Tuesday, June 4, 2019

One More for the Road!

It's the same every year. We arrive, thinking we have so much time to go to so many places, see so many things, visit with so many friends, eat at so many restaurants, etc. And then, all of a sudden, we find ourselves in our final week, running out of days. Happily, there has been time for a couple of good outings to share.

The intrepid cyclist in our family, and his friend Ed, set out on Sunday for a 35-mile ride out to the Canal de l'Ourcq, a Northern Parisian waterway that begins its life as the River Ourcq in Picardie, winds its way down toward Paris, eventually linking, via the Canal, to the Bassin de la Villette and on to the Canal St. Martin, and so into centre Paris and the Seine. Originally built by Napoleon to provide  drinking water for Parisians, it later became a major freight haulage waterway.

Today, only a small section is still open for commercial vessels, the remainder hosts pleasure boats, canoes, picnics on the banks...

  ...and many miles of beautiful, quiet, green, empty, woodsy bike paths! No wonder the "lads" decided to head up there this past Sunday.

 As well as the quiet beauty, the woods also provided some relief from the 90F hot sun!

Happily, back home, there were cold beers for the cyclists, a "citron pressée" for the non-cyclist (me), and a hug from the always affable Gerard at our favorite stop on the rue Montorgeuil, La Grappe d'Or, where hours can be spent at a front row table watching the world go by.

One of the things we've always loved about our neighborhood (2nd arrondissement) is that it's full of unexpected and delightful surprises. It's an old part of Paris, with history that goes back centuries. On quiet, narrow streets you'll come across something like this shop window on the rue Choiseul, with its softly lit interior visible through the windows.
Outside, displays of old-fashioned items in the windows catch your eye, a pin cushion that your grandmother probably had, or finely-tipped embroidery scissors and belt buckles. Just enough to pique your curiosity and urge you inside.

Once you enter, you find yourself in the oldest "mercerie" in Paris. It's what the English call a haberdashery shop, the Americans might call it a notions shop. Whatever the name, this particular one sells anything and everything you might need for sewing, for quilting, for upholstering, for embroidery. And it's been selling these items since the mid 19th century!

Looking for some thread to hem a skirt? I dare you not to find the perfect match here.

Need tassels for the window shade? Look no further.

Fringe for a hanging lamp? Here you go!

And ribbons that come in every conceivable color and width, silk, satin, cotton, grosgrain, embroidered, printed, displayed in rows that stretch the width, and almost the length of the store.

I come here often to look for kid-themed buttons for some knitted garment I'm making, and I never leave empty handed.

The selection is "beyond the beyonds", as the Irish would say!

Behind the main counter the walls are lined with shelves full of old, time-worn boxes that hold zippers in every size and color and style, cards of metal and plastic "snaps" and "hooks and eyes", boxes of needles and pins. They do take a credit card, but just barely. Sales are written up meticulously by hand on little sales slips.

Directly across the street from the mercerie is the UltraMod hat shop, owned by the same people who own the mercerie. The original family sold their interest sometime in the 1990s, which means the same family owned the businesses for over 150 years!

Here, there are shelves with hat molds of various shapes and sizes, and racks of fabrics to create some of the "fancies" and regular hats on display in and around the store.

Period sewing machines are still in use, mostly treadle style with needles to work with velvet or felt, tulle or silk.

In all the hustle and bustle of modern-day city life, it's such a pleasure to step back in time and breathe in the modes and mores of earlier years. I never get tired of coming here and sharing it with visitors!

And then there's the rue St. Marc, also in our neighborhood. It looks like so many other little side streets, but it, too, has some history. It was built around 1650, then extended in the year "5 germinal an VI", which is how the months and years were written in the early days of the French Revolution (it translates to 25 March 1798). The Duc de Choiseul-Amboise and his wife had a house and garden here. That would be the same Choiseul after whom the nearby street where the mercerie stands is named! A few painters, poets, composers and playwrights lived here -- Ernest Legouve, George Desvallières, Emile Paladihe, Jean-Louis Laneuville. History books tell us that at numer 10 rue St. Marc, the editor Auguste Sautelet, "s'y tire une balle a la tête" at 5 am on May 13, 1830!

Our interest in the rue St. Marc, however, involved much less high drama. The place we recently visited is at number 5 -- le Restaurant Clementine, which has been serving its delicious fare in the same place since 1906.

Today, the warm brown paint and gold lettering still offer a cheerful welcome. The current Maître Restaurateur, Franck Langrenne, has been in charge of the kitchens since 1993.

Inside, our  cosy corner table made us feel like we were visiting our favorite Aunt's home, the walls hung with personal prints...

 ...the windowsills full of comfortable "clutter"...

  ...and a pretty etched panel separating the eating area from the bar, with a charming sketch of "Tin Tin" himself making a sketch.

And the food? Outstanding! I began with nutty  turmeric coated toast, topped with melted goat cheese, surrounded with crisp beets, radishes and salad greens...

...followed by lieu jaune (pollock) on a bed of fresh vegetables, smothered with a shrimp sauce...

...and a plate of wonderful Corsican cheeses with a glass of red wine! What can I say, it was all so good we cannot wait to return.

Sadly, our return must wait until our next visit. We fly back home next Monday! But if anyone reading this is planning a visit here, we would certainly recommend paying the friendly folks at Restaurant Clementine a visit. You'll get a warm welcome and classic, delicious bistro fare.

Vive la France!

Au revoir!