LINKS TO OUR TRAVELOGUES
PARIS, FRANCE Spring 1999
The Air France flight from Oporto to Paris was perfect. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2 and within minutes were on the RER train to Paris. At the Chatelet Les Halles station, we changed to the Eastbound #1 metro line and exited two stops later at the St. Paul station in the 4th arrondissement. We crossed Rue St. Antoine and walked the few steps to the Grand Hotel Mahler.
We had originally planned a five night stay in Paris, but the unexpected call to the wedding in Portugal caused us to cut back to just two nights. On previous visits we had covered most of the highlights of the city with particular emphasis on the 5th, 6th and 7th arrondissements. We had touched briefly on Le Marais and were intrigued, but had no time to linger and explore.
After reading the Le Marais posts of Jack from Belgium, the intrigue turned to compulsion and we decided to devote our short visit solely to this district. As we navigated the streets, Jack's insightful narrative came to life.
The Mahler, a typical family-run establishment (3 generations), is a very good value three star accommodation, in a superb location. Our room was good sized with a queen size bed and bathroom, all spotlessly clean. The only negative was that the television was mounted so close to the bed and high on the ceiling that it was impossible to watch the news without getting severe neck strain.
We had a few hours before dinner to just wander and feel the pulse of Le Marais. The folks in the sidewalk cafes were chatting eagerly while throwing greetings to passers-by. The shopkeepers warmly greeted their regular customers and it didn't take long before we were happily saying "bonjour!" to every smiling face. There were walkers armed with baguettes plying Rue St. Antoine's specialty food shops in search of the evening meal. We passed cafes, bakeries, pastry shops and boutiques as we savored the first taste of this marvelous district.
Rue Des Rosiers and Rue Des Ecouffes provided a rich cultural experience for us, as it's the neighborhood of the Jewish community. Rue Des Rosier also stimulated an enormous appetite as we contemplated the baked goods so reminiscent of the delights we enjoyed as children in our grandmothers' kitchens.
Speaking of appetite, it was nearing 20:00 and we had a date for dinner with our Portuguese newlywed friends, Isabel and Paulo, who were honeymooning in Paris. Our guests were waiting for us at a restaurant recommended by Jack, Baracane at 38 Rue Des Tournelles. It's a small bistro, so we had called ahead (01-42-71-43-33) for reservations. It was a special delight to share this moment with them because, as with any wedding, we hadn't had an opportunity to spend quality time with them since they exchanged their vows the previous Saturday. Baracane, with its helpful and unrushed service, fine food and pleasant, casual environment provided the perfect venue for our evening together.
We had so much to talk about but the arrival of the appetizers quieted us down really quickly. All were beautifully presented; a lentil salad with slices of grilled rabbit, a fish tart with mustard cream sauce and green salad with blue cheese and walnuts were all delicious. Our main courses reflected the southwestern influence of the menu; two of us had rare duck breast and two ordered delicious poached fish. We were never hurried and were comfortable lingering and chatting away. The house made desserts were wonderful - fresh apricot tart, hazelnut ice cream and fresh strawberry shortcake. The prices were quite reasonable for the quality of the experience.
After a good night's sleep, we woke up eager to head over to Korcarz at 29 Rue Des Rosiers, a boulangerie-patisserie /restaurant-traiteur, which had a mouth-watering selection of bread, rolls and baked goods. We selected a flat, round onion bread, typical of Jewish bakeries, ordered cappuccino at the counter and enjoyed our delightful breakfast.
We were on an ethnic roll and ambled over to Rue Des Tournelles to the synagogue where, after ringing the bell, the caretaker invited us in. It is a huge, stunning, high structure with two balconies. The architect was Marcellin Varcollier and Gustave Eiffel designed the metal frame.
You can't stop by Place Des Vosges without being awestruck by its beautiful design and composition. But it doesn't stop there. As we wandered up Rue de Turenne to Rue Des Francs Bourgeois, Rue Payenne, Rue Elzevir to name a few, the magnificent buildings, hotels, estates and museums are an architecture lover's delight. We spent considerable time in the Musee Picasso. The museum itself is very well done, subtly guiding you by its very design. It's always mind-blowing to see such genius; one man's ability to create so much brilliant art in such diversified media - and this just a portion of his work. How unreal!
We had decided not to have a formal lunch but to opt for a few treasured goodies. First was to be the original Bertillion ice cream on the Ille St. Louis. Previously, we had passed this by, because we had the feeling it was over-hyped. Thanks to our friend Graziella, we decided to go for it! Linda said the chocolate was the best she ever tasted and the wild strawberry was quite good. My hazelnut and pistachio had rich, natural flavor and both were filled with pieces of nuts. The creamy texture blended nicely with the tasty, delicate sugar cone. Bertillion is worthy of its reputation. We wished that the portions had been bigger or less expensive.
been searching for purple mustard from Brive, which is
made from the skins of pressed grapes. It is available in
Toronto but at an extortionate price. The search led us
to Izrael Epicerie du Monde, 30 Rue Francois-Miron.
Delicacies from around the world are packed floor to
ceiling in this fabulous shop. The pleasant staff is
there to please and, yes, they had the mustard, at a
third of the price we'd have paid back home. If Mephistos
and this mustard are any indication, it appears that
either the duties are extremely high or there are greedy
mark-ups back home.
The Musee D'art et D'histoire du Judaisme opened on December 6, 1998. It is housed in the Hotel de Saint-Aignan, a grand 17th century mansion at 71 Rue du Temple. The museum is dedicated to preserving, studying, disseminating and promoting the art, history and cultural heritage of Judaism. This mandate is dramatically fulfilled as you walk through one display after another which chart the historical development of Jewish communities from medieval times to the 20th century. The emphasis is on the history of the Jews in France, with influences of the Western and North African communities of which contemporary French Jewry is composed. We found this to be one of the most profound and enlightening experiences we've had in learning of our heritage. But this place is not only for Jews. It is for anyone with an interest in learning about the history, culture and art of any race or religion. The paintings of Soutine, Chagall, Modigliani, Lipchitz and Kikoine were certainly a highlight, along with documents on the Dreyfus affair which were donated by the descendants of Captain Dreyfus. Our only regret is that we'd have wanted to stay longer. We were the last ones out when the doors closed at 18:00 hrs.
Grizzli, 7 Rue St.-Martin, was our choice for dinner
because, as at Baracane, the influence is southwestern
and we do enjoy that regional style of French cooking. A
large bowl of soupe de moules for each of us was an
auspicious beginning, we thought. The creamy broth was
seasoned with saffron and the mussels were plump and
sweet. I enjoyed my cassoulet, a traditional preparation
of meat (on the bone), duck leg, ham and sausage baked in
an earthenware pot with beans. However, Linda's
overcooked and tasteless lamb chops were most
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