Sunday, 30 March 2014

Paris in the Spring

Happy Mother's Day lovelies! I do hope that you've had a marvellous day whatever you've been up to, spoiling your Mum or indeed if you are a Mum yourself being waited on hand and foot. For the last four years I haven't been able to be with my mum on Mother's Day because of my studies, which is sad because I do miss her terribly a lot of the time! But I always like to dispatch my gift way in advance and schedule a nice long chat on the day, which I am so looking forward to later on! It's time to start planning some girlie activities for when I'm back home at Easter and I can't wait.

Today's post was actually originally intended to be another street art appreciation kind of post. I'd been tipped off that the area around Ourcq Metro station has some crazy graffiti worth seeing so I headed off in that general direction to hunt it down, which I certainly did; however I also happened upon loads of beautiful flowers too which to be perfectly honest completely distracted me from the task in hand. The result of this was a very untidy photostream on my camera which was a total mishmash of graffiti and blossom, whoops! I'll show you the art soon I promise but today the flowers have won out for the very fact that they have just made me feel so Springlike (is that a word, Springlike?). Today I think it is far more fitting if I do a little Springtime in Paris post to celebrate everything getting a little bit sunnier, flowerier, and the evenings getting a little bit lighter!

My old housemate from Hong Kong regularly posts beautiful pictures of blossom like this and calls it 'Sakura'. It's meant to capture the essence of Spring in its entirety and symbolise beauty and new life.

Florists fling open their shop fronts and display their bunches. Florists that look just like this one can be found all over the city smell absolutely gorgeous.

I don't think that this post would quite be complete without an Eiffel Tower blossom pic, the definitive sign that Spring has Sprung in Paris!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Love Wall

I've got a lot of love for the Love Wall. This morning my boyfriend Jules and I decided to take a pre-uni and pre-work jaunt up to Montmartre to the Place des Abbesses, where the wall stands in a little green courtyard park. 

I'd spotted it for the first time by utter chance on Instagram a few weeks back, and thought it would be a lovely place to come together on a sunny morning just like this one. Our last trip together was at the weekend, when he took me on a tour around the Stade de France, which was flipping fantastic, complete with backstage and changing room access and coming out of the tunnel on to the pitch to music! Today it was my turn to choose though, so I picked a much more girly option. 

Conceived by artists Frederic Baron and Claire Kito, 'Le Mur des Je t'aime' is made up of 612 squares of enamelled lava and covers a surface area of 40 metres squared. The wall features the words 'I love you' 311 times in 250 different languages. 

It's pretty, it's located in relaxing surroundings, and it's a beautiful monument to love (in the city of love). It's one stop North of Pigalle Metro station (where the Moulin Rouge is at) yet the style of the Place des Abbesses could not be more different. If you are in the area you must take a little trip up here - it's a little oasis of calm in a nook of old-school Montmartre.

We arrived just at the right time before an army of school children descended upon us, flocking around the wall with clipboards and and coloured pencils, so at this point we decided to retreat for brunch. 

If you've heard of the Love Wall and haven't already been, I hope you have factored it in to your itinerary for your next Parisian break. And if you hadn't heard of it I'm very happy to have been the one to point it out to you! 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dans le Jardin

Paris has some rather lovely gardens. These little pockets of green offer the people of the city a moment's breather from busy city life and are the perfect place to come on your lunch break to sit in the shade and unwind with fellow Parisians.

A couple of people have asked me on Instagram whether I'm here for work or if I go to uni here. I think I might have mentioned it before, but for those who don't know I'm a student here. It's a lot of work and heaps of reading but I'm lucky enough to be based at a University which is just around the corner from the Jardin du Luxembourg. It's perfect for a picnic and to come and relax before or after a seminar.

Let me show you around.

These fellas have a boules tournament and are always playing matches whenever I pass. It's fun to stand and watch.

Lots of people just come with a book to escape it all.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Darker Side of Paris - Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Yesterday I took myself off to the East of Paris to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, known in English as the Père Lachaise Cemetery. Located in the 20th arrondissement, it's not the most glamorous of areas but it draws in visitors from every continent as the home of Pere, the biggest cemetery in the city of Paris, and many say it is the most visited cemetery in the entire world.

I arrived shorty after lunchtime with no specific plan or route in mind. I knew very well that Oscar Wilde was buried here, but I had no idea of the scale of the place before I arrived or the fact that so many other prolific figures are buried here. It's a sort of morbid French Hollywood Walk of Fame, as the resting place of many artists, writers and politicians. I really had no idea who specifically. I just decided to see what I could see, wander and enjoy the flowers and the near perfect weather.

There is a map telling you where different people's graves are located, and many people make a beeline for the most famous graves are. I read down the list, and it really is quite an impressive roster: Gertrude Stein is buried here, painter Camille Pissarro, rock star Jim Morrison, composer Frederic Chopin, artist Max Ernst, and lots more names I recognised from the names of Metro stations. According to the Wikipedia page the exclusivity of the cemetery means that nowadays it's very difficult indeed to get in to Père Lachaise and that waiting lists are extremely long. Some graves are allocated on a 10-30 year lease and to save space numerous members of the same family are laid in the same tomb. 

There were lots of people milling around, groups of people on coach trips, couples, friends and other people like me who had come alone to be thoughtful and retreat for a moment. Far from being a scary or eerie place, it's very calm here and a place where many people come to find peace and escape the bustle of  inner city Paris. 

It was very humbling to see people tending to the graves, watering the plants and laying fresh flowers. Most of the helpers were a lot older than I would have expected, some not much younger than my own Grandma, all working very hard.

After a while I decided to go and look for Oscar, and as I expected it was by far the busiest grave of them all. On approach there was a group of people circling the grave, and I quietly joined the group taking photos and just looking. No one was saying a word, everyone was just paying their respects and it was a lovely moment to be a part of. The grave itself was not what I was expecting at all.

It's very modern, and the face of the flying statue is covered with lipstick kisses.

I came away feeling very calm and as I left I walked right past the crematorium where there was a funeral going on. I will be back before too long to visit the graves I didn't manage to find but I'm glad I came on such a lovely sunny day. It's amazing how a bit of sun makes everything look brighter. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A Visitor in Paris - Day 2

Sunday started a little differently than the day before, but the amazing weather was much the same. This handsome fella had the right idea having a nice snooze in the shade.

With another busy day of shopping ahead of us, Mum and I shared a cafetiere of coffee and fresh fruit juice at my flat, but instead of getting breakfast from the boulangerie we headed down to the Marais for brunch - fallafels at L'as Du Fallafel! Mum had never tried them before, or at least she couldn't remember whether she had or not, and after hearing me rave about them since I arrived in Paris she decided she'd like to try them for herself. There's no better place to get your fallafel fix than the Rue des Rosiers in the Jewish Quarter. It's such a cute little pedestrian street, and once we'd queued for about 5 minutes we took ourselves off to sit in a doorway with our pitas and get stuck in. You should expect a bit of a queue when you go to L'as Du, especially on a Sunday, but it goes down very quickly, so don't let it put you off - the fallafel is to die for. The portions are huge so we made sure we were good and hungry, and we both managed to polish off the lot. I was confident that Mum would enjoy it, and luckily she said she wasn't disappointed!

After fuelling up we were ready to get back to business, wandering around the shops and studios in the sunshine. 

Sampling different teas in a posh tea shop. 

This reminded us how thirsty we were, so we took a break to have cocktails and beers at a brasserie. Shopping is extremely thirsty work!

We finished off the shops in the Marais area and took advantage of the free Metro rides over the weekend to do some sight seeing at the Pantheon. Neither of us had been here before, and it was a very impressive building but just like the Arc, it's having building work done on the roof at the moment, they must have known I was coming! But it was on my list of things to do, and it was lovely to stroll around it in the sun. 

You can't get a sky much bluer than that.

The square in front of the Pantheon is pristine and very peaceful, and you can see the Eifffel Tower peeping up in the distance. 

For our grand finale we hopped back on the Metro and headed for the Champs-Élysées, destination Ladurée. Every time I walk up the Champs I wander past this bakery with my eyes positively bulging out of my head. I've heard so much about their amazing goodies and I've seen the evidence on Instagram and other blogs. I've always wanted to go in and see for myself and maybe even buy something, but I never have... Until now!

The outside of Ladurée is a gorgeous mint green colour, with gold trims on everything. It's beautiful. 

There was a small queue outside the shop so we got in line - behind golden roped crowd control barriers. We hadn't even made it through the door and Ladurée was already living up to its reputation as the poshest bakery in the world. We watched customer after customer coming out with big grins and holding beautiful Ladurée bags, and after a short while we were at the front of the queue. 

A smartly dressed lady ushered us forward, and we were in! To join the queue inside...

We eventually made it to the front of this queue which gave us plenty of time to see what was on offer. Tray after tray of the most delicious French pastries and chocolates were laid out, but I really only had eyes for the macaroons. We decided to get two boxes of 6 macaroons, one for Mum to take home for the family, and one for us! The hardest bit by far was deciding on what flavours to choose; Ladurée have their classic year-round macaroon flavours but they also have seasonal ones, and they all look gorgeous, so picking is no easy task.

I managed in the end though, and left the shop a very happy girl indeed.

We found a bench and couldn't wait to open up our treats.

The prettiest box of macaroons I've ever seen. 

Sitting in the sunshine on the Champs-Élysées with my wonderful Mum eating macaroons from Ladurée, you just can't top that!

The macaroons really are as good as people say, and the way they are presented make them all the more special. Happy and weary we made our way home; Mum even let me hold the bag the whole way home."

We spruced ourselves up and headed out for our last and possibly best cocktail-filled Happy Hour of the trip, and met up with my boyfriend Julian for a gorgeous meal at Cafe du Marche des Enfants Rouges. 

I couldn't have asked for a better weekend in Paris with my Mum. She's back at work now and I've come back to earth with a bump with uni work, but I still have one Ladurée macaroon left. It's a praline one which is one of my absolute favourites, so later as a treat I'm making myself a cafetiere and having my mac, just as it should be done. Thanks for an absolutely amazing weekend Mum! 

Monday, 17 March 2014

A Visitor in Paris - Day 1

When I last signed off I was just on my way to pick up my Mum from the Gare du Nord to welcome her back to Paris. It hasn't felt like two minutes since I was saying goodbye to both my parents just over a week ago, and I've been counting down the time until I got her back - I could not wait to have her with me for a girly weekend in the city! 

I love to plan things to do so I have things to look forward to, so I made a little itinerary for us which went along the lines of shop, eat, shop, drink, shop, shop, sight-see, drink, museum(?), shop. I love spending time with my Mum but because we don't live very near to each other and because we're both busy most of the time we don't get masses of opportunities to get together for a girls' session. I suppose it makes it all the more special when we do have some time together, and where else is better for shopping and good food than Paris?! 

She arrived late afternoon, just in time for the start of Happy Hour! So Friday evening was spent moseying around the Canal, checking out the vintage shops, peering in to artists workshops windows and generally having a good ol' catch up.
After taking advantage of the Happy Hour specials, we wandered along for a while before having a fabulous meal at Cafe Creme - a true burgerfest for the both of us, with an entire plateful of chips each. We still found room for pudding though and ordered one slice of chocolate torte and one slice of pear and almond tarte to split so we could try both. We definitely got our money's worth at Creme - the slices were ginormous and both came with a generous swirl of fresh cream. The torte was gorgeous but we both agreed that the pear tarte was the star of the show, and if you ever find yourself in Cafe Creme (in the Republique area) you must try it, you will not be disappointed! I did take photos of the food and planned on showing you as I normally do, but we were dining al fresco and the outside lighting made everything look rather yellowish so I decided to leave them out, but I assure you it all looked scrumptious.

We had a very leisurely Saturday morning brunch at my flat, nipping to the local bakery to pick up pastries and a few tasty treats for later. 

J'adore le almond croissant!

Fuelled up we were ready to hit the shops in the Marais. I have been waiting for a chance to debut my floppy black hat which my big brother bought me for starting my new degree, and I think this shopping sesh and fantastic weather was the perfect opportunity! It's so so very French and I absolutely love it.

Most of the day was spent dipping in and out of patisseries and pretty shops which me and my Mum call 'twiddly bits' shops. There's no other way to describe this kind of shop, they sell bunting, jewellery, stationery, cushions and are generally really pretty, and we could have bought a heck of a lot more than we did! 

Lunchtime rolled around and we headed to Camille to recharge our batteries and have a light bite. The best thing about this restaurant was the location; there are plenty of tables outside because it's a little sun-trap and it's potential for people-watching is great. The food was good but pricey, but the service here was bad. Like, really bad. We waited ages and had to ask the waiters three or four times for things they had forgotten. 

But the chocolat-chaud was really really very good though. And the company was pretty great.

A little while longer in the Marais and a quick foray to Montmarte later, and we decided we were ready to check out the Galeries Lafayette. I was excited to see the big name brands and marvel at the expsiveness of everything, but most of all I was excited to see the roof.

It's really beautiful. I'm really glad I've been to the Galeries but on a Saturday evening it was just far too busy for us. We took the escalator to the top and looked down on to this.

Stunning. But too many people for my liking. We snapped a few photos to get in some good photography practice. After not too long we decided to call it a day and headed back to my flat via the supermarket for an evening of cheese and wine and Philomena. It's such a lovely film, so if you haven't already seen it you must, but have a tissue up your sleeve just in case. You can't go wrong with a bit of Judi Dench in my opinion. An for pudding we had our treats that we saved from the boulangerie. 

Heavenly. The perfect end to my ultimate girls' day in Paris. I can't wait to show you what we got up to on day 2!