Sunday in Paris, no heat, and English muffins

Nothing much to report other than it was 4°C earlier this morning (39°F) and there was no heat in the building, which means no hot water either. My first thought was to the young couple at the end of my corridor who recently brought home their newborn baby.

In addition to no heat, it’s endlessly gray outside. The good news, though, is that tomorrow and Tuesday are forecast to be brilliantly sunny. I will venture out with my camera tomorrow and, even though the metro lines are still closed (except for the central number one line), stride through the streets of Paris to visit my favorite places. I love it when it’s cold, dry and sunny. Let’s see, there’s the new IKEA store that recently opened on the Place de la Madeleine. There’s the English-language bookstore on the rue de Rivoli (W.H. Smith) that I want to pop into to leaf through the magazines, buy a 2020 calendar, look at the new books, and buy Patti Smith’s memoir, M Train. Years ago, I read her Just Kids and loved it. Directly across the road from W.H. Smith is the Jeu de Paume gallery in the Tuileries Gardens featuring a photo exhibition that I want to see. And, oh, I want to check out a place across town called Un Dimanche à Paris which I hear has the best hot chocolate in town.

I’m on vacation until January 2nd, so it’s important to me to be outside and moving in the sunshine as much as I can. At work, I’m stuck in a hermetic office tower 8 hours a day.

While in the 6th arrondissement, I’ll pop into the photo lab to pick up my vintage Kodachrome slides and then I’ll stride up the boulevard Raspail to the fabulous Bon Marché department store and it’s Food Hall next door. The next time you come to Paris, you must visit these two places, if you haven’t already. C’est un must !

12:30 pm, still no heat and it’s 6°C outside (42°F). However I can hear clanking sounds coming up through the pipes from the basement, so I guess the emergency heating man, called a chauffagiste, is here. Now is a good time to try out a recipe I recently found. For my entire life I’ve been buying store-bought English muffins. And then one day I thought, why not make them myself? Toasted and slathered with butter and jam for my breakfast sounds like an excellent idea. Here’s the recipe below, I’m going to make them right now.

https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-english-muffins-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchen-106360

so I trudged 40 minutes to the train station

Leaving Paris for Lille on Monday December 23rd, I took the only metro line that’s functioning (line 1) to Chatelet. Then I trudged up the boulevard de Sébastopol to the Gare du Nord train station. It took 40 minutes. I had a knapsack on my back, plus I was carrying a bag filled with gifts. I wasn’t alone, there was a procession of tourists and travellers, many rolling their suitcases along the pavement. Once I got to the train station, my train was on time … and it was half empty.

Leaving behind the gray and gloom of Paris, it was sunny and mild in Lille.

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The streets in the Old Town were bustling with Christmas shoppers.

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On the way to the shops, we passed the gothic church below and my 7-year old godson said ‘Tata, can we go inside and make a wish?’

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Later, he wrote down his wish in the visitors’ book, but I wasn’t allowed to see.

 

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French toast, and pre-Christmas pics

The idea of eating French toast in France makes me laugh. Why? Because the French don’t know what it is (and why should they?) Bread dipped in a mixture of egg, milk and cinnamon then fried in a skillet, powdered with icing sugar and doused with maple syrup? Quoi? Huh?

Now that I think about it, why do we call it French toast? In any case, that’s what I had for breakfast on this gray and gloomy December morning. Yesterday, I went to my local boulangerie and purchased two “pains au lait” (literally, milk bread, but they’re just long rolls, sort of like a brioche but unsweetened.) Its best to use slightly stale bread to make your French toast. As for maple syrup, I could drink the stuff straight from the bottle. My local supermarket, Monoprix, sells Canadian maple syrup for 5 euros only.

This was a bestselling book, but I’m undecided whether I liked it or not.

I haven’t a clue if my train to Lille tomorrow is cancelled or confirmed. Every time I go onto the SNCF website to check, all I see are ominous messages warning passengers to cancel or postpone their travel plans. Mere days before Christmas while millions are travelling cross-country to spend the holidays with friends and family, I find this deplorable. President Macron is also under fire, of course. Why would he launch his pension reform just before Christmas? He knew there’d be pushback. It’s also being said that the current pension scheme is perfectly adequate and doesn’t need reforming.

Tomorrow morning and despite the closure of a dozen metro lines, I’ll somehow get myself to the train station and wing it. In the meantime, I’m in chill mode at home (and on vacation until January 2nd.)

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candlit roomlights chez toi

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Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

Bolu, Turkeysnowy river pathice berriessapin against wallreindeer-sleigh-ride Laplandlapland-slide-GEHY-articleLarge

in December I went to Antwerp …

I have nothing to report other than I (and a million other people) am awaiting an email or SMS from the SNCF (the French national railway) confirming or cancelling my train reservations over the Christmas period. The strikes continue. I have just received an email from the SNCF confirming my return trip from Lille to Paris, but not my outbound trip (Paris to Lille.) ????  How can I return from Lille if I can’t get to Lille?

In December 2013 I went to Antwerp, Belgium and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I wish I were there now. I rented a small furnished flat in the Old Town which turned out to be super-cozy, warm and quiet. The museum I visited, the hot chocolate I drank and the fashion boutiques I visited were all highlights.

Take a look!

https://julietinparis.net/2013/12/

a boozy, pre-birthday dinner at my favorite bistro

This is my favorite restaurant, hands down. I’ve been going for years, and not once have I been disappointed. Last night – in the midst of the transportation strikes crippling the country – I rode a crowded metro across town to the 11th arrondissement. It’s that time again (what? already?): my upcoming birthday to be shared with my fellow Capricorn friend who is Swedish. We’ve both been living, working and celebrating in Paris for a long time. After a bottle of champagne at his place with his friend, M – also a Capricorn, but a January one – we wended our way through the darkened streets to Bistrot Paul Bert.

The wine list is superlative here, all the French regions are represented. It was an evening “bien arrosé” as the French say, which means well-watered. We started with a Fitou Bel Soula from the Languedoc region: an easy-drinking red with an agreeable fruity nose and red fruit flavors. I ordered marrow bone as my starter. A had a generous slice of foie gras with chutney and M had in-season fresh scallops.

For the main course, A and I shared a massive slab of beef served with their delicious fries. M had something far more original and ambitious: a famous dish called lièvre à la royale. Lièvre is not rabbit, but hare.

No, it’s not chocolate sauce, but rather a complex blend of liver, heart, innards, foie gras, blood and other things. It’s funny how French people will dig heartily into this kind of dish, whereas the non-French (including myself) tend to shun them. Blood and giant rabbits don’t appeal to me at all. The second wine we drank was even better than the first: from the Languedoc region again, more specifically a small appellation in the foothills of the Cevennes Mountains named Faugère, it was an organic red called Les Fusionels Le Reve. Ruby-colored with floral notes, it was far more ambitious than the previous wine; balanced and elegant. I’m definitely going to look for this in my local wineshop.

And this is what makes Paul Bert a good restaurant: we had ordered a different wine, but our server said “No, that won’t go with what you’re eating.” She went to consult with someone and came back with the Faugère proposition.

For dessert I had warm apple tart with vanilla ice cream and M had a Grand Marnier soufflé.

And voilà: another year has passed. Thanks for following it with me.

Hermès vintage sale next week at Drouot auction house

 

Hermès: the nec plus ultra of elegance. Because this sale is vintage, I’m going to go. It takes place at Drouot auction house on Monday December 16th.

DROUOT auction house is located in the center of Paris in the 9th arrondissement; it’s a great place for people-watching (and for looking at the sale items, of course.) There’s a permanent buzz at Drouot – all the sale rooms are open to the public.

Here’s the Hermès Kelly bag, named after Grace Kelly, of course. There are quite a few in this sale.

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco

And here’s the iconic Birkin bag, smaller and with two handles instead of one, named after English actress-singer Jane Birkin, best known for her relationship with Serge Gainsbourg in the 1970s. Years later, though, Jane asked the Hermès fashion house to rename the bag due to the cruel practice of killing crocodiles for the production of the handbags.

There’ll be lots of Hermès scarves at this sale, the famous silk ‘carré‘ (square): all in vibrant colors and patterns. These are estimated at 100 to 120 euros which is a bargain considering brand new squares start at 300 euros and go up to 900 euros. People will go to this sale for the scarves alone. And I’m thinking that what with Christmas and my birthday coming up, one of these would make a nice gift to myself.

The shoes below are estimated at 100 to 120 euros. Unheard of for Hermès footwear.

A collection of silver bracelets in the signature anchor chain (chaine d’ancre) –

Look for yourself at all the items in Monday’s sale. You can bid by telephone.

https://www.drouot.com/en/auctions/100247/hermes-vintage

https://www.gros-delettrez.com/catalogue/100247?lang=fr&offset=450&max=50

A holiday gift guide

The beginning of my list springs from last week’s Black Friday sales during which I purchased a bunch of skincare-beauty products. At Marionnaud cosmetic store, ALL products were 30% off. I’m not loyal to one brand, I like trying them all: from high-end, non-organic CHANEL to Dr. Hauschka which is 100% natural to Moroccan argan oil.

Here’s my bathroom shelf featuring some of my favorite skincare products –

REN (above) is a British brand. Calling itself clean skincare (ren means clean in Swedish), there are no parabens, sulphates, mineral oil, petrolatum, synthetic fragrance or colors, etc. EKIA is a French organic skincare brand that focuses on anti-ageing products.

The Hydra Beauty moisturizing cream by CHANEL has a divine fragrance, but I think I prefer the AHAVA day cream (below) that uses mineral-based compounds from the Dead Sea.

At Marionnaud I purchased this serum that I had been wanting to buy for quite a while: CLARINS Double Serum. I highly recommend it. Here’s the blurb:

The Double Serum Complete Age Control Concentrate from Clarins is an excellent skin treatment that infuses the skin with over 20 anti-aging plant extracts that claim to be all-natural. The luxurious, lightweight serum reactivates the skin’s 5 vital functions: protection, hydration, regeneration, nutrition, and oxygenation. Together, these functions work to boost radiance, collagen production, and hydration while also fighting stress, aging effects, and pollution. The end result is smoother, more supple and firmer skin.

During the winter months when the air is super-dry in my apartment, my skin feels parched. I guess I could buy a humidifier, but instead I put oil on my skin. The bottle on the right is argan oil from Morocco. Natural argan oil is wonderful for skin, hair and nails with nourishing fatty acids, antioxidants and anti-ageing Vitamin E. Apricot kernel oil is also good (avoid eye area.)

The Clarins Skin Illusion foundation is perfect: lightweight and nicely perfumed. Before, I used YSL Touche Eclat. As much as I loved it, I realized it was too thick.

This brand from New Zealand is the best (see below.) The makeup remover below cleans your face straight away. I also like their hand cream. Award-winning eco-conscious Kiwi brand supplies a range of certified organic, natural skincare and makeup products. Proudly made in New Zealand, Antipodes products boast natural formulas with pure plant fragrances inspired by New Zealand’s nature.

At the risk of sounding like a skincare-beauty product fetishist, I’ll move on.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, music and talk shows on my laptop while cooking, doing the dishes or puttering around my flat. After three years of loyal service, my Philips mini-speaker died. I happened to be in a BOSE store last week and decided to buy a mini-speaker (because it was on sale and because BOSE is supposed to be the best.) I took it home, plugged it in and didn’t like it at all. In my opinion, the sound wasn’t as good as the Philips speaker. So I returned the BOSE and got a refund (99 euros.) Then I purchased a new Philips speaker for 29 euros. The sound is superb. It’s very small, approximately 4 inches squared, and totally portable.

A battery-operated milk frother because who wants yet another electric appliance? I have so many electrical things I’m constantly tripping over wires. 12 euros. For my weekend café lattes.

GEOX GEOX GEOX – 100% Italian footwear and clothing company. J’adore!

These Geox high ankle sneakers are called Nebula 4 X 4 B ABX A.

A book. This memoir isn’t even out yet, and already it’s being posthumously lauded. Sadly, the author, a well-known Scottish journalist named Deborah Orr, died two months ago at the age of 57. She worked for The Guardian, The Independent and other publications. Ironically, Orr’s mother is at the center of the story, and the title is Motherwell, the name of the town that Deborah grew up in. The book is due out in January 2020.

MOTHERWELL is a story about a girl, a family, a time, a place. But so much more. Fearlessly, Deborah Orr works out how she was formed as she unpicks everyday dysfunction. Full of glinting pain, brilliant one-liners and utter clarity, the sliver of ice in her heart melts. Sheer humanity shines out. I was astonished. (Suzanne Moore)

A stunning literary memoir about the author’s relationship with her complicated mother and childhood.

A fierce and tender reckoning: personal, political, and blazing with truth. (Melissa Harrison)