Saturday, February 21, 2009

Paris video on YouTube



About the Vélib (from vélo for bicycle and liberté) grey bicycles with fat tires and a handy basket. You can pick one up in most neighborhoods around the city center and it's free for the first 30 minutes but there is a subscription fee and you need a credit card to secure one of these bikes. Best to consult their website for detailed instructions and bike stations. http://www.velib.paris.fr

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Paris 2009 by TravelswithCharie

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday night at Starbucks, Paris

On my way back to my hotel in Montparnasse, I passed by this Starbucks where coffee was in the sidelines while this band entertained to the delight of café goers as well as passersby. I had to stop and listen to the music.


I live in a neighborhood full of Starbucks in California and none of them have ever had a band, let alone piped music. It was a surprise treat, free at that.

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Photos by Charie

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What is Paris without a "manifestation"?


With the Sorbonne right in the center of the city, it is not uncommon for student demonstrations to take place. But this one is all about the French scientists who are demanding the government to stop its reforms in science and higher education which would affect how much time academics will spend on teaching versus research and will be at the discretion of university presidents rather than national rules (which is the current norm). Critical remarks by French President Sarkozy on the state of French Science only served to further alienate the scientists.

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Photo by Charie

Monday, February 09, 2009

McCafé Fare

Pastry and cake counter at McDonald's, Paris

The McDonald's Restaurant on the Champs Elysées is one of the best spots for people watching in Paris. It has a second floor seating area with a glass window overlooking the celebrated Arc de Triomphe. It helps to attract the number of pedestrian traffic but I think its dessert offerings from its McCafé section will keep visitors coming. Check out the photo of the pastry and cake selections. There are colorful macaroons (that appear like the big sisters of M&M chocolates), flan, various tartelettes (with apples, custard, with nuts) , and tiramisu. Mmmm! I chose a raisin pastry and a viennoise au chocolat.

Responding to local cultural sensitivities, McDonald's restaurants in Europe have toned down golden arches signs. It helps to be understated in places like Paris where cuisine is elevated to an art form and worshipped and fast food is frowned upon. By the way, the McCafés I've been to in Italy, Spain and France do attract a large following. So does Starbucks.

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Photo by Charie

Saturday, February 07, 2009

La Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris


The Notre Dame Cathedral has stood on Ile de la Cité since the 13th century. The Ile de la Cité was once the center of Roman occupation. It was then called, Lutetia.


At sunset, the rose window comes alive in a myriad of colors.


The long nave is flanked by graceful columns and pointed arches. The light emanating from the stained glass windows behind the main altar directs your gaze upward to the high cross vaulted ceiling.

At night the cathedral takes on an aura when bathed in light.


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Photos by Charie

Friday, February 06, 2009

A Kaleidoscope of Colors

Joseph being sold by his brothers

These well preserved stained glass windows are from the Ste-Chappelle. It is now in the collection of the Musée National du Moyen Age. Ste. Chappelle is famous for its stained glass windows which practically make up its walls. It suffered great damage during the French revolution when part of the windows were taken down and destroyed or lost.

These stained glass windows date from the 12th-13th century. The subjects are derived from the Bible. The ruby red and Chartres blue colors define the Ste. Chappelle stained glass. They are as vibrant today as they were in the Middle Ages.


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Photos by Charie

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Lady and the Unicorn

A Mon Seul Désir - To My Only Desire

I've been intrigued by the Unicorn tapestries since I read the novel, The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. While I've seen these tapestries in the past, I never really paid much attention to the details. After reading Chevalier's book, I have a better appreciation of these tapestries as works of art.

Taste

There are six tapestries in all, five of which deal with the senses. The sixth one portays a woman putting away her necklace into a box held by her lady in waiting. Above her, on the tent, are written the words, "A Mon Seul Desir". The lion and unicorn hold back the flaps of the tent. Her poodle sits regally on a silk draped bench to her right. All around are signs of life-fruit trees, flowers, birds, rabbits, monkeys, leopards.

Smell

The tapestries were found in the Chateau de Boussac in Auvergne. It was commissioned in the 15th century by Jean Le Viste whose coat of arms are worn by both the unicorn and the lion. It was woven in Flanders from cartons which were designed in France.

The tapestry above reflects the sense of smell . It shows the Lady making a flower wreath as the monkey takes a rose from her basket and sniffs it.

Sight

Behold the unicorn look at himself through the mirror held by the Lady. He is resting his front legs on her lap. They are sitting on an "island" of blue surrounded by a background of scarlet wool and silk. Notice the discoloration at the bottom of the tapestry which is the result of earlier restoration. The tapestries are now kept in low light to preserve them.

Touch

In the tapestry above, the Lady touches the horn of the unicorn with one hand while the other holds the banner with the coat of arms.

I didn't have much luck taking a picture of "Hearing" as there were children seated on the floor in front of this tapestry. They were learning all about these beautiful tapestries. I heard their guide and teacher ask them questions as they tackled the more profound meaning of the tapestries. How wonderful to educate these kids about their heritage at such a young age. I applaud.

Musée National du Moyen Age
Hotel de Cluny
6 Place Paul Painlevé (this is the entrance, not on Bd. St. Michel)
Paris

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Photos by Charie (these photos were taken with flash off so it has been edited to adjust for the lack of light)

Rue Mouffetard


I've just discovered the Rue Mouffetard which is a short walk from my hotel on the Left Bank. All along its cobblestone streets are stalls selling fruits and vegetables, wine, cheese, pastries and bread, meat and seafood as well as take out food. Several restaurants and two supermarkets flank both sides of the narrow street.


There are a couple of shops with a good selection of wines and the prices are reasonable.


When I came back around 3:30 p.m. to Rue Mouffetard after spending some time at the Cluny, the restaurant where I wanted to eat was already closed for lunch so I stopped by a traiteur (prepared food for take-out) and I bought riz cantonais and poulet croustillante. It wasn't what I hoped for so after eating my "to go" lunch I walked across to the patissier and studied the sweets.


I picked up a pavé of chocolat to save the day. All's well that ends well.

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Photos by Charie

Jardin des Plantes


On Monday the entire garden was blanketed in snow. Today, the grounds were a little wet but it was wonderful to walk the length of the park for a view of the outdoor sculptures of prehistoric animals which form part of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle. Inside the museum are the galeries of Evolution and Paleontology.


There are botanical gardens, a small zoo, a maze, hothouses, even a carousel. Some of these are closed in winter. It's a great place to take the kids. The museum is at 57 Rue Cuvier near Gare Austerlitz.

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Photos by Charie

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The City of Light

La Tour Eiffel

I am a poor map reader. No matter how much I check my directions, I still get lost. So I have to ask someone to tell me how to get back to St. Sulpice as I did this evening. The young lady was apologetic that she didn't know how to get there and how charming the French are when they apologize. If I know how to translate correctly, I heard her say to excuse her for her "bêtise", or stupidity for not knowing where the street or landmark in question might be. This is the second time I heard this since I arrived in Paris. Each time I'd asked for directions, the people I asked didn't know where to direct me to as they were just as lost as I was. Paris is a big city after all.

Place de la Concorde

But what a good thing I was lost tonight because I discovered the City of Light. This is serendipity.

The Seine at night


La Madeleine

Bonne soirée!

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Photos by Charie

At La Grande Epicerie Paris

Canal St. Martin

After walking along the Canal St. Martin today, I decided to take the metro across town to check out the gourmet grocery store of Au Bon Marché, La Grande Epicerie Paris on 38 Rue de Sevres. I tried to ignore the first glass counter of tempting delicate cookies and sweets and walked towards the back of the store. I walked past the deli and olives counter to the "plats a emporter" which had various Asian dishes like noodles, egg rolls, and sushi. I thought about taking out some of the dishes but decided against it as I was really hungry after the long walk and couldn't wait to go back to the hotel before eating dinner.

Plateau Bac

Behind the bread section is a small restaurant with high tables and bar stools. I checked out the offerings and decided the Plateau Bac looked very appetizing indeed. This is a seafood concoction with shrimps, a generous helping of coquilles (scallops) served with rice and vegetables (string beans, tomatoes, white onions, carrots, and zucchini) and a bowlful of tuna salad with cucumber, corn, rice and onion rings on a bed of mâche or lamb's lettuce. They also gave me a piece of baguette. All for 12.50 euros. What a treat! The scallops were tender as were the shrimps and the vegetables were not overcooked (as commonly found in many European restaurants).

After dinner I walked around the store to check out the chocolates and cookies and picked a box of Tuiles Amandes, almond cookies which are not too sweet and the perfect partner to after dinner coffee or tea.

On my way back to the hotel, I walked down Rue de Sevres where there are many chic stores like Furla, all the way to Rue de Grenelle where Prada and Valentino hold court. On the corner of Boulevard St. Germain and Rue de Bellechasse I passed by Gosselin, a boulanger and patissier and bought two more sweets - a beignet with apple filling and a simple galette au sucre which was a good thing because I got lost along the way and ate the beignet while trying to find a metro station. Does it seem like I was famished? Yes, sir! I only had one meal today and on top of that, I walked across Paris.

Bon appetit!

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Photos by Charie

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Let the sunshine in


In front of the Hotel the Ville the children were playing in the skating rink with their teachers watching them. Some of the kids didn't know how to or couldn't skate well but they all seemed happy to be outside after snow and rain swept Paris on Monday. The Chinese tourists asked the kids to smile for their cameras. They're such naturals. They were having a great time despite falling and sliding awkwardly and painfully at times. How touching to observe the helping hand.

While the women were frantically shopping to get the best discounts of the year, I saw these men playing boules at the Jardin des Tuileries.

Everyone seemed to have enjoyed living outdoors if only for a day, including these ducks at the courtyard of the Louvre museum.

La vie est belle, n'est pas?

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Photos by Charie

Soldes, Soldes, Soldes


Sale, Sale, Sale! All the stores in Paris are having their annual sales promising from 10% to as much as 70% off on clothes and accessories, home goods, and other items I have yet to discover. The stores are a haven right now not only for the discounts they offer but also for temporary shelter (while shopping or dining) from the chilling temperature outside.


The balconies at Galeries Lafayette

I checked out my favorite department at Galeries Lafayette - that is the handbag section. I was astounded at the prices even with the 30-50% discount. Thank goodness I didn't find anything that begged "buy me". I decided to splurge on lunch instead.


On the sixth floor of the Galeries Lafayette on Bd. Haussman, there are three restaurants -Le Café Sushi, Restaurant Sichuan and the self service Lafayette Restaurant. At the latter, you can choose from pasta, grilled dishes, salads or a selection of hot entrées of the day. The pavé de saumon with vegetables (string beans, broccoli, red pepper, mushrooms) and potato balls is 9.90 euros. Only the grilled steak cost over 10.00 euros. It was 14.90. All in all, the menu at the Lafayette posts reasonable prices.

I got a table with a view of the Opera Garnier's rooftop. And behind me the Tour Eiffel was bathed in sunlight, a welcome sight after the snow and rain which greeted my arrival in Paris.


Before leaving the building I took this photo of the famous glass dome of the store. I was standing in the perfume department to take this shot and a Nina Ricci salesperson gave me a whiff of their perfume which smelled very nice. I put the little sniffing card in my coat pocket and forgot my Kleenex was there too. So when I pulled out my Kleenex to blow my nose, I started sneezing. I hope I didn't activate my old allergy to perfume.

The perfume department at Galeries Lafayette

Bienvenue a Paris.

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Photos by Charie