No Wine But Plenty of Vegetables

So, a rainy Saturday morning in Paris. After a light breakfast at the local Cafe Richard's, I set out for Montmartre for the Fete des Vendanges, the big party celebrating the year’s grape harvest. It's said that wine from local vineyards flows freely at this annual festival and the streets fill up with stalls serving food and wine, and locals put on concerts and lots of other festive activities. That's what's said.

Montmartre is high on the hills of northern Paris, and still has vineyards tucked away in odd places. Vintner groups arrive at the festival in colorful robes and uniforms, as shown in the stock photo at left. Straw hats are especially popular.

Sadly, when I got there, I found only a lot of wet, cold, unfestive-looking people. At the local city hall, the start of the parade had been delayed for several hours and the dignitaries stood about in their soggy sashes and top hats, with their speeches undelivered as yet.

Even armed with a fete map, I couldn't find a food or wine tasting stall anywhere and I walked, umbrella up, all around the area. Which is saying something, as Montmartre is a warren of streets, very hilly, and sports several stairs that make Georgetown's Exorcist steps look easy. It was a hike! There were plenty of tourists, cafes, etc. but of wine tasting stalls there were none. I'm sure they were there somewhere but the dumb, wet American couldn't find them, not even with map! I find this sort of arty event organization, with stuff spread out, not unusual in Europe, and the language barrier (no English version of the map and program was available) makes figuring it all out a real challenge.

Tap or click for larger image

So, wet, thirsty, and tired of dueling with passersby over umbrella clearances, I finally jumped into the Metro and headed to Printemps, a giant deparment store on Boulevard Haussmann, for lunch at Le Brasserie, under their huge art nouveau stained glass dome. I've had many memorable lunches here and was hoping for another but that was not to be the case today. What was listed in the menu as “pasta with sauteed vegetables” (making me think some kind of pasta primavera) was indeed just what it said: a small dish of plain pasta accompanying a huge bowl of sauteed snow peas, green beans, and leeks. Enough to qualify as the side dishes for six or eight main meals, I guessed. I did my best with this green avalanche but my heart wasn't in it.

If there's an economic crisis in France, you couldn't tell it by the hordes of shoppers in Printemps (which is not an inexpensive place) and diners in Le Brasserie. Indeed, the line to get into some kind of high-end Louis Vuitton event they were holding wound through the store.

I passed by the Louvre (yep, still there) on the #27 bus on the way back to the hotel. There was a pretty good line, even in the rain, to get in. Now back at the Elysa Lux, In the time it's taken me to write this, the rain has let up and there are even patches of blue appearing through the gray up above. This encourages me to get out tonight and check out an intriguing sounding place called Brewberry. More later.

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