Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Finishing Paris, I hope....

Lochranza Castle and a place to blog

We've just had a thunderstorm, so I'm going to take this opportunity to finish Paris! About time! But I get to do it on the Isle of Arran with a view of Lochranza Castle - oat cakes in the jar to my left.

Swans feeding below the window

View from my bedroom window

It's difficult to get into the Paris spirit when one's in a place that is so completely different! So I have to get a few local and current photos onto the blog before going back in time.

The B&B in the middle

The B&B is an old church converted to a B&B and art gallery and sometimes music performance space. In this picture, the castle is right behind me.

The window of my tiny room

This is my tiniest room so far, up under the eaves of the church. I was told to close my window at night to keep out the midges, but that would have been too stuffy. Once my light was out, I opened the window again and had no problem. And it was absolutely silent - quite different from Paris, but I can sleep either way.

Lochranza Castle - partially 14th century and mostly 16th century -
seen from the B&B - sheep roam at will

And a quick mention of blog views - according to the blog overview, I'm getting quite a few views from Russia and some from China, the Netherlands, South Korea, and Australia. What's that about?

My street of bars empty on Bastille Day

I've already mentioned Bastille Day - not something I'd do again, except that it emptied out large areas of the city (including the Bastille area) and it made for very pleasant walking. That day on google.fr, the graphic was of military jets with red, white, and blue trails. When they roared overhead in real life, the trails were pinkish (though the country gets steadily less socialist all the time).

Ship's prow above a doorway overlooking the canal

Many of the buildings built between about 1875 and 1925 were engraved with the architect's name and the year it was built. Every once in a while, I encountered a building that also acknowledged the sculpture. This, with its elaborate door, was one of them.

Old and new

I can't remember whether I've mentioned the guy peeing at my entrance - something we expect of homeless in the US since there are so few alternatives. But in France there were pissoirs until recently and I'm imagining that men resent their demise. 

Butts are everywhere!

One afternoon, I approached my entry door to find a man squished up against the corner peeing under the entry key pad panel - broad daylight, people all around, right next to a produce market. He didn't appear to be drunk - just asserting his male right to whip out his penis. I had to get in while keeping my feet dry.

Promenade Plantee

One thing the French do well is provide lovely shaded places for walking. The Promenade Plantee begins a short distance from the Place de la Bastille and runs almost three miles east.

View from above

The walkway was created on an abandoned railway structure (one was later created in New York City). It is well used and runs through quite variety of neighborhoods - ending in an ethnically diverse, working-class neighborhood in the east.

More Promenade Plantee

"jogging is tolerated"

And the rights of walkers supersede those of joggers!

A little warren of shops and cafes

I don't have a picture of him, but one day while I was sitting at a cafe, there was a poodle singing along with the ambulance sirens going by - almost everywhere that people can go, dogs can go in France. I don't think I have ever been anywhere with more sirens. It's almost constant.

Tools of the trade

I forgot to write down the name of this restaurant - a famous one, I could look it up. I had been looking at the menu out front - out of my league with lots of ingredients I didn't understand - but when I walked down the side street, there was an open window to the kitchen with tools of the trade - lots of whisks!

If your apartment is too small to store your bike....

Another overheard conversation in a French creperie - this time some late 20's early 30's young women from the United States who had encountered each other in Paris and were exchanging life stories. One young woman lived in Washington, DC and had apparently been a congressional page. Then she had worked in the State Dept. with an office right by Hillary Clinton's (she wasn't too clear about what her job was, but it was fairly low level). Recently she had left and was working for a non-profit (helping to preserve something, but I can't remember what). But what I liked was her comment that she was finally doing something useful. We've always known the State Dept. isn't useful (at least not to most of us), right?

Where Picasso painted Guernica

My sister sent me an article from the Washington Post about what a large percent of French food is prepared in central kitchens or is frozen. It is causing a controversy around which establishments should be able to call themselves restaurants. I finally did find good food. It meant spending more - more than for the same quality in Sonoma County - but it was worth it. Otherwise, just like that other land of mass produced food - the USA - the food was mediocre or, sometimes, downright bad.

Not really an empty restaurant - people had just left
and the room would fill up again

It's sad about France. The US has never had a gastronomic reputation to maintain (though I think we now have some of the best food and wine in the world), but France has.

Old workshops, now artist's studios

I never really did make much use of my feeble French. Most people automatically spoke to me in English. But I was very happy the few times people actually let me try speaking just French. Sometimes it even worked. There were people who spoke very clearly and distinctly (even with each other) and others I couldn't understand to save my life. A different education? A different region?

Modern working class housing project with
balconies inspired by a bygone age

My last dinner in Paris was at a restaurant that was recommended by three people in Sonoma County, as well as guidebooks. As Ellen says, "Meh." The dishes were very traditional - which can be very good - and very boring. Too bad.

A loaf of bread, a glass of wine, and no thou

The profiteroles - the only time I ordered them figuring I couldn't leave Paris without having profiteroles - were good, but huge. I did not finish this!

Profiteroles - choux pastry, ice cream, and chocolate sauce
- portion sizes have definitely increased in France

By the time I left Paris, I was ready to get out of the city - ready for some countryside. But despite that, bizou, bizou, Paris - I'm so happy I did this! So much human-made beauty in one place. Thank you!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Twice in one day


Sitting in the pub that is connected with the inn I'm staying at - I'm tasting a different whiskey every night - not my usual drink, but when in Rome.... I'm finding that I'm enjoying the differences. Last night the bartender thought I should try a "lady's" whiskey. Tonight a woman is tending the bar, so I tried something peaty - a man's whiskey. I prefer the peaty one. Tasted so far: Macallum, Tobermory, Bunnahabhain, and Lagavullin. I didn't try one my first night since I was too tired from the overnight bus.

Photo shoot on the Place de la Bastille

So here are a bunch of random notes and photos from Paris. I apologize if I repeat any of them.

Book stall along the Seine

So how many four-year-olds do you know who have buying a map from a book stall along the Seine on their bucket list? This was very important for Andrew. And he was thrilled when he got to do it and thrilled with his purchase.

Parisian window - again

One day I was sitting in the Tuilleries, when an Indian/Pakistani (guessing here) man asked me for money. He was elderly and he had a really sweet face and I gave him some money. He proceeded to tell me is family story (was it true? I don't care). He then asked me where I was from. When I told him California, his face lit up. He said that, of course, I'd given him money. I'm from California!

Eye on the world

I've mentioned the people in need of mental healthcare in France who are roaming the streets. I was sitting at a cafe when an elderly woman walked by. She was clearly known in the neighborhood - she was making obscene gestures, shouting, you know the drill. Later, a man at the cafe fell asleep at his table and the staff could not get him to wake up no matter how much they poked him.

Rose window up close

Suddenly, a waiter to got the great idea of tracking down the woman. They talked her into waking the guy up. First she went to the wrong guy - poked him in the groin and laughed hysterically. But finally she got the right guy. She was a bit aggressive, but the waiters were pleased with the results.

? ? ? ? ? 

I assume only English speakers are drawn in by this silliness! What is this?

Cafe closed

They're getting drunk at the bar! Talking about seeing adders on the beach and talking about St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland. Wearing your Wellies to protect your ankles! It's getting quite animated!

Notre Dame

It's difficult keeping my head in Paris when I'm in a Scottish pub - no wifi in my room, so here I am thinking of going to bed! Listening to the Scottish accents reminds me that I sometimes find it easier to understand a French waiter speaking French than to understand a Scottish waiter speaking English! I should have expected it, since I use the English subtitles for Scottish movies.

Parisian peace and justice activist

I first saw this guy driving around the Place de la Bastille on this huge contraption covered in signs. It was so unwieldy that I couldn't imagine he could get around. I later discovered that he sets up behind Notre Dame and plays several instruments and has a whole bunch of (solar activated?) fountains going - among all sorts of other weird stuff. A Parisian institution, I think.

Same guy!

Revolution and poetry - he must be one of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change!


Chipping away at Paris. Good night!

I hope this works

The internet is really slow here - west coast of Scotland - so I'm not sure whether this is going to work.

View from my room overlooking Kilmartin Glen

I still have a whole bunch of photos and stories to write about Paris. Was I ever in Paris? This is soooo different! But I did want to catch you up on where I am.

View out the same window - just to the right

I'm spending nine nights in Scotland and, for most of it, the weather has been very warm and sunny! Though I overheard a woman say that "the glass is dropping. There's a front to the northwest." A few wispy clouds, so maybe.

My window in the Kilmartin Hotel

The west coast of Scotland reminds me of northern California in winter (when it's green) - especially west Marin and the Sierra foothills (without the Sierra behind).

Kilmartin Hotel seen through the arch
leading to the cemetery

I'm about to give up on this, I think. It has taken half an hour to get this far!

Scottish raspberries in Fort William

Inverlochy Castle - now a luxury hotel and world famous restaurant - was right up the road from where I was staying in Fort William. Needless to say, it was out of my league, but in 1972 I began making Creme Brulee Inverlochy Castle - which appeared in Gourmet magazine at the time. Its claim to fame was that it had raspberries in it. My mother adored raspberries and she loved that creme brulee. I was determined to eat a Scottish raspberry dessert in her honor.

A different castle seen from the ferry between Mull and Oban

So I ended up with a raspberry dessert that had pistachio "soil" and bay and basil ice cream. It was actually very delicious, but my mother would not have liked it at all.

Okay, as I said, giving up - it's dinner time and I've gotten nowhere. Tomorrow I head to an even more remote location, so who knows when I'll be on next. But here, the electricity isn't even strong enough for me to charge my camera through my computer - which I've been doing my entire trip.

The mist forming on the loch at Fort William

Monday, July 15, 2013

Goodbye, Paris

Bastille Day 2013

Just a quick post to say that things could get sporadic from now on. I head out to the west coast of Scotland (with a one night stopover in London) today and I don't see that any of my little B&B's mention offering free wifi, so who knows. Taking the Eurostar through the Chunnel - only 2-1/2 hrs. between Paris and London.

More fireworks

Yesterday was Bastille Day. I didn't go to the military parade, but the jets did fly over my apartment, so I wasn't spared. The only thing I did was go to the fireworks, which started at 11:00 p.m. since it stays so light here.

Yep, blurry

There were people everywhere - not sure I've ever been in a bigger gathering. I wouldn't do it again! It took forever to get back to the apartment. I walked a lot of it because the Metro entrances in the general area were blocked.

Revolution mural in the Bastille Metro

Everywhere else I went in Paris was real quiet yesterday. Nice!

"Nanny State" at work

Is this what they mean by the Nanny State? This was posted in lots of languages. 27C is 80.6F.

Bus stop electronic sign

The electronic signs at the Paris bus stops were announcing the protests in the U.S. against the Zimmerman acquittal. You probably won't read this before 4:00 today, but the Peace & Justice Center and the Sonoma County NAACP are holding a vigil for Trayvon in Courthouse Square, SR, today, the 15th, from 4:00 to 6:00. I'll be thinking of you all.