Saturday, November 10, 2012

We Made It Here Despite Cancer & Hurricane Sandy!!!

      Incredibly, in the 90th hour Lower Manhattan was without power, Bernard and I had to leave for the airport.  We walked down seven flights of stairs and paid a maintenance man $40 to carry our luggage downstairs.  It took longer to get into this blog -- because illness last year made it impossible to get to the computer so Blogger gave me up for dead -- than to fly to Paris!  And, amazingly, our good friend Rita Horiguchi is here too.  It's been a wonderful week of catching up.  All too soon, tomorrow, we have to fly back to New York.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Le Bosquet, 46 Avenue Bosquet, 75007 Paris

Unfortunately, I had to cancel our 2011 trip. At approximately the time we were to be there, I wrote to Jean-Francois and the team at Le Bosquet -- the only restaurant we make a point of visiting twice in each stay -- of my sorrow at not being able to see them as hoped, and that I looked forward to a visit in 2012.
Yesterday, to my amazement, there came a snail-mailed note from Jean-Francois, in English! "I'm writing this card to you because I'd like to have news from you. I hope you're doing fine, we think about you amd hope to see you and your husband. Kind regards from all the Bosquet team."
If I've loved them before, I adore them even more madly now. When you're in Paris, be sure to have a meal there (Metro: Ecole-Militaire). The food is excellent and satisfying: beef, chicken, specials that change daily. It was where we had our first-ever dinner in Paris (my first-ever restaurant meal there). Before deciding, we looked at several restaurants in the neighborhood, choosing Le Bosquet because the customers there looked so happy. Once we ate there, we understood why.
Tell them Tiffany sent you.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yes, we're going back!

Thanks to my excellent boss Trish (right, at the farewell party for our former boss, Maria --center), who approved the time I requested, I've gone and booked another trip: Halloween to November 12th. Also in the picture is Cheryl, who so kindly checks my in-box when I'm away. Another wonderful and trusty in-box checker is Michelle, but unfortunately I don't have a photo of her. I'm grateful to all! . . . Although I may have a serious, yet-to-be diagnosed condition, what could be more life-affirming than booking a trip to Paris?


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marcel Ayme (March 29, 1902 - October 14, 1957)

It was this sculpture, the "Passe-Muraille" ("The Walker Through Walls") that brought Marcel Ayme to my attention. After getting back from Paris, I read this amusing story of a man who discovers by accident his ability to go through walls. On our latest trip, we discovered and bought the movie of this story, starring the delightful comic actor Bourvil. How to find this sculpture: 1) Go to Paris. 2) Take the #12 Metro line to Abbesses. 3) On nearby Rue Yvonne Le Tac, take the Funiculaire uphill. When you get out, 4) Turn left to Place du Tertre. When you see the restaurant La Mere Catherine, go beyond that on the same street (Rue Norvins) and 5) Keep going without further turns until you see the sculpture.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Technological Torment

After printing the following report for xeroxing, and packing each copy with a letter for sending by snail-mail to those friends who requested it, I managed to copy said report into this blog. . . but the pictures didn't show up! The other day, when I tried putting in just a single picture, there was a prolonged "Uploading pictures" message. . . but said picture didn't show up! Isn't this getting to be the refrain of a bad song? Here, without further ado, and without pictures, is the report of our 2010 trip

October 29 - November 11th, 2010

Friday, October 29th - Departure day arrives at last. The night before, I was in a tizzy trying to find the 3 x 5 cards on which I’d written my tentative plans for each day. It must have been almost 1 AM that I started recreating them from memory. I did two days worth of plans before giving up in exhaustion. Fortunately, in the bright light of the next morning, I found the original ones in the closet. They had fallen out of the carry-on bag in which I’d left them. After a quick look at my blog,, i.e., this blog, we went off to the Pearl Diner (last bacon-burger before Paris). The rest of the day was fairly smooth: Got a cab quickly, through check-in ditto. The titanium clip installed as a marker in my body last January didn’t set off any alarms. By the time we got to the lounge, we were hungry again. Grape vitamin water and sandwich cookies took care of that.
The in-flight movie was appropriate: The Age of Reason, starring Sophie Marceau as a woman who receives on her 40th birthday a visit from the notary she’d hired when she was seven to deliver letters to her 40-year-old self. The letters remind her of what she’d wanted, and wanted to become, back then. The notary quotes Picasso: “Become who you are.”
Dinner was our 3rd annual Air France chicken-with-tarragon-sauce.
I don’t usually sleep on flights but this time I managed to log a few hours. Amazingly, during this entire 7-hour flight, the attractive Frenchman in the window seat never once woke me to let him out to go to the bathroom! There I am, with him on my left, and my husband on my right, and the scene never got to be as French as you’d imagine . . .

Saturday, October 30th – Without any wrong turns, and just one stop to ask directions in the airport, we found Cars Air France for our ride into the city. It was still the price we’d paid last year, 15€. During the ride to the Arc de Triomphe, the sun came out
At the taxi stand, we soon got a cab to the hotel, where Sylvie and Xavier welcomed us. Another short wait was for our room – 308 – to be ready. Much to our delight, there was a welcome gift on the desk for us: chocolates.
When unpacking, Bernard found a pre-printed note from baggage inspectors saying that they had had to open his bag and break the lock (which was missing, therefore a new errand for the day was to get a replacement lock).
Once we ventured out for the day, our first stop was the Metro, where a clerk was able to activate the unlimited-ride cards (Navigo) that we’d saved from last year, complete with our photos. As they always begin a week with Monday, we had to get a few individual tickets for the weekend’s rides. The store inside the Metro station had luggage locks, so Bernard quickly got a replacement for the missing one
Back up on the street again, we took the #87 bus to Bon Marche. At their crafts department on the 3rdfloor, I got two skeins of a multi-colored shaggy yarn in autumnal shades for a scarf – simple enough to do without needing instructions I can’t return for once back in New York. (By contrast, when making a sweater, I occasionally have to revisit the ladies at Gotta Knit on 34th Street for advice, more yarn, or to have the parts sewn together.)
As we were near a stop on the #12 line, we decided to go to the Convention stop, which printed guides had said was the stop nearest to La Ruche, a beehive-shaped building once owned by a sculptor where artists including Modigliani had been allowed to live rent-free. If there’s one lesson we learned from this particular adventure, it’s that a Metro stop said to be near a destination is not necessarily near it – it’s just not as far from it as every other Metro stop in Paris. We walked and walked, and asked directions in several stores. Upon finally finding it, we saw that it wasn’t open to the public, not even an exhibit space featuring the work of the legendary artists who’d once lived there. Merde! Then we walked and walked some more in search of a Metro stop from which we could get a Metro that would eventually get us to our home stop, Ecole Militaire, near which is Le Bosquet, the traditional place for our hello-Paris dinner. It being a Saturday, Jean-Francois wasn’t there, but the food was reliably delicious.

Sunday, October 31st – While I was waiting for Bernard to get ready to go downstairs for breakfast, I was checking the Euro supply, and found on the floor a 20€ note that somehow escaped from the others. I was grateful I’d found it before we left, before the maid could find it! She might well have left it for us, being honest, but I’m glad we didn’t leave any temptation.
The hotel’s croissants, although small, are delicious. Once fortified, we set out in the glorious sunshine for the Marais. To our relief, the Disc King near the St. Paul Metro is still open; this chain seems to be shrinking after the closure of the stores near Pompidou Centre and on Rue de l’Ancienne Comedie. I resisted the temptation to buy the film 4 Garcons Dans Le Vent (literally, 4 Boys in the Wind, but better known as A Hard Day’s Night, with French subtitles). The one thing I did buy was Odette Toulemonde (I’ve since seen it; apparently they didn’t know how to end it, as they literally send Catherine Frot and Albert Dupontel – the reason I bought it – to the moon.)
At Pitchi-Poi, the waiter said it would be 40-50 minutes before we could get a table, but it turned out to be less than ten. They still had Hungarian goulash on the menu, a bread basket unlike others in Paris (matzo, pumpernickel and rye instead of baguettes), and a “cascade des sorbets”: lemon, raspberry and pear. Bernard opted for the buffet.
Right next door to Pitch-Poi, perpendicular to it on the square Marche St. Catherine, is a small bridal-dress shop. I photographed a dress that’s trimmed in black. We joked that it’s for the would-be widow.
It was a short walk from there to Rue des Rosiers and Rue des Ecouffes, which we found quickly. At the Librairie de Progres, where last year the old woman there didn’t succeed in putting through the sale of two DVD’s of Yiddish movies Bernard wanted, the sale successfully went through. We were glad that the woman we’d met last year finally made a profit from her effort.
From the St. Paul Metro, we got the #1 La Defense train to FDR, with no correspndances. No one noticed or questioned us at the Marriott on the Champs-Elysees, where we like to go sit down awhile and rest our weary feet. The only possible indicator that this was Halloween was the fellow with a large black wig and star-shaped sunglasses. On the other hand, that might just be his every-day look.
As we were still too early for dinner, Bernard agreed that we had time for Sephora. I got a facial cleanser and three lipsticks. While I was waiting on line, I was behind a young woman whose boyfriend was charging on his card over 200€ worth of cosmetics she’d chosen. Behind them was a woman on her own, also spending over 200€. My mere 50€ was comparatively Spartan. The prices that appeared on the cash register’s screen were, miraculously, lower than those shown on the shelves.
At Virgin Megastore, we found Passe-Muraille, starring the great comic actor Bourvil. It’s an adaptation of the Marcel Ayme short story, with a happier ending. To say more would be a spoiler.
We decided to have dinner on the Rue Washington, a street which intersects with the Champs-Elysees. I was hoping for Les Ecuries, the crepe place that Rita had introduced us to in 2000, where we had gone again once the following year. To my shock, the place is no more. The wagon axles on which tabletops rested are still visible through the window, but the tabletops are gone, the lights are out, and there wasn’t a soul in sight in there. (I’m so sorry, Rita!) Instead, we went to Le Weekend, which we’d tried for the first time last year. No sooner had I put the last forkful of steak béarnaise into my mouth when thud: a drunk fell across my plate. I was so relieved he didn’t get sick or do anything gross, and that there wasn’t any food left on my plate for him to land on – nothing got wasted but the drunk -- that I could honestly say, “Pas d’ probleme,” each time he tapped me on the shoulder from behind after that, saying, “Je suis desole.” Following that, “chocolate mousse duo,” two little cupfuls of chocolate mousse.
Back home on the #80 bus, one of the reasons we like to go to the Champs-Elysees on a Sunday; it lets us off right across the street.

Monday, November 1st – Beginning our day at the St. Michel Metro, we went to Ile St. Louis for lunch at Café Med. The wait for a table was only ten minutes, which was good because they don’t have a foyer where you can sit and wait; you have to stand out on the sidewalk. Bernard chose a 3-course menu formule, but I had just trenche de boeuf with peppercorn sauce, no other courses. As always on Ile St. Louis, it’s a pleasure to look at the stores on both sides of Rue St. Louis en L’Ile, the island’s one street with stores.
On the other side of the Seine, at Esmeralda, I got a new umbrella, which is proving to be more durable than my two previous Paris-bought umbrellas, and a glittery pink Paris change purse for my Euro coins.
From there, we stopped at Shakespeare & Co to say hello to Sylvia Beach Whitman, who invited us to a tea party some days away, but on a day when we wouldn’t still be in Paris. I was sorry, because I’d like to get better acquainted with the Whitmans. (Her father is the legendary George Whitman, who had founded that English-speaking refuge – and hostel for starving writers – on the Left Bank sixty years ago. He just turned ninety-seven. Sylvia is twenty-nine, and now in charge of the day-to-day running of the store and its author events.)
It was a fairly quick trip (#4 to #8 to #3 Gallieni) to Rue du Quatre Septembre for Passage Choiseul. Unfortunately, it was closed for All Saints’ Day, so we walked from there to Galeries Lafayette to get gifts for various friends in New York. At Galeries Lafayette, I invariably give in to the impulse to photograph their Christmas tree.
From L’Opera, it’s a simple five stops home, for a bit of rest before our dinner at Café du Marche in the neighborhood: poulet roti with potatoes, profiteroles. Dinner for two came to only 32€70.

Tuesday, November 2nd – On the Metro platform at our starting stop, Ecole Militaire, as he was boarding the train, Bernard noticed right away that his wallet was missing. He grabbled the wrist of the little thief (who looked about twelve) and pulled her back onto the train to keep her from escaping. A good Samaritan – a young woman nearer to her than I was -- shook her until the wallet fell to the floor. This not only spared us the loss of his debit card, but also the hassle of reporting the loss of various cards to those who’d issued them, which would have consumed a precious Paris day. How that little thief knew which pocket to pick, and got through his trench coat and jacket to reach said pocket, and so swiftly, we’ll never know. He hadn’t taken his wallet out so she couldn’t have seen where he put it back.
At the BNP Paribas Bank on St. Germain, I tried to see the woman I had corresponded with by e-mail earlier this year, who had said that they open non-resident accounts. Just days before our departure, I e-mailed her the hotel’s phone number so that she could let me know if November 2nd wasn’t a good day for her. There having been no call, we went to the bank. She kindly came out to see us, if only to say that she had meetings all day and to make an appointment for the next day at 3.
We browsed awhile across Blvd. St. Germain at the bookstore L’Ecume des Pages (the Foam of Pages), where we bought birthday cards for one another.
In the St.Germain des Pres Metro station, Bernard’s Navigo card (unlimited ride) had to be validated again, by the man in the booth, and we were able to try again for Passage Choiseul. The holiday over, it was open again, much to our relief. Yesterday we didn’t know if it was closed because of the holiday or if the whole of Passage Choiseul was a closed-down ruin. Bernard was disappointed that the store where he had gotten some good DVDs last year, no longer has anything of interest to him. I, however, continue to love the art-supply store Lavrut. I got two tubes of water-colors (slipping up and somehow getting a second tube of Scarlet Lake) and a postcard-sized book of water-color paper.
Having gone to Galeries Lafayette yesterday, this time we went to its neighbor, Printemps, which has a floor of luxury jewelry stores, the floor where the bathrooms are. We were dismayed to learn that you have to pay there (2€) to use the bathrooms.
We asked where the DVD department was. They don’t have one any more. The security guard near the corner exit pointed the way to FNAC.
FNAC, I was amused to see, has La Reine Margot, a movie we once saw about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, shelved among Comedy-Dramas.
As dinner would be in the Grands Boulevards neighborhood, we went first to the Virgin Megastore there. I got a few pens in colors I don’t find here, plus our Paris wall calendar for 2011.
Dinner at the delicious and low-cost Chartier was, as expected, wonderful: “rumsteack au poivre” with frites and coupe de crème chantilly. Although we usually glance at those at adjacent tables, sometimes chatting with them, this time we kept our eyes firmly on one another or on our food, careful not to look at the table immediately to my right/Bernard’s left: two young German-speaking men kept reaching across to grab one another’s hands or to kiss.
Back on the platform at the Grands Boulevards station, we waited and waited and waited for a train. Then there was a repetitious recorded announcement saying that because of some “incident,” service on the #8 line was suspended between Concorde and Republique. That’s several stops on either side of Grands Boulevards! As our cards are “unlimited ride,” I knew it wouldn’t cost anything to get back in so I went back to the booth to ask if service would resume tonight or if it was a lost cause. The woman merely shrugged. Said she didn’t know. When I went back to the platform and reported this to Bernard, we decided to get a cab home. By then it was close to 11.
At the cab stand, a young British fellow started to talk to us. We asked him if he too had come from the Metro platform. “No, I’ve been jumping around on a stage all evening, in The Italian Straw Hat.” He said that if he could persuade the couple who were next in line after him, and before us, to share his cab, the next cab would be ours. Very nice of him! It turned out that he could, and that we didn’t have long to wait for the next cab. Past the Louvre and over the bridge to the Left Bank, we saw, lit up for night, the beautiful landmarks of Paris.

Wednesday, November 3rd – I asked Xavier about Line 8. He said it should be back to normal after last night. That proved to be the case.
Our first destination was the Concorde area, three stops from home on Line 8. We had a bit of time before our appointment at the bank, so we went first to W.H. Smith, where I chose the book that would be my birthday present from Bernard, A CERTAIN JE NE SAIS QUOI: The Ideal Guide to Sounding, Acting and Shrugging Like the French by Charles Timoney.
Around the corner on Rue Royale, I went into Swatch while Bernard waited for me outside. I needed the strap on my watch to be fixed with the addition of that little red thing that the strap goes through to keep it close to your wrist instead of catching on everything you handle. That was done, free. I also hoped to get a backup of the watch I’m wearing, in case anything happens to this one (which is already a backup of the first-ever one I bought years ago). It was disappointing to hear that that design had been discontinued.
We took the Metro to St. Germain. Still early for our appointment, we browsed for awhile in the bookstore across the street, La Hune, which we had previously neglected in favor of the warmer-looking L’Ecume des Pages. At La Hune, I read a lot of – but didn’t buy – DESSINEZ-MOI UN PARISIEN by Olivier Marigny, As it was the result of a blog, it gave me hope that perhaps my blog might one day become a book. Anyway, I was amused to learn that Parisians are fascinated by New York (which the seatmate to my left, coming here, had confirmed). They get their notions of New York from such movies as You’ve Got Mail. It’s not surprising – after all, Americans’ views of Paris also come from movies.
At the bank, we were shown to an upstairs office at the end of the hall. The windows are large, letting in a lot of sunlight, so the atmosphere seemed warm and friendly. Mme L told me that their rules had changed in September, so she had sent back the documents I had sent to her in June: my check, a xerox of my passport, and a letter from my present bank saying that our relationship had been a good one in the many years my account was with them. She explained that since I’d sent all that, they established a minimum of 4,000€00.—lots more than the check I’d sent There would be a monthly maintenance fee of 8€00, and each of us would get a debit card on which we could each debit a monthly maximum of 1,000€00. She wrote down different account plans for us. We thanked her for her generosity with her time, and left.
When the appointment was still ahead of us, we hadn’t wanted to get involved with lunch, which could make us late; we didn’t know how long it would take to get service. We therefore postponed it until after we left the bank . .. about 3:30. We were ravenous! We therefore didn’t spend much time searching for La Palette on Rue de Seine, a number of blocks away from Boulevard St. Germain. Instead, stopping at the first pleasant-looking café we came upon – Au Chai de l’Abbaye on Rue de Bourbon off Rue due Buci.
Back on Boulevard St. Germain, we came upon a cane store. After Saturday’s ordeal of a walk, Bernard was curious about canes so we went inside. A woman with a large – and very quiet - dog showed him various canes, and offered us coffee or tea. We declined, with thanks, having just had lunch. The canes were all several hundred Euros, so we left empty-handed.
A walk along St. Germain to Rue du Bac, where I remembered having gotten a #69 Gambetta bus to the Marais during a previous stay, led to our return to the Marais. We got off at Hotel de Ville, from which it was easy to find the Movie Store across from Pompidou Centre, and then the DVD store on Rue St. Martin.
Also on St. Martin was a pharmacy, where I wanted to stop for Kleenex and cough drops for my cold Their PhytAlma cough drops are the shape and consistency of the old Pine Brothers cough drops, and taste like Pine Brothers Wild Cherry with some other flavor I can’t identify, added in.
As the #69 bus took us across the Seine toward home, I noticed that it went along Quai Voltaire, on which is the art-supply store Sennelier, where a number of famous 19th-century artists bought their supplies. Okay. Now that we know how to get there with a minimum of walking, we can visit it on another trip.
Dinner was in our neighborhood: Comptoir du 7eme: Poulet-roti and fries, coffee ice cream and whipped cream.

Thursday, November 4th – Our day got off to a cheery start with a welcome from Sophie, who was circulating in the lobby while we were at breakfast (which, I was glad to see, included croissants, baguette, and melon cubes).
For a trip to the Marais, on a weekday the way to go is the #69 bus to Bastille. First stop: the usual pharmacy for our annual purchase of the year’s supply of toothbrushes. The man didn’t seem to remember us this time, but he was surrounded with numerous customers, and a woman assistant handled our debit-card transaction.
The first time I wrote down what we did next (“Went to the Place des Vosges and sat and rested”), I wrote, “Sat and rescued,” but “rescued” is true too, thinking of our feet.
Eventually, we made a complete circuit of the square, then connected with Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and walked in the direction of the Pompidou Centre. On the way, we came upon the Filofax store, which I went into for a few packets of colored paper for my notebook, while Bernard waited outside. Much to my relief, the button that flew off my coat while I was in there hadn’t hit anyone.
At Le Celtic, we stopped for omelettes, hot chocolate and salad.
There’s a place called Design Store on Rue St. Martin, where we found a sound effects box. With the press of a button, you get applause, laughter, belches, and gunshots, among other sounds. We were tempted but resisted – didn’t spend the 11€90 after all.
Later, we went via Metro to FDR, so that we could have our honorary anniversary dinner at Boeuf Sur Le Toit. It has to be “honorary” because my workload never permits me to be away in December for our actual anniversary. This time: rare round steak, fries, lettuce, then sorbets: lime, mango, and passion fruit.

Friday, November 5th – The Musee de la Vie Romantique on Rue Chaptal (Metro: Pigalle) is having an exhibit on loan from a Russian museum, of which I was most impressed by the self-portrait by Sofia V. Sadkova-Kayline (1825-1867) and the detailed pictures of interiors. Those interiors might first be thought to be museum rooms but no, the tags underneath identify them as people’s homes.
From there we went to Grands Boulevards, and made it just in time at Sannine, before they closed for the between-lunch-and-dinner break. We like to have a Lebanese lunch at least once per stay. They have a great special of three kebabs—parslied beef, lamb, and chicken. They make it unnecessary to choose just one!
Another place I like to be reliable about visiting during each stay: Bresilophile, a beautiful source of minerals. This time, I got two citrines.
Once we finished going through the Passages, we were still too early for dinner, so we decided to find a bus on Rue du Faubourg Montmartre and take it to the end of the line, just to see where it goes. Today, it was the #74 which took us beyond tourist-path Paris. The destination named on the front of the bus was Barges of the Seine, which seemed romantic. We didn’t see any barges. What we saw looked much like a housing development in Queens. The driver got off, went inside a building, and eventually came out to make the return trip. We were at the stop waiting for him. The point at which we left was on the same boulevard as the one nearest which we first boarded the 74, but near a Metro stop, Richelieu-Druot, that’s one stop closer to home than the Grands Boulevards stop.
After a brief stopover at home to freshen up, we went back to Grands Boulevards for dinner at New Kashmir in the Passage des Panoramas, which we had discovered last year. Had shrimp curry and lemon and mango sorbets.
A newsstand nearby had a great price on postcards: 16 for 4€

Saturday, November 6th – I’ve lived to reach another birthday, with Bernard celebrating with me, thank God. That our celebrating is in Paris is icing on the birthday cake . . . and all the [unspecified number of] candles.
A quick check of the hotel computer got me a message from Rita. It’s always heartening to be remembered.
The #8 to the #12 to Abbesses got us to, first of all, the “I Love You” Wall, where we photographed one another. From there it was a short walk to the Boutique des Anges. After buying a few angelic gifts, we took the funiculaire up. At the Place du Tertre’s tourist office, I asked about the Musee de Montmartre. I had read online that it was in trouble, that the City of Paris wanted to close it and move its collections to a single room in the Musee Carnavalet, the museum devoted to the history of Paris. Much to my relief, they said that it still exists. When we got to the large house on Rue Cortot where the museum is – once the home of a member of Moliere’s company who, like Moliere, had died during a performance of The Imaginary Invalid – I expressed delight that the museum continues to exist. The man behind the counter said that it was thanks to private funding. It’s good to know that others feel strongly that Montmartre collections are displayed to best advantage in Montmartre. A downstairs room had an exhibit about the Franco-Prussian War, and an upstairs room featured the posters of Jules Cheret. (In my later attempt to reproduce the one below, from the Dover CD-ROM book Maitres de l’Affiche – Masters of the Poster – I discovered that my disk was cracked. I wrote to Dover Publications asking how much a replacement disk would be, as I didn’t need the accompanying book too. The lovely folks at Dover said it would be free, and they sent me a complete CD-ROM set, disk with book.) That’s why it’s possible to show you a sample of Cheret’s work. Don’t you get the impression that when you look away, she goes on dancing, skirts swirling around her?
As we were leaving the museum, we prolonged our stay a little with a look around the gift shop, where I bought a Chat Noir pen.
I had wanted to photograph my grave – or, rather, the corner of the Cimitiere St. Vincent (near the Lamarck-Caulaincourt stop of both the Montmartrobus and the Metro) where I want to be scattered, the corner diagonally opposite the entrance, where the graves of Theophile Alexandre Steinlen and Maurice Utrillo meet, perpendicular to one another, but the timing and geography just didn’t work out this time.
After the funiculaire landed at the base of the hill, we found fairly quickly Le Ronsard, the Montmartre lunch spot we favor. After omelettes and sorbets (for me, anyway: pear and raspberry), we browsed in a bookstore on Rue Yvonne Le Tac. The same street has a branch of the accessory store Takara, where I bought an orange and black bracelet.
For a brief rest, we took the same Metro lines back home. Bernard was relieved that his laundry was delivered to our room, so he would have something to wear tomorrow.
Before we headed back to Montmartre for dinner, we photographed one another in the hotel’s living room/computer room:
At La Mere Catherine, France Fannell sang “La Vie en Rose,” “Trois Petites Notes de Musique,” “La Mer,” “Mon Amant de St. Jean,” “Hymne a L’Amour,” “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” (without my having to request it, but it was heard faintly, when she and the pianist were in the other room), an encore of “Hymne a L’Amour,” and “Padam.” It was a pleasure to see her again.
My dinner of chicken in cider, Normandy style, and profiteroles with plenty of whipped cream, was perfect.

Sunday, November 7th – Breakfast at the hotel was especially filling: scrambled eggs and bacon as well as croissants (of which, I got the hotel’s last for today). Sufficiently fortified, we set out for the Musee D’Orsay. There was a very long line there, snaking back and forth – yes, in the rain. I asked a security guard where one pays admission, I learned the reason for the large turnout: It being the first Sunday of the month, admission was free.
They had an enormous exhibition of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, more than just the usual large amount on their fifth floor, which was in the process of being remodeled. For this show, works were borrowed from other museums as well. I was glad I had done a lot of picture-taking there on our previous visit, as that’s no longer permitted.
Across the street at a café called Les Deux Musees, I had a salade mixte and Orangina. When I pointed out to the waiter that he had initially misunderstood my order, he said, “Please, my life is difficult enough.” I said I’d work something out later, which is why I ordered the Orangina. Eventually, everyone was happy.
On our way to the Metro to go to the Champs-Elysees, we stopped in a souvenir shop where they had beautiful tree ornaments of famous paintings. While we browsed, their sound system played the Beatles’ “Let it Be.” I remember thinking, on a previous visit, when a singer on the steps outside Sacre Coeur sang the same song, “There’s nothing I’d rather ‘let be’ than time in Paris.”
From the Solferino stop, which is the one for the D’Orsay, we took the Porte de la Chappelle #12 two stops to Concorde, then got the La Defense #1 two stops to FDR.
At FNAC we succeeded in getting Nous Irons a Monte Carlo, an early Audrey Hepburn movie that’s the French remake of her Monte Carlo Baby movie done shortly before. As her French was fluent, she was able to play the same character in the remake.
Once again we enjoyed the hospitality of the Marriott: rest for our feet, then freshening up. After we left the Marriott, there was no further rain . . . at least for this day.
Dinner was further down the Champs-Elysees, at the Bistro Romain. Although it’s predominantly Italian, I was able to get a meal without cheese: entrecote with frites, then chocolate and coffee ice cream. Bernard’s choice also happened to be cheese-free, but not chosen for that reason: a sea-food platter.
At the Rond Point – the opposite end of the Champs-Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe – we got a #80 bus home quickly. Of all the buses we ride there, that one takes us closest to our door, across the street, at the nearer corner.
Later, I figured out that our Navigo (unlimited ride) cards enabled us to save the equivalent of $59.50 in bus and Metro fares.

Monday, November 8th – Bernard’s birthday – always a day of thanksgiving that he’s with me for another one. Not that the hotel folks knew the significance of the day, but there were more croissants available, as if in his honor.
I was pleased to find at the hotel’s computer that two e-mails had come from Rita, plus others from Mary and Jacqui.
Bernard’s choice of destination for the day portion of our fun was the Canal St. Martin area, to see if the café we had enjoyed a few years ago had reopened. It’s now a pizza joint. That being the case, we had to choose somewhere else. A coffee shop near the Jacques Bonsergeant Metro, Le Relais Magenta, conveniently minimized our time in the rain. Its back room filled with a single table was given over to our use. Our plain omelets with salad came to only 21€.
Deciding that this was no day for exploring the streets around the canal, Bernard said we should do something I had suggested for another day: Viaduc des Arts. The Place d’Italie #5 one stop got us to the Creteil #8 to Montgallet, one of the two stops named for this destination. As there are three stops between Montgallet and Bastille, the other stop, I warned Bernard that the walk to see it all could be a long one. Once we got out of the Metro at Montgallet, we saw one computer-parts store after another! At the last one, we stopped to ask directions to the Viaduc des Arts. Someone walked out of the store with me to point the general direction, but he couldn’t see how far it would be. When we came to an enormous store called Surcoeuf, which specializes in computers – it’s about a long block from end to end on the street level, and has a basement as well – we asked again. Has this store replaced the Viaduc des Arts? They weren’t aware of the place at all even though it turned out to be just a few paces farther along!
This former viaduct was now a series of artisans’ shops having only the street doors, no central corridor out of the weather. The various artisans we saw through the large picture windows were intent on their crafts, and no doubt didn’t want the interruption of visitors.
When we came upon a café called Le Jardin L’Arrosoir, with a large brick wall parallel to the picture window we looked into, we stopped in for hot drinks, grateful for the rest for our feet.
From there, it wasn’t long before we found the Bastille area. Amazingly, the FNAC adjacent to the Bastille Opera was out of business. Another DVD store nearby satisfied Bernard’s craving to browse DVD’s for awhile, before we got a #69 bus from the Birague stop back home.
Once we got off, we were right near the beautiful Bourdonnais Pharmacy (gorgeous woodwork!), where I got more cough drops. The woman graciously said she didn’t mind breaking a 50€ bill for a 6€ purchase.
Back home, we freshened up and changed for dinner, then set out for Odeon and Le Procope. On Rue de l’Ancienne Comedie, I couldn’t believe my eyes: Under the “Le Procope” sign was a place called Kickers. Closed. Had Le Procope, established in 1686, gone out of business? Just a little farther on was another overhead sign: “Salon de The [accent aigu].” Under that, we found Le Procope, the place we know and love. We were shown to a small dining room, among their many, which had only four tables. Of these, only one was in use besides ours.
Their food (entrecote, frites, then chocolate ice cream), as always, was excellent!

Tuesday, November 9th – More rain. We waited it out for a little while with a prolonged breakfast at the hotel: 2 croissants, scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit salad.
Eventually, we ventured out, after asking at the desk about a bus to St. Michel (the #87 from Ecole Militaire). I had thought that if we could just find the Luxembourg Gardens, we’d find Boulevard St. Michel. Turned out that in asking about the Luxembourg Gardens, I had asked the driver the wrong question. He told us to get off at a stop where the Luxembourg Gardens was on our right. Across the street, to our left, was the Duroc Metro stop. This told me that we were at the Montparnasse end of the Luxembourg Gardens, or, we’d have to go all the way through the Gardens, in the rain, before we saw the Boulevard St. Michel. In better weather, we wouldn’t have minded. I decided that, instead, we should wait for the next #87 bus and ask for the Boulevard St.Michel. The driver of said ext bus said “Cluny.” That stop got us not only to the Boulevard St. Michel, but to that part of it that was right near Monoprix and the Gibert Joseph stores (DVD’s, books, stationery – three separate stores: paradise!). At Monoprix, we got a much-needed tube of toothpaste, Elmex, flavored with apple (“Odeur (Pomme)”). At Gibert Joseph, I was tempted to get TRICOT POUR NULS (KNITTING FOR DUMMIES) to learn how such standard knitting instructions as “cast on” and “bind off” are expressed in French, but the weight of the book helped me decide not to spend the 11€90.
A couple of blocks down Boulevard St. Michel, we stopped for lunch at Le Lutece: plain omelette.
As it was still too early for dinner, and still raining, we decided to take a nearby bus to the end of its route just to see where it goes. We took the #27 d’Ivry bus. I had read in a magazine article that “d’Ivry” was one of the Chinatowns of Paris. Glimpsing a Metro station of that name near the turnaround point was our only clue that we were near the end of the route; we saw nothing remotely Asian. The return bus to Boulevard St. Michel left us one block from Rue des Ecoles – I learned from asking at a hotel between the bus stop and the street we sought – where we would get the #87 back to Ecole Militaire.
Dinner at Comptoir du 7eme was Supreme de Volaille with mushrooms, noodles, and a cream sauce so rich I decided to do without dessert.

Wednesday, November 10th – Our last whole day in Paris, and mercifully there was no rain. Between breakfast and our trip to Avenue Montaigne, I made a quick check of my blog at the computer downstairs in the lounge. Two comments from Rita.
The #80 bus to the Francois Premier bus stop got us a couple of blocks past the Theatre des Champs-Elysees [above] (the previous stop, Alma-Marceau, right after the bridge, would have gotten us closer), to see what they’re showing these days. Mainly symphonic and soloists’ concerts. This is the theater where the Revue Negre made a star of Josephine Baker, and where, in the movie Avenue Montaigne, Albert Dupontel as a concert pianist resumed his concert after removing his jacket, tie, and shirt. Everything on the current posters was for events after our departure, or we might have rushed right in and bought tickets for something.
I don’t remember whether the aforesaid movie changed the name of the nearby café, but it’s where Cecile de France got a job waiting tables when she first came to Paris from the provinces, and met such regulars as the actress played by Valerie Lemercier, who ordered salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the side – she liked to drink it.
We walked a number of blocks to the Champs-Elysees, looking at the decidedly expensive menu at the Hotel Plaza Athenee, and other costly places.
On the Champs-Elysees itself, I was able to get a good pair of panty hose at Monoprix. Not knowing my size in that line, I didn’t get more than one pair, which I now regret. They’re so strong, I still have them! We stopped at the Marriott so that I could put them on.
It was only in the few inches we traveled between the Marriott and Sephora that there was any rain that day. Only because it was raining did we duck into Sephora, where I resisted various temptations. After that, the rest of the day was clear. On our way to the Metro (#1 Chateau de Vincennes to Louvre/Palais Royal), a woman near us picked up something from the sidewalk – a gold ring – and held it out to me. She said it was too small for her fingers, which she proceeded to demonstrate, therefore I could have it, with her best wishes for luck with our marriage. And could we give her something so that she could get a bite to eat? I gave her four Euros, which still cost me less than other situations I could think of.
At the Palais Royal, where we made a complete circuit of the arcade with shops, we saw that the colored filters were no longer in the plank fence around the garden; the striking photos I took last year were no longer possible.
As we continued to the Rue de Rivoli, I was watching for Salon de The, for whose café liegeois (coffee ice cream, coffee sauce, and whipped cream) I was salivating. We walked and walked but didn’t see it – could they be out of business? -- so I decided to backtrack a little to Angelina. There was less of a wait for a table than usual, probably because it was an odd hour, after the lunch rush. The ice cream portion – coffee, chocolate, and vanilla, with whipped cream (o the whipped cream!) -- was so enormous that Bernard had to help me. What a rarity that is!
After we left, and went in the direction of Concorde, we eventually saw Salon de The. Well, the good news is, they continue to exist. The bad news: I was already too full of ice cream to want to go in. Next time . . .
One more browse at W.H. Smith. I started reading the Victor Legris mystery by Claude Izner, THE MONTMARTRE INVESTIGATION (which I would later finish in New York). . In a factual note about fin de siecle entertainers in Montmartre, after the end of the story (at which I swear I did not peek), there’s a mention of a unique fellow who could fart the Marseillaise at will. Incroyable! Bernard bought a DVD called Female Agents, an excellent if bloody movie in which Sophie Marceau stars as a real-life heroine of the Resistance.
Around the corner, as we walked along Rue Royale toward the Madeleine, we found a courtyard of upscale shops including Chanel, the Passage Royal (no “e”). All of them were clothing shops except for one devoted to cookware and a café.
The other side of Rue Royale has Laduree, a dessert café famous for its macaroons. I remember a photo of it in the book I SEE RUDE PEOPLE by Amy Alkon; the photo is of a woman changing her baby in the middle of a central table!
At the Concorde Metro, Bernard, miraculously, had no trouble getting his Navigo card to work.
Tonight being the eve of our departure, dinner was at Le Bosquet. Fortunately, it’s a weeknight, so Jean-Francois was there, welcoming us heartily. Their poulet roti (for me) and duck (for Bernard) are wonderful. Jean-Francois, sitting at a table across the room with guests, mouthed “Bon voyage” as we put on our coats.

Thursday, November 11th – We had another reason to be happy that the hotel included breakfasts in our room rate this year: We didn’t have to go out in the rain for breakfast. Yes, more rain! But this being our day to leave Paris, I wasn’t entirely sorry that the weather wasn’t better; sun would have seemed to taunt us.
In one of those coincidences between book and reality that I love so much, in THE AMBASSADORS, I reached page 308. Our room number. I know, I know, that’s really reaching!
The shuttle to take us to the airport was early. Owing to the hotel stops for others riding in the shuttle with us, the driver went through Montparnasse, past the famous cafes on four corners: the Dome, the Select, the Rotonde and the Coupole.
We got to our flight with plenty of time to spare, enough time for us to polish off a can of Pringles potato chips. Who knew how long we’d have to wait for dinner after the seat-belt sign went out?
Dinner was risotto with mushrooms. Not bad! Also enjoyable: talking to our seatmate, Ersiline Callender, a middle school guidance counselor who had just come from Spain. All she had seen of Paris was the airport!
In front of us was a cute little boy of about three, who kept looking at us over the top of the seat back, and giggling. He’d duck down, then come up again to see us and repeat the giggles.
We got a taxi quickly. When we went in the basement entrance, a man we had never seen before said, “Come right this way? What’s your floor?” Well, I may have gotten alert over nothing, but the book THE GIFT OF FEAR by Gavin de Becker tells us to be wary of anyone who seems to take charge of you, so I pressed one. Suddenly, checking for our mail seemed all-important, although Bernard had left instructions to hold the mail until we picked it up, but I just didn’t want this stranger knowing so much as our floor, much less opening our door to let us in, or helping us with our bags. Much to my surprise, the mail had been delivered! In lockers. Lots of it, including birthday packages. Yes, this happy birthday is lasting a little longer . . .

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Georges Simenon (2/12/03 - 9/4/89)

This is the second time I'm creating this post, and I no longer have half an hour to search for that photo of the Place des Vosges, where Simenon lived (at #21).
Suffice it to say, when we were there we were awed at having set foot where M. Simenon went every day. His Inspector Maigret seems quintessentially Paris in a raincoat, aware of everything, making sense of everything at the end. As his books are republished under various titles, perhaps various translations, it's possible to read quite a bit of one before the deja vu sensation sinks in, but having read it before does nothing to diminish the pleasure of reading it. My own favorite so far -- of the admittedly too few I've read -- is MAIGRET AMONG THE MILLIONAIRES, which seems to capture exactly right the attitude of entitlement so frequently seen in millionaires.
Maigret was portrayed onscreen by Jean Gabin (Simenon's favorite), Harry Baur, Charles Laughton, and, on TV, by Michael Gambon. I haven't seen any of the Gabin or Baur movies, but have seen Laughton in The Man on The Eiffel Tower (based on MAIGRET'S WAR OF NERVES) three times. In the credits, one of the stars is "The City of Paris." By the way, that's not a studio recreation of the Eiffel Tower but the real thing. Seen from that vertiginous height, as well as at street level, that star steals the show!
As a P.S. Georges Simenon sent a fan letter to my husband, Bernard St. James, saying that his mystery novels of Napoleonic Paris (APRIL THIRTIETH and THE SEVEN DREAMERS) brought the era to life. I wouldn't have added this shameless domestic plug if it didn't relate to Simenon!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Musee D'Orsay

If you go to Paris, try to include a first-Sunday-of-the-month in your stay. That, we found by chance, is when admission at the Musee d'Orsay is free. When we went, November 7, 2010, there was a colossal show of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works. Some works were from the now-being-remodeled fifth floor, others were borrowed from other museums.
By the way, every picture I have of the Musee d'Orsay was taken on a previous visit, when I was amazed that picture-taking was allowed. I must have snapped the entire top floor, and I'm especially glad now that I did. Photography is now forbidden.
We couldn't have chanced on a better day!