The Occasional Tales of Ailsa B du Bois

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Archive for the ‘Cuisine’ Category

Arte Reina Sofia, The Crystal Palace & Other Observations…

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on June 4, 2009

This morning we´re off to the contemporary art mecca here, the Reina Sofia, which will likely eat up several hours.  Picasso´s Guernica is the star piece there, but there´s all sorts of other jewells as well.  They have a feature exhibition on at the moment of the sculptural work of Juan Muñoz.  He makes strange and amusing people who are slightly shorter than real people, in dark grey fibreglass, and there is a whole room full of about 70 or more joyous looking Chinese men in Red China uniforms (they´re all sculptures) and you can wak in amongst them, and imagine you´re hanging out with Mao´s army during a uniquely happy moment.  Sounds simultaneously spooky and uplifting to me, so I must experience it.   After that we´re going to check out the Crystal Palace in Parque del Retiro, and then view the antique Railway Station, which is said to  be fabulously  evocative of a far grander period of train travel.   After that Laurie wants to go for a late luch back at our new favourite Huertas taverna, Maceiras, for seafood paella and cerveza.

Last night we had tapas ol fresco, as it was such a  warm night, and the food was outrageously good.  We had mussels in provencial sauce (the best I´ve ever tasted), grilled mushrooms with speck type ham & herbs, and honey glazed aubergine, which was the just the best.  We are also finding the quality of the wine here to be very good; both affordable and deliciously velvety.  I now fully understand why the Brits love Spain.  It is a sort of paradise, it seems to me.  The locals are quite irreverant and quirky, which I like.

One thing I meant to mention when in Paris is how gorgeous it is to find men playing the accordian in the plaza´s and in the metro.  It really adds an overt European charm to day-to-day life, and while I realise its a bit cheesy, I really like that they hold to these traditions.  I also really like the fact that they let real ´live´painters sit in the Prado, and create copies of their favourite master-pieces.  It´s amazing to watch these people work, and really good for the children to witness how its done.  Madrid is a really lovely life-style city.  I passed a jazz band playing ´Summer-time, and the living is easy´in the park yesterday, and I think that sums up the mood here perfectly.  Off to a photographic exhibition in Centro tonight, then for a stroll up into Chueca, the gay barrio of Madrid, with bars galore.  Window-shopping and sight-seeing is always fun.  Even from our little Juliet balcony, outside our 3rd floor hotel window, there are interesting things to see happening down below on the street.  If only we didn´t need to sleep!

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The Magic of Madrid: City of the Garden of Earthly Delights

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on June 3, 2009

Here in Madrid, Laurie and I have found a city that we love and claim as our type of city…  Madrid is a lovely size, with gorgeous grand green boulevards, beautiful architecture, happening lane-ways, very warm and sensual climate, and the people are so relaxed and sexy while barely being conscious of it.  The food is delicious here as well, but then we do love tapas, and especially authentic tapas, like we had today at an old socialist institution of a Galecian tapas bar.  The octopus in quality olive oil with paprika was the best thing I´ve ever tasted, and sincerely melted in your mouth.  The music everywhere we go is great too.  Just walking along the streets is such a delight, because no-one cares what you´re doing, and people are just doing their thing, it seems.  The pace of this city is just right, in our opinion.

We arrived yesterday at about 6pm, and from the minute we disembarked at the architecturally hip airport, and taxi´d into the city, we knew that we´d made the right choice in stopping off here, and that this will be a really enjoyable 4 nights.  It actually reminds us a lot of Melbourne, if you can imagine Melbourne being sultry, sexy and Spanish speaking, with Museo Jambon (Ham Museums!) every block or so.  Today we went to the Museo de Prado, and saw their lush collection of classic art, most of it from the 1400s to 1600s.  Goya, Velazquez, Rubens, Raphael, Caravaggio etcetera, and the prize for me was seeing Bosch´Garden of Earthly Delights. I feel somehow that although this complex and intricate painting was by a Dutch artist, it has found it´s home in the perfectly appropriate city for a work of this type.  We´ve seen numerous trannies, tattoo parlours, impressively clean looking street hookers, and Ramones style rockers that look like they´ve just stepped out of the Tardis, along with oh so civilised string quartets busking in the streets, homeless men asleep in door-ways with literature half read in their laps.  Tonight we´re going back into Huertas for tapas then on to a jazz bar.  We´d love to see flamenco but the price is steep, so we´ll do that next time we visit Spain (yes, always planning…).  We went to the tranquil Real Jardin Botanica today, and also saw a punkie girl photo exhibition. All very interesting.

Tomorrow, or Friday, we´re off to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Palace, and I´m running out of Euro coins now, so this blog is about to end abrubtly!

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Lunch at Le Jules Verne (within Le Tour Eiffel) and a cruise along the Seine

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on May 22, 2009

This morning Fred, Philippe, Laurie & I were all tremendously excited to get into Philippe’s Renault and zip over to Le Tour Eiffel for our very special lunch at the critically acclaimed and celebrated modern French cuisine restaurant, Le Jules Verne.  We skipped the 2 hour queue, and went straight to the restaurant’s exclusive elevator up 134 metres along the angled leg of the tower.  We were very lucky to be given a prized window table, and to be blessed with a clear, warm day.  The view over the Left Bank was to die for, and the cutlery, the plates, the glass-ware all innovative and highly modern.  We opted for a set menu, which is written up as 3 courses, but was in fact 5 courses (2 of which were dessert).  Each course was accompanied by a dedicated glass off wine or sauterne, appropriate to the texture and taste of the specific meal.  We were offered a delicious array of unique breads and croissant type creations to have with the main course, and it was seriously sublime.  Upon leaving in an advanced state of gentle euphoria, ‘ladies’ are presented with a gift of 3 madeleine’s (petite sponge cakes of delicate consistency).  Alaine Ducasse is the Managing Chef, and his expertise certainly are evident here in terms of creative direction and supreme quality and attention to detail.  It is true that it cost a week (or two) of an average salary to indulge in this way (and I heard a very urbane French Canadian man at the next table remark that they’d lapsed on a mortgage payment to be there, which is fair comment!), but it was well worth it, in every respect.  We will never forget this special day, and it was so lovely to be able to treat our friends’ who are getting married next Friday.  This gesture of an extraordinary luncheon within a global architectural icon, was our way of wishing them congratulations, a happy future together, and also to say thank-you for hosting us, and being so generous with their hospitality.  It is such a joy to be here in Paris, with these two absolutely wonderful people.  And it must be said that this whole dream-like experience is an exceptionally rare treat.

After lunch we floated down to the general look-out area, and took some happy snaps (some of which I will upload onto FaceBook).  We then seperated to glide off in different, but comparably dreamy, directions.  Laurie and I skipped another queue (which looked to be up to an hour long), and used our pre-paid tickets (courtest of Fred) to board the Bateaux Parisienne for an hour’s boat cruise up to near the Champs-Elysées, and back again.  Most relaxing, though in fact we felt so relaxed we could have quite easily fallen into the Seine and floated away blissfully…  But, we didn’t!

Next we wandered over to a little market street called Rue Cler, and observed old fashioned style butchers, fish stores, fruit and veg stores, chocolatiers, patissereies and florists’.  It was like the little red beetle children’s books I have from the 1960’s: so sweet.  We felt we had to buy something, however small, so when we found a huge, but completely unpretentious, cheese store, we ventured to purchase a round of Neufchàtel, fromage artisanal au lait cru, fabrique en Normandie.  We looked with some slight discomfort at cheeses with thick patches of furry mould, and while we have no doubt they may be delicious, it’s just a step too far for our Anglo sensibilities.  Anyway, we’re home now in Le Marais, and Philippe is cooking dinner for us: goat’s cheese with crusty bread, then fish for main with thick white asparagus.  All this walking we’ve done may well be erased by these gastronomic  ways of ours, but we are on vacation, and so ‘Voilà’!

Other observations of today include witnessing a thief, dressed in a suave fasion, running like hell on wheels from under the Le Tour Eiffel, almost crashing into Laurie on his way, and being pursued at a ferocious speed by 3 men dressed in black, with gold and hot pink Eifell Tower key rings jangling by the dozen from their belt rings, and off they all went, crashing through the otherwise genteel park of Ecole Militaire…  On the Met home we changed at Operà Station, and witnessed some almost frightening crush of humanity trying to squueze both in and out of the Met doors.  But all things considered, we’re finding the public transport here very civilised.  The mood on the Met is friendly, and relaxed, and people chat away comfortably.  Also the African French in the inner city are very cultivated and stylish, diverse in their physical beauty, and hold the integrity of the cultures’ from which they have emigrated.  It’s really nice to see.

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