Monday 28 July 2014

Paris for tourists - What's On In Paris

Paris is amazing. There are so many fantastic places to go, so many amazing things to see, so many great things to eat and drink. There are international icons of course- the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame. If you only have a short time in Paris you might only get to see the big names. That's still all good of course.

But if you have that most precious gift of time in Paris then it really pays to check out what's on in Paris. It can be difficult to find out what's on in a foreign country, with different customs, and in a foreign language, but it really pays big dividends if you do. Some of our best times in Paris have come from keeping our eyes and ears open to special events.

Seeing Hugh Masekala at the Paris Jazz Festival in 2013

Walking up the Tour Saint Jacques (the first time it had been open to the public in 500 years)

Learning how Gerard Mulot makes his macarons

Partying with the locals at the Bal des Pompiers

There are many exhibitions on in Paris at any time, and there is bound to be something that takes your fancy, like last years Haute Couture exhibition at the Hotel de Ville.

There are many places to look for information before you go to Paris. Some things will be in French but don't let that deter you too much, you can often work out enough particularly if there's pictures, and google translate can help tremendously. A basic knowledge of days of the week is helpful.

At the Paris city website click on the Que Faire a Paris? button.

TimeOut Paris is a great resource in English. You can follow them on Facebook. They do a weekly what's on in Paris this weekend post that will then pop up on your timeline.

Evous France is another fantastic resource. They will send you a free email each week (in French) about what's happening now and what's coming up in Paris. To subscribe go here, scroll down a bit, until you see a box on the right "Inscrivez-vous ici pour recevoir gratuitement notre lettre d'information sur Paris." Add your email address to the box and sit back and wait. 

Of course there are lots of fabulous Paris blogs you can turn to for inspiration. Everyone has their favourites.

The utterly delightful Carol at Parisbreakfasts is out and about in Paris every day, finding new treasures to visit, and delicious things to eat it must be said. There are always new pearls to be learned from every post. Just today while reading about vanilla ice-cream I learnt that Le Gateau et du Pain is now open on Rue du Bac! They weren't there last year….

The equally lovely Genie at Paris and Beyond publishes a beautiful Paris photo every day and I've followed in her footsteps many times. I visited Chapelle St Vincent de Paul after seeing it first in her pictures.

And blog events like Paris in July or Paulita's weekly Dreaming of France bring Francophiles together to exchange information and voice our passion.

Once you've arrived in Paris keep your eyes peeled on the Metro. There are lots of posters everywhere- on the platforms, in the passages, on the trains, for special events and places of interest.

The Palais Garnier is truly a Paris highlight
I've been quite a few times and will go again- it's magnificent

There are free weekly newspapers at the Metro stations, in French obviously, but if you see something you can always google it in English if you don't understand enough of it in French. 

If you feel brave enough to navigate the local newsagent/presse kioske then you can buy Pariscope each Wednesdaywith lots of information for the upcoming week, including movie listings- I haven't ever braved seeing a movie in Paris. Yet. (But now I understand the VO/VF classification I may brave it sometime).

A bargain at 50 cents
There are many posters out and about on the streets too.

We went to a Gospel Dream concert in 2010
It was sensational, I'd love to go again.

I walked past this poster so many times
that I ended up going

So check out what's coming up for your Paris holiday. There's always more to find and do. I'd love to go to some bookish events in Paris one time- Shakespeare and Company run events in English,  as does the American Library in Paris.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Tour de France on the Rue de Rivoli

The Tour de France will wrap up for another year tomorrow. This time last year I was in Paris and decided to head in to catch the very final moments. It was a spur of the moment decision really. I hadn't been planning to go, but in the end I couldn't stay away.

It was one of our final days in Paris, and had been rather packed already. In the morning we'd ventured over to the Marais on a pilgrimage to Blé Sucré to try their famous madelaines, visited the Marche Bastille, and walked through Place des Vosges again. Then we went out to Parc Floral to see the legendary Hugh Masekala play at the Paris Jazz Festival. Home for dinner and our vanilla challenge.

Oh my- beauties from Hugo and Victor, Patisseries des Reves
and Pierre Herme.

Sitting about after dinner we could hear the helicopters circling, and I was drawn like a moth to the action. There were lots of street closures of course making traversing the city difficult even for pedestrians so I took the Metro over the river, and took up a position on the Rue de Rivoli.

The surrounding streets were eerily empty
The atmosphere on the Rue de Rivoli was electric. There were many English fans there to see Chris Froome win for Team Sky.

Beaucoup des gendarmes of course.

But everyone was well behaved. Despite all the beer being sold from wheelie bins.

Le Maillot Jaune!
Why the leader wears yellow.
The final stage is always processional allowing the winner to rejoice in the moment. The riders do quite a few laps of central Paris.

picture source

Still they really do fly by
On the ground you can tell where the riders are by the circling helicopters

It was over all too soon! But I was there for the final moments of the 100th tour. And I got to walk home in the Paris twilight. Which is always a good thing.

Not fully up with Le Tour de France? Pas de problem! There are plenty of online resources to get you up to speed quickly. An interactive guide from The Age. Or Tour de France 101 from SBS (our Australian TDF broadcaster). It's an always fascinating spectacle. And a bike race seems to happen too.

A cute animation explanation

Friday 25 July 2014

Favourite Toddler Paris Reads

I was excited recently to see yet another list of favourite books about Paris, especially as this is a list of favourite reads for a pair of Channel-crossing toddlers. I've never been jealous of toddlers before, but have managed it now. They have good taste these toddlers.

A Lion in Paris - Beatrice Alemagna

I really need to find this one

This is Paris - Miroslav Sasek

Oops - Jean-Luc Fromental, Joëlle Jolivet (illustrator) (see my review)

Mr Chicken Goes to Paris - Leigh Hobbs (see my review)

Minette's Feast - Susanna Reich, Amy Bates (illustrator)

I should make my own Paris list one day.

Books on France, a great 2014 challenge
 from Emma at 
Words and Peace

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Inside Out & Back Again

I thought that Inside Out & Back Again was a book I'd never heard of when I plucked it off the shelf at my library. I was browsing the shelves and lured by something about the green spine and the font. I picked it up, noticed the Newbery Honor Book sticker, and wondered that I hadn't heard of it. I flipped through and realised that it was a verse novel. An then faint bells started ringing, and I thought of a different cover. 

And I knew that I had heard of it, a bit, but a while ago- it was a Newbery Honour Book back in 2012. Before this year the verse novel form would have put me off, but now that Steven Herrick is teaching me to read and enjoy verse novels I was less put off, and was even  intrigued enough to bring it home and read it.

Inside Out & Back Again is a rather autobiographical novel about a young girls journey from Saigon to Alabama after the fall of Saigon in 1975. It tells the story of ten year old Hà, who has grown up in Saigon with her family- her mother and three brothers living a simple life. Hà's mother works two jobs to support the family since her husband disappeared nearly a decade earlier.

Father left home
on a navy mission
on this day
nine years ago
when I was almost one. 

He was captured
on Route 1
an hours south of the city
by moped.

They live a simple, traditional life in Saigon, until they are forced to flee Vietnam by political circumstance. The family then spend a harrowing three weeks at sea before arriving at Guam, and transferred to America. There are interesting perspectives on migrant experience- learning a new language, fitting in, the shock of a new culture.

 Thanhha Lai dedicates her book

To the millions of refugees in the world, may you each find a home. 

She writes an interesting Author Note at the end of the book.

Aside from remembering facts, I worked hard to capture Hà's emotional life. What was it like to live where bombs exploded every night yet where sweet snacks popped up at every corner? What was it  like to sit on a ship heading toward hope? What was it like to go from knowing you're smart to feeling dumb all the time?

Thanhha Lai achieves this emotional perspective quite well. I was moved, both saddened, and made to smile by her story. I'm not sure why this book needed a verse novel perspective, but then I am only a novice for this story form.

Monday 21 July 2014

A Family in Paris

I was very relieved to finally finish this book recently. Not that I didn't enjoy it, quite the opposite in fact, but it just spent too long on the bedside table. I was reading snippets of it between other more pressing reads, and that was ok, but it didn't quite give A Family in Paris it's due. And then I let the review slip away for months- it was like rereading to pick it up again.

A Family in Paris is partly a diary of an Australian family moving to Paris, a memoir of their six and a half years there, but it is much more, it is also a travel guide with wonderful suggestions of thing to do, see and eat in Paris. 

The Paech family moved to Paris in the late 90s. An Australian family, they had been living in New York when the opportunity rose to move to Paris- who could resist? There are many difficulties along the way- the famous French bureaucracy of course

 Bureaucracy is the art of making the possible impossible- Javier Pascal Salcedo

marathon trips to IKEA, French washing machines that take more than 2 hours for a cycle (I've never understood this, our clothes are perfectly clean with a 30 minute cycle, how do the French ever manage to leave the house at all?), the problems of trying to make pavlova overseas without access to cornflour.

Jane and her husband moved their with three young daughters, so they navigate the French school system as well, which makes for particularly captivating reading. The French system, their approach, is so different to what we are used to in the English speaking world. "The typical French primary school, where providing a holistic education that meets individual learning and developmental needs in a nurturing environment is not the priority. Rather the exceptionally disciplined and rigorous education system is singularly focused on churning out intellectuals."

In return for long and arduous school days (including Saturday morning) French children are given Wednesday off.

Six and a half years in Paris gives you a wealth of insider knowledge and Jane is happy to share this with us.
What's unique and remarkable about Paris is that so many elements of life are raised to an art form. If the French do something, they do it properly and perfectly, with enormous attention to aesthetics. Style is infused into every intricate detail, even down to the eye-pleasing, patterned air vents on the outside of buildings. 
Whenever a recipe calls for water, replace it with wine and always add cream before serving. 
Small amounts of wine or Champagne are offered on special occasions from around the age of ten so that, slowly, children are able to from an appreciation and respect of alcohol, and develop healthy habits. 

Jane attends a scarf tying workshop, but feels like a fumbling four year old rather than a stylish Parisienne. I'd love to go to a scarf tying workshop, it would be such fun, and I would learn the art of Intricate Scarf Tying too. I haven't found one yet. 

Girls will have been dabbed behind the ears with good French perfume as a baby and learn from an early age when to extend a handshake or offer a cheek. Generally, French children have impeccable manners in public, are respectful, keep conversations low, and can sit perfectly still for hours in restaurants without any sign of petulant behaviour. 

Jane has a passion for small Paris Museums, just like I do. She lists some and extolls the virtues of them. 

Hidden in historic mansions and secluded in greenery, the countless small museums of Paris offer a refreshing alternative to the long lines at the Louvre. Their manageable size means they can be enjoyed in the space of an hour or two, creating a delightful diversion in a busy day. Intirguing and intimate, they range in style from classic to quirky to downright eccentric. As well as museums devoted to fashion, art and history, there are museums dedicated to Edith Piaf and Baccarat china, a fan museum, a museum of money, and even a post office museum. 

I heartily agree. I've been to some of these museums- Musee Maillol, Musee de l'Assistance Publique- Hopitaux de Paris, Musee Rodin, Musee Victor Hugo and Le Petit Palais- and thoroughly enjoyed all of them and plan to go to many more. Actually I've been to others and need to share them- they're all extraordinary Paris experiences. 

There are many other random, fun 
details, such as a French nursery rhyme learnt at piano lessons, J'ai due Bon Tabac (I have some good tobacco, which does appear to start I have some good tobacco, but you can't have any),  and that cats have seven lives in France!

Incredible to think that February in Paris may be an abyss. But I have experienced that in the long, long Canadian winter. I would love to experience the rhythms of the French year sometime. 

And yet the longer I live here, the more I find that the frustrating side of French life and the city's sharp angles are adequately compensated for by the allure of the capital and its mysterious power of seduction. Exasperating and exhilarating in equal measures, it is never dull. 

Jane Paech has just recently released another Paris book, Delicious Days in Paris. She blogs at knifeandforkintheroad, and has written about how A Family in Paris came to be here

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog

Books on France, a great 2014 challenge
 from Emma at 
Words and Peace

Saturday 19 July 2014

Marché biologique Raspail

Any trip to a Paris market is special, sometimes you find one by accident walking about, sometime you need to plan to find one. Either way they're worth seeking out. There are books to help you or online guides.

Last year we stayed on Rue de Sevres, and so the famous, and gorgeous Marche Raspail was just up the road. Held three days a week, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. We made it for the Sunday market which is an organic market.

It can look a bit haphazard from the outside
But step inside into a world of wonder

These were lovely on a slightly cool morning

Gently warming my delicious pumpkin tart
while cooking our onion and potato galettes
Parisian dogs like going to the marche too
Biodynamic wines/vins en biodynamie
which remain unsampled sadly

The cheeses of course were sensational,
sadly my cheese photos weren't 


Important to teach the youngsters how to be stylish
and properly turned out.
Delicious figs to go

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme
 now hosted by