Tristesse, means sadness in French. And it's been a week of much sadness in Paris. 

As you can imagine, the last thing I wanted to do this week was write about fun things to do in and around Paris – so soon after the terrorist attacks on Friday the 13th. 

I had been working on several topics, and had planned on finishing up a blog post on Saturday morning. But, that didn’t happen. And it’s taken me several days to write this post. I've been too numb, and stunned to even think about writing. 

A tribute at Café Bonne Biere

It was a long night on Friday night - following the events on T.V. and online and even hearing some of them unfold outside my window. I live only 4 blocks away from the Bataclan concert hall. I finally went to sleep at 4:00 a.m.

Gray Sunset Along the Seine

 Earlier that evening, I had watched the sunset over the Seine and walked through the Tuileries at dusk on my way to the just-opened Christmas Market on the Champs Elysees.

The Tuileries

Christmas Market on the Champs Elysees

 As soon as I had finished dinner at home, there was a knock on my door – it was a cute Parisian Pompier selling calendars. Everyone in Paris loves the Pompiers – especially my friend Lisa. Just to make her jealous, I asked him if I could take a photo.  He happily agreed. I bought 2 calendars too. And then eagerly posted his photo on Facebook.

"My" Pompier

While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed a post by David Lebovitz, the American expat blogger and cookbook author, about shootings in the 10th Arrondissement. His post caught my attention, since shootings are so rare here. It was posted at 9:59 p.m.

I immediately texted my friend Lisa, and then turned on the TV. There was no news - yet. Shortly, the reports started pouring in. It was difficult to keep up with what was happening - right in my neighborhood. It was scary. 


At one point it occurred to me how my Pompier’s night had changed too. Here he was out selling calendars - just as the terrorist events were starting. And later that evening I have to think that he was helping shooting victims, since the Pompiers are also the first-responders in France. The thought made my heart ache. 

Saturday Morning on Boulevard Voltaire

The next morning, after some urging, I met Lisa and another friend for lunch.  My original plans were stay in - or at least stay close to home. But they convinced me that it would be better to be with friends that day.

With the nearby metro stations closed, I had to walk to meet them. My route took me very close to the Bataclan. I will never forget the explosions I heard on Friday night - which came as the police stormed the concert venue. 

The morning after. Roadblock near the Bataclan. 

The café was crowded and we finally snagged a booth inside, making sure to avoid the terrace. I declined a dinner offer because I wanted to get home before dark.

A Crowded Café Charlot - and Lisa admiring her new calendar. 

On Sunday, we visited the memorial at Place de la Republique and several of shooting sites. The memorial was moving. The other sites left me feeling empty and sad. 

Memorial at Place de Republique

I came home well after dark, after spending time on a café terrace, not far from where the shootings took place. It just felt like the right thing to do. And we weren’t alone – the place was packed. I felt better, and hopeful - an indication that things could return to "normal". 

The growing memorial at Le Carillon

And as each day passes Paris feels more “normal” to me. After 3 days of official mourning, the museums and monuments have reopened. The Eiffel Tower stood proud wearing a beautiful gown of bleu, blanc and rouge.  The metro stations are open - except for the one closest to the attacks. The kids are back in school and people are back to work. Life goes on. 

I find that I'm appreciating more, many of the little things about life in Paris. I was even moved when my favorite restaurant crafted a heart in my coffee cup. Something that I hadn't even noticed before. 

My café noisette at Yard Restaurant

My heart goes out to all of the victims and their loved ones. I cannot imagine what they must be going through right now. Especially knowing how hard it has been for many of us to completely grasp what happened in Paris last Friday night. 

And while we grieve, we must also continue to live our lives. I plan to do this by spending more of my time on café terraces and not live in fear while doing so.  

Paris is strong and resilient. She’s been though a lot in her life. Please come and give her a hug. She needs one right now. 

The Eiffel Tower - all decked out.

What is a Navigo Decouverte? And why do you need one?

When was the last time a change was made to a product that gave you more for your money?  It’s hard to remember, isn’t it?

 Recently the transit authorities in Paris made a genius decision to de-zone the Navigo passes, including the Navigo Decouverte. 

The Navigo Decouverte is a smart card that can be used on the transit system – metro, bus, tram, RER and Transilien trains in Paris and the Ile de France region. It is valid for weekly or monthly travel and available for anyone to use.

Palais Royal - Musee du Louvre Metro Station

 The initial cost for the kit, which is 2 cards and a plastic holder, that you then charge with your travel, is 5.00€. It is valid for 10 years. A small (3.5 cm tall x 2.5 cm wide) passport type photo is also required. I just took a head shot with my phone and printed it on plain paper. It doesn't need to be a fancy photo. A copy of your passport or drivers license photo, cut to size will do. 

A Navigo Decouverte Card

 Then all you have to do is charge it for the week for just 21.25€. This allows for unlimited travel in the Paris region – including CDG airport and many popular day trip destinations. Considering that the RER fare between Paris and CDG is 10.00€ each way – the rest of your metro and bus travel for the week is virtually free if you were planning an airport trip anyway. The only minor drawback is that it is tied to the calendar week of Monday to Sunday.  If you are staying longer, you can charge your card for a month for 70€.

This is a significant savings over the old prices of 35.40€ for a week and 116.50€ for a month - for a zone 1-5 pass. 

Charging your Navigo is super-simple if you have a chipped credit card - which is strongly recommended for travel in Europe. There are machines in every metro station, and you can even choose to do your transaction in English. You just place your card on the indicated spot and follow the directions on screen. The whole transaction takes about 2 minutes. 

Navigo Kiosks at a Metro Station

 I’ve had my Navigo Decouverte since 2013. I’ve always loved the convenience of it – being able to hop on a bus or the metro without worrying about “wasting” a ticket to travel a short distance. Now I love it even more because I can take all sorts of day trips for free. Another reason to extend your stay in Paris. 

Click here for a list of free day trips using your Navigo Decouverte Card

From my day trip to Crécy la Chapelle. I used my Navigo Decouverte to get there. 










An Escape from Paris, in Paris

Scattered around, mostly at the edges, of Paris are several quaint neighborhoods that make you feel – at least for a few moments - like you are no longer in Paris. I recently visited two of these neighborhoods, the Quartier d’Amerique, better known as Mouzaïa and the Cité des Fleurs. 

House on Villa du Progress


The Mouzaïa neighborhood is in the 19th arrondissement just to the east of the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. The houses were originally built at the end of the 19th century for the workers of eastern Paris. 

Coming from central Paris you can take Metro line 11 to Place des Fetes. Other nearby Metro stops are Botzaris and Danube, on Metro line 7 bis – this would require a transfer from lines 2, 5 or 7.

Villa Marceau

On Rue de la Liberté

 I started my walk from Botzaris by walking up Rue de Mouzaïa, then just wandering around in no set direction. 

I appreciated the street names of Rue Egalité, Rue Liberté and Rue Fraternité. 

Rue de la Liberté

From Rue Mouzaïa, I made a left turn on Rue Egalité and continued onto Rue de la Liberté. From here I started wandering up and down the little pedestrian streets that branched off of Rue Mouzaïa. 

House on Villa du Progés

I really wanted to take photos of more houses and their cute patios. But I felt like I was intruding on their personal space a little too much, since most were partially hidden behind fences.  

On Villa du Progés - I think this was my favorite street

I was disappointed when I ran into a tour group on Villa des Lilas, but otherwise I only saw a handful of other wanderers. 

Tour Group on Villa des Lilas

Thankfully they moved on after a few minutes and I could continue with my wander. I especially liked this house on Rue Mouzaïa, with the palm tree and tromp l'oeil window. 

On Rue Mouzaïa. Reminds me of Key West.

While I didn't even think to check my watch, I probably spent just under an hour on my walk. It was an enjoyable way to spend some time on lovely Sunday afternoon in Paris. 

Click here to see my photo album

Cité des Fleurs

The Cité des Fleurs is a private street located in the 17th arrondissement, near the intersection of Rue Guy Moquet and Avenue Clichy. It's partially hidden behind a gate and it would be easy to walk past if you didn't know it was there. 

It's hard to see some of the houses too. 

The gate is open from 7:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m from Monday through Saturday and from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Sundays. 

My initial impression was that it was not as impressive as Mouzaïa, but my opinion quickly changed as I walked further down the street and then chatted with a woman who was also taking photos.

Cité des Fleurs

She told me that she grew up in the area after WWII and mentioned something about her mother's involvement in the communist party and told me about the plaque commemorating members of the resistance who were executed by the Gestapo. I probably should have invited her for coffee to learn more about this story. 


Translation: Don't mess with the Gestapo

Cité des Fleurs

I think that the street is worth a visit if you are nearby and are looking for something different to see.

And just like my visit to Mouzaïa, there were few other tourists, until a tour group appeared.

Click here to see my photo album

On a Dime Destinations: Cotignac France, Part 2.

We had another slow start on Sunday, due to our late Saturday night. But that seems to be the rhythm here, and I'm certainly not complaining. 

Today we took a drive to look for remaining sunflower fields up in the Valensole plateau, not far from Lake St. Croix – and the Gorges du Verdon (the French Grand Canyon) – which is less than an hour from Cotignac.

Sunflowers on the Valensole Plateau

We found the sunflowers, but just like the lavender they were past their prime. But still, for me, a stunning sight. We stopped for some refreshments in the village of Montagnac – at what appeared to be the only café in town. My glass of Rose was 1.70€. Amazing. We wandered around, took some photos and admired the gargoyles that had been attached to a stone wall.

Gargoyles in Montagnac

Then we headed towards the Lake St. Croix, and the village of St. Croix. The lake was a beautiful turquoise color, but the town crowded, so we didn’t stop. I have to admit that after awhile these cute villages and hill towns all start to look alike. I was happy to return to Cotignac.

Lake St. Croix

We had the chance to see a free classical concert at the church on Sunday night. We were all tired and nearly skipped out on the concert. But we didn’t. And I’m so glad that we went because it was one of the best classical concerts I have ever seen.

Before the concert we had some time to kill so we walked up the little street behind the church to see the cats of Cotignac. Apparently there’s a woman who keeps 60 cats. Her house was easy to identify by the kitty door in a downstairs window. We didn’t see all 60 cats but we saw quite few.

The Cats of Cotignac

On Monday, we ended up taking a 3-mile hike to the top of the cliff. We got a little bit lost looking for the right path to lead us back towards the town. A nice farmer, tending his grapevines, helped to point us in the right direction – and he posed for a photo. In all of our excitement of finding the right path, we missed a turn that would have taken us to the towers on top of the cliff. And by the time got there we were too pooped to tackle the caves. I’d have to do that tomorrow – my last day in Cotignac. Today, we still need to take a trip to La Calisse for some wine and prepare dinner, as my friends have invited their landlords over for dinner.

Our Helpful Friend

After lunch we hopped in the car for the short drive to Chateau La Calisse. We had called ahead to make sure that they were there and were instructed to ring the bell – which we completely missed when we stopped by on Friday.

At Chateau La Calisse

After we ring the bell we are greeted by Jean-Philippe. He tells us that he’s the new cellar master and has only been on the job for a month.  Jean-Philippe was interesting and the wine was very good. He proceeded to tell us that Alain Ducasse serves their wine in his restaurants. Suddenly the 15.00€ price seems like a bargain. But it is for the quality of the wine. A similar bottle would be at least $30.00 in the US. I buy 4 bottles – which brings my total to 7 bottles to get into my luggage and haul on the train, and home on the metro. Should be a piece of cake, huh?

It’s my last day in Cotignac. I’m sad to be leaving. I still have things to do. We never made it to the nearby waterfall, I’m going to miss the Ceramics Market on Thursday and I haven’t been to an outdoor movie under the cliffs. But it’s Tuesday and it’s market day. I purposely planned my trip for this.

Market Day in Cotignac

The market is huge. I takes over the main street and there are stalls filling the square too – plus the square around the corner by the road that leads out of town. I have 2 things on my list - olive oil and local honey. At dinner last night I learned to get honey from a local beekeeper. I found him easily and bought 3 jars. Plus had a lovely conversation about honey and Monsanto.

Local Honey at the Market

I found some bio (organic) olive oil from the Luberon. It was a bit pricey. But it was very good too. It will fit in nicely with my collection of Italian and Spanish oils at home. I also bought some more of the lavender sachets. I had to stop there because I’m worried about having enough room in my suitcase for my haul.

I wish I could have bought some of the Cotignac peaches. And roast chickens looked amazing. Several stands were making and selling Paella too. It seemed to be very popular. I liked this market better than any I have visited in Paris.

Troglodyte Caves in the Cliffs over Cotignac

After having some ice cream for lunch it’s time for me to tackle the Troglodyte Caves. The walk to caves took me past the old olive presses and up some stone lined sidewalks. This walk was easy compared to our hike the day before. In a few minutes I’m at the entrance and pay the 2.00€ fee.

The stairs up were daunting, but I was determined, even with my bad knee. After the second set of stairs I arrived at the spiral staircase – which the attendant had mentioned, saying that it was limited to one person at a time. I stopped on the landing and admired the view over the town, then looked at the rickety iron staircase and decided that I didn’t need to go up it. I chickened out. But I was happy – at least I saw some of the caves. Maybe next time I’ll climb up?

Would you climb these stairs? 

On the way back I decided that it was time for more ice cream – and I’d earned it too!

We had dinner at home and I attempted to pack my bag, before calling it an early night. In the morning it was obvious that I had a problem. Why didn’t I bring my tote bag from home? We were planning a stop in Aix en Provence before I needed to catch my train. Maybe I can get an extra bag there?

Luckily my friends remembered that they had an extra tote bag and I could pack it with dirty clothes and load my roller bag with all of my wine. It worked perfectly. And I made it home safely with all of my goodies from Provence.