Saturday, June 30, 2012


Paris, France

You've probably noticed we have a hard time staying away from water, even in France. I read in a guidebook that Paris has a 105-foot waterfall. Really? Casey offered to give us a tour, so today, we packed a picnic and headed for Buttes Chaumont park in the 19th arrondisement.

The 61-acre park is a dramatically beautiful swath of green cutting through an otherwise city of gray.

It perches atop a hill with sweeping vistas crowned by the highest point in Paris, Sacra Couer.

There's a little guy on the right there for scale.

Then, Remi took us on a tour of another water feature: Canal Saint-Martin.

We've been planning our next adventure after Cara Mia. It surprises some, including our kids, that we perceive a life after Cara Mia, but it's part of our sailor/traveler/adventurer mentality. We are travelers first, sailors second (a close second), adventurers always. What we don't perceive is life without a boat.

Our plan, as it stands today, is to tool around in the Bahamas, maybe the Caribbean, and then, wait for it..... sell Cara Mia and buy a canal boat to traverse the extensive French canal system that meanders throughout the country, including the wine regions. It will be an adventure with a business element. We will put the canal boat in a charter program and/or conduct wine tours from onboard. Perhaps you'll join us for a tour? (Okay, you might have to wait a few years.)

Chip and Remi doing a little Canal Saint-Martin recon.
This particular canal was created by Napoleon to supply fresh water to the growing population and is controlled by a series of locks. Today it is mostly a tourist attraction and a lovely one at that.

Remi escorted us to a tres cool bar tucked way back in an alleyway, one we would never find on our own, the ultimate reward for hanging out with locals.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Paris, France

Today, we set out on our own, Dylan now in Rome, and Casey at work. Chip is still fighting the pain from having his tooth pulled, but he's a trooper.

He had his first French crêpe, although technically it was a galette, which is a crêpe made with buckwheat. So delicious.

In the Passy neighborhood, we peered at Balzac's house, which was closed for renovation.

What is that skinny tower is in the distance? (looking southwest from Passy)
Apparently old Balzac had a lot of debt and went to great lengths to dodge his creditors. First he tried to thwart them by renting this house under the name of his housekeeper, then when they found him anyway and came to the front door, he would ditch out the back. Wily character.

Balzac's place was just 'round the corner from our destination: the quaint Musée du Vin, housed in an old limestone quarry.

The museum itself is in the tunnels and, in a bizarre twist, combines wine artifacts with wax figures. What is the French fascination with wax figures? They're so creepy.

I very nearly screamed when I rounded a corner and saw this:

Oddly enough, that was a wax image of Balzac escaping those creditors ....

The tunnels had beautiful displays of tools, winemaking paraphernalia, glasses, carafes, corkscrews, and our favorite, a trick wine glass.

That's it on the right. They were a little sketchy about how it worked (a national secret, perhaps?), but the theory is you put your fingers over certain holes, turn it a certain way, and the wine comes out one of the little holes in the rim, apparently flowing inside the pottery. Yeah, sketchy, but tr es, tres cool.

Antique tap handles.

Vintage glassware.

The world's first sippy-cup.
Decanter with a stable base crafted especially for use on ships.
It was a delightful little museum with an audio tour that was pretty meh. It was particularly confounding that the items in the display cases were helpfully numbered yet the numbering was completely random -- or perhaps another national secret? Audio: Notice items 17, 1, 4 and 22, blah, blah.... We would totally miss what they said while trying to find number 17:

Numbers. Maybe there's a way to put them in order?
We gave it a single thumbs up, but the wine tasting at the end of the tour was a nice touch. I wonder if the Louvre will offer a free tasting at the end?

The beautiful, beautiful Passy neighborhood.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Paris, France
Yes, it was all delicious.
With our little family together for a week in Paris, we decided to celebrate Chip's birthday a bit early -- and then again later -- and maybe again. But for today, we made sandwiches with bounty from the open market at the end of our street. (More on that later!) We plied fresh baguettes with butter, Camembert, tomato, avocado, aged meats, and delish sauces available in little jars for 50 cents each: Bearnaise, Aioli, Bourguignone and, quite amusingly, Americain, which is the same as our French dressing.

First stop: Notre Dame, for a tour of the inside.

I could do an entire photo essay on Notre Dame, and maybe I will. It is a massive and massively beautiful structure.

Love that row of Kings!
Joan of Arc.
In keeping with Catholic tradition (one I don't know anything about), there were lit candles at the various stops inside the church. I felt strongly that another tribute would be appropriate rather than placing lit candles at the feet of Joan of Arc. Seriously?

From Notre Dame, we walked over the Seine and through St. Germaine to the Jardin du Luxembourg for our birthday picnic.

The palace in the park was built by Marie de Medici (yes, those de Medicis), who, as the widow of Henry IV and regent (acting for a minor royal) to her son Louis XIII. It now houses the French senate.

Besides the fact that the garden is beautiful, we chose it for Chip's birthday, because it is near the Pantheon, number one on his list to visit in Paris.

The Pantheon is worthy of another photo essay. It is truly spectacular. The history of the building could fill a book unto itself (the kids bought Chip one such book).

Both the exterior and interior are breathtaking. Below ground, it houses a crypt for some of the greatest minds of the last centuries: Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and Alexandre Dumas. Most crypts are dark, dank and creepy. This one is well-lit and beautiful. Why wouldn't great minds want to hang out here?

Voltaire and his very large shadow.
Just when you think it can't be any more impressive, you exit the building to a sprawling view of the Latin Quarter and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Then, at his request, an outdoor cafe for a very French café and a smoke under the watchful eye of the Pantheon.

And then to our little apartment for dinner (pasta with Creme Fraiche/mushroom sauce), the four of us plus Remi, and oh-so-yummy French patisserie treats.

Birthday Part One: Check.

An architectural ornament on exhibit in the Pantheon.
A transportation exhibit on exhibit outside the Pantheon.
S.W.A.K. (and a glare?)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Paris, France

Too much eating. Too much walking. Too much cheese (is that possible???). Too much of everything! I took a day off and the boys headed for the Eiffel Tower. Neither of them had seen it before. Their report: It's SO MUCH bigger than we thought it would be.

Okay, so they weren't big on photos...

Chip's beginning to feel a wee bit better from his tooth debacle. He's off the pain meds and onto awesome French aspirin, which works like Alka Seltzer. You drop a big tablet in water and wait until it finishes fizzing before drinking. Brilliant. It works so much faster than swallowing a pill. The wine and cheese and fresh baguettes seem to be helping as well.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Paris, France
The crypt of Heloise and Abelard.
Recovering from our kayaking weekend, we decided to stick close to home today, so we toured a cemetery with the kids.

Not just any cemetery but a world famous one. Our apartment is on the southern perimeter of Pére Lachaise, the haunt for a ridiculously huge number of well-known folks. If they weren't all dead, it would be mind-boggling to have them all in one place. Some notable ghosts here: Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Marcel Marceau, Gertrude Stein, Isadora Duncan, among others. Then there are famous people that you feel that you should know but are embarrassed to admit that you don't: Colette, Heloise, Théodore Géricault.

The first burial in Pére Lachaise was a five-year-old girl in 1804, and today, more than one million people are interred there. Most are buried underground, although all have crypts and tombs above ground, most about the size of a phone booth.

It is a city unto itself, this city of the dead. Seems like it should be creepy and foreboding. Instead, it is a lovely and sprawling bit of peace and shaded lanes in an otherwise bustling city.

Jim Morrison's grave, I expected to be mobbed and covered with flowers. It was neither. Instead, Chopin's was busy, and he had his own caretaker, although I cannot say if this was a paid or volunteer position.

We walked for hours, chatting, cracking jokes.

"Why is everything in Latin?"
"It's a dead language."

Who knew a cemetery could be so much fun.

I noticed much later that the stone behind Dylan says 'Dillon.' Creepy.
Chip delivering a flower (a very tiny one) to Edith Piaf.

Photographing Oscar Wilde's now-protected tomb.

Memorial to French Armenians who died for France in World Wars I and II.