26 March 2012

lighter steps

We've past the equinox on the 20th of March this year. The day is longer than the night now, seemingly more so than it really is after we forwarded the clock by one hour this past weekend.

It's not the best time of the year to be outside for allergy sufferers like me, but it's so hard not to, not after that unforgiving cold spell we had last month.

Our flat needs tidying up and the floor needs mopping, and there are several shirts hanging on the door knob looking sad and wrinkly -- but I'm going to ignore them and step out after lunch. I'll grab my Kindle and take some coffee in my thermo mug.

The question is, to which park?

19 March 2012

a day trip south

I was in the 10th grade when I first heard the name Stratford-upon-Avon. There was a chapter in my English textbook that discussed Shakespeare, and the town was mentioned as his birthplace. The name made an impression on me because, well, because it sounded so strange! What's this "upon" business? Why use a phrase for a place name?

Of course, Stratford-upon-Avon isn't the only town with a name like that. And it turns out, there are plenty of towns upon-this and upon-that in France, too. L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is one of them.

It was very quiet in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on this particular Saturday. The cafes were open and so were the antique shops, but many other stores -- including bakeries -- were closed. They didn't looked like they were just closed for lunch, either. They had the shutters down, and I had a feeling that they were open only during the week. There weren't a whole lot of people because it's not the high tourist season yet, and things were decidedly low-key.

Had we headed over to the train station, we may have found the brocante, but we didn't. And that was okay with me. It was very pleasant to walk around. We followed the meandering cobble-stone streets, popped into several antique malls, examined a couple of water wheels closely, and watched a game of boule in the park. I also had one of the best café gourmands I've ever had.


In the south of France, time flows a bit more slowly than in cities like Lyon or Paris. People are nicer and friendlier. Cars actually stop for you if you're standing at a crosswalk.


We hope to make another trip down south before the beginning of summer. Next time, however, we'll stay overnight.


16 March 2012


Serve yourself. No, not to the bidet. The brochures and booklets.

Librairie Coquillettes
6, place Fernand Rey
69001 Lyon

06 March 2012


The intricate details are striking.

They remind me of delicate spider webs. Or lacework my mother used to crochet.

Probably the most famous landmark in all of France, the Eiffel Tower's beauty is worth fighting crowds to see, especially up-close.

And if you fall helplessly in love with its graceful shape, you can take one of these to admire at home.

01 March 2012

caramel from meert

We spotted it on our way to Maison de la Chasse et de la Nature one morning.

A storefront that looked like it's been there for a couple of centuries. A vintage-looking sign that says "Chocolatier" hanging inside the window. Above the door, the words "Maison Fondée en 1761."

The lights were fully on and there was someone inside, but the door was locked. So we decided to stop on the way back from the museum.

I was very pleased with myself for discovering this shop in a quiet corner of Paris 3eme, but it turns out Meert is quite well-known. It is a popular confiserie-pâtisserie in Lille, and this Paris boutique itself is actually new, opened only late last year.

When we returned after visitng the museum, the shop was open. I may have been more excited than my son was. Inside the boutique is a confectionery-lovers' sweet paradise, with beautiful jewels of candies and chocolates displayed just so. The interior of the store is scrumptious as well. I don't have sweet tooth and don't eat much candy or chocolate, but I nearly squealed in delight as I almost could not stand the cuteness of the shop.

My son and I looked around, and I was immediately drawn to the piles of caramels in various shades of brown. There were five flavors: vanilla, coffee, hazelnuts, chocolate, and of course, salted butter. We decided to get several each of vanilla, coffee, and salted butter. Oh, wait, could you add two more salted butter ones, s’il vous plaît?

These caramels aren't really sweet. They aren't rich, either. They are such simple things, nothing but small squares. They don't have the glamour and sensuality of chocolate. But they are, oh, so agreeable --  soft, gentle, and delicate. They taste of childhood daydreams.

The small bag of caramels we bought lasted for two days. I wanted to bring some back to Lyon for my husband, so we returned to the store. The young lady who helped us laughed when I asked for ten each of all five flavors, and said "Vous êtes gourmands!" Some French-English dictionaries would tell us the word "gourmand" has a negative connotation, but the way she said it was good-natured. She put them all in a bag and tied a pretty pale blue ribbon on it for us.

Many people have bought these caramels like that, to bring to someone, to take little something home with them. Ever since 1761.

What a sweet thought.