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)

Stephane Eicher

I had a massive crush on this pop-rock singer when I first came to France. His single – Déjeuner en paix – was a big hit in the 1990s. Half-gypsy, Eicher isn’t French, he’s Swiss.

It’s cold and blustery here in Paris. It’s nice to put the blanket back on the bed. I’m off to Lille this weekend to visit the kids and see my friends.

Here’s Stephan –

(401) Stephan Eicher – Déjeuner En Paix – YouTube

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).

Macron slapped, Melenchon floured

The man who had the audacity to slap President Macron across the face last week was given a four-month prison sentence. Not enough, most people say. The prosecutors had asked for eighteen months. 28 years old and unemployed, he is close to the Gilets jaunes movement and harbors ultra-right political convictions.

There’s an old tradition in France to “flour” politicians. What does this mean? The act of covering someone with white flour sends the message “se faire rouler dans la farine” (to get rolled in flour). That’s the literal translation, but the real meaning is to dupe or lie to people. This is how many French citizens feel towards their politicians. The expression comes from the 19th century when actors used flour as makeup and would dupe people with their identities.

Oddly enough, no one seems to protest this strange French practice, including the target himself. We watch it on TV and everyone chuckles (myself included). Even the perpetrator below (wearing sunglasses) had his moment in the sun when reporters gathered round with microphones to ask what compelled him to buy a bag of white flour and throw it onto Jean-Luc Mélenchon (leader of a left-wing political party called La France Insoumise). Video below. Further below is another video showing other politicians getting floured in the past and worse – receiving cream pies in their face. Ha! Ha! Just had a thought … imagine a big creamy pie going into the face of Donald Trump (or Boris Johnson). Now that would be poetic justice.

President Sarkozy gets a pie in the face, as do others.

 

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.

missing London

Gosh, I miss London. I woke up thinking about it this morning. I was booked to go – this week, in fact – but then cancelled because travelling from the EU to the UK seemed Covid-complicated. Also, I lost over 400 euros on a website called Reedsy, so that took a dent out of my budget. What is Reedsy? An online author services firm which serves as a bridge uniting authors and publishing freelancers in the self publishing industry. (don’t use it, I got ripped off twice.)

London has got to be one of the greatest walking, shopping, eating and cultural cities in the world. Happily, I have all my blog posts from my prior visits that serve as archives. This one was written a few years ago (pre-Covid, of course, and pre-Brexit too) during the month of August –

LONDON. An undeniably world-class city of 7 million inhabitants. Pulsating with energy. Dynamic and thrillingly diverse. Inclusive of all cultures and nationalities. Constantly redefining itself while holding firm to its history and heritage. In comparison, Paris seems….small.

Where to begin? I took over 300 photographs and walked 8 hours a day. So much to see, so much to do! I’ll start with one of my favorite places: Borough Market located under the London Bridge. As I strode across the bridge in the brisk morning air, sunshine and wind in my face and the river traffic coursing by, I felt utterly exhilarated. London does that to you. Take the District & Circle tube line to Monument.  Stride across bridge.  The market is beside Southwark Cathedral.

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Old. Atmospheric. A setting and cast of characters straight out of a Dickens’ novel. Borough Market is one of London’s oldest food markets and sprawls under the brick railway viaducts. It’s a fabulous place.

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Here’s a famous cheese shop (Neal’s Yard Dairy) that sells a stunning array of British and Irish cheeses. And guess what? The vendor was a Frenchman. I said to him in French – How is it that a Frenchman is selling English cheeses in London?  “J’ai épousé une anglaise,” he replied. (I married an Englishwoman).

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MONMOUTH COFFEE SHOP. I have only one word to describe this place and its coffee and cakes: bliss. Look how polite the English are as they queue up. In France, you’d be elbowed and stepped on in a scrum.

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Borough Market consists of up to 70 stalls and stands. Producers from all over the country bring a range of fresh produce to the market, including fish, meats, vegetables, ciders, cheeses, breads, coffees, cakes and patisseries. Other stalls specialize in produce imported from abroad. Open Wednesday to Saturday.  Pubs and restaurants too.

To see ALL my London posts, click on LONDON up top.