Paris Journal 2006

Friday, September 15

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A small bronze model of the Statue of Liberty (“The Liberty Enlightens the World”) was given to the Luxembourg Museum by the sculptor, August Bartholdi, and was placed in the western side of the Luxembourg Gardens in 1906.  Another, larger version, stands at the end of the Allée des Cygnes in the middle of the Seine.

Next to the Statue of Liberty is a very small oak tree, planted to commemorate the victims of September 11, 2001.  We were at the Statue on the 11th, and we saw these flowers placed at the base of the little tree by the French government.

As we left the building for our errands the other day, Tom had to pause and try this discarded, not so petite chaise, on the sidewalk.  When we returned an hour later, it was gone.

This very old street sign has been tastefully left uncovered at the corner of our street and what is now called rue Servandoni.  In olden times, it was called “rue des Fossoyeurs,” or “street of the gravediggers,” because it led to the cemetary that was associated with the seminary that formerly existed on what is now Place Saint Sulpice and the land directly to the south of that.

Below, the lovely four-star Hotel Luxembourg Parc, where Faulkner once stayed when it was called Grand Hotel des Principautés-Unis and had its main entrance on the rue Servandoni instead of the rue de Vaugirard as it is now.

I have mentioned a couple times in the past that the Procope claims to be the oldest restaurant in Paris.  For some reason, I’ve always had my doubts about that, and sure enough, there is another restaurant that has a better, more solid claim to that title.  We were walking down the very end of rue de Grenelle one day last week, on our way to Le Basilic in the 7th, when we passed by a restaurant that was already serving a number of old French people before 8PM.  We stopped to look at the menu, which was very traditional and very good looking, as well as reasonably priced (but not cheap at all), and picked up the restaurant’s card so we could make a reservation.


This restaurant, A La Petite Chaise (36, rue de Grenelle, 75007, tel. 01 42 22 13 35), was founded in 1680 and has not gone out of business for periods of time as La Procope has done.


A La Petite Chaise looks like a small, well-kept secret.  But it is no secret at all.  It has a nice web site at, and when we dined there yesterday evening, there were even tables of tourists seated near us.  The maitre d’/server spoke to us in French the entire time, although he speaks good English (as I heard him do at several other tables).  At the end of the evening, I told him in French that his English was very good.  He seemed to be very pleased with the compliment, and he asked me if I had learned my French as a child!  I said no, not at all, and that I don’t speak French very well.  But I sure appreciated the compliment.


We each managed to have all three courses because the serving sizes were just right.  We each had the nice foie gras, which is made by the house, and I had the duck breast while Tom had the filet mignon.  The au gratin potatoes that were served with the main courses were heavenly.  Tom had a flourless chocolate cake for dessert, and I had the crème caramel, the dessert of the day.  I highly recommend this place when you are ready for a full-blown, all three courses, French dinner.  This is the first time all summer that we each have had all three courses!  You can even make your reservation on the restaurant’s web site.


One day last weekend, we went to an antiques show/fleamarket (“brocante”) at the Bercy Omnisports facility, where Madonna recently performed to sold-out houses several nights in a row.  The brocante is more our speed. 


As soon as we entered the battered auditorium, I knew we would be having lunch there.  A concession called Jambon l’Os (the Hambone) was set up to serve the most wonderful looking artisanal ham (not red, pink, or orange, but the real thing, without nitrates), with sauteed/carmelized onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and herbs.  The proprietor noticed our interest and let us sample the ham when we entered.   It was terrific.


First we examined about a third of the 100 booths at the brocante.  It really was very much like the antiques shows we used to attend regularly at the Columbus Fairgrounds in Ohio -- except that you can buy French china for much less in Ohio, and overall the selection and prices on the furniture were better in Paris.


Most of the artwork was overpriced, but Tom did buy a rather nice painting of an autumn scene for only 30 euros.


We had our lunch, on paper plates at a cafeteria table, squeezed in with others sitting in plastic chairs, and it was great.  We only ordered one plate of ham and vegetables, and that was plenty.  The wine was an exceptionally good deal, so I had a little 25 centiliter carafe of that.


As we left the concession to find our seats, the proprietor scolded the older lady who had served us, telling her she spoke too fast.  I felt so sorry for her.  She looked unhappy to be scolded, and I thought she did not deserve it at all.  She was very clear and easy for us to understand.  That certainly is not true for everyone who has spoken to us!


Tom finished before I did, and I needed to rest my foot (plantar fasciitis is such a bother!), so I stayed at the table, listening to the conversation at the next table.


They must not have noticed that Tom and I had been speaking English to each other over lunch.  When we speak English, most people here cannot tell if we are British or Australian or American.  They many times assume we are British because we know some French.  French is commonly studied in British schools, and it is so easy for the British to travel to France.


The topic at the next table was all the foreigners who are buying up houses and small farms in Brittany.  Those seated at the table obviously are not thrilled about this trend.  But finally they all agreed that it was happening, no matter what they thought.  So the topic became who is preferred, as the lesser of the evils:  the British, the Germans, or the Spanish?  Americans were not mentioned because, I assume, they aren’t buying many houses in Brittany.


The Germans were the winners.  The British were the losers.  Our friend François must be right – the French really don’t like the British at all.  It is amazing that they prefer the Germans, who have invaded France repeatedly, with some horrible consequences.


I went back to examining the booths, and soon came upon the one and only booth selling oriental rugs.  A somewhat dark-skinned young man first began to talk to me about the rugs, and I wish it had stayed that way.  But no, madame, the older-middle-aged French woman with bottle-blonde hair, had to take over.  She was telling me what I already know, that all the rugs were hand woven and that they were all from Iran.  I said, “oui, oui, oui,” indicating that I knew that, but I asked what tribe, or what part of Iran, did this rug or that come from.  She didn’t have a clue.  She just kept repeating to me, as if I were an idiot, that all the rugs were from Iran.  She also claimed that they were all antiques.  I was dubious.  I asked if they were all more than 30 years old.  She almost looked insulted, and she said they were all more than 50 years old – an outright lie, as I could plainly see.  The young man looked terribly embarrassed.  I kept my cool, tried to look like I really believed her, and extricated myself from the situation by saying that I would have to discuss it with my husband and perhaps we would return to the booth together.  We did not, of course.


She had no idea that she was talking to someone who knew something about these rugs.  But I think the young man did realize it.


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