Paris. Need I say more? Perhaps not, but I will. We took a 10AM high speed train to the Gare Lyon and made our way to our final apartment of this trip. The apartment was located in the Marais, a trendy area of boutiques near the Place de la Republique. We took a taxi from the Gare. The apartment was located well off a main thoroughfare in the middle of the street on the fifth floor of an apartment complex. This was the smallest, least comfortable and by far the most expensive of the apartments that we rented during our trip. It wasn’t bad, but it was over-priced with construction just outside the windows. At this point there was nothing to do about it. The owner was nice enough, well organized and into food, a culinary professional. His apartment was his home with plenty of food books. We made do.
Once we settled in, it was time for lunch. We headed towards the river Seine and Rue de Rosiers, where we stopped at the very busy and very good L’As du Fallafel, the most well known Israeli falafel restaurant in Paris, if not the world. We had only a short wait until we were seated and had a fallafel in a pita and a lamb shawarma in a pita along with some fries. Both sandwiches were stuffed with their respective main components as well as roasted eggplant, salad and tahini. Two sauces, a red and a green, placed on the table added some nice spicy elements to the sandwiches. Lunch hit the spot.
From L’As du Falafel we continued our walk, arriving at the Isle St. Louis, well known in food circles as the home of Maison Berthillon, arguably the finest ice cream shop in the world. Since L.J. had never been, I took him there and we each enjoyed a couple of scoops. He had the salted caramel and chocolate ice creams on a cone, while I selected fig and cacao in a cup. All the flavors were superb.
Back on the trail, we walked through misty weather along the right bank of the Seine past Notre Dame Cathedral, the Pont Neuf and the Hotel de Ville, eventually reaching Samaritaine, where we hopped on the Metro to head up to Montmartre. The train was crowded and slow going. After just a couple of stops, for some reason, the train was evacuated. The stop we were at happened to be Reumur-Sebastopol, which ironically was close to our apartment. We took advantage of the situation to stop in to freshen up, before we walked all the way up to Sacre Couer, the Cathedral at the top of Montmartre. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived it was too late to make our way up to the cupola for a view over the city. We still enjoyed a lesser view before descending down from the heights to see The Moulin Rouge, continuing all the way down to Opera, where we picked the Metro up to return to the apartment before dinner.
After resting for a bit and changing our clothes we walked to the restaurant Saturne in the Bourse. I had made the reservation through a friend, who had recommended it, but I had become concerned reading some reviews that this was a restaurant that exuded an “attitude.” I am happy to report that we neither experienced nor observed anything of the sort and that our meal was quite delicious. The fish, wild-caught turbot and the meat, a wonderfully prepared pigeon were amongst the very best fish and meat dishes of the entire trip (more to come on this meal). We returned to the apartment for a very well-earned rest.
Our last full day of the trip was designed to be the Grand Finale. We started with a visit to the Musee D’Orsay, the most magical museum space I know. The exhibits aren’t too shabby either, containing perhaps the finest collection of Impressionist art, French or otherwise, on the planet. I was a bit disappointed that photography of the art was now completely forbidden. That had been a change in policy since I had last been there and one I find to be a bit disingenuous for art museums, especially modern art museums. I can certainly understand a denial of flash photography to protect the art, but by refusing all photography, they are potentially inhibiting the expression of contemporary art. In addition, I like to photograph works by which I am particularly impressed, so I can remember them and discover more about them after the fact. Photography policy aside, The Musee D’Orsay is a magnificent collection and I noticed art and artists that I hadn’t in the past. While I have long appreciated the Pointillist work of George Seurat, I had never really explored the equally fantastic work of Paul Signac The collection also reinforced my appreciation for the works of Manet, Cezanne and Van Gogh amongst others.
From the D’Orsay we ambled through the mist to Rue Varenne for lunch at L’Arpege, where our culinary pilgrimage would come to its conclusion. We sat through a remarkable parade of twenty different servings that showcased Chef Alain Passard’s brilliance with vegetables as well as seafood and fowl. Several of our dishes had been showered with black truffles and the service was as one would expect in a Michelin three star restaurant – that is to say, superb. We finished our meal and exited the restaurant four hours after we entered. A fun moment was running into my friend, Gabe Ulla, who had just come up from Lyon and who came into the restaurant a bit after us with Frank Falcinelli.The remainder of our day was spent wandering around Paris, from L’Arpege to the Eiffel Tower, then along the Seine to Invalides and across the bridge to the Champs Elysee and over to Concorde, where we hopped back on the Metro to Pigalle to bid adieu to my friend Stephanie.
Thus came to a close a wonderful father and son pilgrimage to some of the finest dining spots and culinary events in the world. The next morning I flew back to New York, while L.J. continued east to Tokyo and eventually Singapore before returning home a couple of weeks after me.