Surprise inhabitants

Posted in Gardening, Journal at 21:08

Peat winch, Lofoten, Norway

Just over two years ago, not long after breaking my wrist, I moved into a new place in a Parisian suburb that has a lovely garden. My first January in it, a few bluebells sprouted. A year later, half a dozen bluebells grew in the same spot – I reminded myself I had better think to dig up the bulbs and divide them, but I didn’t until this January.

While it only looked like about a dozen sprouts above ground, this was what I ended up with. I potted several, planted others in a decorative row, still others in a sunny corner patch, and the remainder went into their original spot in front of my kitchen doors.

The wee leafy plant is a young spider plant (also known as “airplane plant” in the States). It’s a trippy (non-toxic) one for cats, and as soon as it’s large enough will become a swatting toy for the furballs.

Paris gets colder and grayer than Nice in winter, but I’ve enjoyed it ever since coming up here. It reminds me of home; cold, damp winters and my favorite, fog. There’s nothing quite like fog over the Seine, crossing swans here and there, listening to geese honk along it, and saying “hello” to the crows who hop around searching for bugs in foliage.

Paris in a day

Posted in Cats, La France, Photography, Travel at 19:17


Yesterday my employer sent me to our consulting company’s Paris offices for a client interview. The potential project would be with a client located in La Défense, which is a business sector in Neuilly, just outside of Paris. You can see La Grande Arche de la Défense from the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysées; it looks like a contemporary square white arch not much larger than the historical Arc. Once you’re actually in front of it, though, you realize that it is massive.

After the meeting finished, I had an hour of free time to see Paris. I took métro line 1 to the Tuileries, the large gardens in front of the Louvre. I found a tea shop nearby, with reasonable prices given it was set between the Conseil d’État and the Louvre. I sipped a delicious jasmine tea, then took the metro and RER back to Orly for my flight home. There are a few more photos in this set of the trip.

I thought the kitties would understand me getting home a couple hours later than usual. They seemed to yesterday evening, but not this morning. As I prepared to leave for work, Susu started mewing at me and circling my feet. When I went to get my purse, she said, “MEW?!” and jumped on it. She refused. To. Budge. “No! You are staying home today! No more purses taking you to offices! Mew!” She managed to jump back on it the three times I picked her up; eventually I had to pick up my purse with her on it, then put her on the floor. “Meeewwwwww…” she cried. Too smart for her own sweet good, that little kitty-girl.

Paris in February

Posted in La France, Travel at 16:01

L'Européen - Paris 12ème

At this time last week, I was arriving in the 12ème arrondissement of Paris, home to the Gare de Lyon, Viaduc des arts, and the Bastille, among others. Like the last time I was there, it was for a three-day job training course, so I didn’t have much daylight to explore the city. I did very much enjoy my time there, though, since I got to catch up with two friends who introduced me to some great eateries, and also got to see some sights I hadn’t before.

The photo above is of a place I had already seen – this is a beautiful building across the street from Gare de Lyon, photographed just over a year ago in daylight here. It has a bit of everything: great art deco type on the brasserie signage, the Haussmanian architecture so typical of Paris, and striking colors. My first photo in the city was actually of place de la Bastille – when I got home, I was treated to the neat surprise of it being in bleu blanc rouge, “blue white red”, the colors of the French flag.

Place de la Bastille, twilight

In all the times I’d been to Paris, I still hadn’t seen the Sacré Cœur basilica in Montmartre. It was quite a métro and walking trip to get there from Bastille, but I was treated to a gorgeous twilight setting with rare clear skies and the nearly-full moon gracing them. My Paris photos in this set include those of Montmartre; this one below is my favorite. The bright spot in the sky is not the moon, but something else (I quite like it, whatever it is). This is a purely Parisian shot, as I’d forgotten my monopod at home, so I used one of the wrought iron railings in front of Sacré Cœur to set my camera on.

View from Montmartre - Paris

The next day, the biting cold, windy weather got another addition: snow! I was delighted. Paris covered in a clean white dusting was an unforgettable sight and something I’d long hoped to see.

Opéra de la Bastille sous la neige

La ville de lumière

Posted in La France, Travel at 22:11

La Seine from Pont d'Arcole

I spent a nice but chilly three and a half days in Paris, and had the chance to take some photos while exploring the city in the evenings. I didn’t have any room to pack my tripod, so some of the night shots don’t have stunning clarity, but they did turn out surprisingly well. Along with this archetypal photo of the Seine taken from a bridge that connects the 4th quarter to the Île de la Cité, my other favorites are Notre Dame against a twilight sky, the terrifically Gothic St. Jacques tower complete with spooky branches in the foreground, and Pont Alexandre III with Eiffel dressed in Christmas lights and her rotating beacon. They and other photos can be found in my photoset for the Paris trip.

The TGV rides to and from Paris were neat, as always. Timewise, it’s rather comparable to taking a plane: flight time is about an hour and a half, then you need to add an hour for check-in, plus another two or so hours for travel to and from the departure and arrival airports, as well as waiting to gather your luggage, which makes it about 4 or 5 hours in all. The TGV takes just over 5 hours, and train stations are in the city centers — no special travel or parking necessary! I prefer the train because it’s so much less tiring. It was a relief not to have to deal with luggage or security restrictions, and to be able to get up and walk around whenever I wanted. You also get beautiful views from the large windows.

I filmed two short videos with my mobile phone, the first on Monday as we travelled through Provence between Toulon and Aix-en-Provence, and the other just after we’d left Paris on Thursday afternoon — there had been a dusting of snow over the French countryside.

Monaco today, Paris tomorrow

Posted in Journal, La France, Nice, Travel at 21:36

Monaco - Monte Carlo casino at night
This afternoon I attended a performance of “Eugene Onegin”, an opera by Tchaikovsky, in Monaco. While “going to the opera in Monaco” may well seem tinged with a bit of snootiness, in reality, performances in the principality are often more reasonably priced than elsewhere.

Tomorrow I take a TGV from Nice to Marseille, up through Lyon and on to Paris. I’ll be in the city a few days on business, leaving the kitties in the capable hands of a pet sitter. If you’re interested, keep an eye on my photostream; I’ll be updating it with shots from my mobile phone while in Paris. Pictures taken with my DSLR will have to wait until my return to be uploaded.

I’m really looking forward to the long train ride — my company was sweet and got me first-class tickets. It’s 1,000km (about 620 miles) from Nice to Paris, which takes just over 5 hours by TGV. The TGV still runs “slow” (about 120kmh, or 75mph) from Nice to Marseille, but gets up to speed on the Marseille-Paris stretch, which takes only 3 hours. Marseille to Paris is 660km, or 410 miles. That makes for an average speed of 220kmh/137mph — keep in mind the TGV comes to a full stop in Lyon.

Once I stepped off the train in Nice this evening, the familiar woman’s voice announcing arrivals and departures came on with one that first caught my ear because of its very short train number: 19. I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard the train’s destination: Moscow. “Le train numéro 19 à destination de Moscou va partir.” It’s a new line that was put in place just two months ago: French Riviera train for Russia. With fares starting at about 300 euros, I’m sorely tempted to try it out some day. It’s anything but a fast trip though, at 53 hours!
Nice - Moscow

Eiffel on the sky

Posted in La France, Travel at 22:24

Eiffel on the sky
I’ve been busy lately, and today was no exception — I went to Paris for a business meeting. Once it ended, I hopped on a metro to the Eiffel Tower, hoping to see it in the sunset. I didn’t have time to visit anything else in Paris, which meant that I could devote what little time I did have, to photographing more of the Eiffel Tower than I would otherwise. It was a beautiful evening, and as always, my breath was taken away by Eiffel’s gorgeous conjunction of imposing mass and fine grace. You can see more of the “Iron Lady” in my photoset from today.