Pont Neuf and Ile de la Cite

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Saturday in Paris - my last day :-(

Well it's my last full day in Paris (boohoo) and I'm up bright and early. It's another coooold morning. As I peer down at people moving on the street below, I realize they're bundled up good - brrrr. More yummy coffee from my French press and a delicious croissant. Yum.

Today is the day I seek out all of the goodies and deals at the infamous Paris flea markets. First stop (actually the only planned stop) Marche aux Puces St-Ouen. I'm in search of leather goods and read several books recently that said I would find what I was looking for here. Fingers and toes crossed.

As I leave the apartment I see what equates to my very own neighborhood flea market, taking place right outside my front door. Huh. I check out a few stalls. They'll be here all day, so I'll hit them when I get back.

Before I leave the neighborhood I decide to take some photos around my apartment.

The front door to my apartment building.

This is my apartment building. My windows are on the top floor. The farthest left is my bathroom, to the right of it, my kitchen window. Around the corner are my living room windows (2) and farthest right is my bedroom window.
This is the clothing boutique across the street with the magical disappearing shutters.

This a children's boutique. I loved her window dressings.
I wish I would have snapped a photo of the one before this, it was darling too.  
I pass this building every day on my way to the Metro stop. It's the Secours Populaire Francais, which is a non-profit similar to Salvation Army or Goodwill. I zoom in on a poster they have posted across all of their front windows - because I thought it was cute and festive. It's requesting holiday donations for the less fortunate. I Googled the words on the poster and found this on their French speaking website - and saw this photo of people receiving holiday gifts. The caption above the photo on the website translated says: Celebrate for certain, Christmas is often a difficult period for the less fortunate. We need you!

I take the Metro north of Paris to the outskirts of the city, near the Sacre-Coeur area, which is an area up on a hill. I mention this because it is the coldest day of my trip and I'm certain there is a wind chill. Brrrr! I'm now regretting that I didn't buy a hat when I had the chance.

When I get to Marche Aux Puces I'm quickly greeted by street sellers trying to hock their wares on me. Faux Rolex watches, souvenirs, etc. I politely decline and quickly move toward the 'Pièce de résistance' of flea markets. Once inside - I begin my search for all things leather. Unfortunately, I'm not having much luck. There are some leather goods, but they're not finished / polished - more along the lines of 'raw leather', too rough - sadly not what I'm looking for. I do happen upon a nice Indian vendor who has a lot of really lovely cashmere scarves from India - Kashmir to be exact. :-) He's trying the hard sell, but I want to see what the other vendors have before I make a purchase. I tell him I'll be back, but I don't think he believes me. He then calls out a better price, I tell him I'll be back.

I peruse the remaining stalls quickly - one, because there weren't very many, two, did I mention it's FREAKING COLD! I find my way back to the Indian vendor. He seems surprised and smile and say 'see, I told you I'd be back'. I mull over several options and finally choose a lovely red scarf with really pretty black designs on it. It will be festive for the holidays. I ask the vendor why there aren't many stalls - he's says because it's so cold. I figured. I tell him I'm looking for leather bags - he directs me down the street to another larger section of flea market vendors. Wow - 17 acres of streets full of vendors selling their wares. Unfortunately, nothing I'm looking for. Bummer! And I'm now officially frozen. Today, it's not just my thighs, but my boo-tay AND my feet. I'm getting outta here.
I decide I need to go get souvenirs and the best place for that is down by Notre Dame. Which is, by the way, the second coldest place in Paris, along the Seine. When I ascend from the Metro station I'm greeted by gale force winds. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration - but it was SUPER windy. Brrrr! Glad my coat has enormous lapels which I hike up over my ears which are also wrapped in a scarf. I look fetching. LOL
I decide first to check out the souvenir stalls, where I had great luck on my last trip. For those of you who've never seen these - I found a picture on the web, as it didn't occur to me to snap photos - plus I was freezing.
Paris, Paris Cultural, photo, picture, image
Unfortunately, not many of these stalls were open and the ones that were mostly had antique books and artwork, not what I was looking for. So I crossed the street and made my way down blocks and blocks of actual souvenir stores with heat! I found just the right little trinket's for those I was shopping for. Miniature Eiffel Towers, Snow Globes, etc.

I was loaded down with bags and decided it was time to head back to the apartment to drop them off. Once back in my neighborhood I was happy to find the neighborhood flea market still going strong. I passed a friendly looking homeless man, with the cutest puppy - which gave me an idea. Up four flights to drop off the bags and freshen up. Then I decided to pack up all my leftovers: cheese, bread, tangerines, milk and juice. I double bagged the items, included extra paper towels, for the homeless guy and his dog. I also collected all my loose change to put in his cup. He had a thin mattress that he sat on and a paper cup for donations, with a cardboard sign simply reading 'S.V.P' Which is short for S'il vous plait or Please. I think I surprised him. He looked very thankful and we both smiled knowing that we didn't speak each others language - well at least for now. One of my goals for 2011 is to learn French.
I decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood to streets I hadn't visited to find someplace for dinner. While meandering, I stumbled on a train store which I thought was super cute. Rigel, the 5 year old little boy I nanny for LOVES trains - so I took a couple of photos to share with him.
Of course Rigel wanted to know why I didn't buy him a train. LOL I quickly replied that the store was closing, see the man coming out of the store? Wink, wink.

Back near the flea market vendors, on the main drag in my neighborhood, I passed lots of cool stuff. I was tempted by this really cool Japanese teapot, but my luggage was already SO heavy. I came across a baker who had tons of bread. The samples were YUMMY! I couldn't resist taking these photos.
The streets were packed with shoppers trying to make deals with the local vendors. My tummy began to growl, so the search for a place for dinner became the focus. There were lots of options: French, Japanese, Italian, Chinese, etc. I settled on Café du Marché des Enfants Rouges. In a word it was FABULOUS! 

Of course it didn't hurt that all of the waiters were super adorable and very flirty. I only wish now I would have discovered this place the first night I arrived. :-) The cafe was small, but very hip and trendy, filled with locals from the neighborhood. I took the only seat available inside, conveniently facing the bar, with a birds-eye view of the HOT bartender. There was a heated enclosed patio - mainly for the smokers who were just there for a drink and smoke. Everyone was extremely attractive - the patrons, the staff - wow! I arrived a little after 4pm - my waiter was very nice and helpful. I ordered a large bottle of vin - Cote du Rhone to be exact - delish.
When I was ready to order I asked my super friendly waiter what the cafe specialty was. He pointed to the blackboard with the specials and low and behold - bœuf bourguignon. Oh darn, I have to have it again?! LOL I mentioned that I wanted a starter, maybe a salad. He recommended the avocado and Roquefort salad. It was served warm, had tomatoes, currants and parsley. It was absolutely melt in your mouth delicious. If there was a way to recreate it I would - maybe I will.

Their boeuf bourguignon is served over penne pasta with mushrooms. It wasn't salty like the version at Procope - it was by far the best meal I'd enjoyed this trip. I savored every bite. I think my waiter must have thought I was nuts, eating so slowly, at one point he came over to ask if everything was okay. He was worried that my BB had gotten too cold. 

At about 5pm there was a shift change, my little cutie waiter was going home. A new guy would take over - I sat there like a 'crazy American' enjoying the view, sipping my vin and writing in my journal - occasionally giggling like a schoolgirl. heehee

The ambiance was amazing, I was groovin' to some hip retro-French music. How awesome it must be to live in this neighborhood and get to come here whenever you like. The new waiter came to take my dessert order - again I asked him what their specialty was - he brought me a super yummy warm chocolate cake like yumyum, along with a cafe au lait. Y-U-M!

I was there for about an hour and a half, and saw the tables turn three times, which for those of you who've been in the service industry you know that's not too shabby. Sadly it was time for me to go back to the apartment - I had a lot of packing to do.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Friday in Paris

Woke up to a very cold morning - in the mid-20's brrrr!!!! I have to say, I'm happy that my apartment has radiant heat. It really seems to make things toasty, which on a cold day like this is a good thing.

My routine of Cafe au Lait via my French Press and a croissant from my local Boulangerie, that I purchased last night on my way home, is a perfect way to start another fabulous day in Paris.

Today I'm going to explore Canal St-Martin, Bastille and Oberkampf, which include the arrondissements (neighborhoods) of 10th, 11th, 12th, 19th and 20th. My colleague from work, Kristi Gomez, gave me a copy of an article from a craft magazine about a collection of artisan shops at the Viaduc des Arts, I can't wait.

Can I reiterate how cold it is out?! Seriously it never got higher than 30 today. Yikes! But I forged on. Canal St-Martin was lovely and I'm sure in the Spring, Summer or Autumn it's even lovelier. These photos probably won't do it justice.

I'm sure on a warmer day, this would be a lovely place to stroll. According to my research this is one of the city's top hangouts - great for strolling and galleries, shops and cafes. It was a very peaceful area, almost quiet, you can see how glassy the water is. But what you can't see is a subtle breeze, which provided a bit of wind chill.

 I was pretty sure what this said and found it odd and funny. It reads: Thank you for respecting the property, the site and the tranquility of the riverside. Music forbidden.
After this photo I saw a post office and decided to duck in for a couple of postage stamps and let's face it - to warm up. They had a great selection of holiday cards. I practiced some French, then the very nice postal employee practiced her English and I bought a couple boxes of cards and some stamps. I needed to mail Mom and John their belated Thanksgiving card.

On my way to my next stop, I passed a friend game of boules. They were so caught up in their game, they didn't even notice me snap the photo. http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Sports/DF_boules.shtml
Honestly, I have NO idea how they were keeping track, all the balls were the same color and size.

My next planned stop was the Marche Richard Lenior (Richard Lenior Market) - a produce market that's held every Friday and Sunday. My hope was I'd find something other than produce there too. http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2006/02/the-sunday-mark/  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find my way to the market, did I mention it was cold? So I moved on to the Bastille in hopes that the Viaduc des Arts would deliver.

On my way, I noticed big heavy clouds had moved in and the wind began to whip around. As I climbed the stairs of the Metro in Bastille I could see that it was snowing out. Once on the street level, I tried to snap some photos of the snow, as if I'd never seen snow before - LOL - but the pictures didn't really turn out, so I resorted to taking a photo of my coat sleeve as evidence.

Once in Place de la Bastille - yes, the infamous storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789. http://www.aviewoncities.com/paris/placedelabastille.htm
The only monument still standing on the square is the Colonne de Juillet, a column commemorating another revolution in 1830 during which king Charles X was replaced by king Louis-Philippe.

I quickly realized my tummy was growling and decided to refer to my guidebook for options. Lucky me, I was in a perfect spot - listed as one of the area's best cafes was Café Français - the description in part read: A sidewalk perch for people watching. Admittedly it looked warm so what the heck.
It wasn't clear if there was a hostess or if you just sat yourself, so I stopped the first waiter I saw and asked in French if he spoke English. The response "My English not very good" he points to another waiter and says "his English good". So I go up and ask about seating, he pleasantly tells me to feel free to sit anywhere. This is where I'll insert my firm opinion that the French ARE NOT RUDE. They're just particular and you have to be aware of their idiosyncrasies. Remember, we're in their country - they don't have to speak English.
Low and behold, guess who's section I sat myself in? Yep, My English not very good. We laughed, I proceeded to order my chicken sandwich w/ frites and the most wonderful cup of hot chocolate EVER! Well, today anyway. http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2006/10/paris-hot-choco-1/ I couldn't be bothered to take a photo, but it was the most heavenly, thick, rich warm chocolate served in a stainless steel creamer to keep it piping hot - Mmmm...enough said. The sandwich was good too. The snow began to fall harder, although not sticking to the street, it made for a lovely break.
Now on to Viaduc des Arts. As I make my way through Place de la Bastille I spy the Opera Bastille, which is a lovely building.
If you're interested http://www.operadeparis.fr/cns11/live/onp/L_Opera/Opera_Bastille/index.php?lang=en Paris has several major opera houses. Perhaps I'll visit one on a future trip.
In a nutshell, Viaduc des Arts is an abandoned rail line that serves as the setting for a lovely garden and walkway atop (neither of which I experienced, since it was dark when I got there). Below in the hallowed out old vaults of rail station are a collection of artisan shops. It's really quite a treat to see the restoration of a historic building. http://europeforvisitors.com/paris/articles/viaduc-des-arts.htm
First stop, and for me the best shop, Le Bonheur des Dames ("ladies delight"). It really was a pure delight and looked exactly like the photos in the article I read. For those of you in San Diego, Paris' equivalent to The Grove. A two-story space filled with all sorts of goodies and the bonus, it was decorated for the holidays. They specialized in fabrics, but had lots of other fun items - I bought some French looking Christmas ornaments. 

The shops go on for a mile. I walked the length looking for Le Comptoir, a shop that was to be stuffed with a gorgeous selection of wool yarn. Sadly they've left the Viaduc des Arts for an online business. It would have been fun to meet fellow knitters in Paris. http://lecomptoir.canalblog.com/

When I arrived home my legs seriously felt like I did when I had played out in the snow too long. I think I might have said that about yesterday too - but it's true my thighs were freezing! I was glad to make it home to my toasty apartment, where I promptly poured myself a glass of wine reflecting on my fabulous day.

One more day to write about - stay tuned.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Made it back to San Diego - 22 1/2 hours later (whew!)

Hello loyal 'followers' of my blog. Sorry for being 'out of pocket'. Technical difficulties plagued me on Friday and Saturday was busy - had lots of packing to do too.

I have great stories and photos to update you with of my Friday and Saturday happenings. I promise to have them up by the end of the day Monday.

Thanks for your patience and for your interest in my blog and travels.


PS - One good thing about being home - I get to sleep in my own bed. :-) 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Day in Paris

Awoke to cloudy, cold skies. 36 degrees with a 70% chance of snow - I hope so. Also, supposed to snow tonight, but less chance. Fingers and toes sufficiently crossed. :-)

Enjoyed my cafe au lait this a.m. while spying on my French neighbors - check out this boutique on the street below. I love how everything is locked up neat and tidy at night, and reopened the next day. Fascinating.

He's folding the door's that cover the windows. They fit neatly into these little pockets and viola! Storefront open for business. He has no idea I'm watching him...heehee

Today I'm going to get my shop on. It's day 5 and I've yet to buy myself anything of value - of course chocolate and wine are of value to me, but I'm talking fashion. Going to venture over to the 2e, 8e and 9e Arrondisements today. More later...

Well, I had quite the adventure. I covered a lot of ground. My first stop was the fabulous Galaries Lafayette. Paris has a few opera houses. Each one is an amazing work of art and architecture. Enroute to shopping I passed the Opera de Paris Garnier (hey, do you think that's where the Garnier hair products get their name? LOL) located at Place de L'Opera. I couldn't get the whole building in one photo, so I settled for the end closest to me, which is mirrored on the opposite end. There was also an impressive banner advertising for the ballet. For more info about this click on: http://www.aviewoncities.com/paris/operagarnier.htm
The area was buzzing with people. This is a very heavily visited tourist area. I wanted to see the shops so I forged on.

Wow - talk about a real department store, Galeries Lafayette did not disappoint!

Ladies picture the first floor - nothing but handbags, scarves and acessories. And it's no shrinking violet, it's a whole lot of square footage. Stunning! All of the designers are kept separate, which makes for easy shopping. The really high-end (Prada, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, etc) all had their own boutiques bordering the main floor, each with their own bodyguard / doorman to let you past the red velvet rope. I was too intimidated to go in any of them or even snap a photo of the door dudes. Yikes.
I did spend the better part of an hour messing up my hair trying on every type of stylish hat I could get my hands on. There were a couple of front runners, but in the end, I chickened out. I've never been much of a hat wearer and beside where else am I going to wear it? I suppose Ohio, but...I move on.
I travel upstairs. I have NO idea where I'm going, I'm just admiring the fabulousness of it all and trying to keep my mouth from gaping open. This must be what it's like at Saks NYC, or was at the old Tiedtke's in Toledo, during the holidays. The decorations were amazing! I didn't feel bad snapping photos, I was in good company.
Sadly I couldn't get the whole tree, but you get the jist. They even had giant gift-wrapped packages dangling from the domed ceiling. Enchanting....
I think there were 5 or 6 stories to the store. This next shot gives you an idea of what each level looked like.
Those curved balcony's were where tourists like me stood to snap photos. They also housed different collections, but who was looking at clothes, I was far too fascinated with the holiday decor. :-)

Next on to Au Printemps - a rival of Galeries Lafayette - but according to the guidebook more upscale. It's far too crazy busy in there, so I opt for window shopping, which at Printemps doesn't disappoint, as they have magical windows. 

Each of these major retailers have a separate store for ladies, men's and home. So imagine 6 of them flanking the streets. In between was every other French chain with a shop dotting the streets. Who knew Agnes B. would have a stand alone store?? Not me.
             Zoomed in on the sparkle - it was so festive
Approaching the 'magical' windows that are Printemps. :-) So cool! Each one came to life, set to different music - ranging from rap to classical, pop to jazz. I took video, but don't know how to upload it here.

Seriously, they were live action puppet shows in the windows!

I've never seen anything like it. So cool

And then I nearly broke out into song when I spied the 'Chestnuts roasting on and open fire' - not exactly a Bing Crosby moment, but I had to snap a picture. There are chestnut trees everywhere in Paris.

My next stop Galerie Vivienne, but just around the corner I stumbled upon a quaint little 'off the beaten path' square, where I saw this shop and like the way it looked so I photographed it.

Galerie Vivienne - it even sounds chic! The grand dame of Paris's 19th-century passages couverts, or covered arcades, walking through this restored (inside but not outside) gallery, with its tiled floor will take you back to a time of gaslights and horse-drawn carriages. An excerpt from my guide book - Parisians came to passages like this to escape the muddy streets, and show amid the boutiques under the glass-and-iron roofs-the world's first shopping malls.
Outside is currently under rennovation, but inside was completely restored to an amazing sight.

Imagine what it must have been like in the 19th century? Wow. And I did see the Jean-Paul Gaultier boutique, but not photos - too shy.

My tummy was growling after all this shopping, well actually it was a lot of walking and looking, not much real shopping. Even though I have $$ burning a hole in my pocket. I am my father's daughter in that regard. :-)

On my way to St. Germain (in the 6e) I spied this vendor. Candy anyone?!
My colleague Brenna told me about this restaurant that had really good Bouef Bourguinon - which is what I wanted for my Thanksgiving feast. It delivered. The beef was super tender and full of flavor. The service was a bit lacking, but the dinner made up for it. I originally ordered the pumpkin soup (per Brenna) and the BB, and for dessert the spided apple in warm carmel sauce. Unfortunately, the soup never came, but it was probably just the same - I probably would have needed to be hoisted out by crane and wheel-barrowed home.

Instead I was able to pop back over to the Champs-Elysees area for the Village de Noel (Christmas Market). I heard about it when researching markets online. It was super festive, music, spiced wine, and lots of shops. It was afterall a day for shopping. :-)
View of the Eiffel Tower from Place de la Concorde.
Paris is trying to rival London's Eye - not even close, but impressive at night, in the shadow of the Obelisk.

The rows of shops on both sides of the street.
Cheese anyone? Yum!
Super happy I froze my tail off - to see this, it was a perfect end to a lovely Thanksgiving Day. Seriously, by the time I got home my legs felt like when I was a kid and played out in the snow too long. It took forever to warm up. What? I have thin blood, I've been in San Diego for 20 years!
Train ride anyone? Hey Izzy, I think I saw Fancy Nancy on the train! :-) 
I have a few more photos to add, but am having technical difficulties - will try again tomorrow AND give you Friday's update. Need to get up early for the Marche Aux Puce's (super duper flea market) leather goods here I come.