Notre-Dame de Paris

 

When in Paris… sometimes not having a plan and just showing up can lead you to a wonderful surprise and an unforgettable experience.

Bruno_Gaget_Notre_Dame_Cathedral_Paris_FranceIt was sunset when we passed by the main entrance to Cathédrale Notre Dame, taking casual notice of the movement of people congregating toward the doors. Since it was the end of the day, we thought it was somewhat unusual, so we wandered in to see for ourselves. As we drew closer to the main altar we realized that a mass would soon begin and so we too settled in, gazing about in full anticipation.  We expected to participate in a traditional mass but were rather treated to the vespers service, a sunset evening prayer service. Vespers opens with the singing or chanting of the words (in French) and continues throughout the ceremony, interchanging between the priest and the choir. Understanding the French language is not necessary. Simply behold and listen. The innate beauty of this special ceremony is a profoundly moving experience and one that you won’t soon forget.

Today, the cathédrale is a sparkling crowned jewel, as well as a collective symbol of faith’s bright energy, hope never-ending and indomitable will. Badly damaged during the French Revolution, the cathédrale and many it’s treasures were either destroyed or plundered. The statues of the biblical kings of Judah (erroneously thought to be the kings of France), located on a ledge on the facade of the cathédrale were beheaded, however, the great bells were spared from being melted down. Sadly, the cathédrale came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food.

Bruno_Gaget_Paris-France_Cathedral_Notre_DameIn 1829, the great French poet and novelist, Victor Hugo began writing Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), largely in part to create public awareness about the invaluable importance of the cathédrale he so admired. His novel was published in 1831 and was met with enormous success, thus leading to the monument’s salvation and major restoration, undertaken in 1845 and lasting 20 years.

Long considered an artistic masterpiece of Gothic architecture with stained-glass rosette windows, towers and gargoyles, the cathédrale is the most popular French monument visited by 13 million people each year.  By ascending the 387 steps in the South Tower, you can enjoy a 360° panoramic view of Paris.  Requiring less stamina, is a visit to the archaeological crypt which was built to protect the ruins and elements from successive buildings, discovered during the excavations in 1965. 

Access to the cathédrale is open and free of charge every day of the year.  Visit their website for directions, opening hours, services, concerts and events.  So When in Paris…

Bruno_Gaget_Paris_France_Cathedral_Notre_Dame_Seine_River

John Baxter and The Lost Generation

It was the late autumn of 2013 when we first met Australian-born author, journalist and filmmaker, John Baxter. This was a very demanding but exciting time for John as he was releasing three new books; Paris at the End of the World, The Golden Moments of Paris and his Kindle single, The King Kong Syndrome. After several months had passed, we returned to Paris and met John once again. Only this time we joined him for his literary walking tour of the neighborhood of Odéon, home to many of the great artists of The Lost Generation of the 1920s and 1930s.    

Bruno_Gaget_Jardin_du_Luxembourg_Paris
The Médici Fountain in the Jardin du Luxembourg, 6th Arrondissement of Paris

As an expatriate living in Paris since 1989, John had the good fortune of residing on rue de l’Odéon, in the very same building as Sylvia Beach, the American-born publisher and founder of the famous Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, circa 1919-1941. Processing all of the historical information coupled with John’s sprinkling of juicy details about the artists of this period, sent our collective imaginations into overdrive. But we also couldn’t resist wondering if it was mere coincidence or John’s destiny that he too, came to live and work in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, just as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound once did. Regardless, it was crystal clear that John had respectfully embraced his rightful home which fueled his inspiration for creating the captivating storytelling found in his books and literary walks.

Bruno_Gaget_John_Baxter_Joanne_Gaget_Paris_St_Germain_de_Pres
John Baxter sharing a historical tidbit about a brothel of the old neighborhood.

As we set off through the streets of Odéon, John began with the story of Sylvia Beach and her supportive role in the progressive community of American expatriate artists who influenced the modernist movement, otherwise known as The Lost Generation.  Their creative explosion was also supported by Eugene and Maria Jolas, who founded Transition, an influential Parisian literary journal that served as a platform for avant-garde writers, visual artists and political activists. Transition was distributed primarily by Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare & Company Bookstore. Also instrumental in publishing the works of these writers, were the American publishers and founders of Black Sun Press, Harry and Caresse Crosby. With eloquence and whimsy, John details their scandalous liaisons, decadent and bohemian lifestyles and sadly the tragic demise met by many, all while making us feel as if you were just “let-in” on a big secret.

Bruno_Gaget_Man_Ray_Studio_Paris_Odeon
The apartment and adjoining studio of American visual artist, Man Ray and his wife Juliet.

So, if plans for a literary walking tour through Odéon or Montparnasse are not on your bucket list any time soon, you can always experience the next best thing through John’s book, The Most Beautiful Walk in the World – A Pedestrian in Paris. Historical, factual and fun, John brings the reader through the neighborhoods of old Paris while introducing the names and faces of the famous, the notorious and the noteworthy.

Till then, join us and take a look back!

A Bientôt

Bruno_Gaget_Jardin_du_Luxembourg_Paris_Chairs_Relaxing_Feet_up

A DAY AT LE GRAND PARQUET

Grand_Parquet_Fontainebleau_Equestrian_France_Bruno_Gaget copy

Widely recognized by professionals as one of the finest sporting venues in Europe, Le Grand Parquet is situated on the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau. Once the private hunting grounds for the kings of France, the forest is a historical reminder of man’s long standing relationship and special bond with the horse. Today, the forest continues to cultivate that alliance at the Le Grand Parquet, with its pristine trails and reverence for the sport both enjoyed by horse and rider.

This open air theatre is also where the Societé Hippoque Francaise (French Horse Society) tests young horses and sport ponies ages 4, 5 and 6 in the disciplines of Jump, Eventing, Dressage, Coupling, Endurance and Hunter. Over several days of jumping events, the riders and their young horses demonstrated their excellence in equitation and sport while keeping us on the edge of our seats. With the training and conditioning of the young horse well underway, the results at a competitive event can vary. Just as each horse is unique in its own personality, so is their level of maturity and readiness. Adding to the challenge for the horse and rider are the courses and jumps designed with fluctuating degrees of difficulty. While most horses are well behaved and confident, others can be a bit skittish and insecure. This is where the art of horsemanship comes into play. These accomplished riders remain calm and in control of these youngsters who may suddenly spook, refuse a jump or take to the course with lightning speed!  In spectating these sporting events, you are offered a glimpse into the dynamic of these world class riders and their potential champion steeds. Theirs is an effective and powerful communication, each moving in perfectly balanced harmony and graceful execution. More moving is the combination of exquisite beauty, sensitivity and superior athleticism common in the soulful spirit of every horse. They simply take your breath away.

Bruno_Gaget_Grand_Parquet_Fontainebleau_French_Equestrian copy

The equestrian events at the Le Grand Parquet are sponsored by the Ville of Fontainebleau and are free of charge. The stadium also offers a gourmet restaurant overlooking the grand course as well as lighter fare, refreshment stands and equine vendor booths available throughout. So if you’re horse-crazy like me, be sure to make a day of it…or perhaps two, at this spectacular sporting venue located at RN 152, route d’Orléans in Fontainebleau http://www.grandparquet.com/.

Bruno_Gaget_Grand_Parquet_Fontainebleau_France_Horse_Equestrian_Jumpers

Leave the Car Home!

On your next trip to the farmers’ market in search of the freshest and finest organic ingredients, take the bike!!  Oh and don’t forget your basket and bungies for the ride home.Bruno_Gaget_Joanne_Gaget_My-Bike

Bonjour, Bikes, Baskets and Bungies…scenes from the French farmers market in Fontainebleau.  Who said shopping can’t be fuss-free and fun?

Bruno_Gaget_Fontainebleau_Farmers_Market_Bikes

What’s Green and in Season?

Watch Professor of Cuisine, Jack Legras of Lenôtre demonstrate a simple preparation technique for asparagus.  So put your knives aside and check out the latest from Le Menu Maison.  (French with English Subtitles)

Kicking Things Off With Coquilles

This recipe demands a bit of extra time and attention, but is well worth the effort. With the weekend upon us, you can dazzle your dinner guests or simply enjoy this sumptuous dish, just for two!

Coquilles St. Jacques

Bruno_Gaget_Coquille_St_Jacques_Scallops_Le_Menu_Maison

Ingredients

••  8 large scallops rinsed and drained  ••  2 shallots finely chopped 

••  1 garlic clove crushed  ••  1 tbsp butter  ••  1 lemon  ••  sea salt to taste  

••  2-3 tbsp white wine  ••  sprig of fresh rosemary 

1 bay leaf  ••  few sprigs of finely chopped chive  ••  1-2 tbsp crème fraîche 

•• 1 tsp Dijon mustard  ••  1/4 bouquet of freshly chopped parsley to garnish 

•• rice and boiled potatoes ••

 •• scallop shells from the poissonnière, fish monger or seafood merchant ••

Preparation

Begin by preparing the rice, rinsing the scallops and setting aside. •• In a small-medium size sauté pan, add the shallots, garlic and butter. •• Cook over a low heat for approximately 15 minutes. •• Once golden brown, remove from the pan and set aside. •• Déglacer the same sauté pan with the juice squeezed from half of a fresh lemon, a pinch of sea salt and 2-3 tbsp of white wine. •• Let it reduce until it slightly thickens. •• Add a sprig of rosemary, bay leaf, chive and the onion mixture back into the sauté pan. •• Let it thicken but not to a paste consistency, leaving some liquid to be absorbed by the rice. •• Add a tbsp or 2 of créme fraîche and a tsp of Dijon mustard. •• In a separate sauté pan, on high heat, cook the scallops until slightly browned, while squeezing another half fresh lemon over the scallops as they cook. •• Add a tbsp of butter and some sea salt while slowly moving the pan about. •• Using tongs and a spurtle, gently flip the scallops once only. •• Remove from the heat and add the scallops to the sauce pan. •• Stir gently to coat. •• Serve over a bed of rice and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

•• Bon Appétit ••

 

A French Breakfast New York City Style

Bruno_Gaget_Morning_Cafe_FranceBreaking the fast in France is typically fuss-free and minimal.  Great starts begin with fresh fruits in season and tartine, which is another name for your favorite crusty bread topped with butter and jam. Morning coffee is “cafe au lait” (coffee with milk) served in a small bowl which comes in handy when dipping your tartine.

Bonne Journée.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Cooking Up Colcannon 

Our quick and easy recipe for Colcannon dates back to Ireland’s darker days when such frugal menu items were an economic necessity, but still popular in today’s better times.  Bruno_Gaget_Colcannon_Irish_Recipe_France