December 29, 2015, walking in Bayeux  

This will be a short post… After a late start, I spent the day walking around Bayeux, literally. I started off at the center of town where our hotel is, and walked out to the Musee Memorial Bataille de Normandy. From the moment I stepped onto the museum grounds until a good 15 minutes after I left, I was enveloped in an overwhelming sadness. I know Hitler had to be stopped. I know there were some very good reasons to fight, but all I could think of was the incredible loss of life. The many lives destroyed, one way or another, by war. What a waste. 

Today’s photos:


Musee Memorial Bataille de Normandy

This is a wonderful museum; it didn’t focus on death, but on the incredible job people did to survive and to win against Hitler.

I walked along part of the ring road, built in 3 weeks by the British Army, to speed troop movements through the area. Bayeux was the first city to have a ring road. The streets in Bayeux, like so many European towns, are very narrow and tanks couldn’t get through. I could read and absorb very little from the Battle of Normandy Museum, but one thing that I did enjoy was the caterpillar tractor; it looked like a beat up D-8. I imagine it was used to help build the ring road, also called the bypass. 

I probably walked about half of the ring road. This is a much newer part of town. Very modern buildings and much larger stores. I went into E.Leclerc, the French version of Fred Meyers, and it carries many of the same products that I saw in the small stores in the center of town-the pastries and breads, similar cuts of meat for example, as well as all the things you would find in a mega-grocery store at home in the U.S. 

The path and road were so nice. The bike path is marked with lanes for each direction and the walking path is separate from the bike lane. The trees and lawn along this particular road were well maintained; it looked like someone must rake and clean up daily. I don’t know if all the roads are so clean, but it was a nice change from the garbage strewn roads in the U.S. 


I stopped at a small sandwich shop for lunch. They also sold bread and pastries. The counter girl and I had fun communicating; she was a hoot. Very helpful and I had a tasty lunch for 6.5 euros. So, this wasn’t so exciting of a day. I saw ordinary France, a little bit of the way people live. I like Bayeux, but it’s very small, about 13,000 people. The Battle of Normandy museum and the Bayeux tapestry are the big draws. If you don’t have a car, you can take a tour bus to the beaches, and there’s lots of that kind of thing to do-not something that interested me though. I’m looking forward to going to St. Malo, and the beach, tomorrow!


December 28, Bayeux Tapestry and Bayeux

I spent the day wandering around Bayeux, and saw the Bayeux tapestry, Catedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux, Musee Baron Gerard (local art and history museum) and lots of beautiful old homes and streets. 

Here are today’s photos:

There are several water mills around the town; I found two of them. They powered mills for grinding flour and oil seeds, There were various craft industries located along the river, such as dyers and tanners. Laundries too were situated along the river. 


One of the water mills in Bayeux

One of the water mills in Bayeux

Bayeux is pretty tourist oriented. Lots of little boutique stores (luckily not many crappy tourist souvenir stores, or maybe I have just missed them so far?), with clothing being the main item for sale. I saw a couple of hat stores, but none of the fascinators that I saw in Ireland. Nothing wild or crazy :-). I found three embroidery stores, none of which were open. One is for sure closed for the holidays; one is open by appointment in the winter; and the last one simply wasn’t open-no sign saying when or if it would be opened. The one closed for the holidays (Conservatoire de la Dentelle de Bayeux) is the one I want to see of course; I saw a display at the Bayeux tapestry museum and there was some embroidery thread that I wanted to look at. 


Bayeux patisserie

A small patisserie, where I had an amazing pastry

The Bayeux tapestry is the whole reason for the trip, at least for Mary. I’m just along for the ride :-). But I dutifully trudged off to see the tapestry museum, and I am so glad I did. What an amazing piece of history! I would love to meet one of the embroiderers, but I rather suspect I am not alone in that wish. The origins of the tapestry are mysterious and unclear; no one is even sure exactly where it was made. I was surprised to learn that it is not a true tapestry; it’s actually free hand embroidery. There are 4 stitches used in the tapestry, Bayeux stitch (satin stitch/couching combination), stem stitch and outline stitch, chain stitch, and split stitch. I knew wool thread was used for the stitching, which made me think it was needlepoint, but I learned that tapestries are woven not stitched, so I was wrong altogether. So it’s a good thing I came to Bayeux, isn’t it!

At the museum, each visitor gets a hand held speaker that tells you about the tapestry as you walk along. The tapestry is 70 meters long and it takes 20 or so minutes to see the entire thing. It is such a brief, biased history, but you get the high points even if the monologue doesn’t go into detail. It must have taken hundreds of hours of stitching; I wonder how many actually worked on the embroidery? Much of the story is guesswork; the scenes and symbolism weren’t recorded in a written format. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but not if you don’t know what an icon symbolises or exactly who is being portrayed. An intriguing blend of fact and fiction; what a mystery story!

I walked through the Catedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux, a beautiful cathedral. Serene and quiet, a wonderful respite from the streets of Bayeux. Not that Bayeux is too crazy! But almost no one was there, and I loved the peaceful reverence.


Catedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux

The beautiful cathedral in Bayeux

I also visited the local art and history museum, Musee Baron Gerard. This was a very brief history of the Bayeux area. The signage was in French and English, so I read the ones I was interested in. You start in the ancient times and progress, as you walk through the museum, to quite recent history. I particularly enjoyed the fiber arts of course; a dress, several examples of Bayeux and Chantilly lace (bobbin lace), and an amusing picture of two fishwives arguing. I didn’t use a flash to take the picture, so my image is very blurry. The room with the lace is set up as though it is the lacemaker’s studio; it was fascinating to see the threads and bobbins and other pieces of the craft.


Bayeux is a fascinating little town; narrow one-way streets, stone buildings. I got occasional little peeks into the courtyards where people park their cars (is that where the horses used to be kept?). Lots and lots of hotels and bed and breakfasts; I’m so glad I’m not driving around try to find my hotel; some of them have very tiny signs. Which is nice for me as a walker, but not so great if you’re driving. So many restaurants too; so far all the food in France has been delicious! I am going to have to find a french cookbook, as well as learn to make the french bread. Yum!!

December 27, to Bayeux!

I went on a search for breakfast while Mary woke up and got dressed, but apparently Paris belongs to the Crack O’Nooner club on Sunday. So I came back and we packed up in preparation to leave for Bayeux. I was madly searching for the train ticket that Mary left on the counter for me. And after I got all packed up, looked through my stuff two or three times, Mary found it on the shelf where she kept her stuff. Who knows how it got there, but apparently the travel angel is looking after me. And after all that, no one even checked our train tickets!

Oops, I think I published this post long before it was finished!

Here are today’s photos:

We had oodles of time before we had to vacate our room, so I went off to the Jardin des Plantes, a huge botanical garden and zoo just a short walk from the hotel. It’s the wrong time of year to visit a garden, most everything is dormant and leafless. There were a few violas flowering-they’d obviously been planted maybe a couple of weeks ago, and there were poppies flowering too. A couple of gardens were closed due to the season, which was disappointing. I was particularly looking forward to the alpine garden and it seems odd to me that it was closed. Alpine means cold and snowy to me, but cie la vie! There were several plants sheltered with a transparent cover, so apparently not all alpine plants are cold hardy. The grape vine area and a small wild looking wooded area were also closed. That seemed obvious to me, since grapes are dormant and there’s nothing to see, beyond trellised sticks. 


French botanical garden

Jardin des Plantes map

Alpine garden at Jardin des Plantes

Alpine garden, perhaps high desert?

 I walked up to the small labyrinth, with a tiny pergola at the top, hoping to get a view of the gardens, but there were too many trees. This is one of the few hills I’ve seen in Paris, just a short little stroll up to the top. I’m not sure what the hedge was; it was an evergreen of some sort. It looked like spruce needles but the needles are very soft and pliable. The gardens are laid out very formally. One area had small water gardens surrounded by several loops of paths. The center area is a large lawn, with long rows of the poppies and violas down the center of the lawns and paths down each side and in between the lawns. Huge chestnut (I think that’s what they are) trees line the lawns on either side, trimmed so that when the leaves are out, they make a boxed roof. My photos turned out kind of dark; it is earlyish, but I need to change some settings so the photos come out better. 


Jardin des Plantes

The lawns with flower beds in the center of the garden

There is also a zoo, but I didn’t visit that. I would have loved to go through the buildings, but I knew I didn’t have time to do even one of them justice. There were two huge greenhouses too, but you needed a ticket to go through them. I really could have have spent all day there, and the hour and a half I did spend was just long enough to get a taste of the gardens. Each of the buildings-the Grand Gallery & Children’s Museum, the Gallery of Geology & Mineralogy , the Botanical Gallery and Gallery of Comparative Anatomy and Paleoentology are each easily a U.S. city block long. And the history of the place… I passed a commemorative stone on the way up to the labyrinth, for the premier director, Jean-Marie ne a Montbard, 1716-1799. I am guessing that’s the first director, so the botanical garden has possibly been in existence for something like 300 years. 

We had to check out of the room by noon (12:00 a.m., according to the brochure; we had a laugh over that), so I went back around 11:30 to do a last check and finish zipping up my suitcase. I felt a bit like a bag lady, since I had a camera and my purse strapped over my shoulders, my day pack under my jacket, and carrying a shopping bag with my suitcase. And I was the one that cautioned Mary not to bring too much stuff! She had just her purse and her one suitcase. I justified my bag lady-ness by claiming it was all my Christmas shopping. Which was mostly kinda true. 

We went down and checked out of the room, and I had the hotel call us a cab to take us to the train station. Mary & I got in a small snit because I did that, and she flagged down a cab just as the one the hotel had called pulled up. She was angry because for the hotel to call a cab costs an extra 4 euros (& she’d just spent almost 800 euros on the room, so why was 4 euros such a big deal?), so I said I’d pay for the cab ride. I just didn’t see that 4 euros was anything to quibble over; just to get in the cab is 3 euros (so we started off by owing the cabbie 7 euros). Anyway, we got to Gare St. Lazare in one piece. 

This is certainly a different experience than I had in ’78! Holeee cow! Clean, bright, well-lit, and none of that hole in the floor, garbage-encrusted-toilet business. The middle and bottom floors had upscale shops and nice restaurants of various types. The top floor, where we caught the train, had a Burger King and a Starbucks, as well as some small grab-and-go restaurants, plus an information office and the ticket office. I wish I could remember exactly what station I was at in ’78; I’d love to see what it looks like now. 

Mary was ready for some breakfast so she did that while I checked out the station. Turned out that we wouldn’t find out what track we were leaving from until 15-20 minutes before we leave. And this really showed up our different traveling styles. I was okay with that, mostly. It would have been nice to have a little bit more advance knowledge, but 15 minutes is plently of time to get from the message board to the train. Mary, on the other hand, wanted to wait and see what the board would look like after the track was announced; she is much more of a planner than I am.


Gare St. Lazare

What a beautiful train station!

So, I left her to watch the board, and went to look for some lunch. I spied an easy exit from the station, and on my way out saw a train store! I couldn’t believe my luck! Unfortunately it was closed on Sundays, so I hope I have time to come back on my way home. I found a nice quiet place across the street and had the most excellent salad. Thin, thin smoked salmon over lettuce with baby shrimp, a quartered tomato, and small slices of a proscuitto-like ham, with a light dressing. It was so delicious!

I still had about an hour before the train left, so wandered around the second level in search of dessert. I didn’t find that, but I did find Pylones, a gift shop with all this fun stuff. I bought a pair of glasses (12 euros, about $13.20 , much cheaper than the $20 I usually spend in the U.S.) and a hard eyeglass case that I can use for my embroidery scissors and needles. I have this really boring dark green one, that works great but it’s sooo boring.

I found Mary up by the train tracks, as I expected. People started surging towards a track, so I asked a group of three police officers for help and they kindly told me which track to go to. We found our car and piled on; not easy to do with the suitcases. I had hoped we would be able to leave them in a baggage area, but I misunderstood the ticket seller. We had to heave them over our heads on a rack above the seats. This was the same as in Poland, so I wasn’t surprised. Next time I am not going to be a bag lady!

It was about a two hour ride to Bayeux, and we got there after dark, about 6 p.m. A young Spanish woman we met on the train walked to the hotel with us; so nice of her to be our guide. It was about a half mile, so by the tiime we got there, Mary was just exhausted. She went straight to bed, and I went off to get her some onion soup. I found some right away, so brought it back and then went off to find my own dinner. I also hoped to stop at an internet cafe, but it was closed for the holidays. I’ll try the other one tomorrow and if that’s closed, then maybe there will be one in St. Malo. 

I walked past the Bayeux tapestry museum, so that will be easy to find tomorrow. I also walked by this small water mill; I couldn’t find any signage, so I am hoping that tomorrow will shed more light on that. And there are some cute giftshops to explore tomorrow too.

December 26, A wandering

I walked today. 13 miles according to my mileage tracker. I just hope it helps me sleep through Mary’s coughing. She says she took cough medicine… 

Here’s the link to today’s photos:

This is what I wanted to do in Paris. Walk. Window shop, eat a little here, drink a little there. Walk some more. I didn’t do anything spectacular, except visit the Picasso Museum, which was wonderful. Too crowded of course, so I didn’t last long, but I did enjoy seeing some of Picasso’s work. I particulary enjoyed the Femme Neu Allongee (sorry, I can’t find a translation of the name). I didn’t realize he did some collage and this piece is brown paper, wall paper (?), and paint. My image of it is horrible; I didn’t want to use a flash so it’s blurry and out of focus as well. You don’t really get the 3-D aspect of it either. 

Femme Neu Allongee

Femme Neu Allongee

I saw the back side of Notre Dame, which is just as beautiful as the front, especially because there is a little park you get to walk through to see the back of the cathedral. Very quiet, at least at 10 a.m.-ish it was quiet. 

Most of my day was spent in Le Marais, the Jewish quarter. Not very Jewish any more; it seemed like mostly it was upscale stores. Rue des Rosiers did have a Jewish deli (open) and a Jewish bookstore (closed). I also found a bagel store and bought two. Ate the cheese bagel-very good, but I’m not sure it was boiled. Not chewy enough. 

There was a beautiful little park, Jardin des Rosiers-Joseph Migneret. Grapevines in a couple of different trellises, a small vegetable garden, and a childrens’ play area. It’s a memorial to the Jewish children of the area who were deported to Auschwitz and never returned home. 


I also stumbled on this totally cool artist run sale room… Don’t really know what to call it. I didn’t take pictures because I thought that was tacky. I think there were about 30 or so artists displaying their work in this big open room. Most of the work was some form of collage/recycling. All too big and bulky to bring home… Loved the metal alligator at the front of the exhibit, the mechanical dolls (about 4 inches high, dancing in a wooden box). Too much that I don’t remember, but it was wonderful to see such inventive pieces! The show is called Metamorphose 2015, and I have a program that lists the artists’ contact information.


Metamorphose 2015

This piece was outside the exhibition; it changed from a giraffe to an elephant.

I met Mary at the Bastille, which is kind of at one end of Le Marais. We walked up and down the Rue de Rosiers, which was plenty for her. She took the bus home & I walked back to the hotel. Nice walk home, once I got my route figured out. As usual I started out going the wrong way. 

Joyeux Noel!

Lazy, lazy day! I woke up at 6 and tried to listen to KQED in San Francisco, but it kept cutting out, so I gave up, and just listened to the street noises. Very quiet today. Mary and I planned to go to lunch with her daughter Cece and boyfriend JJ, and we would meet them at noon at the Hotel Saint James Albany. I was trying to keep an ear open for bus sounds, but promptly fell back asleep until 9 a.m. Lots of time before we needed to leave, so I started reading. 

Really, I did mean to take a shower… But all of a sudden it was 11:15 and we needed to get moving. So I found my nicest tee shirt and got dressed, while Mary rested after her ablutions. We tried to call the hotel, but got some recording in French which of course neither of us could make heads or tails of. Being late was not an option. Downstairs we managed to flag down a taxi and were on our way. 

Miracle of miracles, it was only 11 euros, thanks to the taxi meter. And we stopped right at the belted-off stop in front of the hotel. After stepping through this fantastic arctic entry, circular doors that open, let you in, then the doors on the other side open and you’re in the hotel lobby. Beautiful hotel, tastefully decorated for Christmas. The staff was very helpful and Cece was down shortly to meet us. Mary was full of questions for Cece, one of which was “Where are we eating?”. Cece guided us over to the concierge, and he suggested a nice place about 5 minutes from the hotel. Since Cece & JJ still needed shower and dress, I volunteered to scout out restaurants. I really didn’t want to sit still in the lobby, so it was a great excuse to get up and wander around. 

The building just down the street was where the German general in charge of Paris surrendered to the allies, saving Paris. Apparently bombs had planted throughout Paris and if he had not surrendered, the plan was to destroy Paris. I am thoroughly grateful that Paris was not destroyed! What a beautiful city! Mary really wanted to eat at the Hotel Meurice, where this happened, so we passed by a couple different places before stopping there. It was pretty pricey, but still under 40 euros, which I was okay with. Hey it’s Christmas! Splurge a little!

And I was so glad we did! What an experience… We ate in the small hotel bar as the Dali lunchroom was fully seated. The waiters are all attired in coats and ties, super dressy. Our coats were whisked off to a coatroom out of our sight. Chairs were pulled out to seat Mary and me, while Cece & JJ sat at the couch. Menus were produced, and we had to laugh at Cece and JJ, because they selected the Pop Art Hamburger, while Mary & I had french fare. I chose scallops with smoked cauliflower and Mary had Chicken Rivoli, chicken with artichokes. 

My dinner arrived first, well before everyone else’s, and at first we wondered if it was some sort of appetizer. About 8 small scallop circles over a skimpy pile of cauliflower. I didn’t really recognize it as my dinner for a good 10 minutes. And I was the only one willing to taste it, so luckily it was my dinner! 

The hamburgers were actually steak sandwiches with french fries and very good, according to Cece & JJ. Mary’s chicken had a delicious sauce… Wish I’d gotten the recipe. After the plates were taken away, we got two dishes of chocolates, most of which I got to eat because no one else liked chocolate that much. Of course that was just a lovely treat. Cece & JJ had cappuchinos while I had a chocolate souffle. The cappuchinos came with more chocolates, and I wanted so badly to get a little doggy bag, but oh so tacky to ask for one! So I left them on the table. 


skimpy, delicious dinner

why, when you pay more, you get less??

Before we left, I had to make a trip to the toilet after hearing Mary & Cece’s glowing reports. Oh my! An electronic toilet that I would LOVE to have in my outhouse in Fairbanks! Or at least the heated seat part I would love to have. Had to try out the bidet too, of course. Quite pleasant! Not sure if I would use it very often if I had one, but it was an interesting experience. The hand washing part was pretty normal, except for the cloth towels that really do dry your hands. 

While we ate, I, of course, was gawking around, staring at everyone and seeing what they were eating. I glanced back at the gentleman behind us, dressed in a suit complete with vest and tie, and he said Merry Christmas, to which I responded with Joyeux Noel. I think he was enjoying eavesdropping on our conversation. I meant to say goodbye to him too, when we left, but forgot. I’ll always wonder what might have happened… 

Mary wanted to see Cece & JJ’s room, so we rode the elevator which was probably twice the size of the one at the Hotel Saint Marcel, where Mary & I are staying. Likewise, Cece & JJ’s room is twice as large too, with a toilet and sink in one room and the bathtub/shower in another, with a heated towel rack. There is a spa and exercise room in the hotel, which we toured. Beautiful swimming pool, small but perfect for lap swimming. And you get a hotel bathrobe and slipper set. I’m jealous, a little!

We caught another taxi home and Mary promptly fell asleep. She’s been battling an awful cold, and between that and her leg (she broke her leg last year and it’s been difficult for her to walk very far), she has been having a tough time. I goofed around on the iPad and finally realized it was almost dark and if I wanted to see anything on a walk I’d better get going. I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that we were within 2-3 miles of pretty much everywhere I’d been for the last couple of days. The embroidery shops were farther away, but Notre Dame, Cece & JJ’s hotel, Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre, l’Orangerie… A good share of the places I’ve seen are very close to our hotel. Tomorrow I am walking to Le Marais, the Jewish quarter, and I’ll be able to walk along the Rue LePrince, which is named after a friend’s relative. And the Jardin Luxembourg. 

Tonight I started out by walking by the Natural History Museum and Jardin des Plantes, which unfortunately was closing just as I went by. I kept going and stumbled on this cute little street, Rue Mouffetard, with tons of restaurants and little shops, that is apparently walking only. Many of the restaurants were open even though it is Christmas. I might have to drag Mary here tomorrow night; we could take a taxi so we could enjoy walking along Rue Mouffetard. I stopped at Starbuck’s-barf, but I wanted a decaf coffee, which “it was too late, they were closing in less than an hour”. What the hell closing had to do with decaf coffee I have no idea. So I kinda stomped out of there, but what the heck, it’s just coffee. So I wandered around a bit more, finally got back to Blvd Saint Marcel, and stopped at Le Canon des Gobelins where I had two Jamison’s and a plate of Fines Claire, these specially grown oysters. Not that I needed more to eat, but oysters… I couldn’t resist. 

So, now I will stumble home and add some photos and get this online for you!

December 24, Paris

It’s getting a little hard to keep the days straight… good thing the photos are dated! 

Here are today’s photos:

I started out by walking up to Place d’Italie, which had caught Mary’s attention for some reason. Because she likes Italian food I think. It’s the end of the metro line we take to Gare d’Austerlitz, our stop to get home to Hotel Saint Marcel. Anyway… Place d’Italie is a huge roundabout, with a park in the center of it. Lots of shops and cafes surrounding the roundabout, as well as this huge shopping center Italie Duex, with 130 shops. There’s an elevator that would give you a great view of the area, but the guard said I couldn’t go up to take pictures, darn it all. 

So I hopped on the Metro and went up to the Louvre where I started off on foot. Walked through the Louvre carousel, which is another shopping area complete with Apple store and a post office. I’d stopped at the post office I found at Place d’Italie, but it was automated and I could not figure out what stamps I needed for postcards. It turns out envelopes and post cards are weighed and under 20 grams or centigrams or something, everything gets the same postage. The Louvre post office had a person I could speak with, so he sold me a bunch of stamps I can use on postcards or envelopes & cards. 


Apple + Louvre

Can you believe this?? At the Louvre!

I did a teeny bit of Christmas shopping; there was a really nice museum art store where I picked up a small item for some lucky person. June Lee had some interesting pieces in the store, which I adored but wasn’t quite sure what I would do with, if I got one, so I just took a picture.


fun glasses by June Lee

June Lee’s artwork; I could try to make something like this!

I wandered out of the Louvre, which I had no interest in visiting. Too many people, too many paintings, too touristy; I just don’t enjoy that kind of thing. So I strolled through the Tuilleries, a huge formal garden, and really enjoyed that. Except for the lady fundraising for a deaf institute; she basically hijacked 23 euros from me before I realised what was going on. Well, the money went to a good cause, but I didn’t appreciate her tactics. But the dogs distracted me a few minutes later-this group of loose dogs, totally well behaved… I couldn’t believe they weren’t running amok. Wish I had that kind of training skill! Three dog walkers with their charges. Unfortunately the handler I spoke to didn’t have a great command of English nor was he interested in talking to me, so I didn’t find out anything beyond that they were dogwalkers. 

No real plan for today, so I just meandered around the area people watching and going through shops until I was to meet Mary at l’Orangerie, a small museum with some of Monet’s murals. I walked through Printemps, a huge, very pricey/upscale department store and borrringggg… Until I went outside and passed their windows. Oh, so cute!! They had four windows with animated dolls in various costumes twirling around in the windows. Just darling, but I didn’t get very good photos because of the reflection on the glass. I had hoped to visit Maxim’s collection of Art Nouveau, but drat! it was closed for the holidays.


animated dolls at Printemps

Animated dolls at Printemps; wish I had a better photo

I was meeting Mary at three at l’Orangerie, a small museum in one corner of the Tuilleries. Fantastic Monet murals; it was absolutely worth going just to see those. The movie about the murals was informative and I had a much greater appreciation for the murals after seeing the movie. The rest of the artwork I wasn’t so excited about, but I am so glad I did see Monet’s murals, the Water Lilies. They were a gift to the city after WWI; Monet felt very guilty to be working on his art, while others were giving their lives to their country. He also wanted to give ordinary people a place to be calm after being in the craziness of the city. That’s why he picked l’Orangerie; right outside the building is this really busy street, but you come into l’Orangerie and go into the room with the murals and it is just instantly calming (inspite of all the goofy tourists taking photos-and yes, Mary & I were right there with them!). 

We took the bus home together, and found that we had goofed up and no restaurants were open nearby by the time we got to the hotel. So we had the cheese plate, the meat plate-hors d’ouvres at the hotel-and she had tea while I had Calvados. Now that was intense! I went for a walk and got lost, and was pretty glad I could use the iPhone map to get back! I tend to not pay attention to where I’m going, so getting back can be difficult sometimes. I rely on my iPhone too much, and I’ve had it only a year and a half. Well, if I didn’t have it, I guess I’d pay more attention!

Shopped til I dropped

Well, not really, because there was plenty of public transportation between stops. But I did find my embroidery stores, except for one that moved. I was going to take L’Open, but Mary persuaded me that the Metro would be faster. Glad I listened to her! 

The cell phone photos:


La Mercerie Parisienne

lovely, lovely haberdashery, La Mercerie Parisienne

My first stop was near the Bastille, La Mercerie Parisienne. What a treasure! A lovely little haberdashery set off the street in small courtyard. Very French, very tasteful, lots of buttons and trims, some fabrics. There were some lovely patterns that I rather lusted after, but given that I have a very full box of them at home, I didn’t buy any. There were some adorable clothing patterns for dolls too, but I couldn’t find the doll pattern so I didn’t get any. By the time I got some help from the sales clerks, I totally forgot about the patterns. Not that the clerks were rude at all-on the other hand, they were very sweet and helpful. The first one that went to help me didn’t speak so much English, so another lady helped me. I asked if they knew what crazy quilting was, and the one didn’t, but the lady that ended up helping me gave me a name of a very well known French crazy quilter, Lea Stanzaltz. I haven’t had a chance to look her up yet, but if I can find a website or something, I’ll add it here. So, I bought some buttons, some trims, and some fabric. Bias tape is way different here; I imagine you can find the typical packages we buy in the U.S., but so far all I’ve seen is small lengths of it wrapped around wooden spools or loose in small packages. It’s also patterned, not plain like in the U.S. The same is true of piping-so much more fun than at home. I didn’t buy out the store, but I had a great time and came away with some nice additions to my collection at home. And the clerk assured me they do mail order to Alaska. Something to think about… Those patterns for instance.

I also forgot to ask about couture fabrics; I had this fantastical idea of stopping at one or more couture houses and coming away with scraps they were going to throw away, for this trip’s crazy quilt project. I brought the start of another chatelaine, and now that I have something to work with, I can get started on it. 

This is the one I made several years ago: 


crazy quilt chatelaine

A chatelaine I made several years ago; the center of the flower on the left is a pincushion, and on the right the flower holds a pocket for scissors

By now it’s 11:30, and there’s not enough time to get to the next store and still meet Mary at the Notre Dame Cathedral. I opted to walk from the Bastille, where I’d gotten off the Metro, to Notre Dame. Lovely day and it was maybe a 20 minute walk, according to my iPhone. So I followed the instructions until I got close enough to see the cathedral, and then just wandered around. There was an outdoor exhibit in front of the Hotel de Ville (city hall), so I took a couple pictures with the iPhone (forgot the camera this morning, darn it!). I wandered across the Seine; Notre Dame is on an island in the Seine so I just walked over one fork (and yes, there is a bridge!). Lots of small souvenir shops and I stopped and got a dish towel. Figured I had one from Ireland so I should get one from France too. 


Art exhibit in front of the Hotel de Ville, Paris

I took photos of just the Alaskan animals

I walked over the other fork-the island is very small-and continued wandering. On this side were lots of restaurants and some small shops. I found my way back to the river and stumbled across Tapisserie de la Bucherie, a needlepoint shop. I had to take a look; I love the canvases even though I have no desire to do needlepoint. The woman running the shop was so nice. I didn’t realize she was even French, she had such a mild accent. I even found some fabric to buy! 

By now it was getting close to 1 p.m., when Mary and I had agreed to meet, so I walked back over to the cathedral to look for her. I sat for a few minutes, then decided to visit the toilette. I expected one of those nasty garbage encrusted holes in the ground that I encountered on my first trip to France and was pleasantly surprised to find a clean, attended series of toilet stalls. It cost me a euro, but I appreciated the cleanliness and privacy greatly.

I got back upstairs and almost immediately spotted Mary talking with one of the visitor guides. These young men, outfitted in green with yellow smocks, are supplicants? Priests-in-training. They have to do three days at the cathedral sharing God’s word and information about the cathedral with tourists. Mary and the young priest peer-pressured me into going into the cathedral, which is absolutely gorgeous. The stained glass… Bright and clear and stunning. I do think it’s sacreligious to treat the cathedral as a tourist attraction, but it is still used as a church. Besides, I’m not in charge! And I would have missed a stunning building if tourists weren’t allowed inside!

Mary and I enjoyed a long lunch at a nearby cafe and then went our separate ways. She to a medieval history museum and I to more fabric and notions shopping. Poor Mary’s morning trip was a trial. Her bus driver dropped her off at the wrong end of the street she needed to be on, so she watched bus after bus go by while she limped her way to where she wanted to be. And by the time she got there? It was time to come meet me. So she was tired and bummed by the time we caught up with each other. 

After lunch, when we went in opposite directions, Mary went to her museum and I caught the Metro to Basilique Sacre-Coer (Basilica Sacred Heart), near two shops I wanted to visit. This turned out to be fabric-mecca! I found the first shop, Petit Pan, with no problem using my trusty iPhone instructions. A tiny, delightful little shop with adorable baby clothes and these fantastic tissue covered lamps in a variety of shapes and sizes. I got some more quilting cottons, fat quarters, and some more bias tape. I would have loved to bring home a lamp too, but oh dear, the logistics! So I didn’t even look seriously at them. 

Petit Pan

such an adorable store! I want one of those tissue paper-covered lamps someday!

When I got out of the store, the phone couldn’t find a carrier, so I just started walking. Luckily I was going in the right direction and I must have passed a couple dozen fabric shops on the way to my next stop, Marche St. Pierre. I found it, it was tables and tables of dress making fabrics, and nothing interested me. I figured it was like Ireland and you had to buy one meter lengths-far too much for me. So I turned around and went down to Frou Frou, which I’d passed 4 or 5 stores before my destination. 

Another find! This store was much busier than La Mercerie Parisienne, perhaps because of the time of day? Late afternoon as opposed to midmorning right after opening. Tons of bias tape along with matching fabrics, two revolving shelves of DMC thread-made me wish I had a list of colors I needed, until I looked at the price, 1.5 Euro each. Quite a bit higher than the $0.25 you usually pay at Michael’s or Joann’s. There were some gorgeous books, patterns, and a small home decorating section. I would have loved to get a book or two, but since I don’t read French and they weren’t like the Japanese magazines with tons of illustrated instructions, it didn’t make sense. Maybe in my next life I will take French instead of Spanish. 

Walking back to the Metro I passed more fabric stores-again, all dressmaking fabric. On the main street to the Metro, lots of young men with small cards or watches or other small things for sale. I think the cards were phone minutes? But I didn’t investigate. The train station was full of the same. A somewhat grittier side of Paris than I’ve seen previously. 

By the time I got to Gare Austerlitz, my Metro stop, I was hot, sweaty and badly in need of a toilet. And I wouldn’t have been opposed to a nap as well. I beat Mary home, so I hopped in the shower and dressed in fresh clothes, catching a second wind. I wanted a handbag that I’d seen in a small shop close to the hotel, so headed down there. I bought this gorgeous, fun, bright red flowered bag to haul my iPad, maps, iPhone, pens, sewing and probably an elephant or two as well. 


I feel sorry for people that don't like seafood!

Shrimp, oysters and whelks. Yummy!

Mary was waiting in the small hotel restaurant for me, so after a glass of wine for me, and orange juice and cold medicine for Mary, we dropped off gear in the hotel room and went to dinner at the cafe next door, Le Baratin. Yummm…. I got this giant seafood platter with whelks, shrimp and oysters. And I did not take any shells home with me! My first time eating whelks; they were chewy and good. Some delicious mayonaisse-based dip that I mainly used on the rye bread that came with my dinner; should have asked what was in the mayo. Mary went upstairs to our room, while I went back to the handbag store, as the control tag had been left in the bag and I wanted it removed. Darn, the store was closed already! So I wandered around a bit in search of chocolate and went back to the hotel empy handed. Another day…