Archive for the ‘Versailles’ Category

Happy Birthday Julie’s Paris

October 10, 2011

The ETs prefer a comfortable outdoor venue when doing research for the Readership (even when they should be looking for someone to cut their hair)

The Experienced Travelers are popping corks to celebrate one-year of Julie’s Paris. Who knew!  Nurse and I toast the Readership!

Associate ETs Joanne and Clare explore the menu at Le Petit Troquet in the 7th

We also salute Associate ETs Joanne, Clare and Melinda, who contributed travel companionship, content and photos.  They willingly walked, ate, drank, shopped, photographed, drank and persevered.

Julie’s Paris  started as a trip blog.  It would have been too tiresome to spend time and bandwidth e-mailing everyone 10-megapixel photos of duck confit.  So we decided to blog.  The format was ideal and our friends were hardly shy about sharing comments about our Paris adventures. Thus it began, and so it continues.

Stiring things up at the Bisto St-Germain

We’ve welcomed new members to the Readership from all round the world.  It’s a delight to meet you and exchange stories through comments and e-mail.  We also rely on the Fodors Travel Europe forum for information and advice to bring the Readership the very best in Paris info.

Our first post was inspired by the orgiastic 2 1/2-hour lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Versailles.  But the continuation of that post with more photos and description is a better read! We know that the Readership wants French food — the ETs will dine out and deliver.

Other popular posts over the past year include our trip to the Chateau de Versailles, some odds and ends around town, the Marais and Monet, and the most-searched term leading readers to the blog, les macarons.  Next time you’re on a conference call, check out the Julie’s Paris archive!

The ETs are ready to eat whenever necessary in service to JuliesParis

Thank goodness we have hundreds of digital photos from Paris trips over the years, so we have a robust archive of pictures and stories to keep Julie’s Paris fresh.

But for heaven’s sake, think of the Paris topics and restaurants I have yet to cover.  It’s my job to gather content, so I am going to Kayak.com right away to check on airfares.  I must insure that the Readership is entertained.  I take my responsibility very seriously.  (And if my accountant should ask, be sure you tell her how important new content is to you)

There's so much more to discover in Paris - the Trocadero neighborhood looks promising.

We all love Paris – so let’s share our guilty pleasure with like-minded friends! Go ahead — use the “Share” link at the end of each post and tell us what you think.  If you’re the shy, retiring type, you can send us a note at julies_paris@yahoo.com

We thank the Readership for your unwavering loyalty to Julie’s Paris! Celebrate! It’s the perfect excuse for a smelly cheese and a glass of wine.

Encore!

PS – Let me draw your attention to “Lost In Paris” an entertaining article in yesterday’s New York Times  where author Matt Gross describes spending $200 on an umbrella.  There’s some Found Money!

Tres Moderne II – Murakami at Versailles

January 19, 2011

What were they thinking. Murakami rug in the Chateau of Versailles

Our earlier post on modern art at the Centre Pompidou reminded the ETs of another divisive Art Experience at the Chateau of Versailles.  The ETs are usually a model of harmonious travel.  But the exhibit of 22 works by pop artist Takashi Murakami at the Chateau ignited a disgreement that still simmers.

Murakami specializes in manga, a Japanese art form that uses cartoons and comic characters.  The exhibit was controversial, even before it opened.  A group called “Coordination Defense de Versailles” circulated a petition against it.  Defenders argued that it made an historic relic relevant. 

Prince Sixte-Henri de Bourbon-Parme, the “heir to the French crown”, argued that the exhibit was illegal.  He sued to prevent the display, which he considered an affront to all Bourbons, living and dead.  In a very Republican turn of events, he lost.

Murakami's Oval Buddah has an admirer but you can't see the shock on the photographer's face

The ETs cheerfully arrived at the Chateau, unaware of the swirling controversy.  A giant gold Buddha in the gardens was the first clue that this visit to Louis’ old chateau would be different.  Nurse made a gleeful sound and beelined to it. I froze in my tracks and stared. 

By the time we entered the palace, I knew that something very, very wrong had transpired.  They were *everywhere*.  The Queen’s bedroom.  The Coronation room.  “Hello Kitty” meets the Hall of Mirrors. 

Off with it's head! By now the ETs were enjoying a very French difference of opinion

Nurse was delighted by the huge, colorful outer-space characters.  I hoped that modern-day Monarchists were secretly convened to debate the practicality of sending a cartoon character to the guillotine. 

Murakami meets Mansart. The architect of the venerable Hall of Mirrors might wonder... (photo by Sodacan, Wikipedia Commons)

Nurse’s hot-wheels careened with joy from one wide-eyed goblin to the next.  I reluctantly followed, grousing about “la gloire”.  But I must give Nurse her due.  In her most stern Knowledgable Historian voice, she reminded me that Versailles was no stranger to the ridiculous, when you considered the antics of Louis XIV’s court, and Marie Antoinette’s petit hameau.  Am I to be the ETs apologist for excesses of the Bourbon monarchy that strain any definition of aristocratic behavior?  Will we dine at separate tables this evening?  (We negotiated a reconciliation so we could share dinners.  Pacem per cibum, or “peace through food”.)

A statue of Louis XIV averts his royal gaze from the annoying creature (Photo by Sodacan, Wikipedia Commons)

Our Disney-meets-“Dangerous Liasons” tour of the Chateau gave the ETs debate material for days.  My objection to the Murakami exhibit makes me wonder;   What would I have thought about the works of avant-garde artists like Manet and Whistler at the “Salon des Refusés” of 1863? Art or outrage?

More lunch with Gordon: the food!

October 24, 2010

Little beehives of sweet and salted butter. Every detail was exquisite.

Go slip into your best bib!  The Experienced Travellers are taking you on a culinary pilgrimage as they revisit their Gordon Ramsay lunch at the Trianon Palace Hotel.  By popular mandate, here are the complete, unabridged  food pictures.  Consider yourself warned.

(If you haven’t read the first post on this topic, start here  and follow with this entry!)

Gordon's idea of a perfect afternoon

This  journey required a roadmap, and it was thoughtfully provided by the maitre’d.  Armed with flutes of fine champagne, we strategized over the menu to plot our meal. The ETs were focused, confident – and hungry.  We knew we could go the distance. 

A different take on caesar salad

The amuse bouche was a caesar salad. On top is bufala mozzarella, with a little something extra.  The fork pierces the cheese and “whoosh” – it’s stuffed with a delicate salmon mousse!  Underneath is shredded lettuce, anchovy and a crouton.  We never found out what the black disc was, but who cares!  The champagne flowed, and all was well.

Very high-end chips and dip

These are perfect paper-thin potato chips (not the wavy kind), and crisp sesame bread with two dips – one eggplant and the other with caviar.  My standard for chips and dip has been raised forever.

An artful lobster tortellini

The first course on the menu arrived.  Lobster tortellini with squid carpaccio in a consomme broth.  It was lovely to look at, and spectacular to eat. 

By now,  Nurse progressed from the champagne to a Fitou Cuvee Cadette 2007 from Domaine les Milles Vignes.  I had a Riesling.  A mild light-headedness and all-around goodwill was setting in.

One plat - John Dory

We rested between courses, while our attentive waiters watched over us.  Up came the second course.   For me,  John Dory – with a cepes and chanterelles mushrooms fricassee in a basil vinaigrette (and a little smiley of sliced radishes for good measure). 

The Pigeon. This dish changed the way we looked at pigeons for the rest of the trip.

Nurse chose the  pigeon.   The taste and texture suggested that this Bresse pigeon could be a relative to the famous chickens of the same area.  This was served on potatoes and artichoke terrine, Muscat grapes and almonds.   The memory of this dish threatened every plump pigeon we saw in the Luxembourg Garden.

There were waiters whirling all round us, clearing dishes and using those little crumb brushes.  The room felt smaller and more expansive at the same time.  We were beginning to feel… so very full. 

The pre-dessert. Custard with raspberry chutney

While waiting for dessert, we were served a pre-dessert.  Maybe it was meant to get us warmed up for the actual event.  This custard with raspberry chutney was light and wonderful. 

At this point, we’re an hour and fifteen minutes into it, and the ETs are deeply aware of the importance of pacing.  We slumped slightly in our chairs.  Eyelids were drooped.  Heads bobbed from side-to-side.  How do the real food-iacs do this? 

Strawberry cheesecake in a puff of smoke

Now the real dessert arrived – floating on a gossamer mist.  Heaven-sent strawberry cheesecake.  Fresh, chopped strawberries with lovely crusty bits and a sabayon.  To demonstrate the educational value of this meal, I can now say and spell sabayon (a whipped sauce  – this one flavored with kirsch).

C'est frommage - the cheese course

As we wearily rested our spoons from the cheesecake, we heard the rumbling of a cart.  And there appeared before us, an abundance of cheeses.  All the will, and all the strength of the French nation was on that cart;  slices and rounds;  blocks and wedges.  We chose a bleu, a hard yellow cheese, a brie and — the shining star – an Époisses de Bourgogne.

Delectable bread

Cheese of this magnitude deserves a remarkable conveyance.  The artisan bread filled with hazelnuts and golden raisins was perfect.  

The ETs marshalled our diminishing strength to give the cheeses the attention and praise they deserved.  We quietly called upon the Immortals of France to lead us through.  This was the last course on the menu.  Surely, we could persevere and conclude this exquisite meal with honor.  

Truffles. The final movement.

But there was more.  Yes, more!  The final course is perfect ice cream truffles asea in a bowl of dry ice, smoking like holy incense at a sacred feast.  The truffles transported the weary ETs to a final phase of dining that passeth all understanding. 

Only a visit from Gordon himself could bring the ETs to rise from their chairs.  He didn’t appear, but the ETs did slowly stumble out of the restaurant,  awed by the experience.  I have a vague, wine-infused memory of paying the bill which I did without a qualm.

It was a magnificent, memorable meal. 

A reflection of perfection.

Versailles – the town

October 20, 2010

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Experienced Travellers are flexible.  Our free airline ticket was immediate “found money”, but it meant we arrived in Paris two days before the apartment was available.
We needed someplace to stay, and Versailles was a perfect choice. Staying in town gave us the flexibility to visit the Chateau after the tour busses depart for Chartres.  ETs are all about crowd avoidance.

Hotel Trianon Palace, Versailles. Our "found money" deal thanks to Amex points.

So how did budget-mided ETs end up at the 5-star Trianon Palace ?  Amex Membership Rewards points!  Now, if I had to pay for a hotel, I would have budgeted 130-euros per night.  So two nights on Amex points at the luxurious Trianon Palace **saved** 260 euros – which went into the “found money” account.  You’re getting the hang of it now, aren’t you?

The handicapped bathroom in our room. You shower in the bathroom (on the left). Don't blowdry your hair afterward or you risk electrocution from the water on the floor.

Even without the room charge, staying at the Trianon is astronomically expensive.  The ETs paled at the 30-euro continental breakfast and promptly found a nearby cafe.  Our fantasies of aristocractic living in Versailles were short-lived.  (Though that didn’t deter us from having our Gordon Ramsay lunch in his restaurant in the hotel.)

Look up when you walk in the Rue de la Pariosse

bThe town of Versailles held much promise for ETs,  and we spent time around the Marche de Notre Dame.  There’s plenty of 17-18th century architecture to admire, and an abundance of small shops and food stalls.

Like typical Versailles courtiers, we break for lunch at 1pm

ETs enter into the spirit of their surroundings, so when the French stop for lunch, we do too.  After a scholarly examination of  posted menus, we chose the Bistrot du Boucher. 

Nurse opened the proceedings with a Kir

paWe squeezed into a crowded banquette and looked forward to our lunch. The waiters were very accomodating and found a spot to park Nurse’s hotwheels.  Our neighbors were friendly and chatty.  The wine was good.  Everything pointed toward a pleasant afternoon spent in a buzz of full tummies and slight alcoholic daze.  

Our first pate of the trip met expectations

Nurse chose pate and tete de veau.  I more prudently selected steak-frites. Good, basic food to sustain us for the shopping that lay ahead.

Yes, I tried the tete de veau and yes, it was very good.

And since we’re on the topic of food in Versailles, I will bow to popular demand and do a second post on the Gordon Ramsay Lunch that features food photos.  The readership is clamoring for pictures, and so you shall have them.   As a student of history, I cannot ignore the will of the people.  I’ve learned from the 18c. residents of Versailles — for whom “chop-chop” isn’t the sound of mincing vegetables.  Vive la revolution!

Rue Toulouse in Versailles – la vie ancienne

  

 
 

 

The Sun King at home – Chateau de Versailles

October 17, 2010

Versailles - Louis XIII's hunting lodge became Louis XIV's embodiment of La Gloire

The Experienced Travellers donned their beauty marks and birdcage headdresses for a visit to the Chateau de Versailles.  Since we were staying next door at the Trianon Palace, we avoided the notorious crowds – and bypassed the queues thanks to Nurse’s hotwheels walker! 

Yes, they did use the stairways as pissoirs. No self-cleaning loos here.

It began as Louis XIII’s  man-cave near the sleepy village 0f Versailles.  His son, Louis XIV,  had a penchant for fresh air and remodeling.  So by 1682 it was the seat of government and the envy of every European ruler.  It survived the Revolution (just!) and intrigued Emperors, Kings and 20th century diplomats.   Versailles is La Gloire.

A little someplace to lay Her Royal Highness' head, and space for 10 ladies-in-waiting. Poor Marie Antoinette laid her head in less comfortable fashion later in life...

They mixed patterned rugs with painted ceilings, threw in a few cherubs and pulled it all together with yards of  brocade, glass and chandeliers.   But it works.  No Ikea interiors for the Sun King. 

In you were in the presence of the King, you would exit by walking backward through these doors. No one turns their back on His Majesty.

Thousands of  ambitious courtiers lived at  the Chateau in cramped quarters.  Louis kept them occupied by imposing strict rules that governed every aspect of life at Court.  (We think this was the seed of the dreaded French bureaucracy)

Louis XIV - the first micromanager

One result of these rules was the fashion of growing the pinky-finger nail very long — because according to protocol,  the correct way to announce yourself at someone’s door was to scratch upon it with your pinky. 

The ETs have inspected these doors.   No one inside could possibly hear the pinky scratch.  Surely, waiting for the door to be answered drove desparate courtiers to potty behind the gilded screens.  This is called educated historical interpretation, and we became adept at Versailles.

(If you want to know more about Louis XIV and Versailles, I highly recommend (my hero) Nancy Mitford’s The Sun King.  Or get an on-the-spot account of Versailles life through the diaries of the simpering Duc de St. Simon .  Both books are full of tales and people you won’t believe…)

The Hall of Mirrors, the centerpiece of Louis' palace. Courtiers gambled away estates at the card tables, and Germany conceded WWI in this gallery.

The Chateau gardens are spectacular too.  Filled with scented alleys, grottos and hidden corners, it’s clear why extracurricular amour and politcal intrigue were popular pasttimes. 

And there were the “spectacles” of Louis’ youth.  When he threw a picnic, it meant feasting, fireworks, fountains, canal barges and dancing horses.  Rent the movie Vatel with Gerard Depardieu and see for yourself!

Secret notes suggesting a rendez-vous in the garden passed from footman to ladies' maid to Duchess on an hourly basis

The ETs left the Chateau in a courtly mood, with the music of Lully in their heads.  Had we lived then, would we be Princess of the Blood, or scullery maid?  One hopes for the former, but it’s worth remembering that Louis was known to don his hat to the lowliest maid in the name of chivalry. 

Someone has to do the dusting….

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