Stage 20: Longjumeau to Champs Elysees
Oh dear, the day has come, the day I dread all year long for it is the end of the Tour de France. As the riders get closer and closer to Paris the depression sets in and then the first sight of the Eiffel Tower pushes me over the edge. But it is the sight of that iron lady and then the upcoming Louvre and the golden Joan of Arc greeting the tired riders that hold me together somewhat. As we count down the eight laps of the Champs Elysees it is mostly just pageantry until they get to the last turn and sprint to the finish, it is quite prestigious to win on the Champs Elysees especially for a Frenchman. So sit back and grab a class of champagne this is going to be a good one and there is lots of information for you here to take in and everything you would want to know about the route to the Champs.
The start town of Longjumeau sits in the northern part of the department of the Essonne in the Ile-de-France region and located just 18 miles outside of Paris from Point Zero outside of Notre Dame. An excavation of the area led to the discovery of the remains of a Villa Rustica dating Longjumeau back to Gallo-Roman time and sitting on the Roman road from Lutece. In 1288 the Pont des Templiers was built near the Commandery monastery of Balizy. The Romanesque style bridge is forty yards long with three arches and is one of the oldest bridges in the entire Paris and Ile-de-France region.
Meudon just 5 miles from Paris was the home and final resting place of the French sculptor Francois-Auguste-Rene Rodin. Born November 12, 1840 in Paris and moved to Meudon in 1908 into the Hotel Biron. By this time he was a world renowned artist with his work being exhibited at the World’s Fair and was known for his sculpting of the human body with such realism and character. Some of his most famous work includes The Age of Bronze, The Walking Man, The Kiss and the most recognized The Thinker. On November 17, 1917 Rodin would die and be buried at his home with a cast of The Thinker beside him. It was his request that the statue would be both his headstone and epitaph. He would leave his studio and the casts of his sculptures to the French state and the rights to recreate any of his works. His home was turned into a museum in 1919 and holds the largest collection of Rodin in the world.
Issy-les-Moulineaux is the city literally on the edge of Paris; in fact part of Issy was annexed to Paris in 1860 and created the Javel neighborhood of the 15th arrondissement. Once the home of the Chateau d’Issy built in 1681 by président à mortier Denis Talon asking the landscape architect to the Kings André Le Nôtre to design the gardens and architect Pierre Bullet to create a small mansion. He would die before it was completed and in 1669 François Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Conti purchased the estate and used Bullet to make some modifications. By his death in 1709 the chateau had been completely renovated and remained in the Conti family. Louis Francois de Bourbon, grandson of Francois lived there for a short time with his wife until she died during childbirth and could never return again. During the French Revolution the ownership fell to the nation and finally during the Commune of 1871 it was set on fire and partially destroyed. It remained in ruins until 1910 when it was finally destroyed, today nothing remains but the French sculptor Auguste Rodin rescued the pediment and columns of the garden façade and placed them at his home in Meudon.
And now they come to Paris and the first sight of the Eiffel Tower. The very final part of the stage has been the same with the finish on the Champs Elysees since the 70’s and the loop around the Jardin Tuileries, Rue de Rivoli and Place de la Concorde. But the entrance in to Paris changes. Last year it came from the eastern side along the Quai’s and past Notre Dame. This year it comes in from the west and below the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty that sits at the end of the Ile des Cygnes.
To pass into Paris it is over the Ile Saint German and River Seine. It is still technically part of Issy-Les-Moulineaux and the department of the Hauts-de-Seine which wraps Paris like the letter C on the west side. The Ile Saint German was once the location of a military camp but was redeveloped in the 1990’s with offices, apartment buildings and parks and even a horse club.
And after they cross the Seine it is a right turn onto the Quai du Point du Jour that turns into the Quai Saint-Exupery. Every French child knows this name and I am sure most American children do as well. Named after author and aviator Antoine de Saint Exupery he wrote the well known children’s book, Le Petit Prince, The Little Prince. My grandparents brought me one back from France when they went the first time which was only a few months after I was born, so I was really meant to be raised French, I think. Saint Exupery was born in Lyon on June 29, 1900 and would become a pilot running mail from Toulouse to Dakar. At the start of the Second World War he joined the Armee de l’Air, French Air Force and flew reconnaissance missions until June 22, 1940, the second Armistice with Germany. He later joined the Free French Forces and while flying a reconnaissance in a P-38 Lightning over the Rhone Valley to track the German movements he disappeared. He had taken off from Corsica in the early evening of July 31, 1944 and never seen again. An unidentifiable body was discovered several days later dressed in a French uniform, but it is still unknown if it was him. In 1998 a fisherman found a silver identity bracelet with the Saint-Exupery’s name on it attached to a piece of fabric thought to be his flight suit. His plane was discovered in 2000 off the coast of Marseille and it was confirmed that it was in fact his plane. The location was just less than 50 miles from where the body was recovered and although not confirmed it is possible it was him. The Little Prince was written in 1942 when he was in living in a penthouse apartment at Central Park South in New York City. Published in 1943 it has since been translated in over 190 languages and selling more than 80 million copies and making it the best selling French language book ever.
Next up is the Quai Louis Bleroit, originally names Quai d’Auteuil but changed to the French aviator and aircraft manufacturer in 1937. Louis Bleroit was born in Cambrai France (stage 4) in 1872. He created headlights for cars after studying engineering at the Ecole Centrale Paris. In 1909 he would make the first flight across the English Channel leaving Les Baraques France and landing in Dover. The 36kilometers would take just over 37 minutes and the exact spot that he landed is marked today with a granite memorial in the shape of his plane.
Just to the right on the River Seine lies the long thin strip known as Ile des Cygnes or Isle of Swans. The manmade island created in 1827 to protect the Port of Grenelle. It is 2,789 feet long and 36 feet wide and the l’Allee des Cygnes, a tree lined walkway runs down the center the entire length. Three bridges cross the Ile des Cygnes, the Pont de Grenelle, Pont de Bir-Hakeim and the Pont Rouelle. Sitting on the western edge is a replica of the Statue of Liberty, the same as the one in the New York harbor. One fifth in size and 72 feet high it is the “little sister” of the lady liberty given to the US from France. French President Carnot had it installed and dedicated it on July 4, 1889 , three years after the American one and a gift from Parisians people living in the United States to the people of Paris. A plaque on the base is inscribed with July 4, 1776-July 14, 1789 in regards to the American Independence Day and the French Bastille Day. If you have seen the National Treasure 2 movie you would have seen this statue as it is part of the plot. I have to admit I will watch that movie just for the scene in Paris.
The Voie Georges Pompidou is next on our itinerary. Named after the French President Georges Pompidou in 1976 just two years after his death. The Georges Pompidou runs along the Seine off and on all the way out the other side of Paris. But since it is Paris the same street also has different names along the way. Pompidou was the Prime Minister of France from 1962- 1968 and became the 19th President of the French Republic and Co-Prince of Andorra in June 1969 following Charles de Gaulle. He served the longest tenure of anybody in that role until his death on April 2, 1974.
The Avenue de New York runs in front of the Trocaderro and across from the Eiffel Tower. Originally named the Avenue de Tokyo the name was changed in 1945 after the Second World War when Japan was an ally of the German Nazi’s it was changed to New York in part for the United States that came to liberate France. Running alongside the Seine the Quai de Passy was changed to Avenue du President Kennedy in 1964. The Avenue de New York goes through the tunnel under the Pont’ de l’Alma, the l’Alma tunnel was the site of a very tragic event on a warm August night in 1997. On top of the tunnel is a flame that resembles the flame of the American Statue of Liberty that was given to Paris by the International Herald Tribune in 1989. After the death of Princess Diana it was turned into an unofficial memorial to the Queen of Hearts.
Onto the Quai des Tuileries which is mostly just a fenced off one way street that travels next to the Jardin des Tuileries and heads toward the Louvre and the Quai du Louvre. Tuilerie means “tile industry” in French and the Quai got its name from the Jardin and the Palais des Tuileries that was once there and built upon the site where tile kilns once stood. Built in 1564 by Catherine de’Medici after the death of her husband Henry II of France, the large long and narrow buildings enclosed three courtyards on a large expanse of land and closed off what is now the Louvre courtyard. It stood until 1871 during the Paris Commune and twelve men were ordered to set fire to the Palais. Using petroleum, liquid tar and turpentine then lit the fire around 7pm on May 23, 1871 and the fire continued to burn for 48 hours completely destroying the Palais des Tuileries. The burnt skeleton of the Palais stood for eleven years before the French National Assembly voted to have it demolished and sold it to a private entrepreneur. It took seven months to finish the demolition and some of the marble and stone was taken to build the Chateau de la Punta in Alata Corisca.
After Catherine de’Medici began construction on the Palais she also created an Italian style park with fountains, statues, grotto and menagerie. The Jardin consisted of six by eight compartments that had different trees, lawns and flowers that were surrounded by the garden ornaments and statues. Later Henry IV added the Orangery and a silkworm farm as well. In 1664 French landscape architect Andre le Notre added raised terraces, created pools and formal flower beds that are all still there today. Now the Jardin is one of the largest parks in Paris and covers 63 acres and still holds true to the design of Le Notre. His plan of the reflecting pools extending along a central axis from the west became part of the Axe Historique .
The Axe Historique extends from the west just outside of Paris in the business district of La Defense when in 1980’s Francois Mitterrand had a more modern arch built by Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen. La Grande Arche was dedicated in 1990 and sits atop an elevated plaza over the Tunnel de La Defense. Heading west the Axis goes over the River Seine and the Ile de Puteaux on the Pont de Neuilly through the Place de la Porte Maillot and the edge of the Boise de Boulogne. Further down the Avenue de La Grand Armee is the crowning point of the Charles de Gaulle Etoile where the Arc de Triomphe sits (we will get back to that later), keep heading down the Avenue des Champs Elysees where you will see the Obelisque de Louqsor on the Place de la Concorde, through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and finally ending at the equestrian statue of Louis XIV just in front of the I.M. Pei Pyramided y Louvre in the Cour Napolean of the Musee du Louvre.
Now we are getting closer and closer to the finish, with a left turn onto the Avenue du General-Lemonnier that is a tunnel that goes under the edge of the Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin du Carrousel. The Avenue was originally named Avenue Paul Deroulede, named for the French author and politician of the French right-wing. On March 25, 1957 it was changed to Avenue du General-Lemonnier, named after Emile-Rene Lemonnier who was a commanding officer of the 3rd Brigade of the division of Tonkin in Indochine, now known as Vietnam. In 1945 after a takeover of Manila the Japanese attacked and Lemonnier was captured, he was beheaded on March 10, 1945. Today on the Avenue is a sign that says “The ten-March 1945, Lang Son captured by the enemy, out of ammunition, has twice refused to sign a total capitulation, preferred to be beheaded rather than forfeit the honor will remain in history as a striking example of what is the will of the French character”
Taking a left onto the Rue de Rivoli it is the last street before the riders hit the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. The Rue de Rivoli was commissioned by Napoleon following his victory over the Austrians in the Battle of Rivoli in Italy in 1797. Napoleon wanted a street that would extend from the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries to the Champs Elysees. First conceived by Napoleon in 1802 it did not begin construction for many years and was only partially completed in 1835. Napoleon died in 1821 before he was able to see any of the completion but the vision was carried on. King Charles X, King Louis-Phillippe and Emperor Napoleon III continued the Rue de Rivoli into the Marais district of the 4th Arrondissement. Today it is one of the most famous streets in Paris and is lined with Neoclassical apartments and at one time the fanciest shops from the biggest names in fashion.
Just on the corner of the Rue de Rivoli and the Avenue du General-Lemonnier is the public square of Place de Pyramides. Named for Napoleons victory in Egypt in 1798 and the nearby Rue des Pyramides, but the jewel of the square is the amazing gilded statue of Joan of Arc by Emmanuel Fremiet. Created in 1874 the statue stands close to where she was injured by a crossbow arrow into her leg at the Saint-Honore Gate during the attack on the English as they held Paris on September 8, 1429. It was to be one of her last battles before she was captured in May 1430 in Compiegne by the Burgundians and then later sold to the English. After being convicted of heresy she was sentenced to death by burning and on May 30, 1431 she was tied to a pillar in the Vieux-Marche in Rouen. After she had died they moved the coals to expose her body and then burned her body two more times to reduce her to ashes. Her remains were tossed into the River Seine. Today she is one of the highest regarded heroines in all of French history, as she should be.
In researching this I discovered that the “sister” statue to the Joan of Arc in Paris is right here in my very own Portland, Oregon. It was made from the very same cast as the one in Paris created by Emmanuel Fremiet and like her sister is covered in gold gilding. It was erected in 1924 in honor of the veterans’ of World War I in the Laurelhurst area of Portland. I have driven by it many times and it is located in the center of a traffic round, and can’t believe I never really noticed it before. I see many visits in my future that may be the perfect spot for a French picnic….. Ok, back to Paris. (this photo is the one in Portland)
Just rounding the corner from the Rue de Rivoli and making a wide arc of an entrance onto the Place de la Concorde. The largest public square in Paris and Europe is over 86,000 square meters and sits at the Eastern end of the Champs Elysees and is in line of the Axe Historique. Built in 1755 and designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel and was named Place Louis XV and was home of the equestrian statue of the king. But in 1792 it was torn down, the square was renamed Place de la Revolution and the Guillotine was placed there instead. Set just to the east of where the Obelisk stands today it was on this spot that Louis XVI was beheaded on January 21, 1793 and then 10 months later Marie Antoinette. The Place de la Revolution was the spot of a lot of bloodshed and in the summer of 1794 it was the spot of the “Reign of Terror” where 1,119 people were executed in just one month. The Guillotine was removed in 1795 and the square was renamed the Place de la Concorde for a short period. From 1814 to 1823 it was again named Place Louis XV, in 1830 changed to Place Louis XVI, shortly to Place de la Charte until it was finally changed to Place de la Concorde and remains so still today. Concorde translates to harmony, funny for a place that has seen so much death and bloodshed in its history. So let’s focus on the beautiful part of the Place de la Concorde instead. (Although I can go on for days about Marie Antoinette) As you enter the Place on foot from the Jardin des Tuileries and just past the Musee de L’Orangerie and at the main gate on either side of you are the large equestrian statues Les chevaux de Marly. The winged horses sit atop the gate pillars and were done by Antoine Coysevox in the early 1700’s. At one time they were at Louis XV’s Chateau Marly and then in the mid 18th century after it was destroyed during the revolution they were brought to the Louvre and exact copies were made that you see today.
The octagon shape of the Place de la Concorde was at one time surrounded by a moat and small stone bridges stretched across the area adjoining the Place to the Tuilleries. On each of the eight sides sat a small stone pavilion used to get down into the ditch and later topped with statues depicting the eight large cities of France. The eight statues were each made by a different artist and represent the great French cities of Bordeaux, Brest, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Rouen and Strasbourg and were installed in 1836 by Jacob Ignaz Hittorf during a redesign of the Place from 1833 to 1846. During the reign of Louis-Phillippe from 1830-1848, the most improvement made to the Place de la Concorde and still holds true today. It was Louis-Phillippe who decided that a statue in the middle of the Place should not have any political ties and decided on a large Obelisk that Mehemet Ali, the Viceroy of Egypt had presented to France in 1831. It took over three years for the Obelisk to arrive in Paris and on October 25, 1836 it was erected in the center of the Place. The Obelisk weighs 230 tons and stretching to the sky over 75 feet and the rose Syene granite obelisk is over 3300 years old and is covered with hieroglyphics that tell the story of the pharaoh Ramses II.
On either side of the Obelisk are two fountains each designed by Jacque-Ignace Hottorff and were based on a water theme because of their close relation to the Ministry of Navy building that overlooks the Place de la Concorde. With a nod to the great fountains of Rome and specifically the Piazza Navona and Piazza San Pietro, Hittorff patterned their placement on either side of the Obelisk. The statues on the north, Fontaine des Fleuves is devoted to the Rivers with figures that depict the River Rhone and the River Rhine and the riches that can be found there, Harvesting fruit, flowers, vineyards and agriculture. On the South the Fontaine de Mers is dedicated to the Sea and specifically the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Fishing, coral and collecting pearls are all things that can be seen within the statue.
One of the last things in the Place is at the entrance to the Champs Elysees. The second set of equestrian statues sit atop the pedestals that mark the beginning of the most famous boulevard in the world. Known as the Chevaus de Marly as well these were made by Guillaume Coustou and were made between 1743 and 1745. Like the other equestrian statues on the other side these were moved from the Chateau Marly and placed on the Place de la Concorde in 1794. In 1984 they were replaced with copies and the originals today sit in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre museum.
And now we are here, the final stretch of the Tour de France. Every year since 1975 the Tour de France has finished on the Avenue de Champs Elysees, and what could be the most beautiful street in the world. In France it is known as La plus belle avenue du monde or “The most beautiful avenue in the world” but I can’t think of the Champs Elysees without hearing the classic song by Joe Dassin released in 1969. The avenue runs from the Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle and stretches 2,055 yards. The Champs Elysees was built in 1667 by Andre Le Notre, at the request of Jean-Baptiste Colbert who was the Minister of Finance to Louis XIV at the time. Le Notre was the gardener for Louis XIV who also designed the gardens of Versailles, Tuileries and Fountainbleu and was told to design the area between the Tuileries and the Saint Germain en Laye to open up the space. Colbert wanted to “have an avenue of trees planted between the Tuileries as far as the hill of Challot (today the Place de Gaulle-Etoile)The Champs was property of the Crown until 1792 and in 1828 under Charles X it was handed over to the Ville de Paris. The name comes from Greek mythology, Elysium was a section of the Underworld. The Elysian Fields was the final resting place for the souls for the virtuous and heroic.
One cannot think of the Champs Elysees without the crowning glory at the end of it. Of the iconic elements of Paris, the Arc de Triomphe is near the top of the list. The Eiffel Tower is #1 of course, and it is my list of iconic places so there. The Arc de Triomphe sits in the center of the Place de l’Etolie, on the western most end of the Champs Elysees at the top of the hill of Chaillot. The Place de l’Etolie is translated to “Place of Stars” and is the junction where 12 avenues including the Champs Elysees meet and three arrondissements, the 8th, 17th & 17th and was once the boundary of Paris. The current design adopted by Haussman dates back to 1854 with the 120m in diameter circle. In 1970 the name was changed to Place Charles de Gaulle after the death of the former General and President.
Emperor Napoleon had commissioned the Arc de Triomphe in 1806 to glorify the military victories of the French Grande Armee during the Napoleonic Wars, but Napoleon died before he was able to see the finished icon. Work began on Napoleon’s birthday, August 15, 1806 and took over 30 years to build and finish and was finally completed with the help of King Louis-Phillippe in 1836. It stands 164 feet high, 148 feet long and 73 feet wide and was inspired by Rome’s Arch of Janus. The East façade depicts the French armies departure to new campaigns above the arch and the thirty shields on the attic bear the name of each of Napoleon’s victories in Europe and Asia. To the left of the arch on the East side is a bas-relief by Seurre the Elder depicting Napoleon’s victory over the Turkish army in 1799. On the right is the bas-relief of General Marceau’s funeral, the General defeated the Austrians in 1795 and was killed the following year while still fighting them. On the lower left side of the arch is the high-relief “Triumph of Napoleon” by JP Cortot and celebrates the Treat of Vienna peace agreement of 1810. On the right of the arch is the Francois Rude’s high-relief “Departure of the Volunteers in 1792” also known as “The Marseillaise” showing the citizens of France leaving to defend the nation. On the West façade looking toward the La Defense is “The Resistance of 1814” on the left and on the right “The Peace of 1815” both by A Etex. Within the arches are the name of the 150 Imperial and Republican victories and 664 officers
The Arc de Triomphe has seen its fair share of history, beginning with the wedding march of Marie-Louise to Napoleon in 1810 although construction had barely started at that point and a wood and canvas mock up was installed. Napoleon never saw it completed but would finally pass under the arch on December 15, 1840 on his way to his final resting place at the Invalides. Over two million people visited the Arc in 1885 to pay respects to Victor Hugo and the beginning of the funeral procession to the Pantheon. In 1919 it was the site of the Victory parade of the Allied armies through the Arc following the First Word War. It was in 1920 when the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was interred below the arch on Armistice day and the eternal flame was lit, it is remembered with a ceremony every November 11th. During a visit to Paris in 1961, President Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy paid their respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After that horrible day in 1963 Jackie recalled that visit and the eternal flame at the Arc and asked for the same thing to be placed at JFK’s grave at Arlington Cemetery. On November 25, 1963 French President Charles de Gaulle was there to see Jackie light the flame and has remained to this day.
The Tour ends on the Champs Elysees only .2 kilometers from the Arc de Triomphe with the Rue de Presbourg on the left and Rue de Tilsitt and the Rue Arsene Houssaye on the right. The Rue de Presbourg and the Rue de Tilsitt encircle the Place Charles de Gaulle as a complete circle with the Presbourg on the South and Tilsitt on the North. On the South side of the Champs, the Rue de Presbourg was named after the diplomatic victory of Napoleon “the Peace of Pressburg of 1805”. The Treaty was signed on December 26, 1805 between Austria and France after France defeated the Austrians at Ulm and Austerlitz and the truce on December 4th. Both the Presbourg and Tilsitt were officially named by decree on March 2, 1864 and due to its closeness to the Arc de Triomphe both were so aptly named after a “Triomphe” of Napoleon. On the right side of the Champs is the Rue de Tilsitt and the Rue Arsene Houssaye, but first the Rue de Tilsit. The other half of the circle around the circle and was also named after one of Napoleons diplomatic victories. Named after the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, signed July 7, 1807 between Napoleon I and Tsar Alexander I of Russia on a raft in the middle of the Neman River and a second signed with Prussia on July 9th and ended the war between Imperial Russia and the French Empire. Well until 1812 when Napoleon crossed the Neman river and invaded Russia. Just to the right of the Rue de Tilsitt is the Rue Arsene Houssaye named after the French novelist and poet who came to Paris in 1832 and wrote two novels, La Couronne de bluets and La Pecheresse as well as many poems, dramas and satirical letters. In the triangle between the Rue de Tilsitt and the Rue Arsene Houssaye sits an amazing building with Cartier on the ground level, but it is what is on the 2nd floor that holds some interest. It was in the Grande apartment that Dodi Fayed owned and lived that Princess Diana would leave from on her way to the Ritz Paris and what would be the last night of her life.
For the final stage I decided to make the classic French dessert, the Paris-Brest. The pastry came along after the Paris-Brest-Paris bike race started on September 6, 1891 and was 750 miles and would travel from Paris to the city of Brest on the western most tip of Brittany and back to Paris a feat that would take close to 100 hours and around 10 days. Along the route a baker was sitting outside his store when the riders came by and decided he would great a dessert in their honor. The choux paste would be piped into a circle, in the shape of a tire of course and then filled with a praline cream and topped with almonds and more pralines. The race is still run but only every few years, the next time it will run is September 2011 and is the longest running cycling race and the precursor to the Tour de France. So we have a lot to be thankful for, the Tour de France and the rich and tasty dessert. I have wanted to make this one for some time and this was the perfect chance to do it.
1 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup sliced almonds (3/4 oz)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
For cream filling
1 cup whole milk
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
For choux pastry
1 cup water
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 whole large eggs
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar plus additional for dusting
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Toast hazelnuts in a shallow baking pan in oven until skins split and nuts are golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven (leave oven on), then wrap hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and let steam 5 to 10 minutes. Rub hazelnuts in towel to remove loose skins (some skins may not come off), then transfer hazelnuts to a small bowl, discarding skins. While hazelnuts steam, toast almonds in baking pan until golden, 5 to 8 minutes, then add to bowl with hazelnuts. Lightly grease pan and set aside.
Cook sugar in a dry small heavy skillet over moderate heat, swirling skillet, until sugar begins to melt, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling skillet, until sugar is melted into a deep golden caramel, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and, working quickly, stir in nuts to coat, then transfer mixture to greased baking pan, spreading slightly. Let stand at room temperature until hardened and cool, about 30 minutes.
Transfer praline to a heavy-duty sealable plastic bag and seal bag, pressing out excess air. Coarsely crush praline in bag using a rolling pin or bottom of a heavy skillet, then transfer three fourths to a food processor and purée until it becomes a smooth, creamy "butter," 3 to 4 minutes. Reserve remaining crushed praline for garnish.
Make cream filling:
Bring milk to a simmer in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat. While milk heats, whisk together yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heatproof bowl.
Add hot milk to yolk mixture in a stream, whisking, then transfer mixture to saucepan and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, whisking (mixture will become thick and lumpy). Simmer, whisking constantly, 3 minutes (mixture will become smooth). Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Transfer to a clean bowl and chill pastry cream, its surface covered with wax paper, until cold, at least 1 hour.
Beat heavy cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Beat pastry cream in a large bowl with mixer until smooth, then add praline "butter" and beat until incorporated. Fold in whipped cream, one third at a time, gently but thoroughly, then cover surface of hazelnut cream with wax paper and chill until ready to use.
Make choux pastry:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Trace a 9-inch circle with a pencil on a 12-inch square of parchment or wax paper, then trace a 5-inch circle inside it. Turn paper over (circles will still be visible) and put on a large baking sheet.
Bring water to a boil with butter, granulated sugar, and salt in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over high heat, then reduce heat to moderate. Add flour all at once and cook, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from side of pan, about 1 minute. Continue to cook and stir vigorously (to dry out mixture) 3 minutes more. Remove pan from heat and cool mixture, stirring occasionally, until warm to the touch, 5 to 10 minutes. Add whole eggs 1 at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition until dough is smooth.
Transfer dough to pastry bag fitted with plain tip and pipe 3 concentric rings to fill space between traced circles on parchment, then pipe 2 more on top to cover seams between bottom rings. Lightly brush pastry with some egg wash, then scatter almonds over pastry and dust with 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar.
Bake choux pastry until golden and well puffed, 20 to 25 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake until deep golden and firm to the touch, about 25 minutes more. Immediately prick top of pastry in 8 to 10 places with tip of a small sharp knife (to release steam) and continue to bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Transfer pastry (on parchment) to a rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Halve pastry horizontally with a serrated knife and carefully invert top onto work surface. Remove and discard any wet dough from interior of top and bottom. Transfer hazelnut cream to cleaned and dried pastry bag fitted with star tip and pipe cream decoratively into bottom half of pastry, then carefully reinvert top half over it. Sprinkle top with reserved praline and dust with additional confectioners’ sugar.
So it is now the end of the Tour de France and with that it always leaves me a little sad, I will miss the early morning with Phil & Paul and the all day watching of the Tour and the amazing pictures of France. But the work begins today for the 2011 Tour, the route will be unveiled in Paris in October and on that morning I will get up at 2am to see it live online and then count down the days until the start in Vendee. Thank you for following along with me and make sure you order my book as soon as it is done JMerci!