Of all the different angles and perspectives of the Eiffel Tower, my favorites are the ones where she seems to appear out of nowhere, like she's playing cache-cache (hide-and-seek) with us, we turn the corner and then there she appears - larger than life and immensely beautiful,... but more approachable ;) Do you have a favorite view of La Grande Dame?
When I asked locals about their recommendations for day trips out of Paris, their lists always included Honfleur, the maritime city in Normandy (just two hours north of Paris) known for being one of the principle birthplaces of Impressionism. And you can visit much of the medieval city in a single weekend, or less.
So during my sons’ Fall break, my family drove up on a Saturday morning and arrived in time to walk through the colorful weekly market, under a light rain that shifted into a sheet of pale grey clouds that eventually collapsed into soft blue skies. It’s commonly said that the region’s magical changing light highly influenced many great painters, particularly Arthur Bodin (the friend and tutor of a young Monet); it was this luminous light that invited them to step out of the formal indoor painting style and instead head outdoors.
Particularly picturesque is Le Vieux Bassin, the old port in the center of town lined with tall narrow houses decorated with restaurants, art galleries/ateliers and local specialty shops. From there, you can stroll along tiny cobbled streets of beautifully jumbled together timber-framed homes, typical of Normandy’s architecture. Bring along a good appetite as shops invite you to taste their overflowing array of local specialties like cheese, biscuits, jams, Calvados (apple brandy) and apple cider.
Needless to say Honfleur is very popular and fairly busy, especially during the summer months - but well worth a visit and revisit :)
Since moving to France, I vowed to make an earnest attempt to keep up with my husband's love of French cheeses and discover more of the country's over 600 different types... that means moving beyond my standards of Camembert, Comte and Emmental. There's always a blue cheese on the plate for my husband (his favorite), and maybe one day I'll get there but that's much further down in my training! I'm starting easy...
So first up, the popular Tomme de Savoie (from the Savoie valley in the French Alps) ... I was completely smitten by this mild semi-soft Alpine cheese with an ashy grey rind. It is smooth on the palette and has a nutty earthy flavor. It's also lower in fat than many others cheeses since it's made from skimmed cow's milk (obtained after the cream has been drained for butter or richer cheeses). Yum :)
For one of the most visited parks in Paris, Jardin du Luxembourg sometimes feels, during certain days under certain weather conditions, like you received a special invitation to enter this magical space and explore its gardens and promenades in all its tranquility... it felt very much like this last week when I went with my boys on a chilly October morning after the grey clouds finally broke.
Like a dream awake, I still find myself easily startled by the reality of where I am, my surroundings and moments like these...
“...by observing things with a great deal of attention you eventually wrest some of their secrets from them,
making them utter what they would most like to keep to themselves.” - Julien Green
Tucked in a quiet section of the Latin Quarter is the beautiful Mosquée de Paris, a mudéjarstyle mosque built in 1922 as a token of gratitude to the North African countries who had helped France during World War I.
On a sunny morning, I stopped by to take a peek and ended up staying for several hours. Every aspect of its architecture is captivating, and as you walk through the prayer rooms and arcades, you get a sense that in each detail - from the intricate wood carvings to the mosaic tile work, and in each shadow and slant of sunlight that streams through the Moorish style archways - there emanates a sacredness and beauty, a quiet and sublime divinity...
La Grande Mosquée de Paris
Address: 2 bis Place du Puits de l’Ermite, 75005 Paris
Hours: Sat-Thu, 9am-12pm / 2-7pm
Admission: €3 per person (independent or guided tour). Free for children 7 and younger.