Paris, Oh how I love Paris!

Me trying to torch Creme Brulée

Me trying to torch Creme Brulée

Today is our last day in Paris. I’ve loved every minute of it – except for the escalator disaster. Our hotel is just off of Montparnasse, a huge boulevard located on the Left Bank of the River Seine. This is the area in Paris where the creative community – artists and writers – met in the 19th century. I found an art store just a few doors down from the hotel and bought a real box of Conté crayons. The box is in French.

Photographing the Ace de Triomphe

Photographing the Arc de Triomphe

Emily had us scheduled pretty tight. We had about two hours in the Musée d’Orsay, the museum of modern art. I could have spent four or five hours there. We went directly to the two connected rooms with paintings by Van Gogh and his contemporaries. There is no photography allowed in the museum. After fifteen minutes, Tom and Emily were bored and went off to explore the museum. I spent an hour and a half in those two rooms, most of it spent sketching a painting by Gauguin.

From there we rushed through Paris, getting on and off the underground and finally arrived, five minutes late, at our French cooking class. Emily is a co-owner of a wonderful bakery and when she asked what we’d like to learn to cook, I told her to just choose something that she wanted to learn. She did a good job. We learned how to make little plum tarts, Madeleines, and creme brulée. I took a turn with the torch to caramelize the tops but it scared me. I’m not fond of fire.

The instructor was wonderful. She spoke very good English so we had a delightful conversation. I mentioned that the stereotype of the thin, elegantly dressed, French woman wasn’t a stereotype. I don’t remember seeing one overweight woman in Paris. She assured me that this was only in Paris. The rest of the country was more “normal.”

The day we went to see the Arc de Triomphe, I was having trouble getting a good photo. The Arc is in the middle of a gigantic traffic circle with multiple streets leading to it. Finally, I took my life into my hands and crossed half way across the eight lane avenue. I stopped in the tiny space between the lanes to take some photos not realizing that Emily was taking photos of me taking photos.

I will miss Paris.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

On our way to Paris

Sunday, October 14

City of Lyon

We’re leaving Lyon this morning on the TGV – the fast train to Paris. Lyon is a big city but it has some interesting things to see and do. The Basilica is beautiful and the square with the Musée des Beaux-Arts is amazing. But there are so many things that I didn’t have time for. They have a wonderful park, Park de la Tete d’Or, that I didn’t find time to see but Emily went. It has botanical gardens, a huge lake, walking paths and a zoo. The Old Town is a maze of interesting shops and street performers. These are just some of the reasons I would like to visit Lyon again. If you’re thinking of going to Lyon, I’d recommend spending some time on Only Lyon, the online site of things to see and do.

Our train didn’t leave until the afternoon so we slept in. Once we pulled ourselves together, we walked four blocks to pick up something for breakfast. Of course we could barely understand the signs. Emily pointed to a sign describing a sandwich with a list of ingredients including mozzarella cheese and ham. The shopkeeper shook her head, “No.” Then she rattled off a list of cheeses that we didn’t recognize. So Emily ordered a sandwich avec fromage [with cheese]. To keep things easy I nodded when she pointed at me and asked if I wanted what Emily was having. We thought it would have some ham on it, but no.

We ended up with a hard baguette – the French truly know how to make bread! – with a long, thick slice of Brie and butter – just in case the brie didn’t have enough fat in it. Nothing else. I don’t normally care for Brie but this was very different from the Brie I’ve eaten in the States. Not too bad for breakfast. I also ordered a pastry of some kind. The sign said pommeswhich are apples but inside the flaky pastry was applesauce. I took half the

Lyon Train Station

sandwich and the pastry on the train. I’ve never eaten so many pastries and so little ice cream before. But overall, the food and desserts are amazingly good. I’ll give myself a week back home to get back into a routine and then it’s time to lose some (a lot!) of weight.

I don’t eat sandwiches very often at home but when it’s made on a French baguette, it’s really good. if you don’t want to sit down in a restaurant for lunch, and pay a lot of money to do so, your only option is a boulangerie. The only lunch things I’ve seen here are ham and cheese sandwiches, chicken and cheese sandwiches, tuna salad sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and disgusting small pizzas – unless you want pastry in which case you have an almost unlimited choice.

On our walk back to the hotel, we passed a very shiny, black, motorcycle parked on the street with a pair of ladies panties in the corner of the wind shield. Someone had a fun night!

We got packed this morning and took our luggage down to the front desk. When we asked her to call a taxi, and told her we wanted to go to the train station she told us the station was only a few minutes of walking away. We knew that, having walked to the train station several times, but we both had luggage, carry-ons and purses. On top of that, many of the streets and sidewalks were made of cobblestones. We assured her we needed a taxi but when it arrived, the taxi driver gave us look like we were nuts not to walk.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

Our last day in Lyon

Saturday, Oct 13

The Basilica Clock

This is our last day in Lyon. You will notice the blue skies in the Lyon photos. That’s pretty much the last blue skies we saw on the trip.

Emily had to go to work for a few hours but now we have the rest of the day to go exploring. Lyon is the second or third largest city in France. Walking is a dream because the streets are flat. This is one of the best cities I’ve visited for public transportation. They have city buses, a trolley, and an underground – called the Metro.

Since we don’t know where we’re going, we are taking taxis. It’s more expensive but safer in the long run, I think. Here’s the thing about the taxis in Lyon: It is not unusual to be picked up in a new

The blue door

Mercedes or other luxury car. I’ve had a few taxi drivers who spoke English and one of them said that taxis are for upper middle class and rich people. They expect to be picked up in a nice car that is spotlessly clean. He said his car cost 150,000 Euros, In dollars, that’s basically a $240,000 dollar car. Maybe I misunderstood him. He spoke excellent English but, really? Can you actually spend $240,000 to buy a Mercedes? Mind you, this car was not gold-plated. The taxi prices reflect the cost of the car. I’m hoping they have “normal” less expensive taxis in Paris. We could go broke just paying for transportation.

As Emily and I walked around Old Town we noticed that there is a cathedral  – or what I would consider to be a cathedral – on almost every corner. Kind of like Dunkin’ Doughnuts in Boston. Did you know that Boston has more Dunkin’

What a great porch!

Doughnuts per capita than any other city in the US? I’m certainly not comparing a French cathedral to a doughnut shop but you get the picture. I guess in Denver it would be a Walgreens.

Finally, I was exhausted from walking around so much. With my fibromyalgia, I have to be careful not to overdo any activity. The problem is that it’s so much fun and interesting to be in France that I don’t want to miss anything. With her work, this is the only day that Emily has to explore Lyon. She wanted to stay out and walk around so I took a taxi to the hotel. I didn’t realize it but it the hotel was only 12 blocks or so from where we were. When

the taxi pulled up to the door of the Kyriad, the fare was 4.20 Euros. I handed

The Fountain Man. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw this!

him a five and he said, “No, No, No. 6.40 Euros” and then a string of French I couldn’t follow. Finally, he explained it well enough that I could understand – 6.40 Euros is the base pay.

I’m suspicious of taxi drivers. Sometimes they will show up with 4.20 Euros on the meter – before we even leave the hotel. Other times they start out with 6.40 or more. OK, 6.40 is the base pay, but the meter starts ticking as he pulls out onto the street. It appeared to me that the taxi industry in Lyon is not regulated.

Not knowing French is a hinderance, but not impossible to overcome. Emily and I decided the most important phrase to know in France is not “Where is the bathroom?” which you have to know if you’re in Mexico. In France it’s “Parlez-vous anglais?” Do you speak English? and then, if they say “Yes” you let out a sigh of relief, even if they only know a little. They say total immersion is the best way to learn a language and I agree. I took two semesters of Spanish at our junior college but it wasn’t until we moved to Mexico for four months that I really got the hang of it. I was in France for 2-1/2 weeks and came home with a much better understanding of the language and pronunciation than when I left.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

The Place des Terreaux in Lyon, France

Friday, Oct 12

Beaux Arts Court Yard

I took a taxi to Place des Terreaux, a huge public square where I could visit Les Beaux Artes (Museum of Fine Art), the Lyon City Hall and the Bartholdi Fountain. The museum takes up

Happy Boy

most of one side of the square. When you walk in, there is a large courtyard with statues, lots of flowers and trees and places to sit. I call one of the statues “Happy Boy” although I don’t think he should be quite that happy considering where his dog is. A covered walk way goes around three of the sides. They reminded me of the art school building in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The museum features old paintings. I was also able to see Rodin’s The Kiss and The Thinker.

The Circumcision of Jesus

Covered Walkway

The Sisters of Jesus and Mary commissioned an Italian artist, Barbieri, to paint The Circumcision of Jesus, for their main alter. It was

Lyon City Hall

finished on January 1, 1646.

Another side of the square is what the taxi driver told me was the Opera House but is actually the Lyon City Hall. Can you imagine that as your city’s government building? Amazing. It’s gold inlaid and one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. There are gods and goddesses carved at the roofline. I didn’t have time to go inside but I can guess its beauty.

The other two sides of the square are made up of a hotel, galleries, restaurants and shops. On one of those sides is a gigantic sculpture of a woman, naked from the waist up, driving a chariot pulled by four huge, grotesquely violent horses. The sculptor created them in such a way that water sprays out of the horses’ nostrils making it look like they’re snorting steam. The woman is looking down at a child on her right side while another child at her left side looks like he’s trying to reach up to her

Bartholdi Fountain

but is on the verge of drowning. Hundreds of gallons of water pour down over the intricately designed fountain. This fountain/statue was not meant to

Bartholdi Fountain Horses

be pretty, or at least I hope not, because in truth, it is quite frightening.

To quote an article on Wikipedia: “The fountain depicts France as a female seated on a chariot controlling the four great rivers of France, represented by wildly rearing and plunging horses, highly individualized but symmetrically arranged, with bridles and reins of water weeds. It weighs 21 tons and is made of lead supported by a frame of iron and was presented at the Exposition Universelle in1889. It has been classified as a Monument Historique since 29 September 1995.”

The French sculptor, Frédéric Bartholdi, also designed the Statue of Liberty standing in New York harbor. The original name of this statue was “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

I visited a lot of museums in my 2-1/2 weeks in France. As a full-time artist, I happen to like museums and I had enough alone time that Emily didn’t have to come along to all of them. She and Tom went to the two museums in Paris: the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. Just on this page you can see a painting from 1646, a fountain that was unveiled in 1889 and the City Hall dedicated in 1891. One more thing about Lyon – actually there is so much more about Lyon! – is that it was the home of Antoine de St Exupery who wrote The Little Prince.

Until next time

Susan L Stewart

ECTRIMS, the Basilica and Paul Bocuse

City of Lyon

Thursday, Oct 11

Emily is a medical editor working at the ECTRIMS conference, an annual event where doctors,

30-story Orange Man at the ECTRIMS conference

researchers,vpharmaceutical firms and others gather to discuss the newest research on the treatment of people with

Multiple Sclerosis. ECTRIMS is in Chicago next year. Not quite as exciting as France, but Chicago’s nice.

I’m on my own for the next few days which is very unusual and very liberating. There’s a certain freedom to exploring an unknown city by myself that I enjoy very much. After 38 years of marriage, Tom and I travel very well together, but I’m enjoying my solitude.

I took a cab to the shopping part of town. The streets are closed to vehicles so people are walking around everywhere. I very rarely buy

The Lyon Basilica

anything on vacation – not even a souvenir. But I found two stores with large discounts. I bought a beautiful black sweater with silver threads and a rain jacket that I looked for in Denver but couldn’t find before I left. A woman from Russia ran the store with the jacket. I especially loved the stacking dolls from Russia that she had in the shop. You open the doll and there’s a smaller version inside it. You open that one and there’s an even smaller one inside. This goes on until you have a row of dolls from large to miniature.

After shopping, I took a taxi up to the top of a large, very steep,

hill where the Basilica is. The church takes up all of the top of the hill. It isn’t possible to walk around to the front that faces the city because it’s on the edge of a sharp drop. The interior is covered in scaffolding but I was still able to take

Mary at the alter of the Basilica

some photos – without a flash. My new camera does a great job in low-light situations. I

took some of the exterior, too. It’s a beautiful building standing guard over the city. On the other side of the courtyard, in front of the

Mural inside the Basilica

Basilica, is a Jewish temple.

Lyon is a flat city which makes it easy to walk around. I didn’t see people jogging in the city, but I saw many joggers running up that huge hill to the Basilica. I guess there’s no challenge in running on flat ground. Emily is a runner and

she said it’s not fun running in the city while trying to navigate the crowds and having to stop when the light is red, and the traffic is crazy; if you don’t watch out they will run you down.

 

Later that night we went to “Le Sud” [The South] restaurant. The chef/owner is the world-renowned

Paul Bocuse. I had heard of Paul Bocuse but didn’t know his restaurant was in Lyon. Emily and Linda had Ossobuco, a veal dish with

The Basilica

risotto that they liked very much. Since we were in a nice restaurant, I decided to be brave and ordered something completely different, a Moroccan dish – chicken tajine with lemon and couscous on the side. I’ve seen tajine dishes, usually lamb, on the Food

Network but I’ve never eaten it and didn’t know what to expect. Unfortunately, the very first bite tasted just like Pinesol smells.

Completely disgusting! Emily and Linda laughed at me. “How could something taste like Pinesol smells?” I don’t know so I gave Linda a piece to try. She gagged and said I was right. Emily declined to be our third taste tester – smart woman. The couscous was good as well as the broth so I ate that and the carrots and squash I could identify. I think the Pinesol vegetable was something they did to the lemon.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

Lyon, France: A Neighborhood Church

The neighborhood Church a few blocks from our hotel

 

Jumping girl with waning moon

Wednesday, October 10

Emily and Linda had to get to the conference early. I slept in the first morning, and missed the complimentary breakfast. I got dressed and started to walk, looking for a petit déjeuner [breakfast]. As I did, I came across a beautiful old neighborhood church and took almost 200 photos of it. You will notice the beautiful blue skies. This is the only time we saw the sun on our trip. Here are some I found very

Woman playing the harp

interesting. The first is a person getting ready to jump off the spire to her death. On the other side, there is a dog on the roof and a woman playing the harp. I wonder

Dog on the roof

who decides what sculpture is going to be placed on the roof of a church? Do they get a committee together? Can you imagine the discussion? I found some gargoyles, too. I think by the time I get home I could probably do a photo essay on the Gargoyles of France. We’ll see.

I’ve always thought of flan as a Spanish/Mexican dessert but I’ve had the best flan here. There are boulangeries, [bakeries] on almost every corner. They carry bread, quiche, sandwiches, and an assortment of pastries, a sugar-holic’s dream. Tried the quiche – not something I particularly care for. It isn’t that much better in France sorry to say.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

British Airways to France

Monday, Oct 8 – Tuesday, Oct 9

Another church in Lyon. There seems to be one on every corner.

I’m trying to blog every day but it’s been difficult. Every time I sit down, I want to take a nap. Actually, the jet lag over to Europe is not nearly as bad as coming back. The last time we flew back from Europe was from London many years ago and it took me about two weeks to get my body rhythms in sync again.

We flew on British Airways. It’s my second time to fly with them and they are great! If you have a chance to fly British Airways, I highly recommend it. The flight attendants actually seem to enjoy their job; they’re very accommodating and the seats are roomy and comfortable. The seats lean back a little more making sleeping easier. There were two crying babies in our section and I didn’t pack ear plugs. I asked if they had some and she said she’d check. She came back with a pair and didn’t even charge me. The food is better than other airline food, too.

Lyon is a big, fairly easy to navigate, city with an Old Town, a shopping area with a lot of stores offering discounts, and the Basilica.

One thing has changed as far as traveling goes. I have used my beloved Canon 40D camera with an excellent lens for years. It’s gone with me to Mexico and, last year, through the Panama Canal. But the pain from the arthritis in my hands has doubled and tripled this year and I found that, at 3+ pounds, I couldn’t pick it up anymore, let alone take photos. So I purchased a new Olympus EM-5 OM-D that weighs half the amount. I think I like my new camera although I received the lens three days before we left so I only know how to “point and shoot.” I have it set at fully automatic for now so I don’t need to figure out the various settings. I think it takes very nice photos, though.

The food is pretty good. Our first night the three of us – Emily, her co-worker Linda who we met up with in London, and I ate at the restaurant in the hotel. We were just too tired to venture out. They only had menus in French so we asked the waiter to translate. When he got to “tete du veau [veal’s head] served in a nice veal broth with … ” I tuned out. That was after a whole day of flying and, I don’t know, chewing on the head of a baby calf just before bedtime didn’t seem like the best way to go. I settled on a cup of vegetable soup.

I passed out before Emily had time to turn the lights out.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart

We’re off to France!

To all,

A Paris apartment house. Notice the graffiti.

On Monday, October 8, our daughter, Emily, and I got on a British Airways plane to France. Emily is a medical editor for a company that puts on medical conferences. She, and a writer, Linda, are covering ECTRIMS, a large, international, conference on Multiple Sclerosis in Lyon, France.

When the conference is over, she and I are going to take the train to Paris where Tom (father/husband) will be joining us. We’ll spend time in Paris exploring as many of the things the city offers as we will have the energy for. Emily flies home on the 19th and Tom and I are taking the train down to Avignon, Provence for a few days.

In addition to loving to travel and seeing new places, I’m a full-time artist and I think France and Italy are two of the countries every artist should visit. While I haven’t been to Italy yet, I’m very excited to experience France. While Emily is working, I plan to sit in an outdoor café and sketch. I’m also going to visit all of the museums I can find.

Emily and Tom will gladly go with me to a museum but I never feel comfortable sitting and sketching while they’re sitting there, bored. Vincent Van Gogh is my favorite artist and he spent a large part of his short life (he died at age 37) in Paris and Provence. I feel like I’m on an artist’s pilgrimage. There are many places in France that were meaningful to Van Gogh that I want to see. So, for now I am organizing my life, trying to figure out what to take for a 2-1/2 week vacation while keeping in mind that the international flight baggage weight is limited to 51 pounds. I’m also taking a sketchbook, watercolors and watercolor paper. When I recover from jet lag, I’m looking forward to exploring museum after museum.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart