A Travellerspoint blog

France

Les Marchés de Paris

semi-overcast 16 °C

History, culture and necessity coalesce in the more than ninety markets dotted throughout the city of Paris. Some marketplaces can be traced back a thousand years or more while others inhabit historically significant sites like the one on the Blvd. Richard Lenoir at Bastille where these songsters perform with an ancient barrel organ…
P1170457.jpg
The wide tree-lined boulevard leading to the place where the Bastille prison stood (until it was stormed on July 14th 1789) is transformed every Sunday morning into a bustling outdoor bazaar bursting with produce from all over France. The arrangements of fruits and vegetables are particularly appealing…
large_P1170395.jpgP1170385.jpg
And what about these incredible mushrooms?
large_P1170369.jpg
The extravagant Queen Marie Antoinette would have known these streets well from the comfort and privacy of her gilded carriages. She was guillotined just a few blocks away in 1793. Perhaps she would be pleased to see that there is no shortage of bread here today…
P1170390.jpg
Bread, the most staple of staples in France, may currently be vilified as the cause of corpulence in many countries, but it doesn’t seem to have done Parisians’ waistlines any harm. Ditto for cheese and wine…
large_P1170434.jpg
While many Canadians are still grappling with the seemingly perilous notion of letting people buy alcohol in supermarkets – (Mon Dieu - quelle horreur!) – the French happily flog plonk at every opportunity (often cheaper than Evian or Perrier). Here in Le Marché Richard Lenoir you can buy your Sunday lunch of bread, cheese and a bottle of wine for the price of a grande Starbucks cappucino.

Church attendance in France may have hit an all time low, but the tradition of shopping for food in the market on Sunday morning is as strong as ever. However, there is much more on offer than the poultry, fish and fruits. Numerous artisans of Paris proudly display their creations in the Marché Edgar Quinet. This is Régis d’Audeville with his botanical works of art…
P1170413.jpg
And this is Sylvie, a delightful Parisian artist who has turned her creative talents to making millinery objets d’art…
P1170424.jpg
We only managed three of the ninety markets before we were spent, but we felt quite justified in rewarding ourselves with some of these fabulous custard tarts at the Marché Alesia on our way home…
P1170404.jpg
Marie Antoinette was right – it is better to eat cake.

Posted by Hawkson 09:54 Archived in France Comments (5)

The Streets of Paris

semi-overcast 16 °C

We’ve been doing the sights of Paris for the past few days - the Eiffel Tower, Notre- Dame, the Arc de Triomphe etc. and even Disneyland with the grandchildren– but decided not to bore you with images of such well documented tourist attractions
Instead we thought we should focus on the more prosaic side of Paris – the everyday street scenes like the modern automatic toilettes that replaced the iconic, (though always smelly) pissoirs…
Toilets.jpg
Then there are the newspaper kiosks that seem to do a roaring trade despite the internet…
Newspapers.jpg
And the fleuristes whose season-defying flowers overflow onto the sidewalks…
Flower_shop.jpg
Not long ago the banks of the Seine were lined with many hundreds of booths selling rare and secondhand books. Few remain today and those that do primarily sell tourist trinkets and cheap prints...
Booksellers.jpg
Almost every corner of major intersections is home to a brasserie where snippy waiters make you pay through the nose for sitting on a squeaky rattan chair while inhaling the fumes of a thousand cars…
large_F89E8146E6245C854DC399D0A67E6E25.jpg
But being in Paris, (for some) is all about being seen in Paris. The City of Lights still has allure for the rich and trendy and there is no shortage of establishments catering to the well-heeled of the world. We, on the other hand, are quite content NOT staying on the Champs Elysees or shopping in the chic establishments of the Avenue Montaigne. The boulangerie at the end of the street has everything we want…
large_Patiserrie.jpg
Just as Bruges is a haven of chocalatiers, Paris is home to a thousand boulangers, (bakers) and patissiers. Their breads and pastries tempt us every few metres. The most iconic name – now franchised worldwide – is that of Paul…
08BF29F396FA4AEA869046CFA5540687.jpg
Food is a primary pre-occupation of the French. It is not cheap, (and not always good), but it is certainly plentiful. Restaurants of every type and nationality abound in Paris and the quality and variety of fresh food available in stores is staggering. This is a fish stall in Montparnasse…
large_Fish_shop.jpg
….while this is just a local greengrocers…
Fruit_shop.jpg
In a move that should be copied worldwide it has been illegal in France for supermarkets to throw away unsold food since May of this year. All products that have expired must be given to charity or used as animal feed.

Paris is a truly multicultural city and the shops and supermarkets reflect this diversity with products from around the world. In an inexplicable moment of madness we skipped past the local boulangerie to slip into Marks & Spencer's for a packet of their delicious English crumpets – now if only we could find a Tim Hortons coffee shop.

Posted by Hawkson 08:50 Archived in France Comments (4)

Printemps en Provence

sunny 17 °C

It is spring in the south of France and it’s easy to see why the Côte d’Azur (the Blue Coast) of the French Riviera is so named…
large_P1020743.jpg
The startling blues of the Mediterranean sea and sky, coupled with the vibrant colours of spring, make a beautiful backdrop for the historic stone buildings in this part of the world...
large_P1020943.jpg
It may only be the beginning of March but the sun is out, the skies are clear, and the festivals are in full swing. The Mimosa Festival was just winding down when we arrived in Mandelieu near Cannes, but the red mountains of l’esterel were still radiant with golden blossoms…
P1030005.jpg
The Mimosas of the l’esterel mountains herald the return of the sun and are celebrated along the coast from Cannes to St. Tropez on the road christened ‘Le Route de Mimosa’. We followed this winding seaside route to the ancient port that has been synonymous with the high life for more than a century. This is St. Tropez before the yachts of the glitterati arrive for the season…
P1020891.jpg
Interestingly, the Mimosas are an invasive species introduced from Australia. In British Columbia we have an equally invasive species – the Scotch Broom. However, while the French celebrate their golden bonanza with festivals and celebrations, we in Canada spend a great deal of effort trying to eradicate ours. But the Mimosa Festival is not the only celebration of spring, and mid-week we went to Nice to witness the annual Battle of the Flowers…
There was a parade of spectacularly adorned floats the length of the seafront, (Le Promenade d'Anglais), along with clowns, bands and giant inflatables…
large_P1020870.jpg
Hundreds of thousands of blossoms are used to decorate the elaborate floats... P1020850.jpg
And, while the flower girls threw bunches of Mimosa into the crowds, they were pelted with confetti in return.
The third festival on the coast in less than a week was the Fetes de Citron in Menton where more than 100 tons of oranges and lemons are annually used to create enormous monuments in the park. While the statues are certainly spectacular in size, one need to look no further than the market in Cannes for an amazing display of fabulous fruits and vegetables...
large_2930CCD82219AC6817284B9F3EF91B0D.jpg
...Not to mention an incredible array of cheeses, fish, meats and … Oh. Don’t get us started – just look at this mouthwatering lot….
P1020923.jpg
After a week soaking up the spring sunshine on the Côte d’Azur we are now en-route to England – C’est la vie!

Posted by Hawkson 13:40 Archived in France Comments (6)

Party Time on the Cote d'Azure

sunny 24 °C

An advantage of having family in exotic places like the French Riviera is that we get dragged along to great parties and fun events, so how could we refuse an invite to Roland's 60th. birthday...
P1120582.jpg
Here's a couple of real characters getting into the swing of things...
P1120579.jpg
And here's a couple of characters from Vancouver who we bumped into quite by coincidence. We knew that Tad and Michiko were somewhere in France, but were amazed when we bumped into them in the middle of Antibes...
P1120557.jpg
We're getting ready to leave the Cote d'Azure, and not a moment too soon. Although it's beautifully warm and sunny today there's a black cloud on the horizon - the G20 meets in Cannes in a few days and the whole city is being shut down by 12,000 machine-gun toting gendarmes. We're leaving in the nick of time - but that's been the story of our trip. We barely scraped by a devastating storm in Turkey and slipped off to Italy just before the earthquake, and while the Romans were rioting at the Colosseum we were visiting the Pontiff across the city at St. Peter's. Another storm clobbered Rome just after we left for Perugia, (where we were fortunate not to die of a chocolate overdose) and we had then planned to stay in one of our favourite seaside spots - Monterosso, one of the five picturesque villages of the Cinque Terra. Unfortunately, (or fortunately as it transpired), Cinque Terra has been featured on so many TV programs and travelogues that everyone and his brother got there before us and the local hoteliers and peasants are all driving Maseratis and washing down their caviar pizzas with champagne on the profits.We are not in the champagne clique and couldn't afford to rent a broom cupboard for a few nights in Monterosso, so moved along the coast to Rapallo before travelling to Cannes. But we do like a drop of bubbly and we really enjoyed this Italian Prosecco that we bought in Cannes..
P1120537.jpg
It's not a typo. This Prosecco was just 99 cents a bottle - $1.39 Canadian dollars for a bottle of very respectable bubbly (and regular plonk can be even cheaper). And as for the Maserati? - here's Sheila at the wheel of Roland's racing car - 0-60 mph fast enough to rip your pants off...
large_P1120583.jpg
But, back to Monterosso. Three days after we left Italy, seven people were killed and Monterosso and most of the other ancient villages of the Cinque Terra were almost totally destroyed by landslides when twenty inches of rain fell in just 24 hours. We're now off to Milan, and if there's riots in Cannes in the next few days we hope we won't get the blame.

Posted by Hawkson 05:44 Archived in France Comments (3)

Toulouse- Today and Yesterday

semi-overcast 24 °C

Last year we visited the Airbus factory in Toulouse to see the giant A380s being assembled, and we were in such a rush to glimpse the future that we completely missed the past. This time the historic waterway of the Canal-du-Midi led us directly into the heart of the city and we awoke to this view from our cabin’s porthole…
P1060482.jpg
Today, France’s fourth largest metropolis is a vibrant city bustling with students and high-tech aviation experts, but it has a storied history and a wealth of fine buildings mainly dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Here is Le Capitole in the centre of the city.
P1060496.jpg
The approach to the city was lined with a motley flotilla of barges being used as housing – many of them floating slums. However, once we had passed these boats and broken through the shell of industrial development that surrounds the city, we discovered a golden core – an absolute “ouvre” as the French would say. There is a maze of cobbled backstreets with quaint storefronts that appear not to have changed for a century and markets of all kinds appear around every corner. The iconic brick architecture gives the city its epithet of, “The Pink City.” Here is the basilica…
P1060509.jpg
And here is one of the many of the squares that are filled with outdoor cafes...
P1060512.jpg
As we leave Languedoc-Roussillon and head to London, we say “Au revoir and thank you” to Carmen and her owner, David. And we can say with certainty that we will return.

Posted by Hawkson 11:29 Archived in France Comments (2)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 28) Previous « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 » Next