jeudi 29 novembre 2012

Beware of the Attack of the Self-Cleaning Toilets

 All over Paris, one can dash to one of those self-cleaning toilets found along many streets. I am not proud to have used one of those, but hey, in a jiffy, it works. In the states, it's easy to plan your routes if you need a toilet - they are everywhere!! From the grocery store, to department stores to all chain stores in between - people from other countries must think Americans have bathroom issues!! Here in France, it is not that easy. Toilets are not everywhere and often times you have to pay or buy a drink to just use the toilet, thereby having to find another toilet an hour later.  So welcome, the automatic toilets. There is a trick to using them, and if you are not careful you will get sprayed with cleaning chemicals just like my poor daughter did.

She went into one of these toilets with her sister. Her sister finished and opened the door while Rachel was still using the toilets - well.... opening the doors triggers an automatic cleaning system where water and chemicals are sprayed all over the inside of the toilet. The next thing I know, Rachel comes walking  out soaked from head to toe, crying,  "I'm all wet". Trying not to laugh too hard, I said, "Oh no, Isabel opened the door while you were still in there!!" So tourists beware....... do not open the door until you are completely finished and wait for the green light before you enter or else you will enter during the cleaning process and you know what will happen.......ATTAACKK!!!

samedi 24 novembre 2012

Le Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier is a masterpiece of an opera house and I have to admit I have been here 6 years already and just now making it inside. It was built on the orders of Napoleon III as part of the great Parisian reconstruction project carried out by Haussmann in the late 1800s. This is a not to be missed visit on your agenda. You can choose to do a self-guided tour or take a tour with a guide (tours are given in English at certain times.) There is a fabulous staircase in the center one can walk up and down and feel like a princess entering her castle. There are beautiful costumes showcased behind glass with notes on what opera they were used for.  I loved looking at the gorgeous costumes and was most fascinated by the people who work behind the scenes, from the costume designers to shoe designers, to the wardrobe assistants to make-up artists. There is an entire area inside dedicated to these workers with loads of images and write-ups. I am sure it's a bit glorified, but who wouldn't want to be among those silky gowns and gorgeous headdresses...... I haven't yet been to an opera, but desperately want to go to have a peek inside the auditorium to see the ceiling painted by Chagall. It was closed the day I went as there were rehearsals going on.

There are operas for children as well as adults. However, I recommend booking early as the more popular operas sell out quickly.

I love this image - Beautiful dresses waiting to be worn.......

Private boxes - hmmm wonder what it's like inside.......


dimanche 18 novembre 2012

(An old post that was moved around)

The living situation in France brings a whole new meaning to the world "small". Obviously people are smaller in both size and stature here, and their definition of "personal space" is completely opposite of mine, but come on!! 140 CM for 2 people!! Basically this is the size of an American twin/double. I told my husband he better stop making extra trips to the bakery or we are going to have to get an extend-a-bed to fit him!!

I am still trying to imagine how anybody over 170 pounds fits in these french tubs. If you have wide hips, forget it. I am sure the pompiers* have been called on more than one occasion to yank someone out of the tub. I do like the fact the toilet area is separate from the "douche"room, however, being the claustrophobic I am, having the toilet in a space the size of a closet just doesn't go over real well with me. Even when you are there for just a bit, there is no ventilation, thereby causing one to continuously keel over from the sheer odor. I am sure my whole family will be diagnosed with some form of rare cancer from all the "odeur de maladie spray"** we use every time we exit the "closet".


**air freshner

samedi 17 novembre 2012

La Merde

(This is an old post that I just moved around)

Sooner or later I was going to have to write about this "la merde" - it even has a feminine article before it to portray a more polite tone. I have stepped in "la merde" more times than I care to say. This stuff is everywhere!! For a country that prides itself on being one of the most beautiful, I just don't get it. And it's not like the city has ignored the situation. There are posts all over town to clean up after le chien complete with a sac à plastique to facilitate the job. (Just like at home!!) I believe picking up dog merde is truly beneath a french person - after all they come out dressed to the nines to walk their le petit chien - what pretell was anybody thinking that someone so elegantly dressed would dare pick up "la merde". They just obviously ignore it hoping it well disintegrate or something. As the author of the book, A Year in the Merde said he wore sac à plastique over his shoes for the year, I may soon follow in his footsteps or "plastic" footsteps so to speak. 

So we carry on and continue to be on constant "merde"patrol as we walk the streets. As I hear my children run on ahead and yell, "Mom, merde here", I realize, "oh shit"...... I have taught them a bad word, but then "merde" does sound alot better than the English equivilent............
Just a quick shout out to Elizabeth over at the Mustard Ceiling for helping me to spruce this blog up a bit. She does complete websites as well as make-overs so if you are needing a bit of a la carte work on your blog head on over to her site.

Ville Fleurie

   I cannot even imagine what the flower budget must be in each town or village in France. The french appear to appreciate their green spaces which is duly noted upon in all the gardens and parks just in Paris alone. Flower plantings are everywhere from parks to small gardens to all the "ponts". The changing of the flowers gives way to a new passing of time every few months. It is fun to see what will show up in the gardens next. Spring is probably my favorite month to see all the flowers as they are in abundance with eye-popping vivid colors begging to be smelled, photographed and admired. I took note of this flower planting the other day in Le Pecq where I live.  There was probably a crew of 15 men working on planting bulbs in the freshly prepared soil for the following spring.

Each year towns can apply for a "Ville Fleurie" rating. This rating encompasses the best use of green space, quality of life in the town, ways of conserving water, planting trees and flowers. As I watched the men plant, I noticed that our town had a new "Ville Fleurie" sign with 4 stars!! I was ecstatic as this is a high rating for a town.  While Le Pecq is not a charming town so to speak compared to its neighbor St. Germain-en-Laye just up the hill, it boasts a beautiful green space along the Seine, lovely plantings and a water treatment plant that not only treats the water coming from the Seine into potable drinking water, this site is also home to many bird species and native flowers. One can even take a tour of the site to see how the water is treated. So the next time, you are driving through any town or village in France, take note of their "Ville Fleurie" award as it is quite a distinguishable notoriety to have.

* bridges
So cheers to you Le Pecq for the "Ville Fleurie" 2012 rating!

dimanche 11 novembre 2012

Tarte Tatin

I have wanted to make this Tarte Tatin since forever admiring these beautiful caramel visions of lusciousness.  The story goes that this tarte was actually made in error. The two Tatin sisters were busily making an apple tart and forgot to put the pie crust in the pan first. So they decided to put the crust on top of the filling, bake it and invert it after it was done cooking. Well, the rest is history.....

So today, this was it. I found a simple recipe to follow - and made a beautiful caramel for what would be the top, added my apples and a crust and voilá - a beautiful Tarte Tatin was made complete with a beautiful caramelized bottom. It was dripping with beauty..... and the taste - superb!!

beautiful caramel color
the finished tarte Tatin - beautiful!!

mardi 6 novembre 2012

Life in the Slow Lane

There are so many quaint towns in Brittany to see and discover one needs to just get in the car and go west from Paris. The drive is about 4 hours but if you like to meander through small towns like me, the drive is longer but you are then treated to charming villages with scenic views of village life. I love sampling the local fare and there is no shortage of that in Brittany -from moules to Coquilles St. Jacques, crepes sucrés or salés, cidre, caramel buerre salé, Kouign Amann it is surely a gastronomic affair.

Brocante Treasures
Then of course is the hunt for just the perfect item for the home to be found at one of the many brocantes along the way - hint - another reason to set the GPS on scenic route!!!  

The beautiful coastline of this area is not to be missed and is definately worth extra driving tIme.