Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chez Papa and Canal St. Martin

Every year I visit Paris, I return to a small restaurant in the 10th called Chez Papa (Papa's place).  The restaurant, a chain like Paul- the famous patisserie, can be found around Paris.  They're all independently managed and though I haven't been to another, I understand that they vary slightly from one to another.

One of the main attractions near the resto is the famous Canal St. Martin. Long before I had visited Paris, I remember seeing the canal in the famous movie, Amelie, from the early 2000's.  Here, the stunning Audrey Tautou is shown skipping stones at one of the locks as one of her "les petits plaisirs."

Amelie skipping stones (around 0:13)

The canal was commissioned by Napoleon around 1800 as a way of supply a growing Parisian population with a fresh water source.  From Wikipedia:

Gaspard de Chabrol, prefect of Paris, proposed building a canal from the Ourcq River (starting 100 km northeast of Paris). The canal was dug from 1802 to 1825, funded by a new tax on wine. The canal was also used to supply Paris with food (grain), building materials, and other goods, carried on canal boats. Two ports were created in Paris on the canal to unload the boats: the Port de l'Arsenal and the Bassin de la Villette.
The canal was nearly closed in the 1960s when other means of shipping completely took over the same goods that used to be transported on the river. One proposal was to even convert the canal into a highway.  Thankfully, for the romantic, this never happened. Like many public spaces in and around Paris, its common to see people congregating here.  The park called Villemin is adjacent.

Aside from the history and pop cultural associations with the canal, its visually stunning.  And so, I've started two paintings of the canal both along the Quai de Valmy. Here are both views of the paintings, and a several others of the canal and lock in the movie:

The resto is on rue de Lafayette, about two blocks from the canal, and is frequented by many locals.  In the several times that I have been there during a weeknight, it has always been busy.  The outside of the resto is quite inviting and similar to cafes and bistros.
This resto's specialty is canard (duck) prepared in the basque style. The menu claims that Papa is l'Aubergiste du Sud-Ouest (Landlord of the Southwest). :)
Typically, the wine has been from the Loire Valley region, usually Chinon, but as anywhere, you can order wines from all over.  While you wait, homemade toasted bread (doubling as croutons for a salad) is also common.

In the past, I've always ordered the canard, though its the only time in my life I ever have. The last time I order medallions with a potato and leek salad with potatoes, which was heavenly.

This time I went all out and ordered my favorite, their specialty: aigulilettes de canard ave a la creme de pesche (duck breasts with peach cream). It is the most wonderful thing I have ever tasted. :)

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