Saturday, August 28, 2010

glimpses of august in paris


Enjoying a quiet spot in the Luxembourg Gardens,
where I often read and rested my feet :).
Did more of the same at the Tuileries.

Looking across the Seine at the Louvre

One of the many endlessly-fascinating truncated-corner buildings in Paris

Looking up at Sacre Coeur

Water lilies at Giverny

Monet's front porch at Giverny

Starbucks, Paris-style

One of my many cafe summer salads

You may be wondering where all the people were while I was photographing during my weeks in Paris. Of course I visited most of the usual crowded tourist places. But since this was my vacation, I was especially trying to capture quiet moments where my imagination could live on without interference, where I could experience the efforts of the designing hands that created the beauty that still elevates this city. I hope you enjoyed a few glimpses along with me..

Friday, August 27, 2010

paris in the afternoon

In the last minutes as we were leaving a sunny afternoon luncheon/reception,
shaking hands and kissing cheeks and lingering in the garden,
I turned around to take this photo across the shaded lawn,
where only a few empty glasses waiting to be cleared
reminded of our earlier presence.
Isn't the setting delicious?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

postcards from paris: la tour eiffel at night

In case you haven't had a chance to climb the Eiffel Tower yourself, I thought I'd share a few more photos, including some night-time close-ups of the wrought-iron engineering marvel of its time. Scheduled to be torn down after its construction as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair, it remains the tallest building in Paris. Although it is open to the public every day of the year, it has to be repainted using brushes and 3 shades of brown paint every 7 years. After showing our reservation for dinner, we were whisked up by private elevator to the dining room, where we happily spent the evening at our table next to the windows, enjoying a stellar meal and spectacular views.

Plates reflected in the restaurant window as I photographed up inside the tower.

The tower is covered in lights that consistently illuminate it at night,
but being inside when the lights flash on the hour for 5 minutes is like sitting inside a Christmas tree.

The view across the Champs de Mars to l'Ecole Militaire.

The view of les bateaus on the Seine.

Vacherin with raspberry sorbet, my dessert. :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

flower-petal sorbet

A quick snap of my middle son holding his 4-petal sorbet cone from Glaces Artisanales. From many delicious flavors like mango and raspberry, you can choose one flavor for the central scoop and up to 4 more for the petals, which are artistically layered with a flat scoop around the center. Its many customers looked like a fruit-colored bouquet coming along the sidewalk at us as we walked to the shop.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

au revoir to les puces de vanves

Did you happen to notice here, in the corner of a flea market display case, an oval frame with gold bullion embroidery on black velvet? For some reason, although I passed it up on first inspection, it stayed in my mind. You know the feeling, right? Friday night we were up late celebrating my son's birthday with a delightful dinner up in the Eiffel Tower. Nonetheless, I made myself a promise to wake up early and return to les puces de vanves the next morning. Maybe the framed piece would still be there for another look.

Of course, by now my suitcase was already bulging, and I really didn't need to exacerbate the problem. Still, I did have all those Euros I needed to spend, since most of my recent expenses were on the credit card and I was nearing the end of my visit. And Paris was experiencing a heat wave with temps in the mid-80s, so staying cool in the shade of the acacia trees that lined the market would feel good before the day heated up.

Following the now familiar route, I walked about 2 kilometres across Vanves to the metro stop for Line 13 that goes to Porte de Vanves, right near the flea market. As I wandered along the market's aisles lined with tables, I finally found the same vendor with all the religious artifacts. And there was the frame, still in its glass case, still with its hefty asking price. These vendors have styles and personalities that can make a purchase more fun or not. This vendor remained as brusque and haughty as before. But after a little bargaining, the frame and a couple other items were tucked into my bag. And with the purchase of sheets of old music for a Silver Bella swap and a handful of number-stitched torchons (dish towels) at two other tables, all my Euros were indeed gone.

Earlier in the morning, as I had been searching along the aisles, I noticed that another vendor whose quality wares I had liked on previous weekends was there again. With my Euros at this point still hopefully dedicated to the framed piece I remembered, I enjoyed merely looking and fingering various tempting pieces and asking him a few questions, learning from the information without intending to purchase. Then on my way out, as I passed his tables again, I once more lingered over a few still-tempting items, saying my goodbyes. Suddenly it occurred to me to ask him if he took American money. Of course! he said. This vendor was very chatty and particularly amused as I dug into the zippered pocket of my purse for my emergency stash of dollars. An emergency can be declared under various circumstances, right? We came to an amicable agreement over a set of 12 Napoleon III knives in their case, each of us enjoying the predicament and its stages of resolution. I smilingly told him he was très gentil, and he assured me that he really liked Americans. :)

Original case and label of l'orfèvre E. Peter (ancienne boutique Rue Fléchier à Paris)

For the rest of my trip, I have sworn to buy only consumables, like the yummy petal-shaped sorbets on cones we bought this afternoon. Oh, and the French CDs that will slip into my purse. I'm old enough to still enjoy singers like Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel who were au courant when I was in college. And bal musette singers like Fréhel, who led a tragic alcoholic life somewhat typical of the 1920s-30s.

When I return to Virginia, I hope it will have cooled off a little, because I will probably be wearing both my sweaters, both my scarves, my jacket, and my heaviest shoes, not to mention layers of assorted clothing, in order to lighten my suitcase carrying my treasures. For once, I will be glad that the long flight home will be in a cold airplane with a drafty air vent too high to reach.


Monday, August 23, 2010

postcards from paris: un peu de bleu


Elegant doorways can be found all over Paris.
But this photo is cropped at the knees because inelegant trash cans
lined the sidewalk edge just in front of the doors, as is often the case.

A little red, white and blue.

Another wonderful doorway, marred visually by posted announcements.
To control this, many public buildings still retain "défense d'afficher" warnings chiseled or painted in scrolling fonts along eye level (although the original 1881 law had larger intentions, including holding the "press" legally responsible for anything it printed).

Ways to maneuver around the city.

After a long walk, it's lovely to sit on a bench in a small tree-lined park
with one's pastry and Kindle, listening to the gentle fountain sounds,
feet up if possible.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

paris metro vs motorbike

My son, who is now here visiting for a week, and I just spent the late afternoon at the local garage, trying to figure out why our on-loan Peugeot motorbike has suddenly developed catarrh. Believe me, there are a lot of French words I didn't know before, like les bougies (spark plugs, previously known to me as candles, not automatic for non-automotive me to make that transition) and l'allumage (ignition) and l'ordinateur (computer) hidden under or in la valise, I'm still not sure which. After several hours of prodding and poking at small hidden parts, this all led to the conclusion that it is an electronic problem and requires a Peugeot dealer. Far more interesting to me than motorbike parts were the very friendly gentlemen who worked in the garage and others who, walking by, joined in trying to help solve the problems, both of the motorbike and of the translation. As I was trying to comprendre the word bougie, one gent went to his car, opened his trunk, and pulled out his spare ones in their package to show us. :) We joked briefly about just plugging the engine computer clip into the iPhone, but we couldn't find an app for that. Although we didn't resolve the problem, everyone seemed to enjoy trying. They were très désolés that our vacation was being hampered.

Metro stop at Anvers

While walking the motorbike home, we were glad to find a pizza place that made a huge variety of pizzas from scratch. And they were offering a special, two for the price of one. So we placed our order, watched the cook start forming the dough rounds, then agreed that we would return in the appointed 20 minutes à emporter our take-home supper. Enough adventure for one day.

Since I'm momentarily grounded, I thought I'd share a few more photos of metro signs, since this elegant system which opened in 1900 (about a decade after La Tour Eiffel) remains the mainstay of my transportation around Paris, especially on a rainy day such as Monday was. Did you know that Paris is a compact city of roughly 6 miles north to south and 9 miles across? Nonetheless, there are over 130 miles of metro track connecting all 20 arrondissements and edging into the suburbs beyond the 22-mile Périphérique that encircles Paris somewhat like the 64-mile DC beltway.

Metro stop at Notre-Dame de-Lorette church

Metro stop near Montmartre


Friday, August 13, 2010

cycling on the champs-élysées

Just a quick report to let you know my wish was granted. This evening my daughter-in-law and I went to dinner by motorcycle, then enjoyed riding around to see all the sights lit up, down the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, along the Seine, under the archways into the Louvre, down to Notre Dame, back around the Eiffel Tower, Musee d'Orsay, Assemblée National, l'Opéra, and so on. Yes, cycling through traffic around the Arc de Triomphe was daunting (for me, not her), but it was a cool beautiful evening!! Bonne nuit!

taking a break . . .