Marche Aux Puces

Marche6No, I did not just call you a bad name.  Marche aux puces translates to flea market in English.  There are several across Paris, but one of the largest in Europe can be found at Porte de Clignancourt in St. Ouen.  St. Ouen is on the outskirts of Paris, and a little rougher around the edges than the city center.

I’d visited the flea market a couple of times in the past, but I thought I’d return to get some gifts for friends and family.  What I didn’t realize is that I only peaked into the market in the past.  I had no idea of the passageways and maze of little dealers.

After rising form the metro, you can see some white tents in the distance.  If you walk that way, you will find cheap items such as jewelry, clothing, and every souvenir imaginable.  This is the only area I’ve really explored before.  I read that if you continue past that to Rue des Rosiers, you can find the antique dealers on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.

Rue des Rosiers?  That sounds familiar.  I’m pretty sure we tried looking for falafel one time in this area, but were unsuccessful considering the Rue des Rosiers that has falafel is in the Marais.

Once on this street, you will see signs for passages.  They all have different themes and price ranges.  The first one I entered, Vernaison, was my favorite because it was like the best garage sale: interesting items for affordable prices.  The next was elegant and beyond my budget.  Unfortunately, I had to leave early, so I didn’t get to see a couple of things I wanted to show on here, but at least you get the idea.

Day 31

StatueThank you so much to all of you that have been sending positive vibes towards my family.  I have to admit that I was pretty scared when I got the call from my dad that no one could reach my mom.  I feared the worse, but can once again be thankful for whoever seems to protect the ones I love.  My mom has a history of health concerns and bad falls, so I still fear the day that I get that call that it is over.  But today is not that day.

So, I’ve got this nervous energy, and I’m doing what seems logical to me.  I went down to Notre Dame to light a candle for my mom and my dad because he is always so strong.  Not only did he get the sense something was wrong, but he acted on it and rescued my mom.  Besides that he is taking care of my life at home so I can do what I am doing today.  I am beyond thankful for his selflessness.  I wish I could find a way to repay him.

Today was kind of odd.  I woke up ready to go, so I went over to my favorite boulangerie to get my baguette.  I’ve learned not to wait till Monday to get a baguette, because they probably won’t be open.  I dropped it off at my place then was back on my way.

While walking through Place des Vosges yesterday, I met an artist, and she recommended I come down to Montparnasse for the art fair.  Being the lover of art fairs that I am, I went.  For some reason the sun and humidity were really getting to me today.  It was only 85, but I was dying.  I found some refuge in the Montparnasse Cemetary.  I saw on the map that I could find Jean Paul Sartre and Man Ray.  Finding graves in such a condense cemetery is not easy.  Just as I was about to give up, I finally found Man Ray.  That seems to happen a lot.  I always wonder if I gave up sooner, would I find what I am looking for faster?  Probably not.

Ready for some beverage and caloric energy, I found a restaurant right across from Montparnasse.  Tajines seem to be all the rage lately, so I finally had a meal cooked in one.  My lunch started with a sampler plate of unique items I’d never had before.  My favorite was the fried wonton in the middle and the potatoes.  Then the tajine came out with steaming duck and figs.  On the side you can see the couscous.

I felt so beat after lunch that I gave in and just came home for a nap.  After feeling a little more rested, I went back out for dessert.  Kind of a relaxed Sunday.

Flâneur

22Flâneur is a French noun which means something along the lines of strolling.  It is probably my aunt Linda’s favorite French word.  The Italians have a similar word that applies to the evening stroll: Passeggiata.  There is something inviting about walking without a specific destination in mind.  Here you can see my captures from being a flâneur.  I started at my home in the Marais and followed the Seine to the Eiffel Tower.  As you can see, my photos are backwards…

Staying Close to Home

Place des Vosges 6I kept it local today.  Although today is Saturday (the Sabbath), and the Jewish Quarter is typically closed up, I was in the mood for a falafel.  Continuing my quest for the best one, I tried a new place called Chez Hanna.  It was good, but no one can top the number one contender yet.  I’ll share all the juicy details about the best falafel once I’ve finished conducting my research.

The Place des Vosges may be the best place to just hang out on a Saturday.  The sun was shining through the clouds onto the rosy colored bricks of the luxurious square.  I appreciated having a lazy Saturday.

While enjoying a wine at Cafe Hugo, an idea approached me.  You can see my mind working away in the table picture below.

Hanging in the ‘Burbs of Paris

GardensI wonder if anyone can guess where I went today…  I sure didn’t know it existed until I was there.  It all started with the hopes of a gourmet cheeseburger.  I’m not sure what it is about craving the beef sandwich, because I rarely order one at home.  For some reason, I appreciate the twist on an American favorite here.

Le Camion Gourmand is “the” food truck of Paris.  The name even evokes a sense of pride.  Surprisingly, they mostly serve the suburbs of Paris.  When a girl wants a burger, she gets her burger.  I viewed their site to see where they would be, and what I could do in that area.  My metro is line 1 which ends at La Defense in the west and Chateau de Vincennes to the east.  Who would have thought there is actually a chateau at Chateau de Vincennes?  Not me apparently.  Well, the name is more than an illusion, there actually is a middle-aged chateau there.  And it used to have a moat!

I followed the metro out to Montreuil for my food fix.  It is a very working class/business kind of district.  It is not quite as high-end as La Defense, but not scary either.  My sketchy photographic memory actually remembered the path to the truck, and I successfully found it without a hitch.  This is quite rare, so I usually have an internal celebration at my unsurpassed success.

The options are fairly simple because all that really changes is the cheese.  Being a big goat cheese fan, I ordered Le Seguin.  In between the bun you will find a delicate burger, caramelized onions, red onion, goat cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickle, and a sauce.  Who can have a burger without fries?  Not me.  I sat on a small post just a few feet away to savor my wonderful burger that was in a box like a present.  Too bad I didn’t have someone with me to finish what I could not.

Feeling like the biggest pig in Paris with my burger stenched fingers, I felt the need for a walk.  I knew the chateau was southeast, so I followed that direction.  I ran right into it.  I was on a roll today.  You can enter the grounds for free, but the chateau and church cost.  I was feeling a bit stingy today, so I just took in the exterior.  Across the way I saw something that intrigued me.  There was greenery, and lots of it.

Just on the other end of the Chateau was a floral park.  I spent a couple hours wandering the paths, smelling the flowers, and running away from the bees.  If you have not met me, you probably don’t know that I dislike insects and spiders.  Dislike is probably not the right word.  I am a child when a buzz sound gets too close.  I know it is ridiculous, but c’est la vie.

I felt like I was returning to my roots of photography because it all began with flowers.  I have thousands of photos, yet I still enjoy capturing a flower just right.  I wasn’t planning on walking much or taking many photos, so I lightened my load by only bringing my point-and-shoot, and not my DSLR or my video camera.  There was a group of guys with big cojones cameras.  I was a bit sad I didn’t bring my heavy equipment, but I was pretty pleased with what I captured today.  Plus, I know I can compete with their images any day.  Not that I was sizing up or anything…

Favorite moments of the day?  Having a desire and meeting it.  Finding new spaces along the way.  Drinking a wonderful wine of the month from Nicolas.  Sharing my photos and experiences with others.  Life is good.

Champagne Region in France

Glasses 2I’m sorry about only posting photos last night, but I was beat.  I even fell asleep while my pictures were loading.  Now that I am more rested, I’d like to share my day.

I was a lemming yesterday.  I signed up for a tour through Paris Webservices who booked my Reims and Champagne tour through Cityrama.  Some people have gone on many tours with this company, but I don’t think I will again.  I’ll explain why as I go.

We followed in line to the bus which resides under the Louvre.  How odd to think that under the Louvre is a big parking garage for tourist buses.  The three guides (one spoke in English, another in French, and the other in Japanese) encouraged us to go upstairs as we handed over our tickets.  We sat in the dark parking lot a few minutes after departure to wait for some late arrivals.  Then we were off to the Champagne region.

I thought it was interesting that the guides all sat on the bottom floor of the bus while all the tourists sat at the top.  I understand that the best views are on top, but it really takes away a personal connection when you can’t even see the person talking.  The scripted speeches of the three guides also takes away from the experience a little bit.

The ride was beautiful and quiet.  It seems that the air conditioning vents release sleeping gas because most of the bus was snoozing with necks bent in uncomfortable positions and mouths open.  I resisted the urge to sleep because I really wanted to see the countryside.

Our first stop was at Mumm (pronounced like mooom).  We went on a one hour tour of the cellars and tasted one champagne.  The tour of the cellar was okay, but it was challenging to understand the man, and he talked in a way that sounded as if we were boring him with our presence.  The cellar seemed very fabricated for a tour, and not authentic.  The tasting at the end was quite good.  I would have loved to try other cuvets.  Unfortunately, the price deterred me from purchasing a bottle.

From there we went into the town of Reims (pronounced Rance, like France without the F).  We had two hours to eat, and tour the city.  They offered a walking tour of the cathedral (you know the kind with a big flashy umbrella to visualize where the guide was located), but I was afraid that would take an hour, and then I’d only have an hour for lunch and exploration.  I picked up a guide in the cathedral and walked around.  I found the ornate facade and Chagall windows to be my favorite part of the church.  It really is a massive cathedral.  I tried to capture that in some of my photos, but I’m not sure if you can feel the scale of the building.

After that I started walking around the town.  I wanted to go to the Carnegie Library because I’m obsessed with libraries, but it was closed until 14:00 and we left at 13:40.  So, I started walking towards lunch and the main shopping area.  I read about a brasserie in Rick Steves that I wanted to find, and I finally did find it, but there were so many people.  I feared 45 minutes for lunch would not be enough.  I’m really getting used to my two hour lunches.  Instead I just picked up a sandwich and walked around the town more.  I’m a pretty anxious person, so I was eyeing my watch carefully to avoid being left in Reims.

After boarding the bus again, we drove through Champagne country to Epernay where we would have a tour and tasting at Moet & Chandon.  The tour was much more engaging even though similar information was presented.  The cave also felt very real with spider webs (yuck!) and water dripping onto the floor.  The tasting was good, but I preferred Mumm’s Cordon Rouge.

I knew I wasn’t going to buy anything, so I sneaked out to view the town of Epernay.  This is a town I think I would like to spend more time in.  When we were driving through I could see a small town atmosphere with lush gardens, and many cafes.  Next to Moet & Chandon is the Hotel de Ville with a sprawling garden space.  I would have liked more time, but we needed to get back to Paris.

Our Paris ride was supposed to take 2-2.5 hours.  With Paris traffic, it took more like 3.5 hours.  Some people were getting anxious to get off the bus, so they asked if they could hop off.  I quickly followed them, but was turned down.  I am just as bad as my students because when exceptions are made for some, I get upset.  I wouldn’t expect them to let people off, but when they let a few and not others, that is not fair.  I suppose I should stop pouting about that…

So, to summarize my day, I enjoyed the sights and the champagne tasting, but I wish I would have spent some time setting it up for myself rather than going with a tour company.  Or, I wish I would have spent more money for a smaller group experience.  I appreciated the convenience at the time, but sometimes a little more work proves to be worthwhile in the end.  I also have to admit I had an amazing tour and tasting of sparkling wine in Napa Valley, so it is kind of hard to top that experience.  At least now I can say I’ve had true champagne.

Top Things Learned:

-Champagne is an appellation (region where grapes are grown), and a sparkling wine can only legally be called champagne if it is from this region.

-Champagne goes through a double fermentation which creates the effervescence.

-Dom Perignon was a monk, and he made the first Champagne.

-Limestone is crucial for making champagne.  First, it creates the right soil conditions.  Second, the caves are made of limestone which keep the temperature at about 10-12 degrees Celsius all year round, and keep the humidity high.

-Champagne is the northern most wine growing region in France.  It has a mixture of continental and oceanic climates which creates 200 days of rain with cold winters and hot summers.

-Champagne is made with three grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonay, and Pinot Meunier.

-Pinot Noir and Minot Meunier are called black grapes because of their dark exterior.

-Chardonay is called a white grape because of its light exterior.

-Champagne is light in color because even dark grapes have light juices.

Have you had champagne?  Do you have any thoughts on Champagne vs. US sparkling wines?

I added a few new photos from yesterday to my previous album.  There were so many to go through…

If you are wondering why there are pictures of the Louvre in here, it is because I arrived for the tour early, so I walked around a bit.  The Louvre is even more beautiful when you can experience it by yourself.

Champagne Region in Photos

BottlesSorry for the laziness tonight, but I’m afraid this will just be a photo post for now.  I’ll add a post with information tomorrow.  Happy 4th of July to my American friends and family!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

–Declaration of Independence (Thomas Jefferson)

I hope you are pursuing your right to happiness.  I am, but it is exhausting, so I need to rest up to continue my pursuit.  Bonne nuit!

Village Montmartre

Sacre Coeur 7I’m becoming quite a Paris Walks aficionado.  This is my fourth tour, and not my last.  I’ve stayed in Montmartre before, but there is always more to be learned, and I enjoy increasing my brain power.  If you think to yourself, “I don’t like Montmartre.  It is so touristy and full of hagglers,” you are somewhat right.  If you trek up to Place du Tertre or the basilica you will find this version of Montmartre.  Just as with any place, there is always another side.  Today’s tour took us through the back streets to the Montmartre of artists like Van Gogh, Lautrec, Renoir, Utrillo, Modigliani, and Picasso.

The first thing you must know about visiting Montmartre is the secret about the Abbesses metro station.  TAKE THE ELEVATOR (unless you really love flights and flights of stairs).  I chuckle listening to others complain about the endless stairs because I have made the same mistake.  Save your energy for the other gluteus maximus busting hills and steps.

Our guide, Chris, was the funniest guide so far.  I appreciated his sarcasm and corny humor.  I think kids would even appreciate this tour.  I did.

Top Facts Learned:

-Van Gogh’s style developed in Montmartre.  He didn’t start painting till he was 27 (hey, that is my age!), and he died at 37.  He spent 6 years painting in the typical Flemish style and added light the last 4 years of his life.

-Van Gogh and Lautrec were good friends.

-Lautrec’s disorder stems from his parents being first cousins and a horseback riding accident that resulted in two broken legs which stopped growth.

-Lautrec wore a hat because his scull did not connect in the middle, creating a sensitive area.

-One of the elements that makes absinthe so addictive is the ritual of lighting the sugar cube and pouring the absinthe over it.

-Louise Weber started the can-can.  It is said that she was inventing a game with the gentlemen (who loved her).  The men had to sit absolutely still while she would kick off their hats as they lined up.  How radical of her to reveal her knickers.  At least she was wearing some…

-Papa Freddy owned the Lapin Agile cabaret.  Sometimes artists would pay for drinks with paintings.  He sold one Picasso for about $20.  That same painting sold for about $41 million in 1989.

-Although this one isn’t artist related, it is worth knowing.  Be careful at the base of Montmartre for men that will grab your arm and start wrapping a bracelet around your wrist.  Once they tie it on, they argue that you have to pay for it.  Just be firm, and if you see someone approaching, say no.  I feel so mean lately, but we have to be if we don’t want to be taken advantage of.

I hope you enjoy my photos today.  The sky was blah in the beginning, but proved to be more interesting later.

Slovenia Impressionists and a Secret Garden

Favorite PaintingIf you haven’t noticed yet, I enjoy Impressionism.  We often think of the French when we think of this cutting edge time period in art, but they were not the only ones getting in on the action.  The Petit Palais in Paris currently has an exhibition on Impressionists from Slovenia.  I’ve never heard of any of the artists’ names before, but the messages were clear in their paintings, and they would fit just as well in an exhibition with Monet, Renoir, or Manet.  The main picture is my favorite painting from the exhibition.  I will visit Slovenia next year along with other areas of Eastern Europe.  Now I will know some names to look for in the art museums.

I was on a mighty quest after visiting the exhibition to find a “Swiss Valley Garden.”  I’ve read about it from experts on hidden gardens in Paris, and they are right, it is hidden.  I’m not even sure if I actually found it or not.  I found a garden that followed a path down stairs to lush greenery all around.  There were maybe five of us in this garden and it is what I imagined I was looking for.  I’ll have to go back to make sure it is the right one after I do a little more research.

Market of the Red Children

FlowersSometimes the early bird does not catch the worm.  I was desperate for more cherries and some other produce, so I looked up markets in my area open on Tuesday.  I found Marche de Enfants Rouge which I remembered reading about in my Markets of Paris book.  I saw that they opened at 8:30, and around 10:00 I started walking in that direction.  This is the second time that arriving in the morning has not been beneficial.  There was one produce guy setting up his stock, and a couple restaurants open.  Things were starting to move, but I could tell that most places wouldn’t open until later.

Although I was discouraged not to find my cherries, I did get a couple photos.  I also met a man that “knew” Jim Morrison.  He pointed out where he used to live and told stories of the female photographer coming over.  He also mentioned that he has a good friend who is a photographer in Chicago.  Small world.  His trade is taking books and making holders and designs out of them.  He folds the pages to so they expand like an accordion.  You can place postcards, photos, or whatever else you like in there.  He must have seen my hesitation at the thought of trying to fit something else in my suitcase because he showed me how compact it could be.  I didn’t purchase one, but I may return.

Determined to find the fresh goodies I needed, I went back towards the Bastille area.  I found a shop with only produce and the price was right, so I selected some items for lunch.  I chopped up the celery salad that we made in the cooking class, and I sauteed some type of pork I got at a market the other day.  I’m considering taking another cooking class because when I look back on this trip, I think that will be what I remember most.

Not many pictures, but I will have more later today after visiting the exhibit at the Petit Palais and a secret garden.