Monday, April 15, 2013

My Trip To Paris With My Daughter, Part II

Lily and I RACED ahead of 20 huge buses carrying school kids and got into Versailles before the crowds arrived.
My Trip To Paris With My Daughter, Part II
by Nina Griscom

The French always love to complain about their livers. Their favorite expression to indicate a night of over indulgence is crise de foie.

A crisis of the liver is a rather wonderful way of humanizing the organ designated for purging toxins, and thus transferring all blame upon it, like an errant child does to a weaker, unsuspecting friend.
It was cold and cloudy the day we visited and the beautiful gardens were still in a state of hibernation.
I say all this because I was in a semi-permanent state of crise de foie my entire time in Paris. Our visit to Le Grand Véfour was just the beginning.

Wednesday was Versailles Day. Though I tend to shun behavior that is too "organized" (meaning uptight), I did take the step of booking tickets on-line from New York.
A detail from Versailles. Looks like they are playing slap and tickle.
I bought the Gorilla ticket — meaning the pass for everything — which allows for total flexibility of hours and choices of venues within Versailles. I knew my customer (Lily) and wanted to plan for any and all levels of enthusiasm on her part.

You can take a train to Versailles, but we took a driver in a sort of taxi/sedan. Now that I know about the Uber app in Paris, I will never use anything else, but that was yet undiscovered. More on that later.

We left the center of Paris at 9 a.m. and rolled into the Chateau of Versailles at roughly 10 a.m. Not a scenic drive by any means. All highway.

The extraordinary Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28 1919.
Lines were already forming to purchase tickets, so I was pleased to avoid those and go to the ticket HOLDER line — much shorter.

Lily was impressed by the magnificent facade, viewed from the courtyard entrance. I asked her to imagine how it must have smelled in the 1700s, with the dung of horses, human detritus, and the daily secretions of civil life at a court housing several thousand people. I also asked her what she thought the surrounding sounds were like at that time. Something to think about when one is gazing up at 18th century history in the year 2013.

Lily opted for the quick tour, with a running commentary from her mother. No headphones or tour guide for us. Sometimes it is better to get a sense of a place rather than be bogged down with pedantic detail. At least that is how I framed our visit that day.

I recall a remarkable wedding I attended at Versailles in 1997, when H.S.H. Prince d'Arenberg, a friend of mine, married Silvia de Castellane. He treated his guests to an extraordinary violin concert in the Chapel, where I first heard Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, followed by an epic dinner at one long continuous table for 250, and then a half hour display of fireworks which we viewed from the Hall of Mirrors. I will never forget that night as long as I live!
The wedding of Silvia de Castellane to Prince and Duke Pierre d'Arenberg. Jonathan Beckerdocumented it for the January 1998 issue of Vanity Fair.
Angelina (the famous tea room) has arrived at Versailles and Lily spotted it immediately. In between visiting various wings of the palace, we popped into Angelina and had the iconic hot chocolate, and a club sandwich. There is NO better hot chocolate in the world, and the club sandwich is to die. The hot chocolate is so creamy and rich one could stand a spoon in it. It is literally transforming and surely a drug that should be regulated.

Angelina on the Rue de Royal has a block long cue, and I was delighted that Lily and I could get our Angelina fix without waiting in line for 1 hour.

We loved our visit and returned to Paris happy with our excursion and the pleasure of being together.
For my money, Angelina has the most delicious, sinful hot chocolate in the world.
As we entered Paris, it was only 2 p.m., and I asked our driver to stop at Le Drugstore Publicis on the Champs-Élysées, near to the Arc de Triomphe. In my day (I sound like an old lady), Le Drugstore was located just next to Lipp, and we would go there late at night after dinner and clubbing.

Le Drugstore is a culture unto itself and has many tiny brands/cultures under one roof. This version is a sleeker, more modern approach to the one I loved in the '80s.

My favorite place in Le Drugstore is Pierre Hermé, the master of macarons. I always buy a small packet of macarons in different flavors: rose, violet, pistachio, caramel, etc. This time there were new flavors that were out of the box for macarons: foie gras, green olive oil, and white truffle. I loved the white truffle ones, but the foie gras didn't quite deliver for me. But hats off to him for busting the boundries of accepted ingredients for these delectable confectures. Check out his website to find locations.
For my money, Angelina has the most delicious, sinful hot chocolate in the world.
A few blocks down the boulevard is Monoprix, the go-to chain for cheap and chic staples as well as great cosmetics. I always load up on Bourjois make-up, a well-kept secret in the fashion industry, and not sold in the U.S. This line is actually discreetly owned by Chanel and has the same great quality products at very low prices. The make-up artists and models always bought Bourjois when I was working in Paris in the late '70s. And I still do! Great stocking stuffers.

Then down the block to Sephora. This is the mother of all Sephora stores, and closely resembles a Disney space celebrating Darth Vader. Lily went bonkers with all the choices, and we spent quite some time trying to find the exact red lipstick that we saw all the Parisian girls wearing on the street.
Don't be a snob. Monoprix is a Parisian classic and you definitely need to visit one of their stores. The MOTHER of all Sephora stores. Bring a cell phone if you are going here with a friend. Chances are you will get lost.
By now I was DONE. We returned to the apartment and took a long nap before the next bacchanalian event, which was dinner at Apicius, the latest star in the culinary firmament.

Apicius, at 20, Rue d'Artois, is housed in an 18th-century private mansion, surrounded by beautiful gardens where patrons dine in warm months of the year. It is grand and drop dead beautiful. Even the most stalwart could be a bit intimidated by the surroundings. Despite the grandeur, the diners were dressed casually the evening Lily and I were there.
The menu at Apicius.
Self-taught chef Jean-Pierre Vigato serves glorious food using luxurious ingredients, coupled with the freshest local vegetables. The cuisine, elegant surroundings and superb service has garnered Apicius 2 Michelin stars.

We wined and dined until I could do no more and left happy, but not necessarily on cloud nine. I would return for a special occasion, but my heart and soul belong to bistros.
I hadn't had frog legs in ages. The plate did look a lot better when it arrived at the table. And no, they don't really taste like chicken ... Though delicious, this didn't truly race my motor.
Lily ordered the cod. She didn't  like it and hoisted it on me. I didn't love it either ...
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