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...

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.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Paris Becoming A Zen Experience

We've been here for 33 days now, which in dog-terms means 100 trips to the park across from Saint Sulpice church! There's a Zen saying (which I am sure I am mangling) saying 'before enlightenment you do the laundry, then enlightenment comes, then you go back to doing the laundry'. How does this semi-Zen saying apply to us in Paris? This morning I took Cassie for her AM walk and as usual we went to Saint Sulpice. The things I noticed on this particular morning were the construction crane 18 stories up renovating the church, and that street sweepers (think Zamboni machines) clean the area in front of the church. Somehow I missed the fact that I was in front of Saint Sulpice church, one of the more interesting ones in Paris, and that people make a special trip to see this. I'll try to reopen my eyes!

We've had friends visiting. Maxine's friend D arrived yesterday -- the two of them are going to Provence this coming week long cooking class. The night before we had J&L over. They'd just come from Provence where they'd met Peter Mayle. Our friend interviewed him because the movie based on his book "A Good Year", with Russell Crowe, is coming out this month. (Peter Mayle has also written "A Year In Provence").

Another 'dogs life' story. This morning when I was out with Cassie we passed a cafe with a half dozen guys inside having a morning coffee, and a yellow lab too.

Yesterday I went to the City of Paris Modern Art Museum (city museums are always free). One of the pictures on this blog post (Eiffel Tower) is from there. The other art sight there that I particularly enjoyed -- alone worth the effort of visiting the museum -- were 2 Matisse dance paintings. They are each are about 80 feet wide by 20 feet high. The photo (on this posting) of the one with pink has been with the city of Paris since it was done in the 1930's. The other one, "Dance Interrupted", had been rolled up and forgotten until 1992.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Free Museum Sunday

Even the plants eat well here in France -- only meat for them!

Actually, I saw this shop on the way to "The Academy of Beer" where I went for lunch. In LA, over the summer I took up beer making as a hobby (have made and bottled 2 batches). Joining a club, the Maltose Falcons, has educated me about different beer flavors and the ways in which smaller brewers can make things that taste better/more distinctive than the large mass brewers! So, one of my food goals while here is to taste some interesting beers. There's a brewpub 2 blocks from our apartment, but Maxine & I weren't impressed. So, I'm in search of other places to get good beer. The "Academy" isn't a brewer, but they have about 20 French, 50 Belgian, and assorted other beers. They're a 15 minute walk from the apartment so I went there today for lunch ---- avoiding the meat eating plants along the way!

This is one of the "41 most important pieces in the Louvre" -- more on that in the text lower in this entry.

This is the table at the restaurant we went to for Maxine's 50th birthday.

This is Venus de Milo's rear end. I actually took the picture because I was more interested in the number of people taking pictures of a sculpture!

The first Sunday of each month the national museums in France have free admittance so I took advantage of it and spent Sunday at the Louvre. I was there for around 5 hours. The museum is more enormous than you could imagine, but they make it easy for you by printing a map of the entire place with tiny pictures of each of the 41 of their most important museum holdings. In what is purely a move at being compulsive, I'm planning on viewing each of the 41 items before we leave at the end of October. I'm half way there and my feet know it! It is a bit silly though to wander rapidly through this enormous museum looking only for 41 specific things -- sort of like a scavenger hunt through centuries of art! But, it's all I can do!

P.S. That picture above wasn't the restaurant Maxine & I went to, it was from "Napoleon's Apartment" -- each of the 3 Louvre pictures in this blog entry are among the '41'.

Friday With The Baker

I've mentioned in prior posts going to events organized as part of the ( french artisan program. So far, I've just talked about cheese guys, coffee roasters, and now bread makers. There are other choices -- we just haven't been to them yet.

Anyway, Friday we got to learn about what goes on in a combination boulangerie/patisserie. Most shops are either one of the other, but this one has been particularly successful and, starting with the boulangerie they also bought a patisserie next door. The boulangerie sells bread products, the patisserie sells sweets (chocolates, caramels, cakes, ice cream).

The important things to note about this particular shop are: 1. They make everything themselves including the sweets; 2. A few years ago they were judged as making the best baguette in Paris.
The baker/owner was great (the guy in the crew cut with the white smock on). In one of the photos you can see him explaining the differences in types of baguettes. For making the best one in Paris your store gets to supply the President's residence with them for the year (I assume that you get paid!). I wonder if anyone knows if the White House has any similar artisan programs???
The close up picture is of a tray of gold dusted chocolates. We went into the chocolate prep area as well as the freezer. Along with making the chocolates they make the ingredients that go in -- so, when you bite into an 'orange chocolate' or a 'banana and caramel chocolate' they built it up from scratch. It was interesting to see the slabs (about 12" square) of orange jelly they'd made.
The ice creams weren't photogenic so I don't have any pictures of them.
I wanted to point out especially the picture of the 'train'. Throughout Paris we've been seeing desserts (maybe it's just that I notice them more?) Quite a few are very intricate and it always had me wondering where they came from? Was there a Costco factory outside the city that made all of these cakes and pastries? I'll try to put up a few more photos of various other ones over time so you can see what I mean about how involved they look)? It turns out they are made by hand. So, that train is made by hand. It's about 2 feet long, the round things are individual 'puff pastries', etc. For a special occasion!

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