Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

Enlightenment at the Sorbonne

February 2, 2011

The mysteries of medieval Paris and higher learning take the ETs to the Sorbonne

The Experienced Travelers seek enlightenment.  And when the path to knowledge is paved with eclectic food and shopping, they undertake the journey with rigor. So the ETs donned their academic regalia, and set out for the Latin Quarter on the left bank, one of the oldest areas of Paris.

Nurse was in a relaxed frame of mind, so I had to promise more than narrow medieval passages to get her on board. Fortunately, the area is filled with artisan jewelry studios, bookshops, small specialty stores and ethnic restaurants.  The deal was struck:  I admired moldy old stone in ancient streets while Nurse investigated uses for “found money”.

The Sorbonne, where the ETs could be lecturers in Economics on Found Money. Photo by Maggie Durbano

This colorful quartier has long been a center of learning.  During the 13th century, Parisian academics decamped from the Ile de la Cité for the left bank and established the Sorbonne as part of the University of Paris. Their freewheeling students followed, and vigorously upheld the medieval tradition of the endless frat party.  Certain young relatives of the ETs could have written this student’s plea from the Balades of Eustache Deschamps:

“Well-beloved father, I have not a penny, nor can I get any save through you, for all things at the University are so dear:…Moreover, I owe ten crowns in dues to the Provost, and can find no man to lend them to me;…I owe in every street, and am hard bested to free myself from such snares.”

Streets around the Sorbonne like the Rue Galande mix higher learning and inspired shopping. Photo by mbzt

Chief among notable students of the Sorbonne was Dante, who mentions the rue Fouarre in the Divine Comedy.  Rue Fouarre or “street of straw” was named for the straw market that was located here.  Lectures were held outdoors and students sat on the straw balancing writing implements on their knees.  The great scholars of Europe gathered to debate where to go for a beer after class.  The ETs, who require basic creature comforts, would not have embraced higher education in the 13th century. 

Today students still barhop through the Latin Quarter.  We regret that we are not the target demographic for the Caveau des Oubliettes on the rue Galande.  Formerly a 12th century prison, the club décor features oubliettes – dank one-man holes in the ground.  Oublier means “to forget”, which is exactly what happened to the unfortunate occupants. We expect customers of the Caveau still forget — after rounds of shots and a convivial evening in the old dungeons.

In search of chocolat chaud. Photo by Miss Joanne Felzer

By now it was time to distract Nurse from thoughts of wet straw and medieval torture.  The Café Panis on the Quai Montebello makes a perfect chocolat chaud, which bolstered Nurse’s spirits.  The thick melted chocolate and hot milk restored her fine color. Café Panis isn’t the most affordable stop, but the view of Notre Dame enchants the ETs every time.

Madness at Shakespere and Company

Nearby the Café Panis is Shakespeare and Company, a Latin Quarter institution that sells English-language books and serves as a hangout for fledgling American writers. This eccentric establishment is an acquired taste, but certain ETs like the buildings wonderful old bones.

The atmosphere is chaotic, with books piled everywhere.  It’s impossible to find anything, too crowded to browse, and the youthful staff is uninterested in middle-aged ETs when engaging young students need assistance.  On our last visit, we learned that S&C didn’t carry Georges Simenon’s Maigret books. I was outraged.  Thank goodness for Nurse’s Kindle.  In fairness, S&C has legions of fans and it’s worth a visit, if only to explore the interior of a very old building.   

The ETs retreated to Square Viviani after the tumultuous S&C, Photo by tangopaso

Nurse clearly needed fresh air, so we relaxed in the Place Viviani under the oldest tree in Paris. Adjacent to the square, the 13th-century church of St. Julien le Pauvre is as old as Notre Dame and hosts a series of excellent chamber concerts. 

Our Sorbonne adventure was worthwhile.  The ETs found that within a few blocks, you can browse artisan jewelry and used bookstores, meet a vegetarian friend for lunch, relax over a chocolat chaud, light a candle in one of the oldest churches in Paris, investigate fusion cuisine, then admire a spectacular view of Notre Dame.  

A delignted Nurse knows she can parlay her participation into another visit to the Centre Pompidou. Photo by Miss Joanne Felzer

Alors, Les Soldes!

January 9, 2011

Les Soldes! A Found Money bonanza. Photo by Heloise Flickr Creative Commons

Now that Christmas is over, Parisians resume daily life, enduring grey January skies in the City of Lights. No French bureaucrat wants a complaining wife and a bored mistress for the duration of the winter.  So, in their capacity as elected officials, they spring to action to create a diversion that will restore domestic equilibrium, attract tourists and bolster the French economy.  Voici Les Soldes

Might the ETs spend Found Money here? Photo by Heurtelions, Wikimedia Commons

The bi-annual Soldes are six-week Government-authorized periods – one in winter and again in summer – when stores across France hold sales with price reductions of up to 80%.  This year the winter event starts on January 12 and continues until 15 February. Prices fall over time – but so does inventory!  Café chatter changes from the usual complaints about taxes to informed discussions on getting into ultra-exclusive events.

The ETs scout the territory. Photo by Andreas Praefcke Wikimedia Commons

Everyone has “Soldes exceptionnels”, from the smallest Left Bank bookstore to world-famous houses on the Avenue Montaigne.  Housewares, accessories, designer suits – it’s all on sale thanks to the French government.  The Experienced Travelers can already feel the kinetic energy of les fashionistas emanating across the Atlantic.  We wondered how Parisians look so chic with prices so high.  Now all is revealed.

The French economy improves by the minute Photo by Gryffindor, Wikipedia Commons

The ETs have a plan in case they land in Paris during the sales.  We’ll scout the inventory, then set GPS coordinates for the items we want.  The goal is to buy during the second markdown to get the best price.  Proper shopping attire is one layer with no hooks, buttons or other time-wasting accoutrements that impede a fast change.

On The Day, we’ll arrive well before opening, employing knees and elbows to reach the racks before the competition.  Nurse is not above using a cane to deter rival shoppers and I can be fleet-of-foot when a jacket depends on it. 

And remember:  if we love it enough to buy it at full price, but we wait and get it at half-off – the difference is Found Money!  So shopping the Soldes is a great use for Found Money and actually *adds* to the FM account as we shop.

Gentlemen: This beautiful Charvet cuff helps justify the investment Photo by Myself, Wikimedia Commons

The Paris Perfect newsletter tells us how to get to events that the ETs can only dream about :

  • Hermès Sale: Jan 20 to 23 at Porte Maillot. The event has become so big that they could not longer hold it in the flagship Faubourg Saint-Honoré Store. Women line up the day before at dawn to make it in for the opening.
  • Chanel Sale: Starts January 6 at 42 Ave Montaigne, 75008 Paris
  • Dior Sale: Jan 9 to 12 from 10 am to 7 pm at Artcurial, Address: 7 rond-point des Champs Elysées. Easy, stroll across the river from the 7th and walk three blocks to the Rond Point intersection. Takes 15 minutes and you can stop for tea at the Four Seasons on your way home!  (Paris Perfect rents beautiful vacation apartments in the 7th.) 

    Trip the light fantastic (or just trip) in these splendid gold shoes that the ETs found near the Palais Royal

And the Paris Office of Tourism is right on top of things:

“Romantic, festive, cultural, as well as sporting, musical and… good food loving! The shopping capital has more than one string to its bow. Everyone will find something they love here and discover lots of exciting things to do. So, you just need the right addresses … Welcome to shoppingbyparis!”

The ETs are excited by shoppingbyparis’ Shopping Guide PDF.  It’s 112 pages of ads and store information.  It’s worth waiting for the download, and it has English translations that will make the $US fly from your designer pocketbook. 

The ETs don't have the bone structrure to shop at Pucci, but perhaps you do? Photo by Deuxl Sarl Wikimedia commons

Working diligently at our research. we found out how to shop Les Soldes from our couch in the US. thoughtfully links to  1000 Bonnes Affaires and L’internaute so we can shop online from those stores which will ship to the US. 

The ETs aspire to the ranks of the truly gifted, who get in early on the first day, so the best items are hanging in their closets by noon.    If we go into training today, we could be ready to compete in July!

Bonne Année dear Readership!

January 2, 2011

Happy New Year from JuliesParis. Photo by Celeste Hutchins Wikimedia Commons

Happy New Year, dear Readership!  The Experienced Travelers hope yours will be blissful and bountiful.  We’re scheming to return to Paris in 2011! There’s so much more to see, do and eat…  And since these are ET Core Competencies, we’ll focus on what we do best.

We spent the Christmas break in “ET Kaizen Process Improvement” mode, developing an editorial calendar that we hope will be entertaining and useful.  Over glasses of crisp Vouvray, we wistfully recounted 12 years of Paris trips and photographs, and searched online for copyright-free assets.  This dizzying whirl of activity catapulted us to new heights of creative thinking and made us very hungry for foie gras.

Negotiating traffic in the Place de l'Opera

In 2011, we’ll explore different aspects of visiting Paris, torture you with Proust, visit Brugges, Strasbourg and Provence, theorize over incidents in French history and share resources to help make you Paris ETs too.     

Provencal Preview! We'll roadtrip on JuliesParis in 2011

First, we’ll start the new year with some suggestions to make your JuliesParis experience easier and more convenient:

The best reading experience  The ETs have tested, viewed and clicked like mad, only to discover that you get the best rendering of the site by bookmarking and reading it directly at  We are dismayed to find that clicking through from Facebook or reading a post in an e-mail may not give you access to earlier posts and other features.  We have convened Kaizen subgroups to solve this issue.

Register for Automatic Notification.  Following the fine example of French bureaucracy, the ETs are pushing automatic notification.   If you currently receive JuliesParis via a personal e-mail from me, why not sign up for automatic notification! And if you get JuliesParis via your work e-mail and prefer to use a personal account instead, automatic notification is a perfect way to make the change. Here’s how to do it:

Click here –  There’s a link on the right-side of the page where you can enter your email address.  


Don’t be shy – comment!  The ET credo is to promote a lively exchange of ideas — and people tell us they enjoy seeing comments by other readers.  Don’t hesitate to use the “Leave a Response” or “Add a Comment” links at the end of each post to share your thoughts!  If you’re a Facebook reader, enter your comments on the blog rather than on Facebook, so non-Facebook readers can be mesmerized by your erudite observations.

We'll explore Notre Dame and the Ile de la Cite


Sous le ciel de Paris! Photo by Dygert

What started as a trip report has blossomed into the ETs favourite obsession, thanks to your enthusiasm and interest.  We are deeply appreciative of your continued support and we’ll do our best to publish every 7-10 days, depending on the demands of The Real Job.

Bonne Année dear Readership!  We promise we’ll get back to the City of Lights in our next Post!

Twelve days of revels

December 18, 2010

The City of Lights at Christmas (Agatellier, Wikipedia commons)

The holidays are nigh upon us, and the Experienced Travelers sleep with images of foie gras dancing in their heads.  Letters were duly posted to Père Noël at his atelier in the Rue Guillemites, so now we wait.   

Pere Noel forsakes the North Pole for the Rue Guillemites in the Marais

France is a secular country – unless the Church provides an excuse for leisure and dining.  Christmas is a twelve-day extravaganza, beginning with le Réveillon after Midnight Mass.  Imagine a table laden with roasts, salads, oysters, foie gras, champagne and the “bûche de Noël” or Christmas log cake. Paris will be awake all night, eating, drinking and visiting. 

Beware the hidden crown in this Galette des Rois

Twelve exhausting days later, the season comes to a close at Epiphany.  Naturally there is a meal, which features la Galette des Rois, a round cake containing a small hidden crown.  Whoever finds it in their slice gets to be King or Queen. (which can be a risky proposition in France)  We hope they chew carefully.

The ETs speculate that this tradition was started in the 14th century by the medieval guild of Baker Dentists, rivals of the better-known Barber Surgeons. Translated from the Latin, their motto reads “Bake a crown – Make a crown”. It’s still upheld by dentists across France.

We asked Pere for more time to visit this friendly fromagerie

We have been very, very good all year, so we hope that Père Noël will be generous.  Nurse wants time to explore the other fromagerie near our apartment, a Gordon Ramsay gift certificate, fresh radishes and haricots verts, Laduree macarons, the vintage Hermès scarf from the shop on the corner, and for me to get bored with Proust.

We both asked Pere Noel for dinner at Le Florimond

I asked for two chairs by the fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens, the view from the Centre Pompidou, the unforgettable omelette from La Fontaine Saint-Michel, to find Napoleon’s stuffed dog in the Musee de L’Armee and to gain entry to the bank conference room that was once Proust’s bedroom. 

Open late for last minute shopping (Noel Remi Jouan, Wikipedia Commons)

JuliesParis will be on hiatus until the New Year while we rest by the fire with a glass of wine and our Paris maps.  Until then, we invite you to join us in the final chorus of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”, which will sound better once we open the wine:

Twelve vintage bottles / Eleven lost Picassos
Ten chefs creating / Nine waiters waiting
Eight “Gordon” courses/ Seven Marly horses
Six scarves from Hermès / Five Ma-ca-rons
Four garden chairs / Three baguettes / Two camemberts
And a pied-à-terre in the Rue Cler

This video features the bells of Notre Dame on Christmas Eve.  As you listen, imagine every church bell in Paris ringing out at midnight.  We wish all the loyal Readership the best of the season, and the best of Paris!

In Paris, Four Inches of Mayhem

December 11, 2010

Quelle horreur!  Paris came to a virtual standstill this week after four inches of snow paralyzed the city.  When the Eiffel Tower ices up, can a complete shut-down be far behind?  And why not!  If a catastrophe closes the office in time for lunch, the resourceful Parisienne can head to her favourite brasserie and spend the afternoon watching French authorities deal with the gridlock while she enjoys her cassoulet.   

Let is Snow! This cassoulet will warm and restore any ET caught in a storm

Roads into Paris were closed, and over a thousand stranded citoyens slept in their cars or makeshift shelters. More than 2,000 police and protection agents were dispatched to the aid of motorists stuck on the Paris peripherique and Ile de France highways.  The ETs trust that the patrols delivered the necessities for survival – a good vintage, foie gras, a baguette and a corkscrew.  That is what the French taxpayer should expect.

Since the Experienced Travellers can’t report first-hand, they found this wonderful photo slideshow that will entertain and enchant.  Click on the link and gaze at them while you read!

Hearing weather reports from Paris reminds The ETs of their last visit.  In September, we were puzzled by Parisians bundled into heavy coats and scarves.  Now we agree that these style choices were chic preparation for a cataclysm like this blizzard.  After all, a snowstorm is no excuse for wearing last year’s outerwear. 

The Rue de Levis market in snow (2009) by Georges Seguin (Wikipedia Commons)

We hailed the bravery of ladies in the street markets maneuvering their shopping baskets through inches of snow, over decorative but lethal pavement.  The ETs were also relieved to see how Parisians made good use of the ubiquitous umbrellas.   But as they watched the first video, they wondered about the guy who was shoveling snow with a rake. 

J'accuse! Fillon holds French weathermen responsible (Lemarie Wikipedia Commons)

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Francois Fillon accused the Météo France weather service of having “failed to forecast the snow and in any case not its intensity”.  We wonder if there will be a special session in the National Assembly to ascertain responsibility.   Perhaps Fillon weighed the political implications of denouncing Mere Nature and decided that Météo France was a better target. 

This YouTube video slideshow is a little lengthy at 4:00, but it takes you around a city blanketed in snow.

From this CNN article,  journalist Celine Martelet says that she was on a highway near Paris for three hours. “There’s an incredible silence, not one noise,” she said. “People are leaving their cars and trying to go on foot. I saw one man on skis, who was going to find his wife who was stuck in a traffic jam two kilometers away. He was going to help her get out of her car.” 

The ETs hope that the man found his wife.  Perhaps the police had already been there with wine and sustenance.  Did the stranded couple pass a romantic evening on the Peripherique under the snowy skies?

(I’m sure our friends in the Midwest shook their heads over Paris devestated by a  four inch snowfall.  We will remember you when it hits the east coast!  But don’t worry – we’re well fortified by plenty of good French wine)

Très moderne at the Pompidou

December 4, 2010

L'Art Moderne.

(Pre-emptive apologies to fans of modern art.  It’s all in the service of the Narrative.)

The Experienced Travelers are fond of old things, especially when the old thing is a vintage Hermes scarf on sale.  But sometimes they indulge Nurse’s post-modernist streak and pay a visit the Musée National d’Art Moderne at the Centre Georges Pompidou. 

Nurse was a real sport about my Proustian excursions, so despite my developing headcold I put on a pop art attitude and went along.

Georges Pompidou - He could be a "Mad Men" extra!

Unlike the ETs, Prime Minister Georges Pompidou was not fond of old things.   A man of the 1960s, he envisioned a New Paris that would personify the modern age.  Not since Haussman has a man done more to change the face of the city.  

His legacy includes the smelly, death-defying traffic lanes on the banks of the Seine, the heartbreaking destruction of Les Halles (the central market of Paris) – especially the Baltard iron structures, and the awkward Tour Montparnasse office skyscraper.  Even Nurse, in her most modern frame of mind, agrees.

Centre Pompidou exterior. It's not unfinished. It's just inside-out.

So it’s fitting that the Centre Pompidou is one of the most controversial buildings in Paris. The escalators, air ducts and climate control systems are on the outside of the structure.  

Nurse moving up in the world of art on the Pompidou escalator

By the time it was finished in 1977, the Centre Pompidou was lambasted in the press, mocked and despised.  In fairness, it does have admirers.  And in the end, most Parisians have come to terms with it’s eccentricities.  

Blue canvas - artist and purpose unknown to me

But we’re here for the art!  Nurse was in her element, rhapsodizing about the installations.  I wished for just one Rembrandt.  I earnestly want to understand “la moderne”, but time and again I fail.

The ETs did get some keen ideas for making Art of our own.  This is automatic Found Money when you add up what would be spent at on wall decor!  Take “Blue Canvas”.  *I* can do that!  And it’s equivalent in size to a $79 Overstock special.  Found!

Joseph Beuys “Homogeneous Infiltration for Piano” 1966

While Nurse was transported by the creative use of media and shiny things, I kept thinking of useful stuff around the house that could be art-ified.  *We* have a piano.  *We* have throw rugs.  Why not? 

Lifting the spirits

Nurse wandered off to deeper inspiration while I sought refuge on a comfy bench to deal with my escalating headcold. 

My reward for immersion in modern art - a fantastic view. St. Merri in front, Notre Dame and the Pantheon in the distance

This was a fortuitous move.  From where I sat in Pompidou’s monument to the new modern city, you get the most exquisite view of the buildings and mood that he wanted to eradicate.  Sorry Georges.

Note Georges Pompidou's unfathomable Tour Montparnasse just to the left of my shoulder

Take That, Georges. Even on a grey day, the view over Paris makes me sigh.

By now, I am delerious from the headcold.  But the mounting congestion helps me see things in the art that I was missing before!  Eureka! The ETs have found an “art appreciation”  research study that will keep them in Paris for years!  My opinions of Georges and Jackson Pollock are rising every minute.

The Stravinsky Fountain outside the Centre Pompidou meets Nurse's criteria for an art experiece. It's whimsical, has moving parts and sprays water

The ETs both approve of the Stravinsky Fountain.  Created in 1983, the sixteen sculptures were inspired by composer Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”.  They move, twirl and spray, which entertains small children and the ETs. 

Our foray into modern art had inspirational moments.  The ETs duly pondered them over a glass of wine. Did Georges, perhaps, have a point?  At a cafe in the heart of Paris, even ETs can be great art theorists.

Artistic inspiration comes from many places

Les Macarons

November 7, 2010

Les Macarons. One ET shares the French obsession with them. The other ET is mystified.

Occasionally, the ETs respectfully disagree over a point of French life.  The frenzied, national devotion to the macaron is a serious point of contention, with Nurse firmly on the side of the French.   You can see where that leaves me.

The obsession in question is made of two thin-crusted cookies with soft centers of almond meringue held together with a layer of rich, sweet ganache.  If you’re already spinning from sugar overload, I am sympathetic. 

Nurse has a fondness for the macarons that her friend Pauline made with whipped cream.  So when she saw a patisserie window in full macaron splendor, she was hooked.  I can’t fathom why.  The fumes make my teeth hurt.

A new solar system - macarons suspended by wire over pink sugar, each with a decorative cutout

Macarons come in all colors and flavors.  They’re lemon, raspberry, mocha or pistachio and always a garish hue.  The blinding saucer-sized varieties  from the corner patisserie are Nurse’s favourites. Her blood sugar rose the moment she had the bag in hand.  A circulatory system overload caused by the almond meringue and the lemon ganache made Nurse handle her hotwheels like a NASCAR pro.  No one was safe.

If Proust had preferred Laduree macarons to madelines, perhaps he would have been less pensive. (Photo by Roboppy. Wikipedia Commons)


Catherine de Medici’s Italian pastry chefs introduced them to France in the mid-1500s as a simple almond cookie.  The fanaticism began when the famous pastry shop Laduree pioneered the ganache filling in the early 1900s.  Laduree’s website offers this secret to macaron success:

These small, round cakes, crisp on the outside, smooth and soft in the middle, are made every morning in Ladurée’s “laboratory”. The pastry chefs measure out very precisely the required amounts of almonds, eggs and sugar, before adding one final ingredient, a pinch of unique “know-how”, essential to the making of such a delicacy. Once cooked and filled, the macaroons are put to one side for 2 days before going on sale, the time it takes to achieve a perfect balance between texture and flavour.

The part about them sitting around for two days is certainly a point for my side of the argument.  

The discs of delight make creative window dressing a snap. Does anyone but me question why you can use a glue gun on a macaron?

Patisserie owners are enthusiastic about decorating with them and I suspect it’s because profit margins on macarons must be enormous.  If you’re willing to part with 2-3 euro of  “found money” for a few bites of sass and buzz, join Nurse! 

Disagreements over who makes the best macarons are serious and consequential.   In Paris, there are several top contenders.  Laduree and Dalloyau  are two of the oldest practitioners in the city. 

Pierre Hermé –  who has written a book on the subject – has a contemporary flair and unusual flavors like rose and lychee.  (You can devour 20 of them in your own home for just 58 euro plus shipping.) 

Lenôtre  will send you a 116-piece “colonnade de macarons” for 164 euro which will turn your office holiday party into an EMT convention.  Finally Gérard Mulot on the Rue de Seine has fierce adherents who swear that his are the only ones.   

So, Readership, do you have a position to take on the subject of macarons?  Do you back Nurse in her devotion to the colorful, ganache-filled biscuits?  Or do I have the right approach – bisquick and Fluffernutter?

Toussaint in Père Lachaise Cemetery

October 30, 2010

Visit Rossini over Halloween in Paris

Happy Halloween to the Readership. The Experienced Travellers wish you more treats than tricks.  

In France, they invoke their Catholic heritage and make national holidays of  Holy days and Saint’s days.  Add in numerous Bank Holidays and it makes for a very relaxing schedule.   In the grand French tradition, it’s an opportunity to exercise the right to outdoor leisure and convivial dining over a long weekend.  Vive this French bureaucratic policy!

Forget healthcare reform. Insist on a constitutional right to Saints Days and Bank Holidays

Toussaint – the Feasts of All Saint and All Souls  – is the first three-day weekend after the rentree.  It’s a time to honor Saints like the remarkable Genevieve, and to remember the deceased.  

In memory of saints and singers, the ETs recall their visit to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.  It’s the largest cemetery in Paris, and justly famous.  Residents include Colette, Piaf, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Rossini and Jim Morrison.

Edith Piaf's burial drew tens of thousands mourners to the cemetery and Paris traffic to a standstill.

When the cemetery opened in  1804, people  thought it was too far out of town.  But some flashy marketing saved the day.  They reburied Moliere and La Fontaine here, then intered the “remains” of  medieval lovers Abelard and Heloise.  Before long, everybody wanted in. 

Oscar Wilde's dying words - "either that wallpaper goes, or I do"

Here we can survey the sweeping history of arts, letters and science, especially when a certain Belle Epoch author is buried within.  It was my secret mission to “stumble upon” his grave and leave a token of my esteem.  Nurse thought we were out for a walk.  Just as well…

Hopelessly lost among the Immortals

Knowledgable ETs take provisions.  Fortunately we packed food, because we spent the day horribly lost.  The free cemetery map wasn’t up to the job.  One allee looks very much like another.  Everything was uphill.  Under a  dire sky, we trod the gravel paths arguing over magnetic north.   

Ravensbruck memorial

I must mention that the most arresting monuments in the cemetery are the Holocaust memorials.  We come to see the famous graves, but these  deeply moving tributes are the ones we remember.  

By late afternoon, I understood which way to hold the map.  My secret plan was coming together.  Nurse was getting suspicious, because I confidently scampered up hills and between mausoleums.  At last, I found him.  

Marcel Proust. If only I hadn't eaten that last madeleine.

Certain ETs pay homage to the great Belle Epoch author. His monument is almost as high as the six volumes stacked.

He doesn’t draw Jim Morrison’s fledgling hippies, or lover’s pleas like Abelard and Heloise.  We devotees come for a moment of involuntary memory or a spot of tea.   

Nurse was good-humoured about it.  This was nothing compared to the truly scary Proustian fieldtrip to Illiers-Combray.  But that’s for another post.

Spend next Halloween in Paris

Enjoy Halloween.  Perhaps the candy and the costumes will invoke an involuntary memory of your own.

Park it! Outdoor living in Paris

October 27, 2010



The right configuration: One chair with arms, and one without for the feet.

As the trees go bare and the days grow shorter,  the Experienced Travellers wistfully revisit balmy afternoons in their favourite Paris parks.  Ooh, to drag a green iron chair to the edge of a fountain for a spot of lunch. 

Fountain-side in the Palais-Royal garden

The ETs have a particular fondness for the Palais Royal garden –  an 18th century outdoor entertainment complex.  Desperate gamblers lost the family manse in the dens over the arcades.  Prostitutes did a bit of marketing in the allees.  Actors and revolutionaries argued in the cafes.  

Then on a hot night in 1789, Camille Desmoulins leapt onto a table here in the Cafe Foy, and delivered the tirade that “started” the French Revolution.  By morning, cockades made a fashion statement that few would dare debate.

Perfect for a touch of insurgency - or lunch.

You can still promenade here, dine at the Grand Vefour or shop where Charlotte Corday bought the knife that killed Marat, but the crowd is more law-abiding.   The Palais Royal garden is a fine venue for recharging.  ETs aren’t likely to hop on tables and make proclamations, but they do enjoy an al fresco lunch in the shade.

The Jardin des plantes - zoo and botanical garden

In the 5th arrondissement, the Jardin des Plantes contains the Paris zoo, a spectacular botanical garden and the Museum of Natural History.

Fricassee? Don’t scare the wildlife!

The ETs thought the animals looked relaxed, but that wasn’t always the case.  During the Prussian siege of 1870, food was so scarce that zoo animals turned up as exotic dishes on restaurant menus.

The Paris Mosque - lunch and a Turkish bath

In search of a more amenable meal, the ETs head directly to the nearby Paris Mosque.  The excellent couscous and mint tea gurantee a restful afternoon.  It’s a lovely setting, and for the price, one of the best meals in Paris.  If you leave here without wanting to lay mosaic tile throughout your house, you are superhuman.  Did I mention the gift shop?

Float your boat in the Luxembourg Gardens

Perhaps I saved the best for last.  Deep in the 6th arrondissement, the Luxembourg Gardens are a leafy venue for sea-worthy children to hone their skills.  Formerly Marie de Medici’s backyard, today the gardens afford unparallelled vistas across the parterres to the rooftops of the 5th and 6th. 
More piegon trivia;  On his way home from Gertrude Stein’s salon, a hungry Hemingway used to catch the delectable birds for his dinner in the Lux.  (The ETs feel closer to Hemingway since GR’s pigeon dish.)

A perfect picnic

So find a garden or a small neighborhood park, arrange your hotwheels and enjoy a baguette with ham and cheese.  It’s free, it’s relaxing and it’s very French.

La Mode Parisienne

October 13, 2010

La Mode Parisienne

Experienced Travellers watch the whirl of life around them.  Though I’m not a fashionista, here are a few observations about what people are wearing – and buying in Paris.  

Everyone carefully orchestrates their clothing, shoes and makeup, even to run the shortest errand.  It is a matter of national pride that the ensemble is right – whether it’s understated elegance or chic grunge.

Count the coats in this picture. It was in the high 60s and yet the coat is paramount.

Jackets and coats – preferably leather –  come out immediately following the rentree in September.  And wool scarves by early October.   No matter that the sun is blazing and it’s 75 degrees, the coat and scarf make a statement to the world, and they are mandatory attire. 

The legs matter!

Stockings and tights were a prominent accoutrement.  Ladies of every age and build made the most of them.  They were often the only splash of color or design.   And I saw lots of black tights under knee-length jersey tops finished off with a sporting pair of boots.  Lots and lots of boots on the streets…

They are all made for walkin' - and showing off those hose

What amazes me is the number of small, independent clothing shops featuring one or two designers, particularly in the Marais and around the Place St. Germain.  Each shop has a unique style and the clothing is paired with jewelry, handbags and accessories.  It’s a “one stop outfit” in an artisinal style.   ETs like this strategy because it gets you to the cafe faster.

That certain "je ne sais quois"

I loved this twirling shoe diplay in the Marais.  Gentlemen if you’re in the market for a red shoe with a chunky heel, there are plenty in stock.

Red shoes at morning / sailors take warning

Any style works, as long as it’s well-executed.  In this case, if you’re got it; flaunt it.  Jacket.  Boots.  Handbag.  It’s all there.

Retro works!

So how do ETs decide what to pack for Paris?  They are resigned to the truth.  They’ll never look like French ladies, so comfort is paramount, and black is best.  But that doesn’t mean a girl can’t shop for a dishy new jacket and top while she’s in Paris.  Besides, it’s research for the blog.  

If Foucault were alive today, he would be studying the physics of platform stillettos on cobbled streets.  And he’d be a happier man for it!

No matter what they wear, or what they're doing, Parisienne women are chic

Paris by boat

October 12, 2010

One view from the Seine, with the Grand Palais in the distance

When Experienced Travellers yearn for something nautical, they buy a one-day ticket on the Batobus, Paris’ water-taxi.  You can ride the circuit, or get on and off at different stops and sightsee.  Batobus gives you city transport while you rest and admire Paris from the river.  How splendid!

The romantic Pont Neuf, near the tip of the Ile de la Cite

There are 37 bridges in Paris spanning the Seine.  The oldest of them is the Pont Neuf.  Completed in 1607 during the reign of Henry IV, it has a reputation as the most romantic bridge in Paris.   But before it became a romantic venue, it was a center of petty criminal and commercial activity.   

In this century, the artist Christo wrapped the Pont Neuf in sand-colored fabric.  This might qualify as either criminal or commercial activity, depending on your point of view. 

An address to admire: the Ile St.-Louis in the center of Paris

The Ile St.-Louis is a most prestigious address, and a very good retirement plan if you’re lucky enough to call it home.  At one time, it was used to graze cattle.  Today the most popular grazing is at Berthillion – arguably the best ice cream in Paris. 

Why do I think George Clooney has a home in the Ile?  Well if he does, he is in stellar company. Baudelaire, French poet, essayist and notable laudanum addict was briefly a resident here.  And Proust placed Charles Swann’s home on the Ile.

In addition to quiet wealth and aristocracy, there’s also shopping.  The Rue St. Louis-en-Ile is lined with boutiques, food stores and small designer clothing shops. 

Shopping on the Rue St. Louis-en-Ile

Our Batobus comes upon Notre Dame from the west, where the Ile St. Louis almost nudges the Ile de la Cite.

This makes anyone a photographer. You can't get a bad picture with this kind of material

The banks of the Seine are justly famous as the perfect  place for a rendez-vous with a certain someone.  As always in France, the tradition continues.  This couple was occupied with La Gloire  as we waited for the next Batobus.

With the Louvre as their backdrop, this couple carries on a deep intellectual conversation

As the boat pulled alongside the Eiffel Tower stop, we were glad we remembered the Batobus and had a day of riparian delights on the banks of the Seine. 

The trinket sellers will drive you made, but a view of the Eiffel Tower is on every ET's list.

You don’t have to take an expensive Bateau Mouche dinner cruise to enjoy Paris from the Seine.  I feel in my bones that this is somehow “found money”, but I need to make a few calculations to confirm this.   

From my archives - The Concergierie towers on the Ile de al Cite

Feet on the street – Part 2

October 11, 2010

La Fontaine St. Michel

I left off with that dreamy omlette, so I’ll resume my tale and take you through the 6th, past Les Invalides and add an addendum on our dinner.

The 6th arrondissement is perfect for ETs

There is an abundance of strolling, shopping and old things in this area.  Benjamin Franklin thought so too.  Cafe Procope was his hangout, so it’s only fitting that I should honor his legacy with a cafe express.  This cafe was the first to serve coffee in 1686.  The Founding Fathers all organized business trips to Paris – and often left their wives at home.  I wonder if they had French nieces too….

Robespierre, Danton and Marat also found it a convivial place where-from to run a Revolution.  I wonder who paid the check? (and I bet Citizen Robespierre didn’t have to wait 20 minutes to get it)
Rue de Buccci – the market street of the 6th

Experienced Travellers know not to travel the Rue de Bucci hungry.  I was still luminous from the omlette, so it was a permissable route.  This is the local marche, lined with cafes, epiceries, produce stands and shops.  My hero Janet Flanner lived nearby on the Rue Jacob and it was a favourite area for The Lost Generation.

Take-away salads on the Rue de Bucci

A popular spot for lunch and some mid-day flirting

I made my way down the Blvd. St. Germain and over the Rue de Grennelle, which takes me through Embassy Row.  Hmm. Lots of police , the road closed to traffic and absolutely NO SOUND except footsteps on the pavement.  Oh dear.  Even ETs can’t plan for every turn of events. 

I kept my head down and walked.  Very fast.  I’ve been reading too much Alan Furst. This must be what the streets were like at night during the Nazi occupation.  Alan’s heros duck into a doorway and press against the wall if a car approaches.  Especially if they’re  using forged papers and carrying microfilm.   Fortunately, I had no need of doorways or false alibis.

Les Invalides - army museum and military hospital

I emerged a little out of breath and regained my wits on a bench at the Invalides.  Les Invalides was established as a military hospital by Louis XIV – and his appetite for war consigned many of his troops to it’s care.  It is still used as a hospital today, and houses the Army Museum and the very grand tomb of Emperor Napoleon. 

The gold dome is beautiful at night when it’s lit.  The French are very very good at lighting monuments.  They’re also very good at integrating contemporary art with ancient or historical buildings.  I admired this installation in the Invalides garden.

Garden art at Les Invalides

Thank goodness it was time for dinner, and we had reservations at a wine bar called Number 7.  

The obligatory swirl

My knowledgable friend Terese encouraged me to order the St. Emillion, and I always follow her advice.  Now, I want to know if St. Emillion can be my new patron saint.

Nurse is a thurifer in our Church of St. Emillion

Nurse, resplendent after a day of rest, ordered a crab and zucchini terrine topped with chopped lime that was so refreshing.  The plates were sprinkled with a very interesting paprika.  So now we have to scour the market to find a small bottle for the suitcase.

Crab zucchini terrine. I had enough wine to wonder how they got the zuchinni to stick together.

This is where we learned that not all mashed potatos need to be mashed – some can be chunks! We finished the meal with a pear clafoutis and a cafe noir.

Pear clafoutis - the walk home will do us good

Thank goodness I walked all day.  I have a caloric theory that you can excercise ahead of time to offset the evening meal.  This operates on the same principle as “found money” and is equally sound.

The longer I spend in Paris, the more my theories are borne out. 

Feet on the street – Part 1

October 11, 2010


Cheese ladies chatting with passing neighbors

Nurse was resting her back today, so I revisited some neighborhoods that I know and love. 


Experienced Travellers always devise routes ahead of time that balance historical sights with local interest – and of course, food.  A walk  from the Latin Quarter to St.-Germain, through Embassy Row, past Les Invalides and back to the Ecole Militaire sounded just right.  Part I will focus on the Latin Quarter to  Place St. Michel. 

Reliable #82 dropped me near the Rue St. Jacques to begin my trek. I will never fear Parisian busses again.  It’s far superior to taking the metro, unless you’re in a hurry.

Riding the #82 bus through Montparnasse

The Latin Quarter has teemed with students, tourists, nightclubs and fast-food since the Collège de Sorbonne was established in 1253.  Would Abelard and Heloise be surprised by the Greek take-away and post-card vendors?  Perhaps our friendly Medievalist can weigh in on 13th century student life?  

The 5th is where you go when you need a gyro in Paris

Gyros on the Rue de la Huchette

For years, I’ve heard about an eccentric Latin Quarter hotel with a devoted clientel,  that has cheap rooms and unparallelled views of Notre Dame. (J-P A. may know of it)  Well here I was on the doorstep, so I asked to see a room.  Now, bear in mind this is 75 euros with no view – about the price of a Holiday Inn Express – and the maid was cleaning it.

A little too “La Boheme” for the ETs

I suppose it works if you’re young, tormented and writing quatrains about man’s inhumanity to man.  I didn’t inquire about availability.

But if you’re past the prime of youth, don’t despair.  Enjoy this memorable view of Notre Dame from the Place St Julien le Pauvre.  
This view doesn’t cost anything – found money!

Lovely old streets surround the church of St. Julien le Pauvre

Pondering medieval fast-food and tormented poetics gave me an appetite.  Much to my delight, I enjoyed the perfect omlette.  Lightly crusted on the outside, slightly runny on the inside, and filled with ham and cheese.   The new gold standard. 

The best omlette I have ever eaten. Thank you, La Fontaine St. Michel

Rested and restored, I set out to explore the 6th between Place St Michel and the Place St. Germain.  And an eerie experience on the Rue Grenelle in Embassy Row.  Watch for Part 2!

There’s going to be a transport strike here on Tuesday to protest the Government’s move to raise the retirement age to 62.  Limited train, metro and bus service will be fun to negotiate!

Ladies who Lunch at the Fontaine St. Michel

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