'I recently went back to Paris for a few days before TGVing to Les Sables d'Olonne in Vendée to see my Mum, sister and older son who recently settled down nearby and got married to his long term German and lovely girlfriend. I stayed where my children stayed during their Uni exchange programs in 2013 in between Gare de l'Est and the trendy Canal Saint Martin. So by public request, I thought I would elaborate a bit more than the few Instagram photos you may have seen already. And just after the long journey from Sydney, what would you but sit at the nearby brasserie and enjoy your first café along (long black in Oz...). If you don't specify then you will end up with an expresso, and if late is your caffeine injection of choice, too bad, you will have to settle for a grand crème.
Although it is near impossible to get accomodation there without a solid connection, you can still enjoy the café downstairs, called Café A, a nice gathering place of "branchés" youngish French people attracted by the lovely courtyard and the good food at reasonable prices and limited, but good wine list including the traditional carafe, and on the first night, I didn't have the energy nor the appetite to look any further and settled down to a great steak tartare with a carafe of bio wine from Chateau de Saurs, from Gaillac AOC.
During the day on my way back from lunch with a long time friend who I had not seen for 30 years, I strolled along the Canal enjoying the warm weather and the gentle crowd feeding on the atmosphere. And was lucking to see a boat going through the lock.
The now famous - for all the wrong reasons - Place de la République is only a 15 mns walk from Gare de lest, whether you go straight via the Boulevard Magenta - but what would be the point of that when you can go along the canal and then via some more picturesque little streets?
They might well make the best croissants in Paris, but their Parisian arrogance is certainly second to none as well... For starters they are NOT open during weekends - yes, you have read properly... And then when asked if they make coffee they refer you to the Monop' across the road whose coffee machine happens to be "en panne' but point you to a bar tabac at the corner of the street on the canal, where they will happily serve you coffee and eat your viennoiseries in peace - no corkage here thank you very much!
There are also a number of trendy restaurants around, one owned by Aussies, called Holybelly - opening at 10.00am! a bit late when you only have 5 days in Paris, and one that I took my nephew and his partner to, called Aux Enfants Perdue rue des Récollets which turned out to be much better than my expectations, some here is a mini review of this unassuming place.
They also run a very nice delicatessen and bottle shop just across the road, worth checking if you want to cook at home.
I hope you have enjoyed my little glimpse of the Canal Saint Martin area of Paris and that it will entice you to go and wander the area at your own pace!
This iconic "Grand Magasin", was originally started by the Cognacq-Jay family from very humble beginnings as a street merchant on the Pont-Neuf in a space left vacant by the demolition of a water pump named La Samaritaine, hence the later name of the business which started as "Au Petit Bénéfice". This "little benefice" ended up allowing the couple to buy the shop they were renting, then expand it by building the Art Nouveau metal structure designed by the Belgian architect Frantz Jourdain that has become the trademark look of the building. When they tried to expand again towards the Seine, the council didn't allow them to show the metal structure on the riverside and had to clad the building in stone to look more "Haussmannien"!. As history often does, the same type of problems has plagued the project of expansion and reconstruction this time on the Rivoli side of the site, as the new wave glass facade designed by the Japanese architecture studio Sanaa (Kosuzo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa) has just been finally approved this week after a protracted legal battle that lasted 3 years, hence the timing of this articleT. he business has been closed since 2005 and we can now expect its reopening circa 2018 if everything goes according to plan with a budget of 500 million euros, deemed to be exceeded due to the scale and complexity of the project.
These two aerial photos show the extent of the renovation of the Art Nouveau buildings on the Seine side (bottom photo) and the entirely new building with the glass cladding on the Rue de Rivoli side. 74% of the existing facade will be conserved and restored, with the programming of the buildings completely rethought and designed to include offices, a child-care centre, 96 social housing apartments, a hotel on the river side, and a shopping mall on the lower levels. It is to be noted that the Cognacq-Jay family had a long history of philanthropy and social conscience, and were good Samaritans, maybe another clue to the business name... The project is privately financed by LVMH who bought the site in 2008 and is expected to create 4400 jobs during construction and a more permanent workforce of 2600 on completion. LVMH is a driving force on the Paris architectural renewal with this project, one of the biggest in Europe and also with the recently opened Fondation Louis Vuitton designed by Frank Gehry to much acclaim.
It is, in my opinion, the best building that Gehry has produced so far..
And to finish this article on a bit of humour, and to back-up the famous slogan that you can find anything at La Samaritaine, here is an old commercial that illustrates just that back in 1970. Love it!
Finally made it to this recently opened Maille outfit in Mosman, a posh suburb of Sydney on the North Shore of the Harbour. It is promoted as a shop, but it is barely a "computer" at the cash register exit of an IGA supermarket. The good news are that you will find all the various mustards, some available "on tap" and guaranteed to be less than two weeks old. It is believed to be even better than the mustards sold in the traditional clay pots (top shelf) and a fortiori much better than the regular product that we - mere mortals - can buy from all good supermarkets. Available as well are some lesser known varieties that you can actually taste there and packed in smaller jars as you might use them as often or as generously as the traditional Dijon mustard.
And the good news are that we finally get access to the famous Maille cornichons, best in the World and closely ranking to the ones grown and pickled by my own late paternal grandmother!
Crunchy, tasty with a hint of estragon, perfect acidity thanks to the amazing homemade vinegar!
You will also find all the other products from the range, as in vinegars and gift packs, a lovely range of presents for your foodies friends. Don't expect to be harassed into buying anything, and I think the customer experience could be improved by the presence of a more dynamic and dedicated person at the counter, rather than relying on the goodwill of a knowledgeable but rather shy automatic cashiers attendant. IGA are trying to market themselves as a "boutique" supermarket and have another Delicatessen "shop in a shop" at the same location. They need to lift their game!
A Facebook friend of mine posted this on his timeline (thanks, David A...) and I thought I would share here as well, as it shows both the beauty of Paris, and that's the reason why a lot of people visit the French capital, or dream to live there and they realise the madness of it, which is portrayed in filigree in this video, as you can see the equivalent of the population of Australia going about their business (or trying to...) in this megalopolis. Hence the reason why I am happy to live in Sydney and visit Paris!
Photo by Gregoire LIERE
One of the first challenges is to find my original photos...
The last time I went to Provence was in 2009, and I was not doing digital photography just yet, and was still content to use my Nikon F60.
So, I had to spend some time shiffling through quite a large collection of prints and CDs...and that involves a big trip down "memory lane"...
Why taking this challenge now? Well, it was triggered by an article in our local newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald and it is thirty days to my birthday, so it will give you a chance to save for a gift! Just kidding...
Episode 1 - Our journey starts in Paris
The TGV station at CDG airport
Chances are that wherever you are reading my prose, a trip to France will certainly either arriving or departing from Paris, and frankly who would miss the pleasure of spending a few days there when coming all the way from across the World?
And if you are on your way to the South of France, then you will take the TGV from Gare de Lyon in the 12th arrondissement and debark 2h40mm later in Avignon.
So, it might be a good idea to stay near by and stay for instance at
Pavillon Saint Louis Bastille.
It is close to the station, the Opera Bastille, the Marais is not far away
and there are many buses and metro stations within walking distance.
After a night at the Opera, it might be a good idea to dine in style at the station, at Le Train Bleu restaurant.
There are dozens of more affordable options around - just open your eyes and be prepared for a good time!
Stay tuned for Episode 2 tomorrow Paris to Avignon!
Over the next few weeks, we will review some of our favourite restaurants in Paris of all times.
Some we have reexperienced recently, some are still alive and kicking although our experience dates from up to 15 years ago.
We will review two today: Guy Savoy and Annapurna.
These restaurants have been around for a very long time and still command a very high ranking in Trip Advisor.
Actually Guy Savoy is ranked number ONE out of more than 6000 restaurants reviewed. See out Travel/Paris section for details.
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
A link here for our non-metric readers: