Category Archives: France

16th/17 Arrondissement Airbnb, Bistrot D’Yves – Paris

We feel especially fortunate to have all made it to Paris, given that there was a major aviation mess-up in the states that began just hours after Lily and Noah took to the air. Almost 7,000 flights delayed. But by midday we were all here and acclimating to our charming bohemian/classy Airbnb in the 16th arrondissement near the arc de triumph, off elegant Avenue Foch (where the likes of Aristotle Onassis lived. Now there are several embassies.)

Birthday girl

We are on narrow Rue le sueur (reminds me of the name of canned baby peas) on the fourth floor of one of the many famous Hausmanian buildings in this part of the city, lining the grand boulevards and backstreets. Hausman was sort of the Robert Moses of Paris, clearing old narrow twisty streets and creating wide boulevards lined with elegant crème-colored mansions. Our Airbnb has lovely faded-elegance touches — a curving staircase with wood banister (and a tiny lift, handy for suitcases), decorative ceiling moldings and plasterwork around the fireplace, tall narrow French windows, heavy doors with giant brass nobs and ancient keys, creaky parquet floors, a narrow creaky wood planked hallway with doors leading to bedrooms and bathrooms (two are sans toilet, avec tub/shower; one tiny one with toilet, no tub/shower). And there are bohemian touches – lots of African and Caribbean textiles and art (a little colonial era whiff).

Our gracious host left us cheeses, a baguette and wine. Then my amazing old friend from our 1980s Wichita newspaper days Alissa, who lives nearby, insisted on bringing bags of her favorite foods – quiches, fresh orange juice, yoghurt in glass bottles, a big chunk of butter, clementines, cheese. Why does everything taste better here? (Ingredients, freshness, care of preparation, the water?)

Noah in the living room

She also showed around this neighborhood, which doesn’t have the enchanting narrow streets of the left bank, where we usually stay, more grand big boulevards, but no complaints. Alissa sent us to a great little neighborhood bistrot d’Yves last night, a 20 minute walk away. Yves knows what he’s doing: clever but not overly fussy food (we didn’t know fillet mignon could be pork, not beef) , thoughtful attentive service, all tables occupied on a Wednesday in January. We are supposed to get rain at some point but good temps, high 40s, low 50#, and even sun when we arrived.


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New big-budget bohemain spots in Paris

The new bohemian spots in Paris (p0ssibly not for long since they’ve just been outed by the NYTimes) include two neighborhoods – Belleville and Pigalle (a former red-light district.

Along Belleville’s “steep hilltop streets” are galleries and fashion designers and upscale winebars and restaurants.

In Pigalle, are artsy hotels (the Hotel Amour) , designer boutiques popular with the likes of Lady Gaga (jean-charles de castelbajac) ns of course more great restaurants (Nomiya). The gentrified Canal St. -Martin sounds like a charming place to wander. Also the Du Pain et Des Idees boulangerie.

These must be Bohemians with a big budget. for more see:

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Randonnes in the Dordogne!

My brother and his wife made it safely home from France – fortunately flying into Barcelona and out of Geneva during the strikes that crippled French airports and rail. He apparently did okay with getting gas since they did drive across the country. As expected, he loved the Dordogne region and recommends “randonnes” – walks in the french countryside that are well mapped out and marked. Other highlights – the duck  confit and “all the delicious stuff with walnuts in it.” Their last two days were in Annecy which they liked too but found a little seedy in parts (that I don’t remember.) They also did a quick tour of Talloires and got a pix of the hotel we stayed at in 1989.


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Honeymooning in France during the strikes – it can be done!

My brother and his new wife have made it to Dordogne and are, of course loving it although my brother fears he may be developing gout from all the rich food. He highly recommends the place they stayed La Tour de Cause – which judging from the website looks like heaven.  Word has it it’s run by a I highly recommend it. It’s run by a really cool, fun California couple. Next stop in Annecy and Talloire – so hoping he can get there safely without encountering any blockades or major gas shortages. And I’ll be living vicariously…



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Vacationing by car in France during the strikes….a handy ipod app

I’m a little concerned about my brother who is driving across southern france this week as part of his honeymoon.  Strikes across the country can’t be making that easy. Fortunately he’s not flying in or out of French airports (he’s flying into Barcelona and out of Geneva) and I don’t think he’s using mass transit. But it doesn’t sound like driving – especially getting fuel – is that easy right now. I did read about a new iphone app people are using to find out where gas is available but not sure there’s an english version or if my brother’s smart phone works in Europe.

This from the Guardian

One third of petrol stations across France still have no fuel. Over night, police broke up barricades and lift blockades at three strategic fuel depots in Donge, Le Mans and La Rochelle – the west of France has been worst hit by the petrol blockades.

All of France’s 12 refineries remained blockaded this morning and picket lines barred access to around 20 key fuel depots.

The prime minister François Fillon says it will take the country four – five days to get back to normal fuel levels. But France’s autumn half-term holiday begins this weekend and panic-buying continued as families wondered whether they would have to cancel plans amid travel chaos.

Pickets and stoppages were expected at airports today with Toulouse airport blockaded this morning and cancellations at Orly and Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

Train, bus and tram staff were still striking across France today but walk-outs on some public transport had eased since yesterday, in Paris for example. In Marseille, buses and trams were not running and strikers blocked key road tunnels causing miles of tailbacks. Hauliers and freight delivery drivers across France were continuing their protests with more motorway go-slows planned.

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Bon voyage to my brother – off to Spain and France

Have a great trip M and H! Here’s a few parting words of advice – most fairly obvious but just in case….

In Barcelona, see any and all things Gaudi – the half-done church/temple (Sagrada Familia);  the really cool park (Park Guell, it’s out of the way but worth the trip). We also visited another house in the city that I can’t remember the name of – both Casa Batllo and Casa Mila look incredibly cool. (We got the Gaudi bug in Barcelona and everywhere else we visited in Spain, we searched out nearby Gaudi buildings.)

In the Dordogne, remember to check out the “art way” (“chemin des arts” billed as “a funny way” to experience Sarlat. I think they meant “a fun way”)  and one of our favorites, Sophie Noellet’s studio at 4-6 rue Alberic Cahuet.. And of course the outdoor market (I bought foie gras there for dad…) And here’s a long-shot request: We bought Lily her favorite all time necklace in Sarlat – which she  lost last summer in the Dominican Republic.  We found it  at a little unimpressive-looking  postcard-gift shop  just off the artist’s studio walk. It was a horseshoe nail  bent into the shape of a heart on a string of rawhide. Nothing fancy or expensive – but if by some remote chance you find something like it, please buy and I’ll reimburse you.

In Talloires, I’d love to know if the Hotel Beau Site is still there. And the Annecy market of course. And the Gorge du Fier.

Have a wonderful time! x0x,b

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Beau city, beau hotel – Talloires, France

My brother and his wife are going to one of our favorite places in October – the beautiful villages of  Talloires and Annecy in eastern France, south of Geneva.  We haven’t been there since 1989 but glad to see that the hotel we stayed in Talloires is still there – Hotel Beau Site (and it is indeed a beautiful sight/site.)

As I recall the hotel is near the French campus of – surprisingly – Tufts University. Now there’s a junior year abroad I’d enjoy.

Good reading while you’re there:  Hotel du Lac a Booker Prize winning novel (1984) by Anita Brookner – set in  Geneva. I think I was reading it at the time.

From my diary: “Talloires is a lovely town – the prettiest on Lac d’Annecy as far as I can tell. There is no or very little modern development. The small village is one curving street with old stone houses and a few cafes and shops. There’s  a small waterfront down the hill, bordered by three or four hotels and five or six stone private homes. Our hotel has a big landscaped garden that leads to a long green lawn that stretches to the water. The lake looks a darker blue than we’ve seen earlier and the mountains are smaller but in some ways more dramatic because they begin as rolling green meadows and forest then end at the top with a jagged sheer rock face jutting out like some dramatic monument set against the sky.”

“We spent the morning walking around the fruit and veg market held each Tuesday in the old city of Annecy. It was lovely- beautiful narrow streets crowded with stalls filled with red tomatoes,  peaches, olives, cheese; two canals lined with flower boxes. We ate lunch at an outdoor cafe alongside one of the canals. Then drove to see Gorge du Fier, a dramatic gorge, (  and a nearby chateau. Pretty drive.”

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Paris restaurant recommendation

Our friends A & N are just back from Paris where they enjoyed eating at Le Bistrot Du 7Eme, located at 56 Boulevard de La Tour Maubourg.  They both loved the Trout Meuniere, the scallop pate and the 25 Euros fixed price menu.

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Pyrenees-Orientales: Dreaming of

I’m reading a novel set in the Pyrenees-Orientals  in  the southwest corner of France just above Spain – and had trouble placing this spot on my mental map until a story in today’s NYTimes Travel section of the area just north of it around Carcassonne, the remarkable walled city I visited in 1978 with my sister (who had been living during her junior year of high school in Villeneuve Sur Lot)   Turns out I probably went through the Pyrenees-Orientals  – during a train trip from Italy to Spain in 1989.   The NYTimes mentions some pricey hotels in Carcassonne – I remember in 1978 staying at a nicer-than-usual youth hostel there and spending a late night at a bar/club listening to live music for hours. I’m pleased to report the hostel appears to still be there.

(Just fyi to my brother: Villeneuve sur lot is 2.5 hours northwest of Carcassonne and Sarlat is 1. 5 hours northeast of Villeneuve. Confused? Best to look at a map)

The novel, by the by, is “Rat” by Fernanda Eberstadt, about a teen-ager growing up on the  wild and windy Mediterranean Coast, a landscape  so vividly portrayed that it seems like a major character.  Reminds me a bit of the atmospherics of  another novel about a teen-ager growing up on the southern French coast – “The Last Life” by Claire Messud.


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dordogne pt. 3 – takemewithyou

As promised, I have returned to the Dordogne – blogging, not visiting alas. Here are some more towns/villages we visited (most – but not all – well worth the visit):

– Le Bugue (I wrote it as “La Bogue” in my journal. oops). This is sort of the start of   the Dordogne   (we were driving from the west and Bordeaux.) It’s more of a workaday town not touristy at all . Has a very good market where I had a memorable experience that D and I still recall when we need a laugh. I was trying out my very rusty french with a woman selling fish at one stall and soon after I spoke, she burst into laughter.  I surmised that rather than telling her – as intended – that “I really like fish” I’d said something more akin to “I am a fish.”

– Beynac – in the Dordogne proper right next to La Roque, where we stayed – has an astonishing castle where it was  refreshing to see that the curators had thrown the usual u.s.-style caution to the wind and lit the castle with real live flaming torches sprinkled here and there around the place.  Definitely made the place seem very real. Later when we returned to DM we  watched – or tried to watch – a movie that had recently been filmed there – The Messenger about Joan of Arc starring Milla Jovovich, Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich –  – but it was so bloody we turned it off. The town of Beynac is lovely – very perfect; not too touristy.

– Monpazier – this was a lovely more workaday fortified Medieval village and a little off the beaten path, with a cool château nearby called Biron (looks like nice hotel there:  We felt like the only tourists in Monpazier, remarkably enough. There’s a beautiful and unusual town square that as I recall has a semi-enclosed arcade around most sides. We had our classic five-course Perigord meal at La Bastide Restaurant. Had read about it in a 2003 Travel and Leisure article.  Ridiculous amount of food and delicious – 1) fois grais 2) a salad prepared with the locally produced nut oil and goats cheese, 3) huge omelette with truffles that tasted remarkably creamy 4)crispy duck cooked in its own fat (confit?),  and 5) creme caramel.   I was amazed my stomach did not rebel afterwards. We ordered one of these meals – and then a more moderate meal. way too much food.  We also found a really pretty home and kitchen store nearby where I bought one – and I wish i’d bought more – very pretty soft-boiled egg ceramic cup (Provencal I think) and a french wrought iron hanging rack that is in our kitchen (w/tea cups hanging from it).

Domme was another dramatic walled village, worth a visit.

Skip Colognes-la-rogue – it’s a beautiful village made of redstone buildings – very different than the yellow stone of the other Dordogne villages but it was very touristy and full of tourists. Like La Roque it is one of France’s “Beaux Ville Villages” which is kind of like the kiss of death because they’re so lovely they’re overrun with tourists. A few other things:

1) prepare to get lost. This is where d. and I coined an oft-used phrase “Not on my map.” (I was the navigator, D was the driver). We got lost a lot but eventually found what we were looking for.

2) there are cool painted caves here. we didn’t go to them.

3) I wish we’d had time to canoe or hike – this is what the Brits do in the Dordogne and it results in a  quite different experience than ours (which we of course liked just fine – drive, wander, eat, wander, eat, drive, etc.)

4) fun fact:  Josephine Baker lived in Chateau des Milandes which is now a museum. We never visited but after seeing this video, wish we had. She was a remarkable person. (adopted 12 kids, Resistance member in france who also saved jews, civil rights leader etc.) /

5) Chateau de Castelnaud,  which i mentioned in an earlier post, is one of the most visited castle in sw france, according to one website I stumbed upon.

6) while all these places start to sound alike, they’re all quite distinct in their own way (i just can’t remember which is which that well any more.)

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