The Arc de Triomphe contains a solemn majesty. Not as grand as Versailles but it is grand… French military history contained in a monument. And the tomb of the unknown soldier. It forces you to pause for a moment of grave contemplation (pun really unintended). World War One. All that death! And bravery.
The Champ d’Elysees is visually very impressive when seen from the Arc. It stretches into forever under a blue blue sky, and trees line the street. An epic thoroughfare! It is not hard to imagine horse drawn carriages clip-clopping down the road. And the shops! There’s a LV with gold dinosaur skeletons for decoration. And every big name shop.
Time to break for lunch at Paul… The standard French cafe thing, I think. Chicken sandwich, lemon tart, coffee. Time to see how it tastes. The coffee is very prettily served! It is a very peasant experience, sitting along the street as the wind blows. One of the smaller streets where there’s less traffic. Very urban picturesque. The weather is just right for drinking coffee: a post-shower feel to the cool air. The blue skies have given way to a grey afternoon which is softened by the greens of the trees. Europe is very grey and green.
Okay coffee is not bad, pretty standard coffee. Also because my coffee appreciation is not at a high level. The sesame seeds on the bread go nicely with the mustard seed/cream cheese thing thats on the chicken, and fresh tomatoes and lettuce provide contrast to those. The bread is a bit hard to bite because of the crust. On the whole the sandwich is satisfactory, but not life changing. I would say, 6/10. Slightly above average.
The lemon tart next. The crust is okay, has a buttery quality to it, but could be a bit fluffier. The colour of the lemon part looks like an egg tart – slightly too dark for my liking. But still it’s a lemon tart! The cream could be sharper… The sour tang of the lemon is over-offset by the amount of sugar. Lemon tarts should be really sour. That’s why it’s a lemon tart, no? Overall, 5.5/10. Just slightly above average.
I think my tastebuds have been spoilt by an abundance of friends who bake.
Next is walking around the streets of Paris. We go bumbling around looking for the Singaporean Embassy, which is unfortunately closed. So much for sambal and chicken rice!
Finally the long awaited walk to the iconic Eiffel Tower. Up close, the Tower dominates it’s surroundings. It’s mega. It’s awe-inspiring, a marvel. The spire pierces the clear sky, steel curving into a celebration of art and physics. Tremendously marvelous it is. It strikes me as being like what I would imagine Orthanc to be like. Of course the landscape of Nan Curunir would be different. Underneath the Eiffel Tower, and I look up. A labyrinth of metal, bound together by the arcane laws of science, a mystery to the uninitiated such as I.
Now we are sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower chilling. It is great. So much human activity going on around! Couples, families, people chilling, enjoying the sight. It is most pleasant. I like being on holiday.
As the hours flow by, Lady Evening makes her way across the city, heralded by breezes and lengthening shadows who creep across the rooftops, throwing a layer of another reality into all our lives.
We make our way to a delightfully old school restaurant, which claims itself to be the oldest restaurant in Paris. No idea about the veracity of that claim, but it looks really nice! The staff are spiffy in sharp white shirts and pressed black pants, with black bowties to boot. Haha, to ‘boot’. Completes their outfit. But no it’s standard black shoes.
Another dining experience! I order escargot, pork tenderloin and pasta, with a selection of cheeses for dessert. The rest get all sorts of other wonderful things which we shall discuss later. Dinner includes a rose wine which my untrained palate will attempt to appreciate.
Escargot is wonderful. Chewy and springy, served in smooth melted butter and flavoured with pesto and more olive oil, it surges into the mouth with an intense savory explosion, and the texture continues to linger as you chew on it, thanking the snail for its sacrifice. My only gripe is that there are so few of them.
The main is incredible. The pork comes thinly sliced and beautifully done. Just nice, with a pure porky flavour. But the real star is the tagliatelle that comes with it. I never knew plain pasta could taste so good. Springy and bouncy, it tastes positively fresh. It is wonderful. Together with the cantal cheese sauce, the pasta causes me to eat it strand by strand, so exquisite is the pleasure. I have to restrain myself from slurping it. Pasta!!!! Best I have ever eaten. Delicate on the tongue but robust for chewing. A delectable creation that unites each element of the gastronomic experience. Oh my. The sauce also deserves special mention: a light creamy cheesy later that makes my vaunted enemy, the cherry tomato, actually good to eat.
Eliza’s cod and salmon are also done very nicely. The cod is fresh and sweet, with just a hint of fish. Salmon is flaky and flavorful. I’m not a very fish person but I must say this salmon entertains the tastebuds very well. Finally Wai Kit’s duck leg and thigh is served with a slightly sweet orange sauce, an interesting combination that makes the ultra tender duck stand out. So moist and so juicy! Duck essence spurting out. The sauce works in a subtle manner, tantalizing and teasing the senses with citrus tones then retreating behind a more conventional savoury flavour, making you come back for more. Wonderful. I love to sing praises of good food. Need bigger vocabulary to do it justice.
Dessert again is crazy. My cheese selection varies in intensity and texture and I enjoy it very much, but unfortunately I’m not enough of a connoisseur to talk about it. Suffice to say the blue cheese goes really well with the fresh walnut. Yan Yi’s soft nougat absolutely takes the cake. Served with a tangy strawberry sauce that does just enough to startle then more than enough to tempt, the nougat is divinely fluffy, meringue-soft yet rich, dazzling the senses with pillowy nougat that comforts you with the knowledge that the world is full of good things. A little slice of heaven. Tiny chopped almonds and walnuts add a delightful nutty flavour to the entire creation. Oh dear. The fresh strawberries (which are just the right note of tangy sweet) deliver the final touch, concluding the mouthful with a superb balance of everything a sweet dessert to be. Bliss in dessert form. Ooooooh.
A La Petite Chaise, you’ve made my day.
Night throws her veil over the earth as the hour creeps toward 10pm. Paris is covered in velvety dark, but the city is still alive. The Eiffel Tower is emblematic of that as it stands lit with a golden radiance, steel warmly embraced by liquid yellow light. It’s not often that you see something which makes you stop in your tracks twice, but the Eiffel Tower does just that. Silver and iron in the day, it becomes a molten gold bar in the purple dark. It is beautiful. The drizzle that falls down on the City of Lights turns into dusty golden snow, given life by the illumination from the Tower. And we’re going to go on the river cruise!
On the upper deck, cold wind blowing crisp, warm in my sweater, the sights of Paris going by, clear sky, bright moon, full stomach, sounds of the river, soothing rocking of the boat… It could go on forever.