Day return to Paris

My friend David is a whizz at finding good travel deals.  Who wouldn’t jump at the chance of a £39 return on the Eurostar? Bon, j’ai sauté à l’occasion…

Getting up in the dark and cold is never the best thing but as soon as I was at St. Pancras International I could feel the joy of travelling abroad welling up and coursing through my veins.  Added to that, I was in seat 61, which seemed a very good omen.  (see the book ‘The Man in Seat 61″ – A guide to taking the train through Europe, by Mark Smith).

David bought me a reviving cup of coffee while I looked at my Paris map and studied  ‘Café Life in Paris’  – an illustrated guide book by Christine and Dennis Graf, published by Chastleton Travel – (www.arrisbooks.com). Much recommended if you are a flâneur.

Eurostar - travelling at over 300 km an hour ... the pylon bats her eyelids!

Eurostar – travelling at over 300 km an hour … Mademoiselle Pylône bats her eyelids!

Speeding by trees full of mistletoe - 'gui' in French

Speeding by trees full of mistletoe – ‘gui’ in French

Arrival at Gare du Nord is on time. We make our way by metro to the ‘Place des Vosges’.  It has good memories for me.  We once rented an apartment above a ‘boulangerie’ nearby on the Rue de Turenne. We awoke in the mornings to the delicious smell of warm croissants wafting up the spiral staircase.

The ‘Place des Vosges’ is geometrically beautiful  – there is something of ‘the golden mean’ to it. It is peaceful, yet at the centre of things.

La Place des Vosges - 17 November 2016

‘Place des Vosges’ – 17 November 2016

Lion guarding fountain - Place des Vosges

Lion guarding fountain – ‘Place des Vosges’

We walked towards the fountain, passing by a group of young people twittering happily together, like a flock of companionable birds.  Then we came upon an ancient couple, very much at home in a familiar place,  enjoying their midday constitutional.

Denizens of the Place des Vosges, Paris

Denizens of the ‘Place des Vosges’, Paris

For all that I rail against the misfortunes of old age, this old couple really warmed my heart.

Paris retains a special elegance.

Rue du Pavée, near Place des Vosges

Rue Pavée, near Place des Vosges

Paris - images of elegance partout

Paris – images of elegance

Lunchtime beckoned. We made our way down through the old area of St. Paul towards the Seine and the Ile Saint-Louis, managing not to get squashed by an enormous, growling cement lorry. There is a lot of building work going on everywhere – the same as in London.

At the point of no return ... ?

At the point of no return … ?

A gaggle of schoolchildren, headed by their teacher, were about to cross a busy road.  I noticed they were all hanging onto a communal rope, so none got left behind.

Linked in and crossing the road ...

Linked in for safety …  bonne idée!

We followed them, crossed the bridge and turned right into the ‘Rue en l’Ile Saint-Louis’, which is narrow, straight and absolutely charming.  Here are some examples  –  can you spot the mice?!

Walking across the bridge on our way to Ile St-Louis

Walking across the bridge on our way to Ile Saint-Louis

Paris - Rue St-louis En L'Ile

Paris – Rue Saint-Louis En L’Ile

Ile St-Louis - making our way to lunch ...

Ile St-Louis – making our way towards lunch

Here’s a close-up of the mice, just in case you didn’t spot them!

No, I don't know. Just a mystery ...

No, I don’t know. Just a mystery …?!

Passing by a small art gallery

Passing by a small art gallery

Ile St.Louis - La Cure Gourmande

Ile St-Louis – La Cure Gourmande

Ile Saint-Louis - petite boutique typique

Ile St-Louis – petite boutique typique…

Paris - toujours créatif, toujours original ...

Paris – toujours créatif, toujours original …

Do you remember that short film, ‘The Red Balloon’- ‘Le Ballon Rouge’? It was directed by Albert Lamorisse (1956) and is a classic.  It was filmed in the Ménilmontant neighbourhood of Paris, near  the Cimietière Pére-Lachaise  and is about a small boy who finds a red balloon that has a mind of its own and follows him wherever he goes  –  it is utterly charming.  Look it up in Wikipedia for more details.  This photo reminded me of red balloons!

Ile St-Louis - living here would be an ongoing temptation ...

Ile St-Louis – living here would be an ongoing temptation …

... and nearby is 'La Fromagerie'

… and nearby is ‘La Fromagerie’ …!

We were almost at our destination.  Saint Régis, a restaurant John and I found by chance a couple of years ago, when we were up early, walking along the river, looking for breakfast. I hoped it would stand up to the wonderful memory I had of it  –  it didn’t disappoint!

Lunch at the Saint Régis restaurant, Ile Saint-Louis

Lunch at the Saint Régis restaurant, Ile Saint-Louis

Marmite du poisson at the restaurant St. Régis, Paris

Marmite du poisson at the restaurant St. Régis, Paris

Leaving the Ile Saint-Louis

Leaving the Ile Saint-Louis

decisons, decisions ...

decisons, decisions …

Our decision was to make for Shakespeare & Company – the famously eccentric bookshop – which is right by the Rue de la Huchette on the Left Bank.  It’s good to see that it continues to thrive and has even slightly expanded, adding a café alongside.  If you buy a book here, you get a special stamp in it.

Still surviving - les bouquinistes by the Seine ...

Still surviving – les bouquinistes by the Seine …  on my first visit to Paris at age 17, I bought a rough edition of ‘Les Fables de La Fontaine’ in two volumes, which I still have somewhere …the pages had to be cut open …

I meant to snap this 2CV but this elderly gentleman hove into my photo at speed ...

I meant to snap the 2CV but this elderly gentleman hove into my photo at speed …

At Shakespeare & Company

At Shakespeare & Company

Keeping up appearances outside Shakespeare & Company - now with a café

Keeping up appearances outside Shakespeare & Company – now with a café alongside …

Next, we walked on along the Rue de la Huchette, passing gendarmes with guns at their belts, before plunging into the Latin Quarter, burrowing down through small streets and alley ways.

Making our way to St. Germain-des-Prés ...

Making our way to St. Germain-des-Prés …

My curiosity factor rises at every step, with each street containing a cornucopia of small boutiques, craftworks and galleries, glittering like small jewels. Sadly, there isn’t time to visit them all but that means another visit to Paris is a must.

Culture and arts - the choice is here

Culture and arts – illimitable choices …

What lies behind the blue door?

What lies behind the blue door?

St Germain - antiquités

St. Germain – antiquités

St Germain - sculpture and art

St. Germain – sculpture and art

St. Germain - design

St. Germain – design

We were approaching the celebrated triumverate of cafés on the Boulevard St. Germain.  ‘Les Deux Magots’, Café Flore and Brasserie Lipp.  Home to ‘flâneurs et philosophes’.  Nearby is a wonderful book and stationery shop and we spent some time foraging among the shelves.

At Café Flore

At Café Flore – a ‘flâneur’ is spotted …

Les chats sauvages rôdent le Boulevard St. Germain ...

Les chats sauvages rôdent le Boulevard St. Germain …

So we also prowled along Boulevard St. Germain.  I was searching for an old fashioned café, mentioned in my book. Le Café Rouquet.  No pretend retro here but real retro from the 1950s, with burled walnut formica tables.  It’s only a stone’s throw away from our celebrated three.

The café was fairly empty and we sat around the back by the cobalt blue daisies.  Two hot chocolates came to 11 euros so obviously there’s been a hike in the prices since ‘Café Life Paris’ was written.  But I did get an extraordinary photo which put everything into glorious perspective.  And I must add that the loos were modern and pristine clean 2016.  I’ll go back.

Le Rouquet, 188 blvd St-Germain, November 2016

Le Rouquet, 188 blvd St-Germain, November 2016

Time was running on. I had this plan to get to the Fragonard shop/musée du Parfum in Rue Scribe at Opéra.  Their soaps make lovely, fragrant presents – a joy to give and a joy to receive.  I don’t count David in on this last personal view but he accompanied me with good grace.

Fragonard, rue Scribe, Paris. A favourite.

Fragonard, rue Scribe, Paris. A favourite.

We spotted ‘Café de la Paix’  as we came out of the metro at Opéra.  John and I once had lunch there and the waiter ran after us as we were leaving, waving John’s camera aloft.  It had been left under the table.  I still think of this man with great affection.

Noses pressed to the glass - Café de la Paix, Opéra, Paris

Noses pressed to the glass – Café de la Paix, Opéra, Paris

Mission accomplished.  Rush hour was beginning and the metro was turning manic.  I have to say that although I am sometimes overwhelmed in London by the crowds nowadays, the tube is somewhat cleaner than the metro.  Everywhere here needs a good scrub and all those stairs need sweeping. But on the other hand, it works pretty well as a transport system.

Another favourite of mine is the restaurant, Terminus Nord, right opposite the station.  It’s a wonderful place to have a genuine French ‘repas’ before catching the Eurostar. The waiters in their long aprons –  serving you with that understated but totally professional ‘je ne sais quoi’, catering to your every whim, complimenting you on your choice, making you feel special …  I could go on but here’s what we had to eat! And we were even wished ‘bon voyage’ as we left for the Eurostar. Faultless!

Huitres at Terminus Nord - Paris

‘Huitres’

Escargots at Terminus Nord, Paris

‘Escargots’

A glimose of Terminus Nord, Paris

A glimpse of ‘Terminus Nord’ restaurant, Paris  –  very well worth a visit …

We cross the road to the Gare du Nord –  homeward bound.  A magical day in Paris all wrapped up …

Au revoir, Paris

Au revoir, Paris

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One Comment

  1. Gaia
    Posted 30 November 2016 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Poste fantastique! Huitres et escargots ftw xxx