We have now settled into our apartment and a regular routine. This includes successfully locating boulangeries and markets in the neighborhood and understanding their days and hours of operation. This can be a particularly tricky thing since most stores display hours but don’t always honor them. It can sometimes feel like whack a mole when trying to find something but we have come to love it as a part of the French culture. Nothing is ever rushed and everything always gets done. So each morning we enjoy our expresso (that is the French version of Espresso), pastry, charcuterie and cheese while watching the city come to life through our windows. We have created a list of things we would like to do during this trip and each morning we go over it and choose what we will do that day. Today there were two items we wanted to check off. The first was a visit to BHV (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville). The second was to dine at our friend Alexis’ new restaurant Cafe Lateral which is literally just a few minutes walk from our apartment.
Armed with our new metro passes we made our way to the local metro stop and wallowed in the joy of swiping our cards and whisking through without having the purchase tickets. It really is the little things sometimes. The metro literally stops in the basement of BHV allowing you the opportunity to work your way up as it were. Founded in the mid 19th century, BHV is across the street from l’Hôtel de Ville which is an entire journal in and of itself. The store was situated there specifically because of the draw and popularity of l’Hôtel de Ville. It grew and grew over time and is still a major landmark of Paris. Massive beyond any measure it is much like the Louvre – you can only do so much in one day. We spent over 2 hours there (not including our coffee and pastry break) and only managed to see 2 of the 8 floors (and that is just one building. The men’s store is across the street). The basement is a mecca for those who love Lowes or Home Depot but brought to a whole new level. I can spend hours there just looking at all the amazing things that are available. Many of them can only be found at obscure specialty shops in the States but are off the rack items here. Mitch on the other hand finds this floor boring after a few minutes – unless of course he finds some bells to play with (pic). We have included several pictures for you but they hardly do it justice. The photos include the basement floor, a brief visit on the women’s fragrance and bags floor and our collective favorite kitchen wears. There are also some photos of the household section with every kind of brush you can image on display. There is also one half of one floor that is completely dedicated to books. Yes they still have book stores in Paris. After our sojourn we came upon a small pastry shop on one of the floors and decided to take a break. You can see from the pictures of our pastries why we need to keep going to the gym. Also note the exquisite design of the shop and displays created for the pastries. Everything is meticulously planned and designed and beautifully executed. Through the curved windows we could see the courtyard in front of l’Hôtel de Ville which had been converted into four volleyball courts complete with sand. At the far end of the courtyard there was also a basket ball court exclusively for wheel chair basketball. It was filled with people playing and watching and generally enjoying the beautiful Paris day.
We returned home and Mitch went to the gym. Having gone myself earlier I decided to take a walk to the Parc Monceau which we have mentioned in a previous issue. One of our favorite parcs, it was begun in 1778 by Phillippe d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres, a cousin of King Louis XVI. He wanted to create a beautiful English style garden. However the architect of the gardens said his vision was to create a fantasy garden which is in fact what it is. With rolling knolls of grass, hidden statues and beautiful flower beds, it is a calm inducing wonder of the senses – sight, sound and fragrance. Filled with joggers, children and families just enjoying its beauty it is hard not to fall in love with this wonderful garden. We have included several photos for you including a large Rotunda at the entrance of the parc. There will surely be more to follow in future issues.
We complete the day with a late (hahaha) dinner at 7:30 at Cafe Lateral. It is perfectly located just behind the Arc de Triomphe. Our friend Alexis, who we met many years ago at La Terrasse in the 7th arr. just purchased it with his bother seven months ago. With a new chef and menu they seem to be doing quite well. It is no wonder since the food was particularly good. I started with the Boule de mozzarel and Mitch with the Chevre chaud. Both were delicious. Then I had Foie Gras Canard and Mitch Saumon Fume both made in house. We finished with Tarte Tatin and a small scoop of Berthillion ice cream. The meal was fabulous even if the portions were a little too large for us. Alexis said that the French have been demanding larger and larger portions which we can only attribute to the Super Size culture of American tourist. But we digress.
After dinner we walk down the Champs-Élysées. On the way we snapped two shots of the Arc de Triomphe. One with the Eiffel Tower in the background. While it was almost 10pm, the sky is still a dark blue. The days are very long here which makes evening walks all the more beautiful.