Paris all Aglow

Paris all Aglow

Thanksgiving Week, 2017
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.

Time for a quick holiday visit to Paris on our way back from the south of France to the US – and we’re checking out a new-to-us hotel this time. We arrive around noon after a speedy TGV (fast train) trip from Aix, and the Grand Hotel Dechampaigne, red geraniums tumbling from every window of the 16th century former townhome, has a room ready for us – thanks for the early checkin! That red theme continues into our boudoir-like room and spacious bathroom of this excellently located hotel. After 3 plus hours in the train, we’re ready to walk, and take in the Parisian eye candy (this is a metro stop!) on our way to the Grands Magasins (big department stores) whose Christmas windows we’re eager to see. We’re meeting our friends, Ed & Sandy, beside the opera – can’t miss it! And from there to Galeries Lafayette, whose windows this year are themed as a “fairground with a surrealist twist” – hmmm. The tree inside (a candy theme here) is spectacular – worth jostling through the crowds to appreciate!
As in past years, Printemps wins my vote for the best windows, with their playful Magical Journey theme – the Thalys (train from Paris to Brussels) whizzing by in one window, a vintage VW van chugging along in another, Parisian icons gleaming beside. I love this tradition of meeting friends and seeing the holiday lights and sights!
Ed and Sandy want to see the lights along the Champs Elysees too – and we’re game! We all stand in the middle to snap a shot of the shimmering boulevard. Then we just keep walking, and as we head down sparkling Avenue Montaigne the Eiffel Tower across the river begins to twinkle….aah, Paris, you’re ever a sparkling jewel!

Interlude – A Paris Weekend, continued

Interlude – A Paris Weekend, continued

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.

One of our favorite French words (and activities!) is flaneur. It describes a person on a leisurely stroll or wander,usually in a city, just enjoying and taking in the sights, sounds, smells on the way. No particular destination, no tasks to accomplish, just reveling in the beauty and life of one’s surroundings.11231401 am walkSo today, Sunday, we’re flaneurs in Paris, stopping to admire whatever we want such as this pretty building on rue Madame, taking our time, counting our blessings as we stroll.11231401 house on madameStop a while and listen to a bit of Dixieland jazz here, pause for a lunch of French classics (Onion Soup for Monsieur, goat cheese salad for Madame),11231402 more classic frenchenjoying the views as we sit in prime flaneur seats, both facing out at our tiny café table.11231402 with great views and wafts of jazzAnd what flaneur doesn’t engage in a little leche vitrine (window licking – French for window shopping)? Russian Christmas decorations here,11231403 leche vitrinea tropical macaron fantasy at Laduree…11231403 macaron tropicsIt’s a quiet Sunday on the Seine – Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle that way,11231403 quiet sunday on seinethe Eiffel Tower a hike away in the other direction.11231403 tower that wayWe were reminded, by an article received from France Today this morning, of the Palais Royale, which we haven’t visited in decades, so we seek out the striped columns in one courtyard, 11231404 france today article palais royaleand the gardens11231404 gardens arcades shops in another courtyard 1surrounded with boutique-lined arcades in another.11231404 gardens arcades shops in another courtyardA few steps further, and there’s pretty Galerie Vivienne, Paris’ predecessor to shopping malls, but how very much more charming!11231404 vivienneThe bookseller and most of the shops are closed, the tearooms are open  – an inviting pause.11231405 books antiqueI have to admit, we do have one item on our agenda – the windows of the Grands Magasins (department stores), the holiday extravaganzas of Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. 11231405 printempsThe Noel Monstre (monster Christmas) of Galeries Lafayette is of no interest to me – though the children packed before the window obviously love it! The Burberry Magical Voyage of Noel windows of Printemps, though, are adorable, 11231406 burberry windowswith charming and playful scenes of snowscapes, Paris and London and beyond.

11231406 soldiersReturning across the Seine with a smile, we watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle, 11231406 twinkles video tooand enjoy a few decorated streets of the big city11231407 lightsbefore returning to cozily small Aix tomorrow.




Paris Glitters for the Holidays

Paris Glitters for the Holidays

Paris, France
Wednesday, November 21, 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?

Our Christmas gift to each other continues with lunch and views of the Christmas windows of the Grands Magasins (Department Stores) with our friends, but before that we fit in a visit to the latest exhibit at the Hôtel de Ville (Paris’ grand town hall), Paris Vu par Hollywood (Paris Seen by Hollywood). We’d been warned of the long lines (the exhibit has received great reviews from the critics, so has become a “hot ticket”), so arrive just after opening time, 10 am, and wait under our umbrella in the drizzle for a few minutes before getting in.

From the silent era (Mary Pickford et al) to the latest hit, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, the vast hall is filled with memorabilia, including rare movie storyboards, letters from and to directors, and original sketches and costumes, such as this gold spangled white gown from Jean Renoir’s French CanCan.
Several screens, including the large one, filled with classic Audrey Hepburn clips, feature Hollywood’s best images of the city. One quote says that the Paramount sets of Paris in the 40’s and 50’s were even better than the real thing – ha! The exhibition’s on until 15 December and makes a great way to while away a drizzly hour or so in between strolling real live Paris.

Back to the hotel, where Anne, Jack, Sandy and Ed await us, then around the corner for lunch at Aux Chai Moi (a play on words – Chez Moi means “my place”, and sounds the same as Chai moi, which means “my wine cellar”).
Sandy and I had both been searching and asking in- the- know friends for a restaurant near the Grands Magasins, and everyone agreed that there’s nothing nearby but touristy places. The pleasant lady at our hotel’s front desk said so too, and suggested the “petite bon resto” just around the corner. It is indeed a little gem – we’re seated on the top floor (there are a few tables on several floors)

and order from the suggestions for today, seasonal treats such  as a creamy parsnip soup speckled with crispy lardons (bacon cubes),
roasted guinea fowl, and sea bass on a bed of buttery mashed potatoes – all accompanied with wines from the Chai.
Descriptions of this year’s delightful windows, and Sandy’s inviting emails  – come up to Paris for a day! – were what prompted this Christmas gift idea

Under a canopy of lights stretching down Boulevard Hauss- mann, the scenes enthrall…

skaters revel, dressed to the nines in exquisitely tailored miniatures of outfits available inside the store – a discreet price list and directions to which floor carries the item is at the bottom of each window. 

We three ladies stop snapping photos and video for a minute to pose together – can the children be enjoying this any more than we are?!

And the show goes on –
the elegant marionettes dancing,

riding a carousel, floating in a balloon.
The workmanship, both of the gorgeous clothing and accessories (those miniature purses – love ’em!)  and the scenery, is fabulous.

On to Gallerie Lafayette, where the windows (Louis Vuitton) are not at all as interesting as the Dior at Printemps, but the Christmas tree inside, under the stained glass dome, can’t be missed! Swarovski this year, it’s surrounded by tourists and locals snapping a photo.

Well, we have to return to Aix… with plans to meet again in Virginia (we’ve persuaded Anne & Jack to stay a few days before returning to Atlanta) for an evening of music. The train home is non stop, so in just a little over three hours we’re walking to our apartment. The holiday lights have been turned on in Aix too – the Hôtel de Ville is draped in a curtain of lights
Joyeuses Fêtes!

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!