Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday 31 January - Daffodils

It was raining first thing but the rain gradually stopped and it was pretty warm out.  After some vegetable and baguette shopping we went out to look for daffodils.  There was a great stand in the Parc de Monceau - January 31.  Monceau was very busy indeed with possibly 100 joggers all running around the perimeter in an anticlockwise direction.  The merry go round was operating and several families with small kids.  The dog walkers were out in force and it was amusing to see two dogs approach each other then get their leads hopelessly entangled.
Super today was the remains of yesterday's rotisserie chicken with roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and tomatoes.  Dessert was from Diva et Chocolats.

Saturday 30 January - Rainy Saturday

It rained on and off all day - not very pleasant.  I went to the Saturday morning Batignolles Organic market.  The range of products is excellent and the quality is very good.  I bought a rotisserie chicken which was even better than those available on Levis.  Even the bags of chips are organic.  The baker had some cheeesy puff pastry rolls called fougere.  Unfortunately we ate it before I thought to get out the camera.
A rare moment when one of the Saint-Lazare trains sheds was empty of trains.  There was a train entering and this only covers platforms 1-8.  There are 19 others to the right.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Friday 29 January - Apero at Gail's

A machine for making Calisson almond paste candies 
Calissons are a traditional French candy consisting of a smooth, pale yellow, homogeneous paste of candied fruit (especially melons and oranges) and ground almonds topped with a thin layer of royal icing. Calissons have a texture not unlike that of marzipan, but with a fruitier, distinctly melon-like flavor. Calissons are often almond-shaped and are typically about two inches in length. Calissons are traditionally associated with the town of Aix-en-Provence, France; consequently, most of the world supply of calissons are still made in the Provence region.
Lunch today was a thin crust pizza topped with a fried egg - from a pizzeria on Legendre just around toe corner.
The pizzeria had a green wall in the main dining room.  It did not contain living plants but gave a good effect.
This evening we went for drinks and snacks at Gail Boisclair's apartment on the Square de Clignancourt near Jules Joffrin metro.  It is a large, airy place  on the top floor, luckily there is an elevator.  In addition to Larbi, we met Yasmin and two old cats who have very distinct personalities. A couple from Toronto, who also rent through Perfectly Paris were also there.  It was a good evening with lots of conversation.  Larbi is an excellent artist and his work is hung throughout the apartment. It deserves wider showing.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thursday 28 January - Lunch with Gail and Larbi

The main event today was a long lunch with Gail and Larbi at le P'tit Canon which is a term used for a get together among friends.

The food was good as was the Minervois wine.  All the staff at Le P'tit Canon are our friends and the meal was excellent and allowed us to take our time.  It was a delightful lunch.  I had rillettes de canard followed by duck leg.  We shared a couple of apple desserts.

Duck Leg
The four of us walked down to the Square des Batignolles where Gail was taken with a goose which stood for a long time on one leg.

We walked to St-Georges to get theatre tickets and walked back.  With the walking I did this morning I have been pretty active.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tuesday 26 January - Laon

New Region trains at Laon
We took a morning train to Laon today riding in one of the new Picardy Regio trains.  It was quiet, smooth and comfortable.  Departure from Gare du Nord was on time and we arrived at Laon just after 1000.

The medieval city is on a hill overlooking the SNCF station and the best way to get there is on the Laon Cable Car.  This is an automatic system with two, sometimes three, small cars that run every five minutes and take 3 1/2 minutes to climb the hill.
This is one of the original rack electric cars which was replaced by the cablecars

This video shows most of the climb up to the top, including misty views of the medieval city
This video shows a car arriving at the top station

It was misty and cold at the top and we first found a bar and had coffee.  I asked for croissants but they were out but the barman suggested I go over the street to the boulangerie and get some to eat with our coffee.  This worked out very well.

Laon has an extensive medieval section which is dominated by the cathedral which is stupendous both inside and out.  The architecture is stunning but what took our breath away was the sheer interior size which was very well maintained..  

Now used as law courts

The teachers were on strike today and were marching through the town - they had quite a climb up to the medieval city.We walked around the area of the cathedral then came back to the bar where we had coffee for lunch. This was a good choice as it was well filled with local people.

Kidney with potatoes - in a wonderful sauce
Sauteed pork with ginger, ratatouille and couscous
The apple tart was outstanding as was the red Chinon.

During lunch we noticed several sunny intervals and the weather improved a little.  We spent more time in the medieval sector then took the cable car back to the station.
View of the cathedral
The abbey church that is now an enormous parish church

This video shows the entire trip down the hill including a view of the extensive rail yards around the SNCF station.  There is a mid station, Vaux, where the cable is changed automatically

Our ride back to Paris was in a slightly older diesel which got us back on time.  
At Crepy-en-Valois, the end of the electrified section from Gare du Nord, I saw two commuter trains with the older electric locomotives, 17084 and 17087 at the country end.

We had planned to take Metro line 4 to Barbes Rochechouart then line 2 to Villiers.  We managed to get on the train at the Gare du Nord but there was a delay as a result of a suspicious package at Barbes Rochechouart. After some ten minutes of inactivity we moved to line 5 where there was a great crowd trying to get into a train.  We were in the middle of the crowd and were swept into the train!  We transferred to line 3 at Republique and got back to Villiers a little before 1900.   The baguette from Diva et Chocolats had only just come out of the oven.  The smell was great and the butter melted almost as soon as it had been spread.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday 24 January - Oysters and Organ

After a little overnight rain it became quite warm today.  We did a lot of walking and found our winter clothes too much.  Rue de Levis is always interesting on Sunday mornings with the scent of rotisserie chicken and roast potatoes mingling with the scent of fresh baked baguette.  The green grocers were dueling to see who could make the most noise to sell their fruit and vegetables.  Little old ladies with small dogs.  People walking through with an armful of baguettes, one of which was broken off and being consumed on the way. Squadrons of little (and some big) kids on scooters dodging through the crowd.  Carpet sellers hopefully draping their wares over their cars.

We walked down to Le Pied de Cochon which is near Saint-Eustache and  ordered a dozen Normandie oysters.

Fred told me to sniff each oyster before eating to ensure that I don't get a bad one.
Colin sniffing an oyster.
Sniffing oysters didn't work out too well.  The first time I got vinegar and chopped shallots up my nose. The second time I was told in no uncertain terms that oysters were for eating and should not be taken nasally - other substances are available to sniff.  After that I just ate them normally.  They were all very fresh and really delicious. 

We had a half bottle of a white Macon Villages.  The waiter drew the cork and put it down in front of me.  I refrained from sticking it in my ear and saying "That sounds alright, pour it".

Having consumed the oysters orally we shared a plate of razor clams which were excellent, very sweet and with no sand or grit. These are known as razor clams in English because the shells look a little like a cut throat razor.  In French these are known as couteaux (knife).  Mary told the waiter how much she liked the couteaux and he raced off to his serving drawer and produced two table knives of different sizes saying "Yes, we have two types."

We then proceeded happily each to have a bowl of onion soup gratine which was excellent with a very good flavor, nicely caramelized onions and a good helping of cheese on top of the well soaked bread.

We then walked along the rue Montorgueuil and back to La Madeleine,  The patisseries have got over the frenzy of selling gallettes du roi and things are returning to normal.

The organ concert at La Madeleine was a disappointment.  The first piece by J.C. Bach was a transcription and the themes were lost in the overall noise from the organ.  "Sheep may safely graze" was good but "O Little Town of Bethlehem" came over as a dirge and Viernes Westminster Carillon was poor.  We left at this point.

The walk back, mainly uphill, was uneventful.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday 23 January - Railway viaduct and an excellent lunch

The old Bastille railway station and the approach tracks on a brick arched viaduct were taken out of use in the 1960s when the Bastille opera house was built.  The viaduct has been transformed into a beautiful urban walkway with shops and businesses in the arches below.  The steel bridges have been retained to produce a linear park, the first kilometre or so being the viaduct with an extension which goes right out to the Bois de Vincennes.  We walked the first part from the Bastille to the Place de Daumesnil.  Being a Saturday it was filled with joggers and families with kids with scooters.  People could walk or jog being far removed from the traffic interference and noise below.

Special attention has been given to producing a park that requires little maintenance and that attracts wildlife.
At one point the park opens out (possibly the site of a former station) and an interesting garden has been created.
It was a quick metro ride to Denfert-Rochereau and a short walk along Leclerc to Mouton-Duvernet to one of our favorite restaurants Les Fils de la Ferme.  We received a warm welcome and had an excellent meal.
Pate of duck en croute - the duck was very dark and there were hints of blood pudding.  The truffle sauce was very good
Sweet potato and scallpos
Suckling pig snacké (a la plancha) with brussels in a clementine sauce.
 Blanquette de veau (veal shoulder) with stuffed pasta with white wine froth

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday 22 January - Raining

Saint-Lazare was busy when I went to get some tickets printed.  Maybe the entertainment was in consolation for the state of the trains which were either delayed or very late.  People waiting in the concourse were unusually directed to a platform before the incoming train had arrived.  When they were all lined up waiting on the platform they were told their train would be another 15 minutes.  At least it helps to clear the concourse.
I found another blazon on a train going to Versailles.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thursday 21 January - Rodin Museum

The Rodin Museum has just completed  three year upgrade.  The new box office complex is now useless because no provision was made for increased security.  As a result we had first to go through security in a tent in the courtyard and then subject ourselves to a front office that was staffed with incompetents who did not even know how to sell tickets.

Once inside the improvements were evident.  The floors no longer creak with every step and the exhibits have been augmented with many pictures.
A mock up for the stature of the Burghers of Calais
The garden is as interesting as the house itself and was especially good today with a warm sun in a cloudless sky.
The Burghers of Calais
The Museum was Rodin's house
The Thinker
The Dome of Les Invalides is an imposing structure especially from the garden of the Rodin museum.
On my way through Saint-Lazare I came across another 170xx electric locomotive on a train to Mantes.
This evening I actually did some cooking.  Confit de Canard with fried crispy potatoes and Brussels sprouts.  The potatoes were awesome.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wednesday 20 January - Musee Ceramique Saint-Cloud

The ceramic museum at Saint-Cloud - Sevres is close to the T2 tram stop but road works made it difficult to find our way to the entrance. On passing through the gates we were pounced upon by two security guys who had nothing very little to do in the freezing temperatures,  On entering the building we were subjected to another security check.  The museum is very good and has an extensive collection which illustrates the history of ceramics but it is displayed in the old style with walls of plates and pots with poor signage very low down.  There is special emphasis upon ceramics made in France and in Sevres in particular.
The exhibits were difficult to photograph being virtually all behind glass
There were an interesting series of plates illustrating industries in the early 1800s

Some of the plates, pots etc. were very ornate showing what pots the ruling classes had to piss in. After a couple of floors we had become overwhelmed - any more and we would have gone potty.

We walked through the Saint-Cloud park another huge domaine with long rows of pathways lined with trees.  It was lunchtime and the joggers were out in force.

There was a thi coating of ice on the water which must be spectacular in the summer
The walk through the park was very pleasant in the sun. Finding the Parc de Saint-Cloud tram stop was difficult as we had to negotiate several busy roads and there was no signage at all.
Tram T2 at Parc de Saint-Cloud
We came back taking the tram to Porte de Versailles and then the metro.
Buckwheat crepe au raclette (emmental, ham,m potatoes, cornichons
Crepe sucre with basil and olive oil ice cream
Crepe sucre a la tarte tatin
This evening we went to Chez Maxence a creperie on Legendre, very close to us, to compare it with La Bigoudine yesterday.  We had the cheaper lunch specials yesterday but the meal this evening was better and the ambiance was preferable.