-Parc de Bagatelle

Last Monday I went with my friend, Michelle, to the Parc de Bagatelle, a beautiful park alongside the Bois de Boulogne. Bagatelle is a smaller parc, but beautifully landscaped – here’s what their website says about its history:

Marie-Antoinette waged that the Count of Artois, who had bought this property in 1775, could not turn it into a park in 64 days. Belanger designed it and Thomas Blaikie built it, to the day’s in-vogue anglo-chinois taste.

Bagatelle park and chateau only barely eluded obliteration during the Revolution, but a string of owners altered them considerably. The orangerie, gates and stables date back to 1835, and the guard’s lodgings were built in 1870, along with the Trianon and the two terraces.

The City of Paris bought this gem in 1905 and entrusted its head gardener, Jean-Claude-Nicolas Forestier, with the restoration work. He set out to turn these gardens into a botanical domain without upsetting the harmony that the existing layout had already established. He turned the subsistence crops into showcases for collections of roses, irises, perennials, clematises, peonies and other flowers. The well-known Roseraie de Bagatelle (rose bed) which has hosted an international competition every year since 1907, is also the work of his hand.

Well, it was stunning! The bulbs were in full bloom, the peacocks were displaying like mad, trying to impress the ladies, and the day was beautiful. View from the Rose Garden

-One cannot live by bread alone, but one can sure try!

Eudes Boulangerie and Patisserie, a neighborhood favorite.

Much has been said about bread through the centuries – it is the staff of life, when something is outstanding it is “better than sliced bread,” Jesus talked a lot about and did a lot with bread and even money has been referred to as bread.

In France no one says it better than David Leibovitz in his blog: 

At last count, there are 1263 bakeries in Paris.

On just about every street, there’s at least one, if not two, or even three bakeries. Some of them are very good, a few are perhaps not so fabulous, and several are excellent. Parisians eat a lot of bread, far more than their American counterparts.

Visitors often wonder, “How come we don’t have bakeries like this is America?”

“Because people won’t eat bread in America anymore. Everyone’s afraid of it.” I respond

Tragically, most nod in agreement.”

You see, the difference is that the relationship between the French and their bread is sacred. It is daily. It is part of their DNA.

A meal is not a meal without some form of French bread to accompany it. There are Patisseries or Boulangeries on just about every corner in Paris, and specific Patisseries/Boulangeries become part of the family, part of the daily routine. You might have a favorite for desserts, another for croissants and other flaky goodies and of course a special one for the daily loaves required for each meal. Rarely are they all found at the same bakery.

For instance, my favorite Tarte au Citron (Lemon Tarte) is on the corner of the main thoroughfare in Puteaux. Best baguette/tradicion is behind the Sunday Market on  Rue du Chantecoq. Absolute favorite Almond Croissant is found at Quotidien in Paris – inexplicably, it is a chain that has the lightest, flakiest Almond Croissants instead of the usual flat, gooey ones found in every other Patisserie I have checked.

One other note of interest – vacations for bakers are mandated by the government in cooperation with the baker’s union. France, indeed all of Europe, usually goes out of town in August, but there are those who stay behind. Poor, hot devils. They cannot be left without bread. So, Patisseries get told when they can go on vacation. can’t have all of the bakeries closed at the same time!

Fascinating.

-Things the French Would Say Instead

As I become, little by little, more familiar with the language, I realize that there is a real difference between “look it up in the dictionary” French and the French spoken by native speakers. It is, of course, the way “they” can tell if you are one of them. Well, besides your accent.

For instance when my granddaughter wants to be picked up, she says, “Dans les bras!” or “In your arms!” instead of “Pick me up.”

When my grandson is about to do something that might draw blood (and not in a good way), in English I might say, “That’s not safe!” no such expression in French. Instead they would say “C’est dangereux!”

I’ll add to this as I come across little linguistic oddities. If you know any, please post a comment and I’ll include them!

-Walking in the Bois de Boulogne

Went for a walk today with the AWG Power Walking Group. We all started out together, but it quickly became apparent that I have the shortest stride in captivity! As the distance between me and the rest of the group widened, I gave them all leave to cary on at their pace while I would happily stroll at my own. Although I missed catching up with the gossip and getting to know the new walkers in the group, it was nice to have the quiet, leisurely experience. I got a chance to take some pictures (I always think I am taking very artsy shots, and then when I look at them later I think, “What the hell was I trying to do here?”) which I will share throughout.

During the day the park is filled with joggers, dog walkers, strollers and nannies – everyone has a purpose. I have rarely seen anyone just hanging out. It is a very purposeful park. Just as the French are a very purposeful people.

At night, however, it becomes a totally different place. the thoroughfares are lined with white vans, and you think, “What is this?

Open for Business in the Bois

A plumber’s convention?” Until someone in the know points out the ladies ( and those who would like to be ladies) standing on the sidewalks projecting their best “come hither” glances. The vans are actually places of business for the ladies and wanna be ladies of the evening. It is big business, and you will see open solicitation taking place as you drive by. The French like to say that they don’t approve and that they would like to eradicate prostitution, but I have never seen anyone, law enforcement or otherwise, actively object. Admittedly, I do not spend a lot of time trailing the avenues of the Bois at night, but my sense is that the authorities turn a blind eye.

Anyway, the Bois is a lovely place, particularly now that the bulbs are all starting to surface!

Daffodils in March