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…
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:
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…
I loved this – the idea that you can get a fast food burger with Bearnaise sauce:
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!
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…)
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!
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…
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:
Prue Robson says
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 all…in fact, I think it is getting worse!
Mary mcm says
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.
Always informative. You changed the header image! Very Parisian.
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.
Coco Colmani says
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
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!!!!!
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
Grammy Goodwill says
This was such an enjoyable "look" into your trip. Thanks for sharing these pictures with us.
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.
I love the Paris posts! Keep them coming! I never tire of seeing Paris! : )