PARIS – They call it the new Paris. I kinda like the old one, but I see their point.
I had lunch Monday with Sylvie Legars from the Ile de France tourism bureau, meeting for a long lunch at a place called Ze Kitchen Galerie. It’s a beautiful, sunny spot a couple blocks from Notre Dame on the left bank. A bit of a traditional area, but the restaurant is playful and wonderful.
Chef/owner William Ledeuil obeys the basic “laws” of French cooking, but he marries that with a love of Asian flavours. The result is a fabulous mixture of French-style seafood such as red mullet, with, say, lemongrass or ginger. Or both. He makes a broth that’s similar to Thailand’s Tom Yum Goong, but with a classic French twist.
The restaurant is not only bright and fun but features paintings from French artists; very modern and ultra-colourful.
The scallops were absolutely perfect, especially with a cold bottle of Sancerre white wine, one of former Toronto Star reporter Ernest Hemingway’s faves as I recall.
Ledeuil is a charming guy with far nicer hair than any successful chef in French really needs, if you want to know how I really feel. But a very nice fellow, and an outstanding cook who spends a lot of time chatting with customers at the end of the lunch if Monday was any example.
I had just enough time to take in a brief tour of the Louvre. Thank god they point the way to the Mona Lisa, and that they have an audio tour that gives a 45-minute “quickie”
The 45-minute tour takes you to see the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace; all hugely impressive once you get past the throngs of idiots who stand in front of the statue and demand that other people get out of the way so some stupid friend of theirs can take their picture.
Honestly, people. Get a life. YOU WERE THERE. YOU SAW THE PAINTING OR STATUE. YOU CAN TAKE A PICTURE OF IT OR BUY A POSTCARD. DO YOU ENJOY MAKING JOURNALISTS FEEL THEY HAVE TO TYPE IN CAPITAL LETTERS?
That being said, it’s awesome to see all of the “Big Three.” The Mona Lisa deserves its title as the most famous painting in the world, with that famous, enigmatic smile. The Winged Victory statue I don’t recall from earlier visits, but it’s wonderfully impressive. And what can you say about the Venus de Milo? It’s probably a good thing she’s missing most of both arms, as it definitely adds to the mystery.
I had to stop for a minute and think about it, though. The British Museum gets lots of bad press for having the Elgin Marbles from Athens. But both the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory statue came from Greece, and I don’t remember hearing too many folks clamouring for THEIR return. But maybe I’m wrong.
Anyway, the Louvre is obviously one of the wonders of the world. Even if you don’t care for art and are one of the folks who thinks even the 45-minute “Greatest Hits” package is too long, it’s worth it just for the architecture and design and the views of Paris from the windows.
Equally impressive to the big three were some of the French paintings I managed to sneak a look at it, including a great one of Napoleon at his coronation at Notre Dame and the famous Delacroix painting of Liberty Leading the People; as stirring a painting as you’ll see anywhere in the world.
Topped it off by some serious shopping at the Galeries Lafayette near the incroyable Opera House. Wow. You think Honest Ed’s owns the voltage record for the world? Check out the lights at Galerie Lafayette, the French department store. And that’s just one building. They had another one for men’s fashion and a third that’s called Lafayette Maison. They probably have an oil and lube centre somewhere for all I know.
Just down the street a few feet is the Printemps department store, which was much less crowded.
Stayed the night at a wild spot called the Murano Urban Resort, which features about 10 different types of lighting in the room, a photo/sketch of Marilyn Monroe above my bed, lots of glass and a cool restaurant with dozens of white rods hanging from the ceiling and plenty of white sofas and chairs. It’s over near the Place de Republique, and looks like a welcome change for a fairly traditional neighborhood.
As for Marilyn, I’m not telling how the evening went. I WILL say that of all the light schemes offered, she looked prettiest in pink….
Look for more on Paris in the Saturday, Dec. 18 issue of Star Travel. It’s the final destination in our Grand Tour series of great world destinations.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll do it again some time!