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on finding the perfect restaurant in france

When I am in France, I eat lunch in a restaurant every day. I am in France six months each year. One can easily do the math. That makes 180 days each year in France, eating in restaurants 180 times each year.

Many restaurants new to me come to my attention while walking through neighborhoods. I have learned to assess a restaurant by its cover: that is, from the ardoise outside that lists the menu for that day with its prices and the suggestions; by the decor that I can see through the windows; and whether there are many people seated or if there are people waiting.

Most tourists traveling to France do not have the luxury to wander the streets like a flâneur before choosing some place to eat. Time is precious. The trip to Paris is a dream come true after all, and the restaurant should live up to that special experience.

Not too long ago, I was interviewed by Annie for the podcast Join Us in France Travel Podcast. We talked in “How to eat like a local in France, Episode 286” about how to find good restaurants in France. We asked: “How can one choose a restaurant without walking the neighborhoods? Is there a way to plan in advance for a visit to a restaurant?” But wait, there’s more!

on exasperation with the da vinci exhibit, and resenting the musée du louvre, too

The Musée du Louvre is extraordinary, despite its size, and I go as often as I can. Sometimes I return to Paris specifically to see an exhibit there. But saying that I know how to visit it.

If you go to Paris and the museum is on your list, showing up one morning or afternoon and queuing up with everyone else who has not planned ahead is a bad idea, a waste of time, a very bad idea indeed.

Before descending down into the Louvre, below Pei’s Pyramide du Louvre, you will encounter three lines, maybe four. A long line to the right will be those tourists who did not buy tickets in advance. They will be there for a long time, because all of the lines to their left will have precedence.

The second longest line, probably the farthest to the left facing the pyramid, will be for those who have purchased tickets in advance. They do not, of course, need to wait as long.

Verrocchio was commissioned in 1467 by the Tribunale di Mercanzia (merchants’ court) to produce this large bronze sculpture for its niche on the eastern facade of the church of Orsanmichele in Florence.

Most likely between the other two lines, the third line is the best: experienced visitors have paid a bit more money and bought a ticket in advance and requested a time for entering the museum. They are allowed in immediately; they will go to the head of all the other lines.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

on seeing the reconstruction of notre-dame, february, 2020

In February, a month to the day before President Macron Instructed France to stay home because of the COVID-19 virus, I took the TGV to Paris. I had wanted to see the da Vinci exhibit at the Louvre and what remained after the fire of la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. I was looking forward to staying in the  neighborhood where Ernest Hemingway and Hadley had rented their first apartment in Paris.

From la rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement, where I had booked my room, it is an easy walk through some side streets, past the Panthéon and Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, and then down Boulevard Saint-Michel to the Seine and to Notre-Dame.

The taxi went up the hill, passed the lighted square, then on into the dark, still climbing, then leveled out onto a dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, went smoothly down the asphalt, passed the trees and the standing bus at the Place de la Contrescarpe, then turned onto the cobbles of the Rue Mouffetard. There were lighted bars and late open shops on each side of the street.  —Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.

On reaching the Seine, one sees immediately the scarred Notre-Dame, its steeple gone, and the disarray arranged around it. Temporary buildings and cranes and large fences that keep people from getting to close are everywhere.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

on some moments in antibes during the covid-19 pandemic

Antibes, France is a small tourist town nestled between Cannes and Nice on the Côte d’Azure. One advantage is its size, but still the TGV–the bullet train–stops there. Good restaurants are plentiful. Three beaches are within easy walking distance from the business areas. And, the Mediterranean Sea and the Mediterranean climate make living easy.

Antibes has an old section, Vieil Antibes. It is small and easily explored within a couple of hours. Like most old villages dating back to the middle ages, the streets–les ruelles–resemble a maze with confusing twists and turn.

Picasso painted here, and left some of his works to Antibes after a promise that a museum would be established. Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, and others found the light inspiring and returned often or like Renoir bought homes nearby and stayed longer.

I suppose, if one is to be confined somewhere for a long period of time, a small corner of paradise  should be good.

I am confined to my apartment; and as I have noted, I must carry l’attestation with me that explains why I am away from the apartment. Some friends and I agreed to meet in front of the Monoprix, a super market, on Place de Gaulle. For l’attestation, before leaving I must check the box:

« Déplacements pour effectuer des achats de fournitures nécessaires à l’activité professionnelle et des achats de première nécessité dans des établissements dont les activités demeurent autorisées (liste sur gouvernement.fr). »

In other words, it is understood that I am shopping for food at a state approved business.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!