Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Leaving the City of Lights - Reflections

We're leaving on a jet plane, don't know when we'll be back again, oh babe we hate to go.
But the taxi's waitin', he's blowin' his horn......

wish he was, he's LATE! After several attempts at trying to call, I decide that I'm not sure if I'm calling the correct number, quickly run into the La Poilâne ...for the last time. The girls all try to help, a couple of petits pains au chocolat should help. This solution works as the driver arrives all apologetic due to being caught in traffic etc. etc. We're off to CDG airport in the early morning. Just as well we're whizzing along, it's all too sad to leave.

No more carpeted steps to climb, no more emerging onto the street in the morning to join the Parisian crowd busily bustling on their way. No more 'Inspector Clouseau' bleating of emergency sirens which always bring a smile and a memory of Peter Sellers. I'm back in 1963 in my mind spending the summer laughing about "muuths".

Goodbye to magnificent architecture, fabulous museums, wonderful food, excellent adventure. Goodbye to 6 Rue du Cherche-Midi. Goodbye to St-Germain-des-Prés in the "6th.' That's why it's so much easier to say goodbye in French. Au REvoir means .............until we meet again.

I'll leave you with a few reflections of my Paris.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fine Dining

Heading out this morning we decided to get a good coffee to start the day. When we arrived at a little cafe across from the impressive gates of the garden, we saw that a woman was having a little "tartine" with her coffee. We'll have two of the same. Merci. After a leisurely stroll around the Jardin du Luxembourg, we decide to carry on walking to the Tour Montparnasse. Europe's second-tallest tower block. We take the elevator to the 59th. floor restaurant "Le Ciel de Paris" with it's spectacular view. We are seated in direct view of the Eiffel tower, and would have been seated right next to the window, but with Larry's reticence with heights we opt for the second tier and have an equally as nice and unobstructed view. I will leave the pictures of our meal to describe themselves.

Needless to say, this was a two hour lunch. One is always thankful for the rest, and the unobtrusive way the wait staff allow you to linger as long as you like...just call them when you want the bill. Bliss.
This is my "Plat du Jour", which is always such an amazing value. This is "canard" duck and served in the most mouthwatering sauce with fresh herbs....oohing and aahing at each bite. There is no "gobbling" here. The tastes are so unique that you literally have to savour every mouth full. THIS is why French women don't get fat!

This is Larry's choice. A mix of seafood in a puff pastry that encases the bowl.

Peek Inside

Ina Garten suggests going to Café de Flore some evening which is just down the street in our neighborhood. After going over the apartment with the landlady and procuring our deposit, we decide to have a little nap and venture out into the evening. We have been much too tired to do much night life in Paris. After walking the entire day, it is nice to put up the feet and ready for the next onslaught. This night however, we are looking forward to omelets and champagne.

We are not disappointed.
Café de Flore sits on the corner of the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the Rue St. Benoit, in the 6e arrondissement of Paris. Historically, it has been famed for its intellectual clientele. Tonight it is just us....don't even spot Ina and Jeffrey.

The classic Art Deco interior of all red seating, mahogany and mirrors has changed little since World War II. Like its main rival, Les Deux Magots, it has hosted most of the French intellectuals during the post-war years. It is said that Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir would meet here and discuss their philosophy of existentialism over a drink.

Last Day in Paris

It's our last full day in Paris. How to make the most of it?? We decide to stay in our own little neighborhood and explore the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tour Montparnasse. The meeting with the landlady is later in the day and since we have an early start in the morning, we shall clean up and pack. Perhaps we'll take Ina up on her idea of strolling over to the Café de Flore mid evening and having an omelete and a flute of champagne, only to return home and tumble into bed.The Jardin du Luxembourg is a quiet, green, reflective place. The Palais du Luxembourg. The Fontaine de Médicis, a 17th century fountain in the style of an Italian grotto.The Monument to Delacroix is situated near the private gardens of the French Senate. Beneath the bust of the leading Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix are the allegorical figures of
Art, Time and Glory

Liberty Leading the People (French: La Liberté guidant le peuple) Eugène Delacroix 1830 Louvre, Paris

The boy holding a gun up on the right is sometimes thought to be an inspiration of the Gavroche character in Victor Hugo's 1862 novel, Les Misérables.

Delacroix 's tomb in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Adieu Graceful History
Stand watch you Queen's of France

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday In Sterrebeek

This is Sterrebeek where Jane and Michael have a little house in the country.

There is a long gravel pathway leading up to the house. You have to get past the dog in the yard though! Nothing helps to stop him barking, jumping and carrying on, so you just have to get used to ignoring him. Larry is still standing in the driveway.No wonder the cats don't want to go outside!!!

Jane finally makes it to the door.This is the view from the side yard. That's past the dog and around the corner! A vast expanse of fallow field. I wonder if someone will plant something in there some day?

This is the back view or as Michael likes to call it where you keep the beer cool! The little shed is where the bikes are stored.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

In Bruges

Bruges is the historic capital of West Flanders. Flanders, being one of the three regions of Belgium.Wallonia and Brussels-Capital Region, are the other two.

2000 years ago a Gallo-Roman settlement.

The name Bruges comes from the Old Norse "Bryggja" which means 'landing stage'. The oldest trade settlement of Bruges and the early medieval port were accessible from the sea until around 1050. By the eleventh century, Bruges had expanded to become a commercial centre for Europe. In the twelfth century, a wool market, a woollens weaving industry, and the market for cloth all profited from the shelter of city walls.

Because of its canals, Bruges is often called 'The Venice of the North', and is one of Belgium's chief tourist attractions. The Market square is dominated by the cloth hall and the 83 meter high Belfry tower, one of the symbols of the city. The original cloth hall and tower date from 1240.

The entire complex still bears witness to the importance of Bruges as a medieval trade center. In the cloth hall, the Flemish cloth which was manufactured in different other cities was sold to the rest of the world. In 1399, for instance, there were 384 sales stands inside the hall.

Nowadays, the belfry tower charms the visitor with the lovely music of a carillion, which consists of 47 bells. Other more recent decorations are the sculpture of the Madonna in renaissance style and the weapon with a Belgian lion.

After a magnificent lunch in a cozy and warm place Den Dyver
recommended in Jane's Top 10 book, we sauntered along streets and canals and ended up in a very neat beer bar.


More wandering and the day is winding down. We decide to have a tea prior to heading back home.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Brussels, Belgium

This is how we get to Brussels from Paris. The Thalys train is both fast and efficient and we are so glad to leave all these arrangements up to Jane. She has organized this leg of our trek. We are pretty tired after 10 days of travel. As one of my friends told me...the older you get the less likely you feel that you may have time to return to these wonderful far away places, so you naturally want to cram in as much as you possibly can. Getting to the Gare du Nord requires a Metro ride. I'm glad we've been taking buses all over Paris.

Remember when I made the Martha Stewart gingerbread village at Christmas? Little did I know that I was actually making things to come. This is pretty much how the central square in Brussels looks. Well......without the table, candles and cake stand. It's also a pretty good rendition of Bruges as it turns out, so the next few days are like a whiff of gingerbread and royal icing.This is how the "real" town square in Brussels looks......

The centre of Brussels is an amazing warren of streets with everything from chocolate to lace to take one's attention.

We dined on Moules et Frites and of course the prerequisite beer.

After lunch off to the Musical Intstrument Museum which holds one of the most interesting displays of musical instruments in the world. The building has a beautiful Art Nouveau facade, being the former Old England department store. Once inside, visitors don infrared-controlled headphones and as you stop in front of the instrument displayed, you hear the actual sound played. The music is usually in the traditional style for the instrument. Very novel, with a vast collection of instruments from all over the world. It's amazing how ingenious people are in creating this art form.

There are four floors displaying instruments in the museum. Everything from music boxes, to strings and keyboards. There is a rooftop restaurant with panoramic view of Brussels.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Musée d'Orsay

From an old train station to an art gallery!

Many of the exhibits now in the Museé d'Orsay orignially came from the Louvre, and the superb collection of Impressionist art that was housed in the cramped Jeu de Paume has been rehung here. The physical building is as amazing as the art collection.

Edgar Degas' famous Young Dancer of Fourteen (1881) was displayed in his lifetime, but the many bronzes on show were made from sculptures found in his studio after his death. I had not realized that there was real fabric in the ballerina's skirt. There is also a satin hair ribbon tied on her braid. It is breathtaking. Some inquiry shows that in 1997 curators asked the Ballet de l'Opera de Paris to restore the fragile tulle skirt on Degas's most famous work. The model who posed for the sculpture was Marie Van Goethem.
Van Goethem was the middle of three daughters of a widowed washerwoman who lived behind the then new Garnier opera house. Marie's mother pushed the young girl into the ballet's dance school in 1878, and by 1880 Marie was promoted to the corps de ballet. The next year Degas chose to depict Marie in wax, her hands clasped behind her arched back, her flat chest thrust forward in a defiant stance. (The Orsay has a bronze, cast in 1930.) Just two years later her mother offered her up as a prostitute and Marie was arrested for trying to pickpocket her gent. The opera promptly sacked her, and no one knows what happened to her after that. ...

Brigitte Lefevre was so moved she commissioned Patrice Bart to create a full-length ballet based on it. "La Petite Danseuse de Degas" is a three-act work. (Newsweek: A New Life For Degas's Young Dancer)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Paris Update - Piaf

I guess I should start this with a recap of yesterday because I need to keep you updated on my daily shoe photo. We went to the Pere LaChaise cemetery. It was my quiet day. Quiet indeed. We went to Edith Piaf's grave and just as I was composing my shot of the family tomb, a little French man quietly approached, crossed himself and touched the gravestone. He started to cry. I joined him and became profoundly touched by the reverence that Paris holds for the little sparrow. If you have not seen "La Vie En Rose", you must.

(Click here to listen to Edith Piaf herself singing La Vie en Rose.)

The young actress who plays Edith will surely win an Oscar and both she and Edith have my heart. I took many many pictures of the tombs.It was a brilliant day, and for the first time I felt warm in Paris. Somehow I belonged in this place. I don't know what the significance is, but I LOVED the serenity and the respectfulness of everyone in there cherishing the memory of someone loved. We wound in and out of the sepulchers and felt totally at peace. There were many active internments taking place which surprised us, if for nothing else than the cost that it must be these days to be buried in this magnificent property. It was indeed a place that lowers it's voice in Paris.I do hope that my musical skills will increase upon my return due to my homage to Chopin.

This was really a wonderful place in Paris and I'm so glad that I convinced Larry that taking buses is the way to go. He tends to enjoy the Metro and get quickly from point A to point B. My theory is that the voyage is the thing. We got to see parts of Paris that we never would have ventured to by this really civilized means of transport. Since we were "on the buses" we continued into the downtown and decided to go for tea at the famous Laduree. I had a hot chocolate, which would have done in anyone but the most intrepid chocoholic. One would think that this would suffice for months, but chocolate is chocolate n'est pas?

These are some pictures to show you what I ATE!!!!!

Got a few goodies in the Maille mustard shop and then decided we had enough steam left to walk to the BIG stores. Le Printemps has a wonderful view of the city from it's 9th. floor cafeteria.

The store itself is basically every famous designer you've ever heard of with all of their particular name brands of things at THE most outrageous prices you've ever seen. There is nothing that you cannot find at home and basically the prices are the same only Euros. Yikes. For this Costco sort of girl it was overwhelming and it was either the chocolate or the entire concept that had me in hot flashes and not able to get out fast enough. Waiting for the bus I noticed that the HUGE ad on the side of the dept. store was actually David Beckham in his underwear...we wondered how this would "fly" in Times Square...NOT.

You DO realize you can click on these pictures and make them BIGGER!!