Posts Tagged ‘paris’

Toy bicycles in a shop window

The local toy shop has decorated its window for the occasion!

Last year, we missed the Tour de France. We were in Paris when the race passed through Canterbury, then in Canterbury when the race passed through Paris. It was ironic, but it meant that we didn’t get to see any of the famous race.

This year, however, the race passed within 100 meters of our apartment, so there was no excuse for not going out and having a look. We met up with Anne-Laure and Neil, who live just down the road, and watched the caravane go by. There weren’t as many people as I expected, so we staked out a good spot and watched the parade go by.

We were listening to the coverage. The riders were taking their time and were still 120km away by the time the caravane went past. So we trundled up to Anne-Laure and Neil’s place to open a nice bottle of rosé and watch the coverage on TV. The rest of the crowds remained in place on the road – two hours of watching nothing! When the riders were about 10km outside of Paris, we headed back downstairs to get a look.

The riders were all together in the peloton – the whole race passed us in 8-10 seconds. Imagine camping out for three hours to catch 8 seconds of action. Great to say that I was there, but not sure I’d rush back to do it again. Cycling is definitely a sport that’s better to watch on TV than up-close and personal!

Tour de France - Police Officers

Police officers block off access to the Quai

Tour de France - Aude in the sun

Aude gets ready to catch the parade

Tour de France - Police Motorcycles

Police motorcycles

Tour de France - Police Motorcycles

Police motorcycles

Tour de France - Crowd

The crowd begins to line the street to watch the caravane pass

Tour de France - LCL Caravane

The first vehicle in the caravane is the LCL rider

Tour de France - LCL Caravane

The LCL lion

Tour de France - Skoda Yeti Caravane

Advertising vehicle for the new Skoda Yeti

Tour de France - Skoda Support Car

The Skoda support car

Tour de France - Haribo Caravane

The Haribo bears coming down the road. No free candy for us, unfortunately.

Tour de France - Haribo Caravane

An army of Haribo cars

Tour de France - Antargaz Caravane

The Antargaz car

Tour de France - Aude

Aude decided to work on her suntan

Tour de France - BBox Caravane

BBox car

Tour de France - PMU Caravane

The PMU cars (PMU is a racing / betting shop)

Tour de France - Ricore Caravane

The Ricore car. Yes, this guy is basically driving a cup of coffee with a spoon sticking out of it.

Tour de France - Press Car

France Info Press car

Tour de France - Panache Caravane

A Panach buggy

Tour de France - Panache Caravane

A rolling Panach four-pack. For me, this was the funniest car that we saw.

Tour de France - Gendarmerie

The first of the Gendarerie Nationale cars

Tour de France - Cochounou Caravane

A 2CV from Cochounou. Sausage, anyone?

Tour de France - Cochounou Caravane

Fact – cute girls sell sausages.

Tour de France - Cochounou Caravane

More sausage-waving

Tour de France - Police Nationale

The Police Nationale out in their new Range Rovers

Tour de France - Caisse Epargne Caravane

The Caisse Epargne truck, complete with cycling giraffe. Of course.

Tour de France - Sapeurs Pompiers

The Sapeurs Pompiers

Neil with camera

Neil gets a good angle

Anne Laure

Anne Laure seems to be enjoying herself


Another happy fan

Tour de France - Peloton

The moment we were all waiting for — the peloton passing at Pont Neuf


We managed to wake up early this morning to go to the famous Paris flea markets at Saint Ouen. I have to admit, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Instead of loads of vendors who set up each morning, the stalls at Saint Ouen are all permanent – closed against the weather, self-contained units that can be locked up each night. As a result, there are quite a few very high-end dealers selling antiques down there.

We managed to come home empty-handed, not least because the prices at the flea market reflect its semi-permanent state: there are no bargains to be had here – dealers shop elsewhere and these products are priced for tourists. Oh well, it was still a fun morning out, worth getting up early for.

Flea Markets at St Ouen

Looking down one of the alleys in the flea markets at Saint Ouen

Hanging lanterns and lamps

Hanging lanterns and lamps outside one of the stalls

Ducks in a row

A line of ducks in a row. Cheeky garden gnomes hiding in the background.

Wooden furniture in piles

Wooden furniture, stacked high at one of the stalls in the market

Tapestries and chairs

Tapestries and chairs along a wall in the market

Wicker baskets

Wicker baskets outside a stall

The afternoon was a last chance to enjoy our four-day weekend (well, until next weekend, when we have a three-day weekend. There are some upsides of living in France, and the number of public holidays over the summer months is definitely one of them). So off we headed to the Jardins de Luxembourg to spend a few hours in the afternoon sun, catching up on our reading and watching the old men play petanque in the park.

Tonight is the highlight of the weekend – we’ll finally finish compiling our first French tax return, a mammoth this year with over 30 pages (mostly relating to our bank accounts held outside France – the French are obsessed with the notion that everyone is harbouring their money off-shore and not declaring it. Which, in most cases, is true. I read that, as a nation, the French massively under-declare their tax. It’s something of a national pastime to see how much you can get past the tax inspectors). We’ve just about gotten our heads around it and will post it off tomorrow to avoid the last-minute rush at the end of the month.

Waiting for my blog updates is a little like waiting for a bus – none come for ages, then two come at once. I suspect that’s probably a case of when I have time versus when I don’t, but whatever the reason, there will be two updates today.

We’re into the summer season of public holidays in France. Yesterday was a public holiday, and nearly everyone in the country takes today off to make a four-day weekend. Anne-Laure was left stranded in Paris by Neil (who, due to his UK contract, was forced to work on Thursday and Friday) so we took pity on her and had her over for dinner. It was also a great excuse for me to see my local butcher about a beautiful rack of lamb.

So cold cucumber & mint soup to start, rack of lamb with balsamic reduction, roast potatoes, and long-stemmed broccoli, and a tarte aux fraises for dessert, all washed down with a bottle of Côtes de Provence to mark the beginning of summer. It’s nice to finally have some time off to get back into the kitchen and begin cooking properly again. Picard’s frozen foods are a Godsend when you’re busy during the week, but they’re no substitute for the real deal.

Anyhow, a nearly perfect execution. Nearly. The balsamic reduction was more complicated than I had imagined, so it is understandable that I forgot to add the seared cherry tomatoes I had so carefully selected (even having made a special shopping trip to find tomatoes that were still on the vine so they would look nice on the place). They were meant to be the centre-piece on the place, but luckily the lamb turned out so perfectly that no one noticed. Until Aude asked “what are these tomatoes doing here by the stove? Did you mean to use them?” Never mind, they’ll go nicely with some pasta, shrimp, white wine and basil tonight.

Sadly, Anne Laure had to drag herself into work today – but Aude and I managed to take the “pont” and had the day off. Aude suggested we head down to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant for something to eat – so off we went. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall near Tolbiac, but it’s one of my favourite restaurants in Paris for lunch. Quick, cheap, and the food is great.

Song Huong Restaurant in Paris

Song Huong Restaurant, just around the corner from Tolbiac Metro and one of my favourites. Many thanks to Julien for introducing me to it!

This place is always busy, as is the restaurant next door, which specializes in pho. Both are cheap and cheerful, but I prefer this one as it has a wider variety of food (the other one serves nothing but pho in about 16 different combinations) and I think the quality is a little better. There are typically waits to get into both, but the one next door is always busier after having found its way into Lonely Planet. Neil insists that his Vietnamese place is better – we’ve yet to experience it ourselves (any time you want to invite us, Neil, we’ll be happy to join you!) but for my money, this place is pretty good.

After lunch, I headed up to Concorde to hit WH Smith, the English language bookstore. I rarely buy anything here – the choice is limited and the books are all twice the price, but it’s still a great way to pass an afternoon. And the walk back from the bookstore to the apartment, through the Jardins des Tulieries, is a nice 30-minute stroll, perfect for people-watching.

Photographically-speaking, I’ve been uninspired recently, hardly taking any photos at all. The weather was beautiful and I was convinced I could find something to snap, even if it was just touristy shots of Paris. “Getting back onto my horse” and all that. So here are a few shots of touristy Paris on a perfect spring afternoon. Wish you were here?

Jardins des Tuileries, Paris

Looking down the Jardins des Tuileries

Tour Eiffel from the Jardins des Tuileries

Tour Eiffel from the Jardins des Tuileries

Statue with pigeon, Paris

You know what they say… Some days, you’re the pigeon. Other days, you’re the statue.

Sunbathers on the lawn in front of the Louvre

Sunbathers on the lawn in front of the Louvre. The trick to enjoying the sunny weather in Paris is to find your patch of green grass, stake your claim, and soak up the sun.


Looking into the courtyard at the Louvre


Detail of one of the buildings at the Louvre

Finding solitude at the Louvre, a quiet corner

Paris is an interesting city. Despite throngs of tourists, there is nearly always a quiet place to lose yourself if you look hard enough.

Pont des Arts, Paris

Tourists take over the Pont des Arts, enjoying the good weather.

View of Seine from Pont des Arts, Paris

A view of the Seine from the Pont des Arts. I didn’t notice until after I had taken the shot that someone had drawn a cheeky smiley face on the lamp. Which I think makes it even better.

French car, Parisian parking.

French car, Parisian parking. Not a centimetre to spare!


There are some things that I love about Paris. Stopping by the boulangerie and buying a baguette that is still warm from the oven is one of those things that you just don’t get somewhere else.

I walked past a parade of children today, dressed up for Easter. They must have been five or six years old, and it looked like they had decorated their own costumes. There were angels, bunnies, and human Easter eggs – all walking in an orderly line, playing tambourines and singing.

A little while later, a congregation from the Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés set off in a procession through the streets of the neighbourhood, following a large cross – I assume a service of the stations of the cross.

We’re off to the south of France for a few days for Easter. The weather report is predicting rain for our entire stay.

At least I have some fresh bread to look forward to.

Paris sunset

Paris sunset with the Eiffel tower in the background

There’s no doubt about it — Paris is always a beautiful city. By day, the buildings and architecture are impressive; at night, there isn’t another city in the world that is so well lit.

But walking home from work this afternoon, I was greeted by the most spectacular sunset. Sadly, I was armed with my Blackberry and not a decent camera, so this snap is all I have to show for it.

But take my word for it — it was something else.

Day five of the vacation, and time for me to head back home. Owing to the unexplained disappearance of our gardien, we found ourselves with no one to look after the cats while we were away. Rather than the more orthodox approach of asking a neighbour to look after them (all the neighbours seemed to be away on vacation as well), I flew my father in for the week from Paris.

For him, it was a chance to explore a city he hadn’t visited in nearly twenty years. I cut my trip to the south of France a few days short and came back to spend some time with him.

The only downside? My cats seem to hate him.

Jim in Paris
Jim finds his road


Relaxing in the Jardin du Luxembourg
Relaxing in the Jardin du Luxembourg


On the Seine
On the Seine


Look at me!
Look at me!


By the fountain
Posing by the fountain. Seconds after discovering that the wind was blowing and getting drenched with the spray from the fountain. Oh, how the other tourists laughed and pointed!!


Holding the Eiffel tower
Holding the Eiffel tower. Look, I am a tourist!




Striking the casual, pointing stance in the Marais.


Aude & Jim
Aude & Jim


Jim & Matt
Jim & Matt in front of the Centre Pompidou. The ugliest building in Paris, according to my father.


Jim in front of Paris Plage


Matt & Jim
Matt & Jim in front of Paris Plage


Matt & Aude
Matt & Aude in front of Paris Plage