Monday, May 02, 2016

Walking in Paris

Making crepes.
The TGV (fast train) we took from Arles to Paris arrived at the Gare de Lyon at 11:15 this morning, and a taxi was waiting as we exited the station. We were in our hotel by noon, ready to walk around the city.

We started with lunch in a crepe restaurant on Rue de Montparnasse: a center for Breton crepes. Each restaurant name includes the location in Brittany where the original proprietors came from -- maybe a few generations ago.

The place seems very popular with local office workers.

As we strolled we looked in shop windows. This antique doll kitchen was
in a shop named "La Maison de Poupée."
I took this photo to show to a friend who should have studied with Poulenc.
After walking down Boulevard Saint Michel we went into our favorite museum, the Musee du Cluny, where
the most wonderful tapestries in the world are on display again. (Last time we were here they were in New York.)
We love the Lady and the Unicorn!

We also enjoyed the displays of medieval stained glass. These partridges reminded us of our tour last week,
where we saw a red-legged partridge at dawn while birdwatching. We also love the medieval sculptures,
the collections of ivory and precious metals, and much more about our favorite museum.
The weather was nice so lots of people were sitting in cafes and near fountains.
Between the Latin Quarter and our hotel near Montparnasse,
the Luxembourg Gardens are a beautiful place to walk.
More window-shopping: a souvenir item I am not going to buy!
... and a very elaborate cake in the window of a famous pastry shop.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Sunday Lunch near the Pont du Gard

We hoped to find birds at the famous Pont du Gard, but a bitter wind
was discouraging to both us and the birds. 
The Pont du Gard is a Roman aqueduct supported by a bridge over the river Gard; it's one of the most impressive
surviving Roman structures. Built around 2000 years ago, it carried water 21 miles from the nearby hills to the Roman city of Nimes. We climbed up a long stairway to see the panoramic view from above, and take a close look at the aqueduct.
Cold and hungry, we found a restaurant called La Provence in the tiny town
of Saint Bonnet du Gard. We approached the terrace through a
series of narrow walkways. The wisteria and irises growing there were
beautiful, but we wanted to eat inside where it was warm.
A vase of iris were on the table when we sat down at around noon.
After around a quarter of an hour, all the other tables were filled
with French people enjoying a leisurely multi-course lunch:
a wonderful French tradition that I was very happy to enjoy also.
We began with a vegetable soup, served from tureens.
Then my set menu began with this duck fois gras terrine, a bit of
sweet onion jam, and two raspberries. 
Len had the smoked salmon with "petites legumes." 
My main course was confit of duck with a sauce of cepe mushrooms.
Several dishes of vegetables and rice were served family-style.
A platter of Provencal tomatoes ready to share.
My incredible plate of cheese. I don't know what these are,
but their flavors are complex and delicious.
Dessert.
Scenery from the tiny town where we ate.

Arles: Saint Trophime Cloister

Between birding trips in the past week, we've visited several cloisters, churches, chapels, and other buildings around Arles, where we've seen some magnificent stone carvings. We spent quite a bit of time in the cloister of St. Trophime, attached to the former cathedral in Arles. The romanesque capitals and other carvings in this cloister are regarded as among the most beautiful stonework of that era, and the architecture is beautiful. A few images:

Our group viewing the cloister.

This capital is especially famous: it shows the three kings sleeping at an inn on their way to Bethlehem.





The church tower seen from the cloister.
I'm especially fond of romanesque art, and very impressed by several places we've visited this trip.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Open Air Market, Arles

Flavors of Provence at the Saturday market in Arles: olives, asparagus, strawberries, lavender and other flavored
honey, sausage made from the meat of the famous bulls of the Camargye, fresh herbs, dried herbs, artichokes,
garlic, and salted cod (for the famous dish brandade de morue).

Fish and Shellfish at the Market




Other Products 

Fifteen flavors of macarons. We bought 12 of them and shared with all the other people on our tour.
Everyone seemed to love the unique flavor of their personal macron.
Spices

A popular snack truck for the market people. 

Produce from various places. Many of the stalls had imported fruit
and vegetables such as melons from Morocco, asparagus from
Spain, oranges and pineapple from Kenya, and so on.
After a morning of birdwatching we had a picnic which our tour guides had purchased in the market before we left.

Friday, April 29, 2016

So much to eat, so little time!

Left (top to bottom) -- mango tart, strawberry tart, molten chocolate cake with chocolate sauce.
Right: our guide looking really pleased at his decorated ice cream.
We have been enormously enjoying the food on our tour of Provence. Our guide has taken us to quite a number of stunning restaurants for both dinners and lunches. I'm not going to try to go into detail about the menu and ambience at each of these varied places, just show some of the highlights of the food, course by course. I started with dessert, above -- of course! Not pictured: various creme caramels and tart au citrons.

Entrées and Salads

The French word for first course is entrée. Most fixed menus come with three courses. For lunch we've often ordered salads that could also serve as a first course at a full meal.
Salad with mushrooms, goat cheese on toast, and tapenade.

Fish soup with rouille (a mayonnaise-type garlic sauce).
This was Len's -- at this meal I had fabulous fois gras.

One of three buffets of salads, hot entrées, and more -- even pizza! One of the other buffets offered a variety of pâté.

My selection from these buffets included 4 types of roasted peppers.

Wine

Wine is available at lunch and dinner.  This was last night's wine.

Main Courses

Lamb chops.
Ravioli with creamy mushroom sauce.
Rabbit stuffed with fennel. Side dishes:
mashed potatoes and ratatouille.
Duck breast with a sauce of morille mushrooms, also with
mashed potatoes and ratatouille.

Restaurant Interiors -- Just a Few

In Les Saintes Marie de la Mer.

In Arles.
Near the natural reserve where we watched birds beginning at sunrise,
therefore missed breakfast, therefore were grateful for the coffee!