Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Florida Snow

Okay, it's not really snowing in South Florida, although it has been known to happen in the past, and it is cold enough to happen now.

In CDG, because we were on a flight to the US, we had to go through two security checks. The first one was the normal one where you take anything that might set off the buzzer and put it in a tray which is sent through the scanner. The second one was an actual "hands on" pat down. I had my inhaler in my jacket pocket and had to take it out to show the "patter". Then I had to take out my wallet. Can you guess what he was patting?

When we got back home, I was delighted to see that the two bottles of wine (there's only one left), and the three bags of coffee I had packed in my luggage had made it with no mishaps.

After returning from the coldest winter they've had in France for many, many years, we were confronted with the coldest winter we've had in Florida for many, many years. Tell me again about how the earth is getting hotter because of "global warming".

When we got into the airport, after picking up our bags, Robb went to the Air France check-in counter to see if anyone had turned in his man-bag. He was told that anything they find at the check-in counters is taken to the airport Lost and Found. Geoff was already there waiting for us, so we'll come back down to check out the Lost and Found. We were surprised to find that Miami Airport has stopped charging for the use of luggage carts, so we no longer use them for free in Europe and pay to use them here. Kudos to Miami International Airport for opening their eyes.

I've changed my mind about the make-up of Tartiflette. It's more like potatoes au gratin with sausage, then cassoulet. Whatever one calls it, it is delicious.

Also, during this visit, I discovered two things I like that I thought I didn't; yogurt and chestnuts. At least, the yogurt with fruit. My previous objection to yogurt was the consistency; or what I perceived to be the consistency. When I actually tried it, at Robb's coaxing, I found it was not what I was expecting.

We drove down to the Miami Airport, which turned out to be an adventure in itself, since we got totally lost because we missed our turn off. But it was really fun. We made it to the Lost and Found department but they didn't have Robb's bag, or my glasses which I managed to lose after putting them in my jacket pocket on the plane. Luckily, I still have the old ones.

Here is the video I took at Hôtel de Ville. The only skaters are the guys cleaning the ice, but there's a good look at the Zamboni.

Climate change: the true price of the warmists' folly is becoming clear

À la prochaine, mes amis

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Paris Snow 07-08 Janvier 2010

07 Janvier (Juedi) - Saw one of these on the street the other day. They're about the same size as a Smart and almost as cute.

So here it is...our last day in frozen Paris. It's time to partir, just as we were starting to get used to the cold. Almost everyone has said that it hasn't been this cold in a long, long time. It must be that damned global warming.

Madame Perez called to say she would be about an hour early for the final inspection and the returning of the deposit.

We walked down to Saint Paul and got a taxi to Place d'Italie and Italie2. Of course, as we are wont to do, we struck up a conversation with our driver. We mentioned that we were going home tomorrow, and he gave us his number and said if we called him, he would be happy to take us to the airport. We're glad that happened because otherwise, Robb would have to walk up to Saint Paul, engage a taxi and bring him back to the apartment to pick up me and our baggage. This arrangement is much better. Beside, the driver was a very cute Chinese guy born and raised in Paris.

In Italie2, we covered almost the entire place. I thought I might buy a pair of shoes, but couldn't find any I really liked, including the ones made by a company with my name. I bought a nice scarf at Jules for half off because of the soldes. Robb bought another stocking hat. It's really nice. I saw a fantastic leather jacket that I would have bought in a heartbeat if I had seen it first. It was three times as much as the one I bought, but it was so much better. Ah well, I've already got three leather jackets, well two jackets and a coat, I don't need another one.

We returned to the apartment, just in time to greet Madame Perez. She is Irish and very nice. She didn't even bother to check the place, just gave back the security check and, after a brief chat, left.

Our last dinner was, of course, at Fontaine Sully. I had a great veal stew, and ate every last morsel. Robb had steak and fries. For the first time in a long time, I finished my entire meal. We said our farewells to the staff, took a last look around and returned to the apartment to finish packing.

Because of the latest "terrorist attack", Air France emailed us and suggested we get to the airport several hours early. We will leave the apartment around 07h00. That should get us there in plenty of time.

Of course, as a final slap-in-the-face, the internet was down when I tried to get on one last time.

08 Janvier (Vendredi) - Up at 06h00. Did all the morning stuff and made one final sweep to be sure we had everything. Just started taking the bags out, when Win (the taxi driver) pulled up. With all the baggage loaded in the back, we climbed in and took off for Charles de Gaulle.

We got to the airport in what must have been record time, easily found a luggage cart, and set out to find the Air France check-in counter. Naturally, it was at the other end of the building. Because we were so early, check-in was quick and easy and we headed for the departure gate. If you've been to CDG on the way to the US, you know you have to take a train to the terminal. It was fairly crowded. Once in the terminal, we passed a lot of stores, but only one place that sold food; it wasn't even a bistrot. We passed on that. Checked out a place where the geeks among us could rent time on a computer. All the stations were empty at that early hour. I didn't look closely, but I think the prices weren't too out of line for an airport. One hour was €2, I think.

We got to the gate where we sat freezing with over an hour to go before boarding.

Boarding began several minutes late. They started, but then stopped, but didn't tell anyone why they had done that. Once on the plane, it was freezing again because they had the heat off while they were refueling. Now, the plane had been sitting there for several hours, why wasn't that already done? We left over an hour late, so a lot of people with connecting flights, didn't make them. I wonder, do they compensate those people?

We were in the middle section of the 747-400. Seated next to me was an English girl who was going to Miami to work on a cruise ship. She was cute and very nice. She invited us to come over and tour the ship before it leaves port in Fort Lauderdale, but I can't remember her name, so I guess that's not going to happen.

It was quite cool in Miami and even cooler in Fort Lauderdale. It was about 19C in our apartment. The heat was turned on immediately.

À la prochaine, mes amis

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Paris Snow 05-06 Janvier 2010

05 Janvier (Mardi) - Mon Dieu, it's -3C and the guy across the courtyard has his windows open.

This was another special day. We met and spent several enjoyable hours with Peter of Peter's Paris, a fantastic website on which he features various areas of Paris. There are great pictures and a lot of good information. Peter is from Sweden, but has been living in Paris for twenty-five years. We all bundled up and walked over to Fontaine Sully, where Peter treated us to lunch and a glass of champagne. Afterward, we came back to the apartment and opened a bottle of Bordeaux Supérieur, with a very dried out cork. But the wine was good. Peter, as you would expect if you've read his blog, is a virtual font of information. Thank you, Peter, for the good champagne and the great conversation.

It was also special because I finally managed to get the picture of the heater that I've been trying to get for a couple of days. I mentioned that most of the restaurants/bars in Paris have heaters for those who want to sit outside to drink and smoke. I also mentioned that you have to be warmly bundled to do that. There are apparently, only two kinds of heaters; electric or gas. Some may look a little different than these two, but basically, one of these is what you will see. They work quite well, but when it's windy, no heater is going to keep you warm. On our walks since we've been here, I usually must stop for a breather every now and then, and I always try to choose a place with a heater. More to the point, with a heater that's turned on, becuse they aren't always on. Sometimes the waiter will wait for someone to sit down before they turn them on. Of course, that tends to lose them some customers, because if the heater isn't on, they will get up and walk to a place where they are on.

06 Janvier (Mercredi) - It is 11h00 and it is snowing in Paris.....again.

We went out today to investigate Saint-Antoine, which is only two blocks down the street toward La Bastille. We stopped long enough to take this picture of me and one of Robb. Believe or not, I'm actually smiling in that picture. Then I shot this little fountain in the courtyard. On the way to Saint-Antoine, we came across a shop that previously had been closed everytime we passed. It's a shop that sells all the wonderful goodies one thinks about when one thinks about the foods of France. And, as you can see in the picture of Au Sanglier, it was crowded. We had to pass this fine example of old architecture, Hôtel de Mayenne. If you can read French, this plaque de histoire will give you some information about the Hôtel de Mayenne. There is more information here, and here. When we arrived at Saint-Antoine, we discovered it was closed, so I turned and took this picture of the Colonne de Juillet.

We started walking back toward the apartment when I suggested we could get a taxi to Italie2, because I wanted to check out Darty and FNAC to see if they had the earphones I was looking for, and Robb suggested I could go to rue des Archives and get my jacket. Then I thought, well, we're not sure the place is open, but we can take a taxi and, if when we arrive, it's closed, we can just tell the driver to take us to Italie2. As luck would have it, the place was not only open but, because this was the first day of the winter sales, I got my jacket and paid €30 less than the regular price. I'll bet you can see the big smile on my face right through the internet.

We wanted to stop at Caffé Vito for a café, but it was standing room only inside, and we were not about to sit outside. We next tried Chez Tsou, a Thai restaurant we had enjoyed last time we were here, but it was closed. So we settled for Les Marrionners again. Robb, as usual, was hungry but couldn't decide what to order. I suggested the Croquita he had had before and he agreed. I ordered a pomme tarte and champagne for both of us. Well, I thought I was ordering a pomme tarte, but the waiter brought something that looked like sliced ham and a side of potatoes. It looked quite good, but it wasn't what I wanted. Turns out, one doesn't say "pomme tarte", one says "tarte pomme". Don't ask, I have no idea what the difference is. But I got my apple tart and apologized profusely to the waiter for the mix-up.

Afterward, I thought we could walk down and get the bus, but suddenly remembered I had left my tickets at the apartment. As many times as we've been to that area of the city, we still didn't have a clue where the taxi station might be. We stopped into the Pharmacie de la Mairie where one of the clerks was kind enough to point us in the right direction. Merci, madame.

Tomorrow, will be our last full day in Paris and we still have a full bottle of Crémant, champagne that can't be called champagne because it's not from the Champagne region, but is just as good, and sometimes better, than champagne. We also have a full bottle and two half-full bottles of wine. What to do, what to do. After speaking to Geoff in Fort Lauderdale, it was decided we would pack the wine in our check-in cases and take it back with us.

After dinner at Fontaine Sully, we walked back to the apartment in the falling snow.

À la prochaine, mes amis

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Paris Snow 03-04 Janvier 2010

03 Janvier (Dimanche) - Today was another "meet-up" day. We met Rhino75 at Les Marrioners. We rode the bus over to the Hôtel de Ville stop and walked up to the bar/restaurant. I checked my watch and noticed it was already past the time we had agreed to meet. I called Rhino to let him know we were on our way and just a couple blocks from the place. He evidently was waiting for us to call and tell him we were there before he left his apartment. The place was packed. We barely found two seats. There was an empty table next to us, but when I tried to pull it over, the people sitting on the other side told us they were expecting another to join them, and since they had been there first, we conceded it to them. Rhino showed up a few minutes later, and a few minutes after that, a table opened in the corner by the door, so we sat there. Rhino was good enough to let us have the "inside" seats. They weren't too bad and we were fairly comfortable. We chatted for a couple of hours and he was on his way to wherever. Since it was dark, we headed down to l'Hôtel de Ville so I could get the videos I wanted. Sadly, they didn't turn out any better than the ones I had already taken. Luckily, I had thought to bring my camcorder and I used that, so they should be okay, but I can't download them until I get home. If you want to see the sucky videos, you can look at these: Hôtel de Ville, Skaters, BHV.

Tonight, instead of walking all the way over to Pont Neuf, we grabbed the 76 bus at the Hôtel de Ville stop and rode it to the end of the line. When the driver told us the line was "terminé", we told him we wanted to go to the Birague stop and he very graciously let us stay on. I love the bus drivers in Paris.

Dinner was, of course, at Fontaine Sully. They make a dish they call "Tartiflette Maison", which is, in my humble opinion, cassoulet made with potatoes. It is super delicious.

04 Janvier (Lundi) - I decided I wanted to buy the leather jacket after all, so we bundled up and went out to catch the bus over to rue des Archives. Lordy, it was cold...below freezing. We got off at the Hôtel de Ville stop (everything seems to be right there, doesn't it?) and walked up to the jacket store. It was closed, but the sign on their door stated that they open at 14h00 on Lundi. We walked back to the Open Café and nursed a cup of coffee for forty-five minutes. There was an interesting looking guy seated next to us who kept texting someone, or, at least, constantly checking his phone for messages. A few minutes later, a very cute guy joined him. We learned through listening to their conversation that the cute guy was Italian and was in Paris to complete his studies in pursuit of a PhD. The other guy was an American. The witching hour (14h00) finally arrived and we walked back to Roganel, the jacket store. It was still closed. I remarked to Robb that it was so typically French for them to be closed at the time they were supposed to be open. In better weather I would have waited for them to open, but it was just too cold to do that today, so we took off to get the bus back to the apartment.

Once inside, I swore I was never going out again until the weather warmed up. Of course, that was when we discovered we needed milk.

À la prochaine, mes amis

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Paris Snow 01-02 Janvier 2010

01 Janvier (Vendredi) - We celebrated the advent of 2010, by spending the day doing laundry. It took longer than usual because Robb forgot to reset the machine to dry, and washed everything twice. Well, at least, we're sure it's clean. Dinner at Fontaine Sully. We both had Escalope de Veau avec tagliatelle. I can't get used to the number of people who will brave this weather to sit outside and drink cold beer, just because they can smoke. Yes, it's true, most of the restaurants with outside seating have heaters, and they work very good. But, when that wind decides to crank it up a notch, there's no heater in the world that will keep you warm.

Just because I felt the need to insert some pictures; here's one of the inside door lock of the apartment. Here are a couple as the bus passed a carnival for kids in Place de la Bastille the other day when we went to Italie2. And just because I have it, a picture of Hôtel de Sully that I took by accident one night while walking back to the apartment. Hôtel de Sully, built in 1625, is the structure for which this section of town is named. It is now the home of the Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques et des Sites, which in 2000 became the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. This public body, under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, is responsible for the management of historic buildings and monuments in state care, of which there are a bunch.

02 Janvier (Samedi) This is my "man" bag. It really becomes quite handy at times. For instance, in mine I carry an umbrella, a couple of scarves, my copy of Paris Practique, a métro map, métro tickets, a pen, a small notepad, my keys and my camera When we were getting our boarding passes in Miami, Robb left his bag at the counter. He didn't realize it until we got to Paris. Unfortunately, along with his umbrella, he also had several items he needs, including his glasses. He tried calling Air France Lost and Found but got no real answer. We plan to stop and check it once we return to Miami on Friday.

For those who didn't get to Paris, or didn't get to la Tour Eiffel (like us), you can see what the frozen people saw here: http://31decembreaparis.com/

Robb wanted to buy some more shirts because he didn't bring any with him, so we braved the freezing weather and began the long walk to BHV. One of the first things we encountered was this ad for Vivaldi concerts. If you've ever been in Paris, you must have seen one, they're everywhere. We attended a Vivaldi concert at Saint-Chapelle many years ago, and another at la Madeleine. When we got to rue Bourg Tibourg, we walked up to the Franprix, passing Chocolat Mussy, a confectionnerie, on the way. We had almost rented a place on rue Bourg Tibourg just across the street from the Franprix, but at the last minute, decided we didn't want to stay in a studio-alcove apartment, even though it was very nice and pretty big for a studio, about 35m2 as I recall. After the Franprix, we walked down rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie to check a restaurant, but it appears to be gone, as are several other things we remember from the area.

Then, we walked to the store where we had bought our leather jackets a couple years ago. This time, they had a bunch of the kind I like and they had my size. I didn't buy one because they don't have inside pockets, but I'm rethinking that. We walked back down to BHV, noticing that if you can find a place out of the wind and in the sun, it's almost comfortable. Robb bought three shirts and and a beautiful sweater. If they had had it in my size, I would have bought one also.

We left BHV and walked back to rue Bourg Tibourg. I wanted to stop and have cup of coffee, so we stopped at a restaurant but every seat was filled. We tried another, and there were a few seats left inside La Feria. Again, instead of just coffee, Robb had a large chicken salad and I had a Croque Monsieur. We both accompanied our lunch with wine. After the restaurant, we went back to Franprix to buy a Bûche de Noël. Yeah, I know, who buys a Christmas cake at Franprix, but it looked so good and was on sale. Unfortunately, Robb cut it before I had a chance to take the picture.

I stepped into the traffic on rue de Rivoli, risking my life to get you this picture of la Tour St-Jacques. The tower is all that's left of the church that used to be there, Saint-Jacques la Boucherie.

On the walk back to the apartment, we stopped at a mobile phone store, basically just to get warm, but I was interested in how the phone companies work and what they offer. They practically give the phones away; an Apple iPhone 3G would cost only €1. But they sock it to you for the monthly service.

We continued to the apartment, passing Saint-Paul, the church for which the area gets its name.

Around nine-ish, we started thinking about dinner. I wanted to go to Fontaine Sully, but Robb wanted to go to L'Angela, a restaurant we frequented on rue de la Roquette in the 11éme. He called, made a reservation and we got ourselves ready to leave. Luckily, we only have to walk to the bus stop just down the street, where we can catch the 69, which practically drops us at the door. We were surprised to find that the people we were expecting to see were no longer there, and had left just two months ago. No one was offering any information about the circumstances, so it's left to our imaginations what might have happened. We each ordered the Penne Alla Puttanesca and a 50ml pichet of red wine. For dessert, we both had the Panna Cotta Caramel, finishing with a café. All in all, it was a pretty good meal. We asked the waiter to call a taxi for us, but for whatever the reason, he wouldn't do, I'm not really sure why. We had no choice, we would have to walk to the bus stop or to Place Léon Blum to the taxi stand. When we got to the bus stop, we learned the 69 was no longer in service (you may remember that was a huge complaint when we stayed in that area), so it was off to Place Léon Blum. But we had only walked a block or so when an "available" taxi came down the street. I hailed him, and to our surprise, he actually stopped and picked us up.

À la prochaine, mes amis