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Three weeks in Paris! Archives

March 7, 2008

Day 1

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Our trip was uneventful, long and exhausting, and I'm still too jetlagged and tired to be very coherent about how wonderful it is to be here.

This morning, the sun is shining on Notre Dame, it's a quiet Saturday morning, and everyone is out walking their dog. It's too bad we don't have a dog, or better yet, maybe we could rent Julie Delpy's cat for the duration.

Yesterday while we walked around the immediate neighborhood, finding a sim for Frank's phone and recharging mine, and locating all the necessaries, like cheese shops and boulangeries, I had a silly grin on my face the whole day, no doubt confirming the French impression of Americans as a little simple-minded.

I think the thought of having these three weeks right here to spend as I wish pleases me more than a million-dollar lottery ticket would!

March 9, 2008

Day 2

I think this trip is going to be less about big adventures than about sweet moments.

night2.jpgWe've just finished breakfast, bread from Kayser, fresh chevre from Laurent Dubois and fresh strawberries. Now I'm watching the rain out the window and listening to Toots Thieleman play Je ne regrette rien.

Maybe we'll walk over to the Picasso Museum if the rain lets up.

They light up Notre Dame beautifully during the evening hours when the tour boats are passing by. The first night I almost hit the floor when the apartment was suddenly filled with bright light from the searchlights of one of those boats. I can see how someone who lived along the Seine could grow to hate them.

March 10, 2008

Day 3 - Picasso Museum

Since it was a cold and rainy day yesterday, we decided by some strange logic to walk over to the Picasso Museum and spend the afternoon indoors. Of course by the time we got there we were wet and chilled and Frank's sore foot was really bothering him.

We hadn't been to this museum since our first trip to Paris in 1995. I remembered it as presenting his works in chronological order, but maybe because Frank asked for an elevator ride and we started from the top floor, I couldn't detect any order this time.

I'm not at all articulate about art. I enjoy most of it, but I really love pieces that sort of reach inside me, grab something and twist. Yesterday Picasso's sculptures were working that magic for me, especially the nanny goat made from found objects. I've always loved his bronzes of nanny goats, but this one was really amazing. I'd like to post a link to a photo of the sculpture here, but with my slow connection, I'm having a hard time finding one online.

Today it's colder, raining harder, and the wind is blowing, so I'm having trouble working myself up to leave the apartment at all. Workmen are coming this afternoon to install a new oven, so that will probably force us out.

March 11, 2008

Day 4 - Parade!

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I swore to myself I wouldn’t post any more photos taken from our apartment window for fear everyone would think “she went to Paris and never left the apartment,” but then yesterday morning, I heard the unmistakable clop clop clop of horses’ hooves and looked out to see a parade of well over 100 horses and riders passing by. Military, I assume, but I know nothing more about them or what the occasion was.

Once the rain stopped, I braved the strong cold winds and walked over to BHV and spent a few hours looking around, mostly on the third floor at the kitchen gear and dishes. There are lots of wonderful things to covet there, but no bargains. Prices are very high! It will be quite a bit cheaper to buy that Le Creuset skillet I want when I get home.

Later we bought our Carte Orange pass for the metro and buses, then inaugurated it going out to visit friends for dinner. A very nice evening!

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This morning we walked to Place Maubert for coffee -- I think we’re settling on “our” café, at least while the weather is cold. The other one looks like it will be more appealing if the sun ever shines, with outside seating overlooking a pretty fountain in a tiny garden, but the coffee isn’t as good. After coffee, I shopped for a rotisserie chicken and potatoes, vegetables from the market, bread, cheese and fruit. Now we’re home again. Maybe for all day, because I woke up this morning with a cold and really don’t feel like doing much except sleeping.

I feel a little guilty that I don’t have more adventures to report. I’m having a great time just getting to know my neighborhood and pretending to live here, but I’m afraid it doesn’t make for exciting stories. Should I make some up?

March 12, 2008

Day 5 -- Random thoughts about French food

Since I spent most of yesterday alternately napping and reading Julia Child's My Life in France (it's a wonderful book, by the way), I've been thinking about French food.

I really don't know very much at all about the kind of formal French cuisine she talks about, but I love simple French food, the cheese, the bread, the wonderful fruit and vegetables at the markets. Oh, and the chocolate and wine. The regular dark chocolate bars from the supermarket here are far better than anything but the most expensive premium chocolate at home.

As for the baguettes, real French baguettes are different than the ones I made and described here last fall. My baguettes are very good bread, but the crust and crumb are both heavier than an authentic Parisian baguette.

So far, we haven't been out for a really good restaurant meal. The first few evenings, we ate casually at the neighborhood cafes, since I knew I'd fall asleep with my face in the food if I tried to stay awake through a long meal starting at the regular dinner hour. Then we had a lovely dinner at a friend's house, and last night we had roast chicken and those yummy potatoes cooked under the rotisserie at home. Maybe tonight.

March 13, 2008

Windowshopping on Ile St. Louis

Just for fun...

My flickr slideshow about windowshopping on Ile St. Louis

March 14, 2008

Day 7: walking and looking

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My favorite thing to do in Paris is just walk and look. I never seem to get enough.

Yesterday, we managed to spend most of the day exploring Ile Saint Louis. Obviously, we went slowly, because someone on a tight schedule could probably check it off their list in an hour or less.

We walked around the outside of the island, then Frank patiently waited while I window shopped and took an outrageous number of pictures of the window displays (since narrowed down to a number I could upload to Flicker with my slow dialup connection). I did buy some latte bowls with a red stencil on a cream background, to replace the matching one at home that we chipped recently. The others made it home several years ago wrapped in clothing in my luggage, so these will too.

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We had lunch at a sweet little homey restaurant called Auberge de la Reine Blanche. Frank continued his vegetarian streak with another plate of vegetables with mushroom ravioli in a sinfully rich cream sauce for starters, and I had coq au vin following a salad with chevre chaud. It was all simple, but delicious. It’s an easy 10-minute walk from here so I’m sure we’ll go back at least once.

I wish I could have taken this photo of a woman on her motorcycle taxi and her passenger from the front. Both looked incredibly chic and maybe a little bored. Note the high heels on the driver’s boots. Besides looking good, they’re giving her enough leg length to handle the big bike. As a short person who used to ride big bikes, that’s a detail I really appreciate!

March 15, 2008

Day 8: Raining Gold Rings

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Friday was a full day, with two things planned and a few unplanned extras.

First, I got my metro stops on the way to the Rodin Museum confused, so when we accidentally got off at Le Vaneau I got to visit Le Grand Epicerie, which must be the most spectacular grocery store in the universe. I could have spent days there, just browsing.

The Rodin Museum has always been one of our favorites. I love the sculptures in the beautiful garden more than those in the house. It was a little disappointing that all the Camille Claudel work was away in a special exhibit in Spain, but it’s not as if we hadn’t seen it before.

Our next planned stop was the W.H. Smith bookstore on Rue de Rivoli, since Frank as usual blasted through all the books he brought with him and needed more. I like to shop there because I always find British authors I like with new books published long before they’ll be available in the U.S.

The surprise was just how many times we were targeted as we walked from the Rodin to Rue de Rivoli by the scam artists who pretend to find a gold ring on the sidewalk and then sell it to you “cheap.” We were approached three separate times, and I warned off two grandmotherly ladies who were falling for it.

We had a great lunch at a brasserie full of lunching business people off Rue de Rivoli, then spent way too much money on books.

The final big surprise of the day came as we were walking along the bookiniste stalls near our apartment when we looked up and saw Kathy, Charley, and Kelly (Kathy is my fellow French forum moderator on the Slowtrav message board) walking toward us. I knew they were arriving in Paris Friday, but it was still great fun to just run into them like that!

March 16, 2008

Day 9 - France Mods Do Paris!

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A day that starts with meeting Kathy for coffee to discuss all the things in person that we normally can only talk about via email is a good day! The sun even came out so we could sit outside in the cafe I would consider "mine" if only the one across Place Maubert didn't make better coffee.

After Kathy left to join her family, I spent the rest of the day dithering about the slowtrav get together scheduled for evening at our apartment. All my fretting was for nothing, because it turned out great (except for the tempermental gate locks downstairs that trapped several people as they tried to come and go and required a phone call for us to buzz the gates open again). I was so happy to meet all these people who are such a pleasure to have as regulars on the Slowtrav France forum.

March 17, 2008

Day 10 -- Sunday odds and ends in Paris

There are moments when I feel compelled to go sightseeing so I’ll have something to report in my blog, but so far I’ve overcome that urge.

On Sunday after Saturday night’s party, I stood in line with everyone else at the Kayser boulangerie for a baguette and croissants, then read and took a nap after breakfast.

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Along about noon, it occurred to me that if I were going to cook dinner for Kathy, Charley and Kelly that evening, I’d better get out shopping tout de suite before all the shopkeepers closed up for Sunday lunch.

It was a great time to go out, because there were so many people around, some obviously just returning from Palm Sunday services, all dressed up and carrying their greenery, others just on their way to lunch or food shopping like me. I don’t have a fashionista bone in my body, but I love to watch how Parisians dress, from the tiny old couples carefully and elegantly dressed in nicely made woolen suits as they totter down the street propping one another up, to the younger girls wearing very slim pants or jeans, high boots, and coats belted at the waist and flaring over their hips. They look like elves.

And everyone, including us, is wearing some sort of scarf wrapped around our neck to keep out the cold. Most Parisiennes seem to be wearing black, gray and other subdued colors this year.

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A friend emailed me last week and asked about the going price these days for a café au lait in Paris. I haven’t seen café au lait on a menu anywhere, but café crème seems to range from 3.25€ euro to 4.50€. It appears to me that geography has more to do with the price than quality. I paid more for a really mediocre café crème in the café that overlooks Place Maubert than I did this delicious and over-the-top cappuccino out in the 12th.

March 19, 2008

Days 11 and 12 - Midtrip energy slump

I really had good intentions to not miss a day of blogging on this trip, but I did. Oh well.

On Monday we took a long slow walk from Gare de Lyon to the Bastille along the Viaduc des Arts, where there are all kinds of craftsman’s workshops – furniture makers, glass blowers, weavers, upholsterers, metalworkers, jewelry makers, graphic designers, etc. It’s obviously not a big tourist draw, because we never saw another soul who looked like a tourist, but we enjoyed it. Some have small retail shops, some have open windows where you can see them working, and some apparently don’t like the fishbowl environment, because their curtains are drawn and only a sign alerts you to what’s inside.

We enjoyed this, because we’re both fascinated by these kinds of crafts, especially since we saw an amazing museum of the French crafts guilds in Tours a few years ago.

On Tuesday, another very cold day, we strolled through the Jardin du Luxembourg, where a few people hardier than us were having little picnics.

We found a café instead, then went to the Vlaminck exhibit at the Musee du Luxembourg. Vlaminck is an artist I knew very little about, but I enjoyed this exhibit and seeing his progress and the increasing sophistication of his techniques over the years.

Frank caught my cold and has been dragging the past few days, and I seem to be having my normal mid-trip energy slump. Our friends are taking the train up from the Loire Valley today to see us—that should be just the energy boost we need.

March 20, 2008

Days 13 & 14 - Where has the time gone?

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Basically, I’m a homebody. After a few weeks away from home, I start to miss it. I begin having dreams that my cats are lost and I’ve got to find them. I get a little dissatisfied with everything.

Fortunately, after a little of this, I can usually pull myself together and remember why I’m traveling. I’ll be glad to get home at the end of next week, but right now I’m loving Paris again!

A delicious Chinese lunch with our friends Karen and Craig yesterday was a good start, then last night we finally went to see the Eiffel Tower after dark. In all of my trips to Paris, somehow something has always happened so that we missed this. It looks smaller in the dark—I didn’t expect that!

Today we just wandered, starting with the Jardin du Palais Royal, then we explored the Galerie Vivienne and walked back to the Opera and Madeleine, stopping for a very good lunch in a very ordinary café along the way. It was a warm, busy, cheerful place, which felt really good after being out in the cold all morning, and my lunch of roast chicken legs with sautéed potatoes and salad and a good rose from Provence couldn’t have been more satisfying. I love the sound of people speaking French, probably in a setting like this more than anywhere.

My wanderings weren’t completely random, since I knew exactly where the Maille mustard store was, but I usually don’t explain things like wanting to go the mustard store in advance to Frank. Then I don’t have to explain why. I’ve got six jars of various flavors of mustard to take home, and he’ll appreciate them someday when I feed them to him, I’m sure.

We stopped at another Boulangerie Paul (we stopped at the one on Rue de Buci a few days ago) for a mid-afternoon warmup. Café crème is only €3 at Paul, much less than I’ve seen anywhere else. I wonder why?

We each bought a carte d’orange for the metro and bus when we arrived, and we’re using the bus a lot. The metro is usually faster, but we’re in no hurry, and I like to see what’s along the way. The bus ride back from the Eiffel Tower to Hôtel de Ville last night was beautiful.

March 22, 2008

Day 15: the Pompidou

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The wind and rain and cold drove us indoors again yesterday, this time to the Pompidou.

Modern art is my favorite, but we hadn’t been back to the Pompidou since our first visit to Paris in 1995. For some reason then I decided I didn’t like it—I don’t remember why. It almost seems like we must have seen some special exhibit I didn’t care for and missed the permanent collection.

I’m glad the rain (Did I mention wind? And cold?) drove us in so I could revise that opinion. It’s an astonishing collection, far too much to take in in a single day.

The logistics at the Pompidou are a little confusing. We waited in a long line to get through security, then another long line for tickets, then a third long line for the cloakroom, where they had only one person checking umbrellas and bags of all those people who waited through the other lines.

It wasn’t until after I had my ticket that I read the fine print that said we had an assigned time for the special Louise Bourgeois exhibit… seven hours later.

I’d already been walking for a few hours in the morning, while Frank had made a fruitless trip to see the Catacombs, which turned out not to be open for the season yet, so even after a long break at Georges on the top floor, we pooped out at least an hour before our assigned Louise Borgeois time. Too bad—I would have loved to have seen it. At least they had one of her wonderful giant bronze spiders in the lobby, and another of her pieces at the entrance to the main collection.

Earlier in the day I walked over to visit Dehillerin and a couple of other cookware stores recommended by Clothilde on her Chocolate and Zucchini blog. Interesting to see, but I wasn't tempted to buy. With the current exchange rate, not to mention luggage weight and space, I can get anything I need at home.

March 23, 2008

Day 16: Paris weather

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Weather has been on our mind the entire trip.

We’re climate-spoiled Californians who don’t even own things like wool coats, so we didn’t exactly arrive prepared. I brought some light sweaters, so I’ve just been layering like crazy, and I talked Frank into a wool scarf and some gloves. I haven’t been able to convince him to buy a sweater or a warmer coat. He hates to shop for that kind of thing, and insists it would be a waste of money because he’d never wear it at home. So he just toughs it out.

I’ve never seen such changeable weather. In the morning, like today, it will be sunny, crystal clear and cold, very cold. Then the clouds sort of sneak in and the fun starts. It blows, then it rains, then it clears up and hails while the sun shines. Then it rains some more, then clears, then more wind and hail, then it settles in and pours for a while. The one thing it never does is warm up.

Ken on the message board told me to expect the “giboulée de mars,” which I took to be a poetic description of some sort of nice gentle spring showers. Hah! I’ve since googled the term and realized that it describes exactly the sudden heavy rains, sleet, hail, and wind we’ve seen just about every day we’ve been here.

It has affected our trip, because those lovely sunny days of strolling through the parks I was looking forward to just aren’t going to happen while you’re struggling to keep your umbrella from flying away or turning inside out.

C’est la vie, we’ll do that another time. This trip is about learning what the switch from winter to spring is really like in Paris.

March 24, 2008

Day 17: Easter in Paris

A day when the most "Easterly" thing we did was listen to the bells of Notre Dame, not that we had a choice! They were silent on Friday and until 10 pm Saturday. After hearing them every day for two weeks, I really noticed their absence.

It seems to be getting colder every day (have we somehow landed in November?), so I put on as many layers of clothes as I could stand and we ventured out to find out if there would be a street band playing Django Reinhardt music in Place des Vosges, something Frank has found and enjoyed on Sundays on previous trips.

We rode the bus over, then walked around the Marais window shopping a bit after discovering that there was no band, just lots of street artists, in Place des Vosges. When we finally started walking back toward Île Saint-Louis and our apartment, we happened upon an Italian epicerie/cafe (Fuxia L’Epicerie) for a great late lunch, our first Italian food of the trip.

All the tourist junk shops have pulled out their winter merchandise again, so I was able to find a black knit cap that keeps my head nice and warm. Unfortunately, it looks absolutely awful and completely ruins my hair, not that there's much ruining left to do after a few hours of wind and rain!

March 25, 2008

Cause of bad weather!

It's pretty obvious to me that the bad weather in Paris has been all in our honor. Look how it changes when we leave on Friday!

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Day 18: Walking tour of Saint Germain des Prés

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I brought a book called “Paris Walks” by Sonia, Alison, and Rebecca Landes with me to Paris.

It describes seven walks, with lively historical anecdotes as background for many of the sites along the way. Walk #1 goes right past our front door, so we did that one in the first couple of days.

On Monday, since it was a holiday and most businesses were closed, we decided it would be a good day for the Saint Germain des Prés walk. We both re-read the description of the walk, and started at the Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a spot soaked in the history of Paris. We’d been there before, but this time, we really paid attention and looked carefully at the garden with its Picasso bust dedicated to Apollinaire, the church itself (the oldest in Paris), and the remaining traces of the original abbey in the block or so surrounding the building. The little garden to the side of the church is really lovely. I imagine it is even more so in the summer.

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Once we left the immediate area and started to follow the suggested walk down Rue Jacob and Rue Bonaparte, streets we’ve walked many times in the past, we soon gave up on following the book. First it was cold, and hard to manage turning the pages without removing my gloves, so I kept losing my place. Then there were the distractions, first a stop at Paul for coffee, then window shopping along the way. I never seem to get enough of looking at the gorgeous displays in Paris shop windows.

It made for a nice walk on a very cold day. When we finished, we stopped for a late lunch (great!) at Les Editeurs at Carrefours de Odeon, and made it home just before the rain started to pour down.

March 26, 2008

Day 20 - Musée d'Orsay

When I was planning this trip, I made a mental list of the things that we’ve done more than once on other trips to Paris and therefore didn’t need to do this time.

The Musée d’Orsay was on that list, but as I thought about what to do with our last few days, I realized I really wanted to go again. After all, it is one of my favorite museums in the world so it would be foolish not to. And it’s a rainy day, although MUCH warmer than it has been.

So today, we did, along with about a zillion other people. We were among the very few who didn’t take flash photos of every recognizable painting while scurrying past all the rest with hardly a glance. How can they not see they're getting lousy photos with that flash reflection in the middle of each one, not to mention they're missing their chance to actually LOOK at the paintings? The worst was the big guy with the huge monkey puppet wrapped around his shoulders who found it hilarious to plant himself in front of all the paintings and have his children take flash photos of him with the paintings. Grrr.

Still, I love this museum. I just read Susan Vreeland’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, a pretty bad novel which nevertheless provides a good description of how Renoir worked on that painting, so I was itching to spend a little time looking at the Renoirs. (I think that particular painting is in Washington, D.C., not Paris, but there were a few others he painted at the same time I knew I could see.)

Then there’s that room of Cezannes that I always love best. Fortunately, no one thought it was worth photographing the Portrait of Gustave Geffroy that I wanted to spend my time on, so I had it pretty much to myself. The photo in this link isn’t good—the colors are all wrong, at least on line, and all the subtle colors are just lost--but it’s an amazing painting.

A very nice next-to-last day!

March 27, 2008

Day 21: Over so soon!

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It seems like we just arrived, but it also seems like we've been here for months. It turned out to be a completely different trip than I'd imagined it would be, but that should be no surprise since my imagination rarely makes an accurate forecast. I loved it, and I love Paris, way more than when I arrived!

In spite of all my whining about the weather, I wouldn't have missed this or changed a thing. The cold and the rain forced me to forget my long list of things to accomplish here and just savor one day at a time.

It left me lots of time for just walking and looking, my favorite all-time Paris activity, and standing at the window and looking, my new past-time. The changing look of Notre Dame in different light and at different times of day reminded me of Monet's paintings of the Rouen Cathedral. If only I could take photographs like he could paint!

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I was disappointed today to see that the world's homeliest dog, who belongs to the bookinistes just below our window, didn't come to "work" today. I've enjoyed watching him just about every day.

Now I have to pack. I didn't buy much while I was here, but it may be just enough to make it difficult.

Thanks, everyone, for reading all of this. I wish I could have made it more entertaining!

Au revoir!

March 29, 2008

Beating my heart and soul home

It's wonderful to be home! There's nothing as wonderful as being welcomed home by happy cats!

Three weeks away from my garden this time of year meant there were lots of surprises for me this morning: dogwood, azaleas, camellias, forsythia, pansies, stocks, iris, forget-me-knots, geraniums, sea lavender, sweet breath of heaven, wisteria, candytuft, lemon, lime and orange blossoms and even the first of the roses. It's spring!

I read somewhere and adopted the idea that jet lag is caused by traveling so fast that your soul can't keep up, leaving you in that exhausted, fuzzy state for a few days until it rejoins you. I definitely beat my soul home.

This time I also beat my heart home. We had one frequent flyer ticket for this trip, so I flew home Delta and Frank was on Continental. When we parted at CDG, I suggested we race home. I won. His flight from Paris was delayed, so he missed his connection and had to spend the night in Houston. I've only just picked him up from the airport.

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

The Best Trip Ever--Loire, Dordogne, Provence 2007 is the previous category.

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