Monday, December 21, 2015

Paris 2015: Street Things, and What People Were Wearing (part 1)

Something I lose sight of, between visits to Paris, is the fact that there is so much really great art on the streets. This trip, I was enjoying the various lions I saw ornamenting and guarding the buildings!

Appropriately arrogant and intimidating at the Louvre "lion's entrance"

One of a ton of lions on the facade of the Louvre

And this dignified specimen was protecting the Hotel de Ville

While there were a lot of Christmas decorations all over Paris, they weren't as ubiquitous as they are here in Chicago. But some of them were really spectacular - worth the trip just to see them... 

These glorious gizmos were in the shopping mall in the basement of the Louvre. Yes,
there's a small mall in the Louvre, and a food court. It's worth remembering, if you get a really
filthy weather day. You can spend the ENTIRE day in the museum, taking a break to have lunch
and window shop...

I saw some decorations that I thought were in questionable taste. I'm not crazy about fake snow under any circumstances, so flocked trees have never been my preference. But this just felt over the top:

I love the Galleries Vivienne (I know you're shocked!),
but this isn't my kind of tree...

And I took a couple of pictures that really lack much of any context, but still tell us something interesting about life in Paris. This photo, for example, was taken just to let Belovedest know that I'd arrived okay, and was ensconced in a seat at the Cafe de la Mairie. But this shows you a bit about cafe life - the guy who brought his laptop, and moved in, the people sitting and drinking wine before noon, and the people hanging out with the bartender at the bar...

Cafe de la Mairie - a GREAT wine list. So successful that they are able to be CLOSED on weekend...

I loved this - the idea that you can get a fast food burger with Bearnaise sauce:

Only in France?

Something nobody warns you about when you're traveling to Paris is that not only do you have to read French menus, but you often have to read them HANDWRITTEN. In handwriting unlike that you might find familiar. With foods you've not see on menus in your hometown... And the stuff on the boards is ALWAYS the best - it's the specials of the day. It can be one of the world's most excruciating conversations, but it's always worth having the staff try to explain to you what the foods are. They're usually very accommodating, and you can discover amazing new things to eat!

I have no idea what a "Sausage au Knife" might be, but I'd come back tomorrow just to get
 aligot, which is a cheese and potato ambrosial delight that will stop your heart - 
either from love or cholesterol!

This is a really typical kind of blackboard to see. Pay special attention to any of the "Formule" - set price menus that give you choices from a shortened menu for a VERY advantageous price. Again, this can often be special foods of the day or season that they're featuring.

Yes, people will eat outdoors until they absolutely can't anymore. Most cafes have outdoors tables with varying degrees of protection around them and/or heating fixtures. This Le Pain Quotidien had a full-on plastic covering that created a small room outdoors, which was quite cozy...

Another thing you won't necessarily know until you get there is the wide variation in the width of the sidewalks, and the strange things that go on...  Some sidewalks are literally less than a meter wide; you're walking single file, and often in the streets.

There are quite a few really wide streets, often with metal posts stuck into them to keep drivers off of them, or to control the drivers that ARE on them.

Yes, people park on the sidewalks, some places, some times. Motorcycles can be on the sidewalks at any time...

And be alert that there might be water running in the gutters at any time, even if there hasn't been rain for quite a while. Actually, it's MORE likely if there hasn't been rain - the Parisians are very good about cleaning their streets. There's an extensive staff of people running around the city (bright green uniforms!) sweeping and cleaning streets and gutters. Very nice, as long as you're careful not to walk into a surprising waterflow where none was expected!

(none of this means that you don't have to be alert for dog... traces...)

Walking into these posts is painful, trust me...

What were people wearing? I have more to report on this subject, but starting with outerwear. The first 2 days I was there were relatively warm - upper 40's to lower 50's Fahrenheit. EVERYBODY was wearing a short, high-collar, relatively lightweight quilted jacket. It looked like Uniqlo had taken over the entire city and uniformed them appropriately!

Navy jacket – Uniqlo; turquoise jacket – Uniqlo
pink jacket – Armani Jeans

Those who weren't wearing Uniqlo or similar quilted jackets were wearing Barbour. You could see the Barbour logos, most of the time, but even in the absence thereof, the style was pretty consistent - below the waist, quilted nylon or waxed cotton, somewhat equestrian in feel. I can vouch for the quality of these jackets, as I've had a couple of ages, and they will NOT wear out...

Red jacket – Burberry Brit; rust jacket – Barbour
sage waxed jacket - Barbour

The last day I was in Paris was simply cold - a few degree below freezing, with a consistent wind! The lightweight quilted jackets vanished from the streets, to be replaced by hooded parkas, with fur trim. REAL fur trim, as nearly as I could tell:

Chestnut parka – J. Crew; navy parka – Woolrich;   
mulberry parka – L.L.Bean

I still have a few more photographs - my hotel room, mostly, and more observations about what I saw people wearing, and just some other general silliness that stuck in my head. So I'm not quite done yet writing about Paris!


Alexis Bittar


  1. A great variety of subjects again today, giving us a real window onto Paris this month. Thank you!
    I laughed though. I liked the despised red Christmas tree - so flamboyant, yet spare - much more than the busy gauzy number we saw at the top of Friday's post on decorations. And isn't that how we are in your delightful community: all different, with widely varying likes, tastes, shapes and interests, meeting here in harmony for the pleasure and benefit of what we can learn from you.
    All good wishes for the season, dear Janice.
    Robyn in Tasmania

  2. You are killing me dear Janice. I'm having a real yearning for Paris at the moment, having not visiting in 3 years now, but alas it is so far from Australia that it is both an expensive and time-consuming trip. I spent six weeks there in 2012 and I loved every minute. While I'm loving your photos, they are not helping the longing at fact, I think it is getting worse!

  3. And from someone who has never been to Paris and who is terribly intimidated by the inability to speak French I still have a longing to visit - it is unique with its' own special charm and style.


    Mary mcm

  4. Always informative. You changed the header image! Very Parisian.

  5. Please don't ever stop writing about Paris -- never fails to delight! Each time we go we think we're finished with the city, and then we get the sudden, inexplicable urge to return.

  6. Laura in TO -- NYC hint: you can also stay the entire day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art-- we did! Arrive for opening; lunch at their fancy restaurant(Petrie) ; tea in the middle of the afternoon AND then up to the wine bar on the mezzanine to listen to a quartet and have a glass...well,we left at 8:30...and it was a a wonderful day!!!!!

  7. I like Paris very much but my favorite place in France is a small medieval town called Uzes near Avignon. You would never think you could stay there in its only hotel with 6 rooms for a week without a car but you can very happily!!

    Deb from Vancouver

  8. I love the street pictures. One of my favorite pastimes when travelling is to just walk and look with seeing eyes. Today, I saw Paris in my pjs. Not too shabby!
    Also, I'm interested in how the 'being free of your hotel backpacking' turned out.
    Thanks so much for all you do.

  9. It was until the end of my only trip to Europe that I clued in on dealing with the hand-written menus. Being slowed down by the beautiful script, my limited skills for translation and a poor memory about what the server was explaining, I took a photo of it on my phone. After listening to the menu, my husband and I could review the menu on my phone, doing our best to recall the explanations. It also gave me a little souvenir about the restaurant.

  10. For someone who only has Paris on their wish list thank you for sharing your amazing pictures, fashions, and cafes I love every minute of it!

  11. FYI, Quick is a Belgian burger chain (like McDonald's) and the Belgians are crazy about different sauces, mostly for their fries. A tiny frite stand will offer a dozen sauces. Le Pain Quotidien is also Belgian; I love their boeuf basilic sandwich (paper-thin raw steak--carpaccio--with slivers of parmesan and basil). Saucisse au couteau is just a kind of sausage, like saucisse de Toulouse.
    The downside of outdoor seating is that it tends to be spoiled by smokers.
    Handwriting is very important in France. They're into handwriting analysis to figure out your personality, etc., so having a style is paramount. Signatures are universally illegible, more like logos than John Hancocks.
    Another nice hotel, near yours, is Hotel des Grandes Ecoles.
    Winter shorts with tights were a thing back in the late 1980s in the U.S. (maybe just in NY?). I don't see many women doing the bare-leg thing, and I live in the balmy south of France. Maybe because everybody wears boots--knee-high with tights or tucked-in jeans, or ankle-height with shorts/skirts (and tights), pants, you name it.
    Next time, come to Carcassonne. Google it--it's even more amazing in person.

  12. This was such an enjoyable "look" into your trip. Thanks for sharing these pictures with us.

  13. Last fall, I was amazed to see the ubiquity of the burger! Like down jackets, they have taken over the world. The French also wear beautiful wool coats, duffles or lodens, which are of relatively fine wool but densely-woven so they stop the wind. You see that sort of thing on the older crowd, who go to work in such strict, chic coats and save parkas for weekends.

  14. I love the Paris posts! Keep them coming! I never tire of seeing Paris! : )