03 November, 2009

Just a little more dreaming of Paris.

While I do go on about life in the countryside, I'm actually at my happiest when I am able periodically take in the ebullient city as well. Best of both worlds, yadda yadda. Here are some more snaps from my latest visit to Paris. I was able to catch the Louvre's Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto show, which features some 85 canvases (a few gems by Battista Franco as well). Many of the tableaux are of breath-taking scale and refinement, and all are from Venice in the late 1500s. They will be exhibited until January 4, 2010; I strongly recommend buying tickets in advance, unless you enjoy excessive queuing; you won't have to specify the day or time you want to come, so your plans remain flexible.
Hey, it's important to remain flexible, as you never know when you will happen upon a lovely Left Bank street filled with quirky shop windows at which you simply must linger. Or when you might stumble upon an open-air organic market filled with the best of the season, like these pristine cèpes (referred to as eekhoorntjesbrood, or 'squirrel bread', by the Dutch, porcini by the Italians, and boletus edulis in Latin). How lovely to see that virginal interior laid bare, especially since my last foray into cèpes-buying resulted in a butcher's block full of just-sliced mushrooms--heavily infested with squirmy white larvae as it turned out. The additional protein made for a gross-out face, muffled curses and last-minute improvisation. From now on I will ask them to first slice open these nutty, "meaty" tasting fungi. Any eye-rolling notwithstanding, it's worth it; these mushrooms aren't given away.

Flexibility in Paris is also highly practical simply given the number of cafes, terraces and patisseries, and the high probability of a sweet tooth combined with sore feet. Even though she has become disturbingly omnipresent the last few years (now to be found in Tokyo, Dublin, Geneva, London--and at Charles de Gaulle airport, for crying out loud), Ladurée remains the 150-some year old grande doyenne of the patisseries, chiefly for the must-do tea-room (even if you only peep through the window at the rococo interior). You go to her, above all, for her divine macarons, which are essentially little sandwiches composed of two almond meringue cookies between which there is a creamy ganache filling. Let's not forget that circa the 1880s Ladurée actually developed the intensely airy and flavorfully filled permutation of the macaron we know today (which is a completely different entity from the also delicious but dense Anglo-Saxon coconut macaroon). Given Ladurée's 150-some years in existence, Pierre Herme has to aim for wild audacity in flavor combinations for his versions to compete. And he doesn't always succeed, I am told.

Leaving room for the unexpected means being able to slow down and have a chat, perhaps as I did, with this artisan sign-painter, standing by his palette on wheels. And they say Parisians are cold. As with any world city, there are dreadful inequities and the accumulated weight of small, everyday outrages. In any season, however, she remains a grand city.


  1. ....feeling an overwhelming desire to get on the next plane out of the dreary Midwest and join you there! : )

    gorgeous photos.

  2. I'm writing this from the comfort of the south again. Mi casa es su casa...


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