Posts Tagged ‘France’

Paris Neighborhoods: Rive Droite

November 7, 2011

The Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre are across the river from one another. Art lovers take note! Photo by Associate ET Felzer

An previous post regaled you with the Experienced Travelers Paris Hotel Tips. (Read it here)  Now we’ll take a whirlwind tour of a few Paris neighborhoods so you can settle on a handy address for your sojurn.

Left bank?  Right bank?  Montparnasse? Montmartre?   It sounds like a Piaf ballad, n’est pas? The choices are bountiful dear Readership, and we assure you that you’ll find just the right spot to suit your mood and itinerary.  (tell us you do have an itinerary… oh dear me,  that’s another post.)

The ETs recommend staying in a central location that's nearby major sights.

Some travelers will trade a central location for cheaper digs on the outskirts.  The ETs believe that there’s something to be said for proximity when you get the yen to walk along the Seine in the moonlight. So we recommend the city center, and there are perfect neighborhoods on both banks of the Seine with hotels in virtually all price ranges. Each area has it’s fans, and aspects that make it unique.  Go get your map and a glass of wine and lets start with a few arrondissements on the rive droite, or right bank.

Staying near the Louvre is central and convenient if you have just a few days in Paris. Photo by Associate ET Felzer.

The Louvre-Palais Royale area (1st arrondissement) is smack in the center of Paris, between the Place de la Concorde and Châtelet -Les Halles.  If your inner Rembrandt yearns for the major museums, this could be the spot.  The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are across the Seine from each other.  The Jeu de Paume and the Orangerie are at the edge of the Tuilleries.  You’ll find busy restaurants – including the legendary Angelina’s –  and tourist shops selling sno-globe Eiffel Towers under the arcades on the rue de Rivoli.  Nearby restaurants tend to be more expensive because of the proximity to the museums.  If you’re hungry venture north to the trendy rue Montorgueil street market where you can get a cheaper meal, and browse delicious kitchen stores like E. Dehillerin on the edge of Les Halles.

It’s worth noting that the Louvre-Palais Royale area lacks the “lived-in” feeling of other quartiers, if that’s important to you.  You’re also dependent on Metro line 1, which serves many major sights, but as a result it’s jam-packed most of the day.   And avoid the Châtelet metro correspondence – it’s enormous and confusing.  Consider staying in this area if you have a limited time in Paris and you want to be central to most major sights.

  • What’s nearby:  Place de la Concorde, Madeleine, Tuilleries Gardens, Musée d’Orsay, l’Opera, grandes magasins (Printemps and Galeries Lafayette), Place Vendome, Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame, Les Halles, Châtelet.

Ile St-Louis. If you stay here, don't worry. They all go home at night and leave you alone with beautiful 17th century buildings.

The upscale Ile St.-Louis is a coveted address for visitor and resident alike.  This lovely island in the Seine is awash with tourists during the day, but quiet and village-like at night.  Alongside the aristocratic townhouses, there are a few hotels and some excellent restaurants.  The lower Marais, the edge of the Latin Quarter and it’s sister island, the Ile de la Cité are within easy reach.  It is necessary to cross a bridge to reach a metro stop, but there are several in the area. This is a good choice if you want to be centrally located in an area that’s pleasant and peaceful in the evening.  We don’t recommend the Ile de la Cité next door. It’s not convenient as a base.

  • What’s nearby:  Villages St.-Paul, the lower Marais, Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, the Latin Quarter, Berthillion ice cream.

The Marais is a popular location that's convenient and shop-worthy

The Marais (3-4th arrondissements) runs from the Seine to Temple, and Beaubourg to Bastille.  This quartier is fresh from a gentrification which started in the 1980s, and attracted small hotels, chi-chi boutiques, artisan studios and Gay residents (suffice it to say “le clubbing” must be good!)  The centuries-old streets off the rue des Archives aren’t dormant anymore, with lots of walking-shopping on the narrow sidewalks. But you quickly get a sense of old Paris in the side streets and courtyards.  The jewel in the Marais crown is the exquisite Place des Vosges featuring Henry IVs arcades.  Stay in the Marais and it could be your neighborhood garden.

  • What’s nearby:  boutique shopping, the Musees Carnavalet, Picasso and Pompidou, the St-Paul quartier with antiques and very old architecture, the Ile-St.-Louis and Ile de la Cite, Place de la Bastille, Hotel de Ville (and the fabulous BHV department store)

The legendary Avenue des Champs-Elysees has plenty of places to spend your Found Money

The vast, chaotic Champs-Elysees (8th arrondissement) is riddled with hotels in all price ranges, but the noise and traffic make the ETs grateful to hurry back to the residential 7th.  Perhaps you’re made of stronger stuff and will thrive on the energy.

Many people choose the Champs-Elysees as a home base and the quantity of major hotels attests to that. It’s a shopping haven.  Global brand names line the wide avenue.  The grands magasins are nearby.  High-end retailers fill the Golden Triangle, and the elegant stores of the Place de la Madeleine and the rue Royale are just off the Place de la Concorde.

Associate ETs Joanne and Clare strike a pose before the monumental Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees

If you are superhuman and have a shred of energy left after shopping, nightclubs like the Lido abound. There are five metro stops on the Champs-Elysees (Line 1)with convenient correspondances to other lines.  Be warned that a glass of wine or a meal will cost much more here.   We think the visitors who stay here do so for access to shopping or major hotel brands.

  • What’s nearby: High-end shopping; The Arc de Triomphe, Grande and Petit Palais, stores in the rue Faubourg St.-Honoré, Golden Triangle and Place de la Madeleine.

We need another Paris trip to explore the 9th, 10th and 11th arrondissements. These neighborhoods are gaining in popularity with young singles, particularly the 10th along the Canal St-Martin.  I spent an afternoon in the 9th wandering from the Place St-Georges to Place Pigalle (in search of Simenon’s Maigret, of course).  I thought it was an unremarkable area and feel that I must have missed something.  Do please tell me what it was.

I haven’t visited the 10th or 11th, so I don’t  recommend for or against them as a base for visitors.  But I have read that new up-and-coming super-chef restaurants are opening there.  I hope we’ll get informative comments from fans of these areas who will enlighten us.

  • What’s nearby: 9th – Opera Garnier, grandes magasins, Gare St-Lazare. 10th – Place de la République , Gares du Nord and L’Est. 11th – Place de la Bastille, eastern edge of the Marais, Père Lachaise cemetery.

Marketing in the rue de Levis near the Parc Monceau.

May we make a plug for a residential area on the south-eastern edge of the 17th arrondissement near the beautiful Parc Monceau?  In the bloom of my youth, I rented a room overlooking the market in the rue de Lévis.   I often return for a sentimental visit, hoping to catch a glimpse of my eccentric Algerian landlady.  The market here is authentic, with fewer fashion boutiques and more food and services stores.  If you want a true residential experience in Paris, I can recommend this neighborhood.  Do not stay further north or east than Ave. Villiers and Ave. Wagram.  Stick close by the Parc Monceau. Convenient metro stops are found along the Ave. de Villiers.

  • What’s nearby: Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees, Parc Monceau, Proust’s rooms in the Blvd. Haussmann.

Picasso, Utrillo, Modigliani - you! This alluring view of the Place du Tertre might tempt you to book a room here.

And finally on our right bank tour, we come to that  storied butte in the 18th arrondissement.  Lovers of Montmartre are a feisty bunch, and claim that the charm of the place outweighs the long breathless ascent.  The ETs can’t imagine  schlepping back and forth by bus or metro to get to major sights.  And there’s that hill to climb at the end of the day. Again.   But if you have a 19th century, absinthe-ridden artistic-genius fantasy, you’ll find very affordable hotels and restaurants in Montmartre.  Be warned that the area between Sacré-Cœur and the Place du Tertre is sheer tourist madness during the day, especially on sunny weekends.  It gets better at night.

Dear Readership, this is only the right bank!  Imagine what we’ll find when we explore the 5th and 6th arrondissements on the left bank in a future post!

Paris experts – use the comment link below and enlighten us about your favourite right bank haunt!

Enjoying the sun on the Ile St.-Louis, and pondering our exploration of the Left Bank in the next post! Someone needs a haircut....

Happy Birthday Julie’s Paris

October 10, 2011

The ETs prefer a comfortable outdoor venue when doing research for the Readership (even when they should be looking for someone to cut their hair)

The Experienced Travelers are popping corks to celebrate one-year of Julie’s Paris. Who knew!  Nurse and I toast the Readership!

Associate ETs Joanne and Clare explore the menu at Le Petit Troquet in the 7th

We also salute Associate ETs Joanne, Clare and Melinda, who contributed travel companionship, content and photos.  They willingly walked, ate, drank, shopped, photographed, drank and persevered.

Julie’s Paris  started as a trip blog.  It would have been too tiresome to spend time and bandwidth e-mailing everyone 10-megapixel photos of duck confit.  So we decided to blog.  The format was ideal and our friends were hardly shy about sharing comments about our Paris adventures. Thus it began, and so it continues.

Stiring things up at the Bisto St-Germain

We’ve welcomed new members to the Readership from all round the world.  It’s a delight to meet you and exchange stories through comments and e-mail.  We also rely on the Fodors Travel Europe forum for information and advice to bring the Readership the very best in Paris info.

Our first post was inspired by the orgiastic 2 1/2-hour lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Versailles.  But the continuation of that post with more photos and description is a better read! We know that the Readership wants French food — the ETs will dine out and deliver.

Other popular posts over the past year include our trip to the Chateau de Versailles, some odds and ends around town, the Marais and Monet, and the most-searched term leading readers to the blog, les macarons.  Next time you’re on a conference call, check out the Julie’s Paris archive!

The ETs are ready to eat whenever necessary in service to JuliesParis

Thank goodness we have hundreds of digital photos from Paris trips over the years, so we have a robust archive of pictures and stories to keep Julie’s Paris fresh.

But for heaven’s sake, think of the Paris topics and restaurants I have yet to cover.  It’s my job to gather content, so I am going to Kayak.com right away to check on airfares.  I must insure that the Readership is entertained.  I take my responsibility very seriously.  (And if my accountant should ask, be sure you tell her how important new content is to you)

There's so much more to discover in Paris - the Trocadero neighborhood looks promising.

We all love Paris – so let’s share our guilty pleasure with like-minded friends! Go ahead — use the “Share” link at the end of each post and tell us what you think.  If you’re the shy, retiring type, you can send us a note at julies_paris@yahoo.com

We thank the Readership for your unwavering loyalty to Julie’s Paris! Celebrate! It’s the perfect excuse for a smelly cheese and a glass of wine.

Encore!

PS – Let me draw your attention to “Lost In Paris” an entertaining article in yesterday’s New York Times  where author Matt Gross describes spending $200 on an umbrella.  There’s some Found Money!

Paris Cinema: Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’

July 5, 2011

It's not midnight, but it is most certainly Paris (Photo by Associate ET Dygert)

Spoiler Alert: Stop reading if you don’t want to know how the movie ends.  But don’t worry it won’t make a difference.

At last, a long weekend and a break from the Real Job.  Experienced Travelers need respite from everyday life so Woody Allen’s latest movie “Midnight in Paris” was just the ticket for a hot July afternoon.

Welcome to fantasy Paris, where people find taxis in the rain, and parking spaces in front of elegant five-star restaurants where they habitually dine (and not on the prix-fixe menu, either)   Suffice it to say that Experienced Travelers should suspend disbelief and enjoy the scenery.

Place Contrescarpe at the heart of the Lost Generation's playground

“Midnight in Paris” delights Francophiles with familiar locations photographed in a dreamy golden hue that sets a perfect mood for this magical fantasy tour. There’s Montmartre, the Clingancourt flea market, bridges on the Seine and even Carla Bruni in the Rodin gardens.  It’s as beautiful as your fondest memory of Paris.  (The ETs wonder if  Carla stopped after work at nearby Cantin to spend her Actor’s Guild minimum wage on cheese for the Palace)

Click here to see a detailed filming location list from the Mairie de Paris (large PDF file – takes a moment to download)

We get a typical Woody Allen story and stock characters, with Owen Wilson in a tatty tweed sport coat and wrinkled chinos, seeking life’s answers and being misunderstood by everyone.

Hollywood screen writer Gil (Owen Wilson) wants to fulfill his literary ambitions by writing a novel, and romanticizes Paris of the 1920s.  He’s engaged to upper-crust princess Inez (Rachel McAdams) who is firmly planted in the present – and most of the exclusive stores in the rue Saint-Honoré.  They tag along on a business trip with her unenthusiastic parents, where they meet Inez’ annoying, pretentious former boyfriend. One night, in a drunken stupor, Gil is transported in a classic Peugeot, back to the 1920s where legends like Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Picasso and Gertrude Stein help him find his true self. It’s light on plot, but that’s not why we paid a ruinous $10 plus popcorn to see it on a large screen.

The well-heeled shop in the Place Madeleine while more pedestrian ETs lunch on public benches

This crowd gets no sympathy from ETs who know better.  They are blasé enough to treat the Hotel Bristol like a Holiday Inn Express, wealthy enough to order room service for breakfast (imagine the Found Money!) and crazy enough to consider an impractical  18,000 euro chair. No one rides the metro, there’s no fumbling for museum passes, fighting with ATMs or sightseeing from l’OpenTour busses.  There is no fear of the American Express bill to come, and no one mentions ruinous exchange rates.  Suspend disbelief – suspend, suspend, suspend.

The ETs stopped by Ernest Hemingway's Paris doorway. Gil did the ETs one better with the vintage Peugeot.

After all, this is Woody’s homage to Paris, city of lights.  The opening picture-postcard sequence sets the mood for a magical city that we could not begin to afford.  And thanks to Gil’s obsession with the past we get imaginary visits to the Steins on rue de Fleurus (Kathy Bates *is* Gertrude), drinks with Hemingway at Polidor, a Josephine Baker floorshow at Bricktop’s, working girls in the Place Pigalle and a humorous sequence with Djuna Barnes dancing the Charleston.   A basic knowledge of Lost Generation history helps.  “She’s back in Paris.  The trip to Kilimanjaro didn’t work out.”

Place du Tertre: A moment from 1920s Paris or the ETs last trip?

When all was said and done, I felt that Woody overlooked a nod to the important personage who, one hundred years earlier,  created the underpinnings for his protagonist’s self-awareness.  The resolution is taken right from Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”. It’s the same story; frustrated artist in search of self-realization through art realizes that the story to write is his own.  The past fuels the artistic endeavor of the present.  Of course I haven’t found a single writer or reviewer who mentions this parallel, and I will be accused of Proustian obsession by certain people who shall remain nameless.

Midnight in Paris for lucky ETs

My viewing companions gave the movie a 4.  I generously rated it a 7.  Every time the camera swept across the city I love best, I got weepy.  Like Gil, I went on a trip through the past – when I had the best omlette of my life at that café, how I crossed the Pont des Arts there, and climbed those steps to Sacre Coeur.  Recherchez, dear Readership.

(So what did you think of the film?  Leave a comment and let us know!)

The Indomitable Hermès

June 16, 2011

Hermès emits rays of chic on the rue faubourg Saint-Honoré

The Experienced Travelers know that when life’s trials loom large, a girl needs an article of unparalleled exquisiteness that inspires her to overcome adversity.  We assure you — no accessory rises to the occasion like an Hermès scarf.

From the moment we landed in Paris, there was a giant ET magnet drawing Melinda and me to 24 rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the home of Hermès since 1880.  What began as a harness and saddle workshop in 1832 has become one of the premier luxury brands for silk, leather goods and fragrances.   We took in the rarefied air – a combination of new leather, perfume spritzers and smoldering American Express Centurion cards.

A stairway to heaven for any girl with a sugar daddy

The interior is classic French chic that suggests a Dior-ed Zsa-Zsa Gabor (“Lovely to Look At”, 1958), or my hero Audrey Hepburn as Gigi, *after* the Paris finishing school.  I was completely out of my league, but the polite staff overlooked the obvious and behaved perfectly.

She is laden with bags, and still goes for the scarf!

The scarf counter did a booming business in luscious hand-screened silk squares that made my eyes water.  I admired a scarf ring which would complement the Hermès scarf that Nurse gave me for my 50th birthday.  It was pretty.  It was chic.  It was about $170US. For a scarf ring.  (Nurse : u r at  hermes. so what. get a 2nd mortgage )

But I summoned my strength and passed on the purchase.  Immediately I made a quick ET calculation and converted it to Found Money.  These emotional decisions form the foundation of the ET Found Money strategy, and they build character.

The new Hermes - it's not just about horse motifs anymore

It was just kismet that we found the newest Hermès store in the rue de Sèvres and we had to investigate.  Maybe the aura of wealth would adhere to our ET molecules so we could float through Paris on a wave of privilege.  Well, we didn’t float, but we were completely awed by the modern, sophisticated style of the store.  If Hermès in the Faubourg is headquarters for the doyennes of Paris, then the rue de Sèvres is it’s trendy equivalent.

It's strangely similar to the chair we got at Big Lots - but maybe not.

If you long for an Hermès living room ensemble, or an Hermès tray, set with Hermès china for your breakfast in bed with Hermès tea, this is the location for you.  Though I didn’t find Hermès paper towels it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  I’ll check with Melinda, but I think I recall Hermès cocktail stir sticks for your Hermès martini.   It’s replete with air and light and Found Money of all denominations pouring into cash registers.  They’re all living the Hermès life.

A text message from Command Central (i am hungry. send food pics) jolted us from our dreams of wealth.  We left Hermès for the Cafe Flore to make a dent in that Found Money. Even in the 70-degree sunshine, we spotted Hermès scarves around chic shoulders.  We knew that those ladies would have to never stand down in the face of adversity.

Melinda inaugurates the 14 glasses of wine we relished on that first day in Paris

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!



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

Paris on a budget redux

March 20, 2011

Even on a budget, you can afford to grab that table and have an aperitif

Well, the Experienced Travelers’ post reviewing the NY Times Frugal Traveler’s weekend in Paris on a miniscule budget was popular with the Readership, and Paris travelers everywhere.  (If you haven’t read that post yet – click here and catch up!)

Here at Julie’s Paris, people felt that the Frugal Traveler (FT) was too parsimonious with his Paris weekend.  Our wise and wonderful Readership made their voices heard:

  • Reader Diana insists travelers can do Paris perfectly on a budget and still have special splurges.
  • Reader Nicole shows us a true Found Money way to see the Louvre by waiting at the museum exit and asking departing visitors if she can have the all-day admission ticket  that they’re about to throw away!  The ETs are going to investigate this excellent strategy!
  • Reader Phillip rightly clarifies that the FT budget was  74-euro. He also reminds us that the article does show people that they can visit Paris on a tight budget and enjoy themselves.
  • See all the comments here

Our friends at The Paris Blog included our post on their site, and comments were right in line with the Readership’s. 

Meanwhile remarks about the article on the NYTimes website followed suit – even suggesting ways the FT could have saved more (ie. save the tip! It’s strictly for exemplary service, and then just a few euros for a meal.)

The ETs "at home" in their Paris apartment rental

Many comments raised two topics of interest to the Experienced Travelers.  First, readers suggested that renting an apartment instead of staying in a hotel can be cost-saving and fun.  The ETs are apartment-rental enthusiasts and wholeheartedly endorse this approach.  

Cooking breakfast chez vous keeps euros in your pocket, and packing a picnic lunch to enjoy in a shady garden saves even more.  The real Found Money comes from a simple home-cooked meal of market-fresh food.  Reader Diana says “our best and most memorable meals were those we ate in our tiny apartment.”

Chef Nurse prepared our dinner chez nous so we could spend the Found Money later in the cafes.

Par example, the ETs feasted on Nurse’s French culinary creations, then went out for dessert or drinks to take in Paris at night.  It worked like a charm and saved us at least 35 euros every time!   Ka-ching.

Riding the rails in the Paris Metro

Reader Phillip echoed many comments when he raised our second topic of interest;  smart-chip credit cards that are common in Europe, but unavailable in the US.   Smart-chip cards use chips instead of the magnetic strips that US bank cards employ.   Thus, US travelers can’t swipe their credit cards in smart-chip systems like self-service kiosks for metro tickets, pay-at-the-pump petrol and the utterly fantastic Velibes, Paris’ community bike rental system. 

Certain ETs made unsuccessful inquiries of Canadian banks in the hope of getting a smart-chip card. Establishing residency in Europe requires a significant financial windfall, and the Swiss banks won’t return my calls. Until the US banks get smart, the only path left to the ETs is marriage to an ageing Duc in poor health.

Smart-chip cards get you a ride on the Paris Velibes bike rental system. Imagine the thrill!

So what is a US traveler to do?  For now, get in line and buy your metro tickets at the manned booth. (Always keep an extra in case the station you use doesn’t have attendants on duty.) 

Sadly, the Velibes are off-limits.  The ETs want to coast the rue St.-Jacques hill, across the Petit Pont to the Parvis Notre-Dame.  But until they have a smart-chip in their wallet, it’s just a magnificent dream they hold fast in their hearts.

The rue St.-Jacques. The ETs want to feel the wind in our hair as coast this hill on a Velibes

Paris on a budget?

March 10, 2011

 

Even on a budget a selective ET can dine well.

A recent NYTimes article documents a thrifty weekend in Paris on $100US, excluding lodging (the author stayed with a friend).   As the Readership knows, Experienced Travelers are always on the lookout for cost savings.  How else would we accumulate “Found Money” for frivolous spending later on?  But we feel obliged to comment on this $100 experiment and recommend against it!

Mais non! Don't overlook the importance of wine - with or without a meal.

According to the print edition article, the author economized by foregoing a glass of wine with his duck confit.  Consuming duck confit without a robust Burgundian red is an affront to la gloire.  Under French law, this is grounds for immediate deportation.  The ETs are firmly behind the French on this.  Duck confit with a good wine is a profound experience that shouldn’t be trifled with.

Set aside your found euros to see the Louvre

Next, he chose a beer over admission to the Louvre.  Brew vs. Louvre is crazy.  The ETs recommend batting eyelashes at an affluent fellow patron so he buys the beer in exchange for pleasant conversation.  Problem solved!

Fluffy-haired Nurse salutes Louis XIV in the courtyard of the Musee Carnavalet

To the author’s credit, he did visit the free Musée Carnavalet which is a true gem.  Set in the former home of prodigious 17th c.  letter-writer Mme. de Sévigné, this museum brings the history of Paris to life, and makes a lovely day in the Marais when combined with the nearby Musee Picasso.  This reminds us that the Carnavalet re-creates Proust’s bedroom with the actual furnishings, and we must regale the Readership with a post on this at a later date.

Then he attended a free organ concert (good idea) yet he doesn’t care for organ music.  By ET standards, it is bad planning to spend precious Paris time doing something you don’t like.  But for those of you who enjoy music, many churches host free concerts in exquisite settings. Check event publications like Pariscope for schedules.

Nurse demonstrates the art of chocolat chaud at Angelinas. Photo by Associate ET Joanne Felzer

The upshot, dear Readership, is to plan carefully and take enough money.  This is not a city for self-denial – nor is it necessary.   The ETs don’t stay at the George V or shop at Harry Winston – and you don’t have to either!  No matter where you check in, the Seine is still the Seine.

Read the follow-up post here

Take in the view for free! Another fine photo by Felzer.

The Legendary Brasserie Balzar

February 26, 2011

Tout seule. Solo-traveling ETs are challenged to get into the picture.

Occasionally,  ETs  make solo trips to Paris under the guise of attending a conference.  I did this two years ago and despite Nurse’s suspicions, the conference was real and I actually did attend.  I dutifully reported in on a regular basis so she could advise on itinerary and meals.  Nurse was a very good sport about this trip.  And trust me, she has cashed in on her generosity ever since.

The Legendary Brasserie Balzar just happened to be nearby….

I did some early ET research at the Brasserie Balzar on the Rue des Ecoles near the Sorbonne.  Since 1886, this Paris institution has sustained neighborhood academics with mainstay dishes like steak au poivre, poulet roti, and potatoes dauphinois.  Leagues of devoted locals swear that the Balzar alone embodies the true egalitarian spirit of dining that forms the foundation of the modern French state.  People are very, very serious about Brasserie Balzar. 

Paris to the Moon, a collection of New Yorker columns by Adam Gopnick sent me to Balzar

I was inspired by Adam Gopnik’s “The Balzar Wars” in his book Paris to the Moon*.  In the mid-1990s, the mega-corporation Flo Group bought the Brasserie  Balzar.  In true French style, the brasserie’s habitués organized a secret résistance to preserve their beloved Balzar from corporate evils like brief 90-minute meals and prepared food.

Gopnick reported the whole story.  In a gourmand expression of taking to the barricades they organized a “dine-in’ — sort of  a 1990s version of a flash mob.  All the regulars reserved for the same Thursday night and “occupied” the restaurant. They used “slow eating” strategies to ensure the tables didn’t turn over, like ordering foie gras because it took time to spread on toast.  Once everyone arrived, their spokesman gravely rose and delivered a challenge to the new management:

“We are here to demonstrate our sympathy with the waiters, clients and traditions of the Balzar.  Is this merely a place to eat, or is it something more?  And if it is something more, what is it?  We are here… to defend the spirit and staff of a place that we believe offers a respite from time itself.” (Gopnick pp. 234-235)

Drawing on the revolutionary fervor of their ancestors, they won the day and the Balzar continues. I recalled this inspiring story as I wandered the Maubert neighborhood, thinking of a lovely, perfect steak.  By mysterious coincidence, I found myself on Rue des Ecoles.

It all looked so inviting, even though it was late afternoon when jetlagged Americans get hungry.

Fortunately the Balzar serves all day, because it was an off-hour when I arrived. The ambiance was unassuming and comfortable with the requisite banquettes, mirrors, potted palms and desert trolleys.  In true ET fashion, I relied on a glass of house wine to bring clarity to the menu.

Steak frites with herb butter

I ordered the steak-frites.  It was passable, but not memorable.  The presentation was uninspired and the service was just adequate.  I was devastated.   Why didn’t I experience the magic of the Balzar that captivated generations of Parisians, and made its regulars call to arms to protect its traditions?

Is the Balzar fairy dust kept at this waiters workstation? The ET wants some!

For two years, I’ve analyzed everything about my Balzar experience.  Where did I go wrong?   I want the joy and the contentment; the thoughtful service and excellent traditional cuisine; the feeling that I am part of an historically significant experience.  I want to be willing to take to the streets in defense of Brasserie Balzar!  Dear Readership,  there just one solution to my dilemma. The ETs must return to the Balzar. 

I did get one of my favourite pictures at Balzar. The ETs *will* return.

* Gopnick, Adam.  Paris To The Moon.  Random House, 2000.

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

Tres Moderne II – Murakami at Versailles

January 19, 2011

What were they thinking. Murakami rug in the Chateau of Versailles

Our earlier post on modern art at the Centre Pompidou reminded the ETs of another divisive Art Experience at the Chateau of Versailles.  The ETs are usually a model of harmonious travel.  But the exhibit of 22 works by pop artist Takashi Murakami at the Chateau ignited a disgreement that still simmers.

Murakami specializes in manga, a Japanese art form that uses cartoons and comic characters.  The exhibit was controversial, even before it opened.  A group called “Coordination Defense de Versailles” circulated a petition against it.  Defenders argued that it made an historic relic relevant. 

Prince Sixte-Henri de Bourbon-Parme, the “heir to the French crown”, argued that the exhibit was illegal.  He sued to prevent the display, which he considered an affront to all Bourbons, living and dead.  In a very Republican turn of events, he lost.

Murakami's Oval Buddah has an admirer but you can't see the shock on the photographer's face

The ETs cheerfully arrived at the Chateau, unaware of the swirling controversy.  A giant gold Buddha in the gardens was the first clue that this visit to Louis’ old chateau would be different.  Nurse made a gleeful sound and beelined to it. I froze in my tracks and stared. 

By the time we entered the palace, I knew that something very, very wrong had transpired.  They were *everywhere*.  The Queen’s bedroom.  The Coronation room.  “Hello Kitty” meets the Hall of Mirrors. 

Off with it's head! By now the ETs were enjoying a very French difference of opinion

Nurse was delighted by the huge, colorful outer-space characters.  I hoped that modern-day Monarchists were secretly convened to debate the practicality of sending a cartoon character to the guillotine. 

Murakami meets Mansart. The architect of the venerable Hall of Mirrors might wonder... (photo by Sodacan, Wikipedia Commons)

Nurse’s hot-wheels careened with joy from one wide-eyed goblin to the next.  I reluctantly followed, grousing about “la gloire”.  But I must give Nurse her due.  In her most stern Knowledgable Historian voice, she reminded me that Versailles was no stranger to the ridiculous, when you considered the antics of Louis XIV’s court, and Marie Antoinette’s petit hameau.  Am I to be the ETs apologist for excesses of the Bourbon monarchy that strain any definition of aristocratic behavior?  Will we dine at separate tables this evening?  (We negotiated a reconciliation so we could share dinners.  Pacem per cibum, or “peace through food”.)

A statue of Louis XIV averts his royal gaze from the annoying creature (Photo by Sodacan, Wikipedia Commons)

Our Disney-meets-“Dangerous Liasons” tour of the Chateau gave the ETs debate material for days.  My objection to the Murakami exhibit makes me wonder;   What would I have thought about the works of avant-garde artists like Manet and Whistler at the “Salon des Refusés” of 1863? Art or outrage?

Alors, Les Soldes!

January 9, 2011

Les Soldes! A Found Money bonanza. Photo by Heloise Flickr Creative Commons

Now that Christmas is over, Parisians resume daily life, enduring grey January skies in the City of Lights. No French bureaucrat wants a complaining wife and a bored mistress for the duration of the winter.  So, in their capacity as elected officials, they spring to action to create a diversion that will restore domestic equilibrium, attract tourists and bolster the French economy.  Voici Les Soldes

Might the ETs spend Found Money here? Photo by Heurtelions, Wikimedia Commons

The bi-annual Soldes are six-week Government-authorized periods – one in winter and again in summer – when stores across France hold sales with price reductions of up to 80%.  This year the winter event starts on January 12 and continues until 15 February. Prices fall over time – but so does inventory!  Café chatter changes from the usual complaints about taxes to informed discussions on getting into ultra-exclusive events.

The ETs scout the territory. Photo by Andreas Praefcke Wikimedia Commons

Everyone has “Soldes exceptionnels”, from the smallest Left Bank bookstore to world-famous houses on the Avenue Montaigne.  Housewares, accessories, designer suits – it’s all on sale thanks to the French government.  The Experienced Travelers can already feel the kinetic energy of les fashionistas emanating across the Atlantic.  We wondered how Parisians look so chic with prices so high.  Now all is revealed.

The French economy improves by the minute Photo by Gryffindor, Wikipedia Commons

The ETs have a plan in case they land in Paris during the sales.  We’ll scout the inventory, then set GPS coordinates for the items we want.  The goal is to buy during the second markdown to get the best price.  Proper shopping attire is one layer with no hooks, buttons or other time-wasting accoutrements that impede a fast change.

On The Day, we’ll arrive well before opening, employing knees and elbows to reach the racks before the competition.  Nurse is not above using a cane to deter rival shoppers and I can be fleet-of-foot when a jacket depends on it. 

And remember:  if we love it enough to buy it at full price, but we wait and get it at half-off – the difference is Found Money!  So shopping the Soldes is a great use for Found Money and actually *adds* to the FM account as we shop.

Gentlemen: This beautiful Charvet cuff helps justify the investment Photo by Myself, Wikimedia Commons

The Paris Perfect newsletter tells us how to get to events that the ETs can only dream about :

  • Hermès Sale: Jan 20 to 23 at Porte Maillot. The event has become so big that they could not longer hold it in the flagship Faubourg Saint-Honoré Store. Women line up the day before at dawn to make it in for the opening.
  • Chanel Sale: Starts January 6 at 42 Ave Montaigne, 75008 Paris
  • Dior Sale: Jan 9 to 12 from 10 am to 7 pm at Artcurial, Address: 7 rond-point des Champs Elysées. Easy, stroll across the river from the 7th and walk three blocks to the Rond Point intersection. Takes 15 minutes and you can stop for tea at the Four Seasons on your way home!  (Paris Perfect rents beautiful vacation apartments in the 7th.) 

    Trip the light fantastic (or just trip) in these splendid gold shoes that the ETs found near the Palais Royal

And the Paris Office of Tourism is right on top of things:

“Romantic, festive, cultural, as well as sporting, musical and… good food loving! The shopping capital has more than one string to its bow. Everyone will find something they love here and discover lots of exciting things to do. So, you just need the right addresses … Welcome to shoppingbyparis!”

The ETs are excited by shoppingbyparis’ Shopping Guide PDF.  It’s 112 pages of ads and store information.  It’s worth waiting for the download, and it has English translations that will make the $US fly from your designer pocketbook. 

The ETs don't have the bone structrure to shop at Pucci, but perhaps you do? Photo by Deuxl Sarl Wikimedia commons

Working diligently at our research. we found out how to shop Les Soldes from our couch in the US.  About.com thoughtfully links to  1000 Bonnes Affaires and L’internaute so we can shop online from those stores which will ship to the US. 

The ETs aspire to the ranks of the truly gifted, who get in early on the first day, so the best items are hanging in their closets by noon.    If we go into training today, we could be ready to compete in July!

Bayeux, Butter and Brandy

November 21, 2010

Normandy - pastoral farmland and some wickedly narrow roads

The Experienced Travellers had a wonderful visit to Normandy.  It deserves more rigorous investigation on a future trip.  Normandy’s reputation for seafood, dairy and apple products make it a promising destination for hungry travellers. 

The Hotel Reine Mathilde where the ETs outwitted French parking authorities

We stayed in Bayeux at the Hotel Reine Mathilde.  A central location can be handy, unless you have a car.  I never quite grasped the “colored curb” parking protocol and spent anxious nights listening for the Parking Lady’s turbocharged vespa. 

This water-wheel brought out the photographer in Nurse

The center of Bayeux is old and evocative, with a magnificent Cathedral built over Roman ruins. In more recent times, De Gaulle made his first speech on liberated French soil here.   I don’t know what DeGaulle did after his speech, but the ETs give Bayeux five stars for shopping and dining.

The Bayeux Tapestry - an inspired work of public relations. photo by Gabriel Seah

William, Duke of Normandy became King of England in 1066 when he conquerored Harold at the Battle of Hastings.  I’m sure William’s people held a medieval Kaizan which determined that a 224-foot embroidery was necessary to commemorate the victory. 

It conjurs images of medieval French ladies working their needles round the clock, powered by a local chevre and shots of Calvados.  The ETs don’t mean to annoy the French, but we feel the tapestry could stand a good dry-cleaning. 

Another local boy, Taillevent, was a famous 14th century chef who cooked for the Valois kings.  He wrote one of the first French cookbooks which is a primary source of medieval cooking technique – in case you find yourself planning a joust and a banquet.

Getting the beef off the skewer was a delicate operation that became challenging after the second glass

They have gone beyond roasting mutton over a fiery pit at Le Petit Resto, located just behind the Cathedral.  With heightened appetites and high expectations, we enjoyed their artful presentation of local cuisine. 

A dash of chocolate mousse sets off gateau aux pommes smothered in caramel sauce.

In an agrarian economy, it’s important to maintain strength and stamina.  Normans achieve this through regular infusions of Calvados –  a powerful brandy distilled from the local apples. 

During the first world war, Calvados was requisitioned for use in armaments due to its alcohol content.  The ETs are not surprised by this unique contribution to the national defense. 

After an educational sampling, we unanimously agree that this is how jet fuel must taste.  It’s like swallowing a fireball that descends to your gut, then ignites vital organs.  Only a people as solid as the local stone could withstand this experience.

Calvados pot still - or an armaments factory? (Photo by Hennrik Mattson, Wikipedia Commons)

Here’s something to try for your next French dinner:  The “Norman Hole” is a brief break during the meal when you have a glass of Calvados to aid digestion. We’re sure this refers to the “hole” that the Calvados burns through your stomach. We survived Grappa, but Calvados is in a league of it’s own.

Salute the Colonel. (Photo by Santaduck, Wikipedia Commons)

Norman cheeses include Camembert, Pont l’Évêque, Brillat-Savarin, Neufchatel, Petit Suisse and Boursin.  Another local cheese is Livarot.  I have read that Livarot is the stinkiest cheese on earth, smelling strongly of local livestock pens.   This cheese gets wrapped in layers of military-grade material and rides in the car trunk.

The orange rind is wrapped in rings of dried bullrush which resemble the stripes on a Colonel’s uniform, giving Livarot a dandy nickname.   The ETs haven’t tried it yet;  perhaps someone among the Readership can report?

The spires of Bayeux Cathedral

After sampling the wonders of Normandy, the ETs conclude that it was the combination of Livarot, Calvados and Norman strength that gave William a decisive win at Hastings. 

William Conquers (Photos from Wikipedia Commons)

Honoring Veterans in Normandy

November 14, 2010

No mission too difficult; No sacrifice too great; Duty first. 6 June 1944

The recent celebration of Veterans Day in the U.S. reminded the Experienced Travellers of their conquest of Normandy and Omaha Beach. 

Our first skirmish was the two-hour drive in the rain after a restless overnight flight.  Nurse was all for comfort, and deftly slipped out of her bra in the front seat of our tiny Renault, under the delighted gaze of a passing truck driver.  There are no candid photos of this skillful feat, unless you count the one that the French Traffic Surveillance camera took of my speedy vehicle.  

We used Bayeux as our base camp for exploring the area.  We had just one day to see the beaches, so we concentrated on Omaha Beach, where American forces landed during the allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France during WWII.   

Taking Omaha Beach on D-Day 1944. (Photo by Robert Sargent, Wikipedia Commons)

Omaha Beach today. Imagine thousands of GIs disembarking after a fantastic voyage across the Channel.

The wide, sweeping beach is tranquil, but it’s role in the liberation of France is evident everywhere.  There are still hulks of troop transport carriers and weapons scattered around the area. 

Nurse inspects the German gun battery at Longues-sur-Mer.

 The German coastal defenses were geared toward seaborne assult.  After a close inspection of this gun battery,  Nurse decided that an outdoor terrace offered a superior vantage point for planning an invasion of the local moules-frites vendors.

ETs contemplate their invasion of Norman cuisine

 As a dutiful second-in-command, I undertook reconnaissance to locate a sunny table with a view.  I can imagine what one of those soldiers would have given for my cafe creme.  Restored and refreshed, we revved up the Renault.  After a series of scenic wrong turns and dead ends, we arrived at the American Cemetery.

American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer holds over 9,000 soldiers

France granted this land to the US  in perpetuity.  White Crosses and Stars of David mark the graves of the fallen on this bluff overlooking the beach where they died.  The visitor’s center is very informative with excellent displays.  If we had it to do again, we would start here, then see the beach.  

The German Cemetery in La Cambe

We made an unplanned stop at the German cemetery which is maintained by the German War Graves Commision solely through donations.  Over 21,ooo soldiers are buried here, with 300 interred in the mass grave.  The German 352nd Infantry Division was made up of inexperienced recruits.  The American 29th Infantry Division was untested in these conditions.  Both sides suffered heavy casualties.

A more peaceful landing unless you're a fish

Our Renault troop transport brought us to Grandcamp Maisy in search of rations and an appetite for moules.  We found the only restaurant on the harbor that wasn’t serving fish and had to settle for quiche.  ETs are always prepared for privations, so they settled in and enjoyed their lunch. 

A canine companion barking orders - "eat your quiche and forget about moules"

It was an evocative day of sightseeing.  We headed back to Bayeux in a cool drizzle, pondering the soldiers of all nations who fought and fell on D-Day, and those who risk their lives today.

Les Braves - the French government commissioned this sculpture to honor the Americans who liberated France. They symbolize the Wings of Hope, Rise of Freedom and Wings of Fraternity.

We’ll tell you more about Bayeux and Normandy in our next post.  And yes, Readership,  there will be food pictures.


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