Monday, May 17, 2010

Winding Down. Or Is It Up?

I cannot believe that my time here in Paris is quickly coming to a close. It seems like only yesterday that my landlord nearly stood me up and left me to wonder if this had possibly been the dumbest idea I had ever had. Ever.

But Fate, Karma, Destiny, whatever you choose to call it, has a way of confirming or denying the decisions we've made.

And while I can admit to many doubts along the way, the outcome has more than exceeded the goal.

And I'm ready to come home.

While I have only three full days left here in Paris, (which I can hardly believe!), I will be gathering chocolates, caramels, possibly some macarons, and a few other memories of this City of Light which I have called home for the past month.

And for those of you wondering, my dear Monsieur Contrustion Worker has been noticably absent this past week. I intend on writing him a very strongly worded letter about this.

A bientot!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This is for the Birds.

It really is for the birds. On Sundays, on the Ile de la Cite, the normally pleasant flower market turns into a bird market. It's much smaller than what I remember, but if you're in the market for birds, or bird-stuff, this is apparently the place to go in Paris. The really weird thing, there were a lot of men in black leather jackets hanging around. And they didn't look like the type that would take too kindly to questions either.

And since it was right around the corner, I had to take one more walk by Notre Dame. It really is a masterpiece.

And since it was right around the corner, I had to take a stroll to Ile St.-Louis, and have a famous Berthillon ice cream cone. I ate it too fast to get a picture. But it's every bit as good as they say!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The King's House. The Queen's House.

Henry IV built this little pad for he and his wife in 1605. 405 years ago. That just blows my mind. Place des Vosges, in the heart of the Marais, reminded me of Plaza Mayor in Madrid (but without all the tapas bars!). It's filled with cafes, art galleries, boutiques, and offices of architects. With it's peaceful park in the center, the huge statue of Louis XIII, fountains, sandboxes, and trees in bloom, it's hard to imagine that this once was the sight of jousting matches.

Victor Hugo lived in one of the "townhouses" and wrote "Les Miserables" while here.

I love history.

Two little asides: I was treated to an impromptu gymnastic show during lunch. And Rue St. Antoine and Rue Faubourg St. Antoine are not the same street. Just a reminder for the future.

Photos 1 and 2: Place des Vosges stables from Hotel Sully courtyard (Hotel just means really big house in French, by the way).
Phote 3: The Queen's House. If you look very closely, you can see the fleur de lys at the top, indicating a Royal Residence, so there.
Photo 4: Townhouses surrounding Le Residence Royale.
Photo 5: The Queen's House, again.
Photo 6: Louis XIII (the son of Henry IV).
Photo 7: More townhouses.
Photo 8: Ceiling detail.
Photo 9: The King's House.

It's funny, you're walking down the street (Rue St. Antoine, not the Faubourg one), past stores, cafes, tabacs, a McDonald's, turn the corner, and Hello! The King's house is right there. I just love the mushing together of the old and the new here. The appreciation for history and what was built before. Granted, it's a heck of a lot more pleasant to look at than the typical strip-mall. Maybe if we could have played in the sandbox in the Queen's backyard...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nothing but Trouble.

I knew it would be a problem. I predicted the problem. Little did I know just how big of a problem this would be.

On my way to deliver greetings to the friend of friend, I found my way (ooops!) to Le E'toile d'or, the chocolate shops to end all chocolate shops!

This will be my undoing. Denise Acabo, the proprietess, has discovered my weakness for caramel. Or rather, I have found my nirvana. And my dedication to chocolate. And I will not divulge any more secrets. Except one:

Randi, expect unbelieveable goodness when I return!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Retail Therapy?

Non, non, non. After an afternoon spent at Galeries Lafayette, I need therapy, and not the retail sort!

I had completely forgotten not only just how beautiful Galeries Lafayette is, but how BIG! And they recently expanded into the empty Marks & Spencer store next door. I wouldn't even call Galeries Lafayette a store, it's more like a shopping city. Anything and everything, in every price range, you could ever want, dream, imagine, exists there. I still can't decide if it was shopping nirvana or shopping hell!

It's basically a bunch of boutiques in one building. All along the perimeter of each level are the designer boutiques. I had to laugh when I saw the line waiting to get into the Louis Vuitton boutique, there was also a line for the Longchamps boutique, which I haven't quite figured out why yet.

I started at the top and very slowly worked my way down through each floor. And this was just the "Femmes" store! They have another building dedicated to "Hommes," which I'll get to in a minute.

Each level was more beautiful than the next. And having that stained glass dome, right in the center, with a different view on each level just added to the afternoon.

And then I found the shoe level and my head nearly exploded! Shoes of every shape, style, color, height, were everywhere! I couldn't get away fast enough, otherwise, I would need another shoe room, and I'm sure one shoe room per person is quite enough!

I was surprised at how crowded the store was. Packed, is more like it. And they weren't just window shopping. Nearly everyone was carrying a Galeries Lafayette bag. Including myself.

As I made my way down, I discovered that the food hall, similar to Harrod's in London, is in the "Homme" building. So I made my way there, and again, the store was packed! Not with women shopping for their men, with men, shopping for themselves! I've noticed it before here, and I don't think I've ever seen so many men shopping as I have here.

And then I got lost. In a grocery store. In a grocery store that's in a department store.

While the Food Halls at Harrod's are quite stunning, this was OMG! Once again, I was too awed to whip out the camera. It's a food hall. A cheese shop. Patisserie. Boulangerie. Frommagerie. Charcuterie. Fresh fruit and vegetable market. Wine store. Spice Market (my god, the spices alone! All piled up like in North Africa! And every spice imaginable, the display seemed to go on forever!). A dairy case that contained, I swear, over 100 varieties of yogurt. And they come in little glass containers here! Not plastic (ok, some do, but a lot were in glass). And little places to eat along the way. A wine bar. A coffee shop. A Chinese/Japanese/Sushi place. A champagne bar (oh, and there are no less than 3 champagne bars in the store itself, so if you're feeling the need for a pick-me up after buying several new Chanel suits, just plop right down at the Champagne bar, and they'll fix you right up! Not that I would know, but I'm just guessing!) A raw bar. A bar bar. A salad bar (just kidding!).

And the people were shopping for their groceries! Like we do everyday at Heinen's or Giant Eagle or the West Side Market (hahahahaha!) or wherever, but this was Galeries Lafayette! Grocery shopping! Buying apples and lettuce! And yogurt in little glass containers! Sensory overload.

This would be Number 1 on my list of "Places to Get Lost in Paris." At least you know you won't go hungry or thirsty!

Then I made my way to the Opera. It really is a stunning building. I think I overuse the word "stunning," but everything here is just, well, so stunning. And I stopped at the cafe right across from the Opera, planning on having a bite to eat, but when I saw the prices, I knew why people say Paris is expensive! And opted for an 8 euro cup of cafe instead.

Once back on my Butte, I stopped at my favorite bistro, I think it's my favorite bistro because my favorite waitress, Danielle, is always there. Plus, even though it's a bit touristy here, the prices are reasonable.

I treated myself to some steak therapy. Steak au poivre, with the most delicious pepper sauce, and the steak itself was huge, perfectly cooked, and I ate every bit. I still have my chocolate therapy waiting for me for later, pain au chocolat, which is a croissant stuffed with chocolate, which I will savour and I savour a little retail therapy.

After today, I needed a little therapy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Request Lines Are Open.

With less than two weeks left here in Paris, I thought I'd open up the request lines to see what you want to see! Not that I've run out of things to do, but maybe you have a suggestion for something I haven't considered.

So go ahead. The lines are open!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Art. In Paris.

So, you think art in Paris is all about Monet, Renoir, Da Vinci, Rodin, Degas, Manet, etc., etc., etc.? Well, part of Paris is. There's another part, quite a large part, by the way, that pays very close attention to modern art.

I've never really been a fan of "modern" art. It all seemed so, so very, "how can I make a quick buck from this piece of crap?" to me. The "art" rarely came through.

Until today.

I so wish the Photographs-are-not-allowed-in-the-galleries-Police were on strike or something, because the "Dreamland" exhibit at the Georges Pompidou Centre is truly extraordinary!

These modern artists come from every continent on the planet, ok, with the exception of Antartica, but, really.

They possess a gift that is unique, timely, and simply beautiful.

Oh, and yes, the top of the Pompidou Centre is very high. Very high indeed. Those who know my excrutiating fear of heights will appreciate this.

I also found the square that faces Pompidou interesting. I swear, these are some of the narrowest buildings in the world, let alone Paris. See for yourself, and imagine living here.

I know I can't. It's almost too much for my addled brain! Almost.

First photo: recycled refridgerators covered in mirrored tiles, to resemble city skyline. By: Kader Attia. Untitled. 2007.
Second photo: The square and my Butte-Montmartre! You can sort of see Sacre-Couer, it was much better in real-life!
Third photo: A long way down! What am I doing up here?
Fourth photo: I was very taken with these very, very narrow buildings.
Fifth Le Tour Eiffel from Pompidou
Sixth: Partial exterior of Pompidou

Linky-link here!

Strolling the Champs-Elysees.

More like rowing upstream, not exactly a stroll. I must have picked the windiest, coldest day for a stroll along the Champs-Elysees. My eyes were watering so badly, my nose was running, and I thought my ears were about to fall off from the cold. But it is so very beautiful. So I'm not complaining. Not at all. From the manicured trees that line the Avenue, the flower beds with tulips in bloom, the famous stores and restaurants, the Parisien architecture, to the Arc de Triumph, and just watching the crazy traffic go around and around and around in circles, a stroll along the Champs-Elysees is a must for anyone visiting Paris.

And yes, of course I went in. And no, I didn't buy anything. Yet.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dear Monsieur Construction Worker...

Thank you for reading my little blog! It's because of loyal readers like you that I'll get that book deal. Then Steven Spielberg will call, wanting to make the movie! And we'll both be famous!

But I think something got lost in the translation of my last letter to you. Edith Piaf. Not indulge in your high school fantasy of being the best drummer in the world. Because frankly, Monsieur Construction Worker, banging on pipes isn't really the same as banging on drums. Trust me on that one.

Think Edith Piaf. Not Keith Moon.

And either Antonio Banderas or Colin Firth would be the best choice to star as you in the movie version of this little misadventure of mine. Don't you think?

Merci. Bon jour.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The New and the Old.

I finally made it to the Arab Institute. This is such a unique, technological, and sensitive building, I'm just honored to be able to visit. I wasn't able to capture the building in it's entirety, the close-ups of the lens panels,I hope,show the different lens positions, depending on the sun, which was hard to find today. But it was simply spectacular.

And from the newest achitechtural advances, I walked backward. To the ancient remains of the Romans in Paris (Lutece, as Paris was known in Roman times). These are the ancient ruins, from 2,ooo years ago!, of the arena in Paris that the Romans built. I know I may have a bit too many pictures of what you may think as stones, but wow! These stones were laid by human hands 2,000 years ago. And what of the cages? What certain death was held within those cages?

And is so my wont to do, I really tried to make my way back by retracing my steps. But, once again, I made a wrong turn. Regardless, much to my delight, my mistake had once again turned into a revelation! There, before me, stood the ancient tower (or what remains) of Lutece! I had found the only part of the ancient Roman wall that protected Paris. This wall is more than 2,000 years old!