Comfort food is whatever makes you feel better, and I’ve been missing the US lately, so I craved an American burger. Everyone has recommended Le Camion Qui Fume, or the “Smoking Truck”  the first food truck here in Paris, started by a Californian, so I braved the wait at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, or French National Library, for a taste.

The line starts on the left as you order and pay, then you shift to the right side to pick up according to your name; at 1pm it was an hour wait total.

Keep in mind if you go later to avoid the lines, they may be out of certain choices, so if you don’t want to wait, get there when they open.

For between 9-14 Euros ($11-$16) you can get a burger, or burger and sides at one of their locations.

There are three condiment choices for the fries, but I didn’t want any of them….

There are no tables or chairs at the truck, but at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, there are plenty of places to sit on benches or steps, and everyone created their own”picnic” nearby.

I went with the only French friend who was still here in August, who wanted TWO burgers (one to eat, and one to take home), one classic, with cheddar, pickles, onions, tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise,

and one Barbecue with cheddar, caramelized onions, bacon, barbeque sauce, and mayonnaise (I thought it was weird to combine barbecue sauce with cheese). The fries are crisp, salted, and nearly everyone chose them as their side dish. The burgers are small by US standards, so you can order a double patty for an extra 5 Euros or $6, if you have an American appetite and don’t want two burgers. I was perfectly happy with my burger and side, but I eat like a French person now:)

I chose the Campagne, or mushroom, caramelized onion, Swiss Etivaz cheese, and mayonnaise. I was thrilled to see they toasted the inside of the soft bun :)

and I was even happier that there was some pink in the juicy meat! The combination of ingredients made this the best American burger I’ve eaten in Paris!

Even the coleslaw was outstanding, with real zing, and completely fresh authentic ingredients!

A view of the Seine from the steps of the library made this the perfect lunch spot.

The library itself is huge

with four modern buildings that reached sky high, as well as lower levels that went underground.

The green atrium in the center of the library was a green reminder of what books were made of in olden times, as well as providing some natural elements to the concrete and glass :)

August in Paris means the locals are gone and the tourists are in town; it also means finding any place to shop or eat on a Sunday becomes even more of a challenge than usual, requiring the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes. After a bit of research, Sherlock @John8600 pointed me in the direction of Hokkaido. Even though it’s Summer, the days are rainy and cool enough that eating ramen is still a pleasurable experience, at least it is for me, a Southern California transplant:)

I got the Champon Ramen, which was packed with vegetables and a few thin slices of pork in a clear broth. The vegetables were very fresh, and the noodles were decent. After eating the ramen at Dosanko Larmen, I had hoped for soup comparable in depth of flavor, but the broth here did not have much flavor and even after using the condiments on the table, I couldn’t doctor it up enough to take more than a few sips. The portion is huge (for Paris) so if you want a filling dish, this would fit the bill.

The menu special of 11 Euros included 5 gyoza which were very good; crisp on one side, tender tasty filling, and not greasy. I would definitely order these again, but maybe instead of ramen, I would try one of their noodle or rice dishes, both of which looked good on other tables. Service was very pleasant, and even though it was packed, the food came out rapidly.

Even when it’s not Sunday or August, finding a place that is open between the usual lunch and dinner hours here of 3pm-7pm, is so challenging that restaurants advertise if they are open “nonstop” as an enticement. Udon Jubey usually has lines out the door during the peak meal times, so if you don’t want to wait, or want to eat during the afternoon, this is an excellent choice.

I think that until you’ve tried something done well, you can’t really say you don’t like it. I used to say that I did not like udon, but this bowl changed my mind :) The springy noodles in the flavorful broth with the green onions and seaweed are a classic preparation, yet I had never tasted such a symphony of simplicity; every note was perfect, and the music of slurping sounds could be heard throughout the restaurant.

As part of their set menu of 16 Euros, you get the udon and a choice of sides like this Katsu and omelette slices over shredded cabbage

with a small bowl of chicken rice with pickles. The Katsu was crisp with a nice sauce, and the rice had the benefit of richer flavors from being cooked with broth.

The small portion of Katsu with the set menu was so good, I went back for a full katsu on another visit, which was almost more than I could eat; I saw plates of tempura which looked tempting too, but I had no room to eat anymore!

Besides the warm service, and the delightful food, they had something on the tables which literally made me smile: bottles of red pepper condiment :)

Most Parisians leave town in August, heading to the shores of France or abroad to begin their 5 week Summer vacation. The traffic out of Paris was so bad on Saturday that the city asked people to consider leaving Sunday or Monday. Adding to the Summer mass exodus headache is the Summer maintenance on several lines of the RER and metro. I decided to avoid all of that by staying local this week-end. I went to the Museum of Archeology in the Chateau of Saint Germain-en-laye and the Museé Maurice Denis, both of which have huge gardens adjacent to them and because it was the 1st Sunday in August, entry to both was free:)

The RER A1 literally stops in front of the Chateau of Saint Germain-en-laye so you can’t miss it. This was where Louis XIV was born, and it was his home before he moved to the newer warmer chateau of Versailles (yes, even in those days they didn’t like cold drafty chateaux). The adjacent park and forest are great places to have a picnic or sunbathe. There’s one small café in the park on the edge of the forest, but otherwise there are only two small stands for drinks and ice cream, so if you want to eat, go to one of the cafés facing the Chateau, or the Brasserie du Theatre and order some oysters and their grilled fish (see my blog post here).

The interior courtyard is impressive, and the museum takes up two floors with about 20 rooms of exhibitions, including some multi-media video and audio sections.

It’s the Museum of Archeology so most items are ancient weapons, tools, and some skeletons of both animals and people. This display of armor was the most striking to me since men actually wore these heavy metal vests to war.

 My favorite part of the museum was the chapel.

 About a 15 minute walk away is the Maurice Denis Museum and garden where art classes are held.

 The workshop or Atelier was closed, but the museum and garden both open.

 The Museum is inside the building on several levels with work from various artists including Gauguin, but sculptures dot the garden.

Maurice Denis.

 Gauguin’s artist pallet.

 There’s a play area for children who may not be interested in the museum:)

 A small chapel in on the property and a registered national monument.

 The garden has many beautiful paths

 The path out is as beautiful as the path in :)

An afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of Paris is refreshing, not only for the change of pace, but also for the reminder that not all of France is Paris :)

The forest and chateau of Fontainebleau is only about 35 miles away and adjacent to the forest is the small village of Barbizon. It’s a side trip worth making, especially if you have a car, but if you take public transportation, the easiest way to get here is to go to Fontainebleau and then take the short taxi ride to Barbizon (about 10-15 minutes) on the other side of the forest. Barbizon School was named after this town and this is still an artist colony with mosaics that line the main street.

The entrance to the Barbizon School.

There are charming places to eat and sleep if you want to stay in town, ranging from inexpensive to very expensive.

There are numerous ateliers where artists work and showcase their craft.

 Some homes are private sanctuaries

 while others are sometimes open for tours (but not on Mondays or Tuesdays).

 Sometimes it’s a pleasure to go to school :)

The Chateau of Saint Germain-en-laye was Louis XIV’s home before he moved to Versailles, and they held their Fête Nationale Française (Bastille Day celebration) the evening before, complete with awarding a Medal of Honor to a very distinguished military man, a parade of firetrucks, the presence of politicians (the Mayor arrived 30 minutes late holding up the entire show), and a marching band.

 I tried to snap the military man’s medals (that dark spot on his upper left pocket is a plethora of medals) but they never completely faced the crowd.

 The fire trucks ranged from big to small, one with its own water tank, and one SUV.

 During the parade, the grand daddy of the fire trucks took the lead :)

 The marching band was much easier to photograph.

As evening fell, the lights started coming on to announce music and fireworks.

A huge globe lit up the concert and fireworks area as people sought a place on the grass. I felt like I was at a very clean organized version of Woodstock (I know that is an oxymoron) since the theme was “Rock & Fire” meaning rock music and fireworks.

The show started as soon as the live band was done playing with a breathtaking display,

and even had some Pink Floyd,

before ending with this:)

I’ll be watching the festivities at the Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower today from the comfort of my living room, but I was so glad to have been at a smaller celebration last night!

The Normandy countryside is as charming as the seaside; I stayed at the Bed and Breakfast, Le Pré aux Daims, which is only 15 minutes from Deauville, but a world away in style. It may be nice to use GPS, but some places in the countryside are not mapped out, so asking locals along the way if you are on the correct road is a very good idea. Thankfully a young man sitting at a bus stop knew the roads well enough to give directions that GPS did not know.

The one lane road to the Pré aux Daims has views like this,

 and the driveway looks like this,

 before you arrive:)

The inn is every bit as welcoming and well maintained as it looks, with chairs and tables for the included breakfast, or if you want to picnic. Since there are no restaurants are nearby, you might want to stop for a meal before you arrive or bring some provisions with you.  The innkeepers, Martine and Gilbert, speak excellent English and German, as well as their native tongue, so ask them for recommendations.

There are very happy deer on one side of the property,

 and a goat or two on the other side,

separated by fences adorned with flowers.

It was far too chilly for me to lounge in the sun, but for those who think 70F is warm, there were chairs available.

 The view from my room outside,

 and the view of the room inside, which was as spotless and comfortable as it looks.

Breakfast can be eaten inside or out. It was sunny enough to breakfast with the deer, and though some people wore only short sleeves, I needed my sweater:) A German family with a small child and a couple of French regulars were the only other guests in the 5 rooms and 1 apartment available. The rooms start at 65 Euros ($70 US), or you can rent the 60m2 apartment for 450 Euros ($500 US) for the week, all rentals come with a continental breakfast. Make sure you have enough cash to pay when you arrive because they do not accept credit cards.

Coffee or tea, or hot chocolate,  with refills (unusual in France), orange juice,

 and the selection of bread and pastries was fresh and copious.

 I opted for the bread so I could try some of their jams, which included flavors like kiwi and rhubarb:)

The deer ate plenty of freshly mowed lawn for breakfast, and like wonderful hosts, they got up to say goodbye :)

The Grand Hotel and Casino in Cabourg welcomes visitors, but

right next to the Grand Hotel are some grand homes for part time residents,

most of which stood empty and shuttered awaiting their residents in July and August.

Some of the shuttered homes face the beach

which is as empty as the homes in June.

 The center of town had a nice marché with clothes and trinkets for sale at very discounted prices, like 5 Euros ($6) for leather coin purses.

 If you didn’t want to shop, there were other amusements.

A little further south is Omaha Beach, with a memorial, a souvenir shop, and a theatre showing  a commemorative film. Even if you just want to stop to take a look, you will have to pay for parking which will cost 6 Euros for the day or any portion thereof, even 5 minutes!

 There was a convention of old Triumphs and motorcycles from the UK in the parking lot.

The memorial stands overlooking all the beaches with bunkers still visible in the ocean.

 Inland from the beach is the town of Bayeux.

The famous Cathedral can be seen from afar like a beacon enticing everyone to come closer. Driving into town there are wonderful buildings which have stood in place for centuries.

 The town square in front of the Cathedral is a gathering place, with cafés, shops, and a wedding!

Entering through the back of the Cathedral near the City Hall or Mairie gives visitors a glimpse of the majestic building from a rare angle. This Cathedral is as or more spectacular than Notre Dame in Paris, I stood in awe at the craftsmanship and beauty of it!

 Every angle is magnificent.

The tree in the courtyard is a reminder that no matter how people may build monuments, nature will always persevere.

Au revoir Bayeux :)

Honfleur has been painted by many artists over the years and once you arrive at the harbor, you immediately understand why. Today there are more British expats than artists in residence, but the charming village feel of this port remains.

 There are numerous streets stretching out from the harbor.

All the streets in the heart of the city are cobblestones, so make sure you wear the proper shoes!

 If you have a tiny car, you can drive in, but it’s a labyrinth.

The biggest wooden church in France is Sainte Catherine’s

and yes you can enter and/or attend a service.

Some buildings have the year they were built literally engraved in stone.

 City Hall is a much more modern building.

Driving along the coast, Villerville looked like a movie set, and it was!

The fictional town of “Tigreville” in the Jean Gabin and Jean Paul Belmondo film, “A Monkey in Winter“, was shot here and numerous posters, pictures, and plaques note that fact.

 Even the town church was picturesque.

 There are access points down to the coast

 and you can stroll above the surf.

This is the view of where the Seine joins the Atlantic.

 My favorite view was the path leading south :)

The Atlantic coast of France is best experienced in the Summer, so I went to Normandy for the first time in the middle of June; for someone who has lived in Southern California, it was still chilly :) The most well known city is Deauville, where the film festival is held and rich city dwellers have Summer homes. The casino is a beautiful building on the edge of the coast.

The beach is laid out into sections with various services available along each section

including private cabanas named after famous actors and actresses, a bit like the stars on Hollywood Boulevard.

 There is a long boardwalk along the beach

 and various shelters from wind and sun on the beach itself,

 which was empty in mid June,

 as were the beachside cafes

 and Summer homes.

 Downtown Deauville was a bit more inhabited,

 and even had a small train going from the center of town to the beach.

 The center of town also had activities like shopping at high end stores,

 sleeping in the grand hotel,

 and strolling the city center park in front of Printemps department store.

Trouville is a much smaller city just north of Deauville and IMHO much more charming:)

There is a casino here but it was being renovated.

The main reason people came here was for the “Sea Cure” or as I would call it, “Fresh Air”.

If you don’t want to swim in the cold ocean, there is a heated pool.

The City Hall is as picturesque as the city itself.

Shops and restaurants line the harbor

offering seafood from Brittany and local catches like bulots (sea snails).

The beach amenities are built alongside the old bunkers from the war,

and as a symbol of how things have changed on the Normandy beaches, flowers now adorn the bunkers.

The beaches were almost empty,

as were the harbors,

but I saw Elvis hanging out:)

The Museum of Architecture has so many models of old and new that I couldn’t fit all the photos I took in one post, so here is part 2; this is the other half of the ground floor of the old as well as the upper floor of the modern. Enjoy!

A close up.

The other half of the ground floor (the photos in yesterday’s post) can be seen and entered through several openings.

This archway

had incredible details underneath, like this in the center,

and this on the sides underneath the arch.

The intricate work standing from a few feet away,

is even more amazing up close.

There is an elevator or stairs to the upper level of modern architecture.

The Radio France Building and

the Citroen Building, both exist in present day Paris.

Resorts built into the natural landscape, skyscrapers, and temporary structures built for exhibition from all over the world, fill the upper level. There are also many video presentations about how certain structures were designed and built; I saw many students with notebooks, taking notes.

The upper floor also has a smaller exhibition of frescoes and wall paintings.

The most impressive sight was seeing three of Paris’ great buildings through the windows of the Museum of Architecture. If the weather is nice, there is a ground floor cafe with a terrace overlooking the Eiffel Tower where you can enjoy a bite or a drink outside; a priceless way to spend some time in Paris :)

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