Passionate for Paris on the 4th of July

Happy 4th of July USA!   You would be happy to hear that the cafes just down the street from our apartment are proudly displaying their red, white, and blue!  They’ve got streamers, American flags, and lots of people, all with a good excuse to party and eat a cheeseburger!  And Bruce Springsteen is here!  It doesn’t get much more American than that!

As you can see, Bruce’s concert is complet, or sold out, and, sadly, we won’t be in attendance.  In the middle of booking our little adventures to Lyon and Provence and planning for Paris, we decided to wait on making any other big purchases, including the tickets to Bruce.  Poor decision on our part since he’s rocking the Bercy right now and we’re rocking out to our iPod.

In lieu of fireworks, the French construction workers began their noisy chaos on the building adjacent to ours at an early 7am, blasting us out of bed earlier than usual.  We took it as an opportunity to grab an early espresso and a flaky croissant and escape the torturous calamity streaming through our windows.

We began our day with a leisurely walk down the market street of Rue de Montorgueil.  Here any food lover can carefully select from a wide variety of fresh ingredients to orchestrate the perfect meal.  Tucked between the bustling bistros and cafes, butchers busily fill their display cases with fresh cuts of meat, as fish mongers pile their shellfish and other catch high on ice.  Fromageries waft with the fragrance of French cheeses, boulangeries bake and stock their crusty baguettes, and patisseries have filled their windows with bright macaroons, tarts, and other sugary confections.  Produce stands line the sidewalks, brightly bursting with the colors of seasonal fruits and vegetables.  A street of pure paradise for anyone who loves to cook and celebrate food.

While Rue Montorgueil does have a lot to offer, it is minimal in comparison to the old marketplace of Les Halles, the famous and now nonexistent central market of Paris.  From the early 19th century until 1971, Les Halles bustled with merchants as they sold their food specialties under covered stalls from the wee hours of the morning to all hours of the night. Today, its nothing more than a Metro Station and a tacky shopping mall, bearing no resemblance to what Emile Zola described as “the belly of Paris”.

I tried to imagine the old Les Halles as we entered this very Metro station today.  I’ll admit, I couldn’t.  However, I have taken some time to peruse our coffee table book of black and white photos by Robert Doisneau, a photographer who captured the market in both its good  and bad days.  His photos are phenomenal and have given me a better understanding of historic Les Halles.

After breakfast we took the Metro to the 6th arrondisement to the Jardin de Luxembourg, a massive and beautiful private park of some 60 acres.  Owned and operated by the French Senate, the park is beautifully maintained and strictly regulated. Between the perfectly manicured trees and the vibrant flower beds, Parisians can participate in a variety of recreational activities or just sit and bathe in the sun or read in the shadows of the trees.

If I were a child, this would probably rank as one of my favorite places in Paris.  The jungle gyms are complex, the swing sets are double seaters, and the puppet show is a regular scheduled event.  There’s even a small carousel!  You can also sail wooden sailboats in the fountain in front of the Luxembourg Palace and chase it around with a wooden stick as you watch it sail.  Good solid fun if you ask me!

After a long walk in the gardens, we returned to Les Halles, picked up sandwiches to go at Le Comptoir de Gastronomie, and retreated to our apartment for a quiet lunch.  The sandwich was simple yet delicious with tender pieces of ham and a light tomato spread encased in a crusty baguette.

After spending a lazy afternoon reading, napping, and people watching out the window, we returned to Rue de Montorgueil for dinner.  With plans to dine on a classic French staple of steak frites, we chose a bistro widely and highly recommended by other bloggers.  While the service was friendly and the atmosphere pleasant, the steak frites were a huge disappointment, with the only satisfying part being the flavorful side of bourdelaise sauce.

So the fries were soggy and the steak was forgettable, but it didn’t ruin our day.  We can’t expect every meal to be groundbreaking, especially in a city with thousands of places to eat and a world of varying opinions on each of them.  Surprisingly, it is possible to have a bad meal in Paris!

After dinner we went to the wine shop to visit Claude, the only French person here who knows us both by name.  He greets us like he’s known us for years.  We love that, in just four days, we’ve sort of made a connection with someone here.  Even his dog likes us…

Enjoy Paul’s photos. I may be the one trying desperately to paint a picture with just the right words, but he’s the one trying desperately to capture just the right light at just the right moment so that we’ll always have Paris…

One Comment on “Passionate for Paris on the 4th of July

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