Day 4–The Champs Elysees

It’s raining today. Pouring rain, in fact, which necessitates the purchase of day-to-day things like les parapluies. Also for getting a haircut and going to a gallery.

Not for the first time, leaving the gym, I appreciated the fact that burning 542 calories on the treadmill is fine, if I didn’t ingest 543 calories for the rest of the day. I had thought about doing a diet book once, not that I am any authority, of course, but it would have 173 pages for all the known world-languages and I would write on each page, “Eat Less, Exercise More” in 173 languages. The project hasn’t yet gotten off the ground, at least as of yet. Anyway, you can put on weight just by looking at food here! So much for the theory but, as a number of books have noted, it doesn’t seem to affect the French, better metabolism maybe? Smoking, too, probably, although there seems to be less of that even here than we’ve noticed before, especially in bars and restauants where it’s become prohibited.

Time, however, does seem slower here. Likely because everyone gets up and stays up later. No one really has dinner, out anyway, until about 8:30 or so. At home, we’d be getting ready to turn in for the night, to get up at 4:30/5 a.m. and head to the gym. As I said, the gym doesn’t even open until 8. There’s a certain sense about all this, though, life seems a bit more carefree, clearly noticeable in the cafes where everyone seems to have plenty of time to have a coffee, read the paper or just muse. Maybe in North America, we are programmed for speed, I don’t know, or maybe it’s just the type-As? As I look at it now, the cafe society seems not all that it’s cracked up to be: it’s better.

After getting a haircut (see “Before” and “After” photos below; looks better, no?), we sauntered around the Champs-Élysées. From the Metro, across Pont Alexandre III, past the beautiful 1900s Grand Palais and Petit Palais, up and down Avenue Montaigne (how will these shops fare in the recession? Harry Winston? Fendi? Louis Vuitton?), across the boulevard with the Arc de Triomph at the top end, the Concorde obelisk at the bottom end, through the Jardins des Champs-Elysees, past Hotel de Crillon to the rue de Rivoli, that ridiculously long street full of tourist shops, juxtaposed with places like the beautiful Hotel Meurice.

If you haven’t seen the film, Avenue Montaigne, now is the time. C’est tres charmante. The Bar des Theatres, 6 av. Montaigne across from the Theatre de Champs Elysees hasn’t been a culinary destination for some time although it may have picked up after the film’s popularity. In his guide, Pudlowski said, “The latest news is that the place is said to be in danger of closing, despite the distinction lent it by the lovely Cecile de France in the role of an apprentice waitress, so remember to check before you go” but it was busy on a gloomy Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

We also passed President Sarkozy’s place, looks grand, at least from the outside.

(If you are in the area, we enjoyed lunch a few years ago at Savy, 23, rue Bayard, just off Ave. Montaigne, full of French business-people, from what we could tell.)

The only way one might be able to tell there’s a world-wide recession going on that might be affecting Paris is that the lineup at Angelina, 226 rue de Rivoli, at 4 p.m. was shorter than we’ve sometimes experience. By 5:15, however, it had regained its usual length and diversity of clientele. It’s a 1903 tea salon, belle-epoque design, that serves the best hot chocolate (chocolat l’africain) that we’ve had in Paris. And we have done our share of testing, I assure you. It also serves a particularly scrumptious chestnut-puree/chantilly sweet called Mont Blanc. If you have those one afternoon, you may not want to eat again for a few days, at least until you come off the sugar-rush. (Barbie would not approve!)

We had thought about going to the Robert Frank photography show at Jeu de Paume but saved it for another day, preferring a rest instead. (This is our vacation week, as I mentioned.)

On Wednesdays, by the way, Pariscope comes out. It’s a weekly guide to art, music, theatre and so so. Even though it’s in French, it’s very handy for deciding on what to do over the next week, culture-wise. Of course, it doesn’t help if you can’t understand it, so don’t forget a dictionary if visiting here.

Wallpaper* advised in its new Paris guide that a perfect day would end at a restaurant in the 3rd  arr., called Robert et Louise, self-described as a Restaurant au Feu (an open grill, specializing in grilled beef), 64, rue Vielle-du-Temple, where we went tonight. While a convivial place, packed in fact, with many French folk enjoying themselves, it wouldn’t be the place Iwould pick for the end to a perfect day. Nevertheless, chacun son gout…