18 February 2009

Evening in Paris

I think that was that famous French perfume they used to sell in America, wasn't it? "Evening in Paris" — I used to joke that it cost a quarter a quart. My mother just said she found an Evening in Paris bottle under her house one time, in the crawl space. And right next to it was an old poison bottle with a skull and crossbones on it. I think whoever left them there was trying everything he could think of to kill the vermin that lived under there.

Anyway, that is irrelevant to this post. I'm in North Carolina for a couple of weeks, but I didn't do much of interest yesterday, my first day here. I didn't take any pictures. Now they tell us that a steady rain is supposed to fall all day today, so chances are I won't take pictures today either. Temperature outside is 48ºF/9ºC.

A big hotel/restaurant on the Seine across the river
from Notre Dame cathedral

On Sunday, I spent the evening in Paris on my way to America. From Saint-Aignan, it's hard to take the train in the morning to get to CDG airport to catch an airplane leaving at mid-day. My plane left at 1:00 p.m. and that meant being at Roissy by about 11:00. My only real choice, to reduce the stress of worrying about missing the plane and losing all that money, was to go up to Paris the night before and spend the night in a hotel.

Paris for the evening. Poor me, right?

Hotel on the Rue des Carmes, just off the Rue des Ecoles in Paris

I stayed at the Hôtel des Carmes, which is just off the Rue des Ecoles and just down the hill from the Panthéon. Friends of ours have been staying there for years, and I stayed once before, back in 2007. The price is right for central Paris — 82€ a night for a single room on the courtyard. Very quiet. The room I had had recently been redone and was very comfortable. Phone, flat-panel TV, nice little bathroom with a good shower.

I could even walk from the Gare d'Austerlitz, where my train from Blois pulled in, to the hotel, pulling my suitcase behind me. It took about half an hour. The weather was chilly, clear, and crisp.

I wandered through the nearby streets and
came upon the Caveau des Oubliettes...

After I got settled in, I went for a walk to see about getting some dinner. I walked by a couscous restaurant on the Rue du Sommerard, over nearly nextdoor to the Cluny museum. It looked good, and I had read some good reviews of the place, called Jaafar. People said it was a really good value for the money. The little restaurant only has eight 4-person tables.

When I walked by, I notice that there were two people at each of the 4-person tables. I didn't really want to sit with other people, and I thought couscous might be a little heavy in my stomach the next morning, when I was going to take the train to the airport and then catch my flight.

The Village Ronsard restaurant on Place Maubert

So I walked around a little more. There was a French place on the rue des Ecoles that was a definite possibility. It was a little expensive, but it was open, and a lot of places are closed on Sundays. And then there was a café/brasserie down on the Place Maubert called the Village Ronsard. I had eaten a light supper there once before, and it seemed fine. It was open, and I liked the menu. It's only the equivalent of a city block from the Hôtel des Carmes.

So I went there. There were a few other customers. I ordered a fairly ordinary meal — a salad of tomatoes and mozzarella (even though it is not at all tomato season), and then a pavé de rumsteak - frites — a thick cut of beefsteak with french fries. Well, it was all delicious, in that inexpensive French café kind of way.

The famous Rue de La Huchette in the Latin Quarter

There were some people from England at another table. They were in their late 20s or early 30s, I'd estimate, and two of them ordered beef as well. One asked for the same steak I got, and she wanted it « bien bien bien bien cuit », she said. That's basically what we would call "cremated" here in eastern North Carolina.

Another ordered steak tartare. If you know what that is, you'll be surprised to hear that when the waiter brought is plate, he sent it back and asked if they could cook it for him! I heard him tell his companions that he would have eaten it except that he could see some blood in the meat. What did he expect when he ordered raw beef?

Le Village Ronsard attracted me partly because of the name. Ronsard was the great Renaissance poet who lived in the Touraine, where we live now. I had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc wine from Quincy, which is a vineyard about 35 miles east of Saint-Aignan.

Place Maubert is also the area where I stayed the very first time I was in Paris, back in late 1969 and early 1970. I used to go to a fleabag hotel called Le Pierwige, not 30 steps from Le Village Ronsard café. I have a sentimental attachment to the neighborhood. I turned 21 in 1970.

Notre Dame on a cold Sunday evening

After dinner, I took a walk over to Notre Dame, only 10 minutes away, to soak up the ambience. There was a definite chill in the air. I had a heavy coat but no hat or gloves, so I didn't stay out too long. Just long enough to snap a few pictures around the neighborhood, which I include here.

It turned out I should have ordered my steak "cremated" as well, like the British woman. It was very rare, and I'm sure it was the reason that I felt pretty queasy all during the 24 hours it took me to get from Paris to coastal North Carolina. I'm still in recovery mode — jet-lagged and digestively fragile.


  1. I know that cafe well! Our three weeks in Paris last spring were just a block from Place Maubert so we were there several times.

  2. it's so embarrasing when americans order meat incinerated (even here in the US chefs cringe when people order well done...the meat gets tough people!) and i've always heard about americans sending back steak tartare, but i thought it was an urban myth.....sadly, not the case
    maybe u were feelin sick from the stress of preparing for ur trip & not the food...hope u get some sun in NC...snowin in richmond this am

  3. Welcome back to North America Ken. May be it is the airline food that got you sick. If it was the meat in the restaurant I believe that you would have felt it during the night in Paris.

    Anyway enjoy your stay with your relatives and soak in some real-time politics on the tube ( or should I say flat panels) :-)

  4. haha, love the story about the steak! Complaining that steak tartare is too raw??? I too have heard Brits in France insisting on their steak/lamb being "carbonisé, cremated, right?"

    The pics of the area around Notre Dame are very familiar -- when we go to Paris we stay in a cosy flat in a medieval building practically next door to the cathedral, and were just there recently. We love being able to walk practically everywhere from there, and waling back to Notre Dame late at night is magical.

  5. Hi Chris, I know you were in that neighborhood last March. It's old stomping grounds to me. And I really liked the steak but I can't figure out what else it was that upset me so.

    Yes, Ksam, I thought about you all when I happened on the Caveau des Oubliettes.

    And Melinda, I thought the grilling the steak tartare was hilarious. You have put your finger on the main contributing factor in my temporary malaise: stress and nerves. I've always been a nervous flyer, and with that awful crash in Buffalo just a few days before, I admit I was not in the greatest shape psychologically. For somebody who has flown across the Atlantic Ocean so many times (maybe 65 or 70 in my life) you'd think I'd be serene about it now, but it just gets worse with time and age.

    I just started raining in Morehead City.

  6. Ahhhhh.... I feel so transported! When I see photos of Paris it makes me yearn to be there, but seeing evening photos that I know that you just took, and with the text to go with them, all of that really makes me feel like I'm alllllllllllmost right there. I LOVE the idea of Village Ronsard bistro! I'll have to go there next time. Did I ever mention the tape I have of Ronsard poems set to music? It was a French man who, with his wife, owned a Hostellerie in the Dordogne (St. Cirq la Popie) who had composed the music, sung it, and had it recorded and available in cassettes. They played it in the background while you ate dinner there, too. They were really a pair of "Renaissance" folks... the wife a weaver, excellent baker, excellent chef and he a musician and poet and historian. Great stuff!

    Oh, hey... great timing for your visit! You can catch the early elimination rounds on American Idol! *LOL*


  7. The little camera did a great job with the night shots. Did you have to process them much?

  8. Hi Seine Judeet, my niece lives a few miles downstream the Lot River from St-Cirq-Lapopie. I was there two years ago. This Quercy region is most beautiful. And St-Cirq is something not to be missed. Took a lot of pictures!
    Didn't know about the Ronsard tape. Got any information about it?

    My word verification is vingeno. What kind of wine is that?

  9. W., besides cropping the Notre Dame picture and resizing all of them, I didn't process them at all. I decided to leave them the way they came out of the camera, avec leur flou artistique.

  10. chm, no kidding? Your niece lives near there? I really enjoyed my visit. We stayed there, but also day-tripped to Sarlat, Rocamadour, la Roque-Gageac, Beynac et Cazenac, and Cahors.

    The hotel's name is La Pélissaria, run by Marie-Francoise Matuchet. Her husband's name was Fraçois-Charles Matuchet. I "googled" him, and got a link to a description of an evening event featuring him singing poetry. The event is from 2003, but you can read more about him there. Perhaps if you contacted Mme Matuchet at the hotel, she might have information :) Apparently he has written music to the works of other poets, as well.


  11. Ken, keep track of any good new (or old) restaurants in the Morehead City area and let us know about them. We feel a trip to NC coming on in March or April.

  12. another note to chm: I just found from further googling that it looks like he (Monsieur Matuchet) may have passed away.... and, he may not have been still married to the woman who runs the hotel... but, she still may have info on the music :)


  13. Hi Carolyn, will do. I don't seem to have your e-mail address here. I'm on kenbroadhurst at gmail dot com right now. Anyway, I got the seeds yesterday. Thanks much. I can't wait to plant some of them when I get back to Saint-Aignan.

  14. Hi Judy,
    Thanks for the info. It seems that the hotel will be transformed in a gîte in 2010. Madame Matuchet might be retiring.
    If I go to France this summer I may go visit with my niece and ask her about this. Her husband is a native of St-Cirq and he might know these people. Unfortunately, my niece and her husband are not computerized!!

  15. Love the post and the pictures. All the other francophiles like myself have expressed just what I'm feeling about this post. Ken you are a man after my own heart. I can't fly anywhere without feeling like I have the flu the next day! It's called IBS and get worse with age..YUK. Yes stress and food and a new environment adds to it. Yogurt and Pepcid Complete work for me.

    I hope you enjoy your stay in NC and eat those boiled peanuts while you can.

    Veronica, can I be you new BFF? That apartment you rent in Paris is adorable! Did I read correctly is it only 1,000 euro/week?

  16. Such memories. I had an interior room at the Hotel des Carmes, too. And had a couple of meals at Village Ronsard. I can almost see my favorite little table in your photo. Glad you're back on the ground safe and sound. Regards to MA.


  17. Linda, it's a very small apartment, but so cosy for 2. The location can't be beat, and the price is right! Glenn, who owns it, has a number of other slightly bigger apartments in the same building (and elsewhere in central Paris).

    Staying in an apartment in Paris is a great, cheaper alternative to a cramped, expensive hotel room, if you're staying more than a night or two. I can recommend them!


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