I've been pottering around a bit. Most of it not so pleasantly in railway stations trying to organise our trip to Cologne tomorrow. But along the way there have been pleasures.
So, for those of my readers wanting more food descriptions:
We've had lunch again at the restaurant in the passage outside our front door. It's irresistible. On only our second visit we were recognised by the patronne and ushered to 'our' table. The restaurant is very homey - it holds about twenty people, most of them choosing the formule midi. There's a limited choice of entrees - my friend had a soup of chunky winter vegetables and I had braised endives with anchovies - garnished with a few pomegranate seeds and a little mint. It sound bizarre, but it was wonderful. The earthiness of the endive was set off by the salt of the anchovies and the freshness of the mint and pomegranate. Definitely the star turn. There's no choice of main. It was pork chops, tender and perfectly cooked, on a bed of lightly glazed sliced turnips - yes, turnips - accompanied by broccoli. We finished with small slices of pear tart. Very simple - just sliced pears on very light mille feuille pastry. A very winter menu, beautifully cooked.
And for the knitters:
I managed to visit La Droguerie. Forgive the not-so-good photo, complete with Parisian rubbish. [Paris, by the way, is much cleaner than I remember from previous visits, but is still more littered, particularly with cigarette butts and dog poo, than its beauty deserves].
La Droguerie is two narrow but deep shopfronts that have been joined together - rather like two deep caves filled with treasure. As you enter, the shop is lined with hanks of La Droguerie yarns. What strikes you immediately is the richness of the colours and then, when you look a bit further, the subtlety of the textures. There wasn't much wool - but I particularly noticed beautiful, fine alpaca in a rainbow of colours, an 80% bamboo / 20% linen mix, and pure linen in zingy colours. They have garments made from La Droguerie yarns hanging around the shop - many of them notable for the finishing - quirky buttons or beautiful braids and trimmings. I'm increasingly puzzled by where you actually buy knitting needles in Paris - when I visited Le Bon Marche I was surprised by their limited supply, but La Droguerie has even fewer.
But La Droguerie is not primarily about the yarn. Again, it is a mercerie. It has jars and drawers of buttons beyond belief, rack after rack of braids and ribbons and trims (I particularly liked the bias binding from Liberty lawn fabrics), feathers of all shapes and sizes, felt in innumerable shades, individually stunning beads, or beads by the kilo. I felt unable to take photos inside - maybe I'll be braver on a return visit - but Pia Jane Bijkerk's recently published book, 'Paris: Made by Hand' has pictures that perfectly capture the Aladdin's Cave quality of the shop.
And for those of you who are generally interested in the grandeur that is Paris:
Just outside La Droguerie is the St Eustache square with this surprising street sculpture:
and a hop, skip and a jump away is the wonder of the Palais-Royal. Another seventeenth century square, but much grander than the Place des Vosges. It's presently under renovation, with builders' hoardings cutting the square in two so you don't really get to appreciate its scale and grandeur. But the 1980's Daniel Buren installation of striped columns and underground streams and 'fountain' still amuse or horrify (depending on your perception) visitors
and the rather crumbling colonnades are still filled with intriguing one-of-a-kind shops, including Didier Ludot where you go to buy your vintage couture if you are super-rich, or shops selling military medals from every war there has ever been.
Another hop, skip and jump across the Rue de Rivoli and you are in the courtyard of the Louvre with IM Pei's controversial 1980s glass Pyramid.
I visited Paris in 1989 just when the Pyramid was installed. In fact, I was unable to visit the Louvre because it was closed for the building works. I remember the discussion and the controversy about whether or not the ultra-modern pyramid desecrated the beauty and significance of the Louvre. Now it seems impossible to imagine the courtyard without the Pyramid. It is absolutely at home.