30 November 2020

Le restaurant Paul

I thought I had posted the first photo below a week or two ago, but it turns out I hadn't. It shows two buildings at the western tip of the Île de la Cité in Paris — that's the island Notre-Dame cathedral is on. The bridge that spans the Seine here, crossing the tip of the island, is called Le Pont Neuf ("the new bridge") and it is the oldest existing bridge in Paris (long story — all the earlier bridges were wooden structures that either washed away in floods or destroyed by fire).

If you walk between the two buildings above, you end up on a triangular city "square" called la Place Dauphine. It was turned into a place [plahss] or "square" in Paris in the early 17th century at the initiative of the kind Henri IV, whose equestrian statue is nearby.

And on la place Dauphine there's a restaurant called Paul, chez Paul, or le restaurant Paul. I had dinner there back in 1974, when I was invited by a professor from the University of Illinois who happened to be visiting Paris. At the time, I was working for the university's year abroad program in Paris. And at the time, it was one of the most amazing Paris restaurant experiences I had ever enjoyed. Still is, I guess.

Anyway, blah blah blah. This morning, I started out wanting to post some pictures of Paul that I took in 2002. Then I got lost in my photo archives. I've spent the past 2½ hours searching my blog and my extensive photo collection for images showing la place Dauphine. I've always said that it was one of my favorite places in Paris. All these photos are from 2002, with the exception of the one immediately above, which I took in 2009.

Apparently, le restaurant Paul is more than 100 years old. And 1974 wasn't the last time I had dinner there. Walt and I had a good dinner there in the 1990s, but we can't remember exactly when. I wasn't taking pictures back then. The place next door is called Le Caveau du Palais, and is, I believe, now owned by the same people. Oh, and I remember knowing that the famous French actors Simone Signoret and Yves Montand lived for a time in an apartment in the building at no. 15.

I hope these people are enjoying fond memories of la place Dauphine just as I am this morning. I hope I'll get to go back there one day. If you want to see Paul's current menu, click this link. No hurry, though — Paul, like all restaurants in France, is closed until January 20, 2021, because of Covid-19.

29 November 2020

Paris cafés, with people

All these photos feature people sitting in or standing in front of sidewalk cafés in different Paris neighborhoods.
They also all show décors dominated by the color red.

I don't know if the man in the last photo was trying to hide his face from my camera or just block the sun.

28 November 2020


Paris is by far the most densely populated big city in Europe, with more than 20,000 people per square kilometer living there. That's nearly 55,000 people per square mile — more than 2 million people packed into 100 km² (40.5 mi²) of land. Only Manhattan island is more densely populated in the U.S. In comparison, each square mile of San Francisco is lived on by "only" 17 thousand people.

You can see how so many people can fit into Paris when you look at all the apartment buildings around the city. I took most of these photos in the 7th and 15th arrondissements, which is my friend CHM's neighborhood.

27 November 2020

L'Église du Dôme aux Invalides — et cetera

I'm winding down my series of posts about our stay in Paris in 2002, but I have a few more photos to post. It's ironic that we spent — or at least have the impression we spent — more time in Paris when we lived in San Francisco than we have since we came to live in Saint-Aignan. The two-week Paris stay in 2002 turned out to be pivotal, but we didn't know it at the time. At the end of it, we returned home to San Francisco and went back to work, not knowing that just over a year later we'd be moving to France.

L'hôtel des Invalides and l'église du Dôme are in the 7th arrondissment of Paris. My friend CHM lives nearby, so I've spent a lot of time in the neighborhood. Napoleon's tomb is in the church. I remember a good visit there with my sister and a friend of ours from North Carolina back in 2007. Here's a post I did about "the church of the dome" in 2013.

I guess the biggest news here is that our pandemic lockdown is being eased slightly starting tomorrow. Shops and other businesses are re-opening tomorrow, partly so that people can do some Christmas shopping and to help businesses avoid bankruptcy. Restaurants, cafés, and bars will remain closed until January 20. We'll still have to fill out and sign a form stating the purpose of our trip when we go out shopping, and we aren't supposed to stay away from home for more than three hours at a time.

Another piece of news is that the Peugeot passed inspection once more. The car will be 20 years old next month — it was registered at Christmas in the year 2000. I bought it used when we first got here, and I'd like to keep it for another few years. It's fun to drive, and it's a great car for running around in the immediate Saint-Aignan area, doing our shopping and other errands. It has about 120K miles (nearly 200K kilometers) on it. Inspection here is a serious and thorough test, so I had the car completely serviced about a month ago to get it ready. And it worked. In December it will be time to take the Citroën for inspection (contrôle technique). I think it will pass easily, but it is 13 years old now! It only has about 60K miles (100K kilometers) on its odometer. That's called the compteur de kilomètres in French. We're not putting very many miles on the cars these days, that's for sure.

26 November 2020

Turkey Day

We're not eating turkey today, because we always have lamb for Thanksgiving now. Years ago, we decided that turkey for Thanksgiving and then turkey again for Christmas was just too much gobbledy-gobbledy for us. Besides, when we lived in San Francisco we didn't eat lamb often, so the Thanksgiving leg of lamb was a treat that reminded us of France. Once in France, we realized that whole turkeys are not available in November. Turkeys are Christmas birds here. We do get turkey parts — boned-out breasts as filets or scallops, turkey legs and thighs, and turkey wings too — all year round.

There certainly are turkeys in France (you're welcome to chuckle). Turkey (dinde) became a standard at French Christmas dinners decades ago, replacing goose. The nice thing about turkeys here is that you can get small ones that weigh as few as 3.5 kilos (about 8 lbs.). I'm sure you can get birdzilla-sized birds too, but for just two of us that's way too much. The way I like to cook small turkeys is to poach them in simmering water first, and then brown the bird in the oven after it is cooked in water. The broth is excellent, and the turkey doesn't dry out. You can poach a small turkey that way but it would be hard to poach a 20 or 25 lb. bird.

The best turkeys I've ever eaten, I think, are farm-raised French birds. We bought one from a Saint-Aignan butcher for one of our first holiday meals here. I think it was for Thanksgiving 2003, and we had to order it a week in advance because, as I say, whole turkeys are only available in late December. And it cost something like 35 euros for an 8 lb. bird. It was really tasty and not dry — there was a layer of fat under the breast skin that basted the white meat as it cooked. It was fantastic. That was before I started routinely poaching turkeys, ducks, chickens, and guinea hens before browning them in the oven.

In March 2018, we went to the Allier département in central France (northern Auvergne, near Vichy and Moulins) to spend a week in a gîte and drive around the countryside over there. One reason for choosing to spend a week in the Allier was that I had seen a cooking show on French TV about the town of Jaligny-sur-Besbre (pop. 575; founded in the year 67 A.D.) which described it as the place where the best French turkeys were raised. Its farm-raised turkeys are Jaligny's claim to fame. Unfortunately, we didn't go there on market day, and there were no butcher shops in the town. So we left empty-handed — no Jaligny turkey for us. Someday I might go back for the village's foire aux dindes, the turkey fair, in December, and we'll come back and cook a Jaligny turkey for Christmas.

The photos of live turkeys in this post are some I've taken at Valençay over the years. It's about half an hour's drive from Saint-Aignan and is famous for its big château (Napoleon, Talleyrand, etc.) and its pyramid-shaped goat cheeses. On the grounds of the château there's a little animal park where you can get up close with turkeys, chickens, guinea fowl, ducks, geese, goats, and even deer — it's fun to visit. Happy Thanksgiving. Stay safe.

25 November 2020

Asnières-sur-Seine in just a few pictures

In my post yesterday, I mentioned that I lived in the Paris suburbs from 1974 until 1976. My apartment was across the street from the train station in Asnières-sur-Seine, northwest of Paris proper. I was working in the Latin Quarter, and the commute was long. It was especially miserable in winter, when skies stayed gray, temperatures stayed low, and it rained much of the time. However, Asnières itself wasn't a bad place to live. There was a Saturday morning open-air market in the street just below my windows, and there was a big supermarket within few minutes' walk. And a movie theater. Here's a short slideshow that includes photos of the building I lived in. On the ground floor there was a bread and pastry bakery, so the mornings in my apartment smelled delicious.

Asnières is very residential and very urban. The town is just 2 square miles and the population is about 85,000. The brick apartment building I lived in was pretty nice. The apartment itself was tiny, with a small kitchen (but no refrigerator) and a small bathroom (sink, toilet, and shower). It cost me 75 or 80 dollars a month. I had no lease. I took the photos in the slideshow here in April 2007, the last time I was in Asnières. I don't know if the cafés in my photos were there back then, but maybe they were. I remember the cheese shop (fromagerie) very well. The two men in that street sculpture are General de Gaulle, who was president of France in the 1960s, and the author André Malraux, who was his minister of culture. I lived on the edge of Asnières, close to the more upscale town of Courbevoie. The house at the end of the slideshow is typical of the houses in that part of the area, mixed in with more modern apartment buildings.

24 November 2020

Bourg-la-Reine, a Paris suburb

When I went to Paris in April 2002, one thing I wanted to do there was go and visit the Paris offices of the company that
I was working for in California. I was in contact by phone and e-mail with some of the company's French employees
and I thought it would be good to meet them in person.

So one day I took the RER down to Bourg-la-Reine, which is less than 10 minutes by RER train from
the Notre-Dame-St-Michel station in central Paris and just five kilometers (3 mi.) from the Porte d'Orléans.

Bourg-la-Reine ("Queenstown") is a little less than one square mile in area and has a population of 20 thousand or so.
The queen it was named for, back in the 12th century, was Adélaïde de Savoie, whose husband
was Louis VI le Gros ("fat king Louis"). These are some photos I took there.

The suburbs don't get much respect from people who live in Paris proper and love it there.
However, Bourg-la-Reine seemed like a pleasant place.

I wish I could have lived there back in the days when I was working in the Latin Quarter
as a teacher and student (1974-76), instead of in the suburb I actually lived in.

Bourg-la-Reine to Paris would have been an easier commute than the one I had for those two years.
I lived the the northwest suburb called Asnières-sur-Seine, not far from the La Défense business quarter.

Asnières was a pleasant place to live. My apartment was a couple of floors up from a boulangerie,
so it always smelled like freshly baked bread and croissants, especially in the morning.

Even so, I remember it took me about an hour every morning to travel across
most of Paris by train and either metro or bus to get to work. That commute wore me out.

23 November 2020

Paris snapshots

I decided this morning to post these photos — eleven of them — not as a slideshow but as still images, partly to practice my page layout skills. The new Blogger interface doesn't make posting easy, and it's taking me two or three times as long to complete a post as it used to take using the old interface. Sigh.

The Quatrehomme cheese shop on the rue de Sèvres sells cheese but also has a cellar where cheeses are "ripened" or aged before being sold to customers. So the owners have the title of fromager-affineur. You can read more about the shop in English here.

This little pig advertises a shop called a charcuterie. The charcutier is a pork butcher who sells cuts of fresh or smoked pork, and he or she is also a traiteur who prepares and sells salads and cooked dishes that customers can just re-heat as necessary at home. So the shop is also a French version of a delicatessen.

Here's a billboard advertising the Paris public transit system, the Régie autonome des transport parisiens (la RATP — pronounce all the letters). Saint-Placide is a metro stop in the 6th arrondissement. The astuce or "gimmick" here is that if you take the metro or the bus instead of driving in Paris you will lead a more "placid" existence.

Jacques Chirac, the man in this picture, was the mayor of Paris for decades, and also France's prime minister in the late '80s. Then he was elected president of the French Republic and served for 12 years (1995-2007). In French terms, Chirac was a right-leaning centrist, which made him the equivalent of a left-leaning centrist in U.S. terms. His health declined over the past decade  (Alzheimer's disease, it was said) and he passed away in September 2019. 

"...then silence falls..." When you serve this beer people are so impressed with how good it is that they stop talking and just savor the flavor. Grimbergen is the brand name of a range of Belgian abbey beers. The abbey (monastery) in Grimbergen was founded in the year 1128. Read more about it here.

Here's that wreathed N that you see on the Pont-au-Change bridge and that stands for Napoleon III, who had it built in the late 1800s. You can read more about the bridges of Paris here. And look at this painting of the Pont-au-Change from 1751, when it was still a wooden structure with houses and shops lining it.

The window display of an antique or second-hand shop (une brocante) on the rue de Sèvres in the 7th arrondissement.... When I was younger I shopped in such places in Paris and in Washington DC, but no more... We have plenty of old stuff already.

Somebody set this set of mailboxes on fire, I assume. I saw it on the rue Lecourbe in the 15th arrondissement. Firemen (I assume) had hauled it out of an apartment building onto the sidewalk. Luckily, the building didn't burn down.

Elegant handles on a carriageway door (une porte cochère) into the courtyard of a Paris apartment building...

I think this might be a sign marking a Vélib' station, where you can rent a bicycle, ride to your destination, and turn it in at a different Vélib' station in another part of the city. Vélo means bicycle and lib' stands, I think, for libre-service (self-service).

A stair-rail ornament in the building where our rental apartment was in 2002, on the rue Mayet near Montparnasse....

22 November 2020

Noticed details in Paris

I guess there's nothing I like better than wandering the streets of Paris and taking pictures
of interesting details I notice. Here are five examples.

Somebody's cat in a window, watching people walk by

A lion's head door decoration

The lion is also the mascot of the Peugeot car company

The emblem of the city of Paris on a metro bridge

Graffiti on a letterbox

21 November 2020

Five more Seine views

Yesterday in comments we had a little exchange about the theater above. It used to be called le théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt. After having a couple of other names over the decades, it was renamed le théâtre de la Ville in 1990. I think. Now you know what it looks like. I've never been inside.

Here's a view of the Pont des Arts putting it more in context. That's the Louvre, or part of it, in the background.

And here's a more complete view of the Square du Vert-Galant, which is on the western end of the Île de la Cité. Le Vert-Galant is what king Henri IV was called. The expression means something like "a real ladies' man" — Henri had 73 official mistresses and at least 22 children by several mothers.

This is another view of the Samaritaine department store building at the north end of the Pont-Neuf bridge. Back in the 1970s and '80s it had a rooftop terrace where  you could take a table, have a drink or even a light meal, and enjoy fantastic views over all of Paris. Unfortunately, the Samaritaine went out of business a few years ago. I'm not sure what  current plans are for the building.

Several of the bridges over the Seine carry this kind of N in a wreath. The N stands for Napoleon. This one is the Pont au Change, I believe. That's Paris city hall, l'hôtel de ville, in the background.

20 November 2020

La Seine et les îles

Walking on towards the île de la Cité in the center of Paris on an early April afternoon... Many people were out strolling along les berges de la Seine (the walkways down on the banks of the river), or even sunbathing, enjoying one of the first warm, sunny days of the year. The equestrian statue depicts king Henri IV, who was assassinated nearby in 1610. Do you know where the bronze Winged Victory stands?

19 November 2020

Si par hasard, sur le pont des Arts...

If you know what the title above is all about — it's a line from a Georges Brassens song — I'll just say there was no wind the day I took these photos of the Pont des Arts. This morning I've learned, after 50 years of spending time in Paris and probably walking across the Pont des Arts dozens of times over the years — it's a metal footbridge that links the Institut de France on the Left Bank to the Cour Carrée du Louvre on the Right Bank why it's called le pont des Arts. It's because the Louvre used to be called Le Palais des Arts.

The photos above and below show the Pont des Arts with the Île de la Cité and Notre-Dame in the background.

Below is the Institut, of which the Académie Française is a part. The Académie publishes a dictionary every century or so.

The Cadogan Paris guide says the Pont des Arts, first built in 1803, was one of the first iron bridges
built across the Seine in Paris, and is one of the most elegant.

The bridge was damaged many times in the 1960s and '70s when barges rammed into it. A long section was knocked down
by a barge in 1979. The whole bridge was torn down and then rebuilt in the early '80s.

Above, there's the Pont des Arts with the Louvre in the background, on the Right Bank.

Below is a close-up shot of the domed Institut de France, founded in 1795, during the Revolution.