My beloved’s birthday was during a recent, exhausting 10 day trip to China. Consequently, I suggested a 4-day trip to Paris to unwind and celebrate. Thanks to the train strike this was necessarily extended to a 5-day trip – no complaints from me. Once again we stayed in a rental apartment in Le Marais. It’s pretty central for all our activities, just up the road from our friends, and we find comfort in the familiar now that we know our way around the area.
Day one: our adventure starts
Bizarrely the weather during our trip was glorious, way better than that in Nice. After a pleasant trip by train – with the weather visibly improving as we sped north – we greeted our landlady and dropped off our luggage before heading to a nearby brasserie for lunch. We’ve eaten there before and it’s pretty much my idea of the perfect neighbourhood restaurant. It’s family owned and run, which I firmly believe always guarantees better food, service and ambience. This place is pretty popular with locals – another good sign – many of whom just pop in for a drink at the bar and a chat with one of the owners.
Hunger sated, we raided the nearby traiteur and Marché les Enfants Rouges for supplies for dinner. We prefer to lunch out and dine in, particularly as we were keen to watch all that week’s sporting action: Champion’s and Europa League football, Giro d’Italia, MotoGP from Seville.
Inevitably, when we’re away, we still have to keep on top of work. My beloved went back to the flat to work while I indulged in a spot of shopping. I popped into a shop where I’ve bought quite a few things in the past (British understatement) and enjoyed a coffee and a chat with the owner while browsing the latest collection. Nothing screamed “Buy Me!” so it was an inexpensive visit, just a couple of t-shirts.
I returned to pick up my beloved who had made some headway with his work. We continued our opus magnus to find the bar serving the best Aperol Spritz, a tricky task given the large number of bars just in our neighbourhood. However, we’re up for the challenge, particularly as it’s Happy Hour – well, it would be rude not to!
Our closest bar served an okay Aperol Spritz but the staff were rather inattentive – not owner run! We crossed that one off the list. It’s back to the flat where I plated up dinner and we settled down in front of the television. I missed the second half of the match when I fell asleep on the sofa. Well we did have a very early start!
Day two: we hang out with Picasso
My beloved went to his favourite bread shop to collect supplies for breakfast. We have noted that Parisian croissants are much flakier, have greater lamination and are far superior to those down south. All my French friends concur, so that must be the case. My beloved heads back to the grindstone while I pop out for a wander round. I love poking my head round those massive oak doors on the street to see what lies beyond. Sometimes it’s quite surprising, other times not.
We eat lunch in another of our preferred brasseries before we (finally) visit the Musée Picasso, showcasing his painting Guernica, probably one of his best-known works, which normally hangs in a Museum in Madrid. We’ve visited Guernica and read about the attack represented in the painting. However, we were keen to learn more about it.
When we lived in London I loved going to lectures by living artists who explained about the inspiration behind their works. Sadly, we could no longer ask Pablo but was sure we’d find the answer in the exhibition. While I was interested in seeing the various exhibits, I was equally keen to see the inside of the quite splendid Hôtel Salé, where it’s housed. It surpassed my expectations so I’ll do a separate post on it.
We closed with a leisurely walk in the sunshine, admiring the lavish property porn, before trying another bar. Not bad but no real improvement on the first one. That too gets crossed off the list. Again, we spend the evening in watching another exciting football match. This time I managed to stay awake until the end of the match.
Day three: a spot of business
Friday kicked off with an early business meeting over in the 10th arrondissement. We decided to walk there via Châtelet – Les Halles. There’s loads of interesting shops and restaurants en route but they’re closed at this early hour. As we walked along, we mingled with parents taking kids to school. I love the way French kids all have those rucksacks bigger than themselves.
A successful meeting and we retraced our steps. This time I enjoyed looking at all the now-open food shops and cafes which no doubt sprang up when Les Halles was the central food wholesale market. It moved out of central Paris in the early 70s and the building was demolished. Ten years later the huge former market has been replaced by green space (the Garden of Les Halles), an underground shopping mall (Forum des Halles), leisure facilities (a popular swimming pool, cinema) and the RER station Châtelet – Les Halles, the largest underground station in the world.
Opposite Les Halles, works continue apace as François Pinault, a French billionaire and majority shareholder in retail conglomerate Kering, is preparing The Bourse de Commerce to house his extensive collection of contemporary art. Some billionaires buy sports teams, others collect art. Each to their own. Due to open next year, this exhibition space will house works from the Pinault Collection as well as works from other major artists. It looks as if it’ll be yet another wonderful addition to the already rich Parisian cultural scene.
Lunchtime we tried out a new joint in the neighbourhood selling US style lobster rolls, reinvented for French tastes. They were delicious, full of lobster and low on mayonnaise. Mine even came with avocado. We both think it’s a hit but only time will tell.
In the afternoon, we visited the recently opened Lafayette Anticipations, a group of 19th century industrial buildings in Le Marais renovated by Rem Koolhaas, surely one of the best names ever for an architect. As the name suggests, its patrons are the owners of the French retail group Galleries Lafayette. This is quite an edgy exhibition space with a restaurant in the foyer and an experimental production workshop in the basement for guest artists to work on new projects. Again, this is another place worth visiting just for its architectural merit.
On our way back, we stopped off at (yet) another bar to sample their offering. It was a marked improvement on the previous ones and makes our short-list. We also strolled around a large photographic exhibition put on in the nearby Hall des Blancs Manteaux. There was some eye-catching and truly magnificent artwork on show as there was at the nearby Carreau de Temple.
Despite eating lunch out, we opted for typical Jewish fare that evening for dinner, albeit pretty much all vegetarian, at one of the many neighbourhood restaurants. We’ve eaten there before and rather prefer it to the conveyor belt atmosphere of L’As des Felafal – closed, as it was a Friday. Afterwards a smorgasbord of sport awaited us back at the flat.
Week-end: we cruise the 16th and 7th arrondissements
Saturday, after a decidedly gentle start, we headed by metro and bus to the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Bologne. We had timed our arrival to perfection and secured one of the last available tables in Le Frank, its foyer restaurant, for a lovely light set vegetarian/vegan luncheon. Fortified we strolled around the exhibits and gardens much admiring the form of the building and its contents. Again, this visit merits a post all of its own.
Once back at base, we tried another bar and this too made the short-list. Things were definitely looking up on the Aperol front. We raided the Italian traiteur for dinner – a roaring success. More sport and a relatively early night after all that walking. We’ve been averaging around 12km a day. Actually, I’d probably done more than that but, unlike my beloved, I don’t have an Apple watch.
Sunday my beloved decided he’d like to visit the Napoleon exhibition at Les Invalides. We elected to walk along the Seine which was buzzing with runners, cyclists and dog walkers. I’d visited the museum many years ago, though only a couple of the exhibits stuck in my memory. It would be easy to spend several days here so instead we concentrated on the period leading up to 1870. This too was worthy of a separate post.
We wandered back once again along the Seine where everyone was out enjoying the sunshine as if they were beside the sea, rather than the river. On the way we slaked our thirst with an iced tea before continuing our Aperol project. This time we were meeting our friends who live in the neighbourhood and their choice of bar was spot on, easily the best so far.
Lunch had been an enjoyable baguette at Angelina’s in the garden of Les Invalides. The fridge was empty save for a few lonely olives, so we decided to brave one of the newly opened hotel restaurants which had loads of vegetable options on its menu. We were its first customers but after we’d sat down more were drawn to its inviting surroundings. Dinner was delicious and we’re hoping it’ll go from strength to strength.
Adieu: until next time………..
All too soon our little break was over. A leisurely breakfast, a potter round Places des Vosges and then it was time to head for home. Our landlady offered us the flat free of charge until the week-end, because she’d been expecting workmen who’d let her down at the last moment. I was tempted but my beloved had a business trip to Romania scheduled.
Obviously, we concluded our little break with lunch at Le Train Bleu before an enjoyable train trip home. I’m definitely going to try and schedule another trip to Paris before year end.