Tag Archives: paris

Signs of Christmas

Cast your mind back to another decade. It was a bleak time of terrorism and tsunamis, but we got on with life as best we could. The decade was the the 2000s (sometimes called the naughties, but we can only hope that stupid name is forgotten with the passage of time).

The year was 2009. December 2009. I went on a journey to distant lands and failed to report comprehensively at the time. So cast your mind back and allow me to finally tell you about the week I spent in Paris.

View from apartment in the Marais

Look out the window

What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at new accommodation? I think I look out the windows. It was certainly the first thing I did when we got to our apartment in the Marais. Other possibilities might be a) sit on the bed, or b) check out the bathroom.

And in the other direction

Now look down

Our apartment was a few doors up from the Place des Vosges which made for a quite excellent neighborhood park. We shared the space with the ghost of Victor Hugo, whose maison was on the corner of the park.

Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges

There hadn’t been many signs of Christmas is Rome before we left. Some street lights were going up, but we left on the same day that Rome went into Christmas overdrive.

Fortunately, we only had to walk about three metres from our apartment before we saw signs of Christmas in Paris.


Take a closer look at the pretty decorations

The cafe of steak tartare fame

MJ and I headed out to lunch one day early in our stay and found this cafe whose specialty was steak tartare. When I caught up with Sushi a few days later and told him how much I enjoyed the dish of raw meat, he made the point that the Japanese have always known that everything is best when served raw or almost raw. After my great ceviche obsession of May 2009, I realise I definitely subscribed to that thinking.

Christmas tree at Notre Dame

Holly for Christmas

On our second last day in Paris, MJ and I stumbled upon this market near Bastille (we were on the way to the cemetery). It wasn’t a quaint, seasonal Christmas market. It just looked like a regular market, but with signs of Christmas like special food and buskers playing carols. Like this lady, carrying real holly. It’s not even plastic! Hooray for Christmas in winter.

Falafel may not be special Christmas food but it should be.

Falafal at market, Bastille

On the way to market

On the way to the market we saw these people queuing for something. Can you believe we didn’t get in line and find out what they were waiting for?

And one more Bastille delight.

Cinema Majestic Bastille

To get to Bastille we would turn right as we left the apartment. If we turned left we’d get to Centre Pomidou.

Centre Pompidou

Alas, a strike saw us only enjoying the exterior.

On strike

Outside Centre Pompidou

Outside Centre Pomidou

Outside Centre Pomidou

Speaking of strikes that focused our attentions on the exteriors of buildings…

Strike near Sainte-Chapelle

I don’t know if these people were protesting the same thing that closed Sainte-Chapelle but the did adequately represent the striking mentality of Parisians.

Tea at Le Bon Marche

If we couldn’t get in to any museums, well, we had to find alternative means of entertaining. Afternoon tea at the glorious Le Bon Marche and walks along the river.

The river

Sometimes in Paris, it turns to night and you go out. And sometimes you remember to take photos. Mostly that happens when you pass a charismatic tap dancer.

Tap dancer in Montmatre

Dancing for the camera

And when you find yourself in a metro station as beautiful as this one.

I love subways

Paris cold

Last night in Paris and it’s cold. Like, don’t leave the house because it’s too cold cold. But I am leaving the house, to meet Sushi for vin chaud which is clearly the most practical+delicious invention ever.

But before I leave Paris and a consistent internet connection, here are two photos.

Where the Wild Things Are or Max et les Maximonstres

What? No museums in Paris?

Over the last few days MJ and I have taken ourselves to museums and other sites only to find them closed. Centre Pompidou was our first disappointing discovery, and the numerous photocopied signs taped all over the windows made it pretty clear that the staff were on strike. To salvage our afternoon we visited the Maison de Victor Hugo, which is about 250 metres from our apartment and rebelliously open to visitors. I wonder if the workers there were doing the equivalent of crossing a picket line.

The following morning (OK noon) Sainte Chapelle had a long queue outside when we arrived so we decided to cross the street for croque-monsieur. You know, to build up our waiting-in-line energy. But on our return the queue had dispersed and it was closed too.

Little did we know at the time that these events were connected. If we’d mustered up motivation to visit the Louvre, we’d have been disappointed on finding it closed too (and now, even if it is open, it will be faced with a backlog of visitors). Musee D’Orsay, my pick for the week, is closed too. Fortunately we stumbled across the information that Versailles is affected by a strike as well before we caught the train out of town – but we’re planning to go tomorrow anyway because the gardens are still free and open to all even if certain parts of the palace aren’t.

There are news reports about the strike including stories of tourists who have waited years to see the Mona Lisa only to arrive when the Louvre is closed. That seems pretty sad, but fortunately I am much more adaptable. And by ‘adaptable’ I suppose I mean that I don’t mind too much if we’re forced to skip the museums.

So what have we done instead of enjoying the fine art and architecture of Paris? Yesterday, after days of lovely low-cost walking around the Marais and St Germain, we discovered another lovely pass time – shopping. I mentioned to MJ that we were near some place called Le Bon Marche (now there is a link worth following). ‘Le Bon Marche?! Le Bon Marche!Let’s go’ So we went and enjoyed afternoon tea overlooking the garden, and got started on some Christmas (and personal) shopping.

Today, after a slow start to the morning (OK, the day started at lunch) we wandered into Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville (BHV) and came out after dark. Did we just spend most of a day in Paris in one department store? Yes, but most of that time was spent in the toy section.

Supermarche my heart

So the trip to the supermarket changed me. It rocked me to my very core. So much deliciousness…in packages. How can this be? I defy even the snobbiest food snob who is used to regular supermarkets in Australia (even something as chichi as David Jones food hall) not to get excited by Monoprix on rue St Antoine.

After a day of travel and general sleepiness, we had no desire to eat out last night. So we had a free ticket to buy anything at the supermarket that would otherwise seem sacrilegious in Paris. Per example, we bought dessert at the supermarket. Patisseries abound and we bought packaged dessert. But the package was the cutest little jar! To cut a long story with much dessert adoration short – I’m not kidding when I say this was one of the best dessert moments of my life. When trying to convey how delicious my dessert was, I realised it wasn’t just about the taste – this dessert filled my soul with joy. No really!

Marie Morin Tarte au citron

The apartment in Paris is amazing

Note to self – learn the Italian word for Paris BEFORE going to the airport. There were no lasting problems, although it would have saved a lot of queuing if I’d noticed when the guy called “Pareeeeeegeeeeeeee! Pareeeeeegeeeee!” I was all, “NOT ME PAL, I’m going to Paris!”

So the apartment is amazing, and it has a balcony overlooking the street, and it even has a stack of Vogue in the corner. I stole a book I found in the last apartment so now I’m going to warm up by the heater and read books. But first, a trip to the supermarche.

Do you think we all just travel in order to see supermarkets in other countries? Everyone I know thinks it’s fun. It also brings a crap location back from the doldrums. “oh man, this place is so crap and boring. I know! Let’s check out the supermarket!” Not that I have such a problem here in the Marais.