Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paris Pastry

Check out Susan Hochbaum's homage to Paris' pastries!

We didn't try all of these pastries when we were in town so we'll have something to do when we next visit!

From 2009-04-18

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Very sad news...

From 2009-04-27
Stephen Bacon was our first guest when we were in our Paris apartment. I knew Stephen for more than 15 years and also knew of his heart condition. In September, when I was back in Paris for a short visit, I tried contacting Stephen but couldn't reach him. My worst fears were realized when a Google search turned up this article. We're both going to miss him. He was a great friend.

Englishman's search for a heart touches hearts in Cleveland

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vous êtes américain?

I went to McDonald’s this morning to get on their free wireless since our hotel’s wireless is “en panne” (broken). As we walked to our table an elderly lady asked us “Vous êtes américain?” - “You are Americans?”. I said “oui” and she gave us both a big thumbs-up. This was just one example of how welcome I have always felt in France.

Yesterday, while we were in a bistro down the road from our hotel we made a little mistake at our table during ordering and I said to the waiter in French “Nous sommes américain” – We are Americans – as a way to poke fun at the mistake we just made. The waiter, with a huge grin on his face, replied in French “Oui, j’ai vu” - “I noticed”. Talk about funny.

My point is simply that by using a few words of French and remembering that I’m in a different country and therefore everyday customs may be different has really made my trips to France delightful. Here’s a concrete example of remembering that customs can be different…

Je vous ecoute! I’m listening to you!

A few times I have been in a shop or the bakery and the person serving me looks at me and says “Je vous ecoute!” If you directly translate this into English you get: I am listening to you. Now, the first time I heard this, I was a little bit surprised and mildly insulted. In all honesty, I felt that if I was in the US and someone in a shop addressed me in this way I would walk out. However, I noted it happening to French people – not just me the American – and it happened in different situations to me around Paris. I finally realized that the literal translation was not really accurate. What the person was really communicating was: “I am at your service – you have my attention”. The fact that I was being addressed formally (“vous”) is what started to tip me off. In French, you are normally addressed formally if you are a parent (by your children), someone you have recently met, if you are older than the person that is talking to you or if you are being served by someone. My light bulb moment was realizing that rather than the person being surly they were actually being formal with me.

My “bad” experiences in Paris have been no different than my “bad” experiences in Manhattan but they are experiences nonetheless!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Windows Café to build buzz in Paris

Well, there you have it! Microsoft is building a café in Paris. Guess where?
Windows Café will open on Oct. 22, the Windows 7 launch date. One report said it will be in the crowded Châtelet-Les Halles metro station.
If you've been to Les Halles you know it is a very crowded metro station. The article doesn't quite explain if the café is on the metro platform itself, up the escalators or in the Les Halles shopping center. If you've been to Les Halles you know they already have a very busy Starbucks right beside the UGC cinemas (Cine Cite Les Halles) so they might have some competition. That said, I guess this is all about trying out Windows7 versus having a coffee.

I wonder how long Microsoft plans to run the café? Maybe if I could get that gig I'd consider moving back to Microsoft! Paris here I come?!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday Market Entertainment

This mime was entertaining the crowd at the Sunday market on rue Poncelet in the 17th in Paris on Sunday. I've always enjoyed visiting - and buying things - at these markets as everything is so fresh. Having the additional entertainment is always a bonus especially for the little kiddies who are tagging along with their parents.

This market has a very famous cheese shop on it - Alléosse, the only Parisian cheese maker to own his cheese-aging cellars in Paris’s underground. This is my friend Stephen's favorite cheese shop - the one he took us to during his visit in April. Turns out the hotel I am at this week for business is literally around the corner from this market - a nice coincedence.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spice search

While we were in Paris we came across a variety of spices in spice shops and at the local supermarkets.

Bouquet de Provence is a favorite that we added to vegetables and other dishes to give a different yet unique flavoring. Yesterday I managed to find some more at the Franprix and added it to my supplies to bring back home. It's just one of the many things on my re-supply shopping list. Too bad I can't bring back a few cases of wine!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Je suis retourné à Paris!

I have returned to Paris! Just for a week - on business - and without Kathie (pauvre Kathie). She's enjoying the +30C weather in southern California with our son Jake. I'm staying at a nice hotel just down from the Arc de Triomphe in the 8th district.

I'm looking forward to a walk around the quartier this evening and a croissant and café crème tomorrow morning. It's great to be back!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Alas, we're home.

We've been home a week already. I'm resisting. My watch is still set to Paris time.

Jackson added this cool thing to the blog called ClustrMaps, which shows the location of our blog readers. Our next blog will have that added from the "git go". (Yick, I hate that expression.)

My dear friend, Robin, who spent a fantastic year of travel with her husband, Al, told me that it takes as long to adjust as it was being away. So, we should be back to "normal" by mid-October.

Enough of my wallowing - after all, I'm not living under the 520 bridge. I have a lovely home and Bellevue is nice.

I did want to post about our last days in Paris. The parade was a highlight, but I want to add the fireworks and a few other pictures. I also have a few more posts in me if I can muster the enthusiasm. So, don't give up on the blog yet...

We decided to forego Trocadero to view the fireworks since we'd already gotten up close and too personal with our parade friends earlier in the day. We chose Pont Neuf, which provided a cosy spot and even the smell of le feu d'artifice drifted our way.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Everyone loves a parade!

Today, July 14th, is Bastille Day in France, although the French call it the Fête Nationale ("National Celebration"). We got up this morning with the intention of seeing the parade down the Champs-Élysées but we found out pretty quickly that all the roads to get there were blocked and most of the viewing was for VIPs. Because President Sarkozy's viewing stand was at Place de la Concorde and he was between us and the Champs-Élysées, we weren't going to see the parade down the Champs. So, we had to settle for seeing the parade just off of the Place de la Concorde.

It was certainly an experience to share the parade with tens of thousands of my closest friends. I thought the metro sometimes got crowded! It was worth it just to see the French Foreign Legion march down the street. (The guys pictured just below are engineers or "sapeurs" of the French Foreign Legion and they traditionally wear beards.)
From 2009_07_14

And ooooooh la la la la la la!!!! All those uniforms and all those handsome men! Where are Eric and Marilyn when you need them?????
From 2009_07_14

(BTW, c'est Kathie, pas Jackson, who was admiring the men!)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Paris in the Summer

From 2009_06_28

I mentioned in a previous post that I was melting in Paris. My good friend JC Cannon sent me a great story from NPR via email called "Sounds Of Paris In The Summer". The audio commentary is 100% accurate. In this city, few people have air conditioning so the citizens of Paris throw open their windows when they need to cool off. For me, this has allowed us to enjoy the Paris mosquitoes with great regularity. But, just as Ms. Beardsley mentions, you do get to hear some interesting sounds emanating from all those apartments.

A few weeks ago we were, in fact, serenaded by a brass band across the street from us - and they were actually really good! The people at the cafe just kept buying them beers and they kept playing - much to the amusement and enjoyment of the whole "quartier" (neighborhood).

Paris in the spring was pretty good. Paris in the summer is shaping up pretty good, too!

From 2009_06_28

From 2009_06_23

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Arc de Triomphe

On Friday we took pictures from La Defense to the Arc de Triomphe. Today, we visited the Arc de Triomphe and took pictures of La Defense. You have to love the symmetry of the major boulevards here in Paris - thank you Baron Haussmann!

From 2009_07_12

Beautiful views from the top of the Arc! If you have time, be sure to visit. Kathie says it's only 195 steps to the top.

From 2009_07_12

From 2009_07_12

In my opinion (c'est Kathie), the best view in Paris! Beautiful!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

La Defense

For the last three months I've made the metro trek from our apartment to the Quest office in La Défense - when I wasn't traveling to some other part of Europe. Yesterday, Kathie came with me while I turned in my building badge, mobile phone and BlackBerry (I was, however, allowed to keep my beret).

We walked around La Defense and went up to the top of the Grande Arche. What I didn't know was there was a computer museum in the Grande Arche. It was fun to see really old PCs, 8" floppy disks, tape drives, computer games, card punch machines and calculators.

What was missing was the "Pong" game that my parents bought us kids for Christmas one year: "During the 1975 Christmas season, Atari released a home version of Pong exclusively through Sears retail stores." Was it that long ago??!!

My, how we have progressed...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In True French Fashion

In true French fashion, when I went to the Banque de France near our apartment to try and change some old French francs to euros, I was told that the only place for this transaction was in the 7th arrondissement. So, yesterday, I decided to go there and give it a try. When I arrived, in true French fashion, the bank was closed. I returned at 1:30, and had to pass a guard in a glass box, push a button, pass through one door, push a button and pass through another door. Et voila! I was in! The place is huge, but there were no customers - I wonder why! After passing the scrutiny of two women at the information desk, filling out a form (asking for my address, phone number, occupation, when and where I got the francs), and being told that some of the francs were "too old" to change, I went to the teller who, in true French fashion, actually said that the "too old" francs were NOT too old to change to euros. Et voila, I left the bank with a grand total of 16,77 euros!

Daily, I peek into the mail room just in case... Sometimes there's a large collection of mail that is sitting on the shelf instead of in the individual mail boxes. Even though our names are on the mail box, I have found mail for us on the shelf emblazoned with a large question mark. (I can just hear him/her saying: Who are these people???)

Here's an example of how my friend Carol confounded the pauvre postal person because she doesn't know how to write a proper 7, even though you can see that she 'incorrectly' wrote another 7 in the postal code directly below the street address! Surely the pauvre postal person knows that the postal code for Paris begins with a 7!

Carole! You are an editor after all. Get it together! And, by the way, thanks for the great pictures of your visit!

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Love Paris in the Summer When It Sizzles...

It's in the 30s (90s) here and humid and swarming with tourists. Welcome to Paris in summer.

Three million people visit Versailles each year. I think they were all there on Saturday.

We always like to visit the Louvre on free Sundays along with tens of thousands of our closest friends!

If you're not careful, you may end up like this...

or this...

If you're lucky, you can make it out just in time to cool off...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Parmentier and Potatoes

Yesterday as Cheryl and I were trudging through Pere Lachaise cemetery searching for the graves of Jean de La Fontain (France's Aesop's Fables' guru) and Moliere, we noticed the grave of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, which was adorned with - no, not flowers - potatoes - real ones, though a bit worse for wear because of the 90 degree heat! After returning home, we went directly to our friend, Madame La Google, to investigate the details of Antoine-Austin's claim to fame. And here's what Wikipedia had to say:

"While serving as an army pharmacist for France in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), he was captured by the Prussians, and while in prison in Prussia was faced with eating potatoes, used by the French only as hog feed."

Returning to France after the war, he began an imaginative marketing campaign to promote the potato as a human food source. His efforts included:

"a series of publicity stunts, hosting dinners at which potato dishes featured prominently and guests included luminaries such as Benjamin Franklin, giving bouquets of potato blossoms to the King and Queen, and surrounding his potato patch at Sablons with armed guards to suggest valuable goods — then withdrawing the guards at night so the greedy crowd could "steal" the potatoes.

Thanks largely to Parmentier's efforts, the Paris Faculty of Medicine declared potatoes edible in 1772."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Why I am melting?!

Don't get me wrong - I'm loving my Paris experience. That said, as you can see from the picture above, the temperature back in Bellevue, WA is exactly the same as here in Paris. Notice the difference in humidity? That's what's causing me to melt.

I said to Kathie this evening: "We've had the air conditioning on, here in Paris, more in the last three days than all year in Seattle."

Kathie's response? "We don't have air conditioning in Seattle, knucklehead!"

See what the humidity is doing to me?!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

You just can't take me out anywhere!

Toujours le comédien - always the comedian!
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Friday, June 26, 2009

We were interviewed on le Pont des Arts!

A couple of nights ago, we were interviewed on the Pont des Arts by Gary Lee Kraut who is an author of five travel guides to France and Paris. He was interviewing people on why they picnic on the Pont des Arts, what they buy, what they drink (!) and what interesting things have happened to them sur le pont.

We've had a number of picnics on the bridge to watch the sun go down, the Tour Eiffel light up and sparkle on the the top of the hour and just to enjoy the French joie de vivre. As for special events, Chris and Sarah got engaged on the pont while they were staying with us. Mike (l) and Caitlin (m) just above were engaged in Belgium but came directly to Paris afterwards to celebrate with us and Caitlin's mom, Marilyn (r).

It's interesting to see all the people who show up every night on the pont and along the Seine to celebrate. I blogged a few days ago about this very topic ("Fun on and around the Seine") so it was interesting - and fun - to talk to Gary about our experiences. Gary told us that he visited Paris 20 years ago and never went home.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fun on and around the Seine

There always seems to be a party on or near the Seine - every night. Tonight was no exception as you can see from some of the photos I took while we were on the Bateaux Les Vedettes du Pont-Neuf. The hour long trip is a nice way to see many of the bridges, famous sites and many of the museums - and other characters - that are near the Seine. Of course, it's worth it just for the great views you get of the Tour Eiffel!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Creepier Side of Paris

It is a cemetery and a consecrated spot located in the abandoned limestone quarries under the streets of Paris. (They started removing bones from overcrowded cemeteries all over Paris in 1786 and stopped in 1860. Some five to six million skeletons were moved.) However, it's really creepy and probably one that you could cross off your list unless you've been in Paris forever and have seen EVERYTHING else, or you like creepy.

OK, Eric, don't shoot me.

The other creepy thing I paid good euros to see was a temporary exhibition of George Condo's "work" (which can better be described as hideous) even though he is apparently greatly appreciated by many (?). Poor Aristide Maillol, whose lovely work fills the Musee Maillol, must be spinning in his grave.

Hurry, you only have until August 17 to see George Condo's "work" at Musee Maillol, 61 rue de Grenelle 75007!

Lucky Andy Warhol...