A couple of weeks ago, Hud and I made our annual trip down to Slidell to walk with our krewe in Mona Lisa and Moon Pie for Mardi Gras! This year's theme was Dance! Mona! Dance!
We drove down on Friday. Got there just in time to go to Charlotte's nephew's restaurant in Old Town Slidell. Oooooowee. Chris can cook.
Oh, it was all so very good. He also made a special dessert of chocolate bread pudding. Heaven.
The next day was parade day. We always do a lot of running around getting ready for the walk. It's a rarity for Slidell, but our parade happens at night. So we light the parade with flambeaux. They have to be taken to staging. You know, the last minute things that you have to do. Like putting the finishing touches on your dragon.
Charlotte put the dragon together with the help of her friend, Barbara. I'm going down on the train next year a week early to help Charotte make whatever it is we are next year. I made all of the hats, though. That dragon just wan't going to fit in the Mustang. It sure did make it easy to get dressed this year! We wore black so we would not be a distration from the main event - The Chinese Dragon Dance.
Our famed chef, Chris Case, in his Flambeaux attire.
Then it was time to line up and go for a stroll, chucking Moonpies to the masses!
Tom's children, Sherry and Tommy were our Flambeaux carriers. Time to start! We began with sparklers...
Beacuse the weather was gorgeous, the crowds turned out in droves. I haven't seen it this big! I knew I'd have to hoard my Moonpies to make it till the end.
Moonpie! Moonpie! Throw me somethin', Mister!
Oh! We had a great time. The Krewe threw over thirty thousand Moonpies. It wasn't enough. Lots of the krewe had to do the walk of shame on the final few blocks. But not me! I saved some to the people at the end of the line. Heeeee.
Over baguettes, fromage and thé, I asked Hud what he wanted to do on the last day in Paris. He though for a moment and replied, "Have a really, quintesentially French meal. Like Julia Child would have eaten in a Parisian Cafe."
I had my mission and I chose to accept it.
But first, we had a task to complete. So off we went to the Ile de la Cité.
We got off the Metro and ran smack dab into another seasonal street fair. We made our way towards Notre Dam past the Hôtel des Ville.
Over the Seine...
Through the quaint streets...
Passing Notre Dam...
To the bridge on the flying buttress side of Notre Dam.
When we went to Sainte Chappelle, Hud and I checked on the lock we placed on the Lover's Bridge and could not find it. We happened into a little shop for a hat for him to wear in the chilly wind and found this one with a vow to return and replace the lost one. Tying it with brightly colorled ribbon, we placed it on a really great lock that we could easily find.
I had promised my friend Tatia that I would put one on the bridge for her and love, Marcus.
That's it, straight from Memphis, tied with blue ribbon. It has a fantastic view of Notre Dam, don't you think?
We wandered around for a while looking at the restaurants' posted menus, trying to find authentic cuisine. I knew two things had to be on the menu: cassoulet and sole meunière. At long last we found it on the menu of Le Navigateur. As I opened the door, I let out a happy sigh. The restaurant was packed --with French people!
We had a salad with duck kidneys and a terrine of fois gras. Devine. The salad was our favorite.
Sole Meunière! Happy Furry Godmother. Julia would have proud of the copious amounts of lemony butter this fish was swimming in.
And Hud had the earthy, comforting cassoulet!
There was a cheese course we neglected to photograph with three fantastically succulent locally grown fromage - a blue, a triple creme and firm white. I wish I had written down their names. They were so rich!
For dessert, Hud had a warm chocolate rice pudding cake. Not too sweet and oh, so toothy.
While I chose the claflooti with raspberries and crème anglaise.
The meal took up the better part of three hours. It was, indeed, dining at its best.
Back out onto the blustery streets, we headed towards Notre Dam.
As we crossed the bridge to get back to the Hotel de Ville, a couple of guys were playing some jazz. We had noticed them earlier, when we were on our way to Notre Dam. They were laughing loudly with a street performer. They had no instruments at the time.
Back over the Seine. Lovely.
Then back past the Hotel de Ville. The Hotel is not a Hotel. It is Paris' administration building. It stands on the site where public executions happened. During the French Revolution, Robespierre was shot in the jaw and captured here with his followers.
Sometime in the late 1800s, it went through a reconstruction following a fire. That's when all of the figures of famous parisians were added. Along with some lions and figure of Science and the Arts, flanking the door. Some 230 something sculpters were hired to do the 388 figures. Nice gig.
You could look at it for hours and not take in the whole exterior. I wonder what it looks like inside, but it is not open to the public. In fact, one of the rare times it was open, for Nuit Blanche (a city wide "Seepless Night" celebration), the mayor was stabbed. He lived. But it was proof that they are better off with the doors closed.
So back into the belly of Paris. Back to the Eiffel Tower to bid it adieu. Up the hill to the Etoile Trocadero on a chilly night.
You get what I was going for. The Opera Nationale de Paris!
After perusing the finest dead people of Paris, we needed to take a break and calm our selves. You know. Not be so stimulated. That is why we trekked across town to the Opera.
This is your first hint of it when you exit the Metro and turn the corner. You know you're in for something spectacular.
Charles Garnier at the entrance. He wanted those who passed through the doors to think, "Stranger, you've entered another world."
Boy, did he get it right.
Not a single surface is left untouched by decoration. It makes Versailles seem pitifully plain by comparison.
In my head, I was totally planning our renewal vows for that giant 500 person wedding I never really wanted. I never was that girl. You know her. Planning her perfect wedding for years before she even met the guy. So not me. But this place makes you dream. You want to share history with it.
The Opera was having an exhibit of actors' costumes from some of their more memorable performances.
Sweet! I don't even have to look for a dress. They made one for me.
Gah. This place makes me feel like I've had a sudden onset of ADD. I almost got whiplash trying to see everything at once. It was hard to take it all in.
We entered the Salon de la Soleil. With charming paintings of salamanders on the ceiling and stars on the walls.
And that's when it happened. We exited into the Grand Foyer.
And my mind was scampering around my head like a bundle of kittens paying with a mouse. I was officially on beauty overload.
Stranger, you've entered another world.
Before I lost what is left of my mind, we escaped into the back halls, which we much more sparsely decorated. Whew.
And I, of course took the opportunity to act a fool.
Heeee. That wouldn't work with a short chick.
At the end of the hall, was a small, round reception room. It was tarted up in ceiling paint and needle point of the muses.
Outside, the city traffic churned. I had forgotten that a city even existed outside of these walls.
Refreshed form the break, we ventured back into the glittering assault of gilt and carvings.
The private booths on the balcony.
And posed for some shots on the stairs. Not being a fool for a change.
The view above us was spectacular.
One of the private rooms was open and we slipped inside for a view of the acutal Opera.
Here you can see a glimpse of the Chagall ceiling. It was etherial and bright. I'd have a hard time focusing on the performances. My gaze would always be drifting upward.
In one of the side halls, by the library. they had an installation of paintingsof some of the famous ballerinas and divas who have graced the stage of the Opera.
Love this last one. This Prima Ballerina disliked her portrait, so ten years later she had this one made to replace it.
And into the extremely crowded library.
We wanted one last look at the Grand Foyer and the Chrismas tree.
We headed back out to the staircase and made our way out.
Of course we had to take a turn of the gift shop before we left. I had to explain my scarf. Again. Heeee. I wonder if Twinkie Chan is wondering why she got so many hits from Paris on her website over Christmas.
Pere Lachaise is this great cemetary in Paris where all the famous people have been laid to rest. People like Jim Morrison of The Doors, Collette and Moliere. Moliere's remains, by the way, were transferred to the cemetary in a marketing campaign to get more, um, visitors, make that "residents".
In 1804, the five year old daughter of a bellboy was the first to be buried there. Napoleon Bonaparte, then a consul, declared that “Every citizen has the right to be buried regardless of race or religion”. Too bad everybody else in Paris didn't see it that way and thus the scheme to bury (or rebury as it were) some of the city's more prominant dead people.
And oh! Is it peaceful and gothic and dramatic.
Here's Colette. She's pretty much at the entrance of the cemetary. Before you get to the lovely coblestones.
She was the author of Gigi and had quite an appetite for living. She was married several times, had affairs with men and women and even a stepson once. Colette loved her life.
There were all sorts of interesting tombs. It was like a New Orleans cemetary, only cooler. If that's possible.
Like this. I wonder what the story is here...
Even the smallest detail is considered on the monuments. Like stained glass and these glazed pansy wreaths. Pansies are the flowers of remembrance.
They can be lost in the grandness of it all.
The scope of the place is hard to translate in pixels.
Jim Morrison's grave. They have it partitioned off because the graves surrounding it were being damaged from the tourists. Thus the blurry picture, having to hold the camera above the heads of the people in front of us.
Many monuments are inhabited by shrouded figures of grief. So well crafted you would swear the fabric is moving in the breeze.
I loved the way some were blanketed in a thick rug of moss.
The monument of Chopin.
Interesting things were at every turn.
I did feel sorry for this poor bastard. His was rather plain by comparison.
It was worth the preciptous climb on the cobblestones.
To see the final resting places of people who left a mark on the world.
I thought this was sweet.
Everywhere people stood guard the crypts.
And some of them had dogs!
Oscar Wilde brought a giant flying Indian to watch over his resting place.
On sensory overload, we slipped out the back gate onto the street and headed for a brasserie by Pere Lachaise.
And rendez- vous'd with our amis.
Since I had the whole egg thing going on, I chose my old friend Croque Madame. Hud chose his old buddy, Croque Monsieur.
We also invited a couple of dark beers to join us.
Fortified, we hopped up the block and back into the cemetary.
For my friend, Charotte, whose house was built by Francois Cousin. A relative perhaps? The family crypt? He built her home in the late 1700s and would have been alive at the time.
It was a gorgeous day.
This may as well have been the most elegant bas relief in the whole of Pere Lachaise.
But the morning was gone and we had another place to go before heading back to the Tour Eiffel and the Etoile Troccadero. Adieu, people of Pere Lachaise! Thanks for allowing us to spend our morning with you!
After viewing Versailles, we made the long trek past the Grand Canal, Orangerie, gardens, parterres and basins to the Trianons. See that long canal in the distance? We had to walk a little over half way up it and take a long walk to the right. There are several restaurants along the way, so no need to pack a lunch.
First we went to Marie-Antoinette's escape, The Petit Tranon.
And climbed the stairs to Marie-Antoinette's sleeping chambers.
Originally built by Madame de Pompadour, who did not live to see its completion, Marie-Antoinette used this manse as an escape from court. It is surrounded by sheep farms where she would delight in dressing as a shepardess and roam the countryside.
Here's a room I bet Marie didn't know existed:
The kitchen. Surprise Marie-Antoinette!
But I bet she frittered away many a delightful afternoon is this one:
Her ginormous portrait says it all.
As well as here in the gardens.
My favorite folly of the Trianons is the Hamlet, just past the Temple of Love.
If you could plop Schyterbolle anywhere, it would slip in seamessly here.
Twelve houses (six remain) surround an artificially made fishing weir filled with descendants of the queen's original carp.
The Queen's house was the largest and attatched to the King's billard room. From her chambers she could watch the men working in the fields.
They made cheese in this building with the turret.
Oh! It is charming. I want to live there. But the afternoon was dwindling, so off we went, back throught the gardens, past the Petit Trianon, to the Grand Trianon.
Louis XIV's escape from court life. It's a little more grand than the Queen's.
If my house were open fromthe third floor to the basement, you might be able to hang that chandelier. But you couldn't walk uder it. So I suppose I'll have to pass on it. Quelle dommage.
Proof of our existance in the Mirror Room at the Grand Trianon:
This chamber belonged, in later years, to the Empress Marie-Louise. All of it is decorated as Louis XIV left it, but the furniture has changed over the years. The original furnishings were sold during the revolution. The bed here, was Napoleon's, brought here from the Tuileries Palace.
Every room has a view of the formal gardens. It was said of the King that he enjoyed "bullying" nature. Heee.
The Grand Peristyle And its view of the gardens...
Years ago, I had a black and white checkerboard floor in my kitchen. This makes me want to put it back.
Everything is just soooo, I don't know. Understated. Yes, that's what I'm searching for...
Even the floors.
The Gaming Room. As you do.
This is the bedchamber of the Oueen of the Belgians. Louis-Phillipe tranformed it for his daughter and son-in-law. The bed was Empress Josephine's from the Tuileries.
Louis-Phillipe's family room. So cozy and informal, no?
The Malachite Room. Named after the the stone gifts from Tsar Alexander I to Napoleon.
I've never seen so many little movable seats in all my life. They must have had an overflow of guests at all times.
The Cotelle Gallery. Yeah, I'm guessing intimate dinner parties went on at the Petit Trianon.
These large marble troughs were for cooling the wine. It was in the Cotelle Gallery that the First World War was ended when a peace treaty with Hungary was signed.
The chapel wing built by Louis-Phillipe for the wedding of his daughter in 1837.
It was getting late in the day and we had a long train ride back to the Etoile, so we stepped out into the rain and trekked back for Versailles.
Out to the busy streets and onto the Metro.
Bon nuit, Versailles! Bon nuit, les Trianons! Je t'aime beaucoup mon Hamlet!