My long time friends, Fran and Skip Mays made a trip to London and Paris this fall. His journal brings these areas to life, hence my desire to share them with the travel lovers that read our posts. the first post was on Nov. 25, 2011.

The Eurostar to Paris and Our First Day by Skip Mays

The Eurostar was a hoot. Fast? OMG fast! (almost 200mph) And quiet?  You could hear a whisper. That’s the only way to get from London to Paris (or Brussels) so far as I’m concerned. And that’s riding “tourist” or whatever they call it. Northern France was an eye-opener with its vast array of cultivated farms and fields; right out of a coffee table book.  I’d take that trip again in a heartbeat.
Our “home” in Paris is on the eighth floor of Le Periscope, a 26-story, mixed-use high-rise in the southeast corner of the city on the Avenue d’Italie in the southeast corner (13th Arrondisement) of the city that includes a mix of somewhat contemporary commercial and residential buildings. Our view from the kitchen, living room and bedroom included the very symbol of Paris, the Eiffel Tower (which flashes and twinkles brightly on the hour all night).

Rather than trying to pull together a full meal at the apartment on our first night, we elected to wander through the neighborhood to track down a local bistro for dinner. Like much of Paris, the area is identified by wide boulevards emanating like spokes from large, circular plazas (similar to the Brit roundabouts). In this case, Avenue d’Italie is a southern spoke from the Place d’Italie and features several convenient Metro stations with trains (subways) providing direct service to almost every key location in Paris.

We decided to have dinner and then visit the MonoPrix (a department store/supermarket combination conveniently located on the first floor of Le Periscope) to check out the food supplies we’d need for a few days.

Roughly a block from our apartment, on the corner of Tolbiac and Ave. d’Italie we found a bustling, street side restaurant that looked to be a perfect destination for dinner; Le Cafe Canon. The sidewalk tables were all taken with diners enjoying various bottles of delicious looking wines and equally yummy looking meals so we headed inside and were shown a table along one of the back walls adjacent to the bar.

Now came our “moment of truth”. Could we navigate a typical French menu and deal with the reportedly frosty French waitstaff for which Paris is noted?

Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth (so far as a frosty waiter).

The menu was another matter, and I take full credit for having a dangerously limited command of French. The wine choice was simple and a bottle of 2008 Moulin De Labordes (Bordeaux) got us off on the right foot. Chris looked to me to help make some choices for our entrée (big mistake). Fran had already spotted a nifty pasta dish with a creamy, mild tomato sauce. My task was to select something suitably French. Aha! Foie de veau, a house specialty. I love foie gras so foie de veau would be yummy. Our waiter had already explained his English was like my French…limited to the kitchen variety from reading menus, so our conversation was somewhat limited, but full of smiles.  The meal was served and smelled scrumptious. The “veau” which I knew was “veal” seemed darker than I had expected, but I attributed it to the sautéed, mixed vegetable sauce that had been drizzled over the steak-like meat that cut like butter. My first bite was another story. It tasted like a rusty bumper…oh no…liver!  My food nemesis. The light went on.  “Foie” was liver, of course, you dummy. I have managed to go for decades without having to deal with liver. Although it was one of Fran’s favorite dishes, she understood my aversion to it and thankfully prepared it only when I was out of town. I smiled, not believably, I guess, and offered a bite to Fran in return for a serving of her pasta. She loved it and the “fix” was at hand. My “foie” quickly disappeared and my plate was soon edged with a creamy tomato sauce. I’m not sure Chris has forgiven me, but he indicated the “vegetable sauce was delicious.” He’s such a gentleman.

Desert was a mix of vanilla ice cream and warm apple strudel (very French?) that was over the top. The next table had ordered it, which made it easy to just point it out to our waiter.

The brief walk back to the apartment introduced us to the neighborhood wino that danced, pontificated and sang (?) from a park bench in front of the MonoPrix.

The MonoPrix was a real “find”. It’s rather like a mini WalMart in that you can purchase clothing and furniture as well as fresh produce, fish, meat and baked goods. Not much depth in brands, but certainly a wide selection of stuff in general…and just steps from the lobby of Le Periscope. The MonoPrix bakery became our “go-to” for fresh baguettes, croissants and whatever else might be fresh from the oven.  Laden with bags of various delights later, we finally headed up to the apartment to watch the tower blink on the hour and thence to bed.  Whew!

I hope you have enjoyed Skip’s post. Feedback is always appreciated. Skip’s next installment will be December 11th.

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