I can’t promise to post a daily account of my Parisian adventures, as I’m too busy eating and walking around this most beautiful of cities. The weather is perfect here: about 29°C (84° F)—in fact it’s a bit hot—but still sunny and cloudless. Just right for walking around until it’s time for a rest and a cooling citron pressé in a café.
Yesterday after I arrived I decided to stay up all day and crash at night, which is the best way to cure my jet lag. I slept a bit on the plane, but it was uncomfortable even in Premium Economy seats (I’ve accumulated enough miles for free but tiny upgrades), and so I watched three movies: “Lady Bird” (excellent; reminded me a bit of “Juno”), “Darkest Hour” (pretty good, also shows how bibulous Churchill really was), and “Letters from Iwo Jima” (also quite good, Clint Eastwood can be an excellent director).
After arriving, I met up almost immediately with two friends to have lunch in one of my favorite restaurants: Chez Denise in the First, a great bistro that has lost none of its character since I first came here in 1989. If you’re in Paris, this is a must-go bistro. I’ve sent many people here over the years, and none have been disappointed.
I’m going again soon, so I didn’t do much photography yesterday, but here is the menu outside (not everything on offer is listed) and photos of the two desserts we shared: millefeuille (layered custard pastry) and the fantastic baba au rhum, a luscious spongecake soaked with rum (they put the bottle on the table so you can soak it with more rum. I had the salade frisée for starters and the onglet de boeur avec frites (hanger steak) for a main course, along with a liter bottle of Brouilly, which we shared. As always, the steak was fantastic, and I’ll have it again very soon!
The menu (in Euros). As I said, I had the frisée and the onglet de boeuf grillé, truly one of the great pieces of meat in Paris. Most of the entrées (appetizers in France) aren’t listed on this outside chalkboard menu, but are posted (also on chalkboard) inside the restaurant. There is no written menu, and the desserts are recited by the waiter.
Bon appetit! Here are the desserts with the lagniappish bottle of rum. Note that the baba au rhum, graced with two dollops of whipped cream, is already soaked in rum (this is pre-our-addition). And the millefeuille is one of the best I’ve had in Paris, with crispy layers of pastry and scrumptious eggy custard between them.
After lunch, I was in a food coma, but my foodie friends insisted on checking out Bachir, a famous Lebanese ice cream place in Les Halles. There was a big line at the place, and they had all kinds of flavors, including rose petal.
I was able only to manage one small bite of a friend’s cone, which (their speciality) they roll thoroughly in crushed pistachio nuts and top with whipped cream. Here are some locals enjoying their cones. Everyone loves good ice cream!
Outside the Pompidou Center (the human gerbil cage), an old man with two carts was feeding the pigeons. It was clear that this was one of the important activities of his life, and it made me sad when people ran through the pigeons to disturb them. When that happened the old man yelled at the miscreants, but they paid no heed. Someday I will be that old man, but feeding a single duck instead of a flock of pigeons:
And the Hôtel de Ville, the first building I ever saw in Paris, and the administrative headquarters of the city of Paris. When I first came here in 1989 on a Guggenheim Fellowship, I was immediately driven to the labs and villa of the evolution group at Gif sur Yvette, out in the suburbs where I stayed for a couple of weeks. But that first weekend I took the RER line B into Paris and emerged from the Metro at the Hôtel de Ville. I instantly fell in love with the city, a feeling that has grown over the years; but of course this proved to be only one of many splendid buildings in Paris. I photographed it for the memories.
Tomorrow the food photos begin in earnest, with a new visit to L’Ami Jean, a restaurant I thought I’d discovered but was then publicized by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker. Has it been ruined by the publicity? Stay tuned.
Other monkeys besides humans also enjoy ice cream (h/t: Michael):
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