Anthology Film Archives Highlights East Village Foraycations

Anthology Film Archives Highlights East Village Foraycations

With the large AMC Empire 25 movie theater multi-plex so near where we live, it can be easy for Therese and I to settle for whatever the latest movies are that are showing there.  But there are so many movie theaters in New York City, and some of them show very off-the-beaten-path movie fare.  I lived in the East Village in the 1990s, so I know very well some of the theaters there that are especially well known for showing artisanal, international and obscure movies.  Perhaps on the top of that list is the Anthology Film Archives.  Back in September, we made three visits to the East Village (my favorite Manhattan neighborhood for food), including movie screenings, good meals and other kinds of exploration.

What initially drew us to Anthology Film Archives is that they were having a run of a new film, the Academy of Muses, that caught our attention.  This was a fictional movie that had a documentary feel to it, about a professor who surrounds himself with beautiful female students (with whom he cultivates relationship that, shall we say, go beyond intellectual discussions), and answers to his wife for these dalliances accordingly.

While we were there, we found out about a series that Anthology Film Archives was putting on later in the month called Woman with a Camera.  This was a rare chance to see films made by women from the early days of the film industry – movies that are rarely if ever shown. So we made plans to attend two screenings: first, one of three short films by pioneering director Lois Weber (named Suspense, the Rosary, and the Shoes), then a feature from Hollywood before the censuring Hayes Code called “Merrily We Go to Hell” (with a short before it, the 1928 Fieldwork Footage of Zora Neale Hurston).

The first and second times we made our way down to Anthology Film Archives, we had dinner at Zabb Elee, a Thai restaurant on Second Avenue.  They offer rather unusual Thai food like duck stew, rather than the usual Pad Thai and such (though I bet you could order Pad Thai there if you really really had to).

So on our first visit, the evening went something like this: early dinner at Zabb Elee, screening of Academy of Muses, and then some lovely frozen dessert at nearby Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Shop.  I got two flavors of vegan ice cream with shipped cream and chocolate sauce, and it was incredibly awesome.

Van Leeuwen Vegan Sundae – Two Flavors of Vegan Ice Cream with Vegan Whipped Cream and Chocolate Sauce

The third trip we were in the East Village for an afternoon film, so we came early for lunch.  We thought we might have lunch at Momofuku Ko, but we found out when we stopped in there that you have to get reservations weeks in advance.  As a plan B, we decided to have chicken sandwiches at Blue Ribbon Chicken on 2nd Avenue and 1st Street.

I can’t say that the fried chicken was dairy free – in fact, the odds are that the breading did have a little dairy in it (sorry!) – but for a once a year thing, it was yummy, I will admit.

After our yummy fried chicken, we had some time to explore the area.  Just down the block on 1st Street, we passed the lovely neighborhood green space, Albert’s Garden.

Also on this street are the two John Derian stores, a feast for the eyes.  Therese bought their book, which is filled with textile prints, a great representation of what the store contains as well – all sorts of wall-hangings, ornaments, etc., covered with Derian’s designs.

A few blocks further north, we stopped in at Pageant Print Shop.  I remember, from the days when I got my first job working in a New York City bookstore, that Pageant in those days was one of the most well-respected bookstores.  They did always have a print section, and that is the one part of the store that seems to have survived.  We browsed through prints of New York City and our favorite city to visit, Charleston, South Carolina, and looked through lots of other prints.

Down the block from Anthology Film Archives, to the east on Second Street, is one of the most curious establishments in the neighborhood, the NY Marble Cemetery.  The people buried there are in below-ground vaults, and many of the markers are plaques on the walls, but there are also graves markers throughout the grounds.  In all the time that I lived in the East Village, I never saw this cemetery open – on this day, it just happened to be open, part of the Open House New York weekend.

We still had a little time before our screening of “Merrily We Go to Hell,” so we thought we would have a light dinner-like nosh at Rosie’s Mexican Restaurant, which is right across Second Avenue from Anthology Film Archives.  We got a seat right in the middle of the restaurant, where a woman makes tortillas on a grill right in front of you.

At one point, this young woman saw us ogling the tortillas, so she offered us samples.  Nice and light, with a little bit of crispness, just perfect.  For my pre-movie dinner, I had two tacos that were quite nice.

We need to check Anthology Film Archives schedule to see what they have coming up soon – our times there in September were so fun, and it will be fun to return there.  And there are lots of other restaurants and shops for us to explore.

Posted in Chicken, Dairy Free, Dessert, East Village, Food, Ice Cream, Mexican food, Movie theaters, New York, New York City, NYC Restaurants, Restaurants, Thai food, United States | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Food Festival Serves Up Octobus Balls and Tsukemen

Film Food Festival Serves Up Octobus Balls and Tsukemen

What’s better than having some good food to eat while watching a movie?  How about, watching a movie about food, and eating the same food shown in the movie at the same time?  That is the gimmick behind the Food Film Festival, which this past October celebrated the tenth anniversary of its New York City incarnation (it also takes place in other cities like Charleston, South Carolina).

Long-time readers of this blog will remember that Therese and I volunteered for this festival in 2013.  As much fun as that was, we thought: this time around, let’s buy tickets and go the easy way (i.e., be the customers).  Plus, with it falling on the weekend closest to Therese’s birthday, it is a natural as a birthday activity.  And convenient for us, this year the festival has grown enough that it had to be presented at AMC Empire 25, which is our “home” theater, just a few blocks from where we live.  And sure enough, it was put on in theater number 18, one of largest in the multi-theater complex.

We bought tickets for the closing night of the festival, which was called “Eat Japan” (great subtlety in that one).  So as you can imagine, the films and the related food were all about ramen and sushi and all that sort of good stuff.

One film we found very intriguing was called “This is Tsukemen,” a film actually created by festival founder and head honcho George Motz.  First, because tsukemen, a rather new off-shoot of the ramen family, was new to me.  Second, because the chef who has brought tsukemen to America appeared in the film wearing a mask, and went by an alias, Chef Nigo.  Apparently, there is a great deal of secrecy surrounding things like the making of ramen noodles and broths, so to protect his secrets, Chef Nigo is going incognito.  And sure enough, for the Q&A after the film, there was Chef Nigo on the stage, still wearing his disguise.  Wild stuff, my friends.

Q&A with Stars of ‘This is Tsukemen’

Because tsukemen is a very substantial dish – you get a bowl of noodles and a second bowl with gravy/thick broth and then various accessories, and to eat them you combine them in the bowl and eat.  Thus, we got no tsukemen with that film (did I mention that the bites served with the films tend to be just that – a single bite of something?  Oops – yes, they are).  But with other films we got things like a small serving of ramen noodles, a bite of crazy good wagyu beef, and a little cup of Japanese coffee (what, no sugar? – no, I am not a fan of straight unsweetened coffee, but I did suffer through this mouthful).

After all the films were done, the audience voted under several categories, and the film that won not one, but two awards was called “Sakurada Zen Chef” – a movie about a legendary sushi chef in Tokyo who recently walked away from it all at the height of his popularity (to be fair, he looked like he is already nearing old age, so I say, power to him).  Anyway, the filmmakers were very charming.  The director, who spoke for them, stumbled through English, but one of his assistants, a young lady, handed him a pre-written speech, and then he did well.  And oh, did I mention that the other crew members were dressed up, one of them in a Pokemon costume?  Yep.

Sakurada Zen Chef Makers Accepting Their Award

Once all the awards were handed out, it was time to move on to the After Party, where all the serious eating takes place, which was presented in the lobby outside the theater.  True to the night, it was all Japanese, presented by local restaurants (and one bakery), and there was more than you could eat, all complimentary.

Film Food Festival After Party

Yes, there was tsukemen, offered by the Ramen Lab.  Given the circumstances – nowhere to sit down, etc. – it was a challenge to eat, but I did pretty well, and enjoyed it.  Seriously, it was a miracle that I didn’t accidentally tip the whole thing over onto the floor.  The thick broth and thick chewy noodles remind me a lot of mazemen, my favorite kind of ramen.  Therese, who likes traditional ramen (soupy broth, thin noodles) was less enamored of it.

Also outside on the terrace, across from where we had balanced our tsukemen bowls on a metal post popping up out of the ground, was the Karls Balls booth.  With a name as obscene as that, I had to see what was going on (plus my name is Karl, so I had to see what was going on in my name).

They offered deep fried, battered octopus “balls” which were then drizzled with ponzu sauce, mayonnaise, and topped off with some bonito flakes.  I am a huge fan of bonito flakes – ever since I had some ramen sprinkled with them a few years ago, I have been in love with the earthy rich umami that they can bring to a dish.  So I asked the young lady who was doing the bonito sprinkling to give me extra, and she was thrilled to know how I felt about bonito flakes, and gave me double what all the others got.  And while the octopus was a bit chewy, overall, this was a scrumptious bite.

After those two dishes, I was pretty much already full.  But there was lots more to eat.  The things that stand out in my mind are a luscious mochi and crispy sesame cookie offered by Patisserie Tomoko and kumamoto oysters being shucked by the Billion Oyster Project.  The former is a bakery in Williamsburg, and the latter is a non-profit effort to restore marine life, specifically oyster beds, in New York Harbor.  This was the second time in three days that we were tasting kumamotos (the first time being at the birthday dinner at Nobu 57), and they are definitely a mild, sweet oyster.

Shucking Oysters at Billion Oyster Project Booth

We had tons of fun at the Food Film Festival and are looking forward to going again – maybe next time we will check out their Charleston sister festival and see what that is like!

Posted in Asian Food, Asian fusion, Dairy Free, Food, Food festivals, Japanese Food, Manhattan, Midtown West, Movie theaters, New York, New York City, Ramen, United States | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fredericksburg VA Visitors Center Guided Tour and Bavarian Chef Lunch

Fredericksburg VA Visitors Center Guided Tour and Bavarian Chef Lunch

Early fall 2016 found us in Virginia.  Therese’s cousin has two teenage sons who are budding Nascar drivers, and they were competing in a race at a new track down there.  After having a fun time on Saturday night watching the race from the terrace on top of their trailer, we stayed overnight at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fredericksburg, with the idea that the next day, before heading back to New York City, we would explore Fredericksburg.

Many people know Fredericksburg for its involvement in the American Civil War.  And yes, there were two battles fought during that war and you can visit those battlefields just outside the town.  We were more interested in the historic center of the town, which focuses more on the Revolutionary War era, for which Fredericksburg was also an important place.

To start out our morning in Fredericksburg, I had downloaded the Fred Map App which has several self-guided walking tours.  We started following their tour of the historic downtown, but after visiting just two places, the Old Stone Warehouse and Hugh Mercer’s Apothecary, we decided this walking tour wasn’t working for us – standing in front of a building and reading the description in the tour just was not interesting.

So we headed for the Visitors Center and signed up for tickets for the trolley tour of the historic downtown, which takes about 75 minutes and in the warm weather months, runs several times a day.  We were taking it in the middle of the day, and it was already getting quite hot, so it was nice to find a shaded seat inside the trolley and let our guide let us know what to look at when.

The first thing we passed was the Fredericksburg Area Museum – both the building where it used to be, which is now up for sale, and the “new” museum building (the two are just a block from each other on Princess Anne Street).  I put quotes around the word new because while the museum may be new to this building, the building itself is not new at all – like most of the downtown, it is quite old by U.S. standards (probably late 18th or early 19th century).

Not far from there, we passed the 1770 House, a small private residence that has been owned by the same couple for the last thirty years or so.

From there we turned onto Caroline Street, where the first building of note we passed was, once again, Hugh Mercer’s Apothecary.  The benefit of seeing this on the tour was that one of the actors who works in the Apothecary came out and waved to us.

By the way, as for the street names in the downtown area – just as Fredericksburg is named for the son of British King George II, many other streets are named for his other children, like Caroline and Princess Anne.  There is also a Hanover Street, honoring the house of Hanover of which George II was the second monarch.

Further on Caroline Street we encountered the Fielding Lewis Store.  This is the oldest building in Fredericksburg, having been built in 1749, and one of the oldest in the country.

Next we passed the Rising Sun Tavern, which was built in 1760 by George Washington’s brother Charles and became a tavern in 1792 (now it’s a museum).  By the way, Fredericksburg has substantial ties to Washington (or is it the other way around?) – I will talk more about that shortly.

Rising Sun Tavern

At this point, we left the downtown and headed over to Washington Street, which is more residential in appearance, with lots of trees and green lawns and such.  One of the first things we passed on that street was the Confederate Cemetery.

Confederate Cemetery Gate

Next, we passed Kenmore Plantation on the right, and now we are back to talking about George Washington.  This manor house, once part of a large estate, was built in 1776 by Betty Washington, George’s sister, and her husband Fielding Lewis (he of the aforementioned house on Caroline Street).  Her mother, Mary Washington, visited frequently, and is buried on the grounds.  And George Washington’s boyhood farm, Ferry Farm, is across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg (this isn’t the last you will hear of him).

Positioned on a grassy knoll on the mall in the middle of Washington Street is the Hugh Mercer Monument.  Hugh Mercer (he of the Apothecary), born in Scotland, was part of the Jacobite forces supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie‘s claim to the English thrown, before emigrating to the colonies and fighting in the Seven Years War.  He became a close friend to George Washington and a general in the Continental Army, dying as a result of wounds suffered in the Battle of Princeton.

Hugh Mercer Monument

Also on the mall in the middle of Washington Street is the Thomas Jefferson Religious Freedom Monument.  This commemorates Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which he wrote while in Fredericksburg.  This statute is famously the model upon which the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was based.

Thomas Jefferson Religious Freedom Monument

On the west side of Washington Street is a park that contains the Kirkland Monument.  This commemorates a brave Confederate soldier who fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg and was known as the Angel of Marye’s Heights.

Kirkland Monument

OK, for those of you who have been saying “are there ever going to be any dairy free moments in this post?” I have captured the next place we passed, Liz’s Creative Juices.  This is a charming cafe that specializes in juices and smoothies and also carries a wide variety of vegan offerings, like desserts.  I did not have a chance to venture into this eatery, but it looks promising for any vegans or dairy free folks who might find themselves thirsty while exploring Fredericksburg.

Liz’s Creative Juices Cafe

We later found ourselves back on Princess Anne Street, arriving at the Old Masonic Lodge.   George Washington joined this lodge at the tender age of 20 in 1752, and Hugh Mercer and Fielding Lewis were members as well.  Seven Revolutionary War generals were among its members,  and 94 brothers of this lodge fought in the war in total.  A curious detail is that they have saved the stone that lay in front of the lodge’s entrance – after it became too worn and cracked from having been stepped over for so many years, they removed it and have placed it next to the entrance for posterity.

Besides the historic buildings we saw, we also passed some of the city’s beautiful historic churches – First Christian Church, Fredericksburg Baptist Church and St. George’s Episcopal Church.

Fredericksburg, like Charleston, South Carolina, has preserved its history very well, which means that the downtown area and surrounding it is filled with colonial-era houses.  So not only the historic homes like Fielding Lewis Store are worth noting.  Here is a sampling of some of the other beautiful 18th and 19th century homes in downtown Fredericksburg.

Early in the trolley tour, we passed the local train station, where the original historic train building was converted into a restaurant in the 1970s called Bavarian Chef.  Since we love German food, we decided to have lunch there, and then take some of their food with us on the train for the long ride back to New York City.

Bavarian Chef

Well, we made out very well.  I ordered an entree of two breaded pork chops with sauerkraut, German potato salad, red cabbage and apple sauce.  Everything was so tasty, and there was so much food, that I could hardly finish half of the dish.

We had ordered a German sausage entree to take with us, as well as a couple of sweet teas, and with all the bags of leftover food, plus our luggage, we could hardly carry everything to get on the train.  Luckily, we only had to walk behind the restaurant, and the track was right there to take us home.  We loved Fredericksburg, and feel so fortunate to have had the chance to explore it, as well as see our two young cousins driving their cars in the race.  A splendid weekend, no question!

Posted in Dairy Free, Food, Fredericksburg, German Food, Guided Tours, Historic Homes, Lunch, Monuments, United States, Virginia | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nobu Fifty Seven Asian Fusion Birthday Dinner

Nobu Fifty Seven Asian Fusion Birthday Dinner

I am not going to tell you exactly when Therese’s birthday is, or how old she is.  That would not be nice.  I was taught that a true gentleman never asks a lady her age, anyway.  But I am happy to share with you some choice details about the wonderful birthday we had with our daughter to celebrate her most recent birthday, at Nobu 57.

Nobu 57 is one of many restaurants owned by, you guessed it, Nobu – or to be more precise, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa.  And like all of his restaurants, this one specializes in fusion cuisine, i.e., creative combinations of ingredients and flavors that come from different ethnic cuisines (in this case, mainly Japanese and Latin American).

I will cut to the chase and tell you that we had a wonderful dinner (of course if we hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be telling you about it!).  And since Nobu’s cuisine is firmly anchored in Asian ingredients, it is very easy for dairy free folks like me to eat there (there are not too many items on the menu that would have any dairy in them).  To be safe, I had left a “special instruction” when I made my reservation for the dinner on Open Table, to let them know that a dairy allergic diner would be coming.

I loved the tacos – probably the most “fusion-y” dish we ordered – and pretty much everything else we ordered was similarly fabulous.  The one thing that is not pictured here is the edamame we ordered to start ourselves off, but otherwise it is all there.  Looking at it, I can hardly believe that it filled us up as much as it did – trust me, we were bursting after we ate.  The sorbets were the only option for me for dessert, and the Matcha tea one was a revelation, as creamy as ice cream and with that subtle flavor that Matcha tea has.

While the food is the star at Nobu 57, we also loved the unusual decor as well.  From the half-wood, half-glass entrance to the chandeliers made of oysters, it was delightful.

I will say that when you decide you want to have dinner at Nobu 57, it is highly advisable that you make a reservation.  While some may think that the heyday of fusion food is over, the size of the crowd here would definitely indicate the opposite – that New York diners are still loving it, especially when it is fusion food as imagined by the great Nobu!

The Birthday Girl and our Daughter at Nobu 57

Posted in Asian fusion, Countries, Dairy Free, Dinner, Food, Midtown West, New York, New York City, Restaurants, Sushi, United States | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Overnights at Hotel Astor Saint Honoré in Paris

Overnights at Hotel Astor Saint Honoré in Paris

During our long lovely holiday in Bulgaria and France last summer, there were three occasions on which we stopped in Paris on our way from one place to another.  Each time we spent an overnight on Saturday going into Sunday, and stayed at the Hotel Astor Saint Honoré in Paris’s eighth arrondissement, not far from Place Saint-Augustin.

In the Saint-Augustin Metro stop, the closest stop to the hotel, there is a plan of the area that shows why we thought this hotel would be very convenient for us.

Plan of Area around Place Saint-Augustin

You can see at the top of the map, just right of center, the Gare Saint-Lazare, which is where the train to and from Rouen arrives/departs.  The open white area just to the left of the center of the map is Place Saint-Augustin, and our hotel was just two blocks south of there (the hotel is unfortunately not noted on the map).

Place Saint-Augustin with the Church of Saint-Augustin

Several streets all come together at this large square – Boulevard Malesherbes, Boulevard Haussman, and Rue Saint-Lazare, just to name the major streets.

On our first visit to the hotel, on Saturday June 25th, we had flown into Paris from Sofia, Bulgaria rather late in the day, and wanted to stay overnight to get our bearings before taking the train to Rouen the next day.  We stayed in a room on the 4th floor that was very cramped.  The television was on top of the desk, leaving little room for work space, and the refrigerator was underneath the desk.  In addition, this room looked rather tattered and in need of some love.  The bathroom door did not lock.  I couldn’t figure out how to make the air conditioner work, and neither could the hotel clerk who came to look at it, so our only method of getting air was to leave the window open.  On the other hand, we liked the lobby of the hotel immediately, and the breakfast served in the breakfast room off the lobby was a good one, but our room was just adequate.

On our second visit, Saturday, July 9th, we did much better.  This time, we were in Paris to meet our friend Faith, who was traveling to France for the first time in her life.  So we had booked two rooms, and both were on the fifth floor (which seems, unlike the fourth, to have been renovated).  Faith’s room was very nice, definitely larger than the one we had stayed in the previous time, and ours was larger still.

Our Best Room in Hotel Astor Saint Honoré

Unlike the first room, this one had a separate table for the television and refrigerator.  There was a separate sitting area, and a small balcony with a pair of chairs and table where we could sit to relax.  And there was a view of sorts from our window.

On our third overnight, Saturday July 16th (which was the last night of our vacation before leaving for home the next day), we were once again on the fifth floor, but in a small cramped room again.  Once again, the air conditioning control was impossible to figure out, so it was open window again.  We were tired and just chilled with a last meal of falafel sandwiches and some local beer while searching for English language programs on the tv.  There was a nice view of the courtyard with its unusual shape and many tiny balconies.

Courtyard of Hotel Astor Saint Honore

After we had initially booked this hotel (which was months before our trip), we discovered that there is actually another Hilton hotel that is closer to the Saint-Lazare train station, called Hilton Opera Paris (actually it is just across the street from the station).  We thought about changing at least one of our overnights to that hotel, but decided against it for two reasons: that hotel was more expensive than Astor Saint-Honore, and we thought that by staying three times at Astor Saint-Honore, we might get better rooms and better service.  Well, that might have worked for the middle stay with Faith, but I think next time we stay overnight in Paris, we will probably try the Paris Opera hotel.

Posted in Countries, France, Hotels, Paris, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Rouen’s La Walsheim, Le Rocher and Chicken Normandy

Rouen’s La Walsheim, Le Rocher and Chicken Normandy

The benefit of staying at our Rouen apartment (or gite), Au Petit Robec, was two-fold.  On the one hand, its location was perfect, with many good restaurants very close by like Le Rocher and La Walsheim.  On the other hand, the apartment’s cosy kitchen is well-appointed, which enabled me to make some nice meals “at home” like Chicken Normandy.

We arrived in Rouen on a Sunday.  I knew from our 2014 trip to Northern France that many restaurants close for Sunday evening, with some only re-opening for dinner on Tuesday.  So in planning our dinner for that evening, we had two things in mind: one, to find some place that would actually be open that night; and two, to possibly order a large dish that would leave us with ample left-overs in case we needed to use that for our Monday night dinner as well.

La Walsheim, a catch-all family sort of restaurant was indeed open.  We looked over the menu and asked the waiter if the Choucroute Walsheim would be a lot of food, explaining to him that we wanted to take some home with us.

He assured us that it was definitely a lot of food, and boy, he was not kidding!  I had some of each of the sausages and the pork in the dish (with some sauerkraut, of course) and we took home most of the massive pork ankle (or whatever part that was) home with us.

And while we did eat those leftovers for the next day and more, we did not have to use that for our Monday dinner.  Instead, after doing grocery shopping at the Monoprix (one of the few markets open on Monday), we had the ingredients to make one of the “Normandy-style” dishes whose recipes I had brought with me, Chicken Normandy (as interpreted by Emeril).

The only adjustment I had to make was that where cream was called for, I used a mixture of coconut and soy milks.  The resulting sauce was probably a bit thinner than in the original recipe – I let it reduce to get it thicker, but found the electric stovetop a bit tricky to adjust so as not to have it reduce too quickly.  Nevertheless, we were very pleased with the result.

We are big fans of moules-frites, that typical Belgian combo of steamed seafood and crispy fried potatoes (with mayonnaise for the latter).  So when we discovered there was a restaurant that specialized in this dish, Le Rocher, we ended up eating there twice, once near the end of our two week period on our own in Rouen, and once at the end of our week with our friend Faith.

This restaurant has many varieties of mussles dishes that feature the rich local cheeses, like Rochefort (that’s what Therese ordered and loved).  But by sticking to the basic version, moules mariniere, basically mussles in white wine with garlic and celery, I was safe.

The logistics of eating outdoors on this street made the experience that much more fun.  You see, on Rue Eau de Robec, there is actually a stream passing down one side of the street.  The restaurant’s tables are situated between the stream and the storefront, and periodic wood or concrete over the stream is what enabled our waitress to maneuver through this maze, bringing our food, etc.  We had the same waitress both times we ate at Le Rocher, a young charming Morrocan woman who was attending university in Rouen, and who would’ve very much preferred to be in Paris rather than sleepy old Rouen.

To conclude, I will leave you with a few more photos of our lovely street in Rouen with its hanging flower baskets and gurgling stream.

Posted in Cooking, Countries, Dairy Free, Dinner, Food, France, French Food, Restaurants, Rouen, Sausage, Seafood, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Père Lachaise Cemetery on Our Last Day in France

Père Lachaise Cemetery on Our Last Day in France

After a month of days in Europe, first in Bulgaria, then in France, our time away had finally come to a close.  We had part of one last day in Paris, before we boarded an afternoon flight back to New York City.  And I thought the best way to use that time left was to see Père Lachaise Cemetery, a place I’ve never been which had been on my list of things to see in Paris since the first time I visited there in 2010.

If you want to travel to the cemetery by the Metro, the good news is that there are Metro stops that let you off at pretty much every corner of the cemetery.  Coming from our hotel in the 8th arrondissement, what was most convenient for us was to the take the #9 line to the République stop, then change there to the #3 line, and take that to the stop called, conveniently enough, Père Lachaise (the other stops that serve the cemetery go by other names like Gambetta and Phillippe Auguste).

Père Lachaise Metro Stop

This stop left us just across the street from a side entrance to the cemetery.  Nevertheless, while not the main entrance, there were still vendors there selling maps and memorabilia related to the cemetery.

Side Entrance to Père Lachaise

I had printed out a cursory map of the cemetery from the Internet, so I elected not to buy a map.  I had in mind some famous people’s graves that we could look for during our walk through the cemetery.  But it became obvious to me pretty quickly, first, that my map wasn’t much help, and second, that even people with fancier maps were struggling to locate the famous graves.

While we did not have any luck finding the famous people buried there – no Jim Morrison or Sarah Bernhardt or even Edith Piaf (I got close to her tomb, but forgot that her married name is displayed, not “Piaf”) – we saw a great deal of fascinating sculpted gravestones.  And in trying to identify the people buried there, I discovered some interesting things.  For example, Eugene Spuller (1835-1896) was a friend to the Impressionist artists, and had his portrait painted by Renoir!

But even without knowing much about the people whose gravestones and mausoleums we saw, there was so much to see.  Lots of beautiful wrought ironwork, ancient-looking obelisks, lovely stained glass windows.

And the ceramic flowers!  Obviously, putting cut flowers (and even planted flowers) at a grave is a limited remembrance – even with watering, they don’t last long.  But somewhere along the way, someone got the idea to make flowers out of glass – and once these are set on a tomb, they will be there for decades, if not longer.  Here was one of my favorite of those displays.

Gravestone with Ceramic Flowers

And you know what?  We did find one famous person’s resting place.  Long after I had given up on finding any famous people, when we were worming our way back towards where we had entered, we passed the tomb of opera composer Georges Bizet.

Georges Bizet’s Headstone

I felt just a little more accomplished then.  And determined that, next time we come to Pere Lachaise, we will set aside more time to explore, and bring a really good map with us!

It may be obvious from my wish for more time, but just to be more obvious – this cemetery is huge, and you could spend many many hours wandering through it.  We had just a few hours, and covered lots of territory, scurrying a bit at the end to get back to the exit/entrance we had started from.  Once there, it was a taxi to the hotel to pick up our luggage, then another taxi to Charles de Gaulle Airport, then a late lunch before boarding our flight.

Our flight, Air France 10, had a pleasant surprise for me.  Sitting in seat 24C of this Boeing 777-200 meant not only that I was on the aisle, but also that there was no seat in front of me!  That meant I could stretch my legs, making this one of the most comfortable flights I have ever had.

Comfortable Leg Room on Delta Flight Home

Other Boeing 777-200 flights may have this oddity – SeatGuru calls it “version 3” of the seat plan, and shows the seat as 14C (seat 14J also has no seat in front of it).  My advice is, if you are flying internationally in a Boeing 777, look to see if you might be able to get a seat like this.  I highly recommend it.  I was sad to leave France and return to the real world, but this comfortable seat eased my pain in a very palpable sense.

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