Friday, February 3, 2012

I'm one of the ladies who lunch...with Julia Child!

Yes, this Frenchman is wearing a pig snout. We'll get to that in a minute. I promise.

Yesterday morning was bitterly cold - so cold that I put on two thermal undershirts, one turtleneck and another sweater. While I looked like a little kid ready to go out and play in the snow, I was actually going for a walking tour featuring some of the places that Julia Child frequented when she was a resident of Paris.

Julia Child's apartment building, 81 rue de l'Université, affectionately known as "Roo de Loo".

Our first stop was Julia's apartment, which she described as follows:

In the meantime, I had discovered an apartment building for rent that was large, centrally located, and a bit weird.  It was two floors of an old four-story hôtel particulier, at 81 rue de l'Université. A classic Parisian building, it had a grey cement facade, a grand front door about eight feet high, a small interior courtyard, and an open-topped cage elevator.

View of the building from the interior courtyard. Julia's apartment was on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

As an incredibly rare treat, our tour guide had organized a brief meeting with the woman who is the daughter-in-law of the owner of the building when Julia lived there. Madame charmed us with tales of her in-law's relationship with the Childs and said that Julia was fondly remembered for her cheerful personality, which reminded me of one of my favorite passages from My Life in France:

The sweetness and generosity and politeness and gentleness and humanity of the French had shown me how lovely life can be if one takes the time to be friendly.

After visiting the former site of the Cordon Bleu Cooking School before it moved to the 15th arrondissement and Julia's favorite kitchen-equipment store, E. Dehillerin, we were ready for lunch at Au Pied de Cochon, the legendary Parisian restaurant that hasn't closed its doors since 1947. Unlike Julia, however, we didn't dine in the wee hours of the morning:

After the club closed, at 3:00 a.m., we went on to Les Halles [the old market in Paris] and walked around admiring the "forts des Halles"--the barrel-chested market workers--unloading crates of fresh watercress from trucks, stacking freshly cut flowers, and preparing for the day. It was cold and dark, but the vast marketplace was beautiful under splotches of yellow electric light. As dawn lightened the edges of the sky, we found ourselves at "Au Pied de Cochon" for a traditional bowl of onion soup, glasses of red wine, and cups of coffee. At five-fifteen, we straggled home.

Lunching with Julia Child!

According to Philippe, the man in the first photo, there's a traditional song that people sing while gathered at Au Pied de Cochon. Like a determined choir director with a rather strange nose, he had us rehearse before joining us in a rousing performance of La Chanson du Pied de Cochon. His hard work and dedication earned him a kiss on the check from one of the ladies who lunch. I'm sure that Julia would have approved. Oh, la, la - that's one happy Frenchman!

6, rue Coquillière
75001 Paris
Open 7/7 and 24/24 - it never closes!


8 comments:

  1. That's a very funny quote about the French responding to friendliness--I'm sure some people would like to counter with another view.

    Now about that singing--is it required? I would so not like that, just give me my soup and leave me in peace. Merci. Or maybe that's french friendliness and I'm not catching on.

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  2. Don't worry, Joseph -- singing and kisses are not obligatory. We were a group of 7 women and Philippe couldn't restrain his Gallic charm. When Stephane and I went to Au Pied de Cochon last year, there wasn't any mention of singing...or any free aperitifs!

    I think that Julia was on to something - in the past couple of days, I've had some remarkable experiences with Parisians that run counter to the stereotypical idea of them. Oh sure, they'll still try to cut in front of me in line, but they've also been surprisingly generous. I just have to remember to channel my inner Julia and slow down.

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  3. This is great!!! That soup looks scrumptious. I've never read Julia's memoirs of France but it's on my list to pick up. What a fun tour. Who knew that Julia was such a night owl???

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  4. Julia was a fun lady! I suggest having a highlighter handy when you read the Paris portion of "My Life in France" so that you can mark all of the places that she talks about. It's amazing because many of them are exactly the same today.

    The soup was good but a bit too salty for my taste. Nonetheless, the restaurant is such a fixture in Paris that it's good to visit it at least once. I really want to go there late at night sometime. The waiter said that it has a completely different vibe.

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  5. If "envy" had a name for your ability to find fun and fascinating things to do while you're in Paris.......it would be
    nancyb

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    1. Yup, I'm having a good time! :) But from what I've been reading on TA about your plans for your upcoming trip to Paris, it sounds like you're going to have a lot of fun while you're here. You've mentioned some very interesting places that I've never even heard of.

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  6. I don't think I could eat onion soup at 3 in the morning either!
    I must get round to reading Julia Child's book. It's on the 'to do' list.

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    1. It's a delight - the book, not onion soup at 3 am!

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