Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Roland Garros

Yesterday my friend and I decided to visit Roland Garros to check out the French Open. We headed there in the early afternoon to see if we could buy some same day tickets. We could... annex tickets for 11 euro.

The annex tickets means that you can see the smaller, lesser known players in their matches (around six being played yesterday). We did not see the big match yesterday, between Marat Safin and Tommy Robredo. Apparently, it was pretty exciting with Safin smashing his racket and a court-side chair when he lost. The matches we watched were pretty tame... just a lot of grunting that so many players do when they hit the ball.

One match we watched was...

....apparently, SCG represents Serbia and Montenegro. Personally, I hate getting called a simple dame :)

I'd been to Roland Garros in 2002 when the Americans played the French for the Davis Cup. That was a lot of fun and we saw some of the best tennis players, including one of France's favorites, Sebastien Grosjean.

Yesterday we were content to walk from annex to annex, watching a single boy's match here and a women's double match there. We also checked out all the stalls and won some stuff (and bought some stuff). Even though it threatened to rain all afternoon, it held out. It was a fun day and well worth the 11 euro.

One of the annex courts at Roland Garros.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:36 PM



Monday, May 30, 2005

Birthday Party

My daughter attended a birthday party yesterday for a friend in her class. When it was time to sing 'Joyeux Anniversaire,' the kids all sang loud and clear. When that was over, the older sister of the birthday girl suggested 'Buon Compleanno' -- in Italian, because her mother is Italian. Then the group suggested 'Happy Birthday' and they all proudly sang the song because they had learned it in school. After that, the older sister suggested German because their babysitter spoke German. Finally, a few of the kids wanted to sing the song in Spanish because two families were from Spain. All this from a group of 5-year olds and an 8-year old. Just another reason why I love life in Paris.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:13 PM



Sunday, May 29, 2005

Immeubles en Fete

People in France are generally considered more reserved and proper. It's difficult to make friends quickly, as you do in the US. However, these French friends, once made, usually form a strong bond and last a lifetime.

In this environment, it is rare that a person gets to know their neighbor. I was told early on, that neighbors already know enough about your personal life (through the walls) and so they don't pursue a friendship. This is not to say people are unfriendly. On the contrary, people are friendly and say hello. They just don't ask if you're getting a divorce because they've heard you screaming at your spouse (upstairs) or if your daughter ever sleeps (as I'm sure they wondered when I first moved in).

So it was with a smile that I read about the 6th annual Buildings in Festival/Immeubles en Fete -- basically an official meet your neighbor day all across Europe (but originating in France in the 17th). This year it will be held on Tuesday, 31 May.

Last year there were 3,000,000 participants in France and 500,000 people in Europe. So Tuesday night, get out the champagne and ring the doorbell across the hall -- you've got a great reason. You might find a new friend.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
12:53 PM



Saturday, May 28, 2005

Le Buci

On date night, a few friends got together to head out to a vernissage or art show opening night in the 6th arrondissement. We had a French dinner at a decent restaurant, with many other English-speakers. I kept wondering why are these people, probably only in town for a few days, eating at this adequate place when there are so many good places around? I mean if I was coming to Paris, I'd do a bit of restaurant research. Then I thought, maybe they just couldn't find a place to eat without a reservation.

Here we were in the 6th... a fun, lively part of Paris on a warm evening and the area was crowded with people. There was a small band walking up and down the streets. The cafes used every available inch of their outdoor space and there still wasn't a free seat to be found. The line for the ice cream stand grew longer and longer as the evening continued.

I'm a big fan of ice cream, and I really have never understood this Berthillon thing. Maybe that is the best ice cream in France, but I always thought the American ice cream was better. On Thursday night I was reminded of what country really is the best at ice cream... Italy. We stopped at Amorino for some amazing gelato.

It seemed like people just had to be outside to enjoy the warm weather. Live music. An art show. People sitting outside eating from those round Paris cafe tables. It was truly a Paris moment for me. One of the many reasons I love this city.

Le Buci

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:17 PM



Friday, May 27, 2005


When I was at the ASP May fair last week there was a Starbucks stand. The woman was passing out information about Starbucks in Paris as well as selling coffee.

January 2004: Starbucks opens its first two stores in Paris -- at Opera and La Defense.

May 2005: Starbucks has 12 stores in Paris and three outside of Paris (one in Marne-la-Vallee opening next month).

I'm not sure why, but I was stunned by that statistic.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:19 PM



Thursday, May 26, 2005


Since Wednesdays are half days at school, I usually don't plan much in the morning because I have to prepare sandwiches and other stuff for our picnic at the Jardin D'Acclimatation before golf.

But... do you ever have a bad hair day and say to yourself.... ca suffit! I must get this hair cut now. Well, I decided that yesterday morning. I had an hour to spare in the morning, so why not? I get to my hair salon, Jean Claude Biguine (wow -- 9 stores in the US!), at 9:10am and wait for them to open the doors at 9:30am. I've done this before and seen the French women wait right at the door until someone comes to open up the store -- before the official opening hours. So at 9:25am I alone am let in to the salon. I can't believe my luck; I'll be out of here by 10:15am!

The woman asks me what I want and I tell her I like my hair longer and would just like a small cut (not knowing the word for trim). She says fine while washing my hair. She brings me to the chair to get my haircut and says, with great fanfare something like allee, on commence/ come on, let's start. Her first cut takes off about 4 inches from my hair. Clearly, she didn't understand what I wanted. She cuts my hair and is finished by 10am. She says that it's quite a change (and it really is!) and that's when I remember that in the beginning conversation she asked if I'd like a change and I must have nodded because deep down I wonder if someone will do something magical to my hair just like those amazing makeover shows on US TV now.

The hair stylist is so proud of her work, she'd like to do more. There is no other customer in the store. This has never happened before in the 5 years I've been going to this place, but I've never gone on a Wednesday morning. So she asks if I'd be willing to get my hair colored (which I do every few months) and highlighted to show off the movement of the new cut. I find it so hard to refuse these kind of requests...

So I go over to the woman who does the color, who I've used before, and she colors my hair and then starts to look over my hair to determine where the movement is supposed to be. She asks me if I think she should call the stylist over (clearly the colorist's superior) and I wholeheartedly nod. This is important stuff figuring out the movement and I certainly don't know where it is located! So the stylist comes over and parts my hair this way and that and then starts pointing her finger where the highlights should be placed.

Not since I came in second place in the middle school "best hair category" (after Vanessa Cabrera) has my hair gotten so much attention and I it was fun. After the color and highlights were complete I was getting my hair washed next to someone waiting to get their hair cut. The stylist came over and said, I must take this woman first (me!) and then I will help you. I think I became this woman's pet project. She blow dried my hair (unlike the US, this is a big deal in France and this part of the process alone can cost more than what I paid in the US for a wash, cut, and dry) carefully pointing out how to show off my movement and that I should not brush my bangs to the side because that is a "too classic" look (for me??).

I did like the cut and color when the whole process was through, but what really got me was the fact that I got compliments on my hair from a few friends. Even a French father of one of my daughter's friends asked me if I'd gotten my hair done because it looked nice. I almost choked on the food I was eating because it almost seemed to personal coming from a French man.

Anyway.... I'm afraid I didn't capture the real movement of my hair, but I thought I'd try anyway. Sammy, I was thinking of you when I took this picture!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:28 PM



Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Tea at the Ritz

Don't ask me why, but I've always wanted to go to the Ritz. Of course, it's a public place and anyone can walk into the hotel, but I just couldn't do it. Once I entered, wouldn't they know I just don't belong there??

So it was with great anticipation that I accepted an invitation from a friend to have high tea at the Ritz. I walked right in and no one asked me what I was doing there. I met my friends at the Bar Vendome in the hotel, the first door on the left and we all ordered tea.

There was a nice selection of teas. The tea trays were very pretty and some of the desserts actually had little chocolate signs with Ritz or "R" on them. Very cute. There were three trays... one savory and two sweet. Although I normally like the sweet stuff, I hadn't had lunch and would have liked more of the delicious sandwiches, especially the smoked salmon roll.

My friends made the tea reservations weeks in advance, but I'm not sure how far ahead of time is necessary. The full tea was 35 euro and we had two pots of fresh tea and lots of food to choose from: sandwiches, scones, rice pudding... The service was a little disappointing. We actually had to spend some of our time just trying to get waiters attention. Overall, a really fun thing to do with some friends and if you have tea late enough, you don't have to worry about dinner!

I took this picture as I was leaving the Ritz. It is the Place Vendome column and was erected by Napoleon I from melted-down enemy canons captured during the battle at Austerlitz. At the top is a statue of Napoleon dressed as a Roman emperor.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:27 PM



Tuesday, May 24, 2005

May Fair

On Saturday I took my son to a May Fair at the American School in Paris (ASP). My daughter wanted to stay home with her grandparents, who had just returned from a short trip to London.

We drove to ASP in Garches, a few miles outside of Paris. It turned out to be a beautiful day weather wise. The fair was held on the football field behind the school. As you can see from the photo, they had different moonbounces: a little kids moonbounce, a basketball bounce and a huge bounce jungle gym (where most of the kids played).

They also had lots of amusement park type games, like throw the toilet paper through the toilet bowl rim and win a prize. The activity which could have provided me with laughs all day? The sumo wresting area. The kids had to dress in the big, heavily padded, pink sumo outfits. Watching these little kids in these big outfits falling and needing help to be picked up was too funny. Here is my son and a friend before the match. My son laughed a lot as he tried to push his friend from the circle to win. My son: tall and thin. His friend: shorter but stockier. Together they had a great time.

There was also food. The school is international and many parents helped prepare food from their country: Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, French and a good old American barbecue. I haven't had or been to a barbecue in France so having a hot dog from the grill tasted so good. You just can't take the American out of me. (I see those of you nodding your heads!)

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:34 PM



Monday, May 23, 2005

Parc Monceau

On the way to and from the Nissim de Camondo museum, my friends and I walked through Parc Monceau. There are so many parks in the 16th, I rarely bring the kids to the other beautiful parks, but Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement is lovely.

To get into Parc Monceau you walk through the most beautiful gilded gates designed by Davioud.

In 1778 Louis Philip II, the Duc de Chartres and Orleans, known as Philippe Egalite, bought the territory that would become Monceau Park. His park designer, de Carmontelle, was charged with designing "an outstanding garden bringing all times and places together." The result was a whimsical garden with fake Roman ruins, a Dutch windmill, a ruined fort and an Egyptian pyramid!

When the toll walls were built around Paris in 1787, the section that corresponds to today's Boulevard de Courcelles was surrounded by a ditch so that the Duc's view would be unobstructed. A beautiful rotunda was built instead of an observation post to fit in with the environment of the park.

In 1793, during the French revolution, the garden was confiscated from the Duc. In the 1850s, the city of Paris bought the garden. The garden was inaugurated in its current configuration by the Napoleon III in 1861. Ever since, only statues have been added to the grounds.

Parc Monceau also has some beautiful flowers and playgrounds for the kids, making it a popular place for families on the weekends. It was certainly a pleasure to walk through on a lovely spring day.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
3:30 PM



Sunday, May 22, 2005

Nissim de Camondo

On Friday I had a walking tour of the Nissim de Camondo museum. Before I saw the tour list I'm not sure that I'd heard of this museum... but then again...there are so many in Paris.

Our tour started outside of the museum near a plaque announcing a brief history of the de Camondo family. The Jewish family originally came from Spain, where they fled from the Inquisition. They moved to Italy and then Turkey (Constantinople) where they became successful bankers. There were two brothers, Nissim and Abraham de Camondo, and they moved to Paris in the 1870s. They built houses, rather mansions, next to each other. The houses eventually fell into the hands of their sons. Isaac, Abraham's son, collected art from the Far East. He died childless and most of his collection was donated to the Louvre.

Nissim's son, Moise de Camondo, had an impressive and vast collection of French decorative arts of the second half of the eighteenth century. Moise married and had two children. Moise divorced his wife and raised the two children. The boy, Nissim, named after his grandfather, goes to fight as a pilot in the WWI. Beatrice, marries and has two children, and her family lives with Moise. In 1917, Nissim dies while fighting in the war. Moise dies in 1935, stating in his will that his "town-house as it stands at the moment of my death" is donated to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, in memory of his father and son -- both named Nissim de Camondo.

Beatrice received other properties and wealth from Moise. She lived in the high society and thought her family was safe during WWII because Abraham and Moise had been generous to the French government and because her brother lost his life fighting for France. Unfortunately, Vichy France came to Beatrice's home and sent her whole family to Auschwitz where they all perished. That was the last of the de Camondo family. A very sad tale, indeed.

Of course, it's wonderful that there is a beautiful museum left to memorialize this family. The museum-mansion is very large and filled with beautiful pieces of French art.

There are three floors to this large museum: the lower ground floor (the kitchens), upper ground floor (reception room -- all the formal rooms), and the first floor (the private apartments). The servants' dining room on the lower group floor indicates that the house had 12 people on staff, from gardeners to butlers.

The upper ground floor, where guests would visit, is filled with treasures. So many of the pieces have history.. silverware commissioned by Catherine the Great of Russia.... vases that once adorned the private chambers of Marie Antoinette at Versailles... If you wanted to take a class on French decorative arts, this is the place to come because there are so many wonderful examples. If you like the antiques road show, you'll love this museum.

Here is a picture of the Great Drawing Room

The carpet, from the Savonnerie manufactory, supplied in 1678 for the Grande Galerie in the Louvre. The "Meiping" bottle, lacquered bronze. Japanese, Edo period, early 18th century. Chased and gilt bronze mount by Francois Remond, 1783, It once belonged to Madame de Pompadour.

The family rooms are upstairs. The furniture and decorations are not as fancy there. The blue drawing room, where Moise de Camondo worked, included at least one piece of furniture I'd like to mention.... the lit de repos. There is really nothing special about this couch except the way our French guide described it! Something like..... women rested on these lit de repos because there were tired from wearing such tight clothes (popular at the time). When laying on this couch "lovers would come to have them." Imagine it with a heavy French accent. Really, it was quite funny, I promise.

Known as the turquoise because of its scrolled ends giving it a turkish flavor, circa 1755, stamped Jean Avisse.

The 6 euro cost of admission is well worth the price for anyone interested in French arts of the 18th century. Our guide was able to point out some of the most interesting pieces, but there are so many tapestries, paintings, chairs, vases, desks and other works of art to see that it probably makes sense to rent the audio guide to get the most out of your visit.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:04 PM



Saturday, May 21, 2005

La Brasserie Lipp

We had recently read a Le Figaro Magazine review of La Brasserie Lipp (LBL) in my French class so it's been on my mind. It's one of those famous places you often hear about because it has so much history. When out on a date night and heading toward the 6th arrondissement, we usually just continue on to the Latin Quarter and have a crepe dinner. However, my husband was out of town and I didn't feel like calling a friend... where to go by myself? So I decided, why not just go to LBL?

I took the bus and got off near Saint German des Pres. I noticed this broken sidewalk fountain art and thought it was cool.

The French article said to get to LBL at 7:30pm if I didn't want to make a reservation. I got there shortly before 8pm and didn't have any problem finding a table. I sat on the main floor (not upstairs where they send all the tourists).

First, let me say I thought the service was terrible... downright American. As soon as I walked in I felt that they'd looked me over to determine how long I'd take with my meal. Proof of this happened when I was reviewing the menu, trying to figure out what I wanted.. my thoughts only with the menu...when the waiter approached with "vous avez choisi?" I know I should have said "no," but instead I just quickly decided.

I had the poireaux vinaigrette to start. I'd never actually ordered the leeks in vinaigrette before. They were good, but nothing I'd order again. The leeks were too well cooked and I would have liked a little more bite to the vinaigrette. According to the LBL article, their most popular starter is les six speciales perles blanches. I think that means 6 oysters?

For the dinner I ordered the choucroute Lipp: Speciale au jarret de porc. Basically it was a HUGE portion of choucroute/sauerkraut with a ham hock, and two different types of sausage. It was tasteful and filling. It was a little chilly out that night, so this French comfort food hit the spot. The article states that the most popular LBL dish is le steak tartare.

To go with the meal, I had a glass of brouilly. We used to only order Bordeaux wines when we went out, but recently we've decided the brouilly is lighter and goes with more food choices.

Overall another meal where I thought I could get better food elsewhere. There were a lot of French people there. It wasn't just tourists. Around 9:15pm they started sending people away that didn't have reservations -- most of those people were tourists. The French folks talked their way in, although some had to wait for 10 minutes or so for a table.

I didn't take any pictures of the meal because it just didn't seem right. I was glad I didn't because as I was walking out I discreetly asked the nice bus boy (who saw that I left a good tip) if I could take a picture of the menu. He told me all pictures in the establishment were "interdit" but he slipped me the menu to take with me.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:06 PM



Friday, May 20, 2005

Ministry of Finance

We had a walking tour of Bercy yesterday. Bercy is on the other side of town and as a result, I haven't seen too much of the place. In fact, the last time I was in the area I went to a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Palais Omnisports de Paris center two years ago.

The above metro map highlights the areas our group walked, but I will focus on the Ministere de l'Economie, des Finances et de l'Industrie building.

Soon after he became president in 1981, Mitterand commissioned a competition to create a new building for the Ministry of Finance in Paris. For the previous 100 years the Ministry of Finance was located in one wing of the Louvre and the museum needed more space for its vast collection. Mitterand supposedly declared, “we must return the Louvre to the history of France."

The business of tax collection has a long history in France. There used to be a wall around Paris for tax purposes -- once a merchant entered the city, he would have to pay a tax on his goods. These douanes or customs duties were a principal taxation device under Louis XIV and his controller general, Jean-Baptiste Colbert.

The Bercy area was just outside of the wall and a sub economy developed where people let out their places so that the merchants (mostly wine merchants) could keep their goods stored outside of the city until ready to sell their items. The government got wise and eventually "pushed out" the walls so that the realm of the taxable area and population grew.

Paul Chemetov and Borja Huidobro won Mitterand's international design competition and their project included a symbolic wall and moat in front of the Ministry of Finance. I thought that was pretty cool. They've placed statues in the "moat."

Chemetov and Huidobro's building is in the shape of an aqueduct with two 72 meter arches -- one plunging in the Seine over the quay of Bercy, the other above the street of Bercy -- connected by a succession of smaller arches. Below the arch on the quai de Bercy is a motorboat always ready to bring the Finance minister quickly to the center of Paris. The building holds something like 60,000 civil servants.

A metro on the Pont de Bercy.

There is a whole lot more to the Bercy area, including, the Omnisports center, Bercy Park and Bercy Village, but I was very impressed with the Finance building and didn't take good notes afterward!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:55 PM



Thursday, May 19, 2005

I Fought the Law

Actually I fought with the American Consulate yesterday and the Consulate won. I waited around for over 90 minutes to get pages added to my passport. That 90 minutes does not include the time it took to stand on the first two lines.

Guichet 1: Stand on line to determine which American services you need, make sure you have the correct paper work and then put the information in to a colored packet. Guichet 2: Stand on the cashier line even if what you are getting done doesn't cost any money. Cashier guy then gives your colored packet to Guichet 4 or 5.

For the Guichet 4 or 5 (G4 or G5) step you don't stand on line. You wait in the big waiting room with about 200 other people, most of whom want a visa to the US, until your name is called. (The visa people are waiting for Guichets 6 - 11) It was so packed with people yesterday, most of the time there wasn't a seat while waiting until G4 or G5 got to your file.

After about 60 minutes I'm getting anxious. I only have a certain amount of time before I have to pick up my children at school (because it was a half day). So when Guichet 4 clears, I walk up to the counter and say...

Me: May I ask...
G4: she starts announcing the next person to come to her counter when I'm mid-sentence
Me: I was asking you something
G4: Yes, what was your quick question.
Me: I have to pick up my children and I was just wondering how long it might take.....
G4: Well it will take longer the longer you keep talking to me
Me: !!! I stomp off in disbelief
G4: Says to the next person who comes to the counter.. "Some people are just having a bad day."
Me: I am not having a bad day! (I really wasn't until she was so rude)

I wait around for another 30 minutes. I'm getting really anxious because I don't think I can get to school on time. I go up to the Guichet 5 woman (when she is free of people for a moment) and tell her I didn't realize it was going to take this long and that I wanted my passport back so that I could leave. She's surprised but gives me my passport.

I was so mad at Guichet 4 and the fact that I'd just wasted 2 hours that I wasn't paying attention when I opened the heavy door at the consulate. I guess I didn't open it far enough and ended up pushing my glasses against the corner of my eye. It's a real shiner.

Let me just say that I wasn't bothered that getting pages added to a passport took a certain amount of time. I was bothered because no way along the process did anyone say how long it might take or that I could just leave the passport and paperwork with a paid envelope for the Embassy to send to me back at a later time. Once I was waiting for G4 or G5 there was no one to provide answers to questions. It was so frustrating. A little information would have gone a long way yesterday.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:46 PM



Parc Floral de Paris

On Sunday the family took a drive to the Parc Floral at the Bois de Vincennes. We haven't been there for a while, but it is one of my favorite picture taking places in Paris. When we arrived no one was playing on the Paris sign so we took a couple of pictures. Here is one..

The Parc Floral de Paris (Paris Floral Park) is the Bois de Vincennes' 70-acre flower garden. It was a particularly nice day and the flowers were in bloom. There was a perfume in the air from all the colorful flowers. There are more than 200 varieties of tulips alone in this park.

Parc Floral is on the other side of town so we don't go too often, but it is a lovely place for the kids. There is......a Jardin des Papillons/Butterfly garden, a guignol/marrionette show, a jungle gym area, a concert area (more for grown ups), and a miniature train to take you around the park. We tried something new this Sunday.... the quadricycles. The kids thought these were great. The adults liked them a little less because it was very crowded and we had a lot of near misses -- but that's probably why the kids liked them so much!

One other activity that we've done in the past but didn't have time for on Sunday is the miniature golf. This place is so fun because each of the 9 "courses" is a monument of Paris. For instance...you have to hit your ball through the arc of the Arc de Triomphe.. kind of thing. My son was not happy about missing the mini-golf! He thinks the playing around the monuments is cool.

Before we left the park area I took a picture of the Chateau de Vincennes -- which is very close by. French kings lived in this residence until the 18th century. For some time it was used as a prison where some famous men were jailed: le Grand Conde, the marquis de Sade, and Diderot. Now it is owned by the Army and open to the public.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
7:18 PM



Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Baccarat Museum

After two museums on Saturday night you might ask... Did you stop? Did you go home? Weren't you tired? No, no.. and yes. There is one museum that I have really, really wanted to visit but was turned off by 7 euro for admission ... the Baccarat Museum. So my husband and the kids headed home and my girlfriend, her two boys (her husband wasn't with us so she didn't have the same option) and I took the metro back to the 16th and got out at Iena.

When we popped out of the metro we noticed a huge line for the Guimet Museum. That place always has the longest lines on free Sundays (the first Sunday of the month) or when there is a special exhibit. There had to have been 150 people on the line at 10:30pm. We passed right by them hoping that there would be no similar line at the Baccarat museum.

Well, we walked right in to Baccarat which is really a museum, boutique, restaurant, and showroom. About two years ago, Baccarat left its original premises on rue de Paradis for a prestigious mansion on Place des Etats-Unis -- once the home of Marie-Laure, Viscountess de Noailles (1920-1970) and art lover. Baccarat then hired Philippe Starck to redecorate the 3000 square meters of this 1895 building.

The ground floor is the show room. My friend and I were a bit nervous about her boys in the showroom -- although they were welcomed by the staff -- because many pieces were in glass displays with no protection. You could actually reach out and grab that 3,000 euro glass pitcher. It made us a bit anxious. There is a jewelry showroom with sitting tables and hand mirrors in case you wanted to try on a piece before purchase.

On the landing of the beautiful staircase you are surprised by a two meter high glass chair designed by Starck.

Upstairs you'll find Baccarat jewelry, furniture, and lighting collections. On display everywhere...glasses of exceptional craftsmanship, showing ornamentation by cutting, wheel-engraving, enameling and gilding. There are famous pieces, like the tsar Nicholas II's candelabra and prestigious commissions from international celebrities like Josephine Baker. My friend and I also admired the simple black crystal collection by Starck. Another room, which looked like a reception room, reminded me of the hall of mirrors in Versailles.

There is a restaurant, the Cristal Room, in the museum. I believe it was closed and we didn't look in... but I understand eating there is an amazing experience. Here is a review by a fellow Parisian blogger.

As we left the museum, we looked around the foyer. One particularly interesting sight is a Baccarat chandelier plunged in an aquarium of water. It wasn't working the night I was there, but friends have said that when the lights are on that it's a feast for the eyes.

I never thought I'd say this, but with so much to see, it's almost worth the 7 euro admission.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:09 PM



Toothy Subject

My son's tooth finally fell out last night in the middle of the night. After all the fanfare, he woke up to tell me "it's out" and handed it to me. He put the tooth under his pillow and went back to sleep.

He awoke this morning and didn't even mention to his sister that he lost his tooth. When I told his sister he remembered and went to check if the tooth fairy had left some money... she did. After talking and worry so much about his tooth this week it had a very quiet departure. At least he'll be able to eat again.

Frania, thanks for asking for an update.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
7:23 AM



Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Musee des Arts and Metiers

On Saturday night after the Anatomy museum in the 5th arrondissement, our group headed to the 3rd arrondissement to view a museum that my girlfriend and I had never been to.... the Musee des Arts et Metiers (Arts and Sciences). I'd heard a lot of good things about this museum, but it isn't very easy to get to from my apartment so I kept putting it off.

Once again, we arrived at the museum and there was no line. We went straight to the exhibits. This huge museum is broken down into 8 distinct sections: scientific instruments, materials, construction, communication, energy, mechanical, transports, and the chapel. There is a lot to see and many of the exhibits are interactive which are always fun for the kids.

I think my son liked the scientific instruments because he was able to see some different methods of telling time. He had studied this subject in school last week so it was very timely.

My favorite part of the museum were the maquettes or models displaying the feats of civil engineering. There were models of the construction of rue de Rivoli, the Statue of Liberty and the lifting machine used to transport the Obelisque to Place de la Concorde.

"The model shows the exceptional technique used by Bartholdi in making the statue in the workshops of Gaget, Garthier & Cie. This framework does not directly bear the sheet of spun copper but supports iron strips moulding the contours of the skin, kept in place by copper U-links attached by six rivets."

On my way out I grabbed the brochure on ateliers/workshops they have for children. The workshops sound very interesting. For example, there is a workshop on writing with light and the properties of photographic paper. The normal admission cost is 6,50 euro -- pretty reasonable for this very interesting museum.

When we finally left the museum it was dark and I noticed the beautiful stained glass from the chapel, part of the museum property. According to the museum brochure ...in the nave of the chapel, which was restored in the 19th century, are the objects that made the church a pantheon of techniques: the vapour machine of Scott, a model of the construction of the statue of Liberty by Bartholdi, and the model of the Vulcain motor of the space ship Ariane. Additionally, Foucault's pendulum is located in the choir. Next time I'll have to view the inside of this church!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
12:10 PM



Monday, May 16, 2005

Anatomy and Paleontology

Saturday, my friend and her two boys met up with our family to take advantage of La Nuit des Musees. We decided to start with the Natural History museum at the Jardin des Plantes, specifically the Gallery of Comparative Anatomy and Paleontology -- basically a bone museum. We thought this would appeal to the kids.

We arrived at the Anatomy and Paleontology museum at 7pm on the dot. There was a bit of a line, but that evaporated once the museum doors were opened. By the time we got into the museum it was pretty packed, but we could move through the exhibits.

The comparative anatomy seeks differences and resemblances making it possible to distinguish and classify the species. Paleontology is the study of the developing history of life on earth, of ancient plants and animals based on the fossil record. In other words there were lots of skeletons and fossils to view in the museum. The museum itself seemed like a relic. The displays and the accompanying descriptive postings look like they haven't been touched since 1898, when the museum doors were first opened.

Rhinos, Horses and Bears, oh my...

The kids didn't care about all that, of course. They thought the skeletons were cool and they kept asking "which animal was that?" They weren't scared or turned off by anything at the museum. Of course, the bonus was that at the end my kids bought a medallion to add to their collection. The museum tour went so well, my girlfriend and I decided to push our luck and go to another museum.....

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:03 AM



Sunday, May 15, 2005

Ranelagh Guignol

Saturday afternoon my daughter was invited over to a friend's house. She refused to go unless I went with her. So, and I know you won't believe this, but I asked the woman if I could come along on the playdate since it was my daughter's first time to her home. She said ok.

Soon after we arrived at the home, the mother suggested we take a short walk to Ranelagh Park to have the girls play there. Normally, that is a great idea, but soon after we arrived at the park it started to rain. We decided to take in a guignol/ marionette show that was about to begin.

The woman paid for my ticket, so I'm not sure how much they cost. I think the tickets usually cost less than 3 euro for the 40 minute show. The kids sat down in the front and I watched the show from a back seat. The first thing I realized was that I understood quite a bit of the show. I was thinking back to my first marionette show on the Champs de Mars nearly five years ago and how I understood absolutely nothing about the story.

The story on Saturday? Basically it was a guignol (the favorite French puppet who always has black hair, a pony tail and a billy club) who had some sheep. He sold it to a butcher for his beloved princess. The princess falls in love with the sheep, but the butcher wants to give the princess lamb chops instead. There was lots of screaming when the butcher took the sheep to his shop. Thankfully, guignol saves the day and gets the sheep back to the princess. A very happy ending and my daughter loved it.

The show is outside with a canopy over the stage and chairs.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:10 PM



Saturday, May 14, 2005

Jardin des Plantes

Yesterday I had a walking tour of the Place Monge and Jardin des Plantes area in the 5th arrondissement. Place Monge is a great part of Paris with so much character. We started by walking down rue de Mouffetard, with a wonderful open air market. The street is filled with interesting stores, mostly food related. My friend said, "you'll never be hungry on this street!" It was nice to see some of the old markers, from days past, on the buildings indicating what used to be sold at some of the stores.

This was a butcher shop -- notice the detail on the facade.

We made our way through the area, past rue Monge, and reached La Mosque de Paris. This Mosque has an interesting history. First, the French government gave the property to the French-Arab community in appreciation of North Africa's help in WWI. Then, in WWII, the Mosque was used to hide Jews from the Gestapo.

In addition to a prayer hall, the Mosque has a souk, hammam, restaurant and salon de the. We walked through the Tea salon and restaurant. Here is one picture of the tea salon patio. I love the Moroccan architecture.

We walked across the street from the Mosque to the Jardin des Plantes, the main botanical garden in France. The Jardin contains the botanical garden, the Grande Galerie de l'Evolution, and three natural history museums. There is also a formal French garden, an English garden, an aquarium, a maze, greenhouses, and a small, old-fashioned zoo.

The Jardin was the initiative of the premier botanists of the 16th century. Initially the jardin provided medicinal plants to Louis XIII. In 1739, Comte de Buffon was named curator of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris and converted the King's garden into a research centre and museum.

Buffon was perhaps best known for his Historie Naturelle, a 40 plus volume encyclopedia describing everything known about the natural world -- wrestling with the similarities and even common ancestry of humans and apes -- written about 100 years before Darwin. Here is a statue of Buffon (his heart was put into the statue, those romantic French), in the French garden and facing the Natural History museum at the Jardin des Plants.

Even though it was overcast yesterday, it was a very pleasant day for an outdoor walk around the city. The 5th arrondissement is very interesting and diverse and a wonderful place to spend the day in Paris.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
1:19 PM



Friday, May 13, 2005

La Nuit des Musees

Blogger has not been working for the last hour, so I will write a quick post. I found out that tomorrow is La Nuit des Musees here in Paris. Most museums -- 76 in and around Paris -- will be open from 7pm until midnight and offer free admission.

Additionally, some museums will have 'lights in the night' -- a game of shadows and lights for their displays. For instance, at the Pompidou Center there is an exhibit by visual artist Nathalie Junod Ponsard where light irradiates the trajectories and their displacements of the visitors. At the Louis Braille museum in Coupvray, you visit the museum by candle light. There are some concerts and workshops being hosted as well at other museums.

Check out the website for more information. Maybe I will see you at one of the museums. I am the one with two red-headed kids.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:57 PM



Thursday, May 12, 2005


A few weeks ago a friend wrote and asked for a favor. Apparently, her friend had been to Paris years ago and remembered fondly a trip to Angelina's. My friend asked if I could go to Angelina's and buy the namesake tea set as a present for her friend.

I've been waiting for the right day to visit the venerable tea salon, but it never arrived. My husband will soon be taking a trip to D.C. and I figured that I better get this task off my list soon so he can mail the tea set to our friend while he is in the US. So yesterday after I dropped the kids off at school in the morning I took the metro to the Tuileries. Angelina's, located on rue de Rivoli, is a quick walk from there.

Although every tourist I've ever spoken to has heard of Angelina's, it doesn't seem to be as well known to the French. Perhaps that is because it is listed in so many tour guides and websites and it's close to some of the most fashionable hotels in Paris.

Please follow me in....

When I arrive in Angelina's and ask to be seated the first thing I notice is that I am the only one there. It's 9:30am. Of course, I take a couple of quick pictures while no one is around. Although I was in Angelina's on a mission: buy a tea set, I thought I'd sit down and finally try Angelina's famous chocolate chaud -- African Hot Chocolate -- actual melted chocolate bars. (FYI... they are also know for their Mont Blanc dessert, but I don't like meringue and didn't try it.)

I guess Angelina's has been going through a renovation and the day I was there was the first day they were using new menus. Here is one breakfast option from the new menu, in case you are interested. I didn't order the "menu" because it sounded like more food than I wanted.

Getting back to the hot chocolate.... I've often prided myself that there is nothing too chocolatey for my taste buds. This theory has been tested many times over the years. I was matched yesterday. Angelina's African Hot Chocolate was thick and rich and chocolatey (but much better than Quik.. if you remember the slogan). To give you a sense of what to expect, the waitress brought the hot chocolate with a pitcher of water. That never happens in France -- you always have to ask for water, it is never automatically brought to a table. To give you a sense that the place caters to tourists, and specifically American tourists, she also brought a glass with ice! Additionally, they serve the hot chocolate with bowl of whipped cream. I'm not a big whipped cream fan, but let me tell you, I would not have been able to drink the hot chocolate without the whipped cream. It really cuts down the sweetness and thickness of the melted chocolate. Here is a picture of my petit dejeuner. I also ordered a "toasts" (toasted brioche).

As I said, I was defeated by Angelina's. I couldn't finish the little pitcher of hot chocolate (2 cups). It was an experience, but one I'm not likely to repeat. It was just too much for me. My hot chocolate and toast cost less than 9 euro. If you think you can handle the chocolate, try Angelina's. Then, let me know what you think.

Before I left, I did accomplish my mission... I bought the Angelina tea set for two. It cost 130 euro!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:49 PM



Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Tooth #4

My son's front tooth has been doing it's own thing for the past month. At first, we noticed it must be loose because one day it was crooked. For the last few weeks this front tooth is more noticeable, more pronounced. I've been following its progress, but generally, have not concerned myself about tooth #4. I've named it #4 because I'm hoping it will be my son's fourth baby tooth to depart from his mouth.

I mentioned my husband left on Saturday for a week work trip? All hell has broken loose (except this tooth!) and I consider this tooth thing high on my list. Why? Thank you for asking.

Yesterday, something happened at the school during recreation time. My son was playing near the slide, and this is where the story is murky, but something hit his chin and caused the top and bottom jaw to slam into each other. The result.. a bloody mess. That pesky tooth #4 was jetting out even more than usual and near the gum it was bloody. The school called. The teacher was concerned that tooth #4 was cracked or broken. .....It's a baby tooth. Do I really need to worry? ... I kept wondering when she was talking to me. I brushed off her concern thinking this tooth would fall out that night. It didn't.

My concern was raised this morning because the tooth hadn't fallen out and my son was miserable -- but he didn't want me to touch the tooth and he really didn't want to go to the dentist. He just sat at the breakfast table -- not wanting to eat and he kept making this sucking sound around his tooth.

Since it was Wednesday, my son had a half day at school. I picked him up at lunch and the teacher asked me what my plans are with the tooth. I told her I'd called the dentist, but he only had one time available all day and we just couldn't get to the dentist at that time.

In the afternoon I called my friend who is married to my dentist. She said that most likely, if I take my son to the dentist he will just pull the tooth out.

At dinner, I asked my son how school was today and he said the teacher was not happy that he disrupted the class with his sucking noises. He confided, in hushed tones, that he really did want the tooth out but didn't want me to hurt him. So I tried to get tooth #4 out. First I kind of pushed his mouth near the tooth. Nothing. Then I actually touched the tooth. Nothing. My son is wigging and moaning by this point. What am I doing wrong?? Finally, I actually used two fingers and tried to pinch the tooth out. It moved, but I couldn't pull #4 out. By this time my son is miserable. He's screaming. He's crying. It was terrible.

Eventually, my son calmed down. He's not happy he went though all that stress and I didn't even pull the tooth out! I'm calling the dentist again tomorrow and taking my son out of school if necessary.

I have so much respect for single parents. How do they do it? My husband is gone only for a week and I'm falling apart.

* Update: We went to the dentist this evening. An x-ray was taken. Tout va bien. Everything is fine. We can leave the tooth to come out on when it is ready. I can't tell you how relieved I am -- and so is my son. Thank you all for your comments of support. I really appreciated them!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:20 PM



Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Gare de Lyon

Yesterday my mother-in-law wanted to check out the Viaduc des Arts. She had read my post about the arts and crafts ateliers there and wanted to see it for herself.

There are about 50 craftspeople on the Viaduct, creating works of art from wood, linen, tiles, bronze, paper, silver, stone, and iron. Unfortunately, it was Monday and many of the stores were closed and hosting workshops. We did have fun watching the people in the workshops creating art. It was a feast for our eyes to see all these interesting and varied pieces of art while window shopping. However, next time we are going back when we can actually walk into the stores!

When we were done with our walk we headed toward the Gare de Lyon to catch a bus back to arrive home in time to pick up the children from school. Although I've been to this part of town -- the 12th arrondissement-- a couple of times, I don't think I ever noticed the clock tower at the Gare de Lyon. It looked just beautiful yesterday. Maybe it's been recently restored?

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:50 PM



Monday, May 09, 2005


Well the in-laws arrived on Friday and my husband left on Saturday for a week of work in Africa! What to do this past weekend with the kids and grandparents? I had a couple of suggestions, and my mother-in-law liked best the idea of going to Provins.

I was excited by her choice, because it's been years since we took a trip to Provins and now the kids could appreciate it a bit more. Provins is a well-preserved medieval fair town with walled fortifications about 90 km south-east of Paris. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Counts of Champagne offended the Kings of France by defying them from the Provins ramparts. The fairs of Provins were the most important in Europe and attracted cloth merchants from Flanders, spice merchants from the orient and many poets and intellectuals. However, wars, plaques and the slow disappearance of fairs led to the town's decline and its seclusion from many events in history. The good news is that because it was left alone, Provins is extremely well-preserved. In 2001, Provins became part of the UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Additionally, I had heard that Provins now hosted some interesting shows about Equestrian Falconry and Chivalry. I thought the kids would like to see one of the shows. When we got there the cashier gave us about 3 different brochures of information, in English, to review. There is a lot to do in this town. You could easily spend the whole day here exploring.

We ended up heading straight to the Equestrian Falconry show because it was starting shortly after we arrived. It's kind of pricey...34.80 euro for our group of 5 (3 adults, 2 kids), but it was a great show. It lasted 50 minutes and the kids loved it. The show was very entertaining, especially when the eagles, vultures and owls would fly right above our heads. I can't tell you how many times we ducked because we were convinced a bird of prey would hit us. My son also liked it when one of the bird keepers let a bird walk on his head.

After taking the "petite train" around the town of Provins, we headed up to Caesar's Tower (legend was that Julius Caesar built this great tower of Provins -- but this was later disproved). The grandparents waited downstairs, ready to take pictures while I walked up the tower with the kids. Provins was fortified to protect the road to Paris from marauding invaders. Here is a view from Caesar's tower of the Provins countryside. On the right is the local church, Saint Quiriace, where Joan of Arc and Charles VII once stopped by for Mass.

On the way out from the Falconry show, my daughter (after my son) decided to let one of the falcons rest on her arm.

It took us about 90 minutes to drive to Provins because a large part of the trip is off the major highway. We all had a nice time exploring this medieval city with so much preserved history. Provins annual major event of the year is the Medieval Festival, on June 11-12 this year, when people flood the streets in period costume -- craftspeople, jugglers and troubadours -- recalling the days before plagues, politics and changing trade routes diminished Provins' importance.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:29 PM



Sunday, May 08, 2005

Trocadero Park

I haven't talked too much about the fact that the kids have had the last two weeks off from school (school starts again tomorrow!). This week, we've been pretty exhausted from our trip last week to Egypt and haven't done a whole lot.

One day we stayed home all day and finally got up the energy to go out after dinner for a little walk to Trocadero Park. It stays light until 9pm now and the kids wanted to play in the park and then get some dessert... my son: a nutella crepe and my daughter: a vanilla ice cream cone.

After they played in the park and ate their desserts they explored the Trocadero fountain area. I took a picture of them climbing on the statues near the fountains. They were having so much fun together!

Happy Mother's Day to all in the US!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:34 PM



Saturday, May 07, 2005

Our Landlord

Our landlord stopped by yesterday. After our little problem with water damage (leaks from a poorly installed shower above us) we have seen him quite regularly. He apologized for being late, but he said he was tired because he just got back to Paris. He had just returned from Germany where he had been a guest of the German government for the commemoration of the liberation of the concentration camps.

About a year ago, he wrote us a letter -- which he does fairly often to conduct routine business -- and digressed by saying that it had been 60 or so years ago that day that the Gestapo had arrested him at 6:00am in the apartment we now occupied. We knew that he had been a career officer in the French army and that he had fought during World War II for the resistance. We did not know that, in fact, he was sent to a concentration camp for his involvement. This year he was back with 10,000 other German camp survivors. He reminisced a little and said it was painful to relive the memories but it was nice to meet up with a fellow inmate whom he hadn't seen in 20 years.

He loves Americans because he lived through WWII and knew the part we played in helping France. Our landlord was released from his camp the day after Hitler committed suicide. He said the doors were "just opened" that day. One of the first people he saw after his release was an American soldier, there to help.

He is -- and this is no exaggeration -- one of the nicest, most considerate and happiest people you will ever meet. After last summer's vacation he stopped by with a bottle of champagne to welcome us back and more specifically, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day, when the allied troops landed in Normandy.

When he gave us the champagne, I asked if he had a nice time at his country home, where he goes with his extended family every summer. He said, no, he did not go because his wife's health was just too fragile and she needed to be close to a hospital. I said that I was very sad for him since he couldn't be with his family but he looked at me with a big grin and laughed "Why? I'm old!" I have taken a life lesson from him. I can only imagine that at the age of 20 he was sitting in a work camp physically and emotionally beaten, fully believing that he wasn't going to make it home alive. Today, he is absolutely thrilled to be old. I hope I'll have the same attitude when I reach his age.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:21 PM



Friday, May 06, 2005

It Sounded Better in French ...

Haven't you ever thought.... things just sound better in French? The other night was proof of that for me. My husband and I went out to dinner with friends. The waiter informed our group that there was only four more of the recommended appetizer, the asparagus, left. Since there were four couples, each couple ordered the asparagus. My husband let me have the asparagus and tried to figure out what to order. He ended up ordering:

"la tarte fine a la tomate et mozzarella."

I'm not sure what my husband thought he was getting, but I had in mind some tasty crust with buffalo mozzarella and plump tomato slices. What came.....

a pizza!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:56 PM



Thursday, May 05, 2005

Should We Stay or Go?

So, I left you, dear reader, at the decision point. Bombs had gone off and people were shooting at tour buses. Should we stay safely ensconced in our well guarded hotel in the middle of a desert or do we venture forth and see interesting things?

We decided to stay safe and spent the rest of the day at the hotel.

Attention Family Members, YOU CAN STOP READING NOW. The rest of the post is boring.

Ok, now that the family has stopped reading, we continue.

Bombs schmombs. After a good night's sleep and advice from some expats we met at the hotel we decided to go see the pyramids at Saqqara as we had planned. Saqqara is a necropolis, a big cemetery about 20 km south of Cairo. We didn't have to go through the city of Cairo to get there so it seemed like a safe destination. Plus, the expats offered helpfully, "Saqqara is big place, so you can run and hide ..."

We hired a taxi to take us there. The highlight of a trip to Saqqara is the Step pyramid. The Step pyramid is the first known monumental structure made of stone anywhere in the world and is considered the earliest pyramid. It was built under the reign of King Djoser (2667-2648 B.C.). There are six layers of stone, decreasing in size as the pyramid rises toward the sky. After Djoser, step pyramids developed into proper pyramids.

My husband took a digital picture while I took a 35mm picture of the Step pyramid. What I wanted to know is... who's bike is that??

At this plateau we also walked into the tomb of Mereruka, chief executive to Pharaoh Teti (who ruled circa 2323 to 2291 B.C.). Mereruka was also the son-in-law of Pharaoh Teti, whose ruined pyramid is diagonally across from this tomb. Mereruka's tomb, one of the largest with more than 33 rooms and hallways, was discovered in the late 19th and has now been restored. It's darker and a little cooler in here. The walls are covered with intricate 4,000-year-old carvings.

Also on the Saqqara plateau is the broken down pyramid of Teti, which you can actually enter. Since we didn't enter the medium pyramid at Giza because of the long line, we were glad to have an opportunity to enter Teti's pyramid. What an experience. First of all you have to bend over double to walk down the corridor (the kids loved it!). Once inside the burial chamber you can see Teti's sarcophagus. All around you can see hieroglyphics and stars chiseled into the walls. Amazing... But not something for people who suffer from bad backs or claustrophobia.

After Saqqara, our driver took us to Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt. Memphis was founded about 3000 B.C. by the first pharaoh of Egypt. There isn't a lot to the area, but we were taken to a museum which houses the fallen colossus of Ramses II ....nearly 40 feet long... even without its legs. I thought it was just beautiful (I'm seriously addicted to statues at this point) and it was so amazingly well preserved. Ramses II face is just easy on the eyes...

I hate to say Egypt was a trip of a lifetime because I might go there again someday.... but it was an amazing place. I have neglected to mention that the people were incredibly nice from the moment we arrived. My children made a particular friend with Ali, the lifeguard, who played with them, putting them on his shoulders in the pool and teaching them how to swim, just because he was a nice guy and there were no other people in the pool at night. To appreciate how much my children thought of him, my very shy daughter personally gave him an Eiffel Tower key chain we'd brought and allowed him to give her a kiss.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
12:32 PM



Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Pyramids

The second and third days of our trip we spent admiring pyramids. There are 119 pyramids in Egypt and we tried to see a few of them.

The second day we headed to the "Great Pyramid." It is truly a wondrous sight. We hired a cab and tour guide for the day and it was just as amazing as I thought it might be. Our Egyptian guide was so proud of the pyramids and you do have to wonder, how did they do this 5000 years ago?? The Egyptians were brilliant for being able to construct such magnificent edifice.

People refer the "trio" of pyramids -- large, medium and small. King Khufu (2609 - 2584 BC) ordered the construction of the "Great Pyramid," the largest pyramid. In fact, for four thousand years it was the tallest building in the world. The Great pyramid is the only survivor of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Khufu's son, King Khafre ordered the medium sized pyramid -- in deference to his father it was made smaller but on higher ground :) -- during his reign. Khafre's pyramid complex included the Sphinx, a Mortuary Temple, and a Valley Temple. The interesting thing about this pyramid is that the pyramid casing survives at the top. It's the only pyramid with part of the casing still intact.

The grandson of King Khufu, King Menkaure, ordered the construction of the smaller pyramid. As we were heading to the pyramid plateau my son noticed that there were a few smaller pyramids on the horizon. I thought there were only the three -- but low and behold -- there were three small pyramids for the Queen mother, wife and other children of King Khufu.

At the pyramid panorama spot, about a mile away from the pyramids, we took lots of pictures and a 10 minute dromedary ride. Now that was fun. While out riding on the camels we were able to take more pictures of the pyramids. We all agree that riding the camels at the pyramid plateau was one of the highlights of our trip. Here is the family.

After the dromedary ride we were driven to the medium pyramid to take a peek inside (the only pyramid on the plateau you can walk into a little), but there was a long line so we skipped it. We then headed over to the Sphinx. The Sphinx is grand and beautiful. We sat down and just stared at the view for a few minutes. I felt very lucky to be there to see such a magnificent sight. The interesting thing is how (relatively) small the sphinx is. You always see pictures like this one with the pyramid in the back -- but the pyramid is quite a distance away which makes the sphinx look bigger.

After that we headed over the government gift store, the Merit Center, not far away. I was going to visit the Khan al Khalili market, but since there was a bomb there a few weeks ago, security has been very high and we decided against a visit. The government store worked out well. I bought a cartouche with my name and some beautiful papyrus paintings with my children's name on them in hieroglyphics. They are wonderful souvenirs from our trip.

The Egyptian calendar with my son's name in hieroglyphics on the left and Arabic on the right.

After an exhausting day we went back to the hotel to swim in the pools. We called our American friends who were also visiting Cairo, but staying at a different hotel. They asked if we'd heard about the bomb in central Cairo that day. My friends were visiting the Egyptian museum when the bomb went off right outside. They heard the bomb. They were leaving the next day, so their plans weren't affected, but we were left wondering.... what should we do on our last day in Cairo?? Should we play it safe and stay at the hotel all day long? Or should our intrepid crew plow on? Stayed tuned ...

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:34 PM



Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Egyptian Museum

Egypt was a wonderful trip and for someone who enjoys just looking at something... a sunset, the Eiffel Tower.... the Great Pyramid was no different. But I'm jumping ahead of myself.

We stayed outside of Cairo at the JW Marriott. The hotel was wonderful -- virtually brand new -- and the kids really appreciated the four pools of which some are part of an artificial beach they have there. But for anyone without kids I wouldn't stay there. Having said that, we met a British couple who come to Cairo often and they said the JW was the nicest hotel to stay at while in Cairo. I'm sure I'd agree, it's just so far from town. I think it took about 30 - 40 minutes to take a taxi into Cairo.

Egyptian Museum

We had three full days in Cairo. The first day we took a cab to the Egyptian museum. The sun was so bright when I took the picture. You are not allowed to bring your camera inside the museum, but the amount of ancient items in the museum is breathtaking. It's not a museum like the Louvre where everything is polished and clean with everything in its place. I'm sure there is a very specific order to the Egyptian museum, but you feel like every item is thousands of years old and they placed the item with other items that were found at the same time. Apparently, there are something like 40,000 items on display at any one time and they all have some amazing story that you'd like to learn. The number of items on display is almost overwhelming and you really aren't sure where you should be looking because it all looks so interesting. and foreign. and old. Of course there is the Tutankhamun exhibit that is in its own small dark room.

That room was filled with people and we were there during a week in off season. I can't imagine what it's like in high season. There is also a special mummy room, which we didn't tour because I think the kids had had enough about death. We had taken an hour tour with a museum guide and he told us quite a lot in that time. We had to stop the tour guide early on as he went into *graphic* detail about how a body was prepared for the mummification process. Nevertheless, I felt like we got a nice overview of the museum and for an hour it held the attention of the kids. I'm so glad we were able to spend time there.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:20 PM



Monday, May 02, 2005

Back Home

Just got back from our short trip to Cairo. We are exhausted so I won't write much now. Egypt was amazing and I can't wait to review the trip and give you a report. I just hope the pictures are half as good as the real thing. Till tomorrow...

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:18 PM