Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday's picture and a song - Here comes the sun!

After long days of grey skies and rain, the sun made a very welcome appearance yesterday.  I'm sure that there must be a French song that would fit the subject, but today's selection is Here Comes the Sun because that's what I found myself humming as I took these photos. If you need something to brighten your day, watch the animated video at the bottom of the post. Perhaps you'll find yourself humming a happy tune by the end of it.

Beach volleyball in front of the Hotel de Ville
Paddle boats for the kids in front of the Hotel de Ville. I wish that they had some for adults.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ralph Lauren's "The Art of the Automobile" at Les Arts Decoratifs

One of Ralph Lauren's 14 Ferraris

Some people mistakenly think that I live with Ralph Lauren.  After all, I wake up to the sight of his name on my sheets, dry off with a towel bearing his initials, and would have already worn my new Ralph Lauren white jeans a couple of times if the weather in Paris had been more cooperative.  So, it came as a bit of a surprise that the security guards at the Art of the Automobile exhibition didn't seem to know about my close relationship with Mr. Lauren and told me that I wasn't permitted to take pictures of any of his cars.  Thinking that he would surely understand, I took a couple of photos with my iPhone so that you could see what my numerous purchases of RL products have enabled him to buy.

While the Bugatti Atlantic (1938), which some automotive aficionados deem the most beautiful car ever made, is definitely gorgeous, the car that captured my attention was the Alfa Romeo "Mille Miglia".  With it's sleek curves, sexy red sheen, and teardrop shaped mudguards, this exquisite automobile is the one that I would have wanted to drive during the "Thousand Mile Race" in 1938 when it reached the incredible speed of 115 miles per hour (185 kph).  Additionally, this exceptional vehicle was judged best in its class at the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

The form, color, material, and design of each of the seventeen vehicles are outstanding examples of the creative genius of the automotive industry. For as one of Ralph Lauren's employees explained when asked why Mr. Lauren "only" owns 14 Ferraris, "You might know a guy with 27 Ferraris but that's like having 27 - one dollar bills, whereas Ralph Lauren has 14 - one hundred dollar bills!".

 The Art of the Automobile exhibition is at Les Arts Decoratifs until August 28, 2011.

107 rue de Rivoli
Paris 75001
Tuesday to Sunday 11 AM to 6 PM
Nocturne: Thursday 6 to 9PM 

Visit the Ralph Lauren website to see more photos of these exceptional automobiles and to listen to their engines.

A man sketching the Ferrari 250 "Testa Rossa" (1958). Next time I'm going to bring my sketchpad instead of my camera!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Landing on the roof of the Galeries Lafayette

The next time that you're admiring the views of Paris from the terrace of the Galeries Lafayette, take a minute to look around and imagine landing a plane there.  That's exactly what the pilot, Jules Vedrines, did on the auspicious date of January 19, 1919.   According to the commemorative marker shown below, it was the first time that a plane landed on the roof of a building in a large city.

What else can you do on the terrace?  Well, judging by the people in the first photo, you can share a special Parisian moment with your significant other, take a photo of the stunning cityscape, or completely ignore the view of the Eiffel Tower like the family who appear to be studying a guidebook and wondering what they should see next!  You can also have something to eat and drink at the rooftop cafe or get a cup of coffee from the coffee cart. And if you would have been here during the French Open in June, you could have played tennis on the terrace with a pro.

The terrace is located on the 8th floor of Galeries Lafayette.  The cafe is open Monday to Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. until the end of September.

Galeries Lafayette
40 Blvd. Hausmann

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I have a "new" desk from the Paris-St.Ouen Flea Market

One of the upsides of being expatriates is that we've been able to collect a lot of unique pieces of furniture from different countries. One of the downsides is that it's not always easy to find a place for all of our "stuff" when we're transferred to a new location.  So, when we realized that we needed a new desk, I proposed an inexpensive one from IKEA that we could get rid of when we move, while Stephane countered with an antique secretary desk that we could keep as a memory of our time in Paris.  Since I need Stephane and his car to get to IKEA, he had the upper-hand and ruthlessly used it to his advantage [please note that this is my blog, so I can tell my version of the story!], which meant that we've been making unsuccessful forays to different antique markets...until last Saturday.

Taking advantage of my absence during an alleged "father and son outing" to the Paris-St. Ouen Flea Market, Stephane located a secretary desk, purchased it, and sent somes photos telling me that it was being delivered early Monday morning.  Poof...gone were my dreams of a disposable desk from IKEA. In their place is just one more thing that I'm going to have to find a spot for in our next home.  Or maybe we could use the desk as a reason to stay in Paris.  After all, we're feeling pretty good here!

Did you know that the Paris-St. Ouen Flea Market is where Owen Wilson's character goes to look for Cole Porter records and meets his soulmate in the recent Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris?  It's also the largest antique market in the world.

Click here to read Stephane's guest post about our first adventure hunting for a desk at the flea market.

Here are some of the items that caught Philippe's eye. You really can find just about anything there. Need a top hat for your tiger skin?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Every man for himself, or the last day of the summer sales in Paris

Whew, it was a battle of the fittest yesterday. One man, who was fleet of foot, dashed across the store to snatch a pair of shoes before a mother and her son could reach them, while another cunningly studied a fellow shopper to see if he would release his grasp on a desired jacket. As many Parisians are preparing to leave the city for their August vacation, competition for the few remaining items of summer wear was fierce.

The bi-annual sales (soldes) are state regulated in France and are the only time of year that stores are legally allowed to sell merchandise at a loss.  With an official start and end date set by the government, the summer and winter sales are the primary way for stores to reduce their inventory of old stock. And as every savvy shopper in Paris seems to know, merchandisers gradually reduce their prices during the six week sale period until goods reach their final markdown, often the third one, on the last day of the sale.

My son, who has a slim build, remarked that a larger man would have had better luck than him in Paris because the majority of the sales items were sizes XXL and XL, while in the United States it's usually sizes M and S that are left (maybe Americans need to add more cheese and wine to their diets!). But since he has already asked to borrow a larger suitcase to take his new wardrobe back to Boston, I think that he did alright during our shopping trips. Thank goodness that the battle of the bargain hunters is finished until January!

After watching the tactics of the male shoppers, I was happy to have completed my summer shopping in the States.

All of the remaining pink shirts were sizes XXL, XL and L.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Maybe I'm not a newbie anymore - suspicious packages on the metro

Metro Line 4 - Suspicious package at Cite, traffic is interrupted
between Chatelet and Odeon

For the past couple of weeks, I've been wondering when or how I'll know that I've moved beyond the stage of "newbie in Paris" to something more substantial, something that says that I've reached a higher level as a city dweller.  

And I think that I may have found the perfect litmus test - my reaction to the message, "Metro Line 4 -Suspicious package at Cite, traffic is interrupted between Chatelet and Odeon" that I saw while sprinting through the metro station on the way to watch the Tour de France on Sunday.  Here's what I noticed about my behavior:
  • Managed to read the screen in French and understand it while traveling at a fast pace. The picture above was actually taken at the next station, not the one where I originally noticed it.
  • Kept running towards the area of potential danger rather than away from it.
  • Waited until we were on the platform to discuss it with Stephane and Philippe, for as any experienced city dweller knows, there's nothing worse than running down the stairs of the metro and hearing the woosh of the departing train as it leaves the station because you wasted your time standing in front of the screen while trying to figure out an alternate plan.
But in all seriousness, after seeing another announcement about a suspicious package on Metro Line 1 yesterday, it would be a good idea to look at the screens in the stations because they give useful information that you may be able to decipher even if you don't understand French.  As this is the first time that I've seen two notices about suspicious packages on two consecutive days, I'm going to keep a close eye on the screens to learn about any delays or closures.

Metro Line 1 - Due to a suspicious package, the traffic is
slowed down on the entire line.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Congratulations to Cadel Evans! Winner of the 2011 Tour de France

The riders whizzed past the crowds along Quai Malaquais.
Headlines in Australia and around the world are proclaiming that Cadel Evans is "King of France" after his victorious ride in the the 2,132 mile Tour de France.  But what they're not telling you about are the obstacles, like road and metro station closures, that some spectators encountered on their way to watch the race.  Sure, we should have left home a lot earlier, but inspired by Evans' brilliant performance in the last stage of the race we somehow thought that we could make it to the Rue de Rivoli in record time.  We couldn't.  We were, however, able to arrive just in time to see the cyclists whiz past us on the Quai Malaquais before hurrying over to the Louvre where we watched them enter the tunnel over and over again as they circled the Tuileries Garden and rode up and down the Champs Elysees.

Cadel Evans, the third from the front, wearing the winner's yellow jersey. (Photo credit - Stephane)
Congratulations to Cadel Evans, the first Australian to win the Tour de France. Rumor has it that the Australian prime minister has promised a day off to celebrate Evans' victory.

A proud Aussie strolling through the Tuileries Garden.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday's picture and a song - Singing in the Rain

Huddled together watching the sunset (?!) in front of Sacre Coeur.

At least the weather looks more promising for next week.  For those who are challenged by the metric system, like me, the high will be 73 and the low will be 55 Fahrenheit.  Let's hope that the forecast is correct as the Tour de France cyclists will speed down the Champs-Elysées later this afternoon and I would rather not be "Singing in the Rain" while watching them.

  1. Weather for Paris, France

    17°C | °FSunMonTue
    Mostly CloudyPartly CloudyShower
    Mostly Cloudy
    Wind: N at 11 km/h
    Humidity: 60%

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Betcha can't eat just one - Lay's potato chip

New goat cheese flavored chips by Lay's

Given the name of this blog, you're probably expecting to read about something that I did "out" in Paris rather than "in" my apartment, but even though I have other posts that are lined up and ready to go, this one's jumping the queue because I couldn't wait to tell you about the new Lay's goat cheese potato chips.  Yes, they're that darn good.  And even though this isn't a paid for advertisement, if someone at Lay's would like to send me a supply of these new chips, I would be one happy woman.

So, without further ado, here's the tale of how I tasted my first goat cheese potato chip:

After sprinting from store to store, lifting overstuffed bags, and dodging frenzied shoppers during what felt more like a grueling triathlon than a shopping trip with my son, I collapsed on the couch when we returned home, waved my hand in the general direction of the kitchen, and told Stephane and Philippe to forage for themselves.  Even though a variety of leftovers made short and rather unappealing appearances in front of me, my interest in food wasn't aroused until an enticing looking bag of chips arrived on the scene.  Taking a sip of red wine, I popped one of the chips in my mouth and shuddered.  Yuck!  It tasted really strange.  But then I remembered that European chips come in all sorts of different flavors, like roasted chicken and bratwurst, and decided to give the chips another chance.  Truth be told, I was just too lazy to get up and look for something else.  Most unexpectedly, however, the flavor of goat cheese combined with the salty chips started to grow on me and the bag was almost empty before I knew it.  

Well, it's time for me to make a quick trip to the grocery store for some cereal, milk, and another bag of those incredibly good chips.  Goat cheese, anyone?

If you like potato chips, click here to learn why you should take a potato to Pere Lachaise cemetery.

All that remained of the bag of chips...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Let's go to the beach - Paris Plages!

After hearing about "Paris Plages" for the past couple of months, I wasn't going to let the grey skies and cool weather keep me from enjoying the beach along the Seine yesterday. From July 21 until August 21, you can relax under an umbrella, play a game of petanque, take a Tai Chi course, build a sand castle, or dance the night away. And the best part is that all of the activities are completely free from 8:00 a.m. until midnight! One of the beaches stretches from the Pont des Arts to the Pont de Sully, while the other beach is located at the Bassin de la Villette.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle is sponsored by Disneyland Paris.

If you feel inspired after seeing Sleeping Beauty's Castle, there are plenty of free sand toys to make your own creation, although you probably won't need a team of seven sculptures from five different countries to help you. The castle, which is made out of 40 tons of sand, will be inaugurated by Micky Mouse on July 23.

But if playing in the sand isn't your thing, challenge your partner to a game of petanque. This stylish English woman, one of the few people who was wearing flip flops instead of boots on the beach, was very amenable when I asked if I could take a picture of her in action. Unfortunately, she didn't know that it was going to take me such a long time to get a good photo! I'm not sure that her husband was very pleased about all of the extra practice because she was already quite a good shot and the score wasn't in his favor!

And don't worry that the beach was completely empty on opening day. These people looked very comfortable and didn't appear to mind the cool weather.

For more information, please click here to visit the official Paris Plages website in English.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

If you don't want to get lost in Paris...

If you don't want to get lost in Paris, don't leave your map in Zara.  That advice seems simple enough, especially if you don't shop at Zara, but you would have been surprised by the number of people who left their maps in the store yesterday.  While waiting for my son to try on a pile of skinny jeans and graphic t-shirts, I watched as Italian, German, and American tourists came, shopped, and apparently left their maps behind.  When an exasperated salesmen picked up yet another map to add to their collection, I overheard him say to the manager, "Well, at least we aren't going to get lost!".

And if you do happen to forget your map while shopping the summer sales, you can always pick up a free one at one of the offices in the metro stations. I like the "Paris avec rues" map because it shows the major roads with the metro lines on one side and the bus lines on the other side.  You have to specifically ask for it, otherwise the agent will give you one of the smaller maps.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Paris is beautiful in the rain - if you have an umbrella

Tourists waiting to get out of the rain. The long line in front of the Palais Garnier stretched around the block.

"Paris is beautiful in the rain" has become a popular refrain ever since Owen Wilson's character, Gil, encounters his soul mate, a beautiful French woman, who likes walking in the rain in Woody Allen's latest movie, Midnight in Paris.  But judging from all of the umbrellas that I saw in town yesterday, I don't think that many people would agree with Gil, especially since the weather is rather cool and inhospitable for July.

While scurrying from store to store and trying to stay dry under the one umbrella that I was sharing with my son, I was reminded of an historical marker that I had seen in the 1st arrondissement explaining that people used to be able to rent umbrellas in Paris.  What a clever idea and one that I wish was still in practice!

According to the plaque that is located on the corner of Rue du Chevalier Saint-George and Rue Saint Honore, the French word for umbrella, "parapluie" was officially admitted into the French language by the Academie Francaise in 1718, even though Jean Marius had been selling a folding umbrella that was all of the rage since 1710. Interestingly enough, carrying an umbrella was seen as a sign that you weren't wealthy enough to own a carriage and were obliged to walk the streets like a commoner. Nevertheless, a company was created to rent green silk umbrellas to those in need of protection in 1769, while in 1848 there were nearly 400 umbrellas makers in Paris.

If you would like to have a made-to-order Parisian umbrella or parasol, please read my post about umbrella maker extraordinaire, Michel Heurtault.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Before and after - favorite photos of Paris


The Eiffel Tower and the Sacre-Coeur Basilica are iconic images of Paris and are certainly magnificent in all of their grandeur but some of my favorite photos record the seemingly inconsequential events of daily life - a solitary man drinking a glass of red wine at a cafe, a group of small children playing soccer, or a young woman cooling her toes in the fountain in the Jardin du Palais Royale. 

I'm not sure if it's his fashionable red-rimmed glasses or his total concentration as he artistically forms each gold letter, but there's something about the sign painter that seems to symbolize the people of Paris, for whatever it is that they're doing, Parisiennes usually seem to enjoy doing it...with perhaps the exception of driving and waiting in line!

The "before" photo was taken while having tea with Christine, a charming Canadian woman whom I met while snapping pictures during our tour of Legeron Flower and Feather Boutique and the "after" photo was taken a couple of weeks later when I returned to the Galerie Vivienne with my parents-in-law.

4 rue des Petits Champs
75002 Paris  

What are the subjects of some of your favorite photos?  Please feel free to include an internet link in the comment section if they're posted on the web.


Monday, July 18, 2011

The things I carry

After arriving home early yesterday morning and taking a much needed nap, I transferred all of the accouterments of my American life from my purse to a drawer and replaced them with the things that I need in Paris.  Now, I'm not sure how much my "American" purse weighs, but whenever I sling my  6 pound "Parisian" purse (yes, I weighed it!) over my shoulder and head out the door, I'm reminded of a rather bad credit card commercial in the United States that asks, "What's in your wallet?".  So, here it is -the list of essentials that I lug around with me every day:
  • Wallet
  • Navigo pass - the magic ticket that takes me anywhere that I want to go in Paris
  • iPhone with lots of helpful apps (I would literally be lost without it)
  • Tattered map of the metro and bus system that also shows the streets
  • Dettol for disinfecting my hands after close encounters with the germs on the metro
  • Tissues for all of the times that there isn't any toilet paper in the women's restroom
  • 2 fold-up bags for toting home purchases from Piccard and other stores
  • 2 Moleskin notebooks, one for notes and the other a special Parisian edition with maps and important addresses that serves as a backup to my iPhone
  • My second pair of Oakley sunglasses.  My first pair was tragically lost somewhere on the streets of Paris
  • Business cards from restaurants where I've enjoyed what I've eaten
  • Piece of nougat that I bought for Stéphane and forgot to give to him
  • Pen
  • Hat for protection from the sun and rain
  • Oh! and last but not least -- my camera, but that's usually hanging from a strap around my neck and not in my purse
Optional items:
  • Umbrella

Looking at everything that I carry around with me on a daily basis, I'm not surprised that the free massage at the Place de la Sorbonne felt so good!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday's picture and a song - breakfast in Paris

Pain au chocolate, croissant, and Kugelhopf - breakfast in Paris

Our Air France flight arrived at Charles de Gaulle at 5:55 this morning.  Stepping out of the plane into the cool morning air, 57 F (14 C), was a bit of surprise after the hot weather in Boston and Annapolis.  It feels good to be home.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

One of my pet peeves - American television commercials

Huge reflector panel used to cast light on the city of Annapolis

What's happening in the world right now?  Other than the meagre bits of news that I've picked up while listening to the car radio, I'm completely out of touch with current events. Watching the news on television is rather frustrating because there are about 8 minutes of commercials for every 30 minutes of programming, which means that after covering the latest news sensation, like the Casey Anthony trial, there isn't much time left over for world events.

Time to take a break from this blog post to bring you scenes from a Lincoln car commercial that was shot in Annapolis last week.  Lights, cameras, action...

Are we in England? Driving the wrong way around the traffic circle!

Tricks of the trade included driving the wrong way around the traffic circle because the angle was better for the camera shots, using huge reflector panels to cast light on Annapolis to make it look even more beautiful at night than it normally does, and spraying the streets with water to make them glisten.

Polishing the car and adjusting the cameras
The Porsche camera car painted matt black to prevent reflections.
Actors buying ice cream in the commercial

The commercial is part of a series that includes morning in Miami, daytime in Detroit, and nighttime in Annapolis.  From what we saw, it seems as if it's all about living the good life, which includes Lincoln vehicles, sailboats, and ice cream.  Please let me know if you happen to see this advertisement on television.  It's supposed to air in about three weeks.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Shopping - American style

One of the necessary evils associated with vacationing in the USA is stocking up on items, such as shoes, shirts, jeans, etc., because I'm too much of a miser to pay French prices. European friends have used all kinds of arguments about buying locally and supporting the economy of the country in which I live to try to convince me to change my ways, but I simply can't do it.  Inertia kicks in whenever I gaze through the window of a store in Paris and see a simple pair of flats for 100 Euros.  I just can't bring myself to cross the threshold and plunk down that much money for something that I know that I can find for a quarter of the price at Marshalls or at one of the factory outlet malls.

The other problem is that since I know that I'm only spending a fraction of what I would in Paris, I invariably end up buying two pairs of shoes instead of just one because I'm saving so much money.  So, where does that leave me at the end of the day?  Trying to stuff everything in my suitcase and wondering how it's all going to fit in my closet back home.

We're currently en route to Boston.  Did you know that they don't have a state sales tax on clothes in Massachusetts?

And just in case you need some evidence that I occasionally support the French economy, please read my post about shopping for an Hermes scarf.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What are your first memories of Paris?

Some of the postcards that I purchased in Paris in 1981.

Looking through the scrapbook that I mentioned in yesterday's post brought back lots of good memories of my first backpacking trip to Europe with my brother Jon in 1981.

Notes on the back of the postcards.

Here are some of the notes that I wrote to myself on the back of the postcards:

Saw the Eiffel Tower on June 2, our first day in Paris.  Took a nap there due to jet lag.

Went to Monmartre on June 2, 30, and July 1.  Very beautiful to look out over the city of Paris. Especially at dusk.

Walked along the Seine River on June 3.  This was after we saw the outside of the Louvre.  [I suspect that cost saving measures kept us from buying tickets to visit the Louvre, but it's 30 years later and I still haven't been inside.]

very beautiful city.

What are your first memories of Paris?

The cover of my scrapbook.