French III class outing: La Belle Hélène et Le Musée Bechtler
Monsieur Crider invited his Français III class to an afternoon of French flavor and art. The class dined on French fare at Uptown Charlotte’s latest French venue, La Belle Hélène and explored European art in the collection at the Bechtler Museum.
Recently opened, La Belle Hélène is a classic French brasserie-style restaurant in Uptown Charlotte designed by renowned Parisian designer, Richard Lafond, whose family business has garnered more than 50 years of experience creating some of the most famous restaurant spaces in Paris. La Belle Hélène is both beautiful and cozy, inspired by nineteenth-century French architecture. The executive chef, Michael Rouleau, trained under the famous Parisian chef, Alain DuCasse, who also helped to make the Charlotte restaurant a reality.
At the brasserie, students feasted on many traditional French foods. For appetizers, they enjoyed baskets of French morning pastries including croissants and petits pains au chocolat. They also tried the traditional “tarte flambée”, a type of flatbread pizza. For the main course, some students selected Croque-Monsieur and Croque-Madame, two very common lunch foods in France. Of course, these were accompanied by bountiful pommes frites (French fries). Other students ordered les crêpes with chocolate sauce or maple syrup. The food was terrific as many students shared across the table. And, not to forget, La Belle Hélène has created its own version of a delicious hamburger à la française, which several students devoured with gusto. Desert consisted of profiteroles (French puff pastries filled with ice cream and covered with hot chocolate syrup) and la crème brûlée, a French favorite. Needless to say, not a speck remained on any of the dessert plates!
After lunch, the students visited the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art on South Tryon Street. The museum was built in honor of Hans Bechtler, a renowned Swiss philanthropist and art collector, whose collection is legendary. As the class is now studying a unit on French-speaking Switzerland, the students were able to learn about several prominent Swiss artists, who were friends of the Bechtler family. The students attended the exhibition entitled “Wrestling with Angels,” a beautiful compilation of work by many European artists who have some form of religious context in their work. After viewing the exhibition, the students seated themselves in the learning lab area of the museum and began to create artwork of their own.
Overall, it was a delightful afternoon: picture-perfect weather, excellent food, interesting artwork, and the camaraderie was unparalleled.