Well it was cold today, but at least it was pretty sunny. We decided to take advantage of the sun and go check out one of Paris’s two big forests, the Bois de Boulogne (the other one is the Bois de Vincennes). We got off at the Porte Maillot métro stop, at the north end of the park, and walked right through to the south end. Of course, we had to stop frequently so that my dad could identify the trees and the birds.
We especially spent a lot of time around the lakes at the center of the park, which had a cute island in the middle and was inhabited by lots of waterfowl. We had bought some sandwiches and brought them with us, so we spent a few minutes sitting next to the lake, eating our little lunch happily while the ducks looked on expectantly. Of course, my dad made a sport of tossing bread to the ducks (and the one lone goose), from a bag of day-old bread he had brought from the apartment. The pigeons and gulls came over pretty quickly, too, but the most impressive characters were the ravens, who stood on the shore next to us, watching my dad’s hand carefully. As soon as he threw a crumb in the air, the ravens would fly over and try to catch the crumb before it hit the water. They were surprisingly fast, catching almost half of the bread before it even got to the ducks. Natural selection, I tell you.
Anyway, we had had designs on getting onto the island and having a drink at the café there, but apparently it was closed for the day (despite there being people visibly going in and out of the café), so we shrugged and kept walking. We never found any other cafés open in the park, so we eventually hit the southern end of the park, walked along past the Roland-Garros tennis courts (home of the French Open) and found ourselves at Porte d’Auteuil. There was a café right next to the métro station, so we treated ourselves to a very, very expensive coffee (we were in the 16th arrondissement, which is the wealthiest).
Mom wanted to do some xmas gift shopping, so she asked me where the middle and lower classes do their shopping (all of the shops she had seen in Paris so far were well out of our price range). I told her, “In chain stores and shopping malls, mostly in the suburbs.” Thankfully (or not), there was at least one shopping mall within Paris proper, so we hopped on the subway and headed over to Place d’Italie.
This was an American-style indoor shopping mall, so you can probably imagine what the interior looked like. I felt like I was back in Westmount Mall, London, Ontario (back in the early 90s, before it cratered). The shopping was mostly fruitless, but we did find a lot of stuff at a baby / children’s wear store called Okaïdi, where we got tons of stuff for the baby that my brother and his wife are expecting. I think we left with a metric tonne of cotton “onesies.”
We also went to the grocery store, Champion, and bought about 6 of their reusable grocery bags. I know, I know, it seems like an odd thing to buy, but the bags that they sell there are just the right size for laundry or carrying other big items and they’re really sturdy. They’re about half the size of those blue IKEA bags, but with a more square shape.
Anyway, we declared the shopping trip a mixed victory and headed home to get ready for dinner. We hadn’t made any reservations to eat that night, so we just dropped off our shopping stuff at the apartment and started walking around the neighborhood. I had read in one of the guidebooks left at my parents’ apartment that there was a restaurant in the Marais called Le Dôme du Marais, so we decided to go check it out. The guidebook said that it was the sort of place where you could show up in jeans or in a tux and feel equally at ease, but I realized as I took off my jacket that I was pushing it, wearing only a t-shirt. I took my wide cashmere scarf and wrapped it around my shoulders like a sort of shawl, making me look like a bearded old lady, but at least covering my forearms a bit.
The restaurant itself is located in some old building next to a convent that has this beautiful glass dome in the middle. The table settings are all white linens and silverware, which is a bit much for a "bistro" restaurant. Nonetheless, that didn’t prevent the restaurant from being one of the best of my parents’ entire visit.
The place is pretty haute cuisine in its own way, although the prices are surprisingly reasonable given the quality of the meals. The basic menu was 36€, which included three courses BUT ALSO about four mini-courses that came between the main courses. Check out this timeline of the dinner:
- Cheese biscuits to go with the aperitifs.
- An amuse-bouche of spiced carrot soup, foie gras & artichoke puree, and a savoury éclair filled with goat cheese and “iced” with roasted red pepper puree.
- Appetizers: a soufflé made with Jerusalem artichokes and a breaded-deep-fried-yet-soft-boiled egg for my parents; I took a winter vegetable salad with ham from Bayonne (Ibaïona).
- Main dishes: baked cod with sea snails in a green herb sauce for my mom, wild boar in a quince sauce for my dad, and pot-au-feu for me (a very slow-cooked stew with a clear broth).
- Palate cleanser of banana sorbet on a bed of chopped pineapple with cilantro (so good!)
- Desserts: Mille-feuille with vanilla-bean cream filling and plum-Armagnac ice cream for my parents; I had a warm pear tart with a green-apple / tarragon ice cream (!@#$ing amazing).
- A digestif of brandy made with berries from Houx (specialty of the house, apparently, and fantastic).
- With coffee, a plate of cookies and chocolates.
So we were FULL, as you could imagine, but also very satisfied. And all of that, including pre- and post-dinner drinks and a 43€ bottle of wine came to about 180€ for three people. Not bad at all, considering how very fine the food was. We made a note of the place and decided to bring my sister here after she arrives this weekend.