Mar 072015
 

Eiffel Tower

It is hard to believe that I was in India just a mere 5 days ago, it is days like this that I know I am a very lucky gal.  I am here in Paris with two very, very dear friends Julie and Kristen, it is a three day stop on our way to skiing at Courcheval.

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport at 10:30 this morning, after checking into our VRBO at 12 Rue Malar we headed out to stay ahead of jet lag.  We decided to walk the Seine to Ile de la Cite for a bite to eat and an audio tour of Notre Dame.

Art work along the Seine

 

The thing I love about Paris is that art is everywhere.  Sure there are the most magnificently ornamented buildings and statues every 3 feet, but there is also art that just randomly pops up.  These blue dots were on the quai as you walked along.

Quai Voltaire

Farther down the Quai, you found more random patterns.

Artist Evol

And then these….The sign read:  Berlin-based Evol, is best known for transforming everyday features of our cityscapes into miniature concrete tower blocks through the medium of paint.  Inspired by architecture, which he sees as a mirror for society, he paints directly onto the surface of electric enclosures, concrete planters and other familiar elements of the modern city.  Many works by Evol refer to the postwar socialist architecture of the former East Germany. Although originally constructed with the ideology of a socialist utopia, areas of this city are, architecturally a far cry from the original vision.  Many of the LEGO-like buildings Evol depicts are grey functional and in a style that has fallen out of favor, yet they have a brutalist monument appeal.  The artists draws our attention to the striking geometry of the suburban architecture, bringing it back in the more picturesque memory of the city centers, installing there small monuments of a social dystopia.

I was in LOVE with these, notice the satellite dishes and the air-conditioning units, they are magical.

Bridge of Locks Paris

Pont des Arts

 

This is the bridge of locks (so to speak). I have seen these “Love padlocks” all over the world, but never quite such a large agglomeration.

Basically, a couple writes their names on a padlock and locks it onto the bridge. They then throw the key into the Seine as a symbol of their undying love.

Last year, the locks on the Pont des Arts were cut off, reportedly by the government, a futile gesture, as the locks can now be seen on two Paris bridges: Pont des Arts and Pont de l’Archevêché.

Lunch at Square du Vert Galant

Lunch at Square du Vert Galant

What would ones first day in Paris be without a bottle of champagne, a couple of baguette mixtas and some macarons.  It was pretty windy and cold, but fun none-the-less.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Next stop, Notre Dame.  We took a rather confusing audio tour, possibly more because jet-lag was really starting to set in, or maybe because the accompanying map needed work, but the real reason we were there was to light candles and say a little prayer for absent loved ones.

Notre Dame Cathedral

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Notre Dame Cathedral

 

Julie and Kristen headed back to the apartment to catch a quick nap before dinner, and I met my Paris friend Natalie Titley for coffee.  She showed me where, absent the brass plaque, the center of Paris is, right in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.

If you look for the missing bollard - you will find the center of Paris in front of Notre Dame Cathedral

If you look for the missing bollard – you will find the center of Paris in front of Notre Dame Cathedral

Dinner tonight is Les Bouquinistes, absolutely amazing dinner.

Suckling Pork Belly with Lentils

Suckling Pork Belly with Lentils

Tuna crusted with walnuts on a bed of shitaki mushrooms served with diced razor clam

Tuna crusted with walnuts on a bed of shitaki mushrooms served with diced razor clam

Foie Gras

Foie Gras

And a final evening stroll

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Mar 062015
 

Tour de Eiffel

When you only have three days in Paris, there are just a few things that have to be accomplished, and no matter how many times you have done the Eiffel Tower, I think it is a must for every trip.  I am sure that many would say it is cliche, but I just think it is magical.  Did you know that the Eiffel Tower was supposed to be a temporary installation?  It was built in 1889 and slated for demolition in 1909, but was such a great radio tower it was granted clemency.  The Eiffel Tower is the most visited site in the world. During World War II, the French cut the cables on the Tower so if Hitler wanted to go up he would have to climb the stairs.

 

DSC_0492There are 20,000 light bulbs on the Eiffel Tower, and presently it glitters on the hour. There is about 50 tons of paint on the tower, equal to the weight of about 10 elephants.

We stopped on the second floor for coffee, and proceeded to the top for a peek into Eiffel’s private office and breathtaking views of the city.

Kristen on the 2nd "Floor"

Kristen on the 2nd “Floor”

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Trocadero Gardens

Trocadero Gardens

A walk across the Seine to one of my favorite spots. I have always loved this little portion of the the Trocadero Gardens hidden away to the side of the great fountains.  The faux bois steps and railings are just so beautiful

Restaurant David Toutain

Restaurant David Toutain March 5th 2015 Lunch Menu

Our highlight today was lunch.  A 5 course meal at David Toutin, 29 rue Surcouf.  You have the choice between 3 courses, 5 courses or 7.  You are not given any other choices, but you are allowed to mention dislikes or allergies, after that the food simply arrives.  We enjoyed the entire thing first, with a glass of champagne, and then with a lovely bottle of Vouvray.

A vegetable stick with a cream dipping sauce

A vegetable stick with a cream dipping sauce

Parsley Puree wrapped and served with herbs from the French mountains

Parsley Puree wrapped and served with herbs from the French mountains

Spiced egg with a small cornbread crouton

Spiced egg with a small cornbread crouton

King Crab finessed into several different textures

King Crab finessed into several different textures

Asparagus Spear served with Parmesan Cream

Asparagus Spear served with Parmesan Cream

Black Sesame and Apple Puree with Smoked Eel

Black Sesame and Apple Puree with Smoked Eel

Cod with Carrot, Chervil and a touch of Ginger

Cod with Carrot, Chervil and a touch of Ginger

Pork Back, Smoked Pork and Turnip

Pork Back, Smoked Pork and Turnip

Cauliflower with White Chocolate Ice Cream

Cauliflower with White Chocolate Ice Cream

Orange Flower Cake with Hidden Chocolate Truffles

Orange Flower Cake with Hidden Chocolate Truffles

Lemon and Marjoram Tart with small marshmallows

Lemon and Marjoram Tart with small marshmallows

Coffee

Coffee

For those that are interested the charge to my credit card was 131.00 Euros, and yes there are more than 5 course there, it was a very amazing meal. Oh, and YES, YES, YES, I would do it all over again.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking it off.

La Madeleine

La Madeleine

We began with a visit to the church dedicated to Mary Magdalene, the La Madeleine at the Place de la Madeleine.  Started in 1764, but not finished until 1845 it is based on Barthelemy Vignons design for Napoleon’s Temple of Glory.

Charles Marochetti's Mary Magdalene Ascending to Heaven. This statue is behind the high alter and shows Mary Magdalene pregnant.

Charles Marochetti’s Mary Magdalene Ascending to Heaven. This statue is behind the high alter and shows Mary Magdalene being lifted up by angels which evokes the tradition concerning ecstasy which she entered in her daily prayer while in seclusion .

 

The half-dome above the altar is frescoed by Jules-Claude Ziegler, entitled The History of Christianity, showing the key figures in the Christian religion with — a sign of its Second Empire date — Napoleon occupying centre stage.

The half-dome above the altar is frescoed by Jules-Claude Ziegler, entitled The History of Christianity, showing the key figures in the Christian religion with — a sign of its Second Empire date — Napoleon occupying centre stage.

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After a nice period of reflection we headed out for shopping.

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We had a great time wafting in the joy of Macarons at La Duree, savoring the joys of Fauchons and wandering the aisles of Hediard.

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As exhaustion was truly setting in, a final stroll through Passage Jouffroy, built in 1845 by a private company headed by Count Felix de Jouffroy-Gonsans (1791-1863), who gave his name to the passage, and M. Verdeau, who gave his name to the passage that was built as a further extension, the passage Verdeau. The passage was built by architects François Destailleur and Romain de Bourges.

The Passage Jouffroy is indicative of an important stage in the technological evolution of the 19th century and the mastery of iron. It is the first Parisian passage built entirely of metal and glass. Only the decorative elements are wooden. It is also the first passage heated through the floor.

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Passage Jou

Passage Jouffroy

We enjoyed a few glasses of wine with an old friend and expat from San Francisco, skipped dinner and headed home.

Mar 052015
 
Angelinas 226 Rue de Rivoli

Angelinas
226 Rue de Rivoli

Morning began with perfection and one of the world’s biggest sugar rushes, Chocolate Chaud at Angelina’s.  The chocolate comes in a great big pitcher with a side of whip cream for you to add at your discretion.

My discretion

My discretion

A walk through the Tuileries to catch the 69 bus.  These gardens were once the formal gardens of the old Palais des Tuileries. They are part of the landscaped area running parallel to the Seine from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe.  Laid out in the 17th century by Andre Le Notre, gardener to Louise XIV, they have undergone a recent restoration and what looked to me a new sculpture garden addition.

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We were joined for the day by my friend Norm McIntosh, expat extraordinaire

We were joined for the day by my friend Norm McIntosh, expat extraordinaire

DSC_0558Our destination near the Bastille was to be La Coulee Vert also known as the

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The Coulée verte René-Dumont or Promenade plantée (French for tree-lined walkway) or the Coulée verte (French for green course) is a 2.9 mile elevated linear park built on top of obsolete railway infrastructure in the 12th arrondissement. It was inaugurated in 1993. It follows the old Vincennes railway line. The parkway rises above the surrounding area and forms the Viaduc des Arts.  That being said, it is easier to say I wanted to see it than it was to find it.  We walked for a good 45 minutes and then said – screw it – lets eat!

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We had passed the canals and found ourselves at the Gare de Lyon.

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DSC_0587So we walked across the street to the L’European at 21 boulevard Diderot and slap bang into an oyster bar.  Heaven reigned down upon us.  Oysters from France, duck, and a wonderful side of bone marrow, all accompanied with a delightful Petite Chenin Blanc, and we were restored.

bone marrow

At that point, we were able to find the walk and what fun it was.  It is just that, a walk, originally it had all the intention of being an art walk with art studios, but I believe the economy but a kibosh on that, but it is a great thing to do none-the-less.

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At that point I said goodbye to everyone and headed to Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise.  This is Paris’s most prestigious cemetery, I always love the cemeteries of the rich and famous because they hire the world’s most famous sculptors to make their headstones.  This is not necessarily the case at Pere Lachaise, but it is an amazing place historically.  The property was once owned by Louis XIV’s confessor, but in 1803 it was purchased by the government under order by Napoleon and laid out as a cemetery.  It was expanded six times during the 1800’s due to its popularity.  It contains such luminaries as Honore de Balzac, Chopin, Jim Morrison, Marcel Proust, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf.  Sadly, due to the fiasco of looking for the Coulee de Vert, I only had one hour to explore before closing.

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Georges Rodenbach, Belgian writer and poet of the 19th century, is perhaps most famous today for his novel Bruges-la-Morte. This work was later turned into the opera Die Tote Stadt

Georges Rodenbach, Belgian writer and poet of the 19th century, is perhaps most famous today for his novel Bruges-la-Morte. This work was later turned into the opera Die Tote Stadt

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We finished off our three days in my old haunts Le’Odeon for dinner at Relais St. Germain.

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Euf de poule coulant, fricasse d'asperges vertes lard croustillant et anguille fumee

Euf de poule coulant, fricasse d’asperges vertes lard croustillant et anguille fumee

Coquille Saint Jacques roties, risotto de celeri et Granny Smith, cruble parmesan

Coquille Saint Jacques roties, risotto de celeri et Granny Smith, crumble parmesan

Faux-filet Normand mature 2 mois, grenailles au foin, cresson, anchois de Palamos, mousseux de raifort

Faux-filet Normand mature 2 mois, grenailles au foin, cresson, anchois de Palamos, mousseux de raifort

Plateau de fromages de Frace de la fromagerie Sanders

Plateau de fromages de Frace de la fromagerie Sanders

The entire thing ended with a Tarte au citron and was accompanied with one bottle of fabulous red and one bottle of fabulous white and one bottle of fabulous champagne.  A great way to end three amazing days in Paris.

Tommorrow – A train ride and the beginning of our ski trip!

 

Mar 042015
 

The Tuilleries ParisA LITTLE SHOPPING

We really had absolutely no time for shopping, but I do love the individual neighborhood shops of Paris. I had walked by a small store in the morning that I could tell, simply by looking in, Kristen would love. She was looking for a new bag and found a stunning one in this store – Catherine Loiret. The bags are custom made by the woman that sold it to her, and she could not have been more delightful. The address is 21 bis rue Amelie, if you have a chance, check them out. Catherineloiret.com The quality and leather are both spectacular.

Macaroons in Paris

DOGS

Dogs, who doesn’t love dogs, including the Parisians. What is so funny is the fact that despite the French being French, if you lean down and talk to their dog in English and say “aren’t you the sweetest thing” the Frenchman will reply “Yes I am” in English. Always funny and sometimes an icebreaker.

Dogs in Paris

MONEY

The economy is good in Paris despite what you hear about the Euro overall. The streets are spotless, the stores appear to be doing a brisk business and the only place we saw the homeless were in the subway, and they are allowed to sleep there due to the cold.

I would like to digress just a tad here, and talk about the extra 5 pounds we all carry around in change. France is on the Euro, and the smallest Euro bill is a five, so you have a lot of $1 and $2 Euro coins, but you also have a LOT of stupid small change coins, and they weigh down pants pockets and purses. The problem is getting rid of them. Waiters are their own bank, so if you pay your bill by dumping a bunch of your small change on them, you not only suffer their wrath because then they have to carry it in their pocket for their entire shift, but god forbid you need change, because you are going to get it in the smallest possible denominations they have.

The lesson from this is don’t use cash. Norm explained that this is a relatively new phenomenon in France, the French use credit cards for EVERYTHING. Cash is absolutely unheard of now. This is something that will take some getting used to for me as I like to take a certain amount of cash, go through it, and know that I won’t be slammed with credit card bills when I get home. Alas the world is a changing. In the meantime, anyone know a small boy and two elephants that are willing to carry the forty pounds of Euro pennies I seem to have accumulated?

 

A lovely business suit, a gorgeous camel over coat and a bottle of good bordeaux, perfect business gentlemen.

A lovely business suit, a gorgeous camel overcoat and a bottle of good bordeaux, perfect business gentlemen.

GETTING AROUND

I asked Kristen some of her thoughts, as her last visit was when she was 15, and her overwhelming sense was lack of direction. When we stood atop the Eiffel Tower and looked at the winding and curving streets she understood. I, however, find the metro the easiest way to get around and find it second nature, but am embarrassed at how simple my friend Norm hops the bus system, it all just takes time.

PEOPLE

Kristen also just loved the amount of playful, polite and fun loving teenagers that seemed to occupy our neighborhood. They tended to congregate on the streets but with no menace about them, they were smartly dressed, smiled and seemed to have an innocence that is lacking in the U.S.

 

Metro Entertainment

Metro Entertainment

MY THOUGHTS

The French are still French. There is an innate superiority that amazes all that meet them. However every once in a while we could get them to crack their armors, and I was even able to out French our waiter on the last night with an eye roll and a snap of my wrist about my champagne glass. I believe even he had a smile on his face by the end.

To me this is a phenomenon of Europe overall. It is an ennui that comes from years and years of corruption, red tape, nepotism and difficult economies. I find it charming rather than off putting and leads me to further mull over the idea how young Europeans tend to try to come to the U.S. for a better life, and older Americans attempt to retire in Europe for the exact same reason. It is not a conundrum, just a strong indication of how we all want such different things at different points in our lives.

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Europe still has architecture and art at every corner that takes your breath away. Europeans live artfully. By this, I mean, that everything is done with beauty in mind first. We do everything with economy in mind first. Yes that means that our economy is better, but I don’t necessarily think it means our lives are richer for it.

I would like to see fewer pairs of $200 Lululemon yoga pants on women walking down the streets in San Francisco and a little more thought to style.

I would like to see fewer value engineered steel and glass repetitive architecture down Market Street and a little more curvature and unique doors and windows.

And instead of a Gap store on every corner, it would be nice to see a few more displays of stacks of macaroons and chocolates with fresh flowers gracing the windows of our streets.

That is what I mean by living artfully, and that is why I think more people, as they retire are drawn to living the expat life in Europe, they want richer and more artful senior years.

 

There are 381 of these “mascarons” on the Pont Neuf. Their function is to scare away evil spirits.

There are 381 of these “mascarons” on the Pont Neuf. Their function is to scare away evil spirits.