Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Door of the Day Saturday 8/28

We happened upon this door on one our strolls along the Seine.  I was so surprised to see it, as I had read about it many months ago, but assumed it would be very difficult to find.  Lucky us!

The glass in this door is designed by Rene Lalique (1860-1945), the famous French glass designer.  He mostly designed perfume bottles, vases and chandeliers, but worked in glass etching and casting also.

It is very hard to get a good photo of this glass, but it is a beautiful design of pine cones and branches, each panel of glass is a different part of the picture:
Even the door way surrounding the actual door is beautiful, and carries out the pine tree theme:

Saturday in Paris 8/28-Market Day

First of all--Happy Birthday Pat E--we thought of you many times today, especially when we passed a cheese shop.  Hope you had a wonderful birthday, and I sure wish we could bring home pounds and pounds of this wonderful French cheese for you...

Saturday is a main street market day in Paris, with many farmers and cheese makers bring their goods into the city to sell at different markets.  Our plan for the day was to visit a few markets, and I had searched out a few different kinds of markets--each unique in their "flavor" and goods sold.  We had our Metro route all mapped out, and off we went--another early start, as some markets only run until noon or 1:00.

Our first market--the Porte de Montreuil Market, a "flea market" with second hand goods, furniture, bric a brac, clothes, and a separate covered area with vendors selling very interesting ethnic food.  Or so the book said........
Hmmm---it was interesting, to say the least.  Very crowded, a jumbled maze of narrow alleys with tables piled high with used (!!) clothes and shoes, electronics, etc.  We never did find the interesting food section of the market.  Needless to say, we didn't spend a lot of time at this market.  Sorry, no pictures of this one--didn't feel like we should take our camera out--enough said!

Ok--so much for that guide book description!  We were seriously hoping the next market was better.

We found our Metro stop, and were off to explore the Marche Beauvau.  We walked up the Metro steeps to the street and we knew right away that this was more to our liking!  It was a charming neighborhood, full of  great shops.  We were a little bit lost, so we pulled out our trusty map, and must have looked very confused.  An elderly French gentleman stopped to help us, and even though he spoke no english, and we speak no french, we managed to understand each other.  What a nice, helpful gentleman!

Finally we found the market, at it was wonderful. Full of beautifully displayed fresh vegetables and fruit-some that were new to us.  I have never heard of mirabelles, they look kind of like a large yellow cherry, and are sweet and delicious-we had one in a pastry.  There were also some vegetables that were different than we get at home, the artichokes look quite different--they're purple!  And those haricourt vertes--yummy!
We've bought them twice to fix for dinner. 

Here is a picture of the main market street, and a few close ups of the fruit and vegetables, the market is two blocks long, on both sides!

There are also several flower vendors at the market, and their displays are wonderful!  There are cut flowers and potted plants galore--just a riot of color.

There is also a "brocante" area in this market--which means used goods in french.  Of course, I strolled around looking at the antiques, etc., but didn't buy anything.  I;m a little worried about my suitcase getting too full.......

We found the covered , permanent part of the market.  There were butchers, cheese shops, and a wonderful shop selling olive oil from big barrels, many kinds of delicious sounding mustard, pates, gourmet salts, and many spices.  We spent more than a little time and euros here--it was a great shop.  Just look at all those goodies waiting for us to take them home:

Now it was time for our daily sidewalk cafe lunch, and since we liked this neighborhood, we found a lovely cafe and had a nice baguette sandwich for lunch, and of course a cold beer!

What to do for the rest of the afternoon?  We decided we would visit a shopping mall to do some souvenier shopping.  The mall we found was not too interesting, but there was some pretty good people watching!  Next on our list--the old Parisian department store-Bon Marche.  It's pretty high end and fancy, we enjoyed strolling around and gasping at the price tags--but really didn't see much that we couldn't live without.  

So back to our apartment, time to get ready for our evening out.  Tonite we were going out for our anniversary dinner.  We had been checking out menus at many restaurants in our area, and had chosen a nice little bistro with a great menu--the Bistro du 7 eme.  We walk past it every day on the way to our Metro stop, and it's always full, with a waiting line!  We thought this was a pretty good sign, and we were right!

  We were both quite adventurous in our choices-- for the appetizer David had the escargo, and I had foie gras.  Both were delicious.  Our main course was Beef Bourguignon for David, and veal kidney in mustard sauce for me.  Again, just wonderful.  For desert, creme brulee and chocolate mousse.  It was a lovely dinner with good wine, great service--but most of all a very special evening with my sweetie.  There is nothing like celebrating an anniversary in Paris!

A lovely arm in arm stroll back to our apartment--another perfect day in Paris.  I can only say that for two more days.  We'll be sad to leave, but we have new adventures ahead of us!

Tomorrow--The Palace at Versailles!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Door of the Day Friday 8/27

This door is in the Montmarte district of Paris--near the Sacre-Couer Cathedral.  It's an entry door to a residence--down one of those beautiful narrow and winding streets.  I loved the carving on it--seems to tell a story, although I sure don;t know what it is.  It's just a lovely door.

Friday in Paris--The Towers of Notre-Dame

Friday morning arrived early again, thanks to our alarm clock!  Our plan--to beat the crowds that line up to climb the towers of Notre-Dame.

We metro'd over to Notre-Dame, and there were only about 6 people in line at 9:15, so we had time for a morning espresso and crepe at a sidewalk cafe across the street.  We sat along the fence, enjoying our espressos while waiting about half an hour for the tower to open.  We were in the first group of 20 to be let in--so getting there early was definately worth it.  By the time the tower opened the line was snaking around the block!

Again, we were in for a climb--this time 400 steps up, and of course 400 steps down! It was worth every single step!

We started our climb at the bottom of the north tower, and stopped for a mandatory visit to a gift shop about a quarter of the way up the tower.  Of course, this was fine with me, as I never mind a little shopping!  After a brief look around the gift shop, and a very small purchase of a gargoyle fridge magnet, we were back to those spiral stairs.

At half way up the tower, we came to a door and there we were!  Those wonderful gargoyles were right in front of us, it was an amazing sight.  These funny looking beasts represent souls caught between heaven and hell, and are said to protect the church from evil spirits.  Many of them also function as rainspouts.  There are many, many gargoyles on Notre-Dame. Here are just a few of our favorites:

We then walked across the front of the church, between the two towers.  At the South tower we took a little detour around the side to the Bell Tower.  This Bell Tower houses the cathedral's largest bell, the 17th century great bell called "Emmanuel".  This bell weights 13 tons! It is only rung on major Catholic feast days, Notre-Dame has 4 other bells in the north tower that ring several times a day.  Here is the entrance to the bell tower:

Of course, more stairs--this time rickety, narrow wooden stairs up to the bell:

Here is that famous bell, which of course made me think of Quasimodo in "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame"

After leaving the bell tower, more climbing, this time to the top of the south tower.  The stairs in this tower are very narrow and steep, and it was not an easy climb.  Of course, the view from the very top, with all of Paris before us, was worth it.  Just look at this magnificent view:

We spent about a half an hour ot the top enjoying this magnificent view.  It was also interesting to get a much different perspective of the cathedral architecture from this angle, especially the many decorative elements and the spire:

We had overstayed our 10 minute time limit at the top, so down (and down, and down, and down!) we went--this time in the much narrower south tower spiral stair case.  We finally reached the bottom-me on shaky legs and just a bit dizzy!

No rest for the weary, though--our next stop: The Deportation Memorial.  This memorial is dedicated to the 200,000 French citizens who died in Nazi concentration camps.

It is a very stark, bleak, prison-like space; meant, I'm sure, to reflect their experience.  This hallway is filled with 200,00 crystals, each one representing a French citizen who died.  At the end is the eternal flame of hope:

It was a somber visit, but we were glad we took the time to do it.
OK, now we were hungry!  We happened upon a great little crepe shop, and watched while he made our lunch:

I even posed for a picture with him--this time it was MY idea!  He thought it was pretty funny!

Just look at this crepe--it was delicious.  We shared this one crepe--it was plenty.

Now rested and fueled, we were off to see just a couple of churches.  The most impressive was Sainte-
Chappelle, which is said to have some of the most beautiful stained glass in the world.  This cathedral was built between 1242 and 1248, which is pretty fast, considering it took over 200 years to build Notre-Dame.
The exterior of this church is quite non-descript, and it is a very small cathedral.  But, oh , the interior!
It is very different than any other church that we have been in, in that it is not stone and marble--but brightly colored painted columns and ceilings:

The stained glass was amazing:

This wonderful cathedral is in the middle of a 10 year restoration--they are refurbishing each window to protect them from further deterioration.  Some of the best windows were "under cover", but it's great that they are preserving this treasure.

By now it was certainly "sidewalk cafe" time, so we stopped to give our feet a rest and get our usual afternoon refreshement--a nice cold beer.

Our last stop for the day--Le Musee de Rodin.  It is in a beautiful old chateau, not very far from our apartment:

It houses his great collection of art and antiquities, and of course his most important works:

The Kiss:

The Thinker:

We walked home from the Rodin, enjoying the little side streets leading to our apartment. We ate dinner "in",  and decided to go for a walk to watch the tower twinkle--and it did!

Another perfect ending to a perfect day in Paris!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Door of the Day Thursday, 8/27

This door is the tower part of the building in which Joan of Arc was tried, convicted and sentenced to burn at the stake.  When I look at this door, I wonder--did Joan of Arc walk through this door on her way to trial, or to be executed?  Was she held prisoner in this tower?

 We'll never know.   Today's door is full of  mysteries!

Rainy Day in Rouen, Thursday 8/26

Thursday was yet another alarm clock early day.  I thought we were on vacation! Well, the early bird gets the worm, or in this case--catches the train to Rouen.

A little story about our train tickets.......

We had purchased our train tickets to Rouen on Wednesday, as we had a little extra time before touring the Catacombs, and there was a nearby ticket boutique, as they call them here.  We walked in and a lovely young lady greeted us in French, of course.  I asked "parlais vou Englaise"?  She said yes, a little.  Great, I thought--we've got it made!  She asked where we wanted to go, and I said "Rouen" in my best French accent.  She said "pardon me"????  I repeated myself, using a little more "french", or so I thought.  Wrong.
Hmmmm, she said as she slid a slip of paper and a pen toward me, so I could write it down.  Humbled, I wrote it down.  Ahhh! She exclaimed--and then proceeded to hawk a lugi, at least that's exactly how she pronounced it!  I hadn't even come close--no wonder she had no idea where we wanted to go!  We all chuckled a little, and completed our ticket transaction without further embarrasment on my part.

Thursday morning, hard earned tickets in hand, we took the Metro to the BIG train Station-Gare St. Lazare.
We arrived in plenty of time to find our platform, check the reader board, and watch how other people validated their tickets prior to boarding the train.  We're nubies at this train stuff--and even managed to get on the wrong car!  Finally settled it our proper seats in the correct car, we were off to Rouen!

Roen is a mid-sized town (pop. 106,000) in the province of Normandy.  Rouen dates back to at least the 1400's, as it's main claim to fame is as the place where Joan of Arc was tried and burned at the stake in 1431.  It is also known for it's gothic cathedrals, notably Notre Dame, which Monet painted many times.

It's a charming city, full of narrow winding streets that were fun to explore:

The architecture in Rouen is quite different that in Paris, with many buildings that half timbered, and even leaning a bit:

We started with the Cathedral Notre Dame du Rouen.  Oh, my!  How to describe this beautiful place?  I've used all the superlatives I know in describing Paris, and words really aren't adequate.  First of all, it's huge!
And tall!

The interior is magnificant, with beautiful stained glass windows, soaring ceilings and amazing artwork:

There are several statues of saints:

After spending about an hour in the cathedral, we stepped outside to pouring rain!  We had one umbrella between us, that wasn't working too well.  We've been seeing umbrellas in shops all over, but could we find one today, when we really needed it?  We finally found a shop selling them, and bought a fairly ugly one for a fairly big price, but it did the job! 

We had read about an antique market held on Thursdays, and so decided to check it out.  It was across the river Seine, so we consulted our map, chose a pedestrian bridge to walk across.  Look at the strange art installation on this bridge--hopefully it's only temporary:

We found the antique market, and we were a little late,  most of the vendors had packed up and left already.  We poked around a bit, bought nothing, then decided it was lunch time.  We found a great sidewalk cafe, and sat ourselves and our weary feet down.  Our waitress was delightful!  We each ordered the lamb chops, which were just OK, but they were served with the most delicious haricourts verts--in other words--fancy french for green beans.  Desert was included with the prix fix lunch--it was called coffee gourmand, and it was wonderful.  It was a small creme brulee, a small dark chocolate silk pudding, and an espresso with a tiny dark chocolate on the side---- mmmmm good.

And here's the view from our table--can you see why we LOVE sidewalk cafes??

Well rested and well fed, we explored this side of Rouen a bit, it wasn't quite as pretty as the other area of town, Back across the river, and on to some Joan of Arc sites. here  is the church built (in recent times)  in her honor, it's very modern in it's design, and seems strangly out of place:

There is a cross, erected on the spot she was burned at the stake:

And a statue of Joan of Arc:

The last Joan of Arc site we visited was an ancient tower, which is all that's left of the building in which she was tried, convicted and sentenced to burn a the stake:

By now, it was raining hard again.  We were soaked, tired and happy to have seen Rouen and her beauty and history.  We wandered back to the train station, and another sidewalk cafe called our name--it was beer:30 for sure.  This time, we sat inside!

Sadly, it was time to leave Rouen and catch our train back to Paris.  We found the right car and seats with no problem this time.  We even snoozed a little--we were tired!

Another lovely, adventure filled day in France with my sweetie!