Tag Archives: Paris

So Much To Catch Up On…Nothing To Do But Start At The Beginning…

Can it be that I’ve only been in the south for three days?  It feels like a lifetime.  On Wednesday we woke up very, very early and took a taxi to Gare de Lyon, a very beautiful Paris train station in which zero of the automated kiosks work at printing e-tickets purchased with a U.S. credit card on the internet.  After using up our lengthy hour of leeway time for such an emergency that I never really believed would take place (but did), I managed to get our tickets re-printed and we boarded the TGV for Marseille.

We arrived in Marseille in one piece, and even found the shuttle at the Marseille train station that takes you to the Marseille airport, where our car had been reserved (not without having to wait in several lines…one in which the Frenchman behind us got so annoyed with waiting that he cut us and ran up to the window only to be shut down by his own countryman, whereupon he commenced to complain about the French to us in English–how horrible and stupid they are…then he rode the same shuttle bus as us and when we disembarked wished us good luck with the assholes).

Once at the Marseille airport, the rental car was no problem.  Aside from both having developed a full-blown flu, we were super excited to get on the road.  We didn’t want to go back to Marseille (even for Bouillabaisse) since the town is south of the airport, so we decided we would eat lunch in Aix; a/k/a our first error.  Aix was BESIEGED and an absolute nightmare.  We ended up being forced into a subterranean parking garage that my husband later described as a trip through his nightmarish subconscious, and in doing so stalled the manual transmission many times and scraped some paint off the side of the car (the jetlag, the jetlag).  My husband kept on saying, “it’s O.K. honey, neither of us is very good at driving stick,” [all the while never offering to drive and ignoring the fact that I learned to drive on a vintage 325i with the worst clutch in the history of man].  But I was so exhausted and flu-ish I didn’t even remember to get annoyed at this.  After the worst niçoise salad I’ve ever tasted, we managed not only to make it out of Marseille but onto the freeway and into the “petit Luberon,” not by using the Michelin directions I had printed off the internet, but by using simply “the force” as I. calls it.

We arrived in Lourmarin, the town in which my maternal grandmother inhabited for the last twenty or so years of her life.  There are so many new buildings that the town was virtually unrecognizable to me upon arrival, but the surroundings remain beautiful.  We found the road to Vaugines, and then our hotel, the Mas de Guilles, a beautiful and converted farm house.  The woman who greeted us was very hospitable and showed us to our room.  I scanned the perimeter and wondered…where is the climatiseur…the air conditioning that was the sole criteria of my hotel search?  I asked, “Excuse-moi, ou est le climatiseur…?” “Oh madame, vous reservez le chambre ‘charme’ et le climatiseur est seulement en le chambres ‘deluxes’…but…I emailed with the owner who confirmed that the room had air conditioning…

but hey, lest we forget the words of our wise friend– “good luck with the assholes, et bons vacances!”

to be continued…

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Paris

I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here.  Even though it’s late in the three o’clock hour and I have a 5:30 wake-up call for a early high-speed train to Marseille.  With all the passport drama I began to lose faith that I’d never get here.

I love love love Paris.  We are staying at Hotel Verneuil in Saint Germain des Prés, which is a lovely little place, though I’m convinced we got the smallest (/least desirable) room (the only one on the ground floor).  Still it’s charming and has a really great shower.  And tripping around the bed, which takes up most of the room, sort of reminds me of staying in a really expensive hotel room in lower Manhattan–you know the kind–practically $500/night and the only place to be is on the bed?  Like I said, for one night, c’est trés amusant non?  Anyway…

[also to the hotel’s credit, the service is impeccable.  To answer the mighty question of tripadvisor.com, yes, I would recommend this hotel to my best friend]

But the best part about Hotel Verneuil is the fact that it is right around the corner from one of my favorite florists in Paris, Olivier Pitou.  I couldn’t believe it when I walked out the door and found it right there.  It is a beautiful place to visit.  This time they had out of this world peonies of course, but also hydrangea that I couldn’t believe–like nothing I’ve seen in the States.  The roses weren’t necessarily designated “garden” roses, but they all smelled beautiful–like real roses!–not like the farmed scentless variety you find even at the most beautiful florists stateside.

red peonies

sarah bernhardt

Above you can see some of the most wild hydrangeas in the upper left-hand corner–bright pink and green!  I actually though they were silk…and of course luscious Sarah Bernhardt peonies in the foreground.

roses

arrangement

I love this little arrangement with the mint leaves emerging from between the roses.  The little store was a cool reprieve from the street affected as much by air conditioning as the scent of mint from a huge urn filled with it in the front of the space.  mmm…

After a visit to Olivier Pitou we walked, and walked, and walked.  First across the Sienne, through the Jardin des Tuileries (stopping for iced coffee), along Rue St. Honore, past the Louvre, up Boulevard de Sebastepol (little seedy, not my favorite), and up to the 10th to visit some friends in their new office.  By five thirty I was having a hunger crisis and we’d logged 6 miles on the new pedometer (thank you Brookstone Logan Airport).  We cabbed it to the Ile St. Louis knowing for sure it would be a welcome reprieve.

My mother lived on Ile St. Louis for years as a young adult.  This tiny little island on the Sienne was her home, with its charming narrow street running from one end to the other and of course the original Berthillon.  The charm is still there, one hundred percent, though the real estate has skyrocketted since those bohemian days in the late sixties and early seventies.  Ile St. Louis is a super chic place for an apartment, but the tourists traipsing over from Notre Dame keep it down to earth.  We went to one of my favorite restaurants, Brasserie de L’Ile St. Louis, which has been on the island as long as anyone living can remember.  It is the perfect, perfect place to sit, relax, watch the world of Paris stream by in front of you, but without the noise and congestion of so many of the city cafés.

ile st

st

watching the sun get low with a little glass of Chablis

lardons

frisée aux lardons

leeks

leeks

au poivre

steak au poivre

Not pictured here is my husband’s favorite–the cassoulet.  I thought it was crazy to order cassoulet on such a hot day, but he did, and it was delicious as always (though I have to admit to preferring eating it inside the old brasserie on a chilly evening).  But it was worth it–the cassoulet really is excellent here.

Off for a nap till Gare de Lyon in a few hours, then onto Provence.  Vive la France!

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Ladurée

Some blessed souls are visiting from Paris and brought me this beautiful box, of which some of you might be able to guess the contents:

La Duree 1

laduree3

ladurre4

laduree6 

This might be the first time I’ve experienced the sexy black tissue paper–I don’t remember it from the last time.  Combined with the champagne silk ribbon it’s positively lethal.

laduree

I swear this picture was in focus when I took it, but it doesn’t look it now–I must have been too excited!  Look at the colors!  (Crumbled, but beautiful like Polidori’s pictures of the walls and columns of Havana’s great halls

ladureetower

The bright pink raspberry ones fruits rouge (red fruits) are my favorite–they embody Paris.

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