Thursday, December 30, 2010

Moet et Chandon at Galleries La Fayette

The morning started out as usual, breakfast to the sound of seagulls, a call to British Airways call centre in Spain. 

An email arrived, to inform they still can’t find the luggage, fill out the attached form.  No attachment.  I think monkeys are running that company.

After wasting more time talking to someone who has no idea what is going on, I knew my plan to buy clothes must be put into action and I mustn’t come home empty handed.

A girl on a mission, the journey started with my first metro ride since I arrived.

Buskers often hop on and off the metro throughout the day, hand around a cup to collect money and scoot off before the authorities catch them.

One of my first visits to Paris, I listened to an accordion player belt out La Vie en Rose and thought it was wonderful.

Today it was a woman who sang to the background music equipment that was taped to a luggage trolley.

My mind was already made up; I wasn’t going to be guilted into donating to her cause.

As she sings, I notice her greasy hair, the bags under her eyes, perhaps from recent tears, although, she had made an effort to apply pink eye shadow.

I started to wonder what hardships had driven her to do this.

Third song in, she sings Feelings in English.  I am not particularly fond of this soppy song.

The heart on my sleeve has started to fade along with the heart in my chest.

However, this brought up a well of emotions and tears.

With the tears in my eyes and bags under hers we seemed to have some connection

As I disembarked the train - I slipped her 1 EURO.

First stop Printemps on the wonderful Boulevard Hausmann. 

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The Christmas windows are still decorated in their finest, with little ramps erected in front to enable the children to get a front row view of the truly fantastic windows.

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The awe on the children’s faces was a delight to watch.

And there was something for every member of the family, of course, including the family pooch






I don’t know, why, after countless visits to Paris, I have never visited this store.
Again fighting the crowds to get a glimpse at the windows.

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Then I entered, wow – what a sight.



Australia’s department store entrances have perfume and makeup to seduce the shopper.

Primtemps and La Fayette have high end designer brands.  If you can think of it, it is here; Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany’s, Stella McCarthy, Mui Mui, Manolo Blahnik, Chanel to name only and I do mean only, a few.

Although the two department stores are right near one another I can see why La Fayette draws the biggest crowds.






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Galleries La Fayette had a 'show time' theme to their windows - even Mamma Mia in French!

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Now I finally have some underwear, some jeans and some tops!

There will be some decisions tomorrow wondering what to wear – clean or dirty!

It was time to leave and head home to prepare for my night at the Chatelet Theatre.

Wait, there is more, I blink, was that a Moet et Chandon Champagne Bar.  Well hell yes – one needs a break after all that shopping and what more civilised way to go about it than to stop for a champagne break!






When I decend the last flight of escalators what awaits me?  Pierre Herme’s macaron stand.  Ok I finally give in, let’s see what all the fuss is about. 







Now I understand.







Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Bit of Retail Therapy


After spending half an hour on hold to British Airways yet again, with still no outcome, I decided to hit the internet to see if I could find some other way of tracking down my suitcase.  

Short of going to Charles de Gaulle and demanding to see what they had in storage, I came across the Crikey website, which motivated me to hit the shops.


Who needs an expensive camera, to show what I am looking at when I have the trusty iphone!

It seems no matter what the Parisians are selling, they know how to display it!  

From macarones 
To flowers

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The BHV department store windows are adorable, complete with music if you can hear it above the crowds and the traffic.



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Note the little girl trying to pull Santa's hat off













A very quick detour along the way to show you the side wall of a shop that once sold horse meat.


It is a wonderful mosaic, like a lot of the old shop fronts and is just stunning.

I just can’t help photographing it every time I see it!

It is in rue Vieille du Temple 75004









This cute little shop that sells all things for little people, is just a couple of doors down from my apartment, note the mini hot water bottles.  

By the time I walked past this evening, half of the items were sold!









Items for small children, macarones, flowers, or champagne were not bought.

I did however, finally, manage to buy a dress.   

Tomorrow night I will be attending the performance of  My Fair Lady at Theatre Chatelet.

Somehow I don't think that patent leather boots with running shoe soles, are going to work.

So I will need to find some shoes tomorrow.







A night in tonight and a pre-cooked meal from Monoprix was in order.

To the uninitiated that might sound unappealing but oh my goodness - what to choose.  I finally decided on chicken in a white wine and cream sauce with mushrooms and a 'side order' of potatoes that is sold in its own little terracotta ramekin, only in Paris.  

Was it good?  Oh hell yes.  Why would you bother ever cooking here when there is so much wonderful food.  

I am not sure if they have the sizing wrong here, or perhaps I have already gone up a dress size ... or two!




An early night is what I need to face another day shopping and a night I have been waiting for.  
a bientot!  


du lèche vitrine

French Lesson #2
du lèche vitrine – window shopping

I loved this phrase from the moment I learnt it at L’Alliances Françaises, 4 1/2  years ago, window shopping but it's literal translation : to lick the windows!

This morning with the seagulls in the background and the on hold recording from British Airways telling me it wouldn’t be long until an operator would speak with me, I impatiently stuck it out this time, to try to talk to someone about my luggage.  Still no luggage.

A decision had to be made,  although I am getting good at doing my hair with my fingers I need a brush and I need a change of clothes.

So without further ado, I hit the shops, I did get a brush but couldn’t find any clothes, that I just had to have.

However I did do a lot of ‘licking of windows’.  Sometimes almost literally, the cake and chocolate shop windows are so seductive, I can see why people become addicted.

Funny thing happened on the way the to the fair, as they say.

Imagine walking down the street, peering at shop windows, on a mission to find something clean to wear. 

I come across a massive ladder that takes up the entire footpath. 

Hmm... do I cross the street or walk under?  Call me superstitious, but given events of recent times, I don’t want to tempt fate. 


I stepped out onto the road around the massive ladder and kind of glad I did.

Did you hear the one about the guy who was walking down the street and was killed by a washing machine that fell out of the sky?

Ok, I try to joke but I watched, mouth agape, this is how the Parisians and note; I didn’t say French but the Parisians move house or deliver new white goods.

This is how it goes … Parisian apartment buildings are small, the stairwells normally spiral and narrow.  If there is an ascenseur, (lift) it is often to put your bags or shopping into and you meet it up the top.  Certainly not enough room for say, a washing machine and dryer.

So the delivery driver or removalist sets up – what looks like to me, a very unsteady and very tall ladder.  In this instance, to reach the fourth floor from the street, on the outside of the building. The second delivery person awaits at the open window ready to take delivery.  The goods are slapped onto a hydraulic lift, that is attached to the ladder and very shakily, up it goes.

After a hard day of licking the windows I decided, that a warm meal in a wi-fi friendly café was in order, to catch up on a bit of blogging.

Here,  I witnessed yet another innovative contraption  - the bar manager waiting by the door as the floor opened up and something was rising out of the floor – I guessed more wine from the cellar but no, it was the wheelie bin!

I love innovations like this!

Later this evening when I met Emilie, where we had a wonderfully and typically french dinner, I told her this, she said it is very unique to Paris and Lyon where there is no way to get things in and out – so this is how one moves.

I am grateful I didn’t walk under the ladder today but sorry I didn’t record it.

Sometimes it is just the little things, like licking windows and witnessing the quirks of other cities.




Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oh how I love thee – let me count the ways ...




The sound of seagulls in cold weather is something that I associate with an English seaside town, not Paris, but that is the sound I wake to each morning.

It is difficult to get out and about early each morning,  not only is it icy cold but it is also still quite dark, so instead I drink tea, blog and listen to the seagulls.

As I walk down to the river from my apartment in the Bastille my eyes and nose are already running from a result of the cold.  The river is moving rapidly and some of the roads down by the river are closed due to flooding.




10 kilometres is what I estimated I walked today.  I decided to do the walk I had intended to do on my first day.  This time with no diversions or getting lost. 

After a short walk I have reached Pont d'Austerlitz and there, I can see her already, Le Notre Dame, it seems no matter where you are in Paris there is some iconic, beautiful building or monument.   The Eiffel tower often pops up somewhere, where you least expect her. 

Everything is so beautiful that I feel like a kid in a lolly shop.

So I continue my journey along Quai Henri IV,  as I approach Pont Sully, the bridge that leads onto the small island, Ile St Louis, I am struggling not to pop over and explore but that is for another day. I continue along Quai Celestins, which becomes Quai de l'Hotel de Ville.  Past the magnificent Hotel de Ville, where the skaters are still hard at it. 

Even some of the bouquiniste - the river side booksellers are braving the cold, sharing hot drinks from their thermos flasks, hoping one of the passing tourists will appreciate their beautiful old books.




Then I approach my most favourite bridge, Pont des Arts this beautiful footbridge links Le Louvre, to the left bank.   Napoleon I was responsible for its design and even although it is not the original bridge, it was re-built to the original design.

I love this bridge, for a number of reasons, there is no traffic, if you are on the left bank, it is a lovely introduction to Le Louvre on the right and something perculiar and lovely, people leave padlocks hooked to it, pledging their love!  There are hundreds of them.




A beautiful one caught my eye, made from timber, obviously crafted especially for this occasion, with a love heart in the centre, it was dated yesterday.




At this point, I can head to Le Louvre, to continue my walk through the Tuileries Gardens but I decided to continue along the river a little more so I can look at the gorgeous Museè  d'Orsay, on the other side of the river.  Housed in an old railway station with fabulous clocks, I really love this museum, the building, the layout and what is inside.

Then over to the Tuileries.

I really had to watch my step.  The ice is very slippery and I had a few skids as I carefully walked along.  The open spaces, such as the river and the gardens are freezing, taking gloves off to change lenses was a chore.  The birds seemed to be confused plucking at the ice as they skidded along the frozen ponds, looking a little like me, unsteady on their feet.




Past the supposedly temporary ferris wheel and, over Place de la Concorde and then I hit the Avenue des Champs-Elyseès.

All the Christmas vendors are out selling all types of things.  Soup de jour looked like a good idea, so I had a cup of that.  A bit later, I was starting to get hungry and there was a fabulously long baguette with meat and cheese, so I marched along the Champs-Elyseès munching on my baguette, call it cliche but it was good.

Virgin was looming ahead of me and it was a good opportunity to get in from the cold and I wanted to have a look at some music.  It is huge and chaotic.  But I managed to find the Cee Lo Green album I was after and discovered something new Asa

It was time to head back, I had my concert to go to tonight at Sainte-Chapelle.  I had about an hour to kill, so sat in a lovely warm bar opposite Sainte-Chapelle and drank a giant glass of red wine and thawed out a bit.

Fortunately I headed over a few minutes early and another good omen, I was one of the first to arrive which meant I was four rows back from the front.  






This was the first row behind the VIP section.  Blankets had been neatly folded and thoughtfully placed on each seat.  I later discovered  that this was a necessity, it was so cold in there I thought my fur had frozen.

The concert was wonderful and well worth braving the cold.


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A quick drink and a hello to Bouba at L'Etoile Manquante, and a brisk walk home - without getting lost!

What a lovely day, in a beautiful city.  

Why do I keep asking myself; why do I  love Paris.






Oh how I love thee – let me count the ways …

Monday, December 27, 2010

To Market to Market

No PJ’s, no hot water bottle but three doonas later I slept like a baby – well until the wee hours at least.  But hey jetlag does that to you.

I could already sense a routine coming on.  I got up to what felt like the middle of the night, in the dark and dead quiet, which was really around 7am and made a coffee and some scrambled eggs and scrambled back to bed to the warmth of my pile of doonas, to eat and read.

The only book that ended up in my carry on was Lonely Planet’s Encounter Paris.  I decided I would lay back and check out what happens in my neck of the woods.  Not one but two markets on a Sunday.

After washing my hair with the apartment’s complimentary bar of soap, brushed my hair with my fingers, put on my only set of clothes, I went to market to market.  One of which is literally around the corner. 

What a fabulous market! 

The great thing about staying in an apartment and staying in one place for a while is having the pleasure of food shopping.  I remember going to markets in Hong Kong and Vietnam and all I wanted to do was buy food and cook.

Today the world was my oyster, chicken, or ready cooked suckling pig!

Marche Aux Puces D’Aligre – is a flea market and wonderful food market.  The fresh fruit and veg are outside but there is also an undercover section that has fabulous food.  Suckling pigs on rotisseries, wonderful meats all stuffed and ready to cook.  Cheeses, olives, terrines, it goes on.  It isn’t huge but really wonderful.  Everyone is freezing but on a mission to buy and sell despite the freezing elements.

This also proved to be a good opportunity to find a jumper or something to wear.  I bought two second hand jumpers for 4 Euros each, a muff to wear around my neck because the gloves just aren’t enough. 

Then there was the food.  Some pepper rolled salami, celeriac remoulade, rabbit terrine, potato gratin dauphinois, eggs and bread. My most practical find was one little shop on the way back to the apartment that was open and sells all odds and sods, pet care, electrical and international plug converters.  I have power!  




Yes, I can blog, I can use the phone.  That might seem like a little thing unless you are without it and are waiting for emails about luggage with a fading battery and no way of charging it.

After dropping off my purchases, putting the computer on charge, I skipped off to the next market, and wow what a market. 




Marchè Bastille was alive with people squeezing past with trolleys and dogs buying up anything from seafood to tripe to flowers or socks and jocks.

It was starting to get difficult to control myself but I ended up with a lovely cream jumper, some pickled chillies, more bread, some underpants.  I even helped some lost Argentinian tourists and bought the latest French Marie Claire on the way back to the apartment again.




Now with water, shampoo and a few other essentials, I am moving in. 

I look forward to next Sunday where I think I will buy wonderful pre-cooked food from around the globe to have for dinner.

I don’t think it will be just my luggage that will be over weight.

You gotta love a good Parisian market.



Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Day In Paris

Having no luggage, feels like no ‘baggage’. 

I remember only too well,  traveling around in my 20’s with just one bag and it is liberating.  I have a secret wish that they don’t find the suitcase, even although there are things in there I don’t want to lose.  What it did mean though, was no unpacking.

What else to do but venture out!

The streets are quiet with a handful of locals and tourists but mostly locals en route to family with bags full of presents. 

The ice crunches under my feet like broken glass.  The footpaths are icy with snow to the sides.  I sheepishly but quickly learn where to walk, the snow is best, the ice is slippery.




The water in the downpipes is frozen, like it was just about to make that last stop to the pavement but froze before it got there.

I headed down La Seine to walk along it towards the Notre Dame and was amazed to watch a team of Police floating down the river in wet suits on some sort of exercise, floating with the current as if it was the middle of summer!

Although the sky is brilliantly blue the breeze is icy and I am bloody cold and still pinching myself that it is Christmas day, it has been snowing and I am in Paris for my White Christmas.




Hotel de Ville or the Town Hall sets up an ice skating rink each year at Christmas and I have always managed to miss it but now it is in full swing. 

A few novices but quite a lot of good skaters, spinning around, speed skating backwards, chasing one another around the rink.  I check to see who has their own boots and who has hired them. 




It reminds me of when I used to skate at St Moritz in St Kilda, Melbourne as a little girl.  My nana had me all dressed up in a white dress with fur trim, I could barely skate to save my self but I looked the part and used to love it.  While she sat shivering and knitting away I would call out to her, ‘nana look at me’ and she would give me a nod as I did the rounds.

I would love to get out there today – music blasting just like in St Kilda but I don’t want to risk a broken hip or losing some fingers, so I just smile and take a few photos of the skaters and the ponds that have frozen over.




Another detour for a glimpse of La Sainte-Chappell, a couple more sleeps to go and I will be inside to listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons!

It is freezing and I think a Christmas drink is in order at Au Petit Fer a Cheval, my favourite bar in Le Marais.   I stand at the bar, sip my wine, say hello to Hussein and breath.  Yes I am really here.

As I head off for Notre Dame, I can tell that Christmas lunch is over, more and more people are out and about and by the time I reach Notre Dame the place is heaving with tourists. 

My promise to myself was to stand on the brass disc in the hope that it will grant me another visit to Paris but the poor thing must be exhausted with every man, woman, child, and their dog, and Japanese tour group, standing on it, surrounding it, having their photo taken on it, next to it, around it, that I decided; I could wait.




I had some roasted chestnuts, wrapped carefully in magazine pages, took some photos, sat next to a woman who was crying and wondered if she had the weepy Paris Adele disease.  I was approached by the usual scammers who claim to be official donation collectors but who scram when the police arrive and finally my turn presented its self. 




It was empty, there it was, that small disc in the pavement in front of the Notre Dame, not a soul on it and I took my moment.  Quietly and calmly, I placed one foot and then the other, looked up at the beautiful façade of Le Notre Dame, took in a deep breath and said to myself, hello, you were right, I am back.





Finally after a beautiful day of wandering around, taking it in, taking photos, breathing in the chilly air, I decided it was time to visit my friend Bouba and have an early dinner. 

After a lovely warm greeting and a glass of wine, I discovered that my cafe doesn’t do proper cooked food anymore and just salads and such.  Oh well a goats cheese salad and a warm welcome was enough for me.

It had been a long day and best to head off ‘home’ – I took the scenic route! Not on purpose – got a little lost and being lost around big railway stations is usually dodgy in any city but I made it home safe and well.

If or when my baggage arrives, I will post photos, the cables are … you guessed it … in the baggage.

Happy Christmas from Paris.



A Good Omen



Red called half an hour before I was to leave for the airport to let me know traffic was chaos – I cancelled my pre-booked taxi and asked them to come straight away.

Whisked off to the domestic terminal with the taxi groaning under the weight of my bags, I arrived in record time.  No traffic jams, no queues at Qantas and a small warning for being over weight.   A good omen indeed Red assured me.

I prefer to fly aisle seat, I like to be able to get in and out when I please.   British Airways offer a choice of seat if you pay – so I paid.

However for the London to Paris leg, the Good Omen was still at work.  It is many years since I have flown into Charles de Gaulle and it is snowing, therefore I would like a window seat.  

The Qantas check in lady exclaimed they already have you on a window seat for that leg!  We both smiled and I felt an overwhelming feeling of emotion sweep over me and thought, now is not the time to burst into tears at the check in counter.

As she handed me my boarding passes, she smiled, ‘have a lovely Christmas in Paris’.

It is Christmas day tomorrow and I am going to Paris with my fur draped over my arm, my new Mac Air with its new Gelaskin to protect it and an ample supply of antibiotics and nasal spray from the recent cold I have developed.

As I sit here waiting to board with my fur and my carry on baggage next to a plastic seeing-eye dog – I feel like I am already in Paris with pup at my side!




The flight was delayed which meant a scramble to get the flight from Sydney to Singapore and no time to collect tax for my recent purchases.

I didn’t realise at the time, how grateful I would be later to have had a shower at Singapore airport and to have brought a change of clothes.

Did you know that Malaysian mouse deer is at its most tastiest, fried?

This is what I learned, while I had a foot and leg massage and a shower during my stop over.

The short flight from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle didn’t disappoint, not only did I get that window seat but I was on the right side of the plane which meant I had magnificent sweeping views of a very White Christmas Paris, The Eiffel Tower pointing up in all its glory along with the giant La Defènse arch, tears started stinging my eyes again as I fought to hold them back.  What is it about Paris that makes me so emotional?  Maybe it is just everything.

After waiting an hour and not long before the conveyer belt stopped, I had a sinking feeling that myself and a couple of people left at the carousel were not going to have bags today. 

My biggest fear was the driver with the key to my apartment would only wait half an hour after the flight as specified, it seemed the good omen had done its dash.

But it hadn’t the baggage is lost but the driver waited.  I am not sure if he realised how grateful I was.

Ted my Polish driver was watching the time as he was due to have Christmas Lunch with his family.   When the key didn’t fit in the door after we had both read the instructions for the 10th time I could sense he also was about to unravel.  Neither of us noticed we were in the wrong apartment block, phew.

We got in, I gave him my complimentary bottle of French red wine to share with his family to offer my thanks.

I did joke if a fur coat and a smile would suffice, at the moment, it will have to, as that is all I have.

But, after all, I do have Paris.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Je vais - I'm Going!

French Lesson #1
Je vais - I'm going ...

the wonderfully, clever Michel Thomas who sadly, has since passed away, is my hero and my french teacher.  


Well not my personal tutor but kind of.  This remarkable man developed his own unique way of teaching languages. With his method he not only gives you a good vocabulary but also, without you realising it, teaches the grammar along the way. There is no writing anything down but visualising, listening and speaking.  With him you can learn very quickly and at your own pace.  This is for someone (like me) who doesn't want to have to do the work but at the end of the day, can speak a new language!

He has clever ways of triggering you to remember. One of the first phrases he teaches on his language CD's is Je vais - I'm going.  


He calls it out melodically with a high pitch, as if you are saying je vais!  see you later! good bye!- I'm going! and this is the trigger and instantly, you remember it.   


His voice continues to bounce around in my head.  "I want you to speak clearly, I want to hear the ending, (of the word) french ears are trained to hear the ending".


I wish I had had the pleasure of meeting him.

Skeptics say you can't learn a language like that - and I am certainly no expert and my first few days will be panic stricken - but I feel comfortable that I will hopefully make myself understood. Thanks to the legendary skills of Mr Michel Thomas.


So without further ado : Je vais à Paris - see you on the other side!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In the Hands of The Snow Fairy


Who Wants a White Christmas Anyway?

It was only yesterday, – I threw my head back and laughed  – ha ha ha – I can see myself stranded in Singapore on Christmas Day with a suitcase full of winter clothes -  ha ha ha.

And as if on cue – the kookaburras in my giant Moreton Bay Fig all joined in.

Ha ha, indeed.

The plan was, arrive Christmas morning, shower, don the new gloves, rug up in a coat and walk along the Champs-Élysées with little snowflakes resting on my shoulders.

Looks like those darling innocent little snowflakes were a bit too eager to please.

Now that seemingly, light, funny, carefree statement is quickly becoming a reality.

People are stranded across Asia, some have slept at Heathrow Airport  for three days, struggling with the fact that they may not spend Christmas with their family and loved ones.  (If you get a chance to read some of the comments at the bottom of the link, from people across Europe, it proves to be some pretty funny and insightful reading)

People have suggested once in London to take the Eurostar.

The Eurostar is busy at this time of the year anyway and now with the snow disruptions, I have heard stories of people lining up for 5 ½ hours. 


This youtube link took the photographer 13 minutes to film and she still didn’t reach the beginning of the line. 

Only time will tell where I end up. 

I am in the hands of the weather, fate, British Airport Authorities and the snow fairy.