TOUSSAINT AND JAM MAKING

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At this time of year when plastic pumpkins and devils forks and horns begin to appear in all the supermarkets, quite a different phenomenon takes place here in France. The pavements outside florists and corner stores begin to be crowded with large displays of pots of chrysanthemums in gorgeous rich autumnal colours, russet, gold, yellow, and purple. Stalls selling them in abundance set up outside all of the cemeteries (see my last post for information on Parisian cemeteries) and the High streets are filled with colour and nature and the scent of flowers, not witches hats and horror masks and tubs of disgusting cheap sweets to ward off ‘Trick or Treaters’ throwing eggs at you window or burning your car!

‘Halloween’ is celebrated very differently here than in the Anglo Saxon countries. In fact it is not referred to as Halloween at all, but ‘Toussaint’ (all Saints).Toussaint is on the 1st of November and is a public holiday. Families flock to the cemeteries armed with these said chrysanthemums to adorn the graves of their relatives.

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The start of tings to come – in a few days time you will not be able to see the pavement – but as I leave for the UK tomorrow, I will miss the best displays!

I am going to spend Halloween with my family in the UK this year, so won’t be posting for a little while. But before I go I thought that the colours of these late plumbs resembled those of the flowers. They are no longer good for eating (and it is a little too cold now for fruit salad) so I have made some jam…….

If you have not made jam before and think that it is complicated – nothing is simpler, providing that you have some basic equipment

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Basic jam making essentials

You will need:-

A large pan (preferably copper bottomed, as this distributes the heat more evenly and stops the jam from burning)

A large wooden spoon

A ‘jam’ funnel with a wide aperture

A ladle

Clean jam jars

Cling film

Scissors

Labels (fancy or functional!)

Ingredients

1kg seasonal fruit

500g jam sugar (I use ‘Fruttina Extra’ by ‘Dr Oetker’ this allows for a higher fruit to sugar ratio – if usng regular sugar the ratio is 1kg sugar for each kg of fruit)

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Method

Sterilise the jam jars with boiling water, keeping the water inside until ready to use (the jars need to be hot when the jam goes inside to form an airtight seal) I usually wash in the dishwasher immediately before.

Wash and chop up the fruits into small pieces

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Put the fruit and sugar into the pan and bring to boiling point stirring constantly with a wooden spoon

Reduce the heat, add the lemon juice and simmer for around 15 minutes

Test that the jam is ready by taking a small amount and placing on a plate that has been in the fridge. If it is set when cooled then it is ready, if not continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes and test again.

Pour the jam into the warm pots, leaving ½ /cm air space at the top and cover with cling film before securely fastening the cap.

Leave to cool – when cool the security button on the cap will become flat as it is on an unopened jar of jam, indicating that there is an airtight seal. Once this happens the jam does not have to be stored in a fridge – only after opening.

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Delicious on some home-made bread!

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CURRIED PUMPKIN SOUP AND THE CEMETERIES OF PARIS!

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Curried Pumpkin soup – caution – extreme comfort food

As you all obviously liked my last post of ‘Pumpkin curry and the catacombs’ I thought I would prolong the pumpkin season and give you a glimpse into another less obviously touristy side of my adopted city.

Paris boasts numerous cemeteries, the most famous being ‘Pere Lachaise’ where flocks of adoring nubile, American teenagers (along with a few genuine old rockers) make an obligatory pilgrimage to the shrine which is the last resting place (or is it……) of the ‘Rock God’ who was ‘Jim Morrison’,

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‘Shrine’ to the late Jim Morrison

I personally find other graves far more interesting as the poetic tomb of the tragic ex President, Felix Faure, or the poignant grave of Edith Piaf. And, dabbling in writing myself, I am totally in awe to be at the side of Moliere and Oscar Wilde!

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Last resting place of ‘The Little Sparrow’ of Paris

The most beautiful (and for the life of me I cannot find the photograph – I will have to return) Is that of ‘Abelard and Heloise’ the star crossed lovers, forced to live apart, but united in death in palatial splendour. And I urge you to read ‘Alexander Pope’s’ beautiful poem telling their tragic story.  “Glance on the stone where our poor relics lie, Devotions self shall steal a thought from Heaven, One human tear shall drop and be forgiven

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The lovely grave of Felix Faure

Pere Lachaise may be the most famous, and it is without a doubt very beautiful and vast (if you go, it is worth spending the 10 euro or so to take a professional guide). But personally I prefer two other cemeteries.
The first being ‘Montparnasse’ that plays host to another pair of lovers who lived voluntarily apart and are united in death, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Satres, along with French musical legend ‘Serge Gainsbourg’ and numerous recipients of the ‘Legion of Honour’ It was here that I whiled away many a morning or afternoon with a book and sometimes my lunch when we lived in this part of the city, and I still consider it ‘my spiritual home’.

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Lovely Montparnasse Cemetery with the Montparnasse tower in the background

Parisian cemeteries are places where the dead and the living come together. Montparnasse cemetery is a thoroughfare, where mothers push babies in prams, teenagers skateboard, people (like me) sit and read, relax, soak up the sun, eat their lunch.
I improved my French here, by reading and pronouncing the names on the graves, and I believe that each time I read someone’s name and wondered about their life, that for that instant, they were resurrected and lived once more.

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Rodin’s ‘Cathedral’ on a tomb in Montparnasse Cemetery

My third cemetery of choice is ‘Montmartre’. The oldest and spookiest and in some ways the most beautiful. I remarked when I was there that every grave had a cat – it certainly seemed like it. I love the dark Gothic atmosphere here.

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Montmartre Cemetery and on of its residents!

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The creepiest and saddest of all is ‘Picpus’ in the 12th arrondissement which is a private cemetery and contains the headless corpses of 1,306 victims of the revolution who were executed at the nearby guillotine between June 14th and July 27th 1794. Now only direct descendants of these unfortunate innocents, are eligible to be buried here. The names of those executed are inscribed on the walls of the chapel and including 197 women, of which only 51 were from the nobility, 123 were commoners and 23 nuns! The cemetery is open to the public every afternoon except Mondays and bank holidays and there is an entry charge of 3 euro.

Now, here is the recipe for one of my favourite soups, guaranteed to bring you back to the land of the living…….

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Ingredients
Serves 4

1 medium pumpkin / butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

2 handfuls of red lentils

750 ml of vegetable stock

250 ml coconut milk

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 heaped dessertspoon of curry powder

Dried coriander leaves

Freshly ground sea salt to taste

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan

‘Sweat’ the pumpkin and carrots for 2-3 minutes

Add the curry powder and cook for a further minute then add the lentils

Stir in the (hot) vegetable stock then the coconut milk

Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for around 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the lentils disappeared.

Allow to cool a little then blend until as smooth as you like

Season with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper if required

Put back on heat to warm through and garnish with fresh or dried coriander leaves

Serve with naan or pitta bread

‘Souper’ as a lunch or supper dish, or as an entrée

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Me enjoying a sunny afternoon in one of the Parisian Cemeteries

PUMPKIN CURRY AND THE CATACOMBS

Chick pea curry

Perfect Halloween supper!

Halloween is approaching and soon we are going to be flooded with recipes for pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie, so I thought that I would get in early with a pumpkin curry – well actually it is ‘Butternut squash and chickpea curry’, but a pumpkin would do just as well.

Halloween conjures up images of witches and ghouls, (though in France ‘Toussaint’s’ is a little different and I will talk about this closer to the time) so what better place to go ghost hunting than in the Paris Catacombs………….

The Catacombs, or to give them their official name ‘The Municipal Ossuary’ date back to the end of the 18th century, when the ‘Cemetery of the Innocents’ near the present day ‘Les Halles’, became overcrowded (not surprising as it had been in existence for around 1,000 years!) and a health hazard.
All burials stopped there in 1785 and the process of moving existing bones to another site began in 1786 after the ground had been consecrated.

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The transfer of bones and bodies took place at night and the procession of carts covered in a black veil to shield their creepy cargo from curious onlookers, was accompanied by priests chanting the ‘services of the dead’ along the route to the present site in the ‘Denfert Rochereau’ area in the 14th ‘arrondissement’ of Paris and took 2 years to complete moving all the bones from all the ancient cemeteries in the city.
There is thought to be the remains of around 6 million people entombed here, giving the Catacombs of Paris the reputation of being ‘The World’s largest Grave’!

Today they are a major Paris tourist attraction and queues in summer can be quite long as there is a limit on how many people (200) can be underground at any one time (for obvious difficulties of evacuation in the event of an emergency) and visitors are meticulously counted in and out.

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Part of the 2km of underground tunnels forming the ‘Catacombs’

There are 2km of tunnels and galleries and a visit takes around 45 minutes
N.B. – THEY ARE NO TOILET FACILITIES ONCE UNDERGROUND and there are 130 steep steps to go down and 83 back to street level (the exit is in a different location to the entrance).
The temperature in places is around 14 degrees, so even if it is hot outside, take a cover up.

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Steps leading back up from the ‘Catacombes’ – you have been warned!

The visit is not advised for people with cardiac or respiratory problems, young children or people of a ‘nervous disposition’. The Catacombs are not accessible to persons with limited mobility and children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

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Not of a nervous disposition!

I found it thrilling, descending what seems like forever down long narrow corridors which are adequately lit for safety purposes, but not so bright as to spoil the atmosphere. I was fascinated to see that it is actually laid out like a town underground, with ‘streets’ (along with name plaques!) mirroring actual streets above.

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Avenue de Monsouris

These tunnels (streets) open into a series of galleries (squares) and here I was surprised to see the carvings and frescos made by the workers who excavated and reinforced the site (most was part of former stone mines), as I was by the meticulous order of the bones.

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An unexpected and welcome relief after endless skulls and bones!

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Not the best of photos as no flash was allowed and it was quite dark in this are, but you get the idea

The Catacombs are one of the ’14 Musées du Paris and I have given practical information on opening times, access and prices, along with a list of the other museums and the end of this post.

Forgive me my macabre imagination, but I think that the chick peas resemble little skulls………..

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Ingredients
Serves 2 generously as a main meal with rice, or 4 as a side dish

1 medium pumpkin or butternut squash (potiron/citrouille)

1 small onion finely chopped

4 oz / 100gm fresh baby spinach leaves

425 g can of chick peas (pois chiches) drained and rinsed

½ pint / 250 ml of coconut milk

½ pint / 250 ml of vegetable stock

1 tablespoon (2 cuilliers a soupe) of fish stock (optional)

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

1 small red chilli finely chopped

1 inch / 1.5cm fresh ginger finely chopped

1 teaspoon (cuillier a café) of cumin

1 teaspoon of turmeric

1 teaspoon of curry powder

Freshly ground sea salt to taste

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until soft, taking care not to brown.

Add the ginger, chilli, curry powder, cumin and turmeric and a little salt and cook gently for 1-2 minutes to release the aroma of the spices

Add the pumpkin and coat with the spices, then stir in the coconut milk and vegetable stock and fish stock required.

Simmer (mijoter) gently uncovered for around 15 minutes to reduce the stock to a thick soupy consistency

Add the chick peas and continue to simmer for a further 15 minutes until the pumpkin is soft and the chick peas tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (add a little more water and cover if becoming too dry)

Add the spinach leaves a little at a time and wilt before adding the next batch

Season with freshly ground sea salt to taste and serve immediately with Jasmine rice and/or naan bread.

Simple, healthy and tasty dish to warm you up after ‘Trick or Treating’!

The Catacombs – Practical Information

Open daily from 10am to 8pm (last entrance 7pm) except for Mondays and May 1st

Entrance fee is 10 euro full rate and 8 euro reduced rate

BAGS ARE SEARCHED AT THE EXIT AND ANYONE FOUND STEALING BONES WILL BE PROSECUTED

There are 11 free museums which form part of the 14 Musée de Paris (there is an opportunity to give a voluntary donation to help maintain these museums, 5 euro per party is gratefully accepted)

City of Paris Museum of Modern Art Balzac’s House (except when a temporary exhibition is programed) Bourdelle Museum* Carnavalet Museum – History of Paris (see my blog post) Cernuschi Museum – Museum of Asian Art Cognacq-Jay Museum – Museum of the XVIIIth century art* Museum of the General Leclerc and the Paris’ Liberation – Jean Moulin Museum Petit Palais – City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts (see my blog post) Museum of Romantics Victor Hugo’s House (see my blog post) Zadkine Museum* * Only a section of these museums is free when there is a temporary exhibition

There is an entrance fee to the remaining 3 museums:-

Catacombs

The Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame

Galliera – Museum of Fashion

Entrance fee at the Catacombs is 10 € full price, 8€ reduced rate. Entrance fee at the Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame is 7€ full price, 5€ reduced rate. Combined ticket for Catacombs and Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame: 15 € full price, 10 € reduced rate. Entrance fee at Galliera-Museum of Fashion depends from one temporary exhibition to another

Dragon’s Loyalty Award

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This has to be coolest looking award, and many thanks to my sister blogger Natascha @ ‘Natascha’s Palace for nominating me.
As she said on her post – please DO NOT feel obliged to fulfil the challenge if I nominate you – it is just that I like what you do and want to share it. (I have repeated 3 nominations from the ‘Versatile Blogger Award’ just because I love what you do, but do not expect you to respond unless of course you want to……..) But do check out Natascha’s blog – if you like mine, then you will love hers.

THE RULES TO ACCEPT THE AWARD:

DISPLAY THE AWARD CERTIFICATE ON YOUR WEBSITE

ANNOUNCE YOUR WIN WITH A POST AND LINK TO WHOEVER PRESENTED YOUR AWARD

PRESENT 15 AWARDS TO DESERVING BLOGGERS

DROP THEM A COMMENT TO TIP THEM OFF AFTER YOU’VE LINKED THEM IN THE POST

POST 7 INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF.

The thing that I find most difficult about these awards is trying to find 7 interesting things about myself….and as I do not want to repeat myself, having to find 7 new things…..

One entirely new fact about me is that I have VERY recently become interested  in photography (since starting blogging 5 months ago when I saw how amateurish my photographs were compared to everyone else’s!)
I still have a lot to learn, but am pleased with my progress so far and am enjoying photographing things that would never have entered my head before, including black and white photography

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Second fact – I mentioned last time that I was a lapsed writer and have had short stories published in various magazines, but I also self published a teenage fantasy novella about 10 years ago and I received a royalty cheque for 32P this month – so obviously somebody has just bought a copy!

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Number three – who would be my ideal guest at a dinner party?
Answer, Alexandre Dumas.
Why?
Because he was larger than life (literally) just like one of his characters (I imagine that he modelled the Musketeer Pathos on himself)
He was a great wit and intelligence, and a great ‘ladies man’. But mainly because he was one of the first ‘bloggers’ publishing his stories in instalments in his own journal, and he was also a ‘foodie’ and the last book that he wrote was actually a cookery book (see my blog post on ‘Grated carrot salad and Chateau de Monte Christo)

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Gorgeous Chateau de Monté Christo

Hmm this is difficult, I am really not very interesting – Ok, fact number four. My English teacher at school was the renowned author and play-write, Willy Russell and he used to call me the poet of the school, not a bad accolade huh.

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Shirley Valentine, a one woman play by Willy Russell immortalised in film

Fact number five, I first came to Paris when I was seventeen and fell in love with the city and made up my mind to live there one day – it took me  30 years, but here I am!

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Me discussing art at ‘Place du Tertre’ I loved this guys paintings,

Number six, it is no secret that, I LOVE food and cooking, but just to prove that I am not a domestic Goddess and do get it wrong from time to time – here is my ‘atomic’ bread! I had to prop the lid of the bread machine open with wine corks as it had grown far too big to be contained – tasted great though (to give you an idea of perspective, normally a loaf ends at the line where this one ‘takes-off’!)

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And finally, fact number seven. I love donkeys, and in fact my daughter adopted a donkey called Billy-O from a donkey sanctuary in Yorkshire for my birthday present this year. I have numerous photos of me stroking donkeys (mainly in various parts of Greece) and could create a donkey blog….I wonder if it would take off……..hmmmmm

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Me and a friend at Santorini

So there you have it – now for my nominations – thank you all for enriching my life in one way or another. And thank you also to all my lovely friends, readers and followers.:-

Rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com – Although I am not a ‘doggy’ person, I love Rachel’s ‘dog’s eye view’ of the world seen through the eyes of her two adorable pooches. She also has some very astute observations to say for herself. I am SO glad she stopped by my blog and found me.

Thegreyeye.wordpress.com (Life as we see it) – I know that you will not reciprocate, as you have said so before, but I love your photos and insights into other cultures, and enjoy our exchanges, so this is just to acknowledge how interesting your blog is.

Thebelleabroad.wordpress.com – well what can I say, I feel like I have met myself 30 years ago – I love reading Belle’s adventures and seeing her wonderful quirky photos, you are a breath of fresh air.

klregister.wordpress.com (the ninth life) – K.L. my life is richer with you in it – beautiful words of wisdom from a wise and beautiful blog sister, check her out you won’t be sorry.

thegingerbreadmummy.wordpress.com (Fourpeskyhobbits) – an amusing sometimes bitter/sweet look on life by a courageous mum of four who is home schooling her children and trying not to lose herself along the way.

karinateuma,wordpress.com (Food is Life) – Karina cooks my kind of food and has the same attitude to wasting food as I do, using every scrap in n inventive way.

lovingleaisuretime.wordpress.com (Frances 42015) – I have only just come across this gorgeous blog when she stopped by mine and liked a post – so glad that you did, I really look forward to getting to know you better, lovely life philosophy and food.

averagesouthafrican.wordpress.com – again a blog which is new to me, with fab photography and really different recipes, giving an insight to a completely different culture. Very professional blog – I have a long way to go……..

The next four nominees, I nominated last time, but I love them so much, I just had to give them another mention:-

Lauracooperphotoblog.wordpress.com –as previously stated, Laura has set the standard in photography that I would love to attain someday. check her out

Goan imports www.goanwiki.com AKA Nandini – Just gorgeous, being a curry fanatic, I want to make everything on this site!

stopfood.me – I love everything on this newly discovered site, some gorgeous recipes with pictures to match and lots of ‘cheats’ tips – a girl after my own heart!

www.happinessandhazelnuts.com – When I read michelle’s writing and see her lovely photos, I am in another world. You know how much I love what you do…..

For those of you who are counting,  that only makes 12, but they are 12 that I am genuinely following with envy and interest.

A bientot
Lindy

PARIS ON A BUDGET – LE PETIT PALAIS

(Bonjour. I am Lindy I have lived in the beautiful city of Paris since 2009, and I would like to share my personal top 10 things to do in Paris if you are visiting on a shoestring, or just if you want to get away from the madding crowd at the Eiffel tower!)

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4 – The ‘Petit Palais’

The ‘Grand Palais’ and the ‘Petit Palais’ are situated in the 8th ‘arrondissement’ on opposite sides of ‘Avenue Winston Churchill’, which lies mid way down the lovely tree lined lower part of the ‘Champs Elysees’ between the ‘Place du rond point’ and ‘Place de la Concorde’, and are a stones throw from metro station ‘Champs Elysees Clemenceau’ which is served by metro lines 1 and 13.

Built in 1900 for the ‘Exposition Universelle’, the imposing Grand Palais with its enormous glass dome houses temporary, usually prestigious, art exhibitions and prices vary accordingly.

The more discreet and more classically designed Petit Palais’ which is, in my opinion one of the loveliest buildings in the city, has been home to the ‘Musée des Beaux Arts de la ville de Paris’ since 1902, and also plays host to temporary exhibitions for which there is a fee, but as one of the 14 ‘Museums of the city of Paris’ all permanent exhibitions are entirely free.

(Please note that during popular temporary exhibitions there is often a queue at the main entrance, if you are visiting the permanent collection only there is a smaller entrance down some stairs to the right of the main entrance)

The Petit Palais stretches either side of a palatial stone staircase leading to a magnificent arched gateway, fabricated in glass and wrought iron and surrounded by an intricate stone arch, which is a joy to behold and photograph in both daylight and floodlit during the evening. (there is access for wheelchair users on Avenue Detuit situated at the back of the building accessible from the Champs Elysees)

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The majestic main entrance to ‘Le Petit Palais’

The interior of the building is every bit as impressive as the exterior. From the elegant wrought iron staircases, and wonderful mosaic floors and beautiful decorative murals to the fabulous stained glass ‘Cupole’.

It is constructed in four wings enclosing a tranquil ‘Moroccan’ style garden with a central pool surrounded by shady exotic plants and a semi circular peristyle that boasts a frescoed, vaulted ceiling depicting the hours of the day, day and night and female allegories of the four seasons.

Overlooking the garden is the café where you can enjoy an excellent ‘Café Gourmond’ or a selection of pasta dishes, sandwiches, and ‘soupe de jour’ with prices starting at under 5 euro. They also offer a glass of Bordeaux for a modest 4 euro! This is a convenient place to take a break after a morning shopping and sightseeing on the Champs Elysees, and there are clean free toilets to be found both in the café and in the basement of the museum.

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View from the café terrace

The museum houses collections from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and amongst many other works, paintings by Flemish and Dutch artists such as Rembrandt and Rubens. French artists such as Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Renoir and Toulouse-lautrec. Sculptures by Renoir and Rodin, and many decorative arts including wonderful art deco pieces by Emile Gallé and Lalique, and fine examples of Christian art from the western and eastrn world.

For those seeking souvenirs, the museum shop offers a good choice gifts with prices starting at less than 4 euro, and is a nice place to browse through the numerous books on art nouveau.

After visiting the Petit Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill is interesting in its own right. Flanked by a statues of both Charles de Galle and Georges Clemenceau at one end (De Galle is practically next to the metro and Clemenceau on the opposite side of the road) and Winston Churchill at the other (a little further on from the entrace to the petit palais) This Avenue leads onto ‘Pont Alexandre III’, also constructed for the Universal Exhibition in 1900 to symbolise unity between France and Russia with the first stone having been laid by Tsar Nicholas II. This distinctive bridge which is guarded at each side by two pillars bearing gilded bronze statues of Pegaus, crosses the Seine and leads directly onto the ‘Esplanade des Invalides’ affording a marvellous view of ‘Les Invalides’, the final resting place of the Emperor Napoleon.

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Statue of Winston Churchill

Practical Information

The petit Palais is open every day except Mondays and public holidays

Opening times are (correct at publication):-

10am – 6pm

Late night opening Thursdays until 8pm

Admission charges:-

Permanent exhibitions – free

Temporary exhibitions – prices vary

 

 

PARIS ON A BUDGET – PLACE DES VOSGES/MUSEE VICTOR HUGO

 

(Bonjour. I am Lindy I have lived in the beautiful city of Paris since 2009, and I would like to share my personal top 10 things to do in Paris if you are visiting on a shoestring, or just if you want to get away from the madding crowd at the Eiffel tower!)

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Majestic Place des Vosges

3 – PLACE DES VOSGES/VICTOR HUGO MUSEUM

Brief History

Situated at the crossroads of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in the heart of the ancient Marais district lies the historic ‘Place des Vosges’. Often described as one of the most beautiful squares in the world, this is certainly the oldest and most distinctive in the city of Paris.

Formally named ’Place Royale’ (and various other less inspiring names after the revolution such as ‘Place des Federes’, ‘Place de la Fabrication-des-armes’, and ‘Place de l’invisibilite’!) It became ‘Place des Vosges’ in 1800 and was classed as an historic monument in 1954

Construction began in 1605 during the reign of Henri IV and was completed in 1612, two years after the much beloved king’s death at the hands of the Catholic fanatic Francois Ravaillac. The square was finally inaugurated in 1612 at the engagement of his son and successor, Louis XIII to Anne of Austria (parents of Louis XIIII – ‘The sun King’) and it is Louis XIII’s mounted statue that occupies the centre of the square, which is known as ‘Place Louis XIII’.

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The Statue of Louis XIII

 

The Square

The vast garden square is flanked by distinctive, red bricked, many windowed buildings which reside beneath imposing blue slate roofs, giving an appearance of harmony, when in fact each is architecturally unique. Surrounding the statue, are grassy picnic areas, enclosed children’s playgrounds and sandpits, and elegant fountains. An abundance of duel sided benches offer shade beneath the many trees, the ideal place to relax with a book or simply sit and people watch.

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One of the elegant fountsins

Shady colonnades surround the square on all sides, dotted with private art and photographic galleries, exclusive shops and a variety of restaurants. Ranging from the ‘popular’ ‘Café Hugo’ situated on the corner of Rue du pas de la Mule, to the up market ‘La Carret’ where a cup of tea will set you back 8 euro – giving you an indication of the rest of the prices, My personal favourites are ‘La Nectarine’ salon du the, just a bit further on than Café Hugo, serving reasonably priced snacks, salads, omelettes and ‘plats’ as ‘ Coq au vin’ and ‘pave du saumon’ for around 13 euro, with a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

And the slightly more up-market ‘La Place Royal’ for a ‘tete-a-tete’ in a more romantic ambiance.

Shops worth visiting are ‘Parfums et Senteurs de la pays Basque‘ a gorgeous little boutique selling a collection of candles and perfumes for the home situated in between ‘Café Hugo; and ‘La Nectarine’ – you will be drawn in by the aromas alone. Another wonderful aroma exudes from Dammann Freres’ tea merchants since 1692, situated directly opposite. And I can never resist a visit to the quirky little hat stall on the corner closest to the ‘Marais’ entrance to the square, with an wide array of hats ranging from around 5 to around 25 euro – try some on for fun!

 

Victor Hugo Museum

The Victor Hugo Museum is on an internal corner of the square at ‘6 Place des Vosges’ and was where the writer, Paris conservationist and welfare rights publicist lived from 1832 – 1845. The museum exhibits memorabilia from his life from the periods pre, post and during his exile to Belgium and finally Guernsey due to his opposition to Napoleon.

Here wandering around what were his private apartments, one can see a collection of family paintings, personal letters and original manuscripts, elaborate room reconstructions and a poignant selection of furniture made by Hugo himself and carved with the initials ‘V.H. and J.D.’ his own and those of ‘Juliette Drouet’ the actress who was his lover for more than 50 years until her death in 1883, preceding him by just two years.

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Victor Hugo museum

All permanent exhibitions are entirely free and there is a modest little gift shop at the entrance of the museum selling notably his most famous works, ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, along with lesser known works and biographies. There are also toilets situated at the museum.

Practical Information

Place des Vosges is easily reached from metro station Bastille – lines 1, 5 and 8. Take exit 7 on to Rue de Beaumarchais and continue along this road for about 200 meters then take a left turn onto Rue du pas de la Mule. Place des Vosges is at 100 meters on the left. Alternatively it can be reached from metro station St Paul on line 1 with a leisurely, sign-posted, stroll through the colourful boutiques in the winding streets of the Marais (I like to arrive via Bastille, then saunter through the Marais after visiting the square)

The museum is open every day except Mondays and all public holidays.

Opening times are (correct at time of publication) 10am – 6pm.

SUMMER SOLSTICE SUNSETS AND ‘LA FETE DE LA MUSIQUE’

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Magnificant colours and cloud formation over the Bois de Vincennes. Photography by Lindy Kelly

 

This time of year produces some stunning sunsets to be seen from my living room, which faces due west. Every evening I am tempted away from my book or film on the television, and camera in hand click away, capturing the ever changing colour and light and cloud formation.

Last Sunday (21st June) was the summer solstice and in France this has been celebrated since 1982 years by ‘La fete de la Musique’.

Originally only in Paris, the idea soon caught on and spread to the rest of France and the world beyond, and is now celebrated in over 700 cities in around 120 countries (this blog is at the time of writing read in 27 countries!)

The ethos is to promote music in two ways:-
To encourage both amateur and professional musicians to perform on the street.
To provide many free concerts to make all genres of music accessible to all (all concerts must be free and participants give their own free time)

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Dancing in the street – la fete de la musique Paris 2014

The atmosphere here in Paris on this day is incredible and the local free press gives details of times and locations of all organised concerts/events, but the real joy is just walking along the street and stumbling upon a jazz band, or concert violinist, or salsa music and dancing that has just taken root for the day.
Last year while walking around the Rue Mouftard area there was music being made on every corner and as the sounds from one source faded, the sounds of the next merged and took over.

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Some ladies shaking their booty to some Salsa music near to Arts et Metiers, Paris 2014

This years organised events included:-
Blues and Jaz in the Tuileries
Violin and flute recitals at place de la Sorbonne
Choral singing at Place des Vosges
And literally hundreds of other concerts from Funk, rock, reggae, pop, classical, traditional music from various parts of France and the entire world.

So if you are planning trip to Paris in late spring/early summer (especially if travelling on a budget), it would be good to remember this unique event and come and join in the fun………

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Gorgeous midsummer sunset over the Bois de Vincennes. Photography by Lindy Kelly