PARIS BY NIGHT

PARIS ON A BUDGET

(Bonjour. I am Lindy I have lived in the beautiful city of Paris since 2009, and I would like to share with you 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!)

IMGP1712 (3)

All photographs by Lindy Kelly

6 – Paris by Night

They say that Paris is made for lovers – that may well be so, but I think that it is made for walkers – ‘Les Flaneurs’ – people who amble through the city from park to park, garden to garden, museum to museum, bookshop to bookshop, maybe stopping at the odd café on the way for essential refreshments and a spot of people watching.

The city begs to be walked. It draws you along seductively through narrow winding streets which reveal tantalising glimpses of one majestic building or another that you just have to reach, and lures you on to discover what wonder is lying behind the next corner. Equally the ‘Grands Boulevards’ distort all sense of distance and the miniature Arc de Triomphe which appears to be a mere  30 minute walk away from the Louvre, is in fact enormous and four times the distance that you imagined!

IMGP1684 (2)

Strolling by the banks of the Seine

This is no accident, it was in fact designed this way. I once commented to a Parisian friend of mine while we were on a four hour ‘stroll’ to wherever our feet took us, that we were in fact living in the oldest theme park in the world – she wholeheartedly agreed!

There are only a handful of varieties of trees lining the streets, the vast majority being plain trees that were originally planted throughout France by Napoleon to provide shade for his marching army. The second variety are the Lime trees (tilleuil) from which a popular tea in France is made.
This gives a uniformity to the city that further deceives the walker and tricks him into continuing along long these tree lined boulevards.
It is not only the trees: lamp posts, Morris Towers, fountains, even the chairs and tables on the pavement cafes, all follow a Parisian ‘dress code’ to give a seamless appearance to the city.

IMGP1715 (2)

Lovely little secluded Place Dauphine

Bearing this in mind, it is essential that you bring a comfortable pair of shoes with you when visiting Paris – leave the ‘Manolo Blahniks’ at home unless you are here for Paris fashion week and plan to go everywhere by taxi!

I particularly love walking in the evening in late spring/early summer or late summer/early autumn, when the temperatures are balmy, but the dusk arrives before 10, giving plenty of time to stroll around the city taking in the beautiful floodlit buildings and magical ambiance of the banks of the Seine and her bridges.

IMGP1671 (2)

Even the moon shines brighter in Paris

A favourite evening stroll of mine is from the ‘hill of St Genevieve’ in the 5th ‘arrondisssement’, where the beautiful ‘church of St Genevieve is floodlit’ (actually it is equally beautiful bathed in late evening sunlight). Continue pass the majestic ‘Pantheon’ and time it so that you arrive here on or just after the hour and you will be rewarded by a spectacular view of the ‘Eiffel Towe’r shimmering in all her glory.
Go straight ahead and take the small back street on the right after rue St Jacques and you will arrive at the ‘Sorbonne University’, where you can cut through the delightful café lined square to Boulevard St Michel.
Follow the road down to the imposing fountain and there on your right is ‘Notre Dame’ herself in all her floodlit glory.

IMGP1711 (3)

Romantic Pont Neuf

After this you can meander along the right bank past ‘Pont Neuf’ and the lovely ‘Acadamy Francaise’ and on to the ‘Louvre’ if your legs will carry you!

You can actually walk from the ‘Louvre’ to ‘Place de la Concorde’ and if you are a real ‘Flaneur’ on to the ‘Arc de Triomphe’. But this will be a true test of stamina………………

IMGP1719 (2)

It just wouldn’t be Paris without a sot of the Eiffel Tower!

(All Photographs that appear on this post are originals by Lindy Kelly, any reproduction requires her permission)

PARIS ON A BUDGET – MUSEE DE CARNAVALET

(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!)

IMG_1094 (2)

5 – Musee de Carnavalet

The musee de Carnavalet situated in the ancient ‘Marais’ district in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris is a ‘Hotel Particular’ (Name given to grand private houses) which was bought by the ‘Municpal de Paris’ in 1866 and opened as a museum in 1880. In 2013 it became the oldest of the 14 ‘Musees de la ville de Paris’, 10 of which are entirely FREE to the public except for temporary private exhibitions (there is a list of all 14 museums at the end of this post, and an independent post to follow – Follow this blog to receive more information)

Paris Juillet 2007 081 (2)

The museum is in fact two houses which have been knocked into one, ‘The hotel de Carnavalet’ which was contructed in the mid16th century and was the home between 1677 and 1696 of ‘Madame de Sevingne’, a lady who could be described as a latter day blogger, famous for her daily letter writing to her daughter, chronicling the everyday events of her life and that of her neighbourhood and Paris in general.
The second house, ‘The hotel de le Peletier de Sain Fargeau’, was built around the same time and was originally known as ‘Hotel d’Ogeral’. Le Peletier de Fargeau was the representative of the nobility in the ‘Estates-General of 1789 and he voted for the execution of Louis XVI. Ironically, he himself was murdered in revenge on the same day that the King was guillotined on the 20th January 1793.

IMG_1093 (2)

The collection recounts the city’s varied and colourful history through a diverse collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture, room recreations and other memorabilia, that spans from a staggering 4,600 years BC exhibiting a prehistoric dugout canoe, to present day featuring modern exhibitions, and includes artefacts from the French Revolution.
My personal favourites are the ‘Art Nouveau’ rooms, including ‘The Fouquet jewellery shop by ‘Alphonse Mucha’ and the 1925 grand interior of the ‘Hotel de Wendell ballroom’ by ‘José-maria Sert’

IMG_1105 (2)IMG_1103 (2)

IMG_1104 (2)

Practical information Address – 16 Rue de Frances-Bourgeois, 75003 Contact – (0033 1) 01 44 59 76 96 www.carnavalet.paris.fr
Getting there – Metro line 1 – Saint-Paul, line 8 – Chemin Vert, Bus 29, 69, 76,96 Open Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 6pm (ticket office closes at 5.15pm) every day except for all public holidays
Disabled access (telephone for information)

Jardin musée Carnavalet 091 (2)

Musees de la ville de Paris

The 11 free museums (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

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!)

petit palais 3

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)

Petit Palais 2

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.

Petit Palais 5

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.

Petit Palais 1

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!)

Place des Vosges 1 (2)

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’.

Place des Vosges 3

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.

Place des Vosges 2

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.

original_maison_de_victor_hugo[1]

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’

IMGP0998

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)

IMG_8914 (2)

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.

IMG_8918 (2)

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………

IMGP0890 (2)

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

PARIS ON A BUDGET – MUSEE DE RODIN

(Bonjour. I am Lindy I have lived in the beautiful city of Paris since 2009, and I would like to share with you 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!)

For all those who already know me – this is a little ‘spin off’ for summer, as many people will be visiting Paris. If anyone visiting for a short time and would like a ‘Taylor made tour’ to suit their interests to save time (and money) Please contact me – fees vary depending on how much you want me to do (meet at airport – organise tickets etc or simple plan a self guided tour with all metro/opening times and fee information) But excellent value! As I am sure many will testify…..

1 – THE RODIN MUSEUM

Musee de Rodin 1

Me at Musee de Rodin with a lovely young American lady to whom I had the pleasure of acting as tour guide for the day’

Brief History

Tucked away in the nondescript ‘Rue de Varenne’ in the shadow of the imposing ‘Hotel des Invalides’ lies my personal favourite, the ‘Hotel Biron’, (named after a former owner, The Marechal de Biron, as war hero from the battle of Fontenoy) a veritable little gem of an 18th chateau standing in its own grounds and home since 1919 to ‘The Rodin museum’.

Constructed in the Rococo style between 1729-1730 by ‘Jean Aubert’, the architect who went on to build the magnificent chateau of ‘Chantilly’ to the north west of Paris, the chateau is worth a visit in its own right. It is elegant and understated, the south facing ‘salons’ being luminous and airy, with large French windows that overlook the lovely gardens.

Musee de Rodin 3

The beautiful ‘Kiss’ by Auguste Rodin

The Hotel Biron has played host to a number of famous residents – notably the writer, cartoonist and film maker Jean Cocteau, the painter Matisse, and of course Rodin himself, who occupied the exquisite south facing rooms on the ground floor and with the light streaming in through the large French windows it is easy to imagine the artist himself at work on a new masterpiece, but in fact he continued to live and work at ‘Meudon’ and used this Paris apartment for soirees with his many friends from the world of art and literature.

In 1911 the state took possession of the property and the idea of transforming it into ‘The Rodin museum’ arose. Rodin donated all of his sculptures and drawings, along with their rights, to the state in 1916, but he sadly died in 1917, before seeing the realisation of his wonderful and generous gift to the nation.

The Collection

The museum now houses not only a large collection of sculptures and sketches by Francois-Auguste Rodin himself, ranging from the sheer simplistic beauty of ‘The Danaide’, ‘The Cathedral’, ‘The Secret’ and the famous ‘Kiss’ to the eroticism of ‘The messenger of the Gods’, and the tortured suffering and despondence of ‘The gates of Hell’ But is also home to works by Camille Claudel, his former student, muse and lover, who tragically spent the last 30 years of her life in an asylum and who produced my personal favourite sculpture above even those of Rodin – ‘The Waltz’, a tiny masterpiece in bronze, standing less than a meter high, portraying the power, tenderness and beauty of the human form, and is a marvel to view from each and every 360 degree angle.

Musee de Rodin 4

A photograph cannot do justice to the beautiful ‘Waltz’ by Camille Claudel

The Gardens

The best news for those travelling on a budget, is that entrance fee just for the gardens is only 2 euro during high season, and 1 euro during low season, and it is here that the major grand works, such as the famous ‘Thinker’ and ‘The Gates of Hell’ are found.

The gardens are a delight in themselves and a wonderful place to find sanctuary away from the hot sun and crowds during July and August. There are shaded copses furnished with wooden loungers on which to relax with a book or enjoy a picnic. There is a wooded area eerily populated by a variety of grim Biblical figures, a lovely fountain, and a great photo opportunity of the golden dome of ‘Les Invalides’ and the Eiffel Tower, both seen from the courtyard at the front of the chateau. And, of course, ‘The Thinker’ tantalisingly peeking from a behind a maze of giant topiary bushes.

Musee de Rodin 6

The famois ‘Thinker (Le Penseur)’

Services

All this and a nice little cafeteria with both indoor and outdoor seating, serving reasonably priced sandwiches, pasta salads, quiches and a very tempting selection of patisseries. Teas coffee and you can even enjoy a chilled glass of wine! There is also ice cream and soft drinks on sale from a kiosk.

The museum has ample well maintained toilet facilities both in the garden and near to the main entrance, plus an interesting gift shop where you can buy books, post cards etc, and replicas of some of the sculptures.

Practical Information

The museum is a few of 100 meters metro station ‘Varenne’ on line 13. (on leaving the metro turn in direction of the dome of Les Invalides keeping on the opposite side of the road, cross at the pedestrian crossing near the cafe, and the museum entrance is almost opposite at 79 Rue Varenne)

The museum is open every day except Mondays*.

Opening times are (correct at time of publication):-

 10am-5.45pm (last ticket sold at 5.15pm)

Late night opening Wednesday until 8.45pm

Early closing 17-24 December at 5pm. (last tickets sold at 4.15pm)

The museum is closed 25 December, 1st January and 1st May.

Prices (correct at time of publication):-

9 euro – House and gardens

1 euro October- 11 March, 2 euro 12 March-September – Gardens only

7 euro – reduced rate for visitors from non EU countries aged 18-25

4.50 – Persons accompanying a disabled visitor

Disabled visitors, young people under 18 from non EU countries and young people under 25 from EU countries are admitted free.

Audio guides in English are available for 6 euro with various concessions.

Musee de Rodin 5

The ‘Secret’ by Auguste Rodin

How to eat ‘Franglais’

Bonjour tout le monde, I mentioned in my post for ‘Soupe de Moules’  (see blog under starters) a couple of tips on how to eat soup in Paris ( Never with wine and never with bread!) So I thought that I would share with you some table/restaurant etiquette* to stop you from making ‘faux pas’ when dining out in Paris, and that may even get you better service – or at least treated with a little more respect by the Parisian waiters!

Parisian waiters – are rare breed indeed, often seen as haughty, condescending or even downright rude, along with shop assistants and lets face it the French in general!

The first thing to learn is to let go of the Anglo-Saxon idea that ‘The Customer is always right’ and that we have the right to swan in and out of shops and restaurants as if we owned them, treating the staff as our temporary servants,

In Latin cultures, and France for all its close association with the UK and the US, and its northern borders, is essentially a Latin culture, this is not the case.

franghlaid

In the UK and the US shops and restaurants etc are seen as ‘public domain’ and we have the right to mooch around at leisure. In France however, these establishments are  ‘private domain’ and we enter them on the invitation of the owner (I was confused by signs saying ‘free entrée’  and ‘welcome to come inside’ on the doors of small shops when I first moved to Paris, as for me shops were accessible to all….) It is therefore polite to say ‘bonjour madame/monsieur’ when entering a shop and ‘mercimadame/monsieur, au revoir or bonnejournee (the French equivalent to ‘have a nice day’) when leaving. Even if you have not bought anything, this will be greatly appreciated and set you aside from other ignorant tourists who are being treated with disdain.

The fact is that if they are rude to you – you have often been rude first, albeit you have not realised………..

The same goes for restaurants. A good friend who was visiting the Champs Elysees with me, was puzzled when I stood at the entrance to an obviously half empty restaurant in the rain, while other tourists pushed past us and took the best seats beneath the heater (yes we were eating ‘al fresco’ in winter!)

The waiter saw us, I gave him a cursory nod, to which he replied with the same degree of acknowledgment and I asked him if he had a table for two. He immediately swept us to a lovely table for four, separating the two small tables, and took away the heater from above a group of bewildered Japanese tourists.He then brought us a menu and kept the other two parties waiting while he advised us on the ‘plat du jour’ I had simply observed the unspoken rules and been well rewarded!

Parisian waiters follow a rigorous training to be given the honour of wearing the long black apron.  Watch them weaving their way, expertly balancing trays laden with plates, bottles and glasses on one hand raised above their heads, through impossibly tight spaces, often up and down narrow spiral staircases, narrowly missing a colleague coming in the opposite direction.

The other thing to note is NEVER snap your fingers and call ‘garcon’ across a crowded restaurant. The best way to attract a waiter is to either, catch his eye and give him a polite nod, or by saying ‘S’il vous plait monsieur’ as he glides past your table, he may not return immediately, but you will have been placed in a mental queue and he will serve you when your turn arrives. Parisan waiters are not merely students working to get themselves through UNI, they have expertise on all the food that is served in their restaurants and also on the wine, and are more than happy to advise on both.  Their efficiency is second to none – unless of course, you don’t follow the rules…..

Now that you have your table and you know all about how to eat soup, there is just one more little piece of table etiquette* that is essential when eating in France – where to place your hands………

I the UK it is seen as extremely rude to eat with your hands on the table, and any unoccupied hand/hands should stay firmly out of sight on your lap.
In France it is the very opposite that applies…..I was appalled when my partner first ate at my house as he placed his hands on the table, thinking he had no table manners, but while eating out with a French family in a restaurant at Lille, the mother severely reprimanded her 8 years old son for sitting with his hands beneath the table. The child replied in French ‘but Lindy is doing it’ to which the mother replied to my horror (also in French, not realising that I could understand) ‘ Lindy doesn’t know any better, she is English’

One major lesson learnt the hard way………

The story goes that the French keep there hands where they can be seen, or who knows what they could be getting up to under the table – ooh la la!
That said, this does not mean that you can also rest your elbows on the table – the polite way is to gently rest the hand, making a very loose fist with the fingers curling inward, at wrist level on the edge of the table – I think that this looks quite elegant, and this can also often be an unspoken sign to waiters that you are not in fact an ignorant hand hiding tourist, but ‘un vraiParisien’ or at least trying to be………….

So next time that you find yourself in the beautiful ‘City of Light’, put these simple tips into action and see what a difference it makes.

Bonne Chance!

* ‘etiquette’ is a false friend ‘faux amis’ in English it means ‘social manners’

But in French it means a sticky label (as on a wine bottle!)