Monday, June 29, 2009

Home Again! Day One -- Getting There!

Well, that ended up being a longer vacation than I expected -- but a very good one indeed! (And I want to thank you for stopping in and leaving comments; I didn't have reliable internet access while I was gone, and I missed posting and checking up on you all!)

The day of my trip was a sunny one. I left Lansing on time, boarding my bus for Detroit!

Then I was pleased when the monitor said my plane was on time.

They lied. If you read Rick's comment a couple posts back, you'll know I had numerous snafus just getting out of Detroit, with canceled flights (followed the next day by a three-hour-plus line, computer problems, and more). I have plenty to say about this, but I'll spare you...!

(Above is the line waiting to check in the second day -- a line that I was in for more than three hours because the computer didn't register our flight. Below is the angry mob when the fight was canceled, as passengers waited to get hotel assignments.)

But finally, we were off! And some eight hours later, I could look out the window and see the French countryside.

When I finally hit Paris, I was thrilled in more ways than one!

Jerry met me at the airport and we took the train back into Paris. It dropped us about eight blocks or so from his apartment, which was located in a lovely courtyard behind massive blue doors on the street.

Sandwiched between wholesale shops on a busy street these doors (and the many others like them) don't reveal the beauty that lies behind them.

The apartment was in one of the buildings opening up on this charming courtyard. This window belonged to the guardien.

It's very small, but oh, so charming with his collection of antiques and flea market finds throughout.

Above and below are the living room.

The kitchen was tiny, but with its antique egg baskets, molds, and tools (not to mention the flowers), one could learn to work with the small space!

Talk about someone with good taste and style -- it was all packed into this wonderful spot.Jerry graciously loaned me his bedroom.

From the bed, I had this rooftop view!

(The 85 steps to the fourth (or American fifth) floor were less fun!

(The good thing about this is that my pants that started out short ended up the right length when I was ready to leave, and the ones that were the right length when I started were so long I kept tripping on them, having to lift them gently like a Victorian lady lifting her skirts at the curb! I wish I could say that translated into weight loss -- my friends say it turned fat to muscle. Hey, whatever works!)

Jerry lives in an area called "The Marais" and it is convenient to many wonderful spots. So, after briefly settling in, we headed out to spots near his apartment so I could get my bearings.I would have been completely content staying in the neighborhood, though that would have been wrong! Below is the Mayor's office, the Hotel de Ville.

The shops next to his building and in adjacent blocks catered to wholesale buyers only (a darned shame, because there were a ton of cute purses there, which I'll talk about some Pink Saturday!)

About six blocks away was BHV department store, which was unlike any department store I'd seen before! An art department to rival Michael's, great books and CDs and cards; electronics; appliances (like washing machines); furniture and mattresses; great clothing labels; a cafe; beautiful housewares and bath and the basement was like a mini Home Depot, with lumber sales and every tool imaginable! I was in heaven!

Then we crossed the river to the Ile de Cite and went to Notre Dame! Oh, so very beautiful!

The majesty of these churches are astounding, as is are the stone carvings on the facade. They are massive and beautiful.

When you think churches like this (and the thousands of others in Paris) were built before engineers had computers to figure out weight-bearing and cranes to lift heavy materials, they become all the more majestic. And the windows bring bright splashes of rich colors to the more somber stone interiors.

We headed over to the left bank, where book stalls line the sidewalk by the Seine, selling postcards, old books, and art. I don't know that there were great deals here, but they were fun!

Shakespeare and Company is there, too -- a bookstore that was a haunt of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and so many others. It was a must on my list and I returned there several times.

Back to the Square in front of Notre Dame, where we fed the birds -- sparrows land on your finger to snatch a bit of bread. It was then we discovered an organ concert would take place at the church that evening, and we put it on our "to do" list!

Next up, the flower market stalls -- several buildings with all sorts of fabulous flowers, seeds and garden accessories.

Jerry pointed out landmarks and we headed home, stopping (again) at one of the Paris boulangeries for bread. Oh, I loved these places! While he went to work, I took a nap! Boy, I needed it!

That evening after dinner at home, we went to the organ concert at Notre Dame. It was absolutely amazing to hear that huge organ open up anad fill the church with music. Neither of us were terribly fond of the (more contemporary) selections, so we left early (people were going in and out all the time) and walked a bit, enjoying sorbet cones and sunset on the Seine. It was a wonderful way to start the trip.

Things I have learned so far:

Every street has at least one bakery (sometimes more) per block and generally a flower shop is within striking distance.

The Parisians eat on the street -- a lot. Everyone is always munching on a chunk of bread or a croissant or roll. Fat, thin, young, old. It's what you do.

The streets are treacherous in that there are lots of cobblestones and they are very uneven. That observation was reinforced more than once as I'd step on a cobblestone and it wouldn't be flat enough so I'd either trip or fall!

(Next time: The Lady and the Unicorn and more!)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Greetings from Paris!

When I made plans for Paris, there were few things on my "Must See" list (and lots on my "Would Like To See Or Do" list!)

Visiting Notre Dame was on the "Must" list.

Its high vaulted ceiling, it's enormous rose windows (45 feet in diameter) and beautiful carvings are legendary. Historically it was the setting in which kings and emperors were crowned and where knights were blessed before embarking on the crusades.

Well, it's all it's cracked up to be!

Notre Dame is located on the Ile de la Cite, and was started in 1163, thanks to Pope Alexander III. Gothic in style, it was completed around 1330. In addition to its rose windows, it is known for its gargoyles and flying buttresses.

Another little known fact is that it is about 2,000 steps from Jerry's apartment! And, since I've centered much of my sightseeing on this end of the city, I've been there several times! I've fed the birds in its courtyard, and we were even fortunate enough to hear an organ concert (or part of one -- it was a tad too avant garde for me and we left, but wonderful to hear that organ open up all the stops!)

I'm rather wild about churches and trying to get the best photographs possible with my wee camera. I didn't have time to get one with a better zoom before leaving, but I'm doing OK.

I really didn't think I'd ever arrive. After the flight delay, there were airport problems and I spent all the next day in line. When I got here, I was exhausted! A long missive will go to Air France documenting my travails. While I'm glad they found the malfunction on the plane before we departed rather than after, the hassles the next day were even worse! (If you read the comment Rick wrote the day after I left, a couple posts ago, that's just the tip of the iceberg!)

But I'm here, so, a quick recap with photos to come (from over 1500 to choose from!) -- My highlights include seeing the beautiful churches (last night a Vivaldi concert in Ste. Chappelle, which was simply to die for); marvelous side trips to Giverny and Monet's garden, picnic on the Seine, to Vaux de vie Comte (I have to check spelling on that -- a grand chateau about 90 minutes from Paris) and an absolutely stirring visit to Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery and museum.

In Paris, lots of walking (bless my nun shoes -- the feet are failing but they would have done so three days ago in my old shoes), an absolutely terrific time with Tara at a flea market and a lovely dinner at her apartment, the lovely Luxembourg Gardens, and more. Shopping. I don't want to think about lifting my luggage.

What I love most so far is simply being somewhere else, buying bread everyday and then walking it off (I hope), seeing dogs everywhere (restaurants, cafe's, the store), and the magnificent architecture. It's truly lovely.

Looking forward to getting back on regular blogging (visiting, writing) when I return, but was finally able to post and wanted to do so!

Au revoir for now!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guess Where I Am?

If you have read "comments" on the post below this -- you know. (Thanks, Rick, for updating everyone!)

I'm in Detroit. Romulus, actually, at an airport hotel.

As soon as I write this post, I'm outta here for the airport, hoping to catch a 6 p.m. flight to Paris (Well, more than hope, but after last night...)

All things given, it's better to find out the plane is malfunctioning before you leave rather than after. (Especially given Air France's recent press.)

I'm exhausted, but hoping to get an extra day or two out of it!

Au revoir, again! (Ah, the perils of pre-posting! Well, the rest I think aren't pre-loaded, just a couple of pix!)

Here I Am!

Here I am! If you see the little pink triangle near the right pointing to something, that's where my friend Jerry lives and where I'll be staying. (I think if you click on this, it'll be big.)

It's about six blocks north of the Seine, that greenish thing that splits in the middle. Right around the split near the left you'll see a tan spot -- that's Notre Dame. My scanner wasn't big enough to get the whole map, but the Eifel Tower is a little beyond where the image cuts off on the left.

If you use google maps, paste 81 Rue du Temple, Paris 75003 in the "search bar" and click on Street View. You'll see two blue doors -- those open up into a courtyard where Jerry lives in a building on the fourth floor. Wishing I'd done more stair steps!

Jerry will pick me up at the airport on Tuesday -- 11:30 their time, about 6:30 a.m. my time. Give or take an hour; not too sure about the map.

Excited? Of course I am!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bon Voyage!

I'm off to Paris! Today at 9:30 p.m., my Air France (gulp) plane takes off and soon I'll be halfway across the world!

I'm not sure how often or if I'll be able to post but I'm going to try. The photos, I think, will have to wait!

My only sadness is leaving Rick behind, but the Gypsy will be in good hands!

I'm staying with my college friend, Jerry. Tomorrow I'll have a map that shows where we are. As for an itinerary, we're playing it pretty loose -- the two scheduled events are meeting with Tara (Paris Parfait) on Saturday to visit Vanves flea market and for dinner -- I'm very excited about that!

And, on Sunday, we'll do a road trip to Normandy and the beaches. Seeing this during the month of D-Day's 65th anniversary is truly something I've looked forward to for a very long while.

Musee d'Orsay and the impressionists (and a trip to Monet's Giverny -- see Linda's great post on Monet here at The Task at Hand) are two must-do's as are the Eifel Tower and Notre Dame.

Other than that, I'm just ready to discover whatever happens to be in my path -- a gallery at the Louvre? Parks and gardens? Shakespeare and Company (a long-awaited dream, as well, and one Oh said was a must!). Montmartre or the Latin Quarter? Lots of cafes for sure!

I have my ugly shoes, fun things to take to Jerry and Tara (leaving room for the home-trip!), a travel journal, my camera and I'm good to go!

Check back in a few days -- hopefully I'll have something new up!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pink in My Garden

Happy Pink Saturday!

(For more pink posts, visit Beverly at How Sweet the Sound!)

Who else has peonies? They are gorgeous. I also learned they bring in rather large ants. (At least, I hope it's the peonies bringing in large ants!)

I will be taking Pink Saturday off next week, and I'm not sure how many of you I'll get to visit this week, because I'll be in Paris! My first visit there, and I'm so excited I can't stand it! I'm hoping to post a bit -- no guarantees, and who knows about photos. But when I'm back, look for pink things -- and lots of other colors, too!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Almost Home...

In the airport waiting for another delayed flight... but I am almost home -- sometime around 1 a.m. -- do not ask or I will cry... so tired;;;

A Jeanie. A camera. A garden -- or a few.

Let's talk gardens for a few minutes. And I don't mean my little home plot, much as I wish I could boast (though thanks to friends Kate and Jan who did a yeoman's job of planting and helping with potting "the farm," it's a lot better than one would expect!

This is Luxembourg Gardens -- or Jardin du Luxembourg. Located in the heart of Paris, my guide book tells me it's the most popular park in the whole of Paris. With a layout centered around the Luxembourg palace, it has fabulous statues and sculpture -- queens, saints and even a Cyclops! It was certainly busy the day I was there.

Great photos to come from here, and many other wonderful sights. A grand time, but a tiring one.

Thanks for checking in and sorry I can not easly reply to comments now -- but soon.

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over (or is it just beginning?)

And by that, I mean the "Digital Transition."

This doesn't mean YOUR problems are over -- if you watch using a converter box or digital television set, you already know the signals are very unstable, your picture may pixilate or freeze, and you want to throw anything you have within reach at your television set.

(The cable companies must be loving this...)

The first thing you need to remember if you have a digital TV or converter box with an antenna, is RESCAN. Find your manual if you don't do this often and have it ready.

On Friday, June 12, many stations will move to new digital frequencies, and even if you've been watching them before, you won't be able to see them after without rescanning. (In Michigan, do this after 10:30 a.m.; other states, I don't know.)

Here are some things to keep in mind as you are trying to decide whether or not to order cable or a dish because you are so frustrated.

First, the antenna is key and antennas age. If you think you should be getting a station and it's not coming in, adjust your antenna toward that station's signal and rescan. If it's still not working, you may need a more powerful antenna (outdoor recommended; indoor can work within certain ranges).

The best website for help that points to your location specifically is -- put in your address and it will say the type of antenna you need (rooftop, indoor, etc.). When you hit "street map" it shows how you should direct your antenna for best reception.

Remember, many public television stations now can have up to four separate channels.

MOST cable and satellite companies do not carry all four channels. Some cable companies do, on the digital tier (but not on expanded basic). These channels are offered free to all providers by local PBS stations. If you don't receive them and want them, ask your provider.

Quite often, as I mentioned, your picture on a digital set/box with antenna will freeze or pixilate. (Interestingly, I am noticing this on cable, too.)

The pixel problem, unfortunately, is almost a given, and not a happy one.

For example, I get all the channels, and on any given day, something can happen to cause them to pixilate. Among the problems — Gypsy too close to the TV or antenna; rain or funky weather; birds (don't laugh; our engineer tells me this is true); tree leaves (also don't laugh — we're getting a TON of calls about that this week. Tree leaves. Who knew? And boy, do I feel stupid telling people that).

I'm beginning to suspect alien beings are probably part of the equation, too. Everything else seems to be!

Digital signals are very unstable. Generally, if you get in a channel pretty well and you don't adjust the antenna, you're probably good until something external interferes (most generally weather). If you have an outdoor antenna, sometimes wind can knock it a bit off course and you're still getting it — just not well.

For whatever reason, Rick (who lives two blocks from me) can't get WKAR since we changed his antenna (because he couldn't get 10.) He and I both have indoor antennas. It took me a LONG time to get 10 after they changed their stuff in February.

If you watch TV using an indoor antenna, I do have two articles I can e-mail you, but unfortunately not until after June 29. Just send me an e-mail and I'll handle it when I get back.

Your own local public television station is probably similar to WKAR in posting much information on their local website. You are free to visit ours for frequently asked questions, links, etc., or e-mail me with questions.

Good luck. May the force be with you.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Herp’s Curse

When my mother and her younger sister were young women, living at home to help care for their invalid mother, the family had a housekeeper named Mrs. Herp. There are no photos of Mrs. Herp, but I envision her as a solid “traditionally built” woman (as Alexander McCall Smith might say!). In my mind, her hair is rather austerely pulled back from her face with a middle part, and she wears a housedress, apron and sensible shoes.

Mrs. Herp always complained about her feet. I’m not sure why – bunions? Heel spurs? Ingrown toenails?
The reason is secondary. The point is, my mom and Gracie would tease her. “Oh, Mrs. Herp – you can’t possibly have feet that hurt that much!” (Ah, the callow youth, still able to wear heels and look rather snappy, clicking along the city streets.)
Apparently they harangued her so much, that one day, Mrs. Herp said, “You just wait. One day, you and yours will have feet as bad as mine!
They laughed. And years later, they, too, had what came to be known as “Herp’s Curse.” Mom had bunions, ingrown toenails and who knows what else.

And, then I came along.

Corrective shoes when I was in elementary school. All my friends had cute little shoes. I had big, brown oxfords. Huge white saddle shoes. Metal plates inside. Jump rope was hell.

I had to go to a shoe store downtown. Shepherd’s Shoes, the only one carrying corrective shoes. At each visit, I would see Glenn Sine. Apparently, he was the only fellow in town who knew how to fit bad feet.

In college, my feet became so badly injured walking to and from class, I was taken to a podiatrist from China. (Years later, as I was walking my post-surgical route to the bus, I passed by that office everyday!). He bound my feet. I can’t say it helped. It did, however, increase my empathy for those in China who endured this as children.

I’ve had plantar fasciatis. Heel spurs. Fallen arches. Callouses. Some weird thing with the big toe that forces me to cut it in the shape of a “V” so it doesn’t hurt (as much). If it wasn’t for the pedorthist I wonder if I’d walk at all.

(I'm sorry -- that's a gross photo.)

Needless to say, I hate buying shoes. I’ll never have Jimmy Choos. Imelda Marcos or Carrie Bradshaw and I would have little in common. Probably 355 days out of 365, I’m in my tennies with orthotics.
Which brings me to this weekend.

With the Paris trip a week away, I knew I needed shoes (and accessories) that could withstand walking miles a day, standing in galleries and walking again – and then let me do it all again the next day, and the day after that. These would never do!The accessories were easy. Gel tubes for the calloused toes, moleskin for the more vulnerable areas.

The shoes were another thing altogether. While my orthotics fit my little brown shoes, they're not great for all-day.

And I will take my sandals, but again, they won't withstand the 10-hour test.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to in Paris is going to a flea market with Tara (aka Paris Parfait). I asked her about clothing and shoes and her words were clear. Good walking shoes, even sneakers. But not white. Definitely not white. “Seriously, the French hate white sneakers - they consider them the tackiest of the tacky - and won't treat you so well, if you're wearing them," she warned.
Well, scratch new tennies. I’m looking for not-white shoes that my orthotics will fit that will last me for hours on the street.

And they won’t be pretty.

Now, my tennie faves for my pronated feet are Brooks Addiction. They live lifetimes on my feet (and look it after about eight months or so!)
So, when I went looking, I stopped first at this display, and – could it be? They had Brooks Addiction in black leather. I’m not talking about fashionable black leather, but I’m talking about not-white!

The lovely woman who helped me dutifully waited while I placed my orthotics inside and efficiently laced and tied them tight. I stood and walked about, stopping by the small mirror showcasing one’s feet.

They look like the shoes I wore in fourth grade. Only black. They look like shoes a nun would wear. Not a hip nun, but a very conservative, traditional nun who had to be on her feet all day. They reminded me of “Good Morning, Miss Dove,” which will resonate with you only if you are a serious movie buff or over the age of 55 or 60.

I took them.

Rick said they were ugly. (He may have said frumpy, or some other term. He meant ugly.)

Kate was more tactful. But I knew what she meant.

But they feel good. Very good (at least in the first day). And under pants, who’ll know? (OK, I’m going to the most fashionable city in the world, but trust me, no one is going to pay any attention to me; it wouldn’t matter if I was barefoot.)

Take that, Mrs. Herp. I will triumph over the “curse” you put on our house. Or at least have a darned good time trying!
(Note: Photos of pretty shoes with big heels are from Nordstrom's...Photos of shoes that aren't so pretty are from the Marmelade Gypsy Collection of Sensible Shoes.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New on "Chopsticks and String" and a Winner!

I've just posted my thoughts about a wonderful book on Chopsticks and String.

It’s surprisingly difficult to write a book “review” when the book read is so marvelous, moving and illuminating as “Kitchen Table Wisdom” by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. is.

“Everybody is a story,” Remen writes in the introduction. “When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories…Sitting around the table telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along.”

Remen is a remarkable woman -- a physician of powerful compassion and soul; a wounded healer (she has had Crohn's disease since she was a youth), and a fabulous writer. It's one of the few books I've ever read with a packet of post-it notes tucked into the back cover. And I used a lot of them.

If you ever visit Chopsticks and String (or if you have never visited!), this is perhaps the one book "review" I hope you'd take a look at. It's worth your time to learn more about this book; it was more than worth mine.

AND -- the winner of a crystal donated by my pal Richard in honor of his school crystal project supporting the Greater Lansing food bank is Anno!

Featuring the Marmelade Gypsy as special non-partial random selector!

(It's a blessing and a curse to have a cat who likes to eat paper or chew yarn when your primary art interests are collage and knitting...)

(We had so much fun with this, there were paper bits all over the bed by the time we were done, but Anno was the first name he pulled from the basket!)

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