jeudi 3 mai 2012
Home now ... but what is home? Is it true that old cliche "home is where the heart is..." ? Of course I love my family but really my family is all over the world ... so is it safe for me to say one of my hearts homes is Paris?
Many people have traveled all over the world ...I'm not one of those. I've been to many places in the United States, to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean. This was my first trip to Paris and I feel like a Christian who has been "born again." Like the Christian who can't but their hand on Jesus ... who can't meet God (except if one believes God is everywhere), I can't put my finger on one exact touchstone on why Paris feels like home to me. I'm here, on Cape Cod and feeling blue and missing that city.
I think it is the Essence.
One thing I noticed is there are bookstores -- sometimes many of them on a single small street. Librarie Ulysses bookstore was on the same street as our apartment. A tiny closet of a space that sells only travel books. I had read about it long before arriving not really knowing it was on our street however.
One night, we were heading out to dinner and as we walked by the shop, we noticed a small gathering of people inside, drinking champagne and having laughs. A woman popped out of the doorway as we walked by and offered us to take a pastry from a plate -- those delicious little round balls dotted with tiny cubes of sugar -- every one inside the tiny shop was festive and the woman explained that the owner had just been given a medal by the government for being in business for 40 years. It is the oldest bookstore in the world dedicated to travel. You can read about it here. The woman was Catherine.
The photo above was, of course, taken inside the Musee de Orsay. You are not allowed to take photos in the museum but it was impossible not to try to capture that view. I was quickly told to put my camera away.
Tomorrow, I will read my notes (my son Sam gave me a moleskine Paris edition which I used profusely) and chat about our Museum experiences.
dimanche 22 avril 2012
Suitcases are being packed, gifts are being sorted and stashed for 3400 miles of safe-keeping... last day vacation plans are underway. The lovely upstairs neighbor, Claude, who rescued us last night when I forgot the key to our apartment delivered us croissants & a baguette this morning for breakfast (don't ever believe what some Americans say about the French being rude to strangers). He was probably returning from voting -- which is happening in the school right across the street from the apartment. It has been interesting to see the "get out the vote" campaign here.
The other night, three of us went out on a journey to see the Arc de Triomphe and get to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We left our apartment at approximately 6:30 PM. We walked along the Sein -- happy for no rain and a lovely after dinner stroll past the Louvre through the Tulleries. Many hours later, after the very top, the Arc, some shopping -- on our blistered feet and sore legs we made our way back -- we had to get a cab. When we got back to our little island -- everything was closed and this presented a problem for some very hungry folks who had nothing left in the kitchen at home. We ran to St. Regis to look for Jean-Pierre, surely he could provide us with something from the kitchen -- thankfully he was working -- but no the kitchen was closed. A baguette? YES. Our legs felt instantly revived as we ran down our dark street -- a free baguette in hand, soft butter waiting at home. Such simplicity brings such joy here.
We've just run back up here. In order to sample the macarons (unbelievable I let out a small yelp upon one touching my tongue), more marshmallows (saffron, chocolate & pepper, chocolate & coconut).
Yes. A saffron marshmallow.
I'll let you ponder that for a bit.
mercredi 18 avril 2012
So ... the weather has turned foul but certainly not our moods.
Last night Brittany and I went to a Gregorian Chant concert in Notre Dame. Indeed, it was hard not to well up when the angels opened their voices. The nave seemed to vibrate with an ancient holiness. I was transported back in time and couldn't keep myself from imagining the monks from centuries ago wandering the arched halls.
After all that "goodness" we needed to balance ourselves and so on our walk home stopped at our little cafe the St. Regis and enjoyed some white beer with lemon (okay lots of it). Our favorite waitstaff Jean Pierre and Stephanie took good care of us -- even providing us with leftover bread and a drink on the house. We laughed heartily with our bubbly Jean Pierre (even though his English is as awful as our French) and Stephanie suggested we consider a house/apartment swap sometime this summer. I think we managed to get home before 2.
Today -- the rain fell hard and cold. But we made it to two very important foodie stops. Our first was here. This place rocks (yes a poor joke to include the note that this is Lenny Kravitz's favorite falafel place). We ordered a Falafel Special and a Schawarma. The wind whipped up and the rain came down and we happily sat on a bench and woofed these two mountainous pita pockets of goodness. We hear the place is just jammed on Sunday afternoons.
After an afternoon of rest and drying off, we headed back to the Marais to satisfy our crepe adventure. We aren't talking nutella street crepes here -- we are talking buckwheat galettes filled with anything from salmon, egg, cheese and cream fraiche to well just about anything delicious you can imagine. We went with a traditional Breton (cheese, mushrooms, bacon, egg, butter in a buckwheat crepe) -- like heaven wrapped in a blanket. We followed up with 2 sweet crepes from the blackboard crepes of the day -- filled with a drizzle of chestnut sauce, a scoop of chestnut ice-cream and creme fraiche. Oh and another filled with caramel, vanilla ice-cream, apples sauteed in butter and creme fraiche. The chestnut crepe was worth the 3300 miles alone. The name of the place is Cafe Breizh -- reservations recommended though we were lucky enough to grab a last minute seat on the high stools in the front of the restaurant and watched more than a few folks without reservations get turned away.
My camera is not being nice today and I am not getting any photos uploaded so a web photo will have to do for now. Our days are becoming numbered and I'm starting to get anxious....
mardi 17 avril 2012
The weather here is cold -- but our hearts continue to be warmed by this incredible city and its citizens incredible baguettes, cheese, chocolate and of course, pastries. Okay, there are more than a few things to see and do as well.
Yesterday's highlights included a cozy afternoon at Shakespeare & Co. Of course Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare & Co. closed in 1940 during the occupation never to reopen, but George Whitman opened a second Shakespeare & Co. in the Latin Quarter in 1951. I want to believe the flavor is the same as the original -- a tiny, jam-packed little shop of greatness. It was enchanting to see all the college age students snuggled in the little tucked away cots and chairs and when someone started playing the upstairs piano -- the place felt like home. I was overwhelmed by the store -- both in terms of what it has always offered to aspiring writers (sleeping quarters, reading opportunities) and the selection of books available. I could have spent hundreds and hundreds and hours and hours but knew that wasn't an option so spent some time in the Poetry section (a tiny little area one enters through a metal gate) and plucked a copy of T.S. Eliot's "Notes Toward a Definition of Culture, I also bought a copy of The Paris Magazine, a present and of course a canvas store shopping bag. To my surprise, there was no Ezra Pound poetry! Just a critical commentary about his life which I happened to already own. I will go back again and poke around some more on my own before the trip is over --
We mucked about the Latin Quarter winding our way to the 6th and the Jardin du Luxembourg. On the way, I window shopped all the fabulous art and home furnishing shops dreaming of my own Paris pied-a-terre.
Later on in the evening, we fulfilled Hannah's number one wish -- to see the Eiffel Tower in lights. We rode the Metro (stopped to listen to accordion music of course) to the Trocadero stop and arrived just in time for the tower to be lit up and sparkling in all its glory. She teared up -- ran and video-taped. It was worth more than a million dollars. Bless.
lundi 16 avril 2012
Paris of course. Our little apartment on the Ile St. Louis is the perfect home base. We have even grown to adore the school children whose exuberance wakes us up every school day morning -- running, playing, yelling in the school courtyard next door.
I've been meaning to write everyday but obviously haven't. I will try to catch up a bit here now before heading out for a few hours of exploration.
We've been really enjoying our pace -- the wonderful thing about renting an apartment and staying longer than the "American 3-5 day stay" is that we can really loll in the mornings if we want/need to (need may be because of late night bottles of wine at St. Regis, a little cafe here on-island that we've made our own or because our legs are tired from the day before...). Yes we pay more for everything here on the island but our little cafe is a wonderful late night stop after our daily scoops ofBerthillon ice cream and/or sorbet. So far we've sampled, chocolate, melon, vanilla, strawberry, coconut, cassis, banana, praline pignoli (i know i know).
With my niece Brittany along, this has truly become a "foodie" vacation A definite highlight was our Saturday spent with Ute . Wow -- did she get us going with the ins and outs of eating in the Marais. She took us to some unbelievable spots that us tourists would have never found. Ute lives in the Marais and counts Mr. Anthony Bourdain (among many other famous chefs, etc.) as friends. I will do a separate blog entry about all the secret spots (and some no-so secret but still worth mentioning) in a separate blog. Just know that if you are a foodie and in Paris a tour (customized) with Ute is well worth every euro spent. Not only is she beautiful and chic -- this woman REALLY knows her Paris food.
Yes, we've been to the Louvre and even Sunday Mass at Notre Dame (where we will return on Tuesday night for a Gregorian chant concert). We tracked down VanGogh's & Picasso's houses in Montemartre. We've mastered Metro and are envious of how chic everyone here is.... and we've got plenty left to go -- including my Musee d' Orsay. I must run now because we are getting ready for another few hours in the Latin Quarter and a visit and perhaps poetry reading at Shakespeare & Co.
For now ... À tout à l'heure