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Favourite Experiences in Paris…so far…

So I’ve been in Paris for a week now and here are a few of my favourite experiences…

E.Leclerc supermarket in Pantin

E.Leclerc was an experience because of its eye-popping range of products and produce, all at cheap prices.  The clientele here were always buying up incredible amounts of stuff and queues were long and frantic.  Once when I was standing in line a woman thrust her stroller (complete with child) at me and gestured for me to look after him while she went to get something, very trusting!

Shopping at Mim and Guerrisol

Nothing like a bargain and I came away with lots of things from these two stores without spending a fortune.  Guerrisol is the cheapest though it’s pre-loved, and today when I went there I saw a man holding up a 2nd hand suspender belt thoughtfully as if he were wondering if it would fit him, scary!

Hotel Andre Gill

This hotel I swear has the world’s smallest lift.  I really don’t know how anyone larger than a size 12 would fit in, as well as their luggage.  Also this hotel wins the award for number of pet animals running around in the foyer, three dogs and two cats. And also the worlds smallest breakfast room.  I really don’t know what they’d do if all the hotel guests came down for breakfast at the same time!

Monmartre Eccentrics

Perhaps its just me but there seems to be an abnormally amount of strange people in Monmartre, it is historically an artistic quarter so maybe that’s why.  Makes for interesting people watching anyway.  Tonight I saw an old French dj grooving away in a cafe with a pleased smile on his face.  It made me want to laugh, in a good way.

Metro Metro Metro

I’ll say it again, Metro!  Coming from a city with sketchy public transport it’s a real treat to be able to sight-see using the Metro.  You can cover large areas of the city quickly and it’s really easy to navigate.  Tickets only cost 1.70 euro as well for a single journey.  Plus you’ll see some interesting sights; beggars, buskers galore!  I also love the art nouveau entrances to the stations, they really are Parisian icons.

French pastries

I’ve only eaten two so far, and I nearly cried they were so good.  An escargot aux raisins at the Tuilleries gardens and a Chausson aux Pommes in Pantin.  Nom nom nom!  Been dying to try the Mille Feuille which is layers of pastry and cream, it will happen!


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Another Cheap(ish) Day in Paris

The morning began with croissants (how else would a morning ever begin in Paris?).  Even better these ones were free, included in the price of the hotel room.

After breakfast I headed out to the Fragonard Musée du Parfum (Museum of Perfume) in Opera, 9 rue Scribe.  Entrance to the museum is free and you also get a guided tour of the premises.  Our ‘english’ speaking guide (she was from Japan and spoke fluent french as well) gave an interesting run down of perfume through the ages, and explained the distilling process.

Lastly we ended up in the perfume store downstairs where we got to try some of Fragonard’s fragrances, and buy them also.  After smelling about six different ones and getting sprayed with two, I ended up buying the tiniest bottle (15ml) of Belle Cherie for 26 euro.  It’ll probably last a week but hey.

Next it was onto the Louvre to check out an exhibition by my real estate agent’s wife in the Carrousel de Louvre.

This was a big fail as I couldn’t find it and ended up in Starbucks for lunch instead.  It could’ve been worse, I could’ve been the queue of people trying to buy tickets to the Louvre.

After this I headed to the 7th to visit Le Bon Marche in 22-24 rue de Sevres.

This is the oldest department store in Paris dating from 1852 and kind of like an upmarket Smith & Caugheys. It’s supposedly cheap but a scarf I looked at was 100 euro, therefore it’s not cheap.

The cool thing I liked about it were the escalators:

But the uncool thing is that once you go up to a floor, to get to another level you have to walk all the way around to the other side.  Perhaps that’s sneaky French planning though as on the way you might see something to buy.  I didn’t, well nothing I could afford anyway.

Exiting Le Bon Marche I caught the metro back to Pigalle and went for a wander around the back streets of Monmartre.  The sun came out and so did all the sidewalk cafe patrons down rue des Abbesses.  If I could’ve bought a chausson aux pommes my happiness would’ve been complete but I forgot my purse back at the hotel.  Cie la vie.


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Nearly ripped off in Monmartre

I’ve only been in Monmartre for half a day and already I’ve nearly been ripped off.  So much for my upmarket fantasies. Pantin for all it’s dodginess is nothing compared to Monmartre.  In Pantin people sit on the streets quietly with paper cups, here they pose as charity workers with clip boards and try and sneak money from you.

I’m on my way to the Sacré-Coeur when a teenage girl asks me if I will sign a petition so deaf children can get hearing operations.  Who am I to say no, though in hindsight my signature would be pointless on such a document as I don’t live here.  When I’ve signed it she asks for a 20 euro minimum donation.  Like that was ever going to be happening! But now I feel obliged to give something.

A kerfuffle ensues with me saying ‘2 euro’, unfortunately all I have is a 20 euro note which she grabs.  I grab it back, “Change!” I say.  While this is happening, a french lady passing by is yelling ‘Attention! Attention!’ at me.  Perhaps she thinks I’m about to get kidnapped by the clipboard gypsies who are now surrounding me.

But it’s ok, they’re just getting change. Somehow I manage to get 15 euro and 1 euro out of the girl, but she’s still trying to do me out of 2 euro.  The 2 euro is dutifully produced by another girl.  I didn’t even want to give them 2 euro in the first place and especially not now when I know I’m being ripped off!

At the top of the stairs to the Sacré-Coeur there are more of them clutching clip boards.  A girl smiles at me and kisses her fingers as if to say ‘I’m counting on your generosity’.  But this time i’m onto them.  ‘Non, désolé!’ I say and keep walking clutching my handbag tightly in case she tries to wrestle it from me.

Apparently it’s quite common in Paris, see this article, Huge increase in “deaf/mute” scam in Paris.


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Père-Lachaise: The Best Address in Paris

RIP Jim Morrison

It seems a bit of a maudlin thing to do, stroll around a graveyard and take photos, but Père-Lachaise is not just any graveyard.  Anyone who’s anyone is dying to be buried here and tourists, well, they are dying to take photos of their graves.  Some people can never escape the paparazzi even in death.

Père-Lachaise is one of the quietest places you’ll visit in Paris, for obvious reasons, and not really depressing (though I wouldn’t want to be locked in after dark).  In fact it’s quite peaceful with its sweetly scented, tree-lined avenues and shady nooks.

A handy free map, available from the newstand at the entrance, marks where all the famous graves are, such as the likes of Collette, Chopin, Edith Piaf and showstoppers, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde.  Wear comfortable walking shoes as 44 hectares is a lot of ground to cover.

You might want to bring your lunch as well, and if eating sandwiches amongst gravestones feels a bit odd there is a shady park in the middle called Monument aux morts (though with a name like that it won’t make your ham and cheese any more palatable).  Happy grave hunting!

Père-Lachaise
16 rue de Repos
Metro: Père-Lachaise


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Midday in Paris

Let’s face it Paris is a tourist city and there are certain things you have to tick off your list when you arrive: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Champs Elysees. But when that’s all done you can actually start seeing the things that appeal to you, and Paris has something for everyone.  These are a couple of the things I enjoyed doing today in Paris:

Opportunity knocks at Guerrisol

I’m a sucker for a fashion bargain and in Avenue de Clichy there is a plenty a bargain to be had at Guerrisol.  Some may recommend you wear latex gloves when sifting through the piles of cast-offs but I say a bit of dirt never hurt anyone.  And for 5 euro a garment who really cares?  It’s a brilliant place for finding once loved and about to be treasured items, and it’s from Paris that’s all anyone needs to know.  I bought four things for 20 euro and they are practically brand new. This is totally the place to go if you’re on a budget and you want to shop.

Guerrisol
19 Avenue de Clichy, Paris
Metro: Place de Clichy

Shakespeare & Co. Book Shop

Once you set foot into the hallowed halls of Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop you’ll never want to leave.

It’s a rickety, narrow, crooked old place but has a certain je ne sais quoi emminating from the shelves.  And you’ll need all your fingers on both hands to count all the famous people who have hung out here over the years.

Follow the winding staircase upstairs to find hidden nooks and crannies with sofas and the odd typewriter and piano.  All it needs is a cat called ‘The Bard’ and you really would feel right at home.

Seating is limited, so you may end up leaning against a shelf and reading but the books aren’t dusty old tomes, and pretty much what you’d find in a normal bookshop.  The blessed thing about Shakespeare & Co. is that all the books are in English so it really is an oasis in a desert of french literature!

Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop
37 rue de la Bûcherie, Paris
Metro: Saint Michel


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Bonjour et merci monsieur

For all the talk of infamous Parisian rudeness, I really can’t say i’ve experienced it.  Perhaps because I’m staying slightly out of Paris it means that the people are politer….like West Auckland versus Ponsonby?

Everyone, and I mean everyone (even the would be car bombers) is so polite it’s slightly disconcerting.  I’m not used to wishing shop-keepers ‘good day’ or have them say ‘thank you and goodbye madam’. I’m starting to have to brush up on my manners and say ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Bonsoir’ and ‘Merci’ to everyone I meet, even if I’m just passing them on the way out of the hotel.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just a cultural difference. I’m  not used to people giving a rats ass if you wish them a ‘good evening’ or not.

Yesterday I saw a car chase and the police were informing pedestrians via a loud hailer that they were sorry to cause alarm and saying ‘Merci boucoup’ to everyone for getting out of the way. In NZ you’d probably just get run over.


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Not Nearly (or even close to being) French

Miss Lynch?

I don’t think I could ever be mistaken for being French. I’m just too much of a practical Kiwi.  However, I’ve always found something maddeningly mysterious about the whole French culture.  

Learning French and eating snails

My first encounter with anyone French was more terrifying than mysterious.  It involved a Napoleonic woman with an Amelie bob and a bark like a barely chained alsation.  Miss Lynch, my third form French teacher.  

Miss Lynch was notorious for relegating people to the hallway for not producing the required answer in less than three seconds.  I think I learnt more about school radiators than I did about French. 

For the next 15 years I have to admit I was slightly Francophobic. 

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