The Adventures of a 12 pound Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) going to Paris.


Tom & Maxine like to travel. Blogging helps us create a record of the trips, and share with friends and family...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


In the early stages of planning this trip we knew that one of the big hurdles would in fact be our American dog who we were planning to take to Paris.  It's not necessary to rehash how difficult we envisioned it would be for Cassie to behave there.  We worried that we'd end up locking her into the apartment's bathroom each day when we went out.  Instead, Cassie became an integral part of our experience of Paris.  As I said somewhere in the blog, 90% of our non-commercial conversations with French people came about as a result of Cassie.  We felt more a part of Paris, being there with our dog. 

Also in earlier entries to this blog I talk about Lori, the trainer we worked with who effected this transformation in Cassie's behavior.  Again, repeating what I'd said earlier, Lori's skill made this trip possible for us in the best possible way.  There is no doubt -- we owed it all to Lori and told her repeatedly.

When we returned to LA, we continued to stay in touch with Lori.  We'd developed a friendship over hours of Cassie training and would go to each other's homes for dinners, and occasionally out for lunch as well.  Our last lunch with Lori was in August 2014.  We knew she was sick, but we didn't realize at that time (and don't know to what degree she knew) how sick she was. 

Below are her last words from the CaringBridge site:

This year I was shocked to find out I had lung cancer.  I began a medical protocol of chemotherapy several months ago.  I have been in the care of an excellent medical team at UCLA.  Despite their best efforts, the cancer metastasized.  I am currently on a program that is designed to manage my physical pain, of which there is plenty.  I have a very small group of cherished and close friends and family helping me.  Anyone who comes to this page I know is also a friend and dear to my heart.  I appreciate any thoughts or comments you may leave in the journal, but I have one request: please make this Caring Bridge journal your only conduit to communicate with me.  I will post occasional updates, although they probably won't be too frequent or regular.  I find I need all of my energy and internal resources to deal with my circumstances, and even a short text or email is exhausting for me to respond to.  I found myself trying to answer all the texts, emails and calls that came to me just before I began using this site.  It was an overwhelming task and caused me emotional pain that I couldn't keep up with you all.  And it quickly became clear that with the time I have left, I must protect myself.  Texting and emailing is just a poor use of what has become most precious to me - the gift of time.  When I was young, the borders of what I wanted to do and the time I had to do it all were wide open and expansive.  I have arrived at a very different place, and now the borders of what I want and have to do are very narrow.  I hope you understand.  I will read or have your comments read to me from these pages.  Thank you for your love, understanding and caring.

Lori died just 2 months after our lunch and just a few days after her birthday.  We didn't find out until very recently.  To say we're sad doesn't even begin to do it justice.  She was our friend and now she's gone.  Goodbye Lori, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you did for us...  Tom & Maxine, and Cassie and Emmy.

Friday, September 09, 2011


Cassie, the Shetland Sheepdog who is profiled in this blog died on Friday August 26th after a 6 month battle with a brain tumor. She was a great travel companion. We had many more trips planned with her in mind. She will be sorely missed, but hey, she'd been to San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, and Paris.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Questions or Other Dialogue

Maxine & I would be happy to answer any questions about this trip, how we planned it, or how to manage taking a dog abroad. My email address (for this purpose) is: It would help if the word PARIS was in the Subject line.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"What Did You Enjoy Most?"

In two months it is possible to do a lot of things, and particularly to cover sights and experiences that wouldn’t make practical on a shorter trip (for example, taking a ½ hour ride out to see La Defense, a modern Arc de Triomphe). What Maxine & I are going to do in this entry is to pick out 5-10 of the moments, things, people, or whatever that meant the most to us on this trip. We recognize that this list may very well not correspond to a ‘normal’ best of Paris list. Here goes:

1. Being told that Cassie was “adorable” by an elderly man the first afternoon we were in Paris. We’d be traveling for hours (and hours!). We’d gotten to the apartment, dropped off our bags, and decided to take a walk of the neighborhood to get some air. We’d just gotten to the end of the street, 100 feet down from our door, and a man stopped Maxine to make his comment. Welcome to Paris!!! !!!
2. The morning of flight home day, at our neighborhood bakery. One hundred feet the opposite direction was our neighborhood bakery. We’d probably been there 60 times (sometimes we’d go in the morning for breakfast pastries and later for bread). Cassie had been in there any number of times and two of the people who worked there had mentioned how nervous she seemed (in other words, she'd been noticed, and it was OK with them that she was in their store!). This last morning we told the woman behind the counter that, after 2 months, we were heading home to Los Angeles. She wished us a good journey. She then filled a small bag with pastries “on the house” for our trip!
3. Being able to be in touch electronically. Using Skype we were able to call immediate family (at 2 cents/minute) and talk without thinking about how much it was costing. Via this blog we stayed in touch with quite a number of you. The internet meant that we didn’t feel out of touch despite being gone so long.
4. Eric the Cheese Guy. In France, he would more likely be known as Eric Lefebvre, Meilleur Ouvrier de France 2004 Winner. The “MOF” award recognizes the best artisans in the country. For Eric, it is about cheese. He runs a tiny (3-400 square foot) shop, the 3rd generation in his family in this business. His good spirit and enthusiasm as he talked about cheese was infectious.
5. The Eiffel Tower. Aside from its obvious role as a landmark in Paris, it was also a personal landmark. In two months, we never went to the top. But, neither did we go a week without seeing it up close. First off, the American Library was 2 blocks away and we were there frequently. Second, when we’d leave the apartment on Saturdays so that it could be cleaned, we’d picnic with Cassie at the Seine river park underneath it. And finally, one night Maxine, D, and I went over to it after dinner to enjoy how it is lit it up like a glittering Christmas tree every night.
6. Church of St. Chapelle. On vacations to Europe, there’s always a 1000 year old church to visit! I was pretty much done with old churches and cathedrals when I got to this one. And, this one doesn't make it easy on you either. You have to wait on line 30+ minutes to get inside. You have to climb a flight of stairs to get to it. It’s small and isn’t even in use any more. BUT, the walls inside are almost entirely of stained glass. For argument’s sake, if you imagine that in a typical modern church the walls are 30% glass, and, in a cathedral they are 60% glass, St. Chapelle is probably 85% stained glass. When the sunlight came the place glowed.
7. My (Maxine) 50th birthday lunch at Pierre Gagnaire. The food was creative and wonderful, the service and atmosphere helped to make this a celebration and Pierre himself wished me Bon Anniversaire.
8. Our last lunch with Cassie. It wasn’t the food. It was the idea that we were in a restaurant with our dog. Given our crazy dog’s behavior before Lori, our trainer, this would have been impossible to imagine a year ago. Yet, here we were with Cassie acting as we imagined Parisians did. And, to cap it off, the waitress told us our dog was well-behaved and gentile (nice)!
9. Luxembourg Gardens. Our apartment was only a five minute walk away for this beautiful park. This was my walking place to see grass, flowers, and nature, albeit in an extremely well-groomed state. I liked it best in the morning before the schoolkids and the other crowds arrived.
10. Macarons from Pierre Herme. For those who don’t know, macarons are not the same as macaroons (which are coconut). Macarons are basically meringue sandwich cookies in various flavors. I (Maxine) absolutely love them and I made it my mission to taste macarons from many different bakeries. I can tell you without hesitation that Pierre Herme’s are the best. My favorite flavor is caramel with sea salt, but I also love the chocolate + passion fruit and the vanilla + olive oil. Once I discovered Pierre Herme, I went there almost every day for my macaron fix. This will be one of the things I miss most about Paris.
11. Robert Doisneau photo exhibit. Doisneau was a photographer working in France from the 1930’s to the early 1990’s. One of his black and white photos, of a couple kissing, shows up everywhere (on this blog entry we have a photo of the photo). There was a free exhibit of his photos of Paris scenes being exhibited at the Hotel de Ville at the end of our stay. Tom was intrigued and saw it first. He urged me to go and I did our last week-end in Paris (while Tom was gorging on chocolate at the Salon du Chocolat). The exhibit exceeded my expectations – the photos were so evocative of Paris. I may have appreciated them more because our stay was ending but I’m happy that we bought a book so that I can look again and remind myself of Paris and our experience there.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Some More Pictures -- Gerard Mulot Bakery Tour

Here are the last of the 'missing pictures' -- things we forgot to include in earlier blog entries.

This series is from another of our Meet the French programs. In particular these are from the 'factory' of Gerard Mulot.

We were lucky -- he has 2 stores, this one and one a block away from our apartment. They make chocolates, pasteries, breads, sandwiches. They're considered to be one of the best bread and sweets shops in Paris (having them a block away is what was lucky!). As to this being a factory, I'd guess it was under 2000 square feet in size. Maxine is posed outside of it.

Making chocolates. These are the multicolored ones with fillings -- you can see 3 of them on the marble counter in the foreground.

The chocolatier at work. They are pouring out fruit filling from a very 'used' copper pot.

Making macarons -- Maxine's favorite sweet snack in Paris! (the green things in this photo)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Goals We Had For The Trip -- How We Did

OK, we’re inveterate planners. And, we had goals for the trip. So, as it comes to an end we're looking back to see how we did.

While we enjoyed Paris enough that we might very well go back and do this all again -- really this was planned as a grand trip. Knowing we were going for such an extended time, and knowing that the duration would present us with opportunities that are not possible in an ordinary vacation, before it started we gave some thought to what we might want to get out of the experience.

In the spirit of self-disclosure, here’s how we did:

1. Improving our French language skills. It was too easy to lapse into English and we simply didn’t put enough effort into the struggle. "C"
2. Act as if we actually were living in Paris. We knew this trip, including the chance to live in a residential apartment and bring our dog, would give us the opportunity to experience Paris as residents. "A"
3. Figure out what to do next. Neither of us left corporate jobs behind to make this trip. We know we’re very fortunate. Some days we say we’re retired and other days we say we’re living a “projects” lifestyle. Being in Paris gave us an opportunity to think about our choices. "B"

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Some Pictures

...Taken from a boat on the Seine River

A fountain at Versailles

A Hallway (minor) at Versailles

Maxine & me outside Willi's Wine Bar, one of our favorite restaurants in Paris.

Coffee being roasted at the artisan coffee shop I went to on the Meet The French program. The guy in the photo is the store owner, 2nd generation. They've been making and selling coffee in this shop (using that roaster) for 60 years.

"The Numbers"

In the spirit of Maxine having been Chief Financial Officer of several companies, here’s what we did on this trip in terms of numbers (estimates):

Number of different wines drank – 30
Number of different beers (all French) – 11
Number of different cheeses – 33
Number of different types of bread – 8
Number of different chocolates – 40+
Number of times we walked by St. Sulpice Church (plays a prominent role in The Da Vinci code) – 200
Number of times Cassie went to an outdoor café/restaurant for a meal/drink – 4
Number of times Cassie went to an indoor lunch – 2
Number of French dogs Cassie met – 18
Number of books read (Tom) -- 18
Number of nights in Paris (Tom) – 55
Number of nights in Paris (Maxine) -- 49

Friday, November 03, 2006

Things I'd Prefer To Have Been Different

Here are the things that didn’t live up to expectations or were otherwise frustrating:

1. The noise. Maxine & I have lived in suburban houses for 17 years. Paris is urban and noisy! Motorcycles buzzed and buses rumbled as they passed on the street. While in the apartment I would hear people in the halls and people from the floor above. On average once/week I’d be awakened by noise from someone on the street (2AM-6AM!). I was tempted to buy some balloons and teach the late-nighters what a water balloon was from our 6th story window. I slept with ear plugs in for 2 months.
2. Brew pub beer. Some of you know that this past spring I’ve taken up home brewing. So perhaps I’ve gotten a bit critical in my judging of beer. But, Maxine willingly (as opposed to, ‘while I was twisting her arm’) agreed that the beer I’ve made is better than we could buy in Paris. Brew pubs seem not to have taken hold in Paris and, at $10/pint, the equivalent wine was considerably better.
3. Salon du Chocolat. See my earlier blog about this event. I think my hopes were probably too high for this one. I like chocolate – Maxine & I met working for M&M/Mars. But, at the end of the day, this was a chance to eat a lot of chocolate – something that was fun but not transcendent.

Things We Would Do Again

Here’s a brief list of things about the trip that worked, that we’d do again

1. Buy a monthly transit pass (Carte Orange). Single use tickets (one bus or train ride) cost about $1.50. One month (they also have one week versions) unlimited use passes cost $70. Never having to decide if it was worth spending money to go someplace made us feel freer to explore the city.
2. Meeting The French program. It’s a new program in Paris where you meet people interested in talking about their specialty. We focused on food artisans and met coffee roasters, candy makers, bread bakers, and cheese sellers. Every meeting was a highlight of the trip.
3. Croissants and 'pain au chocolats' (basically, square croissants with chocolate bars melted inside) for breakfast. OK, lots and lots of calories in this suggestion! But, they taste so much better than anywhere else that you won’t bother eating breakfasts any other way.
4. Join the American Library. This only works on a relatively long stay, but it proved worthwhile for us. The library is quite extensive and current – many books, magazines, newspapers, videos. It’s a place to go – in a strange city, I can only hang out in café’s for so long.
5. Maxine & I used Meetup to find out about and go to a number of expat/English speaker events. This broke up a diet of museums. It was also an opportunity to meet people with widely different personal circumstances. People we met included: an Australian couple there for 18 months, an American woman on a month long project from DC, an American woman who moved to France 8 years ago, a New York couple who moved to Paris last spring, a grandfather who spends ½ the year in Paris and the other ½ in Pennsylvania, a 23 year old French Structural Engineering student, etc. P.S. If this sounds interesting, there is one name you need to know, the master organizer – Andy Coyne!
6. Learning a few French words. With each successive trip to France we’ve found more and more people speaking English. In our neighborhood, you could hear snippets in English every time you walked down the street. Despite this, we felt more connected by trying to speak French. The French will NOT bite your head off if you speak French badly, we almost always found the reverse to be the case, that they will struggle in English to help the conversation along. More advice – it is pointless to ask someone, “Do you speak English”. If someone were to ask me if I spoke French I’d either hedge or say no. But, late one night someone came up to me and asked where the grocery store was. I don’t really speak French – but I did.
7. Bring your computer. There were plenty of free WiFi spots (the American Library, the café 4 blocks away, probably the apartment next door!) Aside from being able to stay in touch, it gave us access to unlimited tourism resources. Almost all the museums had sites that told hours and days open, etc. The RATP (city buses and subways) website plots out the quickest or least amount of walking required way to get to any place in the city, etc.
8. Bring your dog. It is true – the French love dogs!!! Aside from commercial transactions, i.e. a waiter or a clerk in a store, more than 90% of our conversations with French people began through our dog Cassie. They would express an interest in her, would bring their dog up to her, their children would try to pet her, or the like. I simply cannot express how much more connected we felt to Paris and Parisians by virtue of the connections Cassie made for us. All of that time with our trainer, Lori, paid off!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Photos From Our Last Day

Tomorrow we wake up at 6AM, get picked up at 8AM, and are on a noon flight to Chicago. After 4 hours there we are on a flight to Los Angeles. And, after two months in Paris, we are both happy and sad that this trip is coming to an end.

While we're flying I will write up some other blog entries: best memories, final totals (i.e. how many different cheeses we tried, etc.). Those will be posted Wednesday. For now, here are some photos we took today as we made our way through Paris one more time!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Maxine went on a 'tour' of Pere Lachaise Cemetery (two days before Halloween). It's known for some of the people who are buried there. Here are some photos:

Oscar Wilde

Jim Morrison (The Doors)

Heloise and Abelard (star-crossed French lovers from 700 years ago)

Memorial to WWII Concentration Camps

Memorial to WWII Concentration Camps

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Salon Du Chocolat

In an earlier entry I mentioned my particular interest in the chocolates of France. During walks through the city I’ve sampled products from a variety of producers. I always tried to find shops that produced their own chocolates on their premises as opposed to stores that sold stuff made in a factory somewhere.

Aside from my on-the-go research, I knew when we planned this trip that we would be in the city during something called the “Salon du Chocolat”. Every fall they have what amounts to a public-access chocolate show in Paris (imagine a large exhibit hall with roughly 200 chocolate-related vendors). Maxine & I were in town 8 years ago but I didn’t go, and regretted it. This time I made the ½ hour train ride out to the convention center for the show (FYI admission was $15.60). Here’s the URL:

Some of the chocolate products I saw and tasted at the show included:
- Chocolate beer – 2 different producers
- Chocolate and Bailey’s liquor
- Chocolate and Grand Marnier liquor
- Chocolate bread
- Dark chocolate, light chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate covered nuts, chocolate covered bananas and other fruit, chocolate covered etc…

And things I missed seeing or trying:
- Seeing Ms. Cocoa Butter
- Chocolate teas
- Chocolate cosmetics
- Getting a chocolate massage ($50 for 40 minutes)
- Participating in the kiddie program (I think they were educating the next generation of French chocolate lovers!)

I also sat through a 50 minute lecture on ganache (filling for chocolates). I’m not planning on making any, but since the speaker was working from a PowerPoint presentation I thought it would be an interesting way to test my French comprehension. I figure I understood 60-75% of what he said which felt pretty good.

If you enjoy chocolate as I do and happen to be in Paris in late October, this is certainly a useful alternative to a museum visit!

The photos:
Outside the exhibit hall.
Looking in at the kiddie program
Chocolates molded and painted to look like fish (I don’t like fish, but might make an exception for these).A chocolate sculpture – it reminded me a bit of Venus de Milo, a photo of which I’d included in a prior blog entry!

Two Months In Paris -- Starting To Wind Down

We’ve started to get anxious because the trip is winding down. While we still have nearly a week left here we find ourselves doing things “one last time” (this despite the fact that we’ve enjoyed this extended stay in Paris so much we will almost certainly come back!). We took Cassie on her last picnic at the Seine. She seemed to enjoy it. In this urban environment it has been her weekly chance to run as fast as she can on the grass – in an unbelievably classic Paris environment with the Eiffel Tower looking down on us. We also stopped by the American Library so we could turn in the last few books we’d checked out. I was surprised when I was there last week to discover that there was a downstairs too, with many more books plus videos we could have borrowed! Next time…

Yesterday I saw two different men wearing purple suits. Neither was “Barney”. I was reluctant to take a picture of either of them, not sure how someone willing to wear a purple suit would react to his picture being taken.

Some of you might know about the French habit of kissing hello… When the police near Notre Dame changed shifts yesterday I saw two French police people kissing. What was most incongruous about it was that they were in uniform. I have a cousin who is an NYPD officer – I’ll have to ask him how this would go over in New York.

I saw a “‘greve’ double header” yesterday (the photos are from the first one). What’s that?

As it turns out there are a number of different terms for describing the various ways in which people here go on strike or otherwise express their protests. There are ‘greves’, ‘manifestations’, etc. The ones I saw yesterday (whatever they were officially called) seemed quite serious at first glance. In both cases, the police had riot shields, were wearing helmets, had hard protection for their legs from ankle to knee, and similar shoulder pads. However, Maxine & I suspect that, in most cases, the reality is not as serious as the outfits. This is what we think is really going on (of course we could be wrong). First off, in France, you are entitled to strike freely, much more than in the US. Since protests are protected behavior, the police are there to make sure things don’t get out of hand. As you protest, if you want to light some flares, burn a garbage pail, carry banners, blow horns, bang drums – all of that seems to be OK. But there are barricades and very seriously outfitted police to make sure things stop there.

In one of the photos you can seem someone coordinating things on a walkie-talkie. I suspect he works for the city of Paris even though he was hanging around with the protesters.

By the way, by double header, I mean that I saw two different ones at two different locations in the city, in one day. It has been a rare week for us, within even the limited scope of the city that we are travelling, to see at least one protest.

At the first of yesterday’s ‘greves’ I had a conversation with a French attorney who was interested in practicing his English. The salient sound bite was this: “I like the blue uniforms, the red flares are colorful, but this is not a circus – these people need to get back to work.”

One of the most poignant and in some way sweet things I’ve seen in Paris is this. Paris is a city, there are poor people, and sadly some end up sleeping on the streets. Life in the big city? Insufficient social services? The safety net failing? I just don’t know. But what I’ve found so poignant was the several occasions where I saw that other people had left loaves of bread along side the people who were sleeping on the streets. I don’t know if this sort of charity occurs in other cities, but it is touching to see here.

I’ve also included, since this entry has a winding down component, some retrospective pictures of things I’ve mentioned earlier. First, there is a photo outside the very small church, St. Julien, where I saw the classic music concert. Second, a photo of the Hotel de Ville (city hall). The picture is of the 2nd story window where, on the night of Nuit Blanche, I saw the techno/rock band performing the next day. There was scaffolding set up at that spot – the mismatch of music to classic building actually added to the experience.

There are also 2 other photos to reinforce what I’ve come to really appreciate about Paris, just how pretty a city it is. One is a view through some trees to Notre Dame church. The other is simply one of the sun setting on a building. This really is a classic city…

Friday, October 27, 2006

Toulouse Excursion

Friday morning we set out on our long planned excursion from Paris to Toulouse, in the southwest of France. For as long as we’d been planning this trip to France we were planning on visiting Toulouse.

Why Toulouse? Tom’s college roommate, B, moved to Toulouse with British Aerospace 10 years ago. In 2005, we went to Toulouse for his wedding to “I” (Tom was the best man). Now 15 months later, they have a new baby E in their family, along with “I”’s 9 year old son R.

A digression to talk about weather… It rained a few hours one night while D was here and another evening once we were home. It has drizzled very slightly a few times. But, other than that, the weather in Paris has been phenomenal! Today (Oct 27th) it was not necessary to wear a jacket!

Back to Toulouse… Our only sustained rain on the trip was during the 7 hour drive south. In a way that was lucky because in the car it didn’t matter. And, when we got to Toulouse it had cleared. The weather did make us a little bit late, but in Toulouse they’re used to things being late. They’re building the new giant Airbus A380 here and it has been repeatedly delayed. Weather wise, this city is more like our Los Angeles than Paris. We saw palm trees in backyards, most days we wore short sleeve shirts, etc.

Since in this blog I’ve mostly been writing about things we’ve seen of a more general nature, I won’t take too much text to describe our visit. Simply put, we spent it with a good friend (B), developed a relationship with a new friend (his wife, “I”), and met their children.

While we were there we did take one excursion, to Gaillac, which is a wine region, and to the nearby hilltop town of Cordes-sur-Ciel. The photo of Maxine in the field of vines is from Gaillac, the photo of Tom with Cassie at lunch was in Cordes. The photo of the young boy with Cassie is their son R. It was a very nice trip, a long-planned excursion to mix a visit with friends into this larger trip to Paris and France.

By the way, when we got back to Paris MasterCard had a question for us. They didn’t understand how we could have charged $100+ to pay for gas within a 4 hour period – but we did! While driving is cheaper (with 2 people) than the train, it is still expensive.

No blog entry would be complete without at least a short comment on our travel companion – the 12 pound Sheltie we’ve brought along. Here is today’s. Cordes is a small but extremely ‘cute’ hill town. As we were walking through it we passed other visitors to the town, including a set of 20 teenage British girls on a lecture tour. What was funny was what happened as we passed them walking Cassie. On each occasion the lecturer had to stop talking and regain the girls’ attention since the majority were ignoring the talk in favor of cooing as they looked at Cassie (who was, as usual, oblivious to the attention).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mid Week Update

Since Maxine and D got back from Provence we've been busy with restaurants and sightseeing with D before she headed back to San Diego...

Saturday night we went to dinner at a restaurant called "Willi's Wine Bar. It has been here for 26 years and is run by a British guy. The point is that the wait staff speaks English which simply makes it easier to order French food -- fewer surprises*. Along with good food and wine another unique thing about Willi's is that every year they issue a new poster advertising the restaurant (you can see them on the website). Willi's is a special place for me -- in the early 1980's I was living in New Jersey and saw their original poster and to this day it reminds me of Paris. Yes, the irony of a poster for a British-run restaurant reminding me of Paris... Over the years we've been to Willi's 6 or 7 times and have always been pleased with both the meal as well as (for Tom) the reminder of the link to New Jersey.

*Maxine ordered what sounded like 'goat' the other day and got 'cod' instead. No bad intentions on anyone's part. We just misunderstood the English pronounciation of the French waitress.

Sunday Maxine, D, and I went someplace differend, to "dinner at Jim's". Here's an article that describes the dinners: We'd read about these dinners, oddly enough, in the United Airlines flight magazine 10+ years ago and Maxine put the article into her "France" file (which is between the "Finland" and the "Germany" files -- she has good travel files!). When we were in Paris 8 years ago we went, cautiously at first. We really enjoyed it. What happens is that he organizes Sunday night dinners at his place, somewhere between 50 and 80 people, 'bulk' food (as opposed to individually ordered dinners), and the widest span of English language conversations and people you could imagine! Plus, Jim is really an interesting character as you can see from his website. At this past Sunday's dinner we talked to a 23 year old French structural engineering student, a retired guy from Philadelphia, an Alsatian-Parisian woman (who Maxine ran into again Tuesday at a completely different type of event), and many others.

Monday our friend D helped us out by accompanying us on the bus from our apartment over to the Eiffel Tower. We wanted some pictures of Maxine, Tom and Cassie in front of it. You can see some of the results in this entry! Cassie has become a real trouper. The process of travelling outside the neighborhood with her goes like this: We walk her on her leash to the bus stop, open up her bag and she hops in as fast as she can move. I carry her onto the bus and ride with her in her bag on my lap. When we get to our destination we open the bag back up and pull her out -- she's both shy and comfortable in the bag and would prefer staying in it to facing whatever 'world' awaits her at our latest destination. However, we get such a kick out of taking her out in Paris that we have occasionally been making her part of our excursions!

Tuesday morning we said goodbye to D. In the evening Maxine & I went two different directions. She went to a knitting group organized by our new friend V (Tom had been to V and B's for dinner while Maxine was in Provence). One of the 12 people there was the Alsatian-Parisian woman we'd met on Sunday! Tom went to Notre Dame for the first concert of the fall season at the church ( It was pretty extraordinary to hear a concert inside Notre Dame, with a choir of 30 and music from both an orchestra and the church organ overhead!

Wednesday evening we decided once more to treat Paris like home -- Maxine made dinner and we've spent the evening reading and catching up.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Provence Photos -- Maxine & D Return From Cooking School

Isle sur la Sorgue

Maxine & D on the Pont d'Avignon


Maxine at Gordes

Pont d'Avignon

Goult (view across from the restaurant where they were staying)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Various Observations

At the risk of yet one more mention of food, here goes. Walking the other day, I found a small Italian grocery store. In their window they had 9 different fresh, probably handmade, pastas for sale. The Italian grocery by us (Marche St. Germain) usually has 4. They looked pretty compelling.

Also, the chocolate makers have started to put out displays of their 'automne' chocolates. I'm not yet sure if, in the chocolate world, autumn flavors are different than summer ones. I know that there are seasonal differences in beers -- but they are cast into fall shapes like mushrooms. I'll do some research on flavors...

On a different subject, whenever I launch Yahoo Mail, Yahoo pops up an advertisement to 'click here' and participate in the American green card lottery (Yahoo can tell from the IP address assigned to my internet traffic that I am in France). I understand from someone that I met here -- an Italian, living in Paris, who wants to move to the US -- that some portion of immigration slots are given via this sort of lottery. I would have thought that immigration was done in a more considered way than a lottery -- maybe some portion of it is?

On another subject, it is interesting to discover the pervasiveness of English. First off, we are living in an area with lots of Americans and tourists. So, we cannot help but hear at least some English as we walk down the street. It also makes it extremely easy to deal with shopkeepers -- they humor us as we try to speak French, and often switch immediately to English. However, even outside of this area, the French see things in English every day. For example, there is an advertisement on the metro to go to the "wall street english school" (or something like that). We saw a French boy the other day wearing a Torrey Pines (San Diego) sweatshirt. There are lots of logo'd items in English. There are at least 3 English language bookstores within a 10 minute walk of our apartment. What I find interesting is twofold. First, that over Maxine's & my 20+ years of travel, we've found more and more done in English. Second, I suspect that in Los Angeles I could go many months without any direct reminders of 'things french' -- or reminders of specific other languages/cultures as well (aside from those that have been incorporated into American culture.

One other comment about speaking French. My language skills, such as they are, are enough to converse in restaurants, ask for specific help, read museum notes, etc. I've come to realize that all of this is context specific. I was at the post office yesterday buying stamps and someone was sitting in the corner talking loudly to himself (or at least he was being ignored -- maybe he was the postmaster?). I couldn't understand what he was saying and it occurred to me that he could as easily be reading names from the phone book as asking for money or commenting on Chirac's administration. Without context it is difficult at this stage of my learning.

Final observation for this blog. The other day I went by the bookstore Shakespeare & Co. Twelve years ago Maxine & came through Paris and I stopped there to buy some books. As I was fumbling through my pockets for money to pay him, the owner told me not to bother, that I was in all the time, and I could just pay him next time I was there. The reality is that this was my first visit, I hadn't been there before, and I was leaving the next day. But, the conversation was a very powerful one for me. It started me on a path of WANTING to be someone who was in there all the time, etc. I feel luckier than I can begin to express to be in that situation years later. And, I thank the owner, George Whitman, for planting the seed!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Busy Sunday Night

With Maxine in Provence attending a cooking school for the week, I needed to find my own entertainment. Here's what I did Sunday night, between 6PM and 11PM.

Took Cassie for a walk... She made friends with a Cocker Spaniel... The Spaniel's owner said Cassie was "magnifique".

Attended a concert at a church built in the 12th century. The soprano sang a variety of classic compositions including Ave Maria.

Attended the last 1/2 hour of a candlelit slide show on the history of Notre Dame Cathedral... The screen for the slideshow was at the altar of Notre Dame.

Saw the Eiffel Tower lit up like a Christmas tree in the distance with thousands of flickering bulbs.

Walked home along the Seine river.

Had a Grand Marnier crepe made while I waited... Ate it outside the cafe where Hemingway & Sartre used to go.

Paris -- Apparently A City Of Festivals

This weekend we (I) went to two festivals sponsored by the city of Paris. The first was the Montmartre Harvest Festival and the second was Nuit Blanche. More on both of these is a moment.

Some activities and observations since the last post:
1. I saw a man who otherwise looked like he was in good health fall to the ground in either a heart attack or a seizure on Saturday. (He was quickly helped by passers-by who made him comfortable and called for an ambulance). This is the 2nd near-death situation I've observed here in 5 weeks (see earlier blog entry). My point obviously isn't that more people take ill here in Paris. Rather, being in a city is just a very different experience than living in a place like LA which is one big suburb.
2. I saw a Smart Car parked wheels toward the curb Saturday AM. Check out what they look like here ( ). Smart Cars are Mercedes' launch of a very small urban car. They are so small that when you look at one you can conceive of it being parked wheels into the curb (versus cars typically parked wheel to wheel with other cars AGAINST the curb). It was funny to see an owner who had actually done it!
3. Maxine & I ran into a 3rd person we knew the other day on the street. (Not someone we'd arranged to meet, but someone who we were surprised to see). I've read that Paris is the smallest European capital in geographic area. We continue to experience that, running into English-language people we've met while here.
4. In the category of dogs living well here -- I saw a dog in a shoe store the other day. Presumably he was tolerantly waiting while his owner shopped...
5. Saturday Cassie & I made (without Maxine who is travelling -- more later) our weekly trip to the park at the Seine River (so she could run off leash on grass) and to the American Library (so I could stock up on more books).

Festival One -- Montmartre Harvest
Maxine, D, and I went to this festival Friday night. It's up the hill where the community of Montmartre and also Sacre Coeur church are. The event was mostly a food festival -- there were probably 50 booths with small producer foods, wines, cheeses, candies, etc. from various areas. The official purpose of the festival is the annual launch of the Montmartre wine (they make about 500 bottles from a hillside vineyard a few blocks away), but it seems to have expanded to being an event to attract people to come visit Montmartre. The photo (with ribbon in hand) is of the mayor of Montmartre (each of the Paris arrondisements has its own mayor, along with there being a city-wide mayor) officially starting the festival.

Interestingly, in the brochure about the festival they mention a role within the city of Paris government -- coordinator of Festivals. That seems like a great thing! I like the idea of the city working at having a variety of interesting things going on for the residents (and for us tourists!)

Festival Two -- Nuit Blanche
Here's the link:

This is the fifth annual. Nuit Blanche means "White Night" and the festival is about art and staying up all night. I went to about 8 different art expositions (check the URL if you are interested in the details of the art). Mostly what Nuit Blanche struck me as was both an excuse for Parisians to stay up all night (I left at midnight -- some were just arriving), and another festival for the city! To me the most interesting art display was an instrumental (rock?) band playing on an elevated platform, illuminated by large neon lighting tubes, against the side of the Hotel de Ville (the city center), a very classic grand building. The contrast in styles was great!!!

Saturday Maxine & D caught the TGV (fast train) to Avignon and rented a car to head to their cooking class in Provence. I'll share info on her trip when she returns. For now, know that my editor is gone! Typos and grammar mistakes are mine! Cassie & I are here in Paris.

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