Archive for October, 2011

Sculpture in Paris

October 30, 2011 @ 1:58 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

There's nothing wooden about this beautiful marble lady, in the snow in Paris, no less!

Amusing French Phrase: 

Avoir le gueule de bois.

To have a wooden face (that would be a hangover!)


Have a wonderful day!



Our friend, Philippe, knows how to capture unusual views of Paris

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Roscoff, Cote D’Armor in Bretagne

October 29, 2011 @ 11:57 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan


Scenic bayside walks in Roscoff

Tucked along the rugged Northern coast of Brittany, Roscoff is a peaceful, seaside village- the welcoming kind of place to choose for your base from which to explore the surrounding landscape and tranquil isles. For a decidedly upscale, romantic stay, try the Hotel Brittany. Overlooking the Bay of Morlaix on Boulevard Sainte Barbe, the boutique hotel offers a 4-star experience complete with indoor pool, inviting restaurant and comfortable, rich décor. The waterfront views are beautiful, the service warm and the 1-star Michelin restaurant a real pleasure to enjoy.

After you’ve settled in, stroll through the narrow streets to see the lovely 19th century merchants’ houses and the popular plaza by the church of Notre Dame de Croatz. Waterfront quays blend the bustle of harbor activity with a host of inviting hotels, creperies and brasseries. As Europe’s largest producer, the Cotes d’Armor teems with scallops that weigh in heavily on local menus.

Serenity is the keystone of Roscoff and the Cote d’Armor. Long promenades hug the harbor for scenic walks overlooking the water, and the village offers a surprising range of shopping and dining choices. Be sure to stop in at “Mop” for stunning artisan creations, from jewelry and purses to delightfully colorful accessories. And as you would imagine of a seaside retreat, many little boutiques offer marine-themed gifts and artwork.

Roscoff’s harbor scene

You can’t fail to notice the landmark House of Johnnies and Onion on rue Brizeux, where films and photography trace the interesting story of the “Onion Johnnies” – French onion farmers. Beginning around 1828, beret-topped farmers in striped shirts rode their bicycles door-to-door in England, Wales and Scotland. Why? To sell the distinctive pink Roscoff-area onions that hung from their bicycles in the more profitable English market. Though few Onion Johnnies remain today, the distinguished Roscoff onion continues to be produced and in 2009 obtained the Controlled Label of Origin (A.O.C.).

Be sure to take the 20-minute boat ride for a serene trip to Ile de Batz, where life for the 600 or so residents revolves around agriculture, fishing, services and crafts. Walk or cycle around the island’s landscape; where the headland overlooks the Bay of Morlaix, and sand dunes, exotic gardens and sprawling agricultural tracts are criss-crossed by pleasant lanes.
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Dine Around the Latin Quartier

October 28, 2011 @ 9:46 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Raclette and fondue cafe on rue Mouffetard

On an insider note, our France Daily Photo postings don’t arrive on a breakfast tray like a bright, new morning glory. Sometimes, they flow with ease. On other days, the tired mind reaches for a sparkling idea.

Today – voila! – a wonderful letter from our best friends in Paris gives us an insider look at dining in the Latin Quartier; and, no, I’m not too proud to pick it right up and share it in our blog. So allow us to introduce Sandy and Philippe, who savor good food, hospitality and the joy of lingering over a meal in Paris.

Now, from Sandy in Paris … I have a few (very few) favorites in the 5th that I keep going back to; as I appreciate the food, the ambience, the service and the clientele – and the prices, of course! But then you know me! I tend to stay away from the trendy spots and seek out the underdog establishments,that are sometimes so off the beaten path they are invisible to the naked eye.

Pleasant outdoor cafes in the Latin Quartier

One such restaurant that we recommend to all of our guests is l’Estrapade – a tiny hole in the wall on an insignificant residential corner, steps from rue Mouffetard. Perhaps the four of us have eaten there…? Marc and his assistant dog, Cooper, and his faithful chef are there for lunch and dinner through the week but are closed on the weekend. Go figure! It is a little pricier than le Volcan [I had sent her a review about Le Volcan], but the food is innovative, Southwest cuisine with a twist of Basque.

Le Descartes is still our ‘second home’, where we regularly meet for aperos. The interior decor is abysmal [well, after all it IS a fútbol pub kind of hangout!], but the terrace is divine. We have even become fond of the interior, if you can believe that! The wine carte is one of the best in the city, and the food is simple, traditional, fresh. Their cheese platter is out of another time in Paris – where every restaurant was proud to roll out a sumptuous cheese trolley at the end of the meal. Le Descartes presents a good 6 or 7 varieties of regional cheeses on a marble slab that is about the size of the table you’re eating on! And the bread is a dark, thick variety from the bakery next door on the Place – a ‘campaillou’ – a hearty country bread. Their winter soups are homemade and a meal unto themselves. The service is friendly and casual. The clientele is a wonderful mix of the neighbourhood; families, students, professionals, artists, TV and film people, businessmen and women and some tourists who happen upon this unlikely spot, before finding the Place de la Contrescarpe.

Sandy, Philippe and Leo

Last June, when my niece was visiting, she and I spent an evening at the Opera (Les Enfants du Paradis!) and afterwards went to dinner. It is difficult, as you know, to find a spot to dine late at night during the week. It was about 11 p.m., by the time we got back to our quartier. We ended up at a smaller brasserie on rue des Ecoles – ‘Le Balzar’. It has been there forever, but I had never tried it until that night. We were welcomed at the door by an ‘older’ server with a steely grey handlebar mustache, dressed in the traditional black and white waiter costume. He showed us to our table, and then another elegant waiter arrived to ask if we would like an aperitif before the meal. Yes, we each ordered a kir which was served with sausages, olives, toasts. The meal was delicious, the menu typically brasserie-style. The gratin dauphinois was out of this world. I have been back three of four times since.

So there you have it, our faithful readers – a genuine inside view of neighborhood dining in the Latin Quartier …. And thank you, Sandy, for sharing your rich comments!

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Go Basque in Bayonne

October 26, 2011 @ 10:25 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

The beautiful Basque city of Bayonne

Anyone who loves to travel understands the pleasures of surprise and discovery.  Located near the Atlantic in southwest France, Bayonne is French Basque country, where the Spanish-French heritage touches everyday life in signage and conversations, in cuisine and warm Basque hospitality.

The Nive and Adour Rivers meet in the center of the city, creating Grand and Petit Bayonne, and many of the local houses look so crisp and fresh with deep red or green shutters against white-washed walls. And, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore, as you’re just 10 minutes from the beaches of Biarritz and 30 minutes from Spain and the Pyrenees.

Indeed, the narrow River Nive is like a main street, with lovely half timbered town houses, restaurants, squares and the covered market along its river banks.  Pull up your chair in a traditional Basque restaurant overlooking the river, and you will feel at home with pleasant hospitality and the famous regional “Jambon de Bayonne” or one of the many fresh fish or local beef dishes.

Quaint riverfront walks

Grand Bayonne is the commercial hub, with pedestrian-only streets lined with shops, the large cathedral and Hôtel de Ville. Petit Bayonne is home to lively Basque bars and restaurants reminiscent of cities in Spain. The area is home to two important museums:  the Musée Basque with exhibits on agriculture, seafaring and Basque history and way of life; and the Musée Bonnat with exceptional paintings by El Greco, Goya, Degas and more.

The annual fêtes de Bayonne attracts thousands, proudly attired in red and white, to participate in 5 days of festivities and watch the annual bull fighting (Bayonne remains the number one site for bullfighting in France).  Not surprisingly, the Bayonet comes from this city, and Bayonne’s pottery is renowned throughout Europe.

Beyond pleasantly strolling through Bayonne’s old town and indulging yourself in the excellent Basque cuisine, don’t miss wandering through the Botanic Gardens with 1000-plus species and a Japanese influence. Bayonne holds the prestigious 4-flowers designation of the ville et village fleurie competition.  Near the gardens, you will see remnants of the town ramparts that include Roman, 16th- and 17th-century defenses.
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