Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Au revoir Paris!

Here we are, a couple of days away from flying back to the United States. We have been busy saying goodbye to family and will be heading for Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport on Wednesday evening. Spending our last night in Paris at the beautiful (and convenient) Sheraton hotel makes a lot of sense, and facilitates early departures. We all hope for a smooth trip back.

This has been a successful and special trip. We will miss our Parisian pied-à-terre, 77 avenue Parmentier. Last night, we enjoyed a delicious Maroccan dinner with le Brother and la Sister in Law on the Right Bank. It took us just 10 minutes (and three Métro stops) to get back to the apartment after 11:00pm. What luxury!

We will miss our relatives, of course, and have enjoyed every moment we have spent with them. Junior had the best time with his grandparents, and les cousins, Jules and Theo. They met this afternoon for one last playdate at my parents.'

Junior has not stopped speaking French since we landed on December 16 and that is hysterical, because he always, always responds in English when I speak French to him in the U.S. He seemed absolutely comfortable ordering food in restaurants, navigating the Métro system, and chatting with total strangers in public places. Way to go, Alec.

I have had so much fun with Le Blog. Thank you so much for staying with me for the last two weeks, and for all the fun messages and emails you sent. Your feedback has meant a lot.

Thanks to Le Husband, we are coming back with many pictures I will be using over the next few weeks as I keep posting on Le Blog. I have also found great French materials and books I will be happy to share with Les Students soon.

For now, it is time to say "au revoir" -- and I picked a few special shots of Paris, known as the City of Light, to illustrate what an amazing, gorgeous and unique place the French capital really is. 

A bientôt les amis! Bonne année! Happy New Year!

Opéra Garnier

Place Vendôme

Place de la Concorde, Obélisque, Grande Roue des Tuileries
Concorde Square, Obelisk, Tuileries Ferris Wheel

Les Champs-Elysées

Eiffel Tower and Alexander III bridge

Le Grand Palais

La Seine - Notre Dame (in the distance)

Au revoir Paris! 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Promenade parisienne

Le Husband, hard at work on a cold day...

On Sunday afternoons, Parisians indulge in the French art of la promenade. Popular spots include gardens such as les Tuileries or le Luxembourg, the elegant boulevards around le Palais Garnier (Opera house), and les Champs-Elysées.

Why mess with a good thing? Le Husband and I decided to stay on the Right Bank, and we strolled around the neighborhoods located between the Louvre museum and the Opera. 

Our first stop, the Tuilerie gardens, never fail to impress, and they were quite a sight on this cold but sunny day! 

Les Tuileries and the Louvre

Touristes aux Tuileries...

A unusual scene in the Tuilerie gardens: Sliding on ice!

We left the Louvre and walked a couple of blocks to the heart of the 1st arrondissement, and our second stop, the elegant and peaceful Palais Royal. A former royal residence built in the 17th century, this beautiful building houses the French Ministry of culture and the Constitutional Council, boutiques, restaurants, and even a theater! 

Palais Royal - the courtyard
and the controversial "Buren Columns"

Palais Royal on a cold winter day

Palais Royal

A few streets away, a very special place awaits, la Galerie Vivienne. It is my favorite Parisian shopping "arcade" (covered passageways built in the 1820s-1830s). It features an original mosaic floor, gorgeous arches, and quaint boutiques-- La Galerie is particularly quiet on Sundays, when all shops are closed. 

Galerie Vivienne

Galerie Vivienne

Bookstore - The sign on the door says the shop opened in 1826!

Making friends with Charlie the French Bulldog...

A trip to the Palais Royal/Louvre neighborhood would not be complete without a visit to a famous restaurant, Le Grand Colbert. As my friends know, I am a big movie fan. In fact, it has been said my epitaph will likely read: "I have seen too many movies" (probably because I have the annoying habit of remembering and quoting movie scenes to illustrate real life situations...) So, here we go... Who remembers the entertaining Diane Keaton/Jack Nicholson flick "Something's Got to give"? This will help you...

Stay with me here. Do you remember that scene, at the end of the movie, when Diane Keaton is courted by Jack Nicholson and a handsome Keanu Reeves in a Parisian restaurant where she claims one can find "the best roasted chicken in Paris" ? No? Check it out...

Diane, Jack and Keanu meet at Le Grand Colbert

Voilà, you've got it! I knew you'd remember le Grand Colbert! Guess where Le Husband took me today for a very late lunch? Food was delicious, of course. I had a favorite dish of mine, le boudin aux pommes, (note to French students: a homework pass will be awarded to the first person who sends me an accurate translation of that dish). We even got the quintessential Parisian waiter: professional, knowledgeable, and with a great sense of humor. This visit will remain a highlight of this trip!

Le Grand Colbert
The building dates back to 1825 

Mon Dieu!
Le Husband and Keanu are wearing the same sweater!

Inside le Grand Colbert

We left le Grand Colbert at 3:00pm and resumed our promenade parisienne all the way to the old Opera house, le Palais Garnier, where we caught a late afternoon movie, a rather disappointing new French comedy with Audrey Tautou. You know what they say: win some, lose some...

A bientôt!

Le Palais Garnier

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Un Noël parisien... A Parisian Christmas...

The last two days have been a blur, and a lot of fun. We are très fatigués (exhausted), and comfortably tucked away for the night at 77 avenue Parmentier, our home away from home.

Foie gras, Champagne, bûche de Noël, snow, circus, my family, presents, night at the theater, le Husband's family, snowball fight, more champagne, another sleepover for Junior-- not necessarily in that order.

Le Réveillon (Christmas Eve) was cold and windy. We met my brother and his family, following a favorite family tradition: an afternoon show at the famous Cirque d'Hiver (winter circus).  Inaugurated by Napoleon III, the building has entertained several generations of Parisian children and their parents with world-class performances since the mid-19th century. The Bouglione family, one of the oldest and most respected families in the circus world, have been managing the Cirque d'Hiver since 1931! A new show is introduced every fall with weekly (sold out) performances during the winter months. It is a magical place, and Junior and his cousins are lucky children: They have been going almost every year since he was a toddler! 

Old Poster for the Cirque d'Hiver circa the 1900s

Who said the circus is only for kids?
Moi, with Georges,  Le Brother, and Christelle, La S.I.L.

As always, my favorite performance was Joseph Bouglione's
-- the man is a horse whisperer if I ever saw one!

Joseph Bouglione

Thrilling performance by a couple of Spanish funambulists.
  The woman never stopped 'belting out' Spanish songs! Olé!

An amazing group from the Ukraine.
Dancers, and acrobats all at once. 

Once the show was over, we all walked back to avenue Parmentier located just 10 minutes away (did I pick a good location for the apartment or what?) Most of the snow had already melted but that did not stop Le Husband, Le Brother, and Les kids from enjoying an epic snowball fight (they scooped up left over snow on all the cars parked in the street).

Later on, we all drove to the suburbs where my parents had prepared a fabulous feast to celebrate Le Réveillon. There were fresh oysters and as a plat principal (entrée), a chapon (capon) served with roasted chestnuts. Miam! (Yum!)

Finally, Le Père Noël (Santa Claus) showed up and swiftly left a huge pile of presents by the Christmas tree. Great job Santa! My 4 year old nephew Jules was running all over my parents' apartment last night and he never saw a thing!

Hectic present distribution by Junior and les Cousins...
Notice the boys' coordinated shirts "made in the USA"

Jules finds his Buzz Lightyear costume...

Mom and daughter...

Proud grand-parents and grand-kids...
They are finally getting tired!

Our photographe extraordinaire

On Christmas morning, we woke up late and Junior received a special present from his parents. He found out that once he gets home, he will be getting a new furry friend, the hamster he has been begging for since he turned 8! We can't wait to meet "Hammy" (temporary name).

Junior was thrilled to read a note by his new furry friend:
"What are you doing in Paris, dude?
I am waiting for you in Woodinville!"

The weather was cold but blue skies greeted us as we drove to Le Husband's old neighborhood to enjoy Christmas day with Mutti (his mom) and my parents.

Beautiful Christmas lunch table chez Mutti

Foie gras on rye toast as an entrée (first course). Oh, la, la! 

For dessert, a traditional bûche de Noël

Santa's little helper is 'walking the runway'
 while passing out (fancy) presents!

Everyone had a lovely time chez Mutti. Junior will be staying with her until Tuesday morning. On Sunday, they will visit a favorite museum of his: Le Musée de la Marine (Museum of Naval History), another family tradition.

Since the Heir is in capable and loving hands, what are his parents to do, I ask?

A night on the town in a Parisian theatre is just what the doctor ordered. Lucky Moi: I was able to snatch two tickets to a sold out play, featuring Patrick Bruel, a popular (and handsome) French singer and actor. Off we went, and what a smart, entertaining play "Le Prénom" (the First Name) was! This was the perfect way of wrapping up our two-day Christmas family marathon...

Théâtre Edouard VII, near the old Opera house

Patrick Bruel, musician and actor

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Joyeux Noël!

Another busy day in the City of Light. The snow came back but did not stick, at least downtown... We are truly getting a 'white Christmas' in Paris this year!

Today, I caught up with friends of mine, Olivier and Zohra. We met in the late 1980s when we all worked for American Express France. Even though Zohra and I have stayed in touch and hooked up over the years, here or in the States, I had not seen Olivier since he visited us in Seattle in 1996. It was wonderful to spend a few hours together, reminiscing about 'the good old days', sharing stories about common friends, family, and exchanging pictures of our kids. 

"Zouzou" and Véro, deux amies à Paris.
Meanwhile, Junior, Mutti and Le Husband had a fun day of their own, enjoying a Belgian lunch chez Léon de Bruxelles, and spending the afternoon with Le Husband's relatives and their kids.

Junior loves a good Belgian lunch,
Moules-frites (mussels and fries)

For dessert: gauffre au chocolat (chocolate Belgian waffle)

Dans le Métro... 
On the way back to the Parmentier apartment, Junior and his dad made time for a snowball fight... I guess the snow did stick a little in the end! ;-) Junior was so convinced the snow was going to melt that he brought back a big snowball home, rushed to the freezer and left it there!

Get ready Daddy!

Et voilà, papa!
Christmas is just around the corner, and the next two days will be hectic, with two family events, a traditional visit to the best Circus show in the entire universe, and a play at the Théâtre Edouard VII. Quel fun!
Until we chat again, Le Husband, Junior and Moi would like to wish all our friends and relatives un Joyeux Noël! May the Holidays be merry for you!

A bientôt...