Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Love Paris? Unlock it!


 This post is part of the Paris in July blogging event. I’m delighted to be co-hosting this year! Please check out the blogs of Karen at “A Wondering Life” and Tamara at “Thyme for Tea,” creators of the event, for links to all participating posts.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you will probably remember that I’ve written about this subject before. But after a recent walk over the Pont des Arts, one of the once beautiful bridges spanning the Seine, I realize that the issue is worth more than one simple post.
My gripe: The “love locks” that are unlovingly hurting our city’s bridges. Here’s a look at the Pont des Arts. I wonder if many people would see beauty in this? (The trash can almost looks better than the bridge.)


The “No Love Locks” organization/campaign has been fighting for a ban on the locks and even presented a plan of action to city hall recently. But so far, no dice.
I ask myself why city hall doesn’t crack down on the sellers of the padlocks. As you can see in the photo below, they stand right on the bridges selling locks to eager tourists. I can’t imagine tourists refusing to visit Paris if the city banned love locks.

When the trend started a few years ago, there were only a few locks on the bridges and it wasn’t unsightly – so I can understand how some people might have gotten caught up in the excitement. Today, I ask myself why tourists seem so thrilled about putting a lock on the bridge when they clearly see how grotesque it’s become.
I’ve signed the petition against this travesty that has harmed and disfigured our bridges and I know that many of you have as well. For those of you who would like to sign, please click here.
And for more information about the fight to ban love locks, visit the No Love Locks page. 


Friday, July 18, 2014

As If I Don't Talk Enough About Myself...



If you want to hear more about my novel "Paris, Rue des Martyrs" and my life as a writer in Paris, please check out this interview at A Wondering Life. It is part of this month's Paris in July blogging event! Thanks for your interest and support...


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When in Paris, Where Does the Queen Go?


This post is part of the Paris in July blogging event. I’m delighted to be co-hosting this year! Please check out the blogs of Karen at “A Wondering Life” and Tamara at “Thyme for Tea,” creators of the event, for links to all participating posts.

On a trip to France for the D-Day commemoration last month, Queen Elizabeth II had only a few hours in Paris. What did she choose to see? The Paris Flower Market! (Ahem… I should say “The Queen Elizabeth II Flower Market,” as it was renamed upon the queen’s visit).

Yes, the place where I go to buy plants to replace the ones that I’ve managed to kill, or ask for advice on keeping orchids alive. The place where I bought my daughter her little pink watering can. For me, it is a prettier version of the neighborhood nursery -- because it is under pavilions dating back to 1900 and it is in Paris of course!




But it still was kind of funny that the queen chose to visit this beautiful, yet unassuming, flower market rather than one of the show-stopper sorts of attractions like the Eiffel Tower or Notre-Dame Cathedral. The queen (then a princess) had visited the market on a trip to Paris in 1948 and obviously it met with royal approval!

So is the flower market deserving of such attention? Absolutely. Plants, flowers and decorative items blending to create walkways of bright colors. A trip there is like a step into the countryside, right on the banks of the Seine. I’ve never seen it overly crowded either, making a stroll through a fun and relaxing experience.




What makes me smile is that Queen Elizabeth II, who certainly could have had the Eiffel Tower or Versailles closed for her own personal visit, actually chose a simple, lovely destination: a touch of the real Paris. Like a true Parisian, the queen carried her own umbrella that day… while the Paris mayor had an assistant carry hers!

When it comes to visiting Paris, Queen Elizabeth II has got the right plan: Veer a little bit off the beaten path and enjoy the natural beauty.








Monday, July 14, 2014

Bastille Day Means… Party at the Firehouse!


This post is part of the Paris in July blogging event. I’m delighted to be co-hosting this year! Please check out the blogs of Karen at “A Wondering Life” and Tamara at “Thyme for Tea,” creators of the event, for links to all participating posts.

So how do Parisians spend Bastille Day? Festivities begin with BBQs and the annual “Firefighters’ Ball” on July 13 and celebrations culminate with the Paris fireworks display over the Eiffel Tower on the night of the 14th.

“What’s this about the firefighters hosting a party?” you might ask.

Well, it dates back to July 14, 1937. A group of firefighters in Montmartre were marching back to the station after Bastille Day celebrations and a few area residents followed. It was then that Sergent Cournet decided it would be a good opportunity to open the firehouse up to the locals and give them a glimpse into the world of the Parisian firefighter. Add music, drinks and a tradition was born!

With the exceptions of 1939-1945 (wartime), the balls at various firehouses have been an integral part of Bastille Day tradition.

For me, Bastille Day reminds me of July 4th back in the U.S. and my celebrations usually have been similar: BBQs, fireworks, walks through parks and gardens.



Of my favorite Bastille Days, are the ones perched on a terrace of our friends’ apartment with a view of fireworks displays surrounding the city. Colors popping to life, illuminating the sky… and the Eiffel Tower reigning as a small jewel amidst it all.




Another View:



Fellow Paris-based author Vicki Lesage is teaming up with me on a few “Paris in July” posts. We each will be writing our own take on a particular Paris-related theme. Vicki’s thoughts on Bastille Day:

Allons enfants de la patrie! It's the 14th of July, also known as Bastille Day, the day France celebrates the revolution and becoming a republic. Citizens celebrate across the nation, in a rare moment of flag-waving national pride. Click here to read more...







Friday, July 11, 2014

Ice Cream or Fruit? Berthillon Has the Answer…



This post is part of the Paris in July blogging event. I’m delighted to be co-hosting this year! Please check out the blogs of Karen at “A Wondering Life” and Tamara at “Thyme for Tea," creators of the event, for links to all participating posts.

We all know that Paris is the place for pastry… but on hot summer days, we’re feeling more like something cold, light and refreshing. That means ice cream. But not ordinary ice cream. I’m talking “Berthillon,” the ice cream shop that is celebrating its 6oth anniversary this year. (With a new flavor called the “60” – vanilla and passion fruit with poivre de Timut.)






What? You’re not an ice cream fan? It doesn’t matter. Even people who usually don’t like ice cream LOVE Berthillon. The “tea salon” is located on the Ile Saint-Louis, but the ice cream and sorbets are sold at the windows of various establishments around the island. 

There is only one problem with going to the tea salon: Everyone else wants to do the same and at the very same hour! So fellow author and blogger Vicki Lesage and I were strategic, going at an off hour during the week…

“What’s so great about Berthillon?” one might ask.

My answer is this: Pure, intense flavor, just the right dose of sweetness, smooth texture (no ice crystals).

This time around, I decided to go for a sorbet. Usually, I’m not a big fan of sorbets. If I’m going to eat fruit, I would rather have it fresh instead of packaged as a diluted version full of artificial flavors. But I know that with a Berthillon sorbet, you feel as if you are actually eating a piece of very cold fruit – because, basically, you are!

So peach and cherry it was. Two of my summer favorite. And in the sorbet, I found all of the softness of a fresh peach and the tartness of this season’s cherries. Oh, and that’s one other thing: Berthillon uses seasonal fruit for its sorbets, so this year’s cherry won’t taste exactly like the one served last year. And you can expect summer fruit sorbets in summer and winter fruit sorbets in the winter!



The "before" and "after" shots!



Beyond the Berthillon experience, if you are looking for great ice cream elsewhere in Paris or in France, there are two key words to remember: artisan glacier. This means that the ice cream is “homemade” according to French tradition (use of all fresh ingredients, for example) and the pastry chef oversees the entire process. You will often find artisanal ice cream in bakeries… just look for that sign!

Bon appetit!

Another View:  



Fellow Paris-based author Vicki Lesage is teaming up with me on a few “Paris in July” posts. We each will be writing our own take on a particular Paris-related theme. Here is what Vicki has to say about ice cream in Paris:
I've been craving good ice cream for a long time. In my neighborhood, the 12th arrondissement, decent frozen treats are hard to come by. Which is weird, since the French do ice cream so well. But there are very few places you can just walk up to and pick up a cone or cup of the frozen goodness. Click here to read more…




Sunday, July 6, 2014

My 5 Favorite Things About French Preschool



Here in France, just about everyone sends their children to preschool as of age 3. It is free and run by the national education system. 

As my daughter finishes her first year in the school system, I’ve been reflecting on how different the experience is compared with my experience in the U.S. school system, which starts with Kindergarten at age 5.

The most interesting/surprising things about French preschool?

Field trips. Lots of them. I’ve lost count. Courageous (or naïve?) teachers and parents leading about two dozen 3-4 year olds through the streets and subway to museums, movies and activity centers. There have been a few minor injuries along the way, but thankfully no lost children.

Little beds. When I first brought my daughter to school, I was shocked to see a room full of little bunk beds! Each bed has a child’s name on it. This is where our little darlings nap! They have little pillows and blankets too. And of course, they bring their favorite stuffed animals to school to cuddle. I remember those mushy plastic mats that were our naptime “beds” when I was a kid…



The school "dormitory"


Lunch. OK, we’re not talking sloppy joe’s here. We are talking appetizer, main course, cheese and dessert. I’m not kidding you. And elaborate things: chicken with mustard sauce, fish with a lemon butter sauce, aged cheeses, chocolate mousse. Many of the ingredients are organic and cooks prepare the food on site. Oh, and my daughter won’t touch a thing. But that’s another story…

Lesson Plan. When I first thought about P. attending preschool, I thought she would be doing a lot of arts and crafts, but didn’t realize to what extent she would be learning. The teacher teaches the students the days of the week, the alphabet, numbers, how to write their names and much more. Volunteers help out, introducing the children to foreign language for example. (The other day, P. says to me “Sing Happy Birthday in Spanish.” I say “Umm, I don’t know how… Do you?” P. sings “compleanos feliz.” I widen my eyes in amazement…)

Report Cards. All this learning isn’t for nothing. As I recently found out, the teacher prepares a very detailed report card for each student! She assesses each child’s ability to discover the world around him/her, imagine, create, interact with others etc. P. received a majority of “A’s” meaning the skill is acquired and a few “EAs” meaning the skill is almost achieved. Whew!


The report card!


This post is part of the Paris in July blogging event. I’m delighted to be co-hosting this year! Please check out the blogs of Karen at “A Wondering Life” and Tamara at “Thyme for Tea," creators of the event, for links to all participating posts.




Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Magic of Paris in July...


Welcome to Paris in July! And thanks to Karen at “A Wondering Life” and Tamara at “Thyme for Tea” for creating this month-long blogging event. As one of the co-hosts this year, I look forward to joining bloggers from around the world as we share posts all about our favorite city.

I am starting off with my thoughts on Paris at this time of year…

When I think of July in Paris, one clear memory from a few years ago comes to mind… A streak of warm temperatures and sunshine that carried us from the start of the month almost to the end. 

On that last evening of heat, we entered the gardens of the National Archives, climbed to our spot on the temporary bleachers and watched a magnificent performance of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It was part of my favorite festival: “Les Etes de la Danse.” The beauty of the greenery surrounding us and the elegance of the dancers made this a moment to remember.

And then, the next day, the deluge. The Parisian rain made its comeback, washing out the month of August. But at least we had our July, our lovely Paris in July.

Warm weather and sunshine are elusive in Paris, with its climate of rain 50 percent of the year. July, however, is a month in which the sun usually wins the battle against the raindrops (crossing fingers as I write this).
So, as I did that year at the National Archives, where can one now enjoy the arts on these wonderful warm days? Try the “Kiosques en Musique,” featuring music at various garden pavilions. If you love jazz as much as I do, check out the Paris Jazz Festival at the Parc Floral de Paris. Although “Les Etes de la Danse” is now held indoors, if you go, you can always start or finish your evening at a sidewalk café!
What to drink and eat when feeling overheated in Paris? Cool limonade (a very mild lemon-lime soda with less sugar) at a café in the afternoon and rosé in the evening always does the trick. And what better than Berthillon ice cream? Check back here on July 12 to find out about my stop at the famous ice cream shop on the Ile Saint-Louis!
So how does July in Paris feel? Magical. And here’s why: In Paris, it is the month of summer that tourists and residents share. Many Parisians leave on vacation in August and shops and restaurants close for at least part of the month. The city is calm, quiet. That Paris is interesting of course. But I can’t help loving the Paris that sparkles, moves and surprises me as I sit at a café table on a warm July day and watch the activity that never seems to fade.

Another View: 



Fellow Paris-based author Vicki Lesage is teaming up with me on a few “Paris in July” posts! We each will be writing our own take on a particular Paris-related theme. So what does Vicki think about Paris at this time of year? Voila:


July is here! Which means summer really and truly has arrived. At least in Paris! While the season officially starts on June 21, you can never be sure the weather is going to be its hot, humid, summery self until July. And usually Parisians don't pack that first suitcase and say au revoir to the city until July starts. What does July mean for me, an American living in Paris? Click here to read more…



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