Archive for the ‘Paris sightseeing’ Category

On the Champs-Élysées

May 27, 2012

The legendary Avenue des Champs-Élysées where chestnut trees shade the wide sidewalks

The Experienced Travelers confess that the vast Champs-Élysées is not a favorite destination in Paris. But despite our personal preferences, we felt we owed it to the dear Readership to investigate the legendary avenue.  This way you are fully informed when you loiter there on a café terrace and spend twice as much money for the dubious pleasure of doing so.  There.  Have we made our feelings known?

Melinda outside Restaurant Fouquet, where 30 euro buys you a smoked salmon starter and you can rub elbows with the elite. Fouquet is an historical monument.

Extending 1.8 miles from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle, the Champs-Élysées begins peacefully with lovely gardens.  Then just beyond the Grand Palais, it bursts into the frenzied madness that gives the ETs a case of vertigo.  But the Champs-Élysées has it’s fans and you may well become one of them if you have energy to spare and a penchant for shopping and clubbing.

The Champs-Élysées decked out for Christmas. Perhaps the ETs could be persuaded to love the avenue if they got a ride on that ferris wheel. Photo by David Monniaux

A walk down the avenue lit by fairy lights for Christmas might soften the ETs feelings.  Or maybe we should wake early to catch a morning vista that highlights the Historical Axis, a miracle of urban planning with the perfect alignment of the Petit Carrousel, Tuilleries gardens, Luxor Obelisk, Arc de Triomphe and La Grande Arch at La Défense.

Louis Vuitton’s store window. This talented zebra tosses exquisite handbags with aplomb. You can take one home, but the zebra stays…

I recently read an article that described the Champs-Élysées as a the urban equivalent of an airport duty-free mall. (I wish I could remember where I read that…).  Several high-end stores are there – Cartier, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton – but so is Disney, Gap and Nike.  We suppose it’s an egalitarian mix, but the French government is taking steps to limit the encroachment of chain-style retail in an effort to restore the old girl’s reputation.

See and be seen in 1903 on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

With a little imagination,  the grandeur that recalls her proud and elegant history is still there.  As the city expanded westward through the late 1800s, the wealthy built fashionable town homes with elaborate gardens along the avenue and it was the perfect promenade for the elite.  The Élysée Palace, home today to the  new French President Hollande, was once owned by the Marquise de Pompadour.  Were she alive today, we suppose she would gleefully drop Louis XVs Found Money down the street at Benetton. (Alas things didn’t work out for La Pomp, but that’s another post)

A relatively quiet moment at the Place de l’Étoile. Buckle up and prepare for a crazy ride. Barbara and Christine took this picture on our last visit.

Napoleon commissioned the crowning glory of the avenue, the magnificent Arc de Triomphe.  It now serves as a giant traffic roundabout that Parisian drivers regard as a eight-lane NASCAR track.  On a clear day, the trip to the top is rewarded by the excellent view.

In the dark days of the Occcupation, the Nazis staged regular military parades.  Four years later, the Free French and Liberation forces took back the avenue with triumphant marches of their own.  Now, Bastille Day celebrations on the Champs-Élysées are a riotous time and a legitimate reason for champagne before noon.

Risking personal safety for the sake of a photo. It only took one valium to prepare me for my mission.

Today the triumphant marches down the avenue are Manolo Blahnik-shod  troops of shoppers liberating handbags, clothing and glittering bling from locked display cases in stores. If your exchange rate against the euro is better than our dollar, you can help free France from the daunting European financial crisis. Do your part and shop for the good of la belle France!

Resting at the Cafe Roma. Would Mme. de Pompadour care to join me?

Museum Visit: The Cluny

July 31, 2011

The Cluny Museum. Slip into some chainmail and explore the medieval past

Occasionally, the Experienced Travelers stay out of cafés long enough to visit a museum.  Probably not as often as we should, but there are 153 museums and over 7,000 cafes in Paris, so you see the challenge.

I was on my own one afternoon when Melinda suffered with a funny tummy.  (But not to worry – Nurse made a long-distance diagnosis (stop the Chantrix) that put Melinda back in her wedgie shoes by evening. Nurse is a magnificent diagnostician, even from Command Central across the Atlantic.)

I admired the gothic spires of the Hôtel de Cluny and decided to refresh my knowledge of France’s medieval past.  Known as the Musée National du Moyen Age, “the Cluny” holds a premier collection of religious sculpture, stained glass, art and artifacts from the Middle Ages – in particular the famous 15th century Unicorn tapestries and original statues from Cathedral facades.  And if the 11th century isn’t early enough, there are Roman baths on the grounds – Caesar’s idea of a spa weekend.

Woe be unto those that pull dusting duty

The Cluny is a world away from the tourists and errant water bottles that crowd the larger museums. The dark, quiet interior of the Hôtel is perfect for the collection.  I could overhear a concert of medieval music in the chapel that put me right in the mood for chivalrous knights, Abelard and Héloïse and chanting monks singing the Divine Offices.

You have to admire a man who would depend on this to deflect an oncoming lance. Tim and Victor-this is *so* you.

The lives of medieval Parisians were hardscrabble and God-fearing. Royalty on the right bank, the clergy of Notre Dame on the island, and upstart Sorbonne intellectuals on the left bank. Since it’s my fantasy, I opted for the royal court, insuring ET creature comforts like beds, fires and chamber pots.  With a tunic, an embroidered lace bodice and a fetching fur mantle I’d be ready for any social occasion or Anglo-Saxon invasion.

A beautiful 14th century depiction of the Holy family and the Presentation at the Temple. I love the gentle faces and swaddling cloth.

The Cluny holdings include religious art, beautifully rendered by anonymous stone masons, artists and mid-level monks.  Medieval Frenchmen – devout and largely illiterate – relied on these exquisite works for visual tutorials in their Faith.

Madonna and child carved from wood. He's a rather mature-looking baby who slightly resembles Barak Obama.

What does it say about me that I pondered not the existence of God, but whether things would “go” in the living room?  How many of the Unicorn Tapestries would fit on the wall behind the chair? (and do I have to change the rug…)  What would Nurse think of those gold reliquaries on the mantle?

We have just the right corner for this 13th century gold chasse from Limoges.

It was the Knights Templar meets HGTV and I was on the path to accessorized eternal damnation, taking Nurse down with me by association.

Add an uplight and a fern - instant drama

Afterward, I sat in the beautiful gardens surrounding the museum to contemplate my near-heresy. (after all, I didn’t *actually* redecorate…)  I must purify by getting some medieval stricture into my daily life before I’m damned.

Self-portrait taken before I realized I was damned.

Maybe I could linger at a table in the Café Flore since it’s built over the grounds of the famous Abbey of St.-Germain.  Or delicious cheese might earn time off from purgatory if it’s made using the methods that artisans practiced centuries ago.   I must save my soul by noshing on French bread and wine and renouncing my spurious past.

As I considered my redemption over a glass of wine, I wondered what might have been the life of a medieval ET?  A religious pilgrim on the road to Compastella atoning for all those café stops? A troubadour in the countryside singing epic tales of heroes and villains? Or an itinerant seller of early Hermes scarves and Kelly bags going from village to farm?

A medieval guardian angel showing an errant ET the path to righteousness.

Maybe just a penitent novice, earnestly painting an Annunciation to redecorate the Mother Abbesses’ private chapel.  (anything to avoid the harvest.  Medieval moi is no fool)

The “No Wine Left Behind” Tour – Part Deux

April 30, 2011

Toutes directions! The Experienced Travelers follow the signs to more Parisian delights

The Experienced Travelers’ Parisian Saga of Joy continues.  If you missed the first part, read it here!  Nurse’s daughter Melinda was an energetic explorer who politely tolerated my obscure references to Proust’s grandmother.  (Melinda texts Nurse:  is Proust a friend of Julie’s?) 

You will not be surprised to learn that we slept soundly after 14 glasses of wine that first day.  So with strict “vin consumption” rules in effect, our exploits over the next four days took us into the heart, soul and stomach of Paris.  Nurse was on board from Command Central texting advice (go w/the sancerre) 

Circumnavigating the rue Mouffetard looking for the market.

We covered the Marais, the rue Mouffetard to the Sorbonne, the Luxembourg gardens, the islands, the Odeon-St Germain neighborhood, the Champs Elyseesand much more.  I did revisit the Brasserie Balzar as promised, and will report on that and other meals in future posts.   And this time I didn’t ask where St. Joan of Arc was buried, which restored my teetering credibility with the French. (Nurse: pls say u didnt ask about Joan again)

As attentive ETs, we absorbed the meaningful lessons that travel offers us:

ET Melinda got us to our destinations with her Texas know-how on the metro

Never change lines at Chatalet.  Melinda is now a metro wiz and learned that you’ll walk underground to the English Channel to make your correspondence at the Chatalet station.  She navigated while we wandered the tunnels chanting “Direction Boulogne-change at Motte Picquet-Direction Etoile to the sound of a busker’s accordion.

A fine snack awaits ETs who climb

The official ET cardiovascular strength-building activity is taking metro stairs to offset the cheese and foie gras.  We believe it’s a win-win for all body parts!  For a complete workout bypass the elevator at  Abbesses or Cité stations and earn  a four-course meal once you reach the top (well, after they administer the oxygen).

Croque Monsieur must mean "divine" in French. This one was - in any language.

French comfort food.  Melinda approached her first croque-monsieur like Napoleon’s army at Austerlitz and declared it “the perfect hangover dish”.  Fresh white bread, parisian ham and hot gruyere over oozing bearnaise bolsters the spirit and satisfies any hunger.  (Nurse: def take the stairs after that)

Hold on with both hands.  In an effort to develop transatlantic sensibilities, I tried ambidextrous eating, with the fork in my left hand and knife in my right. Practice makes perfect and steak-frites is the recommended final exam. (Nurse: yes more stairs)

Macarons are delicate cargo - it must be the ganache

Necessity is la mere d’invention.  Who knew that the reliable single-macaron transport container is an empty band-aid box.  I brought macarons back for Nurse to taste-test and this method worked. (Nurse: don’t come home w/out choc, pistachio and lemon)  I now have a ready supply of French band-aids in case I cut myself on a baguette crust.

Beware the grab-n-run.  We got sage advice from a friendly Parisian couple at the Cafe Flore.  Enterprising thieves will perform a pirouette à la seconde and grab valuables from cafe tables at the front row of the terrace.   In fact, he spotted someone casing tables while we chatted. So the first thing we did was move the macarons to safety.

All Hail St. Genvieve the Patron Saint of Paris.  The night before our departure, I got a midnight call telling me our flight home was canceled.  Voila – an extra day in Paris and 60 euros of Found Money because we didn’t have to traipse to the airport to find out.  Was it because we visited the tomb of St Genvieve, who knows how to crash a fuel truck into a jet? (which did happen and could only be a miracle)

So it’s clear to us that the way to acquire knowledge, raise your metabolism and experience miracles is to spend a few days in Paris.   Your efforts will bring wisdom, virtue and gastronomic excellence.

These streets are made for Walkin' ETs!



The “No Wine Left Behind” Tour

April 15, 2011

No Wine Left Behind: ETs Melinda and Julie working hard on behalf of the Blog

The Experienced Travelers can authoritatively state that a crisp côtes du rhône on a sun-filled cafe terrace in the Place Saint-André des Arts is the recommended treatment for cobblestone-worn feet.  And a carafe is even better. Associate ET Melinda and I had five fantastic days in Paris, while Nurse enthusiastically directed our activities from home base.  Melinda is every bit her mother’s daughter, and having her along was like Virtual Nurse throughout the trip.

St. Agricola of Avignon, the French patron saint of good weather, smiled on us with buckets of warm sun.  Thus the Parisians were in good spirits, and well-disposed toward tourists like us who leaked euros wherever they went.  Adding to the climate, Melinda’s glowing Texas charm melted the cool French demeanor and raised our cachet all across town.

Nurse supernaturally knew when it was meal time. We reported dutifully on this omlette and goat cheese salad

We went everywhere (one of us in stylish wedgie sandals) and photographed like mad. Nurse carefully monitored our pictures via Dropbox to make sure they were perfect for the Readership. Under strict direction from Nurse’s texts (what r u eating?) we documented every meal, so there are several scrumptious posts in our future! 

Melinda claims I am a travel taskmaster, but that just isn’t true!  It’s perfectly reasonable that, on our jet-lagged day, we breakfasted on the Rue Cler and tried the first macaron in our Taste Test, hit the Bon Marché food hall, shopped the rue de Sèvres and visited the chic new Hermes store, stopped for a pick-me-up and people-watching at the Café Flore and explored the rue Montgoreuil market for the second macaron in our Taste Test at Strohrer.

The dreaded cobblestones tested the ET endurance

After a short metro ride, we genuflected before E. Dehillerin and bought lovely new knives, tried fresh oysters and a crisp vintage at Au Pied du Cochon, passed the construction site over Les Halles, made our way to happy hour at a faux-Mexican bar on the rue de Bucci and had a light dinner of an omlette and a chevre chaud salad (with wine, n’est pas) at the Café Danton.  Taskmaster?  Moi? 

Over the next four days, we had Paris at our feet – which we would have realized if we had any feeling left in them. Early on, we ordered wine at every opportunity.  By the end of Day 1, we consumed 14 glasses between us.  By mid-day 2, we invoked emergency ET legislation requiring us to drink Perrier every other round. Yet by the time we dined in Montmartre that evening, we passed an amendment suspending the Perrier rule after sundown.  As we toasted the throng in the Place du Tertre,  the portrait artists lured willing subjects and the lady inside warbled Piaf songs to a piano accompaniment.  Exquisite.

Toasting the crowds in the Place du Tertre

Watch for more reports on our Parisian sojourn in future posts!

A Paris Moment

April 9, 2011

Happy crowds filled the cobblestone streets of Montmartre on a Friday night

The Experienced Travelers appreciate variety, and we’ve certainly had ours on this latest visit.  Our dinner in Montmartre last night was a blast. We heeded Nurse’s text message “Montmartre – fun. Pigalle – oh la la, non.”.  Clearly, raucus living high above Paris agrees with us.  We rose early enough to fit in a full day today.

The ETs had a rue Mouffetard morning

Here’s a quick moment from our visit to the market on the rue Mouffetard.   The colorful blooms and bundles of white asparagus announce Spring.  Cheeses and delectables were for sale by hard-working shopkeepers.  Neighbors chatted, compared prices and bought for their Saturday night dinner.

We’re headed out for our Saturday dinner and a restaurant I haven’t tried before.  Will post again when the wireless internet cooperates!

Back in Paris

April 8, 2011

A long lunch in the sun at the Cafe de Flore

Alors, mes amis!  An Experienced Traveler has returned to Paris!  After just two days, my mental circuits are gratefully adjusting to French sensitivities.  It’s so, so good to be here.

Nurse is home running Command Central, providing strategic direction via the miracle of text messaging.  So my Associate ET on this trip is her daughter Melinda, a tireless traveler who has single-handedly improved the state of the French economy since her arrival.

The weather is perfect and spring is alive in Paris, from the Rue Cler to the food halls at the Bon Marche, and at the Place St. Germain and the rue de Bucci. We scoured the Marais and both the Iles, and enjoyed a surprisingly pleasant dinner in Montmartre.

There’s so much to tell and so little time to write.  Suffice to say that  after consuming of 14 glasses of wine between us on our first day, we now limit ourselves to wine at *every other* cafe stop.  Nurse kept texting — what r u eating now? — and we succombed to death by cobblestones after combing the Marais for just the right buys (ask me about the briefcase I left behind…)

We will keep gathering content, dear Readership – always with you in mind.  Internet connectivity is a hit-and-miss affair, but I’ll post when I can.

Bon appetite! Goat cheese salad and an omlette from the Cafe Danton

April in Paris

March 28, 2011

 

Mise en place in Paris. All that's missing is an ET.

The Experienced Travelers toil and sacrifice to entertain the Readership with anecdotes about Paris.   From time to time, we must refresh our photos – and our palettes – with exquisite new wonders to share on Julie’s Paris.  Thus, it is solely for your benefit, dear Readership, that I return to our beloved Paris in early April for an extended weekend of ET research and grocery shopping.

Is there falafel in my future on the rue des Rosiers?

Nurse declined to come along because it’s a quick visit, but I have the next-best travel companion on board – Nurse’s daughter, Associate ET Melinda. Melinda is an excellent photographer, a first-class shopper and a true food enthusiast.  She will be a boon companion and a welcome addition to our blog.

Fans of Nurse will be pleased to know that she’ll oversee operations from Command Central, directing our every move via phone and text message.  Believe me, nothing will get by Nurse and she has firm opinions about how this trip should go.  You’ll be hearing from her!

The gardens behind Notre Dame are perfect for a picnic

Melinda and I will make the most of four days in the streets and boulevards.  My cunning plan will keep us busy exploring neighborhoods and restaurants.  I have accounted for the mission-critical aspects on my ET spreadsheet; Omlettes – check.  Croissants – check.   Pâté and a crisp Sancerre – check.  It’s been a long winter and I am ready for spring in Paris.

Yes, I'm dreaming of this hamburger. It was spectacular.

I want to prowl the less-touristed streets of Montmartre and watch edgy young “Bobos” on the cafe terraces near the Canal St. Martin.  I’m curious to explore elegant Passy and we will  lunch-tour at the popular Wine Museum.  Maybe this time I’ll genuflect at Proust’s cork-lined bedroom, where he wrote his masterwork and ate takeout ice-cream from the Ritz.

Why not suggest a sight or a memorable meal using the Comments link below!  We travel to serve to the Readership so you can wine, dine, shop and explore Paris along with us.

Pray for good weather and watch for real-time reports.  Oh, la la.

Melinda and I will be reporting from Place St. Andre des Arts

City of Lights; City of Romance

February 12, 2011

Montmartre is replete with romance. Have a glass of wine at the house of artist Maurice Utrillo.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear Readership.  The Experienced Travelers wish you hearts, flowers and those hard, chalky candies that say “will you be mine”.

Paris embodies romance, from the grand monuments to a moonlight walk along the Seine.  The spirit of romanticism is everywhere; the dramatic gesture, the poignant word,  the duel to the death.  The ETs have selected a few Romantic sights that will make every day seem like Valentine’s Day in Paris.  

La gloire! Napoleon's Arc de Triomphe at the head of the Champs Elysees. Photo by Associate ET Miss Joanne Felzer

The ETs aren’t fans of the frantic Champs-Élysées, but the Arc de Triomphe that crowns the avenue screams Romanticism We think this dramatic symbol of Napoleon’s conquests is best appreciated from a distance.  Slow-moving ETs are no match for rogue Renaults that circle the étoile like it’s the last lap of the Indy 500.  I caught Nurse taking architectural measurements and expect to see a facsimile Arc over the driveway soon.  

L’église de la Madeleine, former temple of glory, rang with the romantic music of Saint-Saëns and later, Gabriel Fauré

La Madeleine, another of Napoleon’s monuments, is the namesake of a favourite ET square, home to the food stores Fauchon and Hédiard.  There is an affordable café next to Maille that makes a perfectly romantic post for observing shoppers.  Who are these well-heeled habituées with sacks of Found Euros that frequent the rue Saint-Honoré? Our idea of romance is to be French trophy wives with hired help, who tutoyer headwaiters. 

The Île St.-Louis is most romantic in the evening

What could be more romantic than a walk around the Île St.-Louis? It’s best at night when tourists (like us!) go elsewhere, leaving silent cobblestone streets under lamplight shadows.  It’s the perfect place for a stylishly late dinner in smashing new clothes.  We read about the restaurant Au Gourmet de l’Ile which specializes in andouillette. It sounded good until I learned what’s *in* andouillette. Suffice it to say that Nurse, with her passion for parts, will have proper enthusiasm. 

The art of leisure is just one romantic aspect of Parisian life

Daily life in Paris can be a romantic feast.  A leisurely afternoon on a café terrace goes perfectly with flutes of champagne – the most romantic aperitif.  The ETs like Le Bonaparte in the Place St.-Germain.  It’s not famously existentialist like the Deux Magots or Café de Flore but we get the same inspiring view for less money!

The vibrant colors of fresh food makes every market a Monet.  The French tenets of high quality and artful presentation turn an onerous task into a romantic adventure.  Nurse is loathe to push a cart through Wegmans, but in Paris, she relishes the opportunity to look, sniff, squeeze and choose.

Another romantic excursion - a sunset boatride on the Seine

Although we can’t be in Paris this Valentine’s Day, the ETs will open a bottle of vin rouge and a ripe camembert and toast Paris – the most romantic of cities.  In the spirit of the day, here’s 1:17 seconds of ET Virtual Cafe to bring the romance of Paris to your computer.

Enlightenment at the Sorbonne

February 2, 2011

The mysteries of medieval Paris and higher learning take the ETs to the Sorbonne

The Experienced Travelers seek enlightenment.  And when the path to knowledge is paved with eclectic food and shopping, they undertake the journey with rigor. So the ETs donned their academic regalia, and set out for the Latin Quarter on the left bank, one of the oldest areas of Paris.

Nurse was in a relaxed frame of mind, so I had to promise more than narrow medieval passages to get her on board. Fortunately, the area is filled with artisan jewelry studios, bookshops, small specialty stores and ethnic restaurants.  The deal was struck:  I admired moldy old stone in ancient streets while Nurse investigated uses for “found money”.

The Sorbonne, where the ETs could be lecturers in Economics on Found Money. Photo by Maggie Durbano

This colorful quartier has long been a center of learning.  During the 13th century, Parisian academics decamped from the Ile de la Cité for the left bank and established the Sorbonne as part of the University of Paris. Their freewheeling students followed, and vigorously upheld the medieval tradition of the endless frat party.  Certain young relatives of the ETs could have written this student’s plea from the Balades of Eustache Deschamps:

“Well-beloved father, I have not a penny, nor can I get any save through you, for all things at the University are so dear:…Moreover, I owe ten crowns in dues to the Provost, and can find no man to lend them to me;…I owe in every street, and am hard bested to free myself from such snares.”

Streets around the Sorbonne like the Rue Galande mix higher learning and inspired shopping. Photo by mbzt

Chief among notable students of the Sorbonne was Dante, who mentions the rue Fouarre in the Divine Comedy.  Rue Fouarre or “street of straw” was named for the straw market that was located here.  Lectures were held outdoors and students sat on the straw balancing writing implements on their knees.  The great scholars of Europe gathered to debate where to go for a beer after class.  The ETs, who require basic creature comforts, would not have embraced higher education in the 13th century. 

Today students still barhop through the Latin Quarter.  We regret that we are not the target demographic for the Caveau des Oubliettes on the rue Galande.  Formerly a 12th century prison, the club décor features oubliettes – dank one-man holes in the ground.  Oublier means “to forget”, which is exactly what happened to the unfortunate occupants. We expect customers of the Caveau still forget — after rounds of shots and a convivial evening in the old dungeons.

In search of chocolat chaud. Photo by Miss Joanne Felzer

By now it was time to distract Nurse from thoughts of wet straw and medieval torture.  The Café Panis on the Quai Montebello makes a perfect chocolat chaud, which bolstered Nurse’s spirits.  The thick melted chocolate and hot milk restored her fine color. Café Panis isn’t the most affordable stop, but the view of Notre Dame enchants the ETs every time.

Madness at Shakespere and Company

Nearby the Café Panis is Shakespeare and Company, a Latin Quarter institution that sells English-language books and serves as a hangout for fledgling American writers. This eccentric establishment is an acquired taste, but certain ETs like the buildings wonderful old bones.

The atmosphere is chaotic, with books piled everywhere.  It’s impossible to find anything, too crowded to browse, and the youthful staff is uninterested in middle-aged ETs when engaging young students need assistance.  On our last visit, we learned that S&C didn’t carry Georges Simenon’s Maigret books. I was outraged.  Thank goodness for Nurse’s Kindle.  In fairness, S&C has legions of fans and it’s worth a visit, if only to explore the interior of a very old building.   

The ETs retreated to Square Viviani after the tumultuous S&C, Photo by tangopaso

Nurse clearly needed fresh air, so we relaxed in the Place Viviani under the oldest tree in Paris. Adjacent to the square, the 13th-century church of St. Julien le Pauvre is as old as Notre Dame and hosts a series of excellent chamber concerts. 

Our Sorbonne adventure was worthwhile.  The ETs found that within a few blocks, you can browse artisan jewelry and used bookstores, meet a vegetarian friend for lunch, relax over a chocolat chaud, light a candle in one of the oldest churches in Paris, investigate fusion cuisine, then admire a spectacular view of Notre Dame.  

A delignted Nurse knows she can parlay her participation into another visit to the Centre Pompidou. Photo by Miss Joanne Felzer

Paris by boat

October 12, 2010

One view from the Seine, with the Grand Palais in the distance

When Experienced Travellers yearn for something nautical, they buy a one-day ticket on the Batobus, Paris’ water-taxi.  You can ride the circuit, or get on and off at different stops and sightsee.  Batobus gives you city transport while you rest and admire Paris from the river.  How splendid!

The romantic Pont Neuf, near the tip of the Ile de la Cite

There are 37 bridges in Paris spanning the Seine.  The oldest of them is the Pont Neuf.  Completed in 1607 during the reign of Henry IV, it has a reputation as the most romantic bridge in Paris.   But before it became a romantic venue, it was a center of petty criminal and commercial activity.   

In this century, the artist Christo wrapped the Pont Neuf in sand-colored fabric.  This might qualify as either criminal or commercial activity, depending on your point of view. 

An address to admire: the Ile St.-Louis in the center of Paris

The Ile St.-Louis is a most prestigious address, and a very good retirement plan if you’re lucky enough to call it home.  At one time, it was used to graze cattle.  Today the most popular grazing is at Berthillion – arguably the best ice cream in Paris. 

Why do I think George Clooney has a home in the Ile?  Well if he does, he is in stellar company. Baudelaire, French poet, essayist and notable laudanum addict was briefly a resident here.  And Proust placed Charles Swann’s home on the Ile.

In addition to quiet wealth and aristocracy, there’s also shopping.  The Rue St. Louis-en-Ile is lined with boutiques, food stores and small designer clothing shops. 

Shopping on the Rue St. Louis-en-Ile

Our Batobus comes upon Notre Dame from the west, where the Ile St. Louis almost nudges the Ile de la Cite.

This makes anyone a photographer. You can't get a bad picture with this kind of material

The banks of the Seine are justly famous as the perfect  place for a rendez-vous with a certain someone.  As always in France, the tradition continues.  This couple was occupied with La Gloire  as we waited for the next Batobus.

With the Louvre as their backdrop, this couple carries on a deep intellectual conversation

As the boat pulled alongside the Eiffel Tower stop, we were glad we remembered the Batobus and had a day of riparian delights on the banks of the Seine. 

The trinket sellers will drive you made, but a view of the Eiffel Tower is on every ET's list.

You don’t have to take an expensive Bateau Mouche dinner cruise to enjoy Paris from the Seine.  I feel in my bones that this is somehow “found money”, but I need to make a few calculations to confirm this.   

From my archives - The Concergierie towers on the Ile de al Cite

Feet on the street – Part 2

October 11, 2010

La Fontaine St. Michel

I left off with that dreamy omlette, so I’ll resume my tale and take you through the 6th, past Les Invalides and add an addendum on our dinner.

The 6th arrondissement is perfect for ETs

There is an abundance of strolling, shopping and old things in this area.  Benjamin Franklin thought so too.  Cafe Procope was his hangout, so it’s only fitting that I should honor his legacy with a cafe express.  This cafe was the first to serve coffee in 1686.  The Founding Fathers all organized business trips to Paris – and often left their wives at home.  I wonder if they had French nieces too….

Robespierre, Danton and Marat also found it a convivial place where-from to run a Revolution.  I wonder who paid the check? (and I bet Citizen Robespierre didn’t have to wait 20 minutes to get it)
Rue de Buccci – the market street of the 6th

Experienced Travellers know not to travel the Rue de Bucci hungry.  I was still luminous from the omlette, so it was a permissable route.  This is the local marche, lined with cafes, epiceries, produce stands and shops.  My hero Janet Flanner lived nearby on the Rue Jacob and it was a favourite area for The Lost Generation.

Take-away salads on the Rue de Bucci

A popular spot for lunch and some mid-day flirting

I made my way down the Blvd. St. Germain and over the Rue de Grennelle, which takes me through Embassy Row.  Hmm. Lots of police , the road closed to traffic and absolutely NO SOUND except footsteps on the pavement.  Oh dear.  Even ETs can’t plan for every turn of events. 

I kept my head down and walked.  Very fast.  I’ve been reading too much Alan Furst. This must be what the streets were like at night during the Nazi occupation.  Alan’s heros duck into a doorway and press against the wall if a car approaches.  Especially if they’re  using forged papers and carrying microfilm.   Fortunately, I had no need of doorways or false alibis.

Les Invalides - army museum and military hospital

I emerged a little out of breath and regained my wits on a bench at the Invalides.  Les Invalides was established as a military hospital by Louis XIV – and his appetite for war consigned many of his troops to it’s care.  It is still used as a hospital today, and houses the Army Museum and the very grand tomb of Emperor Napoleon. 

The gold dome is beautiful at night when it’s lit.  The French are very very good at lighting monuments.  They’re also very good at integrating contemporary art with ancient or historical buildings.  I admired this installation in the Invalides garden.

Garden art at Les Invalides

Thank goodness it was time for dinner, and we had reservations at a wine bar called Number 7.  

The obligatory swirl

My knowledgable friend Terese encouraged me to order the St. Emillion, and I always follow her advice.  Now, I want to know if St. Emillion can be my new patron saint.

Nurse is a thurifer in our Church of St. Emillion

Nurse, resplendent after a day of rest, ordered a crab and zucchini terrine topped with chopped lime that was so refreshing.  The plates were sprinkled with a very interesting paprika.  So now we have to scour the market to find a small bottle for the suitcase.

Crab zucchini terrine. I had enough wine to wonder how they got the zuchinni to stick together.

This is where we learned that not all mashed potatos need to be mashed – some can be chunks! We finished the meal with a pear clafoutis and a cafe noir.

Pear clafoutis - the walk home will do us good

Thank goodness I walked all day.  I have a caloric theory that you can excercise ahead of time to offset the evening meal.  This operates on the same principle as “found money” and is equally sound.

The longer I spend in Paris, the more my theories are borne out. 

Feet on the street – Part 1

October 11, 2010

 
 
 

Cheese ladies chatting with passing neighbors

Nurse was resting her back today, so I revisited some neighborhoods that I know and love. 

 

Experienced Travellers always devise routes ahead of time that balance historical sights with local interest – and of course, food.  A walk  from the Latin Quarter to St.-Germain, through Embassy Row, past Les Invalides and back to the Ecole Militaire sounded just right.  Part I will focus on the Latin Quarter to  Place St. Michel. 

Reliable #82 dropped me near the Rue St. Jacques to begin my trek. I will never fear Parisian busses again.  It’s far superior to taking the metro, unless you’re in a hurry.

Riding the #82 bus through Montparnasse

The Latin Quarter has teemed with students, tourists, nightclubs and fast-food since the Collège de Sorbonne was established in 1253.  Would Abelard and Heloise be surprised by the Greek take-away and post-card vendors?  Perhaps our friendly Medievalist can weigh in on 13th century student life?  

The 5th is where you go when you need a gyro in Paris

Gyros on the Rue de la Huchette

For years, I’ve heard about an eccentric Latin Quarter hotel with a devoted clientel,  that has cheap rooms and unparallelled views of Notre Dame. (J-P A. may know of it)  Well here I was on the doorstep, so I asked to see a room.  Now, bear in mind this is 75 euros with no view – about the price of a Holiday Inn Express – and the maid was cleaning it.

A little too “La Boheme” for the ETs

I suppose it works if you’re young, tormented and writing quatrains about man’s inhumanity to man.  I didn’t inquire about availability.

But if you’re past the prime of youth, don’t despair.  Enjoy this memorable view of Notre Dame from the Place St Julien le Pauvre.  
This view doesn’t cost anything – found money!

Lovely old streets surround the church of St. Julien le Pauvre

Pondering medieval fast-food and tormented poetics gave me an appetite.  Much to my delight, I enjoyed the perfect omlette.  Lightly crusted on the outside, slightly runny on the inside, and filled with ham and cheese.   The new gold standard. 

The best omlette I have ever eaten. Thank you, La Fontaine St. Michel

Rested and restored, I set out to explore the 6th between Place St Michel and the Place St. Germain.  And an eerie experience on the Rue Grenelle in Embassy Row.  Watch for Part 2!

There’s going to be a transport strike here on Tuesday to protest the Government’s move to raise the retirement age to 62.  Limited train, metro and bus service will be fun to negotiate!

Ladies who Lunch at the Fontaine St. Michel


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