Friday, May 30, 2008

Day Nine - Two Great Restaurants

May 1. Our last full day in Paris. We really screwed up our trip planning not realizing that May 1 is France's Labor Day--so almost everything was closed! The little bakery we had been going to for breakfast was closed, so we ventured towards the Madeleine district, which was about a 10 minute walk, to find a place to eat. We found Cafe le Madeleine where we dined on croissants and cafe creme and viewed the sparse pedestrian traffic from our window table. It seemed that everyone was sleeping in that day and the cafe only had a few patrons besides us.

Well, this was looking like a walking-around-and-eating day, then Ken mentioned that he wanted to see the Gare de Lyon which was the station in the movie "Mr. Bean's Holiday". What can I say but, I like fabric, he likes trains. So we took the Metro to the station. It is a rather impressive station built in 1900 for the Worlds Fair, the same event that produced the Eiffel Tower. All the train stations in Paris that I have visited are very orderly and easy to get around. I have been in a number of major train stations in the US, but the French have us beat when it comes to stations. These are actually places where you can hang out which is exactly what we did. Ken's ulterior motive was to go to the grand restaurant located in the station. Le Train Bleu (watch out, there is music to the homepage link) was built as part of the station and has been featured in many movies. This place was the most elegant restaurant I have ever visited. Since we were there, we decided to have lunch and take in the full experience! This place was very expensive, but we both settled on the salmon which was 27 Euros and one of the less expensive items on the menu. It was absolutely wonderful. We both had a glass of wine, salad, cheese, ice cream for dessert, coffee and calvados. The bill was well over 125 Euros (for lunch, no less!), but well worth the price. Lunch took about two hours start to finish. I would certainly do this again. After lunch we decided to look around the area outside since we had never been to this part of Paris. We ended up at the Seine and followed it until we reached Hotel de Ville (city hall) then we walked up Rue de Rivoli. At this point, it dawned on us that we had not seen the Eiffel Tower during our visit, so on to the Metro and we headed toward the ET. This was where everyone was hanging out. Even though it was a Thursday, since it was a holiday, it seemed like a Sunday. We did not want to stand in line to go up the tower, so we just walked around it. I found the place I plan to live in my next life. It's the apartment with the red awnings located across from the Eiffel Tower.

By now it was after 5 p.m and we had dinner reservations in the 9th Arrondissement for 8:30, so we headed back to our hotel to relax, freshen up, and change our clothes and start packing for our trip back home the next day. We had made these reservation in February and had been trying for over two months to contact them. They are very particular as to the time of day when they would take reservations, so it was a big effort on our part. Ken had read about this restaurant in Bon Appetite and found it interesting that one of the hottest places to eat in Paris was run by an American. We left the hotel around 7:30 taking the Metro then walking to the restaurant. We got there a little too early, so walked around the neighborhood and found another restaurant to try on our next trip. By 8:30 the restaurant was opened and one couple was seated. In France, I guess people arrive fashionably late, too. But by 9 p.m. everyone was seated. The restaurant is called Spring and has only one seating and a fixed menu with no choices (unless you make a specific request in advance). If you check out the blog for the restaurant, there is a link to a webcam located in the restaurant. The kitchen cam has been off the past couple weeks, but the seating area is usually up. This will give you an idea of the size of this place. The restaurant seats only 16 people and the kitchen and chef are in the same room as the dining room, just located in the back of the room. This place was not romantic, but it was cozy. We were seated next to two gentlemen, one French and the other a transplanted American who had been living in France for the past 17 years. He had been trying to make reservations for several months himself. Even in France it was had to get into this place. We started off with a squash soup that was delicious, then an appetizer of gravlax and vegetables with spun sugar over it. The main course was pigeon (hey, it's France!). I had never had this before, but it tasted pretty much like chicken since it was a bird--a tiny bird of mostly dark meat. Dessert was fresh strawberries with a reduction sauce. All portions where small, but we did not leave starving by any means. Rather than buy a bottle of wine, we asked to be served a glass of the appropriate wine for each course, so we had four different wines, and of course, calvados after everything. Dinner took four hours, but did not drag. Conversing with the American and his French friend seated next to us kept the evening entertaining along with the great food. It was 12:30 a.m. by the time we left, finding ourselves the only ones on the street at that time of night. We were hoping that we would catch the last Metro train back to our hotel, and luckily we did! Since we did not have to leave the hotel until around 10 a.m. the next day and were mostly packed, we set the alarm clock for 8 a.m.


Alexandra said...

All that talk about restaurants and food is making my mouth water. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your Paris series. The pictures are amazing and I really like your descriptions. I almost feel like I was right there.

Karen said...

I have a photograph of that building with the red awnings from the 2nd level of the Tower. I thought what a nice location it was - maybe when you move there I'll visit!

There were a lot more bare legs when I was there from 5/8 - 5/14, but it also hit 75-80 almost every day. The French are fashionable, but they have sense.

I had severe bag lust the entire time I was there, I saw so many purses I wanted to bring home, but I settled for fabric instead.