April 28, 2009

Wedding in Reims day 1: failed missions

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I'm back in France for the second time this month. This time I'm here to attend a friend's wedding in Reims, but I have arranged to spend some extra time in Paris.

I arrived in the morning and quickly dropped off my luggage at Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme. The room wasn't yet ready, but it didn't matter. I needed to dash out quickly anyway...

My first stop in the city was the Hermès store on Avenue George V. My mission was to get a Birkin for my dear cousin. I was lead to believe that the store would open at 9:30am (which seemed a little early) so I rushed over in a taxi. As I arrived around 9:40am, my fears of late arrival dissipated as I realized the store doesn't open until 10:15am. This means a half-hour wait, and given my determination to be the first person to enter the store, I had no choice but to stand outside the door in the cold. The staff and I would eye each other as they prepped for the opening.

I entered the store when the doors opened, and immediately asked to purchase a Birkin. The sales lady asked me which colors I preferred, and for a moment I imagined that there would actually be a good selection to choose from. But no, my hopes were dashed a few moments later when she returned. She informed me that they had received no bags that day, and suggested that I either come back tomorrow or try the main store on Faubourg Saint-Honoré. An inquiry about the new "shoulder" Kelly also turned up negative, so I would disappoint yet another friend.  I'm not sure whether the lady was telling the truth, but it's entirely possible that the staff didn't want to sell the bag to an Asian guy in casual wear who has just gotten off a long-haul flight...

A little dejected, I returned to the hotel and cleaned myself up as it's time for lunch. Bistrot Saint Germain was recommended by a friend of a friend as a place to go for andouillette, and it happens to be within walking distance from the hotel. The place was cozy and pretty busy when we arrived.

I shared an order of escargot à la bourguignonne, which was not too bad.

But the main event was the grilled AAAAA andouillette with fries. I loooooove this stuff. What's not to like about chopped intestine stuffed inside a sausage casing? It's lightly grilled and sprinkled with lots of parsley. Once it's cut open, that distinctive smell hits the nose...yum! I dab on some of the sharp Dijon mustard, but actually prefer the natural taste.

We pay a visit to Notre Dame, as it's been over 10 years since my last. The number of tourists has multiplied and I'm amazed at the number of people swarming inside the cathedral. I've never really taken any good pictures so it's a good opportunity for me. The 12th century wooden carvings depicting Jesus' ressurection was pretty interesting. A priest asked me where I was from, then proceeded to lend me a handout in simplified Chinese, describing the stories being told by the panels.

The weather which has been patchy all day has cleared up by the time we left Notre Dame, and we walked along the banks of the Seine before heading over to Angelina for that to-die-for hot chocolate.

We ordered the famous chocolat chaud à l'ancienne - as well as the chocolat chaud au chocolat blanc - and one of their trademark Mont Blancs. This is all pretty ambitious given were less than two hours away from dinner.

Well, the hot chocolate was every bit as rich and thick as I remembered, which is why I can only take it once every 10 years or so... The white chocolate was worse - it was much sweeter and creamier, and I started getting a bit nauseous... I still prefer the dark chocolate, but without the whipped cream. The Mont Blanc was a huge thing with lots of chestnut mousse on top, and it also was a little too sweet...

We strolled back to the hotel and it starts to rain again on the way. I took a nap to recharge my batteries, and ended up sleeping through past our reservation at Le Train Bleu. This is just as well, since I was still not hungry thanks to the hot chocolate...

When I finally got a little hungry, I decided to venture out and hit Juveniles, Tim Johnston's wine bar. I found out about the bar due to David Powell's Torbreck Juveniles, which is a wine he first made specifically for the wine bar. I've always loved this wine, and I imagined sitting in the Paris wine bar drinking the namesake wine. But it was not to be. No Juveniles on the wine list, but the waiter recommended a substitute.

The 2005 Greenstone Heathcote Shiraz - the winery's first release - reminded me completely of Torbreck's Juveniles... meaning it was a lot more Rhone than Aussie. Nose of eucalyptus, mint, bacon fat, smoked meats, concentrated minerals and iron. A good wine but slightly oxidized, no doubt because this is being served by the glass and not poured from a fresh bottle.

For food I started with soupe de courgette de ma Tante Minty. A nice zucchini soup that was light and easygoing, with a sprinkle of paprika to add some kick.

The crostini à la Ron, jambon cru, tomates confites et parmesan was also nice and relatively light. The pesto sauce and the tomato was a great combination. This was just the right thing for me, as I wasn't overly hungry.

Having satiated my hunger, I walked back down rue des Petits-Champs past the string of Japanese and Chinese restaurants. A quick detour past the Opéra Garnier and I'm back at the hotel, calling it a night.

1 comment:

susan said...

Peter, the saleslady was right - you should have tried the main branch. I HEARD (but haven't confirmed it in person) that they sell Birkins to whoever asks for them at that shop - they don't hold the bags for VIPS as they do everywhere else.
But the best place I've been to was the Hermes shop in Biarritz. We walked in - me and my Singaporean friend (who's now living in Pau) - and they had at least two 30cm birkins on display. My friend asked what they had in the back and the sales associate mentioned at least three more. If I didn't already have my Havanne, I would have bought an even lovelier brown one.


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