D's big 5-0 in Paris!




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My honey-pie turned 50 on Dec 23rd.  As crazy as we are with the move, the morning of his b-day we hopped on the train to Paris for the night.  We came home the next day, which was Christmas Eve.


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He did all HIS favorite things on HIS special birthday


We visited the Christmas Market:

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We discovered fabulous caramels made by Henri Le Roux.  I love caramels, D is so-so about them.  But after eating an entire bag - he agreed these were delicious and the best he had ever eaten.

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Early evening, we checked out the department stores  “Vitrines de Noël” (holiday windows).  Gallery Lafayette and Printemps are known for their special Christmas windows.





Galeries Lafayette’s theme was “Noël Rock ‘n’ Mode” created by New York artist Andrew Yang.  Because they are animated, it is very difficult to get clear photos.



The miniature puppets were called Kouklistar poupées with names like Brigitte, Imany, and Inna Modja, along with Mademoiselle K, Medi, and Cyril Mokaiesh. Made of soft muslin and hand-painted, they danced away in front of the crowds.





 The musical bus.





Inside Galeries Lafayette there is a huge tree in the center of the store that goes up 66 feet, almost reaching the the grand domed ceiling, created in 1912.  It was decked out in  55 neon signs continuing the "Rock in Mode" theme.  The store was so crowded, we only took a quick look at the tree and left.  I must be getting old  :  )









At Printemps, the windows were created by Karl Lagerfeld. Titled "Christmas Dreams of Far Away", the windows displayed holiday scenes from legendary cities around the world.  The cities were selected by Lagerfeld as sources of inspiration and destinations that have been part of Chanel’s history.





His concept was designed to take visitors on a small trip around the world in just a few minutes. It even had an airplane from Los Angles to take you on this magical ride. 





Featuring a pilot and a flight attendant embraced in a kiss on the top of the plane.





The displays had an enchanting appeal, fused with Lagerfeld’s trademark charisma and flair.  Many were animated, but not all.

A few of the cities included Moscow:




New York




















And I am not sure which country this one is from:






My favorite, was Paris - with many tiny Carls dancing around the city....








For D's birthday dinner we ate at Le Tir Bouchon, one of our favorite Parisian restaurants in the 2nd arrondissement.  D had baked camembert cheese for a starter, and the beef onglet in a red wine sauce for his main.  I had ravioli des poisson (fish) and the house special of duck confit, foie gras, and mashed potatoes.  We had a lovely bottle of red wine from St Emillion and we shared a chocoalte moelleux for dessert.  It was a delicious meal



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The next day, to continue doing all of D's favortie things for his B-day weekend, we went to the flea market!  Wasn't he lucky that it was open Christmas Eve Day?

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We ate lunch at another favorite Brasseries just down the street from the flea - La Porte Didot.  It is a very local place where they serve typical French food.  Always good.  We also got to visit Dave and Fatama in their new Paris apartment.  They just moved in on Dec 21 so I did not think it was fair to take any photos.

I had an excellent Birthday trip doing all my favoite things in Paris....I mean.....D had an excellent birthday trip.  Look at him....now that is a happy 50 year old!



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Farewell Paris - we may not see you again for many years!



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J'aime Paris!

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Who says Parisians aren't friendly? 

On Sunday we were in one of our preferred Brasseries eating our favorite dishes,  Mine being a mixed salad with warm goat cheese on toasted bread with ham, an easy over egg, and potatoes.

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 D's is steak with pomme frites.

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We struck up a conversation with three older french people next to us They were ahead of us in eating so their dessert came out while we had our main course.  They selected the one I had eyed when we walked in - Figue Tartlette.  About 15 minutes passed and we ordered ours - or we tried to order - "fini" - all gone.  OH NO.  The three saw this and knew I was disappointed so the one women shared her tartlette with us!  If that wasn't the sweetest thing.

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We arrived early Saturday morning.  We checked into our hotel, grabbed sandwiches made on pretzel bread and headed to one of the largest flea markets in Paris, Porte de Clinghancourt officially known as Les Puces de Saint-Ouen but known to everyone as Les Puces (the fleas).  This flea market was officially opened in 1885!

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I am ready for the hunt.

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I told D he looks too sophisticated - he is going to hurt my negotiation technique!

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For a more detailed tour of the flea markets and to see all the goodies I bought, hop over to my art blog at Ma Vie Trouvee.

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That afternoon Thien, Donald's co-worker in from the US joined us.  He has only been to Paris once so we took him to see MontMartre and the Sacre Coeur.  We had a beautiful evening, in fact, we think this was the best weather we have ever had in Paris!

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This was a fun street performer. 

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 And those were real fish in the glass.  If people tried to take his photo without giving him money he would stop the performance.  But he did it in a fun way.

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A few photos from our walk.  I really like this one D took in B&W.


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The romantic dream of being an artist in Paris!

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This photo looks like a watercolor painting to me.

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On Sunday there is an artist market.

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We purchased a photo collage from the artist below.  The one we liked the best was not of Paris, but of Lisbon.  But since we were going to Lisbon the next week - we decided to buy it.

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Ahhhh another wonderful time in Paris!

Paris in Black and White

We went to Paris for four days last week for business.  Since I have shared many photos of our trips to Paris, I thought it might be fun to take all of my photos in black and white. 

So here goes.....

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With a little help from photoshop!


We were in Paris for five days for the Paris Air Show, which happens every two years.  This is the first time D has attended.  The event is geared mainly towards military and commercial sales. 

Here he is in the flight deck of the gigantic Airbus 380.  If you want to experience it for yourself, click here for a 360 view of the flight deck.




The A380 is the world's largest passenger plane.  The cabin has 50% more floor space then the next largest plane (the 747-400) and holds 525 people in the typical three class configuration.




It is a four engine, double decker, wide body.  Yep, that IS a pretty wide body!  Later in the day the A380 flew a demo flight which D said was unbelievably quiet for such a large beast!.







The next day, D was off very early (7 am) for a day crammed with meetings.  Between the meetings, he was able to catch the F18's demonstration.  As I mentioned, the Paris Air Show is geared towards the military so their flight demos are much more extreme than a normal air show. 




The F18 fighter jet was his favorite.  It has the ability to come to an almost complete stop mid-air.   We did not take the photo above, but I wanted to show what one looked like.

And......What did I do while D played with planes?  I wandered the city, shopped, and enjoyed a lovely meal at an outdoor cafe with a little glass of wine!






I was invited to attend day two's evening event - a cocktail reception at the Louvre!  How cool is that?  We we not sure I would be invited to any of the events, but luckily I packed a black dress just in case.


It was an invitation only event and the Louvre was closed to the general public.




  It was a beautiful evening.  At the entrance they had the dancing girls in a bubble.



This must be the hot new event "thing" as Brussels had bubble dancers at the Iris festival a few weeks ago.  Very fun to see in person.



The reception took place in the grand entrance of the Louvre.  They had open bars everywhere and all kinds of fancy appetizers.  My favorite was the crab meat in an avocado sauce served in a martini glass.

Me, lost in the crowd!    



It is amazing how late it stays light in Paris and Brussels.  This photo was taken at 9 PM and it looks like early afternoon.



We were allowed to walk and see the Mona Lisa (look closely she is behind us).  We were not allowed to take our drinks in that section.  I wanted my photo having a glass of champagne with the Mona Lisa.



The main hall leading up to the Mona Lisa.



 I thought this was an interesting view of the Eiffel Tower as it has a replica of the Statue of Liberty.  Did you know our Statue of Liberty was given to the US by France?


This shot was taken as we were driving.  I really like the feel it gives the Eiffel Tower.



This shot is for Tammy and all you Lady Di fans out there.  This is the road leading into the infamous tunnel.....


and here we are in the tunnel at the point of the curve where the deadly accident occurred.  Very sad.



A few photos of the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, which was built at the end of the 19th century.  




Many famous painters have featured it in their art.  


Our hotel was just down the street.  This is a different part of the city from where we usually stay. 




Remember the big bunnies from the restaurant in Belgium?  Well they hopped on over to Paris for an appearance. 





A carousel in the city. 




The final day, we ate at a sweet little french cafe. 


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And last but not least....the ice cream photo!  This had to be the most beautiful, unique cone we have ever had.  Look closely and you can see the flower they created by scooping the second flavor around the first to create a flower.  Ice cream was excellent as well.



Off to the US for two weeks.  Next trip...Provence for the Lavender. in bloom.









Happy Holidays!

Warm thoughts and special wishes

for a bright and happy holiday.....




To celebrate the holiday season, this December we visited Dusseldorf Germany, Paris France, London England, Aachen Germany and our local Brussels Market.   We selected photos for this blog that would show you how they decorate for the holiday in these countries.




The Eiffel Tower is stunning this year - decked in Blue.  Why is it blue?  The EU (European Union) rotates the presidency every 6 months.  France has it from June through December and honored it by lighting up the Eiffel Tower in blue with yellow stars, recalling the EU flag.



The Eiffel tower is 984 feet tall.  Eighty giant projectors on the ground and 100 more on the tower are used to achieve the blue effect.    At dark, the lights twinkle for a few minutes every hour on the hour.

















The department stores are all magical in Paris at Christmas.  From the lights on the outside:


the large tree in the entrance:


And my very favorite, the store windows.  Absolutely Fabulous!  The characters are animated and most of them move.  The girls with the umbrellas floated and danced all over the window:



This one was just adorable:


These two popped up and down from behind the chair:


In Brussels and Germany they have the outdoor markets in the city centers.  It makes for a beautiful scene with the cathedrals in the background.


They are set up like little villages with wooden chalets that sell food, drinks, baked goods, and gifts. 










The smell of the sweet treats put you in the holiday spirit.





They have lots of delicious food {the reason I can get D to take me to the markets}.  Check out that tongue action while squeezing the mustard.  Serious stuff!










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We also love the Glühwein {in Germany}, in Belgium and France it is called Vin Chaud.  It is usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar.   













The Glühwein is nice when it is so cold outside and you are walking for hours!  Each vendor serves it in a different mug.  If you want, you can keep the mug.  If not, you turn it back in and get 2 euros back.  Enough to buy another drink at the next booth! 


We were in London for three days.  D got a new coat (shown in this photo) - how Euro is he?













Not that any of these photo are Christmas-y, but they are so quintessentially British!  We did learn that instead of wishing a Merry Christmas, in Britian they say Happy Christmas.


Oh yeah, D did find a Christmas beer in London.  He said it was good despite the name {Chistmas pudding beer}.


We hopped on the tube on Saturday morning and headed out to Horsham to visit our friends Dave an Allison.   We experienced a very British Christmas event-


Pantomime  (click for more info).  A Pantomime, called Panto by the locals, is a musical comedy performed at Christmas but having nothing to do with Christmas.  They are always based on children's stories.  We saw Peter Pan.  It is a family event and everyone in the audience participates during the entire show.  Yelling out (booing the villain), standing up, singing, it was quite the experience, a lot of fun.    Unfortunately, photos were not allowed. 

Last but not least, the great city we live in.....Brussels. 


We have a very nice Christmas market with over 250 booths with local hand made items. 


It has two carousels, an ice skating rink, a light show on the Grande Place, and a very large ferris wheel. 


And we could not forgot our favorite Brussels Symbol...all decked out for the holidays!


For those of you who think the blogs are too long.  Thanks for reading this far and we'll see you next year. 


For those of you who want just a little more....Here is some info on the history of St Nicolas and how they celebrate the holidays in Belgium.





Sinterklaas or St Nicolas comes on 6 December


Sinterklaas {photo borrowed} is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus.  Sinterklaas has a long white beard, wears a red bishop's dress and red mitre (bishop's hat), and holds a crosier, a long gold colored staff with a fancy curled top.  Sinterklaas carries a big book with all the children's names in it, which states whether they have been naughty or nice in the past year.


Sinterklaas or St Nicolas arrives from Spain on a white horse.  He has a black assistant called Zwarte Piet who comes down your chimney.  On the 5th of December, before going to bed, children put their shoes next to the chimney of the coal fired stove or fireplace, with a carrot or some hay in it "for Sinterklaas's horse", and sing a Sinterklaas song.  The next day, they will find candy, speculoos, a delicious spicy biscuit that is often served with coffee {and we can verify that they really are delecious!} or a small present in their shoes the next day, supposedly thrown down the chimney by a Zwarte Piet or Sinterklaas himself {guessing this is where our stocking comes from}.

This is also when most Belgian children receive one big present from Sinterklaas (i.e. their parents!).  
For more details click here: Sinterklass


In Belgium, the focus is around Christmas Eve. There is a huge family get-together for a traditional evening meal of three or four courses with plenty of wine and champagne.  Rich, expensive foods are often served, such as lobster, caviar and a variety of game {we are going to have goose}.

Belgium remains a strongly catholic country, with many families attending a candlelit midnight mass on Christmas Eve. This is more than just a religious event – it is also a cultural one with midnight services well-known for their magnificent music.

Christmas morning is not traditionally a time for giving presents in Belgium; the day is usually spent quietly with family. The commercial Father Christmas was not known here until a few years ago.  However, intense marketing by shops eager to sell presents three times over in December has meant that many families also give presents from Santa Klaus now.  Although the Father Christmas and Sinterklaas figures are clearly derived from the same tradition, the two figures remain quite separate in Belgium.   Sinterklaas is always dressed in a long bishop’s robe with a mitre on his head, whereas Father Christmas or De Kerstman is the comical, round, ruddy-cheeked fellow we see in books and movies.

We wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



Two train tickets to Paris......50 euros
Boutique hotel in trendy Paris neighborhood.......200 euros
Waking up knowing you can eat Parisian pastries for breakfast........priceless!

We spent Friday and Saturday in Paris -----  It is the land of the fashionable, beautiful people.  Oh yes, and women with the skinniest legs in the world!  I seriously think my calf is bigger than most of their thighs.  Oh well, pass that pastry anyway!

The weather was unseasonable warm in Paris with sunny skies.  We visited the Orangerie museum (http://www.musee-orangerie.fr) and ate at several good restaurants. 
Unfortunately we do not have any photos because of the malfunction that occurred in Madrid......someone had too many Sangrias and tried to download the photos from the day (which included the Paris photos),
but she deleted them instead.  Yes, the Paris photos and one
day of Madrid - deleted!    She was oh so happy, yet oh so sad.


We arrived home late Saturday night from Paris and turned around Sunday morning for an early flight out to Madrid, Spain.  Donald was in business, me slumming in the back of the plane.  He was the ONLY one in the first 6 rows.  And they would NOT let me sit with him.  Nor would they let D switch with the man next to me.  But hey, my ticket was only $10!  He was very sweet and shared his breakfast with me ( I did not get any food). 

This is our hotel, Room Mate Laura. 
It was very large (especially for a city) with two bathrooms.  One was up the stairs on the 2nd floor in a glass cube.  The head board was quite unique.  It had a cool lobby as well. 
Cool things about Madrid:

* it is the capital of Spain
* the city never sleeps
* people are very friendly
* great tapas & sangrias
* great art museums
* stores are open on Sunday
* the cherry blossoms were blooming!

We were there for 5 nights and ate at 13 different Tapas bars.  Most restaurants do not open until 9 and people do not eat until 10.  This was too late for us so we ate at the Tapas Bars - hopping from one to another.

The most popular tapas are: grilled or pickled sardines, papas bravas, calamari - grilled, fried or as sandwiches, olives, and the biggest one......Iberico
ham (hanging behind D's head).  We ate at down and dirty dives to upscale Tapas.  We never quite figured out when they were open and closed.  But Sunday was by far the most crowded day.  Unfortunately, Spain is not a smoke free country yet.  We were lucky and were able to find bars that were not too smoky or had their doors open.  About half were standing only - meaning they did not have tables. 

Yes, Tammy, we do spend time doing things other than eating and drinking.  We hit many art museums on this trip.  The Prado Museum,(http://www.museodelprado.es), the ReinaSofia  (http://www.museoreinasofia.es) where there was an excellent Picasso exhibit, and the Thyssen-BorneMisza (http://www.museothyssen.org/thyssen/).  There was a very good exhibit on Modigliana. 

Madrid is not as fashionable or as cosmopolitan as Paris, Rome, or Barcelona, but it did have interesting buildings with very colorful pictures and tiles.

Children peeking through the gate at the royal Palace.

Okay, back to food.  A typical afternoon snack in Spain is very thick hot chocolate and churros.  Need I say more?

And last but not least, we would like to address the question in many of your minds, many of you have even asked.....does donald really work?  He would like everyone to know, that last week, he traveled on a sunday, worked all day monday and tuesday, got off at noon on wednesday, had off on thursday, traveled on Friday...oh yes, and he did take a conference call at 7 pm on Friday night.  Here is a photo of him checking his blackberry in the main square, Plaza Mayor.  So, mystery solved...he works {occassionally}!

We are home this week and off to Amsterdam for 7 days on Sunday!

Almost forgot.....Wednesday, March 5th will be our 6 month anniversary in Brussels.  Hard to believe!  We are going to dinner to celebrate.