Clean clothes anyone? A Practical Tip for Life in Paris

Okay, let me give fair warning right here that this is not a post about a new museum or a new restaurant. It’s about something more practical. Laundry. Yes, if you stay in Paris for a long enough stretch, you will need to clean some clothes, right?

In my case, I was having a minor dryer crisis, so I needed to learn how to use the local “Laverie Libre Service.”  Turns out there is one close by. The sign on the outside says it’s open 7 days a week, from 7:30 to 22:00 (10:00 PM). I found a big, old IKEA plastic bag, filled it with sheets, towels and clothes, and headed out.

It was a Sunday, and there were a variety of people already inside, who nodded politely as I entered. I realized that many people probably don’t have a washer/dryer in their apartments and this is therefore a standard part of their weekend itinerary.

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Okay, so I approached the machines, trying to look confident. I could figure this out, right?

The sign above the machines pretty much spelled out the process, but I was still thankful that the woman filling the machine next to mine walked me through the steps. First, put clothes into the washing machine. Makes sense. Next, add detergent. Luckily, I had thought to bring my own soap from home (a little tablet). This is where the assistance helped, to make sure I put the soap in the appropriate little drawer on the top of the machine. Okay, now you select which cleaning cycle you want (basically from very hot (80 degrees celsius and 50 minutes) for whites, to cool (30 degrees and 30 minutes for wool). The next step is the part that was different from my past experiences in the US, though I will admit it’s been years since I used a public laundromat. Actually, the last time was in college. At that time, you had to be sure you had a roll of quarters and dimes to insert into the machine.

Here, there was nowhere to put money in the machine itself. Instead, you make note of the number on your machine and then go to the payment station (third picture above). You input the number of your machine, then pay the amount it requests. I can’t remember the exact amount but I think it was 2-3 euros for one load. Then you can go run other errands while the machine does its thing, because, as my new “friend” pointed out, the washing machines are locked shut (to prevent stupid people from opening them and flooding the space I’m sure) so no one could come and steal your laundry (though, honestly, would someone do that anyway?).

Then, once that finishes, you move your clothes and towels and sheets to one of the dryers and again, you input the number of the machine and your money into the payment station. Here is where I learned a good tip. My “friend” told me that the drying cycle is not really long enough to thoroughly dry the items, so you can immediately re-enter the machine number and pay a 2nd time to lengthen the cycle. The dryers don’t lock, like the washing machines, so you need to bring your book to occupy you while you stand around for the 30-40 minutes waiting for your items to dry.

Voila! I felt like such a local! Laundry all washed and dried and back into the giant IKEA bag.

Now comes the best part of the whole day/experience. On my way back to the apartment,  I passed, two doors down, “Le Petit Falafel.” The space inside appeared to be only as wide as the sign above the door announcing the name. There was a tiny copy of the menu hanging on the door, and after a quick glance (it was noon and I was starving), I had the brilliance to open the door, allowing a waft of pure yumminess to emerge. The two tiny tables were already occupied, so I got a falafel sandwich “a emporter” (to go). There was a tiny counter and glass case, where you could see all of the very fresh-looking ingredients, two very nice gentlemen, and a fryer. Ten minutes later, I was leaving with what turned out to be a DELICIOUS sandwich for 6 euros. A DEAL for sure.

A successful day all the way around.

 

Burial Place for the Kings of France– Bet you haven’t visited it!

Have you heard of the Basilica of Saint Denis? I recently had the enormous pleasure of discovering this incredible building, thanks to my friend Rachel, who had seen a description of it on a British show “The Art of France” on BBC 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08cgq7f

It is located in the northern suburb of Saint Denis, perhaps better known today for the Stade de France soccer stadium. It is an easy metro ride, with a direct stop on the Line 13, and the cost to get there by metro is the standard 1.90 Euro ticket for anywhere within Paris itself.

This building was originally built in the 5th century, and then in the 12th century, became a masterpiece of Gothic art. Suger, the Abbot of Saint Denis at the time, rebuilt it using new architectural techniques, including the rose window and cross-ribbed vaulted ceiling.

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This building contains more than 70 headstones, including Catherine de Medici and Lous XVI. There is no charge to enter the main Basilica, but there is a charge of 9 euros to go back to look at the headstones. Believe me when I tell you that it is well worth both the time and the money to see them. The carvings are incredibly detailed:

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There was more work done on the building in the 13th century under “Saint Louis” (Louis XIV), then the Abbey fell into decline under the Revolution (1789-1799). It was then restored in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc.

You can buy tickets using this link or simply go to the Basilica and buy them there.

http://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71479/Basilique-cathedrale-de-Saint-Denis

Enjoy!

Not your usual afternoon activity in Paris

Okay, you’ve been to the Eiffel Tower, you’ve been to Notre Dame, you’ve been to the Louvre. It’s raining and gray outside, and your hotel room is the size of a postage stamp. You need to escape, but to somewhere not overrun with tourists just like you. Why not see a movie?

I’m not talking about seeing whatever’s playing at the theaters at home. I’m talking about going back in time. How about going to see “Anatomy of a Murder,” with Jimmy Stewart, from 1959? Or “Ace in the Hole,” with Kirk Douglas, from 1951?

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My husband and I have found that one of our favorite pastimes on those gray, rainy days, is to pick up the latest copy of “L’officiel des spectacles” at any newspaper kiosk for the cost of one euro, and peruse the listings to see what’s on tap that week. It comes out once a week, on Wednesdays, and has all the current listings for theater, movies, museums expositions, and concerts in and around Paris.

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Maybe you’re a Hitchcock fan? Or Billy Wilder? Or? Paris still has some tiny theaters that show these old classics in “vo”, or version originale, with subtitles. That means that you can enjoy it, even though your French language abilities are not up to snuff.

The theaters are mostly on the Left Bank, in the 5th and 6th arrondisements, which is the Latin Quarter. When you pick up your guide, look under “Cinema.” It first lists the new movies, then has listings by arrondisement, which are the “neighborhoods” that Paris is divided into. Look under the 5th and 6th.

Now comes the tricky part. The titles are not always what they seem. Sometimes, they just use the American title, but sometimes they have translated it. “Sueurs Froides” is one that is showing this week, for instance. I have NO idea what that is in English, so I open my “cheat sheet” which is a French film site like IMDB, called AlloCine,  http://www.allocine.fr/film/. When you type in the French name, it shows you that its American name is “Vertigo,” by Hitchcock. Another one showing this week is  “Sur les quais” which is “On the Waterfront.”

One of our favorites that we saw a couple of years ago was “From Here to Eternity” with Burt Lancaster. We had seen the “beach” scene, like anyone who is a movie buff, but never the whole movie and it was really good.

Don’t expect HDMI or screens that are 20 feet across. It’s more like 30 seats and a screen that is a little bigger than some of the mega screens available for home use today, but it’s a great experience!

Oh, and did I mention? Sorry, no popcorn. You’ll just have to go find a cafe afterward and have a coffee, while watching the world go by.

There are worse fates.

 

 

One of the Best Views of Paris that you didn’t know existed

One of my missions in Paris is to find incredible views of the city in unusual places. This last trip I visited somewhere I had never been before and what a pleasant surprise. The rooftop at the Galleries Lafayette store. Have you ever been there?

I’m sure many of you have been to the store itself, which is well worth a visit for the architecture, even if you don’t care about buying anything.

IMG_5144This building was built in 1912 on Boulevard Haussmann by Theophile BADER and his cousin, Alhonse KAHN, who opened a store at the corner of Rue LaFayette and Chausée D’Antin in 1895, and then purchased the building it was in, as well as those around it, to build this beautiful Art Nouveau structure.

Okay, so it’s a cool building and as a department store, it’s incredible as well, with an amazing variety of products and clothing. Just looking at the building itself and the variety of merchandise could fill several hours.

BUT… Don’t stop there. When you’ve had your fill of shopping, take the series of escalators up to the roof.

216 215 IMG_5148 My friend, Sarah, and I visited in February so it was a little grey and a little chilly, but judging by the furniture up there, this looks like a place that would be a great place to re-visit in warm weather. I don’t know if they serve food or drinks up there, but I think I need to go back and find out! It would be a very pleasant place to take a break from a busy day of touristing and/or shopping!

Ice Skating at the Eiffel Tower???

It has been WAY too long since I wrote a post, so I have promised myself to get back into the habit of weekly posts. We’ll see how well I do!

On my most recent trip to Paris in February, I was there with a girlfriend and she wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower. As anyone knows who has been to Paris in recent years, it is the one tourist attraction guaranteed to be full of people, and if you want to go up the Tower itself, you will be required to wait in a ridiculously long line. Yes, I know that you can reserve a ticket on-line ahead of time, but even with a reserved ticket, you still have to stand in a line– slightly shorter than the non-reserved line, but it’s often still a hefty wait.

Well, she and I decided that since the line to “walk” up was only 10 people or so, that we would do that. What the heck? We could always stop for breaks if we got tired. So that’s what we did.

The first good news is that is that it actually wasn’t that bad getting to the first level. We did stop once, but otherwise we just went up slowly and steadily. And what a feeling of accomplishment when you come through the opening at the top stair and you have ARRIVED!

And then came the biggest shock of all. What did we find on that first level? A skating rink!! Yes, that’s what I said. An ice-skating rink!

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And though it was chilly, it was very clear and the view was, of course, truly amazing.

IMG_5190We decided to hike up the NEXT set of stairs to the 2nd level. Again, with slow, steady progress, we got there with only one stop.

And here is the tricky part– the deep dark secret. Once you get to that first level, there is a ticket booth and you can buy tickets there to go up to the top if you want! No waiting in that huge line down below. So now I have to recommend to you all to plan to walk up to the 1st level, at the least, instead of waiting in that ridiculous line. You won’t regret it!

I’d STILL Rather be in Paris

The events of last Friday have hit me hard, and I am still feeling a bit shell-shocked. I was just in Paris the last two weeks of October, and in particular, I was at the Bataclan on October 23rd, hearing Maceo Parker, a wonderful “funk” saxophonist who played with James Brown back in the day. He’s in his 70s and still going strong. That’s the kind of artist that plays at the Bataclan and why I love that venue so much. It only holds 1,400-1,500 people, so you feel like you are a part of the performance in a way that large venues can never capture.

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I’ve seen the Fray there. I’ve seen Peter Frampton there. I know I will see many more artists there over the next few years. Because I am NOT going to change my way of life, and I am NOT going to let this change my passion for all things Parisian. Paris has a soul that cannot be beaten down, and Parisians refuse to be cowed into submission. That is just not how they live life. This article is a wonderful summary of that attitude.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/18/world/europe/french-crowd-cafes-to-defy-terror-with-a-sip-of-wine.html

ENJOY YOUR LIFE. LIVE YOUR LIFE. GO TO PARIS AND SIT IN A CAFE AND SAVOR A GLASS OF WINE. And be thankful for your ability to do those things. There are so many wonderful places to discover in Paris, and I am determined to spend my time finding them and writing about them, to encourage you to go find them, too.

I’ve decided on my next career– translating French menus

The last time Peter and I were in Paris, we were going to see Véronique Sanson in concert at the Olympia (www.olympiahall.com) (see my blog post from February of 2015)

So, before we went to the concert, we decided to eat across the street at the Capucine Café (www.capucinecafe.com). The food is absolutely wonderful and because it’s right across the street from the Olympia, they are not shocked by people coming in at 6:30 or 7:00 for dinner before the show (for those who have been to Paris, you know that you do NOT even think about going to a restaurant for dinner, normally, before 8:30 at the earliest).

Since Peter doesn’t speak as much French as I do, we got menus in both French and English. And it was amazing to see the things NOT on the English version that were on the French version.

IMG_3391 IMG_3394Here are the two menus and note that on the English one, there are three “Starters” and on the French one, there are four “Entrées” which is the same category. Now why is one left off? And it’s a delicious one too– Duck Tartare with artichoke and pistachio and Beet Carpaccio. Wouldn’t you be intrigued to try that?? In the main courses, you have the same thing. The first one on the French menu is Scallops “à la provençale” with mashed potatoes. Again, sounds delicious so why is it not on the English menu?

I had the “Bar entier” which means a whole European bass which was incredible. It was grilled with Fennel butter and anchovy paste and served with mashed pumpkin with hazelnuts. It was on the English menu, but listed as “whithing” and says it’s cooked with bacon and tomatoes (no evidence of either in the French description or what I was served (see photo below).

IMG_3389So I have decided that this is to be my next job. I need to move to Paris and work with restaurants translating their daily specials. I don’t want any more English speakers missing out on potentially delicious dining experiences!

To help me in the endeavor, since menu vocabulary can be quite specialized, Peter and I went to the bookstore Gibert Jeune, located at the Place St. Michel, and look what we found!

IMG_3523Dictionaries, from French to English and English to French, for restaurant and culinary terms! I’m now all set to start my next life adventure. Anyone want to volunteer as my able assistant and fellow taster???

“Reunion” now available on Kindle!

“Reunion” is now available on Kindle, and it took a little longer than expected, but I’ve also learned something about Kindle and how it works. As many of you know, I self-publish my books on Createspace.com, which is a great website and service through Amazon. It’s pretty user-friendly and if you have a wonderful husband who is willing to do the “cut and pasting” required to put your esteemed prose into the Createspace format, creating a paperback version is REALLY easy (thank you, Peter).

We knew that we did not know how to convert the document to a Kindle version ourselves so we hired Createspace to do that. For $79, it’s a bargain. With the first novel, it went very smoothly. We got notification that the “proof” was ready and we reviewed it, and then hit “approve” and “publish” and Ta Da! We were done.

With “Reunion,” it was not quite as easy. We did the first steps and when the proof came, we assumed it would be another quick approval process, but “Reunion” has an added complication. There are journal entries by one of the characters, which are shown in the hard copy in the font “Lucida Handwriting” to mimic her physical writing. It turns out Kindle doesn’t support Lucida Handwriting, so when they did the conversion, the system randomly chose a very light colored, large typeface that did not give a good reading experience AT ALL.

One possible solution presented by the tech staff at Createspace was to take a picture of the journal entries and do a “cut and paste” into the document. Unfortunately, upon further reflection, we realized that this solution has two major issues. First, it would probably put the “cut and paste” section on a different page, which would create a weird reading experience if there were only a couple of sentences on a page and then it moved you to a new page for the journal entry. The other problem is related to the fact that Kindle allows its readers to change the font size. If there were a “cut and pasted” picture of a journal entry, you would not be able to make that adjustment so again, it would create a disruptive reading experience for the user.

So what was left? After more discussion with the Createspace technical team, we decided to make the journal entries italicized.

It then makes it obvious that there is something different going on, and hopefully still gives the reader the emotional experience that I am striving for; the experience of getting to know that character better through her own writing. Do you think it will work? How did that just feel??

I would love to hear from any of you that do get the Kindle version and what you think of the italics as a solution.

And please, if you do enjoy the story, I would love you to “pass it along” to someone you know (and hopefully someone who doesn’t know me) who might also enjoy it. We are headed into beach season and I like to think this would pair well with a cold Stella Artois or a chilled French Chardonnay. Enjoy!!

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“Reunion” is now at Amazon!

I am proud to say that my second novel, Reunion, is now available on Amazon in paperback! The Kindle version should be available in about a week.

I really enjoyed working on this story, and applying the lessons I learned the first time around. I hope that those who read it will give me good, honest, feedback. Selfishly, I hope you enjoy it because I had so much fun writing it and want to get started on the next one.

Maybe we will return to the story of Carol from the first book. She’s now divorced, and headed to Paris for a little time on her own to figure out what’s next in her life….

If you’d like to order Reunion from Amazon, click here! ENJOY!

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Books I LOVE about all things Parisian

I am always being asked for recommendations of books on Paris– various reference books, cookbooks and recipes, and just fun books to read that are set in Paris. So I decided to set up a page on my Blog where you can go to see the books that I enjoy and a link directly to Amazon so they are easy to buy!

So if you look just  below the main picture at the top of my posts, you will see the titles of the different pages– the “home” where I type most  of my blog posts, the “books” tab for this list, and a “recipes” tab. The “Books” tab and “Recipes” will both continue to be works in progress and I would love any ideas and suggestions you have.

I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do. Please let me know of any suggestions of other books to add to the list. Thanks!