Thursday, March 31, 2005

Polite Paris

Paris wants you to be polite when using public transportation. It started with the buses. A few months ago, these little brightly colored stickers were placed in the buses near particular seats... is someone carrying heaving bags, please be kind and let the person sit here....is someone in a wheelchair, please let the person use this space ... kind of thing. Because these signs are brightly colored, they attracted my son's attention and he would spend the time reading all the little signs.

Recently, the metro added signs too. These signs, as you approach your train, tell you to keep the rhythm. The first part of the sign reminds you to let people get off the train. Once the people are off, then it is your turn to get on the train. The third part of the sign reminds you that once the train door closure alarm rings, don't try to jump on the train but rather just wait for the next train.

So when in Paris... be polite and for goodness sake keep the rhythm -- the metro tango!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
4:06 PM



Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Printemps Fashion

I'm no fashion slave. Pretty much anyone who has ever met me can attest to that statement. However, since I arrived in Paris, I have had this interest in seeing a fashion show. Now if you want to live vicariously through someone who has been to real fashion shows, then head over to Coquette's site.

I, who will never see the real thing, checked out the fashion show at Printemps department store. They have a show every Tuesday that is open to the general public.

There were probably 150 people who came to watch the show. Printemps blasted some music and the fashion show began. The show was broken into 10 parts... One part was "Sur la Route," with fashions representing a "country tribute to Elvis," while Suspicious Minds played in the background. During this part of the show there was a lot of fur. It kind of looked like Davy Crockett had taken over the show.

The show ended on a wedding theme.

Overall, it's worth a trip over there. It is a free show and you don't have to make a reservation, so you can wake up one Tuesday and decide you have nothing else better to do.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:57 PM



Tuesday, March 29, 2005


If you visit Paris for a week and want to see a beautiful Chateau, you'd probably make plans to go to Versailles. If you had a two week trip to France, you'd probably include a few days in the Loire Valley, visiting some of the many majestic chateaux. If you've already been to Versailles and the Loire, and liked French history, you'd probably take a trip to Fontainebleau.

My question is this... there are so many wonderful, amazing places to visit in France, when would you make the time to see Vaux-le-Vicomte (VLV)?? It is one of my favorite places to visit because it's charming, relatively compact, the grounds are well kept and it's only 45 minutes driving from Paris.

The flowers were out yesterday.

Easter Monday is a national holiday here in France so my husband had the day off. Last Easter Monday we spent the day at VLV because they have a special program of activities for the children. So... even though we were tired from our trip to Bruges and it looked like it might rain, we headed out to VLV.

VLV really has a wonderful Easter program for the kids. There are workshops on origami, chocolate making, and using a printing press. They also had volunteers put make-up on the children.

My daughter with her chocolate design.

Outside, the Chateau staff organized a fishing game where you could win small prizes, a fencing class, pony rides and a game course for the older children where you had to find the answers to questions about items outside of the chateau....e.g.. how many points does the fountain crown have?

Another family with two children the same age as ours joined us for the day. So not only did my children have many fun activities to choose from, they had a friend to share the experience. My husband and I were so glad we made the effort to go out there after all because it was a really lovely day. And.... it waited to rain until we got back into the car to head home to Paris!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:14 AM



Monday, March 28, 2005


After the Easter egg hunt we drove to Belgium for an overnight trip. It only took two and a half hours to get to Ghent.

Who wouldn't love a country that is known for lace, beer, chocolate and waffles?? Not I ! We walked around Ghent for a while and then had dinner in town. Although an industrial city, Ghent boasts many historic buildings and some beautiful architecture. We stayed near the Town Hall, where the Treaty of Ghent was signed in 1576.

After our walk around town, we headed to the real reason we drove to Belgium..... a trip to Bruges. Since we were visiting on Easter Sunday, we assumed that nothing would be open. How wrong we were. Everything was pretty much open and the city was packed with people by lunch time. We walked around the town, had lunch and then took a canal ride. We resisted buying chocolates but we all tried the waffles (light, airy and delicious). I even tried the beer.... it was the special Easter beer.

It was a bit too yeasty for my taste, but it was fun to try it.

My mother-in-law (MIL) makes bobbin lace (I've only been given one piece -- for my wedding day 10+ years ago and lost it that day -- I've never been given another piece) so Bruges is a favorite city of my husband's family. Because of the lace, my MIL has visited the city many times. In fact, my MIL is so proficient as lacemaking that she has her own stamp, issued in 1987. Here is a woman making lace (not my MIL!) in Bruges.

Finally, a picture of one of the many, many chocolate shops in Bruges. You'll never go hungry or worry about buying the right gift in this city. There are so many ways to spend your money!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:29 PM



Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Egg Hunt

On Saturday we participated in an Easter Egg hunt with some friends. Basically, everyone who had a spouse out of town was at Trocadero Park to enjoy a few hours of Easter fun with the kids in basically overcast weather.... but at least it didn't rain!

We had an egg on a spoon relay race, an Easter egg hunt and lots of soccer (between the times the guard would check on us and tell us it's "interdit!" or forbidden to play ball on the grass).

Here are a bunch of boys "searching" for eggs. Please notice that there are about 5 eggs in plain sight (in the bottom right corner and on top of the bushes) that the boys don't seem to notice.

My daughter found about twice as many eggs as the boys found (she had to share later... she also got a 30 second head start). Here are a couple of the girls conferring on their hunt strategy.

The loot.

Running off the sugar high with the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:54 PM



Saturday, March 26, 2005

Saint Sulpice

After visiting the Pierre Herme shop, I was going to take the bus back home in the dreary, rainy weather. I can't tell you how many times I've waited for my bus at that bus stop.. Saint Sulpice... looking at the Church and yet never going inside. I finally took the opportunity on Thursday.

Saint Sulpice is a beautiful, large church in the middle of Paris. Saint Sulpice was completed in 1733, after 134 years of start and stop construction. There is a meridian line, on the left side of the church, called the Astronomical Gneomen. Apparently, it was commissioned in order to determine the exact date of Easter, and the winter and summer equinoxes.

Saint Sulpice has received a lot of attention recently because of its prominence in the DaVinci Code thriller. As a result, there is a note near the meridian line:

Contrary to fanciful allegations in a recent best selling novel, this is not a vestige of a pagan temple. No such temple ever existed in this place. It was never called a "rose-line." It does not coincide with the meridian traced through the middle of the Paris Observatory which serves as a reference for maps where longitudes are measured in degrees East or West of Paris. No mystical notion can be derived from this.

Aside from the mysterious meridian line, Saint Sulpice is worth a visit. Many of the frescoes in this church were painted by Delacroix, including the depiction of Saint-Michel slaying the dragon. The Church is also known for its organ, the largest in Europe, and both the music and the choir have been praised by French writers for generations. Concerts are held here for the general public.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
3:52 PM



Friday, March 25, 2005

Pierre Herme

Thursday it rained all day. At least that's the way it felt. So to cheer myself up, I decided to make a pilgrimage to Pierre Herme.

The Pierre Herme patisserie is located in the 6th arrondissement, on the other side of town for me. I thought I'd buy a holiday dessert... maybe an Easter egg cake or something like that. There were no holiday cakes, but there were a number of rabbit and chicken chocolate molds.... regular and dark chocolate. I bought two for the kids (dark, bien sur) to have on Easter morning.

I bought my husband and I two desserts. After many minutes of deliberation, I choose the carrement chocolat (chocolate cookie, chocolate cream, chocolate mousse topped with a thin layer of a chocolate bar with a gold square for decoration) for myself. I bought my husband the Emotion Cristal (creme brulee with the Sechuan pepper flower seasoned with mint). Both desserts were very good, but not extraordinary. After hearing so much about Pierre Herme's desserts, I was a little disappointed. Apparently, he is well known for his inventive macaroons. Next time, that's what I'll try.

I must note that when doing a google search, I noticed that Clotilde also had a recent experience with Pierre Herme desserts and she has a much more descriptive review.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:02 PM



His First Time

On Wednesday my son had one of life's big steps. At least that is what two guys told me. After nearly three years of taking golfing lessons, on Wednesday my son had a sortie/trip to a golf course: Golf des Yvelines right outside of Paris.

My son could have actually taken the trip to a golf course much sooner in his life. The kids taking the trip meet about mid-way through my son's golf lesson and board a bus to one of the various golf clubs in the Paris area. The first year, I never even noticed the kids getting ready for the golf trip. I usually left the golf area right after dropping off my son because my daughter was too restless. Last year was the first time I noticed the group of kids getting ready to leave for somewhere.... but I just assumed the kids were older and they were going on some special event. This past Fall I finally got the nerve to ask what was going on.... why were all these kids leaving to play golf somewhere??

When the golf pro told me this was a regular monthly outing and that anyone taking lessons could sign up to come along, my first reaction was a bit of anger. Why hadn't anyone told me?

The golf guys know I don't speak French well. I never walked in to the golf club house (all the other parents walked in and greeted everyone) and therefore never noticed the signs posted about the monthly golf outings. Surely after two years of my son not attending the golf outing, I reasoned, someone could have mentioned the option to me. But I now realize.... it wasn't their responsibility. Maybe they thought I didn't want my son to go or that I had something else to do after the golf lesson. It was my fault. Just another problem with being an expat who isn't fluent in the local language.

So my son and his best friend went to a real golf course on Wednesday. Before they left, the golf pro spoke to me...

Him: Is your son going to the golf course today?
Me: Yes
Him: Is this his first time?
Me: Yes
Him: You realize, this is a big moment in his life?
Me: (trying not to smile or laugh) Yes
Him: This is a big deal.
Me: (just nod)

I tell this, what I consider to be an amusing little anecdote, to my husband. His response? "I'm glad they are taking his first time seriously!" I must be missing something.

For the record, my son and his friend had a great time. The boys did feel like it was a big deal.... taking the bus without any parents, carrying a bag of clubs, golfing on a golf course, getting a score....and the scores are posted online under the kids French golf license number.

They are looking forward to the trip next month. I've already signed them up. I feel so much better when I know what's going on.... being an outsider is so difficult!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:04 AM



Thursday, March 24, 2005

Computers, Can't Live with Them

For nearly two weeks now I have been having problems with Blogger and Noos (our cable company) making it very difficult to post or comment on blogs, including mine. For these last two weeks my cable would work for two minutes and then stop working. While it was working, I would try to post on Blogger only to reach another stumbling block. Blogger would also only work for short spurts. Getting Blogger and Noos to work together was a miracle and I ended up spending twice as much time at my computer trying to get simple tasks accomplished.

Blogger fixed itself a few days ago. Then Noos sent us a notice that they had upgraded their system and that they were sending us a new modem. Yeah! We thought all of our problems might be solved. We received the modem and set it up. It didn't work. The old modem now doesn't work at all either. We have to call Noos on Friday.... basically the beginning of a long Easter holiday here.

I don't expect my computer to work for a while. I'm at my husband's office right now. I will try to post over the next couple of days, but will not be able to download my pictures. I will add them later, once my computer is happy again.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:30 PM



Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Public Service Announcement

I received a message in my inbox the other day with the title

A Public Service Announcement-Cranberry Juice

You might be able to imagine my surprise at this title.... since I'm not aware that Public Service Announcements exist in France. Additionally, I've never seen cranberries, of any kind, in the French grocery stores. So I wondered... why would an email with this title be sent to me??

Ah.... the expat life. It was not a warning about something wrong or dangerous regarding a particular cranberry juice. Rather, it was a notice to a bunch of Americans that cranberry juice, or more specifically, that OCEAN SPRAY CRANBERRY & Framboise (Raspberry) juice was "sighted" at the Casino grocery store on Rue Belles Feuilles/St. Didier.

The note continues "The price is 1.79E. for a 1 litre bottle, and there
is a NOUVEAU, votre Premier Achat Rembourse notice on it. I beg you all to buy lots and lots of Cranberry Juice and make Ocean Spray's operation here a huge success so we won't have to pay the exorbitant prices at you-know-where anymore...and remember your first bottle is on them so don't throw that receipt away!"

Those of you in the United States.... imagine getting so excited about cranberry juice? Probably not, but I know I'm heading out to the store tomorrow to stock up.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:43 AM



Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Cafe de la Gare

Yesterday I attended a school sortie/field trip with my kids. Both of my children participated in the field trip. That was a first. They really are getting big! This was a sortie hosted by the English class. We went to an English Theater show at Le Café de la Gare.

Le Cafe de la Gare is a traditional theater, but during the day the owner's American daughter (I believe) has been running, for many, many years, an English language show for kids. Kids from schools like ours, mostly French but where English is taught, come to these shows. It's very popular, in part because there are very few English language shows for kids in Paris. Our school usually books six months in advance.

The show yesterday was a medley of different programs.... the theme was a man (big) and woman (little) trying to make it big on Broadway. They sing such classics as "Twinkle, Twinkle," "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and "A,B, C." There was also a skit of Cinderella. It was very entertaining for a two person show. We took two buses, and I was a "helper" for my son's class. I saw my daughter when I walked in to the theater(she was very upset that her mother "choose" to go with her son, the English teacher reported) but stayed with my son's class. He really enjoyed this show. He's a Three Stooges kind of guy... loves the slapstick stuff and this show fit that bill. He was one of the few native English-speakers in the audience and he laughed --too loud-- but at all the right parts, so none of the teachers reprimanded him.

On a sidenote... I thought it was very funny that during the Cinderella skit, Tchaikovsky's 'Sleeping Beauty' music played in the background. All the 7/8 year old girls from my son's class started getting fidgety and talking amongst themselves. It took a second to realize they were appalled that the Sleeping Beauty music was being played during Cinderella.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
3:09 PM



Monday, March 21, 2005

Up a Canal

For Sunday, we reserved five places on the Canal St. Martin boat ride. There are two boat rides a day, at 9:45am and at 2:30pm. We got up early and took the morning ride along with our son’s best friend.

The boat was pretty full. There were about 100 people aboard and yet only 6 or 7 children. Our ride began at the Paris Marina Arsenal and ended at the Parc de la Villette. Like the other Paris canals, Saint Martin canal was built by order of Napoleon I in the early 1800’s. It is 4.5 kilometers long. The ride lasts 2 1/2 hours and takes you through 4 double locks.

It was a beautiful day. The first 18 minutes we rode through a tunnel or underground vault and then we were in the sunshine for over two hours. We should have brought sunscreen and sunglasses. The ride takes you past some interesting sights of Paris, nothing well known, but certainly a different side of the city...places I might want to go to sometime... like Quai Jemmaps. We were surprised that on nearly each bridge of passage, people were waiting for the canal boat to come through. The people were ready with cameras as the boat was secured in a "lock" and enough water was added until we could proceed to the next lock.

The kids loved the first 9o minutes. They loved watching the water fill up in the lock until the boat rose to the next level of passage. There was certainly a lot of action. But the boat was filled with mostly adults. I'm not sure what they thought of the ride. The boat company does hand out a nice little pamphlet of the different locks on our route and some of the history of the places we pass.

This place looked so interesting... Quai de Jemmaps??

The canal ride ends at Bassin de la Villette. We got off and headed straight to Parc de la Villette. There is a wonderful, very large playground area for kids of all ages. The kids played there for a couple of hours with a break for lunch. There is also a very fun science museum for the kids here, but we didn’t go yesterday. A very enjoyable day.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
7:22 PM



Sunday, March 20, 2005

Little Chimney Sweeper

Yesterday we went to an Opera for children, Le Petit Ramoneur/The Little Chimney Sweeper at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. It was a special opera, specifically for children. In the beginning, the conductor explains "what is an opera?" Then he tells the audience there will be a few spots in the opera when he will need their help. It was great fun to hear the audience try to make bird and other noises, practicing their parts.

Most of the main characters were children under 12 years old. Since the subject was pretty serious... a child gets sold by his father to a chimney sweeper who works the child very hard. The child gets stuck in a chimney one day and some children find "Sammy" and hide him from the Chimney sweeper. My daugther got very caught up in the opera, very worried that Sammy's hiding spot would be found out by the adults. It all has a happy ending and the audience sings the goodbye song at the end.

It was only 45 minutes and quite a lively show so the kids were never bored. It was a very nice introduction to Opera. I must add that the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is a smaller, yet classically beautiful opera house. I wouldn't mind seeing another show there.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:06 PM



Saturday, March 19, 2005

Lunch Ladies

A group of English speaking women from my school got together for lunch yesterday. A few weeks back I sat next to a chef at a dinner party. He was very charming and spoke English well so we had a nice conversation. At the end of the dinner party I told him I'd get a bunch of women together for lunch at his place (he doesn't do dinner because the restaurant is located in a business area so he focuses on the lunch crowd -- also then he gets to spend time with his family).

We get to the restaurant and have a table ready right in the middle of the place. The chef comes out shortly and chats warmly with the two of us who were at the dinner party with him. He talks about the pictures on the wall, one of which is a blown up picture of his father and friends, in black and white, enjoying a meal in some country setting in France. You feel like you're visiting his home. He asks what we want to eat... fish, meat.. and the women tell him something "light."

First there was the amuse bouche... and my mouth was amused with the fresh flavors. It was a puree of cucumber, tomato and red pepper with some seasonings. It was similar to a gazpacho where you can taste all the fresh flavors of the vegetables and fruit. It was served in a coffee cup.

This was followed by a beautiful sliced monkfish, lightly cooked with slices of something like prosciutto with a side of the most delicious fresh medley of vegetables...fresh onions, asparagus, green beans, parsley and lots of other veggies sliced into small pieces with a lime juice dressing... light, wonderful, and so tasty.

The previous portion was nice sized, so we were surprised when the main course came out.... a beautiful piece of lightly grilled sole (my favorite!) on top of a bed of noirmoutier potatoes (so tender -- try them next time you see them on the menu), baby artichokes, pieces of ham, fresh onions and some other items I probably missed. All the flavors just blend so nicely. No one, and there was a lot of food, left a single piece of anything on their plate.

What could be the ending of this wonderful meal? The lightest souffle I've ever had flavored with manzana verde liqueur (green apple). No one left a delicious crumb. This was one of those memorable meals.

Where was this little gem....La Poêle d’Or.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:59 PM



Bastille Neighborhood

Yesterday I had a Friday walking tour. This week, we had a tour of the Bastille and St. Antoine Faubourg neighborhoods. I've been to this part of town a few times and I wasn't too excited about the tour.

However, it was one of those off-the-beaten track kind of tours. I don't think you'd want to walk around exploring and discovering the little gems of Paris on your first trip here, but for our group, it was a lot of fun.

Jacques pointed out little hidden treasures, like this 18th century water fountain. The fountain was created by the regent Philippe II, Duc d'Orléans (1674-1723). Philippe was regent because Louis XV was only 5 years old when he inherited the throne of France. During his regency, Philippe tried to reverse the tendency toward absolutism by restoring the power of the nobles. He also felt that Versailles was too far away and brought the "capital" back to Paris and tried to take care of the Parisians. One way he did this was to provide a source of fresh water to the people, in the form of water fountains.

We walked into a number of hidden passages in the area. One hidden passage led to a recent movie set.... for Before Sunset. I guess Julie Delpy's character lived in one of the apartment buildings down this passage. It is a passage with a code so it's not easy to get into the corridor, but what a charming little area of Paris. Once you walk in, you feel a thousand miles away from the city.. cats roaming around, birds chirping, lots of green....it was a wonderful surprise. Now everyone in our group wants to see this movie!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:30 AM



Friday, March 18, 2005

Saint Patrick

Yesterday I hung out with my Irish friend. She brought me to the Centre Culturel Irlandais in the 5th arrondissement for a concert. First of all, we took the metro to Place Monge. I’ve never been to that part of town and it is so cute! My friend said they have a nice Sunday market. There is also a charming street… I’m definitely going back some Sunday to walk around.

Getting back to the Irish… The Culturel Center had a musical concert with the City of Derry Youth Choir. They sang a dozen or so songs, including Danny Boy, bien sur. They also played a few instrumental pieces that were very Irish and very moving pieces using the violin, harp, tin whistle and the bodhran.

The Centre Culturel Irlandais is a beautiful building with a spacious courtyard, where the choir sang. There is a plaque on the wall that my friend pointed out.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
1:53 AM



Thursday, March 17, 2005

Sunny Weather

Whine complain whine "its cold", "its freezing," Paris doesn't do cold well, I'm so co....

Uh ...

Summer arrived. I believe it must have been around 80 degrees yesterday. It was hot. Kids were running around without shirts at the Jardin. I had to roll up the legs of my daughter’s pants because she was “too hot” (say it with a whine to get it right).

Last Wednesday, I was wearing wool with a down coat. Yesterday I took off my shoes and socks and let my feet play in the cool sand while a warm breeze pushed against my cotton shirt.

When I was a teenager, I would try to appreciate when I had a really great day. To do this I rated my days in my diary. Today with my son and his best friend making their way to the top of the Effiel Tower climbing tower while my daughter was playing in the sand, my husband back again in Paris and the sun warming my face… it would definitely rate A+.

My son, his best friend and his best friend's previous au pair climbing the Eiffel Tower at the Jardin.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:34 AM



Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Yesterday was the Bloom Where You're Planted program. They had a wonderful program of speakers to talk about living in France. One of my favorite speakers, who has also written a book, is Peter Caine. Peter and his wife started the Paris Walking Tours, which are very interesting and educational two hour tours around Paris for the reasonable price of 10 euro.

Peter spoke at Bloom yesterday and stayed to sign his book, Paris Then and Now. It's a beautiful book of pictures with scenes from Paris ‘then’ on one page and Paris ‘now’ on the other. Someone else took the current pictures and Peter added all the historical information to the book. I've bought three of these books... one for myself and two for presents. Here is Peter and his book.

At Bloom, I volunteered to work at the Brentano's book table. It's my favorite thing to do because I get to look over the new books and find out what books other people have read and recommend. Additionally, I get to hang out with my friend who really works at Brentano's. We've been "working" together annually at the Bloom table for four years and she is one of my few French friends. She recommended a book that I snapped up yesterday. The best thing about that purchase? My sisters, who are both interested in the Bayeux Tapestry and read a lot, knew nothing about the book. What a coup! It's 1066 The Hidden History In The Bayeux Tapestry by Andrew Bridgeford and it hasn't been released in the US, but as often happens, is already available in soft cover in the U.K. where Brentano's purchased it. Nothing like getting ahead of your older sisters!

I must also admit that I bought some pens yesterday. You know I'm a sucker for the Eiffel Tower and these beautiful babies light up when you put pen to paper. I fell in love.... five times.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:29 PM



Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sacre Coeur

On Sunday the family, along with the hubby's aunt and my son's best friend, took a drive to Sacre Coeur. Yes we drove. Of course it took us a while to park since Montmartre is closed to traffic on Sundays. It was the first sunny, warm day in a very long time and it felt great on the mind and body. We bought some very expensive crepes (note to self: shop for bargains) and walked around the artist colony next to Sacre Coeur where there are beautiful oil paintings and sketches of various Parisian sights. The artists will, if you have the money, create art for you ... pastels of your face, caricatures, and shadow silhouettes. We walked into the Sacre Coeur and bought a medallion (you're not surprised, I know).

After we'd seen the sights near Sacre Coeur, we headed down. I took the stairs and the rest took the funicular. We met at the little park at the bottom of the hill. There are a couple of slides, a little play house and a carousel. The kids played and then took a couple of turns on the carousel while the adults enjoyed a bit of sun on the face.

We had parked right in front of Le Chat Noir -- probably not the original. Unfortunately on the way to our car, since Pigalle (at the bottom of Sacre Coeur) is in the red light district, we had to pass about 10 sex shops along the way. Can someone please tell these people that putting colorful stringed beads for a door, playing loud music and hanging blinking lights actually attracts children? The sign above the door says minors are forbidden. My son can read, but not when it's above an 8 foot door. So my son ran in and out of the "bead door" before he heard me say "stop!" I suppose I'm glad his friend didn't do it too so I didn't have to explain anything to his mother.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:46 PM



Monday, March 14, 2005

Shorts Subject

Ok everybody! Let's play "Spot the Tourist!"

When you are on vacation in a foreign location, you should enjoy yourself. You should visit places you want to see, eat the local food.... but should you try to fit in with the norms of the country? When I visited Morocco and India last year, I did a *little* research and didn't walk around in low cut, short sleeve shirts. When I visited the Vatican I wore a skirt. Now my questions are...

Did anyone tell this guy that no one wears shorts in Paris, especially in March, and certainly not with a bright blue sweatshirt (no one ever wears sweat clothes)? What do you think? Dress as the locals dress or do your own thing?

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:42 PM



Give The Girl Space

There's a big banner of the Mona Lisa posted outside of the Louvre. After four years of work on a separate space for the beautiful "La Joconde," by Léonard de Vinci, she will have her own room at the Louvre. Apparently, this new space will make it easier to view the Mona Lisa for the millions of people who come to the Louvre each year. So if you visit the Louvre on or after April 6, check out her new digs.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
12:58 PM



Sunday, March 13, 2005

Le Grand Colbert

Last night the babysitter came and we took my husband's aunt to dinner. A friend recommended a place, Le Grand Colbert (LGC), where she takes all of her out-of-town guests. LGC is one of those Parisian dining institutions. It has been around for so long, it has a good (not great) reputation for the food it serves, but it has all the Parisian ambiance you could want. LGC was also a location shoot for the recent movie "Something's Gotta Give" with Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves. Remember when it is the birthday of Diane Keaton's character and they celebrate at a Parisian restaurant? Well it is LGC. Here is the director's clapboard movie prop, the only item in the restaurant regarding the movie.

When I saw the sign I told my husband I wanted to take a picture of it. He was not happy. He asked if I could wait until he was on his way out after dinner. Then he remembered (he has been gone for a week and has jet-lag, remember) that I have quite a one track mind about things and he worried I would be talking about the stupid movie prop all through dinner - it was staring at me begging me to take a picture. So he suggested I take a picture right then because the booth was empty (it was only 8:30 at this point well before *normal* dining time and the restaurant is filled only with tourists). I go take the picture (after I ask the restaurant staff) and the couple at the next table is staring at me (which actually does not bother me that much... I have my blog audience to worry about!) so I turn to them and say "tacky American" about myself in English. No surprise, they are English speakers (Canadian and American) too and start a conversation.

Them: Is that clapboard the only souvenir from the movie in here?
Me: I have never been here before, but it looks that way.
Them: Do you think the restaurant sells posters from the movie?
Me: You don't live around here, do you?

I return to the dinner with my husband and his aunt. His aunt and I have the 26 euro menu -- four courses. We both start with the Chevre chaud salade/Goat cheese salad followed with a piece of salmon in a cream sauce. She chooses the apple crumble and I choose the baba au rhum for dessert. All the food was fine, but not great. The flavors were passable, not memorable. My husband had a very bland onion soup -- a true disappointment. The only reason to go is the ambiance, but frankly there are many restaurants with wonderful decor AND wonderful food. However, the desserts were very good and I loved the presentation of the baba au rhum.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
4:51 PM



Saturday, March 12, 2005


After our walking tour of the Picasso museum, my husband's aunt and I joined the group for lunch. The group had a reservation at Bofinger Restaurant, near Bastille. Bofinger is the oldest Alsatian brasserie in Paris. It has a beautiful art nouveau interior dining room with the most amazing stained glass dome. In fact, the interior is a protected national monument! We weren't lucky enough to be seated there. I think you need to request a table in the domed dining room when you make your reservations.

Like Brasserie Balzar, in 1996 Bofinger was bought out by the Brasserie Flo restaurants that Adam Gopnik wrote about in From Paris to the Moon.

Most of the group ordered the 23 euro "menu" for lunch and it was delicious... mushroom soup or oysters...white fish in a cream sauce or blanquette de veau....tarte au chocolate or creme brulee (you pick two courses and the meal comes with wine). Here is a picture of my friend's really wonderfully creamy foie gras (she let me taste). She got the more expensive 31 euro menu, which included three courses and a half bottle of wine. The service was attentive, the menu classic French, the food very good, the room non-smoking... along with a group of friends... it was a very nice lunch.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:31 PM



Blog Meet

Well we had our Paris/France Blog Meet last night. There was a good turnout... about 15 or 20 people. Many Pink Cosmopolitans were drunk. There is a list below of those who showed up.. if I forgot someone, let me know. Thanks to Petite Anglaise, who organized the event.

Despite a common concern about meeting people in person that we've been talking to daily on our blogs...no worries....it was really fun. The Paris/France bloggers are a ... friendly, nice, welcoming group of people. It was really interesting putting faces and blogs together. For me, most matched up as I imagined, but there were one or two surprises. We did miss Jason, who had left Paris the day before.

Last night was a great success, and as such, I'm sure it will be repeated. So for those of you who couldn't come to this event... you better get there next time. No excuses!

Petite Anglaise, French Freak, Francophony, Holy Smokes, La Coquette, Dispatches From France, AussieLass, Bienvenue a Mon Monde, Chocolate & Zucchini, Put Your Flare On, The Earth Beneath, Passive Smoking, L'Oiseau, The Baseball Desert, A View From Ivry, Bilingual Kiwi, Les Yeux de la Tete

-- said Auntie M in Paris
1:24 PM



Friday, March 11, 2005

Surviving Picasso

Did you ever see the film Surviving Picasso with Anthony Hopkins? The film was based on the book by one of his women, Françoise Gilot, with whom he had two children: Claude and Paloma. According to the movie, Picasso had lots of issues. He had unpredictable moods, an outrageous sense of humor, a stinginess with money, and he delighted in making others submit to all his whims.

I can't believe I forgot to get the name of this picture, sorry.

But the man was a genius! I've been to the Picasso museum a few times and it's wonderful. The man could take his son's toy car and solder into an ape's face. He took a bike handle and bike seat and made it into a bull's head. He brought an empty canvas to the beach and instead of painting on the front, he flipped it over and collected things he found on the beach....a rubber glove, shells, driftwood... and then he covered it all with sand. He sculpted, he made pottery, he created wood statues.... the man was simply amazing. Picasso saw art everywhere, in every day items. There is something for everyone in this museum. Put it on your list!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:09 PM



Thursday, March 10, 2005

Colors of Korea

At the Jardin D'Acclimatation yesterday they were finishing the set up of a three week exhibit on display there: The Colors of Korea. The show tells the story of Hanji, which is traditional Korean paper hand-made by processing the bark of the mulberry plant. Fibers of the mulberry bark are especially long and provide production of physically stronger paper.

Hanji is used to create boxes, small chests, lanterns, and other artistic items. According to the Hanji website referenced above... "The paper is colored in a natural dye, and these colors stay beautiful and vivid without fading with age. The production process is so complicated that the production quantity is very limited. In fact, Hanji production was halted in the past due to lack of raw materials. However, as a result of an attempt to revive the Korean traditional art, more mulberry trees were planted and grown in Korea and Hanji crafts is booming."

The vibrant colors of the giant Hanji figures on display are amazing. There are so many of the figures around the jardin in all different shapes... dragons, horses, fish (in the ponds), birds (by the bird cages)... and lots of beautiful lanterns. The kids had a lot of fun running around the park and finding new shapes. Hanji is a beautiful art form. If you like Hanji, visit the Jardin this month -- it's well worth the price of admission.

My daughter with "Baby Kate" at one of the Hanji designs.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:09 PM



School Rules!

Well the kids didn't want to get ready for school today. They were convinced school had been cancelled. My son insisted I watch the news this morning. I turned on the news (which we never watch) and he says, after a while, "that's it?" I told him they wouldn't announce that his school was closed on the news. We'd just have to go to school to find out. On the way there my son is looking for clues, determined to prove that there is no school. His first major disappointment? He sees another student, from the school in front of us. He tells me that perhaps there is school. As we pass the metro he sees a person coming out of the exit. This was a major blow. "There are people using the metro??!!" Then a bus passes by. "Even the buses are working?!" We get to school and it's quiet. Really quiet. At 9am there were only two teachers in the school...... the two teachers for my two kids!! Hooray! The kids were actually good sports and went right to class. A couple more teachers walked in at 9:15am. Parent for those students clapped because they were so happy. So now I have a little time to clean up before my husband's aunt arrives. Why am I on the computer then?

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:00 AM



Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Hitting Home

Today even my French friends were telling me that it would be crazy for the International Olympic Committee to pick Paris to host the 2012 games. There is a real unhappiness with the general strike that started tonight. It really hit home today when I got to the school and saw parents hovering around a note that the school officials posted.

Basically, the note said that because of the transportation strikes tomorrow, they aren't sure the teachers are going to be able to get to school. Therefore, the school cannot assure the normal functions of the classes. One parent was told that only one teacher in the school lives within walking distance of the school. I'm not exactly sure what the kids were told but my son is convinced he won't have school tomorrow. This is reinforced by the fact that he never has homework on Wednesdays, the half days at his school. However, today, for the first time, he was assigned homework. I think maybe his teacher is hoping there is no school tomorrow too. My son attended his best friend's birthday party today and when it was time to say good bye to each other, they all said... a demain, peut-etre (see you tomorrow... maybe!).

I have a friend leaving Paris permanently. I hope he's able to leave town as planned. Can you imagine planning to move your life on a particular day and on that specific day there is a massive transportation strike in the city you are leaving. Ugh. Closer to home I have my husband's aunt coming to town tomorrow. After a long trip from Texas I hope it doesn't take her too long to get to my place.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:50 PM



Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Best Laid Plans

The Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are coming to Paris tonight and boy is the city dressed up. There are the neon signs, there are the special metro tickets, there are signs and posters everywhere and now.....on the way to school today my son points out that the buses have flags. Lo and behold, the buses were dressed up today with a 2012 Paris flag on each side. So I started reading the articles about Paris welcoming the IOC and found this article about how Paris is turning gaudy and that the city is decorated like a whorehouse to try to win the 2012 Olympics! Really?!

While Paris is burning with desire to host the 2012 Olympic games, others have decided that this would be a really good time to set up a protest. Apparently, the "leading unions have called for a day of strikes and demonstrations throughout the country to demand pay rises and to protest against changes to the 35-hour working week." My French teacher read that city officials did ask the protestors to put off their strike for a week, but they refused. Wonder why? I must note that in one paper the Mayor of Paris is quoted as saying that "unions have made clear their support for the Paris Olympic bid and their desire not to disrupt the work of the commission." Guess we will see about that.

So all of you arriving or leaving Paris on Thursday, check your transportation information before you leave your home. More details about the strike will be released tomorrow.

On a final and unrelated note.... my son has recently built up the confidence to start trading his yu-gi-oh cards. I took a picture of my son and his friends at the park yesterday. They could be anywhere in the world trading cards and I guess that's what I liked about the picture.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:42 PM




Boy did I have fun yesterday. Some of my regular readers asked why people were being sent by Michele to my blog. Well Michele has a very creative, interactive blog and every day she "tags" a blog to be "it" for the day. I always thought it was an interesting concept, but it was so much more! Of course it's wonderful to feel really popular for the day and get lots of thoughtful comments. However, it was more than that. At the end of the day I tried to visit all the blogs of those who commented and boy did I have some good reading last night. Thanks Michele for tagging me and thanks to all of you who commented for the first time yesterday. I hope to hear from you again.

To my regular readers... thank you for always being there. I really appreciate you guys and am glad you are part of my daily blogging life. You're great.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:26 PM



Monday, March 07, 2005

Ticket to Ride

Out of all the possible souvenirs to buy in Paris.... would you buy a metro ticket to frame? I guess that is what the RATP is thinking. From February 16 until March 31, 2005 you can buy a special "Ticket T" to support Paris as a candidate for the 2012 Olympics. Along with the neon signs around town, this is another step to show the Members of the Olympic International Committee how seriously Paris wants to host the 2012 Olympics. Allez Paris!

It costs the same amount as a regular metro ticket, 1,40 euro. They've only produced 10 million of these tickets, so buy yours before they run out!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:32 AM



Sunday, March 06, 2005

First Sunday

Today my daughter woke up and said she was cold. She says "maybe it's warmer outside. Today is SUN day right?"

On the first Sunday of the month, most of the National museums in Paris have free entry for the day. These include: the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Musee D'Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Musee de Cluny, Sainte Chapelle, Musee Picasso, Musee Rodin, Chateau de Versailles, Conciergie, Musee des Arts D'Afrique et D'Oceanie, le Musée national des Arts et Traditions, Musée national des Arts asiatiques-Guimet, and Musée national Eugène Delacroix.

I think the last time I took advantage of this free museum day was one of the first months I arrived in Paris. My friend asked if I'd like to go to the Louvre with her. I think we stood on line for an hour that day waiting to get into the Louvre. It turned me off of ever taking advantage of these free admission days. However, a friend of mine has been talking about how she goes to the museums with the kids on the first Sunday of the month and it really isn't that bad. So I planned to try it this Sunday with the kids.

So we got ourselves up and going and headed to l'Arc de Triomphe on the Place de l'Etoile. I'd taken a tour here a few months ago, but thought the children would like to go to the top. There was no line. We walked right up and got our free entry tickets. When we are about to start climbing the stairs up to the top, the person collecting the tickets asked if I wanted to take the elevator. Me? 284 steps? Bag of lunch stuff? Folded stroller? Baby Doll? .....Yes, of course I'll take the elevator. I didn't even know it existed. Of course, my son begged to climb the stairs. But we took the glass elevator up and it was a quick ride. The kids really enjoyed checking out all the different views from the top of the Arc de Triomphe... where is the Champs Elysees? where is Daddy's office? where does my friend live? The kids imagined they could see all the specific buildings they were looking for.

We did use the stairs on the way down. After that we took a walk on the Champs Elysees and had a picnic lunch. The kids were still hungry after sandwiches, so we had a hot chocolate (son) and vanilla ice cream (daughter) at Hagan Dazs. It was a pleasant afternoon -- even my son said so (perhaps because he bought another medallion?). Now we are home and my son is trying to finish up his homework that is due tomorrow.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
3:41 PM



Saturday, March 05, 2005

Saturday Ramblings

Last night my friend called and asked if we wanted to get the families together for a snow ball fight this morning. It snowed all yesterday afternoon and most of the evening and some snow had accumulated. However, we woke up this morning and it was all gone. It's actually mild enough to go outside this afternoon. I'm looking forward to taking the kids to the park for a little while.

My husband left this morning for a work trip to the US. For some reason, when we lived in the US, domestic business trips never bothered me. Now that we are in Paris and all business trips are international and often to places like China or South Africa, I worry when he leaves. I'm not sure why... is it that we have kids? is it that travel feels less safe? is it that he is often so many time zones away? I just hate waving goodbye to him as he gets into his cab.

Tomorrow is the end of the February ski vacation in Paris. I expect the roads to be filled with bouchons/traffic jams from the south east of France to Paris. At least it isn't snowing. I think the French drivers are pretty reasonable. While driving to Austria it's hard not to notice the difference in driving habits. As soon as we entered Germany the driving got a lot faster. It sort of reminds me of Detroit, where my husband is from. Germany and Detroit are all about the cars and you feel like people are almost too confident driving -- driving at higher speeds and closer to other cars. The drivers we think are the worst (sorry ahead of time for offending all you Dutch) are the cars with NL (Netherlands) plates. They drive fast and furious and change lanes all the time to try to get ahead. I ended up sitting next to a guy from Holland on a ski gondola one day. After he told me where he was from, I told him that we thought the Dutch were crazy drivers. He laughed and bragged that he personally tried to keep to about 200 km per hour (120 m/p/h). I'm really surprised we didn't see an accident on our way to or from skiing.

Tonight I head out to a going away party. Every year, starting in spring, people start leaving Paris and heading to their next adventure. The party tonight is for a friend's wife. She got a great promotion, but was required to start the new job right away.... in Houston. So her family is staying here until the school year ends and will join her in Houston in June. They've been here for nearly three years and have really enjoyed the life here, and are now starting to prepare for the move back. Everyone has told me that moving to Paris from the US is easier than moving back to the US from Paris. I guess you assume moving back to your home will be easy, but then you realize you have to start all over... buy a house, buy a car, find a school for the kids, find a job for the spouse, rekindle old friendships.. and it all becomes overwhelming. We still don't know if we are moving back to the US this summer, but I think about the possibility, and all it would entail, all the time.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
2:05 PM



Friday, March 04, 2005

Les Invalides

Well I had another day home with the kids, so I took them for a hair cut... school will be starting in a few days!! Then we took the bus to another Paris site that I thought my kids would enjoy. Of course the pot was sweetened with the possibility of yet another medallion for their collections.

We took a trip to the Musée de l'Armée or the Hotel National des Invalides. In 1671, Louis XIV decided to create a building to house disabled soldiers, the Hotel des Invalides. Construction was finished at the end of 1706 and nearly 4,000 residents lived there.

In 1840, Napoleon's body was transferred from the island of St. Helena to Paris. The Eglise du Dome, part of the Hotel des Invalides, houses Napoleon's tomb. According to the Army musuem guide book Napoleon "rests in five successive coffins (one in tin, one in mahogany, two in lead and one in ebony) which are arranged within a majestic block of red porphyry from Finland." There is a circle below his tomb which lists some of his military victories, e.g., Iena and Friedland.

We spent about an hour walking around Napoleon's tomb and parts of the Army museum. My son has read and heard a lot about Napoleon in school (does he even know the name of George Washington??). He liked walking around looking at the various weapons and previous flags of France. He especially like a golden eagle that topped a flag in the war. The caption near the eagle reads "aigle blesse"/wounded eagle and it has two big bullet holes through it. He also liked the display of various bullets used through the years. He asked when the last war occurred. He hears about America as some distant land that starts wars with other countries. I didn't know how to answer him.

The Army museum was very large and very impressive. You could easily spend half a day there.

The view over Napoleon's Tomb.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:23 PM



Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Big Chill

I saw this article about the "Big Chill" in Europe and thought of you. It's still cold over here and it's been snowing all day long. Apparently, this morning, it was cold enough in Paris for Roissy and Orly airports to delay flights up to two hours due to the snow on the runways.

Yesterday it snowed so steadily that my son decided he didn't want to go to soccer in the afternoon. Today he decided that even though it was still snowing, even more today, he wanted to play soccer. We got there and realized that they weren't playing today.

We decided to hop on a bus and head to Notre Dame. My daughter had been asking to visit the Cathedral and since we could take the bus nearly all the way there, it seemed like a good idea. I convinced my son that it was a good idea because I knew he'd be able to buy a medallion of Notre Dame there. My kids have collected about 20 of these medallions from various monuments around France. The medallions all have some fun trip associated with each coin, at least for me. For example, we took trips to the Forteresse de Chinon (three years ago with my sisters), Mt St Michel (two years ago with the in-laws) and la Ferme aux Crocodiles (last summer with my son's best friend).

So we took the bus to the 6th arrondissement, got off and bought crepes, walked to Notre Dame (it was packed with people just sitting around trying to stay warm), bought our medallions, walked around the area, and then headed back to the bus pretty quick. The snow was coming down fast and we were all getting wet.

I took a couple of pictures while I was out, but you can't really see the snow falling and there was very little on the ground. I took this picture of Shakespeare and Company as we left Notre Dame. You can actually see the snow in this picture.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
5:06 PM



Wednesday, March 02, 2005


If you are a fan of the Parisian bloggers you know that baby it is COLD in gay Paree. The mercury has dropped to as much as -7 Celsius or about 20 Fahrenheit at night and is barely above freezing during the day. If you follow the blog posts, you will know it snowed last week and there was general merriment about that. But the joy of the Eiffel Tower covered in snow has given way to a collective whine about the temperatures. We were stuck in the big black out in the US a couple years ago and the reaction was similar. The first night the neighbors in my in-laws neighborhood all came out and had a big block party cookout to empty refridgerators of beef and beer. On day two, the realization that the air conditioners were not going on and not for the foreseeable future had set in and the novelty turned to open misery (and a little panic over drinking water.) The blackout of course occurred at the same time as a massive heatwave that hit France and Paris and killed thousands of people.

So all you who don't live in Paris, say what's the big deal? It gets colder or hotter and stays cold and hot in large parts of the world and they don't complain like you Parisians. Its just that Paris is normally a temperate climate and buildings simply are not set up to deal with temperature extremes. Our old 1890 Haussmanian style building is one BIG DRAFT. Seriously, stand in my kitchen and a cold air stream will hit you in the feet and in the chest. Weather proofing is a second thought.

And I'm cold. I wasn't even here for the rare event of snow that *actually accumulated* on the ground. Of course some of our suffering was self inflicted. Before we left for vacation, when it was a nice normal 7C/45F degrees in the city, we turned down the heat in the apartment. When we came back our apartment was a toasty 6C/43F degrees according to the thermometer! However it takes DAYS to get the heat in the apartment up. In three days of heating, we have managed to bring the temperature up from 6C/43F to a balmy 16C/60F.

All this cold doesn't work well for my schedule this week. We are currently in the second week of the two week February school vacation. Great, the first week we went skiing and had plenty to do. This week, when most of my children's friend's are still skiing, we are stuck in the apartment. My son has signed up for soccer every afternoon. That helps. But, I must walk him there and pick him up 2 1/2 hours later and I dread going out with my daughter. The first day he and a soccer friend threw a tantrum convinced me to go to the park after soccer. We stayed for 20 long, cold minutes.

So blogging is difficult this week with the kids stuck in the apartment with lots of energy to fight with each other. I feel like I'm the referee this week between all their arguments. *TWEEET* "Technical foul, that's a timeout!"

*****UPDATE!!! I wrote the post last night, then Blogger burped and I couldn't publish. In the meantime it snowed last night and the cars are still covered this morning.

I went to bed last night at 9:30pm, exhausted after keeping the warring factions apart. Example: There are special sales on strawberries in Paris right now and I had to deal with the fact that "he got 7 strawberries and I only got 6 ... WAAAAAAAAAaaaaa."

At least the house is warming up. Instead of 5 wool blankets last night, I used three. Maybe there will be some sun today?

-- said Auntie M in Paris
7:55 AM