Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday 30 December - Versailles and Beethoven's Ninth

Blazon of the day - on a Z6400 series electric train at Versailles Rive Droite.
We used a mobilis ticket to go to Versailles today.  The line from Saint-Lazare via La Defense to Versailles Rive Droite is the most convenient.  These trains date from the mid to late 1970s and are beginning to show their age.  We were rattling along and there was a very loud bang.  My first thought was that we had run over a torpedo, but some of the lights went out - circuit breaker.  A minute or so later there was another loud bang and the lights came back.  This was quite an entertining ride what with the loud traction motor sounds and views of the Eiffel Tower after La Defense.

We bought a quick lunch and walked into the grounds of the Chateau,  There were evidently a lot of tourists visiting Versailles, and many had rented four person electric golf carts to get around - not a good idea as many parts of the grounds were formerly a long way off for the average tourist.  The trianon and the lake are now within easy reach.

This is as close to the chateau with its screaming hordes as we came.
There were a lot of magpies in the fields with the sheep.  They rode on the sheeps' backs which caused some annoyance.
On the way back we ran parallel with a train from Normandie with this locomotive in push mode.
This evening we attended a concert at La Madeleine.  The performance was of the Mendelsohn Psalm 42 and Beethoven;s Ninth Symphony (The Choral).  The venue is superb but the acoustics can be difficult at times, particularly during the loud passages.  At the end of each section the echo lasted a second or so.  Nevertheless it was a very good performance that we both enjoyed.
Paul Kuentz, orchestra,chorus and soloists taking a bow
The metro with a change at Saint-Lazare got us there and back in very good time.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday 29 December - Hotel de Ville, Place des Vosges and Ile de Saint Louis

It was a beautiful warm day today with a lot of sunshine.  We went first to the Hotel de Ville to see what was happening there.  The usual skating rink has been replaced by a display of endangered animals.  There is normally a photographic display which was replaced by some pictures and comments from the recent global warming summit meeting which was held here in November.  The message was that technology is helping us in the fight towards sustainability but we have a long way to go .
At the Hotel de Ville the free manege was put to good use

The rue de Rivoli was not very busy and it was a pleasant stroll to the Hotel de Sully and the Place des Vosges.  We picked up a quiche and ate it sitting on a bench in the sun. There were a great number of sparrows in the vegetation in the Hotel de Sully and it looked as if the bushes were in a wind.
sun bathing at the Hotel de Sully
The Htel de Sully exhibits some movement in the building
A wonderful display of seafood near the Bastille
The Bastille was busy and the Christmas funfair was in full swing.

The Ile de Saint-Louis was quite busy but the crowds at Notre Dame were very heavy indeed - the heaviest we have seen in Paris on this trip.  We were not encouraged to linger and caught the metro back to Villiers.  Some grocery shopping was in order and we managed to score a barbecued poulet fermier and roast potatoes at our favorite butcher.  One surprise was that Nicolas, the local wine merchant, did not have Izarra (either yellow or green).  This will become a cause celebre.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday 28 December - Icelandic Movie

I took a quick look at the Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est this morning.  Both were very busy,  Gare de l'Est seemed to keep its normal air of calm.  The piano has been moved away from the platform end into the shopping area.
Gare de l'Est
One of the new Eurostar trains which have just been put into service to London.  The train length problem has evidently been resolved.
I saw one of the old 170xx locomotives on a local train at Gare de l'Est but could not get close enough to see the number.  First one I have seen on this trip.

I took the bus back from the Gare de l'Est.  The ride along rue Magenta to Barbes-Rochcchouart is always interesting as it passes through an accumulation of shops selling, wedding and formal wear, shoes etc.  Some of the gowns and suits are pretty garish. 

This afternoon we went to an Icelandic movie at a cinema just off the Boulevard de Clichy.  With French subtitles, it was quite good but with only a handful of people it is not hard to understand why it was not in the first run places.  The building was interesting as it has been renovated from a much older cinema and there was an interesting display of old celluloid projectors.  The theatre itself was extremely large. 

We had planned on having barbecued chicken this evening but it turned out that all of the butchers on Levis (all four of them) were closed today.  The back off was an excellent meal at the Bistro D'I-D which is very close to the apartment.
The terrine du moment was very good indeed if a little too much 
Civet du sanglier (wild boar) with tagliatelle came in a rich well herbed and spiced sauce.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday 27 December - Mouffetarde, Dancing in the Street

We took the metro to the Monge market which was very quiet and then walked to the Rue Mouffetarde.  This is normally busy on a Sunday but today it was very quiet indeed.  Tourism is obviously down heavily but it may be that Parisians have taken the opportunity to go out of town for the period between Christmas and the New Year.  So far as we were concerned it was good being able to move around easily.

On Sunday mornings a group of locals get together with a piano accordion and a guitar and sing and dance in the area at the bottom of the street close to the church. When we passed first the accordionist was trying to get people together by singing La Mer.  A little later a couple were dancing and the seats for the spectators were beginning to fill up.  I found the video was a little difficult because of the constant stream of people.

Seats are provided, along with song sheets, for the spectators.
The pigeons were enjoying the entertainment
This was a truly local Parisian experience and we spent some time watching the crowd and the dancing.  We had a hankering to go back to a restaurant on Mouffetarde to which we have been several tmes.  Mary liked the poele de St-Jacques which many tourists took as being chicken rather than scallops.  This time the menu has been changed slightly to St-Jacques a la Provencal which is more explicit.  It was very very good as was my confit de canard.  As usual we started with the onion soup which was very good but in a large bowl.

Confit de canard
The Jardins de Luxembourg were quite busy in the warm sun but surprisingly there were no boats being sailed in the pond in front of the Senate building.  The gulls and mallards had the water to themselves.

The restoration work on the front of St-Sulpice has been finished and it looks great.  Once again, there were few people around.

A large Wallace fountain at St-Sulpice

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday 26 December - Buttes Chaumont

Typical classic entrance to the metro.
It was mild and sunny today and Buttes Chaumont was at its best.  I lot of work has been done in this park and the results are very good.  The one disappointment was that the overlook was closed for renovations.

There were many holly trees with lots of red berries
The originalreinforced concrete fences are very much in evidence
The island is a haven for bird life
We walked back to the canal at Jaures and came back almost to the Bastille.  Unfortunately the city has caged off the canal with nasty green fencing and has destroyed what was formerly a pleasant walk into an obstacle course. 
There must be fish in the canal
Mary came straight back while I looked in at Saint-Lazare which was very quiet indeed.
Dinner this evening was a very good cassoulet from a jar purchased from the charcuterie.  It was full of sausage and chicken.  
Dessert was the Christmas special from the new meringue shop on Levis - variations on pavlova.  Chestnut cream with maron glace, orange and crystallized orange peel.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Friday 26 December - Christmas Day

Although it was Christmas Day the daily garbage came around as normal.  Trains were running into Saint-Lazare as normal although in England the railways shut down completely on Christmas and Boxing Days.
Trains were running into and out of Saint-Lazare roughly one a minute.
There were not many people around this morning except in the rue de Levis where all the bakeries and specialty food shops as well as florists and laundromats were open.

We walked down to the Grand Colbert on rue Vivien for our traditional Christmas lunch
Coupe de champagne
White wine for Mary/red wine for me
Half a dozen oysters
Flan of scallops and lobster with caviar/french onion soup
Plate of scallops/confit de canard
Christmas suggestion du chef - vanilla mousse with caramelized apple and shards of caramel/apple sorbet with calvados
The food was excellent and the service was exceptional.

Flan with scallops and lobster with caviar
Suggestion du chef -vanilla mousse with caramelized apple and shards of caramel
Apple sorbet with vieus calvados
The serving staff were very good
We had a little time after lunch before the concert at La Madeleine and we made good use of it to walk through the jardin du Palais Royal and then to view the shop window displays at Le Printemps and Galeries Lafayette on the boulevard Hausseman.  There were not too many people around so it was quite pleasant looking in the windows.

The organ concert in La Madeleine was an enormous disappointment which we had expected.  The introduction to each piece was much to long, almost as long as the piece played.  The first couple of pieces were tuneless, slimy music which the organist made worse by playing them much too loud. There was a piece from Handel's Royal Fireworks Suite. However, it was arranged by the organist who managed to butcher it so that the tunes were lost in the overall sounds of the organ.  We and many others left half way through.

The walk back to the apartment (Malhderbes to Miromesnil then Levis) was very pleasant, the weather was mild and the winds moderate.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursday 24 December - Christmas Eve - Montmartre

We did our grocery shopping early this morning.  The shops were not too busy although there was a long line up at the fishmongers - both to be served and then to pay the ticket.
Sacre Coeur from Boulevarde des Batignolles
Rue des Abbesses
A very ornate copper hot chocolate machine near Sacre Coeur
Montmartre is not very busy at all.  There are significantly fewer tourists this year.  Place du Tertre almost had more artists than tourists.  The steps of Sacre Coeur were empty and there was just a small trickle of visitors to the church.

We walked around to the back of Sacre Coeur to get an unusual view of the building.

Lapin Agile cabaret  This is just across from the Montmartre vineyard.
As usual our Christmas Eve meal was in the apartment from items purchased locally on teh rue de Levis.
We started with foie gras n gingerbread toast
Gambas sauvage
Pate en croute de canard a l'orange
Stuffed quail
Mont d'Or cheese
Salted caramel bouche de noel