A hair raising day in Paris

Today I enjoyed the full hairdressing  experience. 

And it was FABULOUS . Oh how I wish I could speak French. I know my Italian is getting better because I was speaking Italian in my head and hoping it would somehow turn into French. 

I went across to the Madeline  area, which is where new French friend Annie works and had helpfully made me an appointment.

You know its fairly exclusive when you have to buzz downstairs to be allowed in. It’s called Lenore Greyl and its on premier etage ( 1st floor) .
As Annie was not able to come along with me to translate I went onto Google translate last night and got appropriate phrases in French. What a giggle! Things like “I usually have foils in two colours”,”do whatever you think suits” . So I arrived and I’m shown into a change room and given a white coat to put  on , then ushered into the salon where Olivia offered me tea. Then I met Giles, the colourist. He was charming , thinner than most of my friends, with George Clooney grey at the sides! Oh and he was gay. Not that I mind that because I knew he would be good. The number of ladies arriving and coming over in their white gowns to greet him, with the two-sided kiss kiss was a sure sign – he was good. So I explained in my non-existent French that I couldn’t speak French and he was equally bad at English. (shop staff speak better English as they get to talk to tourists) – Giles only gets to speak to the well heeled French.
Anyway he was lovely, as I whipped out my hand written phrases. He was very impressed! Or he did a good impression. He called over Pierre – the man who was to later cut my hair. Pierre was bald, (and would be right at home at the Open Bar in the Marais – Harrisons – you know what I mean). He couldn’t speak English so we mimed until a dashing cutter with long locks held back with a head band came over and managed a reasonable translation. I think his name was Eric. That’s what it sounded like.
Well we were on our way. Giles started playing with my hair and thinking. I could just about hear his thoughts so I pointed to the rather dark part and mimed OUT. He understood and went and mixed up the brew and away we went. I got the French version of foils. He did it painstakingly hair by hair with GLAD WRAP. I think he used a whole family sized roll just on my head. When he finally finished after an hour or so, we both nearly cheered! But I looked amazing. It rippled and shone and I seriously wanted a photo, but  the other ladies would have died of shock so I contained myself.
As we couldn’t talk all that time I got to look around the salon with all it’s mirrors reflecting the other ladies. Some serious colour and cutting was happening. One lady had hers all done, did the kiss kiss goodbye – went out and changed and paid; then appeared  back and got Pierre to redo the front! then slipped what I think was his tip in his rather tight pocket. At least I think that’s what it was. It could have been her phone number but I think he would rather hang out at the Open Bar.

Another lady had air kissed everyone in sight and then had two working on her. One on her nails and one doing a rather elegant roll at the back of her luxurious hair. I think she had a serious date tonight.

After waiting for the colour to take and reading magazines Giles rounded me up and we went to the basin area and he took out the glad wrap and started to massage my head. Heaven. I think I moaned! Hope not. Then it was time for more French talk and finally Pierre started on me. He was all serious and lifted and played with my hair and then used no less than 4 different pairs of scissors on me. It started to take shape and before long “voila!” said Pierre and there I was with my new French do. 


I returned to the change room and then dear Giles came out to see me finished. I think he gasped, Carmel!!!! Anyway he was very proud of their combined efforts and I paid without wincing and was on my way feeling very glamourous . 
I literally waltzed into Fauchon – the fantastic temple of all good things to eat and bought a little tin of chocolates for Steve as it was his birthday yesterday and I seem to be the one getting all the treats. 
I then went to St Madelines church, a real wonder and very French, and continued walking towards Champs-Elysees and into the Grand Palais for an exhibition and then across the road to its baby the Petit Palais – which I think is gorgeous. 
The lights were coming on and I crossed the river glancing towards the Eiffel Tower as it started to glitter. This city is amazing. I walked home and took a few photos of the hair do and then went out to dinner by myself. I looked so good it was amazing I didn’t get picked up! 


And so ends my day of indulgence .  

Visiting Monet in Giverny

Today I decided  to leave town and visit Monet at home in Giverny. 

I’ve been wanting to go here for some time – probably since Wendy  took  photos of the beautiful garden in black and white.

I had to go by tube to St Lazare station and get the fast train to Giverny. I took my time and got there in the early afternoon just as the rain stopped. 

It was beautiful and peaceful. The good thing about the colder weather is the tourist lines are not so bad.
I had a few hours wandering around the garden and the house and sitting watching people. I think I’m becoming invisible! Some Americans arrived and entered by the exit door to the house and I heard the women say “This is a funny entrance”! – not realising she was in the kitchen. 
Oh dear. 

I walked around the village of Giverny and saw the gallery there as well. It’s a lovely place to visit and as I love Monet’s work it was rather special. I even got to see the video about his life. 

Got back to Paris and went for a walk around the river and streets nearby as the lights were coming on and some of the streets have put up their Christmas lights .
Tomorrow after my haircut I’m going to visit the Champs-Elysees to see if the lights are up the yet. 

A night at the Opera

I bought a ticket to the opera (Tosca) at Bastille and went along on the number 69 bus, my favourite bus in Paris.

I dressed up! Not not really  but I did wear black with a coloured scarf. So I fitted right in. 

I got there early so I could have a “coup de champagne ” and watch the crowds arrive. 

They are a funny lot these French. I know there were some tourists there but there were lots of locals as well . Black is the colour de jour. but there was not  too much high fashion. However, there was one lady who was like Brisbane’s own Deborah “hat wearing to all occasions” Quinn; there was a woman with a severe white hair cut  that was so sharp. She married this with  bright red glasses, a coloured blouse, jacket and full skirt and funny high boots. Quite a look. Perhaps ran an art gallery? 
Another young thing had a pink thing shaped like a disc on her head. Fashion? Not sure. 
A few elegant ladies and a few young things showing some leg. 
Getting to your seat is quite a performance. There were no ushers to ask so when the bells rang people just lined up at the door nominated on their ticket. Now my ticket had 2nd balcony, which  I climbed to, and then door 11. No door 11. I went to the bar and asked the man there as there was no one else around and he said ‘go to door 13’ . Of course – why didn’t I think of that? I went in door 13 and then climbed up and then down till I reached row 5 . During the 2 intervals I exited by door 11 on 1st balcony. Easy when you know. 
Interval is quite different to interval at our Opera. Everyone rushes the bar but not always for that glass of champagne ……but for food. 
How do the French stay slim? They get into the food. They nibbled and munched on sandwiches, cheese , muffins and biscuits, ice creams and even apples. Quite a surprise. There are lots of bars and not the queues we see at the bar in our concert/ opera theatre where every one seems to need a drink . 
It’s also like a runway, not the crush we have at interval. It’s very spread out on a terrace that wraps the theatre. It’s more a promenade while munching on something.
However the toilets are just like home, crowded, but the toilets were very old with chipped seats. At the Paris Opera. I ask you – What’s happening!!!
At the end there were the usual number of curtain calls and lots of cheering from the crowd . 
The theatre cleared quickly all rushing, not for cars parked underground, but for public transport. Me included on the no 69 which took me home to the left bank via Rue Rivoli, the Louvre, over the Seine with a view of the Eiffel Tower then delivered me to Blv St Germaine where I got a phone call from Steve as I walked home. Happy Birthday Steve. Wish you were here.  
Tomorrow Monet’s house at Giverny. 

Paris on a Monday

Today I woke slowly and lay in bed listening to the sounds from the street below. 

People walking along with high heels, children being coaxed along all rugged up against the cold. Students on their way to uni, bike riders chatting as they bike along. Big doors to the apartments being clicked open then slamming shut. 

I’m in a first floor apartment in Rue  Universite which is three streets from the river near the Musee d’Orsay.

The chandelier

The chair

The see through bath

It’s a fairly quiet street with lots of decorating shops filled with the most amazing things for your home . If you want to be very swish then this is the place to come. Gorgeous glass vases, antique tables, lush fabrics, glossy and matt tiles in every colour, a see through bath, coloured chandeliers, a chair shaped like a man, silver candle sticks, umbrella stands, lights in every size, stuffed animals, tassels, braid and bows to tie back the curtains. I could window shop all day.

On a practical note there is a 3 story Monoprix food store. This is where all the locals do their supermarket shopping. It’s well laid out and has a doorman in formal coat and tie. Of course that’s where I bought my meagre supplies of tea (herbal), cereal (muesli),  tomatoes, cheese, smoked salmon, humus – and a bottle of wine. All very useful in a little flat for one.

Also in the surrounding streets are shops filled with beautiful clothes – but all for winter. Gorgeous cashmere jumpers in a rainbow of colours, coats and jackets, boots, scarves and hats .

Let me tell you what is big here. Studs…… Studs on shoes, jackets, boots , jumpers just to name a few. Also embellishments on jumpers. Feathers make an appearance as
does leather, used as a trim on lots of things including dresses and jackets, also used
as patches on the elbows of jumpers and jackets .

Then there are little pearls, shiny things, but all tastefully done in the better shops and
a bit nasty in the not so tasteful places.

Mixed in with this are some great pastry shops and chocolate temples! Carmel and I
were only saying the other day how good and boring we were . We hadn’t had one
naughty pastry! So we lashed out in a little town in the Loire one day when it was cold
and wet. Yum. Then we had a macaroon with Carmel’s friend Annie. Yum yum. But I
couldn’t do it every day. I’m struggling to fit my clothes now.

I lined up with lots of locals and booked my train ticket to Sanremo. I’m going there next
week for another language course. I think it would be cheaper to fly, but by the time I
get to the airport and worry about the weight of my suitcase it’s easier to pay the 177
euro to go by train. I go to Nice and then change for Ventimiglia  in Italy where I change
again ! I am booked into a little flat in the seaside town. Hope it’s good. 

Sunday in Paris

Woke to beautiful blue skies after sleeping (and sometimes not sleeping) in a very comfy bed. Walked to the Musee d’Orsay and joined the queue. It took about half an hour so we were in by 10.30 which was good. We made a beeline for the exhibition Impressionists al la mode. It showed how the  impressionist painters painted  people in every day situations -in the clothes they wore for different occasions. A really interesting exhibition.

We walked around the beautiful space of the Musee some more then decided on an early lunch in the beautiful restaurant as Carmel had to get a taxi at 2.30 for the airport. 

I was so so sad to see her go. I’ll be lost with out my buddy. Thank You Carmel for being a great friend and spending time exploring Italy and France with me. I’ll miss you. 

After she left, feeling a little sad, I walked  and explored other areas of the Musee and then as it was such a Beautiful Day I went to the Luxembourg Gardens. 

The weather was fine and sunny so there were loads of people of all ages. 
This is what I saw:

Tennis players belting balls -some good and most not so good but no grunting which was a great. 

Lovers walking holding hands and stopping for a kiss every now and then.
People reclining in the green chairs they provide and everyone can move around to a spot they choose. It’s wonderful. There are hundreds of green chairs – some are semi-reclining and others  more upright. All occupied , though you didn’t have to wait long to secure one. Some people were snoozing in them – others chatting, watching children play, watching tennis, reading. 
I saw pony rides – little children sitting tall on ponies with their mums and dads running alongside. 
An area roped off for children – all peddling little cars around a course of cones. I’m not sure if the cars were their own or were provided like the deck cars are. But it looked fabulous fun.
The lake had dozens of sailing boats with excited kids and more excited dads controlling them. 
A band was playing in a corner and had a group of people dancing along. 
People drinking coffee
Chasing balls.
The fit – all running around the perimeter . 
A young lady stretching – much to the appreciation of a group of young men. 
Groups of chess players complete with their timing bells. All you could hear in that area were little bells and cheering.
I had a wonderful time just watching and taking a few photos. 
I then wandered down Bvd St Michel and into St Germaine. I went to Mass (in Spanish) and then bought some dinner to take home. By 7pm I was tired and headed for the comfort of this apartment. 
I will be planning my days to fit as much in as possible. 
Next week it’s back to Italy and a language school before joining John and Margaret Brannock in their new house in Provence.

Back to Paris

We drove back to Paris and I must say I have been very comfortable driving here. I think I might forget how to drove on the other side when I return! 

We got back and the pace picked up again after the sleepy Sancerre countryside . 

Carmel is in a hotel as I’ve  taken a small flat for the next week and she wouldn’t fit in. 

So I arrived at my apartment for the week and got settled. Its on the left bank on Rue l’universite about two. Streets behind the Musee  D’Orsay. A very nice area full of decorating shops . At least I won’t be tempted to buy – the lamps, rugs footstools, etc are safe from me! Maybe a little chandelier? The apartment turned out to be a winner! I’ll be very happy here. It’s so comfortable Carmel commented if it’s cold I might be tempted not to go out at all! But I promise I will. 

We had afternoon tea, complete with the macaroon with Carmel’s friend Annie. She’s a lovely lady and I’ve really enjoyed meeting her. She is the one who has selected my hairdresser next week! 
Afterwards we had a dinner at a local brasserie. It was rustic French food and I was a little sad as Carmel leaves tomorrow. 
After a bad nights sleep (always bad on the first night for some strange reason) we turned our clocks back for the end of daylight saving.

Goodbye Sancerre and the Loire ….Back to Paris

We finished our  stay in the wine area of the Loire with two great dinners after exploring the area. 

Thursday night we walked through the rain swept street of the village to arrive at the restaurant La pomme d’or. It was so tastefully set up and we started with a beautiful Savignon and then a Pinot. The food was lovely and the host and her chef husband very friendly .

I have found the French in these small villages really very friendly and more than happy to have a chat. I think it’s because they are starved for conversation because, as I have told you, there are so few people on the streets. They really keep to themselves. But when you find one in a shop or museum they are more than happy to chat on and on.

On Friday night we went to La Tour – a Michelin star restaurant and it was as predicted very good. The food had a refinement that wasn’t there in other very good places we have eaten. 

One star down  four to go!

We packed tonight . Oh boy the bags are shrinking I think! Carmel leaves on Sunday so has to be very good at arranging her bags to get them on the plane. 
Back to Paris tomorrow .


Up early bright and early to meet Laure who turned out to be a girl/woman. For E45 she was taking us on a wine tour. We called into Joseph Mellot for a quick visit to ask about his wines in Australia then moved on to Bue and the wines of which we learned such a lot with Laure and with the owner – a lovely young man. They have the only egg shaped vats in the area. The other vats are concrete and some double sized steel vats. We had a great explanation of what goes on from the planting growing etc. It’s an amazing industry here and is quite tightly controlled to preserve its quality.

We moved to another place driving though the most gorgeous countryside – picture the rolling gentle hills covered in neatly planted vines some yellow (Savignon) and some green (mostly Pinot) 

The sky is blue there are little statues with crosses of the intersections of the roads. 

Wine growers have vines in different parts of the valley. Some in flint, others in limestone, or clay which all impact on the type of wine. We met another handsome young wine maker and even got to taste the wine at various stages of its fermentation . The wines here were very good and we seriously want to source them in Australia. 

As Laure had been so lovely we invited her join  us for lunch and she suggestion the bistro at Chavignol where we had been on Monday. We continued our chat over a lovely lunch before returning to Sancerre and a little afternoon rest. 
Quiet night tonight I think!!!!!

Exploring around Sancerre

Lounging at the Loire

Sunday in a small French village is almost a non-event. There is church and everything else is closed. Today we were lucky. There were some antique markets which we wandered around spying some good furniture and little else. They were more flea markets than antiques. 

We then drove down the hill and had a beautiful omelette for lunch before going to the local festa / fete  which was chocolate!

It was held in the new cultural centre in Saint Saturnin.  The locals were all there and after passing through the entry hall decorated with fake autumn trees we got to the hall. Different chocolate makers were there showing their wares . 
We tasted our way around the room.  Lots of samples. And a few purchases later we left for a little drive .
We ended up at another lovely little village Chavignol – home of the goats cheese.  We visited the cheese makers and saw all the different types cheese called crottin de chavignol AOC The new cheese and the older cheese with mould growing on it! We bought a few for later! 
We stopped in at a rather lovely gallery and had a good chat to the owner who gave us lots of information about the area – including a pottery area nearby.
Monday we went for a drive to Cosne-Cours and did some supermarket shopping. Such a beautiful drive. Country roads lined with autumn coloured trees. Vines growing in neat little rows in small “patches”. Some green and some yellow.
We continued on to La Borne – a centre for pottery. It was beautiful though the pottery was not all modern. It reminded me of the 70 ‘s style pottery wine glasses and heavy pottery plates. The main centre had an exhibition and one of the exhibitors – a Japanese man whose work was modern and rather impressive. Will try and include a photo .

When we returned we had a visit to the Maison de Sancerre. For those readers who don’t know this area, Sancerre is famous for its wines in particular their white- the Savignon Blanc and the Pinot. They had a wonderful display with animated films and lots of information. We wanted to be a little informed because on Wednesday we are going on a wine tour. We finished  with a little wine tasting at Joseph Mellot one of the biggest growers and wine maker in the area and went to his restaurant for dinner. Very good Food and wine.

Tuesday was foggy so we had a slow start and headed off to Bourges. It was a small city with lots to offer. We wandered the medieval streets, visited the rather magnificent cathedral and went on a tour to Jacques Cours house. He was a wealthy man in the 1500’s who built a rather magnificent house, on the fruits of his trading business . 
Got home at 7.30 and surprise – we cooked our own dinner!