Monday, December 13, 2010

My Jorgina Bracelet From Paris

Here is the bracelet I bought for myself in Paris. I bought it at a little jewelry shop in the Latin Quarter. It is made by "Jorgina." 

I'm modeling it alongside a beautiful Christmas postcard from my Paris Tour Guide illustrating a boat riding on the Seine.
 This postcard reminds me of our dinner cruise on the Bateaux Parisiens.
 Close-up of my bracelet.

 Bonnes fêtes!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Buy "Made in France"

When I was sixteen, I had a pen pal in England, and when I went to visit her and her family, my mother sent me off with a specially selected gift. According to my mother, who is the consummate gift-giver, it had to be something wonderful, beautiful, for my pen pal's family's home (as a house guest never goes empty-handed), and it had to be "made in the U.S." She chose a hand painted mantel style clock, which was purchased from local artisans in an artsy-fartsy section of Bucks County, PA. Likewise, when my pen pal came to stay with my family, she came bearing a wonderful silver gift, "made in England."

Fast-forward 34 years. I am in Paris, and one of the hardest things to do is shop for gifts to take home.

You may be wondering, "How could that be? Paris is full of wonderful shops ..."

Visiting those shops was, I am sad to say, not part of our 8-day itinerary. Because I stuck so squarely to the group itinerary, I never ventured off on my own to get to the really really wonderful boutiques or flagship shops of the great French designers and crafts people. Instead, my shopping experiences were relegated to:

1) Chintzy souvenir shops where everything is made in China (no offense, China - but I am in France ...)

2) Shops of questionable quality goods within the Latin Quarter, which was close to my hotel. For instance, one shop had Vivienne Westwood boots - but which season or YEAR were they from? And again, she's a British designer. I'm looking for something made in France. Another shop had the type of stuff you'd find on sale at an outdoor flea market in the US. I'm not a big fan of flea markets.

3) Gift shops at the many points of interest we visited as part of the group itinerary.

While others in my group were happily buying sequined change purses that screamed "Paris" and polyester boxer briefs emblazoned with Eiffel Tower graphics at the souvenir stands, I seemed to be walking around in circles.

But all was not lost.

One place where I WAS able to find the coveted made in France label was in Giverny, at Monet's House & Garden gift shop. I found this lovely barrette. There were an assortment of barrettes depicting different designs taken from Monet's artwork. The price - extremely reasonable.
Another great item I found at the Giverny gift shop was a made in France mouse pad - also with a scene from a Monet painting.

These made wonderful gifts to take back home!

And then there were the pastry shops. I did buy a box of mini macarons to take home. I wish I had bought more! I remember setting the macacrons out and Mark ate them like gumdrops, popping one after the other in his mouth. "These are awesome! What are they again?"

"Like $2.00 a cookie! Save a few for when my parents come over, I'd like them to try them too!" was my reply.

On the last night of my trip, at the last minute, sort of desperate but not senselessly so, I did get myself a silver-toned, modern style charm bracelet, with pretty pink mother-of-pearl shells and pink and gray (Austrian?!) crystals - supposedly made by a French designer who lives near the ocean - at least, that's what the shop owner at the far end of the Latin Quarter told me. It wasn't cheap. I showed it to one of the ladies in my tour group who sported a Prada handbag and HAD gone to the flagship shops on her own. She said it was lovely and worth what I paid. I'll show you that in another post.

And I broke down and did get my neighbor a sequined Paris keychain and Eiffel Tower charmed zipper pulls from a Latin Quarter souvenir shop that possibly sensed my desperation and possibly overcharged me ...

Hermes? Louis Vutton? Chanel? For now, I'll have to buy that online. Or in NYC. But oh, how wonderful it WOULD HAVE BEEN to have bought them in Paris. At least I have something I must do when I go to Paris again. Shop!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dinner Cruise on the Bateaux Parisiens

When I heard my tour group was going on a dinner cruise on the Seine, I imagined something sort of "campy" - not in the whimsical campy sort of way ... more like life-preservers, splashing water, windy gusts and oh, yes, a glass of wine. I didn't do any online research about the cruise before going. So I was pleasantly surprised at HOW ELEGANT the affair was. 
Shown above:  The Bateaux Parisiens dinner cruise menu.

What I had:  For the first course, I tried the green and white cream soup served cappuccino style, with lobster bits and slow-cooked morels. Delish!
The duck foie gras - always a good choice.

For our next course, I chose the beef tournedos, with a reduction of Bordelaise wine sauce. My pick for dessert was the Crepes Suzette, orrange butter and Grand Marnier.
Unfortunately, due to where I was sitting (you know, one of those places where you have to disrupt everyone else to get away from the table), I never made it onto the deck. I did catch glimpses out of the windows as we passed by these famous landmarks ...
A little map of the boat's course along the Seine 

A nice touch:  During our cruise along the Seine, we were serenaded by the musicians, and even an operatic rendition of "Ava Maria" as we passed Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres.

Needless to say, with the delicious food, lovely company, and enchanting ambiance, I was "a happy camper"!

Here's the video, for your viewing pleasure ...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cloudy With a Chance of Romance: A Cloudy, Fall Sky in Paris

 Along the Seine

"A cloudy day in Paris beats a sunny day almost anywhere." - Moi

On my recent trip, we walked along the Seine many times. I took the photo of the boats on the Seine while we walked along the path where I thought Gene Kelly danced with Leslie Caron in "An American in Paris." 

Turns out, the movie wasn't even shot in France! Practically the entire film (except for just a handful of shots) was done on a back-lot at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio in Hollywood, California. !! (To read more, visit

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hemmingway: Revisited (This is for those of you who like to read)

When I was in Paris the last week of September, I stayed at a hotel which was only steps away from where the famous writer Ernest Hemmingway lived and wrote.

'The Hemingways arrived in Paris on December 22, 1921 and a few weeks later moved into their first apartment at 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine. It was a miserable apartment with no running water and a bathroom that was basically a closet with a slop bucket inside." -
As a Creative Writing/English Literature major in college, you bet I read Hemmingway. And the 1920's happens to be one of my all-time favorite periods of history (along with the 1970's!). Anyway ...

After over two decades of writing "junk" mail as a direct marketing creative director/writer, I think it's fair to say I have drifted far from my beloved Eng Lit heroes and heroines. I could feel the bookbinding strings pulling me in ... as I daydreamed and stood under Hem's apartment on rue Cardinal Lemoine.
On my last day in Paris, I went into a charming bookstore on that very same street and bought my personal copy of Hemmingway's "A Moveable Feast" which chronicles his time in Paris when he lived on rue Cardinal Lemoine. I read most of it on the plane ride back to the states and finished it shortly after arriving home. The book's title refers back to the writer's famous quote to a friend in 1950, in which he said:

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."

Yes, Hem was lucky enough to have done just that. But I must add that you can do the same as a femme d'un certain age and it too will stay with you. Thank gawd!

Just today, a friend who's about my age came over for lunch, and we shared our Paris photos with each other. She brought her photo albums from her 2004 trip to Paris with her husband and two-year-old son to share with me. And I showed her my digital photos on my computer. It was fun to relive our travels and tales with each other.

Back in Paris, one of the women on my tour had borrowed a book to read from the hotel lobby's bookcase. It was the aforementioned "A Moveable Feast." This was before I had bought the book, and maybe it was because she mentioned she was reading it and asked me about the writer that I purchased my own copy to take home with me. This woman said she was reading the book but wanted to know what made Hemmingway such a great writer. She couldn't understand. Did I know? I guess if you just have the memoir, which is what "A Moveable Feast" essentially is, without reading his actual work (fiction), you miss the boat.

So to while away my days now that I am no longer in Paris, I read a book I never finished that's been on my bookshelf for quite some time - The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition. I read the stories  languorously, some of them again and some of them for the very first time, and feel closer to this writer than ever before. And I understand what made him such a great writer.

Thanks to Paris.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blues on the Seine

Here's one of the artists who will be playing there:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Crepes & Gelato in The Latin Quarter

From a purely consumerist point of view (not historical or literary, because there certainly are those realms to talk about here), the Latin Quarter is to Paris what South Street is to Philly - the perfect place to get a bite to eat while walking down the cobbled streets, people watching, then popping in and out of shops or bars.
It's the perfect place to get a crepe - the kind they make in a little hole-in-the-wall place where you can stand on the sidewalk, watch your crepe being made, pay for it, and take it away while you continue walking down the street.

My street-side crepe was delicious - made with fresh eggs, cheese and ham. The eggs were so fresh that the yolks were bright orange! We didn't eat them while walking on the street though. We sat inside where the place setting was beyond humble ...
 ... it was downright makeshift!
And in total contrast to this platter of champagne filled flutes that we had back at the hotel!

But what fun we had going to the shops and then having gelato in a cone, with the scooped icy delight served to us shaped like a flower ...
Of course, I had to try the "Rose D'Orient" flavor - which was outstanding.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bold, Modern Art ... at Montmartre

About 300 artists hold licenses to work on the Place du Tertre in Montmartre. The waiting list to get a license is long. The artists' quarter at the plaza once attracted artists such as Renoir, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Picasso. Today you can go there and see works such as this ...

"Quais de Seine" - Acrylique sur toile, 2010

7, rue gaston Auguet 75018 PARIS  |  tel: 00 33 (0)6 60 67 45 99

You'll find many styles of artwork if you visit the Montmartre artists' quarter. You can even have your portrait done on the spot!
If art isn't your thing, you can always get fresh macarons! I recommend this place for cookies and macarons:
This is where we had lunch ...
 Here's a look at the menu ...
The food is so-so. So is the atmosphere. But my Nicoise salad was good.

From the BBC series on Paris, Blood and Chocolate (Part 2 of 3). Enjoy!

Streets of Paris - I shot this the day I left Paris, on a rainy September morning.

Small group Paris tours for women