29 April 2009

Tucker's New Doctor

We came to Paris with our two dogs, Tucker the Chihuahua and Scout the Toy Rat Terrier/Toy Poodle mix.  They've adapted to apartment living and enjoy the parks and the smells of Paris.  Unfortunately, Tucker had ear trouble again, so we went looking for a vet. Earlier in the month, we saw a new Clinique Veterinaire under construction closeby.  Tucker had a tough night Friday, so we strolled over early Saturday to see if they might be open.  Voila, they were!  

We were pleasantly surprised by how sleek and modern the new clinic is. Inside it's as chic as a W Hotel.  Equally pleasant was the proprietor, Docteur Chloé Lacroix.  Fortunately, she speaks English (she apologized for how poorly she spoke it, but she sounded great to us!)   She told us that in the 90's she studied veterinary medicine in Iowa and Florida, and raved about the schooling system there.  She said American vets are very thorough and she learned a lot. 

Another thing she commented about was how friendly she found American pets to be.  She said she's not quite sure what the French do with their dogs and cats, but it's nearly impossible to treat them because they're so vicious.  We all speculated that American dogs are probably socialized more than those in Paris.  It seems that here the dogs are fiercely loyal to their owners and not too interested in being around anyone else, human or beast.

Tucker was very sweet and obliging as she checked out his ears.  With no paper work, she treated him and gave us instructions on how to continue the treatment at home.  

She charged us 88 euros for the exam and two bottles of medicine.  Quite reasonable, we thought.  We went to use our debit card which is the custom here, but she said she couldn't take it since she just opened her new clinic (moving from the 16th Arrondisement) and it takes forever for the banks to get it set up for small businesses.  We didn't have the cash and she waved us off telling us not to worry about, we could come pay later sometime when it's convenient.  

Just another example of the trusting, friendly French people who have undeservedly been labeled as rude and unhelpful.  We've yet to come across anyone like that.  By the way, Tucker is doing much better.  She wants us to bring him back in after 10 days so she can look at this ears - free of charge.

Chaudiere Troubles

We know you're all tired of reading about our sad luck.  Well surely you've sent good karma our way because we actually had something bad turn good in a remarkably short timeframe.  

For the past few weeks, we've noticed a small leak from our chaudiere (tankless gas water heater). It's about the size of a small dorm room fridge and is mounted on the wall in the kitchen  above our tiny refrigerator.  Fortunately, we had received a notice in the mail that the annual maintenance was scheduled for April 22nd.  When the French-speaking repair man arrived, he tinkered around for an hour or so and then spoke to Delaney telling her he'd be back the next day.  

Well he didn't come back the next day and we wondered why.  Then a few days later we noticed that the bathroom towel warmer (a radiator of sorts) stopped working, as did all of the radiators. We sent an email to the landlord and today we were greeted with workmen who came to install a brand new chaudiere.  They spoke only French so we had to use an agency to translate over the phone.  They turned the water off, and the gas, and spent from 8am to 5pm working to replace the entire unit.  The brought a blow torch and sautered copper pipes.  They warned that they might not finish in one day, which would mean no hot water for showers tomorrow.  They saw us cringe and then worked faster.  Shortly before 6pm, all was well.  Hot water.  Hot radiators.  A new appliance with lots of buttons we don't know how to use.  A manual all in French.   

Regardless, we've heard and read horror stories about people living without water for toilet flushing and showers, or heat, for a lot longer than 10 hours.  We are grateful for the hard working men who came today.  Something had to go right eventually.  This was it!

26 April 2009

Sainte-Chapelle Left Us Awestruck

Late afternoon Saturday, the three of us ventured out to explore a new territory.  We chose the Ile-de-la-Cité.  We came up from the Cité Metro stop to a world of flower shops.  They were condensed in a small space and filled to the brim with colorful blooms and lots of greenery.  It was a floral oasis from which we didn't want to leave.  Eventually though, we made our way to the Sainte-Chapelle.  We gladly paid the 8 euro per person entry fee as it had started to rain.  We were more than rewarded with a regal and historic church of epic proportions.  

Louise IX, King of France from 1226 to 1270, ordered the building of the Saint-Chapelle to house the relics of the Passion of Christ.  The most famous relic was the Crown of Thorns, acquired in 1239 for a sum that greatly exceeded the cost of building the Chapel itself. Construction took six years ( 1242-1248)

The relics were displayed and worshipped in the upper chapel, where only the king, his close friends and family, and the canons were allowed to worship.  The lower chapel was the the place of worship for the palace staff.  

The upper chapel is famous for its stained glass. It has 1,113 scenes depicted in the 15 stained glass windows, 70% of which are original. 

Some of you know how much I adore Fleur de Lis, to the point of tattooing one on my leg!  They were abundant in the lower chapel, so I asked Randy to take this photo.   

I plan to return to this monumental, inspiring chapel.  I've never seen anything like it.

Sweet Delights on Ile Saint-Louis

Saturday Randy took me to see Ile Saint-Louis, territory he and Delaney covered on Friday while I was engrossed in conference calls with colleagues at work. It is by far the most special place I've been to since arriving in December. I feel sad that those who have visited us so far missed out because we hadn't yet discovered the quaint, narrow streets lined on either side with interesting shops. It is peaceful, calm and absolutely beautiful.

One of the tasty treasures we found was the Amorino ice cream shop. We later learned there are several locations in Paris. Interesting, because the shop is so special it's difficult to believe it's a chain. The taste of the ice cream is out of this world, but what's most intriguing is the fact that they build the scoop a small slab at a time, constructing a rose shape. When they hand it over the counter to you, it's so gorgeous you almost feel terrible biting into it. But the taste, oh the taste. I chose pistachio - thus the green color. It was unbelievably tasty. A highlight so far. 

Come visit us and we'll take you there. 

47, rue Saint Louis en l'Ile
75004 Paris
01 44 07 48 08

25 April 2009

Mona Lisa at the Louvre

This posting isn't a great image of the Mona Lisa, but says a lot about the popularity of the famous portrait. Recently, I visited the Louvre and upon entering the room where the painting is displayed, I was surprised to see the large crowd gathered around the glass enclosed portrait. I wasn't interested in fighting the crowd. I found it more interesting to photograph the people vying for a closer look.

Mona Lisa (also known as La Gioconda) is a 16th century portrait painted in oil on a poplar panel by Leonardo da Vinci during the Italian Renaissance. The work is owned by the Government of France and is on the wall in the Louvre in Paris with the title Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo.

The painting is a half-length portrait and depicts a woman whose expression is often described as enigmatic. The ambiguity of the sitter's expression, the monumentality of the half-figure composition, and the subtle modeling of forms and atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the painting's continuing fascination. Few other works of art have been subject to as much scrutiny, study, mythologizing, and parody. (provided by Wikipedia)

24 April 2009

Sister Sister

We had the pleasure of hosting Lisa Shanahan, my sister, for a week's stay in the City of Light. Lisa arrived with a large suitcase filled to the brim with goodies for each of us - including Tucker and Scout.  It was amazing to see how much loot she brought.  We don't have a pantry, so getting the bounty of  food into the cupboards was a challenge - in a good way!  We were grateful for her generosity and thrilled to see some of our favorite American items.

Lisa stayed in the charming "Delaney Suite" since DJH was in Texas.  She hosted the two dogs in her boudoir and took them out every morning.  It was wonderful to sleep without furry critters between us!  I suppose we could do that every night by locking them up, but they have those wonderful big brown eyes so it's difficult to JUST SAY NO.

We took Lisa to as many parts of Paris as was possible during her stay.  We covered St. Germain des Pres, Le Marais, Montmarte, the Champs Elysees, the Louvre, the Tuileries, the Luxembourg Garden and more.  We shopped, we dined, we watched movies and had a lot of fun.

Lisa also trailed along to the couple of medical appointments I had during her stay.  She got to visit the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a beautiful part of Paris.

We all agreed that our favorite venture was a night time boat cruise on the Seine.  It was a clear and cold night, but Randy pulled out two of his down coats so each of use was bundled up good.  (Though we were wishing for down pants about 2/3 of the way through that cruise!)  The city looked gorgeous all lit up, especially the Eiffel Tower which glitters with sparkling lights for five minutes at the top of every hour.

We took one field trip to a stretch of enchanting flower shops intermixed with pet stores.  All the plants and flowers are pulled out on the street side of the sidewalk so it's like walking through a tunnel of greens.  We were perplexed about the connection between the pets and the flowers, but enjoyed choosing impatiens and fucsias for the apartment flower boxes and cooing over the most adorable puppies!  There was a tiny, sweet Jack Russell Terrier sleeping contentedly on her back.  The Jack Russell Terrier is the prevailing breed on the streets of Paris.  We could understand why when we looked at the prices.  Only 950 euros for one of those!  Meanwhile, the other puppies - Dachshunds, Yorkies, Pugs, King Cavalier Spaniels - were from 2,000 - 3,000 euros!  There was an occasional SPECIAL for 1,500 or 1,800.  

We hope Lisa enjoyed her visit as much as we did!

19 April 2009

Inside the Paris Opera House

Gina's sister, Lisa is in town and the three of us went downtown to see some of the sites and wander into the many fashion stores. The ladies decided to go into the chic Galleries Lafayette department store, so I took the opportunity to stay outside and wander around the area.

Not too far away I found the Paris Opera House and decided to go in and take a few photos.
The Paris Opera House is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. It contains levels beyond levels of cellars, fountains, chandeliers and even its own ghost! The history of this performance hall is dark and interesting, and spans from architecture to literature and music.

The cause for this new opera house actually stemmed from Napoleon III. When he was arriving to the premiere of a new singer with his wife, the royal procession was bombed by a group of dissenters. Over eighty people were killed, prompting Napoleon III to ask for an opera house with a covered side entrance where royalty could enter discreetly. When plans finally were made for the design of the opera house, over 200 entries were informally submitted, and 171 were chosen to be viewed. Charles Garnier received the commission after some deliberation. He was an unknown architect, but a stunning design and several court allies hand a hand in his success.

The House seats two thousand and has seventeen stories, taking up three acres of land. Seven of these are below the ground, and two contain pieces of the famous lake later depicted in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. Work on this structure began in 1861 and ended fifteen years later. It cost over forty-seven million francs.

12 April 2009

From Wildlife, Landscape and Architecture to Fashion, Tours and Interiors

Randy continues to expand his technical prowess with a digital camera. He began with a penchant for wildlife and landscapes. When we traveled to NYC, San Francisco, and cities in Europe, I asked him to photograph the architecture because I love it so. He has an eye for capturing the beauty in nearly everything. He has sold commercial photography ranging from architecture and city scapes to slices of rock and other bits of nature turned abstract.

Since arriving in Paris, a call from a friend lead him down the path of fashion photography, and his entrepreneurial spirit fueled his new photo tours business. Most recently, he's ventured into photographing interiors. He researches lighting and angles endlessly. Our apartment serves as a muse as he tests techniques. (Notice no shadows from the flashes he's placed around the room.) His latest gig included photographing a Paris apartment and a villa in Nice on the French Riviera.

Whatever the subject, he does the research, tests his technique, and then sets out to create the most breathtaking images. I am so proud of him and awed by this talent, tenacity and work ethic. Quite a find, he is. He's not only talented, he's HOT too! Lucky me.

En Français, s’il vous plaît!

In just over 100 days, Miss Delaney has become fluent in French.  She is more confident than ever.  Her accent is nearly perfect and she is as amazed as we are that suddenly everything clicked and she's conversing in French with ease. Now she's challenging us to do the same. She loves to wake up and declare that today is a Speak French Only day at Chez Harris. Needless to say, those days are pretty quiet. Words in the air consist solely of her constant questions posed en Français, followed by her head shaking in disgust as she mimics her harsh school instructors.

Unfortunately, we don't have the benefit of total immersion, so we continue to struggle.  I cannot possibly count how many times a day we begin an encounter with a hope-filled, "Parlez-vous Anglais?"  Be it hounding the BHV department store about the bathroom light fixtures we bought in mid-February that remain to be delivered, or calling Orange Telecom to ask about an invoice, our day-to-day commerce with the French is both bewildering and frustrating because of the language barrier.

Sadly, we put Delaney on a plane Friday to fly to Texas for a visit.  We miss her, but now that's she's gone, we get to speak English without being scolded. We better get the Rosetta Stone DVDs out and start practicing because come April 22nd, she'll be back on duty.  ;-)

At last, friends arrive from the US!

Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of hosting a few friends from the US.

Kristena Louie, a teammate of mine from my UW MBA class, came for a Microsoft business trip and joined us the weekend after. On Friday, we took her to dinner at Bistro de Breteuil. (It re-opened! Turns out it was only closed for remodeling.) We sat outside and enjoyed a great meal. Saturday we ventured over to the neighborhood market on Avenue de Saxe. Kristena was as awestruck as Nick when she saw the bounty of fresh produce, fish, meat, cheese, pastries, wine, olives, pasta, and other gourmet delights, nestled between stands of hats, house wares, clothing, rugs, dishware, etc. After that, we were off on a shopping extravaganza. We hit Galeries Lafayette. Randy wanted to show her the stained glass dome. I wanted to show her the clothes. From there, we went to Notre Dame and a variety of shops in St. Germain des Pres before settling in for dinner at Pizza Pepone. We walked a lot that day (well they did - I rode in my wheelchair/chariot).

Ironically, we had visitors from Bellevue on the same weekend! Jill and Sally Gordon, mother and daughter, came for a week in Paris. The Gordons are Woodridge neighbors; Sally and Delaney went to school together. They met us at our apartment Saturday morning and strolled through the market with us. Once we finished, Delaney took Jill and Sally on a tour of Paris while we took Kristena. The Harris family can juggle only two concurrent tours at this point (since one of us is crippled). Jill raved later about Delaney's prowess with directions and using the Metro (so true!). Delaney taught Jill and Sally how to get around Paris with ease by reading a Metro map to determine which color line to take (blue, green, purple, etc.). We had the pleasure of hosting Jill and Sally for a home cooked dinner the following Tuesday night. We had a great time catching up with them and learning about their visit to Versailles, the Louvre, and other spots in Paris.

In both cases, our friends were kind enough to bestow upon us offerings from the great US. They brought luxuries like JIF peanut butter, AA batteries, gourmet crackers from QFC, Jell-O pudding, Samoa Girl Scout cookies, Hostess HoHos, and more. We want to make it clear that we do not expect these fine gifts from our friends, but we certainly appreciate them.

When are YOU coming to visit? Let us know!

09 April 2009

Under the arches of l’Opéra de Paris

Paris Opera - Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier, also known as l’Opéra de Paris or Opéra Garnier, is a 2,200-seat opera house in the 9th arrondisement.  A grand landmark designed by Charles Garnier in the Neo-Baroque style, it is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time.

06 April 2009

Costly Mistake

Ever do something really stupid that ends up costing you big time? Maybe it's a choice made about a relationship or a job or something less tangible. Or maybe it's something simple and seemingly minor. It's a beautiful Spring day here in Paris. The three of us got home from our varied experiences and realized we wanted to go right back out into the sunshine. So we grabbed the dogs and the wheel chair and headed out to have dinner at a neighborhood restaurant we hadn't yet tried.

Nabulione (40 avenue Duquesne) was more upscale than we planned, but we figured what the heck, we've had a hard day so let's treat ourselves! (Delaney struggled with school work, Randy took clients out on a photo tour, and Gina spent 80 euros on cabs to get to and from work.) The dogs sat in our laps as Delaney recited the French dictee she had to memorize. (Her accent is amazingly perfect.) We were enjoying ourselves and finishing up when she commented about how much homework she had and said she wanted to head back to the apartment to study. And that's when it dawned on us. Not one of us had keys with us. We each have a set. There is a code to get us through the first door, and then an electronic key fob to get us through the second, and then a very simple looking key to get us through the front door.

We couldn't believe how stupid we were to leave without checking to see who had keys. We do that nearly every time we leave. Except tonight. The tres expensive mistake of 2009 (year-to-date). Randy used his iPhone to find a locksmith - who spoke English. We lucked out on the first try (the only luck) and the locksmith said he'd meet us at the apartment in 45 minutes. Delaney set out first in hopes another resident would be going in and thus able to let us through the second door. Randy and I finished our wine and paid the bill, bitching about the 135 euros it was going to cost us for our stupid mistake.

When we reached the apartment, Delaney was behind the second door studying her dictee. We brought ice cream from the expensive convenience store on the corner figuring the night was shot money wise, so what the hey! We were eating our Haagen Dazs when a gentleman came in and asked if we needed help.  We must have looked quite pathetic on the steps next to the elevator.  There I was in my wheel chair with two small dogs in my lap.  Randy was behind me and Delaney was sitting on the floor reciting perfect French.  Turns out he's a neighbor in 4G who works for an M & A company based in Seattle.  He was a charismatic and friendly Frenchman who wanted to help in any way possible.  His charming 18 year-old son came through on his way out and they both chatted with us.  The man lingered because he was expecting his wife to return from her yoga class any minute and he wanted us to meet her.  The entire time we're talking with him we're all thinking how nice they are, but at the same time, where in the heck is the locksmith? He warned us that the locksmith might be stalling for 10pm to arrive so he could charge us more because "Hey, this is France!".  He told us to ensure we get the quote in writing before we let him do any work.

Sure enough, when the locksmith arrived, he quoted 180 euros to get the job done.  I challenged him and said the quote over the phone was 135.  He backed down, but pointed to his watch and said, "It's after 10pm" to which I responded, "It wasn't when we called you!"

Delaney led him upstairs while Randy followed.  I was stuck in a wheelchair in the lobby with two dogs.  I managed to get all of us, chair included, into the elevator and ride up to the 5th floor.  The locksmith was knocking on the doors of the other two apartments seeking power for his drill.  When our neighbors opened the door, they were genuinely concerned about us and offered refreshments or help.  We just needed an outlet.  He set out with his blow torch and it was so amazingly loud that neighbors on every floor, both above and below, came searching for the source of the noise.  Every one of them was sympathetic when they realized our situation. They weren't upset about the noise and wished us luck. Maybe they knew what was next.  In a hundred years I never would have imagined the price he quoted us.  He said it would cost 1,943 euros to replace the lock.  As we gasped, he smiled and said the new lock comes with three free keys.  Whoopee!  I was sick to my stomach.  We haven't yet had a transaction that size.  Even my knee surgery was less expensive than that!  

Andre told us it was a three-point lock we had and that to replace it with anything less would be our choice, but not very safe.  He said it's the best lock ever (evidently true since you need a blow torch to break in and the entire building will come see what you're up to!).   I suggested we should seek competitive bids and he assured us that all the locksmiths have the same price for the equipment.   He seemed sympathetic to the sick look on our faces, but suggested our insurance company might help offset some of the cost.

We wrote him a check for 50% and he said he'd be back tomorrow at 11am to replace the lock and deliver our new keys.  After he left, I came into the office to check the web for the current euro to USD conversion rate.  $2,600 for a new front door lock and three new keys.  UNBELIEVABLE!

03 April 2009

Photo Tours In Paris- The Movie

Please take a look at the latest version of the photo montage of PhotoToursInParis.com

Video software by Animoto

Royalty-free music by PremiumBeat.com