Thursday, July 30, 2009

Street Scenes and Memories

As my time in Paris was drawing to a close, I reflected on a few street scenes and memories, not mentioned in other posts. First and foremost were the people I met, including Tara and David and Jerry's friends Gail and Benoit (who loaned us their car for our road trips) and Tim and Anne, with whom we dined near the end of my trip. They were delightful, and I'll have fond memories of the dinners we shared.

When I asked those who had been to Paris to weigh in on favorite things, perhaps the most concise recommendation came from Mama K's daughter, Heather. "What did you enjoy most, Heather," I asked. "The bread," she replied.

She was spot on. And the pastries and boulangeries couldn't be beat!

Oh, those macaroons!

(My vote for best boulangerie: Victor's on Rambateau.)

The lovely windows in Jerry's courtyard and elsewhere. I loved walking by this woman's window everyday.

Posters everywhere for classical music concerts!

The recycling sign.

The sweet-faced young man who dipped my delicious sorbet cone that I ordered in French that he complimented me on!

The gorgeous Seine at any time of day.

This cafe on the Ile de la Cite was a favorite. We didn't eat there, but I loved passing by it on several occasions.

I mentioned the Hotel de Ville in my last post. I passed this place every day. That display in the plaza was part of a gardening exhibition.

This is a better look -- it was a little odd.

Hotel de Ville by night was breathtaking.

I've mentioned the classic Metro signs before. They were a favorite. And of course, I'll remember the Metros themselves, living as I do in a city with totally lousy mass transit.

I didn't eat at the famed Cafe de Flore (mentioned by Julia Child, Ina Garten, and Burt Wolf), but I did stop by. I decided not to have a snack when I saw the price on the menu! But I loved seeing it "in person."

I'll never forget these three men, walking ahead of me. Jolly, happy, good friends. The affection and bonhomie was clear.

So many streets were like this. I loved them!

I showed you another view of this little shop before. It was a favorite!

I was wild about the bookstalls on the Seine. Yes, I know -- tourist traps. But I loved them!

And especially loved them when they had art prints, too. They were so colorful!

(A sidebar... does anyone remember the "Lucy" show when the Ricardos and the Mertzes went to Paris and they were taken in by a street artist who had multiples of the same painting on which he'd put wee touches and sell to the next tourist? I thought of him often!)

These were the flowers from our florist who prepared the bouquet for Tara. So festive and colorful!

This poster was everywhere! I finally realized it was for a movie playing when I left Lansing!

Bicycles were everywhere, too.

My favorite department store was BHV, a convenient six blocks from Jerry's apartment. Here you see people lining up for the sales. (See "Things I Learned" below.)

BHV has everything. I mean EVERYTHING. Like a basement filled with lumber, building and electrical supplies; an art department to rival big-box craft stores here; a large book/CD selection; washing machines and other appliances; media and camera equipment and the usual things -- clothes, fragrance, shoes, make-up, accessories. No interior photos, except those of the heart.
Finally, the places and things I didn't photograph at all or as much as I'd like -- the grocery stores (multiple floors in tight city blocks), the cafes (I didn't go to enough of them!), the wonderful people I met everywhere who were so kind to a woman with inadequate French, the flower market on Ile de la Cite (Marches aux Fleurs et Oiseaux, I think -- but I'm doing that from memory!), and so much more!

Things I Learned in Paris:

A (very) little French can go a long way -- meaning if you try, you smile, and you try again, people are very kind and will help you a great deal.

In France, one has store sales only twice a year. The "soldes" are a very big deal, and the bargains are good.

People are openly affectionate -- men, women, children -- and it's very nice.

Don't try to get all your ATM money out on the same day. (Jerry loaned me euros so I wouldn't have to get extra fees. What he didn't realize is that I brought my ATM, not cash, so the money changers had huge fees to withdraw from VISA, as they wouldn't take ATM. Consequently, I was using every machine I could find -- until I realized my daily limit was done!)

Boulangeries rock! (Jerry's friend Gail explained she'll go to one for her apple tart, another for her bread. And since there is one on nearly every block, it's easy enough to do that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Paris: About Flea Markets and Friends

I want very much to speak about flea markets and friends, for this was a big part of my Paris visit.

As you might imagine, I was desperately eager to visit a flea market or two, and they didn't disappoint!

The first was with our blog cohort, Tara Bradford, aka Paris Parfait! I was so excited to meet up a blogger whose blog I visit faithfully and simply adore for its great photography and point of view. So, I was certainly looking forward to that first Saturday morning in Paris when met to go to Vanves, a large flea market in the south of Paris.

Vendor tables seemed to go for blocks, with everything from print/ephemera and old books to furniture, jewelry, keys, artifacts. You name it! Lots of things caught my eye...

My favorite finds form this show included a beautiful Japanese print (with special thanks to Tara for helping to negotiate the deal!)...

... an old key and some print ephemera.

I was very fond of the Parisian print trio...

...and oh! The magazines!

For an Anglophile, finding Paris Match highlighting Queen Elizabeth's coronation was a treasure (to match my Life magazine at home!)

This 1953 ladies magazine was great fun.

I loved the color spreads.

Even the ads were fun!

I also chose some postcards from places in Paris I'd visited, including Cluny in 1901 and this one of the Hotel deVille, which I passed every day on my jaunts to the Metro and beyond!

I also found this frame and these wonderful buttons. (The lace and trim came from a later market, down below). Later Jerry would help supplement my button collection, but that's in a later post!
One of the other things I love about Paris in general (and Vanves was no exception) is the prevalence of dogs.

I loved these two, becoming friends at a vendor's booth!

Later that day, Tara and her husband David invited us for a lovely dinner. I wanted to bring flowers, so we stopped at the florist.

Jerry explained that in France, you don't buy a ready-made bouquet, but pick several kinds of flowers from the shop's display, take them inside, and they make up the bouquet for you.

The woman making the bouquet gathered stems in a circular motion.

Then she wrapped it in colorful tissue and a cellophane.

Gerbera daisies, rose hips, greenery -- worked for me!

I would love to have added a photo of Tara or one of Tara and David with me, but at Tara's request, I'll pass. But she is so lovely! Just a delight, and I had the best time enjoying David's fabulous Moroccan dinner, great conversation, and being surrounded (as readers of Paris Parfait might imagine) by so many lovely things, I barely knew where to look!

I will say it was a memorable evening with sharing of smiles, stories, gifts and I will always remember this evening with my gracious hosts!

The following morning, Jerry and I headed out for our Normandy excursion. But he had done his homework well -- we had an itinerary of town flea markets along the way.

These are greatly different than Vanves, which is a weekly and somewhat more commercial affair. In France, "ordinary people" don't have yard saleswhenever they like; instead the city (or towns) set dates and everyone who likes participates.

The merchandise is different, too. While Vanves had higher end items, the markets we visited were a real mix -- everything from vintage and antique items to discarded Fisher Price toys and old clothes.

And produce vendors also had their wares (and I found the best raspberries EVER! So sweet, they couldn't be believed!)

The towns they were in had what they called "foires" -- in addition to the sales, they also had rides, food, and other activities. Jerry was aces at making good deals!

My favorite finds from these included a French Scrabble board (which I left up north and don't have a photograph of, but you might be interested to know that "W" is worth 10 points!)

I also bought some sewing notions and trims (pictured above with my Vanves buttons), some lace, bicycle pins (which have yet to be given!) and a very nice photo book on World War II and the invasion.

I would have bought these chairs, but I was a little too far from home!

Enjoying all of these was great fun -- fun to see the kinds of things that are different from what one sees here. For example, in the town foires, yes -- there was tacky and modern stuff. They're garage sales, after all. But there was a tremendous amount of the "good stuff" too -- beautiful (old) glassware, copper, pewter, brass, military-related items, photo albums (the one I wanted was 50 euros and Jerry couldn't get her to come down, so I gave it a pass).

Let me just say when I hit the yard sales here, I don't see much in the line of good stuff. Estate sales, maybe. Yard sales, no.

I loved seeing the people, the towns. And oh -- those raspberries!

Things I Learned:

When flea marketing in France, go with someone who speaks French for the best deals. I'm sure I could have tried something with my little Rick Steves phrase book. It wouldn't have worked. Not really.

Experiencing this was really a treat. I appreciated the differences between the professionals and the locals and I loved seeing the small towns.

The whole florist-bouquet thing was new to me, and I just loved watching her work (and the end result!)

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