Eiffel Tower & L’Arpege

On the metro in Paris...sans driver!

On the metro in Paris…sans driver!

A very traditional touristy morning – caught the metro to the Eiffel Tower…just for a peek and a wander, not to ascend (thank God, as there were lines for miles…in the sun…sod that for a joke!). Dodging hawkers, petitioners, and water sellers provided limited amusement, and we got out of there fairly quickly.

We ambled through the Champ de Mars towards Les Invalides, soaking up the warm rays for brief stints before shade-chasing alongside avenues of trees. Due to our late start (the sleeping-in gets easier each morning!), we really didn’t have time to check out the Hôtel Les Invalides before our lunch reservation at L’Arpege (which was slightly disappointing, cause we really wanted to see the golden Dome Church where Napoleon is buried).

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Our lunch at L’Arpege was quite astounding. It is ranked number 16 on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and the focus is “taking pride in the culinary potential of humble home-grown vegetables.” The chef, Alain Passard, eradicated red meat from his menus in 2001, and we were more than thrilled to find a restaurant of this calibre in Paris with mainly vegetarian fare. We arrived already with the mind-set of intending to indulge in the tasting menu – perfect for a leisurely lunch. We were under the impression that this consisted of 8 courses (as per the information on the website and menu), but we were wrong! We ended up being served FIFTEEN courses!! (the last of which was a repeat of the petits fours – so we had them boxed up and brought them home for our companions). The waiter just kept bringing out more and more courses – when questioned on the extra dishes, he would say, “this one is a surprise”…or when we had a repeat of a course (which happened twice), he said, “you get extra.” And, of course, these were NOT service errors!

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The dishes were incredibly inventive, many including fresh vegetables and fruits and flowers, all in one dish – the strawberry and lavender ‘bite’ as h’ors d’oeuvres was a completely wondrous shock to the taste buds! Towards the end of lunch (in excess of 3 hours!), the chef appeared and greeted each of his guests in the dining room. He was all charm, totally working the room – full of ‘this is your home now’ and insisting we all MUST come for a meal the next time we were in Paris. No problem! (Won’t have the tasting lunch next time, though – à la carte will be more than enough!).

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Due to the lengthy, almost out of body experience, that was lunch at L’Arpege, there wasn’t much time remaining in the afternoon for further wanderings and explorations. And, to be honest, we really just needed to rest before heading out again for our evening plans.

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We had pre-theatre dinner reservations at Thaim (a Thai place), booked the evening before for our group when we were scouting out the area near the Comédie Francaise. We ended up as 10 people (original booking was for 7) and we came in dribs and drabs, but needed to be out by 8:15. They were more than a tad stroppy that John and I didn’t want to order food, and nearly wanted us to leave (even though we had already purchased a bottle of wine and Perrier), saying that they needed the table (the restaurant was empty, and it was 7:30pm – well before anyone else in Paris was wanting to eat!!). One of our ‘French-parlaying’ friends talked them down, and more of our friends arrived, so they got their meals. If they hadn’t wanted to play nice, I would’ve been more than happy to take our party elsewhere – the service attitude was rubbish really (and I refuse to believe it was simply ‘French’ service, as we had had too much good service to accept this as the ‘norm’).

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We rushed to the Comédie Francaise and were stuck in a 2 hour and 20 minute play with no interval, Ritual for a Metamorphoses, organised by the Drama Conference. For the first hour or so it was quite visually interesting, but with a back-ache, I was ready to abseil down the three levels of balcony and get out of there. Shame I have no abseiling gear! Instead, we waited it out, then walked back to the flat and chatted with our mates until about 1am. I could get used to this way of life!

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About bontaks

Nic is the the 'Bon' part of 'Bontaks.' Together we are Nic and John - two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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