Interrupting the Frenchman’s lunch

Well, it’s taken a few days and a lot of angst taking in just about every patisserie within a ten mile radius, but finally, Mirinda’s Mission has been successful.

La religieuse

And it was utterly delicious and enjoyed to a degree that defies description. She found it on our journey into the 11th arrondissement where we hoped to see Edith Piaf’s flat.

Before we found this little piece of puffy heaven, we stopped off at the very trendy Oberkampf Cafe where computers are banned. Not smartphones, just computers. The reason is obvious. It’s a very small cafe where the customers come and go with great regularity and, as the guy behind the counter said, while computers and cafes normally went well together, it wouldn’t really be viable in such a tiny environment. Not that it bothered us because we (like everyone else in the cafe) had our own tiny computers which were allowed because they were actually called phones.

Our breakfast which was so close to lunch it should really be called lunch, was delicious. My tartine halloumi was amazing. A slice of toasted sourdough with hummus spread over it and a piece of halloumi on top then all grilled and served with leaves and small tomatoes. Mirinda had one with avocado, pomegranate, sesame seeds and dukkah. According to her it was equally delicious.

We sat next to a couple of Australian girls (one from Melbourne, the other from Brisbane) and discovered that the (French) barista worked for a while in Surfers Paradise and, up until last week, a girl from Sydney had worked behind the counter. I guess that’s just an indication of how cool the place really is. Whatever the reason, it’s highly recommended by us if anyone somehow finds themselves on Rue Oberkampf in the 11th in need of great sustenance.

Feeling well supped, we headed out to explore the 11th. I have to say it seemed a little less salubrious than the Marais. Down at heel was the expression that sprang to mind especially when we visited the church of St Amboise and wondered at the four homeless looking chaps sprawled on the front steps. It looked, to all intents and purposes as if the church was closed. It wasn’t so we went inside to visit.

While it wasn’t particularly impressive, the church did feature a Saint Monique and a Saint Rita which we thought rather fun. There was however, no Joan. Well, not that I could see and I did peek into every chapel. Anyway, with her omission, I include St Monique instead.

Having braved the homeless brigade and emerged unscathed by god’s wrath, we headed around a few more backstreets, admiring the efforts at decoration of numerous tenants and owners.

Eventually, Mirinda found her prize and we took a seat in the Maurice Gardette Square (along with a bunch of indolent looking chaps of unknown provenance and a very funny child who had an independent streak as big as Freya’s) to eat it. It was as we were leaving that we came across this statue.

Along the base was the inscription “Thiebaut frere fondeuns” and I thought that maybe this was the name of the artist and, perhaps the name of the statue. I was straightened out very quickly back at the hotel when I was able to find that the name on the base was the foundry (that’s what ‘fondeuns’ means) where it was cast. The Thiebaut foundry was responsible for lots of cast statues in Paris (and in fact, France and one notable statue of Joan in Melbourne). Adding a little more connectedness to this trip, they also cast all the metal bits of the statue in La Republique.

The statue above is actually called ‘Le Botteleur’ and was made by Jacques Perrin in 1891. A botteleur is a binder and refers to the fact that this chap is kneeling on a big bunch of wheat (I think) while he binds it with some sort of rope.

Street art in Paris is an almost constant source of delight for me. It can be full on bronze statues like the one above or it can be some inventive and/or amusing graffiti.

(It can also be the sort of guerrilla art that we found in Florence. In the case of the Marais, it’s an artist called Kai who creates small concrete pieces which are then placed in various locations. I’ve found a few and might discuss them in tomorrow’s post given the day will mostly be taken up with train travel as we make our way home.)

Because of where we were, it seemed only right and proper than Mirinda should lead us into a tabac for a coffee/beer. It was populated with a lot of men who were rather keen on losing their money on the races which were being televised at one end of the place. Unlike a bookies in the UK, there was no noise or shouting as the horses ran. The place was almost diffused with a sort of hopelessness and inevitability of loss not normally found outside refugee camps.

Anyway, all was well even given the fact that, apart from the Chinese woman behind the bar and a customer who came in to buy scratch cards, Mirinda was the only woman there. The coffee was fine as was the beer and it was an interesting environment within which to rest. And rest we had to because we were early for our next stop…

…and the main one for today (or so we’d planned) was at Edith Piaf’s flat where she lived for a year. We had a hard time finding it as the only indication is a small brass plaque outside a private block of flats. What we hadn’t realised was that we should have booked first.

Mirinda, upon finding this out, rang the number and spoke to a chap, suggesting that she book an appointment. When he asked when for she suggested now, given we were standing outside. He took us through the rigmarole for getting inside. This included the security codes for two doors and walking up four floors.

It’s important to note that she managed all of that in French because the chap didn’t speak any English…or wouldn’t.

When we arrived at the flat it was to discover that the Edith Piaf bit was just two rooms. I think the rest of the flat is probably where the chap (Bernard Marchois) lives. And it turned out he was eating when we called, something that Mirinda apologised for in faultless French.

Anyway, the flat was very interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly I had no idea that Piaf collected assorted china and secondly that she was super tiny (1.47m tall…or short). Dotted around the rooms are numerous dresses that she wore. She could easily have shopped in the children’s section of any department store. I have to assume that she actually had her clothes handmade.

Given the ‘museum’ was really two rooms with various memorabilia scattered around, it didn’t really evoke the feeling of being where she’d been like other ‘Homes of the Famous’ tend to. Even so, it was lovely and well worth the effort to reach it. (And a big thank you to Monsieur Marchois for being so obliging.)

Something else they have in Paris are a whole load of ‘Passages.’ And, extraordinarily there was one on the way back to our hotel – the Passage Vendome. Passages, in general, are sort of covered alleys in a vacant space between buildings. Generally they are lined either side with quite quirky and interesting shops. In fact, normally they are a great treat in which to indulge.

Can I just emphasise that Passage Vendome is NOT one of them. Well, unless you’re a pigeon because there appeared to be a very healthy population perched high up, almost constantly spattering the ground with their guano.

Of course the entrance looks all lovely and inviting but that’s as far as it goes. Unless you’re just walking from one street to another, there is very little reason to enter the Passage Vendome. In fact such a journey would only result in disappointment. And a head full of bird shit.

Following our pigeon-butt dodging trip through and back down the Passage Vendome, we headed to the hotel for our nap-before-dinner nap…though not before Mirinda found the following window…

I eventually dragged her away and we settled down to rest our weary feet.

Later we went to dinner at the highly rated La Chemise. Mirinda’s lamb shank and my turbot were both delicious and the premier cruz Chablis was exceptional. We had a final walk around the rather undecided Place Republique in order to say a final farewell before returning to our hotel for the final time.

And that was another wonderful weekend in Paris.

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One Response to Interrupting the Frenchman’s lunch

  1. mum cook says:

    yes it sounded very interesting xx

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