Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Part Three of Three

Living in the Marais is a pretty good choice for easy access to anywhere in Paris whether by foot, by bus or metro. 

The photos in this section of the blog are a collection of images that caught my eye. Only some of them were taken in the Marais.

Paris fashion, 2012

  one of the many gay bars in the Marais

We lived only a couple of streets away from a terrific boulangerie, a Carrefour (market) for our wine and groceries,  and of course, a great many bistros and restaurants.

Jewish Heritage Museum


The Pompidou Centre was also just down the street and we frequently used the public library there for its free wifi.

A few more streets to the south and we arrive at the Hotel de Ville and the Seine ... 

Beach on the Seine. Sand is brought in for July and August

... Notre Dame Cathedral is just across the Pont d'Arcole ... continuing on across the Seine again, over Petit Pont to the Latin Quarter, past the Sorbonne and swinging to the right is the spectacular Luxembourg Gardens.

On most days we breakfasted in and planned our day. Lunches were usually le picnique with a fresh baguette, cheese and paté, fruit and wine. There are so many great parks in Paris that lend themselves perfectly for this kind of casual lunch. Somehow this doesn't really work on park benches in cities back home.

Even with the summer crowds there are always chairs available to relax on at the Tuilleries.

The Marais was home to the Knights Templars in the Xllth Century. We would take Rue du Temple to get our way down to the Jewish sector then over to Place des Vosges where we toured Victor Hugo's house. Hugo was a literary giant. He may be most known for Les Misérables, or in English, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The home of the famous author looks out over the southeast corner of Place des Vosges. In the painting below, Quasimodo abducts Esmeralda.

For the history student, Paris is an unending study. There are a million stories in the architecture alone. Don't forget to look up too when walking around Paris, (and secure your wallet or purse).

These two men really caught my eye. They are reading on the bank of Canal St Martin, perhaps a stereotypical scene in Paris. But notice the older man is reading a hard copy book and the younger man is reading his iPad. An interesting juxtaposition.

On Aug 8 we celebrated our 43rd anniversary in Paris. Had a great dinner at L'Auberge de la Reine Blanche on Ile Saint Louis.
Anniversary Yogurt
for breakfast


The next day we got up early to catch a train from Gare du Nord to Brussels to visit our friend Edith. Before boarding the train the conductor punched our tickets then looked closer at them, and said (in reasonably good English),

"You leaving tomorrow, not today. Today is August 8. 
Your ticket are for August 9."

Joanne and I both said at the same time, quite emphatically, "No, today is August 9!" After all, we knew about August the 8th. Our  anniversary is always that day and we celebrated it yesterday, with a degree of romance, I might add. 

Because we were both so adamant about the date, he pulled out his pocket calendar.  We were sure we had him convinced of his error until he reaffirmed, "See, today is the 8 not the 9." 

We saw that he was right. He initialed the tickets, handed them back to us with a smile and said, "I see you tomorrow."

We were both quite astounded, sat on a bench to collect our thoughts and burst into laughter. 

"This was just a rehearsal then, finding our way to the train like this and all," Joanne said.

"Yes," I replied. "And so was yesterday's anniversary celebration." 

More laughter.

So, we had two anniversaries this year. We ate in and had an even better bottle of wine than we had at the restaurant the night before.

--- 000 ---

The Marais is also know for its Jewish community - a very interesting, kind of happening place.

One sees wealthy Jews and poor Jews walking around amongst the tourists, whom they are pretty skilled at ignoring. They also share the streets and businesses with brown people of undetermined origin.

never before have I seen Hasidic hawkers

I had my first Jewish beer - a Maccabee - at the King Falaffel Palace in the 4th Arrondisement.
Sure beats Mogen David wine!

We were seated by a multilingual Indian who reminded Joanne of Dev Patel (Slum Dog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), and we were served by a busy blonde French woman. 


For more travel photography with local information visit Gary Karlsen's website.

Gary Karlsen's website


Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Part Two of Three

Navigate Paris by the monuments. That’s what our new friend Philippe told us (more on him later). 

It is really not difficult to find your way around Paris. It cost you enough to get there so TAKE THE TIME to make your must-see wish list in advance and mark the monuments and cathedrals on your map(s) with a highlighter.

Seek out Ile de la Cité and Ile St Louis and use them as your frame of reference. Why? Because they are central on the Seine, and that is key for Paris - today, and a millennium ago. 

Also get to know some of the bridges - they are all different,  they are really cool, and they help you locate yourself. 

And, if you are with your spouse or significant other, the bridges of Paris are inarguably, indisputably,   compass-neutral landmarks (says me).

Now, be prepared to walk your buns off. We did: averaged almost 10 km a day until it hurt!

Henri lV at Square du Vert Galant 

Place Vendome

Place de l'Opéra

Place des Victoires

Not only did we see most of what we wanted to see, but we also had encounters with and the joy of experiencing what we just stumbled upon along the way. We were on an unplanned  bonus fitness program that included copious amounts of wine and lots of French things to eat ... didn’t gain an ounce (ou, un gramme - bien!)

Place de la Bastille

Place République

NOTE: there are a few things we would recommend missing, if not, avoiding:

Avoid the upper streets of Montmartre adjacent to the cathedral during peak tourist times. That was like flies to shit.

Scratch Canal St Martin, from the southern end from Place République to Gare de l'Est. We found it way better days!
Maybe  we should have tried the other end of the Canal?

Never get on or off the metro at Chatelet metro station. It’s the busiest in Paris and the crisscrossing tunnels and caverns and stairs and occasional unserviceable escalators are enough to make a grown man cry, especially if he was already miserable from the stresses of hunger, thirst, neurothlipsis and predilection to agorophobia.

  • DO learn how to hyperventilate and squint so you can hold your breath long enough, and see without your eyes watering while walking under certain bridges along the Seine; when you turn a corner into an alley off the beaten track; when you premeditate that some ass has urinated the night before after consuming litres of cheap fluids.


For more travel photography with local information visit Gary Karlsen's website.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Part One of Three

We thank you Yves and Carol immensely for the use of your apartment in the Marais. Having such a home-base really made it possible for us to see as much as we did in our dozen days in Paris. Exploring the city from a home there is much more rewarding than from a room in a hotel.

The fun began after a late afternoon flight to Paris from Cardiff. Trains from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the Gare du Nord, then No. 4 Métro to Réamur Sébastopol station would have been like a walk in the park had we not broken the first rule of traveling: PACK LIGHT! We ignored this rule, knowing that most our traveling would be by car and most accommodations long term. And after all, with part of a winter ahead of us we would need some cold weather things too. Bad decision.

Paris has not fully addressed accessibility issues for the mobility-challenged, so one does not want to be hauling around too much luggage in the subterranean maize of the Paris Métro (I had some Escher moments). Then had we not taken the wrong turn upon surfacing to street level we’d have easily bumbled along with our wheeled bags right to the door of the apartment at Rue Chapon,  lll Arrondissement.

When at wits end, one hails a cab. Naturally, the driver missed a few turns and the fare doubled. Oh well, suck it up. 

Once settled in we got instant relief with a nice bottle of vin rouge, graciously left for us by our hosts. We celebrated our first night in Paris with a late dinner with Queen Latifa at Le 404. She was a few tables away and great fans though we are, she failed to recognize us in the dark restaurant.



We have been to Paris several times over the years and Paris has never been far from our thoughts. Admittedly, we are just little sardines in the ocean of Paris tourists: like all the other small fish, we too have romanticized the big city. And like iron to a magnet, we have been drawn back again.

But this time is different. We just want to meander around, to go where our feet take us, searching out places that we missed in earlier visits; to jump on the metro or bus from point A to point B if we have to, then walk and explore again until we are so tired that we return home to ingest it all and to rejuvenate for the next day’s outing.

You are not from here, you don't know your way around enough, you don't even look like a local, so just just use the best maps, guidebooks and brochures. You will look more lost and stupid if you don't than if you do. And most importantly, stop for wine, beer, water, coffee and lunches. That's what the Parisians do; except, of course, they are never seen with maps, guidebooks and brochures.

Regarding all that hard copy you are consulting along the way (naturally, you are packing "the best of"),  well think again. We have decided that the best guidebook for Paris, or any other destination for that matter, has probably not been written.

The perfect guidebook should tell you which side of the track to stand on in the metro so you don’t find yourselves speeding off in the wrong direction.

For example, you want to go to L’Arc de Triomphe and not Gare de Lyon

TIP: know in advance the name of each station at the end of the line & you’ll pick the correct platform for your train.

Okay, so the tourist has to have some common sense. And after all, how much minutiae can any guidebook contain?

How about at least, a directory or a chapter on toilets?

Ou sont les toilettes?

I have a recollection of many years ago in Paris when there seemed to be pissiors everywhere. FOR MEN ONLY AS I RECALL. What happened to them all? Some of them have been replaced - GENDER NEUTRAL - by those great self-cleaning kiosks (have some coins at hand) but where are they when you really need one?

Where does one acquire the public toilet guide for Paris? Would that sell?

Ici sont les toilettes!

For more travel photography with local information visit Gary Karlsen's website.