The Covid-est, Craziest, Christmas Ever!

Below is my new Christmas carol to be sung to the tune of “Holly Jolly Christmas”

Have a Covid-ridden Christmas!

It’s the Worst time of the year.

Get that swap of cotton-tip,

Then have moments of fear!

Have a Covid-ridden Christmas

And when you walk down the street,

Keep that mask upon your face,

Just wink at those you meet.

Oh by golly have a Covid-ridden Christmas—this year!

From my home to yours. Hope you had a great holiday season!

Yeah. This was the little ditty I sang during Christmas week. And I’ll write my own version of A Christmas Story 2021…….

We arrived home from Paris and I immediately began the preparations.  After all, it was to be a full house.  Jake was flying in from L.A. Oona, Sam and Owen were flying in from Cincinnati.  Roman was coming in via Amtrak from New York.  And my ex-husband was driving in from New York as well.  My step-daughter, her husband and daughter were driving their fifteen-minute drive to the house for dinner.   I was eagerly anticipating the joy, laughter and merriment that all would be experiencing. And the extra was celebrating my grandson, Owen’s, first Christmas.

I even had an Owen cookie made. I’m shocked that I haven’t stress-eaten this yet. But I may glaze it and use it as an ornament for future Christmases.

I counted the days until my next week off—the week before Christmas and a couple of days after. Since I started decorating before our Paris trip, I felt that I was in a good place and it would be a relatively stress-free Holiday Season.

The Friday after returning home from our trip, the Frenchman picked me up at work and suggested we get the Christmas tree—the real tree.  We would have two Christmas trees this year. The fake one that was purchased last year because Covid was at it’s prime and we really had no big Christmas, would be placed in the sunroom with the real tree in the living room.

This Christmas tree lot is on Swedesford Road in Wayne..just down the block from my office.

So off we drove approximately one block over from my office to a Christmas tree lot and picked out the perfect tree for our needs.  Because Owen is at that curious age, we opted for a smaller tree that wouldn’t overwhelm my little ishkabibble.

This tree guy had to model a number of trees for me. I need to get a good look..

Thoughts of hot cocoa, Christmas songs and my little grandson danced around in my empty head while I decided on the tree to get.

This year it would finally be back to a merry, jolly Holiday Season.

We let the tree settle overnight then added lights…

…and the remainder of the decorations.  For a smaller tree, this one was fantastic. Hardly any needles fell–even after three weeks. It was amazing! And at $65, a good value!

With the days off from work in anticipation of the wonderful Covid-Free Christmas to be, I started baking up a storm.

Basically, this was the state of my kitchen for a week. I’m a messy baker.

I put my knowledge from the croissant class I took at “Cook’n With Class in Paris and hit the kitchen with gusto.  The first batch turned out great but I almost burned the house down because butter leaked. In my haste I didn’t bake the first batch on a rimmed cookie sheet.  No problem, I opened the windows, turned on the fans and all was well.  In fact, the croissants turned out to be spectacular.

Yum. Yum. Such a nice rise!

Buttery and flaky. The Frenchman was delighted that..

..he could finally get a decent croissant in the States! He now eats breakfast.

Not stopping there, I decided to bake a batch of Pain aux Chocolat.  And a second batch of the flaky pastry with a chocolate surprise.  And more croissants.  Both froze beautifully and reheated perfectly.

Oh la la!  Pain aux Chocolat!

Everyone would enjoy French pastries for breakfast.

More croissants. I couldn’t stop..

I couldn’t stop with the Pain aux chocolat either. I also made Kougin-Amann but Roman and The Frenchman ate them all.

Cookies were baked.

My Brown-butter, Oatmeal Raisin cookies. A very popular item I must say.

Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies were baked.

Best brownie recipe of all time. I’ve been baking these since my kids were in school!

Bread Pudding was baked.

Because you just never know who will want bread pudding!

Bread was baked.

The Good Loaf. For Sandwiches.  For toasting. For anything. Three loaves were baked.

I made candied nuts.  I made Salmon Rillettes.  I made pistachio brittle for the Nougatine. I made Focaccia.

..and more pain aux chocolat

And seriously, who doesn’t pass up the chance to enjoy a couple of nuts?

The only baked goods purchased was a ring of cookies, beautifully decorated by one of my neighbors. She’s incredibly talented. I suck at cookie decorating.

The Christmas meal was well-planned.  Roast Tenderloin of Beef, Haricot Verts, Macaroni and Cheese and Mashed Potatoes were the main course.  Prior to that, with our aperitif’s, Deviled eggs were made.

Table linens were washed and ironed. Yes. Ironed!

Owen’s Christmas gifts were wrapped.

I couldn’t wait to see him open his gifts from Santa!

During my few moments of relaxation, I would sit and listen to my Spotify playlists of Christmas songs. It was blissful.

Ahhh. Relaxing with my favorite Christmas music.

And slowly, things started to fall apart.

Jake called from LA.  His girlfriend had tested positive.  Now—both Jake and his girlfriend are double-vaccinated. Both have booster shots. However, this new variant broke through those boundaries. And although being vaxxed made the variant less…. serious. It was still a force to be dealt with.  Jake was in quarantine.

I was upset. Very upset but I had to put my big-girl panties on (actually in my case, oversized granny panties) and be happy that I would see my grandson.

This was just the beginning.

The next day I got another phone call. From Oona.  Owen had contacted yet another ear infection (he’s since been scheduled for surgery to have tubes placed in his ears). Both Oona and Sam felt it wasn’t in Owen’s best interest to travel. I couldn’t blame them but this news was really upsetting.

I started to break..

The oversized granny pants started slipping down.

Granny panties Memes

Umm. No you don’t. Yes you do. No. Yes….

Then I received yet another phone call. This time it was Roman. One of the TV shows he works on had an outbreak of the Covid Omicron variant. Basically, 90 percent of the cast either tested positive or decided not to take the chance of coming into the studio.  The news was if he tested negative for the next day’s test, he would come home. If negative, he wouldn’t.

Picture, if you will, me receiving this call from Roman.  Jake was out of the picture. Oona, Sam and my precious, beloved Grandson that I rarely see were out of the picture.  After discovering that my ex-husband’s girlfriend had only received her first vaccination that day, they were out of the picture. Now, with the possibility and very strong possibility that Roman wouldn’t be coming, I lost my shit.

I sat on the sofa in the sunroom, crying—not like a baby, but rather wailing like a crazed Banshee. My body shook. The dog ran under the coffee table in fear. My husband ran down the stairs in fear that something demonic occurred. It did. It was me reacting—or overreacting to the realization that f**king Covid had ruined yet, a second Christmas.

Staying true to my Celtic roots, I channeled my inner Banshee. It was not a pretty sight.

I have to be honest here. I was so distraught that The Frenchman wanted to drive me to the ER.  I gathered up a molecule of sanity to tell him that if he did take me to the ER, the hospital would admit me and not allow me to go home. It was that bad.

At this point, I was so emotionally exhausted that I went to bed.

I honestly wanted to rip every wreath off the doors. But I just went to bed.

The next day Roman called to tell me he tested negative. However, he wanted to spend as little time as possible on public transportation from NYC so I picked him up in New Jersey at the Hamilton Train Station.  About an hour away from where we live, we decided to take a memory tour around Pennington then headed home.

Actually, it’s a pleasure to pick the kids up at the Hamilton Station because of the sculptures outside!

You would be surprised at how just one of my children visiting made such a difference. Although it wasn’t the Christmas that I anticipated or wished for, it turned out to be fun.

It’s great to have even one of my babies home. 

We drove around the area looking at Christmas decorations and just had a good time.  Christmas dinner was a success because my step-daughter, her husband and their daughter were over so it really was a good Holiday dinner.

It’s an annual thing. To drive around and look at the decorated homes. This house which I’ve deemed  “The Chimmey House” is my absolute favorite.

I love the simplicity too. It’s festive yet elegant!

The next plan was for Oona, Sam, and Owen to visit during Martin Luther King’s Birthday weekend. We would be celebrating Owen’s birthday early.  Jake was going to fly in from LA and Roman was going to head over the next day after an SNL taping for the Sunday dinner.  Again, The Frenchman’s daughter’s family would be coming.

At this juncture, I wasn’t expecting anything. I had eaten all the Outrageous Brownies during a pity-party-stress-eating binge anyway.

Back in the kitchen I went.  Baking more croissants and pain aux chocolat.  Back we went to get another tenderloin of beef. No macaroni and cheese—this time it was shrimp scampi. And more haricot verts.

 

More flaky Pain Aux Chocolat and Croissants…

I baked a birthday cake. The Momofuku Milk Bar recipe.  The Christmas tree in the sunroom?  It was re-decorated with a banner celebrating every month of Owen.  Once again, I couldn’t wait.

And while preparing to make the batter, my stainless Kitchen Aid  Mixer died. D.I.E.D.  In mid mix. Just–Stopped.  My husband saw the look on my face and immediately, grabbed me by the arm, put my coat on and off we drove to get a new one.  I got red!

There was no time to admire my new toy.  As soon as it was taken out of the box, it was put to work.

This cake ring I found on Amazon is the greatest for assembling cakes!

I turned the Christmas tree in the sunroom into a Birthday tree for Owen..

Oona sent decorations..

All for Owen’s pre-Birthday celebration.

I was blissful. And happy.

There was more of Gam-gam to love due to my stress and pity-eating all those brownies and cookies.

Then it happened. Oona and Sam had to cancel the flight because Owen, once again, came down with another ear infection, this was the infection to send them to the ENT specialist and a wait for the surgery.

It breaks my heart more that my little ishkabibble, who is a most happy fellow, was in so much pain from those ear infections. Thankfully it’s going to be taken care of. 

Luckily, Jake did fly in from LA so it was absolutely wonderful to spend time with him last weekend.  Roman stayed in NYC because it was a late night.

The repeat dinner last Sunday was just as great as the Christmas dinner.  I was upset about Owen not coming but his health is far more important than coming to visit me and taking chances flying during this time.

Can we add 2021 to the mix?

What was the final outcome?

Roman and my husband both told me that I had a great run with hosting Christmases of the past.  And it’s true. I had over 30 years of hosting Christmas. It’s always been my “thing”.  Those years living in NYC, I owned Christmas.  All the years with The Frenchman—Christmas has been a pleasure and a success.

All those years of decorating the interior of the house..

Bannisters festooned with garland, ribbon and lights.  Wreaths hanging from doors..

…the cookie plate for Santa’s cookies..

It’s time to pass it on.

Even when I was a child, my mother had that same rule. Nobody leaves the house on Christmas except to attend Mass.

Christmas 1958. Ozone Park, Queens, NY.  Never left the house on Christmas..and as three more siblings arrived we still stayed home on this day!

And now, it’s time to pass the proverbial baton onto Oona. She has a child. One of my hard and fast rules when my own children were young was, we did not leave the house on Christmas. Santa came. That meant it was a day for the kids to enjoy their gifts. As they started school, it was Christmas pageants at Church.  As they got older and were still at home, we continued staying home. As they left home, they always came back for Christmas. Until Covid hit.  This was our second Covid Christmas.

As everything is packed and ready to be stored away, most of the items won’t be needed for the future. That is..unless I can host another Christmas!!!

Hopefully, next Christmas things will be different. Maybe Covid will either be gone or will be reduced, thanks to vaccinations and booster shots, to a mere flu or bad cold.  Perhaps The Frenchman and I will get on a plane and head to a fun-filled Christmas at my daughter’s and her family.  She’s a great hostess and she’ll carry on the Christmas tradition of not leaving the house.

Honestly, Oona and Sam are such wonderful parents to Owen. Look how happy this little family is. I missed them but seeing this photo makes me realized how blessed I am!

I’m curious to know if Covid affected your Holiday plans this year.  Did things remain the same—or was it different?

 

Posted in Christmas, Christmas Decorations | Tagged | 5 Comments

A Week in Paris. The Final Day. The Return Home and Honest Thoughts.

It’s Sunday. Our last day in Paris before returning home. Our original idea of driving around the City of Lights and snapping photographs ended when we discovered the newest rule on Covid testing.  When we left for Paris, the rule was having a Covid test 72 hours before returning back to the States.

I thought it would be fun to drive around Paris on our last day and being artsy by snapping pics and editing them to look really cool–like this one of the Eiffel Tower peeking out!

The rule had been changed to 24 hours while we were there. But this was Sunday. And we were returning home the next day.  When we found about the changing rule, we stopped into a few pharmacies to inquire if they tested for Covid.  Unfortunately, only a handful of pharmacies were doing so on Sunday. And as the ones on Sunday were open only for a few hours, it was a rather troublesome and frustrating experience.

The pharmacie we found was right around the corner from Place St. Michel. But first we had to enjoy our last breakfast..

…at Cafe de Paris. I miss our breakfasts here!

We found a pharmacie very close to where we were staying. Around the corner from Place St. Michel. And on this rainy morning, at approximately 9:45, we were met with a line of travelers in the same predicament as we were. After waiting outside in drizzle for over two hours, we were led inside.

Pharmacie Bader on Blvd. St. Michel. If you need a Covid test on a Sunday–here’s where to do it!

Be prepared to wait on a line. For a while. A long while. And on your last day, it’s not exactly fun!

The cost of the test, for me, was 36€. The cost for my husband was nothing as he holds citizenship in both France and the USA.  His French passport certainly came in handy. Once inside the pharmacie, after showing our Passe Sanitaire, we each had to fill out a form. NOTE:  If you are ever in this situation, please make sure that you take your time and fill out the form CORRECTLY.  I messed up and will broach that later.

Just in case you happen to be in Paris, in the 6th and need a pharmacie!

We paid, or rather he paid the fee and headed upstairs.  The wait to get tested was short, we were told the results would be available online (we downloaded the form) within an hour or so and we were on our merry way.  Wait. I’ll take “merry” out of the mix.

The results of my test that I was UNABLE to upload to Verifly. I was able to upload to my Passe Sanitaire though and kept an image on my phone!

This is where Veryfly sucks. (I could have written a plethora of very bad curse-words but refrained).  Both of us had negative test results. That was a good thing—especially considering the fact we were leaving France in less than 24 hours.  But here’s where it got complicated and I freaked out.  For some odd reason, I added my first name twice on the Covid Test form.  Verifly wouldn’t accept that to the app and couldn’t double my pleasure.  I get that. However, Verifly has NO CUSTOMER SERVICE.  Therefore, I was unable to correct this little faux pas.  The Frenchman was able to do so on his phone, but I couldn’t.  I freaked out because I had visions of being rejected for my flight home and I had a lot to do to prepare for Christmas (Wait till you read that post. Oh boy).  So now I’m crying—thankfully we were in the car.  My husband was getting annoyed with my dramatics and started mumbling in French.

Had he mumbled this word, I would have understood. Instead he used words far worse than what is inside the latrine!

With not much time left, we gave up on driving around taking photographs and decided to head over to Galeries Lafayette to admire more Christmas decorations in store windows, along with additional last-minute shopping.  We found a parking lot, parked and headed on our way. To be honest with you, I can’t even recall which other shops we went to but I’m just going to post random pics below.

Back at Galeries Lafayette. I don’t even know if this photo was from the Sunday visit. I was that crazed over the fact I couldn’t upload my test results to VeriFly.

Apparently the size of my husband’s French nose gave him cause to lower the mask to breathe. Apparently, I did not wear socks or boots on this cold, damp, rainy/sunny/back to rainy day. I am surprised I didn’t catch a cold–it must’ve been all that wine!

Another view of the big tree.

On to my happy place. The Food Department–in a separate building. That’s what I love about the French. They take their food purchases very seriously-especially around the Holiday Season!

Is it breaking and entering if you CLIMB over the counter?  I was tempted.

And these fruit displays made me want to eat healthier.

After the Holidays of course. As a packaging junkie, I fell in love with these jars of strawberry candies.

And as a lover of his baguettes, my husband fell in deeper love ..or lust with these tradition Baguettes.

I don’t even remember if we went inside Printemps but we did catch the window decorations.

All ready for Christmas–which, as I write this is now LAST Christmas.

Nothing is left unadorned. Even the outside awning ceilings are festooned! Check out the crowds. Everyone loves the Christmas decorations!

This is a child’s dream. Actually it’s an ageless dream!

Upon returning to the lot to retrieve the car, my husband placed a €20 bill into the wrong slot for payment. He couldn’t get it out. We had to call the lot’s attendant who never, after 45 minutes never showed up. Consider it a loss.  I was livid.

Hit The Floor No GIF by The Maury Show

Once again, I was a crazed woman.  I don’t think Paris had seen such an insanely mad woman since Camille Claudel entered the asylum! Luckily my wig stayed put!

My husband gave the French shrug, paid, this time, in the correct slot and we were on our way back to Citadines.  We did take-away for dinner because at this point, we just wanted to relax after a taxing day. A very taxing day.

In the meantime, here’s more random photos for you.

Here’s some eye candy for the ladies.  Paris has the best-looking police officers. They are in such great shape too, these little, slim compact men in uniform. I’ll bet they don’t eat donuts!

Back in the day, this was my husband’s school. It’s now an office building.

A little stroll in the Sixth after dropping off the car.

I shall miss you Cafe de Paris.

I’ll miss being greeted by the most simplistic but pretty decorations.

This shop has been around for years. And years.

And with bears coyly hidden among the twigs and pine cones, I had fun finding them!

My favorite stationery store!  A treasure trove of wonderful little things.

Please be mindful that I am now going through dessert withdrawal. The symptoms are drooling from the mouth any time you think of a French pastry, shaking and tremors when you think of a beautifully-designed cake. It is maddening I tell you. Maddening!

My favorite corner.

More fruit at the market.

I may have a canvas print made up of this to put in the kitchen area. Luckily, I can now make croissants for my husband!

Back to Cidadines for our last night. I can tell you this much. We won’t be returning here. We’ll go back to the Prince de Conti.

Heading to the airport the next morning, I can be honest when I tell you. This time, I didn’t get teary-eyed. This time, I wasn’t filled with the usual sadness of leaving Paris.  This time was different and I’ll explain. But I’ll tell you after I write about our trip home.

I did, however, get misty-eyed over leaving the confiture, butter and..

..tartines that I enjoyed every morning. Did I mention that I went to the doctor last week and was sternly told to lose 25 to 30 pounds. Yeah. I won’t be eating carbs any time soon.

I’ll miss this whole area!

So, we arrived at the airport thinking luck was on our side because, after arriving very early, we were the first on the check-in line.  I explained my Covid test situation with the double middle name, showed the screen print of the results along with my Passe Sanitaire and was released to check my one big piece of luggage. (NOTE: I did some creative packing.  I placed clothing into the Louis Vuitton box that my new bag came in and packed my new Petite Noe into my carry-on).

The Frenchman was both bewitched and impressed at my creative packing. I crammed a good amount of clothing in this box, placed it into luggage to be checked-in, took my new Noe bag and placed it into my carry-on!

The early baggage check-in line.  I almost had another of my Camille Claudel breakdowns!  But it all ended well.

I explained to the check-in agent that I was waiting for my husband, who, oddly was still on the line to check in. It appeared he was having phone issues and couldn’t produce his Verifly or Passe Sanitaire or Covid results. At this point, my eyes did start to tear up. From frustration and fear (and a slight bit of envy) that I would have to fly home solo and he would be happily stuck back in his home country). The debacle?  His phone froze.  And once he was able to thaw it, we were on our way to wait for our flight.

And don’t think I didn’t use that wait time wisely. I picked up Oona’s favorite Chanel perfume and a few other things.

The flight home was another cattle-car situation with every seat taken.  Who says people aren’t traveling?  They sure are when it comes to traveling to Paris (might I add a couple of weeks later my niece flew to Paris with her boyfriend).

Methinks that future tins of sardines should have each tiny fishie wearing a seaweed mask.  That’ll give ’em an idea of what our flight was like! Thank God I wasn’t sitting next to anyone smelling like fish!

Scrunched up like a wholesale order of sardines in tins, we were airborne and I spent my time watching movies and reading.  The Frenchman slept. OHHH I forgot to mention–our flight was delayed two hours on the runway. A mechanical issue. Glad it was fixed or I wouldn’t be writing this!

Now here’s the irony of the Covid testing. When we landed back at JFK, the customs area was a f**king mess. The “six-feet-apart” rule was shortened to “now don’t get intimate”. There must have been at least three flights coming in from various countries and I was really pissed off at a certain group of travelers who were obviously over the age of 50, all in wheelchairs, heading up to customs before everyone else, only to see them all standing and moving spritely at the baggage claim area.

A little glance at the intimacy of the customs line at JFK.  All those rules and look how close everyone is. Oh the irony! Oh the humanity!

NOTE:  Remind self to pay for Global entrance or whatever-it-is.

After a nearly two-hour wait on a line with fellow masked travelers, I’m sure many who were exposed to Covid, we finally reached the front of the line to head to a newly-arrived customs agent.  I was so happy to get off that line, I was grinning like the guy on the Coney Island sign. My husband remained stone-faced.

I still cannot figure out if I was smiling like the Coney Island guy because I was happy to finally be off the customs line or the fact I wasn’t asked if I made any purchases while in France!

The agent was actually pretty nice and he made a remark about my stone-faced better half. I simply told the agent “My husband is French”.  He got a good laugh at that and we were on our way to the baggage claim.

Bags claimed. Still sockless. And on our way to the car.

As fans of the parking at JFK, we were in the car and off to drive home in no time.  The Belt Parkway, surprisingly, wasn’t as horrific as usual. The remainder of the ride smooth and we arrived home in time to unpack, destress and relax.

Despite the insanity of the customs line, the parking at JFK is remarkable in the best way. It took no time to catch the train from the terminal to the parking lot.

Approaching the Verrazano bridge. It is a beautiful sight at twilight.

And on our way home.  

Now here’s the weirdness of this trip—because it really was not our best.

While it was great to be able to travel again—it was also a much-needed time away from work.

However, what we had to go through was, at times, frustrating and irritating.

My husband is a planner. And there’s a definite difference between planning and being on a schedule.  He was excellent at planning the trip, he made great use of our time but having to be on a schedule to visit sites and exhibits was something that just isn’t our jam.

When we travel, especially to France, we’ll plan a day out but we’ll spend the day according to our schedule. We can wake up toward the later side rather than the earlier. We might make a stop along the way to where we are going.  Being on a schedule makes us both feel as though we are rushed.

We’ll hit Invalides but on OUR time, not a scheduled one.

These are definite things to consider if you are traveling during this or any future pandemic. And at the rate variants are spreading, it could be a while until we get back to traveling the way it used to be—a long while.

The masks?  That’s not an issue.  We are both very compliant. My only issue with wearing a mask is a personal one. Having minimal depth perception without a mask, it’s basically zero depth perception with wearing one. I have to grab on to stairways with white knuckles and it slows me down, which, for me is rather frustrating. I’ll still comply though. I actually don’t mind otherwise because I can mouth nasty words at people who bother me and I don’t have to display my winter-chapped lips.  I can wear less makeup too.  Oh. And there’s the protection thing.  Masks are actually a good thing.

On or off the plane, masks are no issues. How freaking difficult is it to comply? It’s a SAFETY thang–not a political thang.

The Passe Sanitaire?  That doesn’t bother me nor does it bother my husband either. You whip out your phone and display the passe where needed or asked. It takes seconds to do so.

Vacances, restaurants, vaccination… quatre questions autour du pass sanitaire pour les enfants | LCI

No issue with the Passe either. In fact, it was easy to obtain and a cinch to pull out as it was on our phones!

The air travels?  I find some irony in this.  The airlines (especially American Airlines) are very strict about Covid testing, wearing masks and so on.  And while both are a good thing, when you are packed like cattle or sardines in a tin, no matter how heavy that mask is, or no matter how many negative Covid results you get, no matter the double-vaccinations or boosters, there is still a slim chance you’ve been around someone who is infected or has been in a group of people who have recently had Covid or a variant.   I just think the airlines need more flights to locations that receive a good number of travelers. And while I understand the need to hire more airline workers, it’s still quite frustrating.

Don’t even get me started on Verifly—it would be a positive if Verifly hired customer service reps. People make mistakes (I’m probably the biggest maker of mistakes) and those mistakes need to be addressed and taken care of. This app is awful on many levels. It’s a POS.

And despite that this was not our favorite trip to Paris, due to reasons mentioned above, my husband has already made our flight arrangements and is in the process of planning our return to the Cote d’Azur this summer.

Saint Tropez with Boat Ride | Villefranche Shore Excusion | European Cruise Tours

Hopefully, we’ll be back in St. Trop this summer.

Let’s hope there isn’t another Covid variant between now and then!

Now it’s on to writing about our Christmas experience. Wait till you read this upcoming post! Warning_ You may need a stiff drink!

Posted in France., paris at christmas, Paris France, Paris Travel, Travel, Travel gone wrong | 18 Comments

The Weekend Begins with Versailles

ATTN. All Readers:  I want to give a big “Thank You” for sticking with this blog throughout the past year or so.  My job is so emotionally stressful and so taxing that when I return home from work, I’m too mentally drained to do anything except go to bed.  Subscribers have left. Readership is down.  I’m in therapy.  It is so difficult for me to say  but this blog has always been my baby and I’ve been neglecting it.   Please bear with me for a while. I’m thinking about changes, hopefully for the better and for a better quality of life. As always, my husband is supportive and those who stick with me are supportive so I honestly thank you!! Now…back to Paris!

Saturday. November 27th.

Another early rise as we were headed to Versailles and our scheduled time for entrance was 9:30 AM.  Now. Here in the States, 9:30 AM isn’t all that early in the morning. In Paris, it’s a different thing. Parisiennes wake up later on the weekends.  This meant that the street was empty as we embarked upon our now regular routine of heading to Café de Paris for breakfast, then walking over to the garage at Marche St. Germain.

Another “Go-to” Breakfast at Cafe de Paris.  Those tartines are everything!

The gray morning lent itself well to beautiful lighting against the buildings as we headed to retrieve the vehicle. And with Passe Sanitaires in hand and masks on face, we were ready.   Although Versailles is accessible by train, I’ve only driven and the drive is a very pleasant one.

A cafe across the street from the Marche St. Germain–where we parked the car. You can see the wet sidewalk.

Another rainy morning–but it cleared up!

We arrived a few minutes before our scheduled time, parked the car on the cobblestone lot and headed into the magnificent palace of the Sun King.

After living in NYC for many, many years, parking is an obsession for me. We had great parking here!

Okay. So, before I go on with this post, there’s something you need to know.  I like Versailles. I’m not madly in love with it. I don’t even recommend to everyone headed to Paris that they need to go there. Don’t get me wrong—I am incredibly interested in the history of Versailles. But I think the palace is overrated.  Don’t hate me.  It’s just that I prefer a more intimate chateau such as Fontainebleau or Chantilly.

Oui. Oui. Oui. Versailles IS magnificent and that golden gate is worth much more than the Willy Wonka Golden ticket, but it’s just not my favorite place. And as the clouds made way for the sun, that entrance grew more spectacular by the minute.

However, The Frenchman is extremely fond of the Palace and all things Louis Quatorze. Besides, it isn’t as if he had to drag me there kicking and screaming.  Once I’m in the palace, I enjoy it. And it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Don’t get me wrong though. I still enjoyed being here. Gotta love that Sun King!

The grounds, as beautiful as they are in spring and summer, take on a completely different vibe during winter. Gone is the spectacular greenery. No flowers. No plants.  Its barren in a way that makes you yearn for warmer weather—even if you aren’t a fan of the summer.  There’s a monochromatic hue. It isn’t beautiful but at the same time, it’s not unattractive. It just is.

The sun went back into hiding and the winter gardens looked bare and bland..

But…there was still a lovely view of the greenery …

And all wasn’t lost!

I like the tiled look myself!

Call me jaded but the magnificence of the Hall of Mirrors wanes with multiple visits. I won’t lie. This Hall of Mirrors is spectacular and astounding but I’m just not that person who is bowled over by this during the third visit.  Perhaps if my husband and I were the only ones in the room I would feel differently. But with a crowd—something is lost. And although the Hall wasn’t as congested during this weekend as in the summer, it was still bothersome enough for me—especially given the steps taken with the Passe Sanitaire and being extra careful to comply with the masks and visits being scheduled.

That little guy on his cell-phone is about interested in the Hall of Mirrors as one would be after multiple visits.

This was in late November. Can you just imagine what June, July and August are like? (Caveat. In August the locals are in the South–but it’s still crowded)

What I absolutely loved was The Gallery of Great Battles.  This was my first time in this area of the palace and I was awestruck.  The paintings and sculptures and history were levels above on the ladder of interest.  This is where I could have spent hours upon hours upon hours. But we only had a certain amount of time to play around with. This, my friends, is the Gallery/Hall you want to visit when you head to Versailles.

Had we not had other commitments, I could have spent HOURS in this hall. The paintings were incredible and it was just so freaking interesting!

He gets a bad rep but Napoleon did a lot of good for the country. Sadly, he’s remembered only for his Waterloo!

The walls of the hall were chock-full of scenes like this..

…and busts like this..

and this.

Here are some shots of Versailles for your enjoyment.

Random chair..

…and a bedroom chandelier..

Ceiling overhead..

…and plumes on the bed!

Let us pray..

..we don’t get the guillotine today!

Overall, Versailles is a great half-day or day trip from Paris.  Best if you have a car but Versailles is easily accessible by train. I’m a fan of the smaller *cough* palaces such as Fontainebleau but that’s just me.

Time to go now but it was enjoyable!

After leaving Versailles, we drove to Rambouillet to visit my mother-in-law’s grave then it was on for our visit to La Moulin—the estate where The Frenchman’s aunt, Daniele and uncle, Yves retreated for weekend and holiday visits.

The rain returned as we left on our way to visit Evie’s grave.  But Christmas decorations adorned this overpass. It looks so pretty!

I always snap a pic of this little chapel at the cemetery..

There is something very calming about this little graveyard and the history.

..and we are ready to move on..

The estate brings back many fond memories for my husband.   He’s full of stories about visitors from the French acting and entertainment community that makes me wish I was there.  And it’s nice for me to see him with these wonderful memories.

This is the home that The Frenchman spent many weekends and summer visits.  It was filled with great times with various personalities of the French Cinema and writers and musicians.  He always speaks so fondly of it and it brings back great memories..

And I am always astounded by the natural beauty of the grounds!

It was a great day for driving around. The sky was on the gray side and bits of rain came and left. And when we arrived back in Paris, we had time to regroup before heading back to Restaurant Paul for a family dinner.  I didn’t take photographs of our dinner simply because we hadn’t seen these relatives for a long time and it was best enjoyed without taking the phone and photographing.

Another gray day in Paris..

But I really don’t mind!

As we headed to dinner, my husband, once again asked me if I was going to spend dinner with him or a stuffed bear!

Our trip would soon come to a close. And our last day turned out to be a comedy of errors—but mostly errors and not comedy…. stay tuned!

Greetings from Versailles….and our trip is almost finished!

Posted in Paris, Paris France, Paris Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 63 Comments

A Week Back in Paris—Part Quatre: The New Old Musee Carnavalet and Black Friday!

Back home in the States, the day after is filled with Black Friday sales, lines of vehicles wasting emissions to enter local malls and outlets.  Crowds of people stressing over what to get loved ones.

Black Friday Reaction GIF by Macy's

Even Santa gets a piece of Black Friday!

In Paris, however, we masked up, got into the car and headed to The Musee Carnavalet.  Just a bit of a background—this museum is centered around the City of Paris. It’s a great and interesting collection of artifacts, items and history dating way back. WAY. BACK!  It’s chock-full of wonder and had been closed for a few years while being renovated.

Paris's history updated for the present at the Musée Carnavalet | Financial Times

Renovated and in some ways restored with new items–it’s better than ever!

The first time I went was quite a few years back—and I loved it. This time, we entered into a brighter, lighter and more intensely curated treasure trove. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite museums ever!

We drove. Yes. We picked up the car and drove. Mainly because our day would be spent doing various things. But I’ll get to that later.

As usual, we headed to which is now deemed “our place’ for breakfast. Café de Paris. And, as usual, we enjoyed coffee, croissant and tartine.

And once again, we enjoyed our breakfast in the cozy little corner of Cafe de Paris, radiator to my side and enjoying coffee in the warmth of this little slice of heaven!

The weather continued to be on the damp and chilly side but to me, that’s never a big deal. To The Frenchman, it gives him the ultimate pleasure in complaining in his native language in his native home. He was so happy to be in this complaining frame of mind!

Bundled up in Beret, scarf and warm coat. I lived in this ensemble for the entire week! One photo for every day!

We headed to the Musee. Our scheduled time was 10:30 AM.   And you must remember that my husband grew up and spent a huge amount of his adulthood time back in Paris. This means he knows the city (except the 18th arrondissement—read part three) like the back of his hand. Sort of.  This time it wasn’t a loss of direction. He knew exactly where to drive. This time it was locating the nearest parking garage or parking space.  In the first place there is a ton of construction going on in Paris and many areas have limited street parking. This was a detriment.  We had no choice but to find a garage.  We did. And the space was so small that my hips were wider than most of the spots—I’ll return to this later on.

We arrived at the Musee, masks worn securely, and Passe Sanitaire at the ready and entered into a space, which, in my most humble opinion, is one of the greatest that Paris has to offer.  And rather than blah, blah blah—yada, yada to you, I’m posting pics for you to enjoy!

Here we are! The new and improved entrance into the Carnavalet. It’s so stinking airy and beautiful. I just love it. Check out The Frenchman at the window to the far left!

An expanse of an apothecary store front, and signs hanging from the ceiling. This is a virtual wonderland!

Visually fun!

I would love to have these hanging on my living room wall!

Full frontal of store front!

No my friends–I was not at the Catacombs. I was so cringed out by this until…

I read it was a fake skeleton.

Two parts saint is better than no saint at all.

I just liked this composition.

Jewish tombstones dating back to around Medieval times..

I would love to have a copy of this for my kitchen!

An homage to the Parisien brothers who created the hot air balloon!

Marcel Proust’s bedroom–and let me tell you, it looks so much better than it did before the renovation!

If you are fortunate enough to be visiting Paris between now and April 22, you HAVE to stop by the Carnavalet to check out the Prouse exhibit! I wanted to see this so badly!

Ugh. I can’t get away from Philadelphia. I found Benjamin Franklin staring down at me.

The iconic cat poster..

..and a cat on a moon..

..and one my favorite Parisian women–Juliette Greco with a rather large cat!

..and what’s a reminder of Paris without a Moulin Rouge poster?

We spent three and a half hours here, and quite honestly, could have spent more but we had an appointment at Zazi Films to visit with The Frenchman’s cousin, Hugo Gelin (Shameless plug. Hugo directed the last three episodes of Lupin on Netflix. And those last three episodes were the greatest! In addition, he got to direct the great Omar Sy- I wish I worked for Hugo).

Lupine on Netflix: his reunion with Omar Sy, freedom of tone ... director  Hugo Gélin tells part 2

Yes! Shameless plug!  The Frenchman’s cousin Hugo while directing Omar Sy in Lupin. Being as I can’t name drop in America..I may as well do it where nobody knows me!

But back to the parking garage.  I’m disappointed in myself for not taking photos of this space because it had to be seen to be believed.  I don’t even think a full fleet of Matchbox cars or trucks could fit comfortably.  One woman was having major issues getting out of her space while another truck was trying to get in at the same time. We were stuck.  The only thing left was to get my control freak on. I exited our car on the passenger side hoping my hips wouldn’t get bruised in the small space. I put my hand out—luckily the air was spacious. And…I started directing traffic.  I motioned for the truck to back up and out. Then directed the stressed-out woman to exit the parking garage in a safe manor by walking ahead of her car and hoping she wouldn’t step on the gas too hard.  Upon her exit I went back to the truck and motioned it into an empty space.  I got back into our car and we were on our way. Since it was a weekday, I asked my husband if we could stop at an employment agency so I could apply to be a traffic cop.  He didn’t do what I asked. I wonder why.

Cop Stop And Go GIF

Move over buddy, there’s a new traffic cop in town–but she directs in little, tiny French garages!

So, after a lively visit with The Frenchman’s cousin, we strolled the Champs Elysees.  It was now raining and shoppers scurried into nearest shops. We headed to a very convenient branch of Galeries Lafayette, all gloriously festooned with Christmas decorations and live music.  The French know how to do Black Friday!

Ahhh. Guerlain. I have such wonderful memories of shopping here with Daniele!

The Frenchman doesn’t look happy because he thinks I’m going to do a lot of shopping.

This “small” branch of Galeries Lafayette used to be the Virgin Records store–and it was great back then.

Do we REALLY need to be reminded to play?. Oh. Wait. I think the message is to play video games..

I’ll just find goodies to eat.

Since it was more of a lazier afternoon, we drove around a bit more, did some more shopping, dropped the car off and stayed “in” for dinner.

We did manage to spot a couple more bears. I almost joined this bad boy because I wanted his tartine!

More sights.

A lone cyclist. Let me tell you–my husband was soooooo ticked off by the bike lanes because it made the roads narrower and that meant more congested traffic. He was complaining like a Frenchman–oh–he IS a Frenchman!

We did takeout at a Middle Eastern place and I have to say. The food was okay. I’ve had much better in NYC and home in the Philly area—which proves that not all food in Paris is spectacular.

Another day done and tomorrow it is off to revisit Versailles and more adventures!

Stay tuned…………….

Posted in Paris, paris at christmas, Paris France, Paris Travel | Tagged | 9 Comments

A Week Back in Paris–Part Trois. Thanksgiving Day and a Cooking Class!

Okie Dokie. We are finally resuming my week in Paris—Christmas preparations got in the way here. It’s a whole ‘nother blog post and wait till you read about the debacle.  Regardless, let us continue on our Paris adventures………………

It’s early in the morning. Thanksgiving Day to be exact.  Whereas back home, kitchen lights have been turned on in the darkness before dawn.  As the sun is still sleeping, people are preparing the bird. The Turkey. Whether it is a small one—just enough for a small gathering, or a monstrous one, enough to feed a clan, everyone is doing the same thing.  They are patting the turkey dry. Stuffing or not stuffing the bird. Is it stuffed or will there be dressing on the side?  Potatoes both regular and sweet are being peeled, pre-boiled and will later be whipped with loads of butter and cream, or dotted with butter, brown sugar and marshmallows.  The iconic Green Bean casserole is being put together.

Although I love me a nice juicy Turkey thigh and stuffing,  our tradition over the past non-Covid years has been for different fare in Paris!

Baked goods have been made or purchased ahead. The table is set early with the command to not touch anything.

Yeah. I realize THIS is a traditional and beloved Thanksgiving visual. I find it offensive because it’s ageist. Not all grandmothers are matronly. Okay? There. I said it.

We, in Paris, are also up early. Very early. We need coffee. We need to head to the garage to get the car because I’ll be spending the morning in a kitchen as well.  But I won’t be preparing a bird or potatoes or green bean casserole. Instead, I’ll be attending a baking class.  At Cook’n With Class on the other side of Paris.

And while everyone else across the Atlantic was prepping the birds, I was learing the skill of laminated dough!

It’s an odd thing, it is.  My husband grew up in Paris.  Rode the bus to the various schools he attended. He visited friends and family throughout the snail-shaped habitat. Yet, there are arrondissements he just never became familiar with.  The 18th Arrondissement being one of them. This is where Cook’n With Class is located.  And it took us over an hour to arrive at my 9:00 in-the-morning baking class.

To the far left we have the elegantly dressed Frenchman as a small boy. He grew up in Paris and had never ventured in to the 18th.  I guess it’s like my friends who wouldn’t travel to the Upper West Side of Manhattan to visit me!

After driving in what seemed circles in the stomach of the snail-shaped area of the City, I had a rather pragmatic enlightenment.

How many times can we circle around here buddy? Let’s get to the 18th!

I suggested we hook my iPhone up to the car and use Google Maps. This, my friends, became a life-saver, a time-saver and made driving to parts unknowns more pleasurable than you could have possibly imagined. Especially given the fact that my driver was my …shall we say very stubborn Parisien who refuses to ask for directions, this little app with the friendly, computerized voice was a best friend!

My little Google Maps app got us to where we were going with extreme efficiency and I made it on time!

We arrived at the location, a quiet street and as I eagerly exited the car, I was hoping that I would learn how to master the most challenging of all things baked—the laminated dough.  The class was on the smaller size which was great, a family visiting Paris and a woman from Turkey living in London.  Who, btw was great and we are now Insta-friends!

Even for a seasoned baker, you can’t go wrong with a class. Next visit I plan on taking the baguette class!  

It’s a charming environment that teeters between homey, rustic and the kitchen you wish you had at home. With two “kitchens” two classes are being conducted at the same time.   I took the croissant class and our instructor Sarah was epic greatness.

I’m a sucker for all things le coq. And when I saw this display I felt like I was in my kitchen!

One of the kitchens. I want this. Seriously. I want this kitchen in my home.

She was in total command and was concise and precise with her instruction. In addition, her time management skills in baking were to be admired—and she stressed the importance of cleaning as we go along (which is something I’m still trying to master).  She has had a dream patisserie career and is one of those people that if you became an ex-pat, you want her to be your friend!

Chef Sarah taking our pain aux raisins out of the oven. 

Explaining how her kitchen works. Completely in charge and that’s a great quality in a teacher!

She was also upfront and explained that it takes practice and time and patience to get it right and she was so correct.  I learned some cutting tips, the importance of measuring and weighing and learned to make the laminated dough.

Everything is so neat and orderly and that brush was fantastic for getting rid of excess flour!

Laminated dough–such a thing of beauty and something that eluded me for so long! I thank The Frenchman for surprising me with this class!

Measuring out the cuts for the dough…

the importance of a ruler..

..those triangles of laminated dough..

..will be cut, slashed at the bottom and rolled

…as will the little rolls of pain aux chocolat!

I immediately put those learning skills to work when I arrived home and, although, I did a relatively decent job the first time, the croissants and pain aux chocolat turned out fantastic the second time. (The issue with the first go ‘round was that I didn’t used a rimmed sheet and butter leaked—the kitchen was a smoke house for a while—all fans were turned on and windows opened but, in the end, the product was delicious.

I put my skills learned to home-baking and even though the butter leaked..

..and my oven ended up smoking like a group of employees on a Paris smoking break..

…my croissants turned out to be quite impressive and, according to my husband, quite delicious and very authentic..

I was especially happy with the flaky pastry of the pain aux chocolat. 

The class ended at noon and I was fully loaded with goodies as I jumped into the car.  My husband’s mouth was watering and he agreed that the croissant, pain aux chocolat and pain aux raisins were delicious.

We had a couple of hours to kill after arriving back in the 6th and after dropping the car back at the garage walked around our familiar neighborhood before meeting one of my husband’s colleagues for a drink before we headed off for our version of Thanksgiving dinner.

Always a pleasure to walk around and admire the Holiday decor!

..and even on the chilly Thanksgiving day, a pleasure to sit outside to people-watch!

We headed back to Citadines to freshen up and headed for the quick walk across Pont Neuf to Restaurant Paul on Place Dauphine. This restaurant holds a plethora of memories for me.  Back in 2006, it was the first restaurant in Paris that I ever dined.  We went with my husband’s aunt; Daniele Delorme and it was the initial wonderful dinners enjoyed with Daniele.  I miss her so much and we always manage to have a toast in her honor when we dine there.

Paris Place Dauphine. Chez Paul Fun with Daniele and Andre! | Atypical 60

Not Thanksgiving but this was one of our last dinners with Daniele at Paul. We dined outside. That’s my husband’s cousin next to Daniele..back to Thanksgiving.

A regular neighborhood restaurant. The staff *under new management* was very pleasant!

…and look! What’s this?  …