Thursday, July 28, 2011

Paris Day Trips: Versailles & Giverny

I have rebelled, and left the office at five o'clock today!  Take that!  Rosie was totally asleep when I got home, and a bit confused when I walked in the door.  I gave her a big ol' hug and told her that I've missed her, too.

Anyway, I'm going to use my extra hours to re-visit Paris with you.

Aside from the Louvre (and lots of food), the other big item on Miss Chef's to-do list in Paris was the Chateau of Versailles.

For those who may not know the history of it, this was the palace constructed in the 17th century by Louis XIV, otherwise known as the Sun King.  His political strategy was to get all the courtiers outside of Paris and so obsessed by petty court intrigues that they were too busy to interfere with his governance.  Part of this strategy was to make attending the King's every rising, meal and other daily routines the must-see event of the day.  In other words, he made attending the King's bathroom visits more desirable than seeking an ambassadorship.

So, of course, the palace became a ridiculously overdone residence, filled in every corner by gilded art, furniture and tapestries.  Today, it is equally filled by sweaty, pushy tourists from around the globe.  This is why I generally avoid touring the chateau, and when forced to (by chaperoning student groups), I usually left them at the door and went to enjoy the gardens until they were done!

I warned Miss Chef she wouldn't last 15 minutes without wanting to punch someone, but she said she'd deal with it, just so she could see what the chateau was all about.  And she did well!  It was at least 20 minutes before I had to start talking her down from an irrational rage.

Anyway, I'm sorry to say I never stopped to take pictures inside the chateau.  Really, there were too too many people around to get any nice photos (go to Google images and type in Versailles and you will get plenty of beautiful photos).  And I should remind you that it was in the high 90s that week and that 17th century chateaus were not built with air conditioning, so I was focused more on keeping hydrated and just enjoying the views.  They did have a lovely flow of air, though, from strategically open windows.

Actually, most of the visit wasn't too crowded.  It wasn't until the Queen's chambers that we were forced to squeeze like sheep through a gate, and there was really no way out but through.  Other than that, it was bearable.  But Miss Chef had had enough, so once out of the Hall of Sardines, we headed out to the gardens.

Central part of the gardens, from near the chateau

view of the chateau from the far end....
You can see the chapel over the trees on the left.

I had scheduled this visit for a Tuesday, one of the few days when the fountains are actually running.  Unfortunately, we got there later than I expected, and we only got to enjoy them for about 20 minutes.  But I was glad Miss Chef got to see them in all their rushing glory.  We then wandered around the side groves, seeking out shade, all the way down to this fountain.

I think this is Apollo in his chariot...get it?  Sun King?
Or maybe it's Poseidon.

Then we were both done.  Oh lordy, it was HOT!  Can you tell from the pictures?  All in all, Miss Chef stated quite clearly that she much preferred Hampton Court.  And I've got to agree, the English style of garden is much more to my liking than the uber-formal classical French style.

However, two days later, we made up for it.

This was the one site I'd never made it to during my year living in Paris.  I was considering it an optional outing, until several people--including Alison in New Zealand--raved about it being the highlight of their trips.  I figured they must be on to something, so I scheduled it into our one remaining open day.

And of course I'm glad I did!  I'm also glad I took the advice of several folks on the TripAdvisor forum, and made sure to take the very first train out to Vernon.  It meant dragging our butts out of bed at 6:30 in the morning and hustling our way to St. Lazare train station.  We barely made the train, due to standing in line for 20 minutes to buy tickets.  The automated kiosks wouldn't take American credit cards.  I'd advise buying your train ticket ahead!

All aboard!

Once in Vernon, we had about five minutes to get onto the bus out to the village of Giverny--actually, since everyone had to buy their tickets as they boarded, we had plenty of time to spare there.  It was kind of nice to drive out through the country and small villages; I was glad to show Miss Chef another side of France than Big City Paris.  My first stay in France was in a tiny village of about 500 people, so it was a nice reminder that France is quite diverse, too.

In spite of the bleary-eyed hustle and stressful wait for our train ticket, my planning paid off.  Although there were plenty of folks in the gardens with us, it wasn't very crowded, for a summer day.  There are sort of three parts to the visit: the upper gardens by the house, which are the more planned (though nothing like Versailles, as you shall see).  There is the house itself, in which photography is not allowed, so you'll have to go visit yourselves someday.  And then there is the lower garden, the famous water-lily ponds that featured in decades of Monet's work.

Here are a couple of examples of his paintings:

This was my favorite part of the visit, as is the case with most tourists, I'd bet!  Miss Chef was as inspired as I was.  As a result, we spent some time in the fourth part of the visit--the gift shop.

Then we added part five; lunch!  We saw signs for a crêperie about a quarter mile down the road, and since we were barely in Normandy, I figured it was a good place to try.  Turns out La Musardière is also the only hotel in town...and someday, maybe, a good place for us to stay when we make our way back to Giverny.

Since we took so many pictures that day, I've once again whipped up another Smilebox slideshow.  This time I made sure to pick one with a larger display size.  So now, please enjoy our visit to Giverny.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Good Side of Reality

This is why I like having Miss Chef around.  She makes me do stuff.

I've been feeling very very low energy, and so has she.  But she's been determined to get fit...there's a lot more behind that, but today it meant she got my ass off the couch and back to the Whitewater Center.  We just went out for an hour or so of kayaking, but it's a great way to "reset" mentally.  Since yesterday's post came off a bit whiny, I thought I'd share some more positive news, and a couple of pictures.  (We used a tandem kayak for the first time, so I could fumble with my camera while Miss Chef kept us steady.)

There's a smaller creek that winds around in the woods.  It's probably impossible to capture the effects of the dappled sunlight on the water, and the way it illuminates the water as it strikes the sandy bottom.  So I didn't try.  I pretty much put my camera away and enjoyed it.

Earlier, though, we had spotted this fellow:

This is a green heron, which, according to my trusty Audubon guide, is the most common freshwater heron across the entire eastern US.  After I took several fuzzy pictures of it, we sat and stared at each other for a good long while; then we decided to move on and so did it.

We also saw an osprey, a kingfisher and the ubiquitous great blue heron, plenty of turtles and fish, a few humans...but not one single alligator.  Another successful trip down the river.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Back in the Trenches

Omigosh it's hot!

Ok, just had to get that out there.  As you can see, I'm taking a break from the Big Trip reports.  Don't worry, I'll finish 'em up, with plenty more pictures.  In the meantime, life has not slowed down for us back home!  I've been feeling like I'm on a souped-up merry-go-round, hanging on for dear life and trying to make sense of everything flying by me.  Maybe I can nail some of it down here with words.  But I'm afraid it's gonna be a bit random!

Before returning to our usual programming schedules, we did have one lovely, easy day when we unpacked, then went to pick up Rosie from our friend Maria's house, enjoying dinner while we were there.

Rosie happily cohabitated once again with Miss Thang Smoky.

But reality arrived on our doorstep soon after.  Miss Chef's mom had had last-minute surgery while we were overseas, and while the surgery went very well, her recovery was slow.  She wanted her most responsible child to come help!  So two days after our return, Miss Chef was packing up again for another five days away.  (Mrs. Miss Chef is doing fine now; she just needed someone to cram a bunch of nutritious food into her, and guess who was perfect for the job?)

In the meantime, I was dealing with the first thing we had noticed when we arrived home from the airport.

Yeah...this is obviously after I had managed to mow a path to the shed.  We had been paying a guy Miss Chef works with to mow our lawn and occasionally help with other yard chores.  He had a key to the shed and was set to mow once or twice during our trip. Somehow...well, he's no longer our yard guy.

Now, all we have is a normal gas push mower, and this grass looked like we'd need a brush hog to get it done.  Some of it was approaching hip  high on me!  So my first week back at work was followed by evening after evening of forcing the mower slowly, gingerly through this mess.  I eventually found out that dragging it backwards made it easier on the mower, if not on me.

I also found out that I have really great neighbors.  The one to the right had actually mowed the front yard once while we were gone.  (Darn, I was hoping I could at least get kicked off the HOA board!)  After the second night of listening to me take on the back yard, he mowed the front yard again for me while I was at work!  The next night, as I continued on the back yard, the neighbor on the left came hustling out her back door with a piece of paper.  On it was the name and phone number of the guy she had just hired to cut her lawn.

I managed to finish up the back yard and some of the trimming, but now her lawn guy is our lawn guy, too.  One dilemma solved!

On to the next one!  The day after Miss Chef left on her mission of mercy, I came home from work to this (well, sort of):

Um, excuse me, but...what is this??

"This" is where Miss Chef's clothes used to hang, including her chef jackets that I had just picked up from the cleaners, nicely pressed.  That day when I came home, that shelving unit standing on the left side of the picture was lying across those shoes, covered by and covering up the greater part of Miss Chef's wardrobe.  Thus the blank space on the wall.

You can see by now most of the clothes have been moved to the guest room bed.  Which is a fine temporary solution...except that my parents are coming to visit in just a few weeks' time!  Since I don't imagine they'd enjoy sleeping on top of (or under) Miss Chef's extensive t-shirt collection, today we met with a consultant from one of those closet design places.

I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of being a custom-closet kind of person...but having a more efficient use of space could make a huge difference for us. And it sure sounds easier than figuring out how to reconfigure the closet, figuring out what kind of equipment we need, figuring how to mount it, and doing all the work ourselves.

Since I still have some Big Trip money left over, seems like I can just chalk this up to trip expenses, right?  That one extra Paris t-shirt was one too many, I guess.

There have been other dramas, too.  I've been needing to stay late at work quite a bit, and have worked both Saturdays since vacation.  I'm not teaching this quarter, but it seems there's always some minor drama at home to fill the gap.

Miss Chef, on the other hand, is teaching, and this quarter she has a huge class full of first-quarter students that is running her ragged.  On top of that, the past 10 days has been Charlotte's Restaurant Week--which means she's been working at the restaurant when she'd normally be lesson planning and grading.  And also means a lot less Miss Chef time for me.

Thank goodness there's Rosie...or, maybe not.  It seems she's suddenly developed a rather delicate digestive system, which has finally begun to suffer from Rosie's favorite sport of counter-surfing.  After cleaning up foul messes several times this week, I have issued a moratorium on any foods sitting on the counters and any extra treats.   Miss Chef has scheduled the carpet cleaners to visit us again, too.

So most days, I've come home to a diseased looking carpet, piles of Miss Chef's work clothes, and an indescribably foul odor.  Lovely.

Outside, now that the lawn is back under control, the garden has been suffering, from a weed invasion and lack of water.  The mosquitoes have been ravenous, and the heat index has been above 100 degrees much of the week, so you can imagine that vacuuming actually seems more inviting lately!

However, earlier in the week I did manage to gather some tomatoes and other simple ingredients...

Chicken thighs, black beans, tomatoes & corn.
In back: cumin, garlic and our own chili powder
...and make a tasty, comforting meal.

Normally I'd serve it over rice, but we seemed to be out.  For those who want recipes, there isn't one.  But I can tell you it's quite easy.  Thaw your corn in the microwave, drain and rinse the beans and do whatever tomato chopping you choose.  Then brown your meat in a bit of oil and toss in the rest of the ingredients!  Don't forget salt and pepper, too.

Quantities?  Um...enough.  More than I used here, 'cause it was all gone in two days!

So...random enough for ya?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Paris Day, um...: Les Musées

Ok, I have got to get through the rest of my Paris posts, because life goes on, you know?  We're getting loads of sweet Sungold cherry tomatoes from the garden, Miss Chef has started a new quarter at school and Rosie has begun shedding already.  There will be too much to catch up on if I don't get going here.

So, on to our next day in Paris: Museum Day!  I'll give you a little background, and then hit you with the pictures.

As I mentioned earlier, we had sprung for four-day Paris museum passes.  We'd used them at the Arc de Triomphe, the Sainte Chapelle and the Rodin Museum so far.  The way our schedule was working out, it would be easiest to do several museums in one day.  I know it sounds like a bit much, but compared to spending all day walking outside in 98-degree weather for kilometers on end, it seemed like a relaxing day to us!

The Louvre was at the top of Miss Chef's list, because on her only other trip to Paris, she'd been on a group tour that drove by on a bus several times, but never went in!  I warned her that I could only handle two hours or so in there, but she just wanted to get a taste.  We had walked through the outer courtyards our first morning in Paris, and it was a revelation to her as to just how enormous the place was.

So we were not planning on "doing" the Louvre, just stopping in to say hello.  You'll see from the pictures that we didn't bother pushing through the crowds to get super-close to the famous works.  I'd already seen them, and Miss Chef doesn't do crowds!

I also wanted to see the Cluny Museum of the medieval ages, mostly to see the tapestry of the Lady and the Unicorn, after having read the book by Tracy Chevalier.  And partly because it was one of the few major museums in Paris I hadn't seen yet.  I really enjoyed it more than I expected; there are a ton of beautiful stained glass windows recovered from many famous churches and cathedrals, including Notre Dame.  Although it was quite well documented, it was all in French, so it was a bit frustrating for Miss Chef.

Our third stop was the Georges Pompidou Museum of Modern Art.  This was due to the strong recommendations from some of the instructors at the Art Institute.  I'm one of those who just doesn't get modern art, but Miss Chef has been toying with the idea of learning more about design in general, to see if she can apply it to her teaching.  Plus, she's just naturally curious and felt that she could learn quite a bit, since she hadn't had much exposure to modern art.  I had visited the Pompidou once, but didn't have many memories of the experience.  So, why not try again?

So that was the order of our visit...and rather than wear you down with a blow-by-blow, I've prepared a little photo album for you!  Hit the || at the bottom if you want to stop the slideshow and browse at your own pace.  The album turned out much smaller than I realized, but you can click each picture to make it bigger and then smaller again.  There are only a few photos from the Cluny Museum, because it was rather dark (and I was really tired, hot and a bit cranky, ok?)

So enjoy the show, and afterwards, I'll share Miss Chef's favorite story with you!

Click to play this Smilebox photo album

So, Miss Chef's story...we did the Pompidou Museum in the evening, around 7 pm.  We had taken a bit of a break at the apartment beforehand, but my feet were still quite sore.  While Miss Chef was intently perusing one gallery, I told her, "I'm going to go sit on that bench over there for a while."

Now in front of that bench happened to be this painting:

I stared and stared, because I was tired, and you know how your mind can do strange when Miss Chef came to me, I said to her, "I have no idea what the name of this is, but I'm calling it "Hippie in a Canoe: Up a Creek Without a Paddle."

Miss Chef smiled; she liked my title.  Then she went over to the label on the wall next to the painting to learn more about it.  When she came back, she said, "Well, it's called '100 Years Ago: 2001,' but actually, you're right--it's a painting of a hippie in a canoe!"

Maybe I do get modern art, after all.

If you want to learn more about the painting and the artist, click here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Paris: The Food

Of course everyone who knows us has been asking the same question since we returned from our trip: "How was the food?"  I've already shared one of our best meals, at the Artichoke outside of London.  And my last post started with our first meal in Paris. 

Shocking as it may be to you, we didn't thoroughly document every single meal we had in Paris...and I do apologize! ;-)  However, we did capture a few here and there...
In fact, I had to take pictures...for, after all, food is one of the important categories of vocabulary I have to teach my students.  And it's usually the most popular part of the class.  So I wanted to get some images to illustrate some words.  For example...

un sandwich

les frites
des frites

le pain

la limonade / le diabolo fraise

This meal was at one of several cafés on the Place St. André des Arts, near Place St. Michel on the left bank.  Unfortunately, it was not the best café on the Place.  At least, I hope it wasn’t.  Miss Chef had a roast chicken that she found so dry as to be unpalatable, and the famous frites were worse than many we’ve had in the States: frozen, mush-filled and lacking any crispness.  Bleah.


Sorry, Hon, but my sandwich was ok.

The good news is, that was easily the worst meal we had all week.  We generally didn’t look up reviews or recommendations, online or in guidebooks, to find restaurants.  We waited until we were hungry, and then did our best to pick a place based on its menu.  So the evening after our mediocre lunch, I was a little leery about whether we’d run out of luck.  We had just left the Pompidou Museum and wandered into a nearby street before deciding on a place.  It turned out that we had stumbled onto a Persian restaurant, and back into our good luck!

IMG_0779 dinner
Coquelettes apparently means “wings!”  The saffron rice was fantastic, as I repeatedly informed Miss Chef.


Her stuffed peppers didn’t look all that appetizing, but she said they were just like Grandma used to make.  Huh, I didn’t know your Grandma was Persian… Winking smile


Miss Chef was as ecstatic over her saffron, rosewater and pistachio ice cream as I was over that rice.  You can see my baklava in the background.  That too was quite good—not drowning in syrupy sweetness, it still had a good crisp bite, and I could see all the bits of pistachios in it.


We generally took our breakfasts at home.  A couple of mornings I ran around the corner to the boulangerie to pick up croissants, but more often it was just cereal.  Not very good cereal, but I ate it anyway.  In spite of the packaging showing crispy flakes, it was more like raw oats with a few nuts thrown in.  If it hadn’t been in the 90s for several days, I might have tried popping it in the microwave and eating it warm.


And no, I didn’t think to photograph the croissants!  They didn’t look much different than what we can find at home; it was the taste that was completely different…mmmm….

Um, anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes, on to our next meal, which was another café lunch.  We had seen a farm truck making a delivery to a restaurant on our way past in the morning, so we made a point to stop in for lunch.  Again, I think I enjoyed my meal more than Miss Chef enjoyed hers.

IMG_0794 lunch

I had another salad with warm goat cheese, like the appetizer I had the first night.  This cheese wasn’t as melted, but the dressing on the salad was delicious, and there was some very good prosciutto hiding in the bottom.  (Oh, and can you see the kir just at the upper right edge of the picture?  Miss Chef wanted to know why I hadn’t introduced her to those earlier.  It’s one part crème de cassis to four parts white wine, if you’d like to play along at home.)

Miss Chef had a croque monsieur, France’s answer to the grilled-cheese sandwich.  It was fine, but not what she was expecting.  They’re not normally open-faced, but I guess this chef was taking liberties with the classics.  Oh, how dare he! Open-mouthed smile


These fries were better than before, but we never did have those thin, delicate, crispy fries that I remember from my earlier visits to France.  Most restaurants were serving the larger, home-fry sized ones, and none of them seemed to be using the duck or (yes) horse fat that supposedly makes them so good.  Something to leave on our list for our next trip: find really good fries.

That night we finally put the kitchen to use…sort of.  Actually, we put the neighborhood to use!  Within a block of our door, we found everything we needed to put together a quick dinner.  Two grocery stores, a wine store, a foie gras store, a vegetable stand and the most stereotypical butcher you can imagine.  Short, plump, balding, flushed and sporting a respectable mustache, he served us with a brusque good humor.  It was so busy and we were a little off-kilter, confused by this system of ordering, getting tickets, paying, getting another ticket and then finally picking up the food…well, that’s all to say I didn’t get a picture of the butcher or his shop.

I did, however, get a picture (or sixteen) of dinner!


Bread, cheese, foie gras and some of the fruits we’d gotten at the market a couple of days earlier.  In the back are the roasted chicken and potatoes from the boucherie, and the requisite bottle of wine.  Yeah, it was a little harsh for chicken; I guess we bought things out of order.


Here’s a close-up of my stinky cheese…mmmm…


…and the fruits: figs, cherries…

…and gooseberries!  We didn’t know what they were when Miss Chef bought them.  I asked the vendor, and then had to go look up macareau de groseille before we got to…gooseberry.  Then we remembered we’d had some at the Artichoke the week before!  They are quite tart, and I learned that night that they pair nicely with foie gras.

Dessert was an odd selection…a pistachio brioche I’d bought that morning, which tasted better than it looked…


…my favorite yogurt I’d been dreaming of for months.  And yes, it was as good as I remembered!

And then there was another adventure of Miss Chef’s.  Anyone recognize this alien pod fruit?


It’s most commonly encountered in Asian cooking…here’s the white, edible fruit.


Give up?  It’s a lychee rambutan!  Very sweet, delicate and refreshing on a 95-degree day.  Thanks to Amanda for correcting me in the comments--apparently lychees and rambutans have similar tastes, but they actually don't look that much alike.

Delving into my picture files, I see there are a couple of other memorable meals to relay, but I’m going to include them in my chronological journaling to come.  Certainly, you must be full by now?

I am composing this in Live Writer for the first time, and I’m having a few “growing pains.”  How can I turn off this double-spacing every time I hit Enter?  And is there any way to do picture captions like in Blogger’s direct uploads?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Paris Day Two: Food, Eiffel and Rodin

As I've been sitting in the office again, going through withdrawal--flashbacks to Waterloo Station in London and strolls across Ile St. Louis--I've realized that I've been shortchanging my travelog here.  I was so intent on catching up with myself, I've been leaving out a few details.

Like, for instance, our first meal in Paris.  Miss Chef and I went from Gare du Nord to our apartment by metro, hauling our carry-ons up and down the various stairs.  There was construction on Line 1, so we ended up doing two transfers before arriving at our station, St. Paul.  Then we had to hunt up an atm to make a big ol' withdrawal to pay the balance of the rent on the apartment, and figure out how to get into the building and buzz the owner.  Plus we were about 20 minutes late...but it all turned out beautifully.

By the way, you can see the apartment we rented here.  If anyone's traveling to  Paris, I can highly recommend it.  It was just what we wanted, in the perfect location, and the owner is wonderfully helpful, friendly and honest.  And speaks excellent English.

So, as I said, we found the apartment, settled in a bit. and headed out for a walk.  Ile St. Louis is one of two islands in the Seine river, at the heart of Paris.  The other one has Notre Dame, the Conciergerie and Ste. Chapelle.  Ile St. Louis is mostly residential, though with the usual collection of boutiques, cafés and restaurants on the ground floors.  It's a bit touristy, but not as well-trammeled as the areas around Notre Dame, the Sacré Coeur, etc.

We stopped to look at a few menus before settling on a very traditional-looking place, Aux Anysetiers du Roy.  Every effort had been made to give the impression of a medieval-aged building (which it may be, for all I know).  I was concerned that the focus on all the standard, tourist-pleasing traditional French dishes would mean thoughtless cooking, but we were very pleased with our meal.

I ordered duck breast with a honey raisin sauce, which came with sautéed potatoes and--hooray!--haricots verts.  It tasted about 200 times better than it looks in this picture.

Miss Chef ordered the chicken with a provençale sauce, which didn't contain a single olive, much to our surprise.  It was a very tomatoey sauce, and it came with the same sides as my dish.

The picture quality's not great, because I wanted to avoid using the flash.

By coincidence, there was an American couple seated right next to us, and by the time we'd finished our first glass of wine, they broke the ice and we ended up chatting for some time.  Turned out this was their last night in Paris, and our first.  They too had rented an apartment, and had enjoyed their week.  It was a nice little passing of the torch, and made me glad to be at the beginning of our stay, rather than the end!

On our way back to the apartment, we stopped into a grocery store to pick up some basics for breakfast and snacks.  I couldn't help snapping this picture:

Ok, now on to Day 2!  This time we were to meet at the Eiffel Tower at 10...only as Miss Chef and I started out, my brother called and said they were going to need more time.  Which was fine with us, because we had just stumbled onto the neighborhood market!

It wasn't as local as we're used to at home, but we couldn't resist sharing a few euro with the vendors!  I got some stinky cheese and Miss Chef picked up some fruits...don't worry, they'll show up later in the week, but I don't have pictures of them at this point.

Well, we eventually met up at 11:00, as planned, at the Trocadero Plaza.  I'd recommended this rather than the tower itself, for the view, naturally.

The Tower looked pretty nice, too.

Yes, that's a Starbucks cup.  It was the only place Miss Chef knew how to order brewed coffee--since I don't drink coffee, I wasn't much help.

Anyway, we strolled over to the tower itself, but decided not to go up, since we hadn't been able to book tickets ahead.  If you buy tickets on site, you're given a time--often several hours later--to come back and wait in line.  Since we'd all been up in it at one time or another, we decided to save our time for something different.

Still, that didn't keep us from taking a few pictures...

Yeah, it's pretty dang big!

My sister-in-law was busy taking pictures of everyone else, again, but we managed to force her into a few frames...

Check out the little one's goofball expression!

We were headed to the Rodin Museum, which was included in our Museum Passes.  Did I mention those?  We'd bought them at the Arc de Triomphe--50€ for four days' access to many of the biggies, including the Louvre and the palace of Versailles.  Anyway, I thought the Rodin museum would be a good place for the kids to run around outside, as well as being less well-known and less crowded.

It was a bit of a walk, and the kids were tired from the previous day...but we did happen to pass by the Invalides on our way.

This is the site of Napoleon's tomb, as well as containing a weaponry museum.  In fact, this too was included in our passes, but we passed on by...

Part of the benefit of the museum passes is that you get to pass right on by the ticket lines.  When I flashed mine at the entrance to the Rodin museum, we were waved on to the head of the line.  Doubly helpful when you've got three impatient kids in tow (ok, two impatient kids and one not-quite-sullen-teenager-yet).

The two youngest kids were immediately drawn into climbing all over these sculptures, part of a temporary exhibit of a more contemporary artist.

We took the eldest around with us while the parents took a breather on the front steps of the house to watch the other two.

Cheesy, but why not?

The writer Balzac

"Don't push your sister off the sculpture, honey."

The Gates of Hell.  We avoided sending anyone through...barely.

Taken from the bottom of the Gates...these figures are soaring out of the sculpture.
Or perhaps "writhing" would be a better word.

I made Miss Chef pose for this shot of the gardens.  She's a pretty
good sport sometimes.

We did a pretty thorough job of touring through the house.  I love the sculptures by Camille Claudel, and Miss Chef had been told by some of the instructors at school to look for paintings by other famous artists that are not generally reproduced in art books.  Our 12-year old nephew had to suffer through a lot of embarrassingly nude sculptures, I'm afraid.

Things got a little more mundane after this.  We had a frustrating hunt for a café for lunch (there are actually two in the gardens, but it was decided they wouldn't do for some reason).  And by the time we were done,  my brother had to get back to the hotel to repack and leave for the train...he had to go to work the next day. (Oh, is it Sunday?  I guess it is.  Oh well.)  Miss Chef and I escorted them back, said goodbye, and left the kids watching a movie while sis-in-law and we went down to the bar for a sidewalk drink and some people-watching.

Doing what they do best...

They were also leaving the next morning, so we said goodbye for a week, and headed on our way for the evening (we would travel back for a last day with them before flying back to the States).  

The hotel was in the neighborhood where I had lived during my year as an assistante, so I took Miss Chef on a stroll to visit the sights.  I only took a couple of pictures.

Canal St. Martin, which has become much more popular in the past
dozen years since I lived here.

Part of the Hôpital St. Louis, which was at the end of my street
and which I never visited!

We metro'ed back to St. Michel--I think--and Miss Chef just had to stop in at Shakespeare & Co., a renowned English-language bookstore.  She loved it, as it's crammed so full of books as to be a fire hazard in the States.  It was so hot in there I opted to wait outside.  The walk home was rather rewarding, though...

How can you resist a city that does this to its famous monuments?

Dinner that night was ham and cheese sandwiches at the apartment, as we had eaten lunch pretty late that afternoon.  This is my last picture of that day, so I'm guessing we did some laundry and headed to bed.  We had a big day coming up: it was time to put those museum passes to work!