Thalys Through Brussels

To travel from Paris to Amsterdam on our April vacation, we purchased tickets on the Thalys train. The Thalys is the simplest, fastest, cheapest transportation between Paris and Amsterdam.

After the bombing at the Brussels airport and reading that the terrorists live near Brussels, we checked the routing of the Thalys and learned that it passes through Brussels. The shootings in the California city of San Bernardino show that no place is safe from terror. We decided to ride the Thalys as planned.

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Art Nouveau at Bouillon Racine

One can see art nouveau at Paris metro stations, some of which have curved railings and signs. Art nouveau was “was inspired by natural forms and structures, not only in flowers and plants, but also in curved lines. Architects tried to harmonize with the natural environment”.

In Paris we dined at the Bouillon Racine, a restaurant built in 1906 with an art nouveau style. The upstairs dining room has curved light fixtures, chairs, and mirror moldings. (Click on photos to see enlargements.)

Bouillon Racine upstairs
Bouillon Racine upstairs

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The Lady and the Unicorn

The unicorn is a legendary creature that has been described since antiquity as a beast with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead. … In European folklore, the unicorn is often depicted as a white horse-like or goat-like animal with a long horn and cloven hooves (sometimes a goat’s beard). In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it was commonly described as an extremely wild woodland creature, a symbol of purity and grace, which could only be captured by a virgin.

Intrigued by unicorn tapestries in New York and a painting from the Borghese, we visited the Paris Cluny Museum to catch the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries we had missed.

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Paris Food

Manifestation” the Paris bus driver said when we asked if his bus would go to Saint Paul. Manifestation is way beyond our “speak-a-little” French, but the English word hints at negative consequences. We asked “Métro?”, and the driver nodded his head. Holding bags of groceries purchased from Auchan at Porte de Bagnolet, we planned to return to our apartment on the 76 bus without a transfer. Instead, we took two métro trains, lugging our bags up and down stairs at each stop.

After internet searches, we learned there was a demonstration in Paris that day, and buses were avoiding the demonstration. And our French vocabulary grew — manifestation.

Seeing, choosing and eating local food are pleasures of travel. To provision apartment stays, we shop at Auchan in Paris and Rome, just as we shop at Costco in California, Hawaii, Montana, and Vancouver. Above are some souvenirs from our Auchan shopping trip: sardines in extra virgin olive oil and confit de canard.

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Passage Charlemagne

Paris is a large, busy city, but there’s a private part that visitors might miss. Paris is laid out with squarish blocks supporting interior courtyards hidden behind doors and gates. These courtyards give privacy and light to mansions and apartments.

We experienced this calm side of Paris during our April visit. From our Marais apartment, each day we walked through the 100-meter-long Passage Charlemagne. Built in 1825 and closed to the public in 2013, the passage spans four courtyards. A metal gate guards the passage at 119 rue de Rivoli, steps from the Saint Paul metro station.

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Sunday Stroll in the Marais

On a Sunday morning we strolled through the Marais district of Paris, as we did two years ago. People were out on sunny day, and the streets are closed to cars, turning the neighborhood into a large pedestrian zone.

We started at the Marché de la Bastille, a farmers market anchored by the Place de la Bastille. Above, this marble fountain in the middle of the market is a good place. We bought crêpes at the stand on the left. We were tempted by the roast suckling pig on the other side of the fountain, stopping several times, but we eventually decided to pass. The July column in the center of the Place is in the background.

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