Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What Judy Loves about Paris Chapter 2

Chapter 2   What Judy Loves about Paris...

I enjoy sharing our love of Paris with our relatives and friends.
Tom and Peggy



    Tony and Terry and Curt

Ann and Pete

Judy and Sandy 

and Bonnie!

Oops here's Bonnie....on the left.

So have I mentioned eating?

Whether it be home cooking at our dear friends Jacques and Claire's home 

with old friends Jean Pierre and Blanche in attendance


Or, Pastries 

Or, home cooking...

Or, Ice Cream

Or Jacques' 

 Famous Birthday Cake...New York Style Cheesecake.

Or lunch at an outdoor cafe.

It's all good. 


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Then and Now...

On our recent trip to Normandy with Curt and Terry, we visited Mont St Michel. This is an amazing site and is one of the most visited sites in France.

It has changed a lot over the years. Not Mont St Michel itself, but the access to it. Whereas one used to be able to drive up near the island and park pretty close to it, now one has to park in a huge parking lot and take a shuttle bus to get closer to the entrance. The new access is still under construction and will  be finished soon carrying many tourists from the parking area right to the main entry way. From there, one can walk up to the top to the church. A new dam has also been built to facilitate the flow of the tide in and out of the local rivers.

But, some things stay the same,


 or do they?


Where is that plaid jacket?

The Louvre and Versailles

Another great thing about living here for a while is one doesn't feel obliged to always do the touristy thing. Of course, we are tourists, but when we have this time, we can just enjoy the atmosphere of the beautiful things to see and do here without lining up with the rest of the unwashed masses.

The other day, Judy said she wanted to go to the Louvre, just to walk around a bit. We had sent many friends to the Louvre but hadn't been there ourselves for about 40 years, other than going into the "new" entrance in the glass Pyramid.

So, we got a relatively early start and took our metro from Place Monge to the Louvre stop which has an exit from the station directly into the Louvre ticket area. After messing with the automatic ticket vending machine for a while (multiple cards, multiple languages, multiple attempts), we finally got our passes to enter. After all these years, we wanted to see if they had found Venus de Milo's arms.

The Louvre is massive but the maps are pretty good and they highlight where the most well-known works are including the Big 3  (Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and the Mona Lisa). We found our way to Venus, stumbled on Winged and skipped Mona and decided to head for a cafe. One problem with negotiating the museum is that many of the elevators and stairways only go in one direction. We entered one elevator on the 1st floor, looked for buttons to go the 2nd floor until the door opened again and we saw it only went down. Eventually we found a cafe on the 2nd floor of the wing that is closest to the Seine. We stood in a short line for a few minutes, but could only see a small bar in front of us, not knowing what kind of cafe it was. After a brief wait, we were led by the  host out onto a balcony of the museum overlooking the courtyard and the Pyramid. It was spectacular. What a treat to be seated among the statues of dignitaries in this historic place.

Both our cameras were dead, but I had a sketch pad with me. Our cousin, Bonnie, gave it to me when she and our friend Sandy visited. Here's my take of one of the statues, then a scene from the wading pool while Judy cased out the Pyramid shopping area.

To continue this theme of visiting iconic, historic sites in France without actually visiting them, we went to the Chateau de Versailles with Jacques and Claire today. Took the metro to the end of the line where Jacques picked us up. We only went there to walk around the huge 6km long reflecting pool behind the Chateau. (back in the day, I used to ride my bike around this pool with friends. I had a pretty good crash here one day. Reminder, don't pedal when taking sharp corners...)

There was lots of activity. Teams of rowers practicing with this beautiful backdrop.

Joggers on the perfectly manicured alley-ways along the pool.

Swans and rowers competing for space.

Natural lawn mowers for the Chateau

and Judy and Claire walking back to the car.

No day would be complete, however, without a great lunch. We went to the Brasserie du Theatre which is located, coincidentally, next to the Theatre on the Boulevard du Roi, which intersects with Boulevard de la Renne.

Judy had the Salmon Norvegian complete with little mussels... had to take a picture.

This was a charming restaurant with a distinct bistro look and atmosphere. 

A perfect way to cap off the day. Good idea, Jacques and Claire

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What does Judy love about Paris? Chapter 1

What Judy Loves About Paris
Chapter 1

I can't believe I can listen to a Gospel Choir in one of the oldest churches in Paris, St. Julien de Pauvre, where hundreds of years ago Gregorian Chants echoed through these very walls.

I find exploring small restaurants with small tables and even smaller chairs such fun.  The word
" petit" is really charming in the french vocabulary   So different from "super sized, jumbo, all you can eat".

I love the color and variety of fruits and vegetables you finds at these markets in all of the neighborhoods. This one is in the Marais.
Nothing makes me happier than stepping out my door and finding everything I want without a car.

Picard is the name of my new secret weapon.  It is a french food store dealing in only frozen food.  Let me tell you this salmon is wonderful!  I hope to try everything in the store before I leave.  I have to walk by The Pantheon to get there. Now that's a bonus. 

Coffee is a wonderful part of my life.  Sitting and sipping for as long as I want at a cafe is one of the best treats in France.  No hurry. It beats a cardboard cup in the car any day.

It's so rewarding to have lunch with good friend Jo and learn so much more about Paris from her vast knowledge of art and Parisian life. 
It's amazing to think about how many people have been warmed by our  beautiful 16th century  fireplace.   The beams the size of trees with all the markings of age fascinate me.  Who lived here?
I love looking out our kitchen window.  I never tire of the church bells ringing and knowing that they have been chiming for hundreds of years and will continue to do so for hundreds of years to come.

To be continued....

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lunch with Caroline

Today we were invited for lunch with Jacques and Claire and their daughter, Caroline. We have known Caroline since she was 3 years old. She is now a doctor in the intensive care center of a Paris hospital and is married to Alexis, also a doctor, and has two young boys. We have been anxious to see her and to reunite with the boys a bit (although they would have no memory of the last time they saw us). Unfortunately, Alexis was unable to join for us lunch as he is putting in many hours working as a plastic surgeon.

It was a beautiful day, so we walked to the river and crossed behind Notre Dame and on to the Hotel de Ville (City Hall). There were several barges working their way down the Seine towards somewhere, perhaps Le Havre.

We walked across the Place Hotel de Ville and passed in front of the exhibit on the Resistance in Paris during WWII. We had seen this exhibit a while ago and found it very  interesting and emotional. Although the  Vichy government collaborated with the Nazis after the fall of France, there was a pretty significant resistance in Paris and, especially, in the countryside.

Anyway, on to Caroline's place. She lives in the Belleville section of Paris on a hill that overlooks the city. Her apartment is on the top floor giving them a great view across the city where they can see many of the monuments.  We had lunch next to the apartment at an outdoor restaurant...

 The waiter was quite a character. We all had trouble understanding him (and the menu) as he spoke very quickly and used lots of slang. He even used the familiar "tu" with Jacques a few times which surprised us.

The restaurant is next to the entry to the Parc de Belleville.

This is a beautiful park that was full of sun worshipers on one of the few sunny days we have had.
You can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance and the Tour Montparnasse to the left. The Tour is the only sky scraper in Paris. Otherwise, all the buildings are no more than 8 stories.

This shot is better because you don't see the Tour Montparnasse.

Here are the 3 ladies in deep discussion overlooking the park.

We went back to Caroline's apartment for coffee after lunch. (Thanks for lunch, Claire). Judy played with Aris for a while and Elias played Donkey Kong. Once again we got to admire some of the artwork of Alexis' father. His father, Pavlos, a well-known Greek artist who works in paper, is celebrated in Greece and all of Europe where he exhibits and sells his work in the best galleries. It is a very creative and time consuming process he uses to produce his pieces.We really enjoy his work, especially his PopArt collections. This "camera" is about 4' x 5' made entirely from strips of paper. It is difficult to appreciate from this photo.

Caroline showed us a number of photos of the 200 year old Norman manor house that they bought and are rehabbing. It is a beautiful property with a large main house and a number of outer houses that are hundreds of  years old. It belonged to the mayor of the town at one time. We can't wait to visit WHEN IT IS FINISHED. 

After leaving Caroline's apartment, we walked through the park and then through some ethnic neighborhoods to get to the metro. We hadn't had enough of each other so we decided to get off the metro at Hotel de Ville to have a coffee, tea or wine at a cafe along Rue de Rivoli. A pigeon, sitting on a branch immediately above us nearly hit Judy when it splattered pigeon poop on the table right next to her coffee. The waitress covered it with an ashtray. No charge. 

After leaving Jacques and Claire, it was so nice, we thought we would just walk back to Rue Descartes. We crossed the Seine to the Ile St Louis catching this nice view of the quai on the right side of the island.

and then again from the left side...

before crossing to the left bank and this iconic view of Notre Dame.

We really enjoyed seeing Caroline and the boys again. We feel like we reconnect with her very quickly and re-establish our relationship dating back to our time in Paris when she was just a child. We regret that we haven't had the chance this trip to see David, Camille and their family. It seems like we catch up with one or the other of Jacque and Claire's kids on our trips. Oh well, next time.

It was a great day in Paris.