2014—Les Rues du Paris — Part Deux

Sunday was cold and overcast in Paris but there was still much to see and experience. It was so overcast and foggy that the top of the Eiffel Tower disappeared in the mist but lots of people were out enjoying a day off from work and school. On Sunday, most shops are closed but at the bustling Christmas Market on the Champs-Elysées, that runs from November through Christmas, we were amused to be greeted with the sounds of Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” and Gene Autry singing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Many Parisians spend time shopping, ice skating, cycling, eating roasted chestnuts, buying sausages, and enjoying the Christmas atmosphere at the hundreds of temporary shops set up along the road just for the event.

One of the things that has impressed me about Paris is its cleanliness. Parisians take pride in their city and although we found lots of graffiti (watch for a future post on the graffiti of Paris and Barcelona) the streets were clean and kept that way by people whose jobs were to sweep the sidewalks and gutters. I photographed a man sweeping next to the Restaurant Pasco where we enjoyed a sumptuous meal the prior evening.

Later on our walk, I was charmed by the sight of a small boy dangling from a climbing wall in a tiny playground on the Left Bank of the Seine next to one of the bridges. We watched as he tried to get the attention of one of his parents who was preoccupied with a sibling. Finally he released his hands as if to say: “Look Ma, no hands” and even when I took this shot, no one looked to appreciate his antics. Too bad I can’t share this with him.

I had hoped to get a photo of a Parisian hurrying home with a couple of baguettes tucked under one arm and in fact I saw quite a few, but always too late to get the right shot. I made Charleen pose with the two baguettes we bought for our farewell wine toast.

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2014—Les Rues du Paris

Here are some of the scenes I found to be irresistible on the streets of Paris today.

On La Rue Cler, buying fruit, selling mattresses, practicing jumps:

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On La Place du Tertres, street artists practicing their craft, selling their paintings, and an organ grinder entertaining the crowd:

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On Rue de Rivoli, in front of the Louvre, a gathering of young people attracting the attention of the police:

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On the Pont au Double, near Notre Dame, a street musician enticing passersby to dance:

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2014—Charleen And Carol’s Excellent Adventure

On Friday, despite our best intentions, Charleen and I managed to overlook the necessity of purchasing admission tickets in advance to both the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Consequently, the long lines and time wasted standing in them, led us to forego the experience of either, at least the experience of actually going into them. Instead, we appreciated the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower from ground level. After the first shot, I couldn’t resist pulling out my fisheye lens to photograph the Eiffel Tower from below.

By mid day, after viewing the Eiffel Tower, we wandered down to the Seine River and, after a lunch of ham and cheese crepes and a mediocre Bordeau (I suppose expecting decent Bordeau at a riverside fast food stand is asking a bit much), we bought all day tickets on the Batobus, the boat bus. The Batobus allows passengers to hop on and hop off all day long for one ticket price and it stops at major points of interest including the Tour Eiffel, the Musée D’Orsay, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Champs-Elysées and several other points of interest. We got off at the Musée D’Orsay on our first stop and spent almost three hours wandering through the Impressionist exhibits there, awestruck by the incredible collection of Monets, Manets, Gauguins, Cezannes, Pissarros, and, of course, Van Goghs, including many works he painted in Arles. There were Rodin sculptures and so many works of beautiful and inspiring art that it would take weeks of visits and study to see and appreciate the entire Musée D’Orsay collection.

By late afternoon, we realized that after our long day at the Musée D’Orsay, we were a bit weary and hungry but we plunged ahead and boarded the Batobus again, cruising on the Seine, heading for the Louvre. There were several stops between the Musée D’Orsay and the Louvre, with a ten to 15 minute cruise between stops. By this time, it had turned dark and although we understood that the Louvre was less crowded in the evening hours, we were too spent to attempt it. We stayed on the Batobus until we arrived back at the Eiffel Tower stop. We disembarked and enjoyed views of the brilliantly illuminated Eiffel Tower. Then we wandered back to the Rue Cler, found an inviting bistro and had a lovely dinner with a smooth Pinot Noir. When we finally returned to our hotel, we opened a bottle of Beaujolais that we purchased in the Beaujolais region a couple of days ago, poured a couple of glasses and capped our day with a delicious variety of chocolates. Salud!

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2014—Thankful We’ll Always Have Paris

We arrived in Paris by bullet train on Thanksgiving afternoon. Despite the fact that Parisians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, an American holiday on this day in November and a Canadian holiday in October, they seemed to be in a celebratory mood all evening. Our tiny, cramped room at the Hotel Duquesne Eiffel has a view of Le Tour Eiffel if you lean far enough out the screenless window. Shortly after our arrival, the lights came on, as if to welcome us to gay Paree! Donna, Charleen, and I walked to La Rue Cler, a bustling, quaint street, now somewhat commercialized, with bistros and shops all decked out for Christmas, to meet friends from the cruise for Thanksgiving dinner. Mixed signals prevented our rendevouz and we missed them. Since Joe has developed a cold and he preferred the comfort of his hotel room, the three of us enjoyed a stroll through the area and lots of excellent wine, Beaujolais Nouveau as an aperitif and later at another restaurant, a couple of carafes of red Côtes du Rhône Appellation d’Origine Protégée. Our Thanksgiving dinner was a salad with puff pastry encrusted goat cheese and a risotto with chicken and wild mushrooms. Sadly, the restaurant in which we dined did not offer foie gras, so I was unable to substitute it for giblet gravy.

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2014—Le Biciclette

Since I’ve been in France I have searched for the quintessential shot of a bicycle leaned against a wall. On Wednesday, in Oingt, the only village in the Beaujolais des Pierres Dorées to have been awarded the French accolade Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the most beautiful village in France), I found my bicycle. This beautiful and quaint medieval village with the improbable name of Oingt, that looks like it’s pronounced like the sound a pig makes but instead is pronounced starting with a “w” and ending with a sound like a baby crying. I can’t figure out how to write it phonetically.

We stopped in Oingt on the way to taste the Beaujolais Nouveau which was just released to great fanfare and excitement in the region a week ago. We enjoyed it so much that Charleen and I bought a couple of bottles to enjoy while we are in Paris.

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2014—Tournon

Monday was “wine day” on the AmaDagio. In the morning we enjoyed chocolate and wine pairings. In the afternoon we were awed by the wines of l’Hermitage, which come from 300 acres of vineyards that grow mainly Syrah grapes on terraced hillsides. In the evening we were tested on our knowledge of wines and were challenged to guess which of the two Syrahs we were served was French and which was American. Our small group correctly guessed the American Syrah, as did most of the people on board. And, so far, although we’ve had some fabulous French wines, the American wines from Ledson Winery in Sonoma County are holding their own.

We cruised into Tournon Monday morning before our wine tasting excursions. With the water still high from recent storms, several of us went up top to see how Capt. Dany Boucher handled the ship. I got some shots of him concentrating on docking the AmaDagio in Tournon. We sailed under the bridge that links Tournon and Tain l’Hermitage before docking. Charleen and I spent some time enjoying the delightful weather on deck.

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2014—Asylum

On Sunday, we visited the asylum of St. Paul de Mausole near Arles where Vincent van Gogh voluntarily committed himself after lopping off part of his ear and sending it to his girlfriend. The facility still functions as an asylum and we were only allowed to visit a small portion of the facility. The place is no doubt an asylum. We heard unsettling shrieks and wails coming from behind high walls. Art therapy remains an important part of the treatment plan for many of the asylum’s patients. Van Gogh painted prolifically here and the olive grove that he painted still stands near the asylum. Whether any of these trees were there when van Gogh painted them is anybody’s guess.

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2014—Le Marché du Samedi d’Uzès

The weekly Saturday market at Uzès gave us a feel for village life in Southern France. It was an experience to walk through the crowded streets and squares and to mingle with the local villagers shopping for food and other items. The market featured lots of stalls filled with local produce, meats, and cheeses and there was lively action at every stall. The prices were fixed so buyers weren’t negotiating prices but there were still bargains to be had. Charleen and I couldn’t resist buying a few items for ourselves at the nonfood stalls.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the morning visit:

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2014—Pont Du Gard

This is a true masterpiece of ancient architecture. The Pont du Gard aqueduct is one of the most beautiful Roman constructions in the region, built 2000 years ago. We visited it on Saturday and I wandered away from the group and followed a stairway down to the river’s edge to get these photos.

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2014—Truffe

Friday, near the tiny medievalvillage of Grignan, we met Emy, an adorable Lagotto Romagnolo dog that is well-know for its ability to root out truffles from among the roots of oak trees, both deciduous and evergreen. We also met Serge, Emy’s owner who waxed ectatic about black and white truffles and the trials and tribulations of being a truffle farmer. I know truffles are a fungus that grows among oak trees but I didn’t realize that oak tree roots produce truffles for only a relatively short period and that truffle farmers plant rows of various oak trees that show promise to produce the oak root fungus. Here are a few shots of Serge, their truffle farm (including a shot of a “no trespassing” sign to deter truffle thieves, and Emy in action. I didn’t realize that truffle farmers plant their oak trees in rows. The oaks take close to 15 years to start producing truffles (if they are lucky) and then produce for no more than 20 years.

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