C D G (I did it again…)

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Even as I was apologizing for using a previously undefined acronym (RER)  I used yet another undefined acronym.  CDG is the acronym for the main international airport serving Paris.  More specifically these are the initials of General Charles de Gaulle.  For those of us of a certain age (certainly me) the name of Charles de Gaulle has many, many associations.  My personal associations are tied to the French WWII General and hero who became a statesman and political leader of his war ravaged country.  He was the French President during my first years as a student of French, so he gets extra credit in my recollections.

Larger than life.

Larger than life.

Le Général de Gaulle was historically and literally a larger than life individual. He led the Free French Forces from exile in England and returned to French soil after the 1944 liberation of Paris.  He was heroic in deeds and in stature.  He was especially tall.  His official height is listed as 6’5″ or just a bit shy of 2 meters!

There are many monuments dedicated to his memory in Paris, in France and even beyond.  The most familiar “monument” is the airport located about 15 miles (25 km) from Paris.  Those of us who fly to “Paris” will see our destination listed as “CDG” by travel aggregators (travel *aggravators* I like to call them) and airlines.  Many travelers know that CDG stands for Charles de Gaulle but don’t know much about the man.  Heathrow airport is named for the company that owns and operates the London international airport.  Aéroport de Paris-Charles de Gaulle is named for a true national hero.  Nice touch, don’t you think?

I’m frequently asked what’s the best way to get from CDG into Paris.  I’ve tried ’em all and I still can’t say definitively which one is “the best”.  There are too many variables to consider such as; time of day, level of fatigue, language familiarity, ultimate destination, cost and duration tolerance, and such.

In my dreams ...

In my dreams …

In my opinion truly “the best” would be to have my personal French chauffeur greet me immediately after I emerge from the airport’s interminable lines and many document inspection points, take charge of my luggage and then whisk me away to Paris!  That would be positively heroic.

Julia and Meryl

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Julia Child as herself

Julia Child as herself

As much as I love Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child in the movie Julie & Julia, nothing, but nothing beats Julia Child portraying herself.  After a bit of digging around I was able to locate and purchase possibly all of the available Julia Child’s “The French Chef” DVDs.  In addition to DVDs, nowadays you can watch the original Julia Child on-line (youtube, etc.).  I still cling to my “old fashioned” DVDs so I can watch Julia Child portraying herself even when my internet connection isn’t connecting.

Her Life in France

Her Life in France

This year I’m taking a couple of short courses at Le Cordon Bleu.  The only reason I considered attending Le Cordon Bleu is because of its connection to Julia Child.  Le Cordon Bleu now recognizes and celebrates their famous former student.  However, if you’ve read Julia Child’s book My Life in France or watched the movie Julie & Julia you’ll be aware that during Julia’s time at LCB she wasn’t treated very well by the administration.  But now, fifty plus years later as Julia herself would say <<Tant pis>> (this phrase isn’t as rude as it looks or sounds “:-)”.

I’m working on my “Julia Child’s Paris” tour – taking the bus of course to visit locations associated with her and her husband.  I’ve been happily gathering more addresses and looking at bus routes thereto.  This year I’ll make another pilgrimage to 81 Roo de Loo and check out the immediate neighborhood a bit more.  Dehillerin’s will definitely be included in “Julia’s Paris” tour.  The Hôtel Pont Royal needs to be considered.  I’ll run a reconnaissance mission on Le Grande Vefour but I have trouble imagining actually dining there nowadays.

Thank you Meryl Streep for a superb performance as Julia Child.  And thank you Nora Ephron* for your superb talent and for your time spent among us here on this planet.  And thank you to the original inspiration; Julia Child, who became “The French Chef” on TV in America and still reigns supreme.

* The Julie & Julia DVD extras include a lovely “making of” featurette that captures essences of the brilliant Nora Ephron.  The DVD is worth the price just for the featurette.

Cluny Tapestry Exhibit Space Makeover – Fait Peau Neuve

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The tapestries exhibit space at the Musée de Cluny has been getting a “makeover” or as the French say (here anyway) “makes a new skin”.

Here’s some more fun with Franglish.  As noted in my St. Chapelle Franglish post, back in 1982 restoration information was displayed on physical signs and the translation from French to English was done by bilingual (sort of) people.  Nowadays we can all use  online “translaguators” as I like to call them.  The translations are much more convenient, but there are still (thankfully) little twists and turns, n’est pas? …

Lady and the Unicorn (Sight)

Lady and the Unicorn (Sight)

Here’s a direct quote from the French language version of Musée de Cluny’s website regarding the makeover for the exhibit space of The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.  <<La salle de la Dame à la Licorne fait peau neuve : à partir d’avril 2013 débutent au musée de Cluny des travaux destinés à offrir un nouvel écrin à la célèbre tenture.>>

Here’s the website’s English translation.  “The room exhibiting the ‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ is getting a makeover : from April 2013, work aiming at offering a revamped space to welcome the famous six tapestries will begin at the musée de Cluny.” (I noticed that the French version doesn’t have any reference to **six** tapestries; the French word for “six” is <<six>>).

Here’s the next paragraph in French and then in English (sort of).
<<Second volet d’une importante opération de conservation-restauration entreprise en 2012, cette rénovation donne lieu, pendant sa durée, à une exposition «hors les murs » au National Art Center de Tokyo, puis au National Museum of Art d’Osaka.>>
“Marking the second phase of an important operation of conservation and restoration which debuted in 2012, the renovation plan, while in progress, will provide the occasion for an exhibition outside of the museum which will travel to the National Art Center in Tokyo and to the National Museum of Art in Osaka.” The lovely single French sentence doesn’t work very well as a single sentence in English.

Finally
<< Les tapisseries seront visibles à la fin de l’année 2013 dans leur nouvelle présentation, conçue pour en favoriser la préservation et l’appréciation.>>
“By the end of 2013, the tapestries will be visible in their new setting designed to improve both the quality of conservation and the appreciation of the masterpiece by the public.”

I’m looking forward to my next visit to La Dame à la Licorne this coming July. Standing near these tapestries created in the late 1400’s I feel simultaneously very privileged and very humbled.  I highly recommend this experience to other Paris loving tourists like me.

First visit to Paris!

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I’m happily engaged in creating instructions, suggestions and maps for my seriously world traveling friend who is taking her teenaged grand-daughter on her first visit to Paris.  I get to imagine this teenager seeing Paris for the first time.  What will she think as she experiences Paris for the first time?  Which one of the monuments will make the most lasting impression?  Will she simply refuse to return home?

I still get a bit giddy when I’m in Paris even after many visits and many decades past being a teenager.  I watched the movie “Funny Face” (made in 1957) again recently.   The film beautifully captures many famous tourist sites.  I watch those segments anytime I feel the need.  No matter how often I’m in Paris I always end up visiting **the usual tourist destinations** (see 1-6 below).

Here’s my list of <il faut>> “you must” see sites for my friend’s grand-daughter’s first visit to Paris (and probably every visit thereafter).  I’ve listed these visits/sites in preferred order based on the location of their hotel.  (I’ll prepare your itinerary based on your hotel’s location, duration of your visit, and personal preferences. Contact me.)

82 to the Eiffel Tower

1) Eiffel Tower — They can take bus line 82 from their hotel to right in front of the Eiffel Tower.  The bus stop is appropriately named Tour Eiffel.  They get to stay above ground and will see the Eiffel Tower grow larger and larger, with a full unobstructed view as they cross La Seine from the Right Bank to the Left Bank.

Bus Line 73 to Musée d'Orsay

Bus Line 73 to Musée d’Orsay

2) Musée d’Orsay —  Bus line 73 has been called “The Best Tourist Bus Line in Paris”.  They will be traveling down the Champs-Élysées, circling the Place de la Concorde and then crossing La Seine.  The Musée d’Orsay is the terminal (end point) of this bus line so they can’t get confused about when to get off the bus.  This trip should absolutely dispel any previous hesitation about “taking the bus”.  I might switch it to their first visit destination for precisely that reason.

When my world traveling friend offered her grand-daughter a trip to “anywhere in the world”, this wise young woman said “Paris”.  Yes, Paris is the most visited city in the world and is “full of tourists”.  There are **very** good reasons why this is true (see items 1-6 above).

Perspective on G. Eiffel and his Tower

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Eiffel Tower with M. Eiffel in foreground

Eiffel Tower with Monsieur Eiffel in foreground

This is one of my favorite images of the Eiffel Tower.  It was on a postcard that I bought and sent to my oldest son while I was visiting Paris with my youngest son at the very end of the previous century (1999).  The card’s description says “Construction Work on the Eiffel Tower – 1888”.

I love this image for several reasons.  First of all, there’s **The Eiffel Tower**, curiously missing it’s top.  Secondly, the person standing in the lower right corner is the architect/engineer Monsieur Gustave Eiffel <<lui-même>>.  And finally, the photograph is taken from the “back” of the Tower, looking towards the right bank of La Seine and shows the Palais du Trocadéro framed by the arch of the Tower’s base.

I’ve personally (re)named this image “Perspective” for both technical and psychological reasons.  Once upon a time, a bit more than a century ago, the Eiffel Tower didn’t exist.  It was built as part of the Exposition Universelle/World’s Fair celebration of 1889.  You can see that in 1888 it was not yet finished.  Thankfully it wasn’t dismantled after the Fair, even though many people wanted it removed.  It was considered “hideous” and “ugly”.  The Palais du Trocadéro shown underneath the Tower’s lower arch was demolished in 1937 and replaced by the Palais de Chaillot.  I don’t find the newer construction quite so lovely, but future populations might disagree with me.  Future generations might even decide to finally demolish and melt down M. Gustave Eiffel’s tower for scrap iron value.

M. Eiffel at age 56

M. Eiffel at age 56

And what about Monsieur Eiffel himself appearing in the image as smallest and perhaps least significant part of the picture?  Individuals don’t usually last much beyond 100 years.  Gustave Eiffel lived to be 91 years old, more impressive in his time than nowadays. He was a mere 56 years old in 1888 when he posed for both of the photographs included in this post.

Even if Gustave Eiffel hadn’t been born and lived into his 50’s and well beyond, perhaps there would still be some sort of grandiose tower on this site.  But can you imagine it being the now (and hopefully forever) iconic Eiffel Tower?

Julia’s Paris connections

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I’m re-reading Julia Child’s My Life in France which was written very near the end of her life with the assistance of her great-nephew Alex Prud’homme.  These “late-in-life” recollections are particularly poignant.  She simply fell in love with Paris and France and the French culture of cuisine.  She shared her love so enthusiastically that many of us have fallen in love too.

HôtelPontRoyal

First night in Paris for Julia and Paul Child

In addition to her home in Paris at 81 Rue de l’Université, her book names other specific addresses that I’m adding to my “Julia’s Paris Connections Tour”.  The Childs’ spent their very first night in Paris at the Hôtel Pont Royal located at 7 rue Montalembert.   Julia recalls arriving there, unloading some luggage and then Paul driving off to find a garage in order to safely park the car.  Paul got lost (it was a dark and foggy night…).  An hour later Paul reappeared and recounted how he had ended up going in the wrong direction on Boulevard Raspail and “then got stuck on a one-way street”.  In my Franglish post titled Forbidden … I make a strong case against trying to drive a car in Paris nowadays.  Aside from the horrendous traffic, many streets are one-way when you least want them to be.  It seems as if driving in Paris was problematic even back in 1948.

Paul also mixed up Boulevard Raspail and Boulevard Saint-Germain.  I wanted to shout <<Moi aussi!>> (Me too!).  I too have gotten lost (when it’s been bright and beautiful).  After way too much walking I came to physically understand that Paris streets simply **do not** run in a parallel or grid fashion.

RATPmap-Julia's-quartier

Welcome to Julia’s neighborhood.

Once again the fabulous Paris bus system comes to your rescue.  Every bus shelter/stop has large, beautifully printed maps naming the street you’re on, where you are relative to the neighborhood, **and** where the other bus stops are located.  Honestly, I use the information available in the bus shelters even when I’m not taking a bus at that moment.  This RATP <<Plan de Quartier>> shows what bus lines are close at hand just to the right of Julia’s former residence at 81 Rue de l’Université.  Welcome to the neighborhood.

Tour d’Argent visit perhaps?

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I’m not going to invite you to meet me for dinner at La Tour d’Argent as in “Let’s meet for coffee” at Deux Magots.  And if you are planning a Tour d’Argent visit, you will not arrive there by bus (even though it is possible “:-)”.  Most of my blog readers know that Tour d’Argent has been (past tense) one of very few excruciatingly exclusive <<Michelin Trois Étoiles>> or “Michelin Three Star” restaurants.  In the Michelin rating system three stars is the top rank. As of this blog post there are nine Michelin Three Star establishments in Paris with an additional seventeen in the rest of the entire country of France.

Famous restaurant, nice view too

Famous restaurant, nice view too

Tour d’Argent has dropped a couple of stars within the last decade. The restaurant was founded in 1582 and was noted for its elegance and cuisine in 1824.  By contrast the Michelin restaurant rating system was begun a mere century ago.  I think we should all consider taking a longer perspective regarding what’s “the best” and what’s not at the moment.  A century here or there is particularly insignificant in Paris.  Construction on the church shown in window was begun in 1163, approximately 10 centuries ago.

Tour d’Argent’s signature dish is pressed duck made in a **very** traditional manner.  I asked someone who had dined there last year if they had ordered the duck.  They were proud to confirm that they had.  And in addition they had also selected an exquisite and astoundingly expensive wine. They assured me that it was a truly memorable meal (with perhaps more accolades given to wine than the duck).

In this current century I can virtually visit La Tour d’Argent anytime my internet connection is working.  I am even “virtually” imagining an in person/research visit (and herewith officially warning my accountant).  Thanks again to a working internet connection I can study the menu (and prices) prior to a visit.

I’d like to encourage those of you who desire a fine dining experience in Paris (Michelin starred establishments in particular) to checkout the restaurant’s website and menu prior to your arrival.  I’d be delighted to assist you with research and perhaps even join you for a <<degustation>> “:-)”. Bon Appetit!

Speaking “a bit of French”

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Two tourist icons

I like to watch “Paris Travel” programs (DVDs, YouTube, travel websites, etc.).  I followed two Rick Steves Paris Travel episodes with one put out by Globe Trekker (aka Pilot Guides).  The Steves shows begin with visiting the major tourist sites in Paris and go on from there to eating and shopping and other typical Parisian delights.  The Globe Trekker show starts off with demonstrating how to get from the train station at Gard du Nord to a specific hotel on the left bank.

ParisTaxi

Can you argue in French?

The GlobeTrekker hostess indicates that she’ll be taking a cab and recommends that speaking “a bit of French” is helpful.  She delivers a couple of phrases to the cab driver that most any tourist can master.  Then she hops into the cab and promptly gets into an argument with the driver about the route he’s taken **all in French** (“a bit of French”, my foot!).

Many Paris visitors I know speak “a bit of French”.  During my earliest visits to France I also spoke <<un peu de français>>.  Speaking a bit of French isn’t the problem.  The problem is when you are spoken to by a native French speaker.  Speaking “a bit of French” is almost always appreciated by native French speakers and it can be fun too.  A few French phrases can go a very long way.  But you should choose your phrases judiciously…

A client of mine was very proud of knowing how to ask a French speaker to <<parlez lentement s’il vous plaît>> and pronounced the phrase very nicely too.  He tried out the phrase whenever possible.  Unfortunately the magic phrase didn’t provide the necessary … magic.  It didn’t matter how <<lentement>> (slowly) the native French person spoke.  My client was never able to understand what was being said back to him even when spoken <<très, très lentement>>.

I recommend sticking to <<Bonjour>> and <<Merci>> when you’re just starting out.  You’ll probably pick up some other useful phrases if you keep your ears open.  I’ve always found that native French speakers are typically very helpful to those of us who aren’t (native speakers) by supplying a fair amount of English.  And you really can get a lot of communicating done in Franglish.

The “Best” Tourist Bus Line

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Several of the Paris tourist information sources I review are (finally) starting to recommend using the (fabulous) Bus System.  A couple of the sources have even named specific Bus Lines, calling them **the Best Tourist Bus in Paris**.  Great!  But the sources don’t agree on which Bus Line is the best.  First and foremost, the Bus Line that takes you from where you are to where you want to go is obviously “The Best”.  I am ready, willing and able to provide you with specific point-to-point and Bus Line information that will make your Paris bus excursion The Best!  Contactez-moi.

The information sources that I think are the most useful have named Bus Lines 69 and 21 as “The Best Tourist Bus Lines”. My personal favorite mentioned elsewhere in this blog is Line 21. It’s the Bus Line I enjoy the most and is very convenient to my usual Paris ramblings.

As with the metro/subway, Bus Lines are described by both a number and the two terminals (end points).  Bus Lines are also color coded, making for a more artistic and user friendly system map. Here’s some specific Bus Line information for #69 and #21 gathered from RATP.

Bus Line 69Line 69’s terminals are Champ de Mars–think Eiffel Tower, and Gambetta–think the Père Lachaise Cemetery.  Both of the Line’s terminals are popular tourist destinations, although the Eiffel Tower is most certainly more visited than the Cemetery at Père Lachaise.  Then again, many of my American cohorts make a pilgrimage to Jim Morrison’s grave at Père Lachaise.  During my first visit to Père Lachaise I was there to pay homage to Abelard and Heloise (seriously).

Bus Line 21Line 21 has one terminal at Gare Saint-Lazare and the other at Porte de Gentilly.  It crosses La Seine at Cité-Palais de Justice and travels parallel to the river  with a fabulously open and unobstructed view of the area when traveling eastward.  I pinch myself for that part of the ride.

Rare non-accessible bus stop

Rare non-accessible bus stop

All the buses on all Bus Lines are mobility (UFR) accessible.  Sometimes/rarely a particular stop isn’t.  If that’s true, that stop will be designated as such.

Another tourist information source suggested that Bus Line #73 is the best because it runs right down the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe…

OK, I take it all back – the Bus Line that I’m on at the moment becomes my favorite when I’m in Paris. 

Bistro quest

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I just looked for a helpful definition of <<Bistro>> because I can’t really tell the difference between Bistro(t)s, Brasseries or even (some) Restaurants.  Despite the nomenclature, when lunchtime calls, where you are is more important than what the establishment is called.  Look around where you happen to be in Paris at the moment.  You’re likely to see several examples of Bistros, Brasseries, and other undeclared dining establishments.

Beautiful photos of beautiful food

Beautiful photos of beautiful food

Back here in California I was dreaming of lunch in Paris while I was looking longingly at my copy of Linda Dannenberg’s Paris Bistro Cooking with exquisite photographs by Guy Bouchet.  The book was published way back in 1991. In the long ago 90’s I had lunch at one of the Bistros shown in the book (La Cafetière) which was located in the 6th arrondissement.  I thought I’d trip down memory lane and dine there again this year.  Nope.  N’existe plus.  I looked up five of the Bistros listed in the book that were located in the Le Sixième and found only two still operating at the moment.  I’m miffed.  How dare they close *my* favorite bistro.  Paris should stay just the way *I* experienced it at various times over several decades.  But the powers that be don’t consult me very often — make that never.

Balzar -- Brasserie or Bistro?

Balzar — Brasserie or Bistro?

Two years ago I happily noticed the Brasserie Balzar just across the street when I needed a lunch break after a visit to the Cluny Museum.  Brasserie Balzar is the place that Adam Gopnik wrote about trying to save from a corporate take over in his book Paris to the Moon. They weren’t able to save it.  The Balzar and several other cherished neighborhood establishments are now part of The Flo Group chain.  I had lunch at (the now corporate) Brasserie Balzar twice during my most recent stay.  It might not have been the same Brasserie Balzar as Adam’s version, but it smelled, tasted and felt sufficiently Parisian to me.

So here’s my bistro quest recommendation — take the bus somewhere.  Walk around a few streets.  Look up just high enough to see a sign that says Bistro, Brasserie or Restaurant, y-allez, and (as Julia Child would say) Bon Appétit!