Paris When It Shimmers

Paris When It Shimmers

A Holiday Weekend, November 2016
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.

Those holiday windows and city lights call out to me every year, and the ones I enjoy the most are in Paris, so if I have the chance, I’m there! We finish up our errand-filled week in France with a speedy trip to the capital, past vineyards, fields and forests more golden cam15407than when we sped south a week ago.
Dropping off our bags at a new-to-us right-bank hotel near the Seine, we quickly hop on a bus to meet our Virginia friends Sandy & Ed (who spend a couple of months here in fall and spring) at the Grandes Magasins (department stores) – first stop, Galeries Lafayette, where white is the theme this year. cam15418One “polar bear express” window after another, cool white and blue, delight the kids peering in.
The piece de resistance, as usual, is the massive tree, a white paper goliath towering to the top of the balconies. cam15420Not my favorite of their trees – I prefer a little more color – but worth seeing. Shouldering bravely through the crowds, we head for Printemps, where the colors enchant, each window featuring a designer: can-canning shoes from Jimmy Choo, cam15426videosparkly baubles from David Yurman, chic French fashions prancing on a catwalk…cam15429Oh yes, more my style! Such fun to gaze along with all ages – the windows aren’t just for kids!
Dinner with another friend provides a chance to catch up – it’s been too long – at a charming little bistro (thanks, Alec Lobrano, for your always-excellent recommendations!), Le Petit Cler, cam15441and we make tentative plans to meet in the countryside when we return in the spring for the annual Rendezvous France event.
In no hurry to get back, we walk all the way to the hotel, through the 7th arrondissement, sparkling its pedigree with the famed tower in the background, cam15442and across the river to the popular Grand Roue (big wheel), cam15455then on to the Ducs de Bourgogne, our home (which we recommend – for quiet comfort, excellent location, and friendly helpful staff) for the next couple of nights.
One of our favorite Paris markets is the Bastille (what fun it was to introduce our grandaughter to the markets we delight when we were in Paris together the summer of 2015!) and we find an inviting café to fortify us for the hunt cam15462before meeting Sandy and Ed at the 14th of July column. cam15465videoA jazzy combo gets everyone into the buying spirit.
I find the perfect scarf (crafted from a sari remnant by a savvy entrepreneur) for a new sweater, and Sandy finds an irresistible bracelet or two. cam15467It’s the food stalls, through, that keep me oohing and aahing. A cascade of Coquilles St. Jacques, cam15473an artist’s palette of colorful vegetables, cam15474it’s such eye-candy! And the buzz and interest of shoppers intent on finding the best for their Sunday lunch is infectious – truly one of Paris’ most vibrant markets.
Then we’re free to wander through the always-delightful Marais, peering into inviting courtyards,cam15482 pausing for the soprano trilling melodies through the arches surrounding the Place de Vosges, cam15485detouring to take in a vine-draped façade.cam15497Another market takes place daily along the river – the bouquinistes, showcasing their used books, postcards, or calendars, from ancient to modern. cam15503Isn’t it wonderful that although so much changes, that so many things stay the same? These storied vendors have occupied this spot since the Middle Ages!
One last walk through the shimmering streets, cam15512and we fill up a few tables in Sandy and Ed’s favorite restaurant, Petit Pontoise. cam15516We’ve heard so much from them about their friend Daniele, front and center, through the years that we feel as if we’ve already met! And our good friends from Aix, Jean G and Jean C, are in town so we get to introduce them to our Virginia friends for the first time! Back and forth the conversation spins between French and English, with everyone enjoying each other and the delicious dinner, then we’re off, walking together along the Seine, saying goodbye-til-the-next-time, and heading our separate ways. Two delightful days in Paris – ALWAYS a good idea!


The Music of Aix – and on to Paris!

The Music of Aix – and on to Paris!

Aix en Provence & Paris, France
Sunday- Tuesday, November 18-20, 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? 

From foggy Venice we’ve flown to sunny Aix, and as we unpack and settle into Ambiance d’Aix,

we’re listening to a wonderful CD of the string quartets of Félicien David, which a friend from Palazzetto Bru Zane, headquarters of the French Romantic Music Center, in Venice, gave us while we were at the cultural travel workshop. When we were househunting in Aix, one of the apartments we viewed was on rue Félicien David, but we did not know he was an Aixoise composer until we heard his music at a concert presented by the Center in Venice a couple of years ago. His music is difficult to find – we could not find any even right here in Aix, but the Center is doing such a great job of making the Romantic French composers better known, not only with their marvelous concert series, but also with recordings.

All settled in, we head out to pick up a baguette to round out our dinner, and as we walk by the Cathedral Saint Saveur, just steps from the apartment, beautiful music’s wafting out the door – an unexpected concert! Of course the bakery, and dinner, must wait, as we take in the beauty of the sound of a men’s chorus, Virili Voce, standing around the ancient early Christian baptistry (from 500 AD) in the oldest part of the cathedral.

We’ve enjoyed several concerts in the main nave previously, such as the string orchestra last month, but never before in the baptistry, with its melange of architectural styles, from that unusual immersion baptistry to the traces of medieval frescoes to the elegant Renaissance capitals topping ancient Roman columns.
What a gift to arrive in Aix and happen upon this concert!
It’s now Monday, and although we’ve just unpacked, here we are packing again for a quick trip to Paris, while we watch the French version of our favorite US TV program – Amazing Race (the French teams are in LA – fun to watch).  Since we met our friends Ed and Sandy (who live near us in Virginia and spend several months in Paris each year) for dinner in Paris last month on our way home from the Nancy Jazz Festival, we’ve been reading on Facebook about the fantastic holiday windows of the Parisian Grands Magasins (department stores), some of the best ever, and receiving tempting emails from Sandy – “can’t you come to Paris for a day?” Well, the more we thought about it, and realized that our friends Jack and Anne, who we met through Ed and Sandy and who have moved away from Virginia, would be in Paris too, we decided to go – this will be our Christmas gift to each other!
We’ll combine the fun with friends with a shopping trip for Ambiance d’Aix, to our old favorite BHV (Bazaar del Hôtel de Ville) where I’ve often drooled over the linens and kitchen items.
It’s a quick 3 hour train ride from Aix to Paris, then a metro ride from Gare de Lyon (the train station that serves the south of France) to the Madeleine quarter, where we check into charming Hotel Opera Richepanse, a Best Western property. Unlike the cookie cutter properties of the chain in the US, the Best Western properties in Europe are distinctive, charming, and typical of the region, and we often use them for our Music and Markets tours. We’ve chosen this one in the 1st Arrondissement (Paris is divided into 20 Arrondissements, or districts)  for its proximity to the Grands Magasins – about a ten minute walk.


We’ve never stayed in this area before, and are delighted to find how close we are to many wonderful Parisian sites – such as the sparkling holiday ferris wheel on Place de la Concorde.

We stop for lunch at a cute bistro near BHV, Les Fous d’en Face on rue du Bourg Tiborg for a couple of typical French dishes – a tasty Terrine of Rabbit, studded with dried apricots and raisins, for me, and a hearty goat cheese salad for Kirk. Simple, good and well- priced dishes.
Nothing fancy, just a good old -fashioned Parisian spot – not so easy to find anymore!

Just around the corner is Bad Boy street – Kirk mugs for me in front of the eponymous café.

Now we’re fortified for shopping, and continue the search, which we began in Aix yesterday, for a drapery rod and drapes for our foyer. BHV displays a dizzying amount of rods, rings and finials. The first ones we look at are 300 euros. No thank you. We keep looking, then Kirk suggests going down to the basement, hardware heaven, to see if there are any options there.

I think he just wanted to meander the rows of his favorite floor of BHV!

No – all of the tringles (curtain rods)  are on the 4th floor, so back we go, and enlist the help of a friendly vendeuse (sales lady) to make sure we purchase all of the parts we need.
We didn’t find the draperies here, perhaps tomorrow when we visit the Grands Magasins with our friends.
Business finished, now it’s time to party!