Paris: Day 7

May 15, 2018 • 10:45 am

Two more days after today: two more activities and two more meals. Yesterday’s “activity” was shopping, as I wanted to see some of the high-end department stores near the Opéra. Though I’ve been to Paris several times, and lived here for over eight months all told, I never went to these places. Plus my friend had some shopping to do. So we hiked it up to the Opéra, or rather the Opéra Garnier, one of the loveliest buildings in Paris—an elaborate structure built between 1861 and1875.

The interior is as gilded and gaudy as the exterior, and of course it’s the site of the book and musical Phantom of the Opera.  Now that there’s a new Opera in the Bastille, two blocks from where I’m staying, this building is used mostly for ballet:

Nearby is one of the most famous department stores in the world, the flagship store of the Galeries Lafayette:

The Art Nouveau structure with its fantastic interior, consisting of open floors topped with a huge multicolored glass dome, was built between 1905 and 1912.

The famous names in fashion—Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, and so on—all have sub-departments where you can buy off-the-rack clothing, shoes, perfumes, and so on. You even have to wait in line to get into a few of these sub-stores, and some Asian tours go as one big group with a leader who holds a colored flag to keep the gang together:

A tour group waits in a long line just to see the Louis Vuitton merchandise:

But my favorite designer here was the eccentric Karl Lagerfeld, who’s the creative director of Chanel and Fendi, and also has his own fashion line. His own line is appealing because it features his beloved Persian cat, Choupette, undoubtedly the world’s richest feline. Choupette has made millions of Euros doing advertising (no cat food ads, which Lagerfeld considers “unsophisticated”), has two of her own personal maids, and gets her own hotel room when Lagerfeld is traveling. (She also has her own Instagram and Facebook pages.) Here is the duo:

So Choupette is on many of Lagerfeld’s own products:

. . . even eye shadow:

Many wonders lie within the store, including huge Steiff giraffes in the children’s department:

And dominatrix-style stilettos, which in this case cost 1250 Euros (nearly $1500 US):

But I was allowed to go along on a lingerie-shopping excursion. There is a whole FLOOR of the stuff, and it’s pretty much what you’d imagine French lingerie to be like: lacy and expensive.

A small part of the Intimate Apparel Floor:

Dominatrix wear, as in the shoes above, seems to be an “in” thing. Note the whip:

Yes, that’s a 255-Euro bra ($302).

And this, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, is approximately $525 worth of high-end French lingerie from the house of Eres. But if you get it made to order and fitted, it costs way more!

From the roof of the store one gets a fantastic view of Paris, even more atmospheric yesterday as it was raining:

Across the street the Galeries has its food and cookware store, with a superb collection of wines, including Bordeaux that goes back to the 1920s. A few foodstuffs:


Various kinds of salt:


Lunch was reserved at a local place, Le Bon Georges, which had good ratings as a non-touristy bistro with superb food. Well, it was non-touristy, as we were the only foreigners in the place, but the food was simply overrated. This proves a theory which is mine: not all places where foreigners eat in Paris are bad, and there are highly rated places where the French eat that are not good.

Le Bon Georges looks like a bistro but doesn’t act like a bistro: the wines are overpriced, the portions niggardly and, most important, the food wasn’t that tasty. The place is renowned for its aged beef, but I’ve had better beef at Chez Denise, and in larger portions. And as for aging, the stuff doesn’t hold a candle to Chicago’s 45-day-old dry-aged beef, though Bon Georges’ boeuf was said to be aged eight weeks.

The interior:

The menu:

The fish tartare was pronounced too fishy and not tasty. And when you see flowers and decorations in your bistro food, beware! They are prioritizing looks over taste:

My entrée, terrine de canard with figs, was good, but the slices were thin. The decorative radish slices were superfluous:

A main course, partly cooked skipjack tuna, which was pronounced “pretty good but not outstanding”. Note the flowers. The side dish of peas and asparagus was okay, but they used the tough butt ends of the white asparagus, which is not the best part:

My steak of aged beef, cooked rare. It was tender but had very little flavor, and was quite small. The house frites, said to be great in the review above, were not memorable:

After this disappointment, I proposed that we bail on dessert and find a really slap-up place to have a great sweet course. It turned out that we were not far from Angelina, a venerable and lovely place founded in 1903; as Wikipedia notes:

Angelina is a famous tea house located at 226 Rue de Rivoli in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.

Angelina is known primarily for its almost pudding-like hot chocolate (chocolat l’africain) and for its Mont Blanc dessert. The name is also marketed internationally for sweets.

The interior design was by French architect Édouard-Jean Niermans in the Belle Époque style.

Here it is; there was a line outside, and the place was full of tourists. But there I had one of the best dessert courses of my life:

The lovely interior:

For about three Euros more than dessert at Le Bon (?) Georges, we had a huge jug of that fantastic hot chocolate (with a ramekin of whipped cream) and a pastry. Below is the famous Mont Blanc and a “Mademoiselle“: a “chou pastry biscuit, raspberry cream, light vanilla cream, and a fresh raspberry.”

In all the months I lived in Paris I never had a Mont Blanc pastry, and now I regret it. It’s basically a mound of thick whipped cream heaped into a meringue shell, and densely topped with spaghetti-like icing made of sweetened chestnut paste. It was fantastic.

Here it is dissected:

This redeemed a mediocre meal (at least compared to the best we’ve had), and, with blood sugar spiking, it was time to head back for a postprandial nap.

58 thoughts on “Paris: Day 7

  1. If I lived there, I’d fall into a doomed cycle of feeling bad about spending money on underwear then feeling bad about my body and then eating because I felt bad which would make my body fatter and make me outgrow the underwear so the whole cycle would start again.

    1. I’d be similar. I’d spend too much at Galeries Lafayette, then feel bad about spending money I couldn’t afford on things I don’t need. And J’adore French pastries, so I’d eat too many of them, get even more depressed every time I realized I was getting fatter, then spend more money I couldn’t afford to try and make myself feel better. Rinse and repeat.

  2. The house roof row – another beautiful photo.

    I’ve been meaning to say – one glaring omission I’ve noticed from this trip : mall sprawls, signs stacked one on top up to the atmosphere, multilane traffic – none.

    Yes there’s busy streets, people congested – but nothing like the US battle to get your groceries, clothing, food.

    …. lastly : live music?

    1. This is doubtless because the city of Paris was built before the motorcar reigned supreme, and also I think because the urban authorities are conscious of the appearance of their city. I suspect there are many regulations about how big you can make signs and how much you can alter existing buildings.

      (And I’ve noticed the same in the city centres of London and Moscow and many other European cities).

      There are supermarket sprawls but they tend to be in the outer suburbs.


  3. Sorry the main meal didn’t live up to expectations. I concur with your observation. It is possible to find a mediocre meal anywhere in the world and going where the tourists are not is not a guaranteed avoidance algorithm.

    1. There’s often a very good reason a restaurant is popular with tourists: the food is excellent!

      1. If the restaurant is the tourist destination maybe but even then their monetary success often makes them complacent and quality slips. The places I was really thinking about are those that are merely near places where tourists congregate, such as museums, shopping areas, etc. They survive because of the easy access by the crowds but they are typically of low quality because they don’t have to compete much for customers and most of those customers are not very discerning.

    1. LOL–those aren’t Lagerfeld shoes; read the label. They’re Balenciaga. And I didn’t see any men’s shoes with spikes.

      For reasons that elude me, the stylishness of French women does not extend below their ankles. Most of the fancy women’s shoes here are ugly, at least to my eye. This has been true since I first came here in 1989, and I have no idea why. Men’s shoes, however, are fine, and often elegant.

      1. My theory. Parisians are naturally stylish, without effort by dint of growing up surrounded by such creative beauty. They have already captured the heart before anyone gets to looking at their feet. And there’s more focus on personality because of the focus on culture.

        The US is much more focused on surface beauty. (That’s how you end up with a third of the population not being able to recognize The Problem with the President.)

        In NZ, where we’re surrounded by natural beauty, we can pick the US tourists because they usually wear much brighter colours than NZers. Also, their clothes fit much more firmly, whatever their weight.

        1. As someone with feet problems, I refuse to succumb to the idea of pretty shoes anymore. I guess this is how it begins, with me eventually wearing really hideous old lady shoes. I’m just happy to have my orthotics fit into my sandals that have a removable footbed, which means I can wear okay looking shoes with skirts and such.

          1. When I was a teenager, my mother managed a shoe shop and knew all about which were the good ones etc. She’s kept her knowledge up. There was a manufacturer then that made Old Lady looking shoes that were nevertheless very comfortable. They’ve zazzed up their name and their range and now have really nice shoes, sandals etc that have full arch support etc. They’re expensive (though nowhere near the dominatrix ones!), but worth it. I’ll email you their details.

            1. Yes email me the details! I am always in the look out for she’s that take my orthotics but don’t look like army boots or man shoes.

        2. “My theory. Parisians are naturally stylish, without effort by dint of growing up surrounded by such creative beauty.”

          I absolutely agree with that observation. It was something that struck me too. Even passers-by in the street looked elegant (or at least the female ones, I can’t answer for the males because I never notice them :).

          And as for the cause, I’d give some credence to your theory. The reputation for style probably does give people some motivation to live up to it, and the elegant surroundings help to encourage it.


      2. Sorry, guess I got lost in the Galeries Lafayette’s maze of sub-departments. Haute couture is beyond Ken’s ken.

      1. One would think that chit chatting with strangers in an elevator about your gitch is a bit gauche anyway.

            1. I guess the lesson is not so much not to make the joke in the elevator but not to make a joke in a the elevator that contains a gender studies person.

      1. Mmmmm pastry for breakfast is really the only breakfast I want to bother with, other than pancakes which are dessert anyway.

        1. These days, my body rebels if I indulge it to my mind’s content. :-/ It wouldn’t let me have more!

  4. I think the whip is more of a riding crop, as might be used in pony play, as well as for standard spanking. Or so I’ve heard.

    1. I used to ride, and still have my crop even though it hasn’t been used (for anything!) for 35 years. One time when I was shifting house it fell out of a wardrobe onto the head of one of the moving guys. He was apparently really religious and as a result he put the most lurid interpretation on why it was there. He gave me this look of complete disgust, and it took me several seconds to work out why. He wouldn’t even pick it up!

      Now I keep it buried in a drawer.

        1. If I’d realized more quickly what his problem was I might have thought of a good response like that. My innocence was my undoing! 😀

          1. I know, I never realize people are thinking salacious things either. At least not about me. Once when I was in my 20s I had a boss tell me “you’re in a position to know things”. I had no idea what he meant. When I pressed him in it, he simply repeated it louder. It took years, but I realized he thought I was sleeping with some manager and therefore “knew things”. I wasn’t. I was in a committed relationship but as a young woman, i was often thought I’d that way.

    2. No one has commented on the hands of the dummy holding the crop. The hands are on the wrong wrists! Ouch.

      1. That was the first thing that struck me about that photo! What a mistake-ah to make-ah.

  5. Holy shit, every mall in America is disgusting by comparison. The one near me looks from the inside like the world’s biggest warehouse converted into a mall.

    Those shoes, though. What the hell?

  6. Yes to the glass dome.

    Stilettos et ux: what is the matter with those people?

    And that dissected Mont Blanc could be taken to resemble Boss Tweet.

  7. Excepting the desserts, I haven’t seen much to make me jealous, gastronomically speaking. Your trips to India, on the other hand…

    Still, you live a life I can but dream about and even if the food isn’t as bad as you’ve experienced, it’s still better than anything I’ll eat all year.

  8. That whippy thingy Indiana Jones slings around is a whip. That there stick-like thingy is a crop.

    Was I the only one who wondered what Jerry had done to his hair when glancing at the photo of Karl?

    …and that there cat-like (Choupette) thingy isn’t a cat. It’s a Princess.

  9. $525 for French lingerie? Only if it’s something La Bardot wore in … And God Created Woman. 🙂

  10. I don’t know. I don’t see a single Spencer’s Gifts in that joint. And where’s the Orange Julius? Auntie Anne’s? And I bet those shoes are cheaper at a Foot Locker.

      1. Well, I guess we have to humor the French. After all, they do make that bright yellow mustard for us.

  11. I have visited to Galeries Lafayette and, cynical as I am about all things commercial, I admit I was overawed and amazed by the splendour of the place. A cathedral – no, a temple – to shopping.

    I regret to say this is the one place in Paris I will never dare show to my wife. Seriously, I just don’t dare. It’s not that the prices are outrageous (at least from the limited sample I saw**), just that her consumer resistance would melt within seconds.

    (**I did buy a bottle of first-quality French perfume to take home to my ever-loving wife and it was no more expensive in Galeries Lafayette than it was in any other shop in Paris.)


    1. I hasten to add, my comments on price only relate to top-line stuff (such as I rarely buy). If you’re looking for modestly priced consumer goods you don’t go to Galeries Lafayette.


  12. J”adore Mont Blanc! At least those I got in Italy when we lived there in the mid fifties. Living in Paris in the mid sixties my husband surprised me with a birthday dessert: Mont Blanc. I was in ecstasy…until I tasted it: it contained a liqueur! I detest alcohol in desserts. What a bummer. But so were the prices Jerry posted, and the stem end of the white asparagus in a side dish was inexcusable. You do have to go to Lyons for the best French food, or just out in the countryside. I was delighted to see Jerry pigging out on great cheeses….though I dont share a liking for goat cheeses. I order French raw milk cheeses directly from FRance: Shipping costs high but if you order a bunch of cheeses it doesnt come out any more than imported pasteurized French cheese. But they wont ship raw milk Camembert, my favorite of all…but their Brie tastes somewhat similar and their Pont L
    Eveque, properly aged, is superb.What the recent poisoning by raw milk Reblochon is about I dont know but it was an industrial made cheese with many labels and wide distribution, not a single farmer or artisan
    production. The bigger the scale, the bigger the risk of tainted cheese.


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