Sunday, July 9, 2017

Food in Paris – Part 2 - The Restaurant List

These are in order by arrondissement, starting with where we frequented the most.  Other then that, they are in no particular sequence.  I would eat at all of them again.

This is where we lived, so it’s a fine place to start.    The west side of the city, near a large park (Bois de Boulogne).  This neighborhood is quiet and lovely, filled with expats and embassies.  

Le Stella – quintessential French in all the best ways.  Great for people watching if you sit outside. 
Le Petit Pergolese – arty little French place with delicious food and a lot of locals.   We sat next to an elderly, perfectly groomed French woman enjoying her steak tartar.
Le Scossa – a charming spot on Place Victor Hugo.  French food, but with a contemporary twist.   We ate here a lot.  The server hassled Allie about not finishing her cheese.  My happy place:  artichaut vinaigrette, tartare de saumon et avocat, crispy French bread and a chilled glass of Chablis.  Sigh.
Restaurant Victor – wonderful food and ambiance.
La Cave Brut – Fantastic wine bar.  Go!  Wine flights with cheese pairings. 
Ozio – Great Italian food.  Warm and inviting, not pretentious.  We ate here for the first time just after the November terrorist attacks, so I always feel comforted when I think of it.
Le Flandrin – really good.  Not inexpensive, but worth it. 
Restaurant BON – awesome Asian fusion – one of our favorite places.  Absolutely beautiful decor.   Terrific if you have a large group too.
La Coincidence – our neighborhood bistro.  Small and intimate with wonderful food.   The people are so very nice.  Perfect.
La Librairie – I’ve been for lunch and dinner and it never disappoints.  In the fun Passy district and near rue de l’Annonciation, a great little market street.    Also, a nice lunch spot after a visit to Victor Hugo’s house.
Atelier Vivanda Lauriston – a tiny little steak place.  Perfectly good food.  We ate here with our friends Tina and Efrain, so it holds nice memories for me.
Le Bistrot des Vignes  Jim found this gem and we had a wonderful lunch.  I always meant to go back for dinner. 
La Petite Tour – another dimly lit wonderful bistro, mainly locals, wonderful food and service.  
Restaurant Pages – a poetic food experience.  Fantastic combination of French and Japanese.  One of those places that Jim wouldn’t normally like  (he loved it) – lots of courses, very preciously presented.   But, it’s so good.  Our very kind landlord treated us to dinner here.
Conti – wonderful Italian and perfectly gorgeous inside.  Expensive, but worth it.  We ate here on our very last night in Paris.
DS Salads – evidence that the big American salad has made it’s way to Paris, but in a good way.  Very satisfying and a great menu.  Gets busy quickly for lunch.
Carette – very good, though some would say pricey.  At the Place du Trocodero, so such fun for people watching.   Locals and tourists alike.   Katie swears by the eggs.
Golden Tandoori – a perfectly fine little place with good Indian food. 
La Table Lauriston – quiet, classic French.   Owned by an old French couple (or so I think).   Jim couldn’t finish his au gratin and the proprietress wasn’t pleased.
L’Etoile Vènitienne – nice little bistro.  We only found this because it was downstairs from our first apartment.  The owner is a cranky guy, but the servers are friendly.  There’s always soccer playing on the bar TV.   Best salad Nicoise I’ve ever had.  Really good soup and steak frites.  
Schwartzes – when you’re just really craving American comfort food.  Great burgers, and the only place you can get a glass of Coppola Zinfandel.
La Gare – as the name says, it’s an old train station.  Decent food, good for big groups and families.   Great for lunch after a visit to nearby Musée Marmottan.
Village de l’Inde – Jim was always on the lookout for good Indian food, and this was a reliable go-to place. 
Hure – bistro/boulangerie.  Nice for brunch or to-go. 
Le Pain Quotidien – Boulangerie/bistro.  A very good chain, with a focus on organic  salads, soups and sandwiches.   A west coast vibe, so we felt very at home.
Coffee Parisien – A French diner with an American flair.   Someone there is a fan of JFK.  Nice for a low-key Sunday night dinner.
You Decide – tiny little café, with a tiny, though good quality menu.
Ma Poule – as the name says: chicken.  Yummy roast chicken and veggies is basically it  Simple and good.  I liked it, Jim was not a fan.
Le Petite Ozio – the baby sibling of Ozio, mentioned above.  Smaller menu with more emphasis on pizza. 
No. 41- classic, yet modern bistro.   Very good.
Creperie – exactly what it says.  Perfectly fine little crepe restaurant.
Restaurant Le 1818 – this is just off Place Victor Hugo (the name refers to the year of publication of Victor Hugo’s first novel).   We were disappointed that they didn’t serve wine (it’s Paris, for goodness sakes!).  I was curious, so did some research – they are one of a handful of “halal” restaurants in Paris.  Halal translates to “that which is permissible”, and dictates what is acceptable for Muslim diners.
Restaurant 16ème Avenue  – this was a go-to place for us if we wanted an easy night out.   Good ambiance, broad menu, decent prices.

One of our favorite areas.  Fun and lively with lots of good shops and food.  We spent a lot of time here.

Le Dôme du Marais – lovely establishment and excellent food (my notes say “best salmon ever”).   My friend Kristin and her family kindly took us here when we first arrived. 
Auberge Nicolas Flamel - food is wonderful, but come for the ambiance alone. 
We had our walking group kick-off lunch here.  The building dates back to 1407 and is the oldest Inn in Paris.
Chez Janou – a friend in Mill Valley first told us about this place, and we brought almost all of our visitors here.  It’s so, so good!  Quintessential busy French bistro.
La Favorite Café – one of those open all day places.  We ducked in here on a rainy day after a visit to the Musée Carnavalet – the Paris history museum, which is awesome.
Le Petit Marchè – a favorite of ours.  Just go.  A fun day is to visit the nearby Musée Cognacq-Jay and then have lunch here.
The Beast – we didn’t technically eat here, but sampled their goods at a food festival on the Canal Saint Martin.  The best pulled pork – ever. 
Au Rendez-vous Des Amis – cozy and fun, great food, in the heart of the Marais.
L’Enoteca – good Italian food, in a beautiful old building.  A favorite of Katie’s.
Vin des Pyrenees – traditional bistro – rumor has it that Jim Morrison hung out here.
Breakfast in America – if you’re seriously craving an American grilled cheese and a milkshake.
Les Temps des Cerises – classic little bistro with reliably good food.
L’auberge de la reine blanche – wonderful little place with terrific food, on the Ile St. Louis.   Roam around the Ile St. Louis/Ile de la Cite and then eat here.  Warm and cozy inside, great on a rainy day.
Le Potager du Marais – Vegan – certified good by Allie.
Les Philosophes – get a table outside -  good people watching.   Had a fun day shopping in the Marais with Kelly, and then we stopped at L’improbable coffee house.
L’as du Fallafel – there are no words.  Just go.  Go now.  This place is very well known, as evidenced by the massive line of customers patiently waiting outside.  It is mainly a take-out place, but they are very efficient.   It was on our “to-do” list all year long, and Allie and I finally made it there for lunch on our very last day in Paris. 

1ST ARRONDISSEMENT (Louvre and the Tuileries)
Angelina – touristy and overpriced, but old world charm and marvelous hot chocolate.  Go at least once.
Les Voyelles – nice lunch spot near the Ill de le cite/Ill Saint Louis. 
O Chateau and Willi’s – wonderful wine bars
Zebulon – Asian inspired and very good.  We followed dinner here with jazz at  . . . Duc des Lombards
Chez Denise – wonderful little bistro with a local feel.  Fun dinner here with Steve and Kelly.
Comptoir des Petits Champs – I had a fantastic risotto here.
Poulette – Amazing classic French food and a great time with visiting friends Matt and Steve.
A Casaluna – Cozy Italian – we drank a lot at Willi’s with Steve and Kelly, then came her for a late dinner.
Le Fumoir – great place for lunch very near the Louvre
Verjus – a well-rated restaurant, but we only did the very cool and intimate wine bar.
Le Pot de Vins – another classic bistro – reliably good!
Bar Hemingway – the famous bar in the Paris Ritz!  Such fun, lots of atmosphere.
Crudus – we ducked in here after drinking at Bar Hemingway.  Decent little Italian place.

Le Petit Cler – on Rue Cler, touristy yet fun market street. 
Thoumieux  - I had my birthday lunch here with Aviva and Kelly.  I may not have gone otherwise – our friends introduced us to so many great restaurants.
Ravi  - wonderful Indian and loaded with ambiance.  Near the Tuileries.
Truffle Folie – oh my, if you like truffles, go!   Tiny little place with otherworldly truffle concoctions.
Jules Verne – La Tour Eiffel – go once in your life with someone who will appreciate it.   Sublime, yet expensive, cuisine, with beautifully attentive service.   My mom and I had an unforgettable meal here during my apartment hunting visit. A special occasion place for sure.  
Les Cocottes – one of chef Christian Constant’s several restaurants, (all on rue St. Dominique – one of my favorite streets).  It’s just so very, very good. 
La Fontaine de Mars – another classic on rue St. Dominique.
Bistro St. Dominique – and another one!  Get a table upstairs – it’s very old world and charming.
Su Misura  an unassuming Italian place on Ave. Rapp.  Carleen and I had a post-shopping lunch here.  Very, very good.
Cairn – Happy morning coffee memories with Mary, Mary, Robin and Carleen.  Really good coffee and lots of homemade goodies (good gluten-free stuff too)!
Les Antiquairies – a wonderful French bistro.  I had a sort of good-bye lunch here with Kelly and Carleen.  A beautiful salad Nicoise.

Le Relais de l’Entrecote – there are three of these throughout the city and we tried them all.  They serve just one thing:  steak with a secret sauce.  It’s sounds a bit kitschy, and there is always a line.  But, it’s really yummy and a fun experience.  Crispy bread, salad, steak, frites – and then they come by with a second helping.  Add a good bottle of red, and you’re all set.   Fun place to take visitors for sure, but we went there on our own as well.
 Pizza Chic – wonderful gourmet pizza restaurant.
 Le Comptoir du Relais – this is a fantastic bistro.  Classically prepared French food and a terrific location.   Perhaps it was who I was with though – a farewell lunch for Aviva, with Kelly and Carleen.  We got really lucky with our friends.
 Café de la Rotonde – I can’t speak to the food, but it’s loaded with ambiance.  A former haunt of writers and artists from back in the day.   I used to write my blog here sometimes with a glass of wine. 
 Café Nemrod and Le Rousseau – both located on rue de Cherche midi.  I would sit and write while Allie endured her French dance class.  Also, nearby my favorite consignment store.  The food was good too. 
 Le Procope – on a fabulous little lane – the rue de l’Ancienne Comédiun - and said to be the very first coffee shop in Paris.  It’s a classically beautiful establishment with wonderful food.   At the end of the lane, you come to rue de Buci – hang right and stroll on this fun street.
 Il Gelato del Marchese – a whimsical gelato and tea shop owned by a charming Italian guy.
 Le Hibou – I’ve not been here personally, but it’s highly recommended by Katie (excellent cocktails apparently).

Restaurant 65th Bis  - after visiting the nearby Musée Jacquemart-André (one of our favorites), we had the most enjoyable lunch of our lives.  You’ll have to read my blog for more detail.   The food was pretty good too.
Epicure – three star dining at the beautiful Hotel Le Bristol.  We went for lunch with our dear friends Karen and Robin.  Worth a splurge for a special occasion.
Le Bar du Bristol – swanky bar in the Hotel Le Bristol.  Such fun for a post dinner drink.   We went after a lecture at the American Embassy, which is nearby.
Chez Savy – locals type bistro with excellent French classics.   Had a fun dinner here with my friend Stacy and her posse when they visited.
Pomze – this is the French word for apple, so it helps if you like apples, as the menu is thus inspired.   I had a very enjoyable dinner here with Kelly and Kristin.  Kelly, who doesn’t like apples and chose the restaurant, was nevertheless pleased (I think).
Le Fouquet – a stylish traditional Brasserie, with lots of history, on the ever-touristy Champs-Élysées.   It’s simply beautiful on the inside and fun people watching on the terrace.  We were pleasantly surprised with the food as well. 
Chez Andre – Yet another lovely brasserie with good food and typical French ambiance (that I never will get enough of).    We ate here with visiting family before seeing cabaret at Le Lido.
Relais l’entrecote  – as noted above, there are a few of these throughout the city and we ate at them all.  Katie had a friend visiting from the States, and we three enjoyed a meal and a good bottle of Rosé at this location.

L’Anvers du Décor – quintessential French in Montmartre. 
Le Basilic – such a beautiful, intimate restaurant, with wonderful food.  Very charming and romantic.
Bistro 82 – we ate here with our niece, Mary Catherine.  Good food, good wine, followed by a hike to the top of Sacre Coeur.

Le Chenin – we had a fantastic lunch here with visiting family.  It is the real deal French, so be open to trying something new.  What I most recall is Katie’s meal – a whole fish, eyes and all.
Lulu White – loads of atmosphere and strong drinks in this very cool Speakeasy.

Caffe Stern – Passages des Panoramas.  It’s such fun to visit any of the Covered Passages – the roof-topped shopping areas dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.  This is one of my favorite restaurants.  Italian and so wonderful.
Frenchie (to go) – we’ve not been to Frenchie – the highly rated, upscale eaterie.  I’ve heard it’s excellent though.  Frenchie to go is their casual outpost across the street.  We first sampled their goods at a food festival.  The Reuben is outstanding – even if you think you don’t like them.  Go for lunch.

11TH ARRONDISSEMENT – Oberkampf area (on my list to explore more of)
Bistro Paul Bert  - You’ll have heard of this probably and everything they say is true.  Go.
Au Nouveau Nez – a small wine shop where you can enjoy a bottle (or two) while snacking on ample charcuterie and cheese. 

Le Baron Rouge – spend time exploring and shopping at nearby Marche d’Aligre – and then stop by this locals type wine bar for a glass of red.
Eric Kayser (Bercy Village) – we ended up here after a visit to the Musee des Arts Forains.  Bercy Village is a little enclave of shops and eateries nearby.  Eric Kayser is a nice café for salads, etc.

10TH ARRONDISSEMENT – Canal St. Martin
I’d meant to spend more time in this area as well. Very fun and trendy, with lots of good restaurants.
L’Hotel du Nord  - our friend Isabelle took us here for a farewell lunch.  Lovely restaurant in a very cool hotel.  Lots of history and good food.

Gabylou – this was a great find by my husband.  The owner is lovely and the food wonderful.  

La Maison Courtine  – cozy and classic with good French food.  We had lunch here after a visit to the Catacombs.

L’Arbre à Cannelle – a sweet left bank bistro – nice to combine with a visit to the Jardin Des Plantes.

Brasserie Lola – consistently good vegan food.  We ate here several times.

And here’s a few places outside of Paris .  .  .

Lake Annecy
The Little Italy
Le Freti

Picolo Mondo

La Gentilhommiere

Maisons Lafitte

Le Tire-Bouchon 

Brasserie Conti

Saint Ouen - Clignancourt
Chez Louisette

Fou de Fafa
La Table des Fines Roches

Auberge de la Miotte

Chez Stefs

Chateau de Chantilly – Capitainerie 

And a few outside of France .  .  .
Hummus (vegan place)
Dry Martini (cocktail bar)

Bea’s of Bloomsburys
Joe Allen (Thanksgiving)
Café Bella Maria
Pasta Brown
40 Dean Street

Indonesian Kitchen
Burgerlijk Burger Bar

Athens, Greece
Strofi - awesome classic Greek fare and fabulous Acropolis views
Avocado - great vegetarian

Santorini, Greece
Red Bicycle - great food and wonderful caldera views

Merci et Au Revoir!

Food in Paris - Part 1

I’d always intended for my final post(s) in this blog to be about food, and I ought to have composed this long ago.   A professional writer (or just an efficient one) would certainly have done so by now.  In the almost year since we’ve returned, I’ve been occupied by the mundane stuff of real life, my non-Paris life.   Although, the upside of writing this post after so much time is that I get to relive Paris.   Given the current state of affairs in the world, it’s a welcome distraction.

Many people rejoiced when 2016 finally ended.   The passing of many beloved iconic figures (Prince, Bowie), ongoing terrorist attacks, the surprising (to put it mildly)  election results.   And so far, 2017 continues to feed us with relentlessly dismal news.  It’s exhausting.  However, I suspect your assessment of this year, or last, depends on your perspective.    Perhaps you finally got a job?  Possibly your kid got into college?  Perchance, your life stayed blissfully on track?  Or maybe any of the opposite happened, and you find my attempt at sunny optimism infuriatingly naïve?

Regardless, it’s not too late for you to inaugurate 2017 in any way you see fit.   In that vein, I have a new blog.  It’s called “Running with My Shirt Off “ and, if you’re so inclined, you can find it here  I’m a slow starter, so I’ve only written two posts, but I have high hopes.

And now, back to the title of this post.  I couldn’t quite end this blog without paying homage to Paris’s most noteworthy characteristic:  its’ unrivaled appreciation for food.   Food was such a huge part of our Paris experience.  From the moment we set foot on French soil, excited and uncertain, it provided comfort - with a warm baguette and a fresh wedge of fromage Comté waiting for us in our new apartment.  

We still crave our favorite outdoor marché goodies:  the most perfect hummus, sun dried tomatoes and baby artichokes in olive oil, chicken tikka masala, Italian salami and prosciutto, dates that taste like caramel, big sugary strawberries, juicy nectarines, sweet melons and mangoes.   The marvelous vendors on our local market street, rue de Belle Feuille.  I dare you to find a better roast chicken and potatoes then at Boucherie Fillion (don’t forget to ask for the “jus” on the side – this is key).   The fresh pasta at Via Della.   A jambon buerre – those simple ham and butter sandwiches that are sold all over.   So ridiculously satisfying.  

Our daily baguette from Café Bechu.  Or, if they were closed, that place near our first apartment on Kleber.  Or if they were closed, the little place around the corner that Jim found by accident.  The buttery, buttery croissants.    So wonderful that you don’t crave the chocolate ones – though these are good too.  The fragrant teas at Maison de thé Theodor, a museum-esque experience.   The truffle cheese from Androuet.   The burgers au boeuf we bought for grilling at Boucherie Le Bourdonnec.  

And that was all if we just ate at home.  The restaurant experience is a whole other obsession.   Anyone that knows me, will attest to my deep affection for dining out.  In France, it’s considered an art form.  How I loved having to actually ask for “l’addition” (the check) and not being rushed.  Leisurely four-hour meals felt normal.   Dinner at 9pm didn’t seem wrong (how could you even think of eating earlier, after that four hour lunch?).   

I made a note of each restaurant, café, bar, etc., that we ate at.  Even the ones we didn’t like that much, though there weren’t many of those.   Several were noteworthy because of the food.  Some were in our favorite neighborhood.   Many were quirky or had wonderful ambiance.   More then a few were noteworthy just because of the people we were with or, more significantly, what was going on in our lives at the time.  

What we refer to as the “crying dinner” occurred on a Friday evening, after the girls’ second day of school.   They were sad and lonely.   At the time, I was a little too dialed into their mood, resulting in my being despondent, and a little regretful about this move.   Jim was the only adult in the room.   We asked the girls what they wanted for dinner, what will cheer them up?  Pizza, they say.   

We ended up at Pizza Chic, in the 6th,, on a  gorgeous, balmy Paris evening.   We didn’t have a reservation and it was crowded, so they put us at a couple of two-tops outside.   We ordered food, and a bottle of red.  I tap into my inner adult, mother-up, and start to feel better.  Then, I look over at the table where the girls are seated, and see Katie weeping into her pizza.   The cause: a noxious cocktail of age-appropriate anxiety and homesickness.   The dinner was delicious – as was our year.   We finally did a “do-over” dinner at Pizza Chic the week before our departure.  No longer sad, lonely or despondent, but happily reflective.

If Paris isn’t in your travel plans, I hope you decide to visit some day.   It’s an extraordinary, challenging, beautifully maddening city.   If you do visit, consider the places in my very last post: Food in Paris – Part 2 – The Restaurant List.  Here's the link:  Or, better yet, visit and create your own list.  The other advantage of my delayed posting is that I felt compelled to verify that each place was still viable – and well reviewed.  I’m happy to say that they all stood the test of time.  Online anyway.  I'm visiting again this year, just to be certain.

Bon Appetit et à bientôt!

Friday, September 2, 2016

America the Beautiful.

We are now back in our California bubble.  I had two more posts in process that I didn’t get a chance to upload before we departed.  So, I’ll finish out my Paris blog with this post, and then a final little ditty about all of our restaurant experiences (yes, I kept a record of each one).    After that, I have some ideas for another blog and I hope you’ll give it a read now and then.   So, please stay tuned.

July 2016

I vacillate over which scary news item du jour should be freaking me out the most.  Usually, it is the seemingly endless antics of those wild and crazy terrorists.   Just when I’m getting myself worked into a frenzy, another gun violence headline will dominate the US news, and I’m reminded of how tenuous things are back home.    It’s hard to know when it’s safe to feel happy.   Probably never.  In the meantime, we still have Europe for a little while longer.   We plan to enjoy the ride to the very end, even with all the background noise.   So, Greece.

Back in 1982, a movie called “Summer Lovers” was playing in the theaters.   It was about a couple of college students spending a summer in Santorini, Greece.   They eventually meet a beautiful French girl, and all kinds of sexual shenanigans transpire.  It featured a young Daryl Hannah in one of the lead roles, and was lambasted by movie critics.   It was not a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination.  However, I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved it.   I was 19 years old, living in New Jersey, waiting for my life to start, and this movie represented a whole sunlit world to be explored.
White washed, blue domed houses tucked into picturesque villages, magical caldera views, sandy beaches along the azure Aegean sea, donkeys wandering on cobblestone alleyways.   Just imagine the emoticons, had that existed in 1982.   Anyway, this silly movie elevated Greece to a spot on my foreign travel to do list.    It did not disappoint.  

We started in Athens with the requisite Acropolis visit and also a food tour.  Our guide was a woman named Despina who took us to the “real Athens”, and had a habit of randomly stuffing exotic culinary delights into our unsuspecting mouths.  Spanakopita and souvlaki, baked feta with honey and sesame seeds, greek yogurt with fresh cherries, syrupy loukoumades.  What else needs to be said?

Dinner at Strofi.

View from the Acropolis.

The meat and fish market - not a favorite place for the vegetarian.
Next, we spent a few days in Santorini.  I’m not an accomplished enough wordsmith to accurately describe just how spectacular this place is, so I’ll just show the pictures. 

After Santorini, we took the ferry to Naxos and spent several days soaking up the sun.  The beaches are clothing optional.   I’m all about respecting local traditions, so I was ready to bare all (at a safe distance from embarrassing my daughters, naturally).  However, our friendly hotel bartender, Costas, informed us that the Greeks don’t do this so much.  The nude people you see, he says, are foreigners.   Gosh, I hate looking like a tourist, so I kept my bikini on.  It was trippy though, strolling the beach with the girls, casually passing nude people of all shapes, sizes, and genders.   “It would be fine if they at least had good bodies”, astutely observes one daughter.

Scenes from Naxos . . .

 In our desire to make their final week in France somewhat productive, we convinced the girls to do an immersion program.  They each spent a week living with a French family, in the little town of Gap, about 500 miles from Paris.   The families had kids their ages, but no English was spoken.  Early reports from the front lines were mixed.  “I am so that weird exchange student right now.  We’re all just sitting here and no one is saying anything”, read one text.   Another says, “I can’t remember my grammar, so I’m just spitting out random French words.”   The final verdict on the experience?  I can’t speak for them, but lets just say it’s yet another page for their life story. 
Allie and her host.

I’d like to return the favor and host our own foreign students at some point.   We certainly meet lots of people wanting to visit the United States.   The security guard at our local market perked up when he learned we’re American.  He really wants to visit.  I tell him he should.  He says, “you need to invite me.”   We go back and forth in this vein for a bit.   It finally occurred to me that whatever identification he has, it is not the same as my slick little blue US passport, that allows me smooth entry into so many places.   I may not even fully comprehend how lucky I am to have this. 

La Fête Nationale (Bastille Day) celebration . . .

Advantages of nationality aside, America’s virtues are distinctive and I’ve come to appreciate them more then I ever did.   Our music?  It is absolutely everywhere!   It’s so preferred here in France, that there is a law mandating that at least 40 percent of the songs played on the radio must be in French.   Our popular culture?  Fuhgettaboutit!  What I used to characterize as cheap and cheesy, I now find unique and quirky.   It’s so comforting when you can find common ground with someone over the phrase “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”   So, we may not have centuries of history on every street corner, but we do have The Brady Bunch.   

And finally, at the risk of embarrassing myself, there is Starbucks.   Dismiss this if you will, call me a shameless consumer, fine.  But let me tell you, when you’re in a foreign land and feeling out of sorts, that familiar Starbucks logo is a fucking beacon of hope.   Obviously, there is much more depth to America than bad 70s sitcoms and chain stores.  My point is, being grounded in the culture of your country, no matter how trite it may seem to others, is such a wonderful feeling.   

As for France, we did our best to respect this beautiful country's culture this past year.  We really did.  We developed a love of their wines and, for me in particular, a genuine appreciation for their art of dining.  No four hour lunch was EVER wasted on me.  Huge gratitude to those waiters who ceremoniously avoided giving us l'addition in a timely fashion.

We tried to learn French from the always patient, forever kind, Isabelle.  At the end, she became more friend then teacher.  There will always be a place in our home for her should she ever visit us.

A good-bye lunch with the lovely Isabelle.
We squeezed in a few more must-do-before-we-leave-France activities as well.   Jim conquered the haphazard Parisian traffic circles - even driving around the Arc de Triomphe a few times.  This is the only place in Paris where if there's an accident, the insurance companies consider all drivers at fault, no matter the circumstances.   It's that chaotic.

Approaching the circle . . .

We actually purchased something at the well renowned flea market, Les Puces de Saint-Quen.   A little bit of French history in the form of an old carnival poster.  There is a spot on our living room wall that will do it proud, and will be a daily reminder of our time in Paris.

Just before we left,  we got in a visit to the iconic Ritz Paris - the lavishly beautiful hotel where Coco Chanel lived for 34 years.  It had been closed for a 4-year, $200 million renovation, and re-opened just before we left.  We had obscenely expensive cocktails at the famed Hemingway Bar (they frown upon photos, sorry, we had to).   This particular bar is also known for having one of the most expensive cocktails in the world: the Sidecar, priced at a smooth $1500 (we didn't order that).  Apparently, it is made with champagne Cognaq that was bottled in the 1800s, and saved by German soldiers during the occupation.  So, there's that little tidbit.

Tina and I at The Hemingway Bar.  Tina is the originator of the "WTF" phrase used in a prior post.

Our adventure is coming to a close.  I managed to pack up our belongings and send them on their way with minimal bureaucratic difficulty this time.   As I write this, the dog has also just been whisked away.  She will arrive on our home turf before us, with her own slick blue puppy passport.   We're not certain she even realizes she's been gone, but we know how lucky we all are to be able to go home to the United States.

 à bientôt!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bring in the Clowns.

No, I don't have a reason for this picture.  I just like it.  A few doors on our street.

Last week, Jim met a woman in the park, while walking our dog.   Her name was Elizabeth and she told him that she was recently divorced. “A big divorce, in all of the newspapers,” she said.  He expressed sympathy, to which she replied:  “oh, everyone eventually gets divorced, you will too!”   He neglected to get her last name though, so I can’t Google her divorce story.  She did give him her phone number though (which he promptly discarded, of course). 

A day in Champagne.

Notwithstanding the inevitable divorce, people still seem to enjoy getting married.   And furthermore, a plethora of them travel here for their wedding photos.   This is just a small sampling of what we see on a daily basis.  

All the world loves a bride?

I know that some people think this is cheesy, but I like it.    If for no other reason, then it means that people are still traveling.   More importantly, amid all the terrorism, mass shootings, and rampant political insanity, people continue to live their lives.   Like this . . .  

Dad and daughter: the daily baguette purchase.
and this . . .

2016 Euro Cup.  The tower is lit up each night with the recent winning team's colors.

and THIS . . .

Prom with photo bomb of  Euro Cup fans.

The French consider it bad form to ask someone what he or she does for a living.  Truthfully, I was quite happy to hear this.   Back when I was fully utilizing my college degree, I loved getting this question at parties.  I could blather on endlessly about my “very important” job.  It’s been several years since I’ve been gainfully employed, and I’ve come to dread the inevitable, “ . . .  and, what do you do?”   In France, I still get a variation of this question:  “tell me REALLY, why did you decide to move here?”   As we’ve said, the short answer is a flippant “why not.”   For me however, the real answer goes back a bit further.

A visit from the beautiful Burns cousins.

At my first job after graduating from college, I found that most of my fellow new hires were a bit younger than me.  They had experienced a more orthodox undergraduate life.   Frat parties and sorority formals, rush week, the fervent devotion to their school’s sports teams, the roommate who became their best friend or worst nightmare.  On and on they would wax poetic about their university experiences, lamenting that those carefree days were over.   But, the main thing that always stuck with me, gave me serious FOMO, was when they would talk about their travel.  Semesters abroad in Madrid, internships in London, summer escapades through Europe with the bestie roommate, service trips to various South American locales, saving humanity in myriad Asian countries.  Oh, the times they had!  

A food tour in the 11th Arrondissement:  black bread, meat candy, a weird doll shop, and the famous black cat cafe.

A gathering at the Trocadero to honor the Orlando victims.

 I did not have a conventional route to higher education, and thus, didn’t believe at the time that my own story was that interesting – certainly not to these folks.   Sitting in that NYC conference room of long ago, listening to those people ramble on, it became important to me that my future offspring have their own great stories.   And for me, this all came down to the ability to travel.   With hindsight and age, I now know that my own story was fine in its own right (hairdresser becomes  community college student becomes Rutgers graduate is a decent story).  Frankly, the only thing remotely interesting about the above mentioned colleagues were their travel stories.   The yarns about their college antics honestly became a little tedious after awhile.   But the travel!  That was something for me to strive for. 

Beautiful mother of above cousins, the other Susan Burns, at Le Scossa.

Aside from the “why” question, we are also given lots of feedback about our decision to return home after just one year.  Most of it is constructive, from people who’ve done this, and are trying to gently prepare us.   Some of it is less helpful.

 No one will want to listen to your stories.”  This particularly amuses me.  As if I’ll be subjecting my friends to constant home movies, but French style.  Picture this, if you will:  naturally, I’m in black Chanel, well groomed & well behaved golden-doodle by my side, my red lips are pursed, my cheekbones chizzled, my gaze disdainful.   I regale you with a Parisian tale every time I see you, or remind you of your inferiority to me, because as you know, I’ve lived abroad.   All while smoking my Gauloises.   I won’t be doing this.  I don’t smoke and my dog is not well behaved. 

Saintly, patient husband.  Yeah, I already posted it on Facebook.   It's a good picture!

No one will care what you have to say.”  This comment can be attributed to a woman we recently met.  An accomplished author, who was very cordial, but I found to be a little smug.  Because I am somewhat slow-witted, I couldn’t think of an immediately clever response to this comment.  So, I just dumbly agreed with her.  What I wish I’d said was:  “Is that true, does really no one care what you have to say, when you go home?   Perhaps it's because your snide comments can make people feel bad?”  It’s fun to pretend I have the cojones to actually say this to someone.  I don’t.

I suspect she meant well, in her own way.   Still, it makes me appreciate my friends.  The ones I'm lucky enough to go home to, and the lovelies I've met here.   Friends who might be thinking, “no one will care what you have to say”, but are kind enough to actually say, “it will all be okay.”  Really, sometimes that’s all a person needs to hear.

Friends who say "it will all be okay."  Thank you.

"Why are you going back?!"  The people that ask this are of two types.   There are those that really dislike from where they moved.  The majority seems to be from Houston – I’ve not been, so I can’t comment, but I’m sure it’s lovely there.   The other type are those that have moved around so much, it may be difficult for them to imagine having a community they’d want to return to.   Clearly, these people have never had their house tp’d (by a devoted, albeit intoxicated, group of friends).   Nothing says community like waking up to damp toilet paper lovingly weaved through the lattice work of your fence.   I love my friends.

However, the comment that stings the most is this one: “You’re only staying for one year? Really?  It might be hard for your kids to adjust back.”   What I’d like to say to these people, with all due respect, is:  I’ve considered this already, so unless you have something helpful to say, please just stop.  In the great flowchart of life, our options were to not do this at all, or just for a year, and we choose the latter.    

The kids are alright.

Yes, it might be challenging for them when they return.  I’ve agonized over it, lost sleep over it, belabored the topic endlessly with my patient friends, alluded to it in this blog, and driven my husband crazy with my insane angst.    They also might be just fine, and will hopefully reflect back on this disruption in their lives as worthwhile.   Either way, it’s their reality and they are very capable of handling it.   In any event, they’ll have a story.    Just like this guy probably does.  I wonder where his parents forced him to move for just a year?

À bientôt