House Call in Paris

What a supremely smooth start to my arrival in Paris! The nonstop flight from San Francisco afforded me some sleep; the taxi driver from the airport abided by the speed limits; the concierge person for my rental apartment was upbeat in assisting me with getting my luggage up the steep narrow stairs to my apartment: my tiny but recently renovated and charming apartment had everything I needed for me to be able to call it home for my stay of almost a month.  My long-awaited return was off to a hassle-free energetic start!

So, after checking into my 18 square meter (approximately 194 square feet) apartment (yes, you did read that correctly!) on rue Bonaparte in the 6th arrondissement  (and, yes, this is a prime location, if you are as fond of the Left Bank as I am), I left my unpacking for later.

I sought out my traditional reentry into Paris and headed over to Cafe Les Deux Magots (http://www.lesdeuxmagots.fr/en/ambiances.php#/ambiances.php) to have a drink to celebrate and, in this particular case, also an omelette for lunch. Yes, I know this Cafe is overpriced. Yes, I know it sounds a bit cliché to do this, but I am also one to highly recommend the Seine boat ride from Pont Neuf to first time visitors to Paris, starting at dusk, so they can see the city light up, but at the same time, also get their bearings for their future days in Paris.

I’ve been doing my Cafe Les Deux Magots ritual for how many visits to Paris now? Well, I’ve lost count. As said, it is a ritual…an announcement to me that says,”I now know I have arrived in my favorite city.” After getting as prime a seat as possible, I stared out at the highly aged St Germain des Pres Church and took in a few of its familiar architectural details, only to then shift my line of sight to the corner of blvd. Saint Germain and rue Bonaparte to people watch…OK, add in dog watching, kiss watching, auto/bike watching, and, of course, the latest-trends-in-clothes watching and its worth the price of admission. After all, my cafe ‘ticket’ allows for hours of watching, if I desire. As far as I’m concerned, the international rhythmic movement of the Left Bank lies on that corner.

Before I knew it, I was in a conversation with five students from Alliance Francaise, two of them Americans, one Italian, and the other two were of Middle Eastern background. We spoke English, although that wasn’t the primary language for three of the five of them, but it was the language we all had in common. We spoke about our native and chosen countries we lived in, what Paris meant to us, the difficulties in learning the French language, their various reasons behind wanting to learn the language and my reasons for not being fluent by now.

After a lively discussion with the group, one of which, by the way, was from Marin County, I followed through with more of my usual reentry. I strolled up and down blvd Saint Germain to rue du Bac (the border of the 6th and 7th arr.) with some cobblestoned street detours thrown in, doing yet another one of my favorite past times: window shopping–making sure the old and familiar shops were still there, and discovering what changes had occurred in the neighborhood. That was Friday late morning through the afternoon. By that evening, I was sick.

Just in case you find yourself in my predicament–a solo traveler, female, not language fluent–consider these steps, but also remember Paris, and, actually, France, may have one up on other countries you visit.

First, I thought it was wise to stock up on groceries, as I didn’t feel like I was going to make it out of my symptoms quickly. Fortunately, just a few blocks away, was a Monoprix. (I was with it enough to notice that the Monoprix, on rue de Rennes, seemed to have had an interior facelift since I had last visited it). Yet another clue to knowing I wasn’t quite up to par was that I passed by this IMG_1582    and thisIMG_1140

and wasn’t stepping inside the shop to pick up a sample!  Something was definitely wrong….

I know. It’s difficult to say this, but here I was in Paris after not having been there in a few years and I ended up staying indoors for the rest of the weekend! I even missed a lunch Paris friends had arranged for my homecoming! So, although I was peeking out my Paris apartment window and on to the cobblestoned courtyard, rather than peeking in the Paris windows shops, I still couldn’t help feeling grateful for my fortunate circumstances. After all, I was, once again, in the arms of my lover, Paris!

And, I gave in to the way it was….for now: You tube kept my spirits up:(‘Look Out Any Window’ sung by Bruce Hornsby) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBSeEcFiTWA (appropriate, eh?) OR (‘That’s Just Way It Is’ also by Bruce Hornsby) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOeKidp-iWo (And, innumerable others, as it became a habit to listen to music while getting dressed in the morning)/Kindle books on my iPad/movies through iTunes or other sources/emails/Skype. Wow…what a variety of ways to ‘entertain’ myself while in ‘sick’ travel mode, as compared to just a few years ago.

At the beginning of the week, I started to venture out. I was feeling revived and had convinced myself that the residual of my symptoms were related to jet lag and the stress of last-minute arrangements I had to attend to before leaving California. I remember stepping out and literally pinching myself! I really had arrived!

However, on Wednesday morning I woke up and realized I couldn’t speak, but with an eek and a squeak, along with my other symptoms back again with a vengeance and, now, could not be ignored!

So, in Paris, my next step was to call SOS Medecins! I think it is one of the most brilliant services offered on this planet. I have called the SOS Medecins phone number, with prior arrivals (bronchitis) and they passed me on to a staff member who speaks enough English to get my information. This time though, I couldn’t speak in a strong enough voice to be understood!

Instead, I figured out I had better email a local friend of mine, as well as the apartment rental concierge to see who would return my ‘call out for help’ first. Around 2PM, my friend was able to call them for me and describe the exact location of my apartment, as it takes more than just an address in Paris for someone to get to your apartment door.

In the past, a doctor arrived within a couple of hours of the time I had called. This time, it was over 5 hours later, but the service called me after about 4 hours (just when I was starting to get anxious) to reassure me that they had not forgotten about me.

When the doctor arrived, he apologized for his lateness (Paris had an epidemic of the flu) and then took one look at me (yes, he actually looked at me, took my vital signs, which were so out of whack he did an EKG and then starting writing prescriptions…5 in all. One was a double dose of antibiotics. Along with all his writing, he exclaimed, “You are SICK!”

He gave me a list of all the illnesses he felt I had. He also made it clear how contagious I was. Although he grew up in Poland, he was now married to a French woman, thus his life in Paris. Between my whisper of an American voice and his Polish/French accented English voice and a few notes jotted on paper–remember this–we communicated, and you can too, in a foreign country! Lastly, another gesture was offered that helped me to feel he was taking care of me. He gave me his personal cell phone number, just in case my recovery did not go as hoped….so continuity of care was even offered!

You may already know there is a pharmacy (green cross signage) on almost every block in Paris. And, fortunately, the one just down the block was still open, as it was now after 8PM. I didn’t have to ask, but make sure you get forms for your insurance company from both the doctor and the pharmacist, so you can get reimbursed.

By the way, my concierge person kept in contact with me throughout the day and even offered to fill my prescriptions for me. I only declined because I wanted to make sure I got them before the pharmacy closed that evening and I wasn’t sure she could make it over to my neighborhood in time.

I was later told that in most cities or towns in France, SOS Medecins or an emergency doctor exist to make a house call. To back this up, I noticed the service was listed in my apartment information in Nice too. Also take note, SOS Medecins, at least in the larger cities, is a different service number than calling for an emergency or ambulance or fire, for instance.

The medical tools that now exist make this type of visit even more appropriate and more successful. Although my combination of illnesses meant even more time spent in my Parisian apartment, I was, thanks to SOS Medecins, ON THE MEND! Cheers! Judy

(SOS Medecins’ service is offered 24/7. Their phone number in Paris is: 01 47 07 77 77.) What has been your experience in other countries?

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My Paris Neighborhood

Here I am still posting about Paris, although I left over a month ago and have already been to Nice and Uzes, and about to make my way to Amsterdam via TGV and Thalys–fast trains! It is only a two and a half hour TGV ride from Avignon(Provence) in the south of France to Paris. This is generally a six and a half hour drive! Once in Paris, I do have to take a taxi to a different train station so I have saved enough time between trains to do so. But then it is just another couple of hours on the Thalys train and I am in Amsterdam! Uzes, by the way, is just a 45 minute drive to Avignon. I love the trains as I get to see, see, see…and relax, relax, relax…

There are endless topics about Paris but I also have so much to tell you about my other stops too and, I will, eventually! Today, though, I want to show you just a touch of my neighborhood in the 6th arrondissement (20 districts in all in Paris).

Over the years, I spent a lot of time in a number of locations in Paris–right bank and left. Both, in hotels and apartments. I ended up settling on the 6th. The area has a balance of history and aesthetic, especially a combination of the old buildings and modern goods to purchase, found in and amongst the cobblestoned streets. It also is home to my favorite gardens, the Luxembourg Gardens.

Much of the 6th is also just a few minutes walk to the Seine, which also means you can get to the Right Bank–Louvre, Marais, Tuileries, for instance, and then also Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Cite. On top of that list, one of my favorite pastimes, window shopping, is easily stimulated here but also my neighborhood within the 6th functions, making day-to-day living easy and comfortable.

This is not to say neighborhoods like this don’t exist all over Paris and there is even more than one in the 6th. I just kept being drawn back to this one. And, it doesn’t mean I don’t venture out to other areas of Paris. Quite the contrary. But this is where I ‘come home’ at the end of the day. After all, George Clooney is in constant ‘residence’ here too! (Nespresso, 64, rue Bonaparte-just one of the many shop locations in Paris.)

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And, he’s right. It is ‘good to the last drop’!

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I am not the only one that thinks this! Look at the Parisians in line that agree with me!

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And, once you make your purchases, you are invited, upstairs, to have a ‘cup on the house’.

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This leaves you looking down into this generously spaced shop–at the Nespresso machine selections offered…IMG_1448

and the wide variety of coffee pods also offered…IMG_1452

Now, time for a stop at the boulangerie…Eric Kayser (10,rue de l’ Ancienne Comedie-one of three locations in the 6th). Notice his logo is scribed into the wall, over and over again.

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Aquarelle on rue de Buci is always a good stop for flowers. I have been so captivated by the fresh flowers, that only until recently, I did I notice what was above the awning!

 

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The Parisians have learned to clean up after their dogs. And, the street cleaners are also out regularly. IMG_1306

And, maybe a stop in at Taschen, publisher of art and architecture books, across the street from Aquarelle, on rue de Buci. Not much to look at from the outside, but filled with photographs in color in the books offered inside.

 

 

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Several possibilities for lunch…but here are just a couple to consider: Fish and Semilla. They are co-owned by the same 2 guys. They are also opening up a tapas place next door to Semilla. Here is a look at Semilla (54, rue de Seine) showing the lovely ‘budding wall’:

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I came late for lunch so many of the tables were vacated. Here is my yummy ‘plat’:

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Fish (la Boissonnniere) at 69, rue de Seine, has been around much longer than Semilla, but both have a great reputation and following, including me! They are co-owned by a Cuban-American and a man from New Zealand (who also owns the well known sandwich and salad eat in/take out shop on the same street, called ‘Cosi’). Fish started out as a wine bar. And, here is a plaque I noticed while eating my lunch with carrot cake dessert at the bar: IMG_1442

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What’s not to say a bike ride is in order after this lunch! After all, there are baskets for your purchases!IMG_1292

 

And head for the Luxembourg Gardens on a sunny day….even in February!IMG_1350

Many of the flowers had been planted and were starting their growth. Trees were heading in the direction of blossoming. Some were sunning themselves and, others, like me, were touring the gardens and, still others at one of the cafes. It was a great day to spend some time at the Luxembourg. And, as usual, it was pristine and ready for action. Not really a need for a bike to get there, as it is just a short stroll away with window shopping always included! The last stop…well, the wine shop, of course!

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Juan Sanchez, the Cuban-American that co-owns Fish and Semilla, is the owner. The day I stopped in for a purchase or two, his father was visiting his son and doing some handyman work on the shop. The staff speaks English so they are great at assisting you with your selections. They offer wine classes. You can get in touch with them and get on their mailing list or follow them on Facebook. They also have wine tastings, which are always good for the wine, but also a chat with another English-speaking person. (La Derniere Goutte , 6, rue de Bourbon Le Chateau) I believe la derniere goutte refers to ‘good to the last drop’.

Well, we’ve hardly stretched our legs in my neighborhood…more to come…

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From one season to the next in France…

I was there…in Paris, that is, for Valentine’s Day, and before I left I caught a glimpse of the shop windows starting to roll into Easter.  But, first, take a look at what stopped me in my tracks before Valentine’s Day:

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You have to go see for yourself! The Pont des Arts (pedestrian bridge in the 6th and just before the west end of Ile de la Cite) and the Pont de Archeveche (just behind Notre Dame on the east end of Ile de la Cite  in the 5th) bridges are even more love-lock laden than the last time I was in Paris. The site actually startled me and then took my breath away when I came upon the sentimentality left behind by lovers.  This photo captures a close shot of the approach to the Pont des Arts, but the brassiness of the locks can still be seen lining the length of the bridge, which, of course, are on both sides of the bridge.  This Valentine’s sentiment can be seen all year long. However, the Valentine season shop windows come but once a year–Gerard Mulot in the 6th (76, rue de Seine):

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Notice the abundance of placards of chocolate standing upright on the left! Although he has several locations in Paris, Patrick Roger’s windows at 2-4 place St. Sulpice became some of my favorite windows not to miss on my walks! And, then this shop:

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and yet another:

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All macarons! A new shop, just with macarons! And then the windows shifted with the season….

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Back to my new favorite chocolate shop windows–with Easter now the focus! (And, I think the fish are to pay homage to a tradition in France on April Fool’s Day.) The eggs are on one side of the window display at Patrick Roger’s shop. Here’s the rest:

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Chickens–hens! On chocolate ground with chocolate grass!  (sorry for the glare)IMG_1433

 

And, then Easter dolls, as they were calling them, at the next stop….IMG_1434

and another lineup…But now I am in Uzes (qualifies as a gushy, mushy, impressionable town in the Gard region, just south of Provence and a 45 minute drive from the Avignon TGV station)  and here is what my dessert looked like for lunch today at L’Artemise:

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This creative ‘bunny’ shaped dessert is all sweet–not really an egg! For Easter, I have been invited to a vineyard picnic just outside of Uzes! Consider me fortunate! How about you?

 

 

February in Paris

I’m sure most of you don’t think about running out the door to visit Paris in February. I do, but then, I will go at any time of year! For starters, flights are generally less expensive. And, also Parisian life is in full swing including exhibitions & other cultural events. It is less crowded with tourists & even Parisians tend to think I am Parisian, as long as I don’t open my mouth! I know, because I am often stopped on the street for directions! Dressed properly, strolling is enjoyable & shop windows are heading into spring collections …See, I’m smiling!

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Here are just a few snapshots of my life in Paris in February:

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Blue skies….I sit in a warm cafe and watch the bundled up bike riders pass by.

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I sit inside, again, in a cafe which also offers outdoor seating with heaters at Les Editeurs (#4 Carrefour de l’Odeon 75006 Paris/ Metro: Odeon) and watch the Parisians drive (yes, the top is down on that sports car) or again, bike riders pass by! And, no, this is not Amsterdam. Bikes are, increasingly, becoming a popular mode of transportation in Paris.

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I pass by a school in the 6th arrondissement & read the students’ menu for the week for lunch. Note the several courses! IMG_1059

I make new friends while eating lunch at the stunningly renovated Angelina’s, after a stop, first, at the long-established WH Smith Bookstore (248, rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris/Metro: Concorde) to buy a lightweight guidebook on Amsterdam. Success!

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After lunch, I enter the Les Arts Decoratifs Museum (107, rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris/Metro: Tuileries, Pyramides, Louvre-Rivoli) to attend an exhibition on buttons! (Deboutonner La Mode or ‘Unbutton Fashion’). You can read about it here: http://www.architecturaldigest.com/blogs/daily/2015/02/buttons-exhibit-at-les-arts-decoratifs-article or here: http://www.architecturaldigest.com/blogs/daily/2015/02/buttons-exhibit-at-les-arts-decoratifs-article

A quick summary–Over 3000 buttons and over 100 pieces of clothing and accessories from the 18th to the 20th century are on display through July 19th. Plastic to metal to fabric to enamel to wood to horn to….Just a few of the photos I took:

IMG_1094IMG_1099IMG_1101IMG_1108 and, on another stroll, I see:

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It’s pushing early evening so no one is having ice cream outside here, but sitting outside is common in the winter and comforts of heaters and blankets offered do make it possible! I also saw this window shop:IMG_1619

 

This suggests ‘Spring is on its way to springing! Happy Spring to all of you!

Mosquitoes

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Photo description:  My recently purchased hammock on one of my three terraces off the master bedroom.  The view looks down into the casa’s courtyard.  The white steps that you can see behind the greenery, and against the yellow wall, go to one of the three bedrooms.  The salmon wall houses another bedroom with a terrace above, which can be accessed from the master bedroom.

Dali Lama:  If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.

 TIDBITS

(1)  I am in good health.  No trips to the pharmacy for Imodium, just a stop for anti-itch cream.   How many places on your body can one mosquito bite you?  Let me count the itchy spots!

(2)  On the way to the pharmacy, did I tell you I stopped for a bottle of ‘agua’?  I can get about six blocks before the heat settles in, deep into my bones, and deeper into my skin, if I hadn’t brought SPF 100!

(3) Because of the heat and humidity, taxis are the only game in town.  And, as you probably know, with your own travels and, if you don’t speak the language, the absolute worst is trying to communicate over the phone.

My address goes like this:  Calle 68  #534 “A’ x 65 y 67.  Before I attempted to call for my first taxi, I practiced  my numbers in Spanish.  However, I spilled out all the numbers without making much of any differentiation between the street (Calle 68), the number of the house (Casa #534 ‘A’) and then the additional bit, ‘x’  (between) Calle 65 ‘y’ (and this one) Calle 67.  Well, as you can imagine, the taxi dispatcher hung up on me!  But, I used my resources on hand.  I was able to rope the plumber into calling the taxi for me, as he happened to be at the casa making it so the water would run through the pipes again.

There’s a happy ending to this tidbit.  My map showed a bus terminal near my casa.  Sure enough.  Two blocks away, taxi stands!  On top of this,  I found out all the taxis in the service called  ‘Santa Ana’ have air conditioning!!  Now that is a home run!

(4)  It’s time for me to mention the kindness of foreign land people who butt up against strangers, like me who don’t speak their language?  Yes, the locals have won me over!

As an example (before I figured out the location of the taxi stand), I decided to call the Rosas & Xocolate’s Boutique Hotel, where I was planning to go for lunch.  I asked if it was possible for them to call a taxi to come pick me up from my home address and take me to their restaurant.  The English-speaking manager kindly booked the taxi for me.   In fact, once I arrived, I asked to speak with her so I could thank her in person.  She then offered to call a taxi for me, anytime, even if I am not coming there for a meal!

Quite frankly, I wish my casa was next door, as I would go there for a meal every day.  So far, their ambience and menu selections are my favorite.  If you read about their ‘history’ on their website, you will see the state of the two mansions before they were renovated.  Please take note.  When possible, they salvaged some of the pasta floor tiles and you can see them in a few of their photos.

http://www.rosasandxocolate.com/index.htm

(5)  I have yet to sleep in a hammock.  But just to let you know, when I went and visited a development, The Yucatan Country Club and Resort, (http://yucatancountry.com/), I was shown around by an Irish New Yorker real estate agent.  When he showed me the laundry room, in one of the condominiums, it also had a bathroom and closet of its own.  He said you could hire a live-in housekeeper.  This would be her room.   When it was nighttime, the secure posts in the walls would be where she would hang her hammock so she could sleep.  He said 95% of the Yucatecs sleep in hammocks.

‘In the words of the Maya, a hammock is like “the bed of a loving mother” where the soothing, rocking motion is reminiscent of the warmth and tenderness that only a mother can give.’
 
I was taken to Artemayab local shop by a tour guide.  It is my understanding that the proceeds made from the sale of their hammocks support a shelter for battered and abused women.The quote, above, is from their website:  http://artemayab.com/index-hammocks-handmade-yucatecan-mexican.html
DIY:  If any of you want to know how to securely tie your hammock to its posts, I took photos, step by step, and can send them to you.  I was prepared, but, in the end, my housekeeper did it for me.

(6)  I know some of my friends have concern for my safety in Mexico and I appreciate your concern.  With that said, the city of Merida, and the Yucatan peninsula, in general, have the reputation of being the safest city/region in Mexico.

Apparently, statistics show that many American cities have a worse crime rate than Merida.  Chicago, for instance, is brought up as a comparison, whenever safety is discussed here.  With that said, I do go by the general rules of safety:  I lock my front entrance doors while at home, or when I am away; I pay attention to who is walking near me; I play down my jewelry and dress; and so on, just as we all do when traveling, especially in cities.

I know.  I just got started.  However,  a friend just came to visit and I am tied up with new adventures, including along the Caribbean coast!  Enough for now…stay tuned.