Archive for December, 2010

December 30, 2010

New Year’s Eve and Day in Paris

Close approaching one of the years’ best celebration. New Year’s Eve party in the city of lights!!! Great time to be in the city as the weather will be good,temperate climate of about -2 to 2°C with midnite to new year at about O°C (32°F)

The best events this year in my opinion, will be the Bataclan, at 50 bd Voltaire, 75011.metro  Republique lines 3,5,8,9 or Oberkampf  line 5. All starts from 21h45 until 06H, several packages from Pass 1 at 75€ for two with drinks  to Pass 5 at 350€ for four persons, VIP room,and drinks.  DJ sexy show, dancers, lights, confettis,dance floor of 1000 sq meters, with giant screens all over. Wonderful place for many years. Reservations at Tel +33 01 43 14 00 30.

The best addresses to wait out the New Year at at Les Ombres, 27 Quai Branly, 75007 on the 5th floor of the museum of Branly webpage  http://www.lesombres-restaurant.com/

Bateau Concorde Atlantique, 27 Quai Anatole France, 75007 ,steps from the Musée d’Orsay, a huge peniche boat of cereals now converted into a wonderful dance place with cap of 400 persons.  Webpage http://www.bateauconcordeatlantique.com/

Le Ciel de Paris, 33 Avenue du Maine, 75015.  at the 56th floor  Tour Montparnasse with wonderful views of Paris.  webpage http://www.cieldeparis.com/

La Tour d’Argent, 15-17 Quai de la Tournelle, 75005. A mythical Paris restaurant, webpage http://www.latourdargent.com/

Yachts de Paris, 10bis Quai Henri IV, 75004. 8 boats on a magical river cruise on the Seine waiting for the New Year.  webpage http://entreprises.yachtsdeparis.fr/index.cfm/page/lid/2/rid/2371/

If you want a more laidback atmosphere but very cozy and full of fire, then head for one of my favorite restaurants at Cuba Compagnie Bastille with a Brazilian ambiance for 70€ per person or Clichy with a Salsa ambiance where Cuban lobster will be served plus live dancers all for 119€ per person. webpage http://www.cubacompagnie.com/index.htm

If you prefer the compounds of a hotel surrounded by history of France, then I suggest the Westin Paris Hotel, 3 Rue de Castiglione, 75001. metro Concorde or Tuileries lines 1,8,12. Here servers will be dressed in grand Siécle or century style with dresses from the times of the 17C and 18C accompanying each dish, and music of the times. All for 390€ proper attire required. webpage http://www.thewestinparis.com/

My personal favorite, this year will be the Le Tirs aux  Pigeons -Les deux étangs, 50 rue de l’Etoile, 75016. From 20h to 05h; price from 75€ or 89e with 3 drinks included and Champagne. Les deux étangs will open the door exceptionally this year, in a monument historic of Paris with a majestic park,  400 m² of dancefloor, 300m² of winter garden, 600m² of green garden heated area,a decorated chalet, 2 bars, space VIP  ,and a vast free parking. webpage
http://www.lesdeuxetangs.fr/tir-aux-pigeons.htm

For the New Year’s Day or January 1,2011 the Cafe de la Paix (historical site in Paris )offer an exceptionally great buffet brunch from 11h to 17h call brunch gargantuesque. Rose champagne et small dishes tapas style created by the Chef. For the kids a special place will be reserved with accordingly portions, the price is  115€ per person. webpage http://www.cafedelapaix.fr/

For the comfort of visitors and Parisiens alike the public transport system will open extended hours and FREE!!  this will be from Friday December 31 at 17h to Saturday january 1 at 12h (12 midday).  This includes all bus, trains, trams, or RER in all of the Ile de France region not just the city of Paris but all its region.  Most metro stations will remain open until 02h15 (2:15 am), and some like the lines 1,2,4,6,9,and 14  will remain open all night until 05h30 (5:30am) . The Noctilien night transport service will be adapted to go in extra renforcement of needed areas of the SNCF/RATP system all night from 0h30 (12:30 am) to 05h30 (5:30am). webpage http://www.ratp.fr/fr/ratp/r_37271/transports-gratuits-pendant-la-nuit-du-nouvel-an/ (in French more info).

Enjoy Paris at New Year’s always a special moment. Happy New Year 2011 and may all your wishes comes thru for all readers and friends of my blog.

Cheers ::)

December 30, 2010

Chateau de Fontainebleau, the faces of the French kingdom

One of the most important, lovely ,and special castles in France. It was my first introduction to French cultural and historical life back in 1990, as was visited with my girlfriend who is from the region,and now my wife.

I like to give you the details of getting there first, usually is last but I think it should be first so you know how to get there.  First the individual visits are done in the tour of the Grands appartements ,including those of the Pope,the renaissance rooms,sovereigns apartments and the interior apartment of the Emperor, the museum of Napoleon Ier, and the French and English style gardens covering 50 hectares ( 123,50 acres. You are given free audioguides ,and the admission is 10€ adults (if you come  an hour before closing you get in for 5€) . You are given guided tours of the Petit Appartements, the spaces link to the Second Empire (Napoleon III)  as well as the galerie des meubles (gallery of furnitures),this admission of 6,50€. You can visit the museum of Napoleon on a guided tour as well as the appartements the admission is 14,50€. It is well advised to reserve in advance the guided tours of the Chateau. The contact info is tel +33 01 60 71 50 60 or 70 and email : chateau-de-Fontainebleau@culture.fr The main webpage of the castle museum is at http://www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr/

The city of Fontainebleau tourist council webpage is here for information not only of the castle but of the city monuments as well : http://www.uk.fontainebleau-tourisme.com/  The tourist information site for the region where Fontainebleau is its call Seine et Marne or dept 77 east of Paris, and the webpage in English is at http://www.tourism77.co.uk/. For a magnificent ride into the forest of Fontainebleau ,one of the biggest in ile de France region and considered the “GREEN LUNG OF THE REGION”  and full of interesting sights you go here at the region council page in French with plenty of links to more specifics areas for walkers and outdoor lovers http://www.seine-et-marne.fr/la-foret-de-fontainebleau

The best way to reach it from Paris as most usually come from there is by train from gare de Lyon direction Montargis, Sens or Montereau and stop at station Fontainebleau-Avon, and then take bus Line A direction Les Lilas to the stop La Poste-Chateau .  The tour bus Parisvision has a regular bus from Paris at 214 rue Rivoli to Fontainebleau inquire at http://en.parisvision.com/36,41-visit-fontainebleau-castle.htm

Now  a bit more about this wonderful property, the Chateau de Fontainebleau. It was king François Ier who seduce by the beauty of the area ordered to demolished the feodal castle done by king Louis IX (Saint Louis)  and built a renaissance castle instead.  It was the home of the French kings/emperors from the 16C to the 19C from François I to Napoleon III. All of them at one time or the other had something to do with the castle, a window, a door a renovation a construction a garden they all left their imprints here.  It is ,also, the site of a painters school from the 16C started by le Rosso ( a disciple of Michael Ange ) and le Primatice. The school is still there on a side building.

A bit of a tour of the exterior, the most imposing is the cour du Cheval Blanc ou des Adieux ( horse shape court of the white horse or of the goodbyes). This exterior tour can take from 1h to 2h according to your pace. It starts here at the cour du Cheval Blanc as I like to call it. It was the honor court of the Emperor, then you go by the cour de la Fontaine, located by the etang des Carpes or the lake of Carps ( a fish); the fountain gives you a very pure water and was only used by the king which he had it guard daily. The current fountain dates from 1812 with a statue of Ulyses. Then , you cross the porte Dorée or golden door dating from 1528 with a sculptured salamander the symbol of king François I. You make your steps backward coming to the chapelle du Baptistére (baptismal chapel not visited only by groups but gorgeous inside), and you arrive at cour Ovale or oval court, the oldest at the castle as it sits at the courtyard of the old feodal castle first built here where today you only see the donjon or tower, at the other end you see the porte du Baptistére. You continue your tour with the cour des Offices or Cuisines, where the entrance is guarded by two impressive heads of Hermés (1640 AD) ;this courtyard was built in 1609 AD by king Henry IV, and you can see from here the front of the place d’Armes and its magnificent architecture.  Once you noticed the gardens, oh la la la! First come into the jardin de Diane or Diana’s garden created by Catherine de Médicis.You should make a brief walk by the grotte du jardin des Pins or cave of the garden of pines, decorated with frescos by king François I. Come across from here to the English garden where the water flows on a small fountain call Bliaud or Blaut that gives the name to the Chateau in old French,until you reach the Parterre design by gardener Le Notre . The park is a creation of king Henry IV that created the canal in 1609 AD (about 60 yrs before the Grand Canal at Versailles), and planted oak,pines, and fruit trees all around it. You can ride all these gardens in horse wagon or attelages starting from the porte Dorée in season (mostly summers) for about 4€, you can reserve it on weekend and off season ahead of time. Contact tel + 33 01 64 22 92 61 or Mob +33 06 81 50 09 20. You can ,also, see the jeu de paume de Fontainebleau by the side of the jardin de Diane, where from 1601 AD tennis and squash are still practice from 11h to 19h for free, you can watch others play or play yourself. Contact tel +33 01 64 22 47 67.

Coming inside the castle, of course, you cannot missed the Grands Appartements where you will see the splendid galerie François I or the chapelle de la Trinité, the chapel where Louis XV marries Marie Leszczynska and where the future Napoleon III was baptised. Stop by the escalier du Roi( king’s stair) built under king Louis XV where the theme is the history of Alexander as seen by the Primatice painter. You will end up at the salle de bal or ballroom where the paintings and the layout are absolutely marvelous. To the side you will see the appartements royaux or royal apartments where Catherine de Médicis and Henry IV lived;just gorgeous. Here the galerie de Diane long of 80 meters (264 ft)  was transformed into a library under the Second Empire. After you walk thru numerous rooms, boudoirs,and galleries take a look at the appartements intérieur de l’Empereur or the interior apartments of the Emperor;  where it is the bedroom and the salon de l’Abdication or abdication room where the Emperor Napoleon I abdicated on April 6, 1814. The furniture has remain the same here ever since. You go to the ground floor of the galerie François I that gives way to the jardin de Diane to visit the Petits Appartements or Small apartments that were used by Napoleon I and Josephine. These are the private apartments of the monarch first used by king Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry …… The smaller ones are decorated under Josephine (1808 AD) such as the salon Jaune or yellow bedroom that is exquisite. You come into the galerie des Cerfs or Gallery of Stags that was given the name because of the heads of stags that is decorated with and were a replacement to the statues done by the Primatice in 1540.

You have two museums into the museum castle of Fontainebleau, one is the Musée Chinois or Chinese museum, the collection was started by emperatrice Eugénie (wife of Napoleon III) coming from the loots of the chinese emperor by the English-Franco expedition against China in 1860. You have to advance book the tour at the castle or tel +33 01 60 71 50 60, admission is 6,50€. The other is the musée Napoléon 1er or the Napoleon I museum. This is dedicated to the Emperor and his family, occupying 15 rooms on the first floor(2 FL) and ground floor (1 FL)at the wing Louis XV. The museum has souvenirs, objects d’arts,furniture,, ceramics, arms etc etc of the family. Contact tel +33 01 60 71 50 60. guided visit last about 1h15, admission is 3€ upon request from June to September. Otherwise open every day from 9h30 to 18h October thru May.

In more lasting visits I have stayed at the Mercure Royal Hotel  , a wonderful property just walking distance from the chateau and city center,  webpage in English http://www.mercure.com/gb/hotel-1627-mercure-royal-fontainebleau/index.shtml . For eating my all time favorite was the Le Caveau des Ducs at 24 rue de Ferrare, but upon checking it just today it has closed sadly. So we began a new relationship today with La Salamandre, 76 rue Grande, tel +33 01 64 22 28 16 ,no webpage. It is right on main street to the right of castle near church of Saint Louis. The terrine de poissons, and osso bucco was very good indeed, formules from 12€ entrée+main dish or main dish + dessert. Coffee 1,60€ at counter 1,10€ quart of wine 3,20€ for two persons; nice view of people watching in city center.  

Enjoy the castle, I am there regularly.And see the page Fontainebleau of kings and emperors for further material and photos.

December 26, 2010

Best Shopping, my shopping in Madrid

An often ask question in any city, and one most difficult to answer in my opinion. The choices are endless, and taste varied wildly. However, I will give my choices,hope they help you enjoy your shopping pleasures in Madrid, and maybe exchange some new ones from you.

Madrid is a very compact city, most of the stores are located in the Centro or city center area,and for more upscale by the Salamanca district between Castellana and Principe de Vergara, and from calle Alcala to Calle Maria de Molina. The stores open from 10h to 21h with some open continuosly and others closing from 14h30 to 17h30 everyday, most however close on Sundays. You will see the hours are not all fix nor care for although they have improved over the years Lol! The fashion trend has hit Madrid since Movida days and it continous today with many fashion designers popping up with passarelas a la Paris or Milan.

Some of my all time favorites ,and to bring home even by air ::) are these;

You have the typical chains like FNAC Spain, webpage here http://www.fnac.es/ with the perennial main store at plaza Callao and metro Callao lines 3, 5. and El Corte Inglés or the English cut, a chain store all over Spain,started in Madrid many years ago, and now the emblematic dept store of the city, my favorite is at Paseo de la Castellana,near Nuevos Ministerios where you get off from the airport at Barajas and arrive in the city go out turn right and the store is on your right hand side cant missed it. Web http://www.elcorteingles.es/

Museo del Jamon or ham museum, for that classical jabugo ham of bellota or wild nuts, several in town but the best selections are in Calle Alcala 155 between the Puerta de Alcala and the Monumental bullfight ring at Ventas. My old area indeed, and always there. metro Goya lines 2,4. webpage http://www.museodeljamon.es/ hit ENTRAR for enter.

Casa Mira, for those wonderful Spanish pastries including nougat or turron. Located at Carrera de San Jéronimo, 30 , metro Sevilla line 2.no web, tel +34 914 298 895; open every day from 10h-14h and 17h-21h, Sundays 10h30-14h30 and 17h30-21h.

Mariano Madrueño, the best Spanish wines you can find in Madrid, all prices even from 2€! even liquors. Calle Postigo de San Martin, 3, Metro Callao lines 3,5. web http://www.marianomadrueno.es/ in Spanish of course, just click the picture.

El Flamenco Vive or the flamenco lives, a store for lovers of Flamenco and who is not? wonderful choices to buy everything related to this wonderful art of Spain.  Calle Conde de Lemos,7, Metro Opera lines 2,5. web here  in English ! http://www.elflamencovive.es/quienes.asp

El Arco Artesania, in the Plaza Mayor, several Spanish artists to sell you authentic jewerly, vases, ceramics,lamps,engraving etc; located at Plaza Mayor 9, Metro Sol lines 1,2,3.and Cercanias trains. no web, tel +34 913 652 680. Open every day from 11h-21h.

Casa Hernanz, the best Spanish espadriles sandals (alpargatas) over 150 yrs doing it; located at Calle de Toledo,18. Metro Sol lines 1,2,3. no web, tel +34 913 665 450. open monday to fridays from 9h-13h30 and 16h30-20h, Saturday 10h-14h.

The best public market or flea market is El Rastro, there for years and years around Plaza Cascorro and the Calle Ribera de Curtidores, this is a tradition every Sunday morning until 15h-16h, best way there is metro La Latina line 5, Puerta de Toledo line 5, or just descend from Plaza Mayor;the site in Spanish official  http://www.elrastro.org/ Another popular flea or market I like to go is the one by Anton Martin, this one is every day from 9h-14h except saturdays afternoons and Sundays. It is a covered market of food,fruits,vegetables and very typical Spanish , calle Santa Isabel,5, metro Anton Martin line 1. no web. Another typical market renovated a few years back is the Mercado de San Miguel, located at the Plaza San Miguel ,going to it from the southwest side of the Plaza Mayor, metro Sol lines 1,2,3. webpage here http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/ . Another one and the favorite in Madrid of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is Mercado de Fuencarral in the Calle Fuencarral, open everyday from 1àh-22h, in barrio Chueca, all types of clothing ,shoes,artistic creation all around a metal stairs; here you can continue your shopping around small boutiques of the Calle de la Hortaleza,Pelayo,and plaza de Chueca. metro Chueca line 5, and Tribunal lines 1,10.

Jack Jones, an international outlet for casual clothings great for teens like mines. Best is the store at Calle Carretas,31 ;metro Sol lines 1,2,3. webpage here http://www.jackjones.com/store-locator#

Calzados Victor, Calle Alcala, 278, shoes for the whole family at great prices, a family place, I was bought my first Spanish shoes here at 10, then my kids,and wife, a tradition for us since 1971 when I was living in Madrid,and still to this day. Metro Carmen line 5  just past the Monumental bullfight arena. no web, tel +34 913 262 265.  open 10h-13h30 and 17h-21h.

Milano, mens clothing at its best, the best location is at Plaza Puerta del Sol, 11 metro Sol lines 1,2,3. no web, Tel +34  902 451 545. Other locations in town, indirectly part of grupo Cortefiel of Spain. Also in France.

Zara, the leading Spanish ready to wear chain, also in France, in Madrid it was just a few meters from my piso or apt at Calle Alcala, 376 metro Pueblo Nuevo line 5. The best for woman really, classy look, my mom favorite. webpage  http://www.zara.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/home/es/es/zara-sales

Antigua Casa Talavera, its a wonderful place for the lovers of ceramics from all periods of Spanish history. They come from all  corners of Spain from the best masters. located at Calle de Isabel La Catolica 2, metro Santo Domingo line 2. no web, tel +34 915 473 417. open every day except Saturdays afternoons, Sundays ,and holidays, from 10h-13h30 and 17h-20h.

Calzado Los Guerrilleros, a shoe store for all the family there over 50 years at  1971, it was my mom favorite too, and then family worked there in sales, still going strong with a funny commercial “dont buy here its too expensive” hehehehe, the main store of old is still at Calle Montera 25-27; metro Sol lines 1,2,3,  web http://www.losguerrilleros.com/

La Favorita, for hats, even my grandfather purchase here, thats old, and still here. Plaza Mayor, 25, metro Sol lines 1,2,3. Hats and caps of all sorts. A traditional place you will come back for it. web http://www.lafavoritacb.com/

Casa Yustas, Plaza Mayor 30 , metro Sol lines 1,2,3, a tradition of Spanish souvenirs (regalos), hats( sombreria)  and armory( efectos militares)  going back to grandparents in Madrid .webpage http://www.casayustas.com/

Objetos de Arte Toledano, Paseo del Prado, 10-12, right front of museum of Prado, metro Banco de España line 2 or Anton Martin line 1. All about the universe of swords, medals and medieval military artifacts, souvenirs , best of Spain. Web http://www.armasmedievales.com/index.php

Alvarez, for sporting equipement of all sorts, see them ,the best always. you wont be disappointed, they can advise on site. You can buy online or go to stores, the one I frequented is at Calle Capitan Haya, 6,  at about 100 meters from hotel Melia Castilla,metro  between plaza Castilla lines 1,9,10 and Cuzco line 10. Mondays to saturday continuosly  from 10h to 21h. webpage http://www.a-alvarez.com/

For groceries there are several good ones such Hipercor, but I prefer the chain Sanchez Romero my family have enjoyed over the years, and I stock up when in Madrid. Great service and they take your swipe cards too,ask. The one I go is at Paseo de la Castellana,196; metro Plaza de Castilla lines  1,9,10 or Cuzco line 10. From Cuzco stay on the right hand side of Castellana and from Plaza de Castilla cross over to your left side and walk down. Other stores too,and cafeterias, also one at Castellana location, great prices. webpage http://www.sanchez-romero.com/

Bodegas Santa Cecilia for wines, you may have Lavinia, but I had my personal well wishes always at Santa Cecelia better, find the other a bit too commercial, so Santa Cecilia stays for me. You go to store at calle Bravo Murillo,50 metro Rio Rosas line1 or Cuatro Caminos lines 1,2,6. Open Monday from 17h-20h30. Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10h-14h and 17h-20h30. webpage in English http://www.santacecilia.es/

Chocolat Factory, calle general Peron, 40, metro Santiago Bernabeu line 10, the best chocolats in Madrid, even if Valor is a national chain, the chocoholics here will be in heavens. open monday thru Saturdays 10h-21h inside the Moda shopping center lower o 0 level. Webpage http://www.chocolatfactory.com/eng/index.htm

Real Madrid main store, of course, my team, the best ever !!! Calle Carmen, 3, metro Sol lines 1,2,3.or the one at the stadium but believe the one at Carmen is more lively more for customers,the other one is more for diehard fans really ::) webpage http://www.realmadrid.com/cs/Satellite/es/1193040472509/GenericoContenedor/Tienda.htm

Then you have the shopping centers, great to go for a nice shopping spree in any weather,and see the world go by. My favorites in no particular order are

La Vaguada,avenida Monforte de Lemos,30, metro Barrio del Pilar line 9 or Herrera Oria line 9 ,closest is first one. wonderful shopping center with all you need in one stop shopping plus great movies. webpage http://www.cclavaguada.com/

Plaza Arturo Soria, calle Arturo Soria 126-128, metro best by bus from Plaza de Castilla No 70 or from intercambiador Ave de America bus Nos 122,322. webpage http://www.arturosoriaplaza.es/

Jardin de Serrano, calle Goya 6-8 ,metro Serrano line 4, chic place with brand name, and a beautiful ambiance.  One of my best brand Façonnable is found there, webpage http://www.jardindeserrano.es/ES/index.htm

Plaza Norte 2,Parque Comercial MegaPark, San Sebastian de los Reyes, just north of city limits of Madrid, great huge shopping center, great values and local ambiance, you can get there from plaza de Castilla on bus number 156 or 171. All major stores are there from El Corte Ingles to Haagen Dazs, you will love the mall!!! webpage http://www.plazanorte2.com/

Shopping Center Parque Corredor, another of my favorites outside the city but easy to get there, this one is next to Torrejon de Ardoz, if you want a family shopping experience and see the local way of life then come here. We do it for Toys R Us and Burger King lol!!! kids rule .The place is lovely setup and great shopping at Al Campo (Auchan in France) You go there from intercambiado Avenida de  America, and take bus No 224, to Torrejon de Ardoz, cross street to take bus No 252 to Parque Corredor.  web http://www.parque-corredor.com/portal/index.php/nuestras-tiendas

Coming back to Madrid, there is the Moda Shopping at calle General Peron, 38-40,metro Santiago Bernabeu line 10 just near paseo de la Castellana 95 and Santiago Bernabeu Stadium (Real Madrid FC), and right around Torre Picasso skyrise building. Some upscale shops and pubs, in a very busy section of modern Madrid, away from the tourist crowds and shop in a nice ambiance.  web http://www.modashopping.com/es/por-actividades/actividad

ABC Serrano, Calle Serrano,61 metro Ruben Dario line 5 exit paseo de la Castellana,or metro Nunez de Balboa, line 9 or Serrano line 4. upscale oasis in Madrid chic district, very elegant stores, and great for Madrijoyas(2nd level) for gifts given and taking, and La Terraza de ABC a very nice terrace cafe for a city break. webpage  http://www.abcserrano.com/abc-serrano

Las Rozas Village, a shopping outlet type mall, on the outskirst of the city, that is popular with several expats I know, its in the town of Las Rozas, similar to the outlet mall in Disneyland Paris, so major brands catch the good prices and take a leisure ride into other Madrid, for the curious.  From Intercambiador of Moncloa (calle Princesa 96) metro Moncloa lines 3,6 take  bus depot take buses No 625,628,629 to Village . webpage http://www.lasrozasvillage.com/es/inicio/inicio

This is it for me. Hope it makes your shopping pleasure in Madrid a bit better. Of course, its not an exhaustive list nor inclusive of all, but it gives you a good start. If you need specifics I am always around my blog. Cheers!

December 26, 2010

Some news about France III

Zouave by the pont de l'Alma Paris

Zouave by the pont de l'Alma

Well very cold days in France, temperature went down to -17°C in Strasbourg yesterday night, in my area it went down to -6°C with Paris -4°C ;these are very cold indeed this year. Orange alert still on for all those traveling.

However the airports had a calm day getting back for all those cancellations and delays in the last couple of days due to implement weather. The SNCF train is advising folks to go only if needed, the latest delays and cancellations there this morning 5 thalys and 4 Eurostars.

In Paris, the Seine is at its highest level in years….3,69meters the highest since 2006 declaring a level 3 alert for flooding on a scale of 6.  The Zouave is been watch carefully all night by Paris authorities as it tells them when higher alerts are needed in case of flooding. The roads are closed for precautions according to the Le Parisien newspaper, voie Georges Pompidou and the Tuileries tunnel by the Louvre is close to traffic. However, the pleasure boats on the Seine had a huge success as folks wanting to ride a boat in freezing water was unique, does not happened often I guess Lol!!!

I have been lucky as it is Christmas vacation for the whole family and stayed put at home. We usually ride by car but dangerous to do so nowdays, will wait it out until hit the roads with the family again. My last outing was mid december to Luxembourg, then the bad weather came in. Other parts of Europe are been similar hit with Spain having to put alert to as much as 34 provinces, and heavy flooding in Malaga province.

Best way to find out about train delays in France is to look at this site http://www.infolignes.com/

So be careful, and plan alternatives routes if planning trip at this time of the year. Happy Holidays !!

December 25, 2010

Best Shopping, my shopping in Paris

I will go into very subjective territory but as many do come here for the shopping and gift given too, I will put my favorites over the years in some areas. This is not an exhaustive all inclusive list, it is only my favorites shopping places in Paris proper. Hope you too can make it your own or bring on some more ideas in the comments area. Of course if need direction or help locating one of the list or other let me know .

First a general overview will tell you the main shopping areas in Paris are in the 8éme arrondissement or district;they have the zip or postal code 75008. The haute couture or ready to wear goes from the city “golden triangle” from avenues Montaigne and George V to the rue Royale, rue du Faubourg St Honoré and rue St Honoré. Luxury jewerlers are in the 1eme or  2éme arrondissment or 75001 and 75002 zip codes all around the place Vendôme ,and rue de la Paix. You have in the Marais area around 4éme or 75004 many interesting boutiques. You have my favorite area the chic 16éme or 75016 with clothing, perfumers,and home decor stores lining up rue de Passy and avenue Victor Hugo. Plenty of ritzy stores in bd St Germain en Prés and surrounding streets. As well as the Department stores like Galeries Lafayette.

Talking of deparment stores, even thus is very heavy towards tourists still is a nice place to go at least to browse. Visitors get discounts of up to 12% plus the sales tax VAT refund for purchases from 175€ in any store. The webpages pages for them are

Galeries Lafayette, http://www.galerieslafayette.com/index.php . Au Printemps, http://www.printemps.com/. BHV, http://www.bhv.fr/. le Bon Marché, http://www.lebonmarche.com/.

Then you have some shopping centers or malls that are my favorite come and get all, stay warm or cool,and mingle with more local people, these are CC Bercy 2, by Porte de Bercy ; http://www.ccbercy2.com/. CC Italie 2 ,by Place d’Italie, http://www.italie2.com/.  The center of the Forum Les Halles is great for shopping ,eating and entertainment as well web http://www.forumdeshalles.com/W/do/centre/boutiques

the stores for high tech I love Surcouf, 21 bd Haussmann, site http://www.surcouf.com/. of course  in addition to music books etc, FNAC, love the Champs-Elysées, Forum, or passage du Havre by gare St Lazare, http://www.fnac.com/. and Virgin at the Champs-Elysées, http://www.virginmegastore.fr/accueil_1.html.  For telephony,the best is Orange , for visitor the one I found most friendly is at metro Madeleine out on your back, http://boutiques.orange.fr/. For more local books, cd, maps, dvd etc the Gibert Joseph stores are a must, see the one coming out of metro St Michel to your right, http://www.gibertjoseph.com/.

For mens business and nice combinations, mines are Milano ,part of grupo Cortefiel in Spain but handle apart entirely ,at 28 rue Tronchet 75008. closer is metro line 9 Havre Caumartin or RER A Auber. Between the grand magasins and madeleine.  Daniel Hechter, 31 rue Tronchet, 75008 . JMWeston for shoes at 97 ave Victor Hugo, 75016 metro Victor Hugo and not far from the Arc de Triomphe. web http://www.jmweston.com/index.html. The H&M stores but mostly the one  across from the grand magasins in 54 bd Haussmann .web http://www.hm.com/fr/#/startns/. The C&A stores but especially the one at 49 bd Haussmann, web http://www.c-et-a.fr/.

Beauty salons when not get them to come home cheaper especially my wife goes to Jean-Louis David several in Paris, our favorite is at 14 rue des Sablons 75016 inside the galerie Saint Didier; metro rue de la Pompe or Trocadero. web http://www.jeanlouisdavid.com/prehome.php. Plenty of nice small stores in a small shopping center this is galerie Saint Didier, great local ambiance,and chic.

When I need to get me a book in English I go to WH Smith at 248 rue Rivoli, 75001, English bookstore,and the service is great they can hold the book for you after finding it, they just did it again for me ::) Metro concorde and web here http://www.whsmith.fr/. Of course English is well spoken !

I dont have small children anymore but did a lot of loads here Bonpoint,  you can get at dept stores too but do go to the main store 6 rue de Tournon, 75006.Metro Mabillon. web http://www.bonpoint.com/#/home/.

My oldest son is into restaurant and cuisine ,commerce, so he dwells into some good schooling here, if you are in Paris and need some cooking classes than head out to the Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse, for the best . At 64 rue de Ranelagh 75016 metro Ranelagh line 9. very nice area too. web http://www.ecolecuisine-alainducasse.com/

Some discount shops, an outlet for haute couture and ready to wear for years is Anna Lowe, 104 rue du Faubourg Sainte Honoré,75008 metro Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau. web http://www.annalowe.com/index.htm

If want to get an international wine go to Lavinia, 3-5 bd de la Madeleine, metro Madeleine. Huge place with lots of choices, prices a bit high but hard to get foreign wines available. http://www.lavinia.fr/LaviniaFR/. If you want French wines then head for the Nicolas stores all over Paris; mine favorite is at 3 ave Mozart, 75016; metro Muette line 9 web http://www.nicolas.com/; always friendly service and good prices.

For goodies there are several but my all time favorite is Hediard, probably because I have close to house and use it more;in Paris is at 21 place de la Madeleine, metro Madeleine 75008/ web http://www.hediard.com/?___store=hed01fr.  You can go for wonderful chocolates to many places, but again my favorite is the La Maison du Chocolat, 120 ave Victor Hugo, 75016: metro Victor Hugo. web http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.com/fr/#/home. Another chocoholic place of great standing is the house of Debauve & Gallais, 30 Rue des St Péres, 75007: metro St Germain des Prés. web http://www.debauve-et-gallais.com/v1/?lg=fr

Another all time favorite even from the USA now locally is L’Occitane, some of our Christmas gifts came from there this year, in Paris our fav store is at 53 rue de Passy,75016 at the galerie Passy Plaza. Metro Passy or la Muette line 9. web http://fr1.loccitane.com/FO/Home.aspx Parfums are all over but the store that I went to as work nearby and always great service is Parfumerie Catherine ,7 rue de Castiglione 75001. Tel +33 01 42 61 02 89. metro Concorde or Tuileries,no webpage.

Great grocery shopping is Monoprix, my fav store is at 24 rue des Belles Feuilles,75016. various stores all over Paris, web http://www.monoprix.fr/. A more accessable and more food oriented store is Franprix, good store at 38 avenue Mozart,75016. again many stores throughtout Paris, webpage is here http://www.franprix.fr/v2/site/

For home projects and the ever ending repairs around the house, etc, other than the basement of the grand magasin BHV, you can try Leroy Merlin at 52 rue Rambuteau,75004 Metro Chatelet. near centre Pompidou or Beaubourg . Its a national chain that I use near my home too. web  http://www.leroymerlin.fr/mpng2-front/pre?zone=zonecatalogue&renderall=on&idEILSPub=1090316443. Another local store of good quality is Bricolex, 178 ave de Versailles ,75016. web here http://www.bricolex.fr/magasin-bricolage/bricolage-paris-16.html with other locations as well.

Again on my roots I always need to look for Spanish and American products and over the years these have been the best price/quality and selection. Thanksgiving, an American store in Paris. Also, a cajun restaurant above floor, run by Louisiana folks. It is in the village St Paul at 20 rue Saint Paul, 75004.Metro St Paul  or Pont Marie. Web http://www.thanksgivingparis.com/store.html ;then Cap Hispania, a Spanish grocery store in Paris. This is clean cut and run by Spaniards as well. It is at 23 rue Jouffroy d’Abbans, 75017. Metro  Wagram .webpage at http://www.caphispania.fr/

Then there are many market or marchés in Paris, over the years we have settle to go to the Bastille market by bd Richard Lenoir, not only goodies but also the best arts around on Saturdays. The site for the arts is here http://www.artistesparisbastille.fr/  then the local produce was known as the Saint Ambroise, today you get there on bd Richard Lenoir on metro Breguet-Sabin and Richard Lenoir. One of the largest in Paris every Thursdays from 7h to 14h30 and Sundays from 7h to 15h,best.  The other is a favorite of my wife , the marché des fleurs Cité at place Louis Lépine, near the Conciergerie. Open Mondays to Saturdays from 8h to 19h Metro Cité.

In closing, these are sites that provide excellent info on stores by arrondissement or else, they are helpful in finding top quality items with current information. There are in French but so its the country,you get the real thing.  Hope they help

http://www.magasins-paris.com/arrondissements/  http://www.kelmagasin.com/ville/magasins-paris.html

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December 25, 2010

The grand lady Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris

There is another monument that brings the most crowds, but if there is one that identify the soul of Paris,France the most is the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. All the major events in history has gone by it or thru it,and one cannot possibly come to Paris without stopping for a visit here. Its a must.

The most you need are the specific sites for information on the Cathedral as the main site Cathédrale de Paris, 6, parvis Notre-Dame, 75004;Tel +33 01 42 34 56 10.the access is free and to visit the treasure of it is only 3€ everday from 7h35 to 18h main webpage http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/-English– . The treasure by the southside of the choir on a narrow entry built by Viollet le Duc in 1850 houses amongst other things the passion relics,the palatine cross with fragments of the true cross of Christ, the linen shirt of Saint Louis, and the underwear of Pope Pie X .

The tours or towers is visited also. There are just behind on the side entrance at rue du cloîte Notre Dame,75004. Tel +33 01 53 10 07 00. open every day from 10h to 18h30 from april to september 30th.  From october to march until 17h30. Nighttime visits on summer from may to august until 23h. admission is 8€ free for under 18. webpage is http://notre-dame-de-paris.monuments-nationaux.fr/

Built on the initiative of its bishop of Paris (1160 to 1196 AD) Maurice de Sully. The principal nave built between 1180-1220 AD is 60 meters long (198 ft) wide of 12,50 meters(41,25 ft) , and high of 33 meters(108,9 ft). The choir built between 1163-1177 AD is 36 meters long(118,8 ft) . The Cathedral continue to add and renovate until the building was completed by 1345 AD.

Some of the items not to be missed are pointed out as exterior and interior but let me give some ideas looking at it from the outside, facing the cathedral at the parvis or central plaza ( where all kilometer distances are measure in France )  you look left to the tower Nord=North,the other extrems tower is the Sud=South; both of these towers with rosary windows of 13,10 meters ( 43.2 ft) beyond these towers you see the pointed arrow=flèche and right across it is the transept. As you come in to the cathedral you are at the portail de la vierge or virgen door looking at it from left to right, you continue with the portail du jugement dernier or final judgement door,the portail de Sainte Anne or Saint Anne door. Right above the doors you have the Galerie des Rois or gallery of kings, above it the Rose Occidentale or western rosary window and still higher you see the Grande Galerie or grand gallery. To your extreme right still looking facing the cathedral you see the Contreforts or holding scaffolds tower like figures and a side door, red door or porte rouge; following past this you are walking on the south side of the Cathedral you will find the Portail Saint Etienne or Saint Stephen door ,and right above it the Rose du croisillon sud (9,70 meters or 32 ft a gift from Saint Louis) . Continuing to the rear you will see the buttress arches acting as a counter to the weight of the main building. and right behind the Cathedral you will find the Chevet or apse.

Some of the famous buildings surrounding the Cathedral often overlook by visitors but of great historical value are going in the direction of south tower side of the Cathedral, the huge Episcopal palace, followed by the Hotel-Dieu (a historical hospital still functioning today and free access and on which you can see the chapel of hotel-dieu) on a side street in front of parvis Notre Dame see the church of Saint Christophe,  from parvis and guiding you by the north tower you will see the church of St Pierre-aux-Boeufs (old church of the butchers). Right next to the north tower you see a small building which is the baptistery of St Jean-le-Rond, and on the corner of it is the side street to the tours or towers admission on rue du Cloîte Notre Dame. You should walk right out of the parvis straight out from the door of last judgement into the street Rue Neuve Notre Dame, one of the oldest in Paris.

Now some descriptions on what you see on the Cathedral inside and out.  The parvis allows you to go into the archeological site where you will see a museum of the old foundations of the cathedral and the Seine river ,including a piece of the wall by the port or quai of the old Lutecia, remains of spas of gallo romans times, the wall of the city from the 4C, the basement of the old Hotel-Dieu, and the fondations of the hospital for lost children or hospice des enfants trouves.  The rose occidentale or western rosary measure 10 sq meters or about 170.6 sq ft done between 1190-1220 AD. In the gallery of kings there were 28 figures from the time before Christ, the communards thought they were kings and destroyed them in 1873. They were rebuilt.  The grand gallery has a nice view over the parvis and the Seine river. On the virgen door the deco is from 1208 AD except the virgen mother statue over the serpent that is from the 19C. The red door or porte rouge is from 1250-1270 AD reserve for the monks entrance.

As we come inside, you will see the huge nave built between 1180-1220 AD and the choirs built between 1163-1220 AD . You will find many chapels such as Chapelle Notre Dame des Sept Douleurs,Chapelle Saint Denis,Chapelle Sainte Madeleine, Chapelle Saint Ferdinand, Chapelle Saint Georges, Chapelle  Saint Guillaume, Chapelle Saint Louis, Chapelle Saint Marcel, Chapelle de la Sainte Enfance, Chapelle des Fonds Baptismaux, Chapelle Notre Dame de Gadalupe, Chapelle Saint Charles, Chapelle Sainte Clotilde, Chapelle Saint Landry, Chapelle Saint Vincent de Paul, Chapelle Sainte Anne, Chapelle Sainte Genevieve, Chapelle Saint Eloi, Chapelle Saint Joseph, and Chapelle Saint Pierre. The whole of the Cathedral proper is 4 800 sq meters (51 648 sq ft) , where accordingly about 9000 persons can attend Mass; total surface of 5 500 sq meters.

Some interesting information, the gallery of faces or chiméres are strange birds, serpents, are lookout to see the last judgement, there are not to be confused with the gargoyles which only function is to discharge the rain water coming from the roof towards the exterior.  The arrow pointed high behind the transept is build in oak covered with lead and along weights 750 tons, all with company from statues in copper in groups of three, the 12 apostles look toward the floor except one, that looks at the arrow, that is Saint Vincent patron of the architects! as design by Viollet-le-Duc.

At the foot of the transept south east section you will see a statue of the Virgen with a huge bouquet of flowers; this is the NOTRE DAME DE PARIS ,dating from the 14C and put at the Cathedral in 1818!!!

Some of the events that took place here was the coronation of Napoléon I   on December 2nd, 1804 in the presence of the Pope Pie VII, where Napoléon himself crown his emperatrice Josephine. At the parvis all merchants exempt of taxes are installed,as well as those sentence to die, nearby there the master of the templars order, Jacques de Molay  was executed in 1314 AD.  The funerals of the Prince de Condé ,where bishop Bossuet did the ceremony (he was the personal priest and religious adviser of king Louis XIV and buried at the Cathedral of Meaux, dept 77 as he was its bishop); General De Gaulle, and Presidents Pompidou, and Mitterrand was held its funerals here too.  Saint Louis put his relics here first in 1329 AD,Henry IV held a procession here in 1594 AD  for the liberation of Paris, Louis XIII in 1638 AD does his wishes and vouts to the Virgen, the mass for the marriage of king Louix XIV is celebrated here in 1660 AD, the ceremony for the liberation of Paris in August 1944 as well as the victory of WWII on May 9 1945 is held here. It saw the excommunication of king Philippe Auguste in January of 1200 AD by Pope Innocent III as well as closure of the Cathedral. The coming back to the crown of the Bourbons after the wedding of the Duke of Berry in 1816 AD and the baptism of the duke of Bordeaux in 1820 AD. Many many more in the life and history of the city of PARIS.

And yet another view go to the gallery of beasts or galerie de Chimères and the plateform of the tower south where a huge organ is held ;this made of copper and enamel weighting 13 tons;first use for the baptism of Emmanuel grandson of king Louis XIV in 1682. You need about 400 marches to reach it but all worth it. The organ has 110 beats and 8000 cables combinations and was restored in 1992 AD, some of the cables are 11 meters high (36.3 ft) all kinds of music is played here beautifully. The roof is covered with 1326 lead tiles weighting about 210 tons. The bells one call Emmanuel has been recognised as one of the best sounds in Europe, weights 13 tons and the bat to hit it alone wights 500 kilos or about 1,102 pounds.

Hope you have enjoyed the story of this magnificent building for all of us in this magnificent day of Christmas 2010. To come here is to see and hear the history of Paris,France. Its not a complete story but I am sure will give you the force to visit and finds new ways to enjoy it as I have for many years. Cheers! Photos in no particular order to follow;

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December 21, 2010

Chateau de Versailles

One of the grands of our world, a must to visit when in France.  A bit of history and then some photos. The official webpage will give all information in english too, and any specifics you can ask me.

The first mentioned of Versailles dates from 1038 AD where monks erect a church of Saint Julien. By 1472 AD, the first complete mentioned of the city is as Versailles-aux-Bourg-de-Galie (new French, Versailles in the town of Gally). by 1475 AD the Lords of Versailles give right to Trianon to the abbey of Sain Germain, first mentioned of Trianon in texts. by 1589 AD first time king Louis XIII stops by Versailles, which he again will visit in 1604,1607, and 1609 ;while doing his first hunt in 1607. by 1623 AD ,king Louis XIII has built a modest country manor home in bricks to spent his time hunting and passing by but never sleeps in it.

The first castle type construction was done by what is today the cour de marbre ( courtyard of marble) being of 24 meters long and 6 meters wide. On April 18, 1632 king Louis XIII buys the lands and domaine of Versailles to Jean-François de Gondi, bishop of Paris. New lands around it are purchased and a bigger castle is built in 1634 AD. King Louis XIII died on May 14 ,1643 AD.

His son king Louis XIV lived in Paris at the Louvre, and was born in nearby Saint Germain-en-Laye. By 1651 AD does his first visit to Versailles and on October 25th, 1660 takes there for the first time his wife queen Maria Teresa (Spain). From 1661-1668 AD renovations and new constructions takes over the life of the domaine. He brings in the crew that built the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte (seine et marne dept 77) as Le Vau,the architect, Errard and Coypel, the decorators, and Le Notre ,the gardener. By 1664 the first parties are done in the castle including plays by Moliére. First statues place in the gardens done in 1665 AD, the grand canal is build in 1667 AD. The biggest party is thrown on July 18 1668 AD to make the castle known to the world.

1668-1670 the castle is enlarged again with encircling the old building all done by architect Le Vau, and after his death in 1670 AD by his successor architect d’Orbay. The Trianon in porcelain is built in 1670 AD, and at this time many hôtel particuliéres or manor houses are built of great richness such as the ones of Luxembourg,Noailles,Guise,Bouillon, and Gesvres. Between 1678-1686 the galerie des glaces or the gallery of mirrors is built with decorations by Le Brun. By 1682 AD even before all is finished the king Louix XIV comes to live in the castle. Meanwhile, more construction is going on between 1685-89 AD. New Orangerie, Grand Comun (for servants and lesser officials quarters due to reopen to the public in 2012), the stables  of petit and grand ecuries.  1700 AD new apartments are done to house the duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV, future king of Spain under Philip V (the Bourbon line is done, ancestors of todays king of Spain Juan Carlos I).

1689-1710 AD the chapel is built;upon king Louis XIV death in 1715, Louis XV finally comes to live in Versailles in 1722 AD at the age of 12 years old, and makes his preference to lived at the Trianon. Meanwhile renovations and constructions continues from 1729 AD on such as the Salon d’Hercules in 1729-1736, the royal Opéra 1768-1770, and the petit Trianon 1761-1768. In 1770 AD the marriage of the dauphin heir future Louis XVI with Marie-Antoinette de Lorraine, archduchess of Austria is held here at the chapel.

Comes king Louis XVI, the builds the library in 1774 done by Gabriel. Cabinet Dorée or golden cabinet built in 1783 to house the collections of Louis XV, his father. then comes the French revolution.

The Estates Generaux are held here and from October 6, 1789 the castle is never the same again. All traces of kings is taken down, all objects are spread all over France and abroad.  the statues, sculptures and paintings as well as furniture is sold all over Europe. A sad time indeed. Then comes reason in the name of the new monarch of king Louis-Philippe in 1830, he decides for good that the castle can be save if made into a museum !  ” FOR ALL THE GLORIES OF FRANCE”. The museum is open on June 10, 1837,hails greatly by one Victor Hugo.

Here the treaty of Versailles ending world war I is done on June 28 1919. Today all changes or amendments to the French constitution as per article 89 needs the National Assembly or Assamblée Générale (house of reps) and the Senate,and the President and his cabinet must move and do those changes debates in Versailles. While here the city of Versailles becomes the de facto Capital of France!!! Like it never has stopped being it !!!!!!!!!! webpages for more info is the official site of the castle below in English,Chateau de Versailles.

http://en.chateauversailles.fr/homepage

information on the city hall government of Versailles ,in French with contact info. Its in the tourist page, with monuments to see as well as to the right the tourist office info http://www.versailles.fr/tourisme/

The official tourist office of the city of Versailles for all your needs, and very close to castle corner of ave de Paris and ave gal de Gaulle. the site in English http://www.versailles-tourisme.com/en/accueil.html

the site of the potager du roi or the vegetable/fruit garden of the King, still today on wednesdays you can come and buy produce at it! great. The site in English is a bit weird ,more info in the French version here is in English http://www.potager-du-roi.fr/anglais/anglais.html

in French but the ferme Gally or farm Gally sits on the site beyond the chateau in the town of Saint Cyr-l’école, where the same family runs it since 1741, this is the farm that provided food to the castle since its creation. It can be visited, and one I did try to encourage travelers to come for lunch  http://www.ferme.gally.com/_Ferme-pedagogique-de-Gally-plan-d-acces-et-horaires

The equestrian show happening across from the castle at the Grand Ecuries, where the great Bartabas does its wonderful horse shows,not to be missed. Still within the Domaine of Versailles. http://www.bartabas.fr/Academie-du-spectacle-equestre

in French but the little city newspaper ,MonVersailles (MyVersailles)that you can subscribe for news of the city in general, give all the everyday life of it including tourist updates and information. http://www.monversailles.com/

If you want to help restore and maintain this wonderful property call the Chateau de Versailles and join millions around the world who do including me, this is the site for Les Amis de Versailles or the friends of the castle. http://www.amisdeversailles.com/#/english

of course impossible to name them all, the property is huge, this will give some ideas and history to search. If need any detail information feel free to post a question or contact the owner, me of this blog. I live here ::)

December 20, 2010

My latest Restaurant hunts in Paris

Paris, the name along means good times, good food, and great company, it can ,also entails ideas of romance pourquoi pas n’est pas….

I am not a proponent of taking photos in restaurants and even less of meals, but do have some photos of restaurants in France that just stroke a fancy for it. You will see the photos at the end.

I have several places that no matter the number and choices in Paris always seems to salivate towards them. Its a habit pershaps of the many choices available once try so many eventually you will settle for a few good ones of your opinion and taste. These I like to share with the readers of my blog it could be the start of the same trend, and become yours for years to come as they have been of mine. Hope you enjoy them and the reading about them. They wont be in any particular order of preference just memory as names come up.

Footsie’s ,10-12 ,rue Daunou, 75002 open from  12h to 16h then 18h to 02h. tel +33 01 42 60 07 20, metro Opera line 3,7,8 . The concept is you have four screen plasma TV and its setup like a stock exchange, so the prices on the drinks change according to the demand. It is up to you to choose the cheapest base on less consumption or the tops of the demand and pay more. Played the numbers games and have lots of fun . no web but just walking distance from the Opéra Garnier.

Au Trappiste, 4 rue Saint Denis, 75004. open from 11h to 02h Monday thru Sunday and from 11h to 04h on Fridays and Saturdays. Tel +33 01 42 33 08 50.  metro Chatelet line 4,11. Here you are in Belgium with the monks; lots of good beer, simple good portions of food, moules or mussels and fries,and grill sausages. The first or ground floor is more noisy ,the second floor more calm and better views!of Chatelet. no web but its just by the metro exit and rue Rivoli. Best way is the metro ,the RER is too crowded to get here.

Café L’ Imperiale, 240 rue Rivoli, 75001. open from lunch and dinner long hours,  tel +33 01 42 60 73 27. Metro Concorde or Tuileries lines 1,8,12.  This was and is my stop for a quick meal, coffee or a drink with a magnificent location across fromt the jardin des tuileries. I used to work nearby so for an after lunch coffee or an after work quiet happy hour with business folks it is great. Quick meal on your way to the Louvre too. no web but cant missed it just by the museum of jeu de paume across the street.

La Gare, 19 Chaussée de la Muette, 75016; open from 11h to 02h everyday. Tel +33 01 42 15 15 31. Metro La muette line 9. It used to be the train station La Muette for this village of Paris annexed in 1860. Very nice area, my all time favorite, come here often with the family and take my good visiting friends and family over and over. You have formules specials for lunch, a Brunch on Sundays for 33€ all you can eat; and the service is grand. Highly recommended, the webpage  http://www.restaurantlagare.com/

Septiéme Vin , 68 bis Avenue Bosquet, 75007 open mondays to Fridays from 12h to 15h and 19h to 23h, Saturdays and Sundays from 19h to 23h. tel +33 01 45 51 15 97. metro Ecole Militaire line 8. A grand friendly and wonderful ambiance with great food. The entire staff is superb. I had many meetings here of the culinary kind and all great, highly recommended. Lunch formule is good but I prefer the evenings and great beef and good selection of wines. webpage http://www.septiemevin.fr/

Café de la Paix, 5 place de l’Opéra, 75009 open from 12h to 15h and from 18h to 23h30 all week.  Tel +33 01 40 07 36 36. Metro Opéra line 3,7,8.  An institution in Paris for over 150 years since 1862 as part of the Le Grand Intercontinental Hotel, cant get any classier than this.In a prime Paris location with style;if you want to experience the branche chic glamour of Paris this is one of its top places.The first televised broadcast from France to the USA was done here in 1948 by Maurice Chevalier, Yves Montand ,and Henri Salvador. The service, the food and every detail is magnificent, come and splurge you will spend your best money ever. Webpage http://www.cafedelapaix.fr/

Cuba Compagnie Café, 48 bd Beaumarchais, 75012 near Bastille, open everyday from 7h to 02h, Tel +33 01 48 06 07 11; metro Chemin Vert line 8 or Bastille line 1,8. Another location near Clichy but this one is much better. Cuba in Paris with great mojitos to boot; happy hours from 16h to 20h, and live music on fridays and saturdays from 20h to 02h. assortiments of tapas at 18€ or the brunch at same price is excellent value and a great introduction to Cuban cuisine. webpage http://www.cubacompagnie.com/index.htm

Agua Limon, 12 rue Theophile Roussel, 75012 .Open from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 12h to 14h and 19h30 to 23h. tel +33 01 43 44 92 24.Metro  Ledru Rollin line 8 or Gare de Lyon lines 1,14. The best Valencian in Paris, the food of Valencia paella per excellence and Horchata drink. plat du jour from 9,50€ and formules from 11,50€ great value for your money. Great ambiance and welcome by the owner ,natives of Valencia,Spain. webpage http://www.restaurant-agualimon.com/

Au Métro, 18 bd Pasteur, 75015, Open from 7h until there is nobody in the place ! even Sundays during world cup plays. Tel +33 01 47 34 21 24. metro Pasteur lines 6,12. The cradle of rugby in Paris, if you like beers,and good fun, great ambiance,f riendly people and can see a match of rugby than comes here you wont be disappointed. Always something happening. Lots of finger food, sandwiches, and salads, plus plenty to drink . Great for a start of your evening here and then go for more substantial restaurant or a very late night snack ! webpage http://www.aumetro.com/

Hacienda del Sol, 157 bd Montparnasse, 75006; open from mondays to saturdays from 19h to 23h, at lunch only with advance request reservation, min 10 persons. Tel +33 01 43 26  26 53.Metro Vavin line 4. A real Mexican chef and family run, you will feel like at home. Menus decouverte or discovery menus at 31€ substantial food or great chimichangas and Bohemia beers. They run another resto Anahuacally but I prefer this one. webpage  http://www.haciendadelsol.fr/Hacienda_del_Sol.html

Le Comptoir du Relais, 9 carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006.Open mondays to fridays from 12h to 23h. Tel +33 01 43 29 1 05.  Metro Odéon line 10 or Marbillon line 10. a great location ,great food and great service cant ask for more. People passing spectacle in a nice area; relax after a long walk in Paris or come after work. Liévre a la royale is sublime ,one of my favorite dishes in FRance, this is hare=liévre. In the bottom of the excellent Relais Saint Germain hotel, webpage http://www.hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com/

La Perla, 26 rue François Miron, 75004. Open from Mondays to Sundays from 12h to 02h Tel +33 01 42 77 59 40. metro hotel de ville line 1,11. behind the Hôtel de Ville de Paris. Tequila I found you in Paris, great bar, and fast texmex food, huge selection of cocktails and beers. A great chic crowd after work, and a fantastic place to start or end your day in Paris. They have other properties in UK ,Australia, Holland, etc .Webpage  http://www.cafepacifico-laperla.com/lppf.html

O’Sullivans Café Bar, 1 bd Montmartre ,75002, open Mondays to Thursdays from  11h to 05h, Fridays 11h to 07h, Saturdays midday to 07h ,and Sundays midday to 05h.  Tel +33 01 40 26 73 41.Metro Grands Boulevards line 8,9. You can catch the latest football games here, popular with the expat community of Paris. Great drinks and ambiance.bumper burgers, finger food,and quick bites with plenty to drink. Several location in the Paris region ,my favorite in Paris is this one. webpage  http://www.osullivans-pubs.com/index2.php?lang=eng&id=bars

Casa del Campo, 39 bd du Temple, 75003. open mondays to wednesdays from 11h to 00h, Thursdays to Saturdays from 11h to 02h. Tel +33 01 44 54 67 00.Metro République lines 3,11,9,8. A real Spanish tapas resto with flamenco live music from Thursdays on in the evenings. I like the fact that can eat Spanish and listen to some good flamenco music while in Paris. Great tapas platters at 5€ each item and you can mix as you wish. Beer and wines of Spain too. Happy hours from 17h to 20h Mondays to Fridays.  Other locations all over Paris, webpage  http://www.casadelcampo.fr/

La Cantine du Faubourg, 105 Faubourg Saint Honoré,75008. Open every day from 11h to 04h, Saturday and Sundays from 19h to 04h. Tel +33 01 42 56 22 22 .Metro Saint-Philippe du Roule line 9, Miromesnil lines 9,13, Franklin D Roosevelt lines 1,9. The chic models par excellence location, very high end ambiance with the latest trend, a place to look and be look, to say you have arrive in Paris. Models of the great houses frequented and some even start working at the tables. The food and drinks are sublime tender roastbeef and caviar, with champagne. A place to go in romantic or your better half or impress your boss. webpage http://www.lacantine.com/

Joe Allen, 30 rue Pierre Lescot,75001. Open  Sundays to Wednesdays from midday to 00h30 ,and Thursdays to Saturdays from midday to 01h. Tel +33 01 42 36 70 13. Metro Chatelet lines 11,4. The New York address in Paris and a great place to meet with me and other Americans in Paris. Try the steaks and pork ribs to kill for,with great wines from USA, and a great raspberry cheesecake. Other locations in USA including Miami Beach FL USA! webpage http://www.joeallenparis.com/joeallenparis.com/Home.html

Chez Clement, 17 bd Capucines, 75008.Open every day continuous service from lunch to dinner, Tel +33 01 53 43 82 00. Metro Opera lines 3,7,8. One institution in traditional French cuisine that has not disappointed for many many years and on several location including the one in Nantes.  Great family restaurant ,nice friendly service, and quiet ambiance. webpage  http://www.chezclement.com/

Bistro Romain, 122 ave Champs-Elysées,75008  open  11h30 to 15h and 19h to 23h weekdays and Saturdays.  Tel +33 01 43 59 93 31 . Metro George V line 1 near Lido.  A nice cozy Italian chain that wont break your bank and allows for a nice family meal. This is the location of my first date with what is today is my wife, so its an annual pilgrimage for us too. It was not expensive ::)  Several locations throughtout  France Webpage http://www.bistroromain.fr/index.htm

Aux Amis du Beaujolais, 28 rue d’Artois,75008. (Closed since  early 2010) Metro George V line 1 or Saint Philippe du Roule line 9. An eternal from the Picolet family since 1921, great food done fresh everyday according to the season, and the region of Beaujolais. The owner have winery in the region so the one is from the house and straight from the vinyards. Of course, in season try the Boeuf Bourguignon ho ho ho!! Enjoy. no Webpage

Hope you can enjoy them as much as I do. Paris has an enormous amount of choices, and we all have our favorites for x reasons. At least you know some of mines, and fewer still with photos, maybe one day we will be there same time ………………….Cheers and bon appétit.

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December 20, 2010

The medieval still in Paris.

When searching for old Paris, nothing can get any better than the areas around Cluny, Sens,and the Village Saint Paul. All on both side of the river Seine in the  rive droite or right bank  or rive gauche or left bank of Paris.

You can easily trace this route on foot from the cour Carrée du Louvre and the donjon or fortress of the Louvre (now the museum) you come up and cross the street rue de l’Admiral de Coligny, and voilà you are in front of the church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, one of the oldest in Paris. The tower next to it does not belong to the church but to the mayors office of the 1er arrondissement or district of Paris and built in the 19C. Better see the gothic porch in front of the church of flamboyant gothic style the only in Paris together with the Sainte-Chapelle. The royal family came many times to pray here,and about this time going on the quai de la Mégisserie along the Seine was the territory of the tanners and saddle makers.

By todays pont du Change (old Grand-Pont) you have the great meatcutters area after being sold the animals from the nearby Champeaux (today Les Halles). Their church that of Saint Jacques only remains the tower or Tour Saint-Jacques today. If coming back to the place du Chatelet you can imagine there once stood the Grand Châtelet ,a huge fortress where the provost of Paris lived and was raze in the First Empire period (Napoleon I). A bit down you will come to the place de la Gréve where stands the Hôtel de Ville. The most important harbor port of the city was here as boats load and discharge merchandise on the Seine.

One of my most marvel buildings is near the place de la République near the old port des Célestins stands the magnificent Hôtel de Sens, 1 rue de Figuier (today its the library Forney since 1961 here). It has French style gardens and flamboyant  architecture style. The archbishop of Sens Tristan de Salazar ,made built his residence from 1475 to 1519 here. The famous queen Margot was one of its residents, and at less than 100 mèters (130 ft) the lycée (High School) Charlemagne where the kids played football (soccer) at the foot of the oldest longest remaining old fortress wall of Paris built by king Philippe Auguste(bordering the rue des jardins-Saint-Paul)  ,just in front of the church of Saint Paul Saint Louis, and behind the beginnings of the Village Saint Paul, where the stores are now in the old garden of king Charles V that used to lived in the Hôtel Saint Pol destroyed in the 16C.

You can continue your walk towards rue Figuier et de Fourcy to reach rue François-Miron, and from here the rue des Archives where at No 58 you will see the door of Hôtel de Clisson (built 1371 and now the national archives museum). A bit down at No 24 rue des Archives a door hides the only medieval cloister still in Paris, this is the Cloître des Billettes with its magnificent flamboyant ceilings , something to come and see .

Moving now towards the rive gauche or left bank , you can continue see the old fortified walls of Paris of king Philippe Auguste. At No 27 rue Mazarine you can come to the basement of the public parking second lower level to see the wall for several meters. At No 34 rue Dauphine, a kino medical cabinet occupies an old wall where you can see the foundations coming to the cellars of the building (need permission from the private cabinet but usually granted),and you need a flashlight. At the window of the old Maison de la Catalogne (of house of Catalunya) on No 4 cour du Commerce-Saint-André.  Cross over the carrefour de l’Odéon and go up rue de l’Ecole-de-Médecine to the old convent of Cordeliers (know by a rope monks carried around their waist) ,where the teaching were done even before the Sorbonne and where Danton had its club des Cordeliers in 1790.

At the other side of boulevard Saint-Michel you see the Hôtel de Cluny ,another middle ages look in Paris.  It was the Paris residence of the abbeys of Cluny in Burgundy, it is a building from the end of the 15C and was build to put together all their colleges (first were by place de la Sorbonne) and their gardens (near the Thérmes). It now houses the museum of the Middle Ages at 6 place Paul-Painlevé, 75005. It is a place that merits your visit, wonderfully done and preserve, as if you were inside an old cloister or a little castle from the renaissance Loire. Interesting things to see inside are the tapisserie in salle or room 22, the La Parisienne- statue in wood of Mary-Magdalene done around 1500, La 6é sens de la Dame, or the the lady in the unicorn dating from the end of 15C, The art of wars or Traité de Combat circa 1490-1500,only one in France showing the princes how to fight in combat. The temperatures are kept at 55% humidity levels constant, the tapisseries are hit with a low light as well as the Lady in the Unicorn, and temp are kept by room depending on the expose article. Do you know the American series Les Sopranos was filmed here? A must place to visit in Paris.

Hope you have enjoy this little walking tour of medieval Paris. More to come at Paris 1972, stay on.

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December 18, 2010

My restaurants and bars of Madrid

This is a daunting task as there is so much good choice,and dont usually take photos of restaurants or food. However, as in Madrid will love to share my past culinary adventures with you all.

First,the cheapest and quickest way to eat in Madrid or Spain for that matter, is at the bars and cafés that serve tapas. You have to check that some bars more of the pubs style do not serve food. Family runs places like Ventas,Posadas,Mesones,and Fondas all old words for different types of inn serve inexpensive sit down food so look for their names.

Second, eating habits are way different than anywhere else I have notice in my travels outside , the breakfast is two (desayunos) ,the first is light meal of biscuits toasts,coffee with milk or cafe con leche, butter or jam ; then the second is more substantial between 10h to 11h,there you may have a bocadillo (sandwich) with sausage,ham or chorizo or cheese or a tortilla de patatas (potato omelette),fruit juice, coffee or beer. Then by around 13h some will start to have a drink at a bar then by 14h you sit down for the Almuerzo or lunch which is the main meal of the day. The  Merienda follows by 17h30 to 18h with some pastries ,sandwiches or cakes with coffee,tea,or juice as well as snacks like churros (fried batter sticks). By 19h bars are crowded with folks having tapas with sherry, beer or wine. The dinner or la Cena  begins by 21h ,and sometimes in summer service begins earlier for tourists. Spanish families tend to eat even later, I have had dinner as late as 23h30 start time.

Some bargains can be had by choosing the platos combinados or mix dish or the menu del dia, menu of the day. The platos are given in less expensive places  as the menu of the day is more formal. Some expensier places offered nowdays a menu de degustacion or tasting menu. The menu in Spanish is call the la Carta.  All places welcome children who are the king/queen there,and if ask will offered smaller portions for them. For paying you say La Cuenta por favor or the bill please. Tipping is not obligatory and the service charge is enough included in the bill, however, I always tip a small amount and if one of my regular places as much as 5% extra.

places of mine are:

La Bola, calle de la Bola 5, the best cocido madrileño in town, stew dish from Madrid. Resto goes back to 1870. http://www.labola.es/

Casa Patas, Calle Canizares 10, tapas bar and flamenco, the best of both worlds. http://www.casapatas.com/

Casa Ciriaco, Calle Mayor 84 tel +34 91 548 0620; near the Royal Palace and known for a great gallina en papitoria (chicken with eggs and saffron).

Botin, Calle de Cuchilleros 17, oldest restaurant in the world from 1725; traditional Castilian roast lamb and pig. http://www.botin.es/web/?q=el_restaurante

La Barraca, Calle de la Reina,29; Valencia style paella, first class one of my family favorites. http://www.labarraca.es/

Casa Paco,plaza Puerta Cerrada,11. great cebon de buey thick juicy steak forever Lol! http://www.casapaco1933.com/

La Taberna del Pescador, Calle Manuel Pombo Angulo,18, the fish is king here, seafood galore freshly done, the owner is a fisherman lol!  tel +34 917 504 794. metro palas de rey tramway about one hour from Puerta del Sol.

Casa Mingo, Paseo de la Florida,34 near Principe Pio. Asturian ciders and more open started from miners from Asturia, the real thing in Madrid. Many anecdotes here with the family and friends over the years. webpage is at http://www.casamingo.es/

Las Cuevas de Luis Candela, calle Cuchilleros 1, Castilian and roask suckling pig at its very best in wood oven. A family tradition going back to my grandparents that I continue with my wife and boys. http://www.lascuevasdeluiscandelas.es/

Casa Alberto, calle de las Huertas, 18. Castilian good for years and years since 1827. Another favorite really ! http://www.casaalberto.es/

L’Albufera at Melia Castilla hotel, not often hotel restos but this one was different. Capitan Haya 45, Cuzco. Valencian cuisine and rices galore ! http://www.meliacastilla.com/en/restaurant.html

resto at the Royal Theater or Teatro Real, mediterranean cuisine in an splendid setting for a romantic night. Plaza de Oriente ,5, site http://www.teatro-real.com/es/informacion-general/servicios-del-teatro/

Paradis Casa de America, Paseo de Recoletos,2. Excellent resto inside the Casa or house of the Americas that occupies the magnificent Palace of Linares.Near Cibeles fountain. Friends took me here in October 2010 and it was fantastic. http://www.ambient-paradis.com/en/node/974

Cafe Gijon, Paseo de Recoletos, 21 ;One of the classic for literary discussions and a light meal over a drink talk with friends, one of my meeting places in Madrid. tel +34 915 215 425; Metro Colon line 4.

Cafe de la Opera, calle Arrieta 6, in front of Teatro Real or royal theater. Excellent and refine, opera style, they sing Lol! http://www.elcafedelaopera.com/s_restaurante.php

Florida Park, inside the Retiro park, spectacles and fine dining with a show, the very best, and very nostalgic. Way back in my youth this was a community center where dances were held, now if you had a girl you could come here . I did ::) http://www.floridapark.net/

Asador de Aranda, castilian at its best and still going strong, at Plaza de Castilla 3 and other locations in the city,and elsewhere in Spain.   http://www.asadordearanda.com/

Cafe de Oriente, one of the traditional and a nice area. Plaza de Oriente 2, near Opera and royal Palace. http://grupolezama.es/portal/cafe-de-oriente/home

Real Cafe Bernabeu in the magnificent best Real Madrid Santiago Bernabeu stadium, with full view of the field. Metro Santiago Bernabeu line 10, cant missed it.http://www.realmadrid.com/cs/Satellite/en/1202813988414/AforoVip/1202813988414.htm?idFinal=1202813787317&idNodo=1202814002681

Posada de la Villa ,from an old posada or inn of 1642. exquisite. Calle de la Cava Baja,9 http://www.posadadelavilla.es/

Taberna del Capitan alastriste.Calle Grafal 7 near Cava Baja, La Latina, try Chuletadas al Capitan or chops of the captain, delicious. http://www.tabernadelcapitanalatriste.com/

Los Galayos, Calle Botonera 5, plaza Mayor, the Madrid of yesteryear ,doing it here since 1894.http://www.losgalayos.net/

Marisqueria Ribeira do Miño, Calle Santa Brigida ,1.Best seafood fresh and daunty, with a great ambiance always until very late.  Galicia in Madrid. http://www.marisqueriaribeiradomino.com/es/estaticas/index.asp?wm=753&id=256

Cañas y Tapas, the best beer place with the locals in mind and modern. Several in town, the Vaguada, Diego de Leon, and Atocha locations are great ambiance. webpage here http://www.tapaspain.com/web2.0/index.php/busca-tu-cyt

VIPS, the best cafeterias in Madrid for a quick bite and soft landing on your money, several all over town. go to localizador in the bottom of link http://www.grupovips.com/flash.php they also handle Starbucks and TGIFridays franchises in Spain.

Cafe Restaurante El Espejo, paseo de recoletos, 31/another institution on a well travel road, my first taste of Madrid with my new wife back in 1990 and one of our sure stops always after that date. You wont go wrong here while watching Madrid walk by you on Recoleto that continues north passing Plaza de Colon towards Castellana and then south to Cibeles fountain and plaza. webpage  http://www.restauranteelespejo.com/

Asador de la Esquina, another Real Madrid institution at the stadium by door 46 or puerta 46,ave Concha Espina 1. Exquisite Castilian with great cuts of meat.  tel +34 91 443 0675/47. http://www.realmadrid.com/cs/Satellite/es/ESTADIO/1193040472501/GenericoContenedor/Restaurantes.htm

Pasteleria Mallorca, has the best pastries in Madrid for years…lately it has gone into restaurant too, the one at Calle Serrano 6 is a dandy not to miss. webpage here http://www.pasteleria-mallorca.com/ the store at Puerta del Sol sell its pastries yummy too.

La Giralda, calle Claudio Coello, 24, metro Retiro. Andalucia in Madrid. other locations in the city. Great pescaito frito or fry fish. http://www.restauranteslagiralda.com/

Mercado de San Miguel, plaza de San Miguel metro Sol, great for tapas and old ambiance of Madrid. This is a must it was renovated a couple of years back and its back to its old style as I knew it.  Events every week for tasting of different tapas and wines, http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/

El Pescador, Jose Ortega y Gasset, 75 the great Madrid seafood place always good. Another Galician beauty in Madrid. http://www.marisqueriaelpescador.net/

Pinocchio, Italian at excellent value and great ambiance at General Yagüe 8 metro santiago bernabeu line 10. other locations in the city as well, webpage is at http://www.pinocchio.es/donde/donde_generalyague.htm

El Rodizio, when I want to go back to Brazil, this is it. great cuts of beef here,and with samba ambiance lol! Calle Medea 4, just cornering Calle Alcala out of city center a bit but easy on metro line 5 Suanzes, my neck of the woods for non tourist area too. http://www.elrodizio.com/

Taberna Antonio Sanchez, founded in 1830 by a torero of the same name who died in 1964. painter Ignacio Zuloaga had paintings here. Calle Meson de Paredes,13, metro line 1 Tirso de Molina. tel +34 91 539 78 26. no webpage but by now on many press clippings. do not missed the rabo de toro or bulls oxtails stew yummy.

El Tocororo, Cuba in Madrid, newer version, great ambiance modern premises, not bad for a Cuban in Madrid. Calle del Prado,3 metro Sevilla line 2. they have live music of course ::) and great tostones rellenos de camarones or stuff shrimp plantains. http://www.el-tocororo.com/

La Vaca Argentina, you guess it Argentinian beef is very good, all cuts,for the beef eater in you, great steakhouses. My favorite is at AZCA shopping center in Castellana, see webpage here http://www.lavacaargentina.net/categoria/3/12/2/azca

TGIFriday’s, the American in Madrid, an old time favorite of mine, and conveniently located at the Esquina del Bernabeu Real Madrid complex first floor. ave Concha Espina,3. webpage http://www.grupovips.com/flash.php go to localizador at the bottom for address and contact info VIPS is the franchise for Spain.

Centro Cubano de España, is a restaurant near the USA embassy at Calle Claudio Coello ,41, metro Serrano . it is the oldest Cuban restaurant in Europe !!! open in 1967. Many times there as a youth to eat,and many times for free to help political refugees from Cuba. webpage is not the greatest just the contact infor, but it has live music and great authentic food of Cuba. http://www.elcentrocubano.com/

Cerveceria Los Timbales, Calle Alcala 227.metro Ventas Line 5. a bullfigher delight next to the Monumental, and a hangout of old. very richly decorated and great ambiance in the evenings. no web tel +34 91 725 0768.

Chocolateria San Gines, Pasadizo de San Gines,5, near Puerta del Sol, a must as it is nostalgic for me, my mom used to take me there when as a kid love those churros dip in hot chocolates ,yummy. Metro sol line 1,2,3,cercanias. Tel +34 91 365 6546.

Museo del Jamon, Gran Via 72; metro Plaza de España line 2,3,and 10.Other good locations at Atocha and Alcala, http://www.museodeljamon.es/mj.html

many many others of just passing and stopping, Madrid has more per sq km than any other city in Europe. buen provecho, vale. ok enjoy it.

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