Monday, October 25, 2010

a Burgundy cruise.

Well, technically not a cruise. More like camping. But fun! We spent last week on a total adventure: navigating a boat through the canals of Burgundy, operating locks, exploring small villages and markets, eating our body weight in cheese and chocolate, and watching Gilmore Girls on a laptop while trying to keep warm as the temperature dipped to 29 F.

Small harbor in Dompierre-sur-Bresbe, France.

The boat company switched our itinerary a few days before we left Paris, and due to the strikes in France we were unable to change our train tickets. So, we kept our original plan to spend the night in Digoin, France, and the next day, the company lent us their car and we drove up to a very small village called Chatillon-en-Bazois. They had "upgraded" us to a bigger boat to make up for the inconvenience of switching routes. With all the new extra room, we invited my aunt, who lives in Switzerland, to come with us for the week.

Our lady boat, Siloé. Striking a pose in the countryside.

Pulling into to the écluse and the neat little houses their keepers live in right next to the locks, each with its own personality. One sold homemade wine, jam, and honey. We bought all three.

Once "locked" in, the water rises or falls according to the lay of the canal. One or two people rope the boat to the sides as another helps the éclusier.

And out you go!

Over at Andy's blog, you can watch a video he and my aunt Susan compiled and streamed to document the weeklong journey. And he has more sides of the story, too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

fleas and bones.

We took the metro out to Porte de Clignancourt for the world's biggest flea market, as they call it. Over 2,000 stalls, from the most chi-chi with crystal chandeliers and fine art to the most unrecognizable truc (thing) sitting in a box. Our goal was to find that happy medium for my bohomeme space back home at Found on Fremont.

Even the world's largest flea market wasn't enough to loosen these purse strings. Although Andy did tell me, "You're not cheap, you're just very particular." I was flattered.

So we searched high and low for what I was particulating for (yes, that's a new word I coined, it's a verb) and I even participated in bartering, which is something I hate to do, especially in another language.

I'm a little impressed with myself, mostly with the way I've mastered the "dumb nod." You know, the plastered clueless smile while my head bobs up and down and my mind frantically tries to piece together what this old man wants for this old piece of paper? There's an art to it.

My particulating worked out nicerly, see!

The next day, we woke up early and got in line to go down below the streets of Paris and see the Catacombs, where 6 million bones of Parisians, including Marie Antoinette, are stacked in rows upon rows. And don't be mad, but there was a McDonald's (McDo) across the street and we bought coffee to warm our hands while waiting.

After rising out of the bowels of the city 45 minutes later, we walked to Place de St. Sulpice and had lunch in front of the fountain from a little picnic we had packed that morning. The weather, as it has been all week, was perfect.

Andy was hiding down there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

food in Paris.

We've had a busy past few days taking in the sights of Paris, including the giant "flea market" yesterday and the catacombs this morning. Tomorrow, the Louvre.

You may have seen on the news the strikes throughout France, and yep, we were right in the thick of it. Everywhere we went today, there were people with signs, megaphones and stickers.

What's a visit to France without la grève or a Red Party parade?

First, on Saturday morning we went shopping for groceries at the marché d'Aligre. A loud and overwhelming affair, to say the least. But here's what we came home with: butter, free-range eggs, lettuce, green beans, strawberries, grapes, cucumbers, avocados and tomatoes. Our meat we buy daily or every other day. Baguettes are fresh every day from Le Grenier à Pain and tonight's was hot out of the oven and kept my hands warm the whole way home winding through the neighborhood...and burnt my mouth a little as I kept tearing off pieces to eat.

Then sometimes we enjoy a café, but mostly we make it at home with our F&M good stuff. And we are alway excited about crepes.

But, and I say this contently, besides the very blatantly obvious, so far I feel pretty fortunate in that daily "Parisian living" isn't a very far representation from the way we live our life in Portland. It's not as glamorous, and definitely more casual, but we haven't afforded ourselves the opportunity to be glamorous here in Paris, either.

And that has allowed me great freedom to just enjoy and not feel like I have to go chasing after an "experience" that I think I need to have here. I'm very happy about that.

But, I do admit, oh the butter!

Caught red handed! 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

nesting in Paris.

I wrote a few months ago about the apartment we are renting during our stay in Paris. The day finally came, and we arrived on Friday morning after a 5:25 a.m. train departure from London on the Eurostar and were ready to do some serious relaxing.

One of the challenges of traveling is feeling like you have to make the most of your time, at all times. But we had just come off of from 4 cities in a little over a week and for the sake of our sanity and relationship, we needed the apartment to be on par with what we expected.

To our great happiness it far exceeds our expectations, and I am learning even just in the day we've been here how perfect it is. Located in the 11th arrondissement, it's a few blocks from 2 metro stops and the RER (rapid transit train) that got us to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs- Elysees in about 15 minutes.

View from our window...

On the other side of the house on the left is a schoolyard...french kids scream loud like their American counterparts...

lovely little studio...

with the most perfect kitchen...

It's in a more residential neighborhood, and to my joy it is a 10 minute walk from a market (marche d'aligre), creperie (creperie bretonne), and bakery (le grenier a pain) that I've read about on David Lebowitz's most entertaining blog. And I've been to all three in a day and a half. Not only that, but today on the way to the market, there was a brocantes fair all along the street with antiques and books lined up for blocks!

Now if I can just get over my Xenoglossophobia in certain situations, like when the guy at the market is yelling "choix, choix, choix!" at me at the top of his lungs, we'll be good to go.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

liberty of london and fortnum and mason.

I spent a heavenly hour at both Liberty of London and Fortnum & Mason during our stay in London this past week.

It's a magnificent tudor-style building right off Oxford Street, just a few minutes walk from where we were staying. Looking at the windows reminded me of a funny french expression for window shopping, "lécher les vitrines," or literally, "to lick the windows." In my case, it was "lécher tout" (lick everything)!

I managed to snap a few photos while shopping...

("And the only way that I would ever let go of my couch would be if you came over here right now and tried to pry it from my dead, lifeless fingers, okay? If you can get it from my kung-fu grip then you can come and have it, okay? Otherwise, step off!")

and had to go back later for a souvenir, while Andy was taking a little rest after a long day out...

There was a table lined with glass jars full of embroidery kits and I finally dug this one out from the very bottom, even after the sales clerk had given up. One last handful to check turned out to be a good idea.

And at Fortnum & Mason, Andy and I reemerged from a temporary gourmet food coma to buy a canister of their coffee, the "Pickadilly Roast." While I was most excited by the canister, we justified our purchase by agreeing to use the coffee while in Paris. We opened the canister this morning and were true to our words.

Speaking of good coffee, we stopped by Sacred Coffee to try it out after hearing very good things about it.

And friends, last but not least for today, I think this is hilarious.

Andy was hungry so we stopped in to Banger Bros on Portobello Road and had bangers. Andy had the Great British Banger, I had the Mini Bangers. It's so funny, but seriously, it was good.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Borough Market in London

Oh sweet sweetness....

London's Borough Market was a feast for the senses. Made up of three smaller sections called Green Market, Middle Market, and the Jubilee Market, and each has different and unique offerings. We got there early, around 8:30, and ate breakfast at a little shop inside the Green Market. I had a egg bap (basically a big bun) and Andy had an egg and bacon sandwich.

Next to the small shop was a French food stall that sold little glass pots of yogurt-we picked one with berries in the bottom. In front, a glass case sold bricks of unpasteurized butter. Given my obsession with butter, it was tempting to keep myself from buying some...OK, try the whole block!

In search of some good caffeine, we found Monmouth Coffee just outside the main market area. We were impressed! Portlanders could compare this to Albina or a more family-friendly Stumptown.

Fresh "filter" coffee is the norm over here...

Weighing and measuring coffee beans...

So many olives...

Fresh bread...

Fresh cheese (this was comte? We tried a few)...

Black truffles...stick your nose in the jar and be overwhelmed with yumminess..
A lot of parmesan...

This stall sold very french items, including lavender, baguettes, pate, and cans of goose fat...

Local wines...

Big vats of curry bubbling, it smelled heavenly...

We spent the whole morning exploring, tasting, and smelling. I can't wait to go back!

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