As I sit in a lovely courtyard, the sound of a water fountain trickling behind me, and I sip on my coffee, I miss one thing… if I were home, I wouldn’t be sniffing up a pack of cigarettes with my meal. Oh the French. Some things maybe won’t change.
Jet lag is settling in… I could barely scrape myself together at 10a this morning. A few hours of ambition evaporated in the sun. My poor friend is sick, so I am letting her snooze even more. We’ve a long day ahead–it’s the nighttime celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France! Unlike any other finish, they are pushing it back til night falls and the city of lights can wear its name with glorious luminosity to usher them down the Champs Elysees. Dinner reception begins at midnight, so an evening that comes touches upon daylight is likely.
Yesterday proved to be a long, nearly perfect first day. We walked across the river Seine and explored le rive gauche (left bank)– Saint Germain, Latin Quarter and landmarks such as the Notre Dame. We dined on Croque Monsieur and rose at a clearly tourist trap, but it felt perfectly appropriate… and it was wholly satisfying. A mixture of heat exhaustion, dehydration and overtired silliness inspired us back to the Hotel Castille in Place Vendome, where we surrendered to a hearty nap.
Our appetites rallied, so we checked out a place I have always wanted to try: Le Bistrot Paul Bert. Their thoughtful wine list reflects a tendency for the Rhone– a rather unusual thing to find in Paris, where most Bistrot red is Bordeaux or perhaps Burgundy and the whites include Sancerre, Chablis and Champagne (not so bad…). But here, there was a soft spot for the galet engulfed bush vines of Grenache. Still, we went for the best deal–I always do: a 2004 Chateau Moulin Pey Labrie Canon Fronsac for 48 Euro. This near decade old underrated red from the right bank was showing its best stuff and complimented a meal of Blanquette de Veau avec chanterelles (sorry folks– that’s veal in cream sauce with mushrooms). I know, mean … but it was so good. Amazingly, though, it wasn’t this classic house favorite that moved my senses off the charts. It was the fresh, Andalusian gazpacho I had to start the meal that really sent me wooing. Cilantro and olive oil sated my nostrils before I even had a bite of the pureed, tomato chilled soup on such a hot summer night. What differentiates ‘Andalusian’ from other gazpachos is precisely its smooth, strained consistency as opposed to chunks. The integration is sublime when done right. And it was at Le Paul Bert.
Meanwhile, a few inches away, my friend feasted on another recommendation– the house made terrine of ‘meats’. Though it reminded me of cold meatloaf, it was very good meatloaf–not quite the kind mom made back in the midwest growing up. As I took a few bites and marveled at how many ‘meats’ were exactly in that marriage, I decided it was quite good overall, if not a little filling for pre-dinner.
For once in my life, I couldn’t imagine eating dessert. My friend and I pushed back our plates and checked our phones. No rest for the weary as we hailed a cab to the Four Seasons George V bar for a nightcap. I am certain I have written of this place before, but if I haven’t it is a place you need to get it on your list of places to see before you die. You don’t need to pay $1500 a night to experience the best part: the floral arrangements. It is said that this is the most lavish display of flowers outside an actual flower shop in the entire world. Jeff Leatham is the artist with the eye for these famous arrangements that are said to be changed out daily– a staggering thought when you see that this place is dripping with decadence in flora. Hang right and enter the old, masculine bar Le Cinq for a scotch, cognac or martini. I, of course, never rest with high acid wine, so for me it was a Droin 1er Cru Chablis. People watching is at its prime and the 20 euro cocktail feels only like admission with a cocktail to walk through an indoor garden complete with entertainment found in the spectacle of people.
We fell into bed after what seemed the longest day ever–in a good way, of course. It was the eve of the culmination of the Tour, and we were in Paris. Surreal begins to describe it…