Thursday, 17 October 2013

The rise of marshmallows

Have you noticed it too?  Marshmallows have been appearing more frequently in or on traditional French desserts.  Maybe for the European eye, those little marshmallows look quite dainty sprinkled on a tarte or mixed in a mousse.  But to my American eye, I feel the dessert has lost some of its integrity, yes, I feel the marshmallow has "cheapened" the presentation of the dish.  It's as if the tart were wearing  a halter and mini skirt on the red carpet rather than a Versace dress.  I mean look at that picture of la tarte aux fruits rouges above- does it not look pulluted with the marshmallows?

Friday, 19 July 2013

Une experience magnifique a Sarlat

Beginning with a warm greeting from the responsable, our trip at the Indigo Camping in Sarlat was great.  The tents were well equipped with stove, fridge, plates, silverware and all sorts of utensils which made cooking inside the tent a memorable and  an unusual experience. Cleaning the dishes in the communal sink  provided an opportunity to chat with the other campers, most of whom were staying in RVs.  There were raquets and ping pong paddles on hand for table or full sized tennis, and there was an outdoor and indoor pool, along with a sauna which was very welcome in the cooler temperature.  Our responsables were the best, offering advice on which canoe livery to take,  lending the phone to make reservations, and answering all the various questions I had during the day. We would definitely go again.   

Monday, 15 July 2013

le petit déj de mes rêves

I love France for the simple everyday things, breakfast for example.  There is nothing better than a toasted tranche of Poilane bread with salted beurre and jelly accompanied by a café crème.  I could eat breakfast all day.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Schools out?

Q and M were definitely excited about returning to Paris.  What didn't thrill them was the idea of going to school the Monday after their last day of U.S. school which was Friday.  What happened to summer vacation? they ask.  (They didn't seem to mind the part about staying with a family that they didn't know too well for 5 days).  Oh, you're still on vacation, it's like you are an anthropologist studying the french school system and noting similarities and differences.  Their faces were blank.  It'll just be like watching  a French movie, you won't have to do homework or anything....

So here are pictures of their first day of public French school.  They are both a bit nervous, but happy to go.  I receive a text from M that evening that said.  You were wrong.  I DO have to do homework.  Other than Q getting all scraped up from falling while playing soccer in the courtyard, and that little disappointment regarding homework, the kids seemed to have a good time.  M's teacher had the class make welcome cards and goodbye cards that are very darling.  The teacher was very happy to receive her, and invited her back in the future.  I'm not sure I could convince them to do it again...

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

"Drinking in" the Dordogne

What could be better than driving down the pastoral counryside of the Dordogne?  If the whole scene could be slowed down and savored, kayaking one of its beautiful rivers is the way to do it. The canoe company we used, Canoë Safaraid, was located in the charming tiny town of St. Léon-sur-Vézère.  The friendly 'responsables' had just received an electronic guide in English that describes the beautiful chateaux and bridges we were passing.  The 'guide' would geo-locate our position, and automatically begin a description when we neared an interesting spot.  So we'd float (my preferred method) or paddle (my son's preference) down the Vézère listening to  tales of century-old landmarks in a British accent.  Being American, it really does feel more magical to be listening to these counts this way.  It somehow ups the pleasure factor.   Just when the Dordogne region couldn't get any better, it did.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Un villa in the Sud?

We arrived to find a crisp, clean outdoor pool, a heated indoor pool with a sauna and a pair of tennis courts.  We must be staying in a pricey villa with such nicely appointed features, non?  Well, not exactly.  In searching for a place in the Dordogne, with activities for kids, that is not in the middle of some beautiful field of wildflowers, I kept coming across 'les campings'.  I saw past the pictures of mobile homes with their oversized structures, and noticed the quaint little tents that come fully furnished with beds (!), a frigo, a grill, a dining table and all the dishes one could use in such an accomodation.  Perfect, I thought.  We can 'camp' without dragging half of a carload with us.  En plus, we'll be saving money (in theory only,  just yesterday we managed to spend 23 Euros on nougat.  My husband has been asking for YEARS, what is nougat anyway?  Well now we know the taste, but still could not explain it.)

Anyway, our little tente en toile et bois is charming for a short stay.  There are board games (which can become a little serious under our roof), raquettes for tennis, ping pong paddles and table, un petit dejeuner if ordered in advance.  We made s'mores over the indoor grill, even.  

 Showers and toilets didn't even occur to me until my neighbor back home asked about them.  Oh, I don't know, I said smugly, I'm sure there'll be something.  And to be fair, they're not bad, what you might find at a kids summer camp.  The only problem is, just now I have a bit of the stomach cramps and queasiness, which has me posted outside of the front office (location of the nicest loos).  I dread heading back to the tent for fear that I'll  need to turn right back around.  Minutes ago, my husband and I used the shower intended for rinsing oneself off after the sauna.  We, however, snuck in shampoo, conditioner and soap for a quick shower in a nicer environment.  I'm afraid my children are learning a few naughty things on this trip- bending the rules, and des gros mots are just a couple.   I am now surrounded by retirees, the only other people staying at the site, and I am uncertain of how my body will behave in public.  So it's off to la tente.  Bon soir.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Shades of Chagall

A cobalt blue background with a bride and groom hovering near the Eiffel Tower is my immediate image of a Chagall painting. But catch the Marc Chagall exposition at the Musee de Luxembourg until July 21st to see a broader selection of his work. You can almost tell which are his Russian paintings due to the more serious themes and harder,darker lines. It's as if his pictures mimic the effect that moving to Paris and finding his wife had on him, becoming light and dreamy.  Can anyone relate?

What a girl wants! No trip to Paris is complete for my girl without a trip to Angelina's. Indeed, it was a marvelous sensory experience. The patisseries were beautifully arranged, and incredibly tasty, enjoyed in a beautiful environment. For those looking for a substantial meal, Angelina's offers lunch and sandwiches as well. We enjoyed a perfectly cooked omelette à la 'Angelina' with ham, cheese, tomatoes and mushrooms. The prices have certainly increased in three years, and they have made an unfortunate (in my mind) addition to the tarts- mini marshmallows. The Mont Blanc is still as bizarre as ever. Angelina's is nicely located for those traveling to or from the Orangerie, the Louvre or Musée d'Orsay. Thank goodness for our little girl who "forces" us to this spot!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

This young man in the photo, Clément Méric was killed last night from individuals that were part of a far-right leaning group. There were three demonstrations today in response that were attended by an assortment of sympathetic groups: feminists, unions, anti-capitalists, and green party members, among others. Here at Place Saint Michel, there looked to be hundreds of people gathered to speak out against this violence. It is purported that the man who beat Méric to death was a skinhead. I appreciate that the French take to the streets to voice their discontent not only for their own situations and conditions, but for their fellow citizens.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Adieu Michael

All right, we're back in Paris after being gone nearly a year, and the one thing that has really pushed me to write on the blog is the death of Michael Jackson. I'm weird like that. Deaths of people I know and of people I didn't know seem to both affect me deeply. Okay, while I didn't know Michael Jackson, I totally grew up listening to his music. As did the world. The guy is (was) incredible, performing since five years of age and still (until yesterday) going strong. A forty five year history on the pop charts. His cute little face and the sugary lyrics of ABC are in my mind, as well as the gloved hand, the Thriller moves and songs from Dangerous.

When something big like this happens, I like to talk to people about it. I found myself alone at Printemps, the big department store during "les soldes" which is a huge sale event that takes place but twice a year in France. So here I am frantically searching the aisles for the article of clothing that will make me look tres chic despite the fact that I now weigh more kilos than ever. C'est la vie.

Anyway, here I am in this virtual parade of people scanning the racks when I hear "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". I start singing along, then remember he is dead. I start to become teary and then call my husband because I'm afraid my urge to share the moment with someone will have me weeping openly to a sales clerk. We chatted and I continued on.

There was continuous playing of Michael Jackson songs in the store. I had to ask one of the sales clerks if we were listening to the radio, because they're playing a lot of Michael Jackson. She said that the store was playing its own music and it was a tribute to Michael Jackson, and I have to say I began to tear up talking to her.

"It's so..." ( I was looking for the words to say it's so silly I'm so affected by this .." )
"bete, tragique" is what she said. And I stopped my words and agreed that it was indeed tragic. I told her I was kind of embarassed to be so moved, but she understood. The world was enchanted by Michael Jackson. So many wonderful songs and such great dance moves. I dare say that the techtonic dance moves in Paris today are traceable to Michael Jackson. But I digress.

We just came back from a fun party at my friend Allison's. On the taxi ride home, we had a driver that seemed like a friend we should have. Michael Jackson was blaring from the radio and I yelled "ah" and began singing along. He cranked he radio up for us. We discussed the tragedy and he revealed that the death was due to an overdose of medicine, we hadn't known that yet. He said that all day and night the radio has been playing Michael Jackson. I just love that. The French know how to pay hommage to a great musician, no matter the nationality. I asked the driver if he liked Michael Jackson, and he said, "Je l'adore."

My husband was totally enjoying himself cruising the streets of Paris with the radio blasting Michael Jackson.
He said aloud, "a beautiful Friday night in Paris cruising to Michael Jackson. "
Quinn said "huh?"
"Your dad is having a moment," I responded.

We are all having a moment. I'm sure radio stations all over the world are playing their respects.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Paris plage pleasure

The kids and I headed out in this heat to where else? The beach, of course. Paris turns into a tropical sandy destination for four weeks this Summer, ending on August 21st. It's all happening along the quai of the Seine just below Hotel de Ville. Along with stretching out on lounge chairs at various points, there were activities including fencing, ping pong, petanque and the largest foosball table I've ever seen, enabling 20-24 people to play at a time. We ended up playing on a traditional four person table, and it was quite fun to play on the banks of the Seine.

Of course we were scorching hot, but we didn't melt due to the many sprinklers and misting stations. If you check the schedule, you might even be able to take a dip in the temporary public pool just to the East of Hotel de Ville.

My favorite part of our day was, of course, enjoying a light lunch overlooking the Seine in the shade of the gorgeous trees that line the quais. There was a cool breeze, we were right next to the Seine looking at the lovely view of Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis. As my friend Denise said about her recent trip to Paris, "they do everything right here." Indeed, it's nice to spend a day amid palm trees and sand, and have a cool refreshing drink on the banks of the Seine.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Last Hurrah

"All good things come to an end." Well, I don't know who said or wrote that or if it is necessarily true, but that expressions seems to fit as our good thing here in Paris is coming to an end. It was truly a wonderful year that we were fortunate enough to be able to do. I mean, how lucky we have been to just pick up and move ourselves and our children to Paris to live for a year sheerly for the enjoyment and experience of it all?

Mais alors, the time has come to pack our bags (and bags) and head home. This week while our kids were in pony camp, we had our last hurrahs in the city of Paris. My brother was in town, as was Denise, my Irish friend. We tried to pack as much in as we could. This was my brother's first time in Paris, so he wanted to see the usual sights, and Denise and I just wanted to hang out in the city that brought us together.

During our time together, we drove through Pigalle at night as well as down the Champs-Elysees and around the Arc de Triomphe (woo hoo!) We pondered the name 'le chat noir' and saw up close the new EU look of the Eiffel Tower with its blue lights and circle of stars. During the day, we Velib'ed along the Seine and then through the Louvre to see the "new" pyramid, and then on toward Pompidou where Denise and I reminisced about our youth. We had a good time eating at cafes and people watching. We had a great visit, and now it's back to packing.

I'm truly going to miss Paris and its polite citizenry, the great transportation, especially bus 92, the beauty every where you look, the light through the chestnut trees, the balcons with the black wrought iron, the cobblestoned streets, the Seine, and the velibs, of course the velibs.

But what I think I'm going to miss most is who I am when I am here. I feel so free, alive. I have hope in the future and feel like Paris brings out the best in me. It may not make a lot of sense to anyone else, but that's the best way I can explain it. Sure, I'm happy and free back in my hometown as well, but I just feel lighter here somehow. I'm quite tearful right now, so I'm going to leave on this note, "Paris is everywhere, Paris is everywhere, Paris is everywhere".

Un gros bisou.

Tour de France

The final leg of the Tour de France finished today on the Champs-Elysees. After we spent a couple hours watching the pack approach Paris, we decided to finally pick ourselves up and walk to the Champs-Elysees to catch the ending live. The avenue was packed and the sun was scorching, but we scrambled toward the front of the crowd to see the "maillot jaune", the leader wearing the yellow jersey in the middle of the pack. Spanish cyclist Sastre won the race which was becoming evident as the days went on as he held a good margin in front of the other cyclists.

It was fun to be swept up in the enthousiasm of the finish.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008


We popped over to Ireland for five days while we are still in the region. I went to visit my friend Denise, a friend I had met over twenty years ago at the Sorbonne. Back in the day you would find us hanging out in front of the Pompidou eating patisseries and listening to the street performers who became our friends.

Denise is now living again in Ireland after living over ten years in Denver, Colorado. It was a great trip seeing her and her husband "Gerd", and their four fun, happy boys. Our kids had a great time playing together by day, and by night, the four adults had a great time telling stories, watching movies, and having a bit of a feast.

Wicklow is very scenic with beautiful parks, coastlines and even a great beach! Sure, the coldness of the water rivaled a glacial lake we once swam in, but what a perfect afternoon we had there. A great trip altogether with a couple of humorous hosts. Thanks guys!

Monday, 14 July 2008

le 14 juillet

We followed the crowds and headed for the big parade down the Champs-Elysees. It was a flotilla of army tanks, fire trucks and even U.N. vehicles. We must have missed Sarkozy and Ingrid Betancourt who was joining the parade. But we did catch an air show including a jet streaming blue white and red smoke as well as parachuters.

NOw for a little boules in the park followed by some fireworks. Vive la France!