a restorative weekend and the Moxy hotel

I never stay in a hotel when I go to Lille, I stay with my friends. But this time I decided, just for fun, to stay in a brand new hotel called the Moxy (it’s part of the Marriott chain). And boy, did I sleep like a log. The room was silent as a tomb and the bed firm and comfortable. At around 10 pm, I plumped my multiple pillows and turned on the television to watch an absorbing documentary on ARTE, the European culture TV channel.

The next day, Sunday, I took my 9-year old godson to a nice restaurant for lunch. Saturday, I sat on a park bench and watched him kick a soccer ball around.

“Look, Tata!” he said many times over. “Look!”

“Très bien!” I said encouragingly.

“Who’s your favorite soccer team – France or Portugal?”

“Errrrrr ….” I don’t watch sport. “France, I guess.”

Then his father joined us and we left the park to drive the 25 minutes to his small, secondary house on a small plot of land in the countryside. While his father puttered, I sat on a lawn chair and watched my godson jump up and down on a trampoline.

“Look, Tata!” he said many times over. “Look!”

“Très bien!” I said encouragingly.

The train ride back to Paris on Sunday evening – one hour – was very relaxing. As in any big city, it’s important to get away from time to time. The air and noise pollution in Paris is very stressful. What bothers me the most is street noise: the metallic whine of scooters. Cars and motorcycles. People talking loudly on their phones or playing loud music at 2 a.m. (My small flat overlooks the street.) There is intermittent birdsong, however, which is a joy. Right now as I sit here typing, I can hear a bird chirruping ardently. My dream is to live one day in a home not overlooking the street, and with a small garden.

So I’m all booked for Portugal in August. Until I spoke to a colleague today, I was unaware that the COVID situation, specifically around the Lisbon area, is particularly bad. I’ll be heading to Porto (north), but will have to keep an eye on the situation. For newcomers to this blog, I spent a perfect 11-day vacation in Porto last summer. Click on PORTUGAL up top to see my travelogue. It was so pleasant, I plan to return and do it all over again.

I’ll leave you with an excellent British travel website called SAWDAYS.

With a date for European travel swimming in and out of focus, it’s time for some armchair wandering through the places we’re missing so much, in the company of our overseas team.

They’ll take you shopping in the lesser-known French flea markets, trundling through Italy in a Fiat 500, basking at their favourite villas with pools, and on some socially-distanced sunny island hopping

If dreaming is all we can do, then let’s pour a glass of something perfectly chilled, get comfortable and drift off to Europe while we wait for the real thing to return. 

Six of the best European villas with pools – Sawday’s (sawdays.co.uk)

a massive rainstorm and dinner at Paul Bert

Where else but my favorite bistro to celebrate the end of lockdown, the end of wearing masks outdoors and the beginning of summer? I jumped on the metro at 5 pm yesterday and crossed town to my friend’s place.

We drank a glass of white wine and chatted while waiting for the spectactular rainstorm with thunder and lightning to end. Then we walked to Paul Bert bistro in the 11th arrondissement.

It was so pleasant to sit outside. The weather was warm and muggy, but fresh because of the rainstorm. Below: cheese gougères with a delicious red wine from the Languedoc region. I started with a simple tomato and anchovy salad, my friend daurade (sea bream) carpaccio.

A beef filet for my friend in a creamy pepper sauce served with fries, I had roast lamb with vegetables which I ended up sending back to the kitchen. The cut of lamb was gristly, but the roast vegetables were delicious. So I asked for a plate of roasted veggies as a replacement.

Dessert was Paris Brest and an île flottante (floating island).

Walking back through the streets at around 10 pm, the bars and café terraces were bustling with Parisians, happy to be outdoors again. I loved these two colors below (to respect his privacy, I cropped my friend’s head).

a beautiful Wednesday

The weather is perfect here: not too hot, strong cool breeze and fluffy clouds skudding across a cobalt-blue sky. Too nice to stay indoors, that’s for sure. I grabbed my camera and hopped onto the metro to Concorde then changed to the number 14 line. My destination was my favorite large park on the other side of the city: Bercy Park. Why do I like this green space so? Because it runs alongside the river Seine and there’s always a breeze. Because it’s full of interesting things like a beautiful rose garden, a maze, a duck pond and gorgeous trees and foliage. At the far end is Bercy Village, a cluster of shops and restaurants. It was so nice to see people eating outside in groups and enjoying themselves. Paris has officially re-opened!

Schoolkids running in the shrubbery maze:

When you live in a small apartment with no balcony, you’ll take any garden, green space, park or parkette. Coming back, I ended up in front of one of the world’s greatest museums before jumping back on the metro and heading home for ice cream.