Wow, what a year it has been! And what a HUGE change from last Christmas. We are so blessed to have this experience and opportunity. And I am grateful for the chance to share our adventures with my family and friends. So here are some more pictures of Paris at Christmastime. May you have a wonderful Christmas!
Christmas is magical here in Paris - even the smallest shop decorates its windows. Quaint markets pop up all over and the streets are draped in twinkling lights, rivaling the Eiffel Tower. For the last few weeks I have been taking pictures of the sights and sounds of the season to share with y'all. Here is the first batch!
Well the lovely and talented Francois posted and emailed me that the slippers I coveted were finally here. In the Christmas spirit Chatelles opened up a pop-up store right around the corner from Bon Marchè! Of course I had to go to support this wonderful business and Manu had to go to supervise his wallet! So off we went on a rare gorgeous day in Paris.
You have to check out his website - and he ships everywhere!
A few days before Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to visit a wonderful atelier located in the 2nd arrondissement. It was a fascinating experience and I felt like I had walked back in time.
According to their website (www.legeron.com) the House was founded in 1880 and have worked with some of the big name Parisian fashion icons, such as Dior, Ungaro and at one time, Chanel. They produce flowers and other accessories out of silk, leather, fabric and feathers. Their creations are made to measure for haute couture, ready to wear fashions and special orders for special clients.
We asked Monsieur Legeron about the future of his craft, especially since such exquisite craftsmanship is going the way of the dinosaur. He took the business over from his grandparents but has no one to take it over for him. A young woman who works for him is going to ultimately take on the workshop but the name probably won't continue. I hope you enjoy this peek into a dying art -
So once the feathers have been chosen, they are taken apart and then sorted out. Then an artisan begins to apply them to whatever material the designer has requested. The lady above is gluing black feathers on the heel of a shoe for Christian Louboutin!. They also were attaching the feathers via thread and glue for the red dress. And here is the bodice of a dress in progress.
It's our first Thanksgiving away from the States and I have to admit, I was a little nervous about recreating the entire experience. No matter where you are and how you feel about the place, when it comes to holidays, it's hard to beat your memories of years past - somehow we all romanticize the days of yore.
So I started preparation early. I found a wonderful store in the Marais that has everything you would need for an American Thanksgiving, the name says it all "Thanksgiving in Paris." So we hike over from the 16th Arrondisement to the 4th and preorder our turkey. It's a lovely little shop and full of food stuffs that you miss - barbecue sauce to salsa, cereal to pop tarts. Even has Dr. Pepper!
We always invited lots of people to share Thanksgiving with us - our motto is no one should be alone on Thanksgiving and the more the merrier. So this year should be no different, except for the fact that we don't exactly have the apartment geared towards entertaining. Oops - once the headcount was done it turns out that we invited over 17 people! And I had to upgrade the turkey! Thank God one of our friends (whom we had invited) has a bigger place so we adjusted our plans and moved locations - they provided the space and we would cook the turkey, cranberry sauce, green beans and potatoes. And in true Thanksgiving tradition, there was plenty of food, plenty of laughs and plenty of thankfulness.
It turned out to be a lovely evening - we ate way too much, almost drank too much wine (thankfully we stopped before it was too late! LOL) and had so much fun with our new friends. I am thankful for them and for this wonderful adventure we are experiencing. I am truly blessed. Happy Thanksgiving!
The big department stores here get all dressed up for Christmas - the windows are decked out with vignettes and it is wonderful to see. Today, by chance, I wandered over by Galleries Lafayette and Printemps and voila! I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I did!
The theme for Galleries Lafayette is "La Belle et La Bête" or as we know it, Beauty and the Beast. I'm not sure I quite "got" the story but it is still enchanting all the same.
Prada paired up with Printemps (like the alliteration?) to celebrate 100 years. I am not sure I quite understood the theme here either but it was also magical! The windows are all mechanized with moving parts and music (oops - more alliteration!) Not sure I got all of Printemps windows - just another reason to go back.
Now I just have to check out Bon Marchè and BHV - I will definitely take more pictures. And then there are the Christmas markets that are springing up all over town and more lights - it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! We are definitely going to be busy!
Now that we are settled (ha!) here, I have resolved to try and see as much as I can, do as much as I can and just experience Paris as much as I can. I want to wring as much experience out of this experience as possible! I am also trying to overcome my quirks regarding food - have tried duck breast confit and rabbit! Can't say they are my favorite but they aren't quite as bad as I remembered/thought. I want to broaden my horizons - that's why I am signing up for all of these wonderful events that the parents' association sponsors. Last night it was a wine and cheese tasting course. The French have over a thousand types of cheese and almost as many varieties of wine and we LOVE wine and cheese. What better way to expand our palate and learn about these delicious French staples!
So there are three columns - the one on the left has goat cheeses: soft, raw milk Malicorne; ashed Trèfle de Carrelet; and dry Crottin de Chavignol - the middle cow cheeses: Camembert de Normandie; Mont d'Or; and Comté vielle réserve 18 months - and the right contains ewe cheeses: briquette de brebis; and Napoléon. The runny one in the middle had a distinct strong smell (almost a stinky one). The orange square is homemade quince jelly and the black blob is actually a fig! There also was tons of delicious bread - a must!
The wines are from left to right also - the first white is a Chablis 2010 from Burgundy, the second is a Sancerre 2011 from the Loire Valley, and the third is a pinot gris 2009 from Alsace. At first I didn't care too much for the Chablis or the Sancerre but as we began pairing them with the bread and cheese, the flavors really began to develop and change. It was crazy because with each bite and each sip, the taste was different than the last! Ultimately the Sancerre and the wine from Alsace were my favorites - they had a lovely balance of sweet and crisp and really enhanced the cheese.
Madame Hélène des Garets Goble has been studying, selling, buying and drinking wine for over 30 years - she is so lively and entertaining. You are so busy enjoying yourself and having fun that you don't realize that she is teaching you! She not only explains how the wine is made, where it is made, how the wine gets it's taste and how just a slight deviation in location changes everything. Fascinating stuff.
A side note - we are all trying to figure out how she stays so slim and how she got those rocking arm muscles! : )
The majority of the wines we tried were whites - I know, white wine with cheese?! But it was delicious. The crispness of the wines cut the fattiness of the cheese. The fruity and floral notes contrasted delightfully with the salty tang of the cheese. It was a revelation!
We did have one red, for the purists in our group. This one was amazing. The aromas were powerful berry and spice and yet the wine itself was smooth and light. Not at all heavy the way the smells advertised.
Of course we saved the best for last. Roquefort cheese and a sweet dessert wine from Bordeaux. Normally I don't care so much for dessert wines - too sweet and cloying. However, this one was nectar - not too sweet or syrupy and a perfect foil for the salty tang of the Roquefort. Sublime and a perfect finish - a great alternative to traditional desserts.
This was my second event with Hélène and I have so much fun. The company is lively and spirited and she manages to include and involve everyone. I have already signed up for the dinner and wine event for next time! The evenings are nice because the spouses come and we get to enjoy an adult evening. I cannot wait for her next tour of the Champagne region - she visits the chateaus and of course, there is the tasting part! And I will definitely post more about these visits!
The parents association here at the school is awesome - they have guided tours and wine tastings and market trips with cooking classes. It's a great way to meet people and see Paris. I signed up for the "Women of Pere Lachaise" cemetary tour. because I like cemeteries - they are fascinating peeks into history.
I apologize that I cannot remember all of the details - we spent over 3 hours there and it was very cold, wet and rainy. Please feel free to Google the details and post any pertinent info that you find in the comments section! I hope you enjoy this slice of Paris.
The actress above was obsessed with Napoleon. So much so that she wanted to have his child. The only problem was that he died two years before she was born. She decides on the next best thing and proceeds to have children by one of his top generals and even by his illegitimate son - Alexander Wescla (sp), of the Polish mistress mother! Talk about issues - she had three sons by three different men, all directly connected or related to Napoleon. She died at an early age of tuberculous but she was a world renowned famous actress and even traveled to the US to perform.
The picture below is the largest grave/mausoleum in Pere Lachaise. It is of a Russian countess who was quite the toast of Paris and an eccentric woman. When she arranged for her burial she was quite concerned with being alone and afraid so she put six million rubles in a bank in Paris and stipulated in her will that if a young man would spend 365 nights and 366 days in her mausoleum to keep her company, at the end of the time period he would receive the money. Mind you, she died in 1818 - and no one has been able to stay more than one night. Young men come running out, screaming in terror. So now the gravesite has the reputation of being the gateway to Hell.
Although the tomb above is a family tomb, the wife's story is the interesting one. Her husband rose through the ranks of Napoleon's army to become a general. However, when he was just a lowly sergeant, he married one of the washer women who followed the troops and did the laundry (among other things!). Once he attained the status of a general, Napoleon made him an aristocrat. His wife became close friends with Josephine but she didn't let the money, fortune and fame go to her head. The lady had a reputation of being a straight shooter, a tell it like it is woman. She went on to have 14 children to survive infancy! Unfortunately she outlived all of her kids. A play was written with her as the inspiration for the main character who is the voice of common sense - I am sorry that I cannot remember the names but feel free to look it up!
We have a tradition in our family that the birthday person gets to have whatever kind of cake or pie he or she wants for their birthday. And we usually have it for breakfast on the birthday! Well my birthday is coming up and so is Olivia's and Sophia's. Since mine is first and I LOVE red velvet cake we went out searching today. I had read about this new American bakery here in Paris that specializes in cupcakes (I know, sacrilege but the tummy wants what the tummy wants on its birthday!)
So on Wednesday I decided that the girls needed to get out of the house and see something. We all like history so off we go to the history museum, Musee Carnavalet, located in the Marais, a lovely area of Paris that is in the 4th arrondissement.
Since this is a history museum they have all sorts of cool stuff from France's past from snippets of Marie Antoinette's hair to pieces of the Bastille to buttons and medals of the Revolutionaries. It also has furniture from famous French people and recreated rooms. Really fascinating and almost too much to take in at one time.
It is definitely a place I want to check out again!