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Mystery Meal and Cafe Gourmand [Jul. 29th, 2014|09:45 am]
I'm not normally a huge fan of art museums. I like science and natural history museums a good deal and I also can appreciate straight historical exhibits about particularly interesting time periods or people. But not that much art speaks to me. At the Art Institute of Chicago I basically don't appreciate anything in the modern wing – I'd prefer to look at the classical stuff, especially ancient sculpture, jewelry and pottery.

But it's really hard to be blasé about a museum where every single work is by a master. All the names you think of when you think of French art are there: Picasso, Matisse, Renoir. There are some super weird paintings plus all the nudes and still lives you'd expect but also portraits that just seem incredibly alive.

The most impressive part is the two rooms devoted to Monet's "Water Lilies" murals that were built after World War I as a place for peaceful reflection. The rooms are circular and the paintings are massive, with four in each room showing different times or colors. They're just awe-inspiring. My mom and sister split from us pretty much as soon as we got to the museum so Kevin and I just wandered at our own pace and then checked out the three Rodin sculptures outside the museum which are also incredible.

Then we set off walking to the Eiffel Tower, again meandering as we went to check out impressive buildings and sculpture which Paris is just full of. We were getting hungry when we were in a fairly residential area still about a mile from the Eiffel Tower and found a restaurant where I had my favorite meal of the trip. We were the only non-French people there and the menu was in French so I wasn't entirely sure what I was ordering. But they had a two-course lunch special which everyone there was doing that sounded exciting and was awesome. The appetizer was smoked salmon with peppercorn and dill and for entrees Kevin got an awesome whitefish with herbs and I had pasta with chicken and olives. I don't know what they do to poultry in Paris but their duck tastes like steak and their chicken tastes like duck.

For my second course I'd opted for cheese (which is a dessert in France) and it was amazing bleu cheese with fresh baked bread. We saw the couples on both sides of us with little trays of miniature desserts with a cappuccino in the middle and thought they looked delicious but didn't know what they were. An older couple sitting next to us saw us gawking and explained in English that it was called cafe gourmand and is a selection of the house's desserts "in miniature portion so you don't have to feel guilty about it." Despite the stereotypes, I found every single person we interacted with in Paris to be quite nice, even if we didn't speak French. So we ordered the cafe gourmand too and it was amazing: a tiny crème brulee, a little soufflé, a scoop of strawberry ice cream and some other pastry that was a bit like tres leche. Thoroughly satisfied we continued walking to the Eiffel Tower.