Monday, December 29, 2014


We woke to blue skies this morning, what beautiful sight!  It's still cold, but at least it's not raining.

Our plan for the day was to visit the Musee des Arts Forain in Bercy in the southeast outskirts of Paris. The Arts Forain is a private museum housing Jean-Paul Favand's collection of circus, carnival and fair objects dating from the mid 1800 to the mid 1900's.  It's usually open by reservation and private tour only, but for the week after Christmas it's open to the public.  

We purposely waited until a weekday, thinking it wouldn't be quite so crowded.  It really wasn't too bad, we only waited in line for about half an hour.   It was great fun, and well worth the wait.

The Metro'd to the Cour de St. Emilion stop. After walking through the  Bercy Village entrance we stopped to check our trusty map to make sure we were walking the right direction.  A very nice young French woman asked if we needed directions. As usual, we are finding the "locals" to be very friendly and helpful.  She walked with us across the street and showed us the way to go.  We looked up and spotted a sign with arrows pointing the way--duuuhhhh.  We are so seriously directionally impaired sometimes!

The museum (and nearby shopping area) are housed in the old wine cellars and warehouse used by regional wine producers in the late 1800's until the 1900's.  
The entrance and courtyard area were nicely decorated for Christmas:

While we were waiting in line to buy our tickets (12E each) this fun young "Santa's helper/elf" stood next to me and started a fun conversation in a silly, squeaky elf-like voice.  He asked where we were from, and when I said Alaska--he squealed with delight and called over his friend Rudolph.  He excitedly explained to Rudolph that we were from the North Pole--it was silly and fun!  I asked if I could take his picture--of course he agreed, but only if he was in it!

While we were standing in line I spotted this huge old fortune teller's hand.   I am pretty sure it was meant to come home with me and join my collection of "hands", but David refused to steal it for me--darn!

Finally, we had our tickets and joined the big crowds inside.  It was crazy crowded, mostly families with kids in tow--and they were all having a great time.

Many of the attractions and games were operating today, and for a small token, visitors could play a game or ride one of the rides.  According to their website, there are 14 amusement rides, 16 original fair stalls, and countless other vintage works and attractions.  I think we saw them all!

There were old time carnival games to play---

A rifle shooting game, complete with funny targets.  Wish this one would have been open--I'd have taken a turn for sure.  They call me "Dead Eye Di", you know!

A silly Parisian waiter race--lots of cheering going on here:

A bean bag toss game--I like their funny painted faces:

There was a display of pretty painted tambourines, this fair stall was beautifully painted and detailed:

Everywhere we looked, from floor to ceiling, there were fanciful circus animals and fair figures and "props"

These looked like a fore-runner to our modern "foos-ball"

This was my favorite ride--an old time bicycle race.  One could spend a token and take a spin--but I couldn't talk David into it.  We were very surprised at how fast it turned--they were really whizzing right around that track:

All this fun and games made us feel like kids again--here we are, letting our (not so) inner children out to play:

We walked out to the courtyard area, where we found vin chaud and onion soup cooking in big cauldrons over an open fire.

Wish I could take this chestnut roaster home--it's so cute:

Next to the courtyard we found two kiddie-go-rounds.  They were adorable--I especially liked this cute little airplane:

There was another kiddie ride, this one with different animals and vehicles:

I didn't see this little boy crack a smile, I think he was pretty serious about driving his fire truck.  Maybe he wants to be a pompier when he grows up!

And here we are again---I think David is getting a little fresh with me!

After all that delightful fun, we took a quick walk thru Bercy Village.  These small warehouses were used in the late 1800's by regional wine producers to store their barrels of wine awaiting distribution.   You can still see the rail tracks down the middle:

Bercy Village now houses several bars and restaurants.  There are just a few retail stores now, in fact I think there are fewer now than our last visit in 2009.   It's a lovely space and concept--just doesn't seem to have been very successful.

This store was pretty busy though--cookies and candy:

We might have popped in for a sample or two……….

Earlier in the day we had planned on a "sunny day" visit to St. Chapelle this afternoon.  We've been there twice before but haven't seen the stained glass windows in all of their glory.  On our first visit the rose window was covered for restoration, and our second visit a few years later it was a cloudy day.  I really want to see those beautiful windows with the sun streaming in.

But it wasn't mean to be--while we were enjoying the Musee des Arts Forain the clouds rolled in.  Oh, well--next visit maybe!

Plan B was to roam around the Marais area.  It's one of my favorite areas of Paris.  I love the narrow streets and the ancient buildings.  There's some pretty good window shopping, too!

After popping up from the St Paul Metro we walked a few blocks looking for a nice place for lunch.  We had a yummy meal at a small cafe a few blocks away.  Our food was delicious--but ridiculously expensive with an appetizer (escargots) and wine.  We did enjoy every bite, though.

David's Blanquette de Veau (Veal stew):

My Boeuf Borguignon, the sauce had a deep, rich flavor and the beef was very tender.

After lunch we wandered the narrow streets of the Marais.  Here's the line for falafals at L' Aus du Falafel  They're good--but not that good!

We did some pretty serious window shopping and this was the best shop!  It was a great chocolate shop--and these shoes in the window are all made of chocolate.  I especially liked the chocolate "iPad"-I could imagine some disappointed faces on Christmas morning if one was expecting a real iPad!

By now we'd walked for many blocks and had managed to get thoroughly lost.  We were also very cold, so we stopped in a corner cafe to warm up.  We enjoyed a vin chaud, and asked for directions to the nearest Metro.  Thankfully, it wasn't too far, and soon we were back home in our warm and lovely apartment.

We're in for the evening.  Just the two of us--relaxing, enjoying a glass of wine and some soft music.  No dinner for us tonight--we're still full from our delicious lunch!

And---here's today's street art for Pat E:

Good night from Paris---sadly, I can only say that for two more days ;{

Tomorrow in Paris:  A visit to Chateau Vincennes is on the agenda

Sunday, December 28, 2014


This weekend has been a bit chilly, by far the coldest days of our trip so far.

We have settled in nicely into our new apartment in Paris.  We love the apartment, but we much preferred the neighborhood around our original place.  It was on Rue des Martyrs in Montmartre, which is a nice area filled with lots of restaurants and shops, and not too touristy.

Our new apartment is on a mostly residential street that's not very interesting.  To be fair, we haven't explored much at all, as we've stayed pretty busy visiting other areas.  If we were going to be here longer, I'm sure we'd poke around a bit more and find some gems.  We haven't even found a local bakery--that's serious!

SATURDAY, Dec. 27th:

Saturday was not our best day in Paris.  It was very blustery and raining.  Not the best strolling around weather. We know our time here is coming to a close, and we needed to shop for a few gifts to take home.  David also wanted to pick up a hoody sweatshirt, as he's been a bit chilly in the evenings. We headed for the very touristy Latin Quarter and "ran the gauntlet" of gift shops and restaurant hawkers on Rue de Hachette. David did find his sweatshirt, and we picked up a few reasonably priced gifts for friends.

We walked across the Seine to look for a nice, warm little bistro for a leisurely lunch.  We thought maybe the area around Hotel de Ville or BHV would be a likely spot--but didn't find anything.  Somehow we got off track, and ended up in the Les Halles area, and wandered around for BLOCKS, not finding anything that looked promising.  It's not that we are that picky, but we really didn't want fast/junk/ethnic food.  Finally, after about an hour, we agreed that we were driving ourselves crazy, and happened on a small semi-ok cafe.  It looked familiar, and sure enough it was the same spot we'd eaten at last week after our visit to The Pompidou.  At that point, we really didn't care what we ate--we just wanted out of the weather!

We had exactly the same lunch as before--a bowl of onion soup, a shared cheese plate and a carafe of wine.  It was fine………..

I wanted to take a look around the big BHV department store near Hotel de Ville, so we walked back over that way.  It was mobbed!  Our first stop was les toilettes--and that just did me in!  The line for the women's snaked through the lingerie department.  I waited (not so) patiently, and by the time I met back up with David, I was certainly out of the mood for shopping. I confess that I wasn't the loveliest travel partner on Saturday!

So we hopped on the Metro, made a quick stop at a Monoprix for a couple of necessities,  and spent the evening just relaxing in our apartment.  We had leftovers for dinner and enjoyed a glass of wine.  Early to bed for us--I was worn out and crabby!

The only picture I took on Saturday--Hotel de Ville, complete with ice skating rink:

SUNDAY, December 28th:

Even though Sunday was VERY cold and windy, it was a much better travel day for us.
We formulated a loose plan for the day, mapping out our Metro routes and consulting our Paris Pratique map book.

We were on a mission for find some French lentils du Puy, as we have really enjoyed the lentil dishes we've had here in Paris.  I've read conflicting reports--some say they are the same as what we can buy at home, and others (notably American David Libovitz, a food blogger and author now living in Paris) say the lentils grown in the volcanic soil in the Puy region of France have a very distinctive flavor.

We thought some of the wonderful street markets in Paris might be a likely spot to find them, so I made a list of the markets happening on Sunday, and off we went.

Our first stop was the Bastille market--and it was wonderful!  I wish we'd found this one at the beginning of our stay instead of the end.  I think we'd have done most of our grocery shopping there instead of Carrefour!

 Just look at these haricot verts!  So perfect……..

Most of the fish at the several fish mongers looked very, very fresh.  But this pale salmon would just not do for us spoiled Alaskans.  We're used to the BEST wild caught Kenai River reds.

 David spotted some baguettes aux lardons at this booth, and he couldn't resist.  It was  yummy!

This choucroute looked good to me--probably because it was hot!

These tomatoes are such a beautiful rich red--I wonder if they taste as good as they look?

At every market we've noticed an abundance of big, beautiful perfect leeks.  I've also noticed them peeking out of many shopping carts--they're very popular here.  It's not something I use often at home, maybe I'll have to change my ways.

There were a few flower vendors; I'm surprised the flowers weren't freezing, I sure was!

We did find our lentils at the Bastille Market, we bought almost 3 kilos of them!  We are trying two different kinds--regular tiny, dark green French lentils, and some grown in the Puy region--we'll do our own taste test at home!

And last, but not least--look at these delicious poulet roti---mmmmmm they smelled so good!  Notice the little potatoes in the lower left of the case.  They roast them in the dripping chicken fat--sooo good, but probably so NOT healthy!

On our list was another visit to the Marche Aligre.  Our first visit there this trip it was pouring rain, and the antique/junque vendors were packing up.  I love a good look around a junque market, and David patiently wandered around with me for a half an hour or so.  Then he decided he needed to check out the nearby (warm!) Monoprix, where he roamed the isles while I finished my browsing and poking around.  I found a few little treasures, and successfully bargained for a couple of small old tins and a great basket covered bottle.

Despite the fact that I was wearing every layer of clothing I brought, AND we were using those little hand warmers, we were seriously frozen by now!  Before we headed to the Metro, we decided to stop in a little cafe to warm up.  A couple of vin chaud did the job quite nicely!

Our plan was to go to the Bon Marche and check out their Christmas window display.  We easily found our way on the Metro, and popped up right across the street from the store.  We weren't too impressed with their windows, they're cute, but certainly not as grand as Galleries LaFayette or Printemps.  The Bon department store was actually closed, but their Epicerie was open, so we checked it out.  They have a wonderful wine selection on the lower floor--wow!  We enjoyed a look around, but didn't buy a thing.

By now we were ready for lunch, and we'd thought this area would great for finding very nice restaurants.  Hmmmmm--not much open on Sunday.  We walked around a block or two, and then decided we didn't want a repeat of yesterdays fiasco!  We Metro'd back to our old neighborhood and re-visited one of our old standbys.  Nothing exciting, just good food.  Confit de canard for David and a small steak for me and of course a carafe of wine.

By now it was 4 pm, and we'd had enough of the cold and wind.  We agreed that an evening in our nice, warm apartment sounded perfect.  And that's where we are--all snuggle in and WARM.  We're enjoying a glass of wine, and we might have a late night snack of a cheese platter and baguette.  We've collected quite an assortment of various cheeses, and we've only 4 more days to enjoy it.  I'm pretty sure it's  illegal to waste good cheese…...

On our way home, we saw this poster in the Metro.   I'd buy tickets if we were going to be here, I'm sure it will be a fun concert!

Good night from our warm, lovely apartment in cold, windy Paris…...

Monday in Paris?  We plan on a trip to  Musee des Arts Forain.  It's a collection of old fairground and carnival rides and game from the1800's to early 1900's.  It's housed in an old wine warehouse in the outskirts of Paris, and is only open to the public (without an appointment for a guided large group tour--offered in French only) for one week between Christmas and New Years.  Tomorrow is our lucky day!

Friday, December 26, 2014


Even though Christmas night was very stressful and scary, all is well in our little corner of Paris today!

Neither of us slept well last night--we were still too wound up.   I would almost be asleep, then I'd wake with a start, thinking I smelled smoke.  After a few seconds I'd realize I was smelling it on my hair--ick!

About 3 am we both gave up, got up and made some coffee.  We made plans for our day, knowing that we may have to change them at the last minute to move again.  I emailed our agency owner and called our manager to let them know our plans for the day,  asking them to call me when they had this all finalized.

We decided today was a good day to visit The Musee d'lOrangerie to see Monet's Water Lilies.  During my first trip to Paris in 2001, my Mom and I went to Giverny to see Monet's home and gardens.  We had such a lovely time there, and it's one of my sweetest memories of my first trip to Paris.

It was an easy Metro trip from our apartment, and we popped up at the Concorde station, right in front of Tuileries Gardens.

We'd not purchased advanced tickets, so had to wait in 3 different lines, but it wasn't too bad.  We waited to get into the building, then there's an airport like security screening and bag check, and finally a line to buy tickets.  All in all, I think we stood in line for about half an hour.

I was prepared to be amazed and delighted--but I wasn't quite prepared for my emotional "lump in my throat, teary eyed" response when I walked in to the first gallery.  I knew it was a very large piece, but really wasn't expecting something on this scale and beauty.

 It is simply stunning, and literally took my breath away!

There are two galleries, the first being the largest.  I had picked up a small guide pamphlet at the entrance, it gave a nice explanation of the four panels in each gallery.  The two galleries are representative of sunset and dusk, and are equally fascinating to view.  His interpretation of light,  reflection and water is amazing.

I sat for while in each gallery, changing sides so I could get a good view each of the 8 30' long panels.

The museum has a no photo policy, but even with signs posted in several places, guards in every room, many visitors were just snapping away-and the guards simply ignored them.  The iPad photographers are especially annoying!  I was tempted, but I resisted.  Just to give an idea of the scale, here's a photo from a NY Times article on the museum.  Here's a link to an article in the  NY Times on l'Orangerie; it's really very interesting and definitely worth a read:

 A photo from the NY TImes article--to give a perspective on the scale:

After about half an hour I thought I'd better move on, but only to be considerate of David, even though he was being quite patient with me.   I could have stayed for hours!

There are also several other exhibits at l'Orangerie, some permanent and some temporary.  We especially enjoyed the very extensive Walter-Guillaume collection.  There were lovely works by Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne,  Matisse, Modigliani, just to name a few.  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!  But  all too soon we'd reached that dreaded "sensory overload" stage and it was time to leave.

After leaving the museum we strolled through the Tuileries Gardens towards the Louvre.  I thought to check my phone, and sure enough, there was a call from Georgina.  They had a new apartment for us, and we arranged to meet at 5 pm to do the big "move".

But we still had plenty of time, so we enjoyed a relaxing stroll through the gardens, what a wonderful space.  Even in the middle of winter, it's starkly beautiful.

The beautiful Tuileries Gardens, opened to the public in 1617 under Louis XIV:

I could live in this neighborhood!

Looking towards the Louvre:

There are many pretty statues in the gardens:

Most of them have a pigeon sitting on their head.  I made David promise to NOT erect a statue of me after I die, I don't want pigeon poop on my head for all of eternity:

The Grand Bassin in the Tuileries:

After our stroll throughout the gardens we were ready for some lunch.  As we still had to visit our original apartment ("Old Smokey") and pick up a couple of items, go to our current apartment (Door #2), and pack up our belongings to move to our newest digs ("Chic-Chic"), we decided to Metro back to our neighborhood for lunch.

We agreed that another delicious lunch at Le Basilic was a great idea.  It was just as crowded as our first visit, even though it was almost 2pm.  We had exactly the same meals as before, it's hard to improve on delicious!

We made one last visit to "Old Smokey", picked a few remaining items, and made our way to Door #2, where we packed and organized for our last (whew!) move this week.  Georgina was right on time, and graciously called (and paid for!) a cab for our trip to our new apartment in the 9th.

Wow--we are loving our new "home", too bad it's only for 6 nights…..I could LIVE like this!

It's very roomy-80 sq. meters.  There's a spacious foyer, which opens onto the dining room, complete with a (non-working) fireplace:

Lovely Living room--very comfortable sofa and chairs:

The bedroom is very spacious, and beautiful:

Small sitting area in the bedroom:

The kitchen is huge, by European standards:

We FINALLY got to cook our little Christmas dinner, although it wasn't quite what I'd originally planned.  I'd had visions of cheese platters and tiny bouche de noels dancing in my head--but we made do with roast chicken and potatoes, fresh green beans with scallions and corn bread stuffing.  Yes--stuffing!  I'd packed a package of StoveTop stuffing in my luggage ;).  Pitiful, but true…...

A bottle of French wine?  Of course!

Our lovely little Christmas Dinner--better late than never:

Ahhhh-it feels good to be here!  Although the past couple of days have been stressful, scary and frustrating, I could not have asked for anything more from our rental agency.   Accidents happen and stressful situations arise, but the mark of a good company is not that they never have bad things happen, but how they handle it.   Our rental agency went above and beyond at every turn, and for that we are very thankful!

And, as a post script, Georgina did some nice "detective" work and has hopefully solved the mystery of the smoke in our apartment.  By knocking on doors in the building, she found that a gentleman 3 floors beneath us had built a fire in his fireplace, to coincide exactly with our two very scary smoke incidents.  There must be a breach or break in the chimney flue right at our apartment.  No one else in the building reported smelling smoke.  Good work, Georgina!

So once again, Good Night from Paris!

AND PPS:  I'm never going home!  I love this place ;}