September 12, 2011

The Sun Also Rises (in Paris)

The sun has returned to Paris and the sunrise this morning was breathtaking. The day promised to be warm and it did not disappoint. With temperatures in the mid-80's, we spent most of the day at Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, one of the largest and oldest flea markets in Paris. Covering more than 17 acres, this flea market is comprised of multiple markets (both indoor and outdoor) and one can find pretty much anything here. And I do mean anything. It's clear that just devoting several hours here is not enough to uncover the treasures that lay inside. April and I both spent more than an hour just rifling through vintage advertisements and newspapers and other bric-a-brac novelties.

This is the place you would come to find precious antiques and that beautiful marble fireplace that was preserved from a 15th century French chateau (for that McMansion you are building). But it is also the place where you can find original drawings and paintings from unknown artists and vintage Chanel clothes. Unfortunately, I am unable to fit furniture into the overhead bin of the Boeing 767 I will be taking home, so that's kind of a big disappointment. Sean and I have tried our hand at upholstery in the past (and successfully, I might add) so it's not a stretch to think that I could turn dilapidated antique chairs into something beautiful for my dining room.

After hours of wandering down rabbit holes, April and I didn't purchase a thing. Instead, we became much more familiar with the personalities of the different markets that lay within and will devote some time to another visit to actually shop. I'm thinking this might be an excellent place to do some early Christmas shopping.

Before we left the markets, we enjoyed a lovely lunch on an outdoor terrace at a nearby bistro. April and I had our first taste of French rosé and I have to say, it was delicious! The rosé was much lighter in color than similar wines I've seen/tried in Seattle. It was also light and refreshing, the perfect tonic for a hot and sticky day. At the conclusion of lunch, April asked our server for our check (or so she thought), but she actually asked for "le billet" (ticket), which our server took for "biere" (beer) and promptly brought us two glasses of beer. Once the beer arrived, we realized that we screwed up and meant to ask her for "l'addition" (check) and it took some doing on our part (and poor French language skills) to rectify the matter. C'est la vie.

We decided to take the bus back to our neighborhood instead of the Metro so we could "see" Paris above ground. We spend a lot of time traveling via Metro and I didn't realize until we were on the bus just how close our apartment is to central Paris, the Seine and places like the Louvre.

After a short respite at the apartment, April and I walked towards Montparnasse Boulevard to seek out dinner. This area is lively with hordes of people and restaurants. After viewing several menus, we decided to eat at La Rotonde.

Our table was literally on the sidewalk outside, but we didn't mind. The evening was lovely; not too hot with a bit of a breeze. The people watching was also fantastic. As Olive would say, I was "appy". After our successful foray into the world of rosé, we decided to try another with dinner. April selected a vintage from Aix-en-Provence and it was pretty delicious. If it hadn't been 25 Euros per bottle, we would have easily had two!

My meal was a starter of "preserved vegetables with chève and basil reduction" which in layman's terms was pickled eggplant, red peppers, mushrooms, anchovies and goat cheese, with a basil sauce. It was delicious, even though I'm not a huge fan of anchovies. My main dish was a perfectly cooked steak with black pepper sauce and pommes frites (fries). C'est bonne!

April's starter was some kind of "egg pot" that was a bit of a layered terrine with a tomato sauce, mozzarella, soft boiled egg and basil foam (yes, foam!). April's main dish was a steamed cod with lemon garlic aoli and grilled vegetables. For dessert, we both had crème brûlée.

Coincidentally, I am reading "The Paris Wife" which is a novel about Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley that focuses mostly on their years living in Paris during the 1920's. La Rotonde was one of Hemingway's favorite places to hang out and I just read the chapter last night that talked about La Rotonde and other places we've seen along Boulevard du Montparnasse and Boulevard du Port-Royal. That's one of the things (among many) that I love so much about Paris -- the history here.  To think that Hemingway, Picasso, and Fitzgerald walked the same sidewalk before me is kind of cool when you think about it. I get why so many writers and artists flocked to Paris to awaken their creativity. Although difficult to describe "it" Paris has an unmistakable "je ne sais quoi" in the air. It's while in Paris (and Spain) that Hemingway wrote "The Sun Also Rises" and for us, on this beautiful Saturday, it rose for us too.

À bientôt!

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