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La Chambre aux Oiseaux

A cosy canteen with a touch of vintage chic, that’s how I’d describe La Chambre aux Oiseaux. Upon S’s suggestion and initiative on making the reservation a couple of weeks in advance, we met on a slightly overcast Saturday afternoon for brunch in this café just off the Canal St Martin. They run two seatings for brunch, at 11.30am and at 1.30pm, and they were busy during both services. Clearly a favourite among many of the crowd of very fashionably dressed Parisians – yours truly not included given how carelessly my wardrobe is put together… – and for good reasons: the service is friendly, the food is delicious, and the ambiance is homey.

La chambre aux oiseaux

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Les Pipelettes, café-épicerie

While breakfast meeting is a rare occurence for me, I found myself at Les Pipelettes, bright and early, to brainstorm with fellow volunteers of a scientific outreach programme on this year’s activities that promote collaborative works between high school students in Paris and in Turin. How apt, that we met in a café which name means the chatterboxes, since we chatted for a good couple of hours before wrapping it all up.

Our breakfast was very French, with most of us ordering a “get out of the bed” menu that consisted of a hot drink (hot chocolate with salted caramel for me please!), tartine with beurre Bordier and a basil-based jam (surprisingly good mix of sweet and savoury), and a juice (a combo of carrot, apple and ginger). The service was efficient and friendly, and we felt very much at ease, as if we were working from the home of a friend.

Les Pipelettes

Les Pipelettes

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Project 365 – Week 42

Now that we’re settling back in to the daily grind, our social calendar also starts to fill itself up quickly. We’ll be seeing friends and family, in Paris and elsewhere, and significantly my oldest and best friend will be here in a week for a visit. I have so much to show and to share with her, that I don’t really quite know where to start. Since la rentrée there are many interesting exhibitions to see, new places to eat, etc. I need to make a list and let her choose what she’d like to do most.

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Notre Dame Cathedral

14 Oct: Paris is beautiful, and even more so in autumn. For F, it’s the softer lights of the sky that make autumn an enchanting season of the year. For me, it’s the colours surrounding us. There’s something about golden leaves on the trees and a variety of hues between vermillion and tangerine to spread some seasonal colours – quite a difference from the multi-coloured summer blooms. I also love stepping on the drying leaves, hearing the rustles under my feet while daydreaming as I walk. Even the slight nip in the air doesn’t bother me when I get into this little world of my own.

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It snows in March!

It may says March on the calendar, and we’re a mere week away from official start of spring. However, the weather is anything but that. Between yesterday and today, the temperature plunged to sub-zero level, and in Paris, the snowfall easily measured a good few inches. Not as severe as the northern part of the country, where some places received over 60cm of snow!

As the buses were not running this morning and trying to take the métro would only complicate things for me – there’d be unnecessary distance to travel before changing line and the two lines, which are already normally among the busiest in Paris, would be completely crazy on a day like this when service was reduced and there were even more demand than usual. Besides, it was not a terribly long walk, and I got rewarded with pretty winter scenes to photograph.

Without further ado, snowy Paris in March over two-day period :) (Hover over images for caption)

Walking in the snow

Small lane covered in snow

Frozen icicles


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Project 365 – Week 7

I have just realised, while I’m keeping up with this photo project, I am falling behind with my reading. A whooping seven weeks into the year and I’ve just finished my third English book, never mind none in French yet. And rather frantically, I haven’t been able to find my public library card either. A spring cleaning is seriously needed because I’m hoping to make this year the one where I make full use of the libraries around Paris instead of buying more books when I have no space to store them.

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Winter sunset

11 Feb: Frédéric often tells me how much he loves the winter sky, specifically the softer colour hue at the end of a fine day. This evening was one of those where you couldn’t take your eyes off the horizon, where shades of colours blended into one harmonious palate. I wasn’t the only one who stood rooted at a spot looking up – a number of people on my Twitter were excitingly sharing their photos of this beautiful evening.

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Day 360: Morrison Chambers

The business premises that were once Eason at the junction of Nassau Street and Dawson Street have been taken over by Costa Coffee. I didn’t notice this change the last couple of times I was back in Dublin, although admittedly I don’t think I have passed by the area either both trips. So imagine my surprise today upon seeing this change. I wasn’t the only one. My friends who were with me (ok, we all live away from Dublin now) had similar reactions.

Housed within Morrison Chambers, a building that was once built for North British & Mercantile Insurance Co, this café is lucky to have also bagged the beautiful entrance beneath the dome. It still features the coat of arms from the four provinces of Ireland (the harp for Leinster, the half-eagle and upright sword for Connacht, three antique crowns for Munster and the red hand over Cross Gules for Ulster) over the immediate entrance from the exterior, as well as a coat of arm representing Ireland over the side of the inner door (not seen, but just beyond the left hand motif curve in the above photo). All in all, a grand entrance to a coffee shop that’s part of a chain. More importantly though, the heritage beauty is being maintained.

Day 320: Empty

Brrr it is very cold today.

Well, the cold front started (for me anyway) yesterday and today, as the day went by, it got progressively colder. I was still caught by surprised (a teeny wee bit) at this change, for over the weekend, it was warm enough for me to walk around sans coat or jacket but a mere cardigan. I do always carry scarf and mittens in the winter, so it’s not too bad I guess.

However, you certainly want to be moving about at this temperature to keep the body warmth going. Sitting out at a terrace is no longer something fun when you could end up freezing to death outside. Or milder events of cold and flu. I’m not even sure if drinking hot beverages would make much difference. The point is though, time to wrap up well when out and about, and thou shall continue people watching from inside of a cafe/restaurant instead.

Day 318: Métro rétro

It’s not as if I wasn’t wearing my contact lenses or anything. Each time I pass by this café, I keep on (mis)thinking its name is Café du Rétro instead of Café du Métro. Perhaps it’s the style of the sign. It is probably a version of the original from all the way back in 1920, when it was first opened. I gathered that it’s still a family run business till this day.

Well, this café will soon be in my “neighbourhood”. I have just co-signed a lease this evening and will be moving out from Cité U in a couple of weeks. This is an exciting step into a new phase of my fabulous life in Paris. As with anything new and unknown, there’s certain anxiety that tags along with this move, but it’s the good kind, you know. It’ll give me an excuse to check out this café properly too. ;)

Day 276: Café Pouchkine

There will never a short supply of French pastries in this city but for a change every now and again, foreign(-inspired) pastries are much welcomed too. I, for one, could not resist the durian macaron from Pâtisserie de Choisy, or matcha and azuki bean cake from Sadaharu Aoki. Today, I discovered Russian-accented French pastries.

Café Pouchkine can be found at the ground floor of Le Printemps. The cafe may be small – bar/counter seating for about 10 people? – but the pastry selection is solid and they pack quite a flavour in them too. Only two pastry varieties were tested today, so I will be back to check out some others. Hopefully soon.

Day 39: Coffeehouse

I am not a coffee drinker. Nor a tea drinker. (Hot chocolate is my poison.)

I used to joke with my friends, when I was a graduate student, that cafés relying on my business would easily go bankrupt. I was the opposite of many other students (and non-students alike) who need their caffeine fix daily, often several times a day. There isn’t even a point for me to carry any loyalty card, because I’ll never reach the number of stamps required to get a free beverage.

Of course, coffee houses are great for short meet-ups with friends, or to get a cup of hot drinks and sit to read. Given I’m due to move to Paris soon, I should learn to ease in the café lifestyle a bit better. Perhaps it’s the romantic view that everyone have of Paris, that this is the thing to do. For sure, you’ll also be charged a premium for that sit down privileges. Do you know, most Parisian cafés easily charge 200-300% more for the cuppa at the table than serving you au comptoir (i.e. at the bar)?

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