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September 7, 2007

Anticipating Paris!

Six months from today, we fly to Paris for a three-week stay. Not long by many people's standards, but it will be our longest stay in one place (so far).

We've spent a week in Paris twice, and at least half a dozen times we've been there for one to four days at the beginning or end of a trip elsewhere. I remember every visit as a blur of activity, yet every time I left with a longer list of things I wanted to do the next time we returned.

From this distance, three weeks seems to offer endless possibilities. We'll be able to fritter away whole days with just a long walk, lunch, and good long browse in a bookstore. There will be time to shop, and cook, and sit in cafes watching people. We'll see the things we just never found time for during shorter stays.

March is early, and it will probably be cold, but that's ok. I love cold weather for walking and exploring, although I would prefer not to have too many windy and rainy days.

Our apartment is booked. It's just off the Quai de Montebello on the Left Bank, with incredible views of the back side of Notre Dame. We visited this apartment a few years ago, so we know it's very nice, comfortable, and in a great location.

I love having six months to wait! I can make lists of things I'd like to do, and research them thoroughly to build our own custom travel guide. Maybe this time I'll make it all the way through my online French lessons. Of course, I'll lose a bunch more weight and have to buy all new clothes. I've already started buying more French cookbooks -- as if I needed more French cookbooks -- to pick out a few dozen perfect, easy recipes that don't require lots of equipment or time for those evenings when we don't feel like eating out but do want elegant French food.

I know this is is sounding suspiciously like an unrealistic list of New Year's resolutions, but I can dream, can't I? And I'll keep track of my progress here...


February 9, 2008

Paris morning

sunrise.jpg

On our first trip to Paris, in 1995, I had terrible jet lag and hardly slept at all the first few nights. We were staying in a hotel just off Saint Germain, in a room on the sixth floor with a big dormer window that overlooked the rooftops of Paris and, off to the east, Notre Dame.

It was August, but not hot, perfect weather to leave that window wide open all night to all the sounds and smells of a summer night. Early in the night there would be dinner smells from La Procope next door and other nearby restaurants, later there would be tantalizing smells of baking bread and pastries. It was surprisingly quiet after midnight, with church bells, distant traffic and the ooga-ooga of an occasional ambulance.

At first light, I'd find myself standing at the window watching the sky turn pink and light up Notre Dame. The softest pink, which hasn't survived in any of the non-digital photos I took that year (mostly over-exposed).

bedroom.jpgI'd stand there, watching and listening, until finally I'd smell strong coffee and hear the elevator start on the ground floor, meaning that Madame was bringing our breakfast.

The only sad part of this memory is that after a breakfast of cafe au lait, baguettes, butter and apricot preserves, I was finally exhausted and ready to sleep.



Paris plan #1: Take sunrise photos of Notre Dame

Four weeks from today, I'll stand at my window to watch the sunrise over Notre Dame again, but from much closer, with a better camera, and with a much clearer and more rested eye (thanks to Ambien) .

February 10, 2008

My Paris soundtrack

I have way too much time on my hands while I count down the days to Paris.

This morning I woke up early thinking that I needed to build an iPod playlist of French (or at least sort of Frenchy) music for Paris. I've never built a playlist before, since my iPod has mainly been used for books to make the time go by on the elliptical trainer and music to put me to sleep on airplanes.

After a day of sorting through our CDs and discovering just how easy it is to buy music on Amazon, I've narrrowed it down to several albums and a few stray songs.

We already have lots of gypsy swing music. The original Django recordings don't please me as much as the same songs by The Quintet of the Hot Club of San Francisco and Pearl Django, probably a matter of recording quality. We also have several Stephane Grappelli CDs and a Toots Thielemans CD that I love. I debated whether it was legal to add Diana Krall "Live in Paris" and Oscar Peterson "Oscar in Paris: Live at the Salle Pleyel," and finally realized that it was MY playlist so I could do what I wanted. They're in.

I found a compilation CD called "Rendevous a Paris" in our collection that included one song by Keren Ann, which at least momentarily has saved me from downloading one or more of her albums. I bought and downloaded albums by Paris Combo and Pink Martini. I also added a few odds and ends like a Julie Delpy song from "Before Sunset" and my favorite Sally Potter/Yo Yo Ma song from "The Tango Lesson."

I'm not finished yet. I may add more, and I think I probably have to cull this down to my favorite songs from each source. But it's a start, and I'm one day closer to Paris!



February 19, 2008

Paris Soundtrack, part 2

I've always believed that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, and in that spirit, I think I've completed my long, long Paris playlist.

I started with lots of jazz from our own collection, snooped around on iTunes and Amazon, and found some real gems based on Marta's suggestions on her blog. Thanks, Marta!

Continue reading "Paris Soundtrack, part 2" »

Whatever will we do in Paris?

I asked this question on the Slowtalk message board and was rewarded with a long list of great suggestions in this thread. I've summarized and organized those suggestions here for easy reference while we're in Paris. Thanks everyone!

First, we will gaze out our windows on this view, then we will choose from the suggestions listed below.

view.jpg

Continue reading "Whatever will we do in Paris?" »

February 20, 2008

Cooking in Paris

I hope to do more cooking at our apartment in Paris than I usually do when we travel.

We'll have a nice kitchen, fabulous markets nearby, and more time than we usually have while traveling. Also, and this is the exciting part, I'll have at least a few chances to cook for friends!

A few months ago, I went through a little Amazon shopping frenzy and added several more French cookbooks to my collection, looking for just exactly the right one for this trip to Paris. I based my choices on good advice and recommendations from my friends on the Slowtrav message board. I'm happy with all the books I bought, because I'm firmly convinced one can never have too many cookbooks, but the one that made it to my "pack for Paris" stack is one I already owned, Patricia Wells's The Paris Cookbook.

Why? I think because it was the most specifically Parisian. While many of the recipes are simple and don't require special equipment or a well-stocked pantry, most are the creations of Parisian chefs or use some wonderful ingredient I look forward to shopping for in Paris. Maybe I'm a little strange, but I love the idea of baby leeks!

It remains to be seen just how much I'll cook. The owner tells me the oven at the apartment isn't working, and unless that gets fixed before we arrive, that will be a limiting factor. I won't really know what I can do until I see how the kitchen is equipped. There's the temptation of all those lovely French restaurants instead of cooking in, and even on evenings when we aren't tempted to go out, Paris makes it very easy to eat well at home without a lot of effort. The rotisserie chickens, bread, cheese, Picard just a few blocks away...

February 25, 2008

Countdown

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I put this countdown clock on my Google home page last fall to count down the time to our Paris trip. It started at 180, now it's finally down to 10!

February 27, 2008

Best pre-trip reading

I've been reading lots of things about Paris over the past six months of waiting for our trip--guidebooks, blogs, novels set in Paris, cookbooks, online trip reports, anything I could find.

My favorite is a book of essays called Paris, Paris by David Downie. It's 30 essays, each accompanied by an exquisite small black and white photo by Alison Harris. The essays fall into three categories, Places, People, and Phenomena. Each essay is lively, but crammed full of interesting historical tidbits, humor, and his own sometimes slightly twisted observations.

The opening essay, "A Day in the Park: The Luxembourg Gardens," is a good example. He describes an entire day spent in the park, from opening at 7 am to closing at 7 pm, and along the way he talks about the kinds of trees that grow in the park, the history of the site, the people frequenting the park as well as the gardiens who police it and make sure the rules are obeyed, even the variety of chairs available in the park and the kinds of people who choose each style.

Another essay describes the "urban decor" of Paris, bollards, bittes, bus shelters, lampposts, trash cans, pissoirs, benches, signs, etc., the history of how they came about and why they are all so distinct to Paris.

Normally I wouldn't put a book I'd already read on the "pack for Paris" stack, but this one will be making the trip, because I know I'll want to revisit some of these essays while we're there.

February 29, 2008

Waiting...

I feel like a little kid the week before Christmas. Well, maybe not that manic, but I have the same sense that time is crawling by.

I always become strangely efficient before a trip. All the things I told myself I had to do before we left are done (all work projects done, the gardening I would normally stretch out over the whole month of March, cleaning the pantry, etc). I even baked bread for the freezer for when we get home! It's too early to pack, although except for a few little things, everything is ready for packing. There's nothing left to shop for, except shoes, and I really don't need more shoes.

There are a million non-trip-related things I could do, but I'm too restless. Instead I pace, read a few pages, pace some more.

Six more days.

March 2, 2008

Pre-packing

I start months in advance making mental lists of what I'll pack for a trip.

This time it's complicated by my fantasy of being tall, slender and très chic in Paris, when in reality I'm ... well, not and never will be. When I wake up in the middle of the night and go through the lists of possibilities, it seems like maybe if I can just come up with the right combination of Land's End sweaters and jeans, somehow it will all come together in some magical way and transform me.

Not likely. So, I need to settle my internal argument over whether I need three or four pairs of shoes, when in reality I know I'll wear two pair 95% of the time. I need to settle on a reasonable number of sweaters I know I'll wear, as well as lighter things just in case spring comes while we're there. My raincoat, my leather jacket, do I need my black hoodie? All my best jeans and my good black slacks. Since we go from airport to our apartment and don't move again until we go back to the airport, I can use my 26" suitcase, which I don't like to haul around if we're on the move.

And my mother reminded me to bring gloves and earmuffs. I think my mother brought earmuffs to Hawaii! smile.gif

March 3, 2008

Leaving home

I love to travel, but I hate to leave home. And the sweetest part of any trip is the moment I get home again.

There are the cats, my dear pampered sweeties who know I exist to indulge their every wish. And most of the time, it's true. I'm afraid they'll miss me almost as much as I miss them, although they'll have a substitute slave here the whole time.

My garden. We often travel at the end of April or beginning of May and I hate to go because I'll miss the first bloom of the roses. This year we're going early, and I'm worrying about missing the dogwood, and worrying about that lettuce I planted which should be thinned about next week.

My stuff, my pillow, my shower, etc. No place else is ever quite as comfortable as home.

On the other hand, I'll be in Paris, so what do I have to complain about?!!!

March 4, 2008

Still waiting...

One more day! I know there are people who could write entertainingly about the wait, but apparently I'm not it.

I've been checking the Paris weather. I'm glad I packed the raincoat!

meteo1.jpg


March 5, 2008

Next Stop Paris!

We're packed, the housesitter's instructions are printed, the refrigerator cleaned out, plants watered, cats hugged and kissed enough so they'll be glad to see me go so they can get a little peace.

We have a 6 am flight to Salt Lake City, then Atlanta, then into Paris at 8 am Friday. It will be a long and uncomfortable day in coach seats, but we'll survive.

I have my usual plan to learn French on the plane. Wish me luck!

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Best Trip Ever in the Anticipating Paris category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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