Un chocolat viennois s’il vous plaît

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Paris 2016 café culture

Marie. Starbucks, Paris.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2016

I had a list of maybe forty-two different restaurants and cafés that I wanted to visit when in Paris. But sometimes the idea of what you’d like to do when visiting a different city stifles the doing in itself. So the eatery list was placed aside and what was left were the serendipitous finds of round the corner cafés and restaurants, closest in proximity usually, to our other list – places of interest.

Paris has a rich café culture to offer, a total joy and treasure of the city.

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The Opéra Garnier in Paris, France

Opera Garnier in Paris, France

The Paris Opera house, also known as Opéra de Paris or Opéra Garnier.
Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro-Nilsson 2009

If there is something that makes the French French, I think that is a certain spirit – they just don’t do boring. It’s in the fashion, women in skyscraper skinny stilettos in the Metro in the morning, their passion for life and, in their architecture. Take this Opera Garnier for example. It’s an orgy in marble and gilt, exudes a love of life and is a grand example of how to do things with panache!

Just consider that they started to plan this building with its surrealistic grandiosity less than half a century after the French Revolution in 1793, when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had been publicly beheaded because of their opulent life style.

The realization that there actually is an indoor lake under the basement make you half and half believe that there probably is a phantom somewhere in there too. All sets the stage in our minds for a great theatre play. You just need to step inside and the grand entrance staircase will within the blink of an eyelid place you in the spotlight, on stage in the theatre of life, cast as the star.

Top of the Opera Garnier or Palais Garnier in Paris, France

On the roof are sculptures of Apollo, Poetry and Music by Aimé Millet and Liberty by Charles Gumery.

The grandeur strikes you already when you set your eyes on it from across Place de l’Opéra. Above the golden frilly edge of the roof are statues of Apollo, ‘Poetry’ and ‘Music’. This is the ideal setting and one can think that Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (1909) must have basically written itself. This was also the story that was later adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber to the musical, The Phantom of the Opera in 1986 and became one of Broadway’s longest running musicals of all time. I can’t even write the title without hearing the theme in my mind. Continue reading “The Opéra Garnier in Paris, France”

The Eiffel Tower in Paris by night in early spring

Under the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Under the Eiffel Tower at night in early spring in Paris, France.
Photo © Jan-Erik Nilsson for CMC, 2009

Considered by the French as a national embarassment and an architectural eyesore on French landscape when it was first erected in 1889, the Eiffel Tower is now one of the world’s most recognizable construction. Though not the highest lattice tower in the world, it could well be the most replicated structure of our time and you can find versions of it in countries such as China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, Romania, the USA and Denmark.

When it was suggested that I should visit the Eiffel Tower by night, I thought that rather a ludicrous idea – what could you possibly see at the Eiffel Tower at night?

But we were in Paris to do all things crazy and romantic, so why not.

It took less than ten minutes from where we were to get to the Eiffel Tower by taxi. When we got out, instead of pitch black deserted grounds as I had expected, we were greeted by crowds of people in vibrant, cheerful spirits. Tourists and Parisiens were there on excursion and you had local street vendors who sold everything from roses to stuffed plush toys, Eiffel Tower keychains and all sorts of sourvenirs they could wrap up under their generous woollen coats.

To my delight, the base of the Eiffel Tower was alive with activity and more than that, the crowd was basked in the warm orange glow of light emanating from the Eiffel Tower by night. And it was this warm glow of light that we found ourselves embraced in, as we walked to the entrance of the Eiffel Tower.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, looking up the belly of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Myself, lying on a bench under the Eiffel Tower, looking straight up in to the belly of the trellised structure.

The visual journey and experience of the Eiffel Tower begins even before you get close to its ticketing entrance. The intricately latticed structure knocks the wind right out of your lungs just by you standing at the base, looking up. It’s as if you were looking up into the heart and core of this enormous construction of iron. The flickering lights by night made it look like the Eiffel Tower lived and breathed the very heartbeat of Paris and you’re at once entranced and puzzled by how soft and romantic a piece of metal structure can look.

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The mysterious ‘Notre Dame’ Cathedral in Chartres, France

The heart of Chartres, the Notre Dame Chartres Cathedral looms impressively over the town and is visible from miles along the plains of Beauce.

The entire landscape around the city of Chartres about 45 km south of Paris, is mostly flat agrarian countryside. Mile after mile of fertile soil made the foundation of wealth that went into the building of this Cathedral. From a distance, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres seems to float among the clouds. This impossibly large structure strikes you as unlikely as Noah’s ark, just stranded on the mountains of Ararat.

The west facade of the Notre Dame in Chartres, a magnificent piece of mid 12th century high Gothic architecture. Its famous Portail Royal, completed about 1155, is currently under restoration. In this picture, the right (south) tower is the original, older, from about 1150. The higher, left (north) tower was rebuilt in 1513 after a fire.

The medieval charm of Chartres envelopes you as a warm cloak even as you approach the small town. The river Eure that runs through the town provides it with a picturesque backdrop and one is immediately taken in by the timbered architecture of the houses that line the cobbled streets, making them look almost right out of a Brothers Grimm fairytale.

At the heart of this city is the massive and striking Notre Dame Cathedral in its Gothic glory. From afar, the looming structure seems to float on clouds. It is only upon drawing closer that you realize that it sits quite solidly, on a hilltop, previously known as The Mound. Continue reading “The mysterious ‘Notre Dame’ Cathedral in Chartres, France”

Visiting the Rothschild vineyards in Bordeaux, 2008

Visiting Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s Vineyards in Bordeaux

The region of Bordeaux was legendary to me. I had heard of it long before I ever thought I would visit it. To me, Bordeaux was superior wines, it’s romantically undulating landscapes that the grapevines so needed to grow, the warm weather and the rustic lifestyle of grape harvesting and wine making.

Even though my knowledge of wines is limited to be able to recognize a good wine when I am served one, I expected to hit every single chateau in sight for some wine tasting, inspect all barrels of wines in different stages of aging and come away with much greater knowledge than before I set foot here.

It was such a disappointment then, that the day we had set out to explore Bordeaux, was a French national holiday weekend and all chateaus were closed!

With a sunken heart, we decided to travel around some and take a look at the vineyards and chateaus anyway, targeting one of our favourites, the Rothschild’s vineyards in the Médoc area just northwest of Bordeaux. Since the history of the Rothschild family, as well as the history of the vineyard and the wines all have approached mythical proportions, we decided this was worth doing even if there would be no one on grounds to meet.

A signpost leading the way to maybe the most famous of all vineyards in Bordeaux. The vineyards and chateaus are generally easy to find, following the signs.

The roads were tiny and winding slightly up and slightly down. They were also bare of any vehicles or crowds due to the holiday.
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Stirred, not shaken, in Monte Carlo

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In the background, Le Grand Casino, Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, D Neikter-Nilsson, CM Cordeiro-Nilsson 2008

The kingdom of Monaco is stunningly famous despite its modest land area. Only 800 meters by 4.8 km (0.5 x 3 miles) it is the second smallest country in the world. The only state even smaller is the Vatican inside Rome. As such, you can walk clean through the country of Monaco almost without noticing that you’ve entered or left it. The country is however, fantastically scenic as it clings to the rocky, sometimes vertical slopes of the coast of the Mediterranean sea. One fifth of the entire city-state of Monaco is reclaimed from the sea and the main feature of this place is a very large harbour where the exceedingly rich who live here have their luxury yachts.
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The Cannes Film Festival beach

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Cannes beach 1 2008

As the beach was just 100m across La Croisette from our hotel,
it was only a matter of grabbing the towels and go!

Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro-Nilsson 2008

When in Cannes, there really isn’t much to do in this city except eat, shop and watch movies, so after a hearty breakfast buffet at the Majestic Barrière, we did what most people along the La Croisette were there to do; we went swimming!
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Hotel Majestic Barrière, Cannes

Cannes – City of dreams.
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The Hotel Majestic Barrière offers a splendid view across the La Croisette towards the Cannes Film Festival’s main building with its roof designed as a spacious helipad. To the left, is the beach where a bikini clad Brigitte Bardot introduced a new beach fashion to a whole world in the early 1950s. In the middle is the private entrance for artists to the festival building, right now leading into the Palais Club discotheque. Further out is the Port de Cannes where many large and comfortable private yachts are anchored.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro-Nilsson 2008

Once a year the city of Cannes becomes the focal point to all who hold any hope of making it into the fame and fortunes of the international movie industry, as it hosts the most important film festival in the world, the annual Festival de Cannes.
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Quiet? In St. Tropez, Côte d’Azur

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St. Tropez is characterised by narrow streets that lead straight to the Riviera front.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro-Nilsson 2008

Located on the French Riviera, the ancient town of Saint-Tropez is as beautiful in the day as it is in the night when the coastal stretch is lit in what seems like a mellow glow of romantic amber against the velvet navy of the ocean and night sky, nothing that reminds of its intriguing and turbulent history from the time of Nero and the Roman Empire.

Having somewhat been at the cross-roads of all sorts of trade and warfare, it was here in this town that was said that France had first contact with the Japanese in September of 1615, obliged to spend the time in St. Tropez due to bad weather conditions, when the Japanese were en route to Rome. Continue reading “Quiet? In St. Tropez, Côte d’Azur”