Monday, November 13, 2017

Patisseries... and loved ones on my mind.

Missing Paris today... and my in-laws. 
We spent this past weekend at my mother-in-love's 
cleaning out the last of her furniture
as the house has now sold.

A sad task and the final round
of dividing up her belongings,
deciding who keeps what 
and making the last painful trips to the donation center. 

Remembering their visit to Paris 
at the end of our year of living there,
I couldn't help but think of the bustling little boulangerie/patisserie
that sat just across the street from us on the corner. 

When my In-Love's had tired of trekking through the streets of Paris
or long drives and cathedral and chateau visits in the Loire,
they LOVED sitting on the blue couch in my dining room
staring out the French window
watching the people coming and going
through the doors of the boulangerie.
Something tickled them about the number of people
emerging with baguettes or pretty-ribboned pink boxes 
filled with pastries and chocolates. 
Often there was a line out the door and a dog or two 
also waiting with their owners on the end of a leash. 

My father-in-love had a healthy sweet tooth
and nearly daily made his own trek across the street
to come home with a pink box and his favorite gateau.
He started with the smallest one
and worked his way up to the largest. 
Some days he suggested we skip lunch
and just have gateau.

The sweet little boulangerie on that corner is gone now...
as are my in-laws. 
On that corner now sits a(nother) bank. 
And in my home here in the Pacific Northwest
sit a few items that remind me of my mother-in-love
who just left us this year. 

But in my heart is the sweetness of the memory
of the two of them together, enjoying the view out the window, 
chuckling as they pointed things out to each other while they held hands.

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, October 30, 2017

French Wine Harvest Lowest Since 1945

It appears this year's French wine harvest,
as predicted, 
is the worst in over 70 years. 

Spring frosts decimated vineyards, 
(twice this past April)
causing the harvest to be 18% lower than 2016
which was the lowest in decades. 

And not just in France.
Austria, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland 
were also hit hard. 

The losses have varied anywhere from 25 to 90 percent
despite some vineyards employing old-fashioned 'smudge pot' techniques
using fires in oil drums and fans to hinder the damaging cold on the vines. 

Climate change is also a challenge to this business. 
One article suggests that global warming will cause
grapes to ripen earlier causing low quality wines and higher alcohol content
(which the French I know do not care for.)

But the article also stated 
that while this year's grape harvest quantity will be down,
 the effect of the warm, dry summer weather
means the quality will be high.
So at least there's that!

May want to stock up on your favorite French wines
in case of price hikes.  
While I'm a fan of American (specifically California) reds,
I'm not partial to the French reds.
And just the opposite with whites. 
I love French whites but not so much American whites. 

It will be interesting to see how the French, 
in all their brainstorming on how to deal with their challenges,
will end up handling climate change
and how the business, and the wines, will change. 

à Votre Santé.

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen
Info via articles in The Guardian and The Daily Meal.)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Pompeii Exhibit (OMSI)

We had a chance to visit Portland's OMSI this summer
and its Pompeii Exhibition. 
I can't say enough good things about it. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post HERE,
(with photos of the real Pompeii)
getting to visit this site in Italy was like a 
life-long dream come true for me. 

And in this exhibit,
I love the way so many aspects of it
make you feel as if you are there. 

And not just there,
but as if you are there back then,
in early Roman times. 

79 A.D. to be exact. 

In fact, 
many of the captured images below are from a film
which makes you feel as if you are walking through a Roman house
of the period. 

Much of the exhibit 
is about showing you things as they would have looked then. 

But not all.
From a photo of the ruins,
the picture below shows a sidewalk,
large stones put in place
for the times when water ran through the streets. 

And while this is a recreation,
at the real site of Pompeii,
some of the baking houses
still had ovens semi-intact.

And these wine jugs above remind me
that in my earlier post on Pompeii,
I found a family wine maker who is working to recreate
nearly the exact wines the Pompeians drank at the time
through resin lifted and tested from underground wine storage terracotta jars. 
By using the same vineyard locations, same climate, same soil
(well as same as one can get 2,000 years later),
and knowing what to strive for with the tested resin,
they are striving to get as close as possible. 
And someday I hope to taste this new/old Pompeian wine. 
But for now, the price is about 10 times what I prefer to pay for a bottle. 

In the last room, 
the OMSI exhibit even includes some of the casts 
of the Pompeians who were captured in time.
Frozen in their last agonizing moments. 

While much of the exhibit, 
like at the actual site,
is exciting and astonishing and awe-inspiring,
this is the saddest room and aspect. 

If you're in the Portland area,
the OMSI Exhibition goes through Oct. 22nd, 2017. 

And if you wish to visit my post with more info and photos 
of the actual site including the family recreating Pompeian wine, 
please Click Here.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
1945 SE Water Avenue
Portland, OR

Museum + Pompeii Exhibit- $26 Adult
Museum + Pompeii- $22 Senior (63+)
Museum + Pompeii- $17 Youth (3-13)

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen
Please do not reproduce.) 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Happy Magdalene Feast Day~ July 22nd

Two years ago in June, I made the journey to La Baume, 
Mary Magdalene's cave in the South of France. I started out nervous though excited to make the trip to the cave in Provence alone but in the end, I was determined to protect that sacred space of my own pilgrimage. And I've struggled to process what the journey meant for me. 

It was a breaking out... of my perpetual fear, out of my comfort zone and my reluctance and avoidance of "religion." It was a diving in... to Gratitude, into the Sacred, into myself. It was a partial melding of my own spirituality, which I've been cultivating since I was 19, with the powerful spirituality of the ages. 

Everything I needed while there opened itself up to me literally within seconds, as if there were absolutely no lag time between the thought of what one wants or needs and the universe providing it. It was twenty four hours of pure awe and full on Power. In fact, everything I needed to get myself there to make the journey opened itself up to me easily as well. And I've been there in my mind nearly every day since. And been changed by it. I have felt called, as one of the many voices, to help bring forth her message which is why she became part of my novel. And I'm excited to have made the commitment to make the journey again with someone who has wanted to go and with my partner who had to miss the trip last time. 

You can read about my journey and see photos of the cave and surrounds here in 

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen) 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Restaurant Le Montparnasse 1900... encore

I ran across some lovely photos yesterday
of the restaurant Le Montparnasse 1900. 
And of course I was missing Paris as soon as I spotted them.
The magnificent decor is of early 1900's Paris.
It originally opened in 1858 with its first renovation in 1906
giving it its Art Nouveau beauty,
then renovated again in 1924 and most currently, 
nearly 100 years later, in 2003.

Its stunning interior is worth the price of admission,
typical Brasserie fare
serving many of the most traditional French dishes like
Steak Tartare, Foie Gras, Soup a l'oignon, Escargot and more. 
My mouth is watering just writing the words. 

If you'd like to see the original post 
with more photos,
click Here.

For the website with a full gallery of photos of the interior
and the menu, 

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sweet sorrowful parting...

This Mother's Day week
I honor the mother of my love,
my Mother-in-Love for 25 years. 

Mary Ann Gressett
January 28, 1927-April 28, 2017
She has gone to join her own love who departed
five years ago to navigate the way for her. 
May you resume your travels together,
forevermore hold each other's hand at night
and shine your light to brighten our way and watch over us.

You are loved and missed!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Notre Dame shimmers at Christmas

As promised, here are a few photos of Notre Dame just after Christmas
near New Years Day. 

After weeks of walking by crazy long lines,
people waiting in the freezing cold,
we finally found an opening with no line
and managed to walk right in during a New Year's service. 

For those too far away, 
there are even video screens to see the priest
whose voice rumbles throughout the ancient cathedral. 

Everywhere there is light pouring in...

... and candles flickering. 

But the sweetest part of Notre Dame during the holidays...

was the shimmering star hanging over the altar.

It twinkled with sparkly lights
as a reminder of that night. 

And all throughout are reminders and depictions of His life.

The beauty of this extraordinary place is awe-inspiring on a regular day
but breathtaking during the holidays. 

It seems funny to be posting Christmas in Paris in April
but then I realized that maybe the week between 
Palm Sunday and Easter is the perfect time. 

(All photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Happy Spring and Super Bloom

I'm on my way shortly to San Francisco and Marin 
for my birthday weekend with my sister! 
She and I share the same birthday week
where for that one week, we are the same age. 
She has one day left! 

Hoping to get some photos 
of some of California's Super Bloom
going on now after their crazy winter of rain. 

So I'll have to return soon to share the promised pics 
of the interior of Notre Dame at Christmas. 
Until then, just wanted to say 
Happy Spring!

(And right at this moment,
the sun is out for maybe the 3rd time this year.
Hope you're getting some wherever you are.)

(Photo Copyright: Kirsten Steen)
(Marin 2009)

Monday, March 6, 2017

St. Severin church in Paris

Right around the corner from Notre Dame and St. Julien le Pauvre
stands St. Severin church,
actually within view from St. Julien's entry door.
I thought this shot looked perfect for Easter
coming right up. 

While I was there it was dressed up for the Christmas holiday
complete with Nativity scene
(I love the little angel in the alcove overlooking the scene)...

... and surrounded by a paper sea of baby angels 
made by children. 

How much sweeter could it get?

This little angel particularly stood out. 

Such magnificent vaulted Gothic ceilings.

The church of St. Severin sits in the Latin Quarter
not far from the University so is just near streets and streets of 
restaurants and sweet shops and filled with gaggles of young people.

St. Severin was named either after a hermit who lived along the Seine
in the 5th century, replacing the oratory built over his tomb...
or after Saint Severin, a preacher also of the 5th century. 

The first small church over the hermit's tomb
was replaced to accommodate its growing parish
and was rebuilt again in the 14th century.
Damaged by fire during the Hundred Years War,
it was rebuilt again, finished in 1520
but added onto throughout the centuries. 

While there are many, 
one of the unique features of this church
are the fanning columns in the double ambulatory
that appear almost like a forest of trees,
particularly the center one with its beautifully-carved twisted trunk. 

The Black Heart is a remembrance to a mother and daughter,
Catherine de Brinon and Catherine de Canteleu,
whose family contributed to the church since 1491.
They died in 1699. 

The church is also said to house the relics of the patron saint of the Sorbonne University,
St. Ursule (apparently just one of many churches across Europe to house parts of her relics.)
While it is said that the legend of St. Ursule (or Ursula) could fill 100 pages,
there seem to be a thousand versions. 
But the basic idea is that instead or marrying a Pagan prince,
this 3rd century daughter of a Christian king 
(ruler of Cornwall according to Geoffrey of Monmouth)
fled on pilgrimage to Rome instead, her virginal maidens in tow.
Later, enroute to Cologne, they were all captured by Huns and killed. 
It's believed by some that the Church of St. Ursula in Cologne 
is built over the spot where the holy virgins died. 

Now after reading more about it,
 I just want to go back and take more pictures.
So much more to see and learn. 

Next time, we'll have a short tour of the interior
of the lovely and grand Notre Dame
dressed for the holidays. 

Happy March. It's been snowing here.
I hope the Crocosmia spring bulbs I planted a couple of weeks ago
will still come up. 
Spring forward is almost here. 

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)
Info via Wiki

Monday, February 20, 2017

St. Julien le Pauvre surrounds

Just near Notre Dame...

After crossing the river...

You come to the Square René-Viviani,
the perfect place for an unobstructed view of the grand Notre Dame,
and which also houses The Oldest Planted Tree in Paris
(which you can see Here along with its story.)

This square sits just outside the St. Julien le Pauvre church
and is named after France's first Minister of Labour. 
Its location was once the site of ancient burial grounds
and for a time, served as an annex to the Hotel Dieu,
Paris' oldest hospital originally founded in 651.

As mentioned in my last post on St. Julien le Pauvre
the second oldest church in Paris,
it became the home for the Greek Melchite Catholic Community in 1889.
The inscription below from the Third French Republic
tells of its history.

There's something about being down here in the
 heart of the earliest settlement of Paris that makes me feel 
like I've finally arrived.

I can spend days in my own neighborhood
or wandering other arrondissements
but it isn't until I get down here 
to the very oldest part of Paris
that I let out a sigh and think,
"Ah... now I'm finally here!"

This shot is just outside the church and includes a view 
of the church of St. Severin. 

And these two beauties are a couple of my favorites in all of Paris. 
I think I photograph them each time I come down here. 
(Odette is a special patisserie shop
offering sweets in the style the owner's grandmother used to make.
It sells Petites Choux, or "little cabbages"
in the flavors of chocolate, caramel, pistache, café, fruits des bois,
 thé vert, praline, citron and vanille.)

And just across Rue St. Julien le Pauvre
sits this little traditional French restaurant
that looked too sweet not to photograph. 

According to a History of St. Julien le Pauvre,
the original basilica,
known as St. Julien the Martyr
(named for a soldier martyred in the Auvergne area in the 3rd century)
was destroyed by Normans sometime before the 9th century. 

In the 12th century, 
it was ceded to the Abbey of Longpont
who, with his group of monks,
rebuilt in Gothic style. 

It was also close to the University of Paris
and was used as a lecture hall.
It's even said that Danté attended lectures and prayed at St. Julien
and mentions one of the surrounding streets in his Paradiso,

The cage outside the church doors,
all dressed up for Christmas,
holds a stone well once housed inside the church.
In Medieval times, the church was known 
for the magical, healing properties of its well
which the monks charged pilgrims to visit. 
In front of the well sits a paving stone from the ancient Roman road.

In the 12th century, 
when Peter Abelard fell out with Notre Dame,
he moved across the river and set up open air classes with his students in the area.

If you're in need of your own literary pilgrimage 
after wandering through the churches
or along the tiny streets,
just around the corner is the famous Shakespeare and Co.
now even with its own little café on the corner.

Next time we'll visit the interior of St. Severin
with it's gorgeous twisting column.

And in the meantime,
we're only a month from spring now. 
The crocus have already arrived in my yard
and the daffodils are next, pushing up and out. 
It won't be long. 
Enjoy, and bid farewell,
to the end of winter. 

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)