Friday, January 20, 2012

Wrap up

How do I wrap up a period of almost four months that began like this -
and has finished off like this - 
It's the passing of the seasons, something this garden has seen for many, many years...and that I was blessed to experience for one of them.

And in those seasons of Fall and Winter 2011-12, it's impossible to sum up the feelings or the memories in a few words.  But, truly, the words grateful, appreciative and blessed are primarily the ones that come to mind.  All the stories behind all the feelings and gratefulness will have to wait, for now.

But, before I depart (to visit friends, family and seek the ever elusive French student visa, not necessarily in that order), just a few more photos that capture some of my diverse Paris memories of Fall/Winter 2011-12.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Discount Pharmacy in Paris

I love shopping at the beautiful pharmacies in Paris (at least the wandering through part of it).  It has an organized calm and ambience that no number of Duane Reades in New York ever will.  

But the prices!  Zuts alors!

The other day, I was walking by this one, and saw so many women in there that my shopping radar told me it was not an ordinary pharmacy.  I joined the crowd and asked a shopper in line.  The answer I got was that this place is well-known in Paris because it has a huge selection, hugely discounted.  Or at least that's what I understood of the quickly spoken French.

In any case, I shopped and found it to be true.  For example, the Vichy brand body lotion I like in Paris costs 13 euros everywhere else.  Here, it was 8 euros. 

If you're in, or coming to, Paris, it's worth making note of it if you have a few favorites you have to bring home as gifts.

26 Rue du Four
75006 Paris

Monday, January 16, 2012


0% fromage blanc!  Oh happy day!
Yes, I ate that entire container - it was amazing, guilt-free indulgence (so, so hard to find in cream/butter/fat-laden France).  

If you want to find it, too, Aux Vieux Colombier, 65, rue de Rennes (6th arrondissement, métro Saint Sulpice), is the place, a beautiful little café right in the heart of some of the best shopping in Paris.
65, Rue de Rennes , 75006 Pari
65, Rue de Rennes , 75006 Paris  
65, Rue de Rennes , 75006 Paris   was the place.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Street Signs of Paris

Street signs in Paris are probably the thing most often regarded, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a frown.  Up, down, up, down - up to the signs, down to the map, up to the signs, down to the....  You get the idea.

So it's natural to sometimes notice more than the name displayed on said sign and to make note, or to take a picture.  Above is a famous and very busy corner of Boulevard du Montparnasse where it meets the Boulevard Raspail; it's the location of many of Paris's most historic grand brasseries and cafés (La Coupole, Le Select, Le Dôme, Le Relais de L'Entrecôte and La Rotonde) and center of artistic Paris life in the early 1900's which blended with the American expat literary scene of that era.  

I found that particular street sign interesting because of the beautiful gold mosaic located directly above the iconic Paris street signage of today. 
For some reason, the sign in the Sixth Arrondissement above also has another above it, but it looks as though it could have been in that wall since Roman times, using the Roman lettering style of "V" to mean "U" in "RUE."  Eh, probably not.
Near l'Eglise Saint Sulpice, above the sign at Rue Henry de Jouvernel is another sign that has been aggressively crossed out, to avoid all confusion.  Good thing.
But look directly behind you to the other side of the same street, and the above is what you see.  And just to make double sure that you're doubly confused, cross the street, look left again, and below is another sign (of an older vintage), with the same name.  I think Férou wins; even Googlemaps agrees.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Les Soldes 2012

The big French winter sales began yesterday!  They are mandated by the French government (and may only run twice a year during these designated periods, except for "private" sales, which is for another post).  This round of les soldes will continue through February 21.  The prices continue to decrease as the days and weeks pass, as does the available inventory, so the game of timing is a precious one.

Buy your airline ticket now; there is still time!  I just saw a sale on the American Airlines website with great fares from the U.S., if anyone's interested.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chante France

A new French radio station from Paris for my iphone and ipad!  To compliment my classical favorite, Radio Classique, I have just added Chante France.  Check out the internet link, and if it's a hit, you can add it as an app through itunes to your iphone, etc. (gratuit - free).

This station plays popular songs in France, old and new.  I've found that many popular radio stations in Paris play as many (or more) songs that are sung in English (like American hits) as in French.  This one is all French!  I discovered it by receiving the station in Paris through the old-fashioned radio on my très basic French cell phone. 

It's great as a running companion, and I can try to mouth the songs as I run, which must be quite a sight.  My French teacher keeps telling us to join a church choir to améliorer our spoken French, but since I don't see me singing at Notre Dame any time soon, this is my next best thing. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Tennis

Lucky kids who get to take off Wednesday from school every week!  Those are the young Parisian schoolchildren.  And, not just lucky, they get to play tennis, even in winter, under the rare Parisian sun, in front of the Palais (now the Senat) in the Jardin du Luxembourg.  

And when the students are not using the courts (which are reserved for them on Wednesdays), the adults come out to swing their racquets on the cold days, too, wearing scarves wrapped securely and fashionably around their necks, bien sûr, and even gloves (I cannot be sure what that does to their quality of play, but at least they get out there, year-round, it seems.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Galettes des Rois

Now that I noticed them, I notice them everywhere.  Not that I've tasted one yet.  But the pistachio version has caught my eye, so it's only a matter of time, though I understand I better act fast - Epiphany was January 6, and today (Sunday) is the day it is celebrated in France. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Back in Paris after the start of the New Year, I got a serious craving for my favorite chaussons aux pommes from Poilâne (which I mentioned recently in an earlier post).  I was dreaming about them while away and it took me only two days to get back there.  While there, I saw these beautiful new year's cakes, called Galettes des Rois.  The Poilâne website describes them this way - 
The "Galette des Rois” is a French tradition. A cake you eat in January only, that hides a charm. The person who finds the charm is Queen or King of the day and bears the golden paper crown that comes with the cake.  This Galette season, Poilâne asked Le Petit Atelier de Paris to create a charm that would symbolize luck and happiness. They crafted two hands; one bearing a heart, and the other a four-leaf clover.

Of course, what brought this bakery fame are its large round sourdough country bread loaves.  If you visit one of their three little shops in Paris (and now also in London), be sure to take a punition (shortbread cookie) which you'll find in the basket that sits on the table where you pay for your purchase.  "Punition" means punishment, but of course a visit to Poilâne is anything but.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Traversing the sidewalks of Eighth Avenue wasn't easy on New Year's Eve.  The crowd that was growing larger and noisier by the minute was only just beginning their party evening, loading up on street vendor gear advertising their support for "2012."  I'm all in favor of that.

However, I had something better, perhaps a bit more low-key but every bit as exciting, that I was aiming for just around the corner at West 44th Street.

It was a New Year's Eve celebration worthy of Times Square and New York City!  That was, and is, Birdland.  It's a New York jazz institution and, on New Year's Eve this year, big band jazz was featured. 
The music was big indeed, especially from my perch at a table that was practically in the band.  Put it this way, the bass player could have easily reached for our bottle of wine had he wanted to.  And, looking around, it felt possible that there were as many band members as audience members who were thoroughly enjoying the sold-out set.
Birdland's room is just the right size with good seating throughout, even at the bar.  The dinner menu features Southern items with a cajun flair.
The Birdland Big Band, directed by Tommy Igoe, performs every Friday, so whether it's New Year's Eve or any other Friday, Birdland is a true New York find worthy of an evening out (for about the price of a night of theater around the corner, including dinner).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Fifth and 57th

New Yorkers call this the epicenter of the center of the Universe.  It seems everyone else does, too.  This year, during the Christmas/New Year's holiday weeks, I found midtown more packed with bodies than ever.  Bloomberg welcomed New York City's 50 millionth visitor of 2011 last week.  Well, good.  It's great for the economy and a wonderful charge to the city and us folks who live here to have so many happy tourists loving the city we love, too.  (However, why they're only in midtown remains a mystery to me.  Spread out!  The rest of New York welcomes you, too!)

On the other hand, the glories of the intersection of these two major thoroughfares have entertained me for decades, especially when I worked in offices in the neighborhood and used the beautiful shops nearby, including Bergdorf's, as momentary "sanity" escapes when things became something less than beautiful at the office.  To call it a reality check would be hard to justify; they were more like fantasy checks to combat reality.
And the windows at Bergdorf are always the most opulent at Christmastime.  
At the opposite corner, this year's Tiffany windows were definitely about the clever and colorful carousel framing. 
Writing this from back in Paris, where it was sunny, then rained, and now stopped, all in the time I was posting, provides quite the contrast.  Not that there's anything wrong with that...