Travel tips

As we all know, there’s the fantasy of Giverny…


…and then there’s the reality:


New Yorker magazine cover of June 5, 2000 by the great illustrator Ian Falconer.

 From April to October Monet’s garden at Giverny is open seven days a week and half a million “culture tourists” make the pilgrimage to this tiny village to see the famous Japanese bridge:


When I was there last month the wisteria on what is called the “superstructure” of the bridge was just starting to bloom…


…but the famous water lilies don’t blossom until late July. Since except for bullfrogs calling to each other there was nothing of interest going on in the water, I spent my time watching people take in The Most Famous Japanese Bridge in France:



And then I went exploring in Giverny. I took a walk down the main drag of the village (pop. 505) called, of course, Rue Claude Monet. At the far end of the long wall that keeps Monet’s houses secluded on Rue Claude Monet there is a big green door…


…which is Monet’s old garage door, where he used to pull in his Panhard Lavassor that he bought in 1900. I know! I can’t picture Monet driving a car either!   As you continue your mosey thorugh the village on the Rue Claude Monet you pass picturesque houses…P1160440

…and the tourist information center and the Impressionist Museum of Giverny  that used to be called The Museum of American Art in honor of all the Americans who flocked to this village to paint with the Master from 1880 – 1926:


Nice restaurant, very nice gardens, bijoux collection.

And then you get to the main hub of social life in Giverny the Baudy Hotel…


…where all Monet’s American acolytes used to hang out in olden times and where they are still doing a bang-up business serving lunch and diner and tea.


In the Petit Galerie Baudy, right there at the Baudy Hotel, there is a storefront where Monsieur Frederic Desessard works, a miniaturist after my own heart:


He very kindly let me photograph him painting his latest tableaux (he does not usually allow photographs of him at work):


And he then showed me how he paints with a toothpick:


Here he’s putting the finishing touches on his copy of one of the rare Monet paintings of his flower garden ( if you want to see the original it’s in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris) and has finished one of the 18 similar views of the Japanese bridge that Monet painted between 1899 and 1900 (see: the top of this post). The portrait of Camille Monet  that M. Desessard has beautifully reproduced is in the National Gallery in Washington D.C.

I asked to buy one of these miniatures but M. Desessard told me that he doesn’t sell his paintings, he uses them for the tiny 3D tableaux he makes and sells in his shop.


Photo by Jean-Michel Peers — to see more follow the link below — read on!

Hmmmmm…I think I just got my inspiration for my Giverny Triscuit...


You can find the finished Triscuit at the end of this post.

Anyhoo, If you are going to Giverny, you can’t miss M. Desessard…


Photo by Jean-Michel Peers.

…right on the main drag, at 81 Rue Claude Monet. The French photographer Jean-Michel Peers has graciously permitted me to show you his photos of M. Desessard at work on his miniatures — click onto this link here to see more, and to check out Jean-Michel’s portfolio of wonderful historical photos of Giverny and of Monet’s garden too.

But we, you and me, dear readers, have not finished out our wanderings there. We are going to go further down Rue Claude Monet to the 15th century church of Sainte Radegonde

P1160765…to pay respects to the seven WWII British airmen who are fondly remembered by the people of Giverny; their Lancaster bomber crashed nearby in 1944 and the village honors them with this grave:


British visitors to Giverny leave English coins here.

We will take a walk around the churchyard to the side area where we’ll will find the beautiful grave of Gerald Van der Kemp, the man responsible for restoring Monet’s gardens:


Mr. Van der Kemp lies next to the Monet family grave, the resting place of the Master himself (along with various family members):


Few of the day trippers who come to Giverny bother to make the walk up to Eglise Sainte Radegonde…and it’s not even “off the beaten track”! To really get Off The Beaten Track, you have two choices. You can get out of town on the D5:

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Yes, we are going to walk 4 km to Vernon!

In which case you will walk along the banks of the River Epte…


…on the path takes you past the secluded studio where the American artist (and Monet’s next door neighbor in Giverny)  Frederick Carl Frieseke got the privacy he needed to paint his favorite subject, naked ladies sunbathing. The house used to be home to a community of monks who bred fish to stock the local rivers…


…but do not go fishing in the Epte or the Ru unless you’ve paid your 89 euro license fee :


This is the Epte, which flows into the Seine. The River Ru is a branch of the Epte and it’s the Ru that flows into Monet’s pond in his water garden.

That red signposted on that tree announces that this area is under the control of the Fédération de l’Eure pour la Pêche et la Protection du Milieu Aquatique. You can look them up. France has strict fishing protections on all its streams, brooks, creeks, and rivers.

Other sights along the D5:







Does anyone know what this is? Monique — can you explain your people’s strange foreign ways?




And that’s how you get to Vernon as the lone pedestrian on the D5.

Your other choice of getting Off The Beaten Path is to take Rue Claude Monet alllllllllll the way to the end of town…


…and find the bike path….


…that is easier to walk on than the D5 and “busier” (this is where all those people who rent bikes at the Vernon train station go, but it’s still pretty deserted) and nearly quite as scenic…





…and when you get to Vernon on this route…


…there is this:


The sign says: Attention au chat. You don’t see the chat? He’s there! He’s right there:

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Now, if you really want to get Off The Beaten Track in Giverny…


…all you have to do is take the foot path that starts where the Rue du Chateau d’Eau ends and climb…



…until you find the perfect picnic spot…


Looks like a Plebicula dorylas to me. My guide to French butterflies calls this color “sky blue”. I thought it was a wildflower at first, then I saw it was an elegant French insect.

…where you can sit and plan your next visit to Giverny (maybe walk that highway  all the way to Sainte-Genevieve-les-Gasny?):


I thought I would be finished with Giverny with this post, having told as many stories about my visit as my dear readers have the patience for…but no, I have one more piece of business. I have a Giverny Triscuit to give away!


Seeing M. Desessard’s copies of famous Monet paintings gave me the urge to do something I’ve never done before: COPY. So here it is, My Monet:


And that’s why we call it a Triscuit.

If you would like to give a home to this original watercolor Giverny Triscuit, please leave a Comment below before the Comments close on midnight June 26 and, as usual, Top Cat will pick a winner totally at random, to be announced when we all get together again next Friday.

This was fun, copying one of the most iconographic works of art of the 20th century. I think I’d like to do it again. Anybody got any suggestions for another Masterpiece Triscuit???

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I promised Top Cat that I WOULD NOT DIGRESS this week (he says my posts are getting waaaay toooo loooooong) while I take you to Monet’s famous garden in Giverny (Normandy, France).


I promise to Keep It Short since my previous reports (last week and the week before) on my recent visit to France have been rather wordy and some readers [Top Cat] say I make it toooooo looooong toooo reeeeeeed. So I’m cutting my three-day exploration of All Things Monet in Giverny down to this one post, probably. But pardon me while I set the scene:


For my first two nights I stayed at a marvelous B&B called Le Coin des Artists, which used to be a cafe/grocery in Monet’s day:


The Breakfast part of the B&B was quite wonderful (see: below… those are the same chairs that you’ll find in Monet’s dining room at Giverny and there was always Katie Melua on the CD player. I highly recommend starting your Giverny days hearing Katie Melua sing “Closest Thing to Crazy”   and eavesdropping on the Belgian couple talking about the high price of French toll roads compared to the ones in Belgium but I’m not telling you that story because I Will Not Digress).


And ahhhhhh!! The Bed part of this B&B was heavenly! I really missed my Top Cat when I saw my room because nothing is more romantic than a fauteuil, n’est-ce pas?


Fauteuil only means “armchair” even tho it sounds kind of dirty.

The windows of my room looked out into the courtyard:


In the evening in this same courtyard the delightful hostess at Le Coin des Artistes, Madame Laurence Pain, serves chilled Loire Valley wine with the resident chow (see below: those orange protuberances at the end of the table are chow ears):


I could tell stories about the dogs of Giverny, who seem unable to contain their curiosity and excitement  to be in the company of such world travelers as  moi...


…or the cats of Giverny ,who don’t


…except for this little girl (below) who must be part Siamese for all the talking she did here in Giverny’s “Medieval Quarter”, which consists of one rue…called Rue aux Juifs (Street of Jews) if you can believe it…


…but I will not digress!!!  Neither can I tell you about the many stone walls I had to climb to snoop  into courtyards that are hidden from the street, such as this one (below) where they hide Monet’s so-called “Blue House” where he used to grow his vegetables…


…but Non! Non! I will not digress! We are here today to visit the Monet’s garden at Giverny, so let’s get to it:


This is the map (above) at the entrance to the garden — they do not sell or give away maps of the garden when you pay your 9 euro ($12.50) to get into the garden, which I was telling the young Canadian couple on line with me, who were on the second day of their 6-week driving tour of France  (so they took an iPad photo of this wall map to take with them) and then the guy, whose hobby is geology, wondered what kind of rocks this was in the wall because to a rock hound the world is one big rock puzzle, to whom I said well, if you like rocks and you have a car you  should go see one of the Wonders of the World (rock-wise) at Mont St-Michel close by here in Normandy and they said “Mont What?” etc. but I Will Not Digress


…although you see the guy with the dog (above) on the typically looooooong line to buy entrance tickets: Yeah, me too, I asked myself, “What kind of nincompoop brings a dog to Monet’s garden???” but I saw him later  outside the garden sitting with the dog and I offered to watch the pup while he went inside but he said no thank you, it’s his wife who wanted to see the garden — they have been here before as they often sail their boat from England and moor it on the Seine in Vernon (closest town to Giverny on the Seine ) which goes to show you that people have the most surprising stories if you take the time to chat… but I Will Not Digress… Let’s get to the GARDEN!!!

This is what you see after you enter the garden through the gift shop and pass the lavatories:


Those are espalier’d apple trees IN BLOSSOM!!! and the sign that points to “House” is of course pointing to Monet’s famous pink house:


I timed my visit to the garden so that I’d get there at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and yes, it was still plenty crowded.


But I like crowds. In case you haven’t guessed, I like talking to people when I travel because, well, I’m a professional travel writer and in order to write about travel I need stories. What better way to get them than to get people to tell me theirs? Like this mother/daughter pair (below) I helped because they didn’t speak French and the ladies working in the gift shop are, excuse me for saying, kind of snotty, but I Will Not Digress:

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And I LOVE Chinese tourists because they wear the best hats:

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And for the most part, even tho it’s crowded,  people are aware of other people trying to get a Monet Garden picture and do not walk right into your shot…

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…but not always. And then, if you’re me, you hope that someone with an outrageously fab Monet-Garden-Visiting-Outfit steps into view…


How the gardeners work amidst such teeming humanity I don’t know…


…although I trailed two women gardeners who were pulling off the dead tulip heads with such a delicate manouvre that I was entranced by their gentle touch but I Will Not Digress


But let us rejoice that some people, even in the madding crowd, are able find their private moments…


…which I, as your typical Nosey Parker…


…am only too happy to butt in on. But here’s my redeeming feature: I am the person who, when I see young couples taking “selflies” in places like Monet’s garden, I walk up and I ask “Would you like me to take your picture?” and then I art-direct them so that I get great shots of them in situ (I’m great at setting a scene and getting informative background) and I even tell them “Go on, kiss!” and they DO because I have that kind of trustful face and all.


Monet Garden at Giverny Travel Tip No. 1: If you hang around past 5 o’clock, all the day trippers leave and the place becomes very empty and even the guards are so happy that the day is almost over that they relax their eagle eyes and go MIA so there is no one to yell at you for taking pictures of the rooms…


…so you can stand in Monet’s bed chamber and snap away all you want (photos of furniture are forbidden!)…


…and there isn’t the usual looong line to get the permitted photo out of Monet’s window…


…so you can take in the view that Monet himself woke up to. I usually try to get people in my photos of landscape so you can gauge the scale so…Merci, straggler tourists who are in my picture of the overcast skies of Giverny at 5:30 May 10, 2013:



I want to live like Alice Monet and see a garden like this when I walk out of my kitchen.

This (below) is Monet’s other bedroom window seen from the ground (the house is very narrow) , part of a series of pictures that I took of all the edges all around his garden property because you never see that part of his garden but I Will Not Digress:


I like this picture because it catches the wind that blew in from the depths of Normandy all through Giverny, fluttering the tulips and the tourists:


So. Here I am, the next day, enjoying a lunch of hard boiled egg and baguette sandwich (which I made from breakfast items at the B&B) after trudging to the top of the hill that looms high above Giverny…


…when through the telephoto lens of my camera I peer unto the Jardin de Monet in the valley below…


…and I see that the D5 (a local highway that in this bend in the road is grandly called Chemin du Roy — King’s Way ) runs right past Monet’s garden. This road is built on the old railway line that bi-sects Monet’s property — his famous Water Garden is on the far side of the D5 there. And I think to myself  This I gotta see  but I have nine hours of DIGRESSION to achieve before I check out this Chemin du Roy from ground level:


It’s 8 o’clock in the evening and I am the only soul walking along this stretch of highway…


…where you can  see the paradise that is Monet’s garden, big as you please!  Without paying 9 euro!



The only barrier here is a spike fence and some scraggly shrubs:


All you have to do is walk up to the fence and stick your camera between the fence railings and you get the most beautiful scenes of an empty garden…


…and vistas that are just not available to you when you are actually IN the garden with the hoards of tourists :


I loved being here, in this silent and lonely twilight…


…taking photos of the landscape that really makes much more sense from this perspective:


These are the famous “paintbox” beds of flowers that oh! Made me tremble with pleasure seeing them like this (as compared to seeing them from inside):


You can not get a better shot of the alley than this, from outside the garden walls:


It helps that Normandy is so far north…


…that you still get the gentle evening twilight…


…that best illuminates the spritely colors of flowers…


…so much better than daytime sunlight:


Amazing, right?


Monet Garden at Giverny Travel Tip No. 2: Walk along the D5 after closing hours in Giverny and have this impossibly beautiful garden all to yourself. I did not see another soul the whole time I lurked here. This last picture, you can see, is blurry, which told me that I was losing the light…


…so I walked back into town,  to Rue Claude Monet, the main drag of Giverny…


…and I wished I weren’t so far from home…

P1160915…and went to bed with sweet dreams of my Top Cat and the pictures I would paint of “my” Giverny.

The next day I paid my last visit to Monet’s garden. (I also moved to the town’s only hotel which I did not like so I Will Not Digress further.) It was sunny, which is not so great for photographing flowers so I will only show you this picture (below), which shows the hill on which I sat when I got my bird’s eye view of dear Giverny (that white boxy thing in the background is a pumping station that you will pass half-way on your climb to the top):


This is the last photo that I took of the garden…Farewell, Giverny:


I know that we did not get to the famous lily pond in Monet’s famous Water Garden in this post so I’ll have to show that to you next week when I’ll have a Giverny Triscuit for you, which I did not paint this week because  I’ve been very busy making sure that the backyard cats aren’t dead :


That’s only Bibs, who looks dead but he’s just snoozing under Oscar’s watch.

And keeping an eye out so that the indoor cats don’t kill each other :


That’s Cindy, glaring up at Taffy who is hogging her chair.

But we still have the Paris Triscuit to give away!


And the Triscuit goes to…Jen A.!!!  Congratulations to a long time reader of this blog who recently sent me hummingbird feathers to add to my collection — you have never seen feathers soooooo small and so sparkly as hummingbird feathers but I Will Not Digress, no sir, not meThat’s for next week!


See you next time under the wisteria!






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I’m almost certain that most of you, dear readers, would hate to have me as a traveling companion.

I am not  a “foodie” (a word I actually despise) so that means that if we were traveling together in Paris we would only drop into boulangeries for a moment or two in order to take reference photos of bread…


…so that if there is a Damn Paris Book in my future I’ll be able to paint a baguette…


…or a quiche or a Croque-Monsieur topped with a quail egg over easy


…or some dessert mille feuilles. We would not be buying anything for taste tests, because I have no interest in this stuff — none of it actually appeals to me, except visually.


I have so little personal interest in food that I would often forget to eat during my long expeditions in Paris, unless I put it on my To Do list. That’s how I ended up at Chez Janou, near the Place des Vosges.


I found Chez Janou on French Yelp. It was rated the top restaurant in the 3rd arrondissement. For complicated reasons having to do with  French holidays and unscheduled closings of the Carnavalet Museum, I needed something to do in the 3rd arrondissement for my 20-arrondissement Treasure Hunt of Paris (which was the theme for my visit) so I decided to get a traditional French lunch at Chez Janou.


I got there at the stroke of noon to have the place to myself for five minutes so I could take many reference photos of the famed decor. My cute waiter set the ardois (slate) on my table and oh! Lucky me! A homemade tomato-basil soup is the perfect starter on a cold and rainy day in Paris!


This is my cute waiter bringing me my veloute:


The white wine was from Bordeaux and chilled to Goldilocks standard (just right). The soup was filling but nothing I’m going to remember, not the way I remember a home made tomato soup that I had in Edinburgh in 2006. Now that was a great tomato soup.


I don’t eat meat (except for pate NOT FOIS GRAS when I’m in Paris) so neither the duck nor the salmon main course was tempting so I moved directly to dessert.


I expected more from the cake with the salty caramel sauce. It was just OK, sweet with a hint of salt, but mostly bland, with no heft of a real caramel sauce (heavy with butter, carmelized sugar). I have a rule that if the dessert isn’t fabulous I don’t need the calories, so I left half of it on the plate. I actually got bored with it half-way through so I put down my spoon and concentrated on eavesdropping on the Americans sitting next to me.

These Americans had their Rick Steves’ Guide to Paris on the table, which is how I guess they found Chez Janou because these two seemed pretty clueless (they couldn’t read the menu and then started discussing art: “Chagall has a lot of goats”…they were middle aged but not wearing wedding rings and their conversation seemed so painful, so groping for something to say, that I’m guessing they were still newly dating and this was their first big get-away together and boy, Paris was the wrong choice. I took notes. You can’t make up conversation like this. ). If we were traveling together, dear readers, I’m almost certain that my habit of eavesdropping and judging people would get pretty annoying, almost as annoying as me dragging you out of Chez Janou to go down the Rue des Tournelles just a bit…


…so I could stop in at the Union Nationale de L’Apiculture Francaise, the French National Honey Makers Union. I had read that the UNAF sells honey from its members, including the honey from hives at the Opera and the Grand Palais, and from hives from famous gardens like the Tuileries and the Luxembourg, and this I wanted to see. Well, it turns out that last year was such a bad year for honey that there was nothing to buy at the UNAF but I was referred to many orther shops that sell a wide variety of honey (see above, Famille Mary on the Rue Cler).  Let me say, shopping for honey in Paris is a kick. I bought a jar of lemony honey from hives in Anjou (Loire Valley).

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the UNAF, and my talk with the young man there who told me all about honey making in France while I’m sure that you, dear reader, would have been bored out of your mind. After all, the Union Nationale de L’Apiculture Francaise is not listed in Rick Steves’ Guide to Paris.

But if you thought the Union Nationale de L’Apiculture Francaise was a hoot, then you will LOVE what I have in store for you next! We’re going to Montmartre!  (18th arrondissement, for those keeping track.) We are going to the most famous fabric store in Paris!


That’s it, on the right, Reine, the Queen of fabric stores, at 5 Place Saint-Pierre (across the street from the second-most famous fabric store in Paris, Marche Saint-Pierre). And the reason this is a MUST on my To Do list is because…


…while the fabrics at Reine are wonderful…


…there is something else about Reine


…that I HAD to see with my own eyes…


…and it’s those DOLLS:


These dolls are 30 inches tall and wear beautifully made clothes that show off the fabrics on sale.


I have read that some shoppers find these dolls creepy, but I just loved them. You have to see for yourself how beautifully made these doll clothes are, how the person who made them is as talented a couturier as YSL, to make fashion for 30-inch bodies. What do they do with the old dresses? Is there a museum or archive? Is it a full time job, designing and sewing these marvels? I am intrigued by everything about Reine.


But here’s the thing about Reine: while it’s OK to take your dog shopping with you at the most famous fabric store in Paris…


…it is NOT OK to take photos in the store. I was told to put away my camera after I’d been snapping for fifteen minutes so I can’t complain.


So let’s go some place where photography is encouraged. Let’s head to the 10th arrondissement, to the Boulevard de Strasbourg, near the Porte Saint-Denis:


To the unmarked blue door…


…and up the dark stairs in a residential building…


…to the third floor (fourth floor, for those counting American style)…


…to arrive at the Musee de Eventail. What is an evantail?, you ask, and why does it have its own museum?


Eventail is French for fan:


The Museum of the Fan is all about the history and the making of fans and was high, high on my To Do list.


The gracious Mme. Anne Hoguet owns and runs this private museum, and you can read more about her (in French) here.


You don’t have to be interested in fans to love the looks of this museum, housed in a very old Paris apartment.


Fans from all over the world, from pre-history to the 21st century, are on exhibit. But really, it’s the rooms that thrilled me. It is like visiting a character out of Proust, or maybe Dickens, to wander around the richly paneled rooms with the fabric-lined walls and ornate ceilings.


So this is what is must have been like to be haute bourgeoisie  in 19th century Paris.


Every detail of this place represents the fan-obsession of Mme. Hoguet.


And you can even help yourself to the atelier, the workroom where Mme. Hoguet and her assistant still make fans by hand, mostly for French couture houses.


Wouldn’t you know it, the assistant was called away just as I wanted to get her photo, but she left her work in progress…


…so while she sorted out things with her checking account, I was free to snoop into the innards of a fan-making studio.


Both Mme. Hoguet and her assistant are pleased to have visitors who show an interest in their life work, so you will find yourself very welcomed here at the Musee de Eventail, 2 Boulevard de Strasbourg, Mon-Tues-Wed 2 – 6pm, 6 euro entrance fee. And there’s a gift shop.


And this is only the 3rd, 18th, and 10th arrondissements! I have not yet dragged you to the 6th:


(Square Gabriel Pierne, to see those park benches shaped like books!), or the 20th:


(“Tree House” on Place Martin Nadaud, above), or the super-elegant 17th:




(to walk in the heavenly perfume of the gardens along the Boulevard Pereire, which turns into a flea market on Saturday on its eastern end), or the delightful 13th:


(one of many charming hidden back streets in the Butte aux Cailles), or the all-important 14th…


(to see the last pissoir in Paris…


…by the walls of the Sante prison on Boulevard Arago). Yes, stick with me and I’ll cart you off to the 7th:


To see the amazing vertical garden at the brand new Musee des Arts Premiers on the Quai Branley:


Which I thought was going to be another architectural stunt, like the Pompidou Center, but is in fact a marvelously fun idea!


Truly in keeping with the spirit of Paris!



You can even get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!


But, since we started with food let’s end with food:


In Paris you can buy cat food in your local grocery just the same as you’d find in Home Town USA, some chicken and fish stew, some salmon dinner, some rabbit meatloaf.



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Well, to be fair, you can also buy terrine au rabbit for yourself:


As well as every kind of cassoulet possible:





Next week I’ll have one last, long look at Paris before I get back to bidniss, which is boring you with work-in-progress on the Damn Garden Book. I want to report to you from the Streets of Paris, which includes Fabulous Street Fashion and Other Fabulous Stuff I Caught on the Boulevards and Rues of Paris:



See you next Friday!



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This is how I started almost every day that I was in Paris these past two weeks:

I would go to my local cafe and have a nice little pot of tea with tartine (buttered baguette with jam) and plan my day’s outings with the aid of my outstanding booklet of detailed maps of Paris’ 20 arrondissements, while trying my best to eavesdrop on the colorful regulars. On only my third morning here…


…at Le Nesle brasserie on the tiny dead-end Rue de Nesle in the 6th arrondissement…


…(I never had an evening snack here, only breakfast) the sweet bartender knew that I liked my tea sweet and he automatically put six extra sugar cubes on my saucer.  I really enjoyed the crowd at the Nesle (pronounced “Nell” when you’re talking to French people, but pronounced “Nestle” when you’re talking to yourself).


One day the boys were trying to remember the name of the actor who played Columbo on TV. Another day they were talking about how few French people went to the Champs Elysees to watch the President lay a wreath under the Arc de Triomph in honor of VE Day this year:


I like it that street cleaners pop in at Le Nesle for a cup of espresso between rues:


And I really like it when Bobo shows up:


Bobo runs into Le Nesle as if the Le Nesle is THE BEST PLACE EVER FOR A DOG TO BE!!!!!!!! and he sniffs everyone at the bar, accepting Good Morning pats from his fans, and then he follows his owner outside to a table on the sidewalk:


That’s a good place to say Bonjour to friends and neighbors passing by:


It is against the law to smoke inside a cafe in Paris, so smokers have to sit out on the sidewalk…


…which is why I did not sit outside, ever, at any cafe in Paris even thought that meant I missed sitting with Bobo and his human. Also, it was mostly cold and drizzly while I was in Paris and I like to be warm and dry.


Away from Le Nesle, my very top highest Tea Priority was to make a visit to Mariage Freres, the Brothers Mariage, known as the Princes of French Tea, in the 4th arrondissement:


The fragrance of adventure and poetry endlessly pervade each cup of tea, worte Henri Mariage, one of the brothers who founded Marriage Freres in 1854.


This shop, at 30-32 Rue de Bourg-Tibourg, is deliberately old-fashioned in its operations as both a tea retailer and as a Salon de The.


The staff, which is young, male, and dressed in white linen suits, gives you a tea-buying experience straight out of the 19th century.


Upstairs, there’s even a little Tea Museum.


The decor of the Marriage Salon de The is totally J. Peterman Colonial…


…with lots of wicker and rattan and palms…



…with the Art Deco clock that says it’s always Tea Time:


The tea menu is eight pages long…


…but I already knew what I wanted:


My pot of Vanille des Isles came with a book about L’Art Francois du The in case I wanted to cram on The French Art of Tea while my Vanilla of the Islands steeped. I got a kick out of the little shovel in the sugar bowl, and the sugar that looked like teeny bits of rock candy. What can I say? I was born in Montana, so some part of me will always be a hick.


The service was very professional, not warm but not condescending either, and nobody reprimanded me with their typically French horror of being photographed in a public place  until after I’d already got all the photos I wanted anyway. There are actual laws in France forbidding people to take photos of people in public places without their permission, and I hardly ever ask permission — especially if I think they will say Non. This attitude of mine irritates some French people’s last nerve, which I soothe by  apologizing in fluent French while giving them a big dumb American smile. Now, you might be surprised to learn this, but there are some French people who do not give photo-happy American tourists a break because they are just out-and-out snots and I know this for a fact because I had to travel all the way out to the “seedy” 19th arrondissement to bring you this tea story:


This is the boulangerie at 83 Rue de Crimee of award-winning female baker Veronique Mauclerc:


From a review in Elle magazine: This neighborhood boulangerie is killer [awesome]! In particular, their caramel pastry is worth the trek [to the “seedy 19th arrondissement]. It’s my Proustian experience. I’d go back on a scooter just for those caramels. Or something close to that.

In her so-called Salon de The, Veronique Mauclerc offers a degustation (tasting menu) of her breads (it’s spelled out right there, on her ardois/blackboard) for about $15:


When I arrived at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning, there wasn’t a single customer in the shop but the middle-aged sales person, standing with her hands clasped behind her back, still seemed overworked as she wearily answered my inquiry as to the possibility of partaking of a degustation. After some pointed questioning on my part I got her to admit that yes, they do serve tea and bread in the salon, which she indicated by a flip of her shoulder was in the back of the shop.


The Salon de The is a single  wooden table in a hallway between the shop and the oven — one of only four remaining traditional wood-burning bread-baking ovens left in Paris. The couple shown here were just finishing their coffee and rolls and were very gracious about making room for me while they gathered their things to leave. The place was now empty except for me, the customer, and the passive-agressive shop assistant.


It was while I was photographing this famous wood-burning bread-baking oven that I heard the shop assistant mumble something about “photographie”. That’s right: she literally said it behind my back. So I put the camera away and settled into a chair, awaiting my own Proustain experience with France’s most famous female bread maker. And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. And it dawns on me that I’m being iced. I have transgressed the unwritten law of Paris snots, Thou Shalt Not Be American, and I’m never getting service, no matter how long I wait, or if I do I can’t be sure there won’t be spit in my tea.

So I gather my things and walk to the front of the shop and I say to the shop lady, in English “I guess it’s too inconvenient for you to do your job, bitch,” and I leave. I head to the metro station and as I turn the corner I see this:


It’s busy and noisy and fast-paced…


…the shop assistants are very helpful in answering customer questions about the types of bread they make on the premises and as I wait to pay for my pain chocolate I see that the ovens are behind the glass wall and they are just about to roll in a tray of baguettes. I say OH! Les baguettes! And I raise my camera…


…and the shop assistant yells to the baker: “Yannick! the lady wants to take your picture!” And Yannick goes:


I take the photo and I holler to Yannick, in English, “Thank you!” And Yannick waves back and calls out: “Sank you!”

Artisan Boulanger Bio, 62 Rue d’Hautpoul. Yo, Veronique Maclerc: This is how you run a bakery, bitch.

When I went for tea at the famous Cafe Le Select on the Boulevard Montparnasse that forms the border between the 6th and the 14th arrondissements…


…the head waiter showed me where I could find Rick, the American artist who sketches in the cafe every day…


…and the banquette where I can find Mickey, the 20-year old house cat who rules the roost at Cafe Le Select:


The tea is always good in Paris cafes because they have  machines that get the water really hot hot hot. I like that.


I can not look at the crowd at Cafe Le Select


…without thinking of the wonderful book that Rick Tulka drew about  Cafe Le Select

6 Paris Cafe



…called Paris Cafe: The Select Crowd:


You can read about Rick and see his art by clicking on this link


…or you can meet him at Cafe Le Select (with fellow blogger and Friend of Rick, Carol Gillott of Paris Breakfasts:


Meanwhile, back in the corner banquette, look who else has also showed up for work — ordered his coffee, opened his lap top, spread a towel next to him so that Mickey will sit within purring distance…


(He was French and not a big talker or else I’d have more info to give you about this Monsieur, but he’s clearly One Of Us, seeing as how he brings a towel and all.)

And then it was off to Giverny…


…where my sweet room at the B&B (Coin des Artists, which used to be the village grocery store in Monet’s day ) came with a tea service at my disposal…


…but I didn’t make tea in my room, preferring the great stuff that came with breakfast…


…(note that those chairs are copies of the chairs in Monet’s diningroom) and the Happy Hour that came with a happy friend named Toddy…


…whose ears you see in the center of this photo of my other favorite beverage:


On one of the three days that I spent in Giverny I walked 4 kilometers to the neighboring town of Vernon…



…to research Monet’s life in Normandy, and to reward myself with afternoon tea at Cafe Globe:


Cafe Globe was filled with lots of local French people such as these two gentlemen:


Even though the couple sitting next to me were Americans with their Rick Steves’ Guide to France I really enjoyed my tea time at the Globe and here’s why: When the old guy in the background of the preceding photo shuffled up to the bar to pay for his lunch I asked him if it would bother him if I took a photo of his jacket:


Mais non, he said: I wear this because les Americans were the heros of my childhood. Then, because he was so proud of his system for the portage of cash,  he made a lengthy exhibition to the barman about how he keeps his money in his hat, which looks as if it’s from The French Foreign Legion, and I didn’t get to ask him for more info about how he got his jacket because I was laughing too hard about his hat.


Normans. They are a separate breed of French. I was reminded of this on my last day in Giverny, when I stopped in at the famous Hotel Baudy, the old hangout when Monet was still alive and this village was crawling with young artists who wanted to be Impressionists when they grew up:


This is a very lively place with a huge lunch crowd and an enormous dinner crowd made up of the tourists who day trip to Monet’s garden. I had my 2:30 tea in the front room, where the bar is, which is in effect a front row seat to the three ring circus that is Hotel Baudy…


…where I could keep my eye on everyone who came for lunch…



…or came in for a quick cup of coffee, like these honeymooners from Spain:


This American lady took their place and I watched as she sounded out the menu, and then adjusted her scarf so the Hermes logo was visible:


I didn’t like her at all. Then a village regular came in for his kind of amber-colored eau de vie, which was served in a wine glass:


He had  ripped trousers, scuffed shoes, and was in need of a haircut — he looked just like Monet before the world fell in love with his haystacks (when he was poor and undiscovered)!!!!

Giverny bar

And here is where I bagged that rarest of photographic feats when stalking the Frenchman on his native turf:


I caught him doing the Gallic Shrug!!

And now, in order to keep up with this thrilling saga one tea cup at a time, we must whisk ourselves to Marrakech, Specifically, to the Casbah :



On a rue called Tadla (which looks exactly like all the other rues in the casbah which is why I always got lost whenever I went out and could only found my way back by accident and slow process of trial and error):


The Riad (Morrocan home with interior courtyard garden) Orangers d’Alilia was my home base in Marrakech — that’s the French woman, Madame Joelle, who runs it, dressed in white:


It was under the orange trees in the small inner courtyard….


…where Fatima welcomed me to Morocco with a much-needed cup of tea. I’d had a busy morning in Paris, then schlepped to the airport and been  stuffed on a full plane (Easy Jet) that was the most claustrophobic experience I’d ever had,  and now it was almost seven o’clock at night and I was nervous about traveling in Marrakech on my own. It was good to calm my nerves with a cup of mint tea.


There were little russet-colored birdies who flew into the riad to sit in the orange trees and sing. I gave crumbs of my biscotti to them. Now I know why old ladies feed the birds. It’s because they are lonely.


I would highly recommend this riad to any traveler.


I did not expect such understated luxury in Marrakech, or rose petals on the bed…


Mint tea is OK for certain social situations any time after high noon or for calming nerves in the early evening , but I need a real tea when it really counts — at breakfast. For those times, Carol Gillot had given me a stash of India tea lightly flavored with vanilla which I brewed in a little silver pot of just-boiled water:


To make the most of my 48 hours in Morocco I had arranged on Day One to spend the morning at the Majorelle Garden and then travel 20 kilometers to the west of Marrakech to meet a Peace Corps volunteer in a village called Tameslouht:


When I got off the bus I realized that we had not arranged any specific meeting point in Tameslouht, but it was very easy to locate Sara by asking around the village for “The American”. A young womb working at the new community center knew exactly who “The American” was and she graciously made a telephone call to Sara, and while I waited for her I was given a tour of the center’s facilities, which included classrooms for adult education in literacy, sewing, and weaving — as well as two rooms of little kids in day care:


They were told to Say Bonjour to the lady — which they did, in unison, while staring at me like I was a unicorn. CUUUUUUUUTE. Then I singed their VIP Visitor’s Book and Sara came to collect me.


Sara Quinn has a blog about her Peace Corps experience — you can read it by clicking here — and she took me to the home of the President of the Women’s Craft Association of Tameslouht  to inspect the many things they create (subject of a future post). German travelers Wilhelm and Ursula were also checking out the array of clothing and accessories and we all drank tea with Sara and Zenib and Sara’s darling Moroccan fiance, Mustafa:


Then Sara took us on a tour of her town.




The next day, Sara traveled to meet me in Marrakech to guide me around the souk (market) and the Djemma El Fna (main square, where the snake charmers and the storytellers convene) and other insider points of interest but we did not have tea so those stories don’t belong here, except for the part where I tell you that Sara is the cutest damn Peace Corps Volunteer ever:

P1180170 2

I flew out of Marrakech that evening, arriving in Paris IN A REALLY BAD MOOD at midnight. I was so pissed off that I didn’t even photograph the “tea” that was served at breakfast at the hotel I stayed at in Orly Airport.

The next decent cup of tea I had was back at Carol Gillott’s apartment in the 15th arrondissement — I had searched high and low all over Paris for my favorite patisserie — Pithivier! — and found it right across the street . I’d caught Carol in the act of painting a chocolate  Religieuse there, in the background, so this is a tea cup still life that I call  One Paints and The Other Doesn’t:


I’d got an email from a dear blog reader, Laura, about the cafe in the 6th arrondissement that I’d photographed for you two weeks ago — Le Conti. Laura had always thought this cafe was a figment of the imagination but non, it’s real — so for her I made this one of my last cups of tea:


I was instructed, by Laura, to ask about a resident terrier named Orson. Ah, Orson!, the handsome young barman said, “Orson n’est plus d’ici — his owner took him to live on his parents’ farm. Hmmmmm….


I wonder if “sent to live on a farm” means in France what it means in America?


My time in Paris was coming to an end now, and to understand this next cup of tea you must know that my days in Paris had a purpose that I have not discussed with you, dear readers. I had set myself the task of visiting every arrondissement — 20 in all — to fulfill a Wish List (of unusual sights, experiences, personalities) that has taken me five years to put together. It was much, much more physically challenging and mentally exhausting than I’d anticipated. But I’d always planned to end the quest with a big splurge cup of tea in the ultra ritzy 8th arrondissement, as a reward for accomplishing a difficult task.

It was a cold, rainy day and I didn’t bother to wear the dress shoes that I’d packed or this occasion and I don’t have to tell you that after two weeks on the road my hair was a fright — I was a total mess. Still, when I went to both Le Bristol hotel (room rates start at $800 at night) and the Georges V (as I walked in Robin Thicke was strutting out) I was met with extraordinary courtesy. I inspected their tea rooms and menus (both charge 48 euro for Afternoon Tea — that’s about $60) and found them both lacking: the teas at Le Bristol were all very perfumy and came with a rack of pastries that I didn’t have any interest in; the teas at the Georges V were better and the pastries were not as froofy, but there was a piano player banging away in the salon which I found extremely annoying.

I was feeling depressed. Did I mention the cold, and the rain? And that I was fatigued with travel, Paris, myself, and my loneliness? I had wanted this quest to end with a nice big India tea bang and it wasn’t happening.

Then I noticed that right next door to the Georges V was the Prince of Wales hotel. Just as luxe, only open for five days after a two-year long renovation. The hospitality was exquisitely warm and professional, and the tea menu was outstanding. I sank into a leather sofa and ordered Tuareg Tea.


Well, I did ask beforehand if Tuareg Tea was the same kind of tea that I remembered drinking with Tuaregs when I was in the Peace Corps in Niger. Yes, I was told — it’s a black tea served tres sucre (very sugary). It wasn’t. It was a hay-tasting mild tea (did I mention that they’d only been opened for five days? Still working out the bugs)…but I was so grateful for the comfort and quality of the service, and so happy that I wasn’t forced to buy pastries I wouldn’t eat, that I did not go into my usual high dudgeon. I sat contentedly and sang to myself along with the soothing background music, Frank and Nancy Sinatra (Something Stupid) and Dusty Springfield (The Look of Love)…


…and watched people drink champagne cocktails…


…and chatted with the young hostess (that’s her, in the while collar and cuffs) about her childhood in Senegal…


…and wished I had those lighting fixtures in the form of the three feathers of the Prince of Wales….


They would totally work in my dining room.


No, it’s not over yet. There’s one more cup of tea, the one I had after a lunch of pate and baguette and classic onion soup on my last day in Paris, in a hot trendy bistro in the Marais called Les Philosophes.


They had the grace to serve Mariage Freres tea, a perfect way to redeem a trip that was feeling, at this point, like it was two or three days too long. It was still raining and cold and I was tired of Paris but I was GOING HOME!

As I type this, I’ve been home for about 46 hours. I have bought new curtains for the dining room and went on a shopping quest to re-accessorize the kitchen in shades of lime and apple green with a few gun metal and bamboo accents. I’ve ordered French cafe curtains from Williams Sonoma. I’ve been busy. Jet lag gives me a lot of nervous energy but also, I’ve become used to a frantic pace of life (that 20 Arrondissement TO DO List was a massive project that required ten hour days of TO DO-ing) . That’s my excuse for the length of this post — hope you enjoyed your trip in my Tea World!


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