Friday, November 29, 2013


Métro: Solférino (line 12)
Address: 258, boulevard Saint Germain, 75007 Paris
Hours:  7:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday-Friday
             7:30 am to 7/30 pm Saturday
             Closed on Sunday
Cost: 3 to 5 euros for a pastry

When I stepped in this bakery-pastry shop, I just didn't know where to look at, there's so much choice. I usually like to try something unique or different but I was hypnotized by this gorgeous vanilla éclair. I am usually disappointed by vanilla éclairs. It's a classic but a hard one to sublimate. So when I took a bite out of this one I was pleasantly surprised by its finesse. You can really taste the vanilla and the custard cream is light and divine. Really well done. I should try the bread next time especially the olive bread. The plus, it's steps away from the Musée d'Orsay so you can burn the calories easily!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Père Lachaise

Métro: Père Lachaise (line 2 or 3)
Access:8, boulevard de Ménilmontant 75020 Paris
            16, rue du Repos, 75020 Paris
Hours:everyday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm (varies according to the season check web for details)
Cost: Free

"Wanna go to the cemetery for our date?" My first reaction is "Huh???"
Being a French native, I've seen plenty of them and they are spooky, creepy and plain sad; so far from the beautiful cemeteries of the US or England. So no, I don't want to go to a cemetery for our date when we're living in the city of love.
But my hubby has a lot of charming arguments and some logical ones too like for instance: "It would be a good blog entry" or "You've never been there? Really?"

***Big Sigh***

Off we went to Père Lachaise, one of the most famous cemeteries of France. I have to say that I was wrong. It is not a spooky place. Quite far from it, it is really peaceful. It's a small village inside of a big city. We should rename it "Cool Deads". It would go like:

Someone 1: "Where can I find Chopin?"
Someone 2: "Don't you know he resides in Cool Deads?"

Okay it's pushing it a little. It's not a happy retirees community but for a cemetery. However, it's a really awesome place.

Of course, it's free. It's a cemetery after all but you will find people selling maps at the entrance. It costs about 1-2 euros but you can actually get a free one at the guardian houses. Personally, we bought one because we did not know better. You will need to be well prepared if you want to check out some of the famous graves because, Père Lachaise is a a maze. It's a gigantic. The website is really well done and it's a lot more friendly using that a regular map.

Père Lachaise is placed on one of the 7 hills of Paris. It was inhabited as soon as the Middle Ages by clergymen. In 1430, it was bought by a rich merchant who constructed a lavish mansion there. It was then acquired 2 centuries later by Jesuits. It was used for convalescence or rest of the bourgeoisie and royalty. But it takes its name after François d'Aix de La Chaise (1624-1709) aka Father La Chaise who was the confessor of Louis XIV. Through the years, it went through a few landlords to be finally abandoned.

In 1765, a law is passed under Napoléon Bonaparte (then a consul) to ban cemeteries in Paris for sanitary reasons and to move them to the outskirts of the city. The law also stipulated than criminals, excommunicated souls, comedians and poor ones had the right of being buried: a first in Paris. It was then decided to acquire the property of Père Lachaise to create a cemetery.

The problem was that it wasn't favoured by Parisians who thought that it was a poor and immoral neighborhood. In 1817, the mayor of Paris decides to transfer the remains of Molière, La Fontaine and Héloïse and Abélard to Père Lachaise. Great marketing move!

There are so many famous residents buried there that it is hard to name them. But in an attempt to name a few:

Honoré de BALZAC (48 division)
Frédéric CHOPIN (11 division)
Eugène DELACROIX (49 division)
HELOISE and ABELARD (7 division)
MOLIERE (25 division)
Jim MORRISON (18 division)
Edith PIAF (97 division)
Camille PISSARO (7 division)
Marcel PROUST (85 division)
Georges SEURAT (66 division)
Oscar WILDE (89 division)

Check out also the monuments dedicated to the fallen of wars and the huge neo-Byzantine crematorium.

So I can officially say it was a really good date especially on a sunny fall day! By the way, special thanks to my better half for some of his amazing pictures.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Musée Cognacq-Jay

Métro: Saint Paul (line 1) or Chemin Vert (line 8)
Address: 8 rue Elzévir, 75003 Paris
Hours:Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (last ticket sold at 5:00pm)
Closed on Monday and national holidays
Cost: Free

I don't really know where to start with this museum. The Hôtel Particulier Donon is a beautiful building from the 16th century typical of the area (Le Marais). It was acquired by a rich business man Ernest Cognacq. At his death in 1928, the city of Paris transformed the property into a museum. Basically the concept is to step into the home of an art collector in love with his time (18th century).

I have to be honest with you. I felt totally out of place - like an elephant in a glass store. Of course when you wear rubber shoes and attempt to walk on an old squeaky floor, you know that it's not a winning combination. Anyway, I am not sure if I was not in the mood for it but I went through it pretty fast. Am I going to get death threats from the 18th century lovers?

Okay, I have to say something positive here! I loved the attic. Very impressive, it reminds me of the upside down boat technique used by some sailors to construct the ceilings of their churches. I don't think I've ever seen one in Paris but I still have so much to discover.

Now for the funny story. If you are a huge fan of horror movies, I am inviting you to use the bathroom or at least try to find them. It's located in the basement. It's easy follow the signs. I'm kidding, it's a maze. You need to go through 6 or 7 fire proof doors that looked like you're going to walk into some kind of WWII underground secret services' headquarter. Instead you will find a sentiment of oppression. I felt like someone was going to kidnap me and use my body for some scientific research. But once you finally reach your destination, you gotta smile or you'll throw up. All the French stereotypes are true. I'll leave it at that!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Musée d'Art Moderne

Métro: Alma-Marceau or Iéna (line 9)
RER C: Pont de l'Alma
Address: 11 avenue du Président Wilson, 75016 Paris
Hours:Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (last ticket sold at 5:00pm)
Thursday from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm (last ticket sold at 9: 00pm)
Closed on Monday and national holidays
Cost: free (temporary exhibits 5 euros)

Ah Modern Art! It's always a love/hate relationship. I think the Paris administration felt the same way when they created the Modern Art Museum of Paris in 1961. The site is gorgeous, perfect spot for an afternoon drink with a killer view on the Eiffel Tower. But as you can see, the building is in appearance classic and doesn't scream modernity. Yet inside of its walls, you will find the elite of modern art works.

Rythme by Robert Delaunay (1938)

Antigone consolatrice by Giorgo de Chirico (1973)

My hubby and I are often disagreeing concerning modern art. I think most of it is pure genie and he thinks a 3 yr old could do it. I'm not saying I would buy one for the house but I appreciate how daring and original this art movement is. I even love the bold ceiling lines of the building:

Odalisque au fauteuil by Henri Matisse (1923)

You can admire art work starting the Fauvism to now day including artists like Dufy, Derain, César, Arman or Robert Filliou just to name a few. Most of the collection is breathtaking but not always for the same reason. For example, you can admire a Matisse like above with vibrant colors drooling with admiration or you can scratch your head at an alignment of sweaters on the wall. Still don't understand that one.

Femme aux yeux bleus by Amedeo Modigliani (around 1918)

I have to admit I truly enjoyed it. And if you are more like my husband, you will still feel rejuvenated by the good laughs you got at some of the more contemporary art work. All of that for free!

Portrait relief de Martial Raysse by Yves Klein (1962)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Arnaud Larher


Métro:Mabillon (line 10) or Odéon (line 4)
Address: 93 rue de Seine, 75006 Paris
Other Locations: Here
Hours:  10:00 am to 7:30 pm Tuesday-Thursday
             10:00 am to 8:00 pm Friday-Saturday
             Closed on Monday
Cost: 5 to 7 euros for a pastry

When I entered in this pastry shop, I was not sure if I was in a museum or in an origami store. Everything is immaculate and you feel like your very presence is disturbing the perfect ecosystem of this place. Of course, you are greeted like a VIP by the staff, professional but distant. We are far from grandma's kitchen. I was not sure what to choose. I love when there is a little creativity when it comes to presenting the classics. Arnaud Lahrer is one of the "Meilleur Ouvrier de France" aka is one of the best of France. And it shows, his pastries are perfection on the eyes and intriguing to the mind.

I picked the Tatin. Tarte Tatin is usually an upside down caramel apple pie but Arnaud Lahrer's variation is made with Peach or apricot. The base is streusel with a kind of  thick vanilla mousse. It's an original twist but I have to say that I was expecting a little more out it. Don't get me wrong it was good but it wasn't as outstanding as it looked. Maybe it was a nice museum after all: for the eyes only.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Métro: Boucicaut (ligne 8), or Charles Michels (Line 10)
Address: 69, rue de la Convention - 75015 Paris
Other locations: HERE
Hours: everyday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm

Dalloyau has charmed more than one since 1682 when he was the official caterer of king Louis XIV. With its worldwide fame and more than 300 years of experience, I was not sure what to expect. In fact, I have known about Dalloyau for many years and never went in to try it. When you have an artisan who goes global, there is always a risk of losing the delicacy of its craft along the way but to gain increased prices at the same time. But I went in at my own risk so I can tell you about it.

It's true some things are super expensive and thoughts run through your mind like: Do they take credits cards that are not gold? But I settled on the macarons and since I was with my sister we decided to splurge on a box of 8 little macarons. They had a deal 8 for 8,50 euros which is WAY cheap compared to others. The flavors remain classics, nothing wild and crazy. I did not care much for the raspberry one but everything else was good until I tried the following two: Pistachio and Chocolate. I about died of gustative pleasure especially the chocolate one which is weird because I often favor fruits over chocolate. It was slightly crunchy and yet so soft and moist. It melted in your mouth like a good brownies but without the pasty heaviness of it. Too bad we had waited  a couple hours to try it out because I think we would have been tempted to return just to buy 8 more chocolate macarons! Well I think I can say they haven't lost their artisan craftsmanship. It's delicious.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Rue Tiquetonne

Métro: Etienne Marcel (Line 4)
Address: Rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris

There's not really any cool historic anecdote behind this street but as I was discovering the area, I just fell for its architecture and the way it captures light. I thought I'd share it with you. No wait I lied, Alexandre Dumas had his character D'Artagnan live in this street in his book the Three Musketeers. Yes it's a fiction but nevertheless it remains a cool fact.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Château de Vincennes

Métro: Château de Vincennes (Line 1)
Address: avenue de Paris, 94300 Vincennes
Hours: everyday from10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Cost: 8.50 Euros (check out the website for special rates)

I am always amazed at the total change of scenery as soon as you leave Paris. In this case, it is only 2 subway stations away! Vincennes is a hip, classy town yet it has a feel of the province (countryside) to it. Before you get to the castle, check out the very clean downtown. I have to mention it because it's a rarity in France.

The castle site is like a little village of its own. It is composed of multiple buildings and styles. Historians are not exactly sure how old the castle is, but the first mention of it dates back to 1178 when King Louis VII signed a deed to declare it his royal residence. However, most of the buildings date from the 12th to 14th century.

It is the largest fortified royal castle still standing in France and with its 8 story high tower (50 meters).  It is also one of the tallest valley fortresses in Europe. At one point, thousands of people lived within its ramparts. With drawbridges, a moat, and turrets, this castle was designed to first and foremost to protect the king from harm.

Two kings got married at Vincennes: Philippe III (1274) and Philip IV of France (1284); and 3 others passed away there: Louis X (1316), Philippe V (1322) and Charles IV (1328, he was also born there). 

In the 18th century, renowned figures such of Diderot, Mirabeau, and Marquis de Sade were imprisoned in this castle. The prison was for high profile figures and could not house more than 14 prisoners. You can see some marks carved in the cell walls as a witness of their stay.

Louis XIV left Vincennes to make Versailles the royal residence around 1670.

From 1940 to 1944, German troops occupied the castle; and while fleeing the scene, they decided to burn their arsenal. The fire lasted 8 days.

Founded in 1379, the Sainte Chapelle was supposed to exhibit relics from the passion of Christ purchased from the Emperor of Constantinople. Charles V wished to make Vincennes the second capital of France. I have to say that out of the many churches I have visited in France, it has one of the brightest interior. I love how the light fills this tall and thin building.

The side pavilions date from the 15th century. King Louis XI decided to move from the protection of main building on the site to the pavilions that became the royal apartments. A few other kings stayed there at times. Mary Medici also ordered additional side buildings to be constructed for Louis XIII who spent his youth at Vincennes.

I really enjoyed visiting this site. It was fascinating. I did not take the guided tour but we did take the audio guide, which was really well done. I was a little tired at the end of our visit, but I felt like I better grasp of France's royal past. I highly recommend it!

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