Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday in a Park / Staying in Paris

I got a taste of Southern California weather here in Paris when it suddenly got warm enough to go out without a sweater for the first time in over a week of rainy grey skies. It seemed that everyone was hungry for a promenade, a picnic, or a sit in a park.
The Parc du Château de Saint-Germain overlooks La Défense, the huge "Century City" office complex.
Like most parks, the trees are sculpted and arranged in nice orderly rows which appeals to my sense of order and symmetry since there are paths between the rows with benches and walkways.
The city had the brilliant idea to teach horticulture students outside the classroom by having them plant, maintain and harvest vines alongside the city park!
The walkway along the Seine goes on for many miles....I have no idea how many.........
All I know it it went further than I could photograph!
The exhibition of sculptures changes with the seasons.
Parents and grandparents can sit on benches in the shade and watch their kids and grand children romp in the sunny open spaces.
This park was once the backyard for Louis XIV. There is also a forest behind the park which is so big that I saw a troop of boy and girl scouts (yes, here they combine the sexes in scouts just like in school) coming in to set up camp for the night in the woods. It is ironic that they all came with their camping gear up the escalator from the train station, but amazing that they live in a big city and can camp 20 minutes away from the center of town.

Manicured lawns and beautiful flowers everywhere.
When Louis XIV lived here he must have loved the view from his home!
The reason I came to this particular park was because I saw a photo of this floating bed and I had to see it in real life. Some people waded to the center to get a photo of themselves on it, but I love the image as it is, as if the bed is waiting to transport dreams to reality.
I have dreamed of living here for decades and it looks like my dreams are coming true as I just signed a rental agreement for 3 months with an option to renew :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday in Paris

I've never tasted a Nespresso espresso until today, although I've seen their ads with George Clooney for years in Paris. My friend has a machine and wanted to buy some "capsules" at their self service store at 29 Rue Tronchet n the 8th Arrondissement. Their larger store on Rue Scribe doesn't have the high tech scales and sensors and has a line like a train station to get to the vendors. This smaller store was like entering a jewelry store of coffee products. They are in New York, and they are opening in Beverly Hills on Rodeo this year. The Tronchet location is a beautiful store, worth checking out for coffee accessories (they also have a tiny tea accessory space in the store).

Beautiful jewel toned capsules in self service cases which you put into a bag and then place on scales with sensors so that they know how many and which of the 21 flavors you bought as a member of this "club". My friend and her husband drink maybe 2 day and she bought enough for the month which cost 55 € (about $75 US). To ease the pain of purchase, all members get as many free espressos as they wish at their upstairs coffee bar. I chose the "Roma" a Trinidad bean with chocolate and didn't particularly care for it, but I did love the shortbread cookie that came with it:)

After our coffee fortification, we wandered to her favorite street, Rue Leopold Belon, just off Rue Montorgueil. This quiet enclave is literally four blocks long between two bustling streets, but is is a world away in attitude.
This fountain seemed to fit more in Egypt than Paris....
Coming to the Seine and seeing the Eiffel Tower, there was no question this was Paris, not Egypt:)

Even though it is September, the weather today was like Summer and so we sat on a terrace and enjoyed the view of life on the Left bank.
I have no idea what this was but it was part of some official building next to Sainte Chappelle and amazingly intricate.
Rue Montorgueil has some excellent food vendors at great prices so if you are staying nearby, this is a wonderful marché with quality fruits, meats, flowers, and restaurants if you don't want to cook.
Paris has picked up a new American habit; they now have "Happy Hour" between 5-9 pm (people here eat late) and although food is usually not discounted (or even offered), drinks like Mumm Champagne was only 5 € (about $7 US)

Santé :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Eco-Friendly Traveling (Guest Blogger)

Cliff and Tiffany Barre write a blog called Peace, Love & Travel and they asked if my readers might be interested in some Green Travel tips, so since I'm in Paris, I thought you might want to read about some places on the East Coast of the States and some things you can do worldwide to be more eco-friendly when you travel:)

Some Tips for the Eco-Friendly Traveler

The earth is a limited resource. As such, it comes as no shock that many, from the individual all the way up to large companies, are trying to reduce their impact on the environment. The following are some tips to help you maintain your eco-friendly lifestyle while on the go.

Before You Go

Here are a couple ways you can do your part before you leave. One way is paperless booking. Instead of getting a paper ticket or itinerary at the cost of deforestation, book your tickets electronically. Not only can this reduce the fuss at check-in, it can help save the trees. Last year the International Air Transport Association went paperless, saving an estimated 50,000 trees.

Another way you can help is by unplugging unnecessary electronics in your house or apartment. Even when they’re off, they still draw a little bit of power. Additionally, you can lower your thermostat down to a level below where you normally keep it. Not only does this help the environment, it can also help you save some money.

During Your Trip

Just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you can’t stay green during your trip. One way is in your choice of transportation, especially if you will be renting. Why not try a vehicle that is gas efficient or even a hybrid. Doing so has the added benefit of saving you a little bit of money – money you could spend better on enjoying your trip.

When it comes to shopping and dining, stay local. By doing this you will help support the local community while staying green. Avoiding purchases of products that are flown out of town or overseas reduces emissions.

Where to Go


It’s difficult to not be green when you’re traveling to “the green mountain state.” Vermont is one of those destinations that holds scenic views in which you would see on post cards or calendars. In particular, the fall holds the best picture perfect views with the leaves changing colors, creating mountains of vibrant colors. While in Vermont don’t forget to check out the Ben and Jerry Ice Cream Factory, Killington Peak, Jenne Farm, and of course the beautiful Lake Champlain.

Upstate New York

Upstate New York has much to offer if you’re looking for a quick getaway or an alternative to a tropical vacation. The Finger lakes are some of the most beautiful and pristine lakes in the country. Many activities such as boating, fishing, and camping can be done while enjoying beautiful scenery. You will also find a number of wineries offering many great wines for the tasting!

If you’re the type that wants to preserve nature, but doesn't necessarily want to be in nature, why not try Syracuse’s Destiny USA. This is the world’s largest ‘green’ shopping mall and is the largest LEED certified shopping mall. Destiny USA offers many unique shopping, dining, and entertainment experiences.
Following these small tips can go a very long way. Being green is not exhausting or costly, in fact it is extremely easy to do and often times it will help save you money. Go green and keep your next vacation eco-friendly.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday in Paris

The nice thing about not having to work Metro-Boulot-DoDo (Train-Work-Sleep) Monday-Friday is that any day can be a "week-end". Today I did what most people will do tomorrow and Sunday, I started with a trip to the Banette boulangerie around the corner for an almond and chocolate croissant.

The interior is filled with almond paste and dark chocolate. I cut it into quarters thinking I would not finish it, but that just made for daintier bites:) I savoured it slowly but I ate the entire thing! Amazingly enough I have lost weight since I've been here because even in the rain, I've been walking for hours a day and up five flights of stairs to visit friends. The best diet in the world is an active way of life!
Speaking of friends, I met several for lunch at a cafe owned by one of their friends. As in any city, friends of friends are the best connections for making life better. Honesty is another facet of a healthy life and I was warned that Cafe Frappé was neither great nor horrible, but a good value for the price of under 15 Euros for a lunch time special combination of two to three items. Since it's in the middle of a very business centric arrondissement, it draws a huge lunch time crowd. We were one of only two tables of women out to lunch in a sea of businessmen on a lunch break. We were treated to a nice complimentary tapenande as soon as we sat down.
I chose the entrée and plat for 14,40 Euros (about $20 USD) and here that means you get a beginning course and a main course. The entrée (beginning course) was tomato with mozzarella and a drizzle of balsamic. The tomato was not completely ripe nor especially flavorful, but the presentation was lovely.
One of us ordered one of the large plate salads composed of tomatoes, mozzarella, ham, and drizzled with balsamic. It was a huge (for France) portion which she barely finished.
For my plat (main course) I ordered the confit duck leg with orange sauce over mixed vegetables. The duck was tender and moist and the vegetables a mélange of eggplant and zucchini. I didn't care for the sauce which was almost like a mild sweet and sour with a light orange taste.
Everyone else got the salmon with the same vegetables I had with my duck leg. Two of my friends thought their salmon was great, but the third found hers was overcooked. With a flurry of orders during the lunch rush in an approximately 40 seat space, getting every dish on point with one cook is amazing enough that one slightly overcooked plate is still pretty good.
The cafe gourmandise was everyone's favorite (it can be combined with a main dish in the formule instead of the tomato and mozzarella entrée). The small round dish in the upper left is a "brownie" serving, still warm and a nice bite for a chocolate fix, the larger cup to the right is a fruit crumble with pineapple which was everyone's favorite, and the macaron came in different flavors for everyone who ordered dessert.
Market days are usually three times a week here and they sell everything from lobsters to linens. Unlike the farmer's markets in Los Angeles, these are covered due to events like rain and snow, but they are in the middle of town, completely set up by 8:30 and taken down by 1pm. I bought beautiful muscadet black grapes for about 6 Euros a kilo (which equals about $4 USD a pound) and they have cooked foods like roasted free range chickens, paella, and charcuterie if you want to pack a picnic.
I think I counted 10 rows of stalls with four aisles across in this market, which continues up the street on Sundays for another 4 blocks from the center of the town square.
Flowers are considered a part of life here, so there are beautiful blossoms for sale all over town.
The "Ham of Paris" or white ham can be ordered "chiffonade" or thinly sliced as a great snack or part of a sandwich you build with some butter or mustard. The basic sandwich sold here in boulangeries is just ham and butter, so don't expect a mile high tower of meat and additions.
The fish mongers have prepared "salads" of shrimp and mussels and calamari which are great take away items for appetizers or add ons to a lettuce salad.
A slice of brie de Meaux with a nice glass of Bordeaux and a bit of a baguette tradition, just three of the reasons why I love it here!
Now I just have to decide what I want for dinner:)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blue Skies in Paris

It's rained every day since my arrival last week in Paris, so I actually remembered to carry my umbrella today, and of course that guaranteed that the day would turn out to be a warm beautiful blue sky day :)

The morning was gray and cloudy so when my friend and I arrived early for lunch with some other people she knew, we went to the Passage off the street Vivienne near the Bourse, or Paris Stock Exchange. Like all finance these days, trading is done online, so the streets are quiet and all the images of suit wearing, briefcase carrying stock brokers are now an historical footnote.

Galerie Vivienne in the 2nd arrondissement is also historical, it was built back in the days when the only protection against inclement weather was building what would be called a mall today. Shops from booksellers to wine merchants and a tea house have been in the passages for decades and they survive both the changing times and bad weather.

Since I have a very bad sense of direction, it was a good thing that my friend worked nearby before she retired and knew exactly where we were when we exited the passage Vivienne near the nearby Palais Royal. She would bring her lunch here and eat outside when the weather was nice.
The gardens are beautiful with flowers that surround the tree lined walk ways on both sides.
By the time we walked to the Opera the skies were blue:)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Paris via Air Tahiti Nui

Air Tahiti Nui is one of my favorite airlines for trips from LAX to Paris, not only are their flights ALL direct, but their crews are friendly, their coach seats have amenities most business fares offer, and their rates for excess and overweight luggage are lower than most other airlines flying this route. The only downside is that they do not fly daily, so it helps if you can be flexible with your dates of travel.

The flight was scheduled to take 11 hours, but we arrived an hour early :)
Inflight coach lunch was coq au vin with a choice of red, white, or sparkling wines, salad, a camembert, and a dessert (which I did not taste). It was on par with a Business class meal on American Airlines. The breakfast the following morning was terrible, so I would recommend ordering a kosher or vegetarian meal online before you travel (at no extra cost).
Every seat had its own iPad size screen with flight details, movies, Tahitian TV program, music, and games.
The only time I am truly happy in the morning is when I am awake because I am landing in a city I love, like Paris :)
Most buildings do not have elevators and the ones that do are usually only big enough for 2 people or 1 person and 1 piece of luggage, so be ruthless in paring down what you are packing. You might be lugging baggage up FIVE flights of stairs. For views like this, it might make the exercise worth it. If you are booking a rental, remember that the ground floor does not count as a floor, so the 1st floor in France is the 2nd floor in the US.
With open air markets several times in week in every neighborhood, you can pick up fresh fruit, bread, and local wine for a meal or picnic and live like a native.
The natives love chocolate (who doesn't?) and sometimes the best finds are new chocolatiers who worked for famous ones befor opening up their own shops like Pascal Legac who the creative director of La Maison du Chocolat and was voted one of the 12 best chocolatiers for three years in a row.
He makes caramel (they were sold out) and chocolate eclairs (this was the last one left at 1pm), chocolate tarts, and chocolates with single origins and he will DELIVER if you are in France!
To celebrate my return to France, I picked up the last bottle of Drappier 2006 Millésime on the shelf. This full bodied velvety finish champagne was the perfect welcome home :)