Tag Archives: metro

Books About Paris

3 Jun

Books in Paris

It is fair to say that books about Paris are in no short supply. As someone who is writing a book about Paris, I am painfully aware of the fierce competition. Books about Paris fill my shelves, and I can’t resist ducking into Dymocks to see if there are any new ones on the shelves. But, there are some that keep me coming back.

*Paris Tango by Carla Coulson

Carla manages in one frame to capture the nuances of French life, in a way that armed with a thousand words I could only dream of. I love everything about her book. The weight of it, the texture of the cover, the old-school red placemarker. Of course, her words are magnificent too, once you manage to tear your eyes from her lovingly captured photographs. Her blog, which I stumbled across only recently, is also a delight.

*A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast

Indeed, Mr Hemingway requires no introduction. I only picked up a copy of A Moveable Feast this year. I think I put it off for so long because I was intimidated, and perhaps also because it is home to one of the most over quoted lines ever used to describe Paris. The reality, however, is that A Moveable Feast reads as if you have plopped down next to Hemingway in a Latin Quarter bar and he’s telling you about his perfectly ordinary day. It is a slender and light as Carla’s book is solid, and is intensely captivating in its brevity.

*Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

Almost French Cat

Almost French is everything I hope my novel will be. I would love nothing more than to have my as yet unnamed (suggestions welcome!) book sit side by side with Ms Turnbull’s. That possibility equally excites and terrifies me.

What are your favourite books about Paris?

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Paris books img courtesy of Roman Lashkin on Flickr.
A Moveable Feast img courtesy of life serial on Flickr.
Almost French with cat img courtesy of [o] suze q … [packing for firenze] on Flickr.

Paris Weather Envy

18 Mar

Montmartre Snow

It has been snowing a lot in France this year. Even Paris has received a generous dusting – just last week we were all in awe of the ‘skiing in Montmartre’ video. The only problem was, I was watching it from my Melbourne apartment, where I had the air conditioning on full blast and had employed the usual of a small fan in an attempt to cool us down.

Because I have the Météo Paris app on my smartphone, I can’t help but sneak a look at the forecast from time to time. And, when staring down the barrel of the eighth day in a row of 30 degree plus temperatures – minus 2 seemed almost… refreshing.

It’s absolutely a case of wanting what you don’t have, perhaps sprinkled with a touch of rose-coloured glass wearing. See, I appear to recall only the good about snow in Paris. I remember the first time I saw snow fall in Paris. It was 2am, and something had woken me. I moved silently to my small window and watched as it fell softly, yet determinedly into the still courtyard below.

Hot chocolate

I remember the warmth and conviviality of the cafes we’d duck into, where we’d eat warming bowls of onion soup and drink jugs of chocolat chaud to revive us.

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I remember the fireplace at Max’s parents house in Lille, and the big fluffy slippers Max gave me for Christmas.

What I choose to forget is the pain of a metro strike on a snow day, where the buses don’t run and the crowds are suffocating. I forget the inconvenience of having to shower at night, instead of in the morning to ensure my hair was bone dry before leaving the house to avoid an instant cold migraine. I have pushed aside the unattractive image of me, bundled up in a billion layers under my bulky winter coat, tramping inelegantly through the slippery cobblestone streets in my gumboots…

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Snow in Montmartre image courtesy of Nicolas DS on Flickr.
Hot chocolate image courtesy of johnbailey63 on Flickr.

Apartment Hunting in the French Capital

14 Jan

Over the Christmas break I got to partake in one of my all-time favourite activities – researching apartments in Paris.

Chandelier Apartment

Sadly no, a move to Paris isn’t on the cards for us right now, but we are planning a flying visit this July. The Official Trip Purpose is for the Wedding 2.0, a chance for many of Max’s relatives and our friends who cannot come to Australia for Part One to celebrate with us. But before that, we have a week in Paris with my family.

This time, thankfully, our trip falls in the middle of European summer, which not only means gloriously long daylight hours, but a chance to participate in the much-anticipated soldes d’été.

Soldes

The last time my family came to Paris they rented a beautiful two bedroom apartment in the rather fancy-schmancy 1st arrondissement. Literally metres from the Louvre, the entrance to the apartment was wedged between a chic passage couvert and a Christian Louboutin boutique. Despite having an apartment apiece at that point, Max and I found ourselves tempted night after night to camp out on the luxurious sofa bed and pretend that this was, in fact, where we lived.

Galerie

This time around though, I stumbled across a gorgeous three bedroom apartment in the slightly more down to earth 2nd arrondissement, close to the bustling Japanese quarter and close enough to the Opéra to feel very special indeed. There’s nothing I love more than discovering a new arrondissement from the inside out, and I can’t wait to see what delights the 2nd holds for us.

Where do you like to stay when you visit Paris?

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Apartment with chandelier image courtesy of fromtherightbank on Flickr.
Soldes image courtesy of Ma Gali on Flickr.
Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau image courtesy of Phil Beard on Flickr.

Galette des Rois

7 Jan

In France, Epiphany, which falls on the sixth day of January, is celebrated in true French style – with food. From mid-December through to the end of January, countless versions of the delicious galette des rois pop up in boulangerie windows and on supermarket shelves all over the country.

Galette

These delectable pastry treats come in two main varieties, apple, or frangipane, the latter holding a firm first place in my book. I can still recall my first Epiphany spent in France. The adorable five-year-old boy that I looked after raced into the kitchen after school sporting a paper crown and proudly presenting his fève – a tiny porcelain figure that is hidden inside one slice of the cake. ‘Je suis le roi! Je suis le roi!’ he explained excitedly to his two year old brother, who to his credit, responded with wide-eyed appreciation.

Later that evening, Max and I attended a party at the home of a friend. I had managed for weeks to ignore the temptation to try a piece of galette, (a task akin to resisting the purchase of hot cross buns in February) instead waiting for the proper sense of occasion to have my first taste. We drank cider and chatted as I waited excitedly for the main event.

I chose frangipane, figuring that anything that shares most of its ingredients with a croissant aux amandes can’t be bad, and I was not disappointed. It was so delicious, so more-ish that I had to force myself to eat slowly, remembering that choking on the fève would not be a good way to make friends.

Feve

Alas, no fève for me. I was doing a brilliant job of masking my disappointment, telling myself that it was for the best really, as the feve must surely taint the taste of the cake (wisdom gleaned from watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), when Max discovered the elusive fève hidden deep within his (second) slice.

I was just entering the early stages of what can only be described as serious poor-sportsmanship when Max ever so kindly proffered his prized crown for me to wear. And, I’m a little ashamed to admit, I grabbed it gleefully and wore it with an obscene amount of pride. But can you blame me? After all, who doesn’t want to be king for a day?
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Galette des Rois image courtesy of u m a m i on Flickr.
Fève image courtesy of yuichi.sakuraba on Flickr.

Winter Wonderland

12 Nov

Are you heading to Paris in the next three months, or do you know someone who is?

Recently, I teemed up with the savvy crew over at Unanchor to put together a 4 Day Paris itinerary full of my top tips, hottest addresses and best advice for making the most of a visit to the City of Light in wintertime.

A visit to Paris in winter is a truly magical experience. From mid November through to mid January, twinkling fairy lights adorn the city’s boulevards, whilst pop-up Christmas Markets blanket town squares like snow.

But it can be hard to know where to start, and it’s easy to miss some of the best festive aspects (not to mention culinary delights!) without a local guide.

Whether it’s your first visit to Paris, or you’ve done the tourist thing and now you’re looking to experience Paris through the eye’s of a local, to find out where and what Parisians eat, see, and do in wintertime – then this guide is for you.

See all the key icons from a different perspective, and more importantly, discover the hidden gems of the French capital as I take you on an unforgettable Winter Wonderland adventure.

I’ve included a short synopsis of each day below as a taster… but hurry – the festive season is right around the corner!

My Paris itinerary also makes a great gift for wanderlust family and friends!

http://www.unanchor.com/itinerary/view/260

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Day 1

Your exciting Paris discovery starts right in the heart of the action today as we trace the historical axis through the centre of Paris. See the Champs-Élysées bathed in the gentle glow of fairy lights, and soak up the festive cheer at the vibrant Christmas Market. Discover La Défense, a region overlooked by many visitors to the city but one well worth a visit, and no more so than at Christmastime. Meander through two incredible manicured gardens that are art forms in themselves, before immersing yourself in the grandeur of the Louvre – free from the maddening crowds.

Day 2

Take in the fast-paced atmosphere along Paris bustling Grands Boulevards today. Admire the intricate Christmas window displays and get swept up in the pre-Christmas shopping mood. Then, for a change of pace we’ll take in the enchanting covered galleries hidden along the small side streets just steps from the Opera Garnier. See how the other half live with a visit to the Place Vendome, then get set for a fun-filled afternoon ice skating at the Hotel de Ville, which has been transformed into a magical winter wonderland. This evening, I’ll show you how to dine on the prestigious Rue St-Honoré, without breaking the bank.

Day 3

Step back in time a little today and imagine the Paris of years gone by as we explore the historic Left Bank. Picture Hemingway and Sartre whiling away their days in the cafés here and discover a secret about Paris’ oldest bridge. Today is also a feast for the senses as we take in a true Left Bank gourmet haven and an ever-popular-with-locals market. I’ll show you the best places to indulge in seasonal, and quintessentially French, dishes for lunch and dinner.

Day 4

Montmartre sits high in the north of Paris and evokes an intimate village atmosphere. Follow me as we take the back streets, far from the tourist trail to discover the hidden gems and iconic sights from a different angle. In wintertime Montmartre really comes to life with two gorgeous Christmas Markets filling town squares with delicious smells and an infectious sense of festive merriment. Visit one of Paris’ lesser-known museums and the ‘other’ cemetery in Paris. Stop off for a drink in Les Deux Moulins, made famous by the movie ‘Amelie’, before experiencing the elegance of a bygone era with dinner at a Belle Epoque institution.

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The Elusive Taxi Parisien

18 Jul

If there is one thing that I think Melbourne has over Paris, it is after-hours transportation.

When the last trams have come and gone, Melbournians don’t fret or fuss – they know that finding a taxi on the street is quite easy, and in a pinch, they can always call one and be picked up within a relatively short timeframe.

They also know that irrespective of one’s level of intoxication, as long as you can mumble, slur, perform sign language or adequately operate maps on your iPhone to convey your destination, the cabbie will accept the fare, no questions asked.

And if by terrible chance, your tipsy hiccups should take a turn for the worse and there is a see-your-dinner-again situation, the driver (whilst he won’t exactly be thanking you) will simply add $60 to your fare and call it even.

Not so in Paris.

It can be difficult to say the least, to hail a cab on the street in Paris. There is a rather confusing lack of obvious distinction between the lights on a cab that is or isn’t available, and certain rules about taxi zones apply.

Calling a taxi company is also no guarantee that a car will actually show up to your location, anytime between now and next week. A handy work-around in this situation is to have a prepaid corporate taxi account (and there’s always one in the group who has the mystical pin code – ask around), which at the time works like magic – but on Monday morning seems a little ill advised.

If, by some miracle you do manage to flag down a cab, there is still no guarantee that you will be accepted as passengers. No vomit-surcharge exists, as such, it becomes very much a test of one’s acting skills (if you happen to be the intoxicated party) and of your companions art of distraction techniques. More than once I’ve been the latter, and spent a tense twenty minutes nervously chattering away in terrible broken French trying to keep the driver’s attention off my rather under-the-weather companion.

But, often you are not so lucky and the cab will simply refuse to take you. And then you find you and your amis wandering the four kilometres, way too close to the Périphérique, between Porte de la Villette and Porte de Saint-Ouen at 3am. But that’s another story.

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Melbourne taxi image courtesy of Krstnn Hrmnsn on Flickr.
Taxi Parisien image courtesy of [phil h] on Flickr.

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