Thursday, December 31, 2009

Paris Snow 30-31 Decembre

30 Decembre (Mercredi) - When we arise in the morning, we always make coffee.  But, unlike at home, where we have a Cuisinart Coffee Maker, here we have to use a French Press Coffee Maker. The larger Press makes about three or four cups, while the smaller one makes bout a cup and a half.  If you're not familiar with the French Press, it's really quite simple.  First you pull out the cap and press. Into the glass pot, you place enough coursely ground cofee for however many cups you want to make. Then, you pour in the appropriate amount of boiling water and stir.  You replace the cap and press, and let it sit for about five minutes.  After five minutes, you press down until the press is as far down as it can go, then pour yourself a very good cup of coffee.  The press pushes the grounds to the bottom of the pot so all you get is a cup of groundless coffee.  We use the French Press here because that's all there is, there is no other kind of coffee maker in the apartment.  Lucky for us, we already knew how to use it.  Here's a video for making French Press coffee.

Robb has lost a scarf and is sure he left it at O'Jules, so we walked up to the bus stop near the Saint-Paul métro.  We were going to take a taxi, but decided at the last minute to take the bus.  Of course, taking the bus isn't quite that simple.  We had to take the 69 to Place Léon Blum, where we caught the 61 to Gare de Lyon (a train station), where we finally boarded the 57 to Place d'Italie.  When we got to O'Jules, they said the only scarf they had found was green.  Robb was sure his was blue. We decided to have a sandwich.  Robb had a Croque Monsieur, I had a Croque Madame.  We walked over to the taxi stand and rode home.


The other day, I took this picture of a lamp.  When we went out to get the pictures of Hôtel de Ville and the skaters, I wanted to photograph it while it was lit.  But I couldn't find it.  I was sure it was close to the kiosque, where Parisians go to buy newspapers, magazines and etc, but it wasn't there.  Luckily, I had the picture to prove I wasn't any crazier than usual.  Today, when we walked up to get the bus, I saw it again.  It wasn't near the kiosque at all.


31 Decembre (Jeudi) - New Year's Eve.  The weather has turned bitterly cold again.  We had hoped to go to the Champ de Mars to watch the fireworks, but it's just too damned cold and they're predicting rain. The closest métro to the Tour Eiffel is a rather long walk, which I'd rather not do if it's cold and raining.  So we will have dinner at Fontaine Sully, return to the apartment, and watch it on television or online.  We did go out to Monoprix to pick up some stuff, because we think it might be closed tomorrow.  Just another exciting New Year's Eve in Paris.


Well, it actually did become exciting.  When we got to the restaurant, there were a lot of people already there.  We've never seen it so crowded.  We lucked out and got a seat by the window.  We were no sooner seated than the waitress brought a glass of champagne and a small plate of appetizers.  We noticed that she did not do that for everyone, so I guess the regulars get special treatment.  Dinner was good, I had the faux filet, Robb had the Boudin Blanc (a white sausage). Both came with a side of potatoes. I think the chef must have gone to some kind of special Potato School, because no matter what kind they bring to the table, they're always the best we've ever had.  After dinner, we ordered a glass of champagne.  Robb had a dessert of Petits Fours, of which I had a couple.  Then, just before midnight, the waitresses came around handing out more champagne, party hats, streamers and a package of toys.  Okay, you say, nothing strange there. But included in the toys was that red and silver thing that I thought was a noise maker.  I tried and tried to get it to make noise, but had no luck.  Then I noticed that the French people were using the "noise maker" to blow the red, yellow and white balls at each other.  A blow gun.  No wonder I couldn't get it to make noise. After the official hour arrived, craziness ensued as little red, white and yellow balls were flying all over the place.  A funny juxtaposition was the two little old ladies seated at a table behind us, who were trying to behave as ladylike as possible while this craziness swirled all around them.  By 02h00, the place had pretty much emptied out and we walked all the way back to the apartment in the freezing cold. Happy to have been a part of a really fun evening.  It was probably more fun that we would have had at la Tour Eiffel.


Bonne Année!


À la prochaine, mes amis

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Paris Snow 28-29 Decembre

28 Decembre (Lundi) - Remembrance of things past: To get through these doors, you need to punch a series of digits into this DigiCode machine. M. Perez, the apartment owner, had sent us the digicode in an email before we left, so we thought we were set. Ah ha! When we arrived at the apartment, we punched in the code and pulled the door. Nothing. We tried it again, and again, nothing. We were about to try a third time when a little old lady came out and we discovered that you don't pull the doors, in spite of the handle, you push the door closest to the digicode machine. We started to enter but the litle old lady wasn't having it. She wanted a full explanation of who we were and why we were trying to enter HER building. I finally had to tell her the digicode before she would let us enter, and even then, rather reluctantly.

There is a nice washer/dryer in the apartment, so we decided to do some laundry today. The only problem was that I couldn't fully remember M. Perez's instructions on how to use it. I'm pretty sure I left out a step, becuse there was very little water in the machine. Robb insisted that it was working correctly and we didn't really have a choice, because evidently, once it starts its cycle, you can't stop it and must let it run to completion. When it finally finished, we looked at the clothes and they seemed to be clean so we put it into dryer mode. Again, we weren't certain of the proper way to set it up, but took a shot. After two hours and forty-five minutes, it stopped. The clothes were not entirely dry, but passable. We hung them over the back of the kitchen chairs to finish the job.

We bundled ourselves as warmly as possible and started walking to the taxi stand a couple blocks up the street, where we got one who drove us to Italie2, our favorite shopping mall in Paris. I wanted to go to Tati to see if they had any thermal socks and Robb was still wanting to go to FNAC. Tati had no thermal socks that I saw, so we were off to FNAC, until Robb spotted a shoe store having a sale. He bought a very nice pair of Guess trainers, and even got an extra €30 off the sale price. The FNAC was just a couple doors down. Robb bought four CDs. Grégory Lamarchal, Joe Dassins, Marc Lavoine and a compilation of famous French singers. After FNAC, we wandered about for awhile through Printemps. Then Robb decided he wanted to go to Aimee's tearoom, so we walked down rue Bobillot to rue de la Butte Aux Cailles and L'Oisive Thé, quite a trek. It was closed. We walked back up to Italie2 and decided to stop at O'Jules to refresh and warm up a little. It was an interesting event because the table we chose at the very back of the restaurant, was next to the table where the waiters ate their dinners. Robb had a Parisian sandwich (ham and cheese on a baguette), while I just had a café. Then it was off to find the taxi stand which turned out to be just on the other side of Italie2. Back to the apartment where we crashed until dinner time.

29 Decembre (Mardi) - The weather is absolutely balmy today. We walked up the Supermarché G20 which is almost adjacent to the Saint Paul métro entrance. Apparently, we weren't the only ones who were enjoying the beautiful weather, the area around the métro was bustling. It was almost as if the métro was pushing people to the sidewalk like candy from a Pez dispenser. Then, I looked about and was amazed. Sunshine! A sight one doesn't often see in Paris in the winter. On the way back to the apartment with our booty, which hopefully will get us through a couple of days, I snapped this picture of a patisserie window.

Around 20h00, we walked up to l'Hôtel de Ville to see the lights and the ice skaters, about whom I had totally forgotten. They hadn't. There were beaucoup des gens skating about. The other day, on the way to la Tour Eiffel, we passed a building that was brightly lit. The only name I saw was 'Baudoyer'. Tonight, I saw the sign pointing the way to Biblio Baudoyer, so I now know what it is. Kind of. I shot a couple videos, but my batteries were too weak and I'm going to have to do them over. Maybe tonight if the weather holds up.

After, getting the videos and just 'chilling' in every sense of the word, we walked up to Quai de la Mégisserie and Pont au Change and caught the 96 bus to Fontaine Sully for dinner. The waitress surprised us with another little treat tonight. She presented us with a little plate of petits fours when she brought our coffee.

À la prochaine, mes amis

Monday, December 28, 2009

Paris Snow 26-27 Decembre

26 Decembre (Samedi) - Today was very special. We got to meet, live and in person, the beautiful Marie Isabelle Reed who puts out a blog called, The French Factrice. She is very pretty in the picture that used to be on the blog and is now on her Facebook entries. But she is really beautiful in person. She could easily be one of the top models in the world of fashion. She has one of those sparkling personalities that make you glad you know her. And she laughs...a lot. We learned that she and Robb seem to have a lot in common, as well. At first, it seemed our plan to meet was not going to happen. She called to say that she was going to lunch with her in-laws and would then get here around 14h30, calling first to let us know she was on her way. Robb and I decided to run out to the Monoprix for a few things. We came back to the apartment and putzed around for a while and then, suddenly realized it was already after 15h00. I was sure we had missed her call and the meeting would not happen, but a few minutes later, she called to say she was at the Bastille and on her way to the apartment. After the obligatory nickel tour, we spent several delightful hours chatting, drinking wine and laughing.

27 Decembre (Dimanche) - Robb has been chomping-at-the-bit to get to FNAC to buy some CDs, so we walked up to la Place de la Bastille where there is a branch of FNAC next door to l'Opéra Bastille. It wasn't as far as I had thought, but it was really cold and FNAC was closed. We stood around shivering for a while and decided to walk back to Monoprix and get the stuff we needed. We bought a lot of cheese and found a very nice hors d'oeuvre. By the time I got back to the apartment, I was exhausted. Apparently, that is going to be the ongoing theme from now on. Not just because it's cold (which by now you know I hate), but because the emphysema has advanced that far. We had the cheese hors d'oeuvres with some toasts and wine. As Robb is wont to say, so civilized.

À la prochaine, mes amis

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Paris Snow 24-25 Decembre

24 Decembre (Jeudi) - So far, the most adventurous we'd gotten was to walk up to BHV (a huge department store) and, though it doesn't seem like much, that's a pretty good walk. And we still have to walk back. It took us quite a while, because Robb wanted to check out every shoe store we passed, and there were quite a few along the way. After walking through the regular store to get warm, we crossed the street to BHV Homme (the men's store). We each bought a stocking cap (is that what they're called?) and Robb bought a couple of shirts. Then we walked up rue des Archives to Les Marrioners. I thought we were just going to have a glass of wine, but Robb, as usual, was hungry. He ordered something called a "Croquita", which turned out to be a kind of Croque Monsieur with herbs. I had a couple bites. It was delicious.

We had dinner again at Fontaine Sully and discovered that they're open 24/7, somewhat surprising for a French restaurant.

We're still having trouble with our French SIM cards. Mine sort of works, but Robb's is for "Urgences Seulement" (Emergencies Only). The Canadian company from which I purchased them is trying to get Orange to bring them online, but is not having much luck. Quel surprise.

25 Decembre (Vendredi) - The day got off to a great start; blue skies and sunshine and tempertures a little better than freezing. Today, we accomplished a couple of things. Well, tonight, really. We walked up to the taxi station because you can't just flag one down, even if you could figure out their lights. I was going to ask him to drive by way of la Place de la Concorde, but then I thought, well, it's the most logical way to go. Yeah, I know, expecting logic from a Frenchman, what nerve! But sure enough, that's the way he went, so we finally got to see the Champs-Elysées with its beautiful lights, as well as the Grand Roue de Paris. Les Champs-Elysées is even more beautiful in person than in all the pictures and videos. Here's a video featuring the Marché de Noël. There were a lot more lights and decorations on rue de Rivoli than I was expecting, also. L'Hôtel de Ville is spectacular and if I can force myself to go out into the cold to do it, I will take some video and a picture or two. Paris seems to be getting more and more commercial.

The main reason we had taken the taxi was to get to la Tour Eiffel for Christmas dinner. We could not believe the number of people who were there milling about with apparently no idea where they were going or why. Also, they've setup barriers all over the place making it the most frustrating experience I've ever had there. We asked a guy who seemed to be in charge of one of the barrier stations how to get up to Restaurant 58. The last time we were here, it was named Altitude 95 That alone was very confusing. I knew it had been renovated but I didn't know they had also changed the name. I'm not even sure it's owned by the same company. He sent us to the information booth, which he described as "a little hut". There we discovered that we would have to pay to take the elevator up to the restaurant. Talk about a scam! Not only that, but the elevator doesn't stop on the first floor, on which the restaurant is located. Noooo, they make you go to the second floor where you have the option of catching the elevator down to the first floor, or walking down the stairs. The reason for that, as explained by our waiter (from Texas no less), is because the company that operates la Tour Eiffel wants you to wander around the second floor in the hope that you'll happen into one of their souvenir shops and buy stuff. We decided to use the stairs (can you hear the buzzer?). It seemed like an interminable climb down, but we did eventualy get there and found the Restaurant 58.

We asked about sitting by the window and were told that people had called three months ago for that privilege and there was no way it was going to happen for us. We were seated at a table that was rather isolated from the rest, and the only view we had was of the waiters running (literally running) up and down the stairs with their orders. We were no sooner seated than we were presented with a glass of champagne (Alain DuCasse if you're interested) which was okay, but not great. There was already on the table a bottle of Evian water and a bottle of Bordeaux vin rouge.

The first course, choice of three, was foie gras. The presentation was fantastic, the foie gras, not so much. Our choice for the entrée was Noix de Coquilles Saint-Jacques. It came with some kind of vegetable, but we're still not certain what it was. There was also a small serving of polenta with chestnuts. We ordered a bottle of chardonnay to replace the red. It was a nice wine, but not memorable. The entrée was very good. The third course, was desert. I had a pear with chestnut icing. It was more like pear ice cream than a fruit. It was delicious. Robb had a rum cake. Although none of the courses could have been considered large, they were very filling, and neither of us could finish our desert. We finished with café.

After our meal, we walked out to the taxi stand. We barely had gotten there when a taxi pulled up beside us. Some jerk tried to push in front of us and take it, but the driver shooed him away and motioned for us to get in. Then we had a very scenic drive along the Seine back to the apartment. I'm glad we had dinner on la Tour Eiffel because it was a special event, but, for a number of reasons, I don't think I would ever do it again.

You may have noticed I haven't taken as many pictures as usual. Freezing weather is the reson for that. Have I mentioned how much I hate the cold?

À la prochaine, mes amis

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Paris Snow - 16-24 Decembre 2009

16-24/12/09 (Mercredi-Jeudi) - Our Air France 747 was more than an hour late leaving Miami International, but never-the-less got to Aêroport Charles de Gaulle a few minutes earlier than scheduled. Robb and I were seated next to an Italian guy on his way to Florence for a visit with his mother and sister. He claimed to be bi and married to a Cuban-American girl.

Cloud cover was thicker than usual, but as soon as I could see the ground it appeared to be white. Taxiing to the terminal left no doubt that it was snowing in France. Everything was covered with a light dusting of the white stuff. The walk to the passport control area seemed interminable and it was quite cool until we got there. Robb had the sense to bring his leather jacket, but I was wearing only a sweater over a very light shirt. We got through passport control with no problem and began the long, long walk to the baggage claim. We were the last two people off the plane and Robb had to make a pit-stop, so we would have been the last two to pick up our bags. But when we finally arrived, we learned that the bags hadn't even begun to come out. We looked around for one of the FREE baggage carts, the same kind for which we had paid four dollars in Miami. When our bags arrived, I pulled out my leather jacket and put it on. We went out to get a taxi. It was quite cold and still snowing. The further we drove, the heavier the snowfall. Traffic was very dense and very slow. I took these pictures as we drove into the city. The first is through the windshield of the taxi. Then one along the road into the city. The next three are various scenes we passed in the city; motorcycles with cold seats, Picard (a frozen food chain - I just thought that was funny), and
the Jacques Bonsergent

métro station. And finally, the courtyard just outside the apartment. One of my readers will find it interesting that just across the courtyard is the office of an architect, who seems to be quite busy.

The owner of the apartment had arranged for a friend to meet us and give us a brief tour. He had told us she would come around 10h30, but we had barely left the airport. When we arrived at the apartment, she was there waiting and we encountered our first problem. Our French phones weren't being authorized, so we had to use our American phones to make the few calls that were necessary. Once inside the apartment, we were happy to find that it is a little bigger than it appeared in the pictures.

The area of the apartment is very convenient and just about everything we need is practically next door, including a huge Monoprix with a large grocery section. On the corner is a produce market selling all kinds of wonderful things. Just across the street from that and next to the Monoprix is the Fontaine Sully, a very nice brasserie at which we have now eaten four times. Last night, after desert, the waitress surprised us with a glass of cognac. On the other side of Monoprix is a pharmacie, and next to that is Julien de Savignac, a wine store. Another block down the street, rue Saint-Antoine, is the local branch of BNP Paribas, Robb's bank. When I click the link, I get a Google street view. If you get the same view, the light-colored double doors left of the Naturalia, is the entrance to the courtyard.

We went to Monoprix to get some staples; coffee, sugar, milk and couple of other items. We were both feeling really in need of sleep since neither of us slept on the plane, but I was near total exhaustion, so as soon as we got the things we really needed, we returned to the apartment.

Then we discovered problem number 2. The only real heat in the place is in the kitchen and the bathroom. There is a heater that barely works in the living room, and no heat at all in the bedroom. Now, during a normal winter, that might not be a problem. But it is very cold in Paris; below freezing. When we left Miami it was 27C (80F), when we got to Paris, it was -5C (23F). That's a hell of a difference in less than ten hours.

So far, this trip has been almost as bad as the last one, when I ended up in the hospital in Canada. I really thought I could adjust to the cold, and as it warms up a bit, I have. But it takes so much out of me and on those few times we went anywhere, I returned exhausted.

À la prochaine, mes amis