Archive for January, 2012

At Home on Montmartre

January 31, 2012 @ 1:01 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Montmartre's view over the city

Montmartre evokes so many images, so much history; as it looks over Paris from her high perch.  Naturally, the Basilica of Sacré Coeur is the Mont’s iconic sight, poised above the City of Light, like a glittering white ice cream cone.  For all of the artists, heritage, windmills and martyrs; we came to enjoy Montmartre as our home for nearly six weeks – a home with daily new discoveries, friendly neighbors and hidden gems along its’ winding streets.

From our delightfully comfortable and classic vacation apartment, we settled in to pleasant routines.  We learned to skirt the hordes of tourists heading to the Basilica’s steps and gardens.  Or we joined them, climbing the walkways to the top, sitting on the steps to listen to the notes of a violin and watch the mimes and living statues.

One day, sadly, we learned that a dear friend had died; so in tribute to him, we climbed to a shady place on the lawn overlooking Paris.  There, among students sketching and families sharing snacks, we remembered our cheerful, intelligent friend.

We passed the old Théâtre de l’Atelier and joined the morning lines at the patisserie, where we bought our baguettes, hearty artisan breads and tartes.  We stopped often to visit Théo, who guided our selection of wine.  And a little closer to our apartment, La Presse was a regular stop for papers and magazines.

We found a favorite spot by the Abbesses carousel to simply watch the people.  One unforgettable old man readily comes to mind.  He was sitting on a bench, with the colorful carousel and joyous children just behind him.  He sat hunched over, his clothes soiled, his head bloodied no doubt from a fall or fight.  And a half empty bottle of wine sat by his feet.  His air of hopelessness was palpable.

Just up the street – in an area our landlady said is a favorite with Bo-Bo’s (Bohemian-Bourgeois), we found sunny outdoor cafes and a mix of artsy shops and galleries.  Two little bistros became our favorites, more for the atmosphere and location than for gourmet dining.  One was tucked right behind the Basilica on a short pedestrian street with minimal traffic.  A good selection of Italian fare was perfectly complimented by our smiling accordion player.  The other was a tiny café that hugged the side of the hill, where we enjoyed friendly service and an amusing exchange between a young lady and a traveling jewelry salesman trying to get a date.

By our favorite cafe

I suspect we could write a book about those weeks, but let’s end with a delightful walk that took us past old Montmartre cottages and windmills.  We happened upon a pretty little park named Place Suzanne Buisson.  Children played on the grassy areas, and young men gathered for a game of petanque under the trees.

The plaque in Ms. Buisson’s honor was a surprise to us.  She had been a socialist leader advocating equal rights for men and women.  She merged her group to join the Resistance movement, and was ultimately arrested and killed by the Gestapo.  And so it is throughout Paris, where the lightness of heart mixes with somber history.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

“Start Your Engines” – in Mulhouse

January 30, 2012 @ 10:51 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Cross the waterway to the impressive entry - © C. Recoura

At La Cité de l’Automobile – National Museum – Schlumpf Collection, it’s sort of an odd “marriage”, this extraordinary collection of automobiles and a grand old woolen mill in eastern France.  When you think about bringing together perhaps the finest automobile collection in the world, you might imagine boys tinkering with cars through their lifetime, indulging a passion for the “road warriors” of their day.  But that’s not the case with this museum collection.

A pair of brothers, successful textile industrialists, the Schlumpfs purchased a huge woolen mill in Mulhouse, France in 1957.  After the death of their mother, Fritz Schlumpfs undertook a secretive but massive buying spree of exotic cars.  Stoked by his taking part in rallies with his Bugatti, Fritz collected only the best of European automobiles and only allowed a privileged few to view them.  A series of labor disputes, though, forced the brothers to live out their days in Switzerland, with the collection sitting fairly idle for several years.

The museum’s management was entrusted to Culturespaces in 1999, a step that prompted the progressive company to modernize and expand the museum to become a vibrant experience.  The museum now showcases the unique collection of over 400 of the world’s most exotic cars – Bugatti and Rolls Royce, Ferrari and Peugeots.

Motor Masterpieces – © C. Recoura

From the outset, the Cité de l’Automobile is impressive, welcoming you through a soaring arch and atrium.  Through the wood, glass and steel door, a wall of images features film excerpts, in which cars starred.  As you move toward another entrance, an entire flight of suspended cars greets you.  There simply is such an abundance of space, and designers have used it well to offer visitors an imaginative experience.

Engineers have assembled car and animal designs, sound devices and natural atmospheric sounds in a relaxed, welcoming environment that allows you to set your own pace for exploring. Since taking on management of the museum, Culturespaces has transformed the Museum and exhibition spaces from a closed collection to one that fully exploits the factory’s architectural heritage and spills to an Exhibition track and open-air theatre on the outside.

The experience really offers a rather breathtaking journey through the history of auto production.  The Motor Masterpieces collection calls to mind Great Gatsby-esque images of West Egg parties and handsome cars.

In a very comfortable setting, you pass through sofa-furnished areas to see the sports car collection, “under the bonnet” and the evolution of automobiles from machines for the privileged and race enthusiasts to those for the masses.  The site even offers restaurant dining from a gourmet meal experience to a traditional café.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.


Along the Northern Coast

January 29, 2012 @ 1:01 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Our first glimpse of the northern coast of France

Our dear friends from Paris are spending the weekend in Saint-Malo, and we are several shades of green with envy.  May they enjoy sun-filled days and beautiful seaside walks.

Enjoy your Sunday, wherever you may be.

A Midnight Swim in Paris?

January 28, 2012 @ 1:01 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Enjoy the mystique beneath the beautiful art deco ceiling

Mais oui!  You can take a dip in the evening in Paris in a particularly alluring place that is the premiere swimming site in Paris – the Piscine Pontoise, also known as Piscine du Quartier Latin.  If you are a fan of Kieslowski’s Three Colours Blue, you will remember the swimming scene with the beloved French actress, Juliette Binoche, in this piscine.  And  Jacques Cousteau tested his first deep-sea diving suit here, though one wonders how effective this not-very-deep body of water might prove for testing purposes.

Located in a graceful art deco building in the heart of Paris, the Pontoise pool is officially listed as a Historical Monument and has a delightful atmosphere with natural light spilling through a dramatic, opaque glass ceiling.  Two stories of 160 individual cabins surround the pool, offering swimmers a private changing area.

At 33 meters in length (108 feet), it’s not an Olympic-sized pool and can often be crowded.  In fact, you should avoid going on Wednesdays, when the French children are not attending school.  But the hours may draw you for an evening swim.  From Monday through Friday, you can purchase a night ticket to use the pool from 8:00 p.m. to midnight.

In addition to swimming, visitors enjoy other activities from squash classes and fitness club to a revitalizing sauna and whirlpool, and even a restaurant.   Parisian pools – there are 38 throughout the city – are open throughout the year, but it is always a good idea to double-check your pool choice for hours, rules and scheduled days of closing.  Many, for example, close on Monday.

You also will want to be aware of rules observed by all municipal pools.  Most French pools require everyone to wear bathing caps – bonnets du bain, and speedo-style briefs are de rigueur for men – no boxers or square-cut trunks allowed.  Bring your own flip flops and towels.

Another intriguing pool you may want to try is Piscine Josephine Baker – yes, she certainly captured the attention and imagination of the French!  This one is so unique, because it is a glass-walled pool on a barge that is permanently located below the Bastille.  It’s particularly pleasant in warm weather, when the retractable glass roof opens to sunny skies.

Piscine Josephine Baker

Extras include a steam room, 2 solariums, gym and Jacuzzi.  Can’t you just imagine your note to friends back home?  “Took a dip in the Josephine Baker pool today in Paris …” Certainly guaranteed to pique some envy in your friends!  And we rather imagine that Ms. Baker might have chaffed at the swim suit requirement.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.