Thursday, 29 May 2014

That's the man who wrote on my butter!

A fun afternoon at the office. David was boasting about his pen (it's a Space Pen) and claimed that, as well as writing upside down, and underwater, it can write on butter. Yes, butter.

Well, I'd bought butter that day, so I chilled it down in the freezer.

David got out his pen, and ... well, what do you know, it doesn't work! It made some nice dents in my block of butter though.

For the record, we tried a much more plausible scenario after that, writing on greasy paper. Which, as you know, works really badly with most pens. Well, the Space Pen writes beautifully on greasy paper, and keeps writing after that. So it IS an impressive pen. But I'll have to work out some other way to write notes on my butter.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

What have they done to my nice room!

Argh, some men came in and smashed up my room! That's it, I'm going to make them replace all this with nicer stuff. Day 2 of renovation. Could be about six weeks of this.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The things you find when you tidy up...

Some of the boxes in the craft room hold artwork of mine, including some that has been sent to magazines for publication. And some has been successfully published, and some has bounced right back with a friendly "not this time" note. This is one of those ... I made a cute set of cupcake holders, using card and punches, and eyelets too (I had just got my Cropadile, that's an excellent eyelet setter). I worked out some fancy method for making the big arc shape of the "cupcake" base with a simple circle cutting tool, rather than a specialised die (they weren't around in those days anyway). The cupcake holders came home with a "thanks but no thanks" note, but it still seems like a nice idea to dress up some cupcakes for a special afternoon tea, doesn't it?

Why we are so tired now

After three days of family effort (on and off, we all had breaks to do fun things) here's the craft room empty! We will not miss this grey carpet.

Our spare room, before renovation

It's nice to have a spare room. We call it the craft room, and it's a good place for painting, stamping, and sewing. We all use it. Problem is, it's a good place to pile things too, and a good place for bookshelves. This week we are starting a proper house renovation, turning this room into a student's bedroom with ensuite for Catriona, and sacrificing an odd bit of hallway to create a small and efficient craft room connected to the parents bedroom. It will allow the two rather large boys to get a room each too, setting them up for their end of high school and university years.

This is the "before" picture.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

The fete du pain in Paris

Last time we were in Paris, we discovered that there was a "bread festival" on at Notre Dame. Well, that was cool. And this time, it tuns out we just made the festival again! This baker is making, I'm sorry, I don't know the name of it, but a twisted pastry. She takes a piece of croissant dough, already rolled like a Swiss roll. She cuts down the middle, and then twists the two halves together. Then coils it into a ring, and bakes it in a tin. She achieved all these fiddly steps in moments.

Then we ate some. Yay for the bread festival! Recommended for all tourists in Paris right now.

A near death experience - with chocolate!

One of the edible (or rather, drinkable) treats of this trip has been hot chocolate. We tried the recommended chocolat chaud from Patisserie Vienoisse. It's dark and unsweetened. If you ask for cream, it comes with a lot of cream. That's how we had it first time. But I fancied trying again without cream. So we did, this time "emporter". That's take away to you. We took these cups of evilly dark and hot food of the gods to our favourite sitting place, in front of Death in the university courtyard. Cheers, Death!

Last day in Paris

Bonjour Madame Curie! We visited the Curie Museum at the Curie Institute. In the pretty garden outside (where students who have just defended heir PhDs are invited for drinks) is a photographic exhibition of the women carrying on Marie Curie's work at the institute. The display goes up to the present day. I imagine you might find a slightly embarrassed scientist trying to eat her sandwich in peace, while her portrait flaps in the breeze above her.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Onion soup!

Not much in the way of photos for this day  - we spent most of the day at the Musee D'Orsay, where photography is not allowed. But lunch was at the nearby Cafe Mucha. Mucha was a French Art Nouveau artist. And this is proper soupe à l'oignon gratinée. Yum.

Sent from my iPad

The job I would like at Versailles

The security staff at Versailles get to drive around in these little electric powered Twizys. I could do that. I'd bop around the various parts of the estate, give directions, remind children not to scare the ducks, and maybe escort tired ladies to the front gate (this tiny car can take one passenger). I thought of that last bit because I was pretty darned tired by the end.

The hamlet at Versailles

Marie-Antoinette had a little village built as a place to relax. It has been maintained beautifully, even these pretty gardens. A very worthwhile visit - though next time, I'd take the little train from the chateau. It's not just a gimmick, it is a rather long walk.

Pretty stuff at Versailles

At the Grand Trianon. This is a nice bedroom, with room for twenty or so friends too.

What goes on inside a fountain

Here's some of the works, ready to be installed in the main fountain at Versailles. See, anyone could show you pretty views from here, but only I would show you this stuff!

New fountain time

Here's the foundation of the new (restored) fountain being constructed at Versailles. Today, concrete is being laid. The original stones from the surrounds of the fountain are laid out ready to go back.

Where has the big fountain gone?

The biggest fountain at Versailles is under restoration right now. So we didn't get to see it in the conventional way. The sculptures of the fountain were off elsewhere, but the foundations for a restored fountain were being laid here.

Cheese on toast, French style

This is the kind of thing I get to have for lunch. Toast grilled with goats cheese, on a bed of salad, often with honey and nuts. This time the salad is apple and endive. So, so nice.

Beautiful pears on the way

These pears are well on the way. The gardens in Versailles maintain a huge number of heritage varieties that might not be cultivated otherwise.

The pear trees at Versailles

The trees at the Potager du Roi know how to behave. Aesthetically pleasing, and I expect the pruning makes it easier to harvest a crop of excellent fruit.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Marvels of Versailles

You know Versailles? You know Marie-Antoinette's little hamlet there? You know the pond there? These are the fish in that pond.

More photos later, it turns out there was some other stuff at Versailles too. But now we have to go and join a queue. Or not. We'll see when we get there.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Macaron research

You can't be a macaron baker and NOT go to Laduree. Can you? We had wonderful hot chocolate and treats to eat in their elegant tea room. Touristy, sure, but it was lovely.

What's that in the road? A head?

Nope, it's a foot.

Lovely morning at the Rodin Museum. We tried to go to the D'Orsay, but were scared off by the huge queue. Easily an hour in line, and that was quite early in the day. The Rodin museum is an easy and very rewarding visit.

The oddest bookshop we've ever seen

"Un Regarde Moderne" in the Saint Germain area is a bookshop I found a mention of while we were planning this trip. It got onto our list of things to see. Today we actually went there, having discovered it is very close to one of Jeff's favourite game shops. This book shop is famous for ... Well, just look at the layout. Piles of books everywhere. We assumed we'd just look in and then get out again.

But, the shop worked its magic, and within a minute, we'd seen "Alice au pays de lettres" - Alice in the Land of Letters. Anyone who knows Jeff knows that interesting Alice in Wonderland variations are some of his favourite things. Along with word puzzles.

So he squeezed into the aisle where it was (there honestly wasn't room to turn around) and grabbed the interesting book. We found the owner and paid, and backed carefully out.

So I recommend you all go and visit this bookshop. But maybe one at a time.

Death at the Sorbonne

We saw something in a guidebook, and had to go back to the little garden at the Sorbonne. The one that's open to the public. Well, they didn't kick us out, anyway.

And here we present, DEATH, the sculpture that keeps an eye on the medical students. It's an awesome sculpture.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Rue des Thermopyles

Jeff said I should post this too, to show just how pretty this little street is. It's right in the middle of the middle class suburbs, and very different from any of the surrounding streets.

Gorgeous roses in Rue de Thermopyles

This pretty rose was climbing right up to the second floor.

A new favourite Paris street

We wandered past a most interesting street today, Rue de Thermopyles in the 14th arrondissement. The main roads around there are big shopping streets (we were looking at fashion outlet stores), but this tiny street looks like it's in a pretty village. This friendly cat came out for a talk.

A French bulldog

Gail wants me to pat one of these. That's not likely to happen, but here's a proper French bulldog.

Some tower or other

Lovely day in Paris, so we walked extra far. We found this tower, which looks popular.

This looks like a good place to lie down

An awful lot of people queuing for a long time here. Good time to fold your big scarf into a cushion, and lie down on the grass. You can spend too much of your life queuing.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Oh look, another flea market

I found the web site where local trash and treasure style markets are advertised. This one as near us. Well. THIS end of it was pretty far from our apartment. It was HUGE.

Take your cat on the Metro

This good natured gent didn't mind at all that everyone wanted to take his photo. His cat was awesome.

Pauline and Jeff full of morning tea

When I take you to Paris, this is where we'll stop first, ok? Angelina is famous for its hot chocolate. This is the "courtesane", one of the many items on the treats menu.

Paris full of tourists

And guys selling cheap souvenirs, copy handbags, and hats. Irk. Let's go the other way shall we?

Saturday, 3 May 2014

What Chantilly is famous for.

Is it the Chateau? The spectacular art collection? The magnificent gardens by Le Notre? The hamlet that inspired Marie-Antoinette's at Versailles?

No, it's the cream. Every snack for sale in Chantilly comes with the offer of Chantilly cream. Here's Jeff having peach ice cream avec Chantilly creme.

Of course we found a maze

In the gardens of the chateau at Chantilly, there is a labyrinth. In spite of wet ground and threatening rain, we had to do it.
We escaped unscathed.

In the chapel at Chantilly

Ah, the chapel. This is where I come to be humble. I even had a man make a picture of me being humble. Can we get a little more gold leaf on the humble picture, please?

The real reason for visiting Chantilly

We heard there were paintings of monkeys. And there were. It was the fashion, and a sneaky way to make fun of people you didn't approve of.

A library we like the look of

Here we are at the Chateau at Chantilly. This is the library. Two levels of books, and comfy chairs at the end of the room. We'll take it!

Friday, 2 May 2014

A clutch of Paris giraffes

Here are most of the herd, all clustered in one bit of their huge habitat. Why? Why not! It made for a nice group portrait. They wandered off later.

Happy birthday Mum

A giraffe picture for you.

Nicest cafe in Paris

... Or at least, the one with the best view of roaming giraffes. At the Zoo at Vincennes.

My mum likes giraffes, so I'll be posting a few more giraffey pictures today.

Such a sad sight...

The noble giraffe, trapped in a cage.

Actually, no, these pampered giraffes have an extensive habitat outside, with a variety of spaces to use. This one is just waiting to get IN to the pleasant indoor lodge where there is fresh food, and straw on the floor.

Hands down best animal of the day

The award for best animal today goes to the chameleon. Just look at it. Look at it some more. They climb along very thin branches. It looks like they get as far way from everyone else as they can when they want to ... go to the toilet. Then they climb back. And they use those coily tails for balance and holding on.

What kind of bird seed will we need... attract some of THESE to our garden?

Iguana needing a funny caption

Can't think of a funny thing to say about this iguana, but it looked really cool.

Up close and penguin

We went to the new Zoo in Paris today - that is, the zoo at Vincennes, recently reopened after extensive renovation. Here is a Humbolt's penguin. But the sign, which I couldn't really understand, seemed to say that it's not a true penguin. But that the foolish English think it is. The French have two words, "manchot", and "pinguin". This is a manchot.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

A proper french person!

Wow, how French is that! This is what we have been expecting all along!

She is, of course, in costume at a trade show. Furthermore, she's in charge of the door to the adults only section. This racy section sold such racy items as truffle oil, and heart shaped chocolates. So racy!

That's nougat

This is where nougat comes from, children.

The syrup tree!

My favourite bit of the Foire de Paris - the syrup tree. Moulin de Valdonne make the posh syrups and cordials that go into cocktails, and that also make nice recipe ingredients. And you can just have it like cordial. Help yourself to syrup from the tree, and top up with water from the nearby coolers. Violette is pretty interesting, but not actually nice to drink. I bought a bottle of Recette Provencale (strawberry, cantaloupe, lemon and watermelon), which is very nice.

We find the worlds biggest jigsaw puzzle

At the Foire de Paris (kind of a big home show), this is a 33,600 price puzzle. It comes in a wooden crate, and a sells for 259 euros. But don't worry, if you buy at the show, you get a smaller puzzle free.