Macaroons and a Cafe' Au Lait, S'il Vous Plait...

OK, so I could not wait to get to France because although I am very careful with my diet on a daily basis, I fully intended on having two things EVERY DAY while there:  Macaroons and Cafe' Au Lait!  And to my pleasure, at every corner one could find both.

First, let me say that Cafe' Au Lait was already a favorite of mine from visiting New Orleans, however, having a Cafe'Au Lait in France...Ooohhlala!!
 In case you don't know what a Cafe' Au Lait is, I will tell you:  It is coffee with hot, steamed milk.  YUM!

 And every time I ordered one, there was a little something different about the presentation.  That is a little meringue on the saucer.

      This one came with the steamed milk on the side .  And a little piece of chocolate on the saucer.

So you see, sipping a Cafe' Au Lait  is just the the thing to do while sitting at an outdoor cafe' in France.

Now, about the pastries...OH MY!  The French make pastries a work of art.  Seriously, I have never seen such beautiful pasties in my life!  And my favorite?  The Macaroon.  What is a macaroon, you may be asking?  Click HERE to find out just exactly what they are and some history behind them.  All I need to tell you about them is that they are DELICIOUS!

                                           See...I told you they made pastries a work of art!

 I found that these little babies come in several different sizes too:  A regular size (50 cent piece size), large ones(Moon Pie size) and then the minis.  I sorta felt a little like Goldilocks in deciding which ones I liked best, because they were all so good but you know,  I found that there is one that is "just right"...
This green macaroon was pistachio flavored and it was a large one...about the size of a moon pie.  Yep, I was a little overzealous with this one.  But, was at the beginning of the trip and I learned my lesson and only ordered the regular sized ones afterwards...

OH MY GOODNESS...And I mean GOODness!  A bit too much sugar in a big one like this but OH, SO YUMMY!

And I know what you must be wondering:  Did I bring any back with me?  Well, of course I did!  These two things were my guilty pleasure while I was in France and I do not regret having both every day because it's not every day a girl goes to France!

Join me on my next post which will be about the churches of France.  The photos for that post are don't want to miss it!


Window Shopping in France!

I believe we Americans have lost the art of "window shopping".  The Parisians, however, have it extremely fine-tuned.  As we walked the streets of Paris and Rouen I found such pleasure in just leisurely browsing the shops through their windows.  Beautiful as they were, there was another thing I appreciated about those windows:  the price tags were included on every single item displayed.
Yes, of course, everything was written in French and the price was in Euros but that was pretty easy to figure out.  That one year of French I studied in college was sufficient for understanding the items, it was fun actually, like a game.  And once I knew how much a Euro was worth I was set to shop!

I had heard from many people that the French were rude or didn't speak English or pretended not to speak English and their experience was not good in France.  I, however, choose to believe it all lies in attitude and body language.  Certainly, the French, I'm told are the most reluctant to learn English and I cannot fault them for that for a couple of good reasons:  First, I'm not really committed to learning any other language, myself AND let's face it, English is a difficult language to learn and most of the French people will never travel to the United States.  They, however, are fluent in many other European languages.  That being said, I did not encounter any store merchant or waiter who was rude.  HOWEVER...I was that enchanted American who could see nothing but beauty,  and that came out in my body language and smile that covered my face (aka:  attitude and body language).  So, now back to some of those wonderful windows I shopped while in France!
One of the first shops we popped into was a bridal shoppe in Rouen.  I know, I know, I don't have anyone else to marry off but my friend, Lori does and what girl doesn't just LOVE wedding dresses?!
These dresses were simply gorgeous.  Everything you would think a French- made bridal gown should be.  And the price?  Only around $1,200.
                                              If you think the front of this dress is beautiful...
   Just look at the back of it.  Someone I know needs to be wearing this dress on her wedding day.
A men's tuxedo is called a "costume".  And there is a price given for the entire outfit.  But look at that tie.  I wanted to get Hubby one but could not find one that was sold alone.  We were going to do that when that attacks happened so now I suppose I will attempt to find one online.
Down the street was this lovely little shoppe that had this table set for Christmas.  Talk about put one in the holiday spirit.
I passed this window in Paris and it instantly caught my attention.  I realize the photo isn't very good but I'm sure you can see enough to tell that this is a little girl's outfit, complete with a fur collared sweater, gloves and tights.  OH MY GOSH!

OK, how gorgeous is this window?!  Notice the reflection of the building in the back too...Just SO Paris!
And this window...I took home with me.  No kidding!  Hubby had been insisting that I buy a new bed set since ours was 10 years old.  We walked into the shop and got the merchant working to see if all the pieces were available.

                                                  Yep, I'm sleeping on French linens now.
I'll come back to this subject in another post, but notice the blue walls and all the cream, gold and blue details in my master bedroom.  Our house is built in the French Provincial style and the decor of this room is French all the way!  Needless to say, this was my favorite purchase from France!

Now that you've taken this little window shopping trip with me, I hope to introduce you to some of my favorite French foods in my next post!

And Now...Let Me Introduce You To PARIS...

Hubby and I flew into Paris and went directly to our ship.  It was misting rain that day but still just as magical as I always dreamed it would be.  We donned our jackets, scarves and hats and set out to do a little window shopping.  The next day, however, we went on a tour of the city and then set out by foot on our own to do a little exploring.  Today, I share my photo journaling of Paris with you...

You will find that LOTS of my photos, while in Paris, are centered around the Seine.  Do you see those swans?  They seemed to follow us around and I liked their presence.  It reminded me of the line from the movie, "The Notebook",  where it was mentioned that swans have only one mate for a life.
   The beautiful Seine!  Where our floating home would travel for the majority of our France trip.
Notice that at the beginning of our trip we were not wearing coats.  The weather started out unseasonably warm for November and we were loving the fall-like temperatures.
The architecture in Paris, and all of France for that matter, is just gorgeous.  And so many things reminded me of the French influence that can be found in New Orleans.  I cannot wait to watercolor some of the sites I photographed!

                                      And was I just a little obsessed with the Eiffel Tower!
     From near or far and basically just anywhere we stood this structure was just magnificent!

 And just when we thought things couldn't get any better, we learned that it was lit up every night AND began to sparkle at the top of every hour.  WOW...Just WOW!
                                              We were SO excited that first night in Paris.
On the opposite side of our boat, one could catch a glimpse of  the Parisian Lady Liberty; a smaller replica of the one that can be found in New York City.
                  As we toured the streets of Paris I noticed such diversity.  From the opulent...

                                                          To the quaint and picturesque...

                                                            To the downright quirky.
                                                                    Ahhh...Paris (Pa-ree)!!!

         And as we set sail from Paris at midnight, the swans were still swimming next to our boat.


How My Lovely Trip To France Ended In Ugly Terror

As most of you know, we have been planning a trip to France for the past 18 months. There have been cheerful emails exchanged between the six couples going, using our newly acquired French phrases in anticipation of being in this lovely country together where we would meet up in Paris for the trip of a lifetime. Two of us had daughters give birth just days and weeks before we left and everything had been purchased and packed as the day finally arrived for us to leave. 

In the days to come I will, of course, share all of the wonderful things we did while traveling around the French countryside, however, I feel I must begin my posts at the end of our trip when we were stricken with fear as Paris suffered terror attacks just a few miles from where we were staying. 

We ended our Viking Cruise Friday in the same place we started; Paris. Before setting sail, we had spent two days walking around the city, sightseeing, window shopping and eating in French cafes. It was wonderful and I would simply close my eyes, breathe in deeply and think of how fortunate I was to get to be experiencing this city I had longed to visit for as long as I could remember. 

As we left the boat, we caught a cab and headed to our hotel across town and immediately set out to explore the city some more. The weather had turned cool and crisp as we bundled up to shop the Champs Elysee and even visited the Christmas Market that had been set up while we floated on the Seine.  I was soaking up every minute of the day and must admit that it was truly magical...

We had promised to meet up with the other members of our group later in the evening for one last dinner together. We had a taxi drive us to Montmartre where we could capture the view of the city from the highest point in Paris. We were to meet everyone at the bottom of the steps and then planned to head out for dinner.
We set out for dinner but there was a bit of chaos as to where we would eat and we ended up having to wait on several people who were running late and as fate would have it, our party of four decided, after sitting down in a cafe that we would not stay.  Instead we grabbed a cab and headed back across the river...

I remember snapping this photo from the window of our cab and laughingly sending it to my kids saying, "How's this for a traffic jam?"  

The four of us found a quaint restaurant close to our hotel and feasted on escargot, French wine, soufflĂ© and creme broulee. As we heard the church bells ring outside, we decided to take in a French mass the next evening. It would be a wonderful way to end our trip. 

We leisurely walked back to our rooms, taking in the picturesque cobblestone streets and as we retired for the evening, Lori and I talked about our plans of meeting the other women the next morning for our guided shopping tour of the Paris flea markets. 

Robby and I went to bed, and as usual, turned our cell phones on silent for the night. Our kids back home had seemed to forget that we were on a 7 hour time difference and we didn't want to be awakened at all hours of the night. Suddenly we heard a knock on our door that startled me. Who could possibly be knocking on our door in the middle of the night?  Robby got up and it was Lori's husband, Lynn. He said, "You need to call your kids. They've been trying to get in touch with you. There's been a bombing in Paris."

All I could keep saying over and over was, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh..."  Upon looking at our phones, we had numerous text messages and immediately began messaging our family to let them know we were ok. We also turned on the television and found an English news channel where we learned about the awful news of terror unfolding. We watched the live account of the many people being held hostage in the concert hall and fear struck our hearts. We heard about the bombing at the soccer game, the shootings in the restaurants. The area we had been only hours before. 

Of course, we attempted to change our flight to come home the next morning, however, a state of emergency had been declared, the borders of the country closed and no flights were going out. We would have to wait until Sunday to leave.  As I tried to close my eyes and go to sleep, all I could think of was, "How do I know there will not be shootings or explosions where I am?"  I didn't know. I prayed. 

Needless to say, we cancelled our flea market trip the next morning as most of Paris shut down. I was afraid to leave my hotel room but then again I thought, was I really even safe there?  We decided to wander just down the street to get breakfast and coffee. The city was quiet but the French people were beginning to stir...

We stayed in a small area Saturday close to our hotel. As the day wore on, more people began to make their way to our area since the other area of the city, where the events of the previous evening, had been closed off.  As we numbly walked through the streets that yesterday had been so enchanting, we sought to find that same feeling. We needed to find it. And we did. In the beautifully resilient Parisians who slowly began the attempt to resume some sense of normality...

   We found the beauty in theses lovely flower shops that opened on such a mournful day, as if to say, "You cannot destroy who we are..."

We made it out of Paris Sunday.  Very jet lagged and still a bit in shock. Extremely happy to be back in the United States. However, I am drawn to the news channels every single day since leaving. I cannot forget what we experienced and left behind. Nor should I. Ever.