Friday, July 27, 2012

Paris Memories

As we left Paris for several days in the Netherlands before returning home, we were already filled with an overload of warm memories and the assault on the senses that only traveling to a place so different from your own could bring.
We knew we would miss Jerry's beautiful apartment in the Marais. This was our view each morning!
His style is so strong, his nose for antiques to sharp that there were beautiful vignettes throughout.
These are a couple of my favorites.
On the last night of our time in Paris, Jerry treated us to the dinner of a lifetime at the restaurant Verjus, located on Rue Richelieu, not far from either the Louvre or the Opera. 
We started with a green gazpacho (cuke and green pepper)  with mozzerella, chickpeas, sweet peas and an awesome garlic crouton.
That was followed by a poached egg salad with hummus, frissee, fingerling potatoes, green goddess dressing and fava beans. 
Next we enjoyed several main courses, including skillet cooked hake...
...grilled milk fed veal with asparagus, chilipeppers, radish salad and ricotta andpan seared duck breast (tasted Rick's!).
There were cheeses and our choice of two amazing desserts. Wine was plentiful, and while the courses were small, our three-hour dinner left us most satisfied and ready for a nighttime walk home.
It was a glorious introduction to France for Rick and a wonderful visit for me! Here are a few of my parting tips!

Parting Tips!

1) Enjoy Paris at night. They don't call it the City of Lights for nothing! 
2) Get a good guidebook or map that you can take with you. I'll post something soon on Chopsticks and Strings on guidebooks. We liked a small one by Knopf called "Paris" which was divided into neighborhood sections. It was small enough to fit in my purse and offered spots to eat, shop or visit in each section. The maps unfolded into a tidy and manageable size and it was extremely easy to use.
3) Backpack or purse -- you will want one large enough to include an umbrella (and you might want to consider taking one even when the day begins just fine, unless it's a drought period!), your guidebook, camera, etc. Mine was a little big but there were only a few times I regretted it. CARRY SNACKS.

4) Plan and Don't Plan -- by this I mean you need to have the main things under control -- like your tickets or reservations. But be flexible. Some of our best experiences came from things not working out quite as we planned. Good prep before you leaving can help you with your decisions.
5) About wardrobe -- Europe tends to be dressier than the U.S., at least in the cities. Long ago Tara Bradford suggested no big white tennies! I was lucky this time to find some black Mary Jane style tennies by Propet that took me everywhere with a minimum of pain. And a nice scarf or two can make it seem you have a whole new wardrobe.
6) Managing the metro is pretty simple -- you buy a ticket. You can also buy an extended pass for a week (least expensive option) or a carnet -- a group of 10 tickets. Don't be caught without a ticket. And remember, you need to hold it till you leave the train as they may check it.

7) A language class helps.And by this, I mean a basic conversational French class. I took one at Evening College last year -- ten weeks and we learned the basics. It's fun to try and speak (though people are very kind about assisting you!) and it helped me tremendously in reading the French-only explanations at museums.

8) Shopping. Of course you want to shop, so budget for it. Things to remember -- prices are what they say they are; tax is included. If you spend a great deal in one place you may be able to get some of that tax back. There are many department stores in Paris -- I must show you Gallerie Lafayette.
Take a look at that Tiffany ceiling! It was truly the most elegant store I've ever visited (with prices to match.)
It's near the Opera Garnier and if you go, take the time to go to the roof where you have a magnificent view of Paris!
9) Museums. At the end of the vacation posts, I will do a bit on small museums that might not otherwise be noticed and that may be worth your while. Do check out the museum pass. They can be purchased for several days if your feet and brain will handle all your museum visiting in that time!
10) Don't overprogram yourself. It's easy to say that -- harder to do, when you know you may not be back soon. Overprogramming leads to sore feet, overload and exhaustion. Find the little ways to relax and still enjoy without a timetable.
11) Go Parking. Sit in a park. Maybe with lunch, maybe for a break. You may get to see a wild and crazy ping pong game!
12) Turn left when you meant to turn right. If you get lost, don't panic. Look around. You may find things you never expected that will enchant and delight you!

13) Be aware of recycling. The streets of Paris are remarkably clean for such a large city. Treat it kindly.
14) Taste new things! Eat off the street. Savor!
15) Enjoy every second! 

(We'll visit the Netherlands soon, but take a brief break to post on some fun things happening in my world here! Remember, all these posts count for a prize drawing!)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Flea Marketing in Paris

Paris is a grand place for treasure hunting and the flea markets, vides greniers or brocantes may be just the ticket!
On a Sunday morning, en route to our parked car, we set off to a street market Jerry had discovered. 
Much of what you see in these is similar to what you would find in a really good flea market here -- china...
...silverware and glass...
...and what I call the "junk drawer."
(You'll find kids toys and lots of clothes too, but I prefer items like this fish, which I didn't buy and wish I did!)
I particularly loved this old typewriter and if I had been there with my own car and not far from my own house, it may have been my new mate. I didn't feel like lugging it around Europe in my suitcase!
I don't have pictures here of the book, postcard and communion card I bought (all for four Euros and Jerry said if I had bargained better I'd get it for less) but I liked this picture better!
And, while I didn't look for this kind of stuff here, on a previous trip to France I discovered it's a great spot for finding WWII memorabilia, if that is your thing.
I suspect that if I had been there just with Jerry, we would have "fleaed" all day, but other people's stuff isn't Rick's thing! So, that will be another time. But in the tips, I mention a few tips for the serious shopper!

Flea or Flee Tips!

The two best known Paris flea markets are Clinganccourt and Porte de Vanves. (I was at Vanves in 2009 and it was huge. They say Clingancourt is all the more so!) There you will find serious dealers and lots more merchandise. The book "Markets of Paris" by Dixon Long and Marjorie Williams offers some fun shopping ideas and directions. There may well be others if you hunt a bit.

If you speak/read French, look for neighborhood sales HERE. You will need to know the area you are -- for example, Paris is divided into several regions, and the map can direct you to "vide greniers" and brocantes throughout France.
You are expected to bargain. Jerry, who is the master of all things antique when it comes to bargaining, has a way of getting things for a song. I'm not so good at it! But give it a try!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Time for a Snack

One of the things I discovered on this trip is that being a tourist is hard work! And hard work requires nourishment -- or at least a snack!
In Paris, there is a one-stop place that fills the bill on either end -- the boulangerie (and if you are especially lucky, the boulangerie-patissierie!
I simply couldn't resist to share a few of our favorite snack bits! There were the fabulous sandwiches we enjoyed for lunch.
Elegant and delicious fruit tarts.
Rick had a tough time making up his mind!
And really, when you see the boulangerie with its counters of sweets, who could walk in and make a quick choice?
These little clafoutis looked good, too!
I loved some of the boulangerie's architecture.
Even the details, like these colorful tiles, were charming.
Of course, you can easily get a snack on the street, too! But you may have to take it home and cook it!
It's very easy to become a bread junkie while you're in France! They just don't make it like that over here in the US!
If the feet are really tired and you want to take a break, enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner at a restaurant or brasserie.
Perhaps a glass of wine at a cafe or something more substantial!
No matter how you "slice" it, you'll find something decadent to eat, no matter where you are in Paris!

 Tasty Tips!

1) Boulangeries and patissieries are common and easy to find. There is a joke that you can find one on every street. Not true, but you don't have to go far to satisfy that snack urge. They're often willing to heat things like omelets or sandwiches if needed.
2) It's not terribly expensive to eat on the street. At the boulangerie we frequented most, a baguette was 1.10 euros  (About $1.50) and large sandwiches easily divided in two were about 4.75 euros (about $6). Pastries like the tart below averaged about 2.50 euros (about $2.50).
3) Taxes and Tipping -- In France, the bill includes the tax and a gratuity. It is common and courteous to leave a euro or two if you've had excellent service. More than four or five, even for an elaborate meal, is at the top of the range.

4) Enjoy it! In France they don't rush you to turn the table. You will need to ask for your bill. And no snapping of the fingers and calling "Garcon!" That is SO Groucho Marx.
5) Serving water automatically when you enter a restaurant is not done in Paris. You can ask for a "carafe d'eau" and they will gladly bring you water you can pour and drink at your table.

6) Reservations -- we only dealt with reservations twice, when our friend Jerry made them. The French eat late -- eight or after. If you want to get into a restaurant and don't have a reservation, try going early -- American style!
. ~~~~~~~~~~~~
This post is part of Bookbath and Thyme for Tea's "Paris in July" party! It's also part of my "vacation post" drawing, which will conclude whenever I get through it all! Please link HERE to a marvelous of over 25 "Paris in July" participants! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Walk through the Tuileries

Our visit to the Musee d'Orsay was delightful and left us hungry, too! We were to meet our host Jerry at Verjus, a delightfully intimate restaurant located on the Rue du Richelieu. To get there, we walked past our "love lock" and through the Tuileries.

The Tuileries are handsome formal gardens that go from the Louvre down to the Place de la Concorde.

Wide, sandy paths are often framed by trees and there is much sculpture. From the right angle, one can see the magnificent Louvre.

There is even a mini-Arc de Triomphe called Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Built by Napoleon between 1806 and 1808, is once served as an entrance to the former Palais des Tuileries.

If you stand in the right spot, you can see how it lines up exactly with Cleopatra's Needle, the Arc du Triomphe and another spot farther down that I can't recall!

The gardens themselves were designed by Andre Le Notre in the 17th century. They include a summer ferris wheel, a carousel and much sculpture.

There are also many ponds.

This was my favorite.

The wee boats seem perfectly balanced, sailing on the pond with nary a tip-up.

Of course, if you don't have a boat of your own (and perhaps even if you do!), it's easy enough to get one.

When we visited the park was quieting down. There weren't a lot of customers.

We think the boats in the pond were "advertising."

And it was good advertising, too!

One of my fondest Paris memories will be watching these colorful, well-designed boats waft across the water.
Equally memorable, the vendor's colorful cart!

Like any park, Tuileries is a spot for games, and we enjoyed watching these men play boules.

It was off to a dinner to remember!


1) No matter what you do in Paris, take advantage of one or more of the parks. There is tremendous "green space" in Paris and you can find a park or garden just about anywhere!

2) Consider a picnic. We found that sandwiches were easy to buy at the boulangerie, or just bring cheese and bread. In the evening, a bottle of wine is not out of the ordinary.

3) Beware of scams. There is one related to a gold ring -- a fellow will pick up a gold ring from the ground as you have passed and say, "Look! I found this gold ring. Is it yours?" Then he will try to get you to keep the ring as a "gift," then ask for money for it. Just walk. Don't even listen.

Paris In July

This post is part of Bookbath and Thyme for Tea's "Paris in July" party! It's also part of my "vacation post" drawing, which will conclude whenever I get through it all! Please link HERE to a marvelous of over 25 "Paris in July" participants!

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