Sunday, February 27, 2011

Travel Plans: A Tale of Three Cities . . .

Right now, there are four or five centimetres of fresh snow on the railings of our apartment balcony, and freezing rain making a mess of the sidewalk -- and the only boots here are unlined rainboots with a 2-inch heel and dubious traction. I wanted peace, quiet, and much slowing down, and I'm getting what I asked for!

Last night, on my own (Pater had to go back to the island for the weekend), I watched Bruno Nuytten's 1989 Oscar-winning film, Camille Claudel featuring Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu -- stirring and sad, and of course the real sadness was only gestured toward by the note at the film's end reminding us that Claudel spent the last thirty years of her life in an asylum, consigned there by her family. I watched the film in French, with the French subtitles, a great way to amp up my oral comprehension and keep up the momentum of our French lessons. And yes, as some of you have guessed, these lessons will prepare Pater and I to more fully participate in Parisian life when we head to our favourite city in a few weeks -- We'll be renting an apartment (thanks Duchesse for the information about Parisaddress) not too far from the Rodin Museum, and I'll be sure to stop by and check out Claudel's work.

Both before and after Paris, we'll have some time in London, once again staying at the friendly, clean, well-situated, and very reasonable (i.e. cheap, budget) Alhambra Hotel which means we'll go for pleasant walks along St. Martin's Canal. Of course, the weather will not be as warm and sunny as in these photos from last summer -- we've never been to Paris/London in March/April before, never been away from home for six consecutive weeks, and in our last six spring visits to Paris (since 2005), we've never not stayed at our beloved Hotel Résidence les Gobelins. But with Pater's retirement and my leave combined with last year's eventual impatience with continual eating-out, we decided to stay in Paris for a month, using a flat there as a base to do some exploring by train. And by going earlier than usual, we avoid many of the tourists and we get to be back at our island home to take advantage of the best beach weather here.

Meanwhile, though, I have to pack, keeping in mind a considerably different weather scenario than May/June. In fact, I'm thinking that the bag I packed for San Francisco last month might do me fairly well for London and Paris in early spring. I'm thinking I'll wear my leather jacket, although I may try to squeeze my Burberry trench over it for the plane ride -- six weeks with one coat might get monotonous! As in the photo below, I found I was quite happy in SF wearing jersey dresses with tights and either boots or brogues, and I might just adapt this formula. But I'll save for another post all my talk about packing and shopping and why/how I'm going to live out of a carry-on for six weeks!

Mater in Yerba Buena Gardens with SF MOMA in the background.

Now back to reality, staring out the window at winter, the dream of hot, sunny Luxembourg Gardens quickly fading . . .


  1. I went to Paris last March for Spring Break, as a chaperone for a dozen teenagers. The trip was delightful, but very, very chilly. I stopped wearing my trousers and substituted jeans on the day I got wind-burn on my legs. Oh, so cold! My two cents: bring warm layers (scarves, hats, etc.) and definitely visit Musée de l'Orangerie.

  2. Oh my goodness, you must be able to feel my envy radiating from the other side of the world! You lucky, lucky things. I'm sure you will have an absolutely fantastic time - and being in an apartment gives you so much flexibility. I too get frustrated with eating out all the time; with a kitchen you'll be able to pick things up from the markets and cook ... Heaven.

  3. Do you maintain the blog while on vacation? If so, I look forward to this vicarious vacation...

  4. Yes!!! It makes perfect sense too - a whole month, you'll have tons of chances for interaction with the locals. Sooo looking forward to your reports .... P

  5. Hey, I like your new blog description! Maybe '(Canadian) West Coast Island' for all us international followers!?

  6. OH how exciting! I had hoped it would be something like this and I am thrilled that you have seized upon the opportunity. G and I always talked about doing something like this, although I think we were inclining more toward an apartment in Madrid even though Paris did come up. Unfortunately G didn't retire until he was forced to by health issues and I encourage everyone I know not to make the same mistake. Have a marvelous time, but I know you will.

  7. I think that it is so fine that you two do all that traveling, as you so obviously like it. And we bloggers get frequent posts, yes?

  8. Clumsygirl: Welcome! and thanks for commenting -- that sounds like a lively, if challenging, visit to Paris. It must have been fun to watch the teens respond to the city. I'm not sure we've bypassed the Orangerie so far (altho' we've been to Giverny and that period gets so well covered elsewhere), but I'll keep your recommendation in mind for this time 'round when there will likely be fewer tourists lined up.
    Tiffany: Exactly! It's been so frustrating each visit to walk through wonderful street markets, past gorgeous offerings in the window of the fromageries, trying to ignore the call of the charcutier. I suspect there will be days when we will be quite happy holed up in our flat for a few hours with a good supply of bread, cheese, wine, and our books . . .
    And my, you're observant -- thanks for noticing the change to my header. I've made the addition you wisely suggested and I'm sure you noted that I borrowed a word from you.
    Terri: I try to post regularly while away, as long as I can find Wifi and the Netbook cooperates. You could check out my postings from the last few years in Paris, London, and Lisbon -- generally in May or June if you're scrolling the archives. I keep meaning to make those more readily accessible.

  9. Mardel: That's a tough one, but your reminder is timely. I'm actually feeling a bit resistant to the trip, thinking I should be making more productive (or a different kind of productive) use of my research leave, and save the gallivanting for when I'm retired. But Pater's retired and ready to go now, and I recognize that there are no guarantees about the quality of whatever years I may have ahead.
    Metscan: We do like to travel, although I'm pulled different ways on this -- part of me would quite happily settle in to a comforting work routine in my home office, spending weekends with Nola. Still, hard to complain about a month in Paris, taking in shows and galleries in London . . . and yes, there will be many posts of my trip.

  10. woot! How did I miss this post yesterday? It didn't show up in my google reader, but YAY!!!!

    Six weeks!!!! That's really exciting! So happy you'll be trying the apartment rental routine. If your unit has one of those washer/dryer combos, it will make the packing so much easier. I can hardly wait to hear more about your itinerary and the excursions you're planning. (If you go to Reims, we have some recommendations for champagne house tours.)

  11. Huge trip, big adventure! In Paris, March: silk long underwear, seriously. Cashmere. Gloves. I froze on a sleety March break in Paris and London, still a wonderful time but I had packed mostly "spring cottons"- ha! There are photos of me each day in the sweaters and scarves I bought.

  12. How exciting! I look forward to hearing more about your trip and what you plan to pack.

    Martin has a sabbatical coming up Spring 2012 and we just received the excellent news that our roof doesn't need replacing, just resealing, so we can go to Paris after all. We keep going back and forth regarding whether to visit the UK or Italy. We've visited Italy twice in the last six years as a couple, but never the UK. Plenty of time to decide.

    I think we'll be gone for a about a month. Six weeks is a long time, especially given the cost of boarding two cats.

    Thank you for the Parisaddress tip.

  13. Pseu: Isn't it exciting? I'm going to enjoy comparing plans. We're still very loose on our itinerary for the month we have the apt. Our main goal is to add at least one new European country, whether Italy, Spain, one of the Benelux bunch, or Germany. Our French tutor is recommending we check out Metz where he has some contacts -- and which sounds pretty attractive with the Chagall windows, the Gothic cathedral, etc.,
    Should Reims work into the plans, I'll get the deets from you, thanks.
    Duchesse: The climate's pretty similar to ours here on the Coast, so I know it can easily do either February or June! (I think of one May in Ottawa at an outdoor concert freezing -- always have more layers!). right now, I'm planning to shop for cashmere there anyway and will pack my Bompard v-neck. but I think the silk long underwear is a great idea . . . and they can double as loungewear/pjs in the apartment.
    Susan: Ah, so much more fun to spend on a trip than to spend on a roof (we've actually ended up doing both this year, so there will be much soup and beans to make up). We're determined to add one new country this time, but I have to admit we could keep doing London and Paris forever . . . London is so great for museums, galleries, and shows! So I sympathize with you making that decision--I'd be tempted to split the time between both. . .

  14. We stayed in an apartment offered by HiP Paris for our recent 8 night stay in Paris and it was a godsend! It saved us lots of money, as we ate out for lunch each day and ate at home for breakfast and dinner. Stopping on the way home at the local patisserie for une baguette each day made us feel like true locals. One thing I would suggest for such a long trip is to take comfortable "at home" clothing and slippers to change into after a long day of walking and touring. That will make your apartment feel even more like home. Enjoy your trip!

  15. Couture Allure: Thanks for sharing your experience -- now I'm even more excited! This cost-saving is part of what we're hoping for, but especially the ability to feel like locals in the various neighbourhood shops. I really like your idea of at-home clothes -- I'm really looking forward to picking up flowers for the apartment for a very chez moi vibe. . .


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