La Compagnie

On Friday, Jan. 12, I flew to New Jersey to attend a Care Conference for my Uncle.  I flew a new airline.  Over the past couple of years, I read about this airline that has only business class seats at slightly more than economy price seats.  Since, I mostly fly Paris–San Francisco and back again, it wasn’t an option for me.  La Compagnie only flies Paris–Newark and back.

IMG_0248 2.jpg

Because a friend raved about it last June, I decided this was a fine time to find out for myself. So I booked a round trip ticket that cost about 1500 euros total. Sometimes I feel held hostage by United.  I have many miles, enjoy using miles to upgrade to a very luxurious Business/First seat and love all the perks that come with having Premier status.  I wanted to free myself.  Maybe I won’t have Premier Class anymore.  Tant pis!

My friend was thrilled that I was going to give La Compagnie a try.  She warned me to get to CDG early as LC check-in was tucked away.  So the night before I left, I went on-line to see if I could find where LC check-in was. Terminal 1 but after that I had to wait.  Some blogs popped up in my search.  They turned out to be “horror” stories. They were written in 2014, I held my fears in check.  Whatever wasn’t working in 2014 certainly has been ironed out now.  From the time I left my apartment to the time I landed in Newark, everything went smoothly.

When I arrived at Terminal 1, the digital board told me that my flight was on time and that check-in was in Hall 3.  I walked slowly looking left and right and there it was right next to United.  Since there are only 84 seats, the line to check in went quickly.  One can have two bags at 70 pounds/32 kilograms each. I left with a fast access through security card and could wait in the iCare Lounge.  Unlike other airlines, the check-in doesn’t open until two and half hours ahead of take off.  This again is because there are only 84 seats.

IMG_0247.jpg
Checking in

The Lounge was one floor down from the United Lounge, plenty large and set up for a continental breakfast.

IMG_0249.JPG       IMG_0250.jpg

I still had to go through security so it was suggested to leave the lounge forty-five minutes to an hour ahead of departure.  Boarding the plane takes only fifteen minutes again because of so few seats.

The immediate impression upon boarding is of lots of space and very airy.  There are two seats on each side of the aisle.  Three attendants took care of us.  There are no frills and whistles.  No one asked to hang my coat.  I folded it up and put it in the overhead along with everything else.  Nothing is allowed on the floor during take-off.  As you can see, there is no barrier between the two seats as with other Airline’s Business Class seats.  I didn’t find that a problem.  If privacy is high on your priority list, this isn’t the airline for you.

IMG_0253.jpg                                                           IMG_0252.jpg

My “horror” story blog described the flight bags as made of tire like material with no toothbrush.  He was appalled.  The flight bag was perfect and there was a toothbrush.  The hand creme and lip conditioner were from the French company Caudalie.

IMG_0254.JPG

The attendant only offered champagne before take-off.  But fairly soon after, a drinks trolly came rolling by.  Everything was on offer.  This was followed by lunch (take off was at 10:30am).  I always bring my own food but my neighbour let me take a photo of his tray.  This is before the hot entree was brought.

IMG_0258.jpg                     IMG_0256.jpg

My only complaint is that the seat does not turn into a flat bed like most business class seats nowadays.  It would have been ok except the foot part didn’t rise and I found that hard.  Going to Newark was not a problem.  I wasn’t sleepy and watched two movies, read my book and did some writing.  My flight back to Paris left at 7:30pm and I was exhausted.  I slept on and off the whole way but the discomfort of my feet kept me from sleeping completely.  As the other blogger said, for the price I paid and having so much room, I thought everything was good.

IMG_0255.jpg

Every seat has an iPad.  They are turned on about fifteen minutes into the flight.  One has a choice of about 20 movies, 3 audio books and 4 special videos.  The map with the flight progress is on four screens overhead.

Everything went smoothly.  Even the bumpy parts of the flight were fine.  We landed early and taxied to the gate right on time, to the minute.

My return flight was very similar except that I have very little idea what happened after I closed my eyes.  Did they serve a dinner?  Don’t know.  Don’t even remember a drinks trolly.  The check-in was just as smooth except it was in English and there were four people doing the check as opposed to two in Paris.  The Lounge was before security and very elegant.  It had the feel of old world glamour.  The food was better than anything I’ve ever seen.  An entire dinner was laid out so I suspect that dinner was not served on board.

IMG_7686.JPG        IMG_7688.JPG

 

IMG_7689 2.JPG        IMG_7690.JPG

IMG_7687.JPG

When you go on-line to book a flight, after picking your dates, four different prices come up.  Each price has conditions.  The cheapest is called promotion which is what I got.  Since turning 65, I always get flight insurance now.  As they say in many countries, Shit happens.

If my opinion counts for anything, I recommend this airline for the price, the space and the ease of travel.  You do need to be going to Newark or Paris or be willing to land there before the next lap of your flight.  Happy Flying!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Happy New Year from Paris

France is the only country that I know of that does not send Christmas cards as a rule but instead sends New Year’s cards.  We have the whole month of January to get the cards out.  Ergo, I feel just fine wishing you all a Happy New Year fourteen days into 2018!

I took quite a bit of time off from this blog–I spent two wonderful weeks in London.  I’d heard for many years about the lights and store windows of Harrods, Fortum and Mason, Selfridges and was looking forward to a festive time. I exchanged homes with a wonderful family from Finchley, North London.  They stayed in my home in Oakland, Calif and I stayed in their home 25 minutes by underground from the centre of London.  For the Christmas season, it felt like the best of two worlds.  London centre was alive with tourists, shoppers, lights, thousands of people swarming the sidewalks while Finchley was quiet and peaceful.

IMG_0124.jpg
Arriving at St Pancras station

The first week was very cold.  My friend, Meg, from Antibes joined me.  A Brit by birth, I had the luxury of just hanging on to her coattails and following her as she led me all over the place and we never got lost!  On Saturday, Dec. 23rd, we had tickets to hear the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Westminster Abbey.  It seems that a tourist must pay 22 pounds to visit Westminster.  However, with this ticket, I entered for free and heard the beautiful Westminster Boys Choir.

IMG_0140.jpg
Westminster Abbey

IMG_0138.JPG

The next evening, Christmas Eve, Meg took me to dinner at a long time friend’s home.  The family couldn’t have been more welcoming.  They gave me presents and thanked me so much for joining them for dinner.  Hello, shouldn’t I be thanking you??  The Brits are quite a people.

IMG_0158.jpg
Christmas Eve dinner with our paper crowns from the crackers

IMG_0152.jpg

Meg told me that for Christmas Day, every good Brit stays in their pjs and watches TV all day long.  It must be true because most of the channels had movies – of which we watched quite a few.

Meg took off on Wednesday to stay with her brother in southwest London and I prepared for my Paris friend, Barbara, to join me for the second week.  One of Meg’s friends introduced me to Todaytix.com which sells tickets to West End shows for a discount.  We got excellent seats for An American in Paris for 20 pounds each.  Barbara struck up a conversation with the couple next to her and found out about two more sites Lovetheatre.com and Amazontickets.com, that sell discounted tickets.  Through Lovetheatre.com, we bought terrific seats for a new West End production Girl from the North Country, a show based around Bob Dylan songs and Kinky Boots which I’d heard wonderful things about and Barbara was willing to go along with.

IMG_2986.jpg
Sara
IMG_0190.JPG
Barbara at Kinky Boots

 

Twenty years ago, coming to London to go to the Theatre was probably the best deal in the world.  Prices were extremely low and even more so if you were willing to stand in line at the HalfpriceTix stand in Leicester Square.  No longer true.  I saw the prices in black and white but had a hard time adjusting to the extraordinary fees for tickets.  The Book of Mormon ran 200 pounds a person and were only slightly discounted on the good sites.  So I was so happy with Rush prices and discounted prices.

New Year’s Eve, we had planned to go to a movie and watch the Fireworks on the Thames on the TV from the comfort of our couch.  As it turned out, we picked a movie that was playing at Piccadilly Circle.: Call Me By Your Name.  We both wanted to see it as it was receiving nominations already and there were (still aren’t) no signs of it coming to Paris in the near future.  As far as I’m concerned, it deserves all the rave reviews it is receiving.  Reviewing it will be another blog!  We left the theatre at 11:15pm and were told that all the underground stations nearby were closed for the Fireworks show.  So we walked to Oxford Circle.  Regent Street was closed off to car traffic and we, and thousands of others, were walking in the middle of the street.  There is something so freeing and lighthearted about walking on a main street in a busy large city and there is no traffic.

IMG_0173.JPG
Regent Street close to midnight New Year’s Eve
IMG_2999.jpg
Sara with wings!

IMG_0149.jpg

I found myself on January 4, not wanting to leave London.  That is what a good vacation is supposed to be.  One leaves wanting more instead of dying to get home  What was especially wonderful and surprising for me was that I hadn’t really wanted to go.  I thought it was far too soon to travel when I’d just returned from California a month before.  So to have the two weeks be so relaxing, so entertaining, so Holidayish if you will, was really a wonderful Xmas present.

IMG_0194.JPG
Fifth floor tea shop at Fortum and Mason
IMG_0193.JPG
The famous Fortnum and Mason baskets

I will close by telling those of you who don’t already know about the Charity Shops in the UK.  I love them.  I’ve been going to Newmarket every October for five years and discovered a Charity Shop every 100 yards or so.  Whenever I am in London now, I look for the Charity shops first.  I always walk away with something that I fall in love with.  This time, I found a wonderful sweater, a pair of gloves (mine weren’t warm enough) and a little wallet for my Oyster card and UK money.  These aren’t consignment shops that are almost too expensive for someone like me.  I like a good bargain but also something I can use.  I bought some Christmas tree balls just for a lark and got home to Paris to find that Bijou, the cat, had managed to bring down my little Christmas tree and I had less than half of the decorations I started with.  The joys of cat ownership!!!!

IMG_0168.JPG
near London Post Office–Regent Street

I hope your New Year is starting off well.  And may 2018 see some change toward the better for the world.  With so many body blows on a daily basis, it is often hard to stay open to the hard work and action required to make this world a better place but if not us who?

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Happy New Year—-from Oakland, Ca.

In France, one has the entire month of January to send out New Year’s greetings.  Sending cards for the new year is popular, sending Christmas cards is not.

8.jpg

So I’m wishing every one of you a wonderful 2017.  What I wish for us all is an ability to navigate our world, our politics (or their politics as the case may be) and to be the best citizen of this world that we can possibly muster without bringing in more anger, more hatred and bitterness than already exists.  It’s not a new concept but imagine if we did one good, kind deed a day and it spread like “The hundredth Monkey Phenomenon”.  Well, I’d like to imagine it!!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect

Yesterday, I got on a United flight to San Francisco to return to my California home for 4 months.  I was taken by surprise in mid-December when I was told that I needed hip replacement surgery.  Actually, I was given a choice.  It seems that doctors today cannot actually say “you must have…..” without fear of litigation.  One of my choices was surgery.  I went to all my friends who have had hip or knee replacement surgery and asked them one question: “In retrospect, if you had had the surgery done when you were first told that you might need it, would you have done it?”  Without exception, they all said yes.  When I was talking to the orthopedist and he was telling me the pros and cons of cortisone shots, I asked him straight out “is there any reason to delay it?”

The answer, not so surprisingly, was “No”

So I’m scheduled for surgery in mid-February.  The curious fact about me is that I have never been in a hospital since I was born.  My father used to joke “Sara, you were born in Garfield Hospital in Washington, D.C and they immediately tore it down”.  Yes, of course, I’ve been in many doctor’s offices and had two one-hour procedures (that I can remember) but to have a serious surgery and spend the night, that has been my sister’s realm.  And to say I’m a bit anxious would be an understatement.

IMG_5290.JPG
View from my bedroom window

Now, the window I get to look out of is my westward-looking windows here in Oakland.  I can see the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge that spans from Oakland to downtown San Francisco (4 miles) and the Golden Gate bridge.  Many evenings, there is a sunset that cannot be rivaled.

California has been suffering a terrible drought for going on six years.  There has been rain, quite a bit of rain, in the last couple of weeks.  As my Uber drove me up my street from the San Francisco airport, the landscape looked strange.  It hit me that everything was Green.  Really Green!  And because it rained on and off yesterday evening, the green was sparkling like itty bitty diamonds jumping around on leaves, on new grass. Now sixteen hours later, it is pouring cats and dogs, as we like to say in English, or I’d go outside and inspect the gardens and see all the changes.

My cat, Bijou, stayed in Paris.  She is living with a friend who has a larger apartment than I did and also has children who love cats.  When I said good bye to her on Thursday evening, everyone had a bit of a hesitant smile.  Bijou was moving around carefully, looking around each corner before she let herself into a room.  W and E looked excited but not sure how to react to her.  I taught them to clap their hands very loudly when Bijou jumps up on a counter or somewhere she shouldn’t be. As if by direction, she immediately jumped up on a kitchen counter.  I clapped very loudly, she jumped down and scampered back to the laundry room which is her temporary quarters.  Then I left and felt my heart thudding with sadness.  It didn’t seem right to make her fly two long plane flights just because I have to have surgery.

IMG_0425.jpg
Bijou (photo by Fatiha Antar)

Banya, on the other hand, who grew up in Oakland and moved to Paris with me is in kitty heaven.  She was an indoor/outdoor cat, became an indoor cat in Paris and never seemed to adjust.  Now she is home after a long plane ride.  She must have known she was coming home because she stayed calm and hasn’t stopped purring.

 

IMG_0413.JPG

I wish I had a smart closing line like Garrison Keeler and could say “and that’s the news from Oakland where all …..”  If anyone can dream up a really punchy line for me to close with, there is a small Thank You coming your way.  Until then,

A bientôt,

Sara

Sentier Littoral, Cap d’Antibes

My friend, Barbara, came down from Paris yesterday to join me for 4 more days in Antibes. A friend of hers said she must walk the Presque Isle.  We couldn’t figure out where that was but assumed it had to be part of Cap d’Antibes.  So this morning, we packed up our lunches, put on walking shoes and walked towards the Cap.  After about 2 1/2hrs, we found ourselves at the crossroads of Blvd de la Garoupe and Ave Mrs.L.D. Beaumont.  Barbara’s guidebook said there were some beautiful gardens to be seen.  So we made a plan to find the gardens first and then walk down to the Villa Eilenroc and follow the sentier (footpath) around the tip of Cap d’Antibes heading east and then back towards Antibes.

IMG_5437.JPG
Walking out of Antibes towards Cap d’Antibes
IMG_5439.JPG
Another view of the ramparts with French Alps behind.
IMG_5443.JPG
Cove at Villa Eilenroc

We never did find gardens, at least the kind we were looking for.  In fact, the Villa looked very untended and a bit sad. It is probably looking for new owners.  But there were plenty of coves that were full of people having picnics, swimming (this is December 28th, guys!), sailing and having a wonderful time.

IMG_5450.jpg

We wound our way around the Villa and found the Sentier.  Everybody and their dog were out for a walk.  It was a beautiful warm day and the French love to walk.  The Sentier turned out to be quite challenging.  Up steep steps, down steep steps, across rocks with no path–just follow the person in front of you.

IMG_5451.jpg
Barbara walking down rock steps of the Sentier
FullSizeRender.jpg.jpeg
Sara walking the rocky sentier
FullSizeRender.jpg
Following the path of the sentier

We had been walking 5 1/2 hrs when, finally finishing the sentier, we came to a road.  Our choices were to beg a ride off someone, find out if a bus existed, find a taxi or walk another 2 hours back to Antibes.  My Uber app kept telling me there was no good connection.  I suspect there aren’t many Uber drivers down in this part of the Riviera.  So we managed to find the only hotel that seemed to be open and the manager called a taxi for us.  As we drove back towards Antibes, the sky turned an amazing pink, the water reflected the pink, the sand and rocky shore all looked pink–it was a bath of pink.  And both of us were too tired to take a picture.  You just have to take my word for it.

We arrived back in Antibes just as dark fully descended and all the lights came on in the town to greet us.  It was an absolutely perfect day.

I will leave you with one of Barbara’s photos of a cove at the villa.

IMG_2184.jpg

A bientôt,

Sara

Boxing Day with Meg on the Cote d’Azur

IMG_5402.JPG
Christmas meal with champagne on the boardwalk of Monte Carlo
IMG_5406.jpg
Marche de Noel in Monte Carlo

 

IMG_5407.JPG
Santon Chalet
IMG_5409.JPG
William Grover dit “Williams” winner of the first Grand Prix of Monaco 14th April 1929 in a Bugatti 35B

 

IMG_5418.jpg
Casino at Monte Carlo

 

IMG_5425.jpg
Christmas trees with Casino in backgroundIMG_5428.JPG
img_5426
Coffee in the Hotel de Paris

 

IMG_5433.JPG
Castle of Monaco where Princess Grace lived
IMG_5436.JPG
On the way home to Antibes–near Grasse–snowy Alps in background .

La Grange

On Monday past, four members of my book club, The Mountainview Literary Circle, along with with four friends, went on a Field trip to La Grange in Rozay-en-Brie.  The Chateau at La Grange was the last home of Lafayette and his wife, Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles .  La Grange lies in the Provins region of France which is still part of Ile de France.  Lafayette lived there for 30 years after the peace of Amiens.  His wife, however, who had became very sick when she refused to leave him while he was imprisoned in Austria during the French Revolution and the Terror, lived there only eight years.

Chateau-de-la-grange.jpg

A year ago November, I attended the American Library Book Award ceremony held to give a monetary prize to the best book of 2015.  The subject matter has to be about France or French-American relations.   The winner in 2015 was a book by Laura Auricchio entitled Le Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered.  It sounded so interesting that I recommended it to my book club.  At the end of the book, the author urged us all to visit La Grange explaining that it is probably the best museum of all things Lafayette as well as his wife, Madame Adrienne de Noailles La Fayette , a very interesting person in her own right.  So I made all the plans and got a date and then learned that the Chateau at La Grange is a private museum and one has to have special permission to visit.

800px-Marie_Adrienne_Francoise_de_Noailles,_French_School_18th_century_copy.jpg
Marie Adrienne de Noailles La Fayette

The Chateau today belongs to the Foundation Josée-and-Rene-de-Chambrun which is responsible for the management of  the inheritance and property of the family La Fayette. Interestingly enough the Chambrun family was instrumental in keeping the American Library open during WWII.   As a result of Mme Chambrun’s son’s marriage to the daughter of the Vichy prime minister, Pierre Laval, the library was ensured a friend in high places, and a near-exclusive right to keep its doors open and its collections largely uncensored throughout the war. A French diplomat later said the library had been to occupied Paris “an open window on the free world.”(Wikipedia)

800px-Marie_Joseph_Paul_Yves_Roch_Gilbert_du_Motier,_Marquis_de_Lafayette_from_NPG.jpg
Lafayette in Prison during the French Revolution

One of our book club members is a “son of the American Revolution”  At a press meeting at the American Library, he met another SAR and together they requested permission for a visit.  It was very iffy until the last minute.  The Chateau will be closed for the next eighteen months while it undergoes renovation and it wasn’t clear if the renovation had actually started.  Three weeks ago, we were given the date of Monday, Dec. 12th for our visit.

Rozay-en-Brie is approximately 1 hour southeast of Paris.  Easy to get to.  We had lunch at one of those funky looking restos where you hold your breath hoping there is good food and leave thinking “imagine that, really good food in this place.We must be in France!”  We met our guide promptly at 2pm.  I was slightly handicapped as I was the only one who doesn’t speak fluent French.  Visually the place is an homage to La Fayette and the American Revolution. A copy of the Declaration of Independence hangs on the wall along with letters, gifts and reproductions of battles.

No one actually lives in the Chateau.  There was no heat.  I had a very definite feeling of what it would be like inhabiting one of these gorgeous old places before modern day comforts were invented.  We went from room to room enjoying the memorabilia.  There is a James Fenimore Cooper bedroom.  Cooper met General Lafayette when the latter visited the US in 1824, a reunion trip that took Lafayette to many states and many cities named after him.  Cooper later moved his family to Paris hoping for a better audience for his books and became good friends with Lafayette.

First_meeting_of_Washington_and_Lafayette,_Currier_and_Ives_1876.jpg

It’s easy to imagine Lafayette’s love affair with all things American as there was a long canoe like vessel in the barns next to the Chateau.  I wasn’t clear who had sent it to him but it looks very similar to the boat depicted in the painting of Washington crossing the Delaware.  While living at the Chateau in La Grange, Lafayette participated in politics but gradually grew very disillusioned.

On 20 May 1834, Lafayette died on 6 rue d’Anjou-Saint-Honoré in Paris (now 8 rue d’Anjou in the 8th arrondissement of Paris) at the age of 76. He was buried next to his wife at the Picpus Cemetery under soil from Bunker Hill, which his son Georges Washington sprinkled upon him.

220px-Sépulture_la_Fayette.jpg
Picpus Cimetière

To be able to visit this chateau was a treat and a privilege.  One most people won’t be able to have.  After we had visited all the rooms that were open, our guide invited us to tea.  She took us into a beautiful, oak-lined small dining room set out with a full English tea.  We were thanking her profusely and she said “no, it is I who should thank you.  It is a pleasure to show this place and these rooms to people who understand the context and the history”  Once again, I was reminded that our hero who had at least one city named after him in every state of the Union, who is synonymous with the American Revolution is not seen with the same eyes here in France.  He was an aristocrat at the time when aristocrats were suspect and the French were never quite sure what his motives for doing anything were.

http://www.balades-en-brie.com/brie/courpalay/chateau-de-la-grange-bleneau.html

A bientôt,

Sara