Spring in Paris can bring cold, rainy weather or 75 degrees. Thankfully, it was warm this year, and just in time for Hermes’ sponsored jumping show. Each year, Hermes sponsors the show in Paris, which is located in the Grand Palais just off the Champs Elysees and within walking distance from the Hotel Crillon. Seated underneath the massive glass dome watching some of the most exquisite horses and riders in the world is a unique gift for those of us who are lovers of these wonderful mammals.
Hermes invites the top ranked jumpers to compete for two days in the arena they create in the middle of the Grand Palais. Jumps in the Grand Prix competition are over 5-feet, 3-inches and they are spaced so the rider and horse have to judge each turn and jump perfectly. Fourteen jumps were on the first course and those who had a clean round did a jump off with eight jumps. The one who had the cleanest and fastest round wins. A German won first and an American 18-year-old won second riding her own horse. The difference between first and second places was 2 seconds. Truly amazing! Lest any of you think the horses are badly treated, these creatures are pampered more than most humans – and the jumps are all breakaways meaning that they collapse at the slightest touch of a hoof so as to minimize any chance of the horse being injured. These horses are worth more than many Americans’ homes so believe me when I say they are treated well.
Of course, in-between two days of the horse show is the wining and dining and wandering through the stores on the Champs Elysees and throughout the Right Bank. My friends had not been to Paris in years so we did them all – Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and whatever other window amused us. We drooled over the pastries in the patisserie windows and ogled the beautiful floral arrangements everywhere. As for the wining and dining, we managed to squeeze in many meals.
The new Mandarin on Rue St. Honore has an exquisite dining room and their lobby is full of giant sculptures of panthers and mammoth vases filled with the simplest arrangements of flowers. If you have a chance to eat there in the restaurant Camelia, definitely get the foie gras that is rolled in crushed pistachios and the fresh asparagus topped with Beluga caviar. They also have a wonderful wine list and, of course, we had a superb Bordeaux red to go with the filet topped with camembert cheese.
Another request by one of my friends, who lived in Paris years ago, was a great Vietnamese restaurant, which we found called La Muraille de Jade on the Left Bank.
We had a perfectly done meal that was very authentic. They do more than pure Vietnamese, so we had a mixture of Vietnamese beef on skewers and pad thai as well as Chinese rice. It was all perfect. I am not convinced that one can get better Vietnamese food in Vietnam.
One day we ate at the Relais Entrecote, which serves only steak and frites. Your only choices are how you want your steak cooked and if you have room for dessert. Most people never make it to the dessert course since one steak is huge. Another day we went to Atelier Maitre Albert which is known for its rotisserie chicken which is truly mouthwatering. The potatoes they serve with it probably have more butter in them than most of us use in a year, but they are worth every fattening bite. It is said that the truest test of a chef is chicken and eggs. This restaurant has the chicken down pat. They also have a delicious salad with chicken livers and a light lemon dressing that is listed as a starter but is a meal in itself. (The gentlemen with us managed to finish all of the potatoes and I wish I could have helped out more, but my stomach couldn’t expand.)
The last mouthwatering experience we had was at Maison Blanche, which is a beautiful restaurant very elegantly and simply decorated with a view of the city that is only beaten by being on the top of the Eiffel Tower. (If you sit outside on the terrace you can see the Eiffel.) The food is exquisite and although it is one of the more expensive restaurants in Paris, it is worth the splurge. If they have the lobster appetizer, start with that and then have either the duck or steak if they are available. There is no bad choice but the sauces with the steak and duck were superb.
Hopefully you will now book a ticket and head to Paris for a vacation! After all, the exchange rate at the moment id very good for the dollar.
P.S. Please forgive the lack of French accents in this piece. My various French teachers would be mortified but I don’t know how to find them on my computer!