Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 24 Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, more incredible food, a stroll along the Seine and beyond

Amidst the early morning drizzle I made a run to the nearby Franprix grocery store, located just across from the Metro Saint-Paul, for water. I then popped next door to Manon for a fresh baguette and croissant amandes. We give the former an A+ but the latter a miserable C; mushy, flabby, tasting mostly of alcohol (remember the Parisians like to use Rum in their croissant amandes); we say pass on this pastry if you go to Manon.

The morning was spent in a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, just thankful that we weren't driving in the heart of Paris.

For me, I take the opportunity for another quick browse through the book store at the Carnavalet Museum. Located in the next block north from our apartment I have always enjoyed browsing this tiny bookstore but since they've remodeled it the look is cleaner, it seems bigger and just better all around: the layout, selection and feel of the place makes me want to come back again and again.
entrance to the Carnavalet
Susie and I then head out for a quick 10-minute walk to Pain de Sucre, one of her favorite pastry hangouts in Paris. They've now expanded and added a new shop dedicated to the sweet side; their old shop right next door handles the breads and savory treats.

love those Metro adverts!
From Pain de Sucre we retrace our steps toward home.

Our next objective is not home, though, but the Museum of Jewish History and Culture, located in the Hotel de Saint-Aignan. The featured exhibition is "The Mexican Suitcase," negatives of photos documenting the Loyalist side during the fratricidal Spanish Civil War in the 1930s; photos taken by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, David Chim and Fred Stein.

Since the photographers were based in Paris (although none were French), the images ended up here as well. But sometime after the the Nazis occupied the city, a suitcase containing labeled rolls of negatives of images were smuggled out of France and eventually ended up in Mexico. They finally came to light and are now on "tour" so to speak, and we were there to see them first-hand. Powerful, bitter, and painful, particularly given the tragic outcome of that conflict: years of fascism for Spain and a training ground for the German military machine.

The last time we were in this museum was for another powerful and painful exhibition: the Alfred Dreyfus story, a particularly distasteful episode in French history that was just a foretaste of what lay in store for much of the country's Jewish population a generation or so later.

Back outside in the rain, we headed off in search of lunch. . .

. . . and found exactly what we wanted at Le Loir dans la Theiere. Located on rue des Rosiers at the edge of the old Jewish quarter, the cafe was inviting, full of charm, and packed with people in search of the same thing: great food. And we weren't disappointed.

Susie had a quiche tart and I had a red lentil salad topped with thinly sliced ham. For dessert the Tarte had a tart (cherry, and still with the pits) while I made serious inroads into a large piece of millefeuille. Both were as scrumptious as the plats themselves.

dessert table

Off we went, back onto the wet, chilly Paris streets and found our way, for no particular reason, on boulevard Beaumarchais, at the edge of the 4th arr.

As we strolled along dodging the rain my eye caught sight of those magical words: cartes postales (postcards), and in particular vintage postcards. We popped inside and few minutes later I walked out with six new (old) postcards to add to my growing Pere-Lachaise collection.

"Images by Marc" -- lots of cool, old stuff
Leaving Beaumarchais and heading to the left bank our next objective was 93 rue de Bac and La Patisserie des Reves, another of the Tarte's favorite pastry spots. In fact, she picked up his recipe book at Gibert Jeune on this trip; that should result in some tasty surprises for Providence cogniscenti this summer and fall for sure!

As we were strolling in the 7th arr. we found ourselves along rue de Varenne walking past Le Pain Quotidien. Susie reminded me that this "chain" was a recommendation by Clotdile so I said let's pop inside and have coffee. Susie opted for hot chocolate while I sipped a nicely done espresso.

The business model for this chain is at once both unique and brilliant. The chef-owner, who worked for some time in the United States (and there are numerous shops in the US as well), takes the friendly and engaging service model from the US and marries it with tasty, freshly-prepared French food, but without being pushy. Plus the communal table is a very cool idea -- as we would find out before the end of our trip.

After a pleasant bit of downtime enjoying just being in Paris we headed outside and in the general direction of the Seine. Eventually we found ourselves strolling down rue Avenue des Anciennes, one of the oldest streets in Paris and where you can still find the oldest cafe, Cafe Procope. Lunch was not on our mind however, although we were intrigued by a nearby confectionary shop, Un Dimanche a Paris, located on the same old cobbled street as the cafe.

Inside we found a slick decor, nicely presented sweets and jars of what appeared to be chocolate beads but were in fact various herbs inside a tiny bit of chocolate. Fantastic idea and delicious, too.

Once more across the Seine and once more I came across one of those little plain markers one finds scattered around the city memorializing someone who was killed during the liberation of Paris. This time it was to remember Rene Revel from the 15th arr. who was shot and killed by the Germans on August 19, 1944.

From the sublime to the . . .  locks of love, which are here on numerous bridges in Paris. We first saw these on the Ponte Vecchio in 2006 and the trend is spreading. Like love, I suppose.

pointing downstream to the tip of the Isle de la Cite
We didn't dally long on the right bank but returned to the left and made our way up boulevard Saint-Michel, turning up rue Soufflot and found a cafe to have an aperitif. We were duly impressed by the waiter's unfriendliness and would urge you to avoid this place altogether.

Instead, head over to the Place Contrescarpe, a short 10- or 15-minute walk at the upper end of the rue Mouffetard. There you can sit outside and soak up Hemingway (who once lived just down Cardinal Lemoine), students, tourists, and the locals enjoying watching the world pass by.

Making our way to the Metro line 7 we returned to the right bank, alighting at Pont Marie and walking in the direction of our apartment.

Just short of our home was a tiny restaurant called, simply enough L'Osteria, where we opted to have dinner. It was quiet inside and although we arrived during the regular Parisian dinner hour there was little business transacted aside from a few of us who had the sense to eat here.

The service was interestingly friendly, the wine tasty and the food superb. Susan started out with an incredible white asparagus salad with egg and tomatoes, and for her plat she had pasta and I had saltimbocca, the latter freshly cut to order. Impressive and strongly recommended.

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