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Paris & Strasbourg Christmas Markets

Tuesday, December 1, 2015 Heading to Paris right after the Bataclan terrorist attacks -- brave or foolish, but we went.

sunny

Big Bear Lake, California from the plane

Big Bear Lake, California from the plane

Up early to get ready. Our flight has changed twice so it's later than we had planned. We packed yesterday keeping things at a minimum, especially electronics, due to heightened security because of the recent horrific terrorist bombing in Paris. Ate, finished packing, fed Mimi and as I cleaned the litter box, the phone rang. Our shuttle was early. Rushed downstairs, grabbed our coats, said “bye” to Mimi and were off to the airport. Mimi's cat sitter will arrive soon to keep her entertained.

Arrived at the Sacramento Airport early and since I had printed our boarding passes at home, we quickly checked our bags. If security was heightened, we saw no sign of it. We zipped through and found our waiting area . . . with three hours to wait! Ed got me a Peet’s coffee and I found an electric outlet for my Kindle and checked e-mail and Virtual Tourist. Next, we had to have our boarding passes reprinted because of a plane change. This worked out well because we got seats together for Los Angeles. It was an oddly bumpy flight in beautiful weather but we arrived without incident. At Los Angeles we checked the board for our gate and it said TBT. We had no idea what TBT stood for so found someone and asked . . . Tom Bradley Terminal. We needed to change terminals to International, so off we went. Not much in the way of signs so we asked again and had the choice of a very long bus ride or a seven-minute walk. We walked.

The only problem with walking was wading through all the smokers along the way . . . smelly! However, we soon found TBT and started our search for Air France. A kindly gentleman from Lufthansa checked our passports and reprinted our boarding passes (again) and sent us off to security. We arrived just as they opened a new line and were ushered right through. Shoes stayed on, computers and liquids remained in our carry-ons and no pat-downs. LAX was actually pleasant, a new experience.

We found our gate and a seat and I went in search of lunch which appeared in the form of a Reuben at Ink Spot on the concourse. We split one and it was excellent and very reasonable. Now we wait to board a HUGE plane. Next stop, Paris!

Posted by Beausoleil 21:24 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Paris -- We're Here!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Square Saint-Médard near our hotel

Square Saint-Médard near our hotel

Not much sleep, mediocre food, long flight. I changed out my phone SIM card and when we landed I activated it. Breezed through Customs because we sat in front and got out first and so did our luggage! My first call was to Paris Blue Shuttle and he was right on schedule. He arrived at 1:00 PM and we had a private shuttle and scenic tour to our hotel. The only jarring note was as we passed one of the cafés that had been part of the terrorist attack a couple weeks ago. There was a large bank of flowers as a memorial in front of the still-closed café. Our room in Hotel de France Quartier Latin was ready so we moved in and set off for La Poste to mail my new SIM card information to LeFrench Mobile. They've changed from Bougie to Orange so a new SIM card was required. LeFrench Mobile SIM card web site

Patrick Rogers Chocolate Christmas display

Patrick Rogers Chocolate Christmas display

Walked down a very quiet rue Mouffetard to Cave Bourgogne [144 rue Mouffetard 75005 Paris; +33 (0)1 4707-8280] for confit de canard and a nice red wine but were too tired to eat much. Back to the hotel to freshen up and then out to get Metro tickets and take the train over to St. Sulpice where the promised Christmas market was nowhere to be seen. On to St. Germain des Pres and their small market was closed so we started downtown toward Notre Dame. About a dozen or more police vehicles passed us with a bus . . . probably COP21 members in town for the climate conference.

St. Germain at Christmas

St. Germain at Christmas

Not much in the way of Christmas lights in Paris and no Christmas market yet at Notre Dame. They did have the Prefecture of Police lighted in blue, white and red as a memorial to the terrorist victims. We walked back to the Cluny Metro stop and took the Metro back to our hotel where I forgot to get the wifi password. Then the cell phone started being weird. I finally reset it and sent Jean the new number and asked her to send it to Charles and Peg. I asked Santa to bring me a new cell phone this Christmas and I hope he is listening. This one is a genuine antique . . . as cell phones go.

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

Police Prefecture Memorial to the Bataclan Victims

Police Prefecture Memorial to the Bataclan Victims

Need SLEEP!

Posted by Beausoleil 21:32 Archived in France Comments (1)

Champs Elysées Christmas Market

Thursday, December 3, 2015

sunny

Shop window in St. Germain

Shop window in St. Germain

Slept a bit late and needed it., We’re B&B so had breakfast at the hotel. Got ready to leave, stepped outside and went back in to get extra layers. It was a gorgeous day but brisk. Took the Metro to Mabillon (escalator!) and walked up to St. Germain des Pres. The market was supposed to open Nov. 27 but they were just putting in shelves and wiring . . . a bit behind schedule. I’m sure we can thank the terrorists for that delay . . . and probably all the others too.

Le Grand Roue at Place de la Concorde

Le Grand Roue at Place de la Concorde

Entrance to the Champs Elysées Christmas Market

Entrance to the Champs Elysées Christmas Market

The lady who sold me my hat.

The lady who sold me my hat.

We walked on through St. Germain to the Seine window shopping. Beautiful store windows. Christmas brings out the romantic in everyone. Crossed the river and walked through the Tuileries toward Le Grand Roue at Place de la Concorde where we finally found an open Christmas market. The giant Ferris wheel was the perfect landmark; you can see it from all over Paris. The Christmas market is settled at its feet and very brightly lighted. It’s all very fun and festive. We wandered past all the booths/chalets and I found a cute wool hat for a chilly day so now I have a hat made in Paris. The lady who sold it said her daughter makes all the hats. Fun! Now I have a hat hand-made in Paris.

*****


Meeting a very tall toy soldier

Meeting a very tall toy soldier

The Gourmet Market - Yum!

The Gourmet Market - Yum!


Food booth from Alsace with a friendly sanglier

Food booth from Alsace with a friendly sanglier

Little Christmas Train

Little Christmas Train

About halfway down one side, we started looking for lunch and wanted to sit down. No luck so we tried the other side and finally worked our way back to the beginning and the gourmet food section. Good place to look for lunch! We found a nice chalet with heat and indoor seating (La Terrasse VIP Deuil la Barre) and a charming beret-clad waiter. Ed got a huge, fabulous Croque Monsieur and I got a Salade Périgourdine with foie gras . . . excellent. We washed it down with a Cote du Rhone and hit the market again. At the end we found an ATM and got some cash, then started back up the other side of the Champs Elysées. At Place Clemenceau there was another flower memorial and two gendarmes on horseback guarding us. On the way back towards Place de la Concorde, we passed an ice-skating rink. They had rental skates and also cute skate buggies for parents to push their toddlers on the ice. The kids were having a wonderful time. Looked like the moms and dads were too . . .

*****

Lunch . . . at a nice warm wine bar

Lunch . . . at a nice warm wine bar


French chocolate . . . my favorite

French chocolate . . . my favorite

Crepes from an antique auto

Crepes from an antique auto

It started to get dark and the giant Ferris wheel lighted up. I got some fun pictures of it. We wandered back into the Tuileries and found an empty bench beside a few other empty benches when suddenly a young man walked over and sat right beside me nearly touching. Very strange . . . We moved and he got up and left. We walked back through the Tuileries at dusk, crossed the Seine and found (refound) La Bonne Excuse to check their hours. We had an hour and a half before they opened so walked a block to Café de L’Empire, got a window seat and ordered hot, spiced wine. Excellent choice! We nursed our wines and watched people until 7:00, paid and walked back to La Bonne Excuse. When we walked in, she immediately recognized us and remembered our 50th anniversary a year and a half ago. We were very surprised. It was like coming home.

*****


Starting to get dark very early

Starting to get dark very early


Ice skating with sleds

Ice skating with sleds


La Grande Roue on our way to dinner

La Grande Roue on our way to dinner


Ed got the pork he’d gotten on our anniversary but I decided to try the chicken stuffed with chestnuts. One should eat chestnuts at Christmas. Needless to say, both meals were excellent. I got a chocolate fondant and Ed took a few bites. It was what I would call lava cake, not a fondant, but dark and delicious. The whole experience was great fun. We’ll be back on the next trip! We now have two favorite restaurants in Paris . . . completely different in all aspects but two; they are friendly and the food is really good.

Walked back to the Louvre-Palais Royale Metro stop for a direct train to our hotel. Very useful.

Long day . . . need sleep!

Posted by Beausoleil 16:46 Archived in France Comments (0)

La Defense Christmas Market and rue Moufftard

Friday, December 4, 2015

sunny

Tapestry in the Cluny Museum

Tapestry in the Cluny Museum

Sculpture in the Cluny Museum

Sculpture in the Cluny Museum

Slept late again. Nothing opens before nine to eleven o'clock so there's not much sense getting up early. Had breakfast and took the Metro to the Cluny Museum which now has security. Spent a lovely morning in the Cluny which has and is undergoing major renovation. Most notable was the rearrangement of the collection and new display space. Much better lighting (and hanging) for the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. They have more tapestries exhibited in general and have hung them beautifully. There are also more Roman ruins open.

The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries are so well lighted that I managed to get photos of all six of them. They depict the five senses, taste, hearing, sight, smell, and touch. The sixth one has the words "À mon seul désir" and one interpretation is that tapestry depicts love. Naturally the scholars thoroughly enjoy debating the meaning.

Besides the wonderful tapestries, I love being able to get up close and personal with the beautiful stained glass. It is much easier to see than in a church when it is way up over your head and you need binoculars. It was a fun visit. http://www.musee-moyenage.fr/visiter/english.html

*****


Stained glass in the Cluny Museum

Stained glass in the Cluny Museum

Lady and the Unicorn Tapestry

Lady and the Unicorn Tapestry

La Bastide d'Opio, our favorite Paris restaurant

La Bastide d'Opio, our favorite Paris restaurant

Walked to our favorite Paris restaurant, La Bastide d’Opio, for lunch and got our usual table under the stairs. Our waitress (new) wasn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier but she was very nice and cheerfully returned the two Coca Colas she brought instead of the Côte du Rhone we had ordered . . . and had pointed to in the menu. My French may not be great, but my pointing skills are excellent.

After that, we were fine. We both got the breast of duck and it was excellent with a honey-raspberry sauce and herbed mashed potatoes. Ed got a chocolate cake with blood orange sorbet for dessert and I got a great tarte tatin and coffee. Excellent lunch. [La Bastide d'Opio, 9 rue Guisarde, 75006 Paris; tel: +33 (0)1 4329-0184; http://www.bistrot-opio.com/]

*****


La Grande Arche de la Defense

La Grande Arche de la Defense

Booth from Alsace

Booth from Alsace

We took the Metro out to La Defense, a first for us. There is a huge Christmas Village set up under the Grande Arche. You go through Security to get in and again every time you change sections. As we wandered back and forth, one guard reached the point of waving us through since my bag wasn’t very interesting. There were police patrolling and very friendly vendors. We didn’t buy anything . . . pretty much the same as yesterday except much of this was made in China. It is pretty but it seems very commercial. There were cute animals in a manger-type section, but my camera card came loose and only two photos of animals came out. The pictures I took of police patrolling both came out . . . go figure. The gendarmes were fine but the fuzzy little animals were cuter.

My chief regret is that I was too full from lunch to buy some of the wonderful breads that were for sale. There was one huge cake that looked scrumptious and there were very large bread boys with raisins that I know would have been wonderful. The next time we visit, I'll skip lunch and eat at the booths. Live and learn . . .

*****


Breads for Christmas

Breads for Christmas


Christmas Owls (Chouettes)

Christmas Owls (Chouettes)


Christmas Chalets under the Grande Arche de la Défense

Christmas Chalets under the Grande Arche de la Défense


The Paris Police watching over us.

The Paris Police watching over us.

We took the Metro back to our hotel and caught up with e-mail and rested then walked up rue Mouffetard checking menus. Ed wanted soup and it was not to be. In Paris for the evening meal you eat a proper meal or go to a bar for a snack. We got almost as far as Pl. Contrascarpe and noticed the prices getting higher the farther we walked, so we decided to turn around and go back to a fondue place we’d seen that looked nice. Fondue seemed like a good substitute for soup on a chilly evening. Entered and were seated at the cute red and white checkered tables. We both ordered the three-cheese Savoyard fondue and a half bottle of Chablis. Our fondue arrived with enough bread for an army and plates full of roasted potatoes and very thin ham slices. It was absolutely delicious but we couldn’t begin to finish it. So sad . . . We did ask what the third cheese was and he said, “Compte” so I’ll have to try it at home. It was very rich! [L’auberge De La Mouff-chez Nadine, 83, rue Mouffetard; +33 (0)1 4337-6439; http://www.lafourchette.com/restaurant/auberge-de-la-mouff/66293]

Arc de Triomphe from the Grande Arche de la Défense (look carefully)

Arc de Triomphe from the Grande Arche de la Défense (look carefully)



Easy walk back to the hotel. Paris is wonderful.

Posted by Beausoleil 16:05 Archived in France Comments (1)

Last morning in Paris and on to Strasbourg

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Got up 8ish and enjoyed our hotel breakfast. Packed and checked the room, then went down and checked out. As prearranged, they stored our luggage and we headed to the Metro. It’s a direct line to Galeries Lafayette although it was a long ride on a full train. When we arrived, the Metro entrance to the department store was closed and we had to go upstairs and enter from the street. Only a couple entrances are open so everyone goes through Security. Our brave new world . . .

Tiffany Dome, Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Tiffany Dome, Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Galeries Lafayette, Paris, 2015 Christmas Tree

Galeries Lafayette, Paris, 2015 Christmas Tree

We found the Tiffany dome and the giant Christmas tree. It was spectacular, over-the-top Christmas decor. I got photos from nearly every floor. We visited the Christmas shop and got a Paris ornament for our tree. Fun! We exited and walked along the outside looking at little (and big) kids enjoying the animated window displays. One window was full of stars and the kids could swipe from star to star to make music . . . but only if they could get Mom and Dad to stop playing and give them a turn!

*****

Galeries Lafayette Store Windows with a delighted audience

Galeries Lafayette Store Windows with a delighted audience

Interesting band at the Garnier Opera in Paris

Interesting band at the Garnier Opera in Paris

As we walked around the Garnier Opera, we heard music and in front was a funny band . . . a bunch of high school or college kids with instruments and some in very interesting costumes was set up on the front steps of the Opera. One of the trombones looked like it was made of yellow plastic. Strange, but they were great fun. We stayed and listened for a while.

*****


Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre Metro stop from Café Nemours

Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre Metro stop from Café Nemours

Café Nemours, Paris

Café Nemours, Paris

We walked down Opera to the Palais Royal-Louvre Metro stop and checked the time. Decided we should eat lunch so went into Café Nemours where Ed got a Croque Monsieur and I got a quiche. We washed it down with Badoit. It was a fast enough Paris lunch so that we had time for one more adventure before getting our luggage and catching our train to Strasbourg this afternoon.

*****

The Christmas Band again, now at Place du Palais-Royal by the Louvre

The Christmas Band again, now at Place du Palais-Royal by the Louvre

Paris in the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall

Paris in the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall

In all our trips, we've never looked into the Carrousel du Louvre shopping center so we decided to check the very modern mall under the Louvre and as we crossed the street, we heard another band so we followed our ears to Place du Palais Royal and it was the same band we’d heard earlier. They must be doing a tour of Paris today.

I took more band photos and we moved on to the Louvre mall . . . and more security checks. We were checked going in and also entering Printemps department store. Galeries Lafayette had been swarming with people, but the Louvre mall was nearly empty. Printemps had a gorgeous tall tree and lots of smaller ones, all decorated with flowers. They were delicate and beautiful. Somehow decorating Printemps trees with flowers seemed appropriate. Springtime at Christmas . . .

*****

Gare de l'Est, Paris on the way to Strasbourg

Gare de l'Est, Paris on the way to Strasbourg

Walked on out to the Metro and back to our hotel where we retrieved our luggage and walked up the street where we caught the #47 bus to Gare de l’Est. It’s a nice ride with a great view of Notre Dame on the way. Now we’re waiting for our platform to post. It is a very cold wait; don’t they heat these places?

Later: It finally posted and we started the long hike to car #17 but were stopped for yet another security check. Everyone had to open one bag and ladies, their purses. After a cursory glance, we were waved on and continued the trek to car #17. Found it, stowed our bags, found our seats and settled in for the 2+ hour train ride. Very comfy, but dark so no photos out the windows.

Strasbourg, view from our hotel

Strasbourg, view from our hotel


Arrived in Strasbourg and couldn’t find our way out of the train station. Finally discovered you haul all your luggage down a very long flight of stairs to exit the station because the escalators only go up. Finally left the station and easily found the walkway through Place de la Gare to the street we needed. It took about ten minutes or less to walk to our hotel. We checked in and did need our booking.com confirmation. They were training a new young woman and she has a way to go. Fortunately, the fellow working with her had no trouble finding our confirmation. We’re in room 620 which turned out to be between floors so we take the elevator to 6, go through a door and down a short flight of stairs, with luggage, to get to our room. Interesting, but the room is huge, has a desk and small sofa and is clean so we are happy. The location couldn't be more perfect. We walk across a square and a bridge and we are in the heart of Strasbourg. [Hotel Ibis Strasbourg Centre, 18 rue de Faubourg National 67000 Strasbourg FRANCE; +33 (0)3 8875-1010] http://www.ibis.com/gb/hotel-0943-ibis-strasbourg-centre-petite-france/index.shtml]

We walked to the corner to Le Schnockelok, an Alsatian restaurant, and it was packed. We asked about our chances for dinner and the lady said she thought she could seat us in a few minutes so we waited and, sure enough, two couples soon left and we got one of their tables, Despite the number of people, we were taken care of quite promptly (French prompt, not American prompt). Ed ordered a couple of kirs to celebrate our arrival in Strasbourg . . . a good beginning. For dinner I ordered the hind stew with spaetzle (someone must have gone hunting earlier), and Ed got chicken with a Reisling sauce. The spaetzle was homemade and both dinners delicious. As a chicken/venison compromise, we got an Alsatian rosé and loved it. It was very rich and complex, not the bland rosé of our youth. [Le Schnockelok, 2 Rue du Faubourg national, 67000 Strasbourg, France; tel: +33 (0)3 8813-4504; http://schnockeloch.fr/]

After our wonderful and very friendly dinner, we walked over to the nearby church before returning to the hotel. Checking Mass schedules done, Christmas lights admired, we walked back to Ibis and SLEEP!

Posted by Beausoleil 14:51 Archived in France Comments (1)

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