Paris May 2006

 May 10, 2006 11:36 am: The Infomancer and Girasole in Paris
A long, uncomfortable but uneventful flight, except for the fact that we had a female pilot, a first for me after decades of flying. [Girasole was so stunned by this that she actually ate some of the airline dinner—another first, sez The Infomancer.] Paris is cool and grey, even as New York was when we left, and full of flowers. Our hotel is indeed a gorgeous art deco wonder, and our room, which was ready and smoke-free even as we had booked the day before to ensure same, is small, neat, and has internet access. And glory, all the toiletries are my favorite Annick Goutal, the Sicilian lemon L’eau Hadrien.

The neighborhood is like upper Madison Avenue in NYC, many shops, many restaurants, lots of lovely buildings with scrollwork balconies and stonecarving. Our first meal was in a tiny, raucous tea room where we had raspberry crepes and a cheese-sauce-slathered salad with lovely cucumbers and tomatoes. It had a no-smoking section. It turns out several places we have checked do, but it scarce matters as the smell of the ominpresent cigarette is deep in the fibers of pretty much everything Parisian.

We had a young and adorable concierge who answered all our questions and gave us guidance. We have A Plan. I even got to talk on the phone to Malcolm Miller himself (more on Chartres anon. Probably Monday).

Tonight we eat at the lesser of the hotel restaurants and, I hope, sleep deeply.

That’s a hot pink cow and a centaur, down the street from our hotel. There was a cow parade in London when we were there in 2002; now cows in Paris?

 

03:26 pm: Later on May 10
We visited St Germain des Près (big, dark, shabby, old, beautiful, Descartes is buried there) and St Sulpice (much bigger and darker, Baroque, and the setting for a significant scene in The Da Vinci Code, not that you do or should care), and I have to have a clearer head to make sense. But at St Germain I lit a candle as is done in my culture for parents gone and for the grandbaby of a friend, in front of a 14th century madonna. The age of these things comforts and terrifies. All around St. Sulpice are religious knicknack stores, and here’s a picture of a sidewalk café where all the chairs are turned to face the church.

We had dinner in the hotel’s Brasserie Lutetia. Wine, red for The Infomancer (beaujolais) and white for me (chablis). Lovely herbed olives, peanuts and raisins. He had duck with green peppercorns, mushrooms, and haricots; I had chicken and roasted thyme and garlic on a bed of mashed potatoes. They were incredibly potato-y, but they were also full with butter and chicken jus, but not so rich you couldn’t finish every bite. Then a chocolate wonder for him that made me wish I could eat chocolate, and raspberry/vanilla/caramel ice cream of incredibly rich intensities. He promises not to forget to bring his camera to future meals.

Must sleep.

 

May 11 04:53 pm:

The food is lovely at our breakfast buffet, even to a choice of teas in a Japanese iron pot. I had yogurt and tea and fruit and croissant; The Infomancer, as you might imagine, went from bacon and ham and cheese to eggs and strawberries and bacon and pain au chocolat and bacon and then he lost track.

We took a taxi to the Eiffel Tower.

Despite a bazillion pictures, they never seem to capture its lovely, lacy ironwork or how friggin’ huge it is. So we took pictures of the crowds, and of the long rows of large trees that have been clipped into geometric shapes. Then to a Seine boat (Bateau Parisienne) for a tour of the highlights and a twee but delightful narrative. From there by taxi to Sainte Chapelle. (As a nondriver, may I say that Parisian drivers terrify me. I know they know what they are doing, but it makes me quite, quite nervous to be in a car they are driving.)

Grotesques along the Pont Neuf

Nothing can capture the magic of the first sight of that stained glass jewel case, but to see it a second time, and to know that now The Infomancer has seen it, is wonderful. It is small and blue and red and gold, and the light completely is at play. We had to go through airport type security this time at Sainte Chapelle, and the winding stone staircase was even more difficult than I remembered. I am also glad I saw it again because I am not sure I could do those stairs in another ten years. Or another five.

Some fallen stonework at Sainte Chapelle

We wandered around Notre Dame on the inside before lunch, and the outside after. It was full of people, but it was also full of those serene windows and sculpture that have seen so much, and gaze out at the crowds with the same serenity. The rose windows astonish, but the flying buttresses, with their solid winged grace, enchant me.

We had lunch on Ile Sant Louis at Le Flore en L’ile, where we could gaze upon Notre Dame with our salad and frites and onion soup. [Actually, with our eyes, which worked better] They made really good tea and The Infomancer loved the beer, a Belgian blonde called Abbaye de Abdij van Leffe. And we found Berthillon ice cream again, where I had the fresh mint with crème chantilly and he had walnut. Another memory undimmed after twenty years.

After lunch we also visited the archaeological crypt under the plaza in front of Notre Dame, which was fascinating, layer upon layer of stone foundations going back from the mid-18th century to Gallo-Roman times.

Then we walked back to our hotel. It was a long walk, but it was a soft, warm day, and we bought postcards. We also bought cherry tomatoes, a perfectly ripe avocado, a baguette, and raspberries from the Loire valley, along with a Domain Meunier St-Louis merlot (6.90 €) and M. Kieffer riesling, vin d’Alsace (7.50 €). I chose badly with the riesling, which is a little too astringent, but The Infomancer loved the red. And so we had dinner in our room. It lacked only cheese, but we did not find the right place to buy any.
Tonight we heard Mozart Divertimenti and Quatuors Milanais (KV 136, 137, 138, 156, 157 for those keeping score at home) at St Germain de Près. The church is famed for its acoustics (though not its state of preservation), and it was quite glorious. The un-augmented sound filled the huge church and washed over us. The French Chamber Orchestra directed by André Rebacz played with joy, and we listened with same. We emerged about 10 p.m., and it was not yet full dark.

 

May 12 03:50 pm: The Louvre
Today went to the Louvre. It is indeed the world’s largest museum, and we limited ourselves to high points, both ours and famous ones, and were still there all day. Art is necessary and needful to me. Paintings and sculpture and drawings feed me and console me. I love the mystery of visiting a favorite painting and seeing it anew every time, learning a different shape or form. I love trying to figure out what the artist was trying to say, and whether she said it to me. All art is a window, and a mirror, and a language if only we can take the time to listen and perhaps understand.

The glass pyramid at the Louvre serves as the center, and while it is a bit difficult to navigate easily it is possible to find what you are looking for. The Infomancer notes it is hard to imagine any other museum that could rival this one for sheer acreage of painted canvas; the Renaissance and Baroque Painting halls recede into the distance, looking as if their walls were lined with hundreds of dark bed sheets. The ones you pause in front of, though, are the smaller ones, done by the likes of Fra Angelico, Arcimboldo, and Da Vinci. Speaking of this last, readers of That Certain Recent Bestseller will recall that the denoument takes place here, under a big reverse pyramid that hangs from the ceiling of the attached underground shopping center. Let it be clearly stated, however, that the little pyramid beneath its point definitely rests on the floor (to say any more would be a spoiler). Saint Sulpice, by the way, has a very snarky but dignified rebuttal near its obelisk.

I love the Winged Victory, with her beautiful wings and torso turning to the wind. I love the Mona Lisa. It is really difficult to look at her freshly (especially after reading That Certain Recent, etc), but it is a beautiful painting: the placement of her hands, the richness of her clothing, the wisdom of her mouth.

We also spent some wondrous time in the Medieval Galleries. St Catherine, with her sword and her book, was my favorite: ivory, about 1400 in France. The Infomancer found many Annunciations, and as is his wont, photographed them all.

We are in the 6me Arrondissement, and the walk/don’t walk signs look like this here. We love the impatient don’t walk guy, with his hands on his hips, who only seems to exist here and not in other parts of the city,

I am going to be fifty-nine years old in a few weeks. I have never travelled well, I hate flying and there are the damned allergies. But there is so much I want to see, so I and my creaky knees and hips and ankles are in Paris, today with a cold that has hit with a great resounding thud. I am pathetic, with my red nose and my sore throat and my handkerchief clutched to me. This is going to slow us down some, but I will try not to let it do so too much. We so very much want to be here.

By dinnertime I was really miserable. Time for comfort food, which we found at Casa Bini, a lovely, cheerful Italian restaurant. What you see is rocket and parmesan salad for me, cheese for The Infomancer; linguini with basil and tomato for me, green casareccie pasta with sausage and mushroom for him; a magnificent tarte with fraises de bois and mascarpone for him, panna cotta and camomile for me.

May 13 04:26 pm: Le Moyen Age
Today was about as perfect a one as can be had, despite the fact that I am full of cold and have a heated towel rack full of handkerchiefs washed by hand in the hotel bathroom.

We got a late start as I needed to sleep, but went off to the Musee de Moyen Age de Cluny. It’s an ancient building with Roman baths in the cellar and a gorgeous collection of medieval art, including the beauteous Lady with the Unicorn tapestries. We also discovered that the museum has a medieval music group in residence and they were giving a free concert this afternoon. The auditorium’s chief decorations are a forest of large stone bodies of the Kings of the Old Testament — which originally adorned Notre Dame, but were torn down and decapitated by Revolutionaries who thought they were Kings of France — and their heads, which were secretly buried at the time, and only rediscovered in 1977.

I love this museum, which is full of exquisite things that have managed to survive lo these hundreds of years, and a zillion annunications for The Infomancer to photograph. There’s also a lovely medieval garden.

In between communing with the art and going to the concert, we did a little shopping.  I may have found a birthday present, but if I do I have to give it to you right away when we get home.

The musical group is called Ultréa, and they did a program of songs from the Carmina Burana – not the Carl Orff melodrama that we all know and adore, but songs from the original manuscripts with harp, rebec, recorder and other wind instruments (including several made from actual animal horns), singers, and a remarkable percussionist. These are fascinating songs of lust, lessons, morals, and mores, and the leader of the group gave a small lecture before each. They were, of course, in French, but I usually managed to give The Infomancer a one-phrase summary: “Nightingales. Springtime. Everyone has a bad and a good side and it is hard to separate them.”

The performers had vivid personalities and no small talents. kradical you would have loved the percussionist. He played bells, something like a zither, a large drum, a smaller, brightly painted one like a bongo, and two tambours like bodhrans, one using a handful of shells as a means to play against it.

No lunch today – first time I have missed lunch in decades. We had a late breakfast, and I was too sick to care. But we did buy dinner: bread and camembert, a lovely casserole of zucchini in bechamel, blackberries, apple tart (a divine thing, intensely tasting of apples and not much else) and red wine. Alas, no wine is agreeing with me these days, and I am not sure what to do about that. I am in France, it seems a sin not to drink it.

We had a professional experience par excellence tonight, when a fairly well-known author/illustrator pair appeared to sign their beloved works in a local children’s bookstore. The Infomancer bought autographed copies for all his staff, and they are lucky puppies indeed.

We have seen a lot more cows. http://www.vach-art.fr/page.php

 

 

May 14 03:31 pm:

Today we went to the Musée d’Orsay, and we bless and praise the several friends who told us to get a Paris Museum Pass. We got them for six days, and they cover just about every admission we need, but the best part is you don’t have to stand in line. And the lines are huge. Every other tourist was going to the Cezanne/Picasso show, but we wanted to see art nouveau and impressionism, and we did. Art nouveau with its curvilinear eroticism still thrills me, always. The Infomancer wrote much of what follows, and you can amuse yourselves by trying to figure out which sentences are his.

When I was in college I loved the Impressionists, and as I got older I got pretty snide about them, thinking they were merely pretty. Now that I am older still, I love them again. I never tire of seeing Monet turn flicks of paint into light and cathedrals (the Rouen sequence is here) or Renoir paint pretty women in pretty dresses with sweet, sorrowful thoughts behind their pretty eyes.

Whistler’s Mom is generally in residence here, but she’s out traveling for the next year or two—to Boston this Fall!—and among the lesser wonders both a cutaway, fully detailed scale model of the Paris Opera, and a big diorama of Paris as it was a couple of hundred years ago but with dino-sized plush woodland animals running through its streets (you’ll have to visualize this without aids; it was set beneath glass bricks on the floor, and the reflections were too bright to take a decent photo) stand out.

The building is an old railway station, and it has been brilliantly transformed into a marvelous space for art without losing any of its huge vistas or spaces.

We had lunch in its wondrous golden hall, and a wondrous lunch it was. The tarte de framboises for dessert was classic: fresh raspberries layered with their own juices and then a layer of blackcurrant jam, then a cake crumb and the crust – all intensely what they were and utterly delicious.

I am still sick, now in the coughing and hacking and sore throat stage. I wish I felt better. But we had two Parisian moments worth recounting. It turned out to be hard to get a taxi on a Sunday from d’Orsay to the Pantheon, so we ended up sharing a cab with a Parisian couple. She once lived a year in New York and had cousins in North Tarrytown. Our voluble driver, racing to get home to Sunday dinner, regaled us with his English and his love the U S A. He was pretty funny.

The second moment came in the Pantheon, where a tiny blonde and pink child, barely toddling, wandered up to me and held her arms out to be held when I smiled at her. I wanted to scoop her up indeed, but instead greeted her (my French can handle, hello, how are you?) and was totally enchanted. What a mother’s day gift when I am away from my own grown-up little one.

The Pantheon is an enormous space, begun as a church but ending up, as our Access Guide puts it, “a necropolis for the distinguished atheists of France,” and including Foucault’s actual pendulum in the middle plus huge murals of French history – the ones of Jeanne d’Arc were very familiar indeed—along with a spooky, labyrinthine crypt where everyone from Voltaire and Rousseau to the Curies are buried. Behind the Pantheon is St Etienne du Mont, an exquisite church despite or perhaps because of its wild mix of architectural styles, and the tomb of Sixth Century Ste Geneviève, patron saint of Paris, enclosed in a lacy gold framework like a reliquary. While we wandered about, a small service that involved sung calls and responses was going on in the apse, filling the high, sunlit spaces with appropriately ethereal sounds.

We walked back to the hotel through the Luxembourg gardens, discovering that even as all the the tourists congregate in the museums and churches, the Parisians spend Sundays in the park: old folks in wheelchairs and children in carriages; families and lovers; two brass bands; kids playing soccer; smaller kids atop strings of ponies and donkeys. In truth, even a small pony is bigger than some of the cars we’ve been seeing. The Infomancer saw a Hello Kitty car helgabee, a little two-seater.

Dinner at the Brasserie Lutetia: how do we count the joys. Steak and frites and bearnaise and a luscious beaujolais for him; a kir, escallope of veal (the very best veal I have ever ever eaten) fried delicately in butter, with a side salad that tasted like a kitchen garden: mint, chives, parsley, rocket in a sharp mustard vinaigrette. I had caramel ice cream again, and camomile with honey. The Infomancer ate every last bit of a rhubarb crumble with a verbena cream on top, more like crème fraiche. I am feeling ancient and sick, but I am full and warm and happy.

 

May 15 02:51 pm:

I slept long and deeply, and then awoke to much coughing. I was also really exhausted, so with great regret I sent The Infomancer off to St Denis alone. I sat quietly and walked around the block and tried not to be cold or cough my brains out. I also bought a tee shirt and a summer jacket, and both are beautiful and pink and white and blue. He came back in a few hours with lots of pictures, and he will tell you all about it:

Ahem. Though our TimeOut Paris guide intimated that St. Denis currently lay amidst slums, in fact it turned out to have a quaint and quiet setting, surrounded by buildings made of new concrete and old stones. The basilica includes parts of a 5th century structure and is renowned for being, a) the first Gothic cathedral (ie, with rose windows, pointy arches, flying buttresses and suchlike), and b) where most of the kings of France, along with selected sisters, cousins and aunts, are buried. That latter is a bit problematic as a number of the original burials were actually elsewhere, and during the Revolution all the bones were dug up and thrown into a mass grave. Supposedly, they’ve all been reassembled and gathered beneath the one roof (sure)—but even so, the church features a separate ossuary along with scads of tombstones, funerary monuments and memorials, some of which are for the same people. So just where the bodies are is anyone’s guess. It’s still a drop-dead gorgeous setting, as you can see.

It’s reached via the Métro, which differs from other subways in that, except on a couple of lines, one must flip a switch to open the doors when one wishes to exit. As this can be done before the train actually stops moving, there is potential for Excitement.

When he returned, we had lunch at the wine bar across the street. It specialized in paté and smoked salmon, so we had bread and cheese and tea and coffee. Go figure.

Shopping usually revives me. This afternoon I bought small gifts and large, and even a little thing for darth_libris. By the way, Darth, we visited your literary bar but it was closed! Although the web says it is open noon to midnight, it closes for several hours in the afternoon. We took pictures in front of the place to prove that we were there. And on the way, we fell over St. Thomas Aquinas—not the gent himself, but a 17th century Dominican chapel of the same name (and, reportedly, size). There was an organist playing on his, er, organ inside. We doubled the audience.

I spent not enough time in Au Bon Marché. The Infomancer prefers consuming food to looking at it, so I didn’t spend as much time there as I would have liked. But lordy was it fun. I may have to go back to visit the Dom Perignon bar where I could have a glass of “drinking stars” for 15€ . We visited the department store, too, but the food halls were better.

Ah dinner. Au Bon Marché takeout and the rest of the Domain Meunier St-Louis merlot. Tabouli with lemon and raisins and fennel and mint; haricots verts with herbs, cherry tomatoes, feta, a bit of chicken, and raisins (raisins turn up everywhere: a standard placement on a restaurant table is a small double bowl of olives and mixed peanuts and raisins). The Infomancer’s salad came with lardons and a poached egg. There was a little container of shaved bits of parmesan, a brioche, and the cutest “brochette” of five tiny loaves of bread, each different.

Then there was dessert: a local apple, a box of blackberries, acacia honey, and crème fraiche. Oh. My. Goddess.

I think The Infomancer is getting my cold. Tomorrow we adjourn to Chartres—yet another dank, chilly church—in expectation of two miracle cures. Stay tuned.

 

May 16 04:50 pm: Chartres
Once you get past the (for me) confusion of finding the station and where to get the tickets and which is the right train, the hour ride from Paris to Chartres on the commuter train is quite pleasant. It is an amazing sight, when you pull up to the train station, to see those beautiful mismatched towers right there. So we made our way on this cool grey morning down to the cathedral and Malcolm Miller, who for fifty years has lectured in English about this sacred space.

He is very funny and knows everything. He talked for about an hour and a half about several windows and an outdoor portal. As he notes carefully, Chartres is a book of many chapters, but they all tell the same story of creation and salvation. One of the rose windows and the portal we looked at have been cleaned since I saw them last in 1985, and they change is astonishing. Even on this rainy, opalescent day, the glass shone with fiery radiance. And the portal carvings, stripped of centuries of grime, now are the butter color of their underpainting and even a bit of the color shows. Here is the dragon at the feet of St John the Baptist, and you can see he is a little green.

Twenty years ago I had one of those meals that lives in memory in a Chartres restaurant called Henry IV. Alas, it closed soon after. Our concierge Xavier had recommended another place, and we did find it, after walking down many terraced stairs to the river and asking directions of a schoolteacher and her class. It was very pretty, Le Moulin de Ponceau, but it closed at 2pm no exceptions, so we climbed back up the hill, very hungry, in the rain. But we ended up at a pretty bistro right across from the cathedral and had lovely cheese and bread and a lovely sauvignon blanc, pale and light and just the faintest hint of flowers (Caves de Haut Poitou AO VDQSN 2004).

There is a little garden, now of violet and purple flowers, behind the cathedral, and a beggar or two, including a guy who sings, on the steps. The labyrinth, barely visible beneath all the chairs, can only be walked on Fridays. Mr Miller’s book about the cathedral has an excellent explanation of the labyrinth and its place in Christian symbolism.

Once again, it is the faces of the sculpture that I love best. Kings and queens, saints and prophets, I love their ancient gentleness and their welcoming gestures. It is almost inexpressible how much it meant to me to have The Infomancer see this.

We came back, passed a small carousel in front of the train station (it has motorcycles and a rocket ship as well as horses), and went back to the Casa Bini for dinner. How delicious it was. Three kinds of asparagus: green, white, and some tiny stuff that I guess was baby asparagus and a plate of delicately poached vegetables. He had tagliarini with sheaves of truffle flakes, and I had pasta in the loveliest of light veal sauces with rosemary and zucchini. Dessert was a wonder, as we shared lemon verbena and vanilla gelato and a glass of golden rather than amber vin santo. The lemon verbena was a shade of green as intense and glorious as its herbal flavor – I adored it.

Tomorrow is our last day in Paris, so just for a change of pace, we’ll go see a church…and maybe Beaubourg too. It will be very fine, and then it will be fine to go home.

 

May 17 03:54 pm: Our last day in Paris
I don’t know if I have done sufficient praise of our hotel.

http://www.lutetia-paris.com/anglais/index_f.html

Breakfast is full of things I never heard of: a plain raisin bread with a very thin layer of custard in the middle; roasted pears with pignoli (The Infomancer loves these); mango and raspberry salad, which is a terrific combination. Oh, and the very best raspberry jam I have ever had, pure intense flavor and not overly sweet. It is beautifully coordinated art deco, and the room is not only comfortable, but is made up twice a day, which means you never run out of towels or anything else. The striking lobby is alas off limits, as the cigarette smoke could be cut with a knife, always. And we have had an excellent concierge in Xavier, who made up for the one who is snide and the one who simply doesn’t want to help us at all.

Centre George Pompidou/Beaubourg – I do love this structure. The art is not the kind that moves me – video and pattern and people like Hans Bellmer whose art I find repulsive. But the building! I love the colors and the skylights and even the amazing exterior escalator. Now, for a person who has vertigo in the upper deck or balcony and who has problems with heights and enclosed spaces, you would think I would hate it. And it was a little complicated. But the view is so fabulous! The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, are all visible, and we got to gaze upon them during lunch.

We ate at Georges, one of the most gorgeous and most designed eating places I have ever been in. It is a sea of glass: all glass walls, glass tables, each with a tall glass vase and a single red rose in it. The effect is breathtaking. So’s the food. While The Infomancer’s was called a club sandwich, its ingredients were prime, the chips were handmade, and the bread was fried in butter. I had what was called a salad of vegetables. OhMyGoddess. Everything was warm, and perfectly cooked: peas and peapods, fat asparagus and tiny haricots verts, baby zucchini, pattypan squash, scallions – oh and a bit of lettuce, too.

We turned to dessert, and had lemon sorbet, vanilla and caramel ice cream . Now I have been making a study of caramel ice cream here in Paris, and this was the best, not only deep and intense in flavor but with a bit of gooey caramel spun through it. The tea was Mariage Frères Earl Grey. Bliss.

The center is flanked, on one side by Brancusi’s sculpture studio, willed by the artist to the institution,

and on the other by the “Stravinsky fountain,” the playful movement and colorful silliness of which no photo of ours could capture. This page gives you some idea http://www.pariswater.com/fontaines/arrond4.htm

We walked over to St Eustache (hey, another church!) to see the Rubens and the graves of Colbert and JP Rameau, and found a Keith Haring in that ancient, shabby space. The Infomancer longed to go back to the nearby Louvre, and we did, but I was both brain-dead and exhausted. We were revived by the unrestrained glamor of Napoleon III’s apartments, all shiny and carefully preserved, plus a cab drive back to the hotel that can only be described as “stimulating.” Never, never try to drive a car in Paris. Or, for that matter, climb on a bicycle.

Paris is absolutely full of soccer guys. The big Arsenal/Barcelona match is tonight, and all museums, restaurants, and streets are full of fans. Even Georges (supra) had its tables of increasingly loud sorts in “Arsene Knows” shirts (presumably a joke comprehensible to fans). Should be interesting…we’ll just lay low.

For dinner, we once again raided the food halls at Au Bon Marché. Greek salad (included mustard seed), spanokopita, salami for him, tabouli, cheese, those cute little breads on brochette. A half-bottle of Rully Varot Vin de Bourgogne 2002. Blackberries, a different kind of crème fraiche, and a brownie for him. I had begun dinner by having a glass of Dom Perignon (15€ at an elegante, lit-from-below champagne bar at the store, and worth every cent). I enjoyed every pale golden bubble. The presence of a huge department store of food just a block away was completely fortuitous, but definitely added a nice dimension to this entire stay.

Tonight we are pulling things together and packing, as we leave early tomorrow. I have another file of random musings about Paris, France, and travel, but I will post that after we get home. We will also post all of our pictures on Flickr, and I will let you know when.

Au revoir, mes amis chers. A bientôt.
 

May 19 08:55 am: This and that, seen in Paris
We are back home in New York City, still jet-lagged and a little snurfly, but still gobsmacked over the glories of our vacation.

No Frenchwoman over the age of about 28 wears jeans or sneakers in public. Casual clothes, surely, cropped pants and amazing footwear, but jeans and sneakers are clearly for the very young.

Frenchwomen of all ages are extremely stylish and always put together. I remember one woman, of about 35, wearing a white cotton tailored shirt and a full green skirt. Her crimson cardigan sweater perfectly matched her leather ballet slipper shoes, and her small leather purse perfectly matched her skirt. Colors – often bright, tropical ones – were very evident this spring.

Not only are they all stylish, but they wear great perfume. Really. It always smells good and not overpowering.

Parisians walk really fast, like New Yorkers.

The streets are very clean, except for the dog poop, which is everywhere.

This is such a lovely city, so very pretty in nearly all its aspects.

It is quite startling to hear a person with Asian or African features speaking perfect French. I find it utterly adorable to hear small children speaking French.

Many restaurants and virtually all the stores are closed on Sundays. It really is a family day. Many stores often close Monday mornings also, reopening at 2 in the afternoon.

I have seen at least two women who looked like the Triplets of Belleville.

The food is soooo good. We bought a lot of food at upscale markets and ate in our room, but that is because waiting till eight, when most French people seem to eat, was just too hard, and after long days on our feet we only wanted to sit. Even pre-made sandwiches at the Louvre had fresh herbs and were wonderfully prepared.

The tea has been surprisingly good. It is mostly bagged tea, but of decent quality. It is always the lighter teas, Ceylan, Darjeeling, Earl Gray – and never served with milk or lemon. In general, you get better tea than at most American restaurants of any quality.

People always greet you, “Bon Jour!” when you walk into a shop or restaurant; and say “Au revoir” when you leave. And “S’il vous plait.” And “Merci.” Most people spoke at least some English, way better than my French. I was OK most of the time with understanding, but I have lost vocabulary, so explaining anything complicated was way beyond me. It was fun, though. Some French folk responded by speaking French very slowly to me, which actually helped. French is spoken much more crisply and faster than English, and is even so not mumbled or slurred.

London, even after only two trips, feels like home to me. Paris will never feel that way, but I loved visiting, and was totally ensorceled by its myriad charms.
If you want to see every single one of our pictures, go here. They did not seem to carry over to this blog post.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/64392946@N00/sets/72057594138776048/

 

GraceAnne A. DeCandido and John Edward Peters © 2006

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Pastina & Sciapito

GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
23 April 2016 @ 06:49 pm
My mother died last week, peacefully and surrounded by much of her family, at the age of 93. We lost her rather earlier than that. She had dementia for the past seven years or so, and for the last few months had often not even known my sister, who worked across the street and visited her every day.
I spent 2014 with endometrial cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation. My mother never knew, of course, that I was sick. But she was with me in one particular way. What she always made for us when we were sick was pastina, tiny little star-shaped pasta, with lots of butter and salt. I made that a lot during cancer treatment. I could always eat it, and it didn’t take much effort. It always made me feel taken care of.
My mother made the most excellent salad dressing ever. She used olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, and salt. I have tried for forty years to reproduce it, but it was never as good, or as right, as hers. Several of us were talking about that online after her funeral. What was it that made her salad so good? She would mix it, and taste it, and then murmur “sciapito” and add a little more salt. My mother was born in this country, and her Italian was the Abruzzese/Neapolitan dialect of her parents. The word sounded like “sha – beet” with the emphasis on the second syllable and a hint of a vowel at the end.
Food and family, family and food. It’s what we know, and what we are.
Rest in peace, Mom.

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Matcha Latte

20 October 2013


I learned this at a Japanese tea bar in NYC that was only open for about six months.

I watched the beautiful young Japanese man who looked like an anime character make this several times, and I adapted it for home. He had bleached blond hair that fell just so across his face, graceful hands, and a sultry look. Alas, I could not adapt that for home.

Whisk about a half teaspoon of matcha (green Japanese tea, ground very fine into a silky powder) in water way below boiling. I heat the water in a glass pot and use it when it just begins to steam and has a few tiny bubbles in the bottom. The mixing is traditionally done with a bamboo whisk, but I use a battery operated frother. In a separate cup, put milk, warmed or not, (this works well even with lowfat milk) and sweetener if you want some and froth it until it is very foamy. Pour the foamed milk into the matcha. It’s wonderful.

At Tafu, the Japanese tea bar, they used whole milk and put a dab of whipped cream on the top, which I do now and then. Instead of sugar, they used the smallest drizzle of brown sugar syrup. The contrast of the creamy milk and astringent matcha, the bitter tea and the shock of a bit of sweet, just delighted me. The brown sugar syrup was made like simple syrup and I have done that occasionally, too. written 2009

MatchaLatte20Oct2013sm
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Girasole/Ladyhawk’s Chai

GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk07 September 2013
Girasole/Ladyhawk’s Chai

For each serving:

2/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup cold water
1 rounded teaspoon demerara or golden sugar
1 rounded teaspoon black tea
1 green cardamom pod, crushed
1 whole clove, crushed
2 berries allspice, crushed
dash of powdered ginger or grated fresh ginger
tiny drop of vanilla

Put everything in a small pot, bring to a boil, stirring, and let it steep four minutes or so. Strain and serve. Delicious. Good iced, too.

I make this in a ceramic canister, in about these proportions. I used about half an inch of vanilla bean, a piece of dried ginger, and the noted spices, and leave it for about three weeks, shaking it regularly, and then use it through the year. Enjoy.

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The words are moving

I will be moving much of the commentary and musings I wrote in Live Journal to this site. Thank you for following along.

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Biography

GraceAnne Andreassi DeCandido

GraceAnne A. DeCandido is a writer, reviewer, and editor, now mostly retired. She taught children’s and young adult literature classes for Rutgers SC&I online for over a decade, as well as two specialized classes Female Voices in Historical Narratives and Writing a Life: Biographies and Personal Narratives, in Rutgers SC&I Professional Development Studies certificate in Youth Literature and Technology (2000-2001, 2003-2004, 2006-2007, 2009-2011, 2012). In early 2009, she worked as editorial consultant for The Librarian’s Guide to Gaming: an online toolkit.

Her review of the new edition of Free to Be … You and Me appeared in Horn Book, January/February 2009. Her article about teaching online, “A Particular Intensity: Teaching Children’s Literature Online” appeared in the May/June 2002 Horn Book. Her American Libraries On My Mind column, “Online Teaching Is Real Teaching” was published October 2006. DeCandido has also directed graduate student independent study in children’s literature. In 2005, she was the recipient of the part-time lecturer of the year award from Rutgers PDS. She was one of a dozen consultants who worked on the development of an online class for academic library paraprofessionals in 2003.
In 2007, she was one of the writers and researchers for the American Dream Starts @ Your Library toolkit, a literacy initiative from ALA.

She has worked as an editorial and web content consultant in her own company, Blue Roses. Her clients have included the American Library Association and several of its offices and divisions, the Association of Research Libraries, The Pierpont Morgan Library, and the Reader’s Digest Foundation Tall Tree Initiative for Library Services project in Westchester County, New York. From June 2004 to June 2006, she wrote “Bookmark It! Picture Books” columns for TeacherLibrarian magazine.

Her Ten Graces for New Librarians, the commencement address at the School of Information Science and Policy at SUNY/Albany (May 1996), was published in the December 1996 American Libraries. It has been used in library workshops, newsletters, and library school bibliographies around the country. Ten Graces is also included in The Whole Library Handbook IV, published by ALA in 2006.

She’s the editor of Literacy and Libraries: Learning from Case Studies, published in 2001 for ALA’s Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, and she has written “New Jobs for Old: Librarians Now” a document for the Association of Research Libraries’ Leading Ideas publication series; one of the guides to the Coretta Scott King Award books for young people for ALA, also published in print form in Book Links, Dec/Jan 2001 p9-14; author interviews formerly called “Word Is Out,” spotlighting key writers for ALA Editions; and the first series (now mostly superseded) of Tech Notes for the Public Library Association on topics ranging from Intranets and DOI to GIS and e-reference. She’s also the author of the scenarios used for discussion for the Stanford – California State Library Institute on 21st Century Librarianship, August 2001.

She has interviewed The New Yorker‘s Roger Angell, “Writers and Readers: Baseball” (Booklist, 9/1/01, p36) and mystery writer Janet Evanovich, “Stephanie Plum as Indiana Jones” (Booklist, 5/1/01, p1628-1629). Her profile of Giles, TV’s hero librarian, “Bibliographic Good vs. Evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer” appeared in the September 1999 American Libraries (p44-47), and her chronicle of life as a library consultant, “Hanging Out My Shingle” appeared in AL in March 2000.

She’s the editor of the second edition of The Internet Searcher’s Handbook, Neal Schuman Publishers, and the author of the Association of Research Libraries Transforming Libraries SPEC Kit 243, Service to Users with Disabilities (April 1999) and SPEC Kit 226, After the User Survey, What Then? (September 1997). The Tall Tree school/public library initiative’s newsletter and web site, both of which she worked on, won Silver citations in the Wilmer Shields Rich Awards Program for Excellence in Communications sponsored by the Council on Foundations. In her role as consultant, she worked on the very first incarnation of The Librarian’s Guide to Cyberspace for Parents and Kids and the predecessor to the current Great Web Sites for Kids for ALA.

She was a professional book review from 1973 until 2015, reviewing children’s books for Kirkus Reviews and adult and children’s titles for Booklist. She cheerfully recommends favorite titles on Goodreads.

She’s published three mystery roundups in Booklist: “Cozy New York” (p1454-55, 5/1/2002); “Hooked on Cozies; or, You Gotta Have a Gimmick” (p1598-99, 5/1/2000) and “Women Like Us: Midlife Mystery” (p1460-1461, 4/15/1999). The October 1999 American Libraries includes her On My Mind column called “This Is Not Entirely about Sex.” She has interviewed science fiction writer Orson Scott Card for Publishers Weekly (with her son Keith DeCandido), written the entry for Sarah Caudwell in The St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, and selected and written entries for science fiction, fantasy, and women’s history (with John Edward Peters) for BookWhiz software. DeCandido contributed to Ann Symons’ Speaking Out! In Celebration of Intellectual Freedom (ALA, 1999), and wrote the Foreword to Benita Epstein’s Interlibrary Loan Sharks and Seedy ROMs: Cartoons from Libraryland, (McFarland, 1997).

DeCandido has given presentations all over the US and in England about library publishing, writing and publishing online, and coping with change, most recently in October 2008 for the Southeast Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association, “Technology is the Campfire around which We Tell our Stories.” In November 2001, she was keynote speaker at ACRL New England in Boston, “A Light on the Darkling Plain: Core Values.” In June 2001, she was a plenary speaker at the American Theological Library Association conference in Durham, NC, Words Are All We Have: A Very Brief Disquisition on Librarians, Access, Technology, Feminism, and the Truths of Things. She was the keynote speaker for PALINET, October 2000 in Philadelphia and in Pittsburgh, offering a presentation called “The Architecture of Fire: Librarianship Transformed.” The Westchester Library Association invited her to be its keynote speaker at WLA’s annual meeting in May 1999. She has spoken at Oxford University England, and at the California Library Association in Pasadena, both in November 1997. She was part of a presentation about independent librarians and marketing at the American Library Association conference in San Francisco in June 2001 and about building a web site for your library at ALA in San Francisco June 1997.

With Robert DeCandido, she wrote the American Library Association’s TIP sheet, “Preservation: A Common Ground.” For about a dozen years (1986-1998), Bob and GraceAnne DeCandido co-taught a course in library preservation at St. John’s University Division of Library and Information Science, and she and Patricia Glass Schuman have co-taught a summer institute in publishing at Long Island University’s Palmer School of Library and Information Science (1996). She has also taught Contemporary Issues in Librarianship at the Palmer School (1997).

She was previously Editor and Director of the H. W. Wilson Company world wide web site. She was the founder and principal architect of the site in its first web incarnation, 1995-96. She was the last Editor in Chief of Wilson Library Bulletin, until the magazine ceased publication in June 1995. During her tenure at WLB, she increased the magazine’s coverage of online and cyberspace issues in librarianship, and provided a forum for a multitude of library issues, especially those concerning gender. Her “Brazen Overtures” editorial for June 1994, “Children in Our Houses,” won second place, Northeast, in the 1995 competition sponsored by the American Society of Business Press Editors.

DeCandido has been a reference librarian and a cataloger at the New York Public Library, director of the Parsons School of Design Library, and administrator of a retrospective conversion/preservation program at New York University Libraries. After ten years in libraries, she worked as a freelance writer for The New York Times Book Review and other periodicals before becoming an editor for the Special Libraries Association. When SLA moved to Washington, DC, she joined the editorial staff at Cahners Publishing (now ReedBusiness), and spent seven years there, as assistant editor of School Library Journal, senior editor of Library Journal, and as executive editor of SLJ.

She holds an MLS from Columbia University and a BA in English Literature and Art History from Fordham University.

GraceAnne DeCandido reads voraciously and omnivorously, collects Navajo jewelry and almost anything with a flower motif, thinks of online as home turf, adores her little blue iPod, its big sister iTouch, her iPhone, and Rose, the iPad3 she got for her 65th birthday. In her spare time likes to cook, haunt museums, and shop, but not necessarily in that order. She was born and raised in the Bronx, where she and her family live in a house built in 1911, or possibly 1927. The research is inconclusive.

GraceAnne Andreassi DeCandido
New York City

LadyHawk AT well DOT com

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What I thought and what I wrote

I have brought together speeches and essays and musings, to this place on the web, so I could keep it together, and so it is.
Personal stuff is mostly on Facebook, and on LiveJournal, where I write as Girasole.
Blessings and good words to all.

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