Archive for September, 2011

Allons France! World Cup Rugby

September 29, 2011 @ 10:31 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Rugby fans choose crepes to go


The 2011 Rugby World Cup is well underway in the host country of New Zealand, where France will match up against Tonga on Saturday.  You don’t have to know a thing about sports or about Rugby, in particular, to catch the fever of international competition.

We had the good fortune to be visiting Paris, when France hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup.  Throughout the city, the nationalistic buzz was palpable, with colorful flags draped above pub doorways and costumed fans taking to the streets.

One evening we met friends at the base of rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter to watch an outdoor televised match over dinner.  Matches were televised throughout Paris, and in another stroke of our travel luck, we turned the corner by the Hotel de Ville one evening to discover the entire plaza covered with fans watching a match on the screen draped from Paris’ gorgeous city hall.

Mais oui – we joined all of those folks in the “Allez, allez France cheers!  Despite our lack of understanding of the rules, we knew the higher score wins the game; and France was the decisive 25-3 victor in this match against Ireland.  Needless to say, it was a most spirited evening, with the sweet taste of victory rippling through the capital.

Pubs lure rugby fans

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Champ des Mars, Lazy and Lovely

September 28, 2011 @ 9:45 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan


In the 'shadow' of Le Tour Eiffel


We have taken photos of our view at the base of le Tour Eiffel.  On the park bench in the bright sun, we watch families stroll by, a father pushing his toddler’s stroller.  Two young men from Norway ask for directions to a café, where they may play chess.  A lively game of petanque takes place just behind us.  Birds sing, and the air is filled with the soft sounds of French conversations.

Is it any wonder that F. Scott and Ernest and Anais drew from deep creative wells here in Paris?  In rain or in the bright Parisian sun, the colors and sounds quietly ask to be shared.

From the Eiffel Tower the grand green space of the Champ des Mars spreads like an oasis in the city.  A rose arbor stands guard over vivid yellow and orange flowers, drifting lazily in the breeze.  A little fella’ runs after the pigeons and wonders at their escaping him.  An elder lady sits properly in her green knit suit, while jeans-clad students spread jackets and scatter themselves like happy thoughts all over the garden lawns.

A little petanque match by the Champ des Mars

We join the lawn dwellers and sun seekers – with our own style and personal signature.  Provencal linen spread, a fine bottle of burgundy, assorted cheeses, artisan bread, fresh grapes and the Eiffel world surroundings.  We drink, we eat, we laugh.  We take photos.

Four men in their mid twenties, park nearby with their 26-pack of Kronenburg.  Through the afternoon, we talk now and then with one of them.  They are from Poland and work illegally (no papers) in the floor and tile industry.  They live in a Parisian suburb and, unable to find work in Poland, they have lived here for over a year.  They enjoy a quiet kinship with their beer.  These are carless inhabitants of six-story flats who relish the camaraderie and space of the wonderful Parisian parks.

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Montmartre Harvest Festival, Paris

September 27, 2011 @ 9:00 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

19th-Century Basilique du Sacré-Cœur at the very top a Montmartre hill - © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Angot


There simply is no shortage of fun and festive activities throughout Paris.  This year the traditional Montmartre Harvest Festival runs from October 5th to the 9th, with special activities for children, musical entertainment and of course the annual wine-tasting of the Clos Montmartre wine.

Selected wines from different regions around France also will be featured, but the whole ‘raison d’être’ – reason for being – for the festival is to celebrate the harvest from the famous Montmartre district, as they have done each year for nearly 80 years.

The vineyard itself is an interesting story – can you imagine a vineyard in Manhattan?  Though the vineyards likely date back to Roman times, they flourished from the 17th to the end of the 18th century, operated and sold by the ladies of the Benedictine Abbey.  Neither the Abbey nor the Abbess fared too well during the French Revolution; the last Abbess Marie Louise de Montmorency-Laval was executed in July, 1794.

The vineyards would have disappeared altogether were it not for wise city fathers, who supported recreating the vineyards in lieu of allowing development of the land.  The vines were replanted in 1933, and today the 27 vine varieties produce approximately 1500 bottles a year of Clos Montmartre.

Grand finale parade

During the grand finale, members of the wine industry dress in Venetian-like costumes and parade through Montmartre’s cobbled streets, dedicating their march to Bacchus, the Roman God of Wine. Beyond the merriment and festivities of the harvest, the wine sold and all of the proceeds of the events benefit charities and social services for the most disadvantaged of the 18th arrondissement.

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Dining in “Toulouse Ville Rose “

September 25, 2011 @ 10:07 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Place du Capitole, Toulouse, the Occitan cross in the foreground. Copyrights : © ATOUT FRANCE/Franck Charel

On a beautiful July evening in southern France, we drove from our little village gite into Toulouse – Ville Rose (Pink City).  The city earned the unusual nickname, because it is predominantly constructed of tiles and wide Roman bricks that change through the light of day from gentle pink to fiery orange colors.

Making our way along shaded boulevards and canals, we arrived near the city center, parked and walked to the stunning Place du Capitole, one of the liveliest squares in Toulouse.  The dominant “guardian” over the sprawling square is the remarkably beautiful Capitole, home to the Town Hall and National Theatre.  We chose the perfect  seating across the plaza at one of the many restaurants and cafes that face the Capitole.

It turned out to be a ideal spot to enjoy a “worldly” dinner and an excellent box seat from which to watch the buzz of activity throughout the plaza.  I say worldly because we are in the South of France, enjoying Italian fare at the Pizza Marzano that first opened in Barcelona, Spain.  Why not mix it up a bit?  Our waiter was friendly and helpful in suggesting just the right pizza, salad and made-to-order Sangria, all with the freshest of ingredients from the virgin extra olive oil and tomatoes to the bright orange slices in our drinks.

Over our most-delicious-pizza ever tasted, we watched families make their way along the row of restaurants, stopping for an ice cream or decadent dessert.  Couples and groups of students dined nearby, all of us sharing a bit of the magic of the evening under the Toulouse sky..
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