Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reims Cathedral Exterior

The exterior of the Reims Cathedral is undergoing extensive renovations, so the main entrance is now on the right side, and scaffolding is on both the front and back obscuring at least a third of the building.




Hidden in the rear of the cathedral is a beautiful garden,


 with a long path and several seats.
On the left side of the church (facing the front) there is a delightful little specialty food shop Terroir Des Rois. They have everything from chocolate to 30 year old balsamic vinegar, and if you can't decide, premade gift baskets are available.
In front of the shop are a few chairs and tables so you can taste their featured champagne of the day, a cold non alcoholic drink, or sip the champagne you just bought,
 for a very modest supplemental fee depending on the size of the bottle you purchased,
 while gazing at this magnificent view from your table:)
In the Summer, there is a light and music show projected onto the front of the cathedral twice a night starting at 11 PM and each lasts for 20 minutes:)


Not all the projectors were working, so there were several blank/black spots, 
but the last projection worked fine :)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Reims Cathedral Interior

The Cathedral of Reims is undergoing extensive renovations, so the best view of what it would be like without cranes and scaffolding is this model inside the cathedral.
 Most of the interior is not under renovation, so enjoy today's photo post:)




 One of several pulpits.

 One of several organs.


 My favorite part of the cathedral was these stained glass windows by Chagall:)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Staying in a Rental in Reims

Reims (pronounced "Rance") is only 45 minutes from the Gare de l'Est in Paris. You can easily enjoy a day trip, but a girlfriend and I wanted to explore a few Champagne Caves and the city, so we booked a rental with AirBnB

Thierry and Corinne speak English, so no worries if you don't speak French. The apartment is  a spacious 80 M2 or about 850 Sq Ft, with 2 bedrooms, so there is room for up to four people. At 85 Euros per night (about $95 USD), it's a great price for the location, literally one block from the Cathedral.
We took advantage of the private courtyard from the moment we arrived:)
The kitchen had everything, from coffee maker and electric kettle, to oven, toaster, and food processor. A self serve breakfast is included, and there was juice, butter, jam, and organic milk in the fridge, along with a selection of teas and coffee in the cupboard with some spices and sugar.
The open floor plan from kitchen to dining area made it a very inviting space.
Everything was light and open, and towels and bedding were delightfully fluffy and comfortable.
I took the room with two single beds and appreciated the huge multiple pillows with a light duvet.
My friend took the bigger bed with the firmer mattress and closed the outside shutters at night to keep it dark.
Corinne and her son welcomed us with a delicious (still warm) cake baked for our arrival! We enjoyed a piece each while it was still warm and it was our daily breakfast during our four day stay:)
If you drive into town there is paid parking in front and by taxi it's only 7 Euros from the central train station. If you want to take a tram or bus both have stops only 2-3 blocks away. 

You can literally see the Reims Cathedral from our front door!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

L'Arcade Café

After sorting out paperwork with the French administration, an Australian friend and I headed to a L'Arcade Café in the central square of Saint Germain-en-laye for lunch. Although I had recommended some other places without a view, I did the touristy thing because she was so keen on sitting out on a terrace looking out into the center of town, hoping that it would be better than the other cafes in the same square. The dark clouds sprinkled a bit of drizzle, but the sun also came out intermittently. It was a lunch of many good and bad facets, just like the weather...

Our view of the square was very nice, and even though we had three servers during our 1 hour meal, service was friendly and professional.
A pleasant surprise was the generous serving of smoked salmon appetizer for 14 Euros which included crème fraîche and a bit of lemon. The sliced bread on the plate was a bit dry, but had good flavor nonetheless.
My friend ordered the Caesar salad for 14 Euros. The dressing should have had at least a bit of anchovy or garlic, but it tasted very much like plain mayonnaise, and the rest of the salad did nothing to compensate for the lack of punch. Yes, that is balsamic you see drizzled on the salad, and no I have no idea why they would add that to a caesar salad.....
I ordered the filet de bar (sea bass), which came with plain basmati rice (under the rocket greens) and a small salad of rocket and sun dried tomatoes for 17 Euros. The fish was crisp but not overly cooked, and the sauce vierge of olive oil, tomatoes, and shallots was pleasant if a bit bland. The dish was very plain and could have used a spark of acid, or heat, or seasoning, but it was a fine choice for my slightly upset stomach.
We went clothes shopping at the stores after lunch, and stopped by for some fresh fruit and viennoiseries on the way back for our afternoon snack, proving that sometimes the best meals are the ones you put together yourself:)


Monday, June 20, 2016

Blé Sucré & Belleville

Blé Sucré is on so many lists as the best croissant in Paris that I had to taste them for myself :) The tiny shop has a few tables outside if you want to have a coffee and eat facing the park, but I didn't want my croissant accompanied by the melody of screeching children, so I took mine to go. This is a pâtisserie not a boulangerie, which means they offer pastries but do not sell bread. If you want a baguette, go elsewhere, but come here for the madeleines, the pain au chocolat, or the croissants. The croissants here are HUGE by Parisian standards, easily twice as big as others.
The airy light layers and satisfying crunchy flakiness make for the best of combinations, and I added these croissants to my favorites list along with all the others who came before I did :)
Not far away is another kind of pâtisserie, La Rose de Tunis, specializing in North African sweets infused with honey, nuts, and spices. This one is in Belleville in the 11th, but there are other locations in the 15th and 18th, as well as in other cities throughout Europe. There is always a line out the door, so be prepared to wait for your sweet treats.

Since I went to the Yelp event at Les Piaules, I wanted to explore the Belleville area a bit more along Blvd Belleville with all the streetside vendors making freshly grilled breads filled with your choice of meat, tomatoes, onions; think of it as an alternative to pizza:)

The stores sell products I've never seen before, like Rose jam!
There were also markets that sell products I knew very well,
like roasted ducks and char siu.
Off Rue Belleville, which intersects Blvd Belleville, the famous graffiti of Rue Denoyez adds color

 and art to everything from the storefronts to the plant holders.
Some artists were working as I passed by, but this area will be transforming in the next few years to "modernize" the street and about 30 of the local workshops and artists will be displaced despite a petition with over 10,000 signatures trying to preserve the character of this street.
The most surprising thing I saw in the neighborhood wasn't the rose jam or the graffiti, but a Lamborghini, the only one I've ever seen in Paris :)