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

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