Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday 30 December - Stations

IForI found myself at a loose end this morning and decided to see what was happening.  Two Americans at the metro ticket machine at Villiers wondered why their credit card would not work.  I pointed out that they needed a card with a chip.  They are going to have trouble in Paris with their chipless card and will need a lot of cash.

Things to do in the metro:
- put on your make up, using a compact and a very steady hand
- read a book
- catch up on sleep, e-mail
- read a book
I arrived at Saint Lazare just in time to see one of the new trains leaving.
At Gare de l'Est a German ICE3 was standing next to a French TGV.

At Gare de l'Est there was a colorful Champagne Ardennes diesel. The only non-electric train I saw.
Gare du Nord was crazy busy, a lot of travellers were going to London, Belgium and Holland.
Gare de Lyon was busy mainly with arrivals and very few departures.  The area around Le Train Bleu was nicely decorated.  I didn't see the Train Bleu cat.

For dinner this evening we went to Le Relais de Venise near the Porte Maillot. We arrived only 15 minutes before it opened and were given a table upstairs which gave us a little more room and it was quieter than downstairs. The meal was up to its usual standard with good steak and piles of fries. Veronica was concerned that Ketchup was not on the table but agreed thatt the tarragon sauce made an admirable substitute. Mary had a vacharin for desert while Vetonica and Colin shared a plate of profiteroles. The Cotes du Tarn was an excellent light red.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday 29 December - Lost on the Left Bank.

We intended to visit the Jardins du Luxembourg.  What should have been an easy transfer at Réamur Sebastopol was complicated by the fact that all signs for line 4 had been removed as part of some work. We found the correct platform by trial and error. The area around the Odeon station was difficult to navigate and we finished up along the Seine which gave us an unintended, but impressive, view along the length of the Louvre.
We eventually found the Senate and finally the Luxembourg Gardens.  There were several sail boats in the water and the gardens were busy. 

St. Sulpice was imposing.  The interior is dingy and needs a good clean - even a dusting would improve things. We had just missed an organ concert.
Like most churches St. Sulpice is dark but not as bad as many because the windows have a lot of clear glass.
The organ at St. Sulpice is impressive, pity we missed the convert.
Lunch was at a small but expensive restaurant close to St. Sulpice.
Getting to the Eiffel Tower was easy but we managed to get lost anyway. Mary and Veronica decided to go up despite the insane crowds.  They gave up after an hour and a half. I left to ride the tram to Porte de Vincennes. 

The crowds at Christmas have become worse in the last few years we have been coming to Paris.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday 28 December -Tourists on the right bank

We made full use of Mobilis tickets today.  Starting with the Batignolles Organic Market we took the metro to  Blanche to look at the Moulin Rouge. 
 Back on the metro we went to Anvers and walked to the Mongmartre funicular.  On the way there we saw a number of men getting money from tourists with the three shell trick. They were all carrying wads of 50 euro bills. One "tourist" probably an accomplis,  "won" €200, presumably to lure in the gullible spectators. 
The funicular is an easy way to get up to Montmartre and we walked around Place du Tertre and participated in the tourist invasion.  The Christmas Market was busy and there was a long line up to get into Sacre Coeur. We stood at the top of the steps looking over Paris and munching roasted chestnuts.
 We walked down the steps and took a ride on the free roundabout. There were almost as many grown ups riding as kids. Mary and Veronica particularly enjoyed the horses.  

The metro quickly brought us to Cité and we joined the crowds at Notre Dame.  Isle St. Louis was not so crowded but, by this time, we were looking for lunch and a bathroom.  We found a good local restaurant near the Bastille - caesar salad,  onion soup and magret de canard. 
The Bastille is always impressive and we then went along rue Saint Antoine to the Place des  Vosges and the Hotel de Sully. The next stop was the Hotel de Ville via the rue de Rivoli. We watched the skating including a limbo competition for small kids. The Pompidou Centre is vast and we then walked along to see the Louvre and the Pyramides.  The Tuileries Gardens were our last call before taking the Metro back to the 17th.

The boat rental was not very busy
After it was dark we caught the #30 bus to the Trocadero. The purpose was to see the Eiffel Tower which is illuminated with sparkling lights on the hour every hour for five minutes. The bus schedule meant that it would be tight and we were delayed by a traffic jam at the Étoile. We made it with a minute to spare. There were a lot of people there and a great sound rippled through the crowd when the sparkling started.  There was a sigh when the lights returned to normal five minutes later. We took the bus back to see the lights on the Champs Elysees and finally back and quickly to bed.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday 27 December - Meeting Veronica.

We went out to CDG in good time to meet Veronica off the overnight flight from Montreal. She has a cold and was exhausted. She slept for a short time before going to Bistrot D'Id for lunch - wild boar and scallops. It was overcast and there had been some rain but we went down to the Square des Batignolles and then did some shopping.
We came back from the airport in a refurbished train - much better than the one that had taken us out.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thursday 26 December - Flaneurs on rue Saint Honore

The weather was so good today that we just wanted to go out and walk around.  Lots of blue sky with a few clouds, light winds and temperatures around 10C. Courcelles is a grand avenue with a row of apartments looking on to Parc Monceau. There is a flower market at Ternes which is a pleasant shopping street.
This is a common way of displaying carpets for sale in street markets.  Rue des Ternes
We then changed direction and walked into town along the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore and eventually the Rue Saint Honore.  There are lots of high end shops selling expensive chocolate etc. and the area becomes more exclusive as we approached the Elysee Palace. There were a lot of police and military around here together with a number of news cameramen. Maybe the president was just receiving the bad news about the increase in unemployment. We learned the next day that today someone drove a car into the gates and was taken to hospital.

Eventually we came to La Madeleine and lots of tourists.
Back to the 17th where we had lunch at a creperie - galette de Coquilles St. Jacques (scallops) in an Emmenthal sauce with leeks.

A lovely day for wandering around.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wednesday 25 December - Christmas Day

Despite dire weather predictions Christmas Day started off dry and sunny.
Not too many people in the Square des Batignolles.
This is a small Wallace fountain that we walk past every time we come to the Square des Batignolles - first time I have noticed it

It clouded over later but stayed warm and we enjoyed our walk down to Le Grand Colbert. The Gare Saint Lazare was not too busy and even the military seemed relaxed. The line up to get into Burger King was not as long as it has been on other days. A man was playing the piano and singing to a pretty large crowd. He received an enthusiastic ovation and a couple of soldiers were recording him on their phones. As usual, the Grand Colbert meal was first rate. One of our servers was a young student who was spending three months here as part of her restaurant management course. She said this was the first time she had had to work Christmas Day. Mary started with her traditional pickled herring and then had scallops baked in the shell.  I started with foie gras in a rich fig sauce then kidneys. Both were good. For desert Mary had tarte tatin while I had apple sorbet with a slug of Calvados.

We walked via the Palais Royale and Place Vendome to an organ concert at La Madeleine. It was terrible. The organist seemed to think that loud was the only way to go and the tunes were lost in the cacophony. I was looking forward to the overture to the Mastersingers but the themes were lost in the overall muddy roar. Sitting in this dark and dingy church being assaulted by loud noises was not was not a pleasant and we left before the end.
The Christmas lights were just beginning to show up from the steps of La Madeleine

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tuesday 24 December - Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve this year was very similar to last year except that there was rain or drizzle most of the day and the winds were heavy at times.  I went out to shop for our meal quite early before there were very many people around and I was able to get what we wanted quite quickly.
I took time out to look at the Wallace fountain in the little square on Levis at Legendre.
The meal was as follows.

It only took 15 minutes for the bleeding to stop
Terrine of salmon and smoked salmon
Duck terrine en croute with pistacios and duck pate de foie
Cheese - clockwise from bottom left - Emmenthal, Camembert, Langres, Livarot
Caramel buche de noel from Divas et chocolats.  The lady assured me it was for just two people.
I took a number of pictures of the shops on the rue de Levis last year.  Rather than repeat them just look at last year's blog:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday 23 December - Flaneurs again

I went for a quick walk down to the Square des Batignolles this morning and saw one of the new trains that are being delivered for some of the services out of Saint-Lazare.
This is the best I could do from the rue des Dames bridge.
Mary and I then went to Blanche and walked down to Les Halles along the rue du Faubourg Montmartre, the rue de Montmartre and the rue de Montorgueil.
After the Pigalle, Saint-Georges puts on an elegant face.
This patisserie/chocolaterie always provides plenty of interest although the prices are outrageous.
We wonder whether this is a chocolate toucan
We made a detour through the Passages Jouffroy etc.
The Passages are always interesting with the blend of specialty shops and restaurants as well as a hotel and museum.
Montourgueil is a street market similar to Levis although a little more upscale.  It is surprising what one will see if one looks up above the ground floor - a golden snail.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday 22 December - Flaneurs

A lazy day today. It was drizzling when we first went out but the weather improved and there were patches of blue sky later on.  First order of business was to buy dinner of roast chicken, roast potatoes, fresh asparagus and fungus - oyster, chanterel and shitaki. Desert was a couple of pastries from Diva et Chocolats.
We go into Diva et Chocolats for the excellent baguettes but seem to come out with patisseries as well.
The mairie has set the free roundabouts for the kids at Batignolles. There weren't too many kids there so when the ride finished there was a mad scramble for a different place rather having to go back to the end of the line.
At the end of the ride the many parents would come on and move their kids from one vehicle to another
The parents job was to retrieve their kids and install them in a new vehicle.  With few kids around those that were there could have several rides in a row.
We walked around Batignolles and through the Square back to the apartment to sample some newly acquired cheeses, camembert, langres, emmental. All very good.

This evening marked the first time we have cooked here - fried fungus.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday 21 December - Chartres

In spite of the complete shut down of metro lines 2 and 6 yesterday afternoon for about four hours they were both working well this morning and we made a quick trip to Montparnasse.  Line six comes out of the tunnel just after Trocadero and crosses the Seine with good views of the Eiffel Tower. This morning there was an added bonus of a red sky.  The train to Chartres was a new TER double deck electric multiple unit which was smooth, quiet and comfortable. It took about an hour.

The stone on the front has been cleaned

The stained glass came to life when the sun shone through it
Chartres was cold and there was a biting wind at times. It is pretty difficult to miss the cathedral and we made straight for this landmark. The front has been cleaned and it makes a fine sight.  The interior is pretty dark except the west part which has been cleaned. The cathedral boasts the largest collection of medieval stained glass - as does York. The sun shone through at times and the windows came to life. Some of the blue glass cannot be reproduced today because the formula has been lost. However, the downside is that very little light gets in making the interior very dark. The church is not doing a good job of cleaning and there were cobwebs over some of the stonework.  A vacuum cleaner with a soft brush would make a lot of sense. Maybe there should be an admission charge which would produce revenue to allow the diocese to keep up with the necessary maintenance.

There was an extremely well frequented market.  There were serious line ups for everything.  At the charcuterie there was a long queue in spite of six people working behind the counter.  One couple were selling whole rotisserie chickens. They had three banks of chickens on the go in different states of readiness.   There must have been at least 150 birds on the grill.  Following an unsuccessful attempt to obtain cell phone use through Bouygues we cut our losses and had lunch at a good bistrot. Mary started with a fish soup while I had the foie gras. We continued with cod and magret de canard, all very good. We had not planned to have desert but the cafe gourmand included macarons for which Chartres prides itself. I had apple pie flamed with Calvados. 
Cafe gourmand Chartres style
We were close to the market which was closing down for the day. We watched a fat marmelade tabby cat walk down the street and into the market presumably to help clear up bits of meat and fish. It was walking purposefully and had obviously done this before.
The painting on this building had been done earlier this year
The river Eure flows in a valley to the east of the town and we followed it using two of the three historic stone bridges.  This area has many narrow winding streets.

It was getting colder and we made our way back to the station walking around the outside of the cathedral and used the free wifi to download today's Ottawa Citizen. 
The ride back was again in one of the new comfortable trains. SNCF staff had thoughtfully locked all the toilets on the train. Saves having to clean them.
Click here to see all pictures taken at Chartres: