Monday, May 16, 2011

Place de la Bastille

First, an important announcement.

I have come to a momentous realization and decision; my blog posts are too long!  My thinking has been in a box for too long.  I thought it would make more sense if my posts were chronological and depicted the events as they happened, but the reality is that we do a lot of stuff in one day, so my posts are too long and take too much time in one sitting to finish them and so I either don't start them because I don't have enough time to finish them or I don't finish them because I ran out of time.  It also occurred to me that posts that are more topic centric might be easier to handle on both ends; for me to write and for you to read.  So henceforth, my posts will be willy nilly date-wise and more content oriented.  I guess that means that instead of being about the entire Sunday walk or visit to this place or that entire adventure, the posts will be shorter and focused on a part of the adventure.  And there will be more of them.  That's a good thing, right?

On to the fun stuff.

There are many areas in Paris that we've never been and our weekend outings are an attempt to remedy this.  So even though the day was cold and dreary and tut tut looks like rain, we decided the Place de la Bastille would be the starting point of a walk through Le Marais (more on that later!).

We also read somewhere that the Bastille Metro station had wonderful murals on the walls depicting the French Revolution, so we rode the metro to Place de la Bastille.  As we exited the station, we were nearly run-over by this guy:

Yes, it's blurry.  It was dark and he was moving fast - it was a grab it or miss it shot!
We had no idea that our near miss was a hint to what was topside.  

We also saw this:

Bastille Metro Station, Line 5
Now, I'm no expert on French Revolution Murals, but these don't look like French Revolution Murals.  In fact, it looks very much like a very long hallway in any number of Metro stations, dotted with advertisements.  Where are the murals?

What we have since learned is that metro stations that link metro lines together do so in a spidery fashion and the hallways and tunnels for one line don't automatically connect with the hallways and tunnels of another line.  What we failed to notice is that the murals are on LINE 1 of the Metro, not LINE 5, and since we didn't know that we wandered the tunnels of Line 5 looking for murals that weren't there, completely ignoring the signs to Line 1 because we didn't want to take the Line 1 train.  Hurmpf.  We will go back to see the murals, and we will take Line 1 to see them!  On this day though, we missed them.

The Place de la Bastille is where the Bastille prison used to be until it was stormed by the locals on July 14, 1789 (which is considered the start of the French Revolution) and by November of that year, the prison was dismantled/demolished and the cut stones were used to build the Pont de la Concorde (who knew!?).  The Place de la Bastille is now the home of the Bastille Opera,

The very modern L'Opéra Bastille, built to share classical music with the masses
  The Colonne de Juillet (July Column),

The Colonne de Juillet in the center of the Place de la Bastille, built to commemorate the Revolution of 1830
and on the north side of the Place de la Bastille is a large open area that is a huge hangout for skateboarders, scooterers and rollerbladers,

skateboarders practicing their moves

lacing up for a skate about town

rockin' the freestyle 
There was a lot of activity in and around the Place;  there were groups of rollerbladers gearing up for a group skate with guides wearing yellow shirts and we also discovered another, even bigger than ours street market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir.  We started to check it out, but by the time we crossed all of the necessary streets to get there, we realized they were shutting down for the day.  So, a street market and metro murals for another day.  The candy vendor was not shutting down though;


sweets and sours
eggs, sweets and sours    eggs???

We decided against having candy for lunch, so we headed down Rue San Antoine toward Le Marais.  By now you've probably guessed that our itineraries are pretty loose and we're easily sidetracked.  Under normal travel circumstances that isn't the case; we have places to go and things to see and do and we don't have time to be side-tracked.  But because it seems like we have all the time in the world to see Paris, being side-tracked is now half the adventure.  And maybe that mindset alone is partly to blame for why we didn't have candy for lunch, but we had pastries for lunch.  At any rate, we had only set out for Le Marais a scant 5 minutes before we were distracted by some awesome purple awnings on a nondescript shop down  a side street.  It demanded a closer look.  As we got closer, we saw that it was a patisserie and chocolaterie.  Yum!   This definitely demands an ever closer look!

Lovely purple awnings invite a closer look
I have no idea who or what Lenôtre is or why they have a fabulous shop here, but I was awed by the beauty of these treats.  It even gives me pause to recognize that statement - beautiful treats.  Since when do I appreciate the beauty of treats?  When was the last time I marveled at the artistic presentation of cakes and pastries and tarts?  This is something new, for sure because we don't have such beautiful treats in the U.S. and if we do, I have no idea where they're hiding.  Even the bakeries have mostly disappeared and given way to the generic bakeries of Vons and Costco.  I can say that beautiful treats is not the goal of the generic bakery - mass production is.  And the mass-produced treats that look half-way pretty don't taste nearly as good as they look.  But here in Paris, there are still bakeries on every corner and there are chefs who are fiercely proud of their culinary creations and beautiful pastries and they adorn the windows of their shops with their delectable delights.  And they truly are wondrous to see:

Beautiful cakes and pastries in intricate shapes

Love the crown jewel look of the mango cake!

There were some savory delights as well - the colors and shapes turn ordinary vegetables into works of art

Along with a tres cher presentation comes a tres cher price tag!
Looking at these pastries, I was truly amazed at the art work involved;  the mix of shapes, colors and textures, with a perfectly placed vanilla bean here or a scant dusting of sugar there creates an artful feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

We were initially content to just photograph the pastries through the display windows. but as we were about to walk away, Ron decided we shouldn't leave without checking out the inside, so we entered this palace of decadence.  The sights and aromas were truly beautiful, but alas, no photos allowed!  We ogled all of the treats and then decided we needed something with which to compare our other treat outings and it is lunch time and we're hungry so what the heck (that's a sound justification, no?).  We made our purchase for take-away and then left in search of a bench or place to sit whilst we indulged. 

Our schnazzy bag (we are acquiring quite a collection of these!)
A lovely box for an eclair - it wasn't all that schnazzy so we didn't keep it
The eclair with an edible chocolate label
A fabulous Crêpe Suzette - without the flambé but with an incredible orange cream filling
The verdict?  The eclair was good and the Crêpe Suzette was wonderful.  It was not a typical Crêpe Suzette, and I would love to know what exactly the orange cream filling was.  I've google-seached some already, but it's not too important because I can guess and while I may not be able to replicate it exactly, I sincerely doubt I can make something awful.  I wonder how many experiments until I get it just right?  I'm sure it will be a tasty  adventure.  Kitchen experiments, here I come!

Oh...and about Lenôtre.  Once again, I'm Dooney & Burked.  If you know anything about chefs and pastries and such, you know about Lenôtre. Here's the primer:

Lenôtre is Gaston Lenôtre who was a French pastry chef and caterer.  Lenôtre opened the first chain of upscale bakeries in Paris and a bakery-café in the first French shopping mall, and he started the first professional French re-training chef school. He also wrote nine recipe books.

I've already admitted to living under a rock (and boyo that rock is getting heavy).  But living in and experiencing Paris in a way we never have before, I am slowly but surely getting out from under that rock.


  1. I'll have one of everything please! Lol. That egg candy is very weird but I wonder what it tastes like. Love the pics. Amazingly beautiful as usual.

  2. Great photos Denise. Ron is looking very French. How about a few photos of you on the sidewalks of Paris?
    Jim & Arlene

  3. Ashley - oooh, I'd love to have one of everything too! It's tempting to have dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And just for you, I will seek out the egg candy and give it a taste test!

  4. Jim & Arlene - Thanks! Ron is looking even more French now - he wore a pink shirt to work and cut his hair VERY short! There are a few photos of me - but I'm usually the one with the camera. :)