More Postcards from Paris III

The temperature dropped on Saturday so we broke out the cashmere and thermals! The previous days, we’d seen signs all around Le Marais for “Brocante” which is one up from a “Vide-Grenier” (aka Car Boot Sale). On Saturday morning, when we headed to our favourite traiteur, we discovered that there were stalls the length of Rue de Bretagne and around its gardens. We had a look at a few of the stalls to see if they had some interesting glassware or silver but most stalls had what might politely be called an eclectic mix of goods that wasn’t to our taste. We stopped off for a coffee at one of the many neighbourhood brasseries and reminisced about the car boot sale I’d gone to before we moved to France.

My two sisters, from time to time, use car boot sales to off load stuff they no longer want. Meanwhile I had no intention of paying to ship to France stuff I hadn’t used for ages. One of my sisters suggested we went to a popular car boot sale, not far from my parent’s place. But on the Sunday, after we’d dragged everything up from London to my parents, there was no car boot sale being held nearby. This forced us to head to a much larger one in central Birmingham. I’m not sure why but my father decided to come with us and lend a helping hand.

On the advice of my sisters, I’d parcelled up matching sets of stuff which sold quickly along with all the electricals, irrespective of whether or not they worked. I’d also decided to get rid of all my unwanted gifts. Admit it, we all have them. These were the ones I’d be too embarrassed to recycle but they proved surprisingly popular.

My Dad turned out to be a natural salesman charming everyone, particularly all the mature ladies, to part with their dosh. Though he did say afterwards it would be his one and only appearance at a car boot sale. It was a huge success with people literally buying stuff as we unpacked it. We dropped the last few remnants off at a charity shop but our rubbish had netted us over £400!

After a spot of food shopping, we lunched on moules and frites in another nearby brasserie. The moules were delicious. I rarely order them as all too often I find them overcooked and rubbery, but not here. Batteries re-charged, we continued our walk around the area, surprised to find a few roads which we’d previously overlooked around the village of St Paul and Ile Saint-Louis. Both are havens of tranquillity that lie between the rue de Rivoli and the Seine.

St Paul appears to be popular with antique dealers and features some of the old walls of Paris from 11th and 12th centuries and a few very old properties. In addition there are further Hôtels which have been repurposed as museums, libraries and other civic buildings.

We crossed over the bridge to the Ile Saint Louis, famous for its pricey real-estate and Berthillon ice-cream, though it was far too cold to try any of the latter. We continued to the Ile de la Cité and the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a 12th century Gothic masterpiece. It has not long been cleaned, helping to highlight its architectural richness and the colour of its stone. Heading back towards the Seine, we find even more Hôtels sandwiched between 1950s stone buildings inspired by their surrounding classical references.

Chilled, we decide to warm ourselves up with some tea at Mariage Frères on the way back to the flat. We love their tea, particularly the lovely floral Marco Polo range. My beloved was tempted by the delicious array of pastries but didn’t succumb. Again, we opted for a night in with an array of nibbles and an excellent bottle of wine.

We headed back to Nice the following day, dining in Le Train Bleu before boarding the train. We’d had another lovely break and vowed to have more next year. After all, you can never see too much of Paris, can you?

40 Years of Memorable Moments: Paris with my parents

As we enjoy our 41st year of married bliss, my beloved and I have given some thought to what we call “memorable moments”. In truth there have been plenty of these and I’m going to share a few of them with you.

Any trip to Paris reminds me of the time we took my parents there as an early Xmas present. It was in 2000, my beloved and I were living in London and he was due to attend a dental meeting in Paris at the end of November. The Plaza Athenee Hotel had recently reopened after a re-fit and, via American Express; I got a great rate on the rooms.

My parents, who spent their honeymoon in Paris, were always game for a return. My father said he’d take everyone out for dinner at a restaurant of my choosing. My parents liked coming away with us. My father in particular since it spared him having to organise anything. He could just sit back, relax and enjoy himself. 

We drove to Paris via the Channel Tunnel, with an overnight in Calais not too far from the terminal which afforded us three full days and two nights in the City of Light. Richard attended the exhibition and joined us for dinner. I spent some time with my parents strolling around the 7th and 8th arrondissements which included a very pleasant afternoon tea at The George V. The rest of the time they were happy to potter around Paris.

I had wanted to eat at Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant but it was fully booked. By chance, I managed to book us a table at Lucas Carton. I rang just as someone had cancelled a table for four. Karma!

It’s a beautiful, art nouveau, wood panelled restaurant in the Place de la Madelaine. After settling at our table, we enjoyed a glass of champagne while perusing the menu. Dad was the only one of us to have a menu with prices. I had polenta with truffles to start while the others chose carpaccio of scallops. Mum and I had lobster and the boys had lamb. We went with the restaurant’s suggested selection of wines by the glass with our meal. It was superb, pretty much what you’d expect from a Michelin starred restaurant. We were too full for dessert, opting instead for coffee which came with a huge plate of petits fours. We demolished them and my father paid the bill.

It had been a very enjoyable break. My beloved and I were always happy to spend time with my parents who were most agreeable company. About three months’ later my father asked me to guess how much the meal had cost. I gave the matter some thought and decided upon £500. My father shook his head and indicated I should go higher. The final bill had been much more than the two nights we’d paid for them in a top Parisian hotel! I could tell you I was mortified but honestly I wasn’t. It had been worth every mouthful and my parents agreed. 

My father kept the bill as a memento of our trip and when he died my sisters handed it down to me. I’ve framed it and it hangs on my memory wall.  I have a wry smile on my face every time I think back to that fabulous meal and our lovely trip to Paris with them. Interestingly, dinner at Lucas Carton now would cost a similar amount to that paid by my Dad in 2000 while, I’m sorry to say, two nights at the Plaza Athenee would cost very much more!

 

 

 

 

More Postcards from Paris II

On Friday, my beloved chose to visit the Musée Marmottan Monet in 16th arrondissement. According to Bing maps, a mere 90 minutes on foot from where we were staying. We decided to walk along the Seine towpath which gave us a slightly different perspective of Paris. It was a very enjoyable stroll and we emerged onto street level once we’d reached the Tour Eiffel which is in the 15th, an area I’ve previously exhausted on foot.

We turned off at the Trocadero, named in honour of the battle of the same name. It’s worth a visit if only for the magnificent views it affords of the Tour Eiffel. We headed up and along rue du Passy, passing by the recently opened branch of La Grande Epicerie at just before 12:30 pm, lunchtime. We ventured into its restaurant on the second floor and got one of its few remaining tables. It was a simply delicious light meal.

Our batteries recharged, we headed for the museum which is opposite the Ranelagh Gardens. It was at this point, I realised I’d been here many years before. My French penfriend’s grandmother had lived in a bijou house, along with her maid and housekeeper, a little closer to the Bois de Boulogne. She had been the epitome of an elderly elegant Frenchwoman, immaculately turned out in what only I later appreciated was head-to-toe Chanel.

The museum is set in a former hunting lodge and is built around the donated collection of a wealthy Parisian family. They were descendants of the Duke of Valmy whose chateau we’ve stayed at in Argelès-sur-Mer. The initial collection had been added to by further wealthy collectors, plus the remnants of Monet’s Collection of his own works and those of his friends. I say remnants as his son had sold a number of paintings to finance his love of African safaris! However, there was still plenty I’d be happy to display on my walls should the opportunity ever arise.

The museum wasn’t busy though we found ourselves sandwiched between two small coach parties of French pensioners. Okay, so they weren’t much older than us but we’re not yet prepared to concede we’re OAPs.  Furthermore, said parties had their own guides who were at pains to explain the works in great detail. I shamelessly listened in and even asked a couple of questions, no one seemed to mind. Having walked to the museum, we elected to get the Metro back to the apartment as we were feeling a bit footsore. We were only too happy to put our feet up and dine in that evening.

Although there are plenty of small, cosy and family run hotels in Le Marais, we prefer the space and freedom afforded us by renting an apartment. This small apartment block has its own resident beggar who sits outside, come rain or shine, from dawn to dusk. He’s a Bulgarian who needs to collect a certain amount each day in order to spend the night under cover. Sadly, there are a distressing number of beggars on the streets of Paris. I would estimate one every hundred metres or so. It’s simply not possible to help them all. Instead, we choose to help one and, while we’re there, ensure he has enough to eat and drink during the day and to pay for a bed overnight. This one’s quite an engaging fellow and has two cute dogs for company.

More Postcards from Paris I

The early morning train journey in winter along the coast is simply splendid. As the sun rises, everything is gilded in soft rose gold light and the sea looks like liquid mercury. Having woken up at 06:00, I felt I should grab some more shut-eye but I couldn’t tear my eyes from the view which is easily one of my favourite parts of the train trip to Paris. You also get some fabulous views of the spectacular seafront property porn though much of it is closed up and dormant at this time of year. 

As we head inland, mist veils the fields and the sun’s a ghostly orb just starting to peer over the hills. The lush once green foliage of the harvested vines has taken on a variety of autumnal hues, as have some of the trees, a few of which have lost all their leaves. But once the mist lifts, the sun shines and everything looks as pretty as a picture, albeit one in autumn’s more muted colour palette. I even spotted the Pont du Gard which we recently visited. 

It’s only as we near our destination that you get a sense of the approaching urban realm. First, large warehouses and then the creep of urban sprawl, and all that it entails. Typically, once we arrive at Gare de Lyon, we’ll lunch at Le Train Bleu but not this time as we had an afternoon meeting with a client whose offices are in the 10th arrondissement. Instead, we walk to our rented apartment in Le Marais, the same place we stayed at in September, drop off our luggage and head back out for lunch in one of the many neighbourhood restaurants.

Porte-Saint-Denis – originally a gateway through the Wall of Charles V built between 1356 and 1383 to protect the Right Bank of Paris.

We decided to walk to and from the client’s offices in the 10th arrondissement, passing through an area popular with France’s African and Caribbean community. The road we walked along was lined with shops selling hair and beauty products for persons of colour, and simply loads of hairdressers. I’ve already written about the number of hairdressers per capita in France but this number, one after the other, was quite extraordinary.

A small glimpse of Saint Vincent de Paul
Eglise Saint Laurent

When we walked back at about 18:00 these places were abuzz (literally) and heaving with clients. More people were hanging around outside chatting. Possibly waiting for their other halves or, maybe, just shooting the breeze with friends. In addition, there were lots of small restaurants; little more than stalls, selling French-Caribbean and African food. It was such a lively and colourful scene but it was too dark to photograph with my iPhone.

Place de la Republique

Having walked plenty of kilometres, we’d now worked up an appetite which we satisfied with some Middle Eastern fare before opting for an early night. It had been a long, enjoyable and very satisfying day.  

For reasons best known only to himself, when in Paris, my beloved is happy to fetch breakfast, putting the coffee on before he leaves the flat to buy a variety of breads and croissants. The latter are for him and maybe that’s why he enjoys going out. There’s a large selection of bakeries nearby though he usually goes to the closest. 

Heavy rain was forecast, so we were happy to spend the morning pottering around the various food shops, markets and traiteurs picking up provisions for the next couple of days. We ate lunch in the apartment before my beloved settled down to answer a slew of emails. He likes to keep on top of them daily, even when on vacation. 

In the afternoon, I popped into one of my favourite stores for a cup of tea, a chat and a try on of most of their winter collection. I enjoyed having a mooch about on my own, something that’s more difficult to do when my beloved is around as he loves to stride off, at least 20 metres ahead of me, demonstrating that his leg is now working much better. This renders it more difficult to indulge my love of window shopping and enjoying the architectural delights of the arrondissement.  

Having eaten a lightish lunch, I decided that for dinner we were going to try one of Hank’s Vegan Burgers. My beloved was less convinced but prepared to concede. The chips were excellent and while the burgers were tasty we both felt they were under spiced and under seasoned. However, two glasses of red wines, 2 burgers and chips all for Euros 14 was easily our cheapest meal of the trip. We paid more for two pots of tea at Mariage Frères the following day. 

 

Postcard from Paris: Part II

Strictly speaking this is a postcard from Le Marais though, on one of our many walks, we did stray into the 1st arrondissement. On our return, plenty of people asked us where we’d stayed in Paris. When we said “Le Marais” no one, not even the French, including ones who are frequent visitors to Paris, had heard of it – incroyable!

Le Marais is a historical district located to the east of the centre of Paris, on the right bank of the river Seine. It occupies the 3rd and 4th arrondissements which extend from the Centre Georges Pompidou in the west, Republique to the north, Bastille to the east and the Seine to the south.

The area was largely grazing land until 1361 when Charles V, King of France, started building the royal residences of Hotel Saint-Pol in the eastern part of the Marais which encouraged other noble families to populate the area until the Royal Court moved to Versailles. Subsequently, the area became a working-class neighbourhood attracting waves of immigrants which now account for its eclectic and vibrant atmosphere.

Fortunately, those long-abandoned buildings have largely been restored to their former glory – if not their former use – including the oldest square in Paris, Place des Vosges (pictured above). But that’s not all.

Because of the area’s rich history, there are many architectural highlights in Le Marais, such as the Saint-Paul Saint-Louis Church built in 1641. Another iconic building is Paris’ City Hall, alongside the Seine, which is a wonderful example of Neo-Renaissance architecture and where we saw the Design &  Artisanat d’Art exhibition which showed just how many artisans are still working in ateliers in Paris, many in Le Marais.

It’s an area popular with Parisian families so at the week-end the place buzzes with the children enjoying the area’s many green spaces, and benefitting from the last rays of summer to enjoy a drink or meal at one of the area’s many restaurants and cafes. There’s also a wealth of food shops including many by famous names such as Pierre Hermé and Christophe Michalak which just had to be visited along with the Marché des Enfants Rouges, the oldest market in Paris which has some fabulous food stalls.

The weather was much better than anticipated and consequently we walked all over Le Marais finding something to wonder at on almost every corner. Because we’d had the opportunity to go around so many buildings not generally open to the public over the European Week-end of Patrimoine, we only visited one museum on Tuesday morning. the Musée Cognacq Jay which housed the largely 18th century art and objets d’art collections of  Théodore-Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jay, founders of La Samaritaine department store, now owned by LVMH and shortly to be redeveloped.

However, there’s still plenty for us still to visit on our next trip to Paris.

Postcard from Paris: Part I

My beloved and I decided to celebrate 40 years’ of married bliss with a long week-end in Paris, the most romantic city in the world. While I’ve been fortunate to traverse much of the city on foot and visit all its major monuments and museums, my beloved has not. Consequently, I left the choice of what we were going to visit to him. Though, naturally, I intended to do of all the bookings.

He’d expressed an interest in visiting Versailles but as our trip drew closer so the forecast worsened. Part of the charm of Versailles is its splendid gardens, so we decided not to book but to wait and see. Additionally, and quite by chance, the week-end was the one where you can visit lots of buildings not normally open to the general public, so our choice of places to visit expanded exponentially and we decided to play it by ear – often the best way.

We rented a studio apartment in Le Marais, largely because it’s an area I love and, having recently scratched its surface on my two most recent trips to Paris, was keen to discover more about it. Additionally, one of my girlfriends, whom I haven’t seen for a while, lives there and I really wanted to catch up with her. My beloved has never visited Le Marais but, as it had featured prominently in a book he’d recently read about the history of Paris, he was keen to visit.

We much prefer travelling to Paris by train. Sure it takes longer but it’s so much more relaxing and, providing you book well in advance, it’s considerably cheaper than flying. When you book a train ticket, you’re allocated a seat. When all the seats are sold, that’s it, the train’s full. There’s no standing on French TGV trains. I like to sit in the top section in either two seats side by side or facing one another. I hate sitting as part of a foursome. If I’m on my own, I’ll book one of the single seats. Sometimes I’ll work or maybe read but I often just enjoy watching the sea and countryside speed by. I say speed by but, in all honesty, the train doesn’t pick up any real speed until after Avignon.

The weather on route was sunny while we traversed the rolling hills of the glorious French countryside which was dotted with herds of creamy coloured cows grazing on lush green pasture and a patchwork of ploughed fields, golden stubble, shrivelled sunflowers and vines ready for picking.

We arrived in Paris at lunchtime, no accident, so we could dine at the magnificent Le Train Bleu restaurant. My late father would have loved it and it’s one of my few regrets that I never got to take him there. Sated, we wheeled our cases the short distance from the Gare de Lyon to our home for the next five days.

After checking out the neighbourhood, we bought a great bottle of wine and some goodies from one of the many traiteurs for a light supper before an early night. We needed to recharge our batteries for some serious traipsing around the neighbourhood over the week-end.

Another one bites the dust

I was inconsolable in 2010 when I discovered that Takashimaya had closed its Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan. I must have stood for a good 10 minutes checking that I was at the correct spot – 693 Fifth Avenue. This had been a beautifully curated collection of men’s, children’s and women’s fashions, and homewares spread over a number of floors with a great restaurant in its basement. I had spent untold hours (and dollars) here and it was always my first stop on any trip to New York. I immediately contacted my American friend who had introduced me to this wondrous emporium. She too was shocked and saddened. Trips to New York haven’t been the same since and I always go back to the shop’s location  in the hope that it will have miraculously re-opened.

I was similarly distressed on my first visit to Japan in 2007 when I visited Takashimaya’s main store in Tokyo. It was nothing like its Manhattan outpost. Stuffed full of European designer goods, redeemed only by its wondrous displays and fascinating basement food hall. I was shocked to find departments with clothes for cleaning the house, particularly as the Japanese live in small houses, and don’t get me started on the nightwear department. There in a nutshell was the reason for Japan’s low birthrate. Forget about importing French patisseries, import French underwear!

News reached me this week, that another concept store I hold dear, Colette’s in Paris, is to close in December. This is another store I’ve enjoyed browsing around and it was often the high point of any window-shopping stroll along the pricey rue Saint-Honore. The owner Colette has decided to retire although her daughter will continue to run the company’s webshop. The place is a mecca for all things fashionable and on trend. The three-storey emporium always has an eclectic collection of goodies, the latest designer clothing and a brilliant bookshop which carries all the major fashion and design magazines, and let’s not forget the basement water bar with over 100 brands of bottled water. Now, I’m a big fan of internet shopping but sometimes you just need to see and feel the goods.

It’s not just major shops in meccas such as New York and Paris that are closing, one of my favourite bread shops has closed. The shop had opened in the mid-forties and black and white pictures of the current owner’s grand-parents decorated the walls. I assume the owner wanted to retire and her kids no longer wish to pursue the family tradition. So the supplier of some of the best croissants and brioches in the area has closed. Unlike many bread shops, it also sold coffee and cakes and, aside from being a breakfast favourite, we also liked to pop in for afternoon coffee and cakes. It’s always sad when shops such as these close. No one has yet taken over the shop which occupies a large corner plot on a major shopping street.

Of course, since we’ve been living here, any number of shops have closed though many more have changed hands, often for the better. A rather run-of-the-mill bread shop in the centre of town, after three changes of ownership, now sells the most fabulous cakes, pastries and bread. My beloved needs no excuse to visit. Meanwhile, over the road the purveyor of the very best donuts we’d ever eaten, full of crème patissiere, changed hands and stopped selling donuts. It was probably a blessing for my waistline and now such wonders fall under the category of strictly forbidden. Luckily, in the same period, the shops closest to us have all prospered and expanded their range of produce. The only disappointment was the fish shop which opened and closed within a month. It had a brilliant selection of fresh fish but we’re already well-served by other fish shops (and the port) and clearly demand was insufficient. It’s hard to argue against market forces though I shall continue to support my local shops.

Things my beloved says: I could do that!

We were watching the magnificent Classical Concert from the Eiffel Tour on Bastille Day,  Le Concert de Paris, featuring the great and the good from the world of classical music playing and singing a selection of Greatest Hits Arias. This is the world’s largest outdoor concert, held during the world’s largest annual sporting event, the Tour de France. During an early number, my beloved spotted the person playing the triangle. I suppose it was one of the many percussionists. Immediately my beloved said: “I could do that!”

I replied that he’d probably get distracted, miss his cue and fail to strike the triangle when necessary. I said an ear for music and an ability to concentrate for long periods of time were probably two of the minimum requirements. Plus, you probably needed to play other instruments. Frankly, it’s doubtful my beloved would cut the mustard. I sensed he was about to argue but thought better of it and decided to agree with me. Yep, he’s definitely getting wiser in his old age!

His comment got me thinking. Why is it we always assume we can do things which look easy on the television! Making something look easy usually takes that oft quoted 10,000 hours of practice, the right attitude and plenty of application. We are after all talking about a man whose mother forced him to endure hours of piano lessons – delusions of grandeur on her part – and who can now only remember how to play Chopsticks, a tune I too can play without having received any piano lessons, let alone passing a couple of piano exams.

The truth is that I can read music and still play the descant recorder but that’s where any musical ability starts and finishes. Neither of us can hold a note which is why whenever we’re obliged to sing, out of consideration, I mime. Not so my beloved who’ll attempt (and fail) to belt out a tune.

Anyway, back to the concert, the audience estimated at around 400,000 was no doubt enjoying the world’s largest picnic on the grass as the sun gradually set. Before darkness fell, we were treated to magnificent views of the City of Light which always looks fabulous from the sky as you can clearly see its urban master plan. The concert was followed by a truly wonderful fireworks’ display, a fitting end to a special day and (thankfully) so very different from last year.

Of course, cycling fans would probably argue that with Warren Barguil winning stage 13 on Bastille Day, we’d already had plenty of fireworks. This was the fourth French victory after those of Romain Bardet, Arnaud Demare and Liliane Calmejane with the exciting  prospect of maybe more to come.

Two-day trip to Paris

Yes, it’s finally time for my beloved to get back to work full-time. He has mastered the crutches and can even walk without them for about 20 metres, so it was time to venture forth and meet one of our long-term clients, based in Paris. We opted to travel by train, less stressful, and I agreed to accompany him. He’s not yet ready to fly solo.

The train journey passes along the coast before heading inland. It’s delightful scenery even though it rained for most of the trip. The countryside at this time of year is verdant and lush. New bright green leaves contrast with bursts of bright yellow, pale pink, dark pink and purple blossoms against a backdrop of dark green evergreens, and lush soil every shade of ombre and ochre. April’s mix of sunshine and showers has made everything grow in abundance, from foliage to crops to vines.

There still isn’t a fast route from the Niçois coast to Paris, Marseilles has already bagged it. We’ll get one eventually, most probably via Grenoble. The train slowly winds its way along the coast until it turns inland after Marseilles and heads to Avignon – a place I keep meaning to visit – where it really picks up velocity. In no time at all we’re in Paris, a place that is irredeemably romantic. Just saying the name conjours up the Seine winding its way past Haussmanian buildings under stone bridges with majestic wrought iron lighting catching glimpses of famous sights and monuments.

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There’s something very restful about train journeys in Europe. The trains are invariably on time, you know exactly where to wait on the platform for your carriage. Trains are not overbooked, all tickets get a reserved seat. That’s right, there’s NO standing. The cost is very reasonable, particularly if you book in advance. We generally travel first-class and enjoy a late lunch in le Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon. I just love all than fin de siecle splendour and the food’s pretty good too.

This time we were arriving late afternoon, far too late for even a late lunch. We had decided to stay in a hotel close to the station, within walking distance of Le Marais, and a short taxi ride to my beloved’s client. It was a charming bijou hotel, ideal for an overnight stop after feasting on oysters, lobster and champagne, always our favourite Parisian treat. And fitting, given it was the evening before my beloved’s birthday.

The following morning, after breakfast in a nearby brasserie, my beloved set off for his appointment, which was bound to include lunch, leaving me with a few precious hours to wander around Paris on my own – sheer bliss.

It was cold and damp to start with and I needed to walk briskly just to keep warm. I was wearing a layer too few. At one point I thought it was going to start raining but the moment passed and, thankfully, the sun came out. I just love wandering around Paris, so many independent specialist shops, many dating back hundreds of years. Of course, I particularly love all the food shops.

As I wander the streets, there’s always something to look at be it a wrought iron balcony, a beautiful street lamp, colourful  window boxes crammed with flowering plants, secret alleyways leading who knows where and wrought iron gates protecting someone’s heritage.

I also spotted some recent graffiti!

I didn’t indulge in as much window shopping as I usually do, probably because I had a destination in mind. I wanted to check out the summer collection of a German brand that I generally have to buy over the internet because it has limited availability in France and no outlets closer to me than Lyon. While its website is excellent it’s sometimes difficult to exactly discern the colour. Is is grey, beige or greige? Of course, I love all three but there were a couple of trouser styles, jackets and tops I wanted to check out.

On my early stroll I had spotted that rare beast in France, a vegan restaurant, which I wanted to try for lunch. It was excellent and I’ve made a note of its location, along with a couple of other restaurants, for us to try on our September anniversary trip. Of course, we’ll also be revisiting the site of our oyster fest.

After my enjoyable few hours, I met up with my be loved in Le Train Bleu bar where we took full advantage of the free WiFi, facilities and excellent tea. In no time at all, it was all abord for the return trip and a gentle snooze as the train purred all the way to Antibes. I have that fortunate knack of being able to power-nap anywhere at anytime.

The sun shone brighter as the train reached the south, stopping in Marseille after three or so hours before resuming its snail’s pace progression along the Med. Christophe, our uberfriendly and uberreliable local taxi driver, picked us up and whisked us back home. It had been a lovely trip, now I had to get everything ready for our maiden trip to Sardinia and 100th

Postcard from 36 hours in Paris

I’m back from a flying visit to Paris, a city I really should visit more often. I found a great deal on a delightful hotel in the 6th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from Notre Dame and Quai d’Orsay, one of my husband’s favourite museums in Paris. We arrived in time for lunch at a neighbourhood restaurant, part of Guy Savoy’s stable. My beloved had the set lunch menu while I went a la carte with carpaccio of octopus followed by salmon. It was delicious and we walked off the calories strolling walking briskly along the Seine.
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My beloved was taking a few precious hours away from work to do a spot of sightseeing. While I’ve visited all Paris’s major attractions at least once, my beloved has not. He wanted to see inside Notre Dame but swiftly changed his mind when he saw the 300 metre long queue – maybe next time. Instead we admired its intricate exterior Gothic carvings before continuing our walk.
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Instead, we visited his favourite museum and enjoyed a fabulous exhibit of treasures from the Second French Empire, a time of tremendous wealth in France where it was de rigeur to flaunt said riches. The other was of the works of Frederic Bazille, an impressionist who hob nobbed with the likes of Monet, Renoir and Sisley but tragically died too young, leaving a small but beautiful body of work.
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After our dose of culture we strolled back to the hotel to enjoy a reviving cuppa. The hotel had already endeared itself to me by giving us a room upgrade. It then exceeded my expectations with a complimentary bottle of my favourite beverage. It will be deservedly receiving a glowing report. We spent the evening in the hotel bar enjoying a jazz concert before retiring for a great night’s sleep.
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The following morning my beloved had a packed itinerary starting with an early business meeting over breakfast leaving me to enjoy a lie in followed by a busy day pounding the Parisian pavements. I started by walking around the St Germain area which is full of interesting shops and galleries before straying across the river into an old favourite, the Marais.
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I walked the streets of Paris for over six hours before meeting my beloved back at the hotel for an early dinner in a typical French brasserie where we both tucked enthusiastically into a plate of oysters before heading home. Next stop New York!