Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cold Duck on Ice

A Paris highlight... the ice skating ducks at Le Jardin du Luxembourg.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Paris in the Pink...

A few random window shopping moments... This crazy pink Christmas tree.. if it is a Christmas tree, it was kind of bizarre, and had a structure all in black hanging below it that looked like an inverted tree, so I'm not exactly sure what it was meant to be. It was in a window display near the Champs-Elysees which was showcasing cars... like this life size Barbie car. My photo does not show the Barbie car detail, and it was trimmed with tons of little rhinestones. What girl wouldn't want a hot pink bling car? You could drive it to the plastic store, where you could buy just about anything you wanted made of pink plastic. Our favorite pink moment of the day... a public bathroom in a park equipped with pink toilet paper!!!

Lest you think all we do is shop, Matt took us over to 5th arrondissement to see where he goes to school at the Catholic University of Paris. Colleges are different in Paris, big city buildings with out a real campus. His school actually has a small courtyard which, unfortunately was closed for break this week.

Matt gave us a history lesson by taking us to the Arènes de Lutèce, the remains of a 1st century roman arena. We also went by the Pantheon although I admit that we didn't go to visit the dead philosophers in as we were enjoying the sunshine!

He also took us to a very quaint restaurant area, where were were able to fulfill one or Sarah's Paris wishes, a crepe dinner in an adorable cafe.

My college boy, in front of his school.
Arènes de Lutèce

The Pantheon, decked out for Christmas

Restaurant Row

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Shopping in Paris...

No, not upscale, fashionable, tourist shopping, but ordinary "student on a budget" shopping that my son does... Paris street market style. Twice a week, just a block from sons apartment they have a street market. The market is sort of a combo farmers market/flea market, with vendors selling just about anything you might need. Food items, household items, rugs, shoes, leather purses, and of course cut flowers. My impression is that they have these all over Paris, even in the more upscale areas. Unlike the farmers market back home, which seems yuppy, upscale and often more expensive than the grocery store, the Paris street market is the more affordable place to purchase fresh food. Matt says he buys much of his food there, and judging by the quality of the produce I don't blame him. Interestingly, it is not a seasonal thing either, as here we are in middle of winter (and Paris is cold in the winter!) and the street market goes on and is very well attended. I much enjoyed seeing all things we don't find in the US, like the bins of olives, and piles of dried fruits, and even the dead pigs hanging from the awning. Back home I would have no idea where to buy a pig for a pig roast, but they appear easy to come by here. And the salami's... I'm finding myself wanting to try all the salami's. I'm going to be tempted to bring home a suitcase full of cheese and salami!

I would love to know what these bobbins of thread are I have no idea... they are pretty cool looking though.

After breakfast we headed off to a decidedly untouristy part of town. It was Amos's last day here and he wanted to check out the "thrift market" that's near one of Matt's friends homes. This was essentially a big flea market, just like in the US, with a mix of new clothing, funky designer knock offs, junk sellers, used clothing sellers, all sort of crazy stuff. Is it weird that I kind of like flea markets?... The treasure hunt aspect of them is kind of fun. I think if you were patient there probably were interesting vintage gems in the piles and racks of clothes, but the shear number of sellers and goods was pretty overwhelming. Sarah, my girl of original style, loves thrifting, but I think it was even too much for her. We did find, (new) a package of bulky over the knee socks that she's been lusting after... all for the bargain price of 3 pairs for 7 euros. I was quite fascinated by the fabric sellers, who had beautiful, fancy fabrics, for just a few euros/meter. Made me wish Sarah was still little and I was still designing belly her dance costumes. My favorite find of the day, was the clown shoes. It's really hard to find a nice pair of clown shoes!!!

Right next to the flea market was a regular shopping mall, which we dashed into for a minute to find a bathroom (thank you McDonalds). It was pretty much like an american mall, except for the "rampelator"... OK, I don't know the proper name, but it was an inclined moving side walk, rather than escalator. Having never seen one before we had to play tourist and take a ride!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

How do you like my Christmas tree? I thought about buying a little tree for Matt's apartment, but we've been running around too much to find the time, so after the kids went to bed, I went to work... so this is my kitchen drawer Christmas tree... a Perrier bottle, some aluminum foil, cling wrap and grocery bags... plus a few ornaments the kids grandma sent with their gifts. Being so far from home, I didn't do much in the way of gifts, but I did fill a small stocking for the kids I knew would be here Christmas morning... it's how funny exciting things like a new toothbrush are, even to college kids, when they come in a stocking from Santa. My kids also had some gifts from their relatives, so it was much like a "normal" Christmas, even though we were far from home. I really enjoyed having all 5 "kids" here, eating and laughing and watching skateboard videos. Now that my kids are off at school, I miss the buzz and activity of a house full of kids, this mornings full house was a pleasant Christmas gift to me. (Can I call them kids when they are 18-23?)
A Christmas tree in the metro...

After Matt made us a nice breakfast, we headed out on the metro to Eiffel Tower. The weather had cleared up so it was sunny, but it was really, really cold, especially when you have to wait in line forever. The wait was entertaining, we had about million opportunities to purchase little Eiffel towers in a myriad of colors and sizes from any number of illegal merchants. Every now and then you would here someone yell "Police" and dozens of merchants, being chased by officers on bikes, would scurry off the premises. Unfortunately, we were not able do ascend to the top of the tower, as it was closed due to ice. We also never walked the grounds, because after waiting in lime and ascending the tower and enjoyed the view it was dark and cold and everyone was frozen solid. We may have to go back another day.

Sarah and I kinda liked the Eiffel Tower lollipops!

The sun sets early here, it was dark by the time we left.

My kids and I.

After the tower we had a nice Christmas dinner, delicious ham from the butcher, vegetables, and wine Matt had purchased on one of his school excursions wine country. Matt's friends surprised us by going for walk finding and open boulangerie and returning with a couple cute little yule log cakes for dessert. They must have read my mind because as I had been totally fascinated by the Christmas cakes I saw in the case at bakery next door to Matt's place, so I was glad to get to taste one!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve...

I went to mass... catholic mass. Kind of unusual for a non religious girl like me, but as we walked into the Notre Dame Cathedrala Christmas Eve mass was starting so we stayed and watched. Mass was in French so of course I could not understand, but I enjoyed the music and the chanting and the feeling of being momentarily connected to a bit of religious and cultural history. Of course I was also awestruck by the immense size and architectural detail of the building. It is so hard to perceive how it was ever built in the pre-industrial era 600 years ago.

Christmas surprises... Last night Matt and Amos were out all night at a concert. In Paris the metro quits running at 1 AM or so, but the clubbing and concerts often go past that time so it is not uncommon to simply stay out all night and catch the morning metro home. Since Matt and Amos were dead to the world, Sarah and I planned to explore alone. First stop was out for coffee. On the way back we heard a loud "Hey" and who was standing on the sidewalk but Matt's friend's Nate and Ben. Nate lived with us for a semester last year so he is like family. He's doing a study abroad in Spain, and came up to Paris to stay with his friend Ben for Christmas. I sure didn't expect to run into him on the street!!! (Que up "It's a Small World") So after hugs and coffee and breakfast we went downtown to shop, adventure, and see the cathedral. And throw a few Paris Christmas snowballs!

We later caught up with the now rested boys, and went out for Christmas eve dinner. Who would have ever thought I'd be spending Christmas Eve in Paris, eating Moroccan food with my kids and three of my sons college friends. It is a small world, and a fun one!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Grocery shopping...Paris style

One of the things I looked forward to about this trip was that my son has actually been living on Paris, so he would be able to to show us real living in Paris, rather than just tourist Paris. This morning we went out shopping for food for Christmas dinner. First stop was the butcher shop... Yes, I said butcher shop, something that is virtually non existent in the U.S.. The case was full of meats that all appeared to be high quality as well as interesting looking sausages and things you never see in the U.S., like fois gras, and tiny pressed meat ducks. I sure can't think of the last time I saw a real butcher, the guy's in our grocery store hardly count. But here in France apparently they are common place, and the butcher was happy to recommend the proper ham for Christmas dinner. We also left with one tiny duck, because I couldn't resist, and a laugh, because even at the fancy French butcher, you could find breaded chicken nuggets that looked like the icky things my kids loved when they were little. Who knows, maybe they are better in France, but I'll never find out. I suppose they are the testament to kids being the same everywhere.

From the butcher we headed to the supermarket. Matt said this was the "rich person" store, as opposed to the tiny market nearer his apartment were we stopped the other night. The piles of fresh foods were pretty impressive, especially the sea food! I am also amazed at all the french cheeses, and how positively inexpensive they were. A round of Camembert, that would easily cost $6 at Smiths marketplace back home is only about $3 here in Paris. Same for the wedge of brie. No wonder my son is living on baguettes and cheese! The salami selection was pretty impressive too. Many different types, unlike anything in standard grocery back home. Of course besides the fresh and (by American standards at least)artisan food, there were plenty of canned goods and even Uncle Bens rice, so I suppose this means not everyone here is a fancy fresh chef.

This store was also a super store (although not nearly the size of stores back home) so we were able to get Sarah a warmer pair of socks to wear with her rain boots, and we could have even bought a Christmas tree.