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Daddy-A's Excellent French Adventure


Daddy-A
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We decided to spend the last 3 days of our trip back in Paris. It would be a chance to organize ourselves, do some last minute souvenir/wine/cheese/chocolate shopping, and to take in the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre.

I had been reading about the fête over in the France forum [LINK to the Thread] and was pleased to discover it coincided precisely with our return to Paris.

Those who have been to Montmartre will know that the top of the Butte around Sacré Coeur is a bit of a tourist gong show. Place du Tertre with its “artists” is equally appalling IMO. But once you get away from that, Montmartre is really quite a charming neighbourhood.

The food part of the Fête takes place on the streets around Sacré Coeur and leading up to Place du Tertre. Food vendors and wine makers from around the country set up tents and do their best to prove that whatever they’re selling is the best in France.

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Of course the Compté caught my eye.

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Poillee Comptoise

This seemed to be the meal of choice during the Fête. Called “poillée” or “tartillette” it’s essentially a mixture of potatoes, sausage and cheese. The one pictured above used, of course, Comté.

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Tartillette with Epoisses!

This one was also cooked in one of the largest pans I have ever seen ..

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So lunch was an easy decision

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The Fêtes is really about the release of the newest vintage of wine from the vineyard on Montmartre.

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La Close du Montmartre

We never tasted the wine, but from what I’ve heard, we really weren’t missing much.

To go along with the release there are many speeches, parades and officials walking around in “official” costume.

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There’s also live music in the evening, and a fireworks display on Saturday night. All in all a fun afternoon, but way over-priced. The tartillette for example was 7 Euros and it was tough to find wine vendors selling a glass of wine for under 3. If you happen to be there at the right time, go. Personally I wouldn't make a special trip for it again.

As the crowds were starting to get larger, J & I decided to skip those festivities and look for one last meal in Paris before we left.

I have no pictures, but our meal at Polidor was a hoot. This is not where you go for fancy food and polished service. This is where you go because you’re broke and hungry. It was nowhere near our best meal, but was one of the most memorable thanks to our server, a 60-sh y.o. woman who looked like she had been a server for way too long.

She made no attempt at conversation with us, just took the orders (20 Euro menu for entrée, plat and dessert) and grunted when she understood. J ordered the wine, and only was able to say “Beaujolais” before our server said “Oui, Beaujolais” and was gone. There were in fact 3 Beaujolais on the carte des vins, but “Granny” was going to make our choice for us. Of course, it was delicious

Our food arrived swiftly, with Granny almost tossing the plates in front of us. When a couple seated beside us (directly beside us … family style) asked for water, Granny simply grabbed the carafe that was in front of us and put it in front of them. Napkins were similarly dispensed. Soon, you learned to simply ask your neighbours to pass anything you needed. Granny was a busy lady.

Polidor

41 rue Monsieur-le-Prince

Metro: Odeon

I won’t bother with the phone number … they don’t do reservations. Get there early (open at 7:30) if you don’t want to wait.

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So that was the trip. Happily I actually lost weight on this trip, which means I was either working too hard, or not eating enough!

Here are some random observations from the notes I kept on this trip:

  • The French are not rude … at least not the ones we met. They are blunt, but their manners in general are better than most North Americans.
  • The French are proud of their language and usually insist on it being spoken properly. When my attempts at French were corrected, I was grateful. When my attempts at French were tolerated, I was also grateful.
  • Most of the waiters at Paris bistros outwork any server I have ever seen in North America. Serving, bussing, and still finding time for a smoke? Awesome!
  • All that corn (in the Dordogne), and not a bit to eat … unless you’re a cow, goose or duck!
  • Smoking and food DO NOT go together ... unless it's the food that being smoked.
  • Breakfast should always begin with a Kir.
  • All butchers should arrive in my neighbourhood with a trailer full of duck, paté and foie. The cheese-makers should do likewise.

Thanks to anyone who contributed to threads that helped us out on this trip. This is what I like about eGullet. I hope my report will help some of you later on as well.

Bonne Journée

A.

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Utterly awesome, Arne! I wish we'd been there, and you sure pushed my buttons with the epoisses (on a warm plate, brilliant!) the pruneaux d'Agen, those jewel-like marrons glaces, the gorgeous pastries and chocolates, and those fantastic chateaux. I haven't been to either the Dordogne or Burgundy, and now I need to go.

And whatever juju caused you to lose weight on that trip, with all that luscious food, could you please post it here? Or just PM me some!

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Arne, thank you for sharing your wonderful trip with us. You certainly made it come alive. I particularly enjoyed your anecdotal details like the lady in the window in this photo:

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John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Pardon me for being so crass, but money-wise, did you find that with a walking tour, you had a better connection to the French people, their culture, their cuisine, ..le terroir... ? Is autumn a better time to visit, or perhaps spring?

Crass? You?? :laugh:

Like a hockey puck for a hockey player, I set myself up for that remark, ehh?? :wink:

And you can answer this question towards the end of your trip: Which did you like better, the city or the countryside? And why?

Stay tuned!

A.

Now that your trip is over, I'm ready for your answer, Arne.

For a novice walker like me, how many miles/km a day would you recommend? The way you & J. had your trip planned, it seems like you got the best of both worlds: Paris & large cities to try the major fine dining restaurants; the local villages to taste le terroir ...

If possible, without getting off topic too much, about how much was your trip? How much more would it have been if you rented a car and/or purchase rail passes? Was the savings worth an extra nice meal and/or more cheese to take back to Canada?

Encore, merci beaucoup, mon ami ...

P.S. What goodies did you bring back, Arne?

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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I sure hope someone goes before next year. This was just terrific!!!! How would someone with no French language skills on a trip like this?

Merci (all I know)

Stop Family Violence

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So that was the trip.  Happily I actually lost weight on this trip, which means I was either working too hard, or not eating enough![...]

Nah, it was from the walking!

Thanks. I really enjoyed this report. I've been to Beaune. It's beautiful, and the Hotel-Dieu is most impressive! I didn't stay there, though. I think the reason my family didn't stay there was that it would have been expensive. Beaune seemed like a very prosperous city.

Did you visit Chablis?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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And you can answer this question towards the end of your trip: Which did you like better, the city or the countryside? And why?

Hands down, we prefered the rural parts of the trip. That's not so different than the way we are at home ... we live in the city, but vacation in the country. Paris is awesome ... everything you could possibly want in a city. But I felt we got to know the French much better the further away from Paris we got.

For a novice walker like me, how many miles/km a day would you recommend?

That's a tough one. Go buy yourself a pedometer and walk for an hour. If you feel good, walk another hour. Now think if you could do that for 5 or 6 days straight. With Sentiers de France, I believe they have 3 levels of difficulty. Our tour was a mid-level. The beginner levels did about 8-10km over pretty flat terrain.

If possible, without getting off topic too much,  about how much was your trip? How much more would it have been if you rented a car and/or purchase rail passes? Was the savings worth an extra nice meal and/or more cheese to take back to Canada?

We did buy train passes, and we did rent a car. I'd have to add up our bills to get a total ... but to answer your last question, I don't think spending any more money than we did would have resulted in a better trip.

P.S. What goodies did you bring back, Arne?

The bottle of Pommard, a bottle of Cassis, a bottle of chestnut liqueur, and a couple cans of foie. There's only so much I'm willing to carry on my back!

A.

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How would someone with no French language skills on a trip like this?

I think you'd fare just fine. Of course the closer you are to a major urban centre, or a major tourist centre, the more English will be spoken. Make sure you learn at least a little French. Any effort on your part to communicate in their language as opposed to always asking "Parlez-vous anglais?" is appreciated.

So that was the trip.  Happily I actually lost weight on this trip, which means I was either working too hard, or not eating enough![...]

Nah, it was from the walking!

Thanks. I really enjoyed this report. I've been to Beaune. It's beautiful, and the Hotel-Dieu is most impressive! I didn't stay there, though. I think the reason my family didn't stay there was that it would have been expensive. Beaune seemed like a very prosperous city.

Did you visit Chablis?

Pan ... I'm sure it was the walking! Even when we weren't on the walking tour we were probably doing 15km a day.

We didn't do Chablis this trip. Our plan is to return (sooner than later) and rent an apartment in Burgundy for a week or so. We still won't be able to bring home boxes of wine without a major beaurocratic nightmare, but at least we'll have more time to drink it in France!

A.

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Sounds like a terrific plan, Arne! The countryside in and around Chablis is gorgeous, by the way.

And since you've been to Beaune, you should also visit the other city which served as capital of the Duchy of Burgundy -- Dijon, a city I really enjoyed.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Thanks, Arne, for the report. We dream of a trip like this, but what with Heidi and a teen who is now driving...someday.

But, a food question. I am (ahem) not a pastry person, nor am I fond of sweets, especially in the am. What would I do for breakfast?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Thanks, Arne, for the report.  We dream of a trip like this, but what with Heidi and a teen who is now driving...someday.

But, a food question.  I am (ahem) not a pastry person, nor am I fond of sweets, especially in the am.  What would I do for breakfast?

Have a coffee or tea and a croissant or petit pain, with or without jam.

Another thing I used to do when I was in the Midi (Nice) was to get a chausson poivron et oignons, a savory pastry. And it's also possible to go to a boulangerie for a baguette and then to a charcuterie for pate' and cheese.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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But, a food question.  I am (ahem) not a pastry person, nor am I fond of sweets, especially in the am.  What would I do for breakfast?

And it's also possible to go to a boulangerie for a baguette and then to a charcuterie for pate' and cheese.

Susan, that was a question we faced every day. As much as I like my baked goods, and as much as the idea of chocolate for breakfast has been appealing to me since I was 2 years old, I still need a savory breakfast from time to time.

If you're dining out in Paris, it's not a problem. Many cafes will offer an "American" or "London" breakfast. Be prepared for the prices though as they know that anyone who orders them is a tourist.

Pan's advice is closer to what we would do. Cheese, cured sausage and pate started many days for us.

A.

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I prefer a protein based breakfast also. When I'm in Paris, I usually go to a cafe and order a croissant with cafe and then add some cheese that I've purchased at the grocery. I always keep some sliced cheese and sausage in my room. I've also gone to several cafes that serve omelets and that works well for me.

Margy

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I simply adore this trip report, Arne! It's gorgeous!

What a great way to break up the trip. Train travel is certainly an excellent way to get around. You had a question about wine on the train. It's certainly fine to open up your wine on board, and being in First Class just gives you more room to enjoy it. I suspect the person who rolled their eyes was jelous. Really. That you were out on the open countryside, on vacation, happy, enjoying the wine, the food... You didn't have to rub it in! Yes, I'm sure the eye roller must have had some problems of his own. You broke no rules written or otherwise.

Second, about the Americano/Negroni. This is something interesting. Because several years ago I discovered this drink and the drink name was also mixed up. I think it may be a French thing.

On your €50 cheese order - did the fromager give you more than you wanted, i.e. you told him you wanted some of this and he lopped off a big wedge and wrapped it up? This issue is worth some discussion.

Next time you come to France, please be sure to work in a visit to Lyon, Arne! :cool:

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On your €50 cheese order - did the fromager give you more than you wanted, i.e. you told him you wanted some of this and he lopped off a big wedge and wrapped it up?  This issue is worth some discussion. 

I have to take part of the blame for that cheese order Lucy. The fellow at the stand was a very good salesman, and the cheese was so good. I did in fact ask him to cut me a smaller piece that he was going to at first, but that was still a pretty big piece. I could have asked him to cut it smaller, but I was caught up in the moment and didn't. So chalk it up to 1/2 "hucksterism" and 1/2 me saying "oh wht the hell."

Next time you come to France, please be sure to work in a visit to Lyon, Arne!  :cool:

You know I will! Lyon was actually on our first draft of the trip. But damn it, there's so much to see in France! :laugh:

A.

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...A small sidenote: If you look closely at the top of the building you’ll see a painting of a woman in the window. These faux-folk were in windows all over the city...

Fantastic trip report -- thank you. Did you find out what the deal was, with those faux-folk pictures? How did it get started, and for what reason?

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Daddy-A,

Great report. I'm particularly interested in the walking tour of the countryside and will definitely be exploring that mode of travel the next time I go to France.

I know Sentiers have many different routes. Which exact one did you take? Did you take the stock tour or did you tweak it to your needs?

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