Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Paris Bits

We were in Paris over the weekend and it was total bliss so I thought I should make a couple of notes. It would be very easy to let the long weekend blur into a single soft-focus impression of loveliness and I would like to capture some specifics for future reference.
  1. We booked the trip the week before the attacks and obviously our discomfort was the least bad repercussion of the tragedy. We were outsiders and we were only in town for a few days but it felt like the city was beginning to recover. The people directly affected will probably never recover and there will be many physical and psychic scars but Parisians were drinking in bars and restaurants and it felt like the atmosphere would have been notably more strained if we had visited even a weekend earlier. I think that a lot of tourists had cancelled trips and the city was quiet when the locals were at work but it was beautiful and we didn't feel uncomfortably tense.
  2. We stayed in a nice hotel by the Pantheon. Nice hotels are still rather alien to me. Historically I have stayed in hostels and shit holes and, more recently, I have stayed almost exclusively in Airbnb apartments. I like the feeling of living in a place and having access to a kitchen and personal space. For a number of reasons, though, a hotel was the right choice for this trip. We slept for many many hours in a clean, comfortable bed, there was a nice bath, check-in was totally stress-free and we could wander out the door and around the Left Bank. Email me if you need a hotel rec.
  3. Bistrot l'Estrapade: Blackboards, earthenware carafes, poached pears and chorizo in a warm sloop of Roquefort cream.
  4. Walking over the Pont de la Tournelle, admiring the flying buttresses of Notre Dame and making tired, happy, deeply silly jokes.
  5. Musée Picasso: The renovated museum opened last year and the museum is gorgeous. They've done a really lovely job on the building. Exhausted and sleepwalking through the exhibitions, though, I had to admit that I care for very little of Picasso's work.
  6. La Maison Plisson: This fancy deli is delightful and ridiculous in much the same way as Dean & DeLuca. The food sorts they sell are beautiful and exquisitely packaged but it is inconceivable that anyone would do any actual shopping here. I was in self-indulgent heaven browsing 15 difference €15 gourmet Nutellas (I didn't buy any) and an interesting aspect of this trip was acknowledging my tastes and weaknesses. I have types and preferences and they are admirable and despicable and quite thoroughly engrained.
  7. Le Bon Marché l'Arbre de Noël: My sister deserves all credit here. Le Bon Marché is a wonderful department store - perhaps the nicest I've ever been to? - but that is besides the point. Their Christmas tree/bauble area on the top floor is out of this world. I think it is fair to say that R and I LOST OUR SHIT. It was only through severe applications of common sense that we managed not to spend thousands of euros on hand-blown and hand-painted glass ridiculousness. Somehow I resisted Father-Christmas-riding-a-dolphin and scuba-diving-Father-Christmas and various flamingoes but the vegetables were too much. I nearly asphyxiated with joy. Our Christmas is going to look so fucking weird - I cannot wait. I don't know when I last felt a childlike joy so pure.
  8. Mamie Gâteaux: French-Japanese rustic kitsch, excellent goats' cheese and courgette tart, red wine with lunch having earned no such luxury.
  9. Musée de la Vie Romantique: Another success from my sister. This house in the 9th arrondissement is adorable, well preserved and containing a strange mixture of George Sand and romantic memorabilia. I'm not sure what I learnt but it is exactly what you might wish a Parisian museum to be.
  10. Sept Cinq: I don't know who taught the Parisians the term 'concept store' but it is being enthusiastically over-applied across the city. This is a nice shop in a Brooklyn hipster mode and Christmas presents were bought.
  11. Sleep is an underrated component city breaks. I suppose that this is easier to admit when visiting a city that you know moderately well and will, in all likelihood, visit again. City breaks are more fun when you're not on your feet all day trying to do or see everything.
  12. It can be bliss when someone makes a decision for you. You might have made a better decision for yourself but the not-making is a true gift. Note to self: be generous, make decisions for others. Note to note: Obviously read the room and don't override other people's choices, only assist the indecisive.
  13. Holybelly: Hate the name, love the food. Brunch options are scarce in Paris but this cafe comfortably meets Australian/London/New York/LA breakfast standards. I spent time on this trip worrying about globalisation and standardisation and the costs of everywhere becoming like everywhere else and I think those are valid concerns although I also think that they can impose unnecessary discomfort on others in the name of antiquated/aesthetic tastes... I don't know, there is no simple answer but good coffee and fried eggs with home-made hashbrowns, sausage patties and mixed beans shut my brain up for a while.
  14. Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is a very beautiful church.
  15. Wine bars and cured meat, saucisson, standing room only. Chez Nous is elegant but L'Avant Comptoir is chaotic fun. A bar loud enough to lean in to speak but quiet enough to hear, white tiles and the menu hanging from the ceiling, croquettes, always croquettes.


  1. Paris is so flipping magical, I'm dying to go back. Maybe spring 2016!

    1. You definitely should. And stop in to say hi on the way! xx