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Showing posts from February, 2009

Paris video on YouTube

About the Vélib (from vélo for bicycle and liberté) grey bicycles with fat tires and a handy basket. You can pick one up in most neighborhoods around the city center and it's free for the first 30 minutes but there is a subscription fee and you need a credit card to secure one of these bikes. Best to consult their website for detailed instructions and bike stations. * * * Paris 2009 by TravelswithCharie

Friday night at Starbucks, Paris

On my way back to my hotel in Montparnasse, I passed by this Starbucks where coffee was in the sidelines while this band entertained to the delight of café goers as well as passersby. I had to stop and listen to the music. I live in a neighborhood full of Starbucks in California and none of them have ever had a band, let alone piped music. It was a surprise treat, free at that. * * * Photos by Charie

What is Paris without a "manifestation"?

With the Sorbonne right in the center of the city, it is not uncommon for student demonstrations to take place. But this one is all about the French scientists who are demanding the government to stop its reforms in science and higher education which would affect how much time academics will spend on teaching versus research and will be at the discretion of university presidents rather than national rules (which is the current norm). Critical remarks by French President Sarkozy on the state of French Science only served to further alienate the scientists. * * * Photo by Charie

McCafé Fare

Pastry and cake counter at McDonald's, Paris The McDonald's Restaurant on the Champs Elysées is one of the best spots for people watching in Paris. It has a second floor seating area with a glass window overlooking the celebrated Arc de Triomphe. It helps to attract the number of pedestrian traffic but I think its dessert offerings from its McCafé section will keep visitors coming. Check out the photo of the pastry and cake selections. There are colorful macaroons (that appear like the big sisters of M&M chocolates), flan, various tartelettes (with apples, custard, with nuts) , and tiramisu. Mmmm! I chose a raisin pastry and a viennoise au chocolat . Responding to local cultural sensitivities, McDonald's restaurants in Europe have toned down golden arches signs. It helps to be understated in places like Paris where cuisine is elevated to an art form and worshipped and fast food is frowned upon. By the way, the McCafés I've been to in Italy, Spain and France do attr

La Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

The Notre Dame Cathedral has stood on Ile de la Cité since the 13th century. The Ile de la Cité was once the center of Roman occupation. It was then called, Lutetia. At sunset, the rose window comes alive in a myriad of colors. The long nave is flanked by graceful columns and pointed arches. The light emanating from the stained glass windows behind the main altar directs your gaze upward to the high cross vaulted ceiling. At night the cathedral takes on an aura when bathed in light. * * * Photos by Charie

A Kaleidoscope of Colors

Joseph being sold by his brothers These well preserved stained glass windows are from the Ste-Chappelle. It is now in the collection of the Musée National du Moyen Age. Ste. Chappelle is famous for its stained glass windows which practically make up its walls. It suffered great damage during the French revolution when part of the windows were taken down and destroyed or lost. These stained glass windows date from the 12th-13th century. The subjects are derived from the Bible. The ruby red and Chartres blue colors define the Ste. Chappelle stained glass. They are as vibrant today as they were in the Middle Ages. * * * Photos by Charie

The Lady and the Unicorn

A Mon Seul Désir - To My Only Desire I've been intrigued by the Unicorn tapestries since I read the novel, The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. While I've seen these tapestries in the past, I never really paid much attention to the details. After reading Chevalier's book, I have a better appreciation of these tapestries as works of art. Taste There are six tapestries in all, five of which deal with the senses. The sixth one portays a woman putting away her necklace into a box held by her lady in waiting. Above her, on the tent, are written the words, "A Mon Seul Desir". The lion and unicorn hold back the flaps of the tent. Her poodle sits regally on a silk draped bench to her right. All around are signs of life-fruit trees, flowers, birds, rabbits, monkeys, leopards. Smell The tapestries were found in the Chateau de Boussac in Auvergne. It was commissioned in the 15th century by Jean Le Viste whose coat of arms are worn by both the unicorn and the lion. It

Rue Mouffetard

I've just discovered the Rue Mouffetard which is a short walk from my hotel on the Left Bank. All along its cobblestone streets are stalls selling fruits and vegetables, wine, cheese, pastries and bread, meat and seafood as well as take out food. Several restaurants and two supermarkets flank both sides of the narrow street. There are a couple of shops with a good selection of wines and the prices are reasonable. When I came back around 3:30 p.m. to Rue Mouffetard after spending some time at the Cluny, the restaurant where I wanted to eat was already closed for lunch so I stopped by a traiteur (prepared food for take-out) and I bought riz cantonais and poulet croustillante . It wasn't what I hoped for so after eating my "to go" lunch I walked across to the patissier and studied the sweets. I picked up a pavé of chocolat to save the day. All's well that ends well. * * * Photos by Charie

Jardin des Plantes

On Monday the entire garden was blanketed in snow. Today, the grounds were a little wet but it was wonderful to walk the length of the park for a view of the outdoor sculptures of prehistoric animals which form part of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle. Inside the museum are the galeries of Evolution and Paleontology. There are botanical gardens, a small zoo, a maze, hothouses, even a carousel. Some of these are closed in winter. It's a great place to take the kids. The museum is at 57 Rue Cuvier near Gare Austerlitz. * * * Photos by Charie

The City of Light

La Tour Eiffel I am a poor map reader. No matter how much I check my directions, I still get lost. So I have to ask someone to tell me how to get back to St. Sulpice as I did this evening. The young lady was apologetic that she didn't know how to get there and how charming the French are when they apologize. If I know how to translate correctly, I heard her say to excuse her for her "bêtise", or stupidity for not knowing where the street or landmark in question might be. This is the second time I heard this since I arrived in Paris. Each time I'd asked for directions, the people I asked didn't know where to direct me to as they were just as lost as I was. Paris is a big city after all. Place de la Concorde But what a good thing I was lost tonight because I discovered the City of Light. This is serendipity. The Seine at night La Madeleine Bonne soirée! * * * Photos by Charie

At La Grande Epicerie Paris

Canal St. Martin After walking along the Canal St. Martin today, I decided to take the metro across town to check out the gourmet grocery store of Au Bon Marché, La Grande Epicerie Paris on 38 Rue de Sevres. I tried to ignore the first glass counter of tempting delicate cookies and sweets and walked towards the back of the store. I walked past the deli and olives counter to the "plats a emporter" which had various Asian dishes like noodles, egg rolls, and sushi. I thought about taking out some of the dishes but decided against it as I was really hungry after the long walk and couldn't wait to go back to the hotel before eating dinner. Plateau Bac Behind the bread section is a small restaurant with high tables and bar stools. I checked out the offerings and decided the Plateau Bac looked very appetizing indeed. This is a seafood concoction with shrimps, a generous helping of coquilles (scallops) served with rice and vegetables (string beans, tomatoes, white onions, carrot

Let the sunshine in

In front of the Hotel the Ville the children were playing in the skating rink with their teachers watching them. Some of the kids didn't know how to or couldn't skate well but they all seemed happy to be outside after snow and rain swept Paris on Monday. The Chinese tourists asked the kids to smile for their cameras. They're such naturals. They were having a great time despite falling and sliding awkwardly and painfully at times. How touching to observe the helping hand. While the women were frantically shopping to get the best discounts of the year, I saw these men playing boules at the Jardin des Tuileries. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed living outdoors if only for a day, including these ducks at the courtyard of the Louvre museum. La vie est belle, n'est pas? * * * Photos by Charie

Soldes, Soldes, Soldes

Sale, Sale, Sale! All the stores in Paris are having their annual sales promising from 10% to as much as 70% off on clothes and accessories, home goods, and other items I have yet to discover. The stores are a haven right now not only for the discounts they offer but also for temporary shelter (while shopping or dining) from the chilling temperature outside. The balconies at Galeries Lafayette I checked out my favorite department at Galeries Lafayette - that is the handbag section. I was astounded at the prices even with the 30-50% discount. Thank goodness I didn't find anything that begged "buy me". I decided to splurge on lunch instead. On the sixth floor of the Galeries Lafayette on Bd. Haussman, there are three restaurants -Le Café Sushi, Restaurant Sichuan and the self service Lafayette Restaurant. At the latter, you can choose from pasta, grilled dishes, salads or a selection of hot entrées of the day. The pavé de saumon with vegetables (string beans, broccoli, red