Friday, June 21, 2013

Well, it's my 65th birthday - the first one I've ever spent alone, which feels weirder than I thought it would.

Birthday self-portrait

Took me a lot of tries to get the picture - wrong angle, crooked, off-center, you name it! My kids took me out for dinner early for my birthday (they went to Switzerland on Wednesday). I'll report on that as I catch up on their visit.

Early photo with my father

I haven't planned anything for today - might even eat at home. The weather is iffy and there have been sudden thunderstorms for the past couple of days.

With my cousin, Gillian, and our identical twin mothers

I'm having to rely on what little I (and cousins) have on Facebook for these photographs. Gillian is three days older than I am (she's on the right) and I wish we didn't live across the country from each other.

Family portrait - '56 or '57?

Today is also my sister Janet's birthday. She arrived on my 2nd birthday. Though we have the same birthday, she's a Gemini and I'm a Cancer. I also wish we didn't live across the country from each other.

Andrew at the apartment window

From the last accounting I left out lunch at the Institute of the Arab World. We were supposed to be going to the cafe, but ended up in their high-end restaurant.

Institute of the Arab World facade

The food was very good, especially the various kebabs. Julia and I, in particular, really enjoyed it, but the price was a bit steep.

Family on top of the Institute of the Arab World

People come to the top just for the views of the city. I think it was Andrew's first view of the Seine and he was very excited, though you can't tell it from this photo.

View of the islands from the Institute of the Arab World

If you're looking for a souvenir from Paris to take back to kids (ones who are allowed to eat sugar), we'd recommend gummy Eiffel Towers. A big hit with Andrew and he's taking them back for his best friends.

Gummy Eiffel Towers

Andrew has become a pro at handing out money, especially to the statue people, and then posing with them. Julia generally reserves her money for the homeless with animals. She bent down to pet a man's cat and the cat crawled into her lap and then up into her coat. She wanted to steal it away and it was ready to go!

Statue people in the Place St. Michel

Because we've been in so many churches and museums with their gruesome portrayals of torture and slaughter, Ellen has had some explaining to do to Andrew.

St. Sulpice

We've had to explain to him that people don't rise from the dead - no exceptions! I'm not sure of everything Ellen has told him, but he's getting into the gory stuff. Fascinated by St. Denis, patron saint of Paris, who walked around holding his chopped off head - that was in the Pantheon.

Not St. Denis - at St. Germain des Pres -
oldest church in Paris

We went to the Cluny Museum (Middle Ages) and thought there would be knights and such, but there weren't. But there were some gory things - good enough.

Tapestry of a dead someone - I don't remember - surrounded by
beautiful animals, including a unicorn and cool porcupine

And they just happened to have a unicorn's horn (narwhal) on hand, which was a big hit with Julia.

"Unicorn's" horn

Headless figures at the Cluny

We headed up to Montmartre on what started out as a gloomy day. Sacre Coeur was a big one on Andrew's checklist.

In the park at the base of Sacre Coeur

I got to show everyone where I spent May. Andrew wanted one of the commemorative coins from the church so, of course, Grandma got him one.

Looking out at the city from Sacre Coeur

Riding the funicular down the hill

And no day is complete without something sweet.


Or maybe more. At the end of the day - at least I think it was the same day - we stopped at Dalloyau and their tearoom overlooking the Luxembourg Gardens. Dalloyau started baking under Louis XIV in 1682 (about the same time my Welsh ancestors fled to the colonies for religious reasons).

Ellen and her macarons - I had the same

Julia's Mille-feuille Vanille and
Andrew's Weekend Citron

Julia's was too rich to finish, but Andrew gobbled his right down. He loves lemon.

Marie de Medici fountain in Luxembourg Gardens

And then we had one of many strolls home through the Luxembourg Gardens.

The next day we headed for the Marais - a mixed bag of the Jewish neighborhood and a place for the gentry. We wanted to have lunch at L'As de Falafel - most famous falafel place in Paris. We need one of these in Sonoma County. They pile the vegetables on - including roast eggplant - and it makes a great inexpensive meal.

Julia, Ellen, and falafel

But Andrew wasn't too thrilled with that for lunch, so he had dessert instead. We were near a cute crepe place and he adored his crepe with red fruit coulis and whipped cream. Ate it all!

Aunt Julia kept swiping his whipped cream

And the Place des Voges (also Marais - the hoity-toity part) has a playground, as do many of the parks in Paris.

Place des Voges playground

A lot of the churches around town have small green spaces next to them and many of those have playground. There's even a small one right behind Notre Dame.

Notre Dame playground

And finally, we got him to the Eiffel Tower. We wanted to see it lit up, but that is kind of a chore when it doesn't get dark until 10:30!
Finally, the Eiffel Tower

So Andrew got a nap and we headed out late. They lit it up just as we got to the Trocadero - across the river with a great view out on the tower - built for another exhibition and designed to take advantage of the already existing tower.

The grin says it all

They figured they could never compete with the tower, so they decided to include it in the new celebration. The Trocadero is a great place to start. Then you walk down the steps to the river, cross the river (which is very busy and lit up on a summer night), and then walk under the tower.

 At the base of the Trocadero

There are guys everywhere trying to sell you Eiffel Towers - shouting "one euro, five euros" while showing you the ones that cost a lot more. They have some ones that sparkle like the tower does for five minutes every hour - I covet one for my living room, but they cost too much and I don't want to carry one home.

Andrew's prize souvenir

So, of course, they target the kids and Andrew's eyes really lit up. Turns out they wanted fifteen euros for the one the guy was showing us. Julia proceeded to bargain him down to eight and Grandma bought it (ulterior motive - it will be in my house). Ellen then tried to make Julia feel guilty by telling her she was cheating the guy out of his money. Julia argued that he wouldn't have gone any lower than he wanted to go. The truth is probably somewhere in between. The guys who sell these at the Tower and up at Sacre Coeur are all Africans - multiple countries, I assume, but don't know. A lot of them look like the guy from the Ivory Coast I met when I first arrived - tall, slim, and good looking. There are so many of them that is difficult to imagine their making any money at this, but then there are a lot of tourists - a lot!

Under the tower

It's really beautiful under the tower and easy to get carried away with taking too many pictures. But they are doing some construction right under the middle of it right now. Bruce Pardoll recalls a past trip when he and friends lay down on the ground under the center and stared up. He says it was a fabulous experience. He had hoped to repeat it this trip, but I doubt he could with the construction.

Doing its sparkly thing!

They have the tower sparkle for five minutes every hour - which doesn't happen too often in the summer since it gets dark so late. Definitely a tourist lure. We had to have Andrew there at 11 pm to see it. But he was pretty wired that night and thrilled to be there.

Prized possession

Getting back to the Metro after the sparkles was a bit like getting out of a sporting event, but it was a great evening and we all had a lot of fun!

So now random photos as I catch up on recent stuff. After all, I have 2,100 photos on this computer - mine, Ellen's, and Alix's.

Graffiti in the Marais

I spent yesterday trying to finalize my travel plans for Great Britain. When I left home, they hadn't even put up the summer schedules for trains and buses. No problem getting my train reservation through the Chunnel, but to get from London to Glasgow was a mess.

Musee d'Orsay clock

I was planning the overnight train to Glasgow connecting to the train to Fort William. When I last looked, the cost was 33 pounds - which I thought was rather low - but they weren't selling tickets for July. When I went on yesterday, the fare had gone up to 150 pounds! and they were sold out. I was either going to have to give up my visit to Highgate Cemetery (I'd already paid a hefty price for my ticket) or find something else.

 Tapestry and sculpture at the Cluny

I finally found an overnight bus! Not my preferred mode of travel, but a lot cheaper. Hope it all works. I took care of all the other buses and trains that I could do ahead (ferries and local buses don't take reservations).

More graffiti

What worries me is that I don't have a printer and will have to try to print tickets at a copy shop. Last time I tried that - with the Musee d'Orsay tickets - the link said I'd already printed the tickets, which I hadn't. I hope that doesn't happen again! Some of the tickets can just be picked up at the station, but some can't.

Old sign on a building - don't know what it's for

They warn you that if you don't have a printed ticket, you'll still have the reservation, but will have to pay for the ticket all over again! How many people bring their printers along with them to Europe?

Just another pretty building

This apartment has a washing machine, but no dryer. They provide a rack to put in the tub for drying. It's humid enough here and the bathroom is small, so it takes a couple of days for things to dry. Bitch, bitch, bitch.

Why do they allow this on beautiful old buildings?
Why do they allow it on ugly new buildings?
Bitch, bitch, bitch!

I've been washing my clothes on the delicate cycle, which takes 30 minutes. But when everyone left, I went to wash the towels on the "normal" cycle and found out it is 2 and 1/2 hours! What the hell? Can someone explain that?

Towels drying

Anyway, I had to give up on the drying in the bathroom. Now I dry everything in the living room window! I know, I know. Most people have it a lot harder than this!

A pony cart/bicycle hanging from the ceiling of a restaurant

Enough. Bisou, bisou. Au demain or maybe Sunday.


  1. Great shots of the Tower lit up. And those desserts! Andrew was in heaven it seems.
    Too bad about your trip to Glasgow. But then it will be an adventure and much better story to tell.
    Happy Birthday.

  2. Alone on your birthday! Susan, you are never alone. G_d is with you. Ah, maybe not.