Monday, June 27, 2011

Someone hates the hot weather...

Our poor little furball is having a hard time acclimating to the hotter weather, and as a result we have seen him in quite a few interesting positions as he tries to find a way to nap and stay cool:


Rasteau trying to get comfortable

Rasteau looking at Lionel and I as if it is our fault it is so hot today

Rasteau trying to cool off under a chair in the garden...I guess he figures that if he exposes his whole tummy he will be more comfortable

We went out to the supermarket today and FINALLY bought a fan (yep, you read that right, all these years in Paris without air conditioning and we have never had a fan) and we set it up immediately.  At first Rasteau enjoyed laying on his favorite chair while the wind blew through his whiskers, but then I guess he decided he didn't like the noise and is staying away.  Now he's back to moving between the garden and the apartment trying to decide which one is cooler!

Afternoon at the Parc de Sceaux

On Saturday Lionel and I spent the afternoon at the Parc de Sceaux.  It was the first time either one of us had ever been (pretty sad considering Lionel has been living in Paris for about 20 years!) and I was surprised by how nice the park is and how much there is to see and explore there.  There are manicured gardens, fountains galore, lots of grassy areas for relaxing, picnicing or playing sports, the grand canal to walk along, the chateau to see, woods to explore, a museum and some other buildings on site.  We decided to take advantage of the excellent weather on Saturday and wandered around the park, exploring and relaxing.  I think it's definitely one of my favorite parks in the Paris area, and what was really nice was the lack of people there Saturday afternoon!

the grand canal

the chateau

fountains-les cascades

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vaux le Vicomte

On Sunday we took my aunt and uncle to visit Vaux le Vicomte.  I had never been there before, and I was pleasantly surprised.  The chateau was nice but the gardens were beautiful.  It was also much nicer to visit than Versailles since there were far less tourists and you didn't have to shove your way through every room of the chateau.  Also, it's 55 km south of  Paris, and it only took us about 45 minutes to drive there, so it was very convenient.

the gardens

the chateau and the crown fountain

Vaux le Vicomte

Lionel and I at the chateau

Inside the chateau you could visit some period rooms with antique furniture and such and there was also an exhibition on Nicolas Fouquet (the vicomte de Melun and Vaux who built Vaux le Vicomte and who was famously arrested by the musketeers under the orders of Louis XIV who was suspicious of Fouquet's ambition) as well as an exhibition on André le Nôtre (the famous landscape designer who designed some of the most famous gardens in France - Versailles, Chantilly, Fontainebleau, Vaux le Vicomte, etc).  Everything was very interesting, though the exhibit on Fouquet was a bit corny, and after visiting the interieur we spent some time wandering around the gardens, enjoying the fact that it wasn't raining.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A trip into the little known champagne country of Côte des Bars

This weekend my aunt and uncle visited.  They arrived Thursday and left today on a little stop over in Paris before heading to Israel.  While they were here we made a little day trip into a little known part of champagne country called the Côte des Bars near the city of Troyes (the historic seat of Champagne).

Since I had already been to Reims twice and visited some of the bigger champagne houses there, I wanted to take my aunt and uncle somewhere different and near a city that was a little prettier than Reims.  So Lionel suggested going to the adorable city of Troyes and going into a little champagne village or two to visit a smaller, less well known champagne house and to taste and buy some of their champagnes.  In the end we ended up going to Champagne Chassenay d'Arce in the small village of Ville-sur-Arce, near a slightly larger champagne town called Bar-sur-Seine which also had some champagne houses that we didn't make it to.

In the end I was very happy with the decision.  While the bigger houses in Reims and Epernay offer standard tours, they are not really personalized and they cost a lot of money with the opportunity to usually only taste one champagne, rather than getting to compare.  Instead, at Chassenay d'Arce we had a private tour (though a few more people showed up later, there definitely weren't a lot of tourists) and we were given the opportunity to try 4 different champagnes, all for free (though they certainly hope you will buy something afterwards, and buy we did...6 bottles!).  Plus, rather than being situated in the middle of a relatively ugly city, Chassenay d'Arce was located in the small champagne village of Ville-sur-Arce, surrounded by champagne vineyards cliimbing up rolling hills, and small stone houses.  Before the visit we had a little picnic in the middle of the vines, then we headed back down the hill to explore the champagne caves and to taste some delicious bubbly (including one that was made of 100% pinot noir and was very special!)  After our visit we hopped back into the car and drove back through the other adorable champagne town of Bar-sur-Seine before making our way over to Troyes.

champagne vines

champagne vines and countryside

Chassenay d'Arce caves

Champagne Chassenay d'Arce

Lionel and I at Champagne Chassenay d'Arce

Bar-sur-Seine

Troyes is an adorable little city in the Champagne-Ardennes region.  Once the historic seat of Champagne, it is now a beautiful and charming little city full of 16th century half-timbered houses, beautiful churches, and best known for its outlet malls.  I immediately fell in love with this city and could definitely imagine living here.  The surrounding area is beautiful and the city is just enchanting with its adorable historic center.  Unfortunately, as we arrived later in the day, after the champagne tasting, we didn't have a lot of time there, only a couple of hours, and we were chased out even faster by incoming storms.  However I was very happy to get even a little taste of this amazing city, and I hope to go back some day to explore it further.  The old town center is full of small, winding streets lined with half-timbered buildings and around every corner you discover some other amazing church or building.  We spent a few hours wandering around the city, checking out the main square and surrounding streets, enjoying a coffee in a smaller square and visiting St. Urbain basilica, the cathedral, St. Nizier church and marvelling at all the amazingly well preserved old houses.

main square of Troyes

rue Champeaux

Lionel and I in front of St. Remy

back of St. Urbain

street corner in the old town

Unfortunately, we eventually had to head back to Paris, and with an impending storm, we reluctantly got back in the car for the 2 hour drive back to gray concrete misery.  But all in all, it was a great day and I think my aunt and uncle really enjoyed it and I was happy to be able to show them some of the other wonderful things France has to offer, while discovering some new places myself.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Adventures in Picardie

I'm a little behind with this post, but the other weekend Lionel and I decided to spend a day in Picardie.  We had originally planned to only go up to Laon, so we left Paris in the morning and drove up.  However, since we saw other things along the way that interestsed us, we decided to leave Laon a little earlier than planned to make some stops on the way back to Paris as well.

First we visited Laon, which is a pretty city with a charming medieval quarter called La Ville Haute or La Cité Médiévale.  The medieval quarter is located on top of a hill with the more modern part of the city situated at the bottom of the hill.  The ramparts and cathedral dominate the hill and there are also a lot of small, charming streets to wander around.  You can also walk along the ramparts on top of the hill and the view over Picardie is amazing.

Cathédrale de Laon

Rue du Cloître in Laon

view from la Haute Ville

medieval gate into la Haute Ville

St. Martin in Laon

La Haute Ville

On the way back we decided to stop at the city of Soissons.  We didn't know anything about the city, but were tempted to stop by when we say some tall towers soaring over the city.  From what we understood, most of the city was destroyed during the World Wars (they say 7 out of every 8 houses was destroyed), so the city wasn't as charming as Laon but the cathedral was pretty, with only one tower, and the ruins of the Abbaye St. Jean des Vignes were very interesting.


Abbaye St. Jean des Vignes

cloisters of the abbey

facade of St. Jean des Vignes...the rest of the church is gone, there is no nave or anything

Cathédrale de Soissons

Finally we saw a sign along the N2 pointing to another abbey off the road, so we decided to investigate and we stumbled upon the adorable village of Longpont and the ruins of its abbey, the Abbaye de Longpont.  Situated in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the woods, past some farmland, the village was absolutely adorable.  Too bad by the time we got there the abbey was closed so we couldn't get a really close look at the ruins.
Abbaye de Longpont

village of Longpont

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Buffet à volonté

Apparently the hot, humid and now damp weather we've had recently is attracting mosquitoes like crazy, and I am their official blood buffet.  In the last week and a half I've managed to accumulate nearly 100 mosquito bites (the last time I counted I was at 85 and that was last weekend).  I don't know why, but they really seem to love my blood while Lionel and the cat have gotten off with almost nothing.  Must be because I'm so sweet...

As a result of the invasion of the mosquitos (which we did NOT have at all last year), we ran out to the store to stock up on mosquito repellents.  We ended up spending 20 euros on des plaquettes anti-moustiques, des diffuseurs éléctroniques, et Raid moustiques.  This seems to have helped a bit as before I was averaging about 10 new bites a night and now I am down to less than 5, but still, it's getting insane!  I finally had to drag myself to the pharmacy to buy some anti-itch gel because I couldn't take it anymore.  I also officially look like I have some weird skin disease as I have red spots all over my arms, legs, stomach, back and face, but especially my right arm (which at last count had 30 bites alone), my left leg and my face.  I also now need more time in the morning to put makeup on since I have to work extra hard to try to cover up all the red, swollen bumps on my face that make it look like Lionel beats me!  I just don't understand why these things don't start healing already!  This is getting a little ridiculous and I'm going to spend a fortune because of mosquitoes!  Any suggestions?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sécheresse


What is this?  This is the effect the sécheresse has had on the grass in my garden.  It's dead and looks like straw.  Poor little Rasteau is hating not having nice, green, comfy grass to roll in and to eat.  Plus he is tracking in dead, brown grass that ends up all over my apartment.

Luckily the drought seems to be ending since we've had storms the past two nights.  While I have been enjoying the nice, sunny weather, I know my garden (and the French farmers) desperately need some rain, so at least it's been coming at night!