Category Archives: Paris outings

Tuesday- A Day of Culture

On my way to Paris I read about a photography exhibit being held at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, and added it to my list of “must-do’s” for the week.  I am so glad I read that Air France magazine, because the exhibit was wonderful.

Howard  Greenberg has been a photography collector for thirty years, and has his own gallery in New York City, the Howard Greenberg Gallery.  The 100 photographs in this exhibition include photographs by famous photographers such as Diane Arbus, Karl Strauss, and Pal Funk.  I was thrilled to see one of my very favorite photographs there, The Migrant Mother, by Dorothea Lange.

That evening Mark and I did something we have been wanting to do since we moved to Paris- we went to an opera at the Garnier Opera House.  We saw two short, contemporary operas- Le Nain, by Zemlinsky, and L’Enfant et Les Sortileges, by Ravel.  I was so glad we had sprung for the pricey little program, because it contained synopses of the operas in English which helped me to understand the French surtitles.  Both operas were completely unknown to us, but beautifully done.  The best part of the evening, however, was simply being in that amazingly beautiful building.

Le Palais Garnier was completed in 1875 as part of Haussman’s reconstruction of Paris.  The main facade was restored in 2000, and the Grand Foyer in 2004, so the building is in wonderful condition, inside and out.

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detail of the floor

detail of the floor

Ceiling of auditorium by Marc Chagal

Ceiling of auditorium by Marc Chagall

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As you can see, it wouldn’t have mattered what opera we saw in those surroundings!

A short metro ride later we were home- no parking garage exit stress, no freeways.  Paris does it right, my friends!

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Can Spring Break in Paris Really Be Better Than in Gulf Shores, Alabama?

That groaning noise you thought you heard recently was my washing machine begging for mercy.  My hilarious son, his cool fashionista girlfriend, and two sweet friends of my daughter all left this morning to return to the states.  The beds are slowly being remade, the towels replaced in the linen closet, the bathrooms cleaned, the table linens washed.  The apartment is so quiet now, and Sawyer is moping that the eight extra hands for petting him have waved goodbye and disappeared.  We had such a good time entertaining and enjoying the enthusiasm and giddiness of people seeing Paris for the first time.

The weather was too good to be true for  most of the week.  We took them to the Eiffel Tower and for a picnic and a pretty fine view.

Look mom, no coats!

Yeah, so these people aren't us, but they knew how to picnic on the Champs de Mars. Laudree macarons and champagne- who needs fried chicken?

One afternoon Son and Girlfriend and I went to the Pompidou to see a Matisse exhibit.  Because they were so well -behaved and didn’t break their audioguides, I told them we could get cocktails on the roof terrace of Le Georges, the museum restaurant.  After twenty minutes of no service, we left, but not before taking some sweet pictures.

And instead we got some fabulous gelato back on the ground, so BOOYA Monsieur Pompidude!

And instead we got some fabulous gelato back on the ground, so BOOYA Monsieur Pompidude!

I told my son to pick out something nice for graduation.

One night we took a boat cruise, which has always been a totally family-friendly activity in the past.  However, it seems that when the weather first gets warm in Paris, the banks of the Seine become a popular venue for various forms of sexual pleasure.  So the lesson is that the last cruise of the evening is definitely not going to be rated “G”.  Now we know.  And I pray that the parents of the girls who were with us on the Party Deck never find out about this blog.

My sweet friend Laura arrived on Friday morning, when the high for the day approached 70 degrees.  She was not allowed to plead “Jet Lag” , and we took her back to the top of the Pompidou for dinner her first night .  The service was only slightly better than it had been a few days earlier when we stomped out.  Here’s the thing about the wait staff at Le Georges: they are all drop-dead gorgeous and ever so glamorous, and they would rather be striking poses at Fashion Week than carrying trays of champagne and sea bass.  Here are a few shots of the funky interior of the restaurant.  You might notice some of the waitresses in the background.  They don’t look busy.

The last day the kids were here the weather returned to her old self, meaning that the temperature dropped 20 degrees and threatened rain.  Unfortunately, that was also the day we were scheduled for an all-day bike tour in Versailles with Fat Tire Bike Tours.  Nothing to do but layer the clothing and pray it didn’t rain on us, which we did and it didn’t.  If you ever are in Paris  (or London or Barcelona or Berlin), you should look into Fat Tire Bike Tours.  We rode a train 20 minutes to Versailles and then walked to a storage facility and received our bikes for the day, which we rode all over the grounds of Versailles before touring the inside of the chateau.  We had a great time, despite the weather, and were home in plenty of time for our 7:30 dinner reservation.  We were able to see much more of the grounds than we ever could have on foot, and had a great time doing it.

You might guess why I was not thrilled to visit the Hall of Mirrors that afternoon.

This photo explains why I was not thrilled about visiting the Hall of Mirrors that afternoon.

Pretty sweet digs, Louie!

As I said way back at the beginning of this long post, the kids are all on their way home, the air mattresses have been deflated and put away, and we are left with a very quiet apartment and lots of this.

Laura will be here for a week, however, so we will try to find some things to do that will interest you.

Gotta go.  We’re trying to make the last boat tour of the evening.

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Filed under Centre de Pompidou, Eiffel Tower, family, Paris museum, Paris outings, Seine, Uncategorized

I’ll Take Potpourri for 200, Alex.

Things are about to get a lot busier around chez Mai.  My son and his girlfriend arrive Saturday morning for their Spring Break, two of my daughter’s friends arrive from Houston on Tuesday , and on the next Friday one of my BFF’s (“Best Foodie Friends”) makes the trek from Houston.  For two of those nights we will be wall- to- wall in this apartment, and I can hardly wait!  I’m not sure what it will do to my blogging habit, though.  I could either start flooding your inboxes with multiple posts a day, or it could be radio silence for a few weeks as I try to keep up with sheets, towels, metro tickets, and lots and lots of eating.  You just never know.  So enjoy this one while you can.

Words cannot describe the fabulosity of this day’s weather in Paris.  The warmest day we have had since last fall, with just a hint of a breeze.  I even did the unthinkable -walked two blocks to the Franprix (grocery store, of sorts) without a coat on.  It made me downright giddy, I tell ya!  Giddy until I got there and remembered that although it felt like Texas, I definitely was NOT in HEB.  

See this tower of collapsed cardboard on its own little dolly?  This is not an unusual occurrence at my local Franprix.  It’s frequently parked just in front of the refrigerated milk and cream  shelf, which is only about 5 feet wide because French people tend to drink the sterilized milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.  This, my friends, is one French practice I will never defend.  How can the land of amazing cheese, yogurt, and butter (oh God, the butter) be so misguided when it comes to milk?  But I digress.  You might notice the ladder just to the left of the tower.  Seconds after I snapped this photo, the guy who was  perched atop that ladder dropped a box of macaroni on the floor.  The scene looked something like this.

It may be blurry because I was trying to move away from the area lest more product fall from the sky. Or the tower topple over.

After filling my red granny cart with my groceries, I did this.

So that’s why I usually take the metro or the bus to the big Casino grocery store and have my groceries delivered.  The Franprix is just not all that much fun.  But it’s usually good for some entertainment.

Later I grabbed the Wonderchien and we took a nice long walk down the Champs-Elysees to the Tuileries, one narrow side of which is  an unofficial dog park.    It felt like the whole city was out enjoying the sunshine.

The bike taxis were finally doing some business.

I'll have a nutella crepe, please. Or should I have a hot dog?

People were actually buying snacks from the shacks on the Champs. I even saw two people eating ice cream bars!

Yesterday I was here, at the l’Orangerie, and I was wishing I had worn a heavier coat.

While there, of course I said hello to the Waterlillies.

The room was empty. I looked from afar.

I looked up close. Because I thought it would make a cool screen shot for my phone. And it does.

I took a picture of the roof so you could see what I meant about the natural light being so perfect for those panels.

And THEN a guard came over and told me I couldn’t take pictures.  Since WHEN?  I took a 3 minute panoramic video the last time I was here and no one cared!  I seem to be getting into trouble with authority figures here a lot lately.  I wonder what that means?

Today, in the same park, I didn’t even need my coat.

Why yes, that IS the Louvre in the background!

A more artful photographer would have aimed the camera just a smidge higher, so as to leave out the ugly fence. However, since I am all about keeping it real, I chose to include it.

This is the end of Fashion Week.  Some of the shows took place here in the Tuileries.  Today it was coming down.

My second Fashion Week in Paris and  still: 1) I didn’t see any of the Beautiful People in town for Fashion Week  and 2) no one stopped me and asked if I were one of the Beautiful People in town for Fashion Week.

I think that is enough miscellany for a Saturday post, don’t you?   I’m going to go see if there is any puff pastry in the fridge.

Keep smilin’.  Keep shinin’.  Knowing you can always count on me.  For sure.

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The Devil Made Me Do It

I had such good intentions.  Study French.  Go to the grocery store.  Go to the gym.   Then I looked out the window and saw how unbelievably blue the sky was, and how still the trees.  And that’s when Satan began talking to me.  “Montmartre”, he whispered  seductively in my ear, “Montmartre”.  That’s how I ended up on a bus pointed toward Sacre-Coeur instead of in my Body Sculpt class.  Yep- it was all his fault.

For the uninitiated, Montmartre is the oft-pictured Paris neighborhood with the narrow streets that climb steep hills. It is crowned by the  magnificent Sacre-Coeur,a  domed church built in 1873 as a symbol of the return of France’s self-confidence after the Commune and the Franco-Prussian War.  As you can see, the white domes look incredible against a bright blue sky.

Needless to say, the views of Paris are fabulous from up there.

One is advised to wear comfortable walking shoes when exploring Montmartre.

No hill for a climber, as we like to say in Texas.

All that climbing worked up a powerful thirst!  I found a sunny terrace and warmed my hands with the coffee and my face with the sun.

Yes, I live here, but I'm clearly not above looking like a tourist!

Montmartre offers much more than just a big white church.  This stunning metro stop, Abbesses, sports one of only two original Art nouveau canopies left.

There used to be 14 windmills atop this hill, but this is one of only two remaining.

Wandering down a little street, I came across this Fish Salon.  Anyone for a fish pedi?

It wasn't open but i took this through the window. The fish were awake and hungry.

It must have been Satan who led me straight to a cafe with a table for one, a surprisingly good cheeseburger, crispy fries, and satisfying glass of Cote de Rhone.  Ahhhhhhh.  Time to walk some more.

Part of Montmartre are quite seedy.  I guess that’s why Satan likes it so much.

The Sexodrome

Endless shopping opportunities await.

Not to end our tour on a tawdry note, here is the “I Love You Wall” , which contains 311 written declarations of love in 250 different languages.  The wall is in a quiet little park by the metro Abbesses.

So that was my glorious Monday, from the seedy to the sacred.  A little mix keeps things interesting, don’t you think?

Now get behind me, Satan!

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First Week Back.

Yes, I’m still here- just a bit  quiet as I have tried to settle back into my little ex-pat world.  For some reason we have all suffered more jet lag than usual this time, which has slowed me down a tad.  I did get out, though, and here is what I did.

I went to the Louvre with my walking tour group.  The theme of the tour was “Kings and Emperors” and we saw lots of royals and their relics.

Charles V and his wife Jeanne de Bourbon

These statues of Charles V and his wife were the first actual representations of a French king.  All previous portrayals had been of idealized men and women meant to represent the rulers.  I think this was particularly brave of him, given his pronounced underbite.  I would have been like,”go ahead, idealize away” but Charles allowed himself to be sculpted as he was.  He was also the first king to live in the Louvre, when he moved the royal residence there in 1350.

Napoleon's throne

This seemingly understated little chair was Napoleon’s throne from the Tuileries palace.

This gorgeous sword was not used in battle but was held by every French king at his coronation.  Isn’t that amazing?  It is said to be the single most important French royal relic in existence today.

Another afternoon Sawyer and I walked around the Tuileries, which was beautiful in an austere, wintery kind of way.

Saturday was grey and misty, but we buttoned up our raincoats and did a walking tour of the Latin Quarter.  I had never seen the Pantheon, and I thought it high time.

They totally copied this from the Houston Museum of Natural Science, but it was still cool.

Rousseau's ashes

Yes, it was still yucky when we came out of the Pantheon.

So that was pretty much my first week back.  Tomorrow is my first French lesson in three or four weeks, so I need to go study up a bit.  Too bad we seem to be the only Parisians not invited to the party upstairs.  At least they aren’t playing music like they did at their last party, which lasted until 2:00 AM.  I have enough sleep problems going on without any help from the neighbors, thank you very much.

Oh yeah- we made it to church this morning and I documented the event.

Isn't it pretty?

I even liked the floor.

Have a good week, mes amies!

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Just one more thing before I go……

I know I said I wouldn’t be posting again until after the New Year, but I realized I have a few Christmas-ish pictures that you will probably appreciate more now than in January when all you want to do is put Christmas back up in the attic for another year.

Gale force winds and a security strike have both threatened to put a damper on our happy flight home tomorrow, but as of 7:15 on the night before, I am optimistic that we will be Texas- bound as scheduled.  That is, assuming the flight is able to achieve lift with our assorted over-stuffed suitcases aboard.  Please send positive thoughts this way!

A few nights ago I chose a restaurant specifically because it was close to Notre Dame, and I had yet to see the big Christmas tree that stands in front of the cathedral each year.  So four of us braved the cold, cold wind (have I mentioned that we have had wicked wind in Paris???) from the metro to the church so that I could get a picture of this awesome tree.  Turns out the tree is much more impressive during the day time, when one can see the colored ornaments.  I have made a note for next year.  In the meantime, I’m afraid you are stuck with this pitiful night-time image.  I apologize for my ineptness.  I’m still kind of new here. The good news is that the dinner was excellent.  I highly recommend le Bistrot des Comperes to any of you Parisians who happen to be hanging around this blog.

I tasted my first Bouche de Noel, the traditional French Christmas cake.  Mlle Cordon Bleu made this one for us and it was divine.

As you can see, it was pistachio -my favorite!

The super-cold winter weather I have been  expecting has finally arrived.  Sounds like as good a time as any to make a trip to Texas.  See y’all soon!

kisses from Paris

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These boots were made for walkin’. And that’s just what they did.

Wonder Chien and I covered some Paris ground today.  It was sunny and cold- the perfect combination for walking and taking pictures.  This afternoon we explored Victor Hugo, a lovely, tree-lined street dotted with pricey boutiques and an occasional chocolate shop.  After dinner we walked across the Champs-Elysees and down Matignon, the street with the wonderful fashion windows. The night was clear, with a big fat moon shining down on all the Christmas decorations.  Yeah, I dug Paris today.

Pretty elaborate decorations for a small, gourmet grocery store...

And these are pretty elaborate pastries, oui? Personally, I would rather have a warm cinnamon sugar doughnut from Shipleys.

I know, I know- you have seen this street before--but it's just so darn pretty I can't help myself.

Glamor in the Ralph Lauren window- just the thing for that office party!

"What's in the Bonpoint window these days, Kate?" you ask? Just this little pig-tailed girl opening up a doll for Christmas!

That big white ball to the left of the tree is the moon. Freakin' awesome.

I am feeling kind of bad about one element of my day.  Two people stopped and asked me directions today, and I sent both of them in the absolute wrong direction.  I wish I could say it was a language problem.  Nope- I understood them perfectly, and I could respond using all the right words, but sending them the wrong way.  I can’t help it.  I was born this way.  I just hope they don’t hunt me down in my dreams tonight.  Angry Parisians are downright scary.

So tomorrow I have an appointment for my physical exam, which will allow me to get my “permit” to live here.  I have heard quite a few ex-pat tales of these appointments, and I am a tiny bit apprehensive.  I hope it will be a non-event, but if there is a story to tell, you will read it here, my friends.  No pictures, though.  No way.

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