Monday, July 16, 2007

Oo la la la la

The bike renting thing has got this town in a frenzy. You see the gray bikes everywhere, so it means they must work. Sometimes you see people trying to use the machine in great confusion, but then you see many bikes out and about. There is one a block away from us. We must try it. The thing is, you rent the bike and you can park it in one of those bike things that are all over town, so it's convenient, as far as I understand. You don't have to return it to where you rented it. I think.

For our dear friends Seth and Karie et enfants, who are coming to Paris, here are some recommendations pour faire avec les enfants.
• At the Tuileries there is a fair with a huge fortune wheel that gives you, on a clear day, a fabulous view of Paris. There is a pretty carousel and some other old fashioned attractions, (and bungee jumping) plus crepes with nutella and cotton candy, here sweetly called barbes a papa, father's beard. You mingle with the Paris nacos and tout va bien.

• The Bois de Vincennes is a great, leafy park right outside of Paris.
1. There is a medieval castle with a moat. Cool factor AAA.

2. Inside the park there is the beautiful Parc Floral de Paris, which hosts a jazz festival on Saturdays (5 euros to enter) and it is gorgeous and hyper cool. There is a lake where you can rent a boat and kill your arms trying to row and you can also rent bikes (did both). Inside the parc floral they rent these really cute family bikes for everyone to ride ensemble. I think they also have mini golf and jeux for les kids.
• The Luxembourg gardens are breathtakingly gorgeous this time of year. I'm always here in the fall or winter, and right now they are green and in bloom. Divine.
• The natural history museum at the lovely Jardin Des Plantes has nothing on the one in NY. But it is lovely and there is an expo about Les Mouches, the flies and mosquitoes, which has got to be the most disgusting thing I've ever seen. And I'm not the squeamish type. Here they don't warn you about the disturbing content of what you are about to see or if they did, I missed it. Only for those who truly like gross out. Don't say I didn't warn you.
The Pantheon now houses, besides the mortal coils of highly esteemed peeps like Voltaire, Zola, Dumas Malraux and the Curies, none other than Foucault's Pendulum! Cool factor AAA.

• Berthillon vs Amorino: if you are going to have ice cream please go the distance, to the Ile St Louis, and get Berthillon, the local favorite. It is better. In my opinion, the Italians try too hard (they make the icecream into a flower which I dislike for being a transparently manipulative marketing ploy) and the ice cream is too creamy, too rich; while Berthillon is just perfectly satiny and downright Proustian. Go to the original store in the Ile St Louis, which is probably the most elegant ice cream parlor you've ever seen. You can buy to go, so you don't have to mortgage your home for pistachio icecream. A good combo: banana and chocolate. Cassis is also unbelievable.
If you get tired of the hordes of invaders and of the beauty of it all, go to Belleville and Barbes (behind Montmartre), two ethnic neighborhoods that are lots of fun and give you a different sense of the city. The Canal St Martin is also very lovely, a canal that goes out from around metro Republique, or nearby and is very nice.
Here are my two cents about eats: if you just avoid the tourist traps in the left bank (all those Greek joints and bad French restaurants in the little alleyways behind St Michel) you will probably eat just fine. Meat is generally tough in Paris (at least for the likes of us), unless it's steak tartare, which is fab and do-it-yourself. Everything else is quite yummy. Particularly those things that Americans wrongly consider criminal: the bread, the cheese, the ham and cold cuts, the cakes, the cream and the buttah.

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