Monthly Archives: October 2016

Farewell, Paris

Au revoir, dear Paris.  We had a wonderful time in this beautiful city, but tomorrow morning we leave for home.  Sad to leave and looking forward to getting home-the best way to feel at the end of a trip.  I love the beauty and history here, but I have noticed a few changes since we were here three years ago.

It doesn’t seem as crowded.  I had read that tourism was down, and we certainly noticed fewer people on the streets.  There was a stronger police presence and increased security checks at public sites.  We got used to seeing young soldiers walking around with automatic rifles.  Although friendly before, staff at restaurants and shops seemed to make a stronger effort to be welcoming.

I got a Parisian cold, so our last day was a bit low key.  We walked around our arrondissement and enjoyed a final view of some lovely sites.


Beautiful apartments


Iconic outdoor cafes where the French will bundle up and sit outside even in cold weather.


Our street, Rue Cler


We sat outside and enjoyed a final cafe at our neighborhood bistro.


We enjoyed our final Paris dinner at 7 eme VIN, 68 Avenue Bosquet.  Recommended by a friend, it serves classic French cuisine. I finally tried escargots (snails).  Our waiter showed me how to get them out of their shells.  It was harder than it looked, but I got them out and they were delicious.


Here are some things I learned on this trip that may help my friends planning a trip to Paris.


I do a pretty good job of packing light, but bringing the right shoes – comfortable, stylish and multi-use – has always been a challenge.  Tennis shoes used to be a tourist dead-giveaway.  Now, it seems like at least half the people on the streets of Paris are wearing tennis shoes.  Even white shoes which used to be the biggest tourist no-no of all are on the feet of some of the stylish Parisians-as long as they are classic Adidas Stan Smith white leather.  Black leather is always a good choice and white soles are now quite stylish.

Paris seems a little more casual than it was when I was here three years ago.  I still see beautifully dressed women and men everywhere, but it feels a little more OK to be a bit less dressed up.


Eating great bread is one of the special treats of Paris.  Look for an artisanale boulangerie and order une baguette tradition which means that the bread was made on site in an established way with established ingredients. It really is the best bread.


Don’t be afraid to use your French, no matter how limited.  Often people smiled when I spoke French with them, and I always wondered how badly I had screwed up what I wanted to say.  But I feel like they appreciated my efforts, and it made the trip more fun to speak the language.  Paul expanded his French interactions from one word, merci, when we first arrived to at least ten French words he would comfortable attempt.  At first I felt badly when I would speak French and a French person would respond in English.  But a woman who has lived here for three years told me that is quite common when they hear an American accent.  And, truthfully, it often made things easier.

It’s been a wonderful seventeen days in the “City of Light”, and I know we will return soon.

The Largest Flea Market in the World

We took the No. 4 metro to the end of the line, Porte de Clignancourt, to visit the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen Market, the largest flea market in the world.


1,700 dealers spread over 750,000 square feet, this market is huge!  We got off the metro and followed the crowds.  I expected an antiques market, and it certainly had beautiful antiques.


It was so much more than an antiques market. When we first got to the market, we passed stalls of clothes, shoes, purses, and a lot of miscellaneous flea market stuff.


Then we got to the antiques section and saw stalls selling beautiful furniture, chandeliers, Louis Vuitton trunks and vintage designer clothes and jewelry.


A number of stalls sold antique books and papers.


Some of the items were definitely one-of-a-kind.


We even saw a stall selling shells.


We covered a lot of ground, but I am really not sure if we saw it all.  Then it was back to our neighborhood to pick up something for dinner and settle in for the night to watch the Ryder Cup.

Saxe-Breteul Market and Nuit Blanche

We started our day with a trip to the beautiful Saxe-Breteul market.  Of the many markets in Paris, this one is known as the most beautiful and one of the best.  Known for its organic and high quality foods, the market street has a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower.


There are a number of excellent fishmongers from Normandy and Brittany who come to this market, but one of them must be known as the best-the line for that stall was at least three times longer than at any other stall.

There were stalls of beautiful flowers


And produce


And breads


And olives


and wine.


I had read about a farmer at this market who specializes in apples and had an interesting conversation with her about which apples to buy.  When we got to some of the finer points of apple preferences, I struggled with my French.  She asked me if I wanted her to speak in English. We continued our conversation in English and she picked out the perfect apples for us – nouveau verger.


Nuit Blanche

We were so lucky to be in Paris for Nuit Blanche, a free, contemporary out-door art festival all over the city on the first Saturday in October.  It starts at seven in the evening and lasts to the early morning hours.  The metro stays open and offers free rides from 2:30-5:30 AM. I had read a little about it and a friend who used to live in Paris emailed me some information.  Many of the art activities were along the Seine, and a painted pink line guided everyone along the route .  The first installation we saw was a clock swinging from a crane along with an amplified ticking sound.


There were a number of large film screens set up.  One showed a documentary about painting and installing a large set backdrop for the Paris Opera.  At the end of the film about twenty men carried the completed set in a long roll on their shoulders from the workshop through the city to the Paris Opera and installed it.


At the end of another film from the Paris Opera on a different screen, twenty men left the audience and picked up a long roll like the backdrop in the earlier film and walked off with it on their shoulders.

After enjoying the art work along the Seine, we took the metro to the Hotel De Ville, the beautiful building housing the Paris city government, and saw an art installation of changing figures and faces on the windows of the building.


Nuit Blanche was such a fun event – I never knew what to expect or where it would be. Nuit Blanche means “white night” which is a sleepless night.  It wasn’t for us- we came back to our neighborhood long before the night was over.  The little Vietnamese restaurant on our street was closing but opened their doors for us.  We had an interesting conversation with the owners about how they felt about living in France. And to top of this great day, we went to a little dessert shop around the corner from us and I discovered a wonderful new way to eat crepes – with ice cream.