Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Paris: Encore Une Fois (one more time)

After M&M returned home to the U.S., we were on our own again.  But we still had two full days left in Paris and plenty of time for a few more adventures.



E. Dehillerin and Company

Storefront of the famous E. Dehillerin
E. Dehillerin is a kitchen supply store which may not sound particularly exciting, but a visit here is a classic Paris shopping experience.  E. Dehillerin first opened in 1820, and when you walk in the front door, you get the feeling that not much has changed since the original grand opening. 

Warehouse-like shelves in E. Dehillerin

The store is dimly lit with creaky wooden-planked floors and narrow aisles just barely wide enough for two people to pass one another.  Sometimes the aisles are even blocked by displays and gadgets, which only the sveltest of patrons can negotiate. The floor plan is a meandering maze that sometimes leads to dark corners and dead-ends. 

Shiny copper pots in the basement at E. Dehillerin
Merchandise is displayed on dark wooden shelves giving it a warehouse atmosphere.  E. Dehillerin offers top quality knives and other tools, but they are piled in metal tins – like something you would see at a flea market!  The shelves are heaped with all kinds of pots and pans from solid stainless to sparkling beveled copper; as a side note, Julia Child bought her equipment here when she lived in Paris.   

Frank fell in love with this giant cooking pot
The dingy-looking basement is even more fun to wander around, and Frank, the consummate engineer and gadgeteer, had an affinity for checking out the specialized kitchen tools and the oversized cookware, all of which were clearly intended for restaurant use. 
Pricing is also antiquated:  When you want to buy something, you need to memorize the 6-digit item number and look up the price in one of two telephone-sized books hanging on the wall near the cash register at the front of the store.  ‘Why not just put the price tag directly on the item itself?’ we wondered.
Who else could have this much fun
 with kitchen supplies?
The staff is eccentric, and the old building must have lots of hidden stairways because clerks seem to pop in-and-out of closet doors at unexpected moments.  Of course, we had to buy something for our own kitchen – we ended up with a hefty commercial-sized meat fork, a chef’s tool to julienne veggies, and an adorable little stainless steel pot for browning butter.  The man who waited on us spoke some English, and seemed to know all about Philadelphia, the sports teams, and especially the famous Restaurant School there.  When we expressed surprise at this, he chuckled and said, “We know everything here in France!”

Behind-the-Scenes Eiffel Tour

The incomparable Eiffel!
In the interest of full disclosure, we should tell you that we have been to the Eiffel many times on our own, but this time we were “on assignment” to take this Behind-the-Scenes tour of the Eiffel having contracted with the Viator Travel Blog to write an article about our experience.  We will share that full article later when Anne has completed it and has it published.
But as a preliminary teaser, this tour gave us the opportunity to visit some relatively “unvisited sights” around the Tower, like a bunker beneath the Eiffel Tower that housed telegraphic equipment during WWII, and now stores food for the famous Jules Verne restaurant that sits on the second floor of the Tower itself.  All the food has to be sent up to ground level via elevator, trucked over to the east pillar of the Tower where it rides up another elevator to the restaurant.  (I guess this explains the exorbitant prices – 210€/person for dinner!)
Inside the Eiffel engine room
Also, the tour took us into the engine room to see the hydraulics and the unique pulley/cable system that moves the elevators safely up and down the Tower.  By the way, they do lot of hoisting: 7 million people visited the Tower in 2010. 
Up onto the second floor we went, where we enjoyed fabulous views over the city of Paris.  Altho the lines of people to the upper floors were horrendous, there was no waiting for us folks on the tour! Thank you Viator!!  

The twinkling Eiffel
And as we left, the Tower started sparkling with its now-famous flashing lights; this happens every hour for just 5 minutes.  That way, costs are cut back on electrical consumption.  But practical reasons aside, it seemed (to Anne) like the Eiffel was thanking us for our visit.








 TGV to Torino

The superfast TGV train
As always, it was hard to leave Anne’s favorite city of Paris, but new escapades awaited us in Italy, so we boarded a super sleek, superfast TGV train to the city of Torino (known as “Turin” to most Americans). 

Snowy scene way up in the Alps
This was a very scenic train ride through the Alps past several small ski towns.  In fact, it started snowing, and as we climbed the highest peak, the mountains and trees were snow-covered, looking like a wilderness scene from a Courier and Ives Christmas card.

Happy Easter to all -- or as they say here in Italy, "Buona Pasqua!"

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