Many of the more residential areas that I visited in Paris seemed to have a couple of these small shops on each block. Tables holding the produce would extend onto the sometimes narrow sidewalks, and the shops themselves would have no doors or storefronts, so each shop had the air of a small but very good farmers’ market.
Which is exactly was they were, I suppose.
I was a bit disappointed with Le Relais Gascon. For me, at least, I just didn’t live up to its high reputation.
It had been so long since I’d last had escargot that I’d forgotten how to use snail tongs. I fumbled at first, but it came back to me as I went along. The sauce was pesto.
While the starter was fine, the steak frites wasn’t all that good. The beef was grisly, and the small salad was bland.
This is so…French.
For me, the most interesting period room in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs was the bedroom of Émilie-Louise Delabigne, actress, art collector, and one of the most successful courtesans in 19th century Paris.
She began as a street prostitute, after being raped at 13.
Her social ascent resembled the plot of a 1930s Joan Crawford movie.
She became the mistress of composer Jacques Offenbach, and acted in his productions. Through him, she met Zola, Flaubert and Maupassant. Delabigne left Offenbach for a succession of rich and titled lovers. She was painted by Édouard Manet and Henri Gervex, who were among the many artists she took to her bed.
She was the inspiration for Émile Zola’s Nana. In the book, he describes the bed in the pictures below as “A bed such as has never existed, a throne, an altar where Paris came to admire her sovereign nudity.” Delabigne herself left the bed to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
She famously turned down Alexandre Dumas fils, telling him: “Dear sir, it’s not within your means!”
I was down to my last few days in Paris, and went back to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs for a final look. I’d been a little surprised by the long waiting line at the entrance during my first time at the museum. Even though it was a school day, the line was full of little girls, pre-school through middle school, and their parents. When I saw the listing of special exhibitions, the reason became clear: One whole wing of the museum was dedicated to a show devoted to—Mattel’s Barbie Doll!
My interests lay in the other wing, where the upper two floors hold period rooms and an excellent collection of, well, Arts Décoratifs.
Here’s what I made for lunch today. It’s Chicken Cacciatore, based on a recipe from Bon Appétit that I found on Epicurious. The result was a version of the dish that was considerably more flavourful and exciting than the old dining hall standard of my (much) younger days. Since the recipe is supposed to serve six, I have enough left over for dinner, breakfast, and probably a small weekend brunch with guests.
Today’s helpful kitchen hint: If you leave an oven mitt lying on the stove top while you go to another room to check your email and maybe play a few rounds of Gummy Drop, make sure that all the burners are turned off. Nosy neighbours sometimes over-react when they see smoke pouring out of your windows.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Okunoshima Island was the site of a Japanese poison gas factory. At the end of WWII, the employees, their families, and their pets returned to the mainland, leaving the island uninhabited.
Some years later, someone—no one is sure who—released a few rabbits on the island. With no predators and a good food supply, the rabbits multiplied like t/k (Ed: Sorry. I’m trying to come up with a good simile here, but I’ve drawn a blank. Maybe I’ll think of something later.)
Today, Okunoshima is better known as Rabbit Island. Its fearless and friendly rabbits have made it a tourist spot, for reasons that are obvious in the video.
Here’s the story about Rabbit Island from the BBC:
It’s impossible to watch this video without thinking of Nicolas Cage in a bear suit, screaming about the bees.
But then, that’s true of most videos.