Category Archives: France

Springtime in Paris

Bonjour y’all! Who doesn’t love April? NO ONE. That’s who. Here in Austin the  jasmine is in full flush and wildly redolent (all except the jasmine on my fence at the lake, which was burnt by the freezes and looks really skimpy and sad). Iris are still standing proud and roses have loved the recent rain and are showing off bigly.

My Paris-heavy Instagram feed has reminded me how much I loved springtime in Paris when I lived there. Of course, spring in Paris was well-earned and frequently took its sweet time getting there, making it even more of a celebrity than it is here. Hooray for spring everywhere, whenever it chooses to arrive.

I think we all deserve a little Paris this morning, so I gathered some of my favorite pictures of Paris pink, a color that embellishes Paris in springtime like pink frosting on an elegant confection. Enjoy.

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Have a good week, my friends.

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Filed under fashion, flowers, France, Paris, springtime in Paris, Uncategorized

October

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Ain’t it the truth? I think of this quote every year when this glorious month rolls around. I have spent the last several Octobers in Paris or London, where this month is everything it’s supposed to be- cool and colorful- beckoning us to follow it into the darker and colder months ahead. Meanwhile, it’s ninety degrees here in Austin, Texas, and all my plants look as sick of the heat as I am. So I wait for a cool breeze and flip though some of my favorite photos of falls past.

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Now I’m really feeling nostalgic and maybe even a bit grumpier with my current October. This would be the time to slap myself and  be thankful that I am not in Haiti or any of the many places in Hurricane Matthew’s path right now. It’s hot and humid and green here, but at least my home is cool, dry, and comfortable. Reality checks are good.

September was a frenzy around here. Claire flew home from Paraguay, accepted a job in Washington DC, had some oral surgery (sorry about those two permanent teeth you never received but pretty sure it was the only mistake your dad and I ever made, and you’re right about dental implants not being the sexy kind), found a place to live and moved in, all in a period of three and a half weeks. This month should be a bit calmer, and we are hoping for great progress on our house renovations, which continue to charge ahead at a glacial pace. Apparently it’s true what they say about its being faster to build a house than to renovate one. They do say that, right? If not, they should.

I hope you all are safe and dry, wherever you are, and if you’re in a place where October is in full splendor, please send me a photo. Or maybe not.

P.S.- I have been reading some really great stuff lately and have updated my Books page accordingly. Check it out if you are in a reading slump.

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Filed under France, London, Paris, Uncategorized

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

Paris has been much on my mind the last few days, probably because of the senseless tragedies that continue to be inflicted upon Europe. While missing Paris, I am also reminded that this time of year can be difficult there. You are sooooooo ready for spring (which according to Instagram has arrived in just about every other place in the world), and yet there you are, still wearing your tired sweaters and boots and hating them. It was also difficult to be so far away from home on Easter, and so I’m extra happy to be home to celebrate Easter with family this year. I’m making jambalaya for our Easter feast, because I am ready to swap out the ham tradition (never been a big ham fan, myself) and I think jambalaya could be up to the task of supplanting the pig in the middle of the table. I hope so, anyway.

So shall we lose ourselves in some Paris for a few minutes?

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See- don’t they look cold under that stunning tree?

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Yep- there was a reason those chairs were empty on April 4.

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Eventually the lighter scarves come out again!

Eventually the lighter scarves come out again!

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Wisteria!

Wisteria!

Ridonculous ranunculus.

Ridonculous ranunculus.

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OK. Enough of that. Don’t we all have grocery lists to make? Eggs to stuff? Jelly beans to eat*?

I know I do. Can’t wait to see myimage

*Just reminded me of the time one of my precious kids all dressed in Easter finery took my hand, opened it up, and spit a sticky mass of half-chewed black jelly bean pulp in my palm. I totally understood the impulse but ick.

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Filed under flowers, France, Parc Monceau, Paris, springtime in Paris, Tuileries, Uncategorized

We’re In The Monet

Oh what a day we had in Giverny! Our Fat Tire Bike Tour met on platform 22 of Gare Saint Lazare, and we boarded the train for a forty minute ride to the village of Vernon. We picked up our red bikes there and visited the market, where we gathered provisions for a picnic before riding the bike trail to Giverny. This is the second time I have taken this bike tour and I think it’s wonderful for people of all ages. The only kicker is that you have to hope for a pretty day, because the tour will go rain or shine. Thankfully, we had lots of shine!

our chariots for the day

our chariots for the day

Verney

Vernon

hollyhocks at the bike garage

hollyhocks at the bike garage

cabbage and rosemary with a side of shallots

cabbage and rosemary with a side of shallots

picture perfect picnic spot

picture perfect picnic spot

I always look for these old signs in France.

I always look for these old signs in France.

driveway in Giverny

driveway in Giverny

The small rooms and passageways of Monet’s lovely house were packed with tourists. Fortunately my friend and I had both been there before, so we hurried through the house, taking only a few pictures, and then lingered in the fabulous gardens.

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Everyone loves the kitchen! I couldn’t stop myself from taking a few pictures, even though I no doubt have the very same photos in my photo stream from five years ago.

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The gardens were in full bloom and were staggeringly beautiful.

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We arrived back in Paris just in time for a glass of rosé before our 7:30 dinner reservation. It was definitely a day to be toasted.

Cheers!

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Filed under Fat Tire Bike Tours, flowers, France, gardens, Giverny

A Weekend In the North of France

Bonjour mes amis! I am back in Paris, where it has been a grey and rainy Monday. No worries, though, because I am still basking in the glow of a sunny, warm weekend in Hardelot- Plage. This tiny beach town is just a short drive south from Calais, a popular jumping off point for England. We could see the white cliffs of Dover as we looked out over the channel. I was completely charmed by Hardelot because it had a lovely beach AND was still hilly and forested and didn’t even feel humid or windy. A beach town without all the annoyances of a beach town! Hooray for that!

We were invited by some friends who bought their house twenty-five years ago. Their three children and six nieces and nephews have spent all of their summers and many holidays in this cozy house that exuded warmth, love, and precious family memories.

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back patio- perfect for aperitifs!

back patio- perfect for aperitifs!

view of back yard from our bedroom

view of back yard from our bedroom

The woman of the house grew up in a nearby town, Boulogne, where her 83-year-old mother still lives. Her mother is an amazing cook and graciously provided us with two feasts from the sea- a lunch of mussels (prepared two ways) and a dinner of amazing crabs.

les moules

les moules

the cook!

the cook!

One afternoon our host drove us around the area. We parked and walked around the Old Town of Boulogne, which was beautiful.

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Boulogne is the busiest fishing port in France, and is also Europe’s biggest center of fish processing. We took a quick look at the boats and the processing plants.

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Back in Hardelot, the beach was busy on Sunday, which was beautiful and warm and not very windy.

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A small Sunday market was going on in town.

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We drove back to Paris Sunday evening, well-fed and very relaxed. Paris is still semi-comatose but appears to be awakening a bit each day. Most of the Parisians should be back by next weekend, and more and more stores and restaurants are taking down their “vacances” notices and re-opening their doors. People with bronzed faces are back on the sidewalks, no doubt dreaming of their month in the sun that went by much too fast.

The many “first day of school” pictures on my Facebook feed remind me that vacation is over at home, too. I can hear my friends cheering as that school bus pulls away! Happy Fall, tout le monde!

 

 

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Filed under France, Paris, travel, Uncategorized

Mont St. Michel

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Mark and I had been trying to get to this amazing place for so long, and something always seemed to squelch our plan.  Usually, it was the weather.  As you can see, that was not a problem when we finally got there a few weekends ago.

The abbey of Mont St. Michel is located in Normandy, north-west of Paris.  I knew it was an easy day trip, and the way we got there truly could not have been any easier.  We took the TGV to Rennes, which took about 3 hours, and then walked next door to the bus station.  Ten minutes later we were on a very nice coach driving to Mont St. Michel, which took about 1 hour and a half.  I found the tickets on-line and was able to book the train and the bus on the same ticket.  Ridiculously easy!

The abbey, in some form or other, has been perched on this hill since the 8th century.  It is surrounded by mudflats, and when the tide comes in, it becomes an island.  There is a tiny village, entirely touristic, just outside the abbey walls, which ensures that the 3 million people who visit the site each year do not leave without food, drink, and trinkets.

The entrance is a maze of roads and bridges under construction.  It looks like a lot of tourists, but actually it was relatively empty.

The entrance is a maze of roads and bridges under construction. It looks like a lot of tourists, but actually it was relatively empty.

view of the mudflats

view of the mudflats

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refectory

refectory

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On our way back down we stopped here for a beverage.

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Then it was back on the bus to Rennes.  Hint: if you buy a bottle of wine at the grocery store on your way out of town and plan to drink it on the bus, don’t sit in the seat directly behind the driver.

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We enjoyed our bottle of wine on the TGV, and were snugly back in our beds by 10:00.

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Filed under France, Paris, travel, Uncategorized

Take Me To The River

There are quite a few things I don’t like about my neighborhood here in the 8th arrondissement.  I am surrounded by office buildings, haute couture boutiques, the President’s office, and the chain stores on the Champs Elysees , but  there are not many shops for me to use on a regular basis.  I am pretty sure I could buy a Renoir more easily than I can select a nice assortment of cheeses at a fromagerie.  I have to take a bus or metro to do any serious grocery shopping or go to a market.  However, one thing I have always liked about my location is my proximity to the Seine.  Just a fifteen minute walk across the Champs Elysees and past all the fashion windows of Ave. Montaigne, and I am at the Pont d’Alma(the bridge which is almost at the feet of the Eiffel Tower).  I can cross the river and then walk alongside it to another bridge, re-cross and walk back home. When I had Wonderchien here with me, it was a great route for our regular walks.  Up until recently, however, when I walked along the other side of the river, I had to walk way above it, while very busy lanes of traffic zoomed between the water and me.  Not any more!  This summer the City of Paris completed a major overhaul of a 2.3 kilometer stretch of the Left Bank, between Pont d’Alma and the Musee d’Orsay.  The project is called Les Berges de Seine, and it is awesome!

This beautiful part of the river is no longer flanked by zooming cars, but has been transformed into a multi-use recreational area for walkers, joggers, bikers, skateboarders, kids, picnic packers, and those who just want to enjoy an apertif or a light meal while gazing at the river.  I have heard from my French friends (yes, BOTH of them) that this is pretty controversial in Paris because it has closed a major traffic artery, making the traffic problem in the city worse.  But since I don’t drive, I have no complaints at all, other than I wish they had done it sooner!

Mark and I walked down there last Sunday night after unpacking from our weekend trip to Bordeaux, and we were  delighted with the facilities and the buzz of activity happening there.  There were people everywhere- jogging, riding bikes, roller blading, walking, and picnicking on the edge of the river.  There are little bridges that connect the riverbank to floating  gardens with comfortable chairs and even some green grass.  Mark and I found an empty table at one of the many cafes set up there, and we enjoyed a cold beer while watching the scene on the Seine.  It was divine.

I returned this morning (Thursday) to get some better photos, and there were very few people, but security was apparent  and there was no trash to be seen.

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running lanes and a climbing area for les enfants

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I could rent a bike and never have to venture out onto a Paris street!

I could rent a bike and never have to venture out onto a Paris street!

These little rooms are able to be reserved for your private use.  Book club, maybe?

These little rooms are able to be reserved for your private use. Book club, maybe?

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view from above

view from above

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bridge to floating gardens

bridge to floating gardens

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plenty of bathrooms, water fountains, and trash cans- look how clean!

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this skateboard ramp was very busy on Sunday

bridge to floating gardens

bridge to floating gardens

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byo sunscreen

byo sunscreen

looks like a cruise ship!

looks like a cruise ship!

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Well done, Paris, well done!

Next time you are in Paris you must check it out.  Just don’t ask your taxi driver what he thinks of it.

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Filed under France, Paris, Seine, Uncategorized