A three-hour Monmartre wander, unfiltered wine, chocolat au fleur du sel

July 17, 2009 at 12:26 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

warning: lots of randomness in this post!

I realized today that it had been weeks since I had been on a bona fide Erika-in-Paris walk.  Meaning that it lasts three hours, involves getting lost/turned around multiple times, and has something delicious consumed while sitting on a park bench along the way. I have had so many great friends in town, and have been much busier at work than I was last year, so there just haven’t been that many free evenings/days to wander around aimlessly.  It was high time to remedy this situation.

After a longish day at work (I’m trying to finish writing a paper), I left at 6:15 and on the way to the Metro started thinking about where I wanted to go this evening.  The options included the Musee D’Orsay (they are open late on Thursdays), the new Harry Potter movie (if I wanted to be comfortable) or a French movie (if I wanted to push myself), or a wander around an unexplored neighborhood.  It took me, oh, 2 seconds to decide on the walk…then all that was left to do was pick a neighborhood.  Amazingly, despite my numerous trips to Barbès to see Dana, I actually haven’t made it onto “Le Butte” yet this year, so I decided to head over to Monmartre.

When I finally got to Abesses métro station, which is WAY underground, the sign on the elevator said the dreaded message “Hors Service” (out of service), so I sighed along with everyone else and started trudging up the bazillion stairs.  After getting outside, it was straight uphill to Sacre Coeur, where I briefly sat and took in the view of Eiffel Tower paraphernalia (hey, they are both tall structures with a view), creperies, and Moulin Rouge posters before deciding to find my way to Rue Lepic, a great wandering spot that would eventually take me home.  A few wrong turns….and I ended up on the opposite site of Monmartre, at the bottom of the hill.  I knew that all those downhills were too good to be true!

BACK up the Butte to start over, because I was determined to find Rue Lepic (I always find it amazing that I manage to “lose” things like major roadways and monuments).  One of my favorite parts of Monmartre is that sometimes the streets just turn into a staircase when the grade of the hill gets too steep.  And then you get views like this.

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Long story short–I did find and walk down R. Lepic, even though it was almost 9pm and everything was closed.  No matter, it was a point of pride.  I walked home via the 9th and 2nd arrondissements, and as I was getting close to home I noticed the sky darkening.  No big deal, I thought, it’ll rain a bit.

I got home and made dinner, and Grace got home a few minutes later with a bottle of unfiltered red wine from Le Verre Volé, a fantastic little place on Canal St. Martin where we went for dinner with Lisa the other night.  It’s a wine shop that also has food, which is cooked on two little portable burners in the back of the shop. It is so tiny that they ran out of plates for our appetizers, so we just used bread.  The food was great, but I have never tasted ANYTHING like these wines before.  It is like the difference between raw milk and pasteurized milk cheese.   They are natural wines (unfiltered), so the flavors are very sharp and full, and the wine tastes so good that you just want to chew it.  You can’t really get these wines outside of France because they don’t travel well, so they are a now-or-never kind of thing while you are here.  Which adds to the appeal.  Anyway, I am smitten.  And the one that Grace picked up tonight is fantastic (I am still sipping it as I write).

Finally, I got some chocolate the other day that had piqued my interest when I saw it in the store…dark chocolate “a point de fleur du sel.”  Oh my.  It is lightly sea-salted dark chocolate, and it tastes pretty much like what would happen if you took the world’s best chocolate covered pretzel and removed the pretzel.

And then, as we were settling in with the wine and the chocolate, the heavens opened.  It was hailing so hard that it sounded like the street was shattering.  All the umbrellas from the sidewalk cafes blew away, shutters and trees were flying down the street, many dinners of outdoor diners were most definitely ruined, and the rain was coming down in sheets.  Not to mention the lighting that resembled the “feu artifice” (fireworks) we saw at 14 juillet and which is still rumbling, an hour or two later.

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