I am not a “foodie” (a word I actually despise) so that means that if we were traveling together in Paris we would only drop into boulangeries for a moment or two in order to take reference photos of bread…
…so that if there is a Damn Paris Book in my future I’ll be able to paint a baguette…
…or a quiche or a Croque-Monsieur topped with a quail egg over easy…
…or some dessert mille feuilles. We would not be buying anything for taste tests, because I have no interest in this stuff — none of it actually appeals to me, except visually.
I have so little personal interest in food that I would often forget to eat during my long expeditions in Paris, unless I put it on my To Do list. That’s how I ended up at Chez Janou, near the Place des Vosges.
I found Chez Janou on French Yelp. It was rated the top restaurant in the 3rd arrondissement. For complicated reasons having to do with French holidays and unscheduled closings of the Carnavalet Museum, I needed something to do in the 3rd arrondissement for my 20-arrondissement Treasure Hunt of Paris (which was the theme for my visit) so I decided to get a traditional French lunch at Chez Janou.
I got there at the stroke of noon to have the place to myself for five minutes so I could take many reference photos of the famed decor. My cute waiter set the ardois (slate) on my table and oh! Lucky me! A homemade tomato-basil soup is the perfect starter on a cold and rainy day in Paris!
This is my cute waiter bringing me my veloute:
The white wine was from Bordeaux and chilled to Goldilocks standard (just right). The soup was filling but nothing I’m going to remember, not the way I remember a home made tomato soup that I had in Edinburgh in 2006. Now that was a great tomato soup.
I don’t eat meat (except for pate NOT FOIS GRAS when I’m in Paris) so neither the duck nor the salmon main course was tempting so I moved directly to dessert.
I expected more from the cake with the salty caramel sauce. It was just OK, sweet with a hint of salt, but mostly bland, with no heft of a real caramel sauce (heavy with butter, carmelized sugar). I have a rule that if the dessert isn’t fabulous I don’t need the calories, so I left half of it on the plate. I actually got bored with it half-way through so I put down my spoon and concentrated on eavesdropping on the Americans sitting next to me.
These Americans had their Rick Steves’ Guide to Paris on the table, which is how I guess they found Chez Janou because these two seemed pretty clueless (they couldn’t read the menu and then started discussing art: “Chagall has a lot of goats”…they were middle aged but not wearing wedding rings and their conversation seemed so painful, so groping for something to say, that I’m guessing they were still newly dating and this was their first big get-away together and boy, Paris was the wrong choice. I took notes. You can’t make up conversation like this. ). If we were traveling together, dear readers, I’m almost certain that my habit of eavesdropping and judging people would get pretty annoying, almost as annoying as me dragging you out of Chez Janou to go down the Rue des Tournelles just a bit…
…so I could stop in at the Union Nationale de L’Apiculture Francaise, the French National Honey Makers Union. I had read that the UNAF sells honey from its members, including the honey from hives at the Opera and the Grand Palais, and from hives from famous gardens like the Tuileries and the Luxembourg, and this I wanted to see. Well, it turns out that last year was such a bad year for honey that there was nothing to buy at the UNAF but I was referred to many orther shops that sell a wide variety of honey (see above, Famille Mary on the Rue Cler). Let me say, shopping for honey in Paris is a kick. I bought a jar of lemony honey from hives in Anjou (Loire Valley).
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the UNAF, and my talk with the young man there who told me all about honey making in France while I’m sure that you, dear reader, would have been bored out of your mind. After all, the Union Nationale de L’Apiculture Francaise is not listed in Rick Steves’ Guide to Paris.
But if you thought the Union Nationale de L’Apiculture Francaise was a hoot, then you will LOVE what I have in store for you next! We’re going to Montmartre! (18th arrondissement, for those keeping track.) We are going to the most famous fabric store in Paris!
That’s it, on the right, Reine, the Queen of fabric stores, at 5 Place Saint-Pierre (across the street from the second-most famous fabric store in Paris, Marche Saint-Pierre). And the reason this is a MUST on my To Do list is because…
…while the fabrics at Reine are wonderful…
…there is something else about Reine…
…that I HAD to see with my own eyes…
…and it’s those DOLLS:
These dolls are 30 inches tall and wear beautifully made clothes that show off the fabrics on sale.
I have read that some shoppers find these dolls creepy, but I just loved them. You have to see for yourself how beautifully made these doll clothes are, how the person who made them is as talented a couturier as YSL, to make fashion for 30-inch bodies. What do they do with the old dresses? Is there a museum or archive? Is it a full time job, designing and sewing these marvels? I am intrigued by everything about Reine.
But here’s the thing about Reine: while it’s OK to take your dog shopping with you at the most famous fabric store in Paris…
…it is NOT OK to take photos in the store. I was told to put away my camera after I’d been snapping for fifteen minutes so I can’t complain.
So let’s go some place where photography is encouraged. Let’s head to the 10th arrondissement, to the Boulevard de Strasbourg, near the Porte Saint-Denis:
To the unmarked blue door…
…and up the dark stairs in a residential building…
…to the third floor (fourth floor, for those counting American style)…
…to arrive at the Musee de Eventail. What is an evantail?, you ask, and why does it have its own museum?
Eventail is French for fan:
The Museum of the Fan is all about the history and the making of fans and was high, high on my To Do list.
The gracious Mme. Anne Hoguet owns and runs this private museum, and you can read more about her (in French) here.
You don’t have to be interested in fans to love the looks of this museum, housed in a very old Paris apartment.
Fans from all over the world, from pre-history to the 21st century, are on exhibit. But really, it’s the rooms that thrilled me. It is like visiting a character out of Proust, or maybe Dickens, to wander around the richly paneled rooms with the fabric-lined walls and ornate ceilings.
So this is what is must have been like to be haute bourgeoisie in 19th century Paris.
Every detail of this place represents the fan-obsession of Mme. Hoguet.
And you can even help yourself to the atelier, the workroom where Mme. Hoguet and her assistant still make fans by hand, mostly for French couture houses.
Wouldn’t you know it, the assistant was called away just as I wanted to get her photo, but she left her work in progress…
…so while she sorted out things with her checking account, I was free to snoop into the innards of a fan-making studio.
Both Mme. Hoguet and her assistant are pleased to have visitors who show an interest in their life work, so you will find yourself very welcomed here at the Musee de Eventail, 2 Boulevard de Strasbourg, Mon-Tues-Wed 2 – 6pm, 6 euro entrance fee. And there’s a gift shop.
And this is only the 3rd, 18th, and 10th arrondissements! I have not yet dragged you to the 6th:
(Square Gabriel Pierne, to see those park benches shaped like books!), or the 20th:
(“Tree House” on Place Martin Nadaud, above), or the super-elegant 17th:
(to walk in the heavenly perfume of the gardens along the Boulevard Pereire, which turns into a flea market on Saturday on its eastern end), or the delightful 13th:
(one of many charming hidden back streets in the Butte aux Cailles), or the all-important 14th…
(to see the last pissoir in Paris…
…by the walls of the Sante prison on Boulevard Arago). Yes, stick with me and I’ll cart you off to the 7th:
To see the amazing vertical garden at the brand new Musee des Arts Premiers on the Quai Branley:
Which I thought was going to be another architectural stunt, like the Pompidou Center, but is in fact a marvelously fun idea!
Truly in keeping with the spirit of Paris!
You can even get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!
But, since we started with food let’s end with food:
In Paris you can buy cat food in your local grocery just the same as you’d find in Home Town USA, some chicken and fish stew, some salmon dinner, some rabbit meatloaf.
Well, to be fair, you can also buy terrine au rabbit for yourself:
As well as every kind of cassoulet possible:
Next week I’ll have one last, long look at Paris before I get back to bidniss, which is boring you with work-in-progress on the Damn Garden Book. I want to report to you from the Streets of Paris, which includes Fabulous Street Fashion and Other Fabulous Stuff I Caught on the Boulevards and Rues of Paris:
See you next Friday!