With a blink of an eye, we’re nearly half-way through the year. It feels like it should be summer already, but the weather is not showing signs of this sort, preferring to swing to and fro between a real scorcher of a day and a horribly wet one. Elsewhere, heavy rain had flooded numerous central European cities and towns, and those in the French Riviera were greeted by tornadoes! Sort of make me glad that we’re only dealing with either sunshine or rain in Paris.
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3 Jun: The beauty of buildings in Paris often lies in lines and symmetry, but that doesn’t necessarily means something square or rectangular. Instead, they radiate in accordance to the layout of the streets. Paris doesn’t do organised repetitive blocks, which inevitably means a large number of apartments come with irregular shapes and could render them quite tricky to decorate on the interior or to maximise whatever little space there is in an apartment. Small hotels would have an even tougher time trying to fit, say, an ensuite bathroom in…
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This window at Ted Baker is just too funny. Awesome timing, given Thanksgiving had just came and went, and christmas is chugging along nicely, the poor turkey would need to be dressed one way or another. It shall be all trussed up and later presented as prettily as possible to the table of sacrifice. Ah, hidden puns everywhere I don’t even know where to start :p
I still haven’t got started with seasonal shopping and I’m unlikely to start it now. Maybe next week. First up, I need to worry about moving in a couple of days, and the way I see it, the less I have to pack, the better. At least I’ve started with the shopping list. Some things need to be ordered online though, so I must not leave those till too late. In fact, I should do them now… toodles!
There are a number of museums in the Marais with free entry to their permanent collections. Frédéric and I had them checked out in record time – 3 in 90 minutes. I admit to doing cursory-glance kind of visits to just have an idea of what the museums are about. The decision to visit them on an impromptu basis perhaps didn’t serve us well in understanding the significance of the collections. Perhaps we should have taken out an audioguide or signed up for a guided tour. Nonetheless, it didn’t mean I failed to find something appreciable in any of them.
Take Musée Carnavalet for example, which is dedicated to the history of Paris. I found interesting paintings of Paris of old when there used to be houses and shops lining the bridges of the city (this was banned in late 18th century) and of various city plans (some never came to pass). The picture above is of the central garden of the hôtel particulier which houses this museum today, with its beautifully trimmed hedges and the original of the statue of Victory found on the column at Place du Châtelet (the one at in place at Châtelet is gold-gilded). See, little steps to get to know Paris better :)
I am searching for a few things today. One – destination. Two – inspiration. Three – motivation. I am a little tired after a couple of weeks of weird sleeping pattern (anyone who has good cure suggestion?) but otherwise, everything’s running as usual. Sort of. Before you link winter and blue together though, please, stop. I am not at a dark and twisted place, so don’t worry.
It’s just I am short of time to do a photowalk today, I don’t quite know what to photograph (but I know I want something non-Christmassy) and I need a push to get myself out there, that’s all. There is nothing particularly interesting about this bike in a seemingly ordinary courtyard, yet this image called to me, so I’m afraid this is what you get for photo-of-the-day. Sorry!
Normal service to resume tomorrow, fingers crossed. ;)
At the junction between rue de Haudriettes and rue des Archives sits a mural called La femme, lumière de l’homme. Painted by Combas in hommage of the great Cubic master, Picasso, who called Paris his home for many year, where he lived, painted and sculpted in Montmartre. In fact, not very far from where this spot itself – less than 5 minutes walk – is Musée Picasso, where thousands of his works (plus his private collection) make up the exhibition collection.
This photo above is but about 1/3 of the entire mural.The very top panel was a reminder of how Montmartre and Paris used to be, and the middle panel, the name of the painting reflected is at the tip of my tongue yet somehow I couldn’t just spew a name and get it right. It’ll come back to me some time. Meanwhile, spot the amusing tiled floor of this picture.
It has been said that, in Paris, on average, one can find a métro station within 500m radius of his/her standing point. With some 300 stations servicing the city (and more to come with extensions currently taking place on certain lines), it is by far the most popular mode of public transport among the visitors for its ease of use and the low cost ticketing system (always buy your tickets in carnet of 10, currently costing €12.50 – individual ticket costs €1.90) which allows unlimited transfers for each journey.
An exhibition that tells you all you will ever need to know about the métro is currently running at Musée des Arts et Métiers (until 1 January 2012). It runs through 111 years of history behind the network, from the construction of the very first Line 1 for Exposition Universelle of 1900 to the completely automated Line 14 in 1998, and the near-completion of conversion Line 1 into a fully automated line this year. There are also behind the scene tours, and bound to satisfy the curiosity for any train-buff out there.
A number of métro stations in Paris are not your typical stations bombarded with advertisements and just tunnels and stairs to get places. These are known as cultural stations. At times, the cultural aspect is rather temporary but for others, they’re more permanent fixtures. My favourite so far? Arts et Métiers.
Just to put things in context, Musée des Arts et Métiers is a museum of all things scientific and inventive. It is a shame that this gem of a place is often overlooked by visitors of Paris. In 1994, during the bicentenary celebration of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, the métro station was redesigned to evoke the atmosphere of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus from “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”, a science-fiction written by Jules Verne (of “Around the World in 80 Days” fame). It’s quite a perfect tribute, don’t you agree?
The shopping madness begins. Les soldes started yesterday and already I’m hearing of bargains being picked up by my friends and my colleagues. I’ve been completely swamped with work right now though, so no time to do my part in, errrm, contributing to the economy ;) This is, of course, good for the health of my bank accounts.
Now, this shop in Marais is amusing. Have you figure out why yet? Look again at the photo. I’ll give you a couple of seconds to play detective. Spot the magic yet?
On a normal day, a sign for boulangerie patisserie means I should be standing in front of the windows and start to drool over freshly baked breads and pastries and all things delicious. But I’ve been deceived. All there are in the shop now are men’s clothes. Never mind. I’m sure I could spot another few boulangerie nearby.
So I was meeting Anne in the Marais yesterday. However, as I arrived early in the area, I decided to walk about randomly (like I always do). Somewhere along the route, I came across Patisserie Pain de Sucre and like a siren calling out to me, I automatically walked in to the shop and cue Pavlovian conditioning – droolfest! If I could have, I would have bought one of every cake and verrine in there. But I stayed sensible, and I came out about €16 poorer in exchange for 2 verrines and a slice of Gyokuro.
The verrines have been eaten up after dinner last night, but there’s still this slice of cake left for today. Its full description reads: Biscuit madeleine à la pistache et zestes d’agrumes, crème au thé vert matcha, mousse coco, crémeux léger au thé gyokuro, feuille de chocolat au thé vert (madeleine cake of pistachio and citrus zest, cream of matcha green tea, coconut mousse, light cream of gyokuro tea, green tea chocolate leaf). I was quite sure I spotted rosemary inside one of the layers, not just decorative at the top, but I could have also mistaken something else for it. Perhaps it was green citrus peel?
Gyokuro is amazingly light to eat and it tastes fresh too, perfect as a summer day treat. It is definitely the best buy of the lot, as the verrines were just too “busy” with all the complex layers contained in teeny tiny glasses. I liked them, but not enough to want a repeat. The cake, however, I could eat a lot more of it. I should try other varieties next time I pass by.
I quite like walking around the Marais quarter, which is lively and bustling but also attracts a certain kind of fashionable crowd (not that I am one of them – and I doubt I could afford to be one either), making it an interesting people-watching neighbourhood. More importantly, the quarter did not undergo a Haussmann “re-looking” (a casual French term for makeover apparently) and therefore plenty of interesting architecture to check out too.
Hôtel particulier is one of the features which I think of as a link to the romantic past of the streets here, thanks to the favours bestowed by the royalties and the peers of French court once upon a time. The grand urban mansions usually come with entrance courts and gardens, and if you could cast your imagination a little back, if only back to the days where Impressionist artists could cast paintings of garden strolls in Victorian dresses and suits, the gardens would be just perfect for socials and interludes in between attending various soirées that one had been invited too.
Today, a number of these hôtel particulier have been converted into administrative buildings as well as museum spaces. Some of these are free to visit (e.g. Musée Cognacq-Jay, Musée Carnavalet, la maison de Victor Hugo) so there is no excuse to not get acquainted with the idea of grand Parisian townhouses. I should revisit them too. It has been a while.
Sure, this is no Laetitia Casta (who was voted in 1999 as symbolic representation of French Republic) but Marianne is everywhere, celebrated in form of monumental sculptures, leading lady in paintings, the caricature on the stamps, even carried daily in our pockets as the French euro coins are engraved with her image.
Standing tall – it is 9.5m in height – and dominant at Place de la République, this bronze sculpture of Marianne by Léopold Morice sits above a base of 15m in height with three other sculptures of the allegories to Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité by Charles Morice. The brothers effectively executed a perfect classical monument to represent the state, for the values that her people fought for in the French Revolution.
I’ve tried to photograph this monument in its entirety but at that time of day, with traffic teeming around the square and people everywhere, I couldn’t find a frame that I like, that I’m happy with. Maybe I should try some day really early in the morning?
There’s so much to tell today and I don’t know where to start. Or how to keep it short-ish. Just know that it has been a gloriously warm Sunday and I wish everyday is as wonderful as this.
Only one museum visited this morning – Chloé and I went to the Musée des Arts et Métiers where we caught live demonstrations of Pascaline calculator and Faucault’s Pendulum – before our stomach rumbled and we got very lucky to get a table at Breizh Café without reservation. A galette Breton and a sweet crepe each, yum. Sitting outside at the terrace for a bit of a tan while eating delicious brunch – bonus of the day.
That was not all. Today is Jour du Macaron as well, so we made it to Pierre Hermé’s shop near Pasteur (the queue at the shop near St Sulpice was crazy long and we didn’t even try to go there) for some treats. The flavours I picked: fig, sweetbriar and foie gras; white truffle and hazelnut; and “dépaysé” which combined matcha green tea, azuki bean, lime and ginger. Two words to describe them all – flavoursome, delectable.
As the Salon du Livre was also running this weekend, I went over to check it out. Free entry with my Paris public library card – nice! I bought a couple of books, including Dessine-moi un parisien by Olivier Magny (who keeps an entertaining blog of Stuff Parisians Like), which he also kindly autographed. I would have like to stay and chat with him for a bit, but my French was failing me…
The day was capped off with dinner at Chloé’s where the girls and I were served raclette with potato, salad and saucissons. Even though we were stuffed in the end, we incorporated a little twist to dessert, by serving roti bakar, Malaysian style.
I am having the time of my life :D