Saturday, July 27

I visit the incredible Palais Garnier, get a fantastic pastry at La Pâtisserie des Rêves, and have a great dinner at Le Jardin D'Ivy.

8:30 am Saturday here. Notes transcribed, grammar homework almost finished, and first draft of little speech for Wednesday written. That's really good progress on the homework. Big thunderstorm earlier but not raining now.

Plans made for the day: First, a visit to the opera house, Palais Garnier. Then over to the left bank to visit La Pâtisserie des Rêves, reportedly one of the best pasty shops in Paris. Check out this short video of the chef talking about his Saint-Honoré - it's outrageous.

The Palais Garnier is incredible, as you can see from the pictures. Opulence is the right word I think. It was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. Today it is used mostly for ballet productions.

I did a bit of reading about French pastry. Pastry chefs in France are considered artists, not bakers. They consider bakers to be just hacks who mix together flour and water. If a creation turns out poorly, they say "that's something a baker would make". I'm really looking forward to visiting a really good pâtisserie and plan to buy something expensive and really good.

Paris really is at least two completely different cities (probably more). Once again when I was walking through the 2nd and 1st arrondissements today on the right bank I felt so out of place. Dior and Cartier and famous 5 star hotels and rich people everywhere. It felt so good to get back on the left bank where I belong, with regular people.

I feel exactly the same way in the US. Although I'm getting used to Nordstrom now. But the 1st and 2nd here are to Nordstrom as Nordstrom is to Target.

I understand that farther east on the right bank there are working class neighborhoods with "regular" people. But where I was today and on other days over there it's really like a different planet.

And over in the 7th here on the left bank it's pretty ritzy too, where that pâtisserie and my classroom are located. But not as intimidating as the 1st and 2nd.

I mean, some of those stores, I don't think you're even permitted to walk into them unless you're wearing at least a few thousand dollars worth of clothing.

Just put on my dress pants to go out to a nicer restaurant tonight. Found 22 cents of American change in the pocket. Looks really funny. The pants were a bit tight when I bought them last fall. They fit nicely now. The shirt's tucked in and everything. I'm quite the looker this evening. Put on the silk summer blazer and I'll be all set to go. I'll stick out like a sore thumb on the Mouf with all the tourists in shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops though.

Dinner at Le Jardin D'Ivy on the Mouf was very pleasant. There's actually a hidden garden in the back, hence the "Jardin" in the name. It's not a super fancy restaurant but it's definitely a cut above most of the other places on the Mouf. I was overdressed and it was much too hot so I lost the jacket right away. Got the dessert menu and almost ordered and then remembered what I had at home. Told the waitress that I had a "big millefeuille" at home and she laughed.

On the way home my old friend Chanteur Joe was singing his ballads again for the crowd in La Contrescarpe, and we nodded hello to each other. The crazy lady was yelling. Rollin's Pub was filling up fast. Typical Saturday night in the hood.

Did I mix in a shot here from Versailles? Nope, this is the grand foyer of the Palais Garner.

This is a painting in a little museum / art gallery inside the opera house. Really nice art, all about the opera and the ballet.

It was a nice day, just a bit on the warm side, so I walked from the Palais Garnier across the river to the pâtisserie.

Stopped in the Tuileries for 20 minutes or so to take a break on a chair in the shade. Such a pretty place, and as you can see, not at all crowded.

Crossed the river on a pedestrian-only bridge called Passerelle Léopold Sédar Senghor. These are love locks hung on the fence by sweethearts.

Got accosted by a gypsy lady con artist who pretended to find a "gold ring" on the pavement and give it to me, then tried to extort money from me. I gave her a few coins and refused to give her more despite many protests.

La Pâtisserie des Rêves (the pastry shop of dreams), one the best pâtisseries in Paris. It's on rue du Bac, just south of my grammar classroom in the 7th arrondissement.

There's only about a dozen or so different cakes, each displayed under a glass dome. When you order one, they go in the back to get yours out of a special climate-controlled refrigerator. You can buy a whole cake or just a slice. I bought a whole cake.

At home about to open the box. Anticipation!

This is a millefeuille ("thousand leaves"), also known as a Napoleon. It cost 35€, about $46.47.

Can you believe $46 for a single cake? Not something one does often, I think. But well worth it at least once. Just to see how the other half (or 1%) lives, if for no other reason.

I saw that Saint-Honoré under a glass dome and was tempted. But I've already tried one of those, and wanted to try the millefeuille.

The first slice. Incredibly delicious. Never had anything like it.

From Wikipedia:

Traditionally, a mille-feuille is made up of three layers 
of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée), alternating with two layers 
of pastry cream (crème pâtissière), but sometimes whipped cream 
or jam are substituted. The top pastry layer is dusted with 
confectioner's sugar, and sometimes cocoa, or pulverized seeds 
(e.g. roasted almonds). Alternatively the top is glazed with 
icing or fondant in alternating white (icing) and brown (chocolate) 
stripes, and combed.

Of course I had to have a nice bottle of wine to go along with my cake. This is a better bottle of Bordeaux than I usually buy. It was 36€, about $47.80. It's very very good. I can really tell the difference between this bottle and the cheaper ones. It's a Charmes de Kirwan Margaux 2009.

Le Jardin d'Ivy. An actual sit-down restaurant inside with big tables and linen and everything. What a concept!

My table was right next to an open window, with the garden on the other side. These big flowers were 12 inches away. Much nicer than a vase on the table. They smelled really good too.

Rougail de tomate, mozzarelle et parmesan, sauce basilic.

Magret de canard au miel épicé. (Filet of duck breast in a spicy honey sauce). There's a big pile of mushrooms under the potatoes.