Paris I: Coucou, old friend !

4 September

After a month traveling around France, I finally reached my final destination: Paris.  It was such a change to be in a familiar city, albeit in relatively unknown surroundings.  Our hotel was close to the Place de la Nation in the 12th.  The only time I made it out to Nation in 2008 was for my cooking class at Printemps.

It was a new part of town, but not so far from familiar territory.  After dropping off our stuff at the hotel, I was ready to visit some of my favorite old haunts.  We set out on foot to visit my favorite monument, la Bastille:

When I saw the golden winged statue finally peek out from above the rooftops, it was such a friendly welcome back to the city I called home for two months.  The column marks the spot where the Bastille was stormed in 1789, setting off the French revolution.  It was one of my favorite spots to visit in 2008 due to its proximity to an enormous open-air market that I frequented nearly every Thursday and Sunday for its an outstanding selection of produce of every type.  It was also just a 20 minute walk from my host family's home in the 11th, and maybe 10 minutes away from my gallery in the 3rd - perfect for a Thursday lunch break.

But why are there so many people in the street in front of the column?  And are there people standing on the base of the column - and with a flag?  Better take a closer look:

Well that wasn't there the last time I was here.  But then, neither were they:

Boulevard Richard Lenoir, which leads from the Place de la République to the Place de la Bastille, was full of marchers - some 12,000 of them.  Turns out we had stumbled across a grève - that is, a strike - welcome to Paris!  On this day, thousands massed in Paris as well as other cities around France to demonstrate against the government's recent expulsion of Roma people.

Unfortunately, we needed to cross the boulevard to head into the Marais, and the demonstrators filled the street for blocks and blocks.  Luckily, though, it wasn't too difficult to weave our way through the crowd.

I popped in briefly to visit Eric, owner of Galerie Eric Mircher, where I did my internship in 2008.  He was busy setting up for a vernissage - after a month of vacation in August, all the galleries in the area were holding the openings of their newest collections on the same night.  It was great to see Eric and the gallery, and to introduce my mom to some of what my daily life had been like when I lived there.

The gallery is across the street from a church, and when we stepped out into rue de Turenne, we were just in time to see a bride arrive to walk into her wedding.  She looked beautiful, and if the music in the church was any indication, it sounded like a joyful ceremony.  All my best wishes to the hopefully happy couple!

Outside the gates of the church, oblivious to the fanfare, a bum slept on a pile of mattresses, snuggling his pink teddy bear.  Oh Paris, how I love you.

Full disclosure - I came back a few days later to be a creeper and take this picture of the bum and bear, since I neglected to capture him sleeping.  But I wanted to give you every opportunity to imagine the scene with me - I am that devoted to you, dear reader.

The gallery is at the northern edge of le Marais, an artsy area of the third and fourth arrondissements filled with narrow streets home to many boutiques and boulangeries.  It is also home to most of Paris' Jewish population.

In the heart of the Marais lies my favorite street in Paris, rue des Rosiers.

After walking for a couple of hours, with me gasping and getting super excited as we turned each corner and my mom trying to pretend for my sake that she was as interested in seeing the back alleys of the Marais as she would have been seeing the Eiffel tower, we decided we wanted some dinner.  We visited a Jewish traiteur/boulangerie/pâtisserie to pick up some wares.

A traiteur has prepared foods, ready to be taken home to heat up or eat cold.  We picked up a couple of boxes of vegetables: one with artichoke hearts, and one with a number of marinated and roasted summer vegetables, which we ate in my favorite park, the tiny secluded Square Georges Cain, just around the corner.

To go with our tangy, flavorful vegetable, we also got a beigle aux pavots:

This bagel may have been a little fancier than those we usually see in the US, but it was very similar in flavor, if a little sweeter and eggier, kind of like challah.

We had thought we might stop for some dessert at Le Loir dans la Théière, my favorite restaurant that has an amazing dessert buffet and is also, conveniently, located on rue des Rosiers, but it was completely mobbed.  Instead we headed down to Miss Manon for a slice of outstanding flan:

After so many weeks of scouting out the best restaurants in each new city, it was such a comfort to be in a place where I already knew so many great spots to stop for a bite to eat.  The flan was just as I remembered: thick and creamy with just a little bite, sweet with an intense vanilla flavor.  Custard at its very best - how I love dessert in Paris.

Happily sated, we walked down to the banks of the Seine for a brief visit before heading to the hotel to retire for the evening.

So let's just recap briefly.  My first six hours back in Paris:
  • A grève with thousands of demonstrators... check.
  • Wedding party... check.
  • Bum snuggling with pink teddy bear... check.
  • Rue des rosiers... flan... Seine... check, check, check!

Oh my, was it good to be back.

Coming soon: and Sunday comes afterwards, which can only mean one thing: market day!!!


I need orange said…
I would eat all of those things again, too!

And visit all those places. Well, maybe not the bum's nest.....