Archive for May, 2008
Do you believe in the power of music? I sure do even if my musical background leaves little to be desired. I grew up listening to the painful sounds of Malayalam movie music and easy listening stations. Christopher Cross anyone? My piano career never went further than a halting version of the Mexican Hat Dance. My first taste of musical freedom arrived in the form of a cat (and no it’s not an acid flashback). I got a cat-shaped radio when I was 10 and I could finally listen to the stations of my choice. The world of 80s music soon opened up to me and I was listening to everything from Michael Jackson to Duran Duran.
In high school I was in a bit of a musical haze. Hard rock and so-called preppy music didn’t appeal to me. Then one day I saw the documentary “The Compleat Beatles” and it literally blew my mind away. Could sounds like that truly exist? How could such energy, genius and beauty be concentrated in one group? It was the start of a love affair that continues to this day. And today is very special for me because I will be making my first “pilgrimage” to Liverpool to see Sir Paul McCartney’s homecoming concert in celebration of “Liverpool Capital of Culture”. Tonight, when I touch down at John Lennon International Airport I’m sure I’ll be more than a little emotional. I will also be meeting up with two of my best friends from elementary and high school who are flying in from North America. How cool is that?
So of course, here are a couple of videos to help kick off this very special weekend. The first needs no introduction.
The second, Maybe I’m Amazed, is one of Paul McCartney’s most beautiful love songs. And it’s a sweet video to boot.
So, what are your favourite Beatle songs and which music changed your life? I’d love to know.
Have a fab weekend everyone!
As a break from my Paris posts, I thought it was time to feed that bratty bambino again. It’s been a while and he can be nasty when he’s hungry. Just like his mamma!
Anyhoo, tonight I have an extra-special guest. You might have heard of him. His name is Mr. McCartney but I like to call him Paulie. Our Paulie, as you know, is a vegetarian. While I’m a die-hard omnivore, I respect his views. And who can say no to mashed potatoes? Certainly not the Bratty Bambino? And I’m sure Jo the Potato Queen at Frutto della Passione will concur.
So even if he’s busy preparing for his big homecoming concert this Sunday (and I’m going to be there. Woo hoo!!), he still found the time to whip up a little something for us. Sweet, innit? So what if he’s a bit kooky and he doesn’t know how to handle a knife. A Beatle is cooking, for goodness sake! Take it away, Paulie!
I luuuuuuuv Paulie. And don’t you just love the way he speaks? “Spuuuuds” “Squuuurs” “Spooon Man” I could marry that accent! But I wouldn’t kiss that accent after it added RAW ONIONS to the potatoes. Blech! And I would have put real butter instead of margarine. So, what do you think of Sir Paul’s mashed potatoes?
And ragazze di Milano, don’t forget to come to our Sex and the City night out on June 7. Let Joanne and me know if you can make it. Ta!
“BIG” IN MILAN!!!: Joanne from Frutto della Passione and I are organizing a Sex and the City shindig in Milan. We’d love to meet up with fellow bloggers in the area to see the new SATC movie and have drinks before, during and after. Saturday June 7 is the date. More details to follow. Just leave a comment on either of our sites to let us know if you’re coming. Carrie and the girls need your support!!
I know I’ve been away a while but I’ve been soooo busy at work and at home that I just didn’t have the time to post. But I promise I will make it up to you… starting with this.
Soothing, non? Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up to that every morning? Or even after a nap? Speaking of naps, I didn’t have to resort to torturing poor Mimmo with Yoko’s dulcet tones to get him up. I just whispered in his ear that I was going shopping on the Avenue Montaigne with his credit card. Worked like a charm. Never seen a man jump out of bed so fast.
I thought it would be nice to have an apéritif before our dinner at Chez Michel so we went to the Canal St. Martin area in the hopes of finding a nice bar. I’d also never been to the area and was curious to see it.
We got out at Jacques Bonsergent station and walked down the Rue de Lancry to get to the canal. It’s a nice little neighbourhood and I enjoyed the walk, taking snapshots of the buildings and colourful doors.
We stopped in front of the Verre Volé wine bar, which I had heard good things about, but Mimmo didn’t like the looks of it for some reason. So we walked down the Quai de Valmy where I noticed some very cute looking shops, which were all closed because of the May 1 holiday. Arrgh! But I made a mental note to myself to head back there.
We finally ended up having our apéritif at Café Atmosphère on 49 Rue Lucien-Sampaix. Living up to its name, it had a very good vibe – quirky and casual, with a mixed clientele of students, seniors, artsy types and professionals. The staff were very friendly too. (See, more nice French people!)
Mimmo had a beer and for some reason I felt like having a Bloody Mary. Big mistake! It was the worst BM ever – 25% tomato juice, 75% vodka. I’m Canadian and can handle my drink but I almost did a spit-take. Blech! Hey, it would have made a great disinfectant. Thankfully, Mimmo switched drinks with me. Still, I’d go back to Atmosphère, maybe for lunch or dinner. Definitely not for the drinks.
From there we walked all the way to Chez Michel, which is close to the Gare du Nord train station. Not the safest of areas at night. Good thing Mimmo is a big strapping Viking of a man.
The restaurant was super-mega packed and full of tourists, mostly American and German. We were a bit suspicious about the lack of locals but once we saw the menu we were relieved. First of all, it was in French. Second, the the specials of the day written on the ardoise (blackboard) looked delish. The only problem was the waitress actually handed us the ardoise before we ordered. It was heavy and uncomfortable. And once we’d decided what we wanted, we didn’t know what to do with it. Should we put it down? Keep holding it so she remembers to come back to us? Hit her on the head with it? We decided to put it down because I was getting a hand cramp.
Chez Michel offers a €30 prix fixe menu, which included a starter, main course and dessert. Mimmo went for the tomato coeur de boeuf salad and I chose the foie gras et crème de pruneaux starter (not on the prix fixe menu). The salad was very fresh and the tomatoes actually tasted like tomatoes, unlike the ones I usually get at the supermarket. I still don’t know how I feel about my foie gras starter though.
Now, I really love foie gras in paté form but here I got actual slices of whole foie gras with course sea salt sprinkled on top. On its own, I wasn’t too crazy about the taste but combined with the prune cream it wasn’t too bad. Perhaps it was just a tad too heavy for me as a starter. Don’t worry, Mimmo helped me out.
I was more than pleased with my main course: une poêlée de St. Jacques (sautéed scallops) with cumin, parmigiano flakes and cooked in a sort of sweet, citrus sauce. Succulent and delightful!
Mimmo had a wonderfully tender and flavourful pot-au-feu, a traditional meat and vegetable stew. Chez Michel’s pot-au-feu had pieces of sausage, veal, pork, bacon, cauliflower, savoy cabbage, onions, carrots and raisins. Yum!
The waitress suggested a 2006 Paul Prieur Sancerre red to accompany our meal, which she thought would go well with both seafood and meat dishes. And it did.
Then when it was time to order dessert, I was intrigued by the name kouign amman so I asked my waitress what it was. “Oh madame, it’s a sort of pie. But I must warn you, it’s full of sugar and butter.” “Butter pie?!? Pas de problème. Bring it on!” A kouign amman is actually a warm butter cake from Brittany, the home region of Chez Michel chef Thierry Breton. The cake was impossibly rich with a lovely caramelized crust. To die for!
Our meal was even more pleasant after we started talking to the couple sitting beside us. Laurent and Stéphanie were perhaps the only French diners in the restaurant and we had fun talking about Italy, babies and food.
After dinner I wanted to go out for one last drink so we went to one of my old stomping grounds, the Bastille area. I was sad to see that the pedestrian Rue de Lappe had got a lot cheesier over the years and didn’t have the nice bars that I remembered. We stopped for a beer at a little hole in the wall but I was so full and exhausted that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
Thursday, May 1
Ah, how nice it is to wake up to the sound of sirens instead of screaming kids. No joke. Despite our late omelette dinner, I was ravenous. We made it just in time for breakfast. Nothing special but the croissants and pain au chocolat were good. I also enjoyed people watching. There was one curious couple, consisting of a homely-looking man in his 40s and a tall Asian woman dressed as if she were on her way to a photo shoot. Sky high, chocolate-coloured platform heels, flouncy back-baring mini-dress, sunglasses. We were in the Breakfast Room at the Holiday Inn Express, for goodness sake! Believe me, Karl Lagerfeld was not about to walk through that door. Anyway, she definitely looked odd, and more so after I got a better look at her. Very masculine features and a voice to match. Hmmm…
After breakfast, Mimmo and I rushed to get to the Musée d’Orsay at a decent hour, hopefully avoiding the hoards of tourists. We decided the RER would be the fastest way to go. We’re both pretty confident at using the Paris Métro and RER systems and easily found our way to the right platform. Or so we thought. When the nice customer service assistant at the Gare d’Austerlitz came up to us and asked if we yokels needed help finding the right train we immediately said “Non!”. Then in a split second of self-doubt I told her we were going to the museum. Thank god I did because the assistant kindly informed us that we were on the wrong platform. Yup, yokels indeed!
We finally made it to the Musée d’Orsay and were thrilled to find that there weren’t too many people around. In fact, there was hardly anyone. My spidey senses started to tingle. Then I realized that the doors and ticket kiosks were closed. Arrrggh!! The museum was fermé for the May 1st holiday! I knew that it was a national holiday but I was sure that in culture-friendly France, they’d keep museums open for tourists. Boy was I wrong! We walked to the nearby Louvre just to check and that was closed too. It was almost heartbreaking to see the people wandering aimlessly around the courtyard, not knowing where to go or what to do. Some tourists sat on nearby benches, hoping that the powers that be would change their minds. They wouldn’t.
So, the hubster and I decided to go for a romantic stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries.
It was so romantic that we ran into Jean-Marie Le Pen and his crew. Well, not really but there was a Front National rally on a street just off the park. Le Pen was blathering about something but I was too bored to listen so we watched a mime perform instead. Well, not really but I’m sure that would have been waaay more interesting.
Now I don’t know if it was a coincidence but right after watching that rally the clouds turned an awful shade of grey. With a storm fast approaching and both museums and shops closed, what were a couple of stranded tourists to do? Well, we headed to the wonderful world of the Bateaux Mouches, the excursion boats that travel along the Seine. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy considering we weren’t first-timers to Paris but the romantic in me always appreciates the sights AND it was a covered boat. Let the storm clouds come!
Mimmo wasn’t as impressed as I was with the tour and fell asleep half-way through. I was sitting beside a yappy dog who tried to eat my hat. After we got off the boat I took some quick snaps of the Alma Tunnel, you know, the one where Princess Diana had her accident. I couldn’t help myself. I was a big Royal Family buff when I was a kid. Anyway, I felt strangely emotional standing there.
The hubster was exhausted after all that excitement and wanted to go back to the hotel for a nap. Nap?!? I was worried. When that man naps you need a choir of Yoko Onos screaming in his ear to get him up again. We had reservations for Chez Michel that evening. Would we ever be able to make it on time?????
Tune in to the next post to find out…….
Enough of Paris for the moment. Let’s talk about LaToya Jackson! Or maybe I should let the marvellous Michael K at DListed do the talking. Jacko dressed as Charo! Ha!!
I loved that post so much that I dedicated a special Disco 2000 muscial medley to that horrifying mental image.
So here’s Jacko:
And here’s Miss Charo, featuring Red Green on bongos:
So, who do you think LaToya’s inspiration was?
Poo poop pee doo!
I can still see my feet walking down the Rue de Lancry, about to discover the bridges, bars and leafy walkways of the Canal St. Martin. I can still smell that distinctive odour of boiled rice emanating from the labyrinthine Métro corridors. The other smells are best left forgotten. The sound of exuberant schoolchildren playing soccer on a dirt pitch bounces off the remnants of a 12th century fortress bordering the field. Even under ominous storm clouds, the Seine is magnificent, proudly reflecting the city’s glory in its leaden waters.
Sorry for that unbearably poetic rant. Feel free to vomit now. But I just can’t help it. Every single time I visit, Paris does something to me. It turns this sarcastic bitter old broad into a mushy pâté. I’m feeling more than a little nostalgic this week. I had a wonderful weekend and while my body is back home, my spirit is still wandering around the arrondissments. Ok, now I sound like a freaky French ghost. What I meant to say was that my on-again off-again love affair with the City of Light is back on with a vengeance. Oh oui!!
But let’s start with the facts:
We arrived late Wednesday night at Charles De Gaulle airport and when we finally managed to get a train ticket (not easy if you don’t have a French credit card), we took the RER down to the city. It may not be glam but it is by far the fastest and cheapest way to get to Paris from the airport. By the time we dragged our sorry suitcases and selves to our hotel in Place d’Italie, it was past midnight. But I didn’t want to miss one minute of eating Parisian food so I forced my exhausted hubster to take me to the nearest café (a place called O’ Jules). Despite the late hour, there were quite a few people having dinner, including a table full of boisterous Spaniards. Mimmo and I both had omelettes: mine with potatoes, his with ham and cheese. Not the best I’ve ever had but more than satisfying after our tiring journey. And get this, our waiter was actually pleasant to us. He even smiled once in a while. Un miracle!
So with our stomachs full, we made our way back to the hotel, dodging the occasional stream of pee or pan-handling drunk. One of them wanted to get a lift in a taxi and was flatly refused. Monsieur le Drunk couldn’t understand why: “Mais pourquoi tu ne me veux pas? Pourquoi!?!” Despite those episodes, I was so happy to be back in Paris. I went to bed with visions of tiny sugar plum Sarkozys and Carla Brunis dancing in my head.
Got back the other day from our long weekend in Paris. Except for a few minor hitches, It was soooo nice! The sights, the food, the smell of rancid clochard pee in the Metro. Sigh! It’s hard to come back to reality. I’m snowed under with work, kids stuff, dirty dishes and laundry so I don’t have much time to blog today. Sorry! But I have lots to tell you about the trip. We went to some pretty amazing restaurants (and one unexpected favourite), ran into some quirky characters, visited my old haunts and discovered new neighbourhoods. And get this, we even met NICE French people. Oh mon dieu!
But keep checking the blog for new Paris posts and pictures. So much to tell, so little time. And I promise, I will tell. And of course there will be restaurant reviews. To whet your appetite, my good friends Brenda and Donna have kindly accepted to share their thoughts on a Parisian restaurant they tried recently. Bon appétit!