Sunday 27 April 2008

The Worst of Paris Monuments

Paris, as any visitor will testify is a stunning city. Great monuments and statues adorn its palaces and boulevards. Museums are replete with works of conspicuous beauty. Nevertheless occasionally one comes across a relic from yesteryear that some might describe rather euphemistically as less than inspiring.

One such monument is the statue in Parmentier Metro station. The station is named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737 - 1813) who in the late 18 and early 19th Centry promoted the consumption of potatoes (amongst people). For some time potatoes were seen as food for animals. These days if you see anything with the name 'Parmentier' on the menu in a French restaurant it means the dish will be served with or made with potatoes (such as hachis parmentier). Great as he was as a nutritionist and reformer the statue of the eponymous hero on the station platform showing him handing over a potato to a grateful peasant on bended knees looks ridiculous.

An interesting life maybe but this is one Paris statue that won't make the guidebooks.

Monday 21 April 2008

An Invitation to Pere Lachaise

Harpist and Sky
Originally uploaded by malias.

One of my English students is a German tour guide of Paris who has lived here for 25 years. Ingelen gives tours in French and German and now wants to start offering English tours too.

In order to bring her English up to scratch she neds to practise and with this in mind she has offered to give some Paris tours in English for friends and fellow students.

Her first English tour will be of Pere Lachaise on Saturday afternoon 3rd May 2008. If you are in Paris on that date and you would like to participate in the tour then contact me.

The tour will last about 2 hours is absolutely free and I'm sure it will be fascinating.

Saturday 19 April 2008

Promenade Parisienne

Miss Stripey Socks
Originally uploaded by malias.

I had this idea of taking language lessons out of the classroom and into the streets where students can learn in real situations. I phoned up my friend (and French teacher) Hakim and together we devised Promenade Parisienne. A two hour French conversation course with the first hour on the streets of Paris and the second hour spent at a neighbourhood cafe. It'll take place every Sunday at a different location. More details here >> French Conversation course in Paris

I think it's quite orignal but whether people will take to it only time will tell.

Thursday 17 April 2008

Le Baron Rouge Paris

Le Baron Rouge
Originally uploaded by malias.

If you're in Paris on a Sunday morning might I suggest that you take yourself off to the Marché d'Aligre. A very lively and vibrant food market, with a great atmosphere. After trudging amongst the stalls for an hour or so dodging the over zealous traders thrusting free samples of melon or mango in your face you'll need a break and some refreshments.

Head over to Le Baron Rouge (1 rue Théophile Roussel 75012 Paris Metro Ledru Rollin). It's a great wine bar which really comes alive on Sunday as the market starts to wind down. Inside the bar you'll see stacks of barrels of wine. Here you can buy your wine in bulk by the litre. In days gone by this was how most Parisians bought their wine but now days its a rarity. However, Le Baron Rouge is one of the few places you can still do that.

You can of course just buy your wine by the glass and at reasonable prices. In addition they sell cheese, charcouterie and sometimes oysters on a Sunday to nibble on while drinking your wine. The bar gets full and people spill out onto the streets and rest their glasses and plates on car rooftops and even dustbins whatever is available. Whenever I have friends visiting me in Paris I always take them here. Very chaotic but very Parisian.

Tuesday 15 April 2008

The Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges
Originally uploaded by malias.

The Place des Vosges is one of my favourite places, it's the most beautiful square in Paris built by Henry IV between 1605 and 1612.

It's had a colourful past and was built on the site of the Hotel de Tournelles a royal residence where in 1552 Henry II was killed in a jousting tournament in its gardens. In her grief Catherine de Medici then had the whole Palace destroyed.

Today cafes, restaurants, art-galleries and tourist shops vie for business under its arches. You'll also find The Victor Hugo Museum there (at his old house).

True, in the last few years the Place de Vosges has lost some of its neighbourhood appeal and become very touristy but nevertheles its still a wonderful place to stroll and relax on a sunny afternoon.

For more details about the Place de Vosges and its history listen to the Podcast I recorded with two friends. Place de vosges audio tour.

Monday 7 April 2008

A Paris Boulangerie?

A tourist recently arrived in Paris passes a shop with a large boulangerie sign outside and feeling hungry to try some of the famous French patisseries he wanders in and approaches the assistant.

"Bonjour I'd like a pain au chocolat s'il vous plait" he asks in his best French.
"Non, monsieur we don't have any" comes the reply. The tourist is disappointed but he persists.
"Ok, I'll have a croissant au beurre"
"No we don't have any of those either"
"alright, a chocolate eclair?"
"Non monsieur"
"Tarte au pomme?"
"A baguette?"
"Absolument pas!"
The tourist is getting rather irate now "That's ridiculous! all over the world I hear how great the boulangeries are in Paris and I come here and you don't even have a damned baguette. How is that possible?"
"Because, monsieur, this is a shoe shop"

If you walk around the streets of Paris you'll find many shops fronts with old signs indicating "boulangerie", "Charcuterie" etc when in fact the shop inside sell something quite different. The photo above for example is a "Boulangerie/Patisserie" on rue Francs bourgeois in the Marais which currently sells clothes. This isn't because the shops are too lazy too change their signs but rather that many of these old facades are protected by the Patrimoine de Paris.

If you want to investigate more of these old fashion shop fronts in Paris (and elsewhere in France) then you can consult this list - Old shop fronts in Paris