Monday, June 30, 2014

Modern Défense in Paris

Where am I?

La Défense is the modern business center of Paris and on a clear day, it can be seen from nearly any arrondissement as the cluster of skyscrapers to the northwest of the city. The most well known structure is the Grande Arche, or the Big Arch which is a huge office building and outdoor art object, providing shade and sitting areas (steps) for the thousands  of people who work nearby.
Walkways lined with green plants extend the visual space to the other arch, the one at the end of the Champs-Elysées about three and a half miles away.
The huge open spaces give a feeling of expansiveness, not usually found in dense business city centers.
One classic sculpture in the center accented the fact that this is indeed Paris.

Being in Paris, public parks and sitting areas abound,
along with water
and modern art.

There are huge stores, restaurants, and almost everyone was speaking English (with a French accent). Not many tourists ever come here, but since I'm no longer a tourist, I thought it was time to see what most Parisians consider their office:)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Taste of Nice in Paris

Les Niçois hosted a Yelp Elite Event and thanks to Marine B., the Paris Community Manager, we got a taste of Nice in Paris. It was perfect timing, just as the train strikes were ending, the summer solstice began, and people were beginning their summer vacations!

Niçois is the French term for people and things from Nice, so all that you think of when you think of the South of France along the Mediterranean, is here, including pan-bagnat (sandwich made with ingredients you would put in a salad Niçoise), socca (a savory snack made from chick peas) and pissaladière (onion pizza). You can come for a snack or a full meal every day except Monday, which was the night we had the event, right after the Music Festival over the week-end, so the wonderful staff hosted our event after a very long and busy week-end (they have live music downstairs even when it's not a music festival week-end). The only thing missing is a terrace, but the big windows make the space light and airy.

 Many bottles of rosé, beer, and
frozen cocktails made with pastis (of course) were served. Even though I'm not a big fan of the anise flavored drink, their specialty cocktail blended juices with it to make it delightful on a hot day. A non alcoholic cocktail was served alongside it and I mixed half of each into my glass to make sure I found my way home:)
My favorite taste was the socca, a pancake like savory snack made from chick peas that I could have eaten all night long it was so addictive. I missed taking a shot of the pissaladière because people were grabbing bites faster than I could whip out my camera, but it was thick with onions and so good that no one minded having onion breath because we all did!
They have a fun area downstairs with a pétanque space, so of course we played:) After playing for the first time last week in the southwest, I learned to throw over handed and placed second in my group of six! It's basically like playing horseshoes, except that experts can throw balls to knock out others and get closer to the tiny target.
 Winners got a set of three boules, and second place got water bottles!
Prices are all very reasonable, under 20€ ($28) for entrée/plat or plat/dessert, but the best feature here is the easy going friendly attitude of the people who somehow served good bites with a sense of humor and a smile on a day when they would normally get to rest.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Oysters and Lighthouses

Driving only gets you close to the shoreline, to actually get to the ocean, it's much better to park and walk where you can find many semi-hidden paths. You never know what vistas await once you get through the wild vegetation.

sometimes there are secret passageways
or surprise geysers
or clumps of shellfish
like these oysters on the beach!
The area is known for shellfish, so it's not surprising that homes
have docks as well as driveways.
With modern technology, old fashioned lighthouses are picturesque markers now.

Sand dunes still protect the land from the wind and sea.

Heading back to Paris along the lavender roads leading north makes for a fragrant farewell.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Low Tides and Ferris Wheel Rides

The differences between low tide and high tide is stunning in south western France. The light colored sand is the only part that still shows when it is high tide here.
Small coves with sheltered beaches dot the coastline and you can see how shallow the water is here; during low tide you could literally walk across the cove.
Even though there were signs posted prohibiting oyster fishing, there were people out with pails and shovels scooping up shellfish.
There were also much more legal and professional looking fishing shacks complete with huge nets.
Small harbors with a mix of pleasure and fishing boats line the coast.
During low tide you can see the line in the cliffs where the tide rises
by the same afternoon the tide had risen to the half way point of the cliffs!
Modern self cleaning free toilettes are everywhere, but so high tech with blinking lights that some people couldn't figure out when they could go in and use the facilities.
This small ferris wheel reminded me of the huge one in Santa Monica
until this sign reminded me I was 5,679 miles away :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mussel Beach

I was kidnapped last week :) A friend from overseas rented a car and said simply, "We're going South." We drove away from the gray rain and hail in Paris and about 6 hours later we ended up on the southern Atlantic coast of France bordered by forest and beaches. The coastal areas are marked with distinct paths for bikers and walking/running along the coast that stretch out as far as you can see.
This was my first trip the the Atlantic coast of France so I got my feet wet, but decided it was still too chilly to go in further without a wetsuit:)
Fishermen had poles out all along the beaches.
Tiny crabs the size of my thumb peeked out from the sand
a beautiful beached jellyfish unlike any I've ever seen.
There was a class of beach surfers, but with no wind, the lesson was more of a lecture.
I had never seen bunkers before, but these huge war time relics stood like elephants
encrusted with black mussels
which clung to them in groups.
One of the ways they cook mussels in the south is they light straw on fire and place the burning straw on top of a platter until the straw is completely burned away and the mussels are "roasted".
Everyone went in for the messy deliciousness before I could snap a picture without fingers:)
The beauty of being on the beach off season (season here begins in July and goes through August)

is that you may be the only one enjoying the entire beach:)