Thursday, June 30, 2005


Bordeaux, the land of wonderful wines. While I was staying at the winery, I could swear I smelled wine in the air and it was wonderful. There are four red wine regions in Bordeaux:

Medoc: Medoc, Haut Medoc, Margaux, Sainte Estephe, Pauillac, Saint Julien, Listrac, and Moulis.
Graves: Graves, Pessac Leognan, Sauternes, Barsac, Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux
Cotes Wine: Cotes de Bourg, Cotes de Blaye, Cotes de Castillon, and Cotes de Francs
Libourne: Sainte Emilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac,

As I mentioned yesterday, I stayed in the Medoc region in Margaux. With the two kids, I didn't do any wine tasting. However, one day I did take a short ride to take some pictures on the scenic route that is appropriately named Route des Chateaux, the wine chateaux route.

Here are some of the chateaux that we passed. They are just beautiful.

Chateau Kirwan
Chateau Palmer

Chateau Branaire Ducru
Chateau Pichon Longueville

Last week Medoc celebrated the 150th anniversary of their wine classification. This classification, created in 1855, was developed by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce at the request of Napoleon III. A first cru, the best classification, ensures a high price for the wine. For instance, a Chateau Lafite Rothschild ranges in price on the internet from a $145/1996 bottle to a $585/2000 bottle. Nothing like being ranked first!

When I moved to France, my French brother-in-law advised us to buy Bordeaux. Although we've branched out a bit (we especially like Brouilly), when it doubt, we do buy Bordeaux and we've never been disappointed.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:22 PM



Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fleur de Lis

Thank you for your kind comments about my future departure from France. I really appreciated reading all of them. You haven't gotten rid of me yet... I will be in France for another month.

For the last couple of days I took a short trip to Bordeaux to stay with my son's friend in the Margaux area. His friend's family owns a vineyard and I stayed there with the kids.

I just got back today -- for the last couple of days my husband posted items I'd previously written -- and I am really exhausted. So let me just tell you that I had a wonderful time and that I'll give you details tomorrow.

Until then... when I arrived the flowers were starting to lose their beauty. In fact, the day after I arrived a storm pretty much wiped them out. The grandmother, the owner of the estate took me outside the first night and proudly showed me her patch of white "fleur de lis" flowers so well known in France.

As I said, more tomorrow, but I wanted to share a picture of the building where we stayed. I love these colors of France... the yellow/cream/orange of the building walls and the blue of the shutters. Wouldn't those colors look lovely in a kitchen in DC??

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:33 PM



Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I Love Paris Every Moment of the Year

You know when you find out some information and you just need time to digest what it means and how it will affect your life? Well, for a while now I've known that I will be leaving France next month. Although this is no surprise to the people that see or speak to me daily, I just didn't know how to write about it and tell you loyal readers. I am sad because I do love France. I have a healthy relationship with Paris... every day I fall in love with the city but some days the people and rules drive me crazy.

My husband took a new job working for the Federal Government in Washington DC. He started his job weeks ago and I've been here trying to get through my days as a single parent. My husband wisely came back to visit my birthday weekend, but I will not see him again until mid-July. For those of you wondering why I'm visiting your blog less often, this is the reason.

One reason I haven't blogged about leaving Paris is that I don't want people to feel sorry for me because I'm at peace about moving back. I also don't want people to tell me every day how much I'm going to miss Paris. I know that. I love my life here. Although when I think about what I will miss the most.... it is my son's best friend. He's become like a second son in my family and I will miss being a part of his life.

My son's friend G eating a burrito for the first time in his life. He had two that night at dinner.

The rest... I know I will be back to see this beautiful city, eat the wonderful food and keep up the friendships that I've started. There are too many things I'm going to miss, but I know this will be on the top of my list...

Although I didn't think I'd ever like "going for a coffee," I have come to relish these moments with my friends.... Anna, Miriam, Ania, Denise, Pauline, Lisa, Michelle, Irene, Marie, Valerie.

I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles

I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh why do I love Paris
Because my love is here

Cole Porter

-- said Auntie M in Paris
12:19 PM



Monday, June 27, 2005


As a follow on to my Smart Car post ...

Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers are popular. In Paris. It's true. Maybe they are popular elsewhere too? Honestly, I can't get over how popular they are here. Young hip things where them all around. My Parisian blogging friend has a whole family of converse sneakers.

And cream is the color. One day I saw two young women wearing the exact same cream converse sneaker on the bus -- and I rarely see people wearing the same thing. Every Paris sneaker store you pass has lots of converse sneakers in the showcase. I really want a pair. Too bad they look awful on my feet.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:19 PM



Sunday, June 26, 2005

Picnic in the Park

Yesterday we had a bloggers picnic at Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement in Paris. Buttes Chaumont is huge. It took me, with map in hand, about 20 minutes and 5 phones calls to find our group.

About 25 people showed up for the picnic. After a full week of extremely hot weather, we had a very pleasant afternoon and it even cooled down in early evening. Most importantly, after days of threatening weather reports, there was no rain storm at all.

A couple of pictures of people who attended the picnic.

One website states that Parc des Buttes Chaumont "approaches the drama of a Delacroix painting. There are high cliffs, great trees, a 30 m waterfall and an iron bridge which springs from a cliff face to a pinnacle crowned by a temple." That is a very accurate description. Here is one picture of the waterfall (in the background).

Thank you to all who organized the picnic.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:42 PM



Saturday, June 25, 2005

Bistro de Breteuil

In one of my last French classes, the teacher went around the room asking everyone to tell the group about their favorite restaurants in Paris. Since the group is international, the restaurant recommendations were not necessarily the ones you'd find in Zagat's. For instance, I tried a local Korean restaurant because it was recommended. I even ordered what the classmate suggested. It was very good and I was glad to try something new.

One French restaurant that someone recommended was the Bistro de Breteuil in the 7th arrondissement. I had been to this place about two years before, but forgot about it. So when my friends decided they wanted a group of us to go out to dinner, I recommended this bistro.

This place is perfect for a group of people because everyone must order the 32 euro dinner menu. It's the only choice that I could see. For your money, you get a kir to start, an appetizer, a main course, a half a bottle of wine, a dessert and a coffee. Believe me, this is a great deal in Paris.

Even better is the fact that the menu options are amazing. I had a hard time choosing from all the good options...for dinner you can have... veal, lamb, steak, and three types of fish. I ordered shrimp for an appetizer, a white fish for dinner and profiteroles for dessert. Yummy. Everyone enjoyed their meal.

Another plus... even though it was really hot out again last night, the terrace was open and there was a breeze while we ate. It was wonderful until the smoker sat down near me and that breeze turned into smoke.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:38 PM



Friday, June 24, 2005

Birth Name

A friend of mine lived in Paris for a couple of years before moving back to the US years ago. While she was here she bought her two children name paintings. She recently gave birth to her third child and asked if I could order a new painting. Well, I got the call today and picked up her new painting. One is for her child.
Aren't they cute?

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:56 PM



Thursday, June 23, 2005


For the last week it's been around 90+ degrees Fahrenheit pretty much every day. It's been very sunny too. Since there are very few places with air conditioner you just leave one hot sticky place to go to another. There isn't any relief.

Today I had a few errands to run around town and by the time I got home around 3pm I was hot and sweaty enough to contemplate subjecting you poor, dear readers to some bad poetry that went along the lines of ... so hot. sweat pouring out of my body. shirt sticking to back.... Yes, I know, it's not really a poem, but I was exhausted from the heat and wasn't thinking straight!

Yesterday, my son had his end of year golf test, which lasted from 2pm until 6:00pm. It was another really hot day. Yet my daughter and I had to keep ourselves busy at the park for 4 hours. We'd spend 10 minutes in the sun and then have a snack and drink in the shade. It was just too hot to stay in the sun for long. We walked over to a part of the park that has a sprinkler system to see if it was running. Yep. My daughter took her shorts off and joined the fun. Even running through the sprinklers, we could only stay for 15 minutes in the sun.

My son ended up getting the gold prize yesterday at golf. He succeeded in meeting all the requirements of a 7/8 year old to win a gold golf pin. He was wearing it proudly when I came to pick him up.

When we finally got home my daughter wanted to take a bath. I think she really wanted to find a pool!

Update.... A rainstorm made its way through Paris a couple of hours ago. It rained about an hour. Even though the rain came down hard, everyone on our street had their windows open because it felt so good -- the rain and the coolness it brought. Although it's still hot, it's bearable right now.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:37 PM



The Sales are Coming

It's that time of the year again. The bi-annual sales month starts tomorrow. Expect most stores to be packed with people, especially the major department stores.

However, there will be some good sales to find. As you can see from the BHV ad, some of its items will be marked down 50 percent (although it ranges from store to store, item to item). The sales month ends July 23. Happy shopping.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:46 PM



Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Fete de l'Ecole

I started my Fete de la Musique day getting on the metro to do some errands. On the way, a musician joined our car and played an instrument... okay I just described what I saw on google and this is the instrument... a santoor. A pretty exotic way to start the day.

I had to rush around in the morning because yesterday was the Fete de l'Ecole for us... the end of year school party. Our party was held at the Lido again, which is located on the Champs Elysees. Here was the view yesterday as I made my way toward the Lido.

I heard a lot of music yesterday. My daughter, after weeks of fears about "the day," got on stage and had a great time. She showed no fear. Each child has a song to sing for their regular French class and their English class. My daughter had two English songs -- Yellow Submarine and One Big Family -- and she sang proudly through the numbers. She was dressed in this beautiful red Spanish dress and her hair up in a bun with red flowers. She had this flamenco dance with a boy (who she really likes) from her class and I do believe she took the lead! She really was adorable.

My son's class arrives at the Lido while a businessman walks by unfazed.

My son sang Free To Be You and Me for his English song. His French class performed a Danse Irlandaise. We practiced the English song at home a number of times, but I never asked my son what he was doing for his French class, even though I had to make a green belt for his costume. I've told you before that I am amazed that my son speaks nearly native French. I am still filled with awe and pride when I hear him with his friends. Well, I felt the same way yesterday when I saw him perform on stage and dance the Irish jig. Who knew? He can really move. I didn't know he had it in him. Even though I noticed he was biting his nails right before he got on stage, once on, he performed with real joy.

Once the show was over, my son went home with his best friend. My daughter and some friends ran around on stage for a while until the crew came in to clean up. We walked outside to another incredibly hot, sunny day. My daughter and her friend walked up to the Etoile/Arc de Triomphe where we would part our ways.

Right at the metro stop, there was a band playing some music. Even though I knew my daughter must be exhausted by this point she wanted to stay and listen to the music. I gave her some money for the collection jar. It was an afternoon I will long remember.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:49 PM



Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Birthday Parties

Each of my children had a birthday party to attend on Sunday. We dropped my son and a friend off at one party and I brought my daughter to the other party. I did ask ahead of time if I could stay with my daughter and the mother replied "I won't even be there, so feel free."

My son's birthday party was in the Marais. Having just been there last weekend the kids were excited to be somewhere familiar. It's so funny. They get out of the metro and they are surprised.... "we've been here before!" Why, yes, just 7 days ago. It reminds me of when I pull something out of a closet... like a toy and my son sees the toy and tell me "mom, I've found one of my toys!"

Anyway, we walked through the Marais again. I don't think there is a more fun, lively place to walk around on a Sunday in Paris. There are so many quaint, unique shops and most of them seem to be open!

Our destination: Musee de la Magie. I'd never been to this museum before. In fact, I'd never even heard about it. But now that I'm writing about it and searching for links, I see that the Washington Post wrote an article last week about this small museum!

At the party, the kids learned a few magic tricks. They also interacted with the automated curiosities... a hand sticking out from a box ...when you shake the hand a top hat is raised. My son loved that. He also mentioned a mirror that breaks and slides down the wall when a person passes. My daughter and I actually passed by the mirror when we were dropping him off and it really scared us! My son came home from the party with a magic trick (le coquetier magique). He was very excited to show off his new magic skills. A very successful party, indeed.

Room of old automated curiosities.

My daughter's party was at someone's home. We walked in to the party to find the entertainer that we used for my daughter's party. As a result, the entertainer gave us a warm welcome. He did his usual show. Just for your information, the typical entertainer at a kid's party does... make up ... magic tricks ...drinks and cake.... open presents....marionette show...go fishing for presents... and often blow up balloons and shapes them into animals. I've been to a lot of birthday parties and no matter the entertainer, that is the normal show. This guy, our guy, also brought a dove and bunny rabbit. At my daughter's party in February she refused to touch either animal. She also refused at her friend's party in April. But on Sunday she did pet the rabbit. I was so proud!

Here is the food table for the kids. This is a truly typical spread for a birthday party. Marshmallows are a popular "special" item at the birthday party. You can buy them in the bag, as we know them, but they are also a specialty item in most boulangeries...basically a gourmet snack. There is also a flourless chocolate cake. Just about every French kid's party has this chocolate cake.

Notice the sandwiches above? I was helping out and wanted to pass the sandwiches around. So I ask the host's babysitter what kind of sandwiches they were so I could tell the children. She says "American Lady's Choice spread." I ask what she is talking about. It doesn't sound American to me. She brings out the bottle below.... I think I would describe it as tartar sauce. I told the woman I wasn't aware of Americans who made sandwiches with this stuff (although I went through a phase of making miracle whip sandwiches). The things Americans get credited with in France!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:20 PM



Monday, June 20, 2005

Fete de la Musique

Tomorrow is the Fete de la Musique in France and all around the world.

Fete de la Musique was started in France in 1982 by Maurice Fleuret, who wanted to bring music to the streets of Paris. According to the website, the celebration was started on "June 21, the day of summer solstice, a pagan night which recalls the ancient tradition of Saint John's feasts."

Professional and amateur, jazz and rock... all music has it's place on the Fete de la Musique. It's one of the charms of living in Paris.. you never know if you will pass a group of Indian musicians playing sitars, a small symphony playing Chopin, or someone standing alone with the accordion playing La Vie en Rose (okay, so you can find that one every day somewhere in Paris). It's so charming. Whatever you find along your daily path, it will add a beat to your walk.

Check out the website for concerts in your area. It's now, as I mentioned, a world wide event. It's apparently in more than 100 countries on five continents. There is even a lone concert listed for the US... in Miami.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:51 AM



Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fete des Tuileries

Yesterday started the Fete des Tuileries, the annual Fair held in the Tuileries Garden. I decided to take the kids there for a few hours in the afternoon. We had attended this fair two or three years ago and I don't think anything changed. In fact, the Fair poster looks like it was originally made in the 1950s. It's probably been going on for decades, at least.

The Fair is located on the terrace of the Tuileries. If you get off at the Tuileries metro, you take just a few steps to enter the fair. Entry is free, but the rides are expensive... usually around three of four euro per ride. The piece de resistance at the Fair is the Ferris Wheel. I think we took 4 tours around.... the kids loved the ride and the wonderful views of Paris.

The Ferris Wheel entrance with the Louvre in the background. Paris is amazing that it can mix old (Louvre chateau) and new (pyramids of Louvre), serious (statue of men) and fun (Ferris wheel) together. It's such a together city. It's always en vogue.

Here is one view from the Ferris Wheel. My son noticed that there was a tree "painted" on the ground (bottom right) and wondered how that was done. Anyone have a clue?

There are many other traditional fair rides... bumper cars, a big slide, lots of games of chance and one really crazy ride called the Ejection... a bungee swing that seems to fly into the air like a ball attached to a rubber band. My son was very interested in the ride, but even he wasn't foolish enough to ask to try it. There were also carnival games like shoot the balloon and win a prize. Finally, there were a few places to get some food, ice cream or the delicious granita's (basically a slush). Since it was so unbelievably hot yesterday, we each had a granita and they tasted so good! Maybe I just miss ice drinks.

If you are planning to be in Paris during the summer with children this is a wonderful place to go.... you could spend time at the Louvre and then promise to take the kids on the Ferris Wheel (6 euro adults, 4 euro kids). The Fair is open until August 21.

Entrance to Tuileries Garden from Place de la Concorde.

People were either in the shade or near water yesterday because of the heat.

Happy Father's Day to all you father's, grandfather's, godfather's, and step father's out there.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:17 PM



Saturday, June 18, 2005

Gare St Lazare

We met at metro Liege to start our tour of the Gare St. Lazare area. Our tour guide told us that rue Liege used to be the place men would come to find bordellos in Paris. The doors of these places remain, although the businesses inside have changed.

This was the door of a lower class bordello. The doors were refurbished years ago and the panels were placed on the wrong side -- the faces are supposed to be looking at each other as lovers do. These faces are supposed to represent Abelard and Heloise, the scandalous lovers from the 12th century. You would have known that the doors opened the way for another type of illicit love... prostitution.

After rue Liege we walked down to rue Moscou to find where the French painter Gustave Caillebotte painted his famous painting...

"Paris Street, Rainy Day"

Caillebotte's most intriguing paintings are the ones of the new broad Parisian boulevards. He was trained as an engineer by profession and liked geometry in his paintings.

Interestingly, Manet and Monet also painted some of their famous paintings in this area of Paris too. However, it wasn't an artists colony because the area near the Gare St Lazare was too expensive for most artists. Caillebotte had inherited a large sum from his father and could live where ever he wanted.

We ended the tour by Gare St. Lazare, made famous by Claude Monet in a painting.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:54 AM



Friday, June 17, 2005

Cernuschi Museum

I read that after several years of refurbishment, the Musee Cernuschi would be opening its doors today. So I headed over to the 8th arrondissement to have a look. The museum is located past the Parc Monceau gates, but before the actual park. Aside from the French flag flying proudly, you might walk right past this mansion.

Musee Cernuschi is a large collection of Asian art. Henri Cernuschi (1821-1896) was a banker who left to the city of Paris his large art collection, which he acquired over the course of a long journey around the world. He also donated his private residence, the Musee Cernuschi mansion.

I really liked this museum. The mansion itself is beautiful. The layout of the items is stark. The colors on the wall are grays and browns. The floors are a dark hardwood. I loved the earth tones for the backdrop of the collection items, usually made of stone, dried earth and bronze.

In the main room on the first floor is a huge Buddha in bronze. Apparently, Mr. Cernuschi found it in the suburbs of Tokyo. It is clearly the showcased item of the museum and they were kind enough to provide a comfortable gray bench for people to gaze upon the beautiful Buddha, as I did.

Amithaba Buddha. 18th Century, Edo era (1605-1867)

Musee Cernuschi is another city museum of Paris, so unless there is a special exhibit, entry is free. If you have any interest in Asian art, check out this gem of a museum.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:44 PM




Excuse the normal blogging content for this newsflash of useless information. Tom Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes on top of the Eiffel Tower this morning! I can't get over that yucky feeling I get when I see pictures of them. Let's see how long this relationshp lasts.

Katie and her movie come to town...

-- said Auntie M in Paris
4:00 PM



Thursday, June 16, 2005

Parc de Thoiry

My daughter had her end of the year sortie/field trip on Tuesday. I was one of three mothers invited to go along with the class to the Parc de Thoiry.

Parc de Thoiry is basically split into two parts. In one section, there is a game reserve safari where you drive your car (or bus in our case) through an area where the animals are not caged. Potentially, the friendlier ones, like zebras, could come right up to your window.

The elephants were kind enough to pee when our bus passed. The boys thought that was just wonderful entertainment!

Side story... The last time I was at Thoiry our family went with another family. The daughter of that family had brought carrot pieces to give to the animals to ensure they came up to the family car. Well one of those "friendly" zebras ended up taking a bite at the little girl's stomach. We had to rush her to the hospital. She was fine, but she was the talk of the emergency room. It's not everyday the Paris children's hospital gets a kid come in complaining of being bitten by a zebra. Needless to say, I stay away from zebras now.

We started with the game reserve and despite the heat (the air conditioner on the bus wasn't working well) the kids had a great time. They loved looking at the giraffes, the ostriches, the hippos, the bison and all the rest. There is also a special area of the drive that is gated to house the lions. There were four lazy lions laying out in the sun. My daughter told me that night that the lions were the best part of the trip.

After driving the bus through the game reserve we stopped for a picnic lunch and then proceeded to the other part of Parc de Thoiry....the Chateau Thoiry... behind which is a traditional botanical and zoological garden.

Chateau Thoiry

We walked through the zoo area looking at birds, wolves, and ducks among other animals. We then let the kids play around in the jungle gym area before looking at some antelope. Then it was time to take the petit train to the chateau toward the exit. The kids played catch on the grass, had some drinks and snacks and then we left to go back to school.

My daughter asked when we could go back again as a family. She thought it was a wonderful field trip and was telling her father all about it when we got home.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
3:21 PM



Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Victor Hugo Museum

Although I'd been to Place des Vosges a few times before and let the kids play in the corner of the square where there is a jungle gym and slide, I never knew I was so close to the Victor Hugo museum. I asked a woman, who was reading something about city museums of Paris where she got the information sheet and she said at the museum... and pointed across the street.

The museum is located at 6 Place des Vosges. Victor Hugo lived here from 1832 until 1848. Unfortunately, years after Hugo's family moved out, his furniture was auctioned off. However, the city of Paris has researched and reviewed old documents and has presented the apartment as accurately as possible. The apartment houses some interesting things... lots of pictures of Hugo, all his novels, and some of his furniture, including his bed (donated by his grandchildren Georges and Jeanne).

Bust of Hugo by his friend, David D'Angers.

This museum is small and uninspiring but worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood.... after all, since it is a city museum... admission is free (when there isn't a special exhibition is going on).

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:15 AM



Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Place des Vosges

This past Sunday the family took the metro over to the Marais area. We had intended to try the temporary Nutella restaurant that Camomille mentioned on the blog last week. Unfortunately, it took our family a while to get going in the morning and we didn't get to the Marais until 1:00pm and there was a long line at la table Nutella. The maitre d' told my husband that if we stood on line, it was unlikely we'd get in to the restaurant because it was closing at 3:00pm. Very disappointing. Now what to do?

We decided to grab falafel sandwiches and a bagel and head to Place des Vosges. The weather was magnificent... sunny and warm. There was a "symphony" playing classical music with people gathered around.

Those not gathered around the music were sunning themselves on the grass. Yes, you read that right. There were so many people on the grass that my husband and I thought we might have read the sign wrong... Pelouse au repos. We agreed that it meant something like the lawn is resting. Does that mean people can rest on the lawn too??

The kids played in the park for hours and eventually my son was asked to play soccer with some other boys. It was a really restful family day.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
7:47 PM



Wool Mule

My husband went to the US and this is what he brought back for my France wool-loving sister....

Yes, indeed, it is a feed bag filled with wool... from her friend Maureen who has a farm in West Virginia. As you can see, it's a rather large bag (especially when put next to a 5 year old girl and her Barbie suitcase).

The good news is that it is much lighter than it looks. The kids had a good time pretending each was a muscle man/woman lifting this bag above their heads. We all had a good laugh.

Ah, the things we do for our sisters....

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:20 AM



Monday, June 13, 2005


GOAL is an international humanitarian agency dedicated to the alleviation of the suffering of the poorest of the poor. GOAL works towards ensuring that the most vulnerable in our world and those affected by humanitarian crises have access to the fundamental needs and rights of life, i.e. food, water, shelter, medical attention and primary education.

My friend helped organize a fundraiser for the charity organization GOAL. The event was held Saturday night at the Hotel Concorde at Porte Maillot.

So my husband and I got dressed up (which believe me is a rare event) and I even wore make-up to have a nice evening out with our friends. We had a champagne hour with Moet et Chandon (delicious!) followed by your typical fare when cooking the same food for 300 people -- salmon for an appetizer, Irish beef and potatoes for the main course, and a chocolate cake for dessert.

After the dinner there was an auction. Two friends threw caution to the wind and started bidding on items they liked. One was a John Galliano bag that looked like you were carrying around a small sheep that hadn't been sheared in a while. My other friend bid on a piece of art. They were both happy to have bought something while at the same time giving money to a good cause.

The Concorde Hotel

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:17 PM



Sunday, June 12, 2005

Jules Verne

One really, really nice way to celebrate a birthday would be to have lunch at Jules Verne. On Friday, after making a reservation two months ago in April, my girlfriend and I took the special elevator entrance up to one of the best restaurants in Paris.

The yellow awning announces Jules Verne to the lucky entrants with the correct name and reservation.

We took the private elevator up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower to the restaurant. Every moment that passes by is screaming privileged to me. You feel special just being there. You walk out of the elevator and there are so many service staff waiting to seat you, help with your wine choice, cheese choice or whatever else you may want. The setting itself is elegant. The decor, basically geometric in design, fits perfectly with the Tower as the backdrop.

We were the first to arrive and be seated with our 12:15pm reservation. My French sister had called last week to see if we could have a window seat and was told "everyone wants a window seat Madame!" But it must have worked. I had one of the best seats in the restaurant.

View from my chair. Amazing, huh?

I am kicking myself that I forgot to take a picture of the menu. It would have made describing this wonderful meal so much easier, so bear with me. We started with a kir (cassis and dry white wine). Although I've grown to love champagne while living in France, I really enjoy a kir (as opposed to a kir royal with champagne) for an aperitif. Homemade bread sticks with nuts were brought to the table to enjoy with our drinks. Then we were brought our amuse bouche, in a ramekin, that was comprised of duck hash with little pieces of celery and carrots topped with a celery mousse. It was light and flavorful.

We both ordered the menu and started with the foie gras surrounded by the same duck hash. I am sure that I never ever thought to order foie gras in the US, but like champagne, I have really grown to appreciate a good piece of foie gras. It was creamy and rich and tasted heavenly. To go along with the foie gras was an onion concoction that was tangy and sweet and a wonderful complement.

For the main course, I ordered the grilled tuna with a red pepper sauce. Amazing. Really tender (au point) and the grilled flavor with the tuna worked so well together. My friend had a bite and it was the first thing she noticed too. Along with the tuna came a zucchini fondue, although the waiter described it as a gratin when he gave it to me. It was probably somewhere in between. There was a light crust on the top and it was creamy in the middle. The "fondue" was good, but not spectacular. My friend ordered the chicken in a cream sauce. It was tasty, but looked and tasted like something we could make at home. We choose a bourgogne aligote, a white wine, to drink with the dinner.

Finally, the dessert... my friend ordered the tapioca pudding so I felt obliged to order the chocolate macaroon with a side of cherries (the waiter said it was his favorite). Lots of different chocolate consistencies all mingled together. The cherries, topped with a thick cream were a good balance to all the chocolate. A delicious combination.

Needless to say, the truffles, offered to us, were divine.

The "menu" for lunch is 55 euro. The dinner "menu" is 125 euro. Prices include service, but no drinks. I'd heard that the Jules Verne wasn't as good as it used to be. But I thought the meal was terrific and the ambiance incomparable. If you ever have the opportunity to have a meal at the Jules Verne, do it! It was absolutely one of the best experiences I've had in France.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:25 AM



Saturday, June 11, 2005


I like to tell people that if I were born 5 days earlier (and my mother's due date was in May!) I would have been born on 6/6/66 at 6pm. I know that the 666 thing is not necessarily a good thing (and my parents most definitely thought I was a "devil" at many points in my childhood), but I always thought it was cool.

For any of you lurkers who have never left a comment (and of course you regular commentors!).... I expect one today! Pretty please?

Flowers that arrived today from my US sister.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:14 AM



Friday, June 10, 2005

Cheminee d'Aeration

I met up with some girlfriends last night at La Defense, where they work. It was a lovely, warm evening and they were having drinks outside near the most interesting and colorful tower.

The tower is called Cheminee d'Aeration by Raymond Moretti. This tower sculpture, built in 1990, is nearly 100 feet high and comprised of concrete and fiberglass. There are apparently 700 narrow, colorful fiberglass tubes surrounding the tower.

A close up of some of the colorful tubes.

Even though it was nearly 8pm, it was still very light out and I was able to take a few pictures. My friends laughed at me and told me that tourists always take their picture near this tower. Aside from a big mall and offices, there isn't a whole lot to see at La Defense (if there is, please let me know) so I can understand why this tower gets a lot of attention.... To be fair, there are a few other outdoor sculptures and fountains worth checking out if you happen to be at La Defense.

Raymond Moretti... a painter, poster artist and sculptor died last week in Paris at the age of 74.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:05 PM



Thursday, June 09, 2005


Last week my landlord gave me an invitation for a ceremony at Les Invalides, honoring soldiers who died for France in Indo-Chine. Since I thought this would be an interesting event, I called my French friend and asked if she could possibly take the kids to the Jardin for my son's golf lesson (her son also takes a lesson). She said she could and my daughter actually agreed to go with her!

Yesterday, June 8, I attended the ceremony . It was the first national day of homage to those French soldiers who died in Indo-Chine.

The red stripe meant that it was an invitation of honor-- given to those who had fought in a war for France.

I can't tell you how much I felt like I finally fit in to life in France. I, a foreigner, obtained a special ticket to get into a special ceremony! Once I entered the court of Les Invalides, I found a good place to stand... right behind the last row of seats.

The man next to me was a veteran with lots of medallions. I asked him if I could take a picture of his medals.

The ceremony was simple but touching. Lots of music was played and speeches were given. They brought out a coffin of an unknown soldier and I think medals were placed on the coffin. This unknown soldier belonged to a group of 13 soldiers whose remains were discovered in Vietnam in December 2004 and were repatriated. He will be buried later on the necropolis of Frejus. The man directly in front of me had to sit down when a version of "taps" played, overwhelmed by emotion, he wiped away tears.

The unknown soldier.

More than 30,000 people died for France during the war of Indo-China (1945-1954). Each year, on June 8, an official ceremony will be organized in Paris.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:16 PM



Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Yesterday, my friend and I attended our last French class for the school year and decided to visit a museum in the afternoon. We took the bus to the other side of town and walked around St. Germain before finding the museum. If it's Tuesday (or Monday), there is a high chance that the museum you plan to visit is closed. We were thinking we should check before we left, but we were being spontaneous... Unfortunately, the museum was closed.

So instead we walked down rue du Bac, a street in the 7th that leads to the Seine and has some lovely shops. My friend, who's leaving Paris this summer had rue du Bac on her list of things to do. So we meandered down the street... looking at old poster stores and linen shops. Rue du Bac is also a street that Adam Gopnik mentioned a lot in his book Paris to the Moon (I've mentioned this guy so many times I'm beginning to realize how much of an impact his book has had on my life in Paris). One store that Mr. Gopnik loved to visit with his son was Deyrolle.

I hate to even blog about Deyrolle because it's one of those lesser known places that everyone knows about. Does that make sense? When you mention Deyrolle you always get an "oh, that place" kind of response. It's got an interesting reputation. When I put Deyrolle into a google search, the first thing that came up was a site proclaiming Deyrolle as the "strangest shop in all of Paris." It's a taxidermy shop and much more.

As I entered the store, they had two stuffed standing deer in gardening aprons. This isn't your typical store. Deyrolle has been located at it's current location since 1881. The store is now owned by the Le Prince Jardinier company, which is based on the main floor (and they apparently think it's funny to dress deer up in aprons). Deyrolle and all the stuffed animals are upstairs.

Upstairs you find all sorts of animals in all sorts of sizes....a lion, an elephant, birds, a zebra, cats, dogs, butterflies.... you feel like you're walking through a natural history museum.

This is an great place to come on a rainy day with kids, especially if your children like bugs and animals. Since it's a store, there is no charge. However, if the weather is nice, I'd head to the Eiffel Tower or one of the many other interesting places Paris has to offer.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
4:26 PM



Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I used to make chocolate chip cookies often. It started in graduate school and continued until I moved to France. I brought cookies to grad school classes. I brought cookies to my office. I brought cookies when invited to dinner. People often asked me for my recipe (toll house). I believed I made a good batch of cookies.

So it came as a shock when I moved to France and no one ate my cookies. The adults would try one and say something like "boy, these cookies are sweet" and not ask for another. The children didn't even bother trying the cookies. I stopped making them for a while. Then my kids got older and I started to make the cookies occasionally.. but only when I had some American event to go to.

But I put myself out there today and made cookies for my last French class of the school year. Women from, as I've mentioned before, Germany, Czech Republic, Korea, Poland, Spain, Ireland and Australia who had never tasted a chocolate chip cookie before. They were all very kind and ate their cookies. My French teacher even asked what kind of dough was used.

For fun and just to be crazy, today I also brought in a dozen cookies for the teachers at my children's school. When I brought the cookies in to my daughter's teacher she asked if they were for the class and I said, in French, no, of course not because that is forbidden! (only store bought goods are allowed). She smiled and I asked if she'd give the cookies to the secretary, so the secretary could place them on her desk for all the teachers to have one. The kids told me their teachers liked the cookies. I've found something American that the teachers seem to think is ok... bringing in cookies for them to eat!

One final note about American food. My son had his best friend sleep over this weekend. Usually I go out for baguettes and pain au chocolat but since my husband wasn't around I didn't want to leave the apartment. I didn't have any chocolate cereal... what the boy usually eats for breakfast. So I asked if he'd eat corn muffins. First of all, muffins are not a popular food item here. They exist, but they are hard to find. They aren't typical. I seriously couldn't figure out how describe what a muffin was to this little French kid. Finally, my son points out that I could get the corn muffin mix box and show his friend. So my daughter hands him the box to the friend and his face contorts....corn! (definitely not a popular food item and as I've been told before, is usually associated with feed for animals) and in muffin form? It was a no go. We ended up having waffles because he's familiar with the French version -- gaufres. It was a huge success.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:46 PM



Monday, June 06, 2005


After touring Chartres cathedral and eating some lunch, we took a short bus ride across town to La Maison Picassiette.

Raymond Isidore built his home in the 1930, shortly after getting married to a woman with three children. In 1938 he started decorating his home with mosaic. He is quoted as saying "I built my house first of all to put a roof over our heads. Once the house was completed I went for a walk in the fields and it was then that I saw by chance little bits of broken glass, fragments of china, broken crockery. I gathered them together without any precise intention for their colors and sparkle."

At first he planned to decorate the walls with these colorful fragments. However, the decoration became a devotion and eventually he created mosaic decorations on the floors, ceilings and every piece of furniture. Really, everything is covered with mosaic in La Maison Picassiette. It kind of made the group wonder how his wife put up with this obsession, even if it was art. It was their home!

Chartres mosaic in the front yard.

As the work on his home continued Isidore earned a derisive nickname: Picassiette. This name was a double entendre....first because the word means thief of plates (pique-assiette) and second because of the play on Picasso and plates (Picasso-assiette). According to some reports, Isidore used tens of thousands of broken plate pieces for his mosaic home.

A graveyard sweeper by day, Isidore devoted somewhere around 25 years, 29,000 hours and 15 tons of crockery on his project in an effort to escape the monotony of his everyday existence.

This was by far one of the most interesting and unusual places I've been to because it was just so odd. I love mosaic's and Isidore's work is beautiful, but I couldn't quite get over that feeling that he must have been a bit off or completely obsessed to have accomplished this amazing home. But others must think that this place is worth a visit.... something like 30,000 people tour Isidore's home every year.

Eiffel Tower in mosaic... backyard garden.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:02 PM



Sunday, June 05, 2005


Last week we took the final tour of my Friday Paris walking group. For the last tour, we always take a bus ride and visit a place outside of Paris. Friday we took the bus to..... Chartres.

As you approach the town of Chartres, the first thing you notice is that Notre Dame de Chartres cathedral seems to be out in the middle of nowhere. It's a very dramatic approach. The cathedral sits on top of a hill and the town, not visible, rests below near the Eure river. Considering it was a major destination for pilgrimages, I can only imagine what people must have thought as the approached the cathedral... it seems to be floating.

The building of Chartres cathedral began in 1145 in early Gothic style. A fire in 1194 damaged most of the cathedral and it was reconstructed over a 26-year period. As a result of the "quick" rebuilding, Chartres cathedral is uniquely homogeneous from an architectural point of view.

Chartres cathedral ... I tried to get a good picture head on, but couldn't. I kind of liked this angle shot so you could really view the two different spires on the front facade. The two contrasting spires....a short, plain one dating from the 1140s... the other tall and ornate dating from the early 16th century.

Chartres Cathedral is a Marian shrine. The current structure was built to honor a veil supposedly worn by the Virgin Mary. Before the 18th Century this veil was known as the "holy shift of the Virgin Mary." The cathedral was commissioned to house this relic of Mary and is the reason the church is named Notre Dame de Chartres cathedral.

Holy Shift of the Virgin Mary. According to experts, the relic probably dates from the 1st century and is of Middle Eastern origin.

The building of Chartres was important because it ushered in the High Gothic phase of architecture. Under this Gothic phase, parishioners were supposed to look to the sky to find God. To that end, the builders figured out how to add windows to the great cathedrals. Large stained glass windows -- with the famous cobalt blue -- were installed in Chartres. In order to support the heavy ceiling in spite of these beautiful windows, the architects used flying buttresses and crossed arches for support. In addition, no longer were pillars built solely to support the building... there were part of the decoration. In Chartres more ornate pillars were used that guided the eye of the worshipers up towards the heavens and God.

Gothic sculptors took a revolutionary step past their Romanesque predecessors in their conception of the figures as independent, almost free-standing statues rather than as reliefs.

Mary and Elizabeth confer before the births of their sons.

In 1979, Chartres was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

After the tour of the cathedral we walked around the town and had lunch at a local brasserie. Chartres is a wonderful place to visit if you are looking for a day trip outside of Paris.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:24 PM



Saturday, June 04, 2005

Plaques et Pots

It's that time of year again when families are packing up their belongings to start their next adventure in the US or elsewhere. The American School in Paris school year ends on June 10. It seems so early. I know two families that are leaving Paris on June 11.

One of my favorite going away presents over the years has been a Paris sign. Usually there is some going away party and everyone throws in 10 euro toward a group gift. The place to buy these beautiful signs.... well there is probably more than one place (like BHV)... but my favorite place is called Plaques et Pots on rue Ferronnerie in the 1st arrondissement (look it up on www.pagesjaunes.fr).

The signs are special order... you can get a sign with whatever you want written. I usually buy a street sign of where the person lived. They take three weeks to produce and cost 158 euro. But they'll have that sign forever. They are very sturdy.

I have it in my mind that this store makes all the official signs for Paris, but I'm probably wrong. Regardless, it's such a charming, Parisian, no website kind of place that it is worth a visit just to say hello to the friendly monsieur and have a look around this tiny store.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:39 PM



Friday, June 03, 2005

Le Cordon Bleu

Two friends of mine decided in September that we would try all sorts of cooking classes over the school year. Because of scheduling difficulties, it only worked out a couple of times. Yesterday we attended an American Women's Group-sponsored cooking demonstration at the famous Le Cordon Bleu.

We arrived at 1pm for a 2.5 hour demonstration course.

A Cordon Bleu chef arrived to prepare:

Salade de homard au melon, vinaigrette a la framboise/ Lobster salad with melon, raspberry vinaigrette. A Montlouis demi sec 2003 was served with the salad.

Review: Although I don't like the idea of buying a lobster and boiling it...this amazing salad would almost be worth it... chopped up lobster, salad, strawberries and melon in the raspberry vinaigrette was wonderful. As the chef said, fruit goes very well with crustacean. The salad tasted light and refreshing with large delicious lobster pieces as an added bonus.

Filets de Saint-Pierre grenobloise puree de pommes de terre a l'huile d'olive/ Filets of John Dory Grenobloise, puree with olive oil. A Marsannay rose 2003 was served with the fish. First of all... how does Saint Pierre get translated into John Dory? Can someone explain this?? This meal was also amazing to the senses. The mild white fish was topped with a lemon, caper butter sauce with little crunchy croutons. I really enjoy cooking with lemon and this was a recipe I will definitely try at home.

A piece of baguette with a large slice of St. Nectaire was given to us for our cheese course.

Finally... the fraises au vin et au cassis, riz au lait de coco/ Strawberries with wine and blackcurrants, coconut milk rice. A Bourgogne Cotes St. Jacques 2003 was served with the rice. I've tried to make rice pudding a couple of times, but it just hasn't worked out for me. My husband eats everything I make but turned his nose up to my last rice pudding. The chef recommended blanching the rice and cautioned against adding the sugar until the end of the heating process. I will certainly heed his advice next time! I really liked this dessert, but honestly, with alcohol in the rice pudding, strawberries in wine and a glass of bougogne, my senses might have been a bit off by this point.

For the demonstration class, Le Cordon Bleu gives you the ingredient list for each meal and you are supposed to follow along with the chef and write down the directions and his tips. As usual, the chef makes it look so easy. What was most helpful to me were the chef's pointers on preparation and presentation -- that will be very helpful to me on future cooking projects.

For instance, I never realized exactly what meuniere meant, even though I order sole meuniere often. I knew it was a butter sauce... but now I know it's a specific color (light brown) and flavor (nutty) the butter reaches after cooking a certain amount of time.

The chefs at Le Cordon Bleu speak French, but there is usually an English translator, as there was yesterday. I spent 40 euro on this class and thought it was well worth the price -- although Le Cordon Bleu added some special touches to their normal demonstration for the AWG.

The Cordon Bleu offers demonstration classes throughout the year. At the end of the demonstration you are served a small portion of the prepared food on a plate to taste what was made. The tasting was a meal in itself.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:44 PM



Thursday, June 02, 2005

Smart Cars

I love all the small cars you find in Paris. The mini's and smart cars are the most popular. I've noticed that many of the smart cars often have advertisements on them. You'd think these cars are cheap... why do people need to have ads to pay off the loan? Maybe they just like the ads. Some are pretty colorful and creative.

Here are the cars I spotted this week.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:27 PM



Wednesday, June 01, 2005


When I was on an errand on the other side of town this week, I found myself at metro Chatelet. It was a beautiful day and I took some pictures of the conciergerie and the Palais de Justice.

When I finished the Marie Antoinette book last year, I wanted to go see two places: Carnavelet Museum and the conciergerie.

The conciergerie

I've already written about Carnavelet, but haven't mentioned the concierge. The conciergerie was originally a section of palace erected by King Philip IV (1284-1314). This part of the palace was controlled by a person of high degree, the concierge or court official who was the custodian of the royal palace.

The royal family abandoned the palace not long after King Philip's death and moved across the river to the Louvre. In 1391 the concierge was converted into a prison. The conciergerie prison was where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before her death. You can visit her cell room, which was turned into a chapel to her memory. If you are at all interested in Marie Anoinette, it is worth a visit here.

In 1914, the conciergerie was named a national historical monument and opened to the public.

The conciergerie is part of the Palais de Justice complex on the Ile de la Cite.

The Palais de Justice

*Update on Neighbor day. Saw the upstairs neighbor and said "bonjour," but she wasn't too thrilled to see me. The day before our landlord had visited her to explain that our apartment walls were still wet from a leak in her apartment (which she thought she had fixed). She kind of grunted at me and I didn't pursue a conversation.

Saw another neighbor at the park (I really only have 5 or 6 neighbors -- it's a small building) and was thinking about saying hello, but, and I'm not joking, her kids were walking on the grass at the park and the park police guy reprimanded her and her kids and she left shortly thereafter. Maybe there will be better neighbor-meeting karma next time.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:07 PM