Monday, January 30, 2012

A Month In Paris, to Remember



After a 20 hour flight and a four hour stop over, Paris seems so far away now and I miss it.

Last year was horrendous.    Filled with tremendous pain and betrayal,  I took my broken heart and what I called;  my heart on my sleeve,  to Paris.



Hoping she could help me mend it.

In some respects she did,  for a while.

However,  once again, the gloom filled my heart and mind.  That is when I booked my next trip to Paris, eight months in advance.



I knew this trip would be different from last year.

A somewhat sad,  but much lighter, confident, happier me,  arrived in Paris this time.

Staying in a different apartment,  in my favourite area, Le Marais, seemed right.  Arriving with luggage, this year, as opposed to none last year and my head in a different place, was a good beginning.

After spending a month, in Paris, on my way to Charles de Gaulle,  receiving texts and phone calls wishing me a  bon voyage along the way, I recognised streets, knowing exactly where I was,  I felt like I was leaving a lover behind and, in a way,  I guess I was.

She holds my secrets close to her heart, opens her arms and welcomes me with love and safety. Treats me with respect.  A respect,  I wondered;  existed anymore.

With so many things I wanted to do, places to visit, restaurants to eat in, trips to take;  I have an overwhelming feeling I didn't achieve much.




Late dinners and late nights, seemed to be the norm. Then I pondered, did I waste my time ....

It all seemed a blur.   

Until,  one night, not long before I left Paris, I read my blog.  With tears in my eyes,  I remembered;  beautiful, funny, fun-filled memories.

For the first time in my life;   I attended a rock concert,  on my own,  and didn't regret it.

Sat in a red, velvet box,  at the Palais Garnier to watch the ballet.  Got the same seat,  as last year,  at the Chatelet Theatre and was entertained by the Sound of Music.

Discovered some new wonderful restaurants, met a kind gentle, man, some lovely people and cemented relationships.

Went out of town to visit a closed Chateau.



Took a day trip to London to buy shoes.

Discovered a Parisian cellar and met some Parisian mice.

Visited,  every one,  of the 20 arrondissements.

Explored passageways, visited churches, cathedrals and a museum full of stuffed animals.

Experienced wonderful and confronting museums.

Learned how to french a bone and make a jus at, no other, than Le Cordon Bleu.



Attended my sixth dinner,  at Jim Haynes.



Attended George Whitman's funeral at Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

On a cold late night, snuggled with a dog, in a bistro.

Shopped till I dropped, jostled with the crowds to admire the Christmas windows at Galleries Lafayette.

Admired,  in awe,  the beautiful monuments and buildings, that now seem so familiar.

Walked for miles, visited markets, ate tete de veau for the first time,  in a wonderfully,  typical French restaurant and discovered more about myself.

Now, after complaining about my local homeless man,  ranting and raving under my window and singing at the top of his voice on my street;   I miss him.

video


Even more importantly, I once again stood on the small gold disc, in front of the Notre Dame,  that has become a ritual for me,  and assures me I will return.



Just when I think I know Paris, she offers me,  even more wonderful surprises.

a bientot ...








Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More Street Art In Paris


















Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Street Art In Paris
















Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Last Sunday in Paris


Leaving Paris is always upsetting and never easy for me.




Feeling lost, walking along the left bank of the Seine, a tight knot was developing in my stomach, as the feeling of dread and melancholy swept over me.

Last night, in the company of a lovely Parisian, sipping Beaujolais in the courtyard of the Louvre, with a cellist playing in the background, the tears, started welling up in my eyes.  This was a familiar sign, there was no controlling the emotions, when it gets to this stage of my visit.

This is my last full day in Paris.

Even although it was -2 degrees, it was a beautiful bright sunny day and wanting to make good use of the light to take a few parting photos, passing by some favourite landmarks along the way, I headed for Pont Alexandre III, one of my favourite bridges.


As I walk, I wonder;  would've it been better to fly out in the afternoon, that way I would have another half day, but then I did have the whole Sunday.  There is no escaping it,  either way, it was almost time to leave.



Being Sunday, at least that meant, I could have dinner at Jim Hayne's,  and what better way to spend my last night in Paris

Jim's warm welcome, and familiar surroundings brought more regret that I was leaving.

I had to snap out of it and enjoy the moment.

Yet another wonderful dinner.  Tonight cassoulet seemed fitting,  a good hearty French meal.   His apartment jammed packed with people, as usual and his friends marvelling that they think I know Paris better than they.


Jim handing out, his famous After Eight dinner mints towards the end of the evening, was a signal the night had nearly come to an end.

I walked, as usual to the metro, with my mate JD., had a drink at the bistro near the metro, for old times sake and I was on my way.

Feeling the need to suck the life out of Paris and with two and a half hours before my favourite bar closed, I popped into to say a goodbye to my friend Bouba.

Saying goodbyes is the hardest.

Bouba, reassures me I will be back next year, he knows I won't be able to stay away and Jim has already ordered me to start saving my pennies for next year.

Hopefully it isn't goodbye but just ...  a bientot -



Saturday, January 14, 2012

Amuse Bouche



When I woke this morning, I was clutching my mobile phone and it took me a few seconds to work out why.  I needed to be up early this morning and somehow I must have turned off the alarm in my sleep and slept in.

Throwing around a lot of expletives, pacing around in circles,  I decided I was going to go anyway, late or not I was not missing out on this very special day, one I had been looking forward to.

Running to the metro I tried to call them, panting, leaving a desperate and probably unfathomable message in French.  I arrived 1 hour late to locked doors.  I rang the bell, banged on the door, nothing.

Just when I was about to give up, I saw movement inside, desperately banging on the window, I got their attention.   They unlocked the door and I entered, Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School.



Flustered, peeling off my scarf and coat, I was lead into the hot, demonstration room.  Chef, wasn't going to let me slip in quietly.  He said something I didn't quite understand, I offered an apology, the interpreter - translates, don't bother sitting down, we have almost finished.  The room roared with laughter, he was cheeky.  Sitting on the edge of my seat, glued to the mirrors and large screens that showed what he was cooking, I sighed;  I made it.

Cooking for Friends was the programme.


With cheeky quips, anecdotes of when he was a young chef, a couple more prods at me, he whipped up a delicious three course meal, after a small tasting and a short break we were lead into a large kitchen.

Instructed to put our aprons on, hang our tea towel from our waist and say oui chef!

Now it was our turn to make the main course and see whether we had been paying attention.



We began washing the wonderful trumpet mushrooms, it is important this is done properly.  Then we moved on to learning how to french the huge veal chop, we were each given and make a jus from the scraps and bones.

It was chaos at one point as we all quickly deglazed the pan, shouting out oui chef along the way and kept the french butter manufacturers in business.



As I strained my jus over the mushrooms, chef stood by my side, with his head cocked to one side and a nod of approvement, he stuck his finger in to taste, it's good he said with a huge grin on my face and a wiggle of my bum, I said proudly, I cooked this.

To finish we were all presented with a attendance certificate and sent downstairs to eat our creations.

I stepped out of the famous Le Cordon Bleu, cooking school with my left overs and nodded my head, that was an absolutely fantastic experience.



Rue de Rivoli was packed with Saturday shoppers, in search of a bargain, the sales are on.  Maybe they had driven the homeless people away.   I barely made a hole in the huge steak and nor did one of my colleagues, so I took his and my left overs, promising to pass it on to a homeless person.

Where were all the homeless people when you need one.

Finally I came across a woman - her sign read I am hungry.  I approached, would you like something to eat, yes, she says, as I handed her the still warm food, I tried to explain, I cooked this at Le Cordon Bleu, I think it went over her head.

With not one,  but two pieces of meat that were the size of  brontosaurus steaks, I hoped she may have a knife and fork, amongst her belongings.

Then as I walked away, I smiled, at least the veal chops have been expertly frenched, so she will have a nice clean bone to use as a handle, with a little skip in my step and a small giggle to myself, I thought, today she is probably the best fed homeless person in Paris, cooked at no other than Le Cordon Bleu.

What better way to finish off a wonderful day than to be invited to share a Parisian's favourite spot.  With a bottle of Beaujolais, two plastic cups and a swiss army knife, we sat in the Cour de Carree, the courtyard of the old part of the Louvre, as luck would have it, a cellist was playing in the background. This brought tears to my eyes, I don't want to leave Paris.

Strolling around Paris in search of a nice restaurant that appealed to both of us, was a wonderful way to start saying goodbye to Paris.  Finally we found a perfect, typically French restaurant, Le Barometre.  For the first time, I tried a traditional Parisian dish, tete de veau, veals head.

The concerned owner, wasn't sure if I knew what I was doing but in the company of a lovely Parisian,  a day of culinary exploration and a dish I had been meaning to try, it just seemed like the right time and place to do it.

Paris is always full of surprises and new things to explore, this day was no exception but it was an exceptional day.




Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th



My time in Paris is running out.  I want to lie, face down on the apartment floor and bang my hands and feet in rage and scream I don't want to go.

Une enfant, the French would call me, a child,  but that is how I feel.

Now that reality has hit, I need to start getting things in order, start packing up, send some items home by post, not that it will relieve my suitcase of much weight, contact the Paris Furnished Apartments office to arrange an inspection of the apartment before I leave and be sad and miserable, after all it is Friday the 13th.

After posting a box home to myself,  I decided to visit the office of Paris Furnished Apartments in person.  Fanny was absolutely charming, as is Clement and the rest of the crew at the office, they are friendly, helpful and kind, maybe that is one of the reasons I keep renting apartments from them.  As we chatted away, I offered a few of my Parisian tips, including the Hotel du Nord and was on my way.

Rather than being miserable and thinking of leaving, I decided to be in the moment and visit an exhibition after the chores were done.  The wonderful thing about Paris is it never seems too late to head out and do something. Now it was time for Paris and me.

The Grand Palais was offering an exhibition from the Stein family collection and in particular Gertrude Stein.  Viewing some wonderful art by Picasso and Matisse and learning about her prolific collection and support of these artists and others, her salons and life in Paris was fascinating and well worth the visit.

When I left the exhibition, the cold night air hit me but I still decided to walk the 3kms home, I wanted to walk over the left bank via the magnificent Pont Alexandre III, the Alexandre the 3rd bridge.  Beautiful, gold, sparkling and ornate with a bird's eye view of the Grand Palais and the Eiffel tower, beaming golden against the night sky.

Wondering what I would do for dinner as I shivered along the banks of the Seine, I decided to say hi to  my mates,  the lovely, Camel and always bright and cheery Everest at L'etoile Manquante,  just two doors down from my favourite bar and around the corner from home.



Settling down into the warm bistro with a warm welcome, chatting away to Camel & Everest, I sat at the bar, tucked into to a lovely dinner with a couple of glasses of French red wine and tried not to think about leaving.

For the moment, I am still here in Paris, the city I love.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Food and Shopping in Paris



When I arrived at Galleries Lafayette, to check out day two of the sales in Paris, it seemed more crowded than pre-Christmas shopping.

All the Christmas decorations and wonderful animated displays had been removed and replaced with very lush window displays dedicated to Chanel.

If day two of the January sales in Paris was anything to gauge, I think I am glad I missed day one.

The streets were packed, the stores even more so.  Lining up to try something on was painstaking but worth it.  Some offering more than 50% off.

There was only so much I could take, so decided to leave the department stores and head for individual shops which made for a more relaxed shopping experience.

Thankfully I had to go out to dinner tonight, which curtailed me from doing too much more damage to the credit card.

Emilie was already waiting by the time I arrived at Hotel du Nord, a place I had discovered a while back and was really looking forward to checking out, sitting on the banks of Canal Saint-Martin and not far from Republique

Both of us loved the food, surroundings, staff and atmosphere.



The Hotel du Nord has a rich and wonderful past, first opening in 1885, as a restaurant and later in the 70's it became a charming hotel, in 1993 it was listed and re-opened as a restaurant once again.  Even a movie was made here, in the 30's and after that, both the film and the hotel became famous.  Now it is once again a restaurant,

Leaving the streets of Paris,  I entered through the heavy red velvet drapes and into a room full of ambience.

What I discovered inside was murals, and metro tiles on the walls, original old floor tiles and interesting memorabilia dotted around. Even although it is large, there is a warm cosy feeling, that instantly makes you feel relaxed and welcome, with a quite hum of conversation that is the French.



The waiter is funny and very flirtatious, which adds to the charm and vibe about the place.  Fiddling with my hair, raising his eyebrows with a cheeky grin, each time he passed by,  made for a really fun night.

The food was amazing, the creamiest polenta I have ever had with a wonderful duck and sauce, was simple but divine.



As Emilie and I walked arm in arm to the metro, raving about what a wonderful place it was, it was sad to be saying goodbye and not having the chance to eat with her there once again before I leave Paris.



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

London Calling



When I heard the unfamiliar sound of the alarm this morning, I almost had to peel myself from the bedroom ceiling.

Then, I remembered, I had to get up early today.  A small adventure was awaiting me.

Living in Australia and receiving email updates from my favourite shoe shop in London is a big tease.  Furthermore, emails about their sales is just downright mean but when in Paris, what does a girl do?

She jumps on the Eurostar and heads for London and that is what I did.



When I left the apartment and walked up rue de Rivoli, at 7am, it was still dark.

However,  the streets were buzzing with early morning commuters, ducking in to to buy a pain au chocolat on the way to work.  The shop windows had changed over night,  now displaying large 'soldes'  signs, introducing the first day of the sales in Paris.

Shop staff were already at work, tagging the last items and waiting for the onslaught of bargain hunters.

Not being in Paris for the first day of the sales was either a smart idea or a big mistake, either way, it seemed I wasn't the only person heading under the Channel to pick up a few bargains.

Arriving in London, the culture shock was palpable.  Within two hours, I was thrown into a completely different atmosphere.

The streets were busy and the familiar, yet unfamiliar sound of English felt strange.  At times,  I wasn't so sure I wanted to hear what I did.

It was a bright sunny day and instead of catching the Tube, I decided to walk and digest my surroundings.

Heading in the general direction of Carnaby Street, until my surroundings became familiar, I soaked it all up.

London seems to be under construction and I guess, with the upcoming Olympics, maybe that is the reason,  so much work going on.

Walking down Oxford Street brought back memories of the chaos of the street and rue de Rivoli, seemed tame in comparison.

As I strolled the streets of London, heading for my favourite shoe shop, a feeling of dread filled my body.

I have no British Pounds, what if they don't take American Express, which is more than likely, my only funds are on a card and I had forgotten my pin number.


Could it be possible,  I would be in London for a whole day, to visit my favourite shoe store and have no money?

Brazenly, I entered Irregular Choice, my shoe store of choice and pleaded;  tell me, you take American Express.  As if it was a symphony, all four shop attendants said ...  no.

Not to worry, there is an ATM nearby, they offered.  What they didn't understand,  how far I had come, without a pin number.  Wracking my brain, using my calculator keypad to try to recall the number, finally it came to me!

Almost running up Carnaby Street with a fist full of pounds, I re-entered the store and exclaimed - I have money, now I am going to shop!



Bouncing down Carnaby Street with two pairs of fabulous shoes, now what to do...

Wander is what I did, visiting old familiar haunts, while snapping up a few bargains along the way.

Hauser & Wirth in Saville Row had a fabulous exhibition of  Paul McCarthy's installations. This controversial, yet very thought provoking exhibition set over two galleries and a park was something I am glad I had the opportunity to see.

His Train, Mechanical sculpture, is something quite amazing, at times funny and yet disturbing.  I was transfixed for quite sometime, the more I observed the more detail I noticed.

Sensors located in the eyes of the George Bush heads, noted when I moved and followed me around the room.  When I asked the attendant, was the squealing pig noises coming from the installation intentional or a mistake, he was unsure, either way it added to the captivating piece.

When I decided to make this one day tour, I wondered how I would fill the day.

After wandering around and shopping until my arms could barely carry the goods anymore and taking in the great exhibition, my time had nearly run out.

With a couple of hours left, I caught the tube to Notting Hill and sat in an English pub, sipped on a couple of glasses of wine and it was time to get back on the Eurostar, bound for Paris.

As I hit the late night streets of Paris, I took a deep breath and was glad to be home again, amongst familiar surroundings.

My local store was open and thought I would pop in for a quick hello, the shoppings bags were taking their toll on my arms and I needed to collapse.

This of course, did not happen, invitations of champagne were flowing and questions about London, found me down in the cellar, less the mice and with some new founded friends practicing my French.

When London calls - you must listen and obey .....  

I did.



last quip;

who said books were going out of fashion