The other day Vivienne asked me if we had a favourite restaurant in Paris. I shook my head without really thinking. Our favourite used to be the Polidor and it’s still up there. However, our most favourite has to be the truffle place we went to in December.
It was the place where we took Bob who had never tasted truffles before. He ordered the burger and still has no idea what truffles taste like. That may be as is however, I LOVE truffles and made sure I was soaked in them when we went.
This Paris visit coincides with the time of our anniversary of arriving in the UK (19th February, 1998) and we needed a celebration restaurant to mark the occasion. Mirinda was very quick to suggest the truffle place (she calls it Tartuffe) which we visited today for lunch.
It’s called Artisan de la Truffe and is superb. Mind you, if you didn’t like truffles it would be like slow torture given the aroma assaults you instantly having walked through the door and everything has truffles whether large or small.
Lunch was an enormous success which is more than can be said for the Pompidou Centre which had a queue stretching around the block. Needless to say we didn’t visit. Last time there wasn’t a queue but that was because of the strike which meant it was actually closed.
Not that that stopped us enjoying ourselves.
There was a bit of wandering around, but then we visited the Library. The building once housed the very first library in Paris. Unfortunately the Revolutionary Army redistributed the books but then, quite a while afterwards, it was reopened as a public library.
It’s a lovely space, kept quiet by the attentive eyes and ears of a French librarian. There’s a few bits and pieces dotted around the main room in glass cabinets. Colour plates and letters and various bits of library paraphernalia.
It was originally a house. In fact it’s one of the oldest private mansions in Paris having been started in 1559. Diane d’Angouleme, the illegitimate daughter of Henri II acquired it and it became know as the Hotel d’Angouleme. Following a number of owners and some changes to the size it came into the possession of a chap called Antoine Moriau.
Antoine was rather fond of books and managed to build himself a bit of a library devoted to the history of Paris. He bequeathed it to the city of Paris and it became the first municipal library in 1759. Shortly afterwards the revolution stripped it all out and gave the poor the books to eat.
By 1969, a lot of books had been regurgitated…I mean recovered (and a lot more purchased) and it once more became the public library which we visited today.
If I lived in the Marais, I reckon I’d sit and work in the library. I felt quite at home.
By the time we finished it was beer o’clock so we sat in a delightful little bar where we were royally entertained by the floor elevator. The barman demonstrated his magical skills as the floor opened, the little cage appeared and he put an Otto bin on it. It all created quite the stir.
The other place we visited was the National Archive.
Like the library, this was also once a house. Well, two houses. Sort of. One of them was owned by the Rohans (I’ve written about them many times but most notably when we first visited their Josselin castle back in 2007). The other was the Hôtel de Soubise. Together they form the archive.
The archive was created thanks to the French Revolution. Before the revolt, there was no central archive, just disparate piles of paper records dating back forever. The Revolutionary Council took over the Hôtel de Soubise and filled it with every bit of documentation they could find.
Napoleon promised a purpose built archive which was never built and so it remained where it was and so it still is today.
Normally you can wander around the original Hôtel de Soubise but they are currently mounting a new exhibition so we could only wander the ground floor. Which was fine.
The first room (of which, mysteriously, no one knows its original use) contains a lovely exhibition of various archival things pointing out why it’s done, how its done and why we need it. There were some fascinating objects and I felt very at home.
Behind this first room there’s a few of the apartments to walk around, some furnished, others empty except for scaffolding and workmen tapping away behind screens.
In fact, I was originally going to title this post after one of the exhibits. It stated, in part, that there were 60,000 lists of grievances from the clergy, nobility and the third-estate dating back to 1789 in the archive. Clearly they were well pissed off.
Instead of that, I spotted a window display for a women’s clothing shop with Business Pyjama Woman on the window. I was wondering, if she was a super hero, what her super power would be. Obviously she’d fight crime in her jimjams but, apart from sleeping, I wasn’t sure what else she could effectively do in nightwear. To ward off criminals I mean.
Either that or the shop was suggesting that business women would attend meetings in their pyjamas because they were so overwelmed with work they didn’t have time to change.
The truffles wore us out so we headed back to the hotel for a bit of a nap before heading for the Duc des Lombard for some excellent jazz.
This is our third visit to the Duc des Lombard and, gloriously, I was remembered by the waiter. Such a nice chap. As opposed to the freaky guy with the video camera.
We saw Olivier Temime and his quartet playing a tribute to Clifford Jordan and it was fantastic. I particularly loved the pianist – Olivier Hutman – but they were all amazing. So laid back and cool. As usual Lombard proved to be an excellent night of jazz.
Unfortunately the freaky, curly headed chap with the video camera was intent on spoiling it for everyone. It made it all worthwhile, however, when Olivier came down off the stage after the gig and told him off. It was (sadly) all in French but you didn’t need to understand the words to realise he wasn’t happy.
Freaky curly headed guy kept apologising and making some lame excuse but it didn’t please Olivier. Mirinda said that, had she spoken French, she’d have told him she was a lawyer and he had every right to demand the tape. Such a shame she doesn’t speak French that well.
Of course, my little snatch of video was fine. As were the little snatches by just about everyone else. The freaky curly headed chap was just taking the piss. And being annoying.
As you can see, we weren’t at the front like in December. That didn’t matter. It all sounded fantastic and we left, filled with jazz.
By the way, the other two musicians were Samuel Hubert on the double bass and Steve Williams on the drums. All brilliant.