03 January 2010

King's Folly

This King-for-a-day thing is for the birds. I have to buy next year's galette, and I have no useful powers, such as getting my bike washed, or the apartment vacuumed, or even removing that stupid picture from Karen's post. In fact, the only action I managed as king was to finally take the time to figure out how to list some of the blogs one or the other of us reads and change the formatting of the posts a bit, hopefully making it easier to scroll through recent posts. At least for us. I mean, the 2000s are no longer new (in fact, they're officially tweens now), and we need to get with the program and make the place a little less bare.

As has been typical around here lately, we got a late start and were bummed that both the Colombian place we wanted to go (apparently moved around the corner, so we couldn't find it) and our back-up of the Portuguese chicken we ate over Thanksgiving weekend (undergoing renovations until today) in the 9e were nixed. After failing to find noodle soup at several Japanese places in the neighborhood, and neither of us feeling like typical heavy brasserie fare, we found ourselves standing outside of Brasserie Paris Nord, debating whether it was really worth trying couscous in what otherwise seemed a typical brasserie.

As we hemmed and hawed, two gents emerged and, divining our dilemma, raved in French about the couscous (C'est vachement exceptionelle!), which is only available on weekends. Denying he worked there or was a family member, one of the guys even brought us in and told the guys behind the bar that his good friends (that'd be us) wanted couscous on his advice. So pretty soon we were seated and had a big platter of very small grain but fluffy couscous, a plate of merguez sausages and chicken, and a big bowl of fragrant broth filled with chickpeas, carrots, turnips, and celery. And although I personally prefer larger grained couscous, and nobody here seems to make it the traditional way of steaming it over the stew, it was still vachement good: the chicken was tender and juicy, the sausages were perfectly browned and spicy, and the broth was complex and savory. A superb lunch for a cold Saturday afternoon, made even better when we realized that it was only thanks to our new friend's introduction that we were offered the meal, since the kitchen had closed moments before to anybody else who came in.

Along with the miraculous unsticking of the double boiler, a good omen for 2010.

Unexpected feast: couscous at Brasserie Nord. Tell 'em the jolly Algerian sent you.

The Arc de Triomphe really is massive.

Today is the first First Sunday of the year, and so we took the opportunity to go for free up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. And for the second day in a row, we actually had sunny (or as the French pilot on our flight to Stockholm earlier this year said: shiny) skies, so it was possible to see all of the city and even some of the surrounding area. I would think it's more fun to be up there when, like us, you already know the city pretty well and can see all of the landmarks from a different perspective and really see the spatial relationships. I don't think I'd have much enjoyed it if I'd only been here a few days (or if I'd paid 9 euro-bucks).

The view off the top northeast toward Sacre Coeur.

The Arc itself, commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 after his win at Austerlitz (the former Gare d'Orleans train station in Paris was also renamed in honor of that victory), wasn't finished until 30 years later, probably due to strikes. These days, the tomb of the unknown soldier lies beneath the arc.

The arc is such a ubiquitous symbol of Paris that it's easy to dismiss as not very interesting, but both its enormity and the details in its ornamentation are impressive up close, particularly on a day with angled light to accent the reliefs.

A cast of the head of La Repubique, looking like she's just been goosed and isn't all that happy about it.

Long way up...

It's been a long time since we've had such strong light here.

On our walk home, we passed the shop of Patrick Roger, chocolatier and window display wizard. I've mentioned I've been underwhelmed by the Christmas windows in Paris, but these were pretty amazing.

The details in the chocolate trees is spectacular, and the little balls on some of the branches are filled with delicious lime- or yuzu-flavored caramel.

I'd ski a lot more if it were on chocolate.

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