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!

IMG_5183IMG_5184Complete with snack bar of course!!

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!

Fish Soup

IMG_3322IMG_3323One of my favorite things about Paris is how good the food is EVERYWHERE (or almost everywhere). You don’t have to visit one of the “fancy” restaurants, or go to the newest hole-in-the-wall tiny place opened by the latest avant-garde chef (though that is always a fun outing too!).

You can do what we did on a recent trip, and just go down to the corner café. Le Baromètre is our local hangout, owned and run by several young men who are incredibly nice, welcoming, and who also happen to serve really good food.

Upon arrival, I always first check the specials of the day, and this particular night, the special was fish soup “avec rouille.” (Okay, what in the heck did that mean?) Well, it turns out that a “rouille” is a sauce, made with olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and chili peppers. It is commonly served as a garnish for fish soup (I have to admit that I had never been served it before). If you look at the picture above, it’s the low bowl at the left, next to the swiss cheese and behind the homemade croutons. So…. the process is this– you crumble some of the cheese and the croutons into the soup, you then take a spoonful of soup, and before you bring it to your mouth, you dip the end of your spoon in the rouille and THEN take a blissful mouthful. Pause, enjoy the various flavors combining in your mouth– fish, cream, cheese, crouton, and finally the rouille which adds a little garlic and “je ne sais quoi” that makes it PERFECT. Absolutely delicious! Of course, to drink with my fish soup, I took their suggestion of a medium dry, white wine from their home region (I meant to take picture of the bottle, but unfortunately didn’t so I can’t tell you where it was from.) But I can tell you it was one I had not tried before, and it was the exact right accompaniment. What a wonderful benefit to going to a familiar place. I knew that I would not be steered wrong on my choices. Of course, I had to finish the meal with his mother’s homemade clafoutis, which is a dessert made up of black cherries, covered by a buttery flan-like batter.

When is the last time you had a meal like that at your local restaurant??

Edits are complete!

I am very happy to report that my edits are now finished for Book #2, “Reunion.” It’s set in Paris and Burgundy and is the story of a 25-year college reunion.

Melanie Russell wants to get her group of girlfriends from their grad school days back together, and she wants it to be a “girls only” trip. She and Gary, her husband, aren’t getting along and she needs some time away to figure out why. Julie is living in London and though she loves her life, she’s lonely for some male companionship. Could she find romance in Paris? Gigi now lives in Italy. She misses the camaraderie the women shared back in Boston. Can she persuade Paolo, her Italian husband, to let her go without him? Angie longs to visit Europe again, and her daughters are now off to college. Can she get over her own insecurities and go on her own? Emily has just retired from teaching and would love a fun trip to start the Fall off right, but she had a big falling out with the rest of the women and they haven’t spoken for twenty years. Can they all be friends again?

And of course, there’s the rest of the group: Sam, and Greg, and Todd, and John, who’ve all come on the trip without their spouses; Roger and Dawn; and Nellie and Bob. And Joelle and Michel, the two professors who are the “hosts.” Twenty-five people in total. An interesting group who will all spend a week together in Paris, with a day and night in Burgundy to learn more about wine-making and wine-tasting.

Who wouldn’t want to go?

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Véronique Sanson

When I was a student in Paris, one of my favorite singers was Véronique Sanson. I listened endlessly to my vinyl copy of Amoureuse, still my favorite album by her. She has a throaty style and vibrato that are all her own. I didn’t realize that she is such a music icon, but I certainly know it now.

Imagine my surprise when I found out she was going to be performing in Paris at the Olympia Theater in late January/early February this year! (www.olympiahall.com) The Olympia is a fun place to go hear music because it only holds about 1,200 people, so you are never too far from the stage. IMG_3385_2IMG_3410IMG_3415 As you can see from the marquee, the opening act was Chris Stills, who is her son. It turns out she was married to Stephen Stills, of Crosby, Stills and Nash, for about ten years, and lived in California. This tour, in fact, is called “Les Années Américanes”, the American Years, so the music is from that time in her life. She is a prolific song writer as well as singer. Apparently, she had some rough years in mid-life, with alcohol and drug problems (which our waiter at the restaurant before the performance told me. I thought it was hilarious that he was such an ‘expert’ on the subject, even though he admitted that his parents had been the ones who really listened to her music). The show we went to was sold out, and she was scheduled to perform there for NINE nights! That says something about her popularity (And I just got a notice from the Olympia that they just added a couple of additional show dates in April).

She was wonderful. She was obviously very excited to be performing, and regaled the audience with stories between songs. She had tons of energy, as did her entire band, and she was so THANKFUL throughout the performance, for her band members, and for the audience’s obvious affection for her. She introduced all the band members, and some of them had played with her at the beginning of her career, but not recently. The trumpet player, Steve Madaio,for instance, had played with her in her early years, but she said that it had been thirty years since they had played together!

By the time she had played her 90 minutes of regular show, the whole audience was on its feet, and she came back for three encores. IMG_3434 I will admit that her voice was not quite as strong as in her youth, but there were only two songs that I noticed it. She really was amazing, and we left at 11:15 totally energized! Here’s a youtube link to a couple songs to give you some idea of her style.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BH6wjjw9qP0. A fun evening and a fun return to my youth!!