Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Montreal...oui, oui

Just returned from our week in Vermont -- and 2 days in Montreal. What a wonderful "European" city right in our backyard. Loved hearing French. Loved the little cupcake shop we found down the street from our hotel.
Loved our hotel, Place des Armes, smack dab in the middle of vieux Montreal, and its wine and cheese happy hour and exposed brick walls and fireplace in our room. Loved the little bistro we found for lunch where it felt right to order a glass of wine and sit leisurely over a great cup of cappucino. A bientot.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bali Dreamin'

It's spring break season and we're headed north...not south...nor as far flung as Southeast Asia. But I can always dream. And so I've been thinking about years past spent in Bali, during those adventuresome months I spent working and living in East Timor. Sunny afternoons spent overlooking the sea at Ku De Ta....with a glass of wine in hand and nothing to think about except where to go for dinner later that night. Jazzy music and a warm breeze on the outside porch at the Living Room. A totally self-indulgent spa treatment at the Villas. I was rereading my journals a few nights ago from those days....nice to travel back, if only in my head.

Monday, March 16, 2009

When in Paris...

Ah, Paris in the spring. Walking along the Seine. A pain au chocolat. A fresh crusty baguette. Strolling the quaint streets of Ile St. Louis. I wish I could say I'd soon be doing it all but instead an old friend from college is going in April and has asked for some advice. So here are my brief recommendations for a few days in Paris (there are enough guides out there to fill a library!), in the spring, gathered from many years of visits and the wonderful time I spent living there, taking French lessons and marveling at the depth of the city of light:

The Louvre: Clearly a must stop for anyone going to Paris....but I recommend hitting just one wing or area like the Roman ruins, rather than trying to do it all. Mona Lisa is there, of course...don't be surprised by the small size of the actual painting! I would also highly recommend the Musee d'Orsay -- housed in an old train station, it is filled with light and an amazing collection of Impressionist paintings.
Ile St. Louis: This is my favorite neighborhood (actually a small island) in Paris....this is where I would want to live, preferrably overlooking the Seine. This is where my husband and I have stayed on both of our trips, including the one where he romanced me just before we were engaged so it has very special memories. Have an ice cream at Berthillon while looking upon the back of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame: The gargoyles...such an architectural feat. This is another iconic Paris stop.

The Eiffel Tower: Need I say more? If this is a first-time visit, then you obviously have to see and go up the Eiffel Tower, the tallest structure in the world when it was built in 1889....but time it to arrive just before dusk so that you get to the top and have a great view of city...and then get to enjoy it light up, which it does every ten minutes, after dusk.

The Picasso Museum: In Le Marais, a quaint neighborhood of Jewish delis and great shoppingand cafes, this museum is one of my favorite stops in Paris. Picasso was a bit genius, a bit wacko, but mostly hedonistic.

Place des Vosges: This is the most beautiful, symmetrical square in Paris (Le Marais) and one can almost imagine the gentreed intrigue and liaisons that took place here. It is also home to the Victor Hugo Museum and wonderful art galleries. I like sitting in the park in the center just people watching and staring in awe at the architecture of the place.

Luxembourg Gardens: This is a peaceful spot for resting your feet or taking in an art exhibit. Children can also rent model boats and sail them. The Marionnettes du Luxembourg is also considered one of the best -- have to do that with my daughter someday soon.

A boulangerie: Dart into any Parisian bakery and it will not disappoint. Order a pain au chocolat or a sandwich -- my favorite is pain au jambon avec fromage (ham and cheese). Magnifique!

Bofinger or Brasserie Lipp: A brasserie is a must, and these two are quintessentially Parisian. Splurge on oysters and champagne and then sauerkraut. The stained glass windows, black uniformed waiters with white aprons and overflowing trays of seafood are a must see, not to mention that sitting in one of these having a late night meal makes you feel like you are REALLY in Paris, the greatest city in the world.

Shopping: Bon Marche is the oldest department store in Paris and it can be a one-stop adventure. But I like Le Marais. My favorite blouse store, Anne Fontaine, is located there. Care to pick me up a new blouse? Size 38, thanks.

What else can one say about Paris? It is magical, seductive, intriguing and a place where one can simply "be." Take le Metro...many of its stops are eye candy given the Art Nouveau tiling, etc. Walk and breath in the city, feasting your eyes on the upscale boutiques along rue Fbg St. Honore, stopping for a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe, browsing over old books at markets along the Seine... at night the boats along the Seine also cast a magical glow. For more advice, check out Gourmet (posted on my blog) or Travel and Leisure's wonderful guides to this city.