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11 posts from September 2010

September 28, 2010

versailles ...

The Palace of Versailles.  Last Friday.

This was one of the best days so far - one of my favorite bits of the trip happened here: sitting under cover in the garden, drinking hot cocoa while it rained.   And one of the worst - because large tourist attractions have a way of bringing out the worst in people (not to mention the fact that lots of folks lose what tenuous grip on common sense they have when they're on holiday).

Paris196Versailles is a massive place.  Gardens, mulitiple palaces, canals ... not to mention the hamlet and farm created for Marie Antoinette to play peasant in.  Huge.  And we walked about 85% of it.

The gardens, which are many and maze-like, are gorgeous in the fall - so much color.  I'd been to the gardens once before, in summer, but they didn't seem as vivid then.  (Of course, to be fair, the summer visit had been at night for a special event and it was, as night is, dark.)

Having the place to ourselves for a few morning hours certainly didn't hurt the ambience. 



It had rained overnight which made for gorgeous light and colors that seemed deeper, richer.  It rained off and on the rest of the day too.  And people screamed.  I kid you not.  They screamed and ran like they were being chased by an ax-wielding psychopath.  Because of rain.  And since mob mentaility seemed to reign, lots of people were screaming and running.  It was surreal.  I closed my eyes and pretended they were royalty running from revolutionaries.

The inside of the palace is lovely too.  

Unfortunately, going from being nearly alone to wave after wave of tour group was jarring.  You would have thought they were on a race to go through the place as fast as they possible could.  It would go something like this: race into room, jostle, knock into, and push people, take photo and do it as fast as possible.  Even if you don't actually LOOK at anything.  Common courtesy be damned, at least you have a photo to prove you were there.  I know you think this is likely laced with some amount of exaggeration, but really, it isn't.  It was mind-boggling.
As a result of tour-group-mayhem, I took a lot of deep breaths while we were inside.  Reminding myself where I was and to soak it all in and appreciate what I was getting to see (maybe even more so given the hectic pace almost everyone else was going at).

And while overly ornate furniture and gilding isn't really my thing, I did enjoy putting a 3 dimensional "face" to history, and ... I liked the chandeliers.  And if the number of photos I ended up taking of them are any indiction - I liked them a lot.  *chuckle* 

There are smaller palaces on the grounds too (in comparison to the main palace, but still fairly large): the Grand and Petit Trianons.  Louis XIV used the Grand Trianon as his retreat from the main palace and to house some family members.  While Louis XV had the Petit Trianon built for his mistress (who actually died before it was finished, so he simply moved the next one in).  Louis XVI eventually took the throne and gave the Petit Trianon and it's surrounding parks to Marie-Antoinette.

There's are lots of bright colors in these "retreats."  Bright yellows, blues, oranges ...



And lots and lots of pink. 


Alternating between rain and sun, it was all blue skies when we made it into the "domain of Marie Anotoinette" around the Petit Trianon: her park, hamlet, and farm. 


More pretty green stuff, wet and sparkly. 

We'd done a lot of walking by this point and D began to question the sanity of trekking out to the farm.  My feet were protesting too (though more the miles we'd have to walk back, uphill, to the palace and not the walk out to the farm).  But the draw of places previously off-limits was too great - I really wanted to see Marie's village and the farm. 




Paris176The village was idyllic.  I'd probably call it fairytale-like if I hadn't seen villages just as unreal-ly pretty in the Alsatian countryside.  Unfortunately for Marie, it didn't help the perception of excess when the revolution came to town.




The farm and village were ransacked during the revolution, but after it was over and after Napoleon, Louis Phillipe came along and his wife refurbished the village and farm to some extent.  It had been closed to the public, but after year's of work (a pet project of Chirac, I believe), the area's open now and restored to how it was when Marie Antoinette left it.  

At this point we were the furthest from the palace we could possibly be.  We made it from the farm, through the village, and back to the Petit Trianon and there we spotted it ... a tiny train.  A tiny train of happiness, ready to shuttle us back up the hill to the palace.  Angels sang.  Bright lights shone around it.  We were happy campers.  And looking back, I may still have been at Versailles, curled up into a ball refusing to walk, if not for that tiny train. 


September 27, 2010

let the photos of chandeliers begin ...

It's Sunday night as I'm writing.  It's been cold and rainy all day.  So cold I borrowed socks from Dave and we turned the heat on.  But I don't mind.  I like it this way. 

The past few days have passed in a blur.  Time always seem to whiz by too fast these days, but the last few even more so than usual.  Going back to last Thursday most of the day was spent in and arond the Latin Quarter.  There were more Gothic churches: St. Severin in the morning and Notre Dame later that evening.  (St. Severin here.)  There was also the Sorbonne, hundreds of thousands of people protesting the French President's proposed changes their retirement benefits, Notre Dame, an aborted attempt to revisit Saint Chapelle, and ice cream from Berthillion.

The Latin Quarter is decidedly lacking in Latin these days, as far as I can tell.  But the University is still there and there are lots of bookstores.  (There are also a lot of Greek Restaurants/Discos.  Yeah, I don't get that one either.)    

The Latin Quarter was known for being progressive.  For protests.  For "liberal" ideas and dissention, the reason there's more meaning to "Rive Gauche" than simply the "left bank."  And we had the full Rive Gauche experience - nearly one million people beginning a 24 hour strike.  People unhappy with the French President.  And pop music.  Lots of pop music blaring over their chants.


Looking for a good scholarly tome on French history, in English, we hit up Shakespeare and Company since we were in the area.


I struck out on the history book, but did enjoy a nice sit in the upstairs reading room.

Lovely buildings on the edge of the Seine.


Notre Dame from the front and the back for Mom since it's her favorite.  

The leaves have already started to turn and fall.  At least from the chestnut trees.  They're so pretty - a really lovely orange.

Notre Dame is just gorgeous in the evening.  While it's dark inside even at mid-day, it's understandably darker in the evening and the windows and lights really glow. 




And by the end of the day we were zombies.  We dragged ourselves back to the apartment, moaning at every staircase in the Metro and loving that the building we're in has a lift.  

Next up in photos ... a very cool day in Versailles.


September 25, 2010

joyeux anniversaire, deb ...

Today I'm happy to have been asked to be part of a blog hop with the sole purpose of sending out happy birthday wishes to my good friend, Deb, on the occasion of her 50th birthday!

Happy Birthday, Deb!

Making a card with Deb in mind really works my brain.  She loves grunge and layers and techniques that get your hands messy - you know, the kinda' stuff  that blows the mind of a stamper with a "clean and simple" style like me.  So what's a gal to do?  I try to fake it.  *grin*

This year Deb's birthday card is inspired by one my buddy, Julie, shared on her blog a few weeks ago.  She talked about making a shabby card easy with patterned paper and I smacked my head and yelled "brilliant!"  So instead of building layers, I used a detailed piece of patterned paper!  The paper already has some grungey features built-in - a distressed look, some modeling - so I didn't need to add any more!  'Cause, let's face it, Deb's better at it than I am, so it's best to leave it to the pros!  *wink*

The butterfly is felt I cut with a die and my trusty, much-loved Big Shot.

Sadly, the bit that really sets the card off doesn't show up in the photo - glitter!  (You knew that was coming, didn't you?)  There's lovely, prisma-type glitter added subtly throughout the design. 

To check out Deb's other birthday cards, follow me over to Jessica's blog!

Once again - Happy 50th, Deb!  I hope you're having a fabulous day!


PS - Just in case you run across a bump along the way, direct links here: Joanna, Jessica, ImkeAngela, Kelly, Donelda, Janet, and Kathleen.

stamps: sentiment from "c'est chouette" set (hero arts)
paper: bark notecard (a muse), 6x6 lullaby lane paper pack (webster's pages)
ink: versafine onyx black (tsukineko)
embellishment: white scrapper's floss (karen foster design), button, prima glitter, felt
other: butterfly die (sissix)

September 23, 2010

la tour eiffel ...

I know, I know.  I can hear you now, "The Tower?  Again?" 


I'm not really going to it everyday, though I wouldn't object to that. 

We're staying a few blocks away.  So I get to see it.  A lot.  More than I've ever seen it on a visit, I do believe.

And at every time of day.

It "sparkles" for a few minutes at the top of every hour at night.  But that doesn't translate to film very well.

And it's massive.  Something that does translate pretty well.

Not a bad sight to start a day and end a night with. 

Yup, these are the only photos I have to share from Wednesday.  Not a lot to report from that day, but today was busy and including more churches, a ginormous million-person protest, riot gear, and ending up bloody tops that list, but ... it has to wait.  I have a date with an EARLY morning train out to Versailles tomorrow morning (Friday) and I'm whipped.  Off to bed.


marie and monet ...

Laundry happens.  Even in Paris.  Our machine here is a first for me.  In a cabinet, hidden away in the bedroom, it washes and dries.  All in one machine.  I'm not sure if this is nifty or weird.  Since the laundry is going let me take you back to Tuesday ...

This is the Basilica Cathedral St. Denis.  In a northern suburb of Paris.  The area is a bit run-down, kinda' rough.  Someplace I wouldn't go at night (especially since I was uncomfortable at times in broad daylight).  And definitely not what you're used to seeing in the historic quarter.  But the church alone is worth the trip.  In daylight.  With someone else along.


I guess if you've seen photos or been to a lot of gothic Cathedrals, they can all begin to blend together.  But a gothic Cathedral is a gothic Cathedral and, if nothing else, they're simply pretty to look at.  But read a bit about one and there's generally a good story or two behind the artwork, the statues, or the relics. 


And St. Denis has some great stories.  But what blows my mind about this one is that every King of France, save 3, are buried here.  And many of their Queens, children, and families. 

We're talking Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette ...


Louis XVII and Anne of Bretagne ...

Francois I, his family and children.  And nearly all the rest too.  Catherine de Medici (thank you for the macaron), Henry II, Dagobert, Charles V ... all here.  Blows. My. Mind.

And yet we had the place nearly to ourselves.  It was amazing.

The mind blowing history continues in the crypt where you come face to face with bones, hearts, and bits and pieces of Kings and Queens you've read about in history books.

Many a Louis' heart on the shelves ...
Graves of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI  are in the middle row and Louis XVIII in the front.  Wrapping my brain around the number of historical figures at my feet was nearly impossible.



Minds suffuciently blown, we did venture a bit deeper into St. Denis.  And then decided we really had seen enough of the area and Metro'd back out.


Tuesday evening found us sitting in the Jardin du Ranelagh.  Soaking in gorgeous golden light, turning leaves, and tons of kids on bikes and scooters snacking on bread. 

It was also Musee Marmottan's late night and we were in.  The Marmottan is small, but houses a rather deep collection of Monet's work, donated by his son.  They're also in the last days of a special exhibit drawing lines between Monet and abstract artists.  Interesting indeed.


It was a lovely night when we left Marmottan and walking back proved a great plan.  Through gorgeous Parisian neighborhoods, the Tower peeking around buildings every now and then, and sunset on the Seine.  Life here doesn't suck.

September 21, 2010

neo-byzantine nonsense ...

I asked D what he wanted to remember about Monday.  He sighed happily and said "It was a good day."   Not really what I was hoping for as answers go, but I suppose it's indicative enough.

Our time change struggles continued Sunday night, but we managed to drag ourselves outta' bed Monday morning anyway. 

There are some parts of Paris we've only scratched the surface of despite closing in on 40 visits.  (I know.  Crazy.)   Montmartre falls into that category.  While D loves visiting Sacre-Coeur to check-in on the Joan of Arc statue, it's all "neo-Byzantine nonsense" and hoardes of tourists to me.  We usually avoid it, but decided it was time to give the neighborhood another look.  GIve it a fair shake, if you will. 

Montmartre sits on a high butte overlooking the rest of Paris and both times we've been, we Metro'd out to the area and made the steep climb in a funicular train.  Hoping to skip the seedier bits this time, we went past the butte and walked back to it through winding, charming streets.  A nice change of pace.  It felt almost village-like with flowers bursting from windows, neighbors chatting on cobblestone streets, and the squeals of children having recess.

We even saw folks harvesting grapes in Montmartre's one tiny vineyard.Paris66

And the village feel calmed my twitch to get in a car and head to the countryside.  At least for now.


Approaching Sacre Coeur from the back is a wholly different experience.  Subtle.  Much less dramatic. 


Easier to hear yourself think and appreciate the details.


Leaving the quiet behind we dove in, made the rounds inside, and said hello to Joan.


A few blocks from the church is Place du Tertre.  Populated with cafes and artists, I liken it to a Disney park: a carefully constructed experience to attract visitors.  Shop workers, cafe workers, and artists are in period costumes.  Music is fluttering in from ... somewhere.  Oh yeah, and a beer is $10.  


But if you take a deep breath, block out all the people, and really look ... some of the old character shines through.  It once was a cheap place to live and artists like Picasso and Dali flocked here.  You can almost imagine it.  (And I'm guessing a beer was far cheaper.)




And the views are spectacular!
Montmartre is changing too.  There's still the old, the historic ... but as we walked down from the butte, areas that had been less than inviting seem to be undergoing a renaissance of sorts. It was a nice surprise. 

It's after midnight, technically Wednesday, I suppose.  And we saw even more really cool things today, but it's past my bedtime for now ...


September 20, 2010

the one with no photos of the eiffel tower ...

Sunday was the day that got away. 

After a late night Saturday, I woke up a bit after 7, looked at the clock, and thought "eh, it's too early to get up - let's sleep a little more!"  "A little more" turned out to be 6 hours more when neither of us woke up again until a bit after 1pm.  By the time we were out it was nearly 4.  Ack.  This caused me some small amount of distress. 

Dave was baffled.  "It's ok to sleep in when you're tired."
Me: "But we're in Paris!"
Dave: "Relaxing is ok in Paris."

I know he's right, and I AM wholly on board with that sentiment, but there's still a niggling voice in my head.  We're laid back travelers.  I like that about us.  But this was a bit much, even for me.  *chuckle*

So we made lunch, scolded ourselves (well, I scolded us - in my head), then hit the Champs Elysees for a couple of hours.  It was, as is to be expected on a Sunday, a bustling sea of humanity.  Made worse by Julia Roberts intermittently blocking the street with her red carpet (which we had to cross to, well, get to the other side).

New Laduree cookbook, an as-yet-to-be-released-in-the-US Lostprophets CD, and a green tea and lemon lotion later we check out the Arc and head back to start dinner.

With no sinewy barnyard cockeral to hand, the one in the package already missing it's head and feet would have to do.

We'd been looking forward, discussing, and basically prattling to one another about this moment for weeks on end: cooking a proper meal in Paris.  Playing Parisian dress-up if you will, able to partake of markets and be a part of the yummy smells wafting from neighborhood windows.  And, boy, did it ever smell good.  

I even made French-style mashed potatoes - which are much like our own apart from the added egg yolks.  (Speaking of which, the eggs were beyond gorgeous.) 

And as we ate the chicken that was no less tasty for already having it's head and feet removed, we repeatedly marveled ...  "and we get to do it again!"


September 19, 2010

food, sore feet, and ratatouille live ...

Patting ourselves on the back for adjusting so well, so fast to the time difference (8 hours for us) we smugly ate croissants and planned our Saturday.  (You're familiar with foreshadowing, yes?)

We have a long, skinny hallway that leads from the living room, past the bathroom, kitchen, and into the bedroom.  As you enter it from the front door, there's a large map of Paris hanging in it - complete with heart to mark our location.  It made me giggle at first, but it's actually pretty dang useful.  And still cute.  Cute and useful.  How great is that?  


Grocery list in hand, we left to buy food.  Markets are definitely part of our plan.  Many of them.  But La Grand Epicerie Paris is a guilty pleasure and today is the day we get to do proper shopping there.  Not just to buy picnic or snack items, today we buy meat at the meat counter!  (Yes, this actually excites us - we love to cook - and in Paris?  Forget about it.)

Shopping in a foreign country (and language) is always an adventure.  We've learned to go slow, watch how others accomplish tasks (like weighing veg) and immitate.  You see those white paper bags under the carrots?  Yes?!  Those are what fresh herb and veg go in.  And that cute little man sitting behind a counter of scales near the strawberries?  He's in charge of putting a sticker with weight and price on them.  But don't try to queue, you'll never leave the spot where you stand.  Dive in, bouquet garni first!

Realizing we didn't REALLY know how to ask for rump or pork belly in French made us scratch our heads.  What to do?  Ask the butcher for meat for boeuf bourguignon et voila!  You not only get what you want, but a nice discourse on what size he wants to cut it and how long he thinks you should cook it.   It's also packaged in a lovely silver bag - must take a pic of this, it's really quite cool.

Then I'm off to the chicken counter - my meat-gathering job.  It doesn't take long.  I want a whole chicken, but I don't want to have to cut off it's feet and head before I cook it.  You might call ME a chicken.  I buy one in a package instead.  Julia would be very disappointed in me, I'm sure.  But that's ok. I saw the Jell-o concoction she made on a show in 1975 last week and I'm ok with my decision.

We also bought a macaron.

A few blocks from La Grand Epicerie is Poilane: bread shop extraordinaire.  I needed flour and this lovely sourdough loaf.  A gorgeous apple tart jumped in our bag too. 


Running errands by foot and Metro is tiring, but exhilirating.  Whether it really is or not, the everyday just seems better here.  Prettier.  But it doesn't make 4 bags of groceries containing, among other things, a kilo and a half of bread any less heavy.

Groceries unpacked, the Île des Cygnes is a short walk away.  Dead center in the Seine it's a long, thin island with no more than this walkway down it's center.  My feet were protesting the nealry 6 hours spent grocery shopping earlier, but I ignored them.


A one-fifth scale of the Statue of Liberty sits at the end of Île des Cygnes, facing west towards New York City.  

The Seine is lovely to the west.

And south.

But turn around ... yeah, I like it facing east best too.



It should go without warning that photos of the tower will likely appear en masse at any given moment.  I'm quite fond of it, you know. *grin*

At this point we've dragged our aching bones back to a park under pont Bir Hakim for "just a few more shots of the tower."   It's nearly 9pm when I'm done.  Might as well stay put an extra few minutes to see it sparkle.  Right?  Right. 

Oooh.  Ahhh.  Sparkly.

We walked the few blocks back "home" laughing about how sore (and old) we felt and ... rats. (Oh, I forgot to mention that bit, didn't I?  Let's just say Île des Cygnes is quite possibly mis-named.)  We weren't going to spend hours making boeuf bourguignon after all.  We made something faster (but still yummy).  And that's ok.  Especially when this is the last thing we see before rounding the corner and walking in our door.

Unfortunately, after the late meal we stayed up a little too late.  It's Sunday now and I woke up at 4am, 7:12am, and again at ... 1:10pm.  Gah.  So much for that quick acclimation to the time change.  And so much for heading to St. Denis today.  Hmm.  What to do instead ...


September 18, 2010

on the road ...

Actually, "in the sky again" is more like it these days, huh?  (Hi Mom, I'm still alive!)

It's good to be back. 

It doesn't matter how many times I've been here, it's always magical.  It is, without a doubt, my favorite city.  Yes, even more than Seattle.  (Hmm ... what it is with me and cities with tall, pointy things?  No comments from the peanut gallery. But I digress.  As usual.)

The day traveling to get here was long.  But it always is these days.  No more "hop in the car and be in Paris in 3.5 hours" for us.  But you know, as much as I truly hate to fly, I'm always excited for an overnight flight to Europe.  The process.  It's always the same.  Evening flight.  Board-Read-Dinner-Beverage-Sleep (hopefully).  It makes me happy.  Like, grinning from ear-to-ear like a fool kinda' happy. 

Grabbing the door-to-door shuttle we'd arranged beforehand, airport stuff and getting to the apartment didn't take much time at all.  And really, the 45 minutes on the highway made me happy too.  I like it.  I miss it: the road signs, seeing "centre" on them, heck, even the green arrows that mark the exits.  (Unfortunately, that on top of seeing the countryside flying in has me itching to rent a car and drive out of town for a day.  That notion has been met with cross-eyed looks from Dave who's enjoying not having a car. *boggle*  We'll see how that pans out for me.) 

The apartment is lovely.  We're in a residential area about 6 blocks from the Eiffel Tower in the 15th.  There's nothing of real note in the neighborhood - except that it's in Paris.  And in a building that looks, well, like a building you might imagine being in Paris.  Old, charming, with a giant green double-door and huge round doorknobs smack dab in the middle of both. It's been remodeled and updated inside (flat screen on the living room wall and modern appliances), but still feels charming - right down to the two Eiffel Towers flanking the mantel in the living room. 

We have the usual suspects close by: a fromagerie (cheese!), cafes, schools, and a couple of small grocery-type stores.  (Though we're hitting a larger one up today for proper shopping.)  Yes, I brought a French cookbook.  Yes, we'll be cooking.  Yes, I already miss my pans from home.

I was excited after we settled in and despite being tired, we set out in search of lunch and groceries.  We hadn't planned much for the first day - we're always just so stinkin' tired after flying overnight - but I like to trudge through and stay up at least until after dinner. 

Lunch was a croque monsieur and madame (ham on toasted bread, broiled to melt cheese - add an egg and it's a madame instead of monsieur), fries, and a salad (with a yummy, mustardy vinaigrette that seems to be on every salad in every cafe).  And a glass of wine (aka, my undoing).  Halfway through the meal I felt I'd faceplant into my sandwich at any moment.  Alcohol makes me sleepy.  I know this.  Yet, I can get a fine-tasting glass of wine for a Euro or two or three.  Must. Partake. At. Every. Opportunity.  Right?  Right. 

Bill paid, we trudged on to the closest market for a few basics (cola light - must have caffiene), cheese, and more wine (had I not just learned my lesson?)!  I did make it back without incident, but it was questionable for a few blocks there at the end.

After passing out cold for a few hours, I dragged my lazy butt out of the very comfy bed that was still calling my name and we went in search of a fast meal, a peek at the tower, and a boat ride.

Love a good boat ride on the Seine at night.  It was cold.  But perfect.

Dinner was a shared crepe, waffle, and hot dog with eye-wateringly-spicy mustard stuffed inside a baguette (a tradition of ours), eaten on a bench across the street from the tower.  The tower is, as always, lovely.  Sparkling on the hour (eep - phone video).  No.  I never get enough of it. 

As I bring this to a close, it's Saturday morning and I'm waiting on D to get back.  He went croissant-fetching ...


September 14, 2010

a calendar for good ...

Today I'm happy to share a project with you I made using one of A Muse's 2011 Calendars

If you're a fan of A Muse you'll know that every year about this time we release a calendar, with the proceeds of its sale going to a worthy cause.  And this year is no different.  One of A Muse's longtime customers, Amanda Beers, lost her 6 year old daughter, Charley, in June.  This year the funds raised through sales of the 2011 calendar will benefit Charley's Fund, set up in her memory.  (You can learn more about Charley's Fund and its first project, here.  You might want to have some tissues handy.)

As I read how Charley's family and friends remembered her on the Charley's Fund Facebook page, color seemed to be a recurring theme: in the bright balloons they gathered to release in her memory, her favorite colors, and even as they recalled her vibrant personality.  In years past, my calendar project has always been white, but this years design is totally inspired by Charley and her love of color. 

I do hope you'll buy a calendar or four, tell your friends, and help us support Charley's Fund!  (Available today at the A Muse website!)


PS - A note about buying the calendar ... the 2011 A Muse Calendars are a download product only.  Nothing is shipped to you.  Calendar orders are only processed during regular business house (Monday - Friday 8am - 5pm PST).  So ... if you order in the evening or over a weekend, you'll not receive access to download until the following business day.  But once your order has been processed, you'll have unlimited access to the file (or files!) you've purchased! 

stamps: daisy duet, marigold solid, wild rose, spiral daisy, wild blossom, lily, solid zinnia, leaves trio, leaf frond (a muse)
paper: papaya cardstock, watermelon cardstock, robin's egg blue cardstock (a muse)
ink: fresh ink paper white, fresh ink red currant, fresh ink sicilian blue, fresh ink slate, fresh ink provincial grey, fresh ink honey, fresh ink tuscan olive, fresh ink strawberry, fresh ink pool
othera muse 2011 calendar for charley's fund in 4x6, clear 4x6 calendar case

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Hi! I'm Heather, and welcome to my blog! I stamp, I travel, I make stuff, I cook, I take tons of photos - and you'll find a little of all of that here!

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