From Blooming Aix to Rosy Paris

From Blooming Aix to Rosy Paris

Weekend of  January 22, 2017
Aix en Provence & Paris, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

We’ll hop on a train for Paris later today, but just have to take a market stroll one more time! It’s warmed up a bit, and the market’s back to life, with flower-sellers filling the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville as they usually do. Even though it doesn’t last very long, I bought some of that fragrant mimosa earlier this week – it’s such a winter-brightener!
In Place Richelme the daily market is packed – a few winter tourists join the local hordes, enjoying the life and color. All that you need for a warming pot of soup is right here! The thrice-weekly larger produce market has moved from Place des Precheurs  to Cours Sextius, and I notice a few newbies, such as this Corsican vendor. On a corner or two are individuals selling mimosa and violets – perhaps they’ve driven in from east of here, where mimosa grows in such abundance that there are festivals at this time of year!
Good bye to Aix, as we hop on the train to Paris. As we walk to our friend’s home for dinner, the sun sets over the Seine – remember, Paris is always a good idea!
A rosy sky greets us the next morning from our hotel balcony, and we quickly pack up and get ready to fly, leaving ourselves time for one last stroll around the City of Lights. Just around the corner is the Pompidou Center, and we wave goodbye to Dali – we’ll be back soon!


A Whirlwind Paris Weekend

A Whirlwind Paris Weekend

August 8-10,2015
Paris, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
How about celebrating Mozart in the matchless city of Bath, England in November?

Just a weekend in Paris before heading south – with our grandaughter! How would you spend that time in the City of Lights? What would be your must-sees? Or must-tastes?
Our early morning flight from Dulles arrived even earlier than scheduled, so we were ready for breakfast as soon as we dropped off our luggage at  the hotel – 08071602 breakfastpain au chocolate was Cassidy’s choice, and then we hit the ground running, stopping first by Notre Dame,08071602 notredame then walking through the Louvre courtyard, staying outside to keep awake!08071602 the louvreThen back to the hotel, where our room was already prepared, nice and early, so we could change into lighter clothes as the temps rose in Paris. After more French tastes –  08071602 welcome changemoules-frites for this adventuresome eater- 08071602 x moules fritesfollowed by an Amorino gelato (yes, Italian tastes too!), 08071603 amorinowe crashed on our beds for a short nap.
Next Paris icon? Montmartre! 08071603 montmartreThose steps will wake us up again!08071603 montmartre after napHotel Welcome, our simple and comfortable lodging for the weekend, is in a terrific location – on Rue du Seine just off Rue de Buci, surrounded by some really good restaurants, cafes and bakeries. Cassidy wants to try a Savoy fondue place, so that’s our dinner, then we’re off to sleep early, almost before the sun sets (yes, that’s the Eiffel Tower, from our 5th floor window).08071603 to bed after early dinner tartifletteSunday morning calls for some good strong coffee to get us started, and Malongo is just down the street.08071701 breakfast malongo One of Paris’ best markets, Bastille, is on Sunday 08071701 market bastilleand we find some treasures to take home – marinieres (striped sailors tees) for us,08071701 market bastille marinieres a handcrafted tote for Cassidy. We’re offered lots of nibbles along the way too – sausage from one stall, nougat from another, a piece of ripe peach here, a crouton with tapenade there.
One of Paris’ most beautiful and historic squares is not too far away, the Place de Vosges, 08071701 vosgesand under the surrounding arches a very talented harpist stops us in our stroll. And soon we’re in the thick of the hopping Marais district, where Uniqlo has opened one of their newest locations in an historic Ash Factory (where cinders from jewelers waste were sifted through in search of gold generations ago). 08071702 uniqloI love how the Parisian team has designed the simple Uniqlo basics – such style!08071703 accessories from tees sweaters etcA peek into the courtyard of the Carnavalet museum, 08071702 carnavaletsome bulot (seasnails) for lunch, 08071703 seasnailsand more music on the streets – Dixieland08071702 dixieland video too hasn’t she got the moves?! On the way to our next Paris icon we pass a magnificent man in his flying machine – 08071703 the magnificent man in histhe Marais is full of interesting characters!
Have you guessed where we’re heading next? The Pompidou! 08071704 cassidys good at selfiesA stop at the quirky Stravinsky fountain,08071704 fountainthen a vintage shop,08071704 vintagethe Hôtel de Ville (town hall), where a serious game of beach volleyball is going on, 08071704 volley beachand we metro to dessert by the Tuileries. Any guesses?
The most luscious hot chocolate in the world, in my opinion –08071705 angelina dessert in the Belle Epoque beauty of Angelina!08071705 belle epoqueA stop next door, to goggle at the magnificent lobby of Hotel Meurice, 08071705 meuriceand Cassidy leaves her mark on the framed ice. 08071705 meurice c was hereA late afternoon break, then escargot and a croque monsieur for dinner08071705 snails and croque in the sunset,08071705 sunset and then  – can’t miss it! – the twinkling Eiffel Tower (it glitters like diamonds for 5 minutes on the hour after dark) before bed.08071705 twinkleWe fit in one more Paris favorite Monday morning before hopping on the train to Aix en Provence, the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens,08101501 garden summer plantings obviously well-watered even in the unprecedented heatwave of July and August. 08101501 plantingsWe take in today’s  regatta, going strong on the pond,08101501 regattaread and relax together, 08101501 wait and readthen head for the Gare de Lyon, home of the gorgeous Train Bleu restaurant,08101502 gare de lyon

where we board the TGV (FAST train) to Aix. She’s snoozing at 300 km/hr! Have we exhausted you too?!08101502 hurtlingWelcome to Aix – 08101502 to aixcan’t wait to share our home with the first family member to visit!




Literary Paris

Literary Paris

Paris, France
Thursday, 6 February, 2014
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  We’re looking ahead to Spring – May in Venice, Barcelona, or Prague, and our newest  – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

We could hear the rain Tuesday night as we lay in bed… and it’s continued, heavy, into Wednesday. Quite a change from those usual gorgeous Aixoise blue skies! As we train to Paris for this evening’s event at the

American Library, the weather gets BETTER – now that’s unusual too! But we’re happy to arrive to a dry Gare de Lyon, bus to Karen Fawcett’s apartment once again – happy that she’s in town (and best of all, we’ve convinced her to come back to Aix with us!), and settle in before heading for the Author’s Evening at the library.

Patricia Wells (whose newest, The French Kitchen Cookbook, sounds terrific, as all the others have been) and Anne Mah (whose latest book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, was such a delicious and delightful read that when I began it, I stopped, knowing that it was one that Kirk and I just had to enjoy together – now we’re savoring it à deux) are answering questions about food writing, their history in France, and changes in French cuisine and writing through the years.

It’s not far to our friend Mariana’s apartment, and as we walk, the Eiffel Tower begins its hourly twinkle – magical!

“Just a drink” has morphed into a yummy sit-down meal, and Karen, Anne, Mariana, Kirk and I enjoy catching up with news of family, friends and life.

A few errands begin our day on Thursday, and the rain has caught up with us, so we duck into an interesting-looking café to warm up with a coffee before returning to the
apartment. And as we enter Café de la Place it strikes me – “Could this be anywhere else but Paris?!”

Such a quint- essential vintage Parisian café, old tin signs on the walls, a row of pastis pitchers lined up above the windows, well-worn wood floors, tables and chairs – love it!

And guess what’s on the menu? My favorite – Café Gourmand! Gotta try that!

As the rain continues, we’re comforted with one of Karen’s delicious soups for lunch, then relax a bit, enjoying the view from safe and dry inside – isn’t Paris beautiful even when rainy and gray?

We’ve come up to Paris for a couple of author events, and stroll down Boulevard Montparnasse, with its legendary eateries Le Dome and Le Select, across the street from one another, to tonight’s,

a Champagne and  Francophile Book Signing party given by Robin and John Katsaros at their apartment, Vue Eiffel – yes, once more a view of the twinkling tower.

Robin introduces Ann Mah, whose book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, has become a new favorite, and our lovely friend Kristin Espinasse, whose latest book, First French Essais, includes a selection of her French Word a Day blogs about writing, marriage and, of course, France.

With a few responses to Robin’s questions, Ann,
and then Kristin, grant us insight to the balancing act of writing, caring for family, traveling and crafting a life in one place after another…very interesting.
Robin has invited such an interesting group of people, many of whom we’ve met previously, and one we’ve always wanted to meet (and often look for as we stroll the lanes of her Marais neighborhood, where we’ve frequently stayed), the property doyenne, Adrian Leeds. We tell her how her writings were such a help and encouragement in our French house hunts. We’ve also enjoyed watching her help people find their Paris dream home on House Hunters International.
What fun to sit and chat with these interesting ladies, from left to right, Marjorie Williams, author of the wonderful book (which Karen gave to us years ago, a prized reference and dream book), Markets of Paris, now in its second edition, yours truly, Robin- our hostess, Adrian, and Karen.
 The evening’s completed with a stop at Le Gymnase, another vintage treasure which Karen found on her way home from the dentist earlier today…. my salad Perigourdine (with duck breast and foie gras – decadent!) is filling and delicious,

and as the place is about to close, we watch the owner carefully polishing his beautiful copper bar. So glad places like this still exist in Paris!

Adieu 2013 in Paris

Adieu 2013 in Paris

Holidays in France, 2013
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  We’re looking ahead to Spring – May in Venice, Barcelona, or Prague, and our newest  – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

This rooftop view never fails to delight, and is especially lovely at sunrise. 

 On these last days of the year, we continue to wander the city, taking in the piles of seafood at the Montparnasse restaurants, renowned for their share-able Plateau des Fruits de Mer.

We have an errand or two to take care of on the Right Bank,  and since the Grands Magasins (department stores) are not too far from us, decide to get a glimpse of this years’ holiday windows. Galleries Lafayette’s frolic to the theme of time, and Prada takes center stage at Printemps.

As always, Galleries Lafayette’s towering tree is surrounded by snapping cameras and smartphones.

New Year’s Eve Day found us in another area we enjoy, the Marais… where Kirk found a super Christmas gift in a great vintage and new boutique that we like to check out whenever we’re in the area.

More lovely Christmas windows wherever we looked,

skaters on the ice in front of the Hôtel de Ville,

and a towering tree glittering in front of Notre Dame kept the holiday spirit going as we walked.
Chef Kirk gets busy in the kitchen, crafting his own “Kirk’s Famous Pasta” for our New Years Eve dinner….with Anne G sous- chef- ing for him, and taking careful notes so she can make this yummy dish herself. A final drizzle of olive oil and the plates are ready – delicious, and fortifying for our year end trip to the Eiffel Tower.
 We made it to our Right Bank destination in time for the countdown, bringing in the New Year with a bottle of Haton champagne which Anne G. had been saving (sorry for the dim photo – nearby revelers were not the best photographers!). We have such great memories of visiting the Haton Vineyard in Champagne with her a few years ago… what fun to share
this delicious bubbly again! 
Anticipating a super fireworks display, such as those in other cities around the world, we and the thousands crowding the streets were VERY disappointed when all we got was the normal hourly twinkle of the Eiffel Tower – quite a let-down! Guess the rain earlier in the evening had cancelled the fireworks, although nothing was officially announced.
Getting home was not at all as easy as getting there… with metro stations and bridges closed, causing us to have to walk for miles and hours…. but who can complain when you’re in Paris, with friends, for New Years?!
Celebrating Paris with Friends

Celebrating Paris with Friends

Paris, France
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Why not join us in Italy for New Year’s Jazz? 

I’m sure you must have some Paris favorites, as we do… I always love to include a stop at Angelina, for their decadent hot chocolate, to get at least a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, to stroll down favorite lanes. So our Parisian Christmas Gift to each other really gets going when we meet Jack and Anne at Angelina on Rue du Rivoli.

A pot of rich chocolate, almost thick enough to use a spoon, and a bowl of whipped cream – yes, decadence in a cup!

We have a couple of hours to flaner (just stroll and enjoy – I think a Parisian invented the word!) before we join Ed and Sandy for dinner, and as we turn right out of Angelina, we’re asked to wait before crossing in front of the uber-classy Meurice Hotel as an Asian dignitary arrives. Flashes pop, security men scan, and they walk in the door.

Looking right as we stroll, the column centering Place Vendome gleams,

and to our left the glittering Grand Roue de Paris on Place de Concorde, swingshigh for the holidaysshall we? The views will be great – why not?!

We’ll continue our stroll around big Place de Concorde and get on the roue just before 6 so we can watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle on the hour.

It’s just glowing stately and golden over the Seine now, lovely as ever.

Up we go, and the tower begins its hourly twinkle.

We ooh and aah from our perch,

then gaze down on the traffic -filled Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe just visible in the distance.

We’ve talked together for years about all six of us (who met via a travelers get together in the DC area) gathering in Paris at the same time, and it’s finally happened – Sandy and Ed are here for one of their twice- annual lengthy stays in the city, and Anne and Jack have been in France for a few weeks.  Sandy suggested Chez Dumonet, “a delicious sepia- toned experience of pre-war Paris” according to Alec Lobrano.

We all appreciate the vintage Paris feel, and our jovial waiter makes us feel like regulars, joking, even singing a tune.

Each dish is a faithful and delicious rendition of classic French  – Jack says his Coquilles Saint Jacques are the best he’s tasted,

and Anne oohs at the house specialty, classic beef bourguignon – a half- portion is more than enough!

As we pose for a photo of the “three girls”‘  our waiter jumps into the picture,

and when we order dessert, suggests the three “best ones” to share – an apple tart, a mille feuille (napolean), and a soufflé to share. Great idea – aren’t they gorgeous? And they taste as good as they look!

What a fabulous Grand Marnier soufflé! It arrives with a glass of the liqueur, poke a hole in the top of the soufflé and pour it in!

But wait – there’s more! A platter of tempting mignardises – little bites of deliciousness to go with coffee.
We can barely waddle out the door, and walk around the neighborhood a bit before metro- ing back to the Madeleine neighborhood.

It’s our only chance to see the decorations on the Grands Magasins at night, so we walk a few blocks for a peek at Printemps, cheerily lit in red and white. Ho Ho!