Paris: Day 5, meal 5; plus sightseeing

April 15, 2023 • 11:30 am

As I said, I didn’t sleep a wink last night, and though I was a total wreck in the morning, some Parisian air, a Métro ride, and a hefty lunch bucked me up.  So much so, in fact, that we did some sightseeing afterwards.

First, my favorite sign on the Métro, and I am going to use my own translation, which is mine, and one I like:

ATTENTION!  Do not put your hands in the doors, by doing so you risk getting them pinched VERY HARD.

Silly rabbit. . .

On to the restaurant; Winnie knew I liked duck and had searched out a duck restaurant, La Grange Aux Canards, which turned out to be near my old stomping grounds in the Sixth. It was in fact a Southwestern French restaurant, but every item save one on the main menu and few entées, cheeses, and desserts, was made with duck (there was one steak; see below). The menu is here.

I had stopped eating duck because I love them and take care of the mallards of Botany Pond (don’t mention my hypocrisy; I already know it), but I slipped up this one time because French duck breast, cooked rare, is to die for. I will go to hell, I know.

Of course the restaurant was full of duck-related items. This was under the main counter:

And three ducks on the wall. Winnie’s translation:

We, the southwest of France…
…if we can…
…we avoid it!

Clearly you don’t want to be a duck in southwest France! I’m not sure who the artist was.

Winnie had 12 ESCARGOTS, Beurre d’échalote au vin blanc, persillade et Bayonne. (Caps are from the manu.) That is snails with all the trimmings.

I had the COU DE CANARD FARCI AU PORC ET CANARD (duck neck stuffed with pork and duck, served with small potatoes and dressed lettuce. It was a very good starter:

For mains, Winnie had LES AIGUILLETTES DE CANARD, Sauce au miel et sésame torréfié, Poêlée de légumes ou pommes gersoises. That is, thick filets of duck with all the trimmings:

My dish, a French classic whose consumption will damn me: LE MAGRET DE CANARD ENTIER DU SUD-OUEST, Sauce au miel et sésame torréfié, pommes gersoises. It was superb, cooked pretty rare, which is the right way to do it. Duck cooked this way takes on a somewhat beefy flavor. Besides honey, the sauce had a bit of orange in it, but didn’t overwhelm the heavenly flavor of the magret:

See how rare it is?

On the menu: they won’t serve you their one beef dish unless it’s cooked either “bleu” or “saignant” (both are “vary rare”). The French know how to cook and eat beef, and they won’t let tourists get away with “medium rare” or even worse degrees of cooking. There’s an English translation:

After dinner they gave us complementary shots of Armagnac with a booze-steeped prune. It was excellent: just the right finish:

The restaurant’s card:

Today was market day across the street at the Maubert-Mutualité Metró station.  We both love markets and I took photos while Winnie bought more food for her later dinner (as I said, she can eat!), including fresh shrimp, strawberries, and a roasted guinea fowl.

Here’s a “typical” Frenchman, toting an accordion on his back. I saw two of these guys within an hour. But where were the mimes? Send in the mimes!

Stuff on sale at the market. First a nearby bakery sells the croissants that won the “best butter croissant in Paris” prize a few years ago. The line is out the door and they’re only a bit more than one Euro. I had one the last time I was here; they’re served warm from the oven and oozing with butter.

Some green stuff (cabbage?):

Some more green stuff (fennel?)

A stall that sold many kinds of honey. Even the very dark stuff is honey:

These tiny melons (from Morocco, not France), not much bigger than a softball, are fantastic when ripe, and have an indescribable perfume.  They were 35 or 45 euros each, though!

Tiny squid:

A flounder. Note how the eye, which used to be on the other side when the fish was young, has migrated over the top the head so it can lie flat on the seabed and still see. This is one of the great feats of developmental evolution. Baby flouders start off swimming upright and look like normal fish, but then, when they start resting on the bottom, the whole morphology changes and the eye migrates to the “up” side of the body.

Beautiful oysters:

And scallops:

Veins of mold in a Roquefort cheese:

I skipped dessert at the duck place because Winnie reminded me that just a block away was the fancy pastry shop Aux Merveilleux de Fred, and last time I was here I was blown away by their individual chocolate merveilleux. So I got one, a fistful of napkins (it’s messy eating it on the street), and scarfed it while walking.  In the store:

Display and consumption (photos by Winnie):

The guts: chocolate, real cream filling, meringue, and cake at the bottom:

Two views of the church Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, finished in 1626. Inside rest the remains of Blaise Pascal and Jean Racine. The remains of the revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat, murdered in his bath, are in the church cemetery.

The famous Panthéon is right nearby. It was designed to be, but when it was finished in 1790 they decided to make it into a memorial for famous Frenchmen (and now some French women). This page tells you who’s in there; they include Louie Braille, Pierre and Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, and Voltaire.

The library of the Sorbonne, right next to the Panthéon; only students and professors are allowed in. Since it’s so lovely and cozy inside, there’s always a line awaiting entry:

A panorama of the historic and scenic area:

Close by was our goal, the Musée Curie, the place where Marie Curie and her husband Pierre (formally, Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie) discovered radium and polonium, for which they won the Nobel Prize. Marie won it another time, too, and so did her daughter and son-in-law Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie. That makes five Nobels in two generations of one family: a record!

The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday afternoons, is free, and is well worth seeing. It was renovated in 2012 by Marie’s and Pierre’s youngest daughter Ève.and has a lot of the original material used by the Curies and a great display of the early days of radioactivity studies.

A photo of Marie, working in her lab, on the outside gate:

The entrance to the building. This is where the Atomic Age really began:

And a commemorative plaque. I’m sure you can puzzle out the French:

Marie’s office, with many original furnishings. The door to the left leads to her chemistry lab where radium was isolated.

The lab, with much of the apparatus apparently original:

Some of the instruments constructed to isolate and test radioactive material. A lot of the apparatus was specially designed by the Curies and made by master craftsmen. Don’t ask me what these things are.

For a while radium was a fad, considered good to drink and good for cosmetics. Only tiny amounts were used in these products, though, so nobody was hurt. It was a different story, however, with the American women—the “Radium Girls”—who had to paint glow-in-the-dark watch hands with radioactive paint, licking the brushes between applications. You can imagine the results. I recommend the fascinating but disturbing account of this: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women.

Marie Curie’s calling card:

Despite my lack of sleep, it was another great day in Paris: food, science, and history. You can’t beat that with a stick!


29 thoughts on “Paris: Day 5, meal 5; plus sightseeing

  1. Thanks for the great meal account and photos. I’ve only been to Paris twice, but this whets my appetite to return someday!

  2. Wonderful

    Curie’s chair back is hot – Veritasium pointed a Geiger counter at it and it went off. There’s a YouTube video.

    1. … ok, they didn’t actually get counts from the chair in the video but the doorknob is in it at 10X background.

      1. According to Wikipedia, it is a symbolic interment:

        “Baker’s cenotaph contains soil from her birthplace in Missouri, from France, and from her final resting place in Monaco Cemetery”.

  3. Yes, Savoy cabbage (the best kind) and fennel are the veggies shown. At 1 Euro per croissant you should have them wrap up a few dozen in vacuum wrap and bring them back to the US, where they cost around $3 each. When we lived in Paris with our twins in 1964-65, there was a bakery (not patisserie) two doors away from our building. It made two different kinds of croissant: one with butter and one with some vegetable oil (not sure what Parisian would eat that). Every morning one of the bakery’s assistants delivered eight croissants aux beurre to our door (two for each of us). That’s living! So now, when are you doing to eat seafood? Fruits de mer? Le plateau de mer. Bulots! Oysters! Clams!Mussels! With a good baguette and wine or hard cider (pear is the best). I am waiting! (Note: our kids, nearing 5 years at the time, attended the nearby Ecole Active Bilingue (17th arrondissement)…bilingual with both French and British teachers…the same school that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended after his mother Judith divorced her husband Donald, moved to Paris and married Holocaust survivor Samuel Pisar, an interesting story; we were friends with Judith earlier on since she was a well-off patron of music and dance.

  4. Duck drawing by French “dessinateur” Eddie Pons, je pense. He lives in Nimes, therefore the Nimes amphitheatre he put here next to his signature.

  5. Thank you for sharing your culinary and related travel adventures. Thanks even more for your defence of science education, critical thinking, and free speech. PS. I also love duck (both raising and eating) :0)

  6. About the melons Etoile du Sud, you write: “They were 35 or 45 euros each, though!”
    I think this is impossible, even in France. Such a good melon could possibly cost something around 4 euros piece, maybe a bit more. But certainly not 40 euros each!

  7. Who the heck is Irène Curie? And I noticed no Oxford comma used.
    The magret de canard looks divine😋

    1. Who the heck is Irène Curie?

      Marie Curie’s oldest daughter.

      And I noticed no Oxford comma used

      If you put Oxford commas in, strictly according to convention, and nothing else you would get

      Marie won it another time, too, and so did her daughter, and son-in-law Irène, and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.

      That suggests she had a son in law called Irène.

  8. … I didn’t sleep a wink last night …

    Hey, Mister Deejay, we have a song we can dedicate to Jerry and the rest of us insomniacs out there?

    Sure, this 1960 classic recorded by Mr. Bobby Lewis:

  9. I see the subway notice addresses us as “tu.” Is that informality customary, or is it talking down to us silly rabbits?

  10. It was renovated in 2012 by Marie’s and Pierre’s youngest daughter Ève

    Wikipedia says she died in 2007. The museum’s page says it was renovated with a donation from Ève strongly implying she left it in her will.

  11. I very much doubt that one melon charentais (french cantaloupe) would retail for 35 to 45 euros anywhere in France. In Japan possibly. That must be the price of a set. Wholesale price today at Rungis is 2.90 each.

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