Yesterday, which was again gloriously sunny, nevertheless began with a disappointment, We showed up at what was voted Paris’s best bistro of the year with reservations for four:
It also had a great-looking menu:
I was much looking forward to the menu, even thinking about the assortment of aged cheeses, but they had CANCELLED our reservation: apparently there was a glitch because reservations were made through another site. We were desolated.
Fortunately, there was another restaurant of high repute within walking distance across the Seine. And we could get a table there! So we went instead to Amarante (see here and here for glowing reviews).
I had a small bottle of dry cider since four of us would be splitting one bottle of wine, and I needed something to get the alcohol titer going. Here was the wine: a very good red from southern France:
The ladies had veal tongue, while I had påté. The påté was okay, but nothing special.
The dishes. First, pintade, or guinea hen:
Mine: fatty pork belly with polenta. It was excellent, with a crackly outside as it had been cooked twice. But there was not enough!
Winnie and one of our friends had tripe with mashed potatoes and butter on top. I tried the potatoes, which were creamy and about half butter, but I cannot stomach tripe,
For dessert, chocolate mousse (not shown because I screwed up the photo), pain perdu (“French french toast”) with ice cream, and my “dessert”: a piece of St. Nectaire cheese, which was very good but not large enough.
Insufficient quantity! For post-meal cheese, I like to have at least three on the plate, but they offered only one,
But the restaurant did have a nice tidy kitchen:
Altogether, I’d judge the meal okay+, as the quality was okay but the quantity niggardly. When I leave a restaurant still hungry, as I did, the meal cannot not be considered excellent, for a foodie not only wants good food, but LOTS OF IT, and in Paris I eat only one meal per day. I stopped at a patisserie afterwards for a big piece of plum cake, and then I was satisfied.
Here are other miscellaneous photos from the morning and right after lunch. We stopped by the Tour d’Argent, perhaps the most famous restaurant in Paris (but not the best). It’s famous for its view of Notre Dame and the Seine. We didn’t go in, but they have a fancy food store downstairs and, browsing, we saw the most expensive tipple: a 90-year-old bottle of Calvados (apple brandy) for 1750 euros ($1,870 US)
From Paris Secret (translated):
But what pretty secrets does Rue Crémieux hide? Bordering this psychedelic street: 35 small terraced houses built on 2 floors at most were once built according to a model of a workers’ town very fashionable in the 19th century. At the time, the apartments were occupied by wealthy workers. In the 1900s, rue Crémieux witnessed an event that marked the capital: the flooding of the Seine in 1910. While at number 8 rue Crémieux, the river level reached 1.75m, a commemorative earthenware plaque has since been placed in the same place. If today, rue Crémieux is one of the most popular spots in the capital, this has the gift of exasperating its inhabitants.
A photo from the link above:
We stopped in a grocery store to see if they had petit suisse , a mixture of half-and-half crème fråiche and heavy cream. It comes in small yogurt-sized containers and can be served as a snack or, sweetened with jam or sugar, as dessert. Meanwhile, I was photographing the cat food, as French cat food is always presented as a gourmet item, as you can see. They have påté, delices du jour (“delights of the day”) , filets , and even “soup”! My theory, which is mine, is that the French like their beloved cats to dine as well as they do, and thus name the cat food as if it were human food.
I was going to go to the Félins (cats) exhibit at the nearby Museum of Natural History , but we spent so much time walking its beautiful grounds, and looking at the latest outdoor instillation, that I decided to go another day. Two photos of the exhibit from the website:
The French Museum of Natural History, or Muséum National d’histoire Naturelle, is world famous, and I used to visit it and the gorgeous grounds when I was doing part of a sabbatical at the University at Jussieu. From the Wikipedia site (bolding is mine):
The museum was formally established on June 10, 1793, by the French Convention, the government during the French Revolution, at the same time that it established the Louvre Museum. But its origins went back much further, to the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants, which was created by King Louis XIII in 1635, and was directed and run by the royal physicians. A royal proclamation of the boy-king Louis XV on March 31, 1718, removed the purely medical function. growing and studying plants useful for health, the royal garden offered public lectures on botany, chemistry, and comparative anatomy. In 1729, the castle in the garden was enlarged with an upper floor, and transformed into the cabinet of natural history, designed for the royal collections of zoology and mineralogy. A series of greenhouses were constructed on the west side of the garden, to study the plants and animals collected by French explorers for their medical and commercial uses.
From 1739 until 1788, the garden was under the direction of Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon , one of the leading naturalists of the Enlightenment. Though he did not go on scientific expeditions himself, he wrote a monumental and influential work, “Natural History”, in thirty-six volumes, published between 1749 and 1788. In his books, he challenged the traditional religious ideas that nature had not changed since the creation; he suggested that the earth was seventy-five thousand years old, divided into seven periods, with man arriving in the most recent. He also helped fund much research, through the iron foundry which he owned and directed. His statue is prominently placed in front of the Gallery of Evolution.
Following the French Revolution the museum was reorganized, with twelve professorships of equal rank. Some of its early professors included eminent comparative anatomist Georges Cuvier and the pioneers of the theory of evolution, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire . The museum’s aims were to instruct the public, put together collections and conduct scientific research. The naturalist Louis Jean Marie Daubenton wrote extensively about biology for the pioneer French Encyclopédie, and gave his name to several newly discovered species. The museum sends its trained botanists on scientific expeditions around the world. Major figures in the museum included Déodat de Dolomieu , who gave his name to the mineral dolomite and to a volcano on Reunion island, and the botanist Rene Desfontaines , who spent two years collecting plants for study Tunisia and Algeria, and whose book “Flora Atlantica ” (1798–1799, 2 vols), added three hundred genera new to science.
That was a panoply of the early great biologists! Here’s Buffon’s statue in the garden, holding a bird. He appears to be sitting on a lion, too:
A photo from Wikipedia, labeled “A perspective view of the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution (called in English the ‘Gallery of Evolution’) and the Jardin des Plantes (‘Garden of the Plants’), in Paris.”
As you can see by the name, the exhibits are big on evolution, as the French don’t have the American problem of creationism.
They were setting up a huge outdoor exhibit of plant and animal statues in the gardens, which will begin soon and run through Christmas. They will be illuminated at night, which will be cool. Here are some of the statues; some, like the peacock even have hydraulics so they can move
Can you identify the plants and animals?
This spider is very large: about five feet long. It’ll be a sight when it’s lit up at night!
This is what the creatures will look like at night (not my photo, and no you can’t see the Eiffel Tower from the garden):
This is a real plant; can you identify it?
Finally, on the way home, I saw one of my favorite signs in Paris on the Métro. It has now been translated into four languages. But English translations of French lose something (I always get a French menu in a restaurant). I would translate the French here as, “Do not put your hands into the doors; you risk by so doing getting pinched VERY HARD,” (Actually, I’d used “pinced,” but I’m not sure it’s an English word.) Isn’t that better than the English translation they give?
It turns out, after my ignorance of decades, that this rabbit has a name: it’s Serge, also known as Lapin du métro parisien, the Rabbit of the Paris Metro.
The rabbit design has changed over time, with the first version of it drawn in 1977 by Anne Le Lagadec. The rabbit has had an official Twitter account since 2014.
An early version of Serge, with a rounder face and smaller ears:
Serge’s Twitter account is here , and here’s a tweet from October 7, an important day for several reasons.
The video shows him winking:
[Serge Day] Bonne fête à tous les Serge ! Cette journée spéciale est l’occasion de voir si vous me connaissez vraiment 😉🐰
Qui sera mon plus grand fan ? #RATP #Sergelelapin ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/CW2AOKKFFn
— SergeleLapinRATP (@SergeLapinRATP) October 7, 2023
Sadly, Serge, in a “feminist makeover”, is now (unofficially) portrayed as a GROPER :
Parisian artist Zoia, 20, has created her own set of stickers warning against groping on the Metro.
In the stickers, Serge is pictured between two lady rabbits, one of whom brandishes a baseball bat while warning him: ” Be careful! Don’t put your hands on my body, you risk getting smashed very hard! ” (Warning! Don’ t put your hands on my body or you risk a very hard wallop!”
Sexual harassment on the Paris Metro is an ongoing problem with a survey in 2017 showing that almost half of women had suffered unwanted attention, groping of threats while traveling on the Metro.
Finally, a Métro safety video, similar to airline safety videos. Serge makes an appearance at 1:19, but where are his ears?
h/t: Winnie for help with links and research.