Monday, June 11, 2007

Summer in the city

The air is heavy. It's hard to walk at even a strolling pace without breaking a sweat. The crowded metro train is a moving oven and the buses are no better. And it's not even a heat wave, just warm weather under somewhat overcast skies.

I come back to the apartment and open all the windows for a breath of fresh air, step under the shower to freshen up, and try to blog. As you've probably noticed, it doesn't seem to happen very often lately.

We've actually been doing a lot, seeing friends, going to restaurants, visiting museums. Our friend Liz organized a dinner with Remi, a professor at the Sorbonne whom we had met in 2005 when Liz, he, his daughter Charlotte and Gil all attended a historical conference at Stanford and spent a week in Berkeley. Remi is an obsessive journal-keeper and writer, as were his father and grandfather before him; he publishes many of these journals and published the one he kept of the Berkeley sojourn. At dinner he gave me a copy, which I read later that night (first flicking through to find my name, I admit). It's lucky he's got his own publishing company.

We've had several good meals recently, at Les Papilles on rue Gay Lussac, where we had a delicious fixed menu that included cold pea soup with bacon and herbs, navarin of lamb with baby vegetables, a slice of cheese with apple compote and a passionfruit mousse for dessert, all for the stunning sum of 28.50 euros! Les Papilles is also a wine shop and any wine on the shelf is available for the retail price plus 6 euros. It was the third time we've been there over the last several years and it's as good as ever.

Another memorable meal was at Le Temps au Temps on rue Paul Bert in the 11th arrondissement. I had asparagus with smoked tuna in a balsamic reduction, followed by black risotto with squid and a fabulous rice pudding with caramel au beurre sel. The others had equally yummy things (although my dessert was the best!) and again, the 3 course fixed price meal was 30 euros, without wine.

To balance this picture of reasonably priced fabulousness, we had lunch today at Café de l'Esplanade, a Costes brothers establishment just off the Invalides, where a lobster salad, a croque monsieur and two coffees cost 51 euros. Granted, we knew what we were getting into by choosing that particular place, and the people-watching was definitely worth it, but a bargain it was not.

We saw the Rembrandt et la Nouvelle Jerusalem show at the Jewish Museum in the Marais and visited the new Quai Branly Museum to see the controversial building by Jean Nouvel, with its planted exterior wall (great, we think) and installation of the permanent collection (Gene likes it, Shelli has mixed reactions).

We went once again, as we do every visit, to the Musée Carnavalet, with its incredible collection of articles dealing with the history of Paris, including Marcel Proust's very own cork-lined bedroom.

Today's museum visit was wonderful. The enormous Anselm Kiefer installation in the newly reopened Grand Palais is extraordinary and done specifically for the space. It's called Chute d'Etoiles (Falling Stars) and is the first of the "Monumenta" exhibitions planned for the Grand Palais. Keifer has filled the space with structures and filled the structures with paintings and constructions that reference the cycle of life, death, destruction, rebirth and resurrection. It's stunning and we loved it.

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