And then we had Paris…

Having been confined to these shores for so long I realised that although I longed to ‘cross the Channel’ I was also afraid of ‘spreading my wings’.

When my daughter said she had Eurostar vouchers and invited me to join her, I was thrilled – but could I do it? I hadn’t had Covid, I did have my booster – my worry was just filling in all the forms for Covid and trying to organise them on my phone. She knew what to do and ‘voilà’ – I’m sitting at a table on the Eurostar, waiting for take off! Coffee arrives, followed by lunch with a glass of wine and suddenly, we burst out of the tunnel into another country. Unbelievable!

On the Eurostar to Paris
We are in France!

I had always wanted to stay at the ‘Hotel des Grandes Ecoles’ – but it was always full. This time there was a chance, probably due to Covid and we were soon installed in ‘The Garden Room’. The hotel lies behind a massive door to the street. A cobbled road inside leads to the old fashioned hotel and garden.

Paris – Hotel des Grandes Ecoles
Paris -The Garden Room

One of my favourite places in Paris is the Ile St. Louis. Fifteen minutes walk downhill from our hotel, it’s now bathed in the golden light of late afternoon.

Ile St. Louis – late afternoon

A favourite café, the ‘St. Régis’, is at one end. Very French, untouristy. Just the place to immerse ourselves for a while and enjoy the surroundings.

Paris – Café St. Régis
Paris – Café St. Régis

As we left, the sun was leaving too and the lights of the city were appearing. The bridge by the café seemed to be closed to traffic. There was a man sitting at a piano in the middle of the road, playing music which brought tears to my eyes. We stood there transfixed, along with others, including children and I could only believe that Paris had put on this show especially for us! We made a recording on the phone which I wish I could include here. It was just a very special moment and I was so happy to be here.

Paris – a one man concert in the middle of the road …

I looked around as we made our way to dinner and could hardly believe the Van Gogh sunset scene. ‘ Incroyable’!

Paris – Van Gogh sunset

We’d seen a restaurant – L’Ilôt Vache – on a corner as we came down to the Ile St. Louis and liked the look of it, so we retraced our steps. It was just opening for the evening, with a very tall, handsome man in charge. It turned out we’d made a great choice. ‘Confit de canard’ with ‘pommes de terre rôties’, followed by ‘crême brulée’ and ‘tarte aux pommes’. And a rich, red wine.

Confit de canard avec pommes de terre rôties
Paris – L’Ilôt Vache – crême brulée
Paris – L’Ilôt Vache – tarte aux pommes

Breakfast at the hotel was delicious too. Lace ‘doilies’ grace the old, round wooden tables and the waitresses are buzzily welcoming, asking how we would like our eggs done – nothing is too much trouble for them and hot coffee is on hand.

There are two middle aged men at another table with roguish eyes, a family with small, sticky fingered children, a lone dowager dressed in black, wearing a hat – the dining room is full. A monstrously furry cat explores silently under the tables.

We have tickets for an exhibition of Vivien Maier’s photography at the ‘musée’ in the Luxembourg Gardens. The sun is shining. We make an early start, walking past the Panthéon on our way.

It’s so good to get to places early and the Gardens looked wonderful, even though it’s the beginning of November.

Paris – The Luxembourg Gardens – November 2021
Paris – The Luxembourg Gardens – November 2021
Paris – The Luxembourg Gardens – November 2021

The weather is mild but it is Autumn and the trees are losing their leaves.

Vivian Maier, born in 1926, made her living as a nanny, mainly in New York, but her work as an amazing street photographer came to light when some forgotten storage lockers were found to contain over 100,000 photographs of ‘street life’ she had taken over many years.

A film called ‘Finding Vivian Maier’, has been made by John Maloof, the man who found these photos and Charlie Siskel. The exhibition we were going to see in the Luxembourg Gardens contained some of these.

The exhibition was fascinating and the way the photographs came to light after decades in a lock-up is astonishing. I bought some postcards and took a few photos but cannot for copyright reasons show them here. Looking up Vivian Maier’s life and work is really worth doing. Watch the film!

By this time we were thinking about a bite to eat and I really wanted to see if we could get into ‘Le Fumoir’, a restaurant opposite Le Tour St. Jacques by the Louvre. We had no reservation but were lucky. There’s a room which contains a small library at the far end but that was full. However, we sat under this painting and had ‘une assiette’, which satisfied our hunger. Much recommended.

Paris – at ‘Le Fumoir’

We hadn’t had much time to look at the shops and decided to walk along the Seine, enjoy the river views and maybe come upon some small boutiques and galleries. It was interesting to see that many seemed to have survived ‘lockdown’.

Paris – clothes
Paris – pumpkins and bouquets
Paris – cheese and wines …
Paris – sweetmeats

We passed by one of the celebrated landmarks of Paris – ‘Les Deux Magots’. I couldn’t help being ‘touristy’ and took a photo.

“Les Deux Magots’ – spot the twins!

Paris is always awash with small, quirky galleries. Time was precious, so leaving the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay for next time (!) we trawled through unknown streets, searching for windows catching our eye en route. It was probably lucky for my purse that some galleries were closed and we could only manage ‘lèche-vitrines’. Nonetheless, a little frustrating!

Paris – ultra chic
Paris – let me in!
Paris – mystère
Paris – ‘bonjour tristesse’ – grâce a Françoise Sagan …
Paris – yes, please …
Paris – ‘rouge et noir’
Paris – birds by Pylones

I’m not on Twitter but these enchanting birds ‘tweet’ when you pick them up. Fun presents for children …

All good things come to an end and our last evening is here already. And while our passenger locator forms are being processed by the lovely lady in reception, she recommends ‘Café Delmas’ – a restaurant just minutes away in ‘Place de la Contrescarpe’, where we are made very welcome.

It’s always a worry after Brexit but I think speaking French helps – we were treated with warmth and kindness everywhere. ‘Bonne nuit’ et ‘beaux rêves’ …

Time to return to ‘Le Gare du Nord’. It’s been a real treat but now the door closes on our little sortie to ‘the City of Light’. I hope we’ll be back soon …

Paris – ‘Au Revoir

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