Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gauging The Situation

Wispy Cardigan by Hannah Fettig (Purchase on

One of the great things about making mistakes (she says, only vaguely believing it), is that you may inadvertently learn something that would otherwise have come to you along a much circuitous route. And by you, I mean me. Though I welcome you to come along.

Such is the case with the Wispy Cardigan (that I'm about to finish in a size small). It's an ingenious design which, I'm fairly sure, has a drafting issue in the sleeves and back shoulders. I say fairly sure because I have only slightly more knitting experience than your average polar bear, so I very much welcome any more informed perspectives. But you know how I love to immerse myself in the learning of these patterns (working with a teacher, having just done a knit shaping course online, and having read a bunch) and I suspect that what makes the cardi so intriguing is what's leading to the gap-iness across the back at the shoulders.

In addition to the gap mentioned above, and note that I got gauge on a pre-knitting swatch, the sleeves are way to wide and floppy for either my tastes or my arms. Were I ever to make this again - and the jury is out - I would def resize the sleeves substantively. Maybe I'd knit the extra small in sleeves moving to the small in the body. Note: Having taken the Craftsy course, I now know how to use gauge to resize arm circumference exactly - presuming I can verify the amount of built-in ease. So I could also get hyper mathy on this pattern's ass.

Or, I might just move on to the next knit objet, taking from this what I can and will.
Which brings me to the most useful thing I can and will take from this project - a thing I only learned now because I accidentally used the wrong needle size on a brief section of the sweater (the part after the ribbing on the back that also includes 2, almost imperceptible, triangular flaps produced by what they call "short rows")*

At this time - and possibly for a long time to come - my eye prefers the look of rather slim fingering weight yarns (i.e. 4 ply or sock weight) knit on rather slim needles (size US 4 or 3.25 mm). They are neither the slimmest of yarns nor the slimmest of needles, but when you put them both together they produce a slender, tight knit. Nothing bulky. Nothing "open".

I have nothing against bulk or open weave for those who like them. But given my shape and my style, they aren't optimal. Furthermore, both bulk and larger and/or more open stitches say, to me, "knit with love by hand". While I appear to love knitting by hand, somehow I don't want my garment to tell that tale.

This opens up the floor to my first of a few questions in this post: Do any of you have an optimal yarn weight / needle size combo, or one that you return to again and again? Sub question: Do you have feelings about bulk or open weave (or tight weave for that matter)?

If you've already followed the asterisk, above, down to the bottom of the page you will have noted that my knitting teacher was completely nonplussed by the needle size error and suggested (truly) that it would all come out in the wash. More specifically, she said that wet blocking would fix it. You may recall blocking from one of my previous posts - or, if a knitter, no doubt you are already very familiar with the practice.

Thing about this sweater is that, in order to try to tighten it up slightly, the proposed "blocking" technique is to throw it in the washer and dryer. Just writing that sentence made me nervous. Note: The wool/silk blend is made for socks and is apparently designed to be cleaned in this ultra-practical fashion.

This leads me to Question 2: Has anyone else used Chloe & Spud fine sock yarn and put it through the washer/dryer? If yes, did you remove it from the dryer when damp and block - and did it work as it's supposed to? Did anyone dry it full on and was there any shrink factor? If it went wonky, pls. advise! Or if you've worked with other yarn, designed to wash and dry, what has been your experience?

The way this sweater is knit, any blocking must occur after full assembly; there's not much assembly and it occurs mid-way through the project. Even were I to forgo putting it in the washer/dryer (if your advice came back that way), I don't know that regular wet blocking would work - and I'm damn sure it isn't going to slim up the wide sleeve circumference issue.

* Yes, this traumatizes me but my knowledgeable knitting teacher said it would block out and not be noticeable. I wonder if this counts when one intends to block by throwing the garment in the washer and dryer - as the yarn instructions advise is acceptable.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In Which Kristin Examines the Warp and Weft of her Own Creative Impulse...*

You may feel it's been quiet on the crafting front and, to some extent that's true. Since mid summer I've been trying to inject a bit of balance into my creative undertakings. I know, crazy.

I've been largely successful - if successful means unproductive. In short, I spend practically as much energy wondering what it means to be "not crafting enough" as I would have on actual crafting. The difference is that I can do that around my family.

Don't misunderstand. I have made 2 sweaters in the last 6 weeks, and a dress (which is very close to languishing on the lawn unless the advice to simply cut off the facing - which has been under- and top stitched to the dress neck - produces a wearable result. Note: I'm not optimistic and it's too bad cuz my workmanship on that thing kicks ass.) I've learned numerous knitting techniques, started working semi-regularly with a teacher and taken a course on Craftsy, which I intend to put into action soon. I know what projects I next want to undertake: a silk version of the Pendrell blouse, a wool version of my wide-leg pants sloper and another knitted sweater (which I'm in the process of using Ravelry's amazing platform to help me to choose).

And yet I feel like an under-performer.

Why is that? (This is another one of the things I've spent a lot of time considering while not crafting.) At first I blamed it on you. :-) I mean, you have expectations of me. You've come to expect certain things. You're probably sewing up a storm (or doing some other fab, creative activity) occasionally reminded that I really haven't produced much lately.

Then it hit me that I really can be egomanical - as my husband loves to tell me. And projection truly is alive and well.

See, for better or for worse - put this on my pragmatism (which is legendary) or my people-pleasing nature - I am what I do. I'm only as good as that last technique, as that project in which I achieve and exceed expectations. The one in which I learn something I can apply going forward. Throw in a clinical dose of OCD and it's a veritable bomb.

Lord, that's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I'm always motivated to do more - which inclines one to do more, don't you think? Note: I love finishing garments, and enjoying them (when they work out). It's not like I don't enjoy the crap out of the process or the outcome. On the other, I shouldn't be enslaved to these things (or more importantly, to my impression of what it means to do them in a more measured way).

Sorry to say, there's no point to this diatribe. I suspect I haven't resolved anything by reconsidering the topic or by writing about it. Of course, I love lively debate and commiseration (not that I wish this style on anyone), so we might be able to extract some meaning in that respect. Sometimes you have to put it down on paper to pick it up in real life. Here's hoping...

*Sounds deep, huh?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Updated: Coincidence is Kind

Sweet Custard Tart aka Flan by Michel Roux
Can be found in his (extremely excellent) book Pastry: Savory and Sweet
This book is a must-have for aspiring - and skilled - pastry bakers.

You may recall my rhapsodic description of the flan I ate semi-regularly during my recent trip to Paris. I cannot adequately express the beauty of that pastry. The custard was perfectly formed, neither eggy nor loose. Vanilla bean infused a delicious confluence of cream and yolk. It perched atop a crust that bore no signs of supporting something, frankly, wet (as custard is). That crust was not flaky, but light and dry, very slightly sweet, infused with butter. The tart was so balanced, my ingestion of it was a veritable religious experience.

You probably know how I love food. A perfect meal is amongst my great meaningful life memories (those I'll take with me to my death bed) and - so happily - I had one such meal at Libretto last night. Everyone should eat that pizza (did I mention I don't even like pizza) - just get there by 6 pm or you'll wait in line all night. At any rate, I digress.

Imagine my joy, 5 minutes ago, on discovering (while reviewing the pate brisee recipe, in M. Roux's book, to see if the brisee I have stored in the freezer may still be edible a year later - I'm going to take my chances on a lardons quiche tonight) a photo of my beloved flan in the Enriched Sweet Pastries chapter!

He refers to it as "flan boulanger" (bakery custard), a childhood staple. Trust me, it's one of those tastes that makes the brain ring with association.

I'm away in Mtl. next weekend, or you can bet I'd have this baking on my agenda. It will just have to wait till the weekend after. Alas, if the baking goddess smiles on me, I may be able to recreate my own best memories to share, and to enjoy, with a perfect doppio espresso.

NB Update: Pate brisee will NOT last in the freezer for a year. As it thawed, the dough was a gluten-y mess. So, I got to make some new dough...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brief Administrative Update

Y'all: I'm slowly working my way back through (much appreciated) comments and replying. So sorry that it's taken me this long. As always, I am thrilled to hear your thoughts so please keep them coming. xoxo

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

EuroLoot: Coral Cashmere - Paris

Why save the best for last, I say?

This is perhaps the most fantastic cashmere I've ever bought. Three-ply and insanely soft, there was NO. FUCKING. WAY I was leaving Paris boutique, Sandro, without it.

Ever heard of Sandro? It's a Paris-born chain (for want of a better term) that's gone Europe-wide (and will go international soon). The link shows photos of the very place I shopped - and it doesn't do it justice. What a pleasantly adult experience.

I've rarely spent more on a single item of clothing than on this, but on those I have, they were also cashmere - or fur. It's a perfect, vibrant coral - and I don't even like coral!? - that goes so well with my skin tone it floored me. Hell, it floored the sales associate, a friendly though reserved, totally attractive French guy who (frankly) didn't have the acting skills to fake his reaction.

Check out the asymmetric front on this thing, and the side vents. To me, it says: "I have so many other pieces of glorious cashmere, I've decided to go with the most insane cut and colour that a turtle neck has ever seen".

I love the rib and those little holes that sit atop it. They give a luxe texture to the knit.

And here am I, at De Kas (the best restaurant I've been to in a long time), having just finished a glass of Champagne with lemon verbena sprigs, unsure of what would come next - but certain I would not be disappointed:

a bad backdrop, huh?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back to the Future

My child goes away for 6 weeks and comes back looking like:

a) she's 15, and
b) she washed up ashore from 1983.

She shopped for these clothes herself - under the benevolent supervision of my mother, who had no difficulties of any sort (she would like you all to know). The glasses are fake. How on earth anyone of any generation can get away with 80's glasses is beyond me, but I think she manages it. Good thing, since she has 2 pairs - these and a black and white checkerboard version?!

PS: That's the mandated pixie haircut 2 months in. Lord, that haircut caused misery. It was the necessary outcome of a lice incident (the one that broke the camel's back). It didn't help that a little kid in North Carolina mistook her for Justin Bieber and almost started a mob.

PPS: Trying to draw hairstyle comparisons to gorgeous supermodels from the 80s has had relatively little positive effect, what with my kid having absolutely no sense of anything before 1995.

Ms. E's wan grin gives evidence of her prediction that one day children would be unaware of her great influence.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

EuroLoot: Motorcycle Jacket in Fleece - Amsterdam

There's a striking difference between French and Dutch fashion, though both cultures are utterly stylish: The French dress to suit their sophisticated whims; the Dutch dress for the weather.

As a Canadian, I completely get that.

The first thing I did, on arriving in Amsterdam on a rainy, 13 degree C-Saturday afternoon, was to buy this jacket:

What with it being July 30, I didn't imagine it would come in that handy - but I wore it every day. Seriously, if I never wear this thing again, I got my money's worth.

Cool feature: It's brandless. There is no label on it anywhere. I think there must have been a name on the tag that came with it (long ago discarded), but now it almost feels handmade.

The workmanship is excellent. It's true to form, but for its fabric. I love the zippers and the length of the sleeves. It's very warm. This seems, to me, extremely Dutch - totally practical, excellently designed, subdued and (more or less) water-impermeable - but with a twist you can't see coming.

Here's a (not so awesome) shot of it in action:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities (Neither of Which is in Europe)

Here's a fantastic clip of Jane Jacobs talking about urban planning and development in Toronto and Montreal in the late 1960s:

Video I found within this post on Spacing Montreal

Ms. Jacobs, as many of you know, was a pre-eminent - though not professionally trained - urban theorist who emigrated from America shortly before the CBC clip (above) was filmed. She's something of a legend in these parts.

It's fascinating to watch her discuss two of the cities I know best in the world, one of which I've lived in for 35 years (since shortly after most of this footage was shot), and to hear her perspective on the grass-roots genius that pervaded Toronto even back when it was very Good. Nonetheless (and just like now!), the city's official stance was to "stamp out fun". Montreal has never had that problem, apparently.

Montreal, according to Ms. Jacobs, managed to preserve while expanding, by allowing the old to coexist with the new, i.e. to avoid slum clearance - which never appears to improve the quality of life for those from whom the slums have been cleared. (The footage cites a number of locations.) Intriguingly, the author of the referential post on Spacing Montreal - Alanah Heffez - does not agree, as she discusses in her piece.

I thrill at recognizing landmarks captured on film before I was born. And I'm hardcore impressed to hear this woman, passionate about what the structure of cities says about how those cities are and how they will be, veritably intuit the outcome of mid-century urban design. She was immersed in the construct of "the city" - and in her own community - and yet she saw it from an elevated vantage point.

She did not shy away from the expression of her many, well-considered opinions at a time when many women were not allowed to have them. She's not shocking, not guarded, not limited by the disinterest of modern media. She addresses a highly political issue - the financial disenfranchisement of the French Canadians in Montreal during the last century - even offering up her own stance on the subject, without throwing herself into the fray.

You should watch this - even if you don't care about cities, urban planning, dead legends or cool b/w footage. I think it will compel you.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

EuroLoot: Silk Scarf (Handmade by Artist) - Paris

Reports of the end of Euro posts have been greatly exaggerated.

So I lied. Are you really going to hold it against me when you see the goodies??

To give you context for the EuroLoot series, this is where, over the next week or so, I'll show photos of my purchases in Amsterdam and Paris.

Some of these were bought by me, some by my husband as memorable and generous gifts.

You should be aware that, contrary to my usual philosophy (buy great things, but on sale) and my recent practice (make most garments by hand), I did not limit myself. Natch, some things were totally out of the realm of financial feasibility, but to the best of my ability, if I saw it and loved it (and it could fit in the one, carry-on suitcase I brought with me to Europe), I took the plunge.

For starters, here's a handmade scarf I found at an artist's market on the Left Bank:

Lucky that the as-yet unfinished wrap dress, still on the form, matches in colour-tone, yes?

Note the signature on the edge of the fabric...

The silk is of beautiful quality and the screening is superb. I love its geometric nod. It's like an earth-tone Mondrian with a few circles thrown in.

I could tell that the artist was thrilled when I tried it on and tied it in a number of different (blog-learned) ways. Not only did she enjoy seeing her work in action, but it does suit my blond pallor well. I love that it's the only one of its kind.

Friday, August 12, 2011

By the Numbers

OK, we're back. I can't really tell you what time it is, according to my body, or what day (for that matter), but it's very strange to be here.

So much to say. So many feelings and experiences are swirling in my jet-laggy brain. I start to cry spontaneously. Sometimes out of sadness over my return. Sometimes out of happiness for the beautiful weather in Toronto. Sometimes out of fear of my Visa bill. You know what I mean.

What better way to get back in the swing than with a reductive "Best of / Worst of" post! So, here goes...

Best single moment
  • Looking at the Seine from the Pont Neuf, during a clear (cold) sunset. The lights from the Eiffel Tower twinkled in the distance. Boats ambled by. Perfect architecture was framed by a perfect sky. I was in the thrall of a timeless experience. Lovers from all ages - famed and faceless - have watched that same sky with the same awe. Sounds stupid, but it was meditative and profound.
Worst food (overall)
  • Paris. People, I would never recommend this city for the savoury food. Admittedly, I don't know where to go and I might have had no luck, but I am like a food whisperer. I can generally find it anywhere.
Best Pastry
  • Paris. Lord, this was awesome. I ate a lot of flan (a very firm creme patissiere) in a beautiful laminated pastry, pie shell crust. I don't know how to describe it, except to say that it was perfection in every respect. Taste (perfectly sweet, not lingering), texture (firm enough to walk with but not too eggy, the crust was never soggy despite the viscous quality of the filling - how did they manage that?!?!), presentation (110%).
Best Cookies
  • Amsterdam
Best Bread and Butter
  • Amsterdam. I don't even like bread and I was stuffing it down as fast as they would bring it...
Best ice cream (on the planet)
  • Paris - Berthillon, Ile St. Louis
Best Shopping
  • Gotta give this one to Paris
Worst Plumbing
  • Paris
Worst Weather
  • Oooh, it's a toss up on this one...
Best Walking
  • Also a toss up. Gotta go with Paris. We loved the truly hidden Arene de Lutece (1st century colosseum) in the 5th, and then wandering to the Place de la Contrescarpe (the oldest place in Paris, apparently). While en route we found, by accident, Hemingway's home in Paris - though we had searched for it in vain for days. It was walking excellence.
Best Cycling
  • Is this even a contest?? Amsterdam, natch.
Best Crazy Expensive Upgrade
  • Business class on the trip home. OMG - how will I ever travel like the riff-raff again?? BTW, it makes the pain of the end of one's vacation much more bearable. And on KLM, you can upgrade online, 30 hours in advance, if there are any available seats. Note: We did it for an additional $450.00 a ticket and it was so worth it.
Worst Moment
  • Paris deluge, during which my clothing was plastered to me as if I had emerged from a swim in the ocean. It was dirty, freezing, unremitting and it killed any chance of alternate transportation. Stranded us, at dinner time, for about 2 hours. Don't believe me? Well, watch (Note: Video shot by my husband. This is first hand peeps...):

Most Elegant and Delicious Dinner
  • Amsterdam. Run, don't walk to this place. One of the top 25 best meals of my life. And a spectacular experience. PS: We walked there from the city centre - took an hour but the walk was fantastically interesting and it really sparked an appetite. Note: You don't choose what you're going to eat - they serve a fixed menu each day - but they do ask if you have any allergies or food-hates. I hate to give up control of my eating experience, but I was in the best hands. Every single morsel of food was sublime.
Chicest Boutique Hotel Lunch
  • Amsterdam - The Dylan. Please peeeps, someone go stay there and post about it.
Most surprising things
  • Amsterdam has better food than Paris, any day.
  • Every single building in Paris is historically relevant. (Only slight exaggeration...)
  • Paris Plage - extremely weird inner-city beach concept, especially given the weather we had.
  • I really am an adult. I went half way around the world on a fantastic vacation that didn't involve any back packs and it wasn't on my parents' dime.
Biggest brag
  • We didn't take one taxi in Europe. If we couldn't walk it (and we averaged 10 - 15 miles a day), we cycled, took a bus or tram, or went by subway. Somehow this makes me feel very native.
Other deep thoughts and observations:
  • Euro washrooms are MUCH better than they used to be - practically all cleaner and less scary than any you'll find in an average TO restaurant. Having said that, avoid having to pee at any cemetery.
  • The weather categorically sucked in both cities - 15C and rainy most days. Thank God the shopping was so good! Note that, despite my hatred of rain and gloom, this didn't depress me or limit me in any way. I felt liberated! And I was never too warm - you know how I loathe direct sunlight! Mind you, if you live in Amsterdam, you've got to just suck it up and consign yourself to eternal dampness.
  • The French I saw in Paris (and I knew they were, at least French, if not Parisian), were not substantively slimmer than your average urban North American.
  • Having said this, leave your vanity-sizing bias at home. Yikes, those clothes fit small.
  • Yeah, everything closes in Europe in August, but it's still fantastic. Don't let that stop you if it's the only time of year you can get away. FYI, Paris was much more shut than Amsterdam, for what it's worth...
  • This trip has made me realize - fully - how awesome the food is in Toronto (and in Montreal). We really have access to some of the best variety, quality and food ambiance in the world. I would unreservedly recommend either TO or Mtl for restaurants and for vacation.
  • It's also made me realize how tremendously awesome our hotels are in Canada. Esp. in Montreal and Quebec City. On this trip, we averaged $300.00 (CDN) a night per room in Europe and went to very respectable places - but they didn't compare to those I've stayed at in Canada. For that amount in Montreal you can get an awesome, sexy room, great bathroom, space, great bed and bedding, really good room amenities, excellent in-room toiletries and delish breakfast. And, while you're there, you'll find a terrific dinner practically anywhere - and you can even feel French, if you like.
  • Note: I'm not trying to lead you to believe we roughed it. We were in totally charming (and sometimes sexy) 4-star hotels. Mind you, to stay in Paris like I stay in Montreal would have cost me 800 bucks a night.
  • This trip has in no way undercut my love of travel closer to home. It's only enhanced it on its own merits though, naturally, if I could, I'd go back to Europe yearly!
I realize that it's very irritating to hear about someone else's fantastic holiday, so I promise this concludes EuroKris 2011, if at all possible.

But let's open up the lines here - what was your best and / or worst in Paris or Amsterdam? Share your experience - I want to know!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Thousand Words

This city is the most gorgeous place imaginable. Read some Hemingway, if you want a second opinion. And look at this view of Notre Dame from the edge of our island, taken at sunset this evening:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Just A Few Things...

I'm writing on a very uncooperative iPad so I'll cut to the chase...

- When in Paris, go see the Montparnasse cemetary. It manages, somehow, to be chic and poignant simultaneously. And Sartre and Serge Gainsbourg are there. It's a place of elegant repose, where, unlike in Pere Lachaise, the residents have no fear of potential deportation.

- It rains constantly and unpredictably here - and hard enough to wreck your expensive shoes, so beware. It's actually shocking how the weather patterns work. Sun is followed by massive downpours in a moment. Note: Not like Florida showers at all.

- You know you're a woman of a certain age and stage when you actually return a main at a Paris restaurant because it's just not good enough. The follow up plate was much less mediocre and I'm almost sure that no one spit in it :-)

- I rapidly approach food fatigue though, tonight, I did opt to sample three brands of ice cream back-to-back. After a Sauterne. I sort of hate myself right now and I feel like a pig - not the cute kind.

- Velib rental bikes are not well-maintained so rent with caution. We had to return two for problems like bad seats and tires with low air. And the payment system is like something out of the dark ages - I mean, early middle ages.

- I have a zillion photos queued for the next post (Scott has taken some awesome shots, really) but it's very challenging to work without a reliable computer. Those of you who aren't totally bored by such things, please stay tuned. This city is outrageously beautiful.

- At this point I'm willing to say that, while Paris wins for clothes shopping (OMG), Amsterdam gets my vote for food. Not that both countries don't do each of these very adequately...

- If you want to see the Catacombs, get thee to the guichet at 9 a.m. or call it a loss. We arrived (stupidly, and knowingly so) at noon, and the line was longer than the venues open hours. Damn. I do love the creepy stuff...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

C'est La Vie

Paris is just as you'd imagine it, except grander. Lord, it's fancy here. And historic. And the shopping is fucking epic. (Note: I have done some serious damage.) The food is delicious - though, so far, no better than that in Amsterdam, IMO. The pastry is fairly awesome but it's the ice cream that's blowing me away. Have you ever heard of Berthillon?

I think we can all agree that I know a thing or two about ice cream. I mean, I make my own. I eat it in all the towns of the world in which I find myself. I live in Toronto's gelato-centrale. And this may actually be the best ice cream I've ever had the pleasure to stuff in my mouth, scoop-by-scoop at a time.

It happens I'm staying on Ile St. Louis - 5 seconds from the Berthillon shop. (Scott just read this sentence over my shoulder and is scandalized that I didn't first tell you we are 5 minutes away, and a bridge, from Notre Dame - the bells of which we are listening to as I type.) I don't know how I will continue to fit into the absurdly expensive, chic clothing I appear to be buying at approximately the same pace.

Zut alors!

Let me say that the French people are delightful - very correct, formal, honest and humourous. No, they're not warm. Nothing about this town is warm. The sky is foreboding, the architecture slabbish and extreme. The Seine is beautiful, and grey. I've been wearing jeans and sweaters. Yesterday we were caught in, I believe, the worst storm of my life. Transit had to reroute the buses because the streets had flooded 4 feet. Scott and I were caught in it. 5 seconds into the deluge, with clothing incoherently glued, I was like a drowned poodle, unable even, to see through my glasses - and I was under an awning?! A woman who took shelter in a covered bus stop with us wore a white blouse. She might as well have been naked. Happily for her, she was insouciantly francaise.

We have spoken French most of the time and the natives respond to us in kind. Today, I had a charming, but honest, experience while chatting with the concierge. At one point, it became apparent that I misunderstood part of our conversation (when Scott corrected me) and she said - surprised - "Oh, your husband's French is better than yours...", whereupon she confirmed my accent was superior. Look, Scott is from Quebec. Duh, his French is better, though his accent is definitely dubious. But I sense the concierge was thinking regrettably out loud! Note: She followed this comment quickly with a "your French is excellent too" proviso. Hmmm...

Our hotel is amazing. It's built from the bones of the last indoor tennis court in Paris. Seriously, it's a place of such merit that groups of people stop in front of it, with their tour guides, to learn more about its abundant history. Proviso: So is just about every other building in the 'hood, by the looks of it.

You could walk for days - we've put in about 16 hours over 2 days, so far - and see relatively little. We did go - and I would totally recommend it - to the Le cimetière du Père-Lachaise, the cemetary wherein so many notable historic figures (and Jim Morrison) have been interred. Do you know, you don't get your plot there in perpetuity? Once it becomes gungy (cuz there's no one left to take care of it), you are at risk of being dug up, respectfully cremated, and scattered by one of the larger memorials. FYI, Mr. Morrison's grave, by far the most popular, was in no way spectacular.

The French common areas and parks are horticulturally splendid and beautifully maintained but I'm vaguely dismayed to advise that they torment half of their trees by turning them into topiaries!?! All of these lovely, lofty plants groomed into oblivion... Somehow, though, I just drink more Bordeaux and it's all ok.

A few pics for your viewing pleasure:

Shot of the bathroom in the hotel...

Me, after having ingested something...

Et avec du cafe... (After pastry) Gotta say, coffee here isn't rocking my world... I'm beginning to suspect the best coffee is in TO - which seems rather counterintuitive.

Seriously spooky grave (of which there are thousands at the Pere Lachaise)...

Somehow, in Pere Lachaise, it looked like autumn from every vantage point. The minute one leaves the cemetary, it turns back into summer (of sorts).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rain and Shine

We had an amazing time yesterday, cycling around. As you may know, Scott uses a bicycle as his main form of transportation in TO. I hadn't been on one for 20 years, but the old saying is totally true! Apparently, many tourists find cycling trecherous here - kind of like driving in Rome. We loved it, but then S has familiarity going for him and I'm a crazy badass. The key is confidence. I mean, they're not agressive. Totally the opposite. They don't even wear helmets - which, in Toronto the Good will land you a ticket - and the open judgement of every observer. I admit to being scandalized by the ommission of safety gear on infants. Especially as parents drive 2 or 3 to a bike...

In TO, everyone criticized Scott for riding M on the rack at the back of his bike for the first 10 years of her life. (What? You ever tried to get a whining kid to school on time on a January morning??) Seriously, people took the opportunity to malign him at stoplights. Here, the practice is commonplace. Note: it also has the benefit of developing an excellent centre of balance!

We had the bikes booked again today but the weather has not cooperated, and I don't have one of those hideous rain slickers people wear and I'm not going to spend the day wet for the pleasure of riding around. Sorry, Scott.

I'm loathe to tell you more about the food - which continues to rock my world - cuz I'm worried you may think I have a disorder. I will say that I spent an enjoyable 30 minutes at a grocery store; I love to see how other people eat. The store is half the size of one in North America. In Canada, we have 200 kinds of cookies. Here they have 20 - and they all look kind of similar. The produce is very expensive, but lovely. The dairy section kicks ass. People, the Activia yogurt comes in glass jars! They have wacky dairy desserts, the likes of which I find very appealing. Everything is caramel - nature's perfect flavour. The chips come in brands we would recognize, but in super fun flavours, like Paprika.

I've learned something new about myself: I'm a hotel breakfast eater. I don't know if this will come as a shock to anyone - as I love eating in hotels, even in my home city - but it has finally crystalized that I cannot bear to wander around in search of food while my blood sugar plummets. I am overwhelmed by breakfast, in general. I can't eat before I drink coffee. I can't eat till I've been awake for at least an hour. I must have 2 fried eggs, 3 slices of bacon and an espresso, without having to work at it. (To the amusement of my workmates, this is what I eat at my desk everyday at approximately 10:00 am.) All of this bread and sweets before lunchtime freaks me out. Pancakes symbolize the worst of it! I can't stand the thought of syrup on bread.

On this psychologically ambiguous note, it is time for me to brave the rain. Lunch awaits, after all. And you may be relieved to note: for that meal, all bets are off.

Monday, August 1, 2011


The food here is awesome. I bought the most perfect coconut-dusted, Argentinian alfajores. And pumkin soup with crayfish. And Sicilian olives (the excellent light green kind) and ravioli with squid (which tasted like ham, for some bizarre reason, not that I'm complaining). Not to mention that there's really reasonably priced booze everywhere.

Every experience is amazing and it's all bracketed by yummies. Alors, my hedonism is in high-gear. How I wish I were a moderate person... In a moment of alteredness, I somehow ate a box of Dutch butter cookies. 900 calories later, I was devastated to find them all gone. As I write, I'm in my room drinking a Brunello. Makes that stuff I get at the LCBO seem like swill.

The weather was delicious today. I only had to supplement my summer outfit with a sweater and tights! :-) Seriously, it was totally sunny and 20 degrees. Fabulous weather for wandering. I actually packed the tights by accident. Hello? Who packs tights in August?? But how handy is that?

Here are a few photos (bad scene if you hate people who post their vacation pics):

PS: I'd really appreciate it if one of my more solvent readers could stay here and write about it. It was my goal to take the hit for us all, but the 500 euro a night charge surpassed my means.