Friday, December 19, 2008

New York, Autumn 2008

Autumn of 2008 saw us visiting New York City again - we love New York - to see friends, attend the opera (Don Giovanni) and a play (Equus), visit museums and art galleries and just wander around New York neighbourhoods. A short trip quickly turns into a delight!

We visited, as you see above, the Guggenheim, after a wonderful evening before that at Bemelman's, then to see our friends for a glass of wine, then on with them to Candle 79, conveniently just around the corner from where they live. How great to have such a great restaurant in one's own neighbourhood. I swear that if I had Candle 79 so close to me I'd never cook again!!

At the Guggenehim, we saw what wasn't quite supposed to be there: the tail-end of the superb Louise Bourgeois exhibition that had supposedly already closed. This was of particular interest to us, since we had seen her exhibition in Paris (see previous entry here)in the spring. Another exciting exhibit at the Guggenheim was the photographic exhibition by American photographer Catherine Opie. This exhibition will be on until the 7th of January and is not to be missed.

After paying homage to our usual faves at the Guggenheim, we wandered out and down the street, seeking a way to get to a late lunch. Manhattan is of course serious dog territory, which delights us every time, and we do tend to get delayed, much to the discomfort (I am sure) of various dogwalkers and dog guardians, by admiring all the wonderful pooches on parade. Even the cars parked along the street seem to be celebrating matters canine, as you see below:

On the way to lunch we passed the Flatiron Building, which always catches my imagination

as we found our way to a lovely Vegan Korean restaurant, Franchia which we have visited before. You see me being very very serious contemplating the many offerings as well as the wine list.

They also have an excellent Prix Fixe menu at lunchtime, which I highly recommend. Delicious as always! We have plans to revisit Franchia's sister restaurant, Han Gawi, on our next trip. Han Gawi is more formal and is open only in the evenings. We have been there only once and have vowed to return!

We also spent an incredible amount of time at the Met, and I'm interested to note that most of the photos I have are taken in the various asian galleries.

Asian culture seemed to be a theme this trip, including, later, a visit to the Rubin Museum in Chelsea which specializes in Himalayan art - a place which we had not visited previously. (I highly recommend this lovely museum.) To add to this asian theme, we had even, unknown to us before we registered, been booked into the Bamboo Room at our favourite New York small hotel (it calls itself a Bed and Breakfast and is in Chelsea: The Inn On 23rd). We were almost, but not quite, ready to believe that Powers were at work!

Another luncheon experience before we left was at Beyoglu, a Turkish restaurant. This is very good food, and for vegans this omnivore restaurant has a good selection of mezze; they can advise which ones will suit ones ethical and aesthetic needs. Service of course was excellent and portions were more than generous, so our choices were excellent.

In the summer, Beyoglu also serves on its outdoor patio, but it was just a tad chilly when we were there - although I did see one stalwart soul braving the elements.

Time in New York is never enough. Next visit I swear I'll take the camera with me everywhere, but somehow there's so much going on that I forget that I even have it with me.

We'll be back before long. Indeed, the next visit is already lined up. So lovely to have this city's new places to discover every time!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Paris, Spring 2008

Here it is, the cliche of all cliches - photo taken the last afternoon we were in Paris, just to prove to ourselves that we really had been there again (to the city, that is, not to the nightclub - we saw the MoulinRouge only from its exterior) AND of course in honour of the great film of the same name!

And another cliche? The Pantheon, of course.

And what would Paris be without music? From the opera played by our taxi driver on the way from the airport to music in the streets (and at concerts), Paris plays. Here's what we encountered on a bridge near our (second) hotel one morning!

And more music:

I guess I'm like a lot of people - I want to see everything that others have seen and I want to go everywhere others go, but when it comes right down to it, it's the off-beat things that delight me most about places I visit. Somehow, however, they don't seem to get photographed as much. But here we were in Paris after years of being away, and it was almost overwhelming. Here's my dh on our first day - fountains are irresistible, aren't they?

It had been a lovely day - despite the horrors of transatlantic travel - and here we are prowling around after a quick coffee while they made our room ready in a little hotel in the Marais. After we had dumped our luggage (we travel with carry-ons only - inconvenient but less hassle) we headed out to a Middle Eastern restaurant that we had read was vegan-friendly. It was called Chez Marianne and was in the Pletzel - and picking and choosing carefully among the mezze kind of courses one could make up a delicious vegan meal. The servers spoke English better than we spoke French, which is always a plus ;)

The photo above is only a corner of it, and although they do have an attractive informal interior we decided every time we went there (three times in all) that we liked to sit outside.

This made for a lovely midday break from walking our feet off (yes, we know there's a metro, but we like to walk!).

What next to add? Well, those who know us well know that we are addicted to art, architecture and museums in general, so we visited the Delacroix house on the left bank. It was interesting, but strangely I was enchanted by the courtyard garden.

It's just the kind of place I would find enchanting as a spot away from the cares of the world yet near enough to what matters most to me - in Delacroix's case, art - to rest and then inspire rather than distract. Another lovely afternoon!

After that, of course, we needed a break - a nice sit down with a glass of wine. Where better, if one is paying homage to heroes than this place:

This is Deux Magots - right on the tiny square named for hits famous habitues, Simone de Beavoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. It's considered a tourist trap, and no doubt it is, but we couldn't resist given our thirst quotient and both our hangups about this pair! And of course I took a snap of my dh in a contemplative, if not quite philosophical, moment:

Speaking of favourite places on the left bank, here's one I can highly recommend: It's called Le Grenier.

This is a vegan-friendly vegetarian restaurant, tiny but cozy with wonderful service, excellent food and a wine list which includes organic vegan selections.

The photo above shows part of the interior - the bar area adjacent to the tiny kitchen.Here's the photo the proprietor took (at his insistence) on the last time there, the day before we flew back home.

We look as delighted as we felt!

And here is one of the dishes I really enjoyed; I had it twice. It was a vegan cassoulet - with beautiful white beans, tomatoes and other delights, some tofu, and the most delicious sauce and and herbs imaginable. Here is my dh's serving of it ('Hands off, man, I gotta take its photo!') the last day. We tried other things too, but that one was really special to both of us.


This restaurant is located not far from the famous Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop:

Oh I should mention this place - Grand Appetit - near the Place de la Bastille:

This is vegan and inexpensive and we fell into it our first evening. They had some plain but delicious offerings and although we had only soup (fantastically good) and a salad, not being hungry after our extended lunch at Chez Marianne, we made a note to visit it again next time. It isn't quite the place for a romantic interlude, but is very popular with the local crowd as well as visitors. We found it a bit dour, but that might have been because we were so very delighted with our arrival in Paris that day that only a welcoming brass band could possibly have matched our mood (and of course Paris supplied that too!).

Just to prove we took Paris as seriously as we did when we were young and not so long out of our studies, we did visit the Louvre:

Sadly, it is indeed overrun by visitors (yup, like ourselves) and when we were there it was truly, er, difficult. Never-the-LESS (as Kate Hepburn/Rosey Sayer was always saying to Humphrey Bogar/Charlie Allnut) we loved messing around in the French paintings well away from DaVinci Code tourists for an afternoon.

Another museum that delighted was in the Institut du Monde Arabe.And the building itself? Absolutely fabulous. Here are a couple of shots of the interior - one looking outside and one looking up a staircase. Gotta be seen!

Those little openings, so beautifully decorative, are controlled by the sun - opening and closing automatically. So clever!

And speaking of celebrated architecture, here is a shot of the exterior of the Pompidou Centre where we saw a wonderful exhibition by Louise Bourgeois (sorry, you'll have to google for her!) - absolutely brilliant. One of her sculptures is shown in the ground floor interior shot which follows.

Grotesque? Well maybe a little for arachnophobes (among which please count one person who goes by the name of River, 'Charlotte's Web' notwithstanding), but if anyone could get me over that fear it might be this lady.

We did manage to get some time away from museums and away from food (well, for a while anyway!). Here are we, busy taking each other's photos, in the Luxembourg Gardens:

Here's one my dh took just off the Ile de la Citee (we were staying, by then, one island over on the Ile St Louis) on probably our first day. (Most of these photos were taken over a couple of days, since I don't always carry a camera, so you are seeing the same clothes over and over again.)

Roses are irrestible to me - a childhood thing. These were close by a very old church, St Julien Le Pauvre.

(But the link given above provides a better photo!)

Another childhood thing with me is gargoyles - they fascinate me still. This one gook me by surprise.

This gargoyle was above the entrance to the Medieval Museum - a delightful place, also on the left bank, which should not be missed. I'm a sucker for medieval stuff :)

Okay, so we did have the chance to do something a little different. Did I say music earlier? Yes, and we attended a splendid performance of the Munich Philharmonic at the Theatre Champs Elysee (no photos there, sorry, only wonderful memories), but also see below for a complete musical change of pace.

An absolutely lovely thing that happened on this trip was my chance to meet a cyber pal - 'Pel' - with whom I am privileged to co-host on several groups. Somehow people one meets in cyberspace don't quite seem real. Pel is one of the realest and loveliest people I can hope to meet, and I admire her greatly.

She was having an exhibit of her photographs at this cafe, where there was also a musical friend of hers who paid us the compliment of playing for us.

He has a great talent and a vibrant personality to match - so much so that all the snaps we took were blurred from his constant movement! That only enhances the memory for us.

And that seems to be a great note to end on for now, but I may take the opportunity to add to it later :) A photo for closure? Okay, here's a photo taken near our hotel - through a window. Beautiful bronze sculptures of fruit dominated the displays. Two apples here:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New York, November 2007

Strangely, we didn't take many photos on this trip, and those we did take could only be of interest to ourselves. Nevertheless . . . .

The FIRST thing you have to know about us and New York is that we go there to attend the opera and to visit friends. Appropriately, therefore, the first photo here (above) is of my dh on our first evening in NYC (and you really really don't want to hear about how long it took us to get there, what with computer breakdowns at the airports!) He is carrying a gift bottle of wine ('coals to Newcastle') to our dear friends, with whom we spent the evening.

A little early for our meeting with our friends, we went first to Bemelmans for a glass of wine AND to see the wonderful decor And to hear Chris Gillespie's performance! Fantastic!! (Expensive bar? Oh yes, but still a great experience one shouldn't miss - and there are people who travel a long way to go to New York just to hear Gillespie play!) We walked from there to our friends' apartment and then on to Candle 79 for arguably the best vegan cuisine in New York. Below we have a strange, almost 'candle-lit' snap of my dh with friend towards the end of dinner.

They look like a pretty shady pair!

Before I forget, I should add in the names of a couple of other restaurants we enjoyed and that might interest you:

Dawat, which is Madhur Jaffrey's restaurant, was a delight. It's not vegan or even vegetarian, but it has a good selection of vegetarian dishes and the staff were happy to help us with the ones which were vegan. We love Indian food and were especially pleased to visit the restaurant of one of our 'kitchen saints' - we've been cooking Madhur Jaffrey's recipes from her various cookbooks for something like 35 years now.

Another is Franchia (which is a sister restaurant to HanGawi we ate at on one of our previous visits). Both are Korean and completely vegan. We went to Franchia for a perfect lunch which lasted and lasted and lasted. We have made sure we will go again on our next visit.

And now, nods to our tummies and eating style properly dealt with, on with the rest of New York.

But where was I? Oh yes, we had just dined at Candle 79 - a superb meal. We were staying at a delightful Chelsea B & B called The Inn on 23rd and, the following morning headed for The Cloisters way up at the other end of Mamhattan. I do have a photo or two of that excursion:

Here we are at Fort Tryon Park, on the way to see the various medieval wonders.

The photo above was taken by a lovely honeymoon couple who had asked us to take their photo and then, somehow thinking that they should reciprocate, signalled that they would then take our photo on our camera. I think they did a very nice job!

It was a gorgeous day, as you can see from the snap I took (below), with the leaves showing their autumn colours just enough.

Next you will see The Cloisters as we saw it from our walk. Approaching this area by car just doesn't do it justice, I think. The walk from the metro is indescribably lovely and is an event in itself.

All this stone and the incredible things within tugged across the Atlantic!

Here is my dh, looking a little dour, inside a medieval chapel. These places don't inspire hilarity, do they.

But get the dh into the sunshine and, well, here he is around some old fruit trees and herbs, looking distinctly pleased to be in the light and warmth.

OK, that's me above, looking a little more sedate in the semi-confines of I-don't-remember-which cloister - no doubt I was imagining Heloise and Abelard.

And now outside in the clean fresh air again.

That night we attended the Metropolitan Opera's The Marriage of Figaro and the following night a performance by the Pennsylvania Ballet at the City Centre.

We also, of course (being indefatigable museum hounds), visited the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and three or four others of which I also have no photos (no photos mean it didn't happen, right? Right!). But wait, here's one of yours truly at MOMA - with 'friend'.

And that was mostly it for the three days. Nice trip - lousy travelogue! Hugs to all!!!