Auberge St. Roche - Neighborhood Dining in Paris

1 day ago

Local knowledge is one key to a great trip, whether in Costa Rica or Paris. On our first night, I asked the clerk at the hotel Louvre Montana where he would go for dinner in the neighborhood. He said go out, turn right, pass the church (the venerable landmark Eglise St. Roche, and look for the red sign on the left. And there it was, right on sushi row in the right bank. An assuming, softly lit, neighborhood place, with the classic chalkboard sign out front. Our waiter, David, was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and genial. He has hoped of opening a restaurant in Amsterdam. Given his energy, expertise, and sincere interest in his customers, it should do well.

We chose the menu (prix fixe) which offered updated takes on classic French bistrot dishes. My companion and photographer opened with escargots en casserole. The escargots were shelled and accompanied with crescents of tender, fresh mushrooms in a light cream sauce, delicately savoring of garlic and other good things, but all so perfectly balanced that I couldn’t separate the flavors. Definitely a Top Chef quickfire challenge. I’m looking at you, Tom Colicchio! It was all I could do not to rip the dish from his hands and dash out with it. Fortunately for all concerned, my warm chèvre salad arrived. The chèvre was presented on perfect little toasts, with mint and honey on a bed of rocket, rather than the usual frisée. Delicieuse! We both had duck breast, thinly sliced, crispy skin, with a light sauce that featured honey and lemon. Perhaps a Vietnamese or Lebanese touch? Desserts were the classic creme brûlée and profiteroles, but the chocolate sauce on the profiteroles was dark and decadent.

The restaurant itself was in a building older than the United States, or as we like to say in France, just last week. Its ancient brick and stone walls looked as though they should be lit with candles in sconces or even torches. The dining rooms were separated by a magnificent archway formed by huge, hand hewn beams with the chisel marks still visible and some of the original, hand-forged flatheaded nails still visible.

It was altogether a great way to start PFW. Pix will follow once I figure out the new tech. Sometimes the 18th century seems more user-friendly than the 21st!



Alert! Happy Ganesh Chaturthi - Parade and Birthday Celebration August 31

32 days ago

It’s Ganesha’s Birthday! Every year, we celebrate the 10-day Ganesh Chaturthi, a moveable feast starting sometime in August-September. This year, the festival started August 29th and will end 10 days from now.

Ganesha is the elephant-headed remover of obstacles, god of beginnings, deva of wisdom and intellect, and patron of merchants. He is the god of letters and learning and is invoked at the start of writing sessions. He should be the god of bloggers, yes?

Ganesha loves candy. He is plump, kind, and humble. Sometimes, however, he places obstacles in the way of those who should be contained in someway.

The Temple of Sri Manickor Vinayakar Alayam in Paris leads the celebration every year. The temple is located at 17, rue Pajol, 75018 Paris. Services start in the morning and the procession will leave at 11:00 am, circulating through the neighborhood until 3 p.m. (15:00).

Check the Temple website for detail:

The streets are garlanded with red, yellow, and purple flowers, there are images, piles of coconuts, fire and light and wonderful foods. It is joyous, religious, and beautiful.

Of course, all festivals are occasions for gifts. To honor Ganesha, share sweets, lights, statues, dried fruits, and gold coins. For examples of such gifts, visit:

Thanks to the generous photographers who posted images to share, we can see a little bit of the festival and of Ganesha. The first image, if it comes through, was posted by Michel Disdero, who has a lovely website of his own.

The second image is a picture of Ganesha himself, originally uploaded by Matthieu Moy at fr.wikipedia on 6 September 2006 and is reproduced here under CC-BY-2.5.

The 18th arrondissement is a neighborhood of working people, who will not be looking at your shoes to see if they are Resort 2015.




Paris Fashion Week Coming Up

32 days ago

Paris Fashion Week is less than a month away! Let’s say you’re in Paris around September 22nd or so – how will you know it’s Fashion Week? And what do you do next?

First, you must go to the Right Bank (Rive Droit). Hang out around the Place Vendome. While you’re there, pay your respects to the statue and pedestal commemorating Napoleon’s many victories. With the statue in front of you, look to your right. The diamonds, rubies, emeralds, gold, platinum, and fantasy on display will dazzle from across the Place. Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, and many others display their most opulent and amazing creations, from the classic emerald-and-diamond Elizabeth-Taylor-style necklaces to bracelets that look like frozen, ice-covered vines and twigs from Storybrook. Yes, there are cameras and security guards.

Alternative medicine recommends “crystal healing”; just remember, diamonds are crystallized carbon, so window shopping (or buying if one is so fortunate) is actually for medicinal purposes. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Ok – deep breath, focus, and look around.

You know it’s Fashion Week when:

1. Everyone is looking down to see who’s wearing whose shoes. And the shoes are amazing.

2. You suddenly have a referent for “street style”.

3. You see a 6’ model in a 3 foot (if that) dress, a mane of perfectly waved, high-lighted and low-lighted hair, and thigh-high, black, glove leather, stiletto-heeled boots and no one else seems to find her unusual. And then you look around and, behold, you are the only one in normcore.

4. You are blinded by flashes and surrounded by journalists, photographers, vloggers, bloggers, and their partners in the enterprise and glory that is fashion.

5. You see the most gorgeous girl (see #3 above) on the arm of a 5’3” man with gray hair, a gold lame levi’s jacket, camo pants, and untied combat boots and he’s the one everyone is staring at.

6. You walk into Colette, where the t-shirt commemorating the robbery costs more than your daily or perhaps weekly income, and see what surely must be a curated display of leopard-pattern shoes and boots, and booties, in all styles and heel heights, from stilettos and kitten heels to wedges and flats, trimmed in purple, soled in red, in leather, silk, calf-hair, and who knows what, in a carefully-constructed sculpture in the center of the store. Visitors (nothing so mundane as “shoppers”) murmuring and strolling around, as if previewing a Sotheby’s fine art auction.

7. You stroll down the Champs-Elysees and encounter a spotlit showcase displaying one pair of black leatherstiletto booties, completely covered in spikes, and looking like an art display from the Louvre. And his user-unfriendly novelty item for the wealthy is priced at nearly 7,000 euros.

And everywhere, in every window, inspiring displays of fantasy, creativity, and luxury.

Paris Fashion Week. Soon, my pretties, soon.



Rodin and Mapplethorpe: Sculpture, Photography, and Obsession

48 days ago

The curators of the Rodin Museum have put sculpture and photography side by side in an exhibition which ends September 21st. When I first read about it, I thought the two artists and the two media were so disparate that the exhibit might not be coherent. I have seen Mapplethorpe’s work, notably in the exhibit that was banned in Cleveland (or was it Cincinnati?). And I have been to the Rodin Museum in Paris and seen Rodin’s works elsewhere.

And here’s the thing: This juxtaposition makes a lot of sense. Both media are essentially black and white or bronze and white or grayscale. No color to distract, no flashing lights, no sound. Just the thing in itself. Both artists were obsessed with nudes, with bodies at rest or in motion. Mapplethorpe had a sculptural eye, evidenced by an amazing self-portrait of his arm – all muscle and tendon and contrast. The picture looks 3-d. Some of Rodin’s sculptures show the image resolving from the matrix, as photographs used to do back in the days of developing tanks. You could see the image slowly appear, rising from the white paper.

Mapplethorpe, notoriously, preferred the male body; Rodin prefered the female. Both are good at either.

Mapplethorpe also captured the most wondrously pure images of flowers, which I expect will be strewn amongst the scandalous nudes (men in backless chaps and so on).

Some of the poses used by Rodin and Mapplethorpe are almost identical. Perhaps some artists solve the same challenges in the same way? The curators have juxtaposed them, using themes such as Damnation. One is invited to agree or disagree.

A word of warning: Based on the Mapplethorpes I have seen, this exhibit will not be suitable for children. Parents might want to preview the work before taking adolescents. People uncomfortable with very candid images of men with some very interesting accessories should avoid this exhibit.

If you go, plan on having a lot to talk about at the cafe in the museum gardens.

Musee Rodin
79 rue de Varenne, Paris 7th
Metro: Invalides
Closed Mondays
Open Tues- Sun 10 am – 5:45 pm
Late Wednesdays until 8:45

+33 1 44 18 61 10



Chauvet Cave: Now UNESCO's Oldest World Heritage Site

100 days ago

Horses - © Jean Clottes - Le Centre National de Préhistoire

The committee meeting at UNESCO’s 38th session has added the Prehistoric Painted Cave of Pont-d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet, in the Ardèche region of Southern France, on the World Heritage List of cultural properties. The cave is thought to date back 36,000 years.

The cave sits on some pretty interesting property, as you can see on the map below. The gorges of the river Ardèche start here, and the stretch between Vallon Pont-d’Arc and the point where the Ardèche river joins the Rhone is popular with canoe and kayak enthusiasts.

You can’t visit the original cave these days. But just wait until next spring. It turns out that now that money is flowing, they’ll create a replica cave like they did at Lascaux. Despite the fact that Lascaux is much more widely known, Chauvet at 8000 square meters is quite a bit bigger than Lascaux at 1500 square meters. The Lascaux facsimile cave is a mere 500 meters square, which Chauvet’s will be around 3000. The Cavern of Pont-d’Arc replica is expected to be open in spring of 2015, so plan your vacation now.

The closest town is Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France, which becomes a madhouse with adventure tourists during the summer season. You might wish to come in the spring when the water is still high but with fewer folks on the river. There is lots of camping around the real and the fake cave site. You can also search for the best hotel prices in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France

Map of Grotte Chauvet and Area

Wandering Man


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