Friday, April 30, 2010

Dear Monsieur Construction Worker...

...Thank you for serenading me every morning. And I mean that sincerely, no snark. Your (what I imagine to be French love songs to your beloved) singing touches my heart every morning as I get ready to face a new day in Paris.

And your happiness is evident. And contagious.

So thank you, Monsieur Contruction Worker, as you reconstruct the building next door, with your daily serenades of I-don't-know-what, but they sound tres adorable!

Next door to me, they are reconstructing a courtyard. And every morning, I hear the lovely sounds of the construction worker(s). It's really difficult to take pictures of, as I have to climb on the bathroom sink and look through a very, small, old window.

But I hear him every morning. And just wanted to say "merci, merci beaucoup."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Welcome to the Food Edition.

It's all about the food today. Walking around Paris, you can't resist the fruit and vegetable stands, the bakeries, the meat shops, the wine stores, the chocolate shops, or any other kind of foodstuff your heart desires.

Looking for honey? There's a store for that. With hundreds of different varieties of honey; lavender, thyme, orange blossom, apple blossom, cherry blossom, and any other blossom you could imagine.

Cheese is in a category all it's own. I found my way to Chez Virginie today. A sort-of famous fromagerie. It's overwhelming to say the least. I bought two little pieces that I'll have in my salad today. And the best news? Chez Virginie is just a short walk from the apartment.

There are also stores dedicated to olive oil, olives (not the same store, mind you), corners that sell only oysters, just oysters, nothing else. Creperies are everywhere.

And that is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to food here.

Right now I have stock cooking from the carcass of my little poulet roti. And I'm pretty sure that this is what heaven smells like!

And today, I caved. When I passed the patisserie with these beautiful macarons, they just had to come with me. Very bad, I got one of each flavor.

Enjoy some of the tastes of Paris. I'm sure I'll have more.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Search of Le Poulet Roti.

On Saturday, while wandering the streets of Montmartre, I came across a charcuterie, or butcher. In the window was a huge variety of meats and sausages, some familiar, others quite strange. But the one that caught my eye, the one I would be back for was the whole Bresse chicken. Bresse is often said to be the best chicken in the world, and with it's unique blue feet, why wouldn't it be. And at 16 euros a kilo, it better be magnifique!

I'll get back to the chicken shortly.

This morning I got an early start and made my way to La Defense to see Le Grande Arch. It has to be one of the most impressive buildings I've ever seen in my life. Truly a work of art. Not knowing where I was going, and the directions exiting the Metro were a bit spotty (huge Metro station, by the way, it even has a mall), I followed the "sortie" signs to Le Grande Arch (even though at one point the signs pointed in both directions, oh yes they did). Coming out into the daylight, I looked up and boom! There's Le Grande Arch in my face! And it is Grande. Tres Grande. I walked the plaza away from the Arch to get a photo. Then walked up those marble stairs. Me, with the terror of heights above two feet. Then I got a bit of vertigo when I looked out at the view and nearly panicked at to how I was going to get back down those marble stairs. It was a moment that passed relatively painlessly. I didn't take the tour up the building, I thought I might just be pushing my abilities a bit much. The "cloud" in the middle of the building is used to control the wind that's created by the Arch. The anchors that hold the "cloud" are bigger than a Smart Car.

From La Defense, I took the Metro to Place de la Madeleine to see the famous Fauchon and Hediard markets. Markets, not really, except for Hediard. They had some really unique fruits from Asia. I was tempted to buy one or two but decided I would instead focus on my Poulet Roti. I did get some peppercorns (I'm nearly out here at the apartment), fleur de sel with basil, lavender, and lemon, a couple of beautiful lemons and some olive oil.

I did treat myself to lunch at a cafe on Place de la Medeleine and had steak au poivre with fries. The steak was delicious and the fries were of the frozen variety. Actually, I really didn't mind.

From there I had planned to walk home. Not an easy walk. Either from the standpoint of distance or the route I would have to take. And this time, I had to use my trusty maps, on more than one occasion. And damnit, sometimes the street that was supposed to be there, just wasn't.

Although I did pass by Galleries Lafayette, Printemps, no less than three H&M stores, a Ben & Jerry's with a line that was more than ridiculous, about a dozen beautiful churches, and way too many shoe stores for my own good!

After dropping off my bags, I went back up to Abesses to get my bird. And a cafe.

I don't care what anyone says about the French. Everyone here has been so very, very nice to me. Even through my atrocious pronunciation, they are fantastique!

Little did I know that whole birds here are exactly that. The whole bird. Head. Feet. Innards. And more than a few feathers. When I motioned to the butcher to cut the head off, I don't think he was surprised at all. He continued to clean it up, just for the silly Americain, and even took a blow torch to it to get rid of any feathers. Trussed it. Wrapped it. And handed me the Bresse sticker. I should probably get it out of the garbage and save that sticker. I doubt I'll buy another one. They are crazy expensive birds. This little bird will last me quite a while.

So far, I have resisted the Patisseries. And the macarons. And it's been a few days since I visited my boulangerie. I'm crazy about the vegetables. And I buy a container of strawberries everyday. And even the yogurt is better here. And I don't miss Diet Coke. Not at all. But I can't seem to get enough water. I don't leave home without a bottle of water. Ever.

Le Poulet Roti is nearly finished. A photo will be up later. In the meantime, Bon Apetit!

P.S. - On the last photo, what looks like pepper on the bird, isn't. It's the torch marks. How freakin' cool is that?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Special Journey.

I set out today on a special journey to Notre Dame to light candles for some people who mean the world to me. One of them is my Mom, who we lost just over three years ago. But I miss her every single day. Mom was very big on lighting candles in church and having Mass said for someone in need.

When I was here last (about 120 years ago), I lit candles in Notre Dame for Mom. But it wasn't just the lighting of the candle, it was the very personal choice of which chapel the candle was lit. Back then, there was a beautiful Chapel of St. Anthony. And that's where I chose the candles for Mom. And she always remembered that I lit candles for her in Notre Dame. Always.

All along the inside perimeter of the Cathedral are little "chapels," each with their own Patron Saint. These aren't chapels in the sense that you or I would know them. They're really just tiny alcoves with stunning stained glass and equally stunning art work.

Today, I circled Notre Dame three times looking for the St. Anthony Chapel. No such luck. I settled on St. Therese Chapel. Therese was my Grandmother's name on my Mom's side, so I figured Mom would appreciate that.

I know the pictures are pretty wonky, but it was a bit disconcerting walking in Notre Dame, on a very special mission, and having, yes, I'm going to say it, stupid Americans calling to each other from across the church. I just wanted to light the candles and go. So I apologize for the poor quality, but I'll go back and get better ones!

On the way to Notre Dame, I passed by so many interesting places. Like Palais de Justice. Just as it sounds. Tons of police and television crews in front, I wanted to take a picture, but figured I'd get arrested. I imagine they were waiting for the newest notorious prisoner, Manuel Noriega. Really didn't want to hang out there for too long!

After Notre Dame, I made my way to Place de Bastille, where they were doing, god-only-knows-what-and-leave-it-to-the-French-to-do-what? Seriously, they were racing farm equipment. Around the Bastille. Let me say that again. They were racing farm equipment around the Bastille. I have no idea why, and don't even care. It was just so....French. Even the farmer's here wear scarves. Gotta love it.

I tried to walk my way from Bastille to Place des Voges. But got lost. And hungry. Actually, I was really just really hungry, and tried to make the excuse that I was lost, when in fact, I just wanted food. And getting lost isn't a bad thing here at all. Even with all these streets that aren't really streets, hidden passages, shit that doesn't appear on any map, this is really a small city. It really is. Places on the map that look like they are truly on the other side of the planet, are just a short walk, and even shorter Metro ride away.

Try to enjoy the funky pictures. I promise to work on my photography skills. And by the way, why didn't anyone suggest I bring a back-up battery for the camera? Just asking, because I sure didn't think of it.

Tomorrow is a toss-up between Place de la Madeleine, with Fouchon, Hediard, and crazy food, Place des Voges, with touristy cafes, and a King's courtyard, or La Defense, with it's own weather channel. Stay tuned...

Oh, and to put a name to the photo:
1. The very tippy-tip of Ile de la Cite, the birthplace of Paris;
2. Pont Neuf, or "New Bridge;" the first bridge built in Paris, inaugurated in 1607. Sixxteen-O-Seven.
3. So just by looking at this building, you've got to know there's quite a bit of history here. "Conciergerie," where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned. (By the way, my grandmothers's -- on my father's, the Italian-Swiss, side -- maiden name was Antoinnette, maybe I should keep that to myself while I'm here? I doubt I should be walking around saying " je' m'appelle Antoinnette," ya know?) Built in the 11th Century (that would be 1000 YEARS ago, one thousand years, unreal), attached to the Palais de Justice. Coincidence? I think not. And the Italian equivalent? Conciligieri? Yeah, maybe I should stay incognito until I fully understand...
4 and 5. Notre Dame. Outside and Inside. I'm respecting the privacy of those who mean the world to me by not posting pictures of candles, chapels, etc. They mean way too much to me.
6 and 7. Place de la Bastille. With Bastille Opera in the background. #7 tries to show a close up of the farmers racing farm equipment in the Bastille, but I don't think it comes across very well.

Dinner. With A View.

It was Stacey and Linda's last day in Paris. I'm really going to miss them. A lot. But, we made the most of their last day.

Lunch on Rue St. Honore. With a Kir Royale at the Hotel Louvre.

And dinner atop Tour Montparnasse, the tallest building in Paris. Toursity? Yes. But the view from our table speaks for itself.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I have nothing left to say. For now.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Finally Off My Butte!

Today I finally came down from my charming Butte Montmartre and into the City of Paris. And it was like entering a different world. First of all, it was warmer, a lot warmer. Yes, I know heat rises, but when you're an exposed Butte, need I say more? Plus, the city is protected by buildings and more Buttes, so the heat doesn't escape as easily.

The other thing I noticed right off? Prices! A baguette here in Montmartre is 1,05 euros (must figure out how to get that euro symbol), "down there," it was more than double. Double! An afternoon cafe here will run 2,80 euros, down there, 5 euros. But that's the price you pay to have the Eiffel Tower within view. Me? I'm very happy here on my Butte.

And the Metro? While I didn't change trains, it was as easy as I remembered. Albeit a bit nervous, I just watched everyone in front of me and did what they did. I bought the value "carnet" of 10 tickets. As long as you don't leave the station, you can pretty much ride the Metro forever on one ticket. Not that I plan on trying this.

I met my friend Stacey at Tuilleries today. She's here just until Tuesday morning, and it was so nice to see a familiar face! And I just adore Stacey! That's a really bad picture, but it was a give some credit where credit is due. I'm having lunch and dinner with Stacey and her friend Linda tomorrow, lunch will be wherever, dinner is at Le Tour Montparnasse. Very chic-chic.

First picture is the Musee d' Orsay. Second is the Pont Royale. Third is Stacey and me at Tuilleries. Fourth is the Louvre Metro station. Last is Place de la Concorde with, um, yeah, la Tour Eiffel in the background.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Sleepy Village Awakens!

Sorry, no pictures today for two reasons: 1) I forgot my camera this morning; and 2) it would be a rude intrusion into the privacy of my neighbors.

I'm enjoying Montmartre so much, I am going to have to force myself to leave my little Butte!

I woke up to such a different place today. I could hear and smell the differences immediately. It was loud. Early. Very early. And somewhere very nearby someone was cooking something wonderful. It wasn't the usual smell of fresh baked bread (yes, I can smell that every morning, can you imagine?). It was something much more savory. Something delicious. Something that many someones were going to feast upon much later in the day.

After a bit of housekeeping, I trekked up the steps to discover that mobs had taken over my little neighborhood. The streets were packed. Musicians were on every corner. Lines, lines, lines were now at favorite produce stand, my fromagerie, my charcuterie, my favorite "store d'vin" (ha! I just made that up!), and MY boulangerie. There was no seat available at my cafe! What was I going to do without my afternoon cafe noisette? Where had all these people come from? And would you all please just go home?

So the majority of the mob were tourists. From all over the world. The guides carry flags to keep their group together, so no one gets lost. School chaperones count each and every student (please stay away from those groups, you don't want a school counselor miscounting his students, even if you are in a bit of a get to...where again? You're in Paris for cryin' out loud...I digress).

And in my rush to get to wherever the heck I thought I was going, I managed to pass by Le Moulin de la Galette, one of one two surving windmills in Montmartre, of approximately a long-gone total of 30, which were orginally run by monks to press grapes, grains, and the famous gypsum on this Butte (plaster of Paris). And in case you're wondering, Le Moulin Rouge is not the other still-standing windmill, it's Moulin du Radet.

I'm not sure where, exactly, my neighbors are from. But they sure know how to throw a party! I don't know if this is a weekly thing, or I just happened upon a certain celebration. But they have been going non-stop since early this morning. If this is weekly, I certainly hope to score an invitation before I leave, because they're having the best time, ever! And the food smells like heaven! I really hope this is weekly. There are so many children there, and their squeals of delight just thrill me!

And I think even the priests are drunk on Saturdays in Paris. Seriously. The church bells have been such a constant, I rarely need to look at my watch. Today is a different story altogether. Bells ringing at 12:20, bells ringing at 2:45, bells ringing at 6:30, bells ringing whenever the heck they feel like ringing the damn bells. It's Saturday! In Paris!

A different day altogether.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Steps, Steps, Steps. And More Steps.

You cannot escape the steps here in Montmartre. It is impossible. The "village" (as the locals refer to it) was built on a Butte (hill), actually several Buttes. And it's steep, and ingenious, and exhausting. And it gives me a great excuse to search for more baguettes. And as I just discovered, a local boulanger recently won the "best baguette in the city" award, which is a very big deal. And to work off all those carbs, I walked the steps, up and down, down and up. Here's just a sampling of the steps I walked today.

Sacre Couer, the church at the top of the butte. And the various steps to get there. I took several paths up and down. And back up.

The last photo is of the steps to my apartment. Yeah, looks a lot easier than it is.

And since I was supposed to tackle the Metro today and didn't, I'm not going to make any promises for tomorrow. With one exception: I will have a baguette from the best boulangier in Paris now that I know he's just steps from my apartment.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Arrival ~ WTF!

WTF ~ a very common term for, not what you think, but Welcome To France! And the French way of doing things.

But first, thankfully the flight here was tragically uneventful, considering the past week. I was my own worst enemy -- tossing and turning throughout the flight. Actually, I was probably my seat-mate's worst enemy considering. The flight seemed to go on forever, and ever, with no end in sight. What felt like days, was in reality mere minutes.

But on the approach into Charles de Gaulle, having no idea where we were geographically, I spotted out the window what appeared to be a small city full of high rise office buildings. In the early morning light, I was able to spot Le Grande Arch! I couldn't believe it. My first sighting of Paris from the air is one of the buildings I most want to see! And far away in the distance of Le Grande Arch...Le Tour Eiffel. The morning light was so hazy, but you can't confuse Le Tour Eiffel with anything else in the world. I was too awed to think about taking pictures. But those images will remain with me forever.

I had arrived. Finally. For real. No more dreaming about this most beautiful city in the world. In which I have the unique opportunity to live in for nearly five weeks. To completely immerse myself in the culture. To be Parisien for a moment.

Yeah, well, WTF, Welcome To France, as they say. After I finally realized you have to read the teeny-tiny signs that say "taxi," I managed to get in line for one. As we sped our way toward the city (in a Mercedes taxi no less!), and then crawled our way into the city, then manouvered through so not-so-touristy-neighborhoods, the driver tried three times to turn the corner onto my street. It's that small. And I knew the building immediately. I was a little concerned when no one was waiting in the courtyard for me.

Little did I know just how concerned I should be.

I managed the keycode to get into the courtyard. And waited. And waited. Luckily, the post man came by, and in unbelievably bad French I was able to convince him I belonged there. A ground floor neighbor took pity on me and invited me to wait in his apartment (lucky for me, he's a "wine journalist," more on Michel later). And so we waited. And called. And waited. And called some more. And waited some more.

WTF, Welcome To France!

About five hours later, the landlord did show up. With the keys. And now I'm safely ensconed in My Paris Apartment.

I took a little tour of the neighborhood this afternoon. Yes, Montmartre in on a hill. And when you walk down that hill, you must walk back up. But oh, is it worth it! Cafes, patisseries, flowers, boulangeries, tabacs, charcouteries, bistros, everything and anything you could ever want, right there within walking distance.

I stopped for a cafe noisette. And here's what I picked up for dinner.

And a shot of my view. You can't see the steps, they're to the left.

It's just so overwhelming. Every hour Sacre Couer rings her bells. And even the men's shoes clickety-clack on the street.

Coming Up Tomorrow: Tackling The Metro


come to Paris!

Just to let you know I made it. More later...

(Yes, I know I spelled Welcome incorrectly.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I am grateful for so many things right now: I'm "stuck" at home, when I could have been stuck at an airport somewhere for days. My Paris landlords have been very understanding. I talked to her Friday morning and she sounds charming! I'm really looking forward to meeting them. No one has rented "my" apartment until the first week of June, so even if, heaven forbid, I won't even say it, there is some flexibility. The mere fact that I'm going on this trip is something I'm extremely grateful for. And very blessed.

And a huge, ginormous Thank You to Lex, for being so unbelievably flexible in watching the boys. Without you, Lex, I could never, ever take this on.

And Dallas, you the shit...and you know why!

So today, I went to the West Side Market. Bought some lovely French cheeses. And a bottle of French wine. And I'll just close my eyes and know that I will make it to Paris...very, very soon!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lisa Versus The Volcano

And the volcano won.

Well I tried to leave for Paris today. I really did. Got to the airport early. Bags checked. Zipped through security. And found a quiet spot to wait for my flight to Charlotte.

Let me tell you, it's not a good feeling to hear your name called over the loudspeaker, directing you back to the gate counter. Kind of like being called to the principal's office.

A thousand thoughts went through my mind in two seconds flat. Was there something in my bags? Did I not check-in properly?


Well, turns out it's this volcano in Iceland that has delayed my trip. By only by a day. Hopefully. And it could be worse. So much worse.

But really, who else has had their flight cancelled due to a volcano?

UPDATE: Cancelled again. Now leaving Wednesday.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Au Revoir, And No Poop!

With a few things left to wrap up, I'm pretty much ready for this crazy misadventure.

But this would not be complete without a reminder of the two boys I'm going to miss the most.

The "boys" have become such a sweet part of me, (Sherlock is snoring at my feet right now) that not having them with me will be the hardest part, especially in dog-loving Paris.

So this is for you, Sherlock and Watson, my boys forever.

Watson really hates having his picture taken and the cell phone...maybe he knows something...