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Food / France

Crêperie St.Michel

After visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop, we walked around the Latin Quarter to get something to eat. We planned on getting home early today, back to our rented room at the 13th arrondisement, as we are hauling our luggage and switching accommodations to the 1st arrondisement. After a few minutes of walking, we luckily stumbled upon this little crêperie.

Grouchy-looking monsieur making our crêpe
Creperie Saint-Michel

I love a savory crêpe. Ham & cheese for me (jambon et fromage?). Look at how much cheese is in there!
Creperie Saint-Michele
Creperie Saint-Michele - cheese and ham crepe

Banana-nutella for A.
banana-Nutella crepe at Creperie Saint-Michele

Went up the second level where there are seats. Quite possible the best one I ever had. Do not ever underestimate street food and hole-in-the-wall joints. At about 5 euros, really so good and filling enough for dinner.
Creperie Saint-Michele

The Greek eatery from across the street– I just found it amusing that the ‘apprentice’ looks so very Chinese, and he reminds me of characters from the Lao Fu Tzi comics I used to ‘read’ when I was younger.
Greek restaurant in Paris

Crêperie St. Michel
Rue de la Huchette
(Quartier Latin)
Paris 75005

France / Writing

browsing through Shakespeare and Company

From Notre Dame we crossed the bridge to the Left Bank to get to Shakespeare and Company, the cosy little English-language bookshop in the academic Quartier Latin.

Shakespeare & Company

Shakespeare and Company has been around since 1951, and since then the bookstore has been hosting writers in exchange for a couple of hours of voluntary work. It has provided shelter to some 50,000 people now.
Shakespeare & Co.

The shop is full of new books as well as used ones. Apparently, there are also 8 makeshift beds all over the place, for the writers to sleep in.
inside Shakespeare & Company

A is one of the biggest literature lovers I know and she purchased a hardbound book here. I confess that I am sort of a mild hoarder of books, mostly of the travel and food literature variety, but I find the prices here rather steep, perhaps the markup is mostly because of the location and nostalgia. At this point, I’m perfectly fine scouring the Booksale outlets back home.

One of my favorite movies, Before Sunset, filmed here so it makes the place quite special as well.

Shakespeare and Company
http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com
37 rue de la Bûcherie 75005 Paris
Weekdays: 10am – 11pm; Weekends: 11am – 11pm
Metro: St. Michel / Cluny / Sorbonne
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France / Writing

The grand Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

The Notre Dame Cathedral is possibly the other iconic structure defining Paris, next to the Eiffel Tower. Located at the small island Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine, it is literally at the center of Paris. Notre Dame means “Our Lady” in French, and it is one of the first Gothic cathedrals in the world. Its construction began in 1163, only to be finished almost a hundred years later.
Notre Dame de Paris facade
Notre Dame de Paris

Point Zero and our matching granny socks (it was cold out the day we visited). The center of France and the site where all distances are measured.
Point Zero

The facade and view from the side– the flying buttresses support the roof.
Notre Dame de Paris, buttresses and facade

The cathedral interiors. It is ten stories high and can fit 6,000 worshippers.
Notre Dame Interiors
pilgrims at Notre Dame

During the Second World War, it was feared that the Germans would bomb the church and destroy the stained glass windows, hence they were taken down during the war.
Notre Dame South Rose window
Notre Dame de Paris

The nave (L), and one of the side aisles (R).
Notre Dame de Paris naves
Notre Dame de Paris interiors

There is no admission fee to go inside the cathedral, however it costs 8€ to go up the tower (covered by the Paris Museum Pass). It is 400 steps up, no lift. If you are fit enough to go up the stairs, you shall be rewarded with a nice view of the city from Paris’s center. Pictured, Eiffel and environs, and the Sacré Cœur on hilly Montmartre.
view from Notre Dame
view from Notre Dame

Quasimodo’s friends. The chimera / chimères, from the Galerie des Chimères are not to be confused with gargoyles. They actually function as rainspouts.
chimera
chimera

One of the more popular chimères, Stryga
Stryga

Angel watching over Paris,and another chimère
Notre Dame de Paris chimeres

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/
Metro: Cité / Hotel de Ville / St. Michel
Rue du Cloître Notre-Dame 75004 Paris

Food / France

Plat du Jour at Le Relais, 13th Arr.

I have a long list of things I wanted to write about, but I’ve been awfully busy lately. I wish I can say ‘awfully busy’ in a good way, like work, but unfortunately it isn’t the case. Anyhow– this– like everything bad and good, shall pass.

A short post on A & I’s meal before we headed out to visit Notre Dame.

When in Paris, you may choose to order the restaurant’s daily specials (plat du jour), it’s a better value compared to the a la carte menu. Some restaurants even offer multiple-course specials.

La langue, beef tongue in tomato-based sauce.
Le Relais plat du jour

A’s crusted salmon dish.
Le Relais plat du jour

Le Relais
79 bd Vincent Auriol 75013
near the Chevaleret metro
Paris, France

France / Writing

Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb at Les Invalides

Les Invalides used to be a hospital (Hôpital des Invalides) and a home for injured soldiers. It is now a building complex of museums, churches, and monuments mostly dedicated to France’s war history.

The most notable thing about the place is the Dome des Invalides (Église du Dôme), one of the two churches in the complex and the resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Little Corporal who shaped France’s history as the great conqueror who invaded most of Europe, in a short span of five years.

Invalides

The ‘hole’ right beneath the dome of the chapel, perhaps rebuilt this way so visitors can lean over the railing and bow down to France’s great emperor
Invalides hole

Napoleon’s body was exhumed from the grave in 1840 and transported to the Chapel, right under the dome. It was still perfectly preserved after 19 years. Underneneath this sarcophagus (stone coffin), there are six more concentric coffins before you can actually get to Napoleon’s remains (oak, ebony, lead [2], mahogany, tinplate).
Napoleon's sarcophagus

Adolf Hitler looked up to Napoleon, and even shed a tear or two when he visited his resting place, on his first and only trip to France. Alas, history repeated itself, and Hitler fell the same way Napoleon did, by attempting to invade Russia.

Napoloen declared himself as the emperor of Rome, and here is a statue depicting him as one. Other photo: kids visiting the chapel
Holy Roman Emperor Napoleon

Charles de La Fosse’s dome
Charles de la Fosse's dome
Invalides Dome

This private royal chapel was inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica and I can very well see the similarities
Invalides private royal chapel

Other war heroes as well as Napoleon’s two brothers and son are also buried in this chapel.
Invalides

The chapel is very solemn, even if there aren’t any pews indicating that mass is being celebrated here. People are discouraged to make any unnecessary noise. A & I were exhausted because we fought the cold the entire day. We spent most of the time sitting and resting. I think I even fell asleep.

Due to lack of time (and it was closing time besides), we failed to visit the actual Musee de l’Armee. This is a vast museum for those who are interested not only in France’s history, but also in the military history of the world– it contains exhibits from early war history to the more recent World Wars 1 and 2.

For the evening, we head to Champs-Élysées for dinner and a bit of shopping.

Les Invalides
http://www.invalides.org
129 rue de Grenelle (near Musee Rodin)
Metro: La Tour Maubourg, Varenne, Invalides

France

The Thinker at Musée Rodin

The Rodin Museum / Musée Rodin showcases the works of Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917), including The Thinker (Le Penseur), probably the most known sculpture in the world. There are more than a dozen copies of The Thinker all over the world– Singapore, Philadelphia, Kyoto, Moscow, Copenhagen– but the original bronze cast can be found here.

Musee Rodin Grounds
Musee Rodin grounds
Musee Rodin grounds

It drizzled for a while when we were there.
some drizzle at Musee Rodin

The museum was actually a former hotel called the Hôtel Biron. Rodin rented out rooms in the hotel and used it as his studio. Sometime later, the French Government acquired the property and Rodin donated some of his works in the condition that the grounds be turned into a museum. And so it was done, and Musée Rodin opened in 1919.
Auguste Rodin's The Thinker
Auguste Rodin's The Thinker

Hôtel Biron is a beautiful building mostly containing Rodin’s plaster and marble casts, photographs, and paintings, as well as his collection of artwork, plus even some sculptures by his student / mistress, Camille Claudel. (Note: from January – 3 April 2012, the building will be closed for renovation to meet modern safety standards.)
Hotel Biron

The gardens are equally beautiful, well-kept hedges and rose bushes, a terrace, a fountain and a café. The bronze sculptures can be found here; aside from the Thinker, other well know works include: The Burghers of Calais, and the Gates of Hell.

Hôtel Biron, The Fountain
Musee Rodin

Les Trois Ombres
Les Trois Ombres

St. John the Baptist Preaching, The Kiss
Inside Musee Rodin / Hotel Biron
Musee Rodin

 Here is a clip from one of my favorite movies last year, Midnight in Paris. I was thrilled that they shot in Musee Rodin, obviously as it is a place I have been to. Carla Bruni (Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy) plays the museum tour guide. Midnight in Paris also shot in Giverny, and the gardens looked better in the film than in pictures! 🙂 About this movie– I don’t usually like the general theme of magic-realism, but I found myself charmed by this gem of a film; I especially get a kick out of Adrien Brody playing Salvador Dali.

Musée Rodin
79, rue de Varenne – 75007 Paris
http://www.musee-rodin.fr/
Phone : +33(0)144186110
Metro : Varenne (line 13) or Invalides (line 13, line 8)
Open daily except Mondays

France / Writing

Walking along Rue Cler

After slight museum fatigue caused by the overwhelming number of art pieces at Musee d’Orsay, we head to Rue Cler for a little walk and to grab late lunch. It was very cold out and as mentioned, we were not dressed appropriately; our mistake for not checking the weather before leaving the flat. Not much pictures because the cold has spoiled my mood a bit.

Stopping for coffee, somewhere near Musee d’Orsay
Rue Cler sandwich shop
Rue Cler croque monsieur
Solferino Metro station
Paris's Solferino Metro station

Rue Cler is a small market street and Rick Steves cannot recommended it enough. There were about a handful grocers, a flower stand, patisseries, a butcher shop, a discount store. The place was almost empty, there were no shoppers around, perhaps because it was already half past one. The scene was a bit disappointing, it was not the lively Parisian market street I pictured in my head. I suppose we were better off coming early in the morning, or head instead to Rue Montorgueil.

boucherie
Rue Cler boucherie

Cherries and blackberries at Rue Cler and fleurs!
Rue Cler cherries

Rue Cler blackberries
Rue Cler fleurs

We had late lunch at Cafe du Marche and it was fantastic.

France

Musée d’Orsay, one of the best museum collections in the world

Admittedly, I do not know much about art. As a child I remember poring over a children’s art history book, and I distinctly remember reading about some artists and their works; Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the ballerina sculpture by Degas, the picnic scene by Mary Cassatt. Many years later, I find myself in Musee D’Orsay, where a lot of the works from my children’s book were housed. 🙂 This museum, I daresay, has such a very high concentration of popular and important works of art in a relatively small space. I say “relatively small,” because compared to the massive Louvre, it is small at 170+ meters, and you can see all exhibits in about 2-3 hours. Most displays in the Musee D’Orsay holds mostly French art from 1848 – 1914. Built in 1900, the building used to be a train station– the Gare D’Orsay.

Sculptures outside Musée d’Orsay
Sculptures outside Musee d'Orsay
Sculptures outside Musee d'Orsay

The “normal” queue to the museum. We were in a faster-moving one as we had very convenient Paris Museum Passes.
queue at Musee d'Orsay

Photos weren’t allowed inside, and I didn’t dare break the rule, because of some irrational fear of sounding off an alarm or something like that. I’ve been to museums (in Vienna) where alarms would go off when you come too close to the display. In the future, I should bring a small, unobtrusive point and shoot for times like these.
Museum interiors: photo from Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, a part of the museum was under renovation during our visit, the clock (horloge) included. I was so set on sneaking some shots from the clock, only to find out it was all boarded up.

Some favorite & memorable pieces: La Source (Ingres), Whistler’s Mother (Whistler), Petite danseuse de quatorze ans (Degas), Self-portrait (Van Gogh), The Artist with the Yellow Christ (Gauguin), Blue Water Lilies (Monet) , Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Renoir), Starry Night (Van Gogh – but not the more popular one on my bucket list, which is in MoMA in New York), Olympia (Manet).

Really enjoyed looking through almost everything at Musee D’Orsay, even if we were very cold (didn’t dress appropriately for the day’s weather) and hungry. We head to Rue Cler to have late lunch at Café du Marche.

Musée d’Orsay
http://www.musee-orsay.fr
Open 9:30am – 6pm
closed on Mondays
Thursdays until 9:45pm

France / Writing

Pique-nique

After Giverny, we are back in Paris and didn’t have anything planned for the evening. Decided to people-watch and have a little picnic at Champs de Mars, the large open field stretching from the Eiffel Tower grounds all the way to École Militaire. It used to be the marching grounds of the officers from the famed military school.

Well, no wide shots from my camera, I was too lazy to change lenses. Regretting it now.
Champs de Mars
Eiffel Tower

The queue to go up the tower! No thanks.
You may actually reserve for slots online, and I tried to one week before the trip. Unfortunately even with a few days lead time most daytime and early evening slots were already filled, and we didn’t want to go late in the evening.
the line to the Eiffel Tower

Cheap sandwiches from the supermarket, and a Hoegaarden s’il vous plait.
Champs de Mars picnic
I ended up not liking most of the pictures, my hands are shaky and I failed to capture the blinking lights. This is Angela, we are heading home, walking to the École Militaire metro station.
Eiffel Tower at dusk

France / Writing

A glimpse into Claude Monet’s Giverny

I learned about Claude Monet’s house and gardens at Giverny from a blog and when I saw the photos, I knew we ought to go there. Giverny is 81 km. (50 miles) Northwest of Paris, bordering the Normandy and Île-de-France region. There are tour companies that offer day trips from Paris but we chose to take the train and go there on our own, at a much lesser cost.

To get here, one must take the train from Paris’s Gare St. Lazare train station to Vernon, a 45-minute journey. From Vernon, take the shuttle bus to Giverny, around 20 minutes. Trains depart from Paris every two hours, starting at 08:20, and there are 4-5 trips in a day except in the winter season. A second-class round trip train ticket costs 25,60€. There are corresponding shuttle services from Vernon to Giverny, and a round trip ticket costs 4€. You may want to get the timetable from the Gare St. Lazare information office to know about the daily schedules– they have a fixed train schedule from April through November, but these may change on public holidays.

We planned on taking the first trip to Giverny but we woke up late, so instead we decided to take the train the leaves a little after noon. Getting to town was fairly easy. It was leisurely 15-minute walk from the bus stop to Claude Monet’s house, and along the way there are plenty of little shops, ateliers, galleries, B&Bs, cafes.

Giverny

the town of Giverny

the town of Giverny

Claude Monet, the great Impressionist painter, moved to Giverny in his 40s, along with his wife and 8 children. He stayed here until his death, built a lovely family home with green shutters, planted a garden and dug a waterlily pond. He continued to paint until his death.
Claude Monet and the entrance to his maison

When Monet died in 1926, his son Michel inherited the property but abandoned it, leaving it in a decrepit state. It was only restored in the late 70s by Gerald van der Kemp, the same person who restored Versailles.

It was forbidden to take photos inside the maison but I sneaked in a few before getting scolded by a British old lady. Each room in the house was painted a different color, exactly as they were when Monet and his family lived here. I particularly liked the kitchen painted in sunny yellow, the rustic long table and gingham drapes.. so shabby chic. There are plenty of prized 18th-19th century Japanese prints all over the walls of the house, and I particularly recognize the Waves by Hokusai.

The crowds and large tour groups can be a bother and might keep you from taking good pictures, so we usually took our sweet time and waited for them to leave. I heard somewhere that the Japanese are big on Monet for some reason, and that explain most of the visitors are from Japan.

Le Clos Normand- the 1-hectare walled garden with trellises of ivies, roses, lilies, irises, and other floral species I cannot identify.
Claude Monet's gardens

“It’s maybe because of flowers that I’ve become a painter.” -Claude Monet
purple flowers at Claude Monet's gardens
Maison Claude Monet
Claude Monet's rose garden

You could clearly see Monet’s interest in Oriental / Japanese aesthetics with the bamboo garden and the Japanese bridge.
bamboo garden at Maison Claude Monet
Claude Monet's Japanese water garden

Lucky to have been there when the nymphéas (waterlilies) are in bloom. (Not quite sure if they are perennial or not, :P) This scene also inspired a series of Monet’s famous paintings – “Nymphéas”
Claude Monet's nympheas

Scenes from Le Jardin d’Eau, the water garden.
Claude Monet's water garden
Giverny love
Japanese Water Garden
Japanese water garden

It’s almost closing time but in this side of the world, the sun is still up until 10pm. Artists arrive with their canvases as soon as the tourists leave.
painters

So very glad that we went out of our way and took a little day trip to this charming village, it was lovely to be able to walk through the gardens as if stepping into an Impressionist painting. What the gardens look like now still look eerily similar to Monet’s paintings from a century ago.

Claude Monet’s house and gardens
84 rue Claude Monet – Giverny
Open: April 1st – November 1st; 09:00 – 18:00
Fees: Adult 8€; Child 6€
fondation-monet.com