Friday morning was sunny and warm, a perfect day for everything we had planned today. First up was a bakery tour at Richelieu Bakery in the 1st through Meeting the French. Since it only started at 11am, we had lots of time to relax and have a second cup of coffee. We left the apartment around 10:15 and strolled through the 3rd and 2nd arrondissements to get to the bakery just a few minutes before 11. We were joined by 3 Japanese tourists and our lovely guide. The Richelieu Bakery is the oldest bakery in Paris, open since 1810. The owner, Claude, gave us a wonderful tour and it was easy to see the passion he has for his profession. He showed us how the dough is mixed and left to rise and gave us all a chance to score some uncooked baguettes. He then put about 5 racks of baguettes in the huge oven and went on to show us how to roll croissants and pain au chocolat. He told us how important it was for each baguette to weigh exactly 250 grams and that bakers could be fined if the bread weighed less. He also said it was illegal for bakeries to go on strike since bread was a right in France! On the other hand, bakers, like most workers in France, get 6 weeks off a year so it's not all bad! His passion for his profession showed as he spoke and you could tell how proud he was to make bread and great pastries for his clients. We were given baguettes fresh from the oven to taste and we left feeling that we understood this noble profession a little bit better.
We made our way back to the garment district for our 1pm reservation at Frenchies, a tiny bistro on rue du Nil near rue Montorgeuil. This restaurant, recently featured on an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, has become one of the hardest tables to book in Paris and it's only through my pig headed stubborness and dozens of phone calls to Paris from home that I managed to snag a lunch reservation about 1 week before we left. It certainly was worth the wait. The place seats about 30 people in total and the chef changes the menu on a daily basis depending on what's fresh. There were 2 choices each for entree, main dish and dessert. Den had the tomato salad, which was bursting with fresh, light flavour. I had the grilled calamari served with thin slices of dakon radish and tiny sliced green beans. We both had the gnocchi with lamb and olives for our main dish and it was the lightest, airiest gnocchi I have ever had and I have 2 Italian sister-in-laws! Den is still raving about this dish. We decided on cafe gourmand for dessert. We had good espressos with a little spice cake that was nice, it just didn't wow like everything else we had. Our table neighbours had the panna cotta and the moans coming from both mother and daughter indicated we made the wrong choice for dessert. Lunch was 28 euros for 3 courses, a great value for the quality and inventiveness of the ingredients we were given. The chef was gracious enough to sign my lunch menu and I told him I would sell it on eBay one day. He told me I'd make more money by making reservations and selling those. We also heard another diner tell the chef that he had dined at Per Se and French Laundry in the US and that his meal at Frenchies had been better than either of those! After lunch, we decided to walk to Parc Monceau in the 8th, but we got sidetracked along the way with some shopping along the grand boulevard Hausseman. Instead, we walked towards La Concorde so we could take Line 1 of the metro which drops us off a few blocks from our apartment.
We relaxed a few hours and got ready for dinner at Josephine Chez Dumonet, a traditional bistro in the 6th. We took the 96 bus again right at the door, going in the opposite from our trip to Belleville yesterday. Josephine is a very busy place and I had made reservations a few days before, knowing that this was not a place you just walk into. Again, we saw people turned away during our meal. SInce it was such a nice balmy evening (especially for October and especially for Canadians!), we asked for a table outside. Initially, they told us they were all reserved and led us to a table in the back room, but then our waiter decided he could give us an outside table after all and took us back to the front of the restaurant. We were very happy at this kind gesture and told him so.
Josephine serves traditional French cuisine in huge portions. We had been warned about the size of the portions, so we decided to split both an entree and a dessert. We had the foie gras to start and were each served a huge slab. There was probably about a quarter pound of foie gras on each plate and we were deliriously happy not to have to skimp on how much we slathered on our little slices of toasted bread. Next came Den's cassoulet in a large cast iron pot which could have served at least 2 people and my chateaubriand, serve blue rare with a mound of thinly sliced potatoes and a simple green salad. Both meals were great comfort food, which while not breaking any food boundaries or reinventing any recipes, served exactly the purpose they were supposed to ~ give the diner traditional French cuisine in a very comfortable setting. Our waiters were funny and friendly and professional. We had ordered our dessert, the famous Grand Marnier souffle, at the same time as the rest of our meal, and it came to the table steaming hot, huge and pillowy and was served with a little glass of Grand Marnier to pour over the souffle. It was soooo good and the perfect end to a huge, delicious meal. We took the metro back home but we really should have walked our meal off. Oh well, we'll walk tomorrow..........
Our last full day in Paris was the most beautiful fall day I've seen in a long time. Sunshine and 25 degrees brought out most of Paris and the streets were packed with Parisians and tourists taking advantage of one of the last nice days of the year. We had decided that we had done enough running around during our trip and we were going to relax and spend most of the day at Jardin Luxembourg enjoying the warmth, the sunshine, the beautiful fall colours and the great people watching. We walked from our apartment down rue Rivoli for one last time and crossed over to the 6th and meandered to the park, getting there around 1pm. We found some chairs near the pond and just sat and napped and read and napped and took in all the scenery, the couples and families and friends strolling and playing and relaxing. We had some baguettes in the park for lunch and happened upon an orchestra playing a free concert as we were about to leave, so we stayed an extra hour listening to movie themes, including the theme from the Godfather. It was the perfect end to a perfect stay in Paris and we left the park around 5pm. We walked back though the 5th and strolled along the Seine near Notre Dame, listening to the church bells peal and enjoying our last hours in the city we have grown to love. We didn't want the day to end, the sunshine was still streaming warmth past 6pm and we finally made it back to the apartment around 6:30.
We had made reservations at Au Vieux Comptoir, a wine bar we had enjoyed last year in the 1st, but we really weren't up to another huge meal after our food orgy of the past few weeks. We decided to stay in the area and just walk around and see what tempted us. The streets and terraces were stilled filled with people enjoying a beautiful Saturday and we ended up at Les Fous d'en Face on place Bourg Tibourg. We both had salmon for dinner, which was very good, nice and moist and flavourful, served with rice and steamed veggies. Our last dessert was brown sugar creme brulee for me and a slab of chocolate cake in a pool of creme anglaise for Den. You can see that our reserve to have a sensible meal ended at dessert, but it was our last one in Paris, so it's understandable, isn't it! We walked slowly back to the apartment and finished our packing. Morning came way too early, our shuttle drove us to CDG uneventfully and the flight home was too long and boring.
So comes to an end another wonderful trip to Paris, cementing our love for this city of beauty and light, great food and wine, unbelievable architecture, tiny cobbled streets and grand boulevards, large manicured green spaces and densely packed city areas. We can't wait to bring our grandson Sebastian here in 2 years and show him this majestic city. Until then, Paris, je t'aime.............