Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Music, Authors and More

What a stroke of good luck that Heidi's last night in Paris coincided with a party at Shakespeare & Company. The free champagne was flowing,  authors were talking and people were dancing, while we tapped our feet to the lively tunes of 'The Paris Sheiks".

The featured publications were Mademoiselle London, London Walks!, and Gogoparis Guide.

Related posts:

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alan Riding
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

Author Events are a wonderful way to spend an evening in Paris. Links for the English bookstores are located on the lower right side of this blog. Click HERE to see a comprehensive list of the literary events in Paris.

Tennis at the Hotel de Ville - Roland Garros

Looking for a spot to watch the finals of the French Open at Roland Garros?  Join the tennis fans in front of the Hotel de Ville.  Not only do you get to see some intense tennis on the big screen, but you can admire the scenery and do a bit of people watching at the same time.  If you feel like being more active, pick up a racket and test the speed of your serve or play a match on the sand court.

Fill in the Blank

And Fraternité!  There is a point where these three streets intersect in the 19 arrondissement, but I didn't have time to get a picture of Rue de la Fraternité because I was on a walking tour and had to keep up with the group.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Morning Musings on Architecture

While watching Woody Allen's new movie, "Midnight in Paris", I was struck by how beautiful Paris looks on screen.  She's a real star!  And without belittling her intellectual capacity, much of her allure is due to her physical beauty -- the Seine, the quaint streets, the lights twinkling on the rain splattered streets.

So, imagine how different Paris would be if Napoleon III had hired someone other than Baron Haussmann to renovate Paris, someone like the Swiss born Le Corbusier, who thought that a house should be as efficient as a machine.  I know that Le Corbusier lived in a different era than Napoleon, but like Gil Pender, the disillusioned screenwriter in Woody Allen's movie, I'm letting my imagination reshape the past.

The "Art Nouveau Architecture in the 16th District" tour that I did with Paris Walks yesterday is responsible for these reflections.  Admittedly, I don't know very much about architecture, but after seeing what Le Corbusier's influence did to the cityscapes of Switzerland, I prefer living in the more distant past than Le Corbusier's 1920s.  Paris wouldn't be such an attractive star if the majority of her buildings resembled the ultra-modern house with lots of horizontal windows that le Corbusier designed at the Square du Docteur Blanche.

Just a note about "Midnight in Paris", which has been aptly described as Woody Allen's love letter to Paris - I'm so glad that I waited to see it with my good friend, Heidi, who is visiting from Switzerland.  We laughed, we nudged each other whenever a familiar site came onscreen, and we clapped with the rest of the audience at the end.  Sure, it's light and frothy, but it was such a pleasure to walk out of the theatre and to marvel at the beauty of the city shortly before the magical hour of midnight.

Le Corbusier Foundation
8-10, square du Docteur Blanche
75016 Paris 
M° line 9 (Jasmin) / lines 9 et 10 (Michel-Ange - Auteuil)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday's Picture and a Song - Man's Best Friend

Two glasses of wine -- one for the man and one for his dog?

And a traditional French drinking song, "Chevaliers de la Table Rond".  Santé!

Roland Garros - Some Practical Information

Djokovic in the match against Del Potro

Usually Sunday is my day off from blogging, but here's a quick post with some practical information for Roland Garros.

Transportation - take the metro to Porte de Auteuil.  Don't take a velib (one of the Parisian bicycles) because you may have a problem finding an empty slot where you can return the bicycle.

Cameras, even very large ones, are allowed at Roland Garros.  Flash photography is prohibited.

If you forget your camera and have to use your cell phone to take pictures, there are several points to recharge cell phones on the grounds.  The one shown below is located at the Place des Mousquetaires.

As visitors are not allowed to re-enter the Roland Garros grounds once they leave, be sure to have everything that you need for the day before passing through security.  Also, keep your ticket in a safe place because you're required to show it each time that you re-enter the court.  They will give you a stub when you leave the court to get something to eat or to go to the bathroom, but it's necessary to show both the ticket and the stub to re-enter the court.  I didn't know that the first time and was a bit worried when I couldn't locate my ticket that I had stuck in one of my pockets.

There are lots of stands selling wraps, sandwiches, ice-cream, and even champagne.
Stroll around the grounds and watch the players on the practice courts.
Have fun and enjoy your day at Roland Garros!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Roland Garros - Close Encounters of a Major Kind

Djokovic on Court Suzanne Lenglen

What an amazing day at Roland Garros!  The match between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro proved to be an intense battle, with long exchanges and incredible returns, the Swiss player, Stanislas Wawrinka, disappointed the French by defeating the French player, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and most importantly for a Swiss-by-marriage like me, I had a close encounter with Roger Federer...and a few other notables like John McEnroe, Tony Parker, and Novak Djokovic.

Swiss fans being interviewed by TSR, one of the Swiss television channels

After watching the Women's Singles on the Philippe Chatrier Court, I joined some of the other Swiss fans who were proudly following Roger Federer's match on the big screen at the Place des Mousquetaires.  Feeling a bit disappointed that seeing Roger on a screen was as close as I was going to get to him at Roland Garros, I decided to check out the action on the practice courts and then went over to the Suzanne Lenglen Court where Roger had just finished playing a sucessful match to advance to the second round. Noticing a group of people clustered around one of the exits, I decided to join them in hopes of getting a glimpse of the famous Swiss player.  It turned out to be well worth the wait.

Roger Federer leaving Suzanne Lenglen Court  
And this is why I like him off court as well as on - after signing quite a  few autographs, Federer was
obviously in a hurry to leave the area when a father asked him to take a picture with his son.
And he kindly agreed.  He makes me proud to be a Swiss-by-marriage!
Other happy fans who had the opportunity to see Roger Federer

Happy and a bit giddy with excitement, I was busy sending a message to Stéphane telling him that I had just seen Roger Federer when another tennis great, John McEnroe walked past me.  By the time that I put my phone in my purse and grabbed my camera, he had already entered a restricted area, so I asked the guard if I could take a quick photo.  He looked surprised that I wanted to take a picture of the middle-aged guy in a suit and asked me who it was.  When I told him that it was John McEnroe, he remained unimpressed and didn't appear to recognize the name of the former tennis star.  Fame truly is fleeting.  One day you have flocks of fans following you like Roger and the next day you're unknown. 

Or, maybe it's just generational because when I heard a buzz while walking through one of the more quiet areas of Roland Garros, I realized that somebody important was right in front of me.  Not knowing who it was, I snapped a picture and was told by some excited teens that the man in the hoodie and shades was Tony Parker, the French NBA basketball player who was married to Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives.

Tony Parker

One of the biggest upsets of the day didn't happen on the tennis court but rather when the officials at Roland Garros decided to move the match between Djokovic and Del Porto from the Philippe Chatrier to the Suzanne Lenglen court.  For some reason, the officials allowed those fans with night tickets and Suzanne Lenglen tickets to watch the match and didn't allow fans with Philippe Chatrier tickets to enter the stadium.  Needless to say, after waiting all day to see Djokovic and Del Porto, there were a lot of angry people.  After asking to be admittted at five different gates, Julie-Anne and I were finally allowed to go inside by a young man who agreed that it was an unfair decision.  We happily took our seats and were immediately absorbed in the game, while the furious fans who couldn't get in chanted "remboursé" (reimbursement) and "Philippe Chatrier" to try to convince the officials to move the match back to its originally scheduled venue.  It's a testimony to Djokovic and Del Potro's ability to concentrate because they continued to play when it sounded like the storming of the Bastille all over again!

Del Porto serving at Suzanne Lenglen Court
Djokovic on court
Djokovic off court with a stunned fan!
Djokivic leaving Roland Garros

Even though I didn't get to see the conclusion of Djokovic and Del Porto's match because the officials suspended their play until today, I had a wonderful time at Roland Garros with my niece, Julie-Anne, who travelled from Switzerland and joined me for the day!  Thanks Julie-Anne -- it was "super"!

Tomorrow's post will be about a few practical tips for visitors to Roland Garros.

An uncropped photo of Roger.  I was so close that I didn't even have time to focus the camera.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Accessibility in Paris - Headed in the Right Direction!

I'm feeling rather tired and in need of a strong cup of coffee this morning because I was out way past my bedtime last night going from restaurant to restaurant and from bar to bar with Vassilia, Alfredo, and Jean-Michel.  Was there some sort of Parisian pub crawl or celebration?  No, we started out the evening as four strangers who had volunteered for the first Accessibility Night in Paris and parted as members of a team who had a fun time together identifying some of the places where physically challenged people can enjoy a night out with their friends in Paris.

The evening began with a brief explanation of which factors, such as the width of the door, the type of door, and most importantly, if there are steps in front of the establishment, determine the accessibility or inaccessibility of a restaurant.  The event organizers told the 300 volunteers that the three main goals were to check accessibility, to inform the restaurant owners about the need to make their establishments accessible, and to register all of the accessible locations on the Jaccede website.  They added that while it is important for physically challenged people to go shopping and to go to the bank, it is equally important for them to go to the cinema or to a restaurant with friends rather than sitting at home alone.

Armed with a kit that included a measuring tape, forms to rate the accessibilty of those establishments that we were assigned to visit, and informative pamphlets for the business owners, we headed out onto the streets of Paris.  The first challenge arose when we realized that Vassilia, who volunteered to be the wheelchair bound member of our group, wouldn't be able to take the metro.  We ended up missing the first bus that passed because it took us awhile to navigate the poles next to the curb cuts and to cross the street, but we managed to squeeze onto the second bus.  Imagine trying to fit a wheelchair onto an already overly crowded bus and you'll get an idea of just how daunting Paris can be for physically challenged people.

Arriving at our destination, rue de Faubourg Saint-Denis and rue des 2 Gares, we started looking for restaurants and bars to visit.  Finding places that Vassilia could enter proved to be yet another challenge.  The steps in front of most of the restaurants made them impossible to enter with a wheelchair.  We quickly found out that it isn't much fun to be on the outside looking in.

Vassilia on the bus and trying to access the bathroom.

On a more positive note, all of the business owners with whom we spoke expressed an interest in making their restaurants more accessible.  One man proudly showed us a removable steel ramp that he placed at the entrance to provide access for Vassilia, but the ramp's overly steep incline flipped the wheelchair backwards and could have caused Vassilia to have a concussion if we hadn't grabbed the handles of the wheelchair before she hit the ground.

Jean-Michel, who unexpectedly had a stroke the day after he returned from a vacation when he was 41 years old, spoke about the difficulties of being handicapped in Paris.  The doors are awkward to open, the toilets are tiny and largely inaccessible because they are usually located in the basement, and most Parisians don't want to change the pace of their daily rhythm to accommodate a physically challenged person.  Opting to walk of the left side of the road, Jean-Michel explained that it's easier for him to be on that side because the slope of the sidewalk works with his disability rather than against it.  Something that wouldn't have even occurred to me.

Alfredo, Jean-Michel, et Vassilia

Je tenais à vous remercier pour cette soirée si amusante intéressante et mémorable!

Many heartfelt thanks to fellow blogger, Adam, at Paris Weekends for helping to spread the word about this event!

Related posts:

Accessibility Night, May 26, 2011 - This Ones' for You, Dad!

Jaccede website

 Vassilia, Jean-Michel, and two of the nice owners we met.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Market Walk near Les Halles - Not for Vegetarians!

Stained glass window in Sainte-Eustache of an
apprentice presenting his culinary "chef d'oeuvre" to
 his master and a very attentive dog.

When Stéphane and I found out that we were moving to Paris, we decided to get into the mood by reading Emile Zola's novel, The Belly of Paris, that is set in Les Halles, the enormous (21 acre) marketplace that was built by Baron Haussmann in the 1850s.

"Departure of Fruit and Vegetables from the Heart of Paris"
Even though the old market no longer exists, Françoise Meunier's informative tour of the area around Les Halles and le Rue Montorgeuil was like taking a trip back in time to the days when there used to be an opening bell and a closing bell at Les Halles, just like at the New York Stock Exchange.  All trading ceased at the sound of the closing bell ("cloche"), which is when the tramps, or the "clochards", could collect the scraps of food off of the ground.

Françoise, who used to run a cooking school in the area and still gives cooking classes, gave us lots of good tips about where to buy the freshest ingredients.  Addresses are at the end of this post.  Enjoy the tour!

Foie Gras Luxe
"Les Halles after the Sound of the Bell", one of the murals at Christ Inn's Bistro
Stohrer's, the oldest pastry shop in Paris, opened in 1730. Be sure to look at the ceiling.

The chicken with the red label is very good, while the Bresse chicken is excellent and should be served with a wine of equal quality according to chef Françoise!  Don't worry about the feet.  They leave them on to keep the chicken fresh and are removed when they are sold.


"Péche" means that the fish has been caught, in this case in the Atantic, rather than farm raised.

Cherries are in season.
Apricots are in season.
And beef is always in season in Paris!

Here are the addresses of some of the places that we visited:

Bourse de Commerce (Chamber of Commerce) to see the  domed ceiling and paintings.
2 Rue Viarmes
75001 Paris

Sainte Eustache to see the sculpture, The Depart of Fruit and Vegetables from the Heart of Paris, 28 February 1969 by Raymond Mason and the stained glass windows given to the church by the Association of Pork Butchers.

The Christ inn's Bistrot at 15, rue Montmartre is in a building that is classified as a heritage site of Les Halles.  Take a look at the tile murals inside.

18, rue Coquilliere
75001 Paris

26, rue Montmartre
75001 Paris

Stohrer, the oldest pastry shop in Paris.  Started in 1730, it's older than the USA and supposedly has the best eclairs. 
51, rue Montorgueil
75002 Paris

G. Detou (baking products, nuts, dried fruit, etc.)
58 rue Tiquetonne
75002 Paris

After visiting several of the food stores along the rue Montorgueil and smelling the aroma of roasting chickens at the butchers, I was ready for lunch!