Friday, May 30, 2008

The first cut is the hardest

I took scissors to the Liberty fabric last night. I modified the front bodice piece of V8352 to remove the attached facing and add a seam allowance. I'm not wasting precious fabric on facings - I think the warm tan I've chosen will work well as the facings anyway, and accent the floral on the Liberty rather than drowning me in too much of it. I've only cut the bodice at this point because I'm still thinking deep thoughts about the skirt. I also cut the bodice in white batiste underlining - Liberty lawn is so fine that it would just droop without any underlining, and batiste will give it strength without really adding any weight. I need to buy that stuff by the bolt, I swear, for the amount of it I use.

As far as the bottom of the dress, I just finished a BWOF skirt the other night, the petite #122 from the 4/2006 issue. What a cute skirt! It looks like a plain straight skirt from the front, but the back yoke dips down a bit and there are soft pleats in the back which add a really pretty fullness to the skirt without adding any unnecessary (or unflattering) fullness to me. My thought at this point is to use this as the skirt to my dress - the bodice of #8352 curves down almost in the same shape as the skirt yoke, and if I measure properly, I could do inserts of the contrast fabric for the insides of the pleats. I had a suggestion on yesterday's post about using a similar print for the contrast, but I think searching for a print that would work with this would take longer than making the dress. Plus if I find something I do like, I can guarantee the texture will be all wrong. In the end, much as I sometimes like looking like a walking patchwork quilt, I really don't think I want to give the Liberty competition. It might not like it.

I really doubt if I can stretch the fabric enough to do the entire skirt in just Liberty, so I need to make up my mind what I want. I think I'll do the structural sewing on the bodice tonight and pin it to my new skirt (which I'm wearing) and see how the shapes work together. If they're happy, then I'll figure out how to make the fabric work. If they aren't, then I'll do what I did for the skirt lining and fold the pleats out of the pattern piece and cut it straight and maybe be able to get it all from original fabric. Maybe. Unless I do something different.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Listening to the fabric

The next dress is starting to come together in my head. Even though I know the best use for that 1.6 meters of blue flowered Liberty would be to make a shirt from it and not try to stretch it beyond its capacity, it wants to be a dress. It told me so. The problem was how to make 1.6 meters of not-particularly-wide cotton into something resembling a dress big enough to fit me.

The answer: careful cutting, a fabric pattern that's non-directional and a contrast fabric used in such a way that it won't look either cheesy or like I ran out of fabric.

My first idea was a dress based on B 4985, which I really liked as a blouse, but even though the more numerous yet smaller pieces might be a bit more sparing of fabric, I've decided to use the bodice from Vogue 8352 instead. 8352 fit pretty well and the top half didn't take a lot of fabric. It's got a slightly dropped waist which will allow me to swap out the existing full skirt for something a little less generous. While I like the original just fine, (a) I don't want an identical dress, and (b) the full dress takes 3 yards - I can't stretch 1.6 meters quite THAT far.

So I'm going to use just the bodice, and see how much fabric I have left after that. I found a warm tan cotton broadcloth that would work with the Liberty, though I haven't completely given up on finding the right light blue. If I do the collar and the facings in the contrast color, that will tie the bodice together with whatever I have to do to make the skirt work, which right now entails making something vaguely A-lined, and possibly using vertical bands of contrast - which seems more interesting than a band at the bottom of the skirt. The dropped waist also means that I don't have to make shirt dress - I can just do buttons from the waist and keep the skirt as one piece, also using a lot less fabric.

At this point, the dress is sleeveless. If it looks like there's going to be a decent bit of fabric left after the skirt (I know, I know, I'm dreaming) then I'll find some itty-bitty sleeve to put in. Otherwise, the armholes will get banded with more of the contrast fabric.

If this works, it's going to be a miracle on level of the loaves and fishes. But with fabric.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BWOF 3/08 #108 Blouse

Pattern Description: Small details make a big impact on this blouse. The gathered collar and rounded, pleated pockets furnish that certain special something. In non-Burda-speak, fitted blouse with gathered collar, pleated pockets and flounced sleeves.

Pattern Sizing: BWOF 36-44. I made a straight 38, my usual size in BWOF patterns. If I hadn't been using such a stretchy fabric, I might have gone up to a 40 on this one because it is QUITE fitted.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? More or less, yes. The parts I really liked look like the photo.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Not too bad for BWOF. I don't want to say they're getting better with their instructions for fear that the next pattern I attempt will be completely incomprehensible, but I have noticed a little more clarity lately. That being said, they completely lost me on the sleeve vent, sleeve band and flounce, but it was easy enough to figure out on my own. Whether I did what they wanted me to is another story, but it looks right so that's what matters.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? This was a pattern I liked as soon as I opened the magazine. The pockets reminded me of the folded/pleated skirt BWOF did a while back, and I loved the gathered collar. These are both elements that I will use on future jackets/blouses because after making the pattern, I like them at least as much as I did in the magazine photo. The collar is my favorite part of the entire project.

My least favorite part, and I wish I had read Cabinbaby's review more closely, is that the facings (especially the right one) do not want to stay put inside the blouse. I had to eventually tack them down because otherwise they would roll just enough that the edges would be visible.

Fabric Used: Green stripe with metallic threads picked up at Mood a few months back. I think it's some kind of rayon blend, and it has a significant amount of cross-wise stretch, more so than you would expect. I haven't yet determined what buttons I want to use on this top, but I wanted to post the review while people are still likely to pick up this issue.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I cut the sleeve bands on the bias both to add a little extra interest and to keep me from insanely trying to match the stripes from the sleeve all the way to the flounce (which wouldn't have worked anyway but I would have driven myself crazy trying). I'm not going to add buttons or buttonholes to the pockets. I think that would look good on a solid color, but my fabric didn't need the extra busy-ness of a button there. Other than that, no changes whatsoever.

I have to say it again: I really love the gathered collar. And the drafting on this pattern was good - you know how sometimes you sew your front facings to your back neck facing and the resulting shape appears to belong to another garment entirely? This fit reallly well on the first try, which made me very happy. Next time, however, if there is a next time, I would draft a wider facing so that it would behave better and not keep popping into the otherwise very nice neckline of this top.

I cut this out prior to leaving for vacation, and finished it off this weekend because I'm trying to get all my unfinished projects done with before I touch my vacation fabric. It went together really easily and I like the fit.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? This is definitely on my list of recommendations, with the warning that you might want to grade up a size because this does have quite a snug fit, even with fabric with a crosswise stretch. I don't know if I'll sew this exact top again, but as I said above, the collar and pocket elements are my favorite part of the shirt and I will definitely find uses for them on other projects. All in all, a pretty, flattering shirt.

Monday, May 26, 2008

BWOF 5/07 #111 - Drawstring Blouse

Pattern Description: This trendy empire-line blouse is made up in a brightly printed batiste. Narrow self-fabric drawstrings cinch it to the figure, and the long sleeves can be rolled up as desired.

Pattern Sizing: BWOF 38-46. I'm generally a 38 in BWOF's patterns, and this was no exception.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, but more like the line drawing, as Christina Sonja said in her review (which was the reason I made this top).

Were the instructions easy to follow? Remarkably clear for BWOF. I didn't get confused once, which is always a plus with one of their patterns.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I didn't even notice this blouse in the May 2007 issue of Burda (this appears to be a trend with me, not noticing patterns that I later decide I love) but Christina's review of it for her wardrobe and on her blog convinced me that I needed to make one. I love the casual/dressy vibe of this - it really can be dressed up or down quite easily - and I thought it would also be a good start to get me back into slower and more focused sewing.

Fabric Used: Gorgeous cotton batiste from Gorgeous Fabrics. Purchased specifically for this top, like I really need a reason to buy fabrics from Ann. Really.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Nary a one. The drawstrings are run through casings on the inside of the top. The pattern gives options for grommets or buttonholes for the drawstrings; I chose to make buttonholes. I used tiny squares of iron-on interfacing behind the buttonholes to stabilize them, but the interfacing is barely visible beyond the edges of the holes.

I used plain white batiste for the facings and the drawstring casings for this blouse, which wasn't so much skimping on the good stuff as realizing that the fabric is pretty sheer and I'd rather have white backing than have the pattern show through. Because the batiste is really light and airy, I didn't use interfacing on the collar and facings - I didn't want even a little stiffness in only two parts of the blouse. For the collar, I added a layer of white batiste between the two layers of fabric; for the facings, I just used white batiste and topstitched it along the outside edge and again along the facing edge to add stability. The buttons I used aren't heavy, so they don't weigh it down.

On a sheer fabric like this, trimming the seam allowances evenly and narrowly was a must. I don't think anything looks as homemade (in the bad sense) as bulky or uneven seam allowances that show through a garment. I did the stitching on the facings very slowly because I wanted a perfect line and I didn't want the very narrow seam allowance I had pressed to skooch over and do something that would cause me to have to pick out a whole line of tiny white-on-white stitches.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would highly recommend this top. I think it would look flattering on most body types, and the drawstrings allow it to be easily adjusted for fit. I'd probably make it again myself in darker colors and try to work it into the fall/winter wardrobe.

Conclusion: I got this done last night just in time to wear to the Memorial Day cookout today, and I can't wait to give it a test drive. I think I'm really going to like this one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Paris: Fabrics (and notions)

On Monday, Trena and I went to Montmartre to go fabric shopping. We both had Reine in mind, but when we got there, it was closed. Isabelle told us later that it was Pentecost, which although it’s not even a blip on the calendar here, it’s a real live holiday in France and the stores took the day off.

Not all the shops were closed: we did find our way to Dreyfus, which was almost as good although without the cool half-size mannequins that I love at Reine. At Dreyfus, I rapidly accumulated 2 meters of brown/tan/white spotted jersey and 3 meters of dark chocolate colored lightweight cotton embroidered with tiny peachy-orange roses. Yummy! I think it wants to be the BWOF special design from April 2008, the wonderful halter dress with attached scarf.

I had promised myself I was going to stop at two cuts of fabric, so theoretically this should have been enough. But it wasn’t. I wanted Reine. I wanted Liberty print fabric – or at least the option of refusing it. When Mario considerately suggested the next day that we go back to Montmartre to make up for my sad disappointment, how could I resist? He wanted to make me happy. It wouldn't have been right to say no. So I didn't.

So . . . Reine. I made a beeline for the Liberty table, and they had a ton of stuff that I wanted. There were a few patterns I really liked but for some reason, for me Liberty has to have either a white or ivory background for it to feel right, so the fabrics with darker or brighter backgrounds just didn’t make the cut. There has to be some way to eliminate fabrics or I'd still be there, drooling on the table. They had the paisley I just used for the BWOF dress in three different colorways – so hard to resist in the rusty-orange and pink – but I ended up with these two, one with a dark orange, mossy-green, gold and ivory Art Deco-ish print (2 meters), and a blue, rust and ivory stylized floral (1.6 meters but the very cute cutter gave it to me as 1.5 meters when he saw my sad face – don’t laugh, this stuff costs 21.95 euros per yard; every fraction of an inch helps).

I can’t believe I spent that much on less than 4 yards of cotton, but I don’t regret it. I can’t wait to cut into it, I just need to cruise the pattern inventory and find something worthy.

From there, we tried a few of the other shops. There are what they call “coupon” stores – basically remnants. These stores were interesting. I don't think I really noticed them last time because the exteriors are kind of cheap-looking with tables of not-so-attractive fabrics, but inside the stores we visited were all kinds of goodies, like this gold/white/brown stripe cotton lycra shirting which is a dead ringer for the striped shirt fabric in the “Paris: Windows” entry. 3 meters, both because that's how it was cut and because there was some damage along one end and that will give me plenty to work with.

Mario was hunting enthusiastically through the bins in these stores, and by the second store, he revealed his ulterior motive: he was looking for shirting fabric that would approximate some of the men’s shirts we’d been seeing in the stores. Eventually in the third store we struck gold for both of us: for him, two fabrics: this lovely green floral striped cotton (for which he wants a plain moss green reverse for the cuffs and color band, though I'm pushing for some leftover Liberty floral from last year, and a linen blend (why does lin mélange sound better?) in dark fuchsia with striping. I love both though I could never wear the pink one, but he's dark enough to carry off vivid colors. These were each 3 yard cuts, but they don’t count against my stash totals, they weren't on my credit card, and they will eventually be moving, if not out of my house, at least out of my workroom and onto a hanger.

For myself, I found two summer weight cottons, a border-print and a heart-pattern. At 3 meters, they were only 12 euros per piece. How could I resist? As a farewell, I grabbed a 3 meter piece of brown crinkled poly taffeta with embroidery and sequins, for 22 euros. This fabric has BWOF written all over it.

On the previous Saturday, we went to the flea market at Porte de Vanves, and I indulged my button weakness at several vendors. This is the result: 6 brass antique buttons with varied animal heads. The same vendor had other metal buttons I really wanted, but one card had 10 buttons and she wanted 10 euros apiece for them, so I went for the ones I knew I could afford. Other than that, I got a card of vintage iridescent grey/silver/lavender glass buttons and 8 moss green domed buttons that are exactly what I want to match last year’s eyelet corduroy from Reine.

Fabric: 19.6 meters, $200+. Buttons: $30+. The satisfaction I will get turning my purchases into clothing: priceless.

An Unexceptional Skirt Pattern with Good Results

When I finished my recent B 4985 (check #) blouse, I realized I had enough vintage fabric leftover to make a skirt, and that together they would make a nice two-piece summer dress. I knew I didn't want anything too fussy - the fabric is busy enough - so that immediately narrowed the search down to a pencil skirt or an A-line. The pencil skirt idea eventually got nixed because even though it's in good condition, this fabric is OLD and therefore might not like the stresses of being a snug-fitting pencil skirt.

So A-line it was. Do you know how hard it is to find a pattern for an A-line skirt? Okay, I know I shouldn't need one, but while I was looking for a pattern for the "nuts to you" fabric, I decided I wanted to use the same pattern for some leftover black RPL from Gorgeous Things so that I would have an extra black skirt to take on vacation, and I wasn't going to try pattern drafting a few days before vacation, even as simple a shape as that.

BWOF to the rescue, of course. I passed right by #117 in the October 2006 issue, probably because it was done in shiny fabric with pleated trim at the bottom, but on my second pass through the magazines I concentrated on the technical drawings and realized that this was the perfect basic shape. I also liked the top - somewhere between yoke and waistband.

The patterned skirt was the inspiration for the project, but the black one as the one that got finished in time for vacation. It was comfortable, wore well (and repeatedly, due to the hot weather) and the only change I decided to make for the second version was to move the invisible zip from the side to the back, which simply involved cutting the back in two pieces with seam allowances instead of on the fold. There was nothing specifically wrong with the side zip, I just decided that for the line of the skirt, it would feel smoother to have the zip in the back. I don't notice any difference in the shape or fit of the skirt, but I like it better that way.

As with the top, the vintage cotton sewed up like a dream. This went together in no time at all, and for the finishing touch, and to jazz it up a little, I added a bright purple lining. It makes me happy whenever I see it. It's the little things, isn't it?

Now I only have scraps left of this fabric, but you know what? I can't make myself get rid of them. I've just sorted the scrap pile into two separate piles: wove and stretch. Who knows, maybe someday a project will come out of them.

Yesterday I wore the two-piece outfit to work and I really like it. Most of all, I'm pleased that I finally sewed up some fabric that my great grandmother stashed before I was born.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Paris: Windows

In Paris, it’s hard not to notice clothes: on the people passing, on the mannequins in the store windows. Even the dogs are chic.

I mentioned in a previous post about the menswear stores we ran across in the Marais. Apparently Frenchmen are more fashion forward than American men (now there’s a surprise!) because the shirts in the window were like a box of Crayolas run wild. The trend is for the under-cuffs and sometimes insides of collar-bands to be in contrasting fabrics; in addition, the buttonholes and button thread are in the same contrasting color, while generally the buttons match the shirt fabric: see this fabulous black shirt with leopard-print cuffs, orange buttonholes, black buttons and orange thread. Let’s say it made an impression on someone besides me.

During our wanderings prior to meeting Trena on Monday, we ran across a few other worthy moments: this silk dress at Prada, with random ruffles everywhere. Even the sleeves don’t match. I really can’t decide if I like this dress or I hate it, but it makes a statement.

This tobacco linen jacket and vest with oversized buttons struck me because they were just impeccable. Everything is right with this outfit.

This vaguely safari-ish jacket isn’t completely me - I think the sleeve length is a little odd and definitely wouldn't be flattering - but I love the topstitching, the randomly spaced buttons and almost everything about it except . . . it. Not that I’d turn it down, mind you. But I’ll use it for inspiration rather than trying to reproduce it.

Back to menswear again: this Kenzo suit. Is this immaculate or what? Nothing else to say, just gorgeous tailoring, great fabric and beautiful lines. I’d like it in my size, please.

Akris, on the Champs Elysee, had this sheer coppery coat with stripes of darker fabric. I'm not sure what I'd wear it with, but I thought it was lovely.

Last, and certainly not least, is this shirt: gold/brown/white stripes. Stripes running vertically, horizontally and diagonally. Buttons, tabs, princess seams. Perfect fit. Lots of opportunity for immaculate topstitching. Pockets (with tabs!). Sleeves, also with tabs – not so sure about those. I want this shirt. I will have this shirt. Matter of fact, I bought the perfect fabric for this shirt the very next day.

Keep checking back, folks, because I’ve also purchased the perfect basic pattern for this shirt – McCall 4922 – and it’s winging its way to me as I write. I’ll make a quick muslin before I cut into the stripe, just to check the fit, but this shirt has rapidly moved up the list, kicking longstanding projects right out of its way. Can I argue? I don’t think so. I want that shirt. Soon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Paris: Day 5

By this point, it was hard to ignore that we were going home soon. We had breakfast at Café Benjamin on Rue de Rivoli, a place I like for their 3 euro breakfast of coffee, croissant and orange juice as much as for their encaustic tile floor.

We had a moment of complete heat-induced stupidity when we went to the Louvre and discovered that it was closed on Tuesdays. That’s why they make guidebooks, people! Oh, well – really it was too nice a day to spend inside anyway.

We walked down through the Tuileries and along the Champs Elysees until we came to the Arc de Triomphe, which neither of us visited last time. It was an adventure trying to figure out how to actually get to it – there’s an underground stairway that we didn’t see at first – and then when we got to the center, it’s just enormous. I was glad I’d photographed it from across the street, because it all wouldn’t fit in the lens once we were close up.

Once we were done there, Mario looked at the metro map and pointed out that the metro line we would have to take ran straight up to Anvers, and wasn’t it a shame that I’d been deprived of going to Reine the day before. Honestly, the man just gets better and better! Off to Montmartre we went again, and this time I didn’t hold back. Two cuts of Liberty cotton at Reine, and permission from the saleswoman to take ONE photograph of the mannequins. Of course someone jostled me and I wasn’t allowed to take a second one. One photo meant one photo. So, a blurry picture of a mannequin wearing a really fabulous red satin gown.

There are other stores there called “coupon” stores. Coupon apparently means remnant, and those stores were treasure troves if you’re willing to dig. I. Am. Willing. To. Dig. I found two wonderful summer cottons, 3 meter cuts for 12 euros each, and a brown crinkled taffeta with embroidery and sequins that is just calling out to be made into something excessive from BWOF.
An ulterior motive was revealed when Mario found a green striped/floral shirting fabric that was a really good approximation of some of the shirts he’d been admiring. Three meters for 18 euros, and I can do the contrasting bits with last year’s Liberty lawn, which will work really well, or a solid green if he objects to the pattern. (Fabric photos to come, I promise!)

We stopped at a café near the metro stop for lunch and got to experience something I didn’t know existed anymore – one of those Turkish toilets that’s basically just two footrests and a hole in the floor. Interesting. Almost sorry I didn’t have my camera, but not quite.

After resting up a bit and coming to the shameful realization that I’d acquired something like 20 meters of fabric in two days, we headed out for our final dinner. Allard, on Rue Saint-Andre-des-Arts, was our favorite restaurant last year, and we decided to go back. We got there at about 8:30 p.m., and while it wasn’t packed, it was pretty crowded. Without a reservation we got put into the less attractive, still very nice back dining room. There was a Canadian couple at the next table and we compared vacation experiences and admired each others’ food – they got the roast chicken with mushrooms and we got the roast duck with olives, both highly recommended.

The duck took up so much space that we passed on dessert at the restaurant and took another walk instead. Even though it was almost 10:00 p.m., we managed to catch a great sunset as we crossed the bridge. That inspired us to walk back to Berthillon for a final sorbet – pomme vert (green apple) and groseille (red currant). Yum.

Packing took some time. The wine got wrapped securely in my dirty laundry to be checked at the airport. The fabric and the few ceramic bits I picked up at the flea market took up my entire carry-on bag, which I only brought on the off-chance I bought anything.

How do you say, “I’ve been a bad, bad girl?” in French?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Paris: Day 4

This was one of the days I looked forward to the most – getting to meet sewing friends, both real and virtual – in Paris. I already had plans with Trena to meet at Notre Dame at 1:00 p.m., and when I got up in the morning, I called Isabelle to confirm that she would meet us at 5:00 p.m.

After breakfast at the Fontaine de Sully across the street, we spent the morning aimlessly wandering the streets, one of my favorite activities. I saw a lot of intriguing things in store windows (separate post about that later), but most of the stores weren’t open so I couldn’t try things on. Just as well – I’d rather make it than buy it, even in Paris.

Trena was right where she said she’d be, and after meeting her friends and sending them off to Berthillon, she and Mario and I had lunch. Then she and I took the metro up to Anvers to Sacre Coeur and the fabric stores, where we weresurprised to discover that Reine was closed! So were a lot of the other shops, but we went to Dreyfus and managed to find a few things there. Women who want fabric will find it, if it exists. And sometimes even if it doesn't. After a café stop, and more conversation, we made it back to my hotel by 5:00 p.m. to meet Isabelle, who is even more petite adorable than she appears in her blog.

Isabelle explained to us that the reason the fabric stores were closed was because it was Pentecost. I knew something was up – the vestments on the priest at the local church had changed from red to green, and even to non-Catholic that’s a head-up of something big – but my loveable lapsed Catholic couldn’t remember what it meant.

We walked together down toward the Bastille to Dalloyeau for pastry. It was worse than being kids in a candy store – imagine being kids in a candy store where the candy is stuff you never imagined could exist, and it was all too pretty to think about eating. Except of course we did eventually choose something, and we certainly ate it right down to the crumbs, all the while talking about sewing and our lives and all the fun things you find to talk about with people you know without ever having met before (or in Trena’s case, twice briefly at PR Weekends, but this was our longest conversation). We had a handsome waiter take our picture sitting outside.

By 6:30 p.m. we split up, Isabelle to go back to her dissertation, Trena to do some food shopping – lucky woman has an apartment with a kitchen! – and me to collect Mario and discuss where we would have dinner later.

We walked over to Rue Saint-Severin to eat. The area is a little touristy, but there are some restaurants which weren’t packed with Americans and we chose one called Le Tango de Chat, which of course I liked because of the name. The meal – warm goat cheese salad and roast pork with sautéed prunes – was very good. The only giveaways that it was a restaurant aimed at tourists was the default side vegetable was French fries, though good ones, and the chocolate mousse was a little over-refrigerated. But the food was still good and it was a definite break for the budget, which was feeling a little tight and we wanted to save up a bit to treat ourselves on our last night in Paris.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Paris: Day 3

Sunday morning, we slept in. Saturday was a late night, whether we liked it or not. It was interesting to find out that stupid drunken young guys sound just as stupid and drunken in French as they do at home. Rue Saint-Antoine is a busy street, and with the tall buildings and the narrow streets, sounds are really magnified. But this: all night long, cars, buses, motorcycles, yelling, singing, the occasional random howl, and then promptly at daybreak, the trashcan symphony. When the man rolled over and refused to get up, I didn’t argue.

Sunday’s hazy plan included the Picasso Museum, which was close to the hotel. We stopped at a nearby café for breakfast and then wandered the streets for a while. There are a lot of men’s stores in the area, and someone showed a surprising interest in all the shirts in the windows. A lot of them were in interesting patterns, with the inside collar band and inside cuffs done in a contrasting pattern or solid. The buttonholes and buttons were done in a color that matched the contrasting fabric. He immediately decided he needed a new shirt. (I’ve done wonders with him, and Paris hasn’t hurt either).

Once we did the museum – no particularly famous pieces but a wide selection of sculpture and a collection that addressed all of Picasso’s many periods – we walked back through the shirt corridor in the Marais and headed for the left bank. It was still pre-lunchtime, so we crossed over the Pont Sully, walked past Notre Dame again – the crowds were back – and went to the Jardins de Luxembourg. The gardens were beautiful, and packed, and we sat at the fountain for a while watching the kids (and some adults) with their sailboats. Then we wandered through the rest of the gardens, looking at the sculpture (both classic and modern), enjoying the shade, having another ice cream. There were pony rides for kids, but apparently I'm too big. Go figure.

When we made it back to the hotel, we realized that the heat had really gotten to us, and we napped until around 7:00 p.m. Dinner was at a restaurant near Notre Dame we had seen the night before – amazing mushroom soup, sardines (which looked nothing like the canned skinny things I’ve ever seen before) and some more rose. A final ice cream and bed. My sunburn hurt.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Paris: Day 2

Day 2 dawned bright and early. Literally. I forgot that trash gets picked up daily in Paris and the trashcan symphony started under our windows at 5:30 a.m., by which time it was already light. After that, the street cleaners came along, and then the fruit and veg store across the street got a delivery and began to set up for the day. I slept through most of it – living on a busy city block at home has its advantages – but by 7:30 a.m. I was ready to go. Sleeping Beauty, however, put a turquoise pillow over his head for a while longer, so I dealt with the shower attachment on my own and then sat on the balcony until he deigned to get up.

After breakfast, on our way to the metro, we ran across a wonderful outdoor food market right outside the Hotel de Ville. I wish we had markets like that here - our farmer's markets just aren't quite the same.

This was one of the few days with a definite plan – I’ve been to Paris 3 times now, and every time I go to the Saturday morning flea market at Porte de Vanves. There are bigger, more well-known flea markets in Paris, but to my mind, this one is the best. It has a great variety of stuff from huge antique armoires to . . . buttons. A small weakness of mine which I indulged somewhat to excess. Antique metal buttons with animal heads, vintage lavender/silver/gray glass buttons (an entire card!) and newer mossy green dome buttons to match the fabric I bought at Reine last year. Those weren't the only ones I wanted, but when I realized that the 10 euros the seller was requesting for a particular card of buttons was the price per button, I gave up and got my second choice, which I'm just as happy with.

After a stop at a crepe stand in the flea market for lunch, we took the metro to Invalides and walked toward the Eiffel Tower. Last year we wanted to go at night, but we got there too late and never made it back for the rest of the trip. This year we decided to do it early on, even though it meant standing in line in the sun for over an hour. A sunburn was probably the one souvenir I hadn’t expected to bring home from Paris. After about an hour, we got to the second level, which was beautifully cool and breezy after the 80 degree heat on the street below. The unexpected heat seemed to be getting to everyone – even the Parisians were sprawled out on the grass below us like they were at the beach. I was a little envious.

The best cure for heat is more Berthillon ice cream. This time I tried caramel au beurre sale, caramel with salted butter. It sounds a little strange, but it was wonderful. The other cure is a siesta until the sun was a little less strong, and so that we could stay up and enjoy dark when it finally fell.

The restaurant which had been recommended to us was no longer there when we arrived, so we ended up at a seafood restaurant near Saint-Michel, which turned out to be a delicious choice. I had herring with potatoes and olive oil for an appetizer and cod with potatoes and aioli for my main. After that, tarte au pommes, and wash the whole thing down with a nice bottle of white Cotes-du-Rhone.

We needed to walk some of that food off before bed, so we came back by way of Notre Dame. (It seems like most walks lead you past Notre Dame, not that that is a bad thing). When we passed during the day, the lines were enormous and after the Eiffel Tower, I wouldn’t stand in another line, especially to see a church I'd seen before, no matter how lovely. At 9:30 p.m., there were no lines, the doors were wide open, and mass was being celebrated inside to a packed house. While I may not be particularly religious, I always find it offensive when people use flash photography during church services – it’s a church first, an attraction second – but I got a few photos without flash and I think they actually look more atmospheric anyway.
It was a gorgeous evening. The banks of the Seine were packed with people like us who just didn't want the day to end.