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Tarte Tatin à la Tomate Américaine
Other Paris Eateries
Paris, January 2008
Walk to Café des Philosophes
Blues Band, Pont Saint Louis
Café des Philosophes
Paris Open-Air Market
Machu Picchu


I left Paris in 2004 after living there for several years. The falling dollar had helped to drive me out and had kept me away until January '08, crappy greenback or not, I returned. A reunion with friends plus several nights at Opéra Bastille, dinner with my former landlords and hanging out in a city I loved made all my monetary angst vanish. For four weeks I indulged myself, entertaining no regrets whatsoever.

Two difference about my 2008 trip. Before cells with cameras I was never much of a shutterbug, not having owned a camera in probably 20 years. Now I had two cameras and snapped about 200 photos and made about 2 dozen short videos.

The other difference was that I did not stay in Le Marais but in the Latin Quarter. On such short notice, my former landlords, Jean Jacques and Chantal, could not accommodate me in one of their apartments on the Right Bank in Le Marais. Instead I rented a small, comfortable studio from a retired surgeon on the Left Bank, not far from the Sorbonne. I knew the neighborhood, but I found myself enjoying the new neighborhood . . . different boulangeries, cafés, galleries, gardens, etc. to explore.

Below are brief reminiscences accompanied by photos or videos. You can pick and choose. Bon voyage.

Walk from Rue des Boulangers (5th A) to Café des Philosophes: (4th A)

YouTube video walking to cafe click here.

My apartment during the 2008 Paris trip was in the 5th A at 17 Rue des Boulangers between Rue Monge and Rue Linné. Café des Philosophes on Rue Vieille du Temple, the Café I had adopted when I was living in Paris earlier in the decade, was about a 20-minute walk straightaway but 20-30 minutes longer if I took a detour or stopped along the way. From Rue des Boulangers I followed Rue Monge to Rue Bernardins, crossed the Seine to L’Cité (home of Notre Dame) on Pont de l’Archevêché, walked along the quais (behind Notre Dame) to Pont Saint-Louis that connected L’Cité to Île Saint-Louis.

The span of Pont Saint-Louis from the L’Cité to Île Saint-Louis is closed to traffic except for bicycles and pedestrians. During afternoons and evenings, especially in the summer, performers used the bridge as a stage. I stopped countless times to listen to jazz bands, watch acrobats and laugh at various oddball performers.

Blues Band Playing on Pont Saint Louis.

For a video click here (about 3 minutes).

I do not know the name of the band. They were Americans, perhaps from New Orleans, almost certainly from the South. The band was on the bridge for more than a week, and most days it was cold with a hearty wind. Even so, scores of passers-by were lined up along the walkway opposite the band to listen and applaud. Many of us threw Euros into the little box that also held CD’s. If I’d had my wits about me, I could have looked at the CD’s for the name of the band. But, I didn’t. The video is from two different short sessions taken with my cell and spliced together. Because of the distance between me and the Band plus all the street and river sounds the audio unfortunately is low quality. Perhaps you’ll still get an idea of how they played and sounded from Pont Saint-Louis.

On the left corner of the bridge, daily, sat an accordionist, well-equipped with clothes, food and whatever else a street musician needed. His perseverance on those cold January days, when the wind whipped down Seine and my long scarf was wrapped my neck and face, demanded I acknowledge his presence. I’d listen, drop a Euro, exchange a smile and continue my trek.

I loved the trek, not only because of what was at the end of it but also because the cold and wind influenced the ever-changing street scenes except for the accordionist, the single constant. Les constantes aime aussi le français.

The longer walk, if I were not in a hurry and the weather were accommodating, was a detour (a right turn after crossing Pont Saint-Louis) through Île Saint-Louis along Rue Saint-Louis en Île, filled with shops (notably chocolate and ice cream), galleries and restaurants. It’s a street that visitors should walk at least once. At the end I turned left onto Quai d’Anjou and walked along the Seine back to the span of Pont Louis-Philippe that connected Île Saint-Louis with the Right Bank.

On the Right Bank I followed Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe to Rue de Rivoli where it became Rue Vieille du Temple, two blocks from Café des Philosophes. The shops along Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe slowed my pace because I could not resist window-gazing. Not uncommon in European cities this street featured among other businesses several stationary stores with pens, pencils, folders, boxes, sharpeners, scissors of nifty designs and colors. One evening through the window of one such store I watched the hanging of a new paper mobile around which clerks and clients gathered with glasses of champagne (I’m assuming) to applaud the unveiling. Not something I’d ever witnessed before.

Before reaching Rue de Rivoli I passed La Perla, a franchise with restaurants in London and Sydney as well as Paris. Excellent Tequila Bar (tequila was my drink when living in Mexico City) and excellent tapas. I prefer French when I’m in Paris, but I couldn’t resist a place “jumping” with patron no matter the hour of day or night. This is definitely a hangout for the yung, but I can pretend.

Once I crossed Rivoli I was in may old neighborhood. I could see Café des Philosophes ahead, and I was ready to “waste” for my health and happiness a couple of hours.

Café des Philosophes: How to Become a Socratic Hedonist

For a video click here (about 2 minutes).

I’ve already sung the praises of Café Les Philosophes (Go to: Random Thoughts), a couple of blocks from Rivoli on Rue Vieille du Temple in Le Marais. I discovered Philosophes by accident on a rainy, blustery Friday night in January or February, 2003. I had been walking through Le Marais in search of an eatery with a good menu and an inviting ambiance. I liked Les Philosophes’ menu, and after spotting an empty table in the far corner with a view of the whole room, I took a chance. What a find! It became my café, a dubious claim, of course, since over the next few months I discovered scores of local residents and outsiders like me also claimed it. I knew I had been accepted when one night after ordering wine I then ordered dessert. A local, sitting next to me, asked why I had ordered wine and dessert? I tried to explain in my broken French that I had changed my mind, and I would hold the wine until I had finished the dessert. I still earned mild censure for my action, although with a smile.

And why this Café among thousands in Paris? Nothing more complicated than it works. The man–in–charge, perhaps the owner, certainly the boss, seemed to be running several other adjoining cafés plus a wine and book shop, La Belle Hortense, across the street, as well as Les Philosophes. They’re all popular, each with its own clientele. The location is a plus. Rue Vieille du Temple, especially on warm days, is full of the hustle and bustle of pedestrians and vehicles. You can sit outside almost the year-round, kept warm by outdoor heaters, and watch the street life. I find as much pleasure sitting inside, especially if it’s busy, because I love to watch the interplay between the serveurs, the barmen, the boss and the clientele. Every day the blackboard menu includes a soup, an entreée, a plat and a dessert. Of course la carte has more from which to choose. A pot or a pichet of house red comes in two sizes, 25 or 50, in some metric I don’t understand. It has a full bar with wines, champagnes, whiskeys, liquors, etc. A list of wines can be found on its Web Page at the end of these remarks. During 2002-2004 I ate there once or twice a week, and during my recent January (2008) stay I ate there four or five times a week. A soup or entreée, a plat (meat or fish), sometimes a dessert, always a pot and a café came to 25 Euros give or take a few. I don’t remember everything I ordered the first night at Les Philosophes. I do remember the dessert, the Café’s Cheesecake. It won over my palate and my heart. I’ve never been a big fan of cheesecakes – too firm or chewy, in some cases like eating cheese without the cake. At Les Philosophes the cheesecake was just the opposite–light, fluffy, no effort to enjoy it. I’ve quit counting how many cheesecakes I ordered for myself and my friends, who also offered rave reviews. The filling has a slight citric taste (lime), and during the recent visit the chef had added a raspberry sauce - a dab on top and a stream surrounding the cheesecake itself.

One of the Café’s signature dishes is Tarte Tatin à la Tomate. The last time I ordered it Jean-Pierre reminded me that it was a traditional dish at the Café. And classic dish since others have written about it. The story behind the Tarte Tatin is fairly well known. Two sisters named Tatin owned a hotel where one of the sisters either mistakenly cooked an apple pie upside down or let the apple pie filling cook too long and in order to save it threw the crust on top and baked it in the oven. Regardless the result was a hit. Here the idea is cooking nothing more than tomatoes and herbs in caramelized sugar and olive oil for about 30 minutes, putting them aside in a cool place for 12 hours and then putting tomatoes in a baking dish like a moule à genoise, covering them with a pâte brisée and baking. The recipe is on the Café’s Web Page under les recettes et le menu. I am adapting it for an American kitchen. Write me if you are interested. It takes a while to prepare but it is well worth the effort and the wait. The last time I ordered it I took a photo.

That’s what it looks like at the Café. That day was a warmer than usual January afternoon, and I was sitting outside after having walked from my apartment on Rue Des Boulangers to the Mitterand Library and then back to Le Marais. I was famished, and I had just two more days in Paris. I went for broke. I ordered the Tarte plus a plate of cheese and cold cuts, a cheesecake, a pot, and a café, and for the next hour George Bush did not much matter anymore.

I have many memories of my visit to Les Philosophes. I have already told a story about Sébastien, the first serveur with whom I became acquainted, and the espresso that was waiting for me at a table because he saw me coming down the street. I have another Sébastien story. One evening I asked what dessert he would recommend. Without any hesitation while carrying an order of food the answer was le gateau de figue. Sébastien never steered me wrong, and le gateau it would be. I expected a dish of mainly figs accompanied by a piece of cake. No, no, no. It was a two-layer cake filled with rich cream in the middle and icing on top plus a tiny whole fig attached. The cake was divine, and the fig was perfect. During my last visit I discovered a change to the blackboard menu, i. e. a permanent winter dish, le boeuf bourguignon, available every day. B–b is a standard dish; it is featured at many restaurants and cafés, but when it is well-prepared, as it is at Les Philosophes, it is always delicious.

No doubt I will add other stories about Café Les Philosophes as time permits. That’a all for now.

(Adapted With My Thanks To Morgan Friedrich)

[WARNING: Not Just A Straightforward Recipe - Cooking Is A Story]

Café's Tarte

Morgan's Tarte

Richard's Tarte [Half the recipe]

Patrons of Café des Philosophes [rue Vieille du Temple, 4th Arrondissement, Paris] always have a memorable culinary experience upon ordering the Café's speciality - Tarte Tatin à la Tomate. When I posted the foto & the story above, I indicated I had prepared the dish, following the recipe posted on the Café's web page, in my own kitchen, & in a burst of enthusiasm I wrote I would post the adapted recipe. I never did because I was not entirely satisfied with how the dish had turn out.

I've had several queries since, but other commitments & entanglements (as so often happens in life) prevented me from returning to my original intention of posting my own version of TTàlaT. Several weeks ago I received an email from Morgan Friedrich, who like me had lived for a while in Le Marais, had frequented the Café & had enjoyed TTàlaT. More importantly, she had actually prepared it in her own kitchen with better results than I remember having. The time was right to try again, in part because I had someone I could compare notes with.

I have cooked all my life, but I tend to ignore recipes & go off on my own. With TTàlaT I needed to stay focused until I'd figured out some things. The trick is to caramelize the tomatoes without searing the caramel or the tomatoes. The Café recipe calls for caramel made from olive oil & sugar & is not precise on how this is to be done; it assumes you know how. I know how to caramelize water & sugar, but I’d never tried it with olive oil. Below, I offer some pointers to help you along if you, like me, are facing a new culinary challenge.

In the course of making several versions (I was not working with the full recipe) I've actually experimented with several other approaches, one of which yielded a deliciously sweet but only vaguely caramelized tomato. I keep thinking there must be another way to achieve the results that you cannot miss in TTàlaT, but what I ended up with (the sweetened tomatoes I tossed into a vegetable soup I had made the day before) did not qualify.


(Recipe in French for those who can read French...for others I translate with further comments below. I urge you to read the recipes & the commentary before starting on your own, even if you can understand the French.)

20 tomates fraîches,
1/2 botte de sauge
1/2 botte de basilic
1/2 botte de romarin
500g de sucre
1/4 litre de huile d'olive
Pâte brisée

Faites bouillir une grande quantité d’eau. En même temps effectuez une incision sur le sommet des tomates et ôtez-y les opercules. Ebouillantez les tomates et rafraîchissez-les afin de les monder (enlever le peau). Coupez-les en deux et laissez-les égoutter. Réalisez un caramel avec le sucre et l'huile d’olive, ensuite incorporez-y les tomatoes et les herbes ciselées. Laissez réduire au four a 180 [degrees centigrade] pendent 30 minutes, puis mettez le tout dans un endroit frais et réservez 12h pour un égouttage complet. Tassez les tomates dans un moule a génoise beurré et couvrir le tout avec la pâte brisée piquée à la sauge. Mettez au four pendant 20 minutes à 180 [C degrees]. Laissez refroider puis démoulez en retournant. Servez avec le jus d'égouttage comme sauce d’accompagnement.


RECIPE: American Adaptation with Commentary
(Instructions & measures in Café recipe are not as precise as you might expect, & I’ve taken some liberties in trying to make them more precise.)
A rough translation of the French recipe above appears in bold type.

20 fresh tomatoes [medium to large but not too large, red ripe & soft, not hard]
1/2 sprig or bunch sage
1/2 sprig or bunch basil
1/2 sprig or bunch rosemary
[botte=sprig or bunch. In 1 batch I used dried herbs, about 1 tbsp each w/ satisfactory results]
Sugar [500 grams=2 cups]
Olive oil [1/4 liter=1cup. For my tastes I prefer mild to strong. My kitchen olive oil is Nicolas Alziari from the region around Nice. You should choose what you like.]
Pie/pastry dough (You can choose from an array of recipes. I'll give my choice as well as Morgan's. You can also check the Internet.)

Boil a large amount of water. At the same time [or beforehand] make an incision like a cross, at the top of each tomato & cut out the stem (like hulling a strawberry). Scald the tomatoes, then cool in ice water in order to remove skin.
[EXPLANATION of "monder" when used in French cooking. What you want to do is hull, blanche & peel a tomato. In French cooking what you say is monder à tomate. Here are 2 helpful web pages: afin de monder à tomate in English - & To Core, Peel, & Seed Tomatoes http://south]

Cut the peeled tomatoes into halves & let them drain. (I help the process along by scooping out seeds.)
[After tomatoes have drained - eyeball it - place in large baking dish to which you have room to add the caramelized olive oil & sugar. Set the oven at 350 or 355F - 180C=356.]

Make a caramel with olive oil and sugar & incorporate with the (peeled, drained) tomatoes & diced herbs (in baking dish).
[Ah...we have reached the hard part. Don’t be put off. It’s a culinary venture. I’d never tried it before either. It takes patience & perseverance. Morgan calls it "wrestling" & she's right. Here's what you need to know before you start wrestling:
Water boils at 212F, & water + sugar begin to "ball", first step in caramelization, at 238F; at 260F=hard ball, at 285F=soft crack, at 320F=hard crack. What little caramelization I've had to do in preparing dishes, I’ve usually stopped at between 250 & 275F.
The chemistry of heating olive oil is different. It boils at close to 500F, & if you let olive oil & sugar go that far you can throw away the pan. Morgan thinks that a copper melting pan might make things easier. I do own such a pan, but she may be right. I looked online & in cookbooks I own for recipes/techniques for caramelization with olive oil, & I came up with nothing except 1 TV-video reference to Ferran Adrià of elBulli fame showing how to make a blob of caramelized olive oil & sugar. Caramelization is now hot among foodies, but online recipes for olive oil & sugar are scarce.
I've tried 4 or 5 different approaches. I've run the gamut from too little to too much. I've ended up at about the same place as with water & sugar, between 250 & 275F. You can go higher. I experimented with 320F, but the results were unmanageable because the caramelization tasted too burned & the caramel won the wrestling match.
A tip. If the caramel hardens in & sticks to your pan, try running hot water from your faucet to melt it or add water to your pan & heat it on the stove.
When starting caramelization, I set the heat at medium or slightly higher, & when the olive oil reaches between 125 &150F I begin to add the sugar slowly by swirling the pan, not stirring - a suggestion from Julia Child for caramelizing water & sugar.
At 200 it will begin thickening, almost the texture of soup. Watch it closely, for it will turn caramel more quickly than you think. Gently swirl the pan once or twice so you can see what's happening on the bottom of the pan. It will first look streaky caramel & then more solidly caramel. Between 250 & 275F I remove it from the hear & let it sit for a few seconds before adding it to the baking dish. You may find a few clumps of caramelized oil & sugar, but they will mostly melt in the oven. BACK TO THE RECIPE.]

To reduce place dish in oven (on baking sheet) at 350-355F for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven to a cool place, let the tomatoes drain for 12 hrs.
[Upon removal from oven, stir gently to be sure the clumps have dissolved. Place tomatoes in sieve or strainer and let them drain, covered, into a dish (to collect the juice) for the 12 hrs. I usually prepare a day ahead and let drain over night.]

When ready to bake - 350-355F, 20 minutes - pack the drained tomatoes in a round cake pan (the French name is un moule à génoise buerre) & cover with the tart crust (la pâte brisée) making small incisions for pieces of sage.
[Time in the oven will depend on the thickness of your crust, which when done should be golden, firm & crispy. The Tatin feature is that the caramelized tomatoes will cook on the bottom of the pan, as you would do with an upside-down cake.]

Let cool after removing from oven before turning out into a plate. (Remember, turned out, the crust will be on the bottom & the caramelized tomatoes on top.)
[I place a spring or two of the herbs in the recipe on the so or on top of the tart. I also add salt (before baking), which the recipe does not call for. My palate says it enhances the taste of the caramelized tomatoes.]

Serve the jus from the tomatoes during the 12-hr drainage. (Taste it first. As noted above, salt may help.)


FINALLY, END OF STORY/RECIPE. A recipe without a story is worse than eating oatmeal (never do I indulge). Except, to suggest a tranche of cheese like Cantal from the Auvergne, a good red & lots of friends.

Bon Appétit!



My recipe @

Morgan's @ http://smitten


The web site for Café Les Philosophes and other related businesses with recipes, photos, bathrooms, etc. is and Café Les Philosophes is behind fftp....

Open-Air Market, Place de Baudoyer, 4th, Paris

One of the great attractions while I was living in Paris a few years ago was the open-air market, open twice a week at Place Baudoyer, next door to the L'Hotel de Ville along Rue de Rivoli. Such markets are scattered all over the city, but the Place de Baudoyer market was the neighborhood market where I often met and exchanged greetings with people I knew from my building and from other parts of the neighborhood. I also came to know the purveyors. Over time I tended to patronize the same three purveyors - seafood, produce and cheese. Occasionally I checked out other stalls, but by and large I stayed with the same three, all located in one corner of the Place.

The first time I shopped at the poissonerie I was amazed at the choices. And after I had prepared a meal that was so simple - a filet sauteed in butter - I thought to myself so fresh, so delicious, and yes so simple. Later, my landlady, also being a patron, told me her experiences were similar. At the produce booth I came to know the owners well enough that we would talk things besides what I should buy. They always told me the best buys of the day, and they were almost always right. One day next to the featured strawberries was the name gariguettte I asked about them and learned that they were from Provence. The owners offered me several to taste. They were small but, oh, so intensely rich and sweet. I bought a box. On the way home I ate half the box, finished the rest at home and went back to Baudoyer two hours later. The owner saw me coming, had a smile when I arrived, and asked how boxes do you want. And for the next few weeks week I bought gariguettte until the season was finished. If you are interested in learning more, Google gariguettte and you'll have plenty to read and view. Next to the produce booth was cheese booth. A very friendly and helpful woman ran the booth who always took time to explain to me (slowly so I would understand the French) what she knew about the various cheeses. She always had a cheese from the Auvergne that I came to love during my first time I lived in France in the mid-1960-s. I learned from her how to distinguish between cantal vieux and cantal jeune, (color and texture). The young cheese comes from milk produced by cows grazing on spring grass and the old cheese from fall-grass-fed cows. I prefer vieux, but I was never disappointed when she had only the young. She also sold fresh butter - in a chunk - and fresh eggs - without a carton. When I returned this past January, beardless, I reintroduced myself to the purveyors, and, yes, they said they remembered. Whether they did or didn't was of little consequence. I was glad to be there again, buying what I would take back, not to Tacherie this time but to Boulangers for a wonderful meal.

The video begins with a shot of the apartment building where I lived for several years on Rue de la Tacherie. Please note that the entrance to the building was almost hidden by red motor bikes, owned by a pizza shop with a delivery service, on the left side of the doorway. On the right side was a Chinese restaurant that was almost always full for lunch and dinner. I never tried the pizza or the restaurant (not being a big fan of Chinese food). Across the street, however, was Girard Chocolates, one of Paris's foremost chocolatiers. I walked across Tacherie more times than I should have. (While I lived on Tacherie the retail shop occupied the ground floor of the building where the chocolates were fabricated. Since then the retail shop has moved to 4 Rue Archives, across the street from BHV, off Rue Rivoli.) If you can't go to Paris, check out Dragees-Girard on the Web and drool.

For YouTube video click here


For YouTube video click here

Machu Picchu is the only place I’ve ever visited that was both spectacular and solemn. I knew a little about the history of the site because my field is colonial Latin America. What I found when I got there was more than I could ever have anticipated. Many historical accounts exist in libraries and on-line for those who want to know about when, why and how it was built, and who built and who rediscovered it.

In this account I’m simply recalling some memories with the help of a video. No one can deny Machu Picchu is spectacular. Many arrive by way of the Inca Trail that twists and turns its way through the upper reaches of the Andean ranges. What they see upon arrival at the top of Machu Picchu is a panoramic view plus the deep valley through which the Urubamba River flows and the adjoining mountain ranges that played a role in the construction of Machu Picchu. After days on the trail with its own memorable views Machu Picchu must have been the ultimate “wow” moment.

Not being the trail type I did not arrive that way. My journey to Machu Picchu began in Lima where I was staying. Upon arriving at the airport we were confronted with an unannounced and perhaps unplanned labor stoppage. We debated whether to stay around in hopes of a resolution coming as quickly as the decision to strike, and indeed about 10 AM the stoppage was called off and an hour or so later we boarded the plane for Cuzco. I’d never been on a flight where the plane took off from the coast and then turned its nose up as if it were meant to operate perpendicularly, exactly what it had to do to reach Cuzco from sea-level to 13,000 feet.

Once in Cuzco under the brightest and closest sun I can ever remember, we made our way to our lodging where our hostess suggested because of the drastic altitude change some coca tea and a nap, and I did both (I come from a great napping family). Maybe it was the tea or the nap, I don’t know, but when I awake I felt wonderful and spent the rest of the day exploring Cuzco. The late evening meal at a restaurant on the plaza, upstairs, served an array of meats and potatoes--never had I eaten such delicious potatoes in more styles and colors than I knew existed--and listened to various musicians playing those wonderful Andean pipes. The night was not so good. A dog in the courtyard keep me awake most of the night, and after so little sleep I was really grouchy.

The trip was by train, and my sour mood began to lift as the “switchback” train began its climb--forward, backward and then forward again--until it reached and crossed the top of a mountain to head to Machu Picchu. Never before had I ridden a switchback. The ride to Machu Picchu(about 50 miles)was actually downhill since the site is more than a mile lower. Arriving at the station below Machu Picchu, we disembarked into a bus. Another switchback of sorts was ahead of us, a bit unnerving, I recall, because there was little backward driving but a lot of forward driving along the edge of the road beyond which there was an abyss. (These trips surely can’t be made during the rainy season, I thought. They can barely be made in the dry season.)

No words can describe what I felt as I debussed at the lodge. I was so tired because of the noisiest perro in all of Peru the previous night, and yet I suddenly felt enthralled and invigorated. The day and evening were spent walking, climbing, sitting, reflecting, conversing, admiring, marveling -- both the body and mind were fully engaged. Everywhere one turned the majesty of Machu Picchu revealed itself. And yet the nagging thought--it shouldn’t be here on this site in this place. The brilliance of the stone carvings contrasted sharply with the monumentality of construction tasks. Pachacuti, perhaps the greatest of the Incas, built Machu Picchu as an outpost for him, his family and his retinue. His subjects actually built Machu Picchu. Whatever the cost for them Machu Picchu is more a tribute to their fortitude than to Pachacuti’s foresight. That is the source of Machu Picchu’s solemnity. As I made my way to the peak where the agricultural hut sat (and close to where the Inca Trail ended), I was struck how quiet it was despite scores of tourists milling about on the plateau below.

At the hut I was sitting on a rock and I was thinking about why Pachacuti allegedly chose the site--the visage of a god created by the mountain peaks--when I was joined by someone I’d never seen and didn’t know. Nothing was said at first, both of us trance-like. But how could two people, sitting side by side, not want to talk about what they saw. My companion was from Miami and originally from Cuba. His family had fled the rule of Fidel Castro.

I had spent a good many years teaching about Castro and Cuba, and having taught a fair number of students whose parents or grandparents had fled Cuba, I pretty much knew the story I was going to hear. His story was not much different, but that was not the story he wanted to tell me--that was only a prelude to the story he needed to tell--a lifelong dream to come to Machu Picchu. His roots were Hispanic, not indigenous, but like so many other Latin Americans I had met over the years he had to complete the cultural, perhaps even spiritual, circle.

Machu Picchu was a powerful symbol of what had not been lost in the European conquests, as destructive as they were, but it was also a powerful presence in which to reflect on the world that had emerged from the conquests themselves. The term conquest is virtually absence in United States history, even though our indigenous peoples feel conquered; but it defines the history of Latin America. My Machu Picchu experience was historical and aesthetic, but for a moment or two I sensed something stronger and deeper about how we all try to come to terms with the past. We sat a while longer in silence, and when we got up, we shared an abrazo and began our descent.

The video shows may aspects of Machu Picchu without trying to identify precisely what is what. You can find historical and archeological reconstructions with professional photographs on many web pages. While our guide, studying for his doctorate at the university in Cuzco, was well grounded in the academic investigations and controversies, some of which I knew also, Machu Picchu became more of a personal journey. I tried (as I am wont to do) to talk to the Peruvians who worked at the lodge and on the grounds about this Machu Picchu rather than the historic one.

Something I had observed was a series of paths streaming off in different directions, mainly downward, on the edge of the site. I inquired of one of the workers what the paths were for. In most cases they were trails that the workers who lived in the valleys or on the other mountains used to reach their jobs. It took between 45 and 60 minutes for most of them to make the ascent and a little less time to make the descent. I already knew that when Machu Picchu was built, the workers lived across the valley on the side of an opposing mountain, and that recent excavations had revealed substantial settlements in various locations. The worker seemed to think that the trails he used were the same trails his ancestors had used. Perhaps that was true, but more interesting was the fact that 500 years later many workers, men and women, were making the same trip in the same way. In an odd way this represented the timelessness of Machu Picchu.


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In spite of my affection for Café des Philosophes and its menu I have explored other eateries in Le Marais and across Paris. I have not kept track of all my restaurant ventures in large part because I'm too lazy to be so disciplined. If I had a list, it would include some of the places I've been to at the invitation of friends from Hawaii. They spend about 2 months a year in Paris, and besides their passion for music, in particular opera, they are also passionate about food. We met by accident. We had seats in the same box at Théâtre des Champs-Élysée (along with Kurt Mazur, who was sitting in front of us and whom we did not know and did not talk to, regrettably). I gave them my email address, and some weeks late, much to my surprise because they did not write it down, I received a message. The next time we met l had taken up residence in Paris almost directly across the Seine from their apartment. This past January (2008) we met up again. This year, one of their restaurant picks was Le Rancard Gourmond. They know more about the Paris restaurant scene than anybody I know personally including some Parisian friends. A few of their choices would qualify as cafés or bistros, but the majority were smore upscale. I'm grateful they include me; otherwise I'd fall back on my hit-and-miss approach or just show up at the places I knew so well.

Le Rancard Gourmand is a small restaurant at 65 Quai de la Tournelle in the Fifth Arrondissement, across the waterway from Notre Dame. In fact it was only steps from my friends' apartment and a few blocks from mine. I'm not sure that it was on their prepared list for this trip. I think maybe they walked by it one day, stopped, inquired and decided to try it with me and another friend in tow. I too had walked past it many times, but my restaurant antenna unlike theirs doesn't always work so well. We arrived about 12:30 and three hours later we exited. Superb food, memorable wine and wonderful conversation including a visit with the owner-chef, Herik Busk. There was a picture near our table of Herik and Paul Bocuse, under whom Herik served as an apprentice. When he wrote his name on his card, he stressed that his name was Busk and Bush. We would never have confused the two. The cuisine is described as franco- itaIiano. I ordered grilled sea bass on risotto, which seemed to fit the description. The sea bass was perfectly prepared, slightly crispy and full of flavor. Toward the end of the meal the chef presented each of us with a glass of Armagnac, and we all toasted a good meal and a good time. There are thousands of good restaurants in Paris, but, if you are in the neighborhood, check it out. It's even worth a trip if you aren't in the neighborhood.

When I was living at Rue de la Tacherie (2002-2004) I was surrounded by good restaurants, bistros and cafés. Across from the Tour Saint-Jacques (the remaining structure of the church, Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie on Rue de Rivoli), a block from my Tacherie apartment, begins Rue Saint-Martin, which runs past Centre de Pompidou two blocks later. Between Rivoli and Pompidou there are a half-dozen eateries, all which I have tried more than once. The most prominent restaurant or more accurately bistro is Benoit, founded in 1912. When I ate there, it was still owned and operated by the Benoit family, but a year or so after I left it was sold to Alain Ducasse. Friends of mine said the change in ownership has been good for this restaurant that stuck a bit too long with traditional cuisine. (Recently an A. Ducasse's Benoit opened in NYC.) Across from Benoit is Le Grizzili. I love its French fries, the grilled fish or steak and the crême brulée. A very distinguished French historian, whom I have known for 40 years, joined me there for le dejeuner. He had never heard of it, and on this warm, sunny day he was quite content to spend the afternoon sitting outside at the Grizzili, enjoying the food and wine and watching the pedestrian traffic on Saint-Martin (no vehicular traffic permitted on the lower end). Where Rue de la Verreie crosses Saint-Martin there is good café for seafood and across from it another café with excellent coffee. If you continue along Saint-Martin you'll end up at the Pompidou. At the top of the Centre is a restaurant called Georges. Let me warn you that the reviews on the food and service are decidedly mixed, but after 3 or 4 meals there I have no complaint about food. The décor is glass and metal, with which I'm perfectly comfortable, and the staff is aloof, which doesn' much bother me. No one can complain about the view. (in fact I could see my own apartment building from Georges.)

Along a street that I often walked in Le Marais is Camille at 24 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois. Complimentary wine at your table is a wonderful way to start any meal. Camille is often very busy, and I found mid- afternoon was the best time to get a table. I usually chose from the blackboard listings and the soups and stews never disappointed.

Two Latin American friends were in Paris at the same time I was this past January. I met them in 2002-2004. They have finished one set of degrees from the University of Paris, and after their marriage this summer they will return to continue their studies. To celebrate our January reunion and their July marriage I invited them to choose a restaurant for a evening of food, wine (champagne), conversation and remembrance. We ended up at a small restaurant - La Petit Provence - on a street whose name I do not remember, although it intersected with Rue de Mouffetard not far from Place Contrescarpe (perhaps Rue Pot de Feu) in the Fifth Arrondissement. Having once lived in Toulouse, I eat southern French cassoulets as often as I can, and I made the right choice at Provence. (I can also recommend highly the cassoulet at Café Joul on First Avenue near 57th in New York City.) We started with champagne and ended with liqueur, had our picture taken, and finally joined the merry-making, youthful crowd in Place Contrescarpe. They are the sort of friends you don't ever want to lose track of.

The following night I returned to the same area (a 10-minute walk from my apartment) on Rue des Boulangers and dined next door at La Table d'Artagnon, the café. The complimentary kir set the tone for the evening. I was the only patron until just before I left when it began to fill up (old guys have early bedtimes) , and I was treated like royalty. Fortunately or unfortunately I had ordered a champagne when I sat down, so I had both the champagne and kir to finish before the meal arrived. Several times the manager stopped at my table to talk about the menu. I had a delicious, creamy soupe de jour - of potatoes and leeks (like a vichyssoise) and a crispy grilled salmon with an herb-based sauce, flaky but not overdone, the way I like to cook salmon. Comte de D'Artagnon would have been pleased as was I. Again I walked through the neighborhood, spent some time listening to the musicians and watching the crowd in Place Contrescarpe before heading down Rue Descartes and Rue Clovis to Rue des Boulangers.

When I first arrived in Paris in 1963 with a six-week-old daughter. We stayed for almost a month in the Hotel Perreyve on Rue Madame. Almost every night we crossed the intersecting street, Rue de Fleurus, to the tiny Café Bambino. Obviously it was my first experience with French café food. The menu was simple, but I still recall with the delight eating bifteck haché, with a taste and texture that diminished my memory of eating American ground beef. We also learned quickly at the Bambino how welcoming the French were of children, the owners and the neighbors who frequented the Café. It was a memorable way to launch our year in France.

Today the Bambino is the home of a fairly prominent Paris restaurant, Restaurant Chez Gramond. During my only visit to Chez Gramond (2002) I shared my memories with Monsieur and Madam Gramond. They bought the Bambino in 1967 and completely renovated it. M. Gramond, from the Auvergne and trained in Toulouse, is a respected chef. Everything about the restaurant from décor to menu bespeaks tradition. Gertrude Stein was said to have lived in their residence behind the restaurant, and Ernest Hemingway down the street. Other writers and artists were known to have resided in the neighborhood. The menu is heavy on game dishes, and since I am not a fan of game, I ordered a fairly predictable Coquille Saint-Jacques. Perhaps the best part of the meal for me was the cheese, a generous portion of cantal vieux and a fresh baguette tradition. For some a meal at Chez Gramond may be more heavily accented with the past than they prefer, although I can assure you that M. Gramond makes no apologies for that. Afterwards you can then walk down the block to one of the city's finest gardens - Luxembourg - and join hundsreds of Parisians who know how to enjoy leisure in a public garden. Honestly, it seems a bit silly and arrogant to tell people where I have eaten in a city that allows one to choose from more than 13,000 eateries. Walk along almost any street, check out the posted menus, and take a chance. And then you can write about your choices, not as recommendations but as memories you want to capture before they're gone for good.

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