Food Fights

June 16, 2008


100% fat-free photo.

I thought I would post this photo that E.g. took while we were in Paris, as an antidote to yesterday’s chicken soup recipe.

I’ve been doing a little background research before writing up a book report on Laugh-in-the-Sun Alyson Hill’s book, Chooks in the City.  I used to be amazed when I would learn that certain colours or fabrics were forbidden to the lower classes*, but I’m finding that our own era has its share of arbitrary snobbery and repression.

For example, here in Toronto, you can own “sport” pigeons in your backyard but not laying hens. The message? Gambling is good; fresh eggs are bad. In the Maritimes, there has been a kerfuffle as governmental fingers have been wagged at suburban chicken owners, warning them that their birds might catch and spread avian flu, even though any cases of it have all appeared in factory farms. The message? Support agribusiness; discourage self-sufficiency.

With the recent growing interest in eating locally, maybe things in Canada will change for the better; instead of saying NO chickens, city bylaws could state a maximum NUMBER of chickens, just as they do dogs and cats.

Meanwhile, in Australia and certain American cities, people can and do keep hens, sometimes in the cutest little mobile coops. Alyson’s dad has had chickens in Canberra for almost thirty years, and Alyson has kept “chooks” for a few years now herself. Tomorrow I’ll (be able to photograph and) tell you a little more about the book she’s written.

* In the 1960s you could blow your mind while wearing purple corduroy. In the Middle Ages you could lose your head for it.

Tried and True: How the Paris Itinerary Worked Out

June 10, 2008

Hi, everybody! Today is Laundry Day, which for my blog has come to mean List Day. I had thought of listing “things I’ve learned about Paris” or something like that, but… well, I’m still playing catch-up around the house. Cuca, Cai, and Fergus are all happy to be back together again, and I’m sure Mum’s happy to be back home, but it was a three-day job to put all the humans and animals back in their usual places. E.g. and I left our apartment ship-shape before Paris — how lovely to come home to an orderly home — but with the unpacking of souvenirs, pamphlets, and dirty clothes, it’s back to (sigh) normal again. And I’m still catching up with the past two weeks of my blogfriends’ lives.

So-o, I thought I would take it easy on my composting — er, composing — brain cells today, and post the “extinerary” for our Paris trip, meaning what we actually did do. I wrote this up for Mum, by modifying the original itinerary, to help her narrate to her friends back home what-all we did. I think it might have some value in the blogosphere, though, as a witness to how much can be done in a day in Paris, and how much one can get around on foot.

Some demographics:

  • Our group was made up of three women between the ages of 45 and 55, one woman in her early 70s, and an 11-year-old boy.
  • We are all fairly healthy and mobile, although one of Mum’s toes, broken 35 years ago, ached on several of the days and slowed her down a bit.
  • Two of us are bilingual, one has high-beginner French, and the other two were comfortable trying “Un billet, s’il vous plâit” and “Bonjour, Madame” and such-like.
  • Our apartment was on rue Marie-Stuart in the 2nd Arrondissement. Not all maps show it; it’s between rue Montorgueil and Boulevard de Sébastopol, two blocks north of rue Etienne Marcel.

So here’s the extinerary, with links to my blog blibbities for each day.


Paris, 2008: How We Spent Our Time 

key:   A/B/C/D/E: the members of our group.

Wednesday, May 28: We took the RER from Charles de Gaulle airport, and walked from the Chatelet-les-Halles metro station. Hervé Remy, the landlord, was waiting for us on the café patio on the corner of rue Marie Stuart. He showed us around the apartment and did the paperwork. After he left, we bought a few groceries and had a stinky-cheese-and-baguette supper.


Thursday, May 29: We walked everywhere today.

  • Visited the Carnavalet Museum (historical artifacts of Paris)
  • Visited the Victor Hugo house and the park in the square of Place des Vosges
  • Visited the church St-Paul-St-Louis
  • Lunched at Le King Falafel Palace on rue des Rosiers
  • Walked by the Tower of Jean Sans Peur, but didn’t visit (closed today)
  • Visited the Musee des Arts et Metiers; A/B/E saw Foucault’s Pendulum; C&D left early to start supper
  • Home in time for supper
  • Went to a  Messiaen centennial organ concert, Le livre du Saint Sacrement, at Holy Trinity Church (where Olivier Messiaen played the organ for 60 years); passed the Grand Opera on the way


Ile Notre DameFriday, May 30: We walked south, across the Ile de la Cite, and into the Latin Quarter (aka the 5th Arrondissement).

  • Went past the City Hall, along the Seine, beside the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, and over the Archevêché Bridge into the Latin Quarter
  • Bought picnic things at a little traiteur in Place Maubert
  • Picnicked in the medieval garden of the Museum of the Middle Ages; visited the museum, including a concert of medieval motets by the group Ultreia
  • Relaxed on some chairs in the Luxembourg Gardens
  • Visited the Bourdelle museum (B/C/D)
  • Visited the Post Office museum (A/E)
  • Took the metro home from Montparnasse station; home in time for supper


Louis XIV's backyardSaturday, May 31: Took the RER to Versailles; saw the main palace, including the Hall of Mirrors and a number of fountains; did part of the walkabout of the  Grandes Eaux Musicales; got home around 6 pm; had supper at a restaurant across the street.



Sunday, June 1: We split up into two groups for an unstructured day.

  • Visited the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo (A/D/E)
  • Visited the feet of the Eiffel Tower (A/D/E)
  • Took the Bateaux-Mouches tour (A/D/E)
  • Strolled the  Jardin des Halles, the courtyard of the Palais Royale, the Tuilleries gardens, and the Seine riverbanks (B/C)
  • Visited St-Germain-L’auxerrois and St-Eustache churches (B/C)
  • Home in time for supper (All)


the old town of ChartresMonday, June 2: Chartres. We took the SNCF train to Chartres. We visited the Cathedral, enjoying a tour by 50-year-veteran guide Malcolm Miller. Then we explored the town a bit on foot. We bought pastries in Chartres before catching the train. Everyone but overpastried C had a late supper on rue Montorgeuil.


Tuesday, June 3: We took the metro to Jasmin station, 16th Arrondissement.

  • Visited the Le Corbusier’s Maison La Roche (1923)
  • Bought lunch at a bakery/sandwich shop on rue George Sand
  • Lunched in Parc André-Citroen; saw the Eutelsat balloon but it was too windy for flights that day; enjoyed the sculptures
  • Took the metro to Invalides station; saw the dome over Napoleon’s tomb in the distance; walked by the Assemblee Nationale; visited the Orsay Museum; walked home in time for supper

Notre Dame de Paris CathedralWednesday, June 4: We walked to everything; A and B took the metro home from the 5th.

  • Visited the Conciergerie and the Sainte-Chapelle
  • Visited Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
  • Picnicked in the ancient Roman arena
  • Walked by the Pantheon and St-Etienne-du-Mont church
  •  Had a lecture tour, given by a member of the Paris Historical Society, of an arch of Philippe-Auguste’s City Wall in the basement of a post office
  • Visited the Marie Curie museum
  • Walked up World-Heritage-Site-listed rue St-Jacques; poked into St-Severin church; walked by the Tour St-Jacques (C/D/E)
  • Home for supper
  • Watched Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess” at the Opéra Comique


Consulting the mapThursday, June 5: The only must-sees today were the Arc de Triomphe and the Stamp Market. We formed several subgroups throughout the day, beginning with A and C walking to the Arc while the others took transit there.

  • Walked through the Tuileries and along the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe (A/C)
  • Lunched at the café (with all the chairs facing the street!) Georges V, on the Champs Elysées
  • Went window-shopping in a Champs-Elysées gallerie (B/D)
  • Picked up some treasures at the Stamp Market (A/C/E)
  • Went shopping, including a Monoprix and the Galleries Lafayette (A/D/E)
  • Home for supper (A/D/E)
  • Took the Bateaux-Mouches tour; had supper in a restaurant on rue Montmartre (B/C)


Friday, June 6: Today was spent on activities that one or another of us had really wanted to do, but that weren’t on the original itinerary. C and D walked to Vincennes Castle and took the metro home; A/B/E tubed it both ways. We also took transit to the evening concert and back – as did just about every other concert-goer, and every member of the orchestra.

  • Strolled through the 4th Arrondissement, past the Bastille Opera House, and along the Promenade Plantée; picnicked on the Promenade (C/D)
  • Visited the Château de Vincennes (C/D)
  • Strolled the Montmartre neighbourhood; lunched in a café (A/B/E)
  • Visited Sacré-Coeur church (A/B/E)
  • Home for supper
  •  Enjoyed Duruflé’s Requiem at the Basilica St-Denis 

E.g. shoots herself, and the rest of us, in Versailles' Hall of Mirrors

Paris, Day 10: Kings and Martyrs; and Post-Paris post

June 7, 2008

Since no one had the Père Lachaise Cemetery on their must-see list, we all decided that this, our final day, would be another free-for-all. Jack, Jack’s Mom, and E.g. went up to see Montmartre, and Mum and I walked through the Marais, along the Promenade Plantée, and into the Château de Vincennes.

Montmartre means “the mount of the martyr”, in this case refering to St Denis. The story goes that he was assassinated on this hill of Paris. Being a Type-A kind of guy, Denis picked up his shorn-off head and kept on walking another five miles or so to expire at the place now called St-Denis. When you look at French churches, if you spy a statue of a saint with his head tucked under his arm, you’ll know who it is.

Guess who? This one is at St-Germain-l’Auxerrois Church.

The walk Mum and I did was about 6 miles, but we had the advantage of attached heads. The three-mile Promenade Plantée is a begardened walking path built on an old railroad viaduct. It was in full bloom yesterday, with roses headlining. There were water features and trees that attracted every species of bird in the city, and lovely examples of Corbusier-inspired architecture.

The Promenade goes almost to the Bois de Vincennes, so the greenery continued as we walked Avenue Daumesnil till we came to the back of Château de Vincennes. We got a good look at how deep the walls were as we walked beside the keep to the front yard, across the little drawbridge, and onto the complex. On our snoop through the keep, we learned that the kings of the time often had prisoners in their own fortified residences, since it was the monarch’s duty to administer justice. Charles V was the first king to live here (d. 1380), and Louis XIV was the last. Having been to the little cottage the Sun King built for himself at Versailles, I could see that Vincennes was SO not his scene!

The big thrill of the castle, though, was when Mum and I entered a little room tucked in one corner. Mum said, “What’s this room?” and then saw the sign: Latrines de Charles V. We had missed the chance to visit the Sewer Museum, but no matter: Mum can now tell all her friends and neighbours that she sat on a medieval king’s throne!

Everyone met back at the apartment for supper, and then headed for the metro to reach the St-Denis Basilica in time for the concert. The nave was packed with spectators, but I had booked the tickets early: we were in the fourth and fifth rows. There we were, listening to Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Monteverdi Choir and the Orchestre Nationale de France: the crashing Et Exspecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum of Messiaen; two sweet, haunting motets by Francis Poulenc; and Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem. Paragraph ends here. No words can describe. Something like “I can die happy now” approaches it, though.

Epilogue: Mommy’s Home — by Cai

Bark? Bark! Bark bark!

Barkbarkbarkbark! Bark! Barkbark! Barkdebarkbark!


Paris, Day 9: Seamus’s Day Out

June 6, 2008

The Arc de Triomphe has a very nice carapace.

I had a lovely lunch on the Champs-Elysees.

I kept my own carapace out of the way of this oversized scooter.

I took a leisurely swim in the Seine…

… and then dried off on a Bateaux-Mouches tour. Here, I’m admiring Notre-Dame-de-Paris Cathedral.

On the way home, I HAD to have my picture taken with Georges Clémenceau. I didn’t know he was Prime Minister during World War I, and called for peace as soon as he was elected (1917). I just thought he looked like a nice man who enjoyed going for walks — like I do!

Paris, Day 8: Vertical

June 5, 2008

(Joint entry! E.g. chose the photos to go with my writing. 🙂 )

Looking back on it this morning, I’m surprised how much we did yesterday. We didn’t go particularly far and wide, but we went up and down a lot of steps to see what we did — and from the sounds of it, we thought all those steps were worth it.

After a delicious pain au chocolat retrieved from the corner boulangerie, we started our walk south from our apartment. The only time-sensitive item on the itinerary today wasn’t until 2 30 in the afternoon, so we were in stroll mode for once.

First stop was the Conciergerie, originally (14th Century) a stately home for the palace concierge, but at some point converted to a prison, with Marie Antoinette as its most famous inmate. To my untrained eye there wasn’t a lot to see here. I did appreciate, though, the difference in cells. A poor prisoner slept on the straw with two other humans. If you had a bit of money, they let you bring your own cot, and you had only one other cellmate. Gentry could have a private room and bring their writing desk from home. The three cells that modelled these differences were all the same size. Marie Antoinette had a bigger cell, more like a bachelor’s (bedsit) apartment. On the other hand, she had soldiers watching her constantly. Oh, and the guillotine blade on display was much narrower than I’ve always imagined.

Seamus visits the Court of Women at the Conciergerie

Next stop was next door, the Sainte (=holy) Chapelle of Louis IX, aka Saint Louis. Whoa! Meet me in St Louis’ chapel, Louie! There are folding chairs placed on the perimeter; we sat and looked up at the gorgeous stained glass, and all around at the colourful walls, and down at the floor with its centre  “carpet runner” strip of painted stone. It was just gorgeous.

Inside Louis IX’s glorious Sainte-Chappelle.

After rescuing the picnic cutlery (a knife for the leftover-tuna-stuffed baguette) from the amused security agent, we left the Sainte Chapelle and sauntered over to Notre Dame de Paris. Because we’d already seen a few big churches by this time, we gave ourselves half an hour to look about before meeting up again outside.

Notre-Dame de Paris

It was noon-thirty, so we headed for the Arenes de Lutece, a 1st-Century Roman arena in the Latin quarter. Local schools use it for gym class. We ate our lunch on a bench facing the grates where the lions once emerged.

The ancient Arenes de Lutece, a great place for a picnic lunch.

Then we trooped over to the post office to ask about an envelope that displays the piece of 12th-Century City wall hiding in their basement. They were out of the envelopes, but told us where to wait outside for the tour. A pleasant member of the Paris Historical Society took us down two flights of stairs to the sub-basement and the arch that had been discovered while building the post office about twenty years ago. Our guide gave an excellent recap of the history of the City walls, the look of Philippe-Auguste’s wall, and the life and times of the Bievre River. He was very earnest.

The arch over the Bievre, part of Phillippe Auguste’s wall, is now well below street level.

So was the woman who showed us around the Marie Curie museum. Whoever said that Parisians are cold and standoffish must not have met enough of them. This woman told us about how Marie went to the front with her newfangled X-ray machine during WWI to help dignose the wounded so they wouldn’t die en route to the hospital, and how her daughter joined her as a nurse as soon as she turned 16.

We were finished the Curie museum at 4 30. We went up the UNESCO World-Heritage-designated rue St-Jacques, poking our heads into St-Severin Church as we went by, then over the Petit Pont and the Pont Notre-Dame, past theTour St Jacques (with its bottom third still shrouded in renovations), and up Sebastopol street to the apartment.

We walked by the Pantheon on the way home from the Musee Curie.

After a quick spaghetti-and-salad supper, we changed our clothes and walked over to the Opera Comique to watch Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess. We really enjoyed it, even though we were sitting in the highest balcony and E.g. took half an hour to get over her vertigo.

Yeah, yesterday was a day!

Paris, Day 7: The Wild West

June 4, 2008

le Corbusier house.

looking up, le Corbusier House.

Yesterday morning we started out at the first endeavour of the Swiss Architect, le Corbusier, in the 16th arrondissement. It is the “Villa La Roche”, a home for a businessman, built in 1923. Its angles and openness are unusual even today, although it seems a little less bizarre than it did eighty-odd years ago.

View from Mirabeau bridge. The Bateau-Mouche is turning around Liberty to make its return trip.

“The Black Kangaroo”, temporary exhibit, with central lawn and Eutelsat balloon in the background.

This one’s called “Butterfly”, but Seamus and I think it’s a sea slug.

We walked from the Corbusier Foundation over to the Parc André-Citroën. These grounds were originally his munitions factory. After the War, he turned the factory into an auto plant. A few years ago, the spot was turned into a park. We all thought it was really well done, with colourful sculptures, a central lawn, and pocket gardens on the other side of a tall hedge (handy for having quiet contemplation on the one side, and frolicking schoolchildren on the other). The lawn is also where the Eutelsat balloon is parked. Unfortunately, yesterday it was too windy for the balloon to operate.

Since most of our party had already seen the Eiffel Tower and la Liberté up close on Sunday, we took transit straight from the parc to the Orsay Museum. Today, the work of the Impressionists is the most widely accessible to anyone wanting to see art: the paintings are bright, the subjects cheerful, and the depictions recognizable. You don’t have to stand on your head to see the woman reading her book or the children walking through the field of wild poppies. The interesting thing is that they were quite a shocking group in their day, with their dots of colouring and their un-noble subject matter, and so many like-minded artists had their works refused at the conservative Academy that they banded together to become the Impressionists. The Orsay Museum is the place to go to view these works.

Paris, Day 5: a Sunday Walk

June 2, 2008

Yesterday, Sunday, was free-museum day. Mum, Jack’s Mom, and Jack headed out at 9 30, and E.g. and I left an hour later. The other three decided against the three-hour wait for the lift up the Eiffel Tower, although they did get into the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. E.g. and I admired the line-up at the Orsay museum before wandering through the 6ieme Arrondissement a bit and then along the river. We walked it, and the other three enjoyed the Bateau-Mouches guided tour, so in a way I guess we shadowed each other.

I, unfortunately, wasn’t feeling well, and so I decided that any café sitting would be a waste of money for E.g. and me. So we looked for a grocer’s in the Faubourg St-Germain, and finally found one in a gas station. On Sunday, more shops are closed than open — a fact we hadn’t been aware of. Another thing to know is that it’s allowable, and much preferable, to have your picnic on a bridge and not on a staircase leading down to the Seine like E.g. and I did. I walked down the ancient stone steps, sniffing, and reporting, “Muscatel… Bordeaux… Heineken…”

Anyway, here are a few photos from our wanderings.

The contemporary architecture of the Forum des Halles, a shopping centre, all faces itself in inner-courtyard fashion, and isn’t noticeable if you’re not standing right next to it.

Hidden inner courtyards aren’t new to Paris. This little doorway in a long yellow wall…

… leads to the huge inner courtyard of the Palais Royal. This is just a bit of it.

This leggy chap was in the Tuileries gardens.

So was this fellow. He looks like someone Nanabush would like.

View of the Seine from the Right Bank, looking towards the Ile de la Cite (the twin-towered Notre Dame de Paris is peeking above the trees).


And back to Les Halles. Behind St-Eustache Church, Seamus makes friends on a 1986 sculpture with some post-1996 friends.