PULLING out of Charles de Gaulle, we were greeted by the awesome sight of the decommissioned Concorde displayed in pre-takeoff towards the complex’s exit. Je suis arrive!
The Hotel Des Arenes was a nicely renovated ancient affair true to Paris’ notoriously tiny living spaces with hallways much like airplane aisles and spartan single beds. It couldn’t be better located than on Place Monge with shops, cafes and restaurants lining both sides of the stretch, the Metro on each end of the block and the entrance to the Arènes de Lutèce , a Roman-era amphitheater, right next to it.
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris was a brisk fifteen minutes away and we soon found ourselves in front of it at Paris Point Zero Des Routes De France. It supposedly marks the exact center of the city or of France itself. Of the many customary rituals performed on site, I went with the one where I tap the brass plate with each foot to wish for a return to the city in the near future. This was with the thought of taking ThePussyKat with me so we both could perform yet another popular ritual: to kiss while standing above the plate for eternal devotion.
While the Notre Dame was certainly impressive, my attention was quickly caught by a row of cafés and shops towards its’ left. I’ve already eyed a restaurant near our hotel for dinner so we settled for some snacks. Fist-sized meringues in an assortment of real flavors — bits of real fruit and its compote stirred in – and palmiers true to etymology. The walk back revealed more picturesque little streets with picturesque little cafes and restaurants at every corner.
La Petit Pantheon Cuisine Française was a homey affair two doors down our hotel. Our host all but pulled us in with warm handshakes and familiarity. Off the bat, Gary offered free aperitifs and half off a bottle of the house red wine. The bilingual menu was easy to navigate and we made good of the 15 Euro set meal deal by ordering different sets to try and taste most of the options.
Giving in on his insistence on their homemade Paté was something not to regret with its’ wholesome meaty flavors. It can’t get any more French than the Soupe à L’oignon. I never knew it wasn’t traditional to have a melty processed cheese single or puff pastry on top of Onion Soup until then. Meat yielded to the fork like butter to a hot knife in the Boeuf Bourguignon with deep flavors that can only be had with a long, slow stewing. Coq Au Vin came across with a very home-cooked appearance far from fancy French expectations and tasted much like adobo in wine. For dessert there was the classic Chocolate Mousse and Camembert which, as if that did not have enough flavor already, was served with butter. Can it get any more indulgent than this?
(To be continued…)