Posts Tagged ‘Marais’

Sunday Afternoon Surprises

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

One of the things that I love most about Paris is that you can be walking aimlessly through the city and stumble across things that you never expected. Today I had Japanese Bento for lunch at Le Marché des Enfants Rouges and then walked home, criss-crossing through streets in the Marais. I saw a row of coloured balloons up Rue de Charlot and decided that could only mean good things, so headed towards the large bunch to see what was happening.

Balloons on Rue Charlot

Balloons!

Inside an amazing glass-walled atelier space was a design market, with local designers selling clothes, jewellery and other accessories. I had a wander and saw some bags hanging from a clothes rack. On first sight they looked like nice enough leather bags, but the designer came up and started speaking to me and then I discovered that these were not just your average bag.

Margherita Matticari, a petite and sweet Italian girl, has created the most practical, useful and beautiful bags that I have ever seen. Made from soft Italian leather, the bag can be reversed, zipped, unzipped, with handles, without handles, long, short, everywhich way up. There are pockets for everything and you can drape your jackets through the middle of it. As she showed it to me, my jaw fell to the floor with pure joy and amazement. These bags are hand made in her atelier (beunperfect) and are just BEAUTIFUL.

They come in different sizes and have different variances and different pockets and some can be turned into a ‘going out at night bag’ and others are more for the day time and fit your laptop etc etc. Just pure wow. This bag has amazed me because it fulfils my aesthetic AND my practical requirements. Beautiful bags are usually impractical to use, and practical bags are generally hideous. This ticked all boxes AND it is made by a lovely person!

They are expensive… but fair enough. The quality of the workmanship and the materials PLUS the PURE GENIUS that goes behind them. So if anyone is currently scratching their head trying to think of what to buy me for Christmas, your problem has just been solved. I WANT THIS. Except in red leather. Thank you.

(One of the) Best Days Ever

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Every now and then days come along that are just fantastic. You wake up and everything goes to plan or amazing things occur that make you laugh and jump for joy. Last Friday was one of those days for me, where I let down my hair and let whimsy take over. Thanks, whimsy. You’re a good one.

Here was my day:
7.30am – I met Becky down stairs for our usual morning run, but poor Becky had to pull out by the time we reached the first corner due to extreme knee pain. So I took it upon myself to run for the both of us, heading straight up hill to Parc de Butts Chaumont, and then down to the canal. Usually at this point we head for home, completing a 7km circuit. But I was feeling good, my legs weren’t tired and I had spring in my step. So I ran on joining one of our other routes and heading to a bridge that has “Cabaret Sauvage” written in shiny lights. By the time I got home I would have completed a 10km circuit. A great start to the morning.

9am – Breakfast. Having showered and de-stunk, I sat down and ate my usual banana, muesli and fromage blanc (it’s like yoghurt but better) concoction and continued to read Le Delicatesse. I am determined to read and entire book en français and have been given a short novel that I am slowly making my way through. I haven’t read much in French in the past as it is hard, slow going and generally frustrating as I realise how few words I actually know. But I am doing it! I am learning new phrases, new verb conjugations and actually enjoying the process. Fun times.

Between 9.30am and 12noon – I worked on some ideas that I have for a new book. I started researching my favourite street in Paris, Rue St Denis, as well as prostitution laws in France. Yes, prostitution. Fascinating history – it has shifted from being an acceptable and socially appropriate career to now being illegal. Despite this, it is extremely easy to spot in certain areas of the city.

10.30am – Morning coffee with half a gevulde koek.

12.30pm – Tom and I met Pip and her boyfriend, Manu, for lunch. We went to L’As du Falafel, one of Paris’s most famous and popular falafel restaurants in the heart of the Marais. As per usual, it was extremely delicious and ridiculously hard to eat as these pitas are stuffed full of falafel, lettuce, and grilled eggplant that just go all over your face and hands. So good.

2pm – Manu wanted dessert (I like this guy) so we wandered through the Marais before settling on le Pain Quotidien, a chain boulangerie that makes very good bread and desserts. I had a mini chocolate tart that fit perfectly in my stomach after my large falafel.

Chocolate tart

Yum.

3pm – Time to do something crazy. Pip talked me into going ice skating with her outside the Hôtel de Ville in the centre of Paris. It is a beautiful setting and each year the Mairie sets up an ice rink that people come and zoom around on. I am the world’s worst ice skater. Really I am the world’s worst at any physical activity that requires me to be balanced and moving at the same time. I stuck to the wall on the side and pulled myself along, my legs like two planks who refused to bend and glide, bend and glide. Pip eventually convinced me to go around with her. I didn’t fall over! I think that’s a positive. And there was a fun and supportive atmosphere amongst all of the less-talented skaters. I was sure to speak in my strongest Australian accent so everyone realised that I wasn’t from these European, ice-filled lands. I’m quite certain that Australians were not designed for ice skating.

Ice skating

Jess "Ice Legs" Davies

Anyway, for just five euros to hire the ice skates, it was a fun way to pass the time. The boys stood on the edge and froze. Silly things. And on my various turns around the edge of the rink, I could have acquired at least seven phone numbers from French men watching and saying, “Bonjour, la blonde!” They must be desperate if they’re willing to go for the dorky blonde who keeps saying “WHOA!” and almost falls over.

4pm – From here we separated ways and headed home. I went online and bought a Le Creuset pot for even LESS than I had seen in the shops! It arrives in the mail next week (I hope.)

8pm – We met Pip and Manu again for dinner Le Jardin D’en Face. We wanted to take them to our favourite restaurant before Pip and I head back to Australia. I had spoken on many occasions of the world’s best chocolate cake that can be found at this restaurant and so there were high expectations. Thankfully dinner (and the cake) were delicious PLUS the waitress who has been there for our past few visits mentioned that she recognised us and asked where we were from, what we were doing etc. When I said we were from Perth she became very excited and said she had lived there for eight months. Of course she had. Every French person between the ages of 22 and 30 has. So now we have a friend at our favourite restaurant. Hoorah!!

10.45pm – The night didn’t end there. The old saying, it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know (or rather it’s knowing people who know other people), came into fruition with Pip having scored us half price tickets to the Moulin Rouge. Pip works in the pub next to the Moulin, and the dancers come in for drinks so everyone is friends with everyone. This is fantastic when you want to save 50-plus Euros and see half naked girls dancing.

Moulin Rouge

Le Moulin

We were allowed to get in through a secret back entrance with a password, gate keeper and locked doors. Very exclusive. Pip’s friend and Moulin dancer, Alex, met us backstage wearing a face-full of stage make up and very dirty terry-toweling overalls. It was fantastic. All of the dancers were wearing these as they walked past with their heads high, shoulders back, looking ravishing from the neck up, and like trailer-park bumpkins from the shoulders down. I need to get myself one.

We were taken to our table as the show began and another friend of Pip’s was our waiter. Once again, this came in handy as he put an ice bucket on our table with three bottles of champagne. Thank you.

So, the show. I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The costumes were fantastic with some great use of colour and they were well designed to cover and reveal the dancers bodies. It wasn’t all boobs – some of the dancers remained covered up for the entire show and only the lead dancers revealed their ‘bits’. The dancers’ bums were more readily on show as most of the outfits involved minimal ‘bottom coverage’. It certainly wasn’t crude, nor was it overly sexy.

The choreography was a bit tired and could do with an upgrade or perhaps return to how it really used to be when the Moulin was in full swing. It seemed very 80s and some of the dancers looked bored to tears. It was the late show and I don’t blame them for being sick of doing the same steps over and over again, but the crowd is expecting some sort of enthusiasm. The girls were definitely better than the boys, with most of the guys looking like their mum was making them do it.

There were a few interesting moments involving snakes and miniature ponies, but really overly I felt the show lacked some sort of spark. Maybe my expectations were too high, but really I’d much prefer to spend that sort of money and go and see a band perform. It was a bit naff. I think the other problem was that the crowd was full of tourists, half of whom didn’t really seem to get into the performance. There wasn’t much excessive clapping and the atmosphere was generally quite flat.

The show finished at 1.30am, our day of Parisian fun over. Tom and I walked home and were finally in bed by 2.30am. It was a long but fantastic day and a great way to say “A bientôt, Paris!” It also made me even more determined to be back here in six weeks’ time for more good times and more good food.

No Gnashing at Nanashi

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

A few months ago, Tom and I walked past a cafe that caught my eye and stuck in my brain as a “What is this cafe and should I go there?” kind of place. Completely coincidentally, a few days later I was reading a restaurant review on a Paris blog and realised that they were discussing the place we had walked past and its sister cafe in the Marais. The reviews were good. My mind was set – I would try it one day.

Yesterday was that day, as Tom and I met up with our friend Pip for our regular lunch and shopping outing. Nanashi is an organic Japanese fusion restaurant, describing itself as “Le Bento Parisien”. It is definitely a mix of French and Japanese food using the best of both cuisines and focuses on using wholesome, organic ingredients. I have sampled food from other Japanese  restaurants in Paris and all I will say is that it isn’t Japanese. There were cheese sticks involved and you can only buy meat-on-a-stick or sushi. The French are missing out.

Nanashi restaurant

I love restaurants with chalk board menus

The restaurant is modern and simple and the French aspect of the restaurant is easily seen in the grumpy waitstaff taking your orders (when they feel like it.) The menu is limited and you have a choice of three bento boxes – vegetarian, meat or fish. Tom and I both chose the fish bento (a salmon cake) and Pip took the meat (veal.) The first good sign was the delicious sourdough bread they gave us, upholding the necessities of free bread in a French restaurant. Sometimes it is a relief to not be served baguette.

Nanashi bread

Good bread

Our bento boxes arrived and they were amazing – my salmon cake was full of fresh salmon, potatoes and spices and then coated in a crunchy crust. The bentos came with a delicious quinoa and lentil mix, as well as three different types of salad. It was a meal that made you feel alive and full of goodness. I know some people will look at this and think it is toffee-nosed food for health-freaks but it was absolutely scrumptious and filling.

Nanashi Bento

My salmon bento

I had read about the desserts at Nanashi and wanted to try them so was relieved when my fellow lunchers wanted dessert as well. We each chose something different – Pip had a carrot cake, Tom chose the chocolate and ginger fondant, while I took a risk and chose the matcha (green tea) cheesecake. I am so glad I did.

Nanashi cake

Blurry photo but amazing cake

It was soft and rich and the bitterness of the green tea wasn’t overpowering but softened the sweetness of the cake. I don’t normally choose cheesecake as I find them too excessive but I am currently drooling and dreaming about the day I can go back and eat some more. With regularly changing menus I will definitely be revisiting this restaurant. Plus I have to go and try the original Nanashi which is only a few streets away from my apartment!

Venture Right

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

I fell in love with Paris again today. I do most days (sometimes I want to divorce it) but I have just returned home from a walk to find a shop called The Collection and feel I need to tell you about my experience. I had found this store via random website clicks and vowed to find it. I was particularly happy to note that it is within a not-so-distance walk from my place and so this afternoon I ventured out into the sunshine to try and find it.

To get there I had to take a route which Tom and I have taken on various occasions to get down to the Marais district. According to my map, the shop I was looking for was slightly to the right of where we usually go and so when I came across an intersection with various exits, I chose the road to the right of the one I would usually take. The usual road is lined with wholesale stores selling fairly ordinary clothes. This new road I had discovered was something else.

My eyes bulged and my chin dropped at the number of COOL designer stores selling homewares, clothes, jewellery, bags, linens, vintage. I even found a shop selling beautiful felt bowls/mats/balls. All over priced but WOW. Some of the stores required you to be the son of a rich man, but others were reasonably priced and just generally interesting. Unlike Perth, they weren’t selling all of the same products that you see in every other ‘designer’ store.

I found The Collection and spoke to a lovely lady who told me about the products available. They sell wall paper which is designed to be used in single pieces – ie. you just have one strip of wall paper on the wall and it blends into the room. The wall paper either had images of chairs, bookshelves, vases etc or were really unique and would make an impressive statement. I wish I had my own house to decorate. Maybe that should be my new profession… Interior designer. No. I don’t think that’s a good idea. I would be terrible at it. All of my room designs would be very ‘eclectic’ – aka. lots of stuff just thrown together.

On my walk I also found a market called Marche des Enfants Rouges which smelt DELICIOUS. I think I need to go there for lunch… It had stalls selling food from various parts of the world. Pity it was about 4pm when I got there.

The street was full of ultra stylish people but not in an evil snooty Claremont sort of a way. Such a great afternoon walk. I didn’t buy anything though… the egg cups that I wanted to buy from The Collection were out of stock. So I have to go back. What a pity.

I Heart Bensimon

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Wandering through the Marais district I stumbled across a very cool set of clothing and home wares stores, all under branding of Bensimon. I will be needing to go back. In the meantime, we can all dream via this very cool website – Bensimon.

Bensimon shop

Ooh la la! A Bensimon home wares and clothing store