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Au Revoir, Paris

Our last day was here, sadly.  We had a plan to see all that we had left to see, and we were going to make it happen.

Hopped a la metro to Notre Dame to finally climb the towers (fyi: no hunchbacks in sight, but lots of fallen arches…).  It didn’t cost us anything, thanks to our Musee Pass, but we did have to sign up for a tour.  Had about 90 minutes to kill, so we wandered over to Ile St Louis, which we really hadn’t explored yet.  Saw lots of cute shops (still no souvenirs), and had espresso and a crepe (just butter and sugar — sublime) at La Chaumiere (no website), right in the other side of the bridge.  Weather was gorgeous: finally we were in shirt sleeves!

Trekked back to the cathedral and started climbing.  Strategically placed myself in front of someone older than me so I wouldn’t slow them down — I was done.  We had put in a lot of miles on this trip (more on that later).  The views of Paris were amazing.  Once again it was awesome being able to point out where we had been.  Up there we realized that although it felt like we had seen a lot, we really hadn’t scratched the surface of Paris (guess we have to go back).

 

We went up farther still, seeing inside the bell tower (those suckers are big):

HWSNBN had heard something about the oldest tree in the world, and it turns out it it was right below us, so we went over.  It’s really NOT the oldest tree, but it was planted in 1600, which is pretty darn cool.

From above in the towers we noticed a super cute little building which happened to be around the corner form the tree.  That led us to a fun shop full of things made by artisans and available nowhere else, called Pays De Poche (https://www.yelp.com/biz/pays-de-poche-paris). Really cool shop with one of the kind things — found some souvenirs, and the great shopkeeper directed us over to the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore (https://shakespeareandcompany.com/) where we were successful once again!

Now it was time to hop back onto the metro to head to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.  Wandered a bit when we arrived to find some lunch.  Most places were closing (many restaurants close at 2 then reopen for dinner), but nabbed a table at Coquelicot  (http://www.coquelicot-montmartre.com/en/), a bakery/cafe which was only open for breakfast and lunch.  Sat outside in the sun and actually got HOT, which was wonderful.

This part of Montmartre we liked.  The rest was too crowded and touristy.  I took the funicular up to Sacre Coeur, while HWSNBN didn’t want to wait.  I was fine waiting if it didn’t mean any more stairs! The church was pretty, the view terrific.  But I think we were burning out at this point.  I had to use the bathroom, so we stopped at the super touristy Place de Tertre square.  Grabbed a beer then got out of there.

To further the touristy feel, we hiked over for the obligatory photo of Moulin Rouge.  Lovely sex shops everywhere, who seemed to cater to middle eastern and German patrons.  Odd.

Metroed home to pack a bit, shower then head out for our last night. I wanted to get near the Eiffel Tower one last time.  We decided to take a chance, and whaddya know: no line, and we got to go up finally! Champagne and views, lights and love.  Kinda perfect.

Starving, we decided to uber back to our neighborhood hopingto find a restauarnt still serving food at midnight on a Tuesday.  We tried the Montogueil, a cool area blocks from our house (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187147-d208054-Reviews-Rue_Montorgueil-Paris_Ile_de_France.html).  We’d been there a few times already, and always found something interesting. There was one place left open: Bianco (https://www.yelp.com/biz/bianco-paris-2).  Poured me a huge glass of wine, HWSNBN a G and T, and we settled in to recap our week.

We tried to keep it going, knowing that when we left we had to go home and pack.  But we had done Paris, and Paris had done us.  Au Revoir, City of Lights! Thank you for dispelling the myths that Parisians are all rude, hate Americans and smoke incessantly.  We will be back.

Side note:

according to my fitbit, during our trip we climber 281.05 floors, an walked 70.04 miles or 170, 136 steps.  Yes.  We were tired.

The Heat (and hunt) Is On

Today was our second to last day, so we had to start to make decisions: what MUST we still do? And what in the world will we buy as souvenirs?

Finally hit the Marais, a twisty-street neighborhood full of shops, restaurants and art — in galleries, and on walls.  I love fun graffiti.  Paris is full of it — especially the pac-mans you see high up on street corners.

Started with a cappucino at the Place des Vosges, considered one of the prettiest squares in Europe.  Have to say I agree!

IMG_8671

Had brunch at a recommended crepe place — Cafe Breizh (https://breizhcafe.com/fr/).  Guess others read the same guidebook, as it was packed minutes after opening with English speakers.  But it wasn’t touristy, and I would say my first buckwheat crepe was a success.

We were going to visit the Musee Picasso, but it was Monday so it was closed.  Which reminded us: the Louvre is closed Tuesdays, so we revamped our itinerary and added it to the afternoon plans. Enjoyed meeting a few dogs, including these Westies who seemed a little confused at seeing mirror images of one another, and this darling shop dog who greeted us so happily:

Headed to the Ile de Cite, to finally see the inside of Notre Dame, which did not disappoint.

Kudos to this guy, who had the unofficial job of rearranging all the offering candles at Notre Dame:

Wanted to head up the tower, but couldn’t get a spot for hours, so decided to tack that on to the Tuesday plan, ans metro-ed to the Louvre, which was way more crowded than the last time we went.  And hot.  And poorly planned — exit signs are rather arbitrary, we found.  And the women’s bathroom was planned with chaos in mind.  But hey: it’s the Louvre, so everything is at least cool to look at!

Back home for a rest and shower, then headed back to Ile de Cite for a stunning Seine river cruise on Vedettes du Pont Neuf (http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/home/).  If we had done the cruise 30 minutes prior we would’ve watched the sunset, but being there for the first evening’s lighting of the Eiffel Tower was a great trade off.  First time we’d been cold however: got windy on that top deck.  Heartily recommend book-ending this trip like we did: bike tour up front, and river cruise at the end.  Helped us both plan and remember everything.

Dinner afterwards in the Latin Quarter.  Had French Onion Soup and Beef Bourgingnon at Chex Fernand (http://www.chezfernand-guisarde.com/), then metro-ed home, exhausted. Tomorrow is our last day… and we still haven’t bought a thing.

TGIF in F

Something about getting a pain du chocolat and drinking espresso in a Paris cafe.  You just feel more chic — even with le powdered sugar all over your shirt.

That’s how we kicked off Friday in Paris.  It was so sunny and beautiful — we were warned of a late afternoon shower, but the morning was glorious. Hopped the metro (BTW the metro pass is a brilliant way to save time and euros) and headed south. It was a totally different area for us — not touristy at all (and hilly). On our way we bumped into what is so far my favorite church: St Etienne du Mont (http://www.saintetiennedumont.fr/).  This church is dedicated to St Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.  It was so beautiful, and maybe becasue it wasn’t on my “list” it was a delight. I am a sucker for a curved marble staircase — it just seems so hard to make!

Just a block further and we reached our first official stop: The Pantheon (http://www.paris-pantheon.fr/).  Like so many things in Paris, it was begin by a king as a church (in this case King Louis XV vowed to build a shrine to St Genevieve if he survived an illness — he did!), but after the revolution kingly stuff was a no-no, and churches weren’t awfully welcome, either.  Napoleon saved this one and many more by making them government buildings.  He’s kind of a big deal here (more on that in the next post).

Stepping outside the Pantheon we were wowed by a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower.  Headed in that direction but first a stop at the Jardin de Luxembourg (http://www.senat.fr/visite/jardin/index.html). So nice to see things blooming — trees, flowers, people’s attitudes — especially knowing that home is about to get hit with snow.  From there it was off looking for a shop that sounded cool. We hadn’t shopped at al yet, and Gab and Jo sounded like a great place to get un-touristy-souvenirs.  Alas, it was closed, so we meandered down the street for a little wine and lunch. Found a table street side called Le Pre Aux Clercs (http://www.restaurant-preauxclercs.com/) Shared two apps and a salad, and had bread on all of them. Only the French would throw a slice of toast on a salad, and still look thin! Our next-door-table mates had a charming baby.  Children are the great ice breaker while travelling: an elderly French woman stopped to chat with the American parents, exclaiming the child’s cuteness, then, of course, giving advice.  In any language, a mom can tell when another mom says she is doing it wrong (in this case the piece of bread the baby had was too big. Sigh).

After lunch I tried the shop again, but it was still closed.  So we headed to our goal location: the Musee D’Orsay.  This museum, housed in a gorgeous old train museum, takes over where the Louvre leaves off, and is packed with Renoir, Degas, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh and more.  Gorgeous, of course. Our downloaded Rick Steve’s app helped us meaningfully meander!

Then we rushed home to clean up before our 5pm Wine Tasting class at O Chateau (http://o-chateau.com/).  A great thing to do if you visit Paris — I mean, we know a lot about wine, but French wines? Nothing.  There were more than 20 of us in a cool room, letting Olivier preach.  Tried 6 wines and left sufficiently schooled.  Biggest things we learned: the French name wines after regions, not grapes (or Chablis, not Chardonnay) and if you want fruitier more full bodied wines, get them from places where there is lots if sunshine.

After dinner we hit the Louvre (tip: it’s open ate Weds and Fri so no lines).  We were able to get up close and personal very easily with the Mona Lisa, and enjoyed seeing a lot more,  Might go back on our last day (with the awesome Musee Pass we can go back for free anytime).  The sunset as we left was gorgeous!

Wandered off, and found Willli’s bar (http://www.williswinebar.com/willis-wine-bar-paris.html).  Gotta love a bar named after a dog — a mutt no less.  Had a great conversation with our British bar tender and an Australian patron about the friendliness of bars in different countries (we have still yet

to experience the dreaded French pissy attitude).

Should’ve gone to bed, but it’s vaca, so dinner at 10 makes sense,  A friend recommended L’Escargot on a great street near our place, Rue Montorgueil (http://escargotmontorgueil.com/).  Yes, I tried snails.  They were fine.  Not a big deal.

Thursday

We slept in — haven’t really felt jet lagged, thankfully.  But hadn’t slept in a while! So popped out of bed at 915, due to be at St Michel fountain in the Latin Quarter at 1015 for a bike tour.  I totally recommend doing a bike tour in a big city, as it’s a great way to get an overview, learn some details/secrets/suggestions, and you cover tons of ground without wearing out your feet (although my knees didn’t dig the biking, but it was worth it).  We looked like crazy tourists even to the other tourists: no jackets for us, as it felt tropical at cloudy and low 60s to us winter-hardened Minnesotans. Dana was our tour guide for our Blue Fox bike ride (https://www.bluefox.travel/paris/) . We went around Notre Dame, along the Seine past the d’Orsay (on our list to see today), near Hotel des Invalides, by the Eiffel tower (can I just say catching glimpses of it for the first time was fricking rad?), back on the other side of the Seine to the Place de la Concord (seeing the Obelsik in my 7th grade French textbook was what made me fall in love with the idea of Paris), to the Louvre and back to the Ile de Cite.

Picked up our 6 day Musee Pass, and headed to Sainte-Chapelle. I was worried that it wouldn’t be as breath-taking as advertised, as it was a drizzly day, but it was glorious.  This stained glass masterpiece is not to be missed. Then we needed a wine break, so went to Bar du Caveaux (http://www.barducaveau.fr/), a tiny little spot in a charming triangle (not even a square).  Fortified by wine bread and cheese, we visited the Conciergerie (where Marie Antoinette and thousands of other prisoners awaited their fate during the Revolution, http://www.paris-conciergerie.fr/)  and the Crypte Archeologique (pieces of the original France, with arufacts walls, coins, etc http://www.crypte.paris.fr/).

Had hoped to hit Notre Dame but line was too long and we were pressed for time.  Hopped onto the metro, showered and relaxed, then it was off to dinner.

Amabassade d’Auvergne was our destination ( http://ambassade-auvergne.fr/fr/).  I had learned about aligot in a recent book, and when I heard they served it at this restauarnt I was all in.  It’s like the ultimate cheesy mashed potatoes — so smooth and elastic — think stringy mozzarella, but with potatoes.  Damn that was good.  I had mine with truffle, and beef steak and marrow bone. HWSNBN had his plain with sausage.  For dessert it was pear poached in red wine. Le yum!

Wandered back through the Montorgueil in the misty rain, and stopped again at Hoppy Corner for a beer before bed.  Place was, well, hopping. Then we hopped off to bed!

The plan for Friday: Latin Quarter, St Germain, wine tasting and the Louvre!

Voyage a Paris Days 1-3 (I think)

It’s hard to know how to count the days of a vacation when you leave on one day but arrive on the next…got into Paris yesterday about 4pm, so I guess we have technically been here less than a day? So far so good, with only minor glitches.

MSP airport was totally empty, which was weird.  We arrived with HWSNBN on the defensive though, and irritated because for some reason Delta wouldn’t recognize him (don’t you know who I am?) online and wouldn’t give us free bags or pre-check.  So had to line up and ask — and they were so helpful (a theme so far on this trip).  Made sure we were getting our miles, and fixed everything up so his feathers were unruffled.  Flew through security (thank you Clear) and settled into a bar seat.  Beer in hand, we said goodbye to to do lists and hello to “what should we do next?” lists.

Tried to sleep but failed completely (fitbit clocked me at 1 1/2 hours total).  I seriously think I am getting restless leg syndrome, and a tight airplane seat for 7 plus hours did not help.

Our Amsterdam layover was pretty short, so we were hustlin’ not shufflin’ from gate to gate.  Did a quick self transfer, and it said we had missed our flight — which wasn’t scheduled to take off for an hour and a half.  A quick check with the friendly airplane staff (in their cute bright blue uniforms) and they smiled at us and said you are fine! Your gate is right over here! Another grumpy HWSNBN moment suppressed.

He did keep trying to be grumpy — every line made him irritated.  He kept looking at his phone, cantankerously commenting on how no one would leave him alone (I reminded him that if he didn’t look at it he wouldn’t know, to which I received the patented HWSNBN side eye.)

The airport in Master dam reminded me of an Ikea store.  Every time I tried to read a sign I felt the urge to grab an allen wrench.  Other highlights: a darling tea shop where you sat in replica Delft tea cups (I wondered if they spun a la Disneyland), a Bombay Sapphire booth that made me think of mom, and a tulip shop that made me giddy with thoughts of spring (yes, I know, supposed to get several more inches of snow in Minnesota this weekend.  But a girl can dream!

The flight to Paris was 45 minutes — passed the time trying to read French magazines and listening to Rick Steves’ recordings.  AND THEN WE WERE IN FRANCE!

Within minutes I saw someone in a beret, so that was cool.  Bags in hand, we passed through the easiest customs check everywhere — no looking at passports, just a quick Bon Jour! Where are you from and how long will you be staying and we were on our way to the metro. The chill attitude toward security in this country is ironically juxtaposed with all the army folks toting automatic weapons.  Today my bag was going through a security check, but the guy was chatting the whole time with the next person in line.  Never even looked at the screen.

Some advice: I asked to buy a week long metro pass.  I got one, but it started 2 days prior.  So I am guessing  they run Mon-Mon, but I think we were only charged for 5 days.  I think.  And it was totally reasonable — like $25 for unlimited metro rides.  But if you are coming here and plan to get a metro pass, bring a passport picture, as you have to have one on your pass.  Had to wait in line a bit at a kiosk to obtain one — and let me tell ya: you do NOT want a photo of yourself after being up all night on two planes and haven’t slept for about 30 hours…

We helped an English family who didn’t have change for the machine, then HWSNBN was thrilled to be able to use is Spanish to help a Spanish couple understand how the passes work.  (he keeps trying to speak Spanish instead of French.  If we thought the Italians didn’t appreciate years ago, the French find it even less amusing).

I had a handy-dandy metro app that gets us easily from point A to B –when the trains are working.  We hit a glitch when you couldn’t transfer where we wanted to.  And oh yeah: no elevators or escalators in most metros, so lugging big suitcases kinda sucked.

We were late to check in to our apartment, so the guy meeting us told us he’d be back after helping another client.  HWSNBN had serious frown lines at this point, so I suggested a bar we had passed.  It was one that I had already learned about during my trip research — Hoppy Corner( https://www.facebook.com/hoppycorner/) Had a great IPA called the Denis Hopper (get it?).  Before we finished that the bartender brought is over a sample of another beer, and a bowl of barley (that was different) to snack on.  People told me service here sucked: I have yet to see that.  very bar/restaurant we have been to they have brought s extras without us mentioning it — a taste of this, a sample of that.  Very cool.

(BTW: the man bun is flourishing in Paris.  Thought they were ahead of the times stylistically, but guess not!)

Finally got into our apartment, a one bed, 1 1/2 bath place in the 2nd Arrondisement.  Comfy bed, old creaky floors, what more can a gal want (a second electrical adapter, because someone only brought one…)  http://www.parislondonapartments.com/rentals/allrentals/paris-2nd-arrondissement-aboukir/

Quick shower and change and we were off to dinner. We ate at a neighborhood place called Bistrot Richelieu (http://bistrotrichelieu.com/en/home/).  First for me was onion soup (funny, they don’t call it French here…),  then a duck breast in plum sauce while HWSNBN had roasted lamb.  So yummy!

Then we wandered…this city is stunning.  It is everything I wanted it to be — people carrying baguettes, wrought iron balconies on vanilla covered balconies, saucy dogs being walked by people in scarves, a museum on every corner…

Exhausted as we were, I couldn’t crash yet.  I pointed out another bar/restaurant I had researched, right next door to our place, the Lockwood. (http://www.lockwoodparis.com/bar/) Gotta love a plce that hangs it’s liquor bottles from the ceiling with bungee cords. (HWSNBN liked it for it’s full page of gin and tonic options).  I had a funky version of a Margarita, made with mezcal.  I could drink that all day — smoky, refreshing, delicious.  Chatted with the waitress about it and she brought us a sample of just the mezcal — that was it for us.  We were done.

Slept well that night!

I was going to talk about today, but I have to go get ready for dinner.  Guess it’ll have to wait for another day — bon soir!

 

 

What I Love

80s Hair Metal

Unexpected compliments

Making people laugh

Hearing babies laugh

Cheese

People with differing opinions listening to each other, respecting those differences and learning from them

The way my son now wants to go to theater with me

The way he loves his girlfriend

The way my daughter loves her boyfriend

Makeup

Madeline Island

Scolding my husband and my BFF for being too silly together (the time they almost knocked the tree over, though…)

Getting Christmas cards

First flowers blooming in spring

My new car

Sweatpants

The full moon

When my nail polish stays on

People’s reactions when I hand them puppies at a puppy party

Game night

Planning travel

Books and the people who read them (shout out to my book club!)

Food and the people who eat it (shout out to my Gourmet Club)

Volunteering and the people who make it happen (shout out to my Senior Party staff!)

Dogs and the people who save them (shout out to Secondhand Hounds)

My husband’s commitment to French lessons with me, even though he hates it

Taking off my bra at the end of the day

Wine with my girlfriends

Cheese

That I forgot I’d already said cheese, which kinda shows my true feelings

The smell of asphalt after a rain

The Oscars

Historical dramas on BBC

Seeing a formerly traumatized dog become what it was meant to be, and finding the perfect forever home

The sound of a champagne cork

Crossing stuff off my list

Making a new list

The way my daughter teaches me things

The way my dad still says I love you, even though he isn’t sure who I am #fuckAlzheimers

That my mom still wants to help me every day in every way

That I am still in contact with friends made when I was a toddler (thank you Facebook)

That people who I used to fear/be intimidated by/look up to/have massive crushes on in high school have become my friends (social media plus time: the great equalizers)

Discovering new links on Ancestry.com

Not caring if people think I am weird

Being recognized for my accomplishments

Hair dye (shout out to Chelsea at Spalon Montage)

My Vegas group (shout out to the Unicorn Poop Squad)

Online shopping

Mom and Pop stores

People who don’t untag themselves from photos

That my son asks me for advice — even when the subject matter makes my butt  cheeks clench

40 degrees in February

Puzzles

Lake Tahoe

Watching the parents of Olympic athletes realize it was all worth it

Sunsets over the water with a glass of Chardonnay

A clean house

All the laundry done

Cooking for my family

Having them all there to eat it

Having a long, hot roll … at craps

Free champagne in Vegas!

Massages

Surprises

Someone else planning everything, rather than asking me what I want to do

Big fat scary pitbulls that are really lapdogs who want to give kisses and receive pets

My dog’s patience as a foster-trainer

The “unfollow this post” button on Facebook

Being retweeted

Having random people in cities I am visiting decide I am the bomb and follow me on instagram

Being a fly on the wall during fun school activities

The pile of shoes near the door when there are kids in the house

Watching Singer Girl do her thing

The look on a family’s face when they take home a newly adopted, once-my-foster dog

That my kids both bring soup to their significant others when theya re sick

My kids righteaous indigantion over the mistreatment of others

Doing new things

That my husband remembered that one of my dreams has been to dance on the Champs Elysees on my birthday — so is taking me there for my 50th

Sailor Boy wanting to be the party host (gets it from his mama, ya know)

Everyone’s excitement about my annual Halloween party

My friends’ disappointment when I can’t host Dec 23rd

Dressing up for any and all holidays and events, whether it means black tie or bunny ears

Knowing that my kids have amazing lives in front of them

Knowing that I have an amazing life in front of me

And did I mention cheese?

Enjoy all that you love this Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shoes might not fit, so you HAVE to acquit!

A lifetime ago, I was quite the shopper.  Now I avoid buying stuff for myself, as I hate the way I look in clothes.  I have put off shopping “until I lose some weight” for about a decade — except for special occasions and events.  It takes a lot of time to find something that doesn’t want me to weep, and frankly I just don’t want to devote days on end to the torture.  Every time I do I remind myself I should be on the treadmill, not the mall escalator (which, you may recall, I deeply fear, so yeah to THAT double torture).

But we are going on a super romantic, bucket list trip to Paris in April, and I need to get started.  So I am focusing on things that won’t matter if I don’t shed the recommended 50 pounds by April.  Got a chic raincoat (thanks, mom, for helping me there!), and a highly rated umbrella (not sexy, but necessary).  Last week I turned to a combo of fashion and function: shoes!

I have crappy feet, but ADORE heels. I have had my big toe joints surgically rebuilt on both feet, and my doctor frowns on my unhealthy attraction to pointy toed 4 inch stilettos.  Sadly, with the surgeries and weight gain, my feet aren’t real happy with me either.  But I refuse to wear orthopedic shoes on the Champs Elysees.

So I hit the internet, searching for suggestions on shoes that will let me comfortably walk the hills of Sacre Coeur without people thinking I’m an escaped nun.  Found tons of suggestions, and hit Zappos.  I am a proficient internet shopper, and have no problem massively over-ordering then returning.  I know that 85% of the shoes I chose will hurt my feet.  So I bought A LOT.

I also am home during the day when my husband is not and I tend to track packages.  I am not exactly hiding the purchases from him because, as I said, it’s almost all going back.  So don’t think I’m an evil-sneaky devil woman, or that he is some purse-strings controlling neanderthal. But he finds my methods madness, and it’s best to shield him from some things, like the cost of my hair color or his children’s dating questions.

Back to the shoes.

My boxes were supposed to arrive today.  They did.  But not at our current home; instead, they arrived at our old address.  How do I know this? Because one of my husband’s co-workers bought our old house, and sent him an email, including this note: “One of the boxes is pretty large so didn’t want (Donni) to worry they were lost.”

I think I will be in trouble. Not just, “it’s more than one box,” or “the box was big.”  No: ONE of the boxes was pretty large.” So no hiding that — the guy is gonna bring them TO THE OFFICE tomorrow.  HWSNBN is going to have them at his desk all freaking day.  He is going to be tripping over them, explaining to co-workers that his wife has a shopping problem.

I am screwed.

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