Posts Tagged Paris

Jefferson & Coffee

14 November 2011

Jefferson's Monticello

On a mountaintop near Charlottesville, Virginia, Thomas Jefferson built the architectural wonder he called Monticello, or “little mountain.” It is the only house in America listed as a United Nations World Heritage Site. But did you know that besides being President, architect, inventor, world traveler, and all his other attributes, Jefferson was also a coffee afficianado? Not long ago, I was given a beautiful souvenir coffee mug from Monticello and with it an interesting little pamphlet I’ve reproduced below.

Grounds and Gardens

In 1824 Thomas Jefferson deemed coffee “the favorite drink of the civilized world.” Jefferson enjoyed the coffee houses of Williamsburg and Paris, and served coffee at the President’s House, Poplar Forest, and Monticello. He preferred beans imported from the East and West Indies, and abhorred the “green” or unripe beans that were popular in America at the time.

Jefferson estimated that a pound of coffee a day was consumed at Monticello during his retirement. His cellar was stocked with unroasted beans in barrels weighing as much as 60 pounds. Small quantities of beans were roasted and ground in the Monticello kitchen, and then prepared according to the recipe of Adrien Petit, Jefferson’s French maitre d’hotel: “On one measure of the coffee ground into meal pour three measures of boiling water. Boil it on hot ashes mixed with coal till the meal disappears from the top, when it will be precipitated. Pour it three times through a flannel strainer. It will yield 2 1/3 measures of clear coffee.” Coffee was served at breakfast, and likely after dinner, in a silver coffee urn made to Jefferson’s design.

For information on visiting Monticello, click here.

PrayerWalk Paris — Walk 1 (Sneak Peek)

7 September 2011

Notre Dame, ParisThe Historic Heart of Paris

Ile de la Cité & Ile St. Louis

Summary of Area

It is thought that Paris began around 250 BC as a primitive Celtic fishing village on Ile de la Cité, a little island in the middle of the Seine. Ile St. Louis, the other island in the Seine, is tree-lined and picturesque these days but was a swampy pastureland prior to development efforts in the 17th century. Today, Ile St. Louis houses one of the most exclusive residential neighborhoods of Paris. Enjoy centuries of natural and man-made history as you walk from the Gothic masterpiece of Notre-Dame to King Louis IX’s intimate royal chapel, Sainte-Chapelle.

Key Facts

      • Starting Point: Point Zéro (metro: St. Michel; Cité)
      • Finishing Point: Palais de Justice (metro: Cité)
      • Days to Avoid: None
      • Length of Walk: 1 mile 1/2
      • Time Needed: 3 hours

1. Point Zéro

Point Zéro (also Kilomètre Zéro) is a circular bronze plaque on the ground about 30 yards from the central doorway of Notre-Dame that marks the geographical center of Paris. It is also the spot from which all highway distances in France are measured. The equestrian statue to the right as you face the church is of Charlemagne (“Charles the Great”), known as the first Holy Roman Emperor. Catholicism was the “politically correct” religion of the French people until the Revolution in 1789.


2. Notre-Dame

Visitor Information – Free admission; church open daily; hours vary depending on day of the week: 8:00 am-6:45 pm weekdays, 8:00 am-7:45 pm weekends. Free English tours available. Visit early in the morning when the cathedral is at its brightest and least crowded. Free organ concert on Sunday afternoons. Website:

It took 170 years to create the Gothic masterpiece of Notre-Dame de Paris, with its flying buttresses, rose windows of stained glass, 295-ft spire, two massive towers and host of gargoyles. The colorful windows were designed to tell Bible stories in pictorial form to an illiterate populace.

Kings and emperors were crowned and blessed in Notre-Dame. It was here in December 1804 that Napoleon took the imperial crown out of the hands of Pope Pius VII and laid it on his own head, as depicted by Jacques-Louis David in his painting Coronation of Napoleon, which now hangs in the Louvre.

Notre-Dame is designed in the shape of a Christian cross, with the altar where the crossbeam intersects. The cathedral can hold up to 10,000 people and often does so when hosting classical music concerts. The South Rose Window depicts Christ in the center, surrounded by virgins, saints, and his twelve apostles while the North Rose Window pictures the Virgin encircled by figures from the Old Testament.

Prayer Points:

  • For the warmth of the Gospel to envelop Parisians who have only known the coldness of an impersonal religion.
  • That a genuine, transforming encounter with Christ would replace ritual and religiosity.
  • That the complete story of Christ would be preached: that the hope of his resurrection might replace the sadness of his death.
  • That the spiritual walls of stone and gates of iron that have separated a “religious” people from their Savior since the Middle Ages would be broken down.

Point to Ponder: Sitting in one of the hundreds of wooden chairs in the nave, feel the coldness of the stone and how far away God seems among the gilt and statuary. This is the god of millions of Parisians: a distant, cold and impersonal deity.

Take a Break: The café directly to your right as you exit the cathedral is a wonderful place to sit and reflect on what you’ve just seen. It’s called Aux Tours de Notre-Dame and though pricey – as are all cafés in Paris – you can enjoy a good cup of coffee and a sweet snack that will help you through the rest of your sightseeing. And you’ll need energy, especially if you plan on climbing to the top of the towers. This side street is a great place to buy postcards, too.

Tip: Candles in Churches. In visiting the many churches of Paris, you may be tempted to buy some candles to burn. Before you do, consider that – though they look pretty – Catholics consider candles an integral part of their sacred ritual of praying to saints and to Mary.

3. Towers of Notre-Dame

Visitor Information – Admission: €8 adults, €5 ages 18-26 (must meet certain conditions) and seniors, children under 18 are free. Tower entrance covered by museum pass but no bypass line for pass holders. Open daily 9:30 am-7:30 pm, with seasonal variations. To avoid crowds, arrive before 10:00 am or after 6:00 pm.

To get to the top of the towers of Notre-Dame, you must climb 387 spiral stone steps that get narrower as you get closer to the top. The reward for such painful labor is a breathtaking view of Paris. The towers are 246 feet high and the main bell, called the “Emmanuel” was last rung in 1944 to celebrate the liberation of France.

Gargoyle Fact: As you look out over Paris, notice the eerie stone creatures that are also gazing down on the city and have been doing so for centuries. These gargoyles are meant to represent souls caught between heaven and earth. Their main practical function, however, is as rain spouts.

Take a Break: Square Jean XXIII, behind the cathedral, is a delightful place to eat a picnic lunch, to read, or to watch people.

4. Ile St. Louis

Charming, enchanting, and picturesque, Ile St. Louis is quintessential Paris. Among the attractions of this quaint little island are the 17th century hôtels, cafés, chic restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques that line its main street, St.-Louis-en-l’Ile. The wealthy and the famous have resided here for centuries. The best way to view this tiny island may be to wander through the streets without any specific trajectory.

Lines at Berthillon can stretch around the block

Tip: There’s a post office here that may be a convenient place to buy stamps for your postcards. Ask for stamps for the United States:“Des timbres pour les Etats-Unis, s’il vous plait”. Show them your postcards so they know what the stamps are for. Try your French but they will probably respond to you in English.

Take a Break: Berthillon, an ice cream parlor on Ile St. Louis, is famous for having the best ice cream in Paris. Their selection includes over 70 varieties. Order a single-scoop (“Un cornet seul”) or a double (“Un cornet double”). Note that eating ice cream in-house is usually more expensive than ordering to go. Berthillon, 29-31 rue St-Louis-en-l’Ile, 75004; Open Wed-Sun 10:00 am-8:00 pm; Closed Mon, Tue, and August.

Top 10 Paris Sites

17 November 2010



Sainte Chapelle


Opera Garnier


Luxembourg Gardens


Montmartre and Sacre Coeur




Orsay Museum


Louvre Museum


Arch of Triumph


Notre Dame


Eiffel Tower (of course!!)


Swiss Fondue — Fondue Savoyarde

8 November 2010

Fondue is the ultimate cold weather meal in my book. It was supposedly invented by Swiss shepherds who would cook the cheese over rocks in the Alps. Fondue means “melted” in French. This recipe goes back to my childhood and is especially close to my heart because it comes from a cookbook compiled by patrons of the American Hospital of Paris, where I was born.

One fun fact about fondue is that each fondue-loving family has a series of “punishments” for those unfortunate diners who drop their bread into the dish. Punishments might include having to hop around the table on one leg or kissing the person to your left. It’s best to get the ground rules straight before you start. 🙂  

Fondue Savoyarde


1 clove garlic

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 1/4 lbs best Swiss cheese (like Gruyere), cut in small cubes

2 TBS cornstarch

2 TBS kirsch (optional)

freshly ground pepper

sprinkle of nutmeg

French bread, cubed (crustier the better)


Love it, love it!

Rub chaffing dish with garlic. Add wine and heat to boiling point on stovetop, but do not boil. Add cheese, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. When cheese is melted and creamy, add cornstarch blended with kirsch. Stir until bubbly and add pepper and nutmeg to taste. Place pot over burner with low flame (burner comes with fondue pot) to keep fondue hot but not at simmering point. Add wine if necessary to dilute.

If fondue should start to separate, place pot back on stove and add a few drops of lemon juice. Over high heat, bring the fondue back to a boil, stirring vigorously. Serves about 8 people.

Note: Provide a gluten-free option for your guests by serving broccoli and cauliflower pieces alongside the bread cubes. Don’t forget to let the gluten-intolerant guests go first or provide them with a separate fondue pot.

Whistle While You Rest?

20 October 2010

The French are striking again. Aaaah, ze French!

I remember one Christmas when the Eiffel Tower workers went on strike because they claimed the staff parking lot was too far away. The rest of the world would say, “Hey, you have an allotted parking space in Paris!” (If you’ve ever driven in New York City, you can relate) But, considering the Eiffel Tower is their #1 tourist attraction, the government said: “Voila! You may have ze new parking spaces!”

And there was the time when farmers went on strike because of wheat prices or tariffs or the price of French bread and “planted” an entire wheat field in the Champs-Elysees. Vive la France!

The current issue? The French government has considered moving retirement age from 60 to 62.  French workers feel that this action would violate one of their fundamental rights. What? Did you just chuckle? Ah, but you must understand that the French take their time off very seriously.

We work at work and we work at play.

In the United States we pride ourselves in our Protestant Work Ethic, typified by the “3-day weekend” – the power nap equivalent to a vacation. What do we do with this day subtracted from our workweek? We work. We do our spring-cleaning or attack projects in our yard and then “relax” by holding a cookout for our neighbors and playing football.

We work at work and we work at play.

The concept of a 3-day weekend is as foreign to the French as Wal-Mart, garage sales, or wearing deodorant.

I remember my childhood in France as a cycle of 7 weeks in school followed by 2 weeks of vacation. France is at its core a Catholic nation and every religious holiday must be celebrated. No objections from me and my school friends! Each holiday was a chance to get away, travel, relax, unplug and spend time with our family and friends, mostly over long meals.

What would Americans do with 2-week vacations every couple of months? Probably get bored. We’d have no idea what to do with so much down time – except perhaps get a second job.

Yet perhaps we should be better “resters.” The American Psychological Association says that one-third of the U.S. population experiences extreme levels of stress. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans experience high levels of stress 15 or more days per month.

Severe stress takes a toll on both body and soul that can only be countered with rest – true rest.

Two-hour lunches, 6 weeks of paid vacation per annum plus innumerable holidays may seem frivolous to us. We think, “Those French people – it’s a wonder they ever get anything done!” Yet they have an enjoyment of life virtually unparalleled in any other society.

Perhaps we can learn a little from their joie de vivre.

Paris Basics: The French & Their Food

14 September 2010

A Culinary Love Affair

Anticipating a trip to Paris? Some cultures eat to live, others live to eat. Here are some basic things you should know about the French and their relationship with food.


Mealtimes are quasi-sacred to the French. Schoolchildren have the option of going home for their hour-and-a-half lunch break or eating a multi-course  meal in the school cafeteria. Many mothers (and sometimes dads, too) arrange their schedules so they are at home with their kids at lunch.

Montmartre CafeMeals are served in courses: the first course is the entrée, which Americans would call an appetizer or starter course; the second or main course is called plat de résistance and is usually accompanied by vegetables or other side dishes. The main course is followed by a cheese or yogurt course, then by dessert or fruit. Fresh bread is served with every meal.

While Americans often drink coffee with their meal, French diners drink theirs with, or after, dessert. Here’s another notable dining difference: no ice in beverage glasses! To order ice, just tell the waiter “Avec glaçons, s’il vous plait” (“With ice, please”) with your order.

Free refills are not a French concept. You pay for every drink you order.

Dining OutRestaurant a Montmartre

The concept of proper service in restaurants differs greatly between the U.S. and France. In many restaurants in the United States, the wait staff receives only a crash course before beginning to serve customers. To the French, waiting tables is an art that requires the most rigorous training: professional French waiters must go to school for several years, pass difficult exams, and participate in challenging competitions before entering into full time service.

The French waiter is trained to be as discreet as possible and anticipate diners’ needs in the most unobtrusive manner. The American way of serving usually centers on relationship building (“My name is Megan and I’ll be your server this evening”). To the French, such familiarity can be offensive. The French tend to see the American waiting style as overbearing (“Is everything okay? Can I get you anything?”).

Often in America the wait staff performs duties with a good tip in mind. French servers are salaried and do not expect to be tipped. They are paid to perform their duties then disappear into the background in order to allow patrons to enjoy their dining experience.

There is much to love about Paris—the romance, joie de vivre, art museums, architecture—but each visitor will leave with a unique impression of the City of Light based on individual experience. Knowing as much as you can about Paris before you go will increase your chances for good experiences and pleasant memories. Bon voyage!

One Perfect Day in Paris

3 September 2010

Notre Dame, Paris

If you only have one day in Paris, the first thing to do is to plan a return trip! But if a day is all you have, then get up early, grab a croissant from a local boulangerie and head straight for the Eiffel Tower.

8:30 am Arrive early at the Eiffel Tower and beat the crowds.Then take the train or walk to Pont de l’Alma, and cross the bridge to the other side of the Seine River.

Tip: The third floor views from the Eiffel Tower are impressive but, since you have to pay extra, don’t bother if it’s not a clear day. You’ll see just as much or more from the second floor.

 10:30 am – Take a Seine Cruise on a Bateaux-Mouches. These pleasure-boats operate between 10:00 am and 11:00 pm daily and depart every 30 minutes during the summer high season (less frequent departures in winter). The boat ride lasts about 1hr15. After the boat tour, hop on the metro at Alma Marceau and go one stop to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

12:00 pm – Walk down the Champs-Elysées toward the Arch of Triumph and decide on a good place to eat. Take your time (before eating, you might like to go to the top of the Arch – admission is free with the Paris Museum Pass).

2:30 pm – Take the metro or walk to the Palais Royal/Musée du Louvre stop. From the metro, stay underground and enter through the Carrousel du Louvre entrance, which is usually less crowded than other entrances. Visitors who already have tickets can use a special entrance at the Passage Richelieu between rue de Rivoli and the courtyard.

3:30 pm – At the information desk, look for a pamphlet called “Visitors in a Hurry” that highlights the museum’s star exhibits (or check out the Louvre’s website before you go). Allow at least two hours. After your visit, head over by metro to St-Michel and look for any exit that says “Notre-Dame.”

6:00 pm – Walk through Notre-Dame (ask about guided tours in English). Admission is free, but there are often long lines. When you’ve finished your visit, walk through the plaza in front of the cathedral and hang a left over the Petit Pont to the Latin Quarter.

The Latin Quarter is a great place to buy souvenirs. It has lots of selection and competitive pricing.

7:00 pm – Pick a place that looks inviting among the many restaurants in the Latin Quarter. This area is known for its culinary diversity and selection: you’ll find everything from traditional French cuisine to Greek and Arab food. Enjoy a leisurely meal like the French do, and don’t forget to savor your surroundings. From the Latin Quarter, take the metro to Anvers.

9:00 pm – From the Anvers station, follow the signs to the funiculaire de Montmartre. For a small fee or a metro ticket, this cable car takes you to the top of the Butte de Montmartre for extraordinary views of the City of Light. You’ll recognize several places that you visited during the day. From the Butte de Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur, follow signs to the Place du Tertre.

9:45 pm – The Place du Tertre is the artists’ quarter. Browse around for a painting to take home, if it fits into your budget and your suitcase. Take time out for a cup of coffee or an ice cream cone at one of the quaint (and overpriced) cafés around the square. If you weren’t able to buy souvenirs in the Latin Quarter, you may want to do so here in the Place du Tertre before saying au revoir to Paris and calling it a night. 

Prayerwalking: Becoming a Person of Secret Influence

1 September 2010
"Point Zero"

Point Zero in front of Notre Dame

I looked down at my calloused and blistered feet and thought with a bit of sarcasm, “So these are the beautiful feet of those who bring good news! God has a sense of humor.” I’d just walked and prayed over what seemed like every inch of Paris.

Paris was no stranger to me – it was the land of my birth and childhood. My missionary parents had moved to France from the States before I was born and we’d lived there until I relocated to the U.S. for college. Now I’d returned to France for the summer not just to see old friends and enjoy the food but to spend some time praying over the city I loved so much. My goal was to walk and pray in each of Paris’ cultural and historical districts over a two-week period.

As I walked the streets of Paris, I felt the Lord directing my thoughts and showing me how to pray. I met God in strange places there: I thought I would find Him in the magnificent cathedrals, but He was made a beggar there – a statue with downcast eyes and upturned palms, with a sign asking visitors to spare four euros for the upkeep of the sanctuary. I thought He would be far away from the red light district, but that is where I felt the need for Him most strongly. He is close to the broken-hearted.

This prayerwalking journey was the inspiration behind PrayerWalk Paris, the first in a series of Christian guidebooks that weave a spiritual dimension into the act of sightseeing. Prayerwalking changed the way I see Paris and Parisians, the way I see God, and also the way I see myself. I was hooked. When I “prayerwalked,” I looked like an ordinary person on the outside, but inside I felt like a superhero.