Empty Chairs and Empty Tables

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables Now my friends are dead and gone…
…..Oh my friends, my friends, don’t ask me
What your sacrifice was for
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will sing no more. ‘Les Miserables’ (Marius’ song)

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I was not going to write any more on the tragic events in Paris two weeks ago, but I went shopping after work on Friday to one of my most beloved parts of the city, Montparnasse in the 14th arrondissement.
This is a very ‘Parisian’ area, one not often frequented by tourists, but a real hub of everyday life, with the offices of the Montparnasse tower looming over little streets filled with restaurants and creperies and quirky little boutiques.
I always get a thrill when I emerge from the metro at ‘Edgar Quinet’ to be greeted by the bustling market that takes place every Wednesday and Saturday, or just to be in the lovely traditional square surrounded by cafés packed with people elbow to elbow around the small, circular tables, taking a morning coffee, or lunch, or afternoon tea or dinner – it all just runs into one hive of activity, and it is often difficult to find a space to squeeze yourself into………

Imagine then my shock and sadness at what greeted me on Friday – not a sole (except for one elderly lady tucked into the corner) at these usually bustling hostelries.

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The terrorists’ bombs and guns have reached far beyond those who have so brutally lost their lives, or have been maimed and traumatised.
They have eaten into the heart of the city, I asked a friend to come shopping with me and have lunch in my particular favorite creperie, but they declined, saying that it was enough that they had to come into the city to work, without putting themselves at extra risk.

Very sad sign of the times. I will leave you know with some images and hope to post some more very soon, with all the chairs and tables once again taken.

Peace be with you all Lindy (Promised Christmas cake post to follow very soon……..)

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Paris Christmas Markets and Illuminations

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This is another difficult post to write, as again recent events stop me from wholly embracing the usual Christmas spirit and heading for the wonderful Parisian Christmas markets this weekend.
I did however, go to the theatre in the city centre to watch a wonderful performance of ‘Cats’ and this was enough excitement for one week – maybe next week I will muster up the courage to go to the markets. With that said, it is a good job that I took some photographs when I was there last year…….

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Christmas market on the Champs Elysees last year

There are quite a few Christmas markets dotted around Paris, but the two main ones are at La Defence (The largest) and on the lower end of the Champs Elysees (most picturesque)
There is also a fair sized market at the foot of the Montparnasse tower and a small one at St Germain des Pres. I usually visit at least two of these each year (sometimes all four!)

 

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The two larger ones also have a lot of places selling traditional snacks such as crepes ad vin chaud along with less traditional fayre such as hot dogs and French fries, but in the main they are very traditional and there is a good variety of artisan and traditional products and the markets are a great place to buy Christmas presents.

The city herself is also lit up, notably along the upper end of the Champs Elysees and the ‘Grand Magasins’ with their wonderful window displays. This year ‘Galleries Lafayette’ have adopted a rather ‘un Christmassy’ Stars Wars theme.

Galleries Layfayete and last years inverted Christmas tree!

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This year’s Star Wars windows

 

No recipe with this post as my next intended post is of a traditional British Christmas Cake, so that’s going to take a bit of time putting together.

I hope that you enjoy the photos, and hope to see you all here in Paris for the Christmas markets in safer times.

Peace be with you

Lindy

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SUNRISE, SUNSET AND ‘SUNSHINE’ FRUIT

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Beautiful unfortunately named ‘Kaki’ fruit

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare

I have spoken before about the very different varieties of fruit and vegetables available here in France then in the UK (and also of the ones which are readily available in the UK that I cannot find at all – purple tender stalk broccoli for one – and I have only really had easy access to parsnips in the last two years) I have also spoken about the seasonal cycle which fruit and veg follow here also.

I just finished mourning the end of the fig season (see my post ‘I do give a fig’), to await with eager anticipation the arrival of ‘Kaki’ fruit. What! I hear you all declare – I agree, not the most enticing of names, but a truly wonderful discovery.

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Kaki fruit in the local supermarket, but the best are those that you buy from the barrow boys who stand outside the stations

These gorgeous orange/yellow giant rosehips are both pretty on the outside and in, with a lovely sun like pattern on the inside that reminds me of a firework exploding in the sky.

They taste somewhere between a peach and a pear and I use them in fruit salads, zap them, if they are a little over ripe, with crème fraiche to make a delicious mousse, and caramelise with butter.

I would call them ‘sunshine’ fruit as I think that this is a much more attractive name and suits them much better…..but as the man said – ‘what’s in a name’………

Speaking of sunshine, or ‘Sunrise and Sunset’, to form another tenuous link with a title, our apartment is in a lovely 1930’s building sandwiched between the lovely river Marne and the Bois de Vincennes.
Granted there are other, more modern, less attractive apartment buildings masking some of the view of the river at the back, and the very convenient, but not very glamourous station right in front. But when I am sitting on my sofa, or at my dining table then all I can see are trees and sky (or if lying on my bed, just sky!)

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View from my lounge window (when sitting)

It is the sky that is the icing on the cake for me living here (apart from the centre of Paris being 20 minutes away by a direct train from the said station!)
I regularly wake to a bedroom bathed in coral as the sun rises in the east, and each evening I have the ‘best seats in the house’ to watch the ever changing sky as she sets again in the west. I have never seen such a dazzling display of light and colour, especially when there are moody clouds hovering over the treetops.

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‘Beautiful dawn, light up the sky for me, there is nothing in the world, I’d rather wake up and see’

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‘Lever du Soleil’ Sun coming up behind the geraniums on my bedroom balcony

It is breath-taking, and I frequently abandon my dinner or a program on the television and click away with my camera capturing image after image – I have literally hundreds of them – but won’t subject you to them all……..

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These two photos were taken about 90 seconds apart from the same position

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As I am one of the least technical people in the world, none of these photos have been ‘photoshopped’ and what you get is what I see.

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Gathering storm

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Silver linings

ALTERNATIVE PARIS

Alternative Paris

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Boots and shoes hanging across street near rue Moufftard

 

Bonjour tout le Monde.

Not my usual style of post I know (What no food!), but many people have posted some lovely photos of Paris recently (see ‘Life as we see it’ post on the Arc de Triomphe, if you have not already.)

So I thought that I’d put a few of my ‘alternative’ photos of in and around the ‘City of Light’.
And show it in gritty black and white. Not so picturesque as the black and white photos on my ‘Paris by Night’ post, but things that have caught my eye when I was out and about last weekend.

Hope you like it – normal service will be resumed at the weekend.

A Bientot!

Lindy

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Messing about with Boats

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The ‘Boat’ Lake Jardins de Luxembourg

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Skater Boys

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Bored Girls

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The Night Train

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Street Life

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The Shoe Shine Man

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Still the City of Romance

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Best place to take a ‘Selfie’

LA RENTRE ET LA FOIRE AUX VINS

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A little departure from my usual post, with neither a recipe nor travelogue.

The first week of September in France sees ‘La Rentree’. The mass return to school and work after, in some cases, spending either all of July or August on holiday – or both! It is no secret that France enjoy more public holidays than any other country in Europe!

‘La Rentree’ generates a frenzy that I have never experienced in the UK, and T.V. news and current affair programmes dedicate hours of viewing time, advising parents how to prepare their offspring for this traumatic ‘annual’ event!

I myself have fallen into the mass exodus trap during the month of August, as both my partner and I work in the public sector (and let’s face it most people do in a country that boasts, along with more public holidays, more civil servants than any other), and we are obliged to take our holidays in August.

And besides, all of the local restaurants, markets and ‘zut alors!’, even the local boulangeries’ are closed,and with regional busses and trains running to a drastically reduced ‘summer timetable’, staying at home is not much fun……..

We try to dodge the convoys of cars and motor homes heading for the coast, by being very un French and taking our ‘vacances’ from Thursday to Thursday, thus avoid the ‘orange and red’ traffic alert days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

To soften the blow of ‘La Rentree’ the resourceful French have invented ‘La Foire aux Vins’. During the month of September ‘La Foire aux Vins’ takes place throughout France. This is basically a commercial ploy to get everyone into the supermarkets and wine merchants, buying wine and then presumably drowning the thought of another 10 months in school/work until they can do it all again!

Now I am NO wine expert, though I have acquired preferences since moving here six years ago, and no longer go for the prettiest label (that is actually a lie – bottle shape and labels still influence my choice……….and I’ve discovered some nice little tipples like this, along with a lot that have gone into the ‘coq au vin’ or ‘Boeuf Bourguingnon’ (see both my posts for these delicious ‘Franglais’ recipes)

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Some cheap and cheerful wines on a buy two get one free offer for ‘La Foire Aux Vins’ at my local supermarket

I was very pleased however to pick up a sole bottle of 2012 Vin de Graves (as I had read somewhere that Graves was one of the best grape growing regions in Bordeaux). But then realised that I should have bought a ‘Grand’ Vin de Graves (as ‘Grand’ vin de Bordeaux’) and my choice was pretty lightweight.
After saying that (all French readers cover your eyes) I often find Bordeaux wines too heavy and personally prefer a ‘Val de Loire’ or ‘Vin de Bougogne’ red, plus I read on line that this wine was best with poultry, lamb and spicy foods, which is right up my rue.
So I am going to save it until the weather gets a bit cooler and serve it with my ‘Coq au Vin’ (or if all else fails, put it in the sauce!)

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I’ll give the verdict after I’ve tasted it!

Of course if I had studied the ‘La Carte Des Millesimes’ then I would have known that 2009 and 2010 were the best recent years for wines from the Bordeaux region and 2012 was the year to look for in Champagne!

I’ve compiled a little abridged table below to help you chose.
I have highlighted all the four and five star selections.

Five star ***** = Année exceptionnelle. Four star **** = Tres bonne année Three star *** = bonne année. Two star ** = Année moyen (average)

But my motto is ‘if it tastes good, drink it’ and don’t worry too much about what the experts say!

2005 Bordeaux ***** Bourgogne ***** Val de Loire ***** Champagne ***

2006 Bordeaux ***  Bourgogne ***   Val de Loire ***     Champagne ***

2007 Bordeaux ***   Bourgogne ***  Val de Loire ****   Champagne ***

2008 Bordeaux ***   Bourgogne ***   Val de Loire **** Champagne ****

2009 Bordeaux ***** Bourgogne **** Val de Loire **** Champagne ***

2010 Bordeaux ***** Bourgogne ***   Val de Loire ***   Champagne X

2011 Bordeaux ***  Bourgogne ***   Val de Loire ***   Champagne ***

2012 Bordeaux **   Bourgogne ***   Val de Loire **   Champagne ****

2013 Bordeaux **   Bourgogne **   Val de Loire **   Champagne ***

P.S. I now carry a little copy of this in my bag, so I can spot a real bargain when I see one!

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!)

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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………………

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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!)

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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)

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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.

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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’

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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)

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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