More Notre Dame, Ile de Saint Louis

Today, more pictures, less commentary.

There's metal work like this all over the cathedral. Again, the things in these buildings are every bit as fine as the architecture.
Neighborhoods all over Paris look like this, but the Ile de Saint Louis is markedly better maintained. I can't imagine how wonderful it would be to wake up here each morning.

Another shot inside Notre Dame.

The Cathedral from across the river.

Living in a neighborhood this beautiful, fresh flowers around the house would absolutely be necessary. There are florists like this all over the city, each of them this gorgeous. Click the picture to embiggen for even more gorgeousness.

Tomorrow, Sainte Chappelle and l'Arc de Triomphe.

Paris Pictures

We ended up with over 250 photos from the trip. I'd never force that on anyone, but I can certainly share some highlights.Shortly after we got to the apartment and got settled on day one, we trekked up the hill (the really steep hill) to Montmartre, and the basilica of Sacre Coeur, shown above. I read that the stone becomes harder and whiter over time. It really is very white, but it's hard to tell as it was a little bit overcast when this was taken.That evening we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. Everyone has seen a picture, but it really is quite amazing when you're standing right there. On the hour the twinkling flash lights that debuted on New Year's Eve 1999 go off making the whole tower sparkle. If you happen to be up in the tower, or looking away, you know when it starts because the crowd cheers.

We went up to the first level and walked the perimeter, and here I am. On each side there's a panoramic photo of the view that points out the landmarks that can be seen in that direction. Probably a better proposition during the day because at night not much is lit.

Day two began with Notre Dame. Plenty of people, but not the sort of huge crowd I'd imagine in the warmer months. The weather, by the way, was pretty great. Crisp, but with plenty of periods when you really didn't need a jacket, and no unmanageable hordes of tourists. The cathedral was as amazing as I thought it would be. I mentioned to boyfriend that college professors really should encourage students in architectural survey courses to visit these monuments. Sitting in class watching the slide show is one thing, being there is something else entirely.

Inside and out, there's tons to see.

These buildings were designed to inspire, and they certainly do. What awes me even more is the engineering and craftsmanship poured into almost every surface and object. Beyond the architecture, the glass and the furniture is every bit as amazing.

Up next, more from Notre Dame, Ile de St. Louis, and Sainte Chappelle.


After nearly 12 hours on a plane, and about 24 hours awake, we're home. Two hour delay at Heathrow while they changed a part, so of course we missed the connection at O'Hare. The replacement plane at O'Hare got hit by lightning, so we had to move to a new plane and gate which added another delay.

So we should have been home last night around 7, but rolled in around midnight. SO good to see the schnauzers. And sleep in my own bed. And catch up on blog reading, since I'm still up early now.

Trip posts commencing soon!

London Calling

Posting late tonight from London UK. It's been an amazing few days here as well. Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the Victoria & Albert and Tate Modern museums, fabulous all. The only problem was that our hotel, the NH London, while beautiful, only has internet access at obscenely high prices. Not expensive as in "man, the Underground is higher in London" but as in "That's insane, we'll stop at a cafe later." Thus the lag in posting.

So much to tell, and so many pictures to share, please know it's all coming soon. We fly out tomorrow midday and arrive back in Kansas City around 630pm. After a weekend of laundry and lounging with the schnauzers I'll have posts galore.

Death and Dinner

It's been a whirlwind of activity the last couple days here in Paris.  More sightseeing all over, but what really struck me was today at Pere Lachaise cemetary.

We'd planned to spend today doing a little shopping, which we haven't done at all so far, so I didn't take the camera.  HUGE mistake as I saw a million things I would have loved a shot of.  I'm planning a post on the cemetary alone, so I'll have to see what I can find on the web. 

We also haven't done much dining other than picking something up on the run, which of course is tres facile as there's a shop selling something to eat within a half a block from anywhere in Paris! Tonight, to celebrate my birthday last week, and to bid bid the French farewell, we ate at Le Petit Prince de Paris.  

The trip across town on the Metro was easy as we're pretty good with subways.  We had a little map glitch, but it was quickly solved and we made the reservation right on time.  For entrees (the starter here) Boyfriend had a green salad with duck breast and fois gras, which he loved.  I had escargots with a saute of peas, pea pods, carrot and zucchini.  Dripping in butter and garlic, it was also delicious.

His plat (the main dish) was a veal steak served with tomatoes and cheese, much like a caprese salad, but served warm.  A side potato gratin came with, and thank God it was big enough to split.  My plat was sauteed scallops with roasted potatoes and a bit more of the carrot and zucchini.
The dessert choices were incredible, but it was getting dangerously close to last train (anywhere between 11 and 1130 depending on the station) so after a cafe and the check, which took a bit, we were off.  Home easily, calls made to our moms, and we're off to London tomorrow.

As we left the restaurant the proprietor thanked us and said goodbye with "A bientot."  It's a way of saying goodbye, but signifies less time than "Au revoir," more like our "See you soon."  Paris, I've found you charming, and welcoming.  A bientot indeed.

Paris Continued

The sightseeing continues here in Paris.  Yesterday we started early with a trip to the flea market at Porte de Vanves.  Up before sunrise we headed out a bit after seven and arrived at the market about 730.  A few dealers were setting up but most were already done, and it was everything I had hoped for.  

I told Boyfriend that I expected it would be like antique markets at home, with the same sorts of things, only those things would be French, and I was right.  There were huge sets of china, tons of silver, old fixtures, lanterns, and art galore.  Boyfriend found a single-well burl wood tea caddy that he liked, but he passed.  I found a million things I wanted, and bought the one I thought I could get home, a footed French ironstone bowl.  It's simple and in good shape and I'm very happy.

In the afternoon we visited the Arc de Triomphe and then walked the Champs-Elysses.  It's a beautiful street, but chock-full of tourists so it's a pain to navigate  We walked through the Tuileries and down to the Louvre where we had an ice cream in the gardens.

We then headed back to the Marais and stopped at Open Cafe for happy hour.  We had a few beers and met two boys from Melbourne.  Phil is an engineer living and working in London. John was a Lawyer who's firm just transferred him to the Channel Islands.  Because of the mix of English and French, old and new laws in the islands,  he explained to Boyfriend how you can get an injunction by simply dropping to your knees and reciting the lord's prayer twice in Middle French.  His firm actually has it for them on cards.  Boyfriend was both amazed, and amused.

This morning we started late with a Metro ride to L'Opera Garnier, or what's usually referred to as the Paris Opera House.  An incredible building, we wanted to visit inside, but the ticket line was longer than we cared to wait for.  Then on to Place Vendome, a gorgeous square filled with the big jewelry houses.  We walked around a bit there and caught the Metro to L'Hotel des Invalides. The Paris police and security services were having a sort of fair with lots of equipement on display, helecopters, fire engines, and tanks.  It's seemed to us so far that every Paris policeman is hot.   We watched a demonstration of the police dogs corps which was entertaining even though we didn't understand much of what was being said.  While I'm on the subject, the French love their dogs.  We've seen Westies and Dobermans, Labs and Yorkies, lots of Jack Russells and quite a few French bulldogs.  People take them everywhere, and the dogs are really very relaxed.  I'd always heard because of this that Paris was full of dog poop, and I haven't seen any yet.

J'aime Paris!

Day two in Paris:  First, a correction.  Sacre Coeur is a basilica, and not a cathedral.  Either way, it's incredibly beautiful.  I read that it's made of a stone that becomes harder and whiter over time.

Last night we visited the Eiffel Tower.  The tower and surrounding grounds really are beautiful.  It's gorgeous at night, especially when the flashing lights go off on the hour.  We went up to the first level and walked the perimeter reading the posted photos pointing out landmarks.  While the tower was great, it was hard to see any of the other landmarks because they're not really lit at night.  So much for that City of Lights thing.

After the tower (and an unbelievable onslaught of people selling light up Eiffel Towers, and their calls of "One Euro") we walked to the Trocadero, which may be my favorite building so far.  A pair of quarter arcs fronted by a huge terrace, it's directly across from the tower with a great view.  I believe it's now a museum, but will have to research more.

Today we started the morning at Notre Dame, which was everything I'd hoped it would be.  I have photos of the interior and exterior, but will probably wait until I'm home to post.  After Notre Dame we walked along the Seine to Saint Chappelle, which was also amazing.  It's two chapels, one on top of the other, and kind of hard to explain.  I have photos of that to post as well.

The highlight of the day followed with the Musee d'Orsay.  Incredible collection, incredible building, it deserves a post all on it's own which I'll try to do when I'm back.

Following those sights we returned home for a nap.  After cleaning up we headed back out to walk around the Marais neighborhood.  The gay bars were all crowded (and let me mention here, the French are beautiful, men and women alike) so we just roamed the neighborhood and finally settled into a table on the sidewalk at a quiet cafe.  Boyfriend had a pizza-like thing on a baguette that came with a salad.  I had a big salad consisting of greens, sliced tomatoes (they don't taste like this at home), ham, shrimp and smoked oysters.  It was delicious and a nice foil to all the bread we've eaten.  Of course we'd picked up another baguette on the way home, so the bread eating continues.

While we're on food, let me mention Berthillon, the French ice cream maker.  We stopped in at their flagship store on the Ile de St. Louis this morning for a cone.  Boyfriend had a dense, not overly sweet chocolate, and I had a creamy praline, and both were outstanding.  Should you ever find yourself somewhere that has it available, have some.  Don't think, just have some.

Tomorrow is the flea market, you can imagine my excitment!

In Paris

We arrived safely this morning in Paris after a long overnight flight.   Paula, the rental agent, met us at the apartment to show us how everything works.  And she brought us a baguette!  After a shower and change of clothes we were off to check out the neighborhood.

Up from the apartment is Montmartre ,and the cathedral of Sacre Coeur.  It's rained off and on but I did get some pictures of both the cathedral and the view from the top of the hill.  

Off tonight to see the Eiffel Tower, and then probably back here to bed early.  More to come!


Well, with the exception of my shaving kit, I'm packed. I got it all in one suitcase and I think I'm plenty shy of 50 pounds, which is a big relief for Boyfriend. Perhaps you're the sort who always packs early, but I'm usually not that organized. I'm packed tonight because there's an auction tomorrow.

The auction house publishes photos on their website, and it looks like tomorrow's sale is chock-full of good stuff. Red Wing crocks, good vintage bookends, architectural prints, some Danish modern cabinets and other good furniture of all kinds. I'm heading to the auction for one thing however, the breakfront secretary pictured above.

With any luck this post will serve as the Before picture. It's hard to tell from the photo, but I've watched the video (yeah, our auction house is all uptown!) and this piece has plenty of bumps and scratches. It's definitely a candidate for some paint work from me.

My eleven foot square den, like most of my house, is in tans and browns and blacks. The breakfront appears to be shallow (fingers crossed) and would be perfect with storage below and some much-needed bookshelf space above. It would also provide some much needed height in the room. The plan is to remove that wavy pediment on top and paint it a glossy, pale blue-green with an even paler gray interior. New hardware in chrome would be a nice update as well. The description says it has bubble glass, which I'm not sure if I like or not.

Cross your fingers that the auction gods smile on me. Also cross your fingers that I can fall asleep on the plane without spending a fortune on drinks.

UPDATE: The breakfront turned out to be really small, too small for the place I wanted it use it. So the search for the perfect piece continues.

I'm it

I've been tagged by Hello Gorgeous to share seven random, odd facts about myself. I'm having a bit of trouble coming up with anything odd, so I'll go with random, and if you read her blog you'll see that I'm a shameless copycat. Originality suffers only because I've got to pack. Off we go.

1. I started my blog because I was frustrated by the shrillness of the commenting community at Joe.My.God. I described my blog as "Politics, Culture, Decorative Accessories." What I've discovered is that writing about politics and culture is exhausting, so much so that I've published exactly one post. Writing about what I love, painting furniture, estate sale finds, decorating and design, is exciting. Finding a community of smart, witty, like-minded souls has been exhilarating. I'm less Towleroad and more Eddie Ross, and I'm fine with that.

2. When I turned 21 and could get into bars and clubs, I thought my world would blow wide open. What I found was that in my little group, I was the wallflower. So I got a job as a bartender at a little neighborhood gay bar here in KC. I tried waiting tables once and I was terrible, I was however, a really good bartender. Making drinks is really the smallest part of the job.

3. If you ask me where I met my spouse, I will tell you we met at a party. That's true, in a sense. The lesson is that anything can happen, anytime, anywhere, even in the last place you'd expect it.

4. Like HG, I own a scooter. It's an Aprilia Mojito, in black. I don't license it because it's a 49 cc engine, but it goes faster because I had the governor removed. I look forward to someday living in a place where I can drive it more than my car.

5. My first job when I was 16 was a part-time sales associate in the Men's department at Macy's. Whenever inventory rolled around I was invariable saddled with counting something tiny like socks or flatware.

6. I love Las Vegas. I love that things are either shiny and new, or tattered and run down, and rarely anything in between. I love that when something no longer serves it's purpose they will level it and begin again. I love that while we know it's a losing proposition, Las Vegas makes us want to come and play and be someone we normally aren't.

7. My right thumb is bigger than my left thumb, because I have bowled since I was eight years old.

If I were tagging I would tag HG and Decorina, but that's already been taken care of. I'm off the hook! Actually there are a few others I'd tag, but I don't feel I know them well enough yet. Enjoy your Sunday!

Nous sommes Americains

I've always believed that as a people, Americans are generally an optomistic lot. Hopeful, with faith in our ability to prevail no matter the situation. So as the financial markets sputter and gasp, and the McCain campaign grows ever more hateful and desperate, we're off to Paris this Wednesday.

Boyfriend feels mildly guilty that we're taking a big vacation as things seem so generally grim, but I'm welcoming the break. It seems senseless to me to worry over things I can't control, so I won't. Instead we will visit la Tour Eiffel and Notre Dame, roam the flea market at Port de Vanves, learn about the French, and hopefully represent to them that we are basically good, in spite of the last eight years.

I hope that I'll fall in love with France. That years from now on a plane bound for Charles de Gaulle, I will think back and say to Boyfriend "Remember our first trip to Paris? Remember how scary things seemed? Thank God we woke up from that long, bad dream."

There's so much to do in the next few days. Posting here is always spotty at best, but I hope to check in when I can. I'm also hoping that I'll be able to post from the apartment we've rented near the Moulin Rouge. (Don't worry, we've read the guide books, we know not to bother going!)

But in case I get caught up in the adventure, have a great couple of weeks Internet. I'll be back soon, hopefully with photos to share, and great stories to tell. A votre sante!

John McCain is not your friend

Up until now I've avoided a political post. It's been a topic almost everywhere, even design oriented blogs (hey Decorno!), and others have shown they can deconstruct it all far better than I. I know what I believe, and I don't think anyone ever really changes anyone else's mind. Frankly, at this point discussing it just makes my head hurt. I do pay attention to what's going on though, and tonight at the workshop I listened to the debate on NPR while I sanded the drawer fronts of a maple chest.

I couldn't tell you what either candidate said, it was so dull at some point I think all I picked up was voice tone. One thing I did notice however, was how McCain worked in the word "Friend" whenever possible.

I don't think John McCain is a bad man. Far from it, he's spent the better part of his adulthood in our nation's service when he could have been a do-nothing President of Marketing for his wife's company. That service certainly matters. But John McCain is not a friend, and here's why.

John McCain no doubt knows gay people. He actively employs at least one gay man, Mark Buse, and quite likely others (a WHOLE other issue that we won't get into now). I don't think for a moment that Mr. McCain gives a rat's ass who sleeps with who. Choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, however, shows an absolute willingness to pander to people who care a great deal. People who spend their time and money, and in some cases make their living, by working to deny me the very same rights afforded heterosexual Americans. People who view me as flawed, sick, damaged, or worse. People who would deny me dignity, and in the extreme, the right to live.

Overly dramatic? Maybe. But as Sarah Palin spoke to a crowd in Clearwater, Florida today, whipping them into a froth with her " Obama pals around with terrorists" schtick, someone in the audience called out "Kill him!" She neither paused nor reacted. When faced with bigotry, and I have to believe that's what it was, I don't recall anyone suggesting the murder of a white candidate recently, Sarah Palin, her mouth reciting the talking points given to her, remained silent.

Friends defend us. Friends stand up to intolerance. Friends speak out in the face of the casual devaluation of human life. Sarah Palin, and John McCain, are not our friends.

Soup Season

I love having friends that grow vegetables. David, who I bowl with, brought us all tomatoes last Friday night. I sliced them up last night with some fresh mozzarella, basil, and balsamic on a bed of mixed greens for dinner, and they were delicious. I never had much luck growing tomatoes, but someday when we have a yard again I'm going to make it happen.

My friend Jim mentioned that he grew butternut squash this year but didn't really know what to do with them. I told him to bring me a couple and I'd make him (and me!) some butternut squash bisque.

Today was cool and rainy all day long, so after getting home from work and walking and feeding the dogs, I got to work in the kitchen.

The recipe I use is the butternut squash bisque recipe from The squash are a pain to peel (use a potato peeler) so I usually make a double batch. Two good sized squash are about the 8 cups peeled and cubed (large cubes) you need. The recipe calls for a bit of nutmeg, which I'm pretty free with. I also add roasted garlic and a good little bit of cumin. Salt and pepper liberally, stir in some cream or half-and-half and it's ready.

I made a turkey wrap sandwich to go with, and sat them on the end table in preparation for Dancing With the Stars (who knew Lance Bass could dance a viennese waltz?!). Coming back from the kitchen, Mr. Alex was caught making a play for my wrap, which he promptly dropped between the end table and the arm. So he spent a bit of time in the laundry room instead of curled up next to me on the sectional while I ate.

Drama aside, the soup was good!

In the basement

When I first started going to estate sales regularly, and with a purpose other than looking for some cool thing for myself, I tended to avoid garages and basements. They're generally full of dirty tools and lawn implements (the garages) and junk that was banished from the main living area (the basements). I've learned though now that it pays to look through everything.

The stool above was off in a corner of a basement workshop at a rather lackluster sale I hit on Saturday. Covered in cobwebs I kind of looked past it at first, then started noticing it had a nice slender line. Closer inspection revealed some really old turquoise paint with heavy wear. I took it back to the workshop, cleaned it up, gave it a coat of clear polyurethane, and it was ready to go. I think it would be great in an empty corner with a huge urn or figural sculpture. As my booth inventory is sorely lacking in huge urns and statuary, a planter and a pair of old Fitz & Floyd monkey candlesticks are filling in.

At a sale last weekend I picked up the little round stand pictured above. It was dark stained pine and while not in the basement, still covered with dust. After cleaning and deglossing and three coats of ivory paint all it needed was a rubdown with some antiquing glaze and a coat of poly and voila, sweet little table that could fit in anywhere. The old plate tray (in rough shape, it would be ideal for filling with candles, and priced accordingly!) and Homer Laughlin ironstone pitcher are auction finds that have been hanging out on the shelf at the workshop waiting for the right place and time.