was clear and crisp and then moved on to reds, all from 2010. They were approachable now but will get better. The village wine was quite tart and would greatly benefit from age. Three premier crus (Les Fuées, - next to Bonnes Mares, and Les Plantes and Les Charmes, on the plains closer to the highway) tasted better and the upper one next to Bonnes Mares seemed to be the best. We ended with Charmes-Chambertin, a grand cru just below the grandest of crus: Chambertin. It really was fabulous already. Below on the left is a view of the vineyards, the town, and the hills above the town. In the center is Sylvain in the tasting room and on the right is a poster from Amiot-Servelle. poster
Chambolle-Musigny sylvain

We drove back into the center of town, found some parking, and walked to the Bar a Vins Sandrine. We were lucky to get one of the last tables in this friendly mother-daughter wine bar. I was so taken by them and their offerings that I forgot to take photos. The special of the day was a blanquette de veau, veal cubes in a creamy, brown sauce with rice (11€). We ordered a Borgogne rouge, a Marsannay Rouge, and a Fixin Rouge (all at 4.2€) to start. We moved on to a cheese tray with two Geverey-Chambertin Rouges and a Chambolle-Musigny Rouge (both about 7€) and finished with espresso. We had a great time, it's a fun place with a lively atmosphere and a lot of good wines by the glass.

Return to Paris - Thursday, 13 Sep

On Thursday 13 September we set out for Paris at 9AM. We had tried several times to call the rental agent (Paris Perfect) in Paris and arrange a time to meet them, but they were not answering their phone - one starts to wonder after three calls over an afternoon. I sent them an email saying I could not contact them by phone and as we were heading out, I got a response telling us, I'm not making this up, to call them by phone when we arrived in Paris. We stopped at a picnic table along the superhighway and had a lunch of cheese, paté, and wine, arriving at the Montparnasse train station at about 2PM to return the car. We didn't have an address, so we looked for rental car signs, found one, and via a u-turn worthy of the Jason Bourne movies, we got into the entrance. It was still a five minute drive through a maze disguised as a parking garage, but I found the Sixt parking area and signs pointing to the Sixt office. After a robust walk with all our luggage (except my camera) we arrived at the office where I was asked to accompany the clerk back to the parking lot to inspect the car. We passed the inspection and after a long walk back, I found Martha and we found a cab. Martha called the rental agency and they answered the phone. About 20 minutes later we were at the apartment entrance (below left), waiting for our greeter to come open the doors.

The first door was the door to the courtyard (below center) that was ringed by about a half dozen entrances to seven story apartments. The next door was the door to our building and the final door was the entrance to our sixth floor apartment named Corbières. We could easily see the Eiffel tower over the top of the apartment building across the courtyard from us. At night it is lit up and does a fabulous light show on the hour.

entrance courtyard tower
The apartment had a double bed and a good sized bathroom with a large shower (and no shower curtain). There was a table that had four chairs, but was much better for two. Nonetheless, there was a sofa bed in the living area next to the table, so you could sleep four in rather crowded circumstances. It cost $2750 for 8 nights, considerably cheaper than the better hotels plus we made our own breakfast and one other meal per day. You may ask why we go to France and then do our own cooking. First, Martha was a chef. She likes to cook and she can cook. Second, we were next to the Rue Cler market. Third, my waistline. The flowers did come from the Rue Cler market and were Martha's birthday present.
bedroom table arrangement

The greeter eventually came back while we were unpacking and explained strange appliances and customs. The apartment had a European washer/dryer combo that had more dials and settings than the space shuttle. The two burner stove was simple enough and the regular coffee pot only slightly more difficult. There was a European k-cup single cup coffee maker and, while we find them intriguing, the cost and the waste are staggering, especially for those of us who drink four cups each for breakfast.

After unpacking, we took a walk and made reservations at Les Cocottes, Christian Constant's small plate restaurant. Our apartment was at 133 rue St Dominique and the restaurant is at 135. We found the Repaire de Bacchus a few doors further and on the other side of the street. Bacchus is the god of wine and, being devout, I attended services most every day. The manager was Dutch and the Dutch speak better English than most US high school graduates. There was a grocery store, a patisserie, and a boucherie in the same block.

On left is the entrance to the restaurant and the center photos shows that it is basically a bar. They fizz purified water on-site, selling the bubbly for 3.50€, considerably cheaper than the big name bottles. We ordered a Moulin-a-Vent, grand cru Beaujolais at 30€. I started with a velouté of cepes, a velvety soup made from porcinis with a crispy bit of air-dried ham in the center (bit expensive at 16€, but cepes are 40€ per kilo).

entrance bar bar
hanger steak I justified this by ordering the entree de jour, a hanger steak, for the mere price of 9€. It came on a bed of mac and cheese. Martha had the pidgeon with peas, green beans, and new potatoes at 26€. Everything was quite tasty and moved along quickly, but no one pushed us out as we were finishing our wine, despite the line at the door. Our total bill came to about 90€, about $110. pidgeon

Rue Cler Market and Museum d'Orsay - Friday, 14 Sep

On Thursday 14 September we walked about three blocks to the Rue Cler. The outdoor market starts there and runs south for about a quarter mile. There were a couple flower shops and it pays to compare prices. You might even haggle a bit.
flowers flowers flowers
Several places had fresh cepes (porcinis). There were also yellow chanterelles. The berries looked great until I noticed Driscoll's raspberries. Possibly they are good, but earlier this summer their strawberries looked so good that I bought some. Had I poured cream and sugar on the cardboard box it would have tasted better than the strawberries.
mushrooms mushrooms berries
The fish market was full of Atlantic and Mediterranean fish and shellfish. The strange creature on the far right is a pouce-pied from France's southern Atlantic coast and down into northern Africa. It clings to rocks in the inter-tidal region with the tenacity of a barnacle and feeds on plankton. I was not tempted to buy some.
fish shellfish berries
mise We bought a beautiful pork tenderloin at the boucherie, some yellow chanterelles, some shallots, some carrots, and some new potatoes. On the left is the mise en place as we prepared dinner. In the background is Burgundy, a 2009 Beaune Premier Cru, and a Louis Jadot Corton Grancey from 1998. It was on sale at the wine store and our recent experiences with wines from the late 90s, led us to try this. The last is Jadot's signature wine, named after his home. He not only made the wine, he also raised the grapes, and it was spectacular. On the right is the resulting plate. plate

Invalides In the afternoon we walked about 2 kilometers to the Musem d'Orsay. Our journey took us past Les Invalides. Louis XIV initiated the project by in 1670 as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers. By the time he was through in 1708 he had added a chapel for the soldiers and one for royalty. It now contains a military museum, some monuments, and, as planned, some old soldiers. The photo on the left is a cropped version of a shot taken by Kadaller from the nearby hill of Montparnasse. Our view as we walked past is on the right. You'll note that the low building height mandated in central Paris makes the Eiffel tower visible from many locations. Invalides
clock The Orsay Museum, containing one of the best collections of French Impressionists, is set in a refurbished train station. It is rather splendid with spectacular views off to Montmartre from the top floor. On the left is the refurbished clock from the old train station and on the right is a view of Montmartre. Below left is one of the famous paintings on exhibit, Lunch in the Park. Edouard Manet submitted this to the annual show of the established French art world and had it rejected. Subsequently, this and two other paintings, were shown in the Salon des Refusés, where the painting sparked controversy, as it does to this day. montmartre
picnic starry night Monet venus
The next painting is Van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone, probably not the one Don McLean was singing about. Monet was probably the master Impressionist and the 30 June 1878 celebration of peace and work is one of his more colorful. The final photo is Bouguereau's Birth of Venus. Unlikely as it may seem, Whistler's Study in Grey is here, although you probably know it as Whistler's Mother. The museum cost 8€ per person and there was a rather nice café, but we merely had a carafe of Beaujolais as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up before more strolling through the galleries.

A word about the various passes - First, if the price is not on the home page, you know they are not going to save you a lot of money. Moreover, the various options: number of days - 2 to 6, age of participants - kids, teens, adults) are enough to make your head spin. You should know that a day is a calendar day, not 24 hours from your first visit to a museum. Read the fine print, and here is a doozy: the pass doesn't give access to temporary exhibitions or to conference visits. Note that many museums are closed on Monday or Tuesday, or whenever. The Paris Museum Pass gets you in to about 60 museums, the passes cost 39€, 54€, and 69€ for the 2, 4, or 6 day pass plus 24€ for delivery to the US, which sounds like a rip-off until you realize that it costs 12€ for delivery in Paris!. That puts the cost at 32€ to 15€ per day. The Louvre cost 11€ and the Paris City Museum (Carnavalet) cost 5€ (but was free on the Sunday that we visited). Bottom line: even if you bought a six day pass you would have to visit two to three museums per day to save any money. As for bypassing the lines, it works at some places, but not all, and certainly was not a major factor in September.

Paris Pass includes a Museum Pass, a Metro Pass, a two day hop on/hop off bus tour, a guide book, and river cruise, and a wine tasting. The six day adult pass costs 186€ plus 8€ for delivery. The five day metro passes cost about 30€ for central Paris and 51€ for the next two zones. As mentioned before, the museum pass would cost 69€, so you'll have to decide if the other goodies are worth the extra 80€. And if you will be able to use all of these things.

One more pass: The Metro Pass isn't such a great deal because buying 10 metro tickets costs only 12.50€. If you went to a museum in the morning, had lunch, and went to another museum and came home, you would need three tickets. Add another pair if you wish to travel to dinner and you have five per day, or 6.25€. When the central Paris 5 day card costs 30€, you would save 1.25€. If you just dined within walking distance of your hotel on one evening, the carnet of 10 tickets would be cheaper by 1.25€. The beauty of Paris is that there are restaurants, boucheries, patisseries, coffee shops, and markets in every neighborhood. In seven days we only walked to all restaurants but took a cab home from the special restaurant for Martha's birthday.

Rue Cler Market, Rodin Museum, and Atelier de Robuchon - Saturday, 15 Sep

On Friday 15 September to celebrate the birthday of Tommy Lee Jones, we walked over to the Rue Cler market again to pick up a few things, notably the bouquet of blue flowers shown previously. We also revisited the Repaire de Bacchus to get a bottle of champagne and a great bottle of Burgundy. We returned to the apartment for a light lunch and got dressed for dinner, planning on a longish walk to the Rodin Musem, and onward to the Atelier de Robuchon for dinner. The Museum is in and on the grounds of the former Hotel Brion where Rodin lived. The government had stolen the place from the Catholic Church when they outlawed teaching orders. It fell into disrepair and was rented to poor artists. Eventually, they wanted to evict the artists, but Rodin convinced them otherwise when he donated a considerable amount of his artwork and artwork he had received from his friends, such as Van Gogh's Portrait of Pere Tanguy (right).

The shot below left is the Eiffel Tower when viewed across the gardens. As noted earlier, it's visible from from many locations in central Paris. The central photo is a shot of one of the most recognized sculptures in the world, The Thinker.

Pere Tanguey

The shot on the right depicts the Burghers of Calais, one of Rodin's most powerful sculptures. In 1347 England's Edward III laid siege to Calais, and France's Philip VI ordered the city to hold out. However, Philip failed to lift the siege, and starvation eventually forced the city to ask for terms. Edward offered to spare the people of the city if any six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. The somewhat happy ending is that though the burghers expected to be executed, their lives were spared by the intervention of England's Queen Philippa, who convinced her husband to exercise mercy by claiming that their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn child.

Rodin Museum Thinker Burgers of Calais

We continued on toward the restaurant but as many public buildings were open to the public this weekend, there were touts on the street trying to get us to visit several businesses that we passed. We eventually succumbed to a visit to an agricultural ministry. It the home of an aristocrat who probably lost his head around 1792. The current occupant was some government minister and he had some nice digs and a beautiful garden.

We arrived at the restaurant a bit before the 6:30 opening and were informed that they opened at 6:30 - and not before. We found a bench and looked around the neighborhood. Across the square was the Gallery Maeght. In my pool room I have two original posters for a Pierre Tal-Coat opening at the Gallery Maeght from the late 40's. In a few minutes we were welcomed in and moved to a corner of the countertop, the equivalent of a corner table in a restaurant that does not have tables. All seats were stools (with backs, thankfully) and all "tables" were counters. As this was Martha's birthday, we started with two flutes of Paillard Champagne and ordered the ten course tasting menu. Soon we received some king crab in a ravioli with chives atop another tasty concoction atop a slice of dikon that owed its thickness to the recent improvements in nanotechnology.

Some Ossetra caviar with shallots and cream in a hollowed out potato topped with olive (center) arrived as we finished the champagne and moved on to a bottle of 2009 Pernand-Vergelesses les Fichots Premier Cru from Follin-Arbolet. The red wine was great with the chestnut soup with cepes and jambon cru (right).

crab caviar chestnut soup

Our next course was a chicken-based gyoza with leeks, mint, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds (left) - very interesting and better than our standard gyoza from Beijing. A bit of foie gras appeared with coco beans and granny smith apples (center) and was followed by an egg poached a parsley and girolle foam (right). eggfoam
gyoza Foie gras
On the left is a photo of a bit of red mullet with a tapanade of seaweed and tomatoes. You'll notice that most of these plates a foam rather than a thick sauce and all portion sizes were small. We had now arrived at the main course, the only course with a choice. Martha had the quail (center) and I had the sweetbreads (right). It was about this time that we ran out our Pernand-Vergelesses. The wine steward was pouring glasses of a 2008 Gevrey-Chambertin from a magnum.
quail quail sweetbreads
Our desserts (we both got two, no choices) started with a quadruple chocolate extravaganza in a coffee cup. We were urged to sample all four tastes of chocolate simultaneously by digging deep into the cup with our spoon. The other dessert was strawberries with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. With espressos to finish, our bill came to 515€ or about $700. The good news is that my birthday girl was thrilled with the meal, the service, and the evening.
chocolate strawberries

Left Bank, Les Marais, and Les Peregourdine - Sunday, 16 Sep

On Saturday 16 September we took the subway to Maubert-Mutualité on the Left Bank to revisit the youth of the woman who was now older than she ever was prior to this date. While she was still a teenager, she had convinced Leon Botstien, the 20-something president of now-defunct Franconia College, that she should get college credit living in Paris, attending museums, and writing a paper on her experience. Her ancestors were French-Canadian and she had been schooled by French nuns, so she was familiar with French.

So where does a young American with little money go in Paris? Answer: the Left Bank, student quarter, near the Sorbonne, much as I did at about the same time. I did use my France on $5 per day book to prop up the bed in a recommended hotel, before seeking better lodgings. Martha stayed here, at the Hotel du Commerce. Her memories were not so fond and she found an apartment in about a week. The hotel was still there and looks considerably better.

Hotel du Commerce

We wandered around the market near the subway and eventually headed up the hill away from the river to find lunch. Based on nothing more than a look inside and a read of the menu we chose:

restaurantLe Petite Perigourdine

There were many plates listed at 13 to 18€, not bad. Martha had the lamb shoulder with fresh white beans and I had a hanger steak, choosing a 2009 Chenas (26€), grand cru Beaujolais to wash it all down. The waiter returned to ask if he could substitute some other starch on Martha's dish as the chef had not finished with the long cooking required for the beans. Martha said she would wait (as did the man at a nearby table) because that was one of the reasons she had chosen the dish. And wait we did. Luckily, we had our wine, some dry sausage, and crusty bread with butter. The photo on the right is me, waiting patiently, chuckling about the Hotel California across the street.
Interior wine and snacks Patience
Eventually the beans were cooked and well worth waiting for. My hanger steak was fine, especially with a morel sauce, and there was a lot of it. The crispy potato cubes were also quite nice. It was a filling and tasty lunch for a mere 58€.
Hotel California lamb hanger steak

After lunch we walked over to the Cluny Museumy, next to the Sorbonne. The museum is one of the best examples of Roman architecture (great roman baths) in Paris and probably best known for its Unicorn Tapestries from the late 15th century. There are five tapestries featuring a noble lady with a unicorn and a lion, each depicting one of the five senses. A sixth tapestry has the words: "À mon seul désir". If you know what it all means, you'll be the first.

Martha who is ABD PhD in Art History makes a great tour guide and she rather liked the tapestries depicting the vendange (harvest). The stained glass window was magnificent. I thought the ghostbusters were amusing. They were suited up just outside the entrance. I know not why. I say that a lot in Paris.

Stained glass window
Vendange Vendange Ghostbusters

Vendange We crossed over to Ile de Saint-Louis, the smaller, and sleepier island just upriver from Ile de la Cité, home of Notre Dame, whose backside was visible from the bridge. We had been in the fifth arrondissment and traveled into the fourth and on to the 3rd where we visited the Museum Carnavalet, a museum celebrating Paris. We liked the gardens, and the museum was free on this Sunday. It was housed in a spectacular old mansion and contained many second-tier paintings, mostly portraits, along with some history about Paris. There were also many antiques: chairs, beds, chests,and artifacts. It certainly was a pleasant way to learn something about Paris on a fairly gloomy day, but there was nothing of the must-see variety here. Vendange

At this point, we were in the the marais (marsh). It started in 1240 with a fortified church built outside the walls of Paris. The church attracted more church functions. Shortly thereafter Charles I of Anjou, brother of King Louis IX of France, built a mansion here. A hundred years later King Charles V built a mansion and brought his court here. The Royal Square, now called Place des Vosges was built from 1605 to 1612 and is the first planned square in Paris. (photos left and center) The nobility moved to the Fauberg Saint-Germain area in the 1700s and the this area became a commercial center, which of course brought many Jews, the Ashkenazi, in particular. Despite the German occupation during WWII, there are still many Jews, many shops selling Jewish books, kosher restaurants (right), and a synagogue. The area is becoming known as a fashion center and art center. In a not unrelated turn of events, there are many gay cafés, nightclubs, cabarets, and shops.
Vendange Vendange Vendange

We headed back to Sainte Chapelle in the Palais de Justice at the opposite end of Ile St Louis from Notre Dame. We passed through a major plant selling operation and got the photos on the below left and center. When we got to the Sainte Chapelle, we found that the exterior was sheathed in scaffolding and the building was surrounded by a dense pack to tourists. We gave up and headed over to Notre Dame where the dense pack had reached critical mass. Luckily, getting far enough away to get a picture of the entire building, keeps you away from masses. The cathedral was started in 1160 and took about 100 years to be substantially complete and another 100 to get it to looking as it does today. The bottom left photo shows the flying buttresses receiving the lateral roof load via the flyers and transmitting it down to the buttresses. This allows the actual walls of the church to be thinner and have more fenestration, ie more space for stained glass windows.
flowers flowers Notre Dame
Notre Dame Notre Dame

Louvre, Café Richelieu, and the Fountain of Mars - Monday, 17 Sep

On Monday we hopped the metro and went to the Louvre. There is a subway stop in the basement and you get your own entrance into the museum. Generally there is a shorter line here. Don't tell anyone. Once you get there you'll find Ms Lisa, a lacemaker, the Coronation of Napoleon by the consummate Salon painter and favorite of Napoleon, Jacques-Louis David (not shown), Monet's Impression, Sunrise that gave its name to impressionism, (most of) Venus from Milo, a winged victory (not shown), and these first two. On the left is a coffin painting from Fayum in Middle Egypt from about 100BC. Next to it is a painting from about 1400 years later by Giotto. You'll note that the quality of the early face painting doesn't appear in Europe until Leonardo painted Ms Lisa around 1500. Venus
fayum Giotto Mona Lisa lacemaker
We had lunch at the second floor Café Richelieu on the outdoor terrace. It was a gloomy day, but warm enough to be outside. The view of the courtyard below with IMPei's glass entrance pyramid included a very long line. The view into the distance was better and, as usual, included the Eiffel Tower. I had a very nice cheese platter and Martha had some very good foie gras (in a museum restaurant! - gotta love the French) with a good bottle of Burgundy, I admit we spent about $100 for lunch, over half on the wine!
Cheese Foie gras View

That evening we took a 50 yard walk from our entrance past the Fountain of Mars to the Fountain of Mars restaurant. We had made reservations a couple days earlier and we were rewarded with a table as other stood outside. This is not a starred restaurant, merely a good neighborhood brasserie, but it was full. The plate of the day was hanger steak (for me, below right) at a mere 20€ while Martha ordered the magret de canard (28€, below center). We decided to split the country paté (13€, below left). Our wine was a 2009 Pernand-Vergelesses (41€, right). Everything was perfectly good at reasonable prices. It reminded us of Belle Epoque Restaurant on Marigot's Marina Royale, although the Paris version was a bit more expensive, a bit cooler, and didn't have a view of a marina. wine
country paté duck breast hanger steak

Opera House - Tuesday, 18 Sep

On Tuesday we hopped the metro and went to the the Opera stop. This is the closest stop to Galleries Lafayette, the quickest way to empty your bank account in Paris. It was full of Orientals, largely Chinese, but there were several Japanese also. The stores had Chinese and Japanese speaking clerks. A short walk through the galleries showed that this was beyond my price range. A stroll around the neighborhood showed some interesting architecture at no cost. The Palais Garnier (below left, named after the principle architect) was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. This was the setting for Gaston Leroux's 1911 novel The Phantom of the Opera which morphed into films and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical. In 1989 the Paris Opera decamped to the nearby, newer and larger, Opera Bastille, with elaborate facilities for set and production changes. Today the Palais Garnier which became known as the Opera house, is used mostly for the Paris Ballet.

The center photos shows La Madeleine, a Roman Catholic church occupying high ground in the 8th arrondissement. It was a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army. The next photo shows the view to the south including Place de la Concorde in the distance. We stopped for drinks at Le Royal Turenne, a nearby sidewalk café

Opera House madeleine Concorde"

Final Day - Packing, Eiffel Tower, and Violon d'Ingres - Wednesday, 19 Sep

We spent the early part of the morning packing and then took a tour of our neighborhood. Our first stop was a pharmacy where Martha got me some cough drops and an herbal nose spray to help deal with an incipient cold. The Eiffel Tower is about a quarter mile form our apartment along the Seine at the northern end of the Champ de Mars, the field of Mars, god of war. It was originally a parade grounds for Napoleon's army. The tower was built in 1889 as an entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair. At that time it was the world's tallest man-made structure at 1050 feet, but was eclipsed by the Chrysler Building in NYC in 1930. In 1957 an antenna placed atop the tower made it taller than the Chrysler Building, but the world of tall buildings had long since leapt over the Chrysler Building. Below are some of the delights to be found in the Champ de Mars. I had to walk through most of it to get far enough away to get the tower in one frame. That beautiful photo has not been retouched. Our last day may have been cool enough to require jackets, but it was sunny with a blue sky a few puffy white clouds. Clicking on the tower photo will get a large version suitable for printing. Eiffel Tower
garden pool
For lunch we walked out the front gate, turned left, and after about 20 feet we reached Violon d'Ingres, Christian Constant's one star Michelin restaurant on our street (Rue St Dominique). One of our first dinners in Paris was at his small plate establishment, Les Cocottes, a bit further down the street. We ordered water and a bottle of 2010 Crozes-Hermitage (50€), it's young but still quite approachable with plenty of fruit. We both chose the 48€ menu which is a main course plus a starter or dessert. You can't range all over the menu, but we found enough interesting dishes and saved a few euros. Martha started with a mystery soup. My chef/translator could not identify it. It was all rather white making for a bland photo (below left), but very tasty. I had tongue and foie gras (below center) that I thought was wonderful, especially with the wine (below right). Her main course was pigs trotters (left) and I had the pidgeon with greens (right). We had two espressos and were offered two madeleines and some chocolate as we ended our last meal in France. It was quite nice with good service at a total of 159€, a bit over $200.
soup Tongue and foie gras wine
pig feet dessert Pidgeon

Departure - Thursday, 20 Sep

We got up early finished packing, tidied up, and went down to wait for the taxi we had booked at about 9AM. It was a long, though uneventful drive to the airport. The cabbie dropped us at the first door to the correct terminal and we hauled our luggage to the furthest check-in station. It made me even happier that I hadn't tipped him much as he was about 20 minutes late. The American Airlines flight landed on time, we got through immigration, got our bags, and passed through customs declaring a baggie full of cooked cepes. That got us a special inspection in the agricultural sniffer, but in a few minutes we were standing in the wrong place for our bus to Braintree. We found the right spot and the bus used the HOV lane to skirt Boston traffic, reaching our car about an hour and a half after landing. My cold had not been helped by the French medicines and now my tooth was hurting. By Saturday half of my face looked like a chipmunk. A week's worth of penicillin and a root canal solved the toothache, but it took arithromycin and another two weeks to lose the cold.

Except for the cold and toothache, not exactly France's fault, the vacation was wonderful. We would recommend the gite and the apartment and all our restaurants without reservation. Charles de Gualle is not my favorite airport and its station in the hierarchy could only have decreased given the difficulties imposed by the construction. However, as they were, in actuality, my least favorite airport, they merely reinforced their leastness.

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