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...

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!

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