Wednesday, June 26

I visit the Musée D'Orsay and a superb fromagerie on the right bank.

Visited Musée D'Orsay over in the 6th arrondissement, which was awesome. Had a quick lunch. Went to the 2nd arrondissement on the right bank to visit the fromagerie recommended by Ô Chateau, stopping for a coffee on the way. Came back home.

The trip made sort of a grand circle traversing Paris via 3 train rides, 3 transfers, 6 train stations, and 6 trains. Had to get a new pack of 10 métro tickets. Did I tell you how great the métro is? Doing this in Chicago would have been a huge hassle that took all day. Best of all, there were no cars involved in my trip. And not even all that much walking. Imagine that! I'm still not used to this civilized European way of living. It still shocks me every time I experience it.

Helped a delivery man locate an address in my neighborhood, in French. So proud.

Was in many shops today, speaking mostly French, just a bit of English. So proud.

Except my comprehension SUCKS. So not proud. One shopkeeper asked if I wanted a plastic sack. I had to get him to say it in English. The French for plastic sack is "sac plastique". How sucky is that? I know those words. I can read, write, and speak them. I just wan't able to understand them when spoken by a Frenchman at normal speed. Sigh. But it gets much better every day, so there's hope.

I mean the comprehension really, really sucks. At the boulangerie the mademoiselle said "bonne journée" as I left. I didn't understand. She sees my kind of puzzled look all the time, so she said "have a nice day". I'm so pissed at myself. Why can't I understand even the basic pleasantries? Some times I do and some times I don't. It's just frustrating.

But then at the wine store, the wine seller immediately switched to English, which was a good thing because we were having a bit of a technical discussion about wines and cheeses. But I began throwing in some French when I could, and both he and the shop owner were giving me approving looks. I appreciated that. It made me feel good. Perhaps it was when I pronounced "sommelier" properly that I got the first approving look.

Saw a man give up his seat to a women today on the train. Picked my jaw up off the floor. I've never seen that in Chicago. They're so polite to each other, these Parisians. Everyone says "bonjour", "au revoir", "bonne journée", "pardon", "je vous en prie", "de rien", etc. about 100 times per day.

I don't think I've mentioned yet that Parisian women are beautiful. I have to look at them because they're so beautiful my eyes kind of move towards them automatically. Then when I look at them I have to look away because they're so beautiful I just can't stand it. Does that make any sense at all? The men aren't bad either, for that matter. This all goes triple on the right bank. I sat facing perhaps the most beautiful woman in the world today on the train, knee to knee. No, wait, there's one over there who's more beautiful. No, wait, look over there, ... Rinse and repeat. Endlessly.

Next I need to go shopping in the hood for the proper wines to go with my cheeses, a baguette, and I hope some good charcuterie, if I can locate a shop. I'll bet will help. Then I'll be able to recreate most of the meal I had at Ô Chateau, minus the sommelier to tell me what I'm eating and drinking and make jokes.

Here in Paris you usually don't tip. Although at the very wonderful meal yesterday conducted by that private sommelier, our menu informed us that a tip would be appropriate. There's a VAT included in the price. On one receipt I got today at a fromagerie the amount of the VAT was mentioned at the bottom, but it had already been added into the prices of each cheese I purchased. Very interesting. I have no idea how much money waiters make here, but I do know that they are considered to be professionals and they are treated with respect. I've received excellent service the week I've been here, although it can be slow sometimes, and you often need to initiate a transaction like paying your bill.

Musée D'Orsay. The building used to be a train station. The architecture is beautiful both inside and outside. The collection is amazing. Beautiful beyond words. I usually get bored in museums, but not this one. I thought that the impressionist paintings would be the star of the show, and they were, but the sculptures came close. So incredible. Lots of Rodin, but the others were great too, and I liked many of them even better than the Rodin ones.

On the upper floor you can look through that big round clock in the picture. It's a gorgeous view over the Seine at the Louvre and the Tuileries, with Montmartre and Sacre Coeur in the distance. I took a picture of a family of tourists using their camera from that spot.

I love Monet. Visited his house in Giverny in 2006. Have 2 small prints of his paintings hanging in my bathroom at home in Chicago. Saw one of them today at D'Orsay!

After the museum I grabbed a quick lunch at a boulangerie, a ham and brie on a baguette. Not quite the same as our typical American ham & cheese sandwich. Not at all. This was so good that just looking at the picture makes me say "yum". The brie was thick and squishy/gooey and tasted so good with the ham and that outrageously good fresh crusty French bread.

A little pocket park near the boulangerie. I ate my sandwich sitting on a bench here. Those guys behind the statue were doing the same thing.

The café in the 2nd arrondissement on rue des Petits Carreaux where I stopped for a quick coffee.

My little coffee. They're very strong and very good. At home I drink coffee with whole milk and no sugar. But with these coffees I like sugar and lots of it. At some cafés they give you a couple of sugar cubes that you can put behind your teeth and suck the coffee through the sugar. It's very good that way. I have a feeling I'll be having these most every day. They're great for a little break and jolt of caffeine in the middle of the afternoon.

La Fermette, the fromagerie recommended by the sommelier at Ô Chateau yesterday, on rue Montorgueil in the 2nd. The smell inside this shop is wonderful, and they appear to have most every kind of French cheese imaginable. That's all they sell. Notice the cute cow above the awning.

Monet's "Rue Montorgueil" in the Musée D'Orsay. I saw the painting, then a few hours later found myself inside the painting! Only in Paris.

My purchases. A demi-kilo each of roquefort carles, comté aged 24 months, and brie de meaux. A demi-kilo is half a kilogram, which is about 1.1 lbs. Doesn't it look good? I can't wait for dinner!

My receipt from La Fermette. At the bottom it says "thanks for your visit, see you soon". I think they will. Well, maybe not real soon. That cheese I bought should last a while, I think. Note that I was served by "Master Paupiette". These people take their food seriously.

The last purchases of the day have been made. A baguette at the boulangerie, and three bottles of wine at the marchand du vin. The Sauterne goes with the roquefort, the bordeaux is for the comté, and the champagne is for the brie. My helpful wine merchant told me to chill the sauterne and champagne for 2 hours, and to let the bordeaux breathe for one hour. So I'll be able to try all three pairings at about 8 pm, a good time for dinner.

Skipped the charcuterie for today. I'll make that a mission for tomorrow.

Anyone care to come over and share some of this good food and wine tonight? You're welcome any time!

The first course is delicious. Baguette, du beurre, comté âgé 24 mois, et Le Baron de Malleret Haut-Medoc 2009.

As I sit here enjoying this delightful meal, I'm very pleased that I built it myself and didn't have to have a restaurant do it for me. All this food is going to make many fine dinners chez Norstad à Paris! Not that some nice restaurants won't be in my future too!

Second course. Oh my. Brie de meaux avec Wanner-Bouge brut blanc de blancs champagne. As I learned yesterday, brie and champagne go REALLY well together.

So that's 2 out of 2 meals today with brie. Not bad. I don't see a problem here.

So how do you save unused champagne? There's no way that cork is ever going back in that bottle. Buehler? Anyone? There's no way I can drink the rest of that bottle right now. And I don't want to. I have lots and lots of brie left!

Dessert course. Roquefort carles, Chateau de St Helene 2000 Sauternes. Just as perfect as yesterday at Ô Chateau. Maybe even better because I can focus on the tastes without the pesky sommelier chattering in my ear about how smart he is.

Yes, the strongest cheese always must be served last. It's a law in France.

I never liked sweet wine before. Probably because I wasn't having it with the right kind of food.

And yes, this roquefort is better than anything I've ever had at home.

So the cheeses tonight were all exactly the same as the cheeses I had at Ô Chateau, because I went to the fromagerie they use for their cheese. But the wines are all different. I think my wine seller did a good job. They all taste great with these cheeses.