Monthly Archives: August 2010

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…

A kindred spirit!

Ice cream!

Glace!

Ice cream in Paris is absolutely delicious.  Yes, Dad, it’s true.  I came to Paris for the food!

The texture is fantastic – nothing processed or oddly creamy but smooth with occasional bits of actual food (i.e. fruit).  The flavours are outstanding – lemon, raspberry, peach…I’ve only had the fruit ones so far (mostly sorbets) as is my preference but I’ve seen the looks on those eating the chocolate and they are not complaining! 

The ice cream from vendors in the gardens is great and after sight-seeing or shopping for hours, a small detour to a known vendor isn’t out of order.   Delicious and cool, it always seems like a good choice.  My favourite so far…orange sanguine (blood orange).  YUM!!!

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Les robes…

Gorgeous, yes?

I went to the Opera Garnier the other day.  Beautiful building straight out of a fairy tale!  It’s elaborate and ornate – frankly, it’s exactly what I would expect from an opera house.  Empress Eugenie, wife of the third Napoleon, apparently asked Garnier (the designer) “What is this style?  It’s not a style.  It’s not Greek, Louis XVI or even Louis XV!”  Garnier said, “No. It’s Napoleon III.  And you complain?”  Opera now takes place in the Opera Bastille but Opera Garnier is still used for ballet and modern dance. This is the place that was the inspiration for Phantom of the Opera – and there really is a lake underneath it! 

Who doesn't want to play dress-up in that?!?

The exhibition (I could take photos – yea!) was of a past opera singer Regine Crespin.  They had videos of her you could watch (amazing) and loads of stage photos as well.  But the best part was they displayed many of her costumes!  They are dreamy – princess heaven!  Even the costumes for Carmen and other less flashy roles…incredible.  Loved it! 

On the subject of dresses….. 

The only part of the exhibition I could photograph

I have been excited about going to the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit since before I came to Paris.  Unfortunately (sorry, Kimmy) – no photos!  I was really disappointed and I did NOT buy the book – 50 Euros!  C’est criminel!  However, the exhibition was fabulous!  Oh my goodness, the dresses, the suits and more dresses.  They had rooms upon rooms full of them.  

Les jardin with the cafe in the rear

There was a whole wall dedicated to black dresses and suits – and as everyone knows…I love black!  I’m telling you, if I worked there, I would risk being fired just to try a few of them on! I think my favourite were the dresses from the late fifties to mid-sixties – I looked at them and every single one of them I would wear today! 

(The Petit Palais, where the exhibition was held, is a lovely museum as well and worth visiting on it’s own.  A lovely, varied art collection and a charming  jardin with a cafe.)

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Operation Overlord

The garden from my doors at the B&B in Bayeux

I went up to Normandy and stayed overnight in Bayeux for a Canadian and British D-Day Tour.  Firstly, although I’ve been warned not to mention this publicly 😉 , I received great service at the train ticket counter (it may have been his first day on the job but he was very helpful, patient with my crap french and friendly – who knew people who work for the train service could smile?!?) It’s about a two hour train ride to Bayeux. 

My room at the B&B

I stayed at the loveliest B&B!  Francois was very helpful when he emailed me and his wife Isabelle is a dear.  Francois covers the internet end of things and does speak English.  Isabelle does the actual running of the B&B and speaks no english.  However, we managed to get everything across to get me set up that night – she is so friendly and helpful!  The room had a separate entrance from the house and it attached to a lovely garden. 

The abbey where the Cdn soldiers were killed

The room was gorgeous.  Beautiful stone walls, a lovely furniture and the bed – oh, how I’ve missed feather pillows!  I love feather pillows -the coolness as your face settles into the softness…..aaaahhhhh.  And the bed was very comfortable and I slept like the dead.  And the bathroom…..I wanted to take that bathroom with me.  Clean, roomy and oh, so lovely! 

The modern day Pegasus Bridge

In the morning, I was served a great breakfast – boiled egg, cheese, croissant, bread, jams, yoghurt and some really, really great coffee.  Isabelle even came in a braved a conversation with me – I lasted a full five minutes!  I was pretty proud of myself since I hadn’t even finished the coffee yet!

This authentic WW2 boat was restored to use in the movie "Saving Private Ryan"

The weather was rainy and cool but not as bad as Paris had been the day before!  There were five people on the tour and the guide.  We travelled around the coast by Caen and Bayeux where D-Day had taken place.  We went to three beaches, Juno, Gold and Sword (I think).  We visited the famous Pegasus Bridge and in total made over 17 stops of Canadian military history.  We saw tanks, bunkers, guns, and the blockades that were used as well.

Juno Beach

At the abbey, we met a wonderful Frenchman who had been there during the war.  He took over 1/2 an hour to speak to us and tell us what he saw that day.  You could still see the tears in his eyes a few times.  He still lives across the road from the abbey, as he did as a young man.  Canadian prisoners of war were held in one of the buildings there.  One night the Nazi’s received orders that they didn’t have room for more prisoners.  They took this to mean that they were to kill their current prisoners to make room for more.  There were twenty men held there. 

Gold Beach

As they were called up to the garden, a Nazi would shoot them as soon as they were past the door.  Realizing that they were going to die, two tried to escape.  One was shot quickly but another escaped, ran into the fields and managed to make it to safety.  The Nazi’s buried the men in the field.  At the end of the war, only 18 bodies were recovered.  One was still missing.  The gentlemen who spoke to us told us that his wife planted tulip bulbs one year.  There was an odd place where they were not growing.  He dug up the ground and found the skeleton of the 19th body.  The Nazi’s had buried him in the garden.

Canadian Military Cemetery

We also visited one of the two Canadian cemeteries.  It was very sad and overwhelming to read the names, ages and epitaphs of the men who died during the war, leaving families and friends behind.  Over 4500 Canadians are buried in either that cemetery or the one past Caen.  There are over 9000 Americans buried in the area and 6000 British.  There are also hundreds and hundreds of soldiers with no grave. 

“He will be as mourned today as much as the hour that he passed.”

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Fairytale delights…

Chateau Amboise

Some of the grounds at Amboise

I went to the Loire Valley on a tour!  It is beautiful countryside loaded with châteaux – over 50 that I know of.  We saw three châteaux (castles) – some tour companies do four or even six – I don’t know how they fit them all in!  The day was great, but exhausting. 

da Vinci's tomb

The first château was Amboise.  It was built  in the 15th century.  Really beautiful – although not all of it is standing today – the original plans show it to be immense.  Da Vinci was at court there and died in his manor nearby.  There is a chapel with his tomb on the property.  It also has an adorable boxwood garden (along with others).  It has a charming village just below with lovely cafes and some nice shops too. 

Chateau Chenonceau

Then it was onto “The Ladies Castle” or  Chateau de Chenonceau.  This was my favourite!  Originally it was the home of the mistress of the king (who lived at Amboise, I believe).  He would leave his wife (Catherine de Medici) and ride over and visit his mistress.  When he died, she took over.  She kicked Diane de Poitiers (the mistress) out and took over the castle.  

Forest path at Chenonceau

Over the years, the ladies who lived there were mostly (if not all?) widows (actually Diane was a widow too – her husband had died).  Hence the name, “The Ladies Castle”.  It originally had a moat and big towers but some redecorating was done and they were removed.  There are two large gardens – Diane’s garden and Catherine’s garden.  You can take a boat onto the river or walk through the lovely forest.  

Kitchen gardens

It was so great to be outdoors and in trees! Aaahhh!  The inside is also gorgeous – I loved the kitchens.  I was practically drooling over the fantastic copper pots hanging everywhere (whomever’s job it is to keep that copper gleaming isn’t paid enough – that is constant work).  There is also a gorgeous kitchen garden with vegetables and herbs.  Just beyond is a field with….donkeys!  I do not know how they ended up there!  There is also a very charming maze – which I skipped – mazes are not for those who are directionally dysfunctional. The potential embarrassment alone…. 

The king's chamber at Chambord

The last was Chambord.  Gorgeous, of course.  The most interesting thing was the double helix staircase in the middle, designed by da Vinci.  He never got to see it though, as he died before the construction was completed.  It is a huge château with 426  rooms!  It has 282 fireplaces and 77 staircases.  

da Vinci's staircase

I kept thinking that if I lived there (okay, okay – I would’ve been working there, scrubbing floors but still!) I would get very lost, very often!  The estate is huge (about the same size as Inner Paris) with beautiful forests and lawns.  There are game animals living in the forest park (beyond what it is open to the public, of course). 

Very lovely places to live but strangely, makes me appreciate my wee home more….less dusting!!

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Une petit probleme

The best croissants, great tradi baguette and the rest...yummmmm

A new patesserie/boulangerie/chocolatier has opened a half block from my apartment.

A half block!

Tarts and more patisseries

The smells coming out of there are incredible, the staff is very nice and the food is so, so good.

More tarts and les gateaux

I will say no more…the pictures will speak for themselves!

Les chocolates

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The Aquarium

You don’t hear about the Paris Aquarium a lot but I have to say, I enjoyed it!  It was an unexpected bonus that the info sheets and posted signs next to the exhibits were in English as well as French.  It was a wee bit expensive but a great way to spend a rainy or too hot Parisian afternoon!  If you have kids, there are loads of activities geared just towards them and not just petting the koi!

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Ways to get around Paris

The Metro

By motorcycle

By car

By Tour bus

Velibe

or Segway!

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