10 September 2009

Sunday in Paris

I've gone into a lot of detail about that recent Saturday afternoon and evening I spent in Paris, just to try to give the flavor of that kind of adventure in the city. The fun is in the little memorable details. Things I didn't mention:
  • The older (than us) Americans from New York that we met in the Luxembourg Gardens, who were talkative, laughing, and very spry. They took a group picture for us. The man warned us about pickpockets — his wallet had been "lifted" in the metro a day earlier.
  • The young gay couple — one of the guys was our waiter — that we met at the café on the Place Dauphine, where Evelyn had her first-ever pastis. They had a 10-week-old Jack Russell Terrier that had to be one of the cutest puppies we'd ever seen and that we played with as we sat at our sidewalk table having a drink.
  • The three honeymooning couples from North America we met along the way. They were basking in the glow of that beautiful weather in Paris at the end of August and enjoying the beauty of the city.
  • The red-headed Breton woman selling her watercolor paintings on the Place des Vosges who talked with us for a while about the Auvergne and the Aveyron regions, where she had been on vacation for much of the summer. We were getting ready to go to the Auvergne.
  • The African juggler on the Rue Mouffetard who amazed us with his dexterity and talent.
Lobby of the Hôtel du Panthéon

On Sunday, I met my friends over at the Hôtel du Panthéon and we decided to walk to the nearby markets at Place Monge and the Rue Mouffetard. They were feeling slightly jet-lagged still, and arriving back at their hotel at 1:30 a.m. after a day of strenuous walking and dining had taken its toll.

One of us really wanted a croissant and the bakeries around the Place du Panthéon all seemed to be closed on a Sunday morning. At the Place Monge market, a short walk from the hotel, there seemed to be only one vendor selling breads and pastries, and his croissants just didn't look right — they were gigantic and bready-looking.

A poster we noticed in the window
of a Paris bookstore

We walked quite a way down the Rue Mouffetard after rejecting those croissants, and we finally found some good-looking ones in a bakery there. Meanwhile, I got hungry and stopped to buy a piece of Cantal cheese in a fromagerie — in anticipation of our upcoming trip to the Cantal department in the Auvergne. I nibbled on it as we walked through the market street.

An old sign in the Musée Carnavalet

On a square at the bottom of the Mouffetard market, there was a little musical group playing accordeon music, and couples were dancing. It was very old-style Parisian and kind of hokey, but fun to watch anyway.

We sat down in a café for a cup of espresso and in the distance we could hear what sounded like a church choir singing hymns. That seemed unusual in Paris. But there was a church across the way. The café was bustling with people having either their breakfast or a pre-lunch apéritif.

How well-off people lived in Paris in past centuries
(and even now)

After that, we took a bus for a ways, and then we walked across the river into the Marais neighborhood. We wanted to go to the restaurant called L'As du Fallafel and have a fallafel sandwich. Many Americans who participate in travel forums on the Internet dealing with Paris and France rave about the sandwiches at L'As, as they call it.

The line was long but the wait was only about 5 minutes. It's a take-out place. I have to say the fallafel, served in a pita bread with cabbage salad (cole slaw) and hot harissa sauce, was really good. We carried the food over to the Place des Vosges and found a bench in the park where we could sit and eat our picnic lunch, taking advantage of the people-watching and warm sunny weather.

Portrait of an 18th-century Paris family

After lunch we spent an hour or two in the Musée Carnavelet, which is free and is the museum of the history of the city of Paris. There are replicas of rooms full of furniture from centuries past, a lot of old Paris street signs, and an extensive gallery of paintings — not to mention a nice garden.

It was getting close to dinner time. CHM was coming to the restaurant with us all, as was Claude of PhotoBlogging in Paris. Evelyn was looking forward to meeting both of them, and Marie, who already knew CHM, was happy to meet Claude, because they have mutual friends in the English-teaching profession. I was glad to be with a nice group of friends new and old.

Sculpted boxwood at the Musée Carnavalet in the Marais

For our Sunday dinner we had chosen the restaurant called La Fontaine de Mars, partly because it's the restaurant where Michelle and Barack Obama had dinner out when they were in Paris back in June. After the afternoon in the Marais, I went back to CHM's place at around 7:00 and he and I got a taxi over to the Fontaine de Mars, which is on Rue St-Dominique in the 7th.

The dinner was a lot of fun. There were seven of us around a big round table up on the second floor of the restaurant. Claude and I had salads of leeks in vinaigrette as our appetizers, and then Claude, Marie and I had a dish of boudin noir on a bed of sautéed apples. Boudin noir is called blood sausage or black pudding in English, and it was delicious with the apples and a salad of frisée lettuce — curly endive.

People waiting in line to buy a cone of
Berthillon ice cream on the Ile St-Louis

Others had other appetizers — I didn't take notes — and then some had the plat du jour, which was roast chicken with mashed potatoes, as their main course. Or fish. CHM had a light dinner of œufs en meurette — poached eggs served with carrots, onions, and pork lardons (bacon) in a red wine sauce. He said it was delicious.

We had much lively, even boisterous conversation about blogging, all kinds of technology from Kendalls to digital cameras to iPhones, and about life in Paris and our travels in France. As I said, it was a lot of fun and the food and wine were good. The evening was a great way to wrap up our weekend in Paris. Here's a link to a picture Claude took during dinner and posted on her blog.


  1. mahsa2510@yahoo.com10 September, 2009 09:50

    hey...your blog rocks...it feels like I went to france and came back to Iran..I'll be reading you from now on...thanks

  2. I love the occasional falafel at As du Falafel too. I didn't know it was an American must!
    Ken, we discussed Kindles and not Kendalls! LOL And incidentally, I am in the process of getting one, sent by our common friend. Thanks for the link to my glass ;)

  3. As du Falafel is mentioned in trip reports on Fodor's forum and I was not disappointed- my pita was delicious and the service was fast.

  4. I very much enjoyed this post, Ken! The photos were excellent, too :)

  5. Mahsa, welcome. Are you American?

    Claude, oops! Kindle. I'll correct my post. I was happy even to remember the name. You can't expect me to know how to spell it.

    Evelyn, the pita + felafel was really delicious, and the whole experience was great. And Claude, yes, we loved getting felafel in California.

    Judy, glad you enjoyed it. I do go on, don't I?

  6. And here I was all excited to think you were disussing me at dinner!

  7. Very grand surroundings in the hotel. Definitely worth putting on a posh frock if ever we visit.

  8. Here is a site for you if you want to visit le Chateau de Versailles in the comfort of your house:

  9. Thanks for these great posts on your trip to Paris. I always enjoy the Musee Carnavalet, lovely photos.


  10. What a great evening we had together ;-) Bises ! Marie


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