Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Paris: Cimitiere de Montmartre

I've always been fascinated by cemeteries, ever since my grand-dad started taking me to view the graves of dearly-departed relatives in central Texas back in the 70s. I used to wander through aisle after aisle, reading inscriptions and being morbidly interested in the stones of children and other people who left the earth too soon; I wondered how they might have died. Perhaps this was an odd thing for an (over)imaginative girl-child to do, but in the scorching heat of small-town-summer Texas, it was a good way to pass the time. Even at that age, I keenly observed the designs of the various headstones, and until my grandparents insisted that we leave and head for a coffee and ice cream break, I would search for the oldest and most weather-worn. 

So you can imagine that I simply had to visit Cimitiere de Montmartre, especially since we stayed right across the street from it. There are quite a few famous people buried there, such as Truffaut, Berlioz, Degas, Delibes, Stendahl, Nijinsky, and Récamier, and we did spot some of their graves. But true to my old ways, I preferred just wandering and observing.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Paris: Clignancourt

The St-Ouen neighborhood/suburb of Paris is not exactly beautiful--it's an immigrant area that feels rough around the edges--but our roundabout walk to the famous St-Ouen (Clignancourt) Marché aux Puces (flea market) had me stopping several times to take pictures of walls and doorways--yes, before we ever got to the market itself, which is huge.

Okay, now we've actually made it to the market. There was lots to see on this street--wish I could remember the name.

Some people just look so "French," you know? One of our favorite things for The Girl and me to do while in Paris was to pick out people who looked impossibly-French, maybe impossibly-Parisian, to us. Most of the people we selected were men, because somehow it seems easier to tell when a man is French. There's a definite je ne sais quoi factor here, so it's hard to explain.

Oh, hi! C'est moi--not French. That guy whose face you can half-see behind my head probably is, though.

This is Manuela, who has apparently been singing Edith Piaf standards at Chez Louisette, tucked away inside the market on rue des Rosiers, for years. We had poulets frites here. It is very loud and feels very "local." I heartily recommend it for a true Parisian experience.

Hey, it's another wall, and yes, we're back outside the market now! I'm not sure why I didn't get more photos of market stalls and shops, except that I was too busy taking it all in. Maybe next time!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Paris: Montmartre

Just a few of our photos from a favorite neighborhood...
Either The Husband or The Girl took this one--beautiful!

pretty cool, n'est-ce pas?

wonderful little alleyway

Where "Amélie" worked--Café des Deux Moulins, on rue Lepic!

une carafe d'eau=tap water, a great way to save some euro in Paris

More from Paris, soon!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fun Things from Paris

We got back on Thursday from our five-day trip to Paris. Thankfully, we didn't fly (it's only a four-hour drive--well, make that five if you're actually braving driving into and out of the heart of Paris, as we did--not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic, mind you). Of course, we had a delightful time and ate waaaaaay too many croissants, crepes, and baguettes. But more on that another time. Right now I'm sharing a few things I picked up while we were there--just some items that are small and (fairly) inexpensive and which make me more than a little bit happy.

Yes, those are Nathalie Lété notebooks! One is a garden journal, and the other is for "idées folles" (crazy ideas). I couldn't pass up either one. One came from the largest shop in the Pompidou Museum--so much great stuff there--and that's also where I got the "carnet de collages" book. The other came from a little shop I loved in Montmartre, called Trait, which is also where I bought three rolls of washi tape. They sell the "carnet de collages" book (and others in that range), too.

Aren't these just the most adorable key chains? I found them at Les porte-clés, on rue des Rosiers in the Saint-Ouen (Clignancourt) flea market. There were so many porte-clés in that little place, I had a very hard time choosing--but the French cheeses won, and for only one euro apiece! And just down the way I found...

...these little vintage tins, in a stall run by Tombees du Camion. They also have a shop in Montmartre--I also visited that one, but I didn't buy anything there. So much cute vintage stuff, all displayed in lots, though you purchase most items individually. Nothing's cheap, but it's a stylist's dream.

Yep, I had to make the requisite stop at Ladurée. The macarons really are as tasty and beautiful as you've heard. Trying different flavors is a must, though I think I could be happy sticking with chocolat forever. And speaking of macarons, the lovely Katrina of Pugly Pixel, which has become one of my favorite blogs, is kindly offering an adorable set of free macaron digital clip art! I know, isn't she sweet? 

I'd been wanting to go to a Kusmi shop, and we found one in the Marais. I'd actually never had Kusmi tea before, but I've been a fan of their packaging for quite a while. Now that we're back home, I'll be trying out the tea soon!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Paris in the Spring

I've been to Paris twice, but the last time was fifteen years ago, when the Husband and I visited as part of a first-anniversary backpacking trip around Europe. It's high time we went again, don't you think? 

We'll have our kids in tow this time, and we're excited to show them some of the sights we remember fondly. We'll stay for five days over spring break, and we'll be driving there, which will feel a bit strange. As you can see from my stack of Paris-related books and dvds, we'll be focusing on food, shops, art and design, and a couple of markets.

A few notes on the books: Taschen's Paris is a huge, hefty tome, full of gorgeous photos of lush places--many, but not all, of them out of our budget.  It's a nice coffee table book that just makes you want to get to Paris, right away, whether you make it to many of the featured places, or not.

If you're a designer or stylist, Paris: Made by Hand is lovely, but it's also a nice guide to shops that can be appreciated by the casual crafter or design afficionada.

I've used the books of Rick Steves since my first time in Europe, way back in 1989, and Rick rarely disappoints. He's not a shopper, but he loves art, and his pithy museum tours are especially helpful. 

At an OxFam shop in London, I picked up a cheap copy of StyleCity Paris, part of a British series on cities in Europe. The photos of hotels, shops, and restaurants are very enticing, indeed, and I like that they're arranged by neighborhood.

I'll be back again with more info on the other books in the photo, plus another one I have in my purse. Of course, many photos should be forthcoming, about a week and a half from now!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

That Egg and I

"I see you made it to the flea market, after all."

"What? Oh, the egg--yes. I found just the one I wanted," Ella called from the kitchen.

"Did you get anything else?"

"No, that's all I bought. I got a bit sidetracked, Amy. That egg and I, we kind of had an adventure." Ella set the tea tray down on the antique chest that she'd put to use recently as a coffee table.

"An adventure? Tell me more!" Amy reached for a cookie and bit into it, while Ella poured the tea.

"Well, just after I paid the woman at the booth for my egg, I kept on walking. It was getting a bit late, and many of the vendors were beginning to pack up. I stopped at one more table to drool over some French enamel things, but then I saw why most of them hadn't sold--they were asking way too much."

"Where does the adventure part come in?"

"Patience, Amy. I was about to leave the market when this guy came up to me--just stepped in front of me, out of the blue. He had this goofy smile on his face. He said, 'I know this will sound weird, but you look really familiar. Were you on an overnight train a few years ago going from Prague to Amsterdam?'

I just said,'Um, yeah, I was. Why?'

'I think we were in the same sleeping car. You were talking to your friend about this Russian egg you'd found in Prague, laughing about how you'd pretended to be French so the guy you bought it from wouldn't think you were a gullible American who would pay whatever he asked. I offered you a cigarette. You took it but didn't smoke it. Am I right?'

'I'm sure he could already tell by the look on my face that I was that girl. I recognized him then, remembered taking that cigarette from him but not wanting to smoke it in front of him, because I didn't smoke and didn't want to look stupid trying."

"Are you serious, Ella? You really pretended to be French so you could get a good deal on an egg?"

Ella laughed. "Sorry, but it's true. And to add to it, I even tried out being French again later in our Amsterdam hotel. I pretended to be a French girl visiting her two American friends at the hotel so I wouldn't have to pay to stay the night. But hey, I was out of money from buying that egg--and a few other things!"

"Wow. So back to the present--what happened with this guy?"

"He asked if I wanted to go somewhere for coffee. I did, and we ended up spending hours together, mostly walking. Somehow we managed to stop by his apartment, where he said he'd like to show me something. Yeah, I know! But guess what that 'something' was? An assortment of about twenty Russian eggs, similar to my two. He said he'd started collecting them after our encounter on the train. Before I found my egg this morning, he'd seen it and wanted it, but something told him not to buy it. You know, this may sound crazy, but I'm thinking our eggs could be very happy together."

This post is for Week 8 of Willow's Magpie Tales. A tiny portion of this brief tale is true.
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