Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dinner at Katz's Deli

Hub and I drove my Mom home to Long Island from my sister's in Pennsylvania yesterday. There was little traffic, so hub decided to get to the Island via Manhattan, usually an exercise in frustration, traffic, honking horns, crazy driving, and a waste of of time and gas. But in another century hub spent a summer as a cab driver in New York City and occasionally wants to relive those days.

We entered Manhattan through the Holland Tunnel. It is a great entry point to the city. The Statue of Liberty and skyscrapers, visible approaching the tunnel, presented a stunning night time display. The Empire State Building's red, white, and blue lights glowed and other buildings were ablaze in white lights. The lower part of the new Freedom Tower was lit and there was a blinking red light atop the spire, but the upper floors are not complete and occupied, so there was a dark space between the lower lights and blinking red light.

Driving across Canal Street in lower Manhattan, our stomachs began yearning for nourishment - as if we had not eaten recently or gorged ourselves over the past couple of days on a Thanksgiving feast on Thursday and lunch out with friends earlier in the day. But city eateries beckoned. We knew the name of a famous deli in the area, plugged it into the GPS, and a few minutes later not only found the restaurant but, in a New-York-miracle, found a parking spot half a block away. And - another marvel! - did not have to feed the meter. The place was crowded, but we waited only a few minutes for a table.

Katz's Delicatessen is one of those iconic places New Yorkers heard of and/or experienced. Most non-New Yorkers are also familiar with the restaurant and have seen it on screen, whether realizing it or not. The deli is the location of one of the most famous/infamous scenes in movie history. When Harry Met Sally is the movie, and Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan the actor/actress. (disclosure: it is probably PG rated.) Enjoy!
As we prepared to pay the bill and leave, the waitress pointed out which cashier accepted cash and which one credit cards. She informed us, in her very heavy New York accent, that tax and tip were not included on the bill. The cashier would add tax, and we could leave a tip at the table. Then she provided the following Tipping Guide:
I guess nobody can do math anymore - or maybe they figure people are too cheap!
A couple of other pictures of Katz's Deli from our repast last night.

Leaving the deli we passed security guards intent on ensuring everyone paid their bill before exiting.

It was a fun, nostalgic detour. But we all agreed better delis abound, including Ben's Deli near my Mom on the island (there are more than one in the New York area), and Harold's (there are two of them, not connected, but that is another story…) in New Jersey.

Perhaps you are hungry now. I know I am. Snack time!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Onset of the Most Dangerous Season of the Year


 The Danger Zone nears. There is no avoiding it.

For my stomach.

And the rest of my body.

Not an astrological, cosmological season. A man-made time of year.

I am talking about the season encompassing pre-Thanksgiving prep days through New Year’s.

Will my body survive? Can I escape gaining weight?

I check off each day on the calendar, one by one, my emotions mixed with fear and trepidation. I watch time advance with caution and an appetite. With yearnings for foods rarely eaten but secretly desired.
Fruitcake is not one of my yearnings!
The signs are everywhere and inescapable, unless one lives in a geographically isolated, TV-less, internet-neglected, U.S. postal service-bypassed pocket in a no-man’s land.

We are bombarded by TV Commercials. Store displays. Holiday decorations. An onslaught of catalogs and fliers via email and snail mail. Newspaper ads tempting us - encouraging us – urging us to get out (or at least onto our computers) and buy, buy, buy. Black Friday looms  - followed by Cyber Monday.

And now there is Brown Thursday. I will absolutely, definitely, under no circumstances enter a store on Thanksgiving. Nobody should. No one needs to buy stuff at Sears or Target or any other retailer on this one particular day of the year. The commercialism and worker exploitation is going too far, but enough - I will get off my soapbox and move on...

Ads encourage us to purchase not just gifts, but food. Lots of it. We find enticing recipes in newspapers, magazines, and online.

For those not inclined to cook, prepared foods are readily available at grocery stores, the farmers market, and online. Restaurants advertise holiday take-out meals for one hungry individual or a multi-person banquet.

So let the feasting begin! 

May those with strong willpower prevail.

Meanwhile the rest of us weak-willed souls move on to the gym hauling a few extra pounds, head bowed in defeat, on January 2.

I wonder if there is some mathematical formula that can calculate the ratio of the inflation of our waistlines to the deflation of our bank accounts.

I do not think I want to know.

Happy holiday season to all, and to all joyful eating! 
NOT my family's holiday table!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Our Favorite Family Car

A true tale about a beloved family possession

Actually this story is about a van. The van my husband and I bought Christmas Eve 1987. I think that was the year, but I may be off by a year or two.

My two boys, two and a half years apart, were rambunctious guys, especially in the car. And we were a family that spent a lot of time in the car. Our families lived about four hours away, so weekend trips were a regular part of our routine.

We drove to Florida to visit the older generation. We went on camping trips during the summer.

Trips got more difficult, at least for hub and me, as the boys got older. Outings became duels, verbal and otherwise.

I remember car trips when I was a little girl. We went to my grandparents’ almost every Sunday for dinner. The trip lasted about an hour. My sister and I always fought – never with fists, but vocally. “She touched me.” “She’s on my side of the car.” “She’s making faces at me.”

Hub and I decided to do something about the squabbling. It was either be proactive or limit our trips. The constant arguing was probably more annoying to the adults than the boys, but trips were growing painful.

Car companies often have year-end sales, clearing out inventories. We decided to take advantage of the sales and buy a vehicle that would, if not stop totally, minimize troublesome trips.

We bought a van.

A Ford Aerostar.

Blue with bucket seats in the front and two benches in the back.

One bench for each boy.

Car trips improved considerably.

We bought a pop up trailer, hitched it to the van and went camping.

We drove to Florida, stopping at Disney World for a few days before driving on to south Florida and visiting grandparents, aunts and uncles.

My son took the van to college. Christmas break he drove to Florida.

One Saturday, about fifteen years after the van entered our life, my husband drove it to Philadelphia. It broke down on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on his way home. He called AAA. The van was towed to a repair shop, inspected, and the verdict declared.

Beyond redemption, it was time to say goodbye.

The van moved on to car heaven, a.k.a. the junkyard.

And the boys went their separate ways. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GOOD VIBRATIONS

Bright, warm sunny days highlighted an outstanding fall this year. The days grow shorter and the daytime warmth does not linger, but we savor each day before cold weather arrives.

The boardwalk is a wonderful place to walk and enjoy the weather while we can – flat, straight, the beach and Atlantic Ocean on one side, McMansions on the other side.

Yet all is not peaceful and quiet.

Heavy machinery seaside screeches while building dunes.  Pipes extend across miles of beach, moving sand from one section to another. Huge mounds of sand sit, waiting to be pushed into dunes and planted with grasses that help shield the landside from the worst of Mother Nature’s storms. And the dunes work, protecting many homes from destruction during last year’s Sandy storm.

The activity is not necessarily welcome, but we realize its positive impact in the short run. I am not a fan of fighting Mother Nature – she can be relentless and, in the long term, it is futile (and very costly) fighting her – but understand the dilemma facing governments following decades of building where we should never have built in the first place.

This weekend I spotted the following piece of equipment located every few blocks along the boardwalk.


The solar-powered machines, called “SeismoBot,” monitor ground vibrations, air blasts, and water pressure changes. Apparently the sand dredging may unsettle the fragile earth beneath us. I am not sure what would happen if the monitors start beeping or a siren sounds signaling that something unusual is occurring, but I hope never to find out.

With any luck the machines only record good vibrations...

Researching the machines I discovered the company providing these machines was involved in the implosion of the Sands Hotel in neighboring Atlantic City a few years ago. The small hotel could not compete with larger competitors, declared bankruptcy and closed in 2006.

Pinnacle Entertainment, owner and developer of casinos throughout the country, bought the land, announcing a $1.5 billion resort would be constructed on the site.

At 9:37 p.m. on October 18, 2007, with much fanfare, the old hotel fell.  Accompanied by fireworks and parties on the boardwalk and beach (who said Atlantic City is only about gambling!) – the building collapsed.  Here is a video of the event:
The song in the video is “The End” by the Doors
“This is the end beautiful friend
This is the end…”

The economic downturn hit the casino industry hard, and in 2010 Pinnacle bowed out of Atlantic City, putting the land up for sale. The city built a park on the site and the land finally sold, but no announcement concerning specific plans for the location has been made.

Meanwhile, the vibrations that may or may not someday rock my town brought back memories of an old favorite song. Here is a video of the Beach Boys singing Good Vibrations. There is a cameo appearance by Paul McCartney, a birthday cake for Brian, and some awesome outfits.
“I’m pickin up good vibrations…
Good, good, good, good vibrations…” 

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Bit of Nostalgia - The Foods I Ate

Maneuvering my shopping cart at the local supermarket through a maze of aisles, colorful displays, produce, meat, prepared food, bakery counters, and products from every corner of the globe, I am amazed at the variety available. New foods and different variations of common foods are always featured. Unfortunately both my pocketbook and my stomach have their limits. The gap between today’s market and the grocery stores of my youth (in the 1950s and 60s) is simply incredible.

Call it cultural differences, regional variations, evolving gastronomic sophistication, technological advances, the yearning for change - the foods I grew up with are different today.

We did not eat pasta when I was growing up. We ate spaghetti and macaroni. Now we eat different pastas, although sometimes the pasta looks and tastes exactly like what I ate as a kid. With numerous choices deciding what to buy is a mind-boggling task.

White bread was a staple in my home. I have not bought a loaf of white bread in decades. The store bread aisle expands constantly, offering new products all the time - gluten free, quinoa-based, rice bread, flat bread, soda bread, sourdough, leavened, unleavened, mini-sized, maxi-sized…

As a kid cilantro, curry, saffron were unknown, at least in my house…iceberg lettuce was the only green used in salads…fish was eaten on Fridays (whether or not you were Catholic – that is when stores stocked fresh fish)…chicken did not have fingers…sugar was a good thing…flour was always white…chocolate was Hershey bars or kisses and M&Ms…water came out of the kitchen sink…no one ever heard of vegan, and vegetarians were rare, strange creatures.

We had shelves of canned food stacked in the basement. I guess my parents prepared for a snowstorm that would keep us in the house for weeks or a strike by supermarket employees, neither of which ever happened. There was enough food to feed our family of four for weeks. Mom stocked up at sales, and often there would be sales again before we depleted the first stash. I, on the other hand, do not invest heavily in non-perishables.

Mom always seemed to serve canned peas and carrots. I hate canned peas and carrots, and especially dislike the squishy peas in those cans.

We ate ice cream. On special occasions we bought Carvel ice cream in Carvel stores. Today we eat ice cream, soft serve, frozen yogurt, frozen custard, gelato, sorbet, sherbet, ice milk, and other derivations on the frozen dessert. Flavor options were chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and maybe a couple of other choices. Today selections are copious and always changing. Seasonal offerings appear and disappear. Baskin Robbins originally offered 31 flavors – one for each day of the month. They now boast of producing over 1,000 flavors over the years.

Canned, frozen, processed and ready-to-eat foods filled home pantries and freezers. Processed lunchmeat made preparing school lunches quick and easy. Canned soup was a standard ingredient in casseroles and other recipes. I have not purchased a can of soup in years.

Ah, the good old calorie-laden, chemical loaded, faux food, ignorance-is-bliss days. How did we survive!?

Today we are (hopefully) aware of the negatives of many of those products, better-educated consumers, and the marketplace offers more alternatives – some healthy and some not so much.

Yet age-old habits persist. Favorite sugary breakfast cereals…yummy, easily prepared packaged desserts (just add eggs and water and bake)…candy treats…our minds and stomachs fondly remember and reminisce.

Once in a while it is OK to indulge in culinary fare enjoyed since childhood, even if the food does not meet today’s nutritional guidelines.

Just remember, as my mother-in-law is fond of saying, “Everything in moderation”.

Bon appetit! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blinking Light Season

It is November and reality cannot be denied – fall is almost over. I love fall, the season when colorful flowers often last until mid-November, leaves turn beautiful reds and yellows, and the weather is sunny and warm during the day. It is perfect weather for gardening (not too hot or too cold), walking (not too hot or too cold), biking (not too hot or too cold) – you get the idea.

Winter will soon arrive. In fact, it is almost here. This morning ushered in a mixed bag of white flurries, light rain and other unnamed stuff pouring from the skies. It may have been precipitation of some kind or pollution of another kind.

The garden begs for attention, wanting to bed down for the winter.

Darkness descends earlier each evening.

Sweaters and jeans, dug out of drawers and reclaimed from storage, replace short-sleeved shirts, capris and sandals.

Mailboxes – both snail mailbox and e-mail – bulge with ads and catalogs, anticipating holiday gift purchases.

Tourists are gone. Snowbirds close up their homes and head south.

A major modification on our island is an additional indication and sure sign of the changing of the seasons. The red-yellow-green traffic lights on one of the two main thoroughfares transform, initiating blinking light season.

The blinking traffic lights appear on one part of the island. There are four towns here, and two contiguous towns participate in this annual off-season rite.

The traffic lights blink yellow 24 hours a day now. There are no red-yellow-green changing lights to watch carefully and consider –
Will the light turn red before I drive through the intersection? Can I safely make it through?
If I slow down now will the light turn green before I reach it, avoiding a complete stop?
How many lights can I drive through before I have to stop?

I can now drive at the same steady speed, savoring the quiet, peaceful atmosphere characterized by few cars and fewer pedestrians.

            How much gas is saved not stepping on the brakes every couple of blocks!?
           
It definitely takes a lot less time driving steadily down the street, not stopping sporadically. And I have time to look around and enjoy my serene surroundings.

Then I hit my town and the red-yellow-green lights begin again.

The local paper printed some excuse why our town does not adopt the off-season blinking light policy. I did not understand the reasoning and am sure it was an explanation concocted by a local politician who did not have a good answer to the question.

So I savor blinking light season wherever it is for as long as it lasts, sometime mid-spring, when our towns slowly begin to awaken, stir, intense activity begins again, and a steady stream of cars and pedestrians demand red-yellow-green traffic signals once again. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Case of the Missing Shoe


I thought the previous post would be the last about my France trip. I was wrong. This woeful tale is a postscript to that trip.


I am a procrastinator, and so following my return home from ten days away my disheveled suitcase, various souvenirs, books and other paraphernalia lay scattered around my bedroom floor. The pile enhanced an already developing mound of stuff strategically positioned before dashing overseas. I will not admit how long before I decided it was time to stop tripping over the mess and start cleaning, but that auspicious time finally arrived.

Dirty laundry had long been disposed of – cleaned, not thrown away. My half empty suitcase, however, remained a cluttered heap.

Days before beginning my cleaning escapade I noticed one of my black Sketchers shoes sticking out of the suitcase. I grabbed it and searched for the second one. It was nowhere to be found. The shoes, purchased this past summer, fit well, looked almost dressy with black jeans, and I could walk long distances without my feet hurting. A winning combination.

But I was busy and had places to go and things to do. I decided to put off until tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that, the task of cleaning and finding the second shoe.

Did I mention I am a procrastinator? And one of the world’s worst housekeepers.

Do not believe me?

Years and years ago, when my son was a tiny tyke, probably around two years of age and talking, I was getting ready to clean the house. I have no idea why, but kids create a lot of chaos and clutter. I had an innate capacity to ignore much of it, but this particular day was different. I was actually going to clean.

The vacuum cleaner was strategically placed in the middle of the floor. I rushed around and was about to begin vacuuming when my son, wise beyond his years, looked at me and said,

“What company is coming, Mommy?”

You get the idea how often I clean. And when.

Now back to the missing shoe. I was not upset – yet – but was beginning to get concerned. The shoes were new, relatively speaking, and enjoyed an honored place in my closet. Meaning I could find them when needed.

I finished unpacking the suitcase and carry-on bag. Still no sign of the shoe, but on the plus side had exposed additional floor space.

A lot of stuff remained to sort through and get off the floor. I continued to diligently put things away, and soon the hardwood floor was almost totally visible.

Still no shoe.

Then - an epiphany. I realized, suddenly and sadly, where my shoe was, why, and the heartbreaking fact that we would never be together again.

The first part of my trip home involved a chaotic luggage check-in. To avoid paying fees for overweight bags, I opened my suitcase and grabbed heavy items I could carry – books.

While opening the suitcase, rummaging around, and closing it again, the shoe fell out. I did not notice it and obviously no one else did either.

That is the only explanation I can come up with for the missing shoe.

Now one fairly new black Sketchers shoe is a permanent alien resident of France.

I hope it has a good life – le bonne vie.

I do not know what to do with its mate. I hate to throw it out, but what do you do with one shoe?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Weary Travelers Journey Home


The final post on my French odyssey...

Our foursome’s journey through Paris and Provence was winding down. We savored our last dinner in France at a restaurant recommended for its regional dishes, reasonable prices, and sumptuous desserts. The wine was very good too!
The restaurant staff working hard preparing elegant plates.
Preparations for the trip home began the morning of our last full day in France. A request for late checkout was denied; the hotel informed us the rooms were needed. We packed our bags for air travel before breakfast and checked out.

We wandered around the old city of Nice all morning, exploring the outdoor market, devouring lunch at Le Safari cafe, and relaxing outside, enjoying the warm weather and people watching - tourists and locals alike.

Our trusty guide Frank picked us up at 2:00 p.m. and we drove off, stopping at the medieval fortress town of Eze, continuing on to Monaco, and finally driving to the airport. Exhausted from days of sightseeing, we were not looking forward to a draining, long trip home.
We were tired before our trip home began.
Our itinerary included an 8:00 p.m. flight from Nice to Paris, an overnight stay at a hotel at Charles de Gaulle airport, and a plane home the following morning. Travel arrangements – hotels, guides and tours, intra-country travel – had been seamless. We were not so lucky traveling home.

First stop was the Easyjet airline desk at the Nice airport. Boarding passes were provided by our travel planner before leaving home. None of us had bothered to take a careful look at the document earlier in the trip. Nancy, our unofficial leader, reviewed her boarding pass, reading it carefully the day before the flight. That is when the realization hit – our suitcases were not designated checked baggage. And we were allowed only one carry on. Each of us had one suitcase, a carry-on, and a large pocketbook.

Easyjet, a British airline, is evidently the European equivalent of Spirit Air.

Realizing we were going to encounter complications, Frank accompanied us to the airline desk, assisting with translations and explanations. We all checked – and paid for – two bags apiece, shelling out an additional (approximately) $100.

Our cheap flight to Paris was not so cheap after all.

My suitcase was below the weight limit, but my two bags were slightly over the maximum weight allowance. I quickly opened my bag and grabbed my blazer and some books, threw the blazer on, although it was quite warm, and walked away carrying my coat, pocketbook, and a handful of (heavy) books.

Arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport with no further hassles, we  retrieved our bags and proceeded to the Hilton Hotel, taking the airport shuttle train, walking through a terminal and along outside walkways, and finally reaching the hotel entrance. We could have – should have – taken the hotel shuttle bus, but were somewhat misinformed.

Check-in was the final hurdle. Nancy’s  went smoothly, but Kathe’s communications were not going well. There was a slight glitch. The hotel had our names with one night paid for, but the reservation had never been confirmed.

Following some stress and Nancy’s (our only French language speaker) heroic efforts to straighten things out, we received room keys and a voucher for free drinks. We dropped the bags in our rooms and returned to the lobby bar, relaxing with drinks and a cheese plate until well past midnight.

Suddenly iPhone alarms went off and the last leg of our journey began. A hotel van drove us to the airport terminal. We checked in without incident, and after two separate security checks, lengthy walks, escalator rides, and a hasty detour to the duty-free shop, we arrived at the boarding gate.

The flight home was nine hours long, with emphasis on long. The plane was full, and the trip uneventful. The food, however, was just short of awful.

Customs proved trouble-free, and by the time we arrived at the luggage carousel our bags were waiting for us.

Hubs greeted us, and we were on our way home.

Fall is currently at its finest in south Jersey. Trees are in full color and the ride home quite colorful. Arriving home I showered (I could not stand myself!), and hub and I enjoyed dinner at a local pub. I was asleep by nine.

My three companions also reached home without incident - almost. Kathe had another airline flight before reaching Las Vegas, her final destination. Her plane, scheduled for the day after our Paris-Philly flight, was delayed, missing her connection in Charlotte. She flew home and into the arms of her hub a day later.

Our next trip?

I do not know - yet. In two years I celebrate (if that is the right word) my 65th birthday and Kathe will be 70. Our birthdays are two days apart. The four of us are talking about maybe…returning to France, or exploring another country.

We just have to stay young-at-heart, healthy, and in reasonable physical shape to share another adventure together!
Four graduates of a two-hour perfumery course.
We are holding our course certificates and (in the bags) a bottle of our one-of-a-kind, personal perfume.
We are thinking of creating and marketing our own fragrances to finance our next trip.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The South of France in Pictures

Our group of four spent five days in the French province of Provence in the south of France. We wandered towns settled thousands of years ago, drove along modern highways, got stuck in a rush hour traffic jam, and viewed stunning landscapes. Part of the area borders the sea, and we meandered two lane roads hugging the coastline, with the blue Mediterranean on one side, affluent French Riviera towns on the other side, and high cliffs rising straight above.

A few pictorial highlights of our travels:
The Roman Coliseum in Arles, used today for bullfights.
The Church of St. Trophime, Arles, built between the 12th and 15th centuries on the remains of an earlier holy structure. Churches took decades and sometimes centuries to build because of the difficulty of the work, the need to raise building funds, expansion, the development of new building methods, and the demands of an increasing population.

We visited Greek ruins, Medieval and Renaissance churches, centuries-old towns, and the haunts of painters who lived and worked in this landscape.
A sign on the path leading to the place Cezanne spent time outdoors painting Mont Sainte-Victoire.
Paul Cezanne was born and lived in Aix-en-Provence a good part of his life. Many of his paintings depict Mont Sainte-Victoire, seen above from the place Cezanne set up his easel and painted. The picture was taken at sunset.


We visited Santo Sospir, the villa of Francine Weisswiller (she died in 2003), a close friend and patron of Jean Cocteau - painter, writer, film maker. Eric, the home's current resident, caretaker and tour guide, showed us Cocteau's artwork on the sidewalk entrance to the house, above, on the side of the house, below, and throughout the house.
Santo Sospir's walls are decorated with Cocteau's artwork.
The mural above, in the dining room, depicts the Biblical story of Judith.
Nice from my hotel room.
The gardens of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, outside Nice.
Construction of the villa began in 1906 and was completed in 1912.
The villa's mistress, Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, decorated with authentic 16th and 17th century furniture and artwork collected throughout her life. The villa was one of Beatrice's three major residences.
Outdoor markets are a part of a town's daily life.
This picture was taken at the flower and food market in Nice.
We drove to Monaco, next door to Nice. This is part of the royal palace complex.
It is difficult to see, but in the white house on the right a policeman stands guard.
Monaco from the mountains.
I want to thank Frank, our guide in Provence. An ex-professional ballet dancer, he currently owns, with a partner, a tour guide business based in Monaco. He was knowledgeable and extremely patient with four women who sometimes had different ideas about sightseeing than he did!
Frank, I am sorry you were (almost) late a couple of evenings picking up your daughter at day care.
And thank your wife for her help with our airport predicament.
If anyone is traveling to France and wants a great guide, let me know and I will forward his contact information.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

An American Tourist's Snapshots of Paris

Four baby boomer girlfriends embark on a ten day European adventure and discover the land, the life, the people, and the cuisine of France.
Enjoying Paris. The picture was taken in front of the Louvre; the Jarden des Tuileries behind us.
Some pictorial highlights of Paris:
We found the coffee - I personally prefer cafe au lait made with espresso -  a trip highlight. Cafes and restaurants brew individual cups with high-tech machines, the coffee served fresh, smelling wonderful and tasting delightful. 
Beautiful parks like the one above can be found throughout Paris.
The small boats gliding on the lake can be rented at a nearby kiosk. Children run alongside their boat following the craft around the artificial lake, helping the vessel move forward with long poles.
Warm, sunny weather beckons Parisians outdoors  to stroll along streets and parks, linger at outdoor cafe tables, or enjoy the sun in chairs lining the lake (chairs are not bolted down and not stolen!).
The River Seine runs through the heart of Paris.
Tourist boats and local vessels line the banks. Crowds take advantage of walking and biking paths along the riverbank. Vendor stalls and special exhibits add to the mix.
This picture was taken in the gardens at Giverny, Impressionist painter Claude Monet's home outside Paris.  Employees maintain the house and gardens as much as possible exactly as it was when Monet lived and painted in his home studio. 
This is one creation museums and other places here at home should adopt - anyplace people walk around and find themselves in need of a comfortable resting place.
(The item may already have crossed the Atlantic, but I have not seen any.)
This multi-seat round sofa was gratefully discovered in the Musee d'Orsay.
Our favorite cafe.
The Louvre's main entrance and courtyard.
Streets are lined with small shops.
A picture of the Eiffel Tower is a must in any discussion of Paris.
I love this picture taken in a park next to the Tower. Fall is a beautiful season anywhere!