Researching and planning for Paris has become a hobby and an addiction.
My house is littered with enough books on Paris to fill a bookstore. I trawl the internet and anything I can get my hands on for information and then, I have a hefty, work in progress document, divided into categories and arrondissements. It sounds anal, organised or very weird to some, but it seems to work for me.
If I had to decide on any given day, when I am in Paris, what I would like to do. I would spend the entire day in the apartment procrastinating.
Therefore I gather the information, organise it on a map and sometimes, when I hit the boulevards, I have no idea what I am about to do but I have to trust my research, and off I go.
I follow my own instructions, like anyone would with a trusty guide book, except it is tailored especially for me and on the whole, I am very happy with how things turn out.
Today my itinerary told me to follow a route around the 1st arrondissement but I ask you, when does everything go to plan?
It started well. The first item on my list was to head to Forum des Halles to check out the new roof and renovations. I have watched the construction over the past few years and was keen to see the progress.
The area of Les Halles, was once home to a large central wholesale market, dating back to 1183 but in 1977 the markets were moved out of Paris and despite public uproar the historic market place was demolished and an underground shopping precinct and ugly above ground area was born.
My impression, given with what the architects had to work with is looking good so far and I like the new roof. Everything is not finished but it appears that the above ground gardens is the only section left to be completed.
A long standing wish, given the renovated structure of Les Halles, was that I would find a vantage point where I could capture a shot of the old wheat and grain stock exchange known as the Bourse de Commerce, from above and particularly the Medici Column. The two structures are not to be confused as one, although they appear to be. They are a stone’s throw away from Les Halles, if you have a shot put arm.
The circular building you see is the Bourse de Commerce and recently a deal was struck between the City of Paris and 80 year old, French born business man, art collector and billionaire François Pinault which will enable him to have a renewable 50 year lease of this building. A team of architects propose that the building will be renovated and opened to the public by 2018 and ready to exhibit Mr Pinault’s vast art collection.
Today I witnessed workers removing office items from the building and I hung around, with puppy dog eyes in the hope that I may have been able to look inside. Clearly, the puppy dog inside me wasn’t reflecting the same image on the outside and all that was left to do was peer through the windows and it was not a good look. Let’s hope that Monsieur Pinault will do the building justice and I have a feeling that he will and the most exciting part is, finally, we will be allowed inside!
Butted up against the Bourse de Commerce building is an unusual column. (which you can see above)
The Medici Column, which stands 28 metres high is all that remains from Catherine Medici’s Hôtel de Soissons.
A great fan of astrology, she had it erected in 1578 and it is believed that the intertwining H & C that can be seen on the column was dedicated to her husband Henry II after Nostradamus predicted his death. It is a small miracle that this structure remains, considering the demolition that has taken place in the surrounding area.
Here you can see a plaque with the Paris coat of arms above that has become known across the world since the Paris Attacks depicting the boat which carries the slogan; ‘She is tossed by the waves, but does not sink’.
It was at this point, only scratching the surface of my itinerary that my so called plan started to change and what happened next would change the course of the day.
The take-away lunch from a hole in the wall on Rue Sauval wasn’t open. I was a little early.
With a half hour to wait I wondered whether to abandon lunch and move on but I remembered that E. Dehillerin was nearby and I could use the time to go there. I was in desperate need of a good knife. The knives in the apartment were not cutting it (sorry for the pun). I have never had a good knife in a Paris apartment to use and I plan to have some friends over for dinner, so Dehillerin it was!
The dusty, historic and cluttered kitchen-ware shop that has been around since 1820 reminds me of an old fashioned hardware store. Raw timber floorboards, no price tags, everything is coded and the slightly eccentric employees know their stuff.
After finding the knife that suited me, the salesman looked it up in the catalogue, the price was reasonable, he writes the code on a docket, I pay the lady behind the counter, after that, I take my docket to the wrapping man (who, incidentally is millimetres from the lady behind the counter) and then he expertly wraps my knife with a cardboard cover over the knife and then goes about wrapping it in metres of brown paper secured with branded Dehillerin tape – so how many people does it take to serve someone at Dehillerin – yeah so stab me, but it better be with a Dehillerin knife – lol.
Are you all wondering if Paris Adèle has a museum on her itinerary today? Good because I wondered about that too, I did but it was too late now and carrying a knife into a museum, when the city is on high alert …. I had a vision of alarms going off, surrounded by the gendarmerie calling out to me to drop the knife and me innocently trying to explain why I have a knife in my bag!
If anyone suggested to me that I grab a take-away lunch in Paris I would scoff at the thought when there are so many wonderful cafés to lounge around in. However and there is a big however.
The French Historian had told me about an amazing meal that he had at Yam Tcha, a French/Asian fusion restaurant and my research told me that during the day, they have a ‘hole in the wall’ where they serve take-away.
The hole in the wall allows a view straight into the kitchen but next door is a tiny restaurant and I decided to eat sitting down.
The spicy soup with glass noodles was delicious but maybe toned down for French tastes and the pork dumplings or ravioli as they call them in France were super yummy. There was no room for me on the one communal table but a space at the bar was perfect so I could watch the ritual of Chinese tea making.
The bright green neon sign of the oldest detective agency in Paris must have had some effect and turned me into a super sleuth.
Next door I noted pretty mosaic flooring behind a pair of iron and glass doors with gold accents as someone entered the building.
Afterwards I watched as the door slowly click shut.
I could have put my hand on it, several times, there was a lot of people entering the building but how do I follow someone in and then stand in the foyer like a goose not having any purpose, I would be caught out immediately but then I noted there was no digicode, just a simple push button and that gorgeous clicking sound as the door released the lock. I was in!
I normally get a little nervous when I enter a private courtyard but this felt like invading someones home, although it was a place of business but my hands were shaking, my heart was racing and the slightest noise had me skittish.
The staircase was so inviting next to the ancient caged lift but I couldn’t risk it, just a few steps and I heard another noise and the panic set in when I couldn’t find the release button for the internal doors – oh great, I am going to be stuck here until someone lets me out.
I press a button but it is the light switch and then I find it, phew, a few more photos and I was out.
Just call me Paris Adèle Super Sleuth.
A quiet courtyard not far from Yam Tcha required no super sleuthing to enter because it is the home of La Galcante my second eccentric and dusty store for the day.
Packed to the ceiling, archive boxes full of old newspapers, magazines, engravings, journals and books line the walls of this famous store. Museums and collectors rely on them to supply historic print for research and displays.
I must have spent almost an hour flicking through old postcards and so glad I did because it enabled me to observe daily life in the store.
At first I wondered what on earth needed to be done in a store such as this, besides giving it a good tidying up, it is not as if they have new releases arriving every day like a bookstore but it was a height of activity.
Couriers rushing in and out with deliveries, a man with bright green pants and a large artists portfolio case slung over his shoulder was well known to the proprietors and two young ladies were told there was no need to pay for whatever it was they were picking up. Another young lady wanted to buy a magazine with a specific date to give as a birthday gift and of course they had it.
Then everyone seemed to disappear, leaving me alone in the shop when I was ready to purchase some postcards. I wandered around snapped a few photos and finally a man came down from upstairs where I suspect is more journals.
He had no idea what to do with a handful and postcards and handed me over to the other proprietor, he also had no idea what he was going to charge me.
He counts them in French, then in English, sizes me up and he gives me a price that sounds more like a question than a statement.
Now that was a pretty cool experience but then I think everything is a cool experience in Paris which makes me wonder why all of a sudden I abandoned my plans, so far it was turning out so well.
Who knows but tomorrow is another day, in Paris.
Instead I wandered around aimlessly, had the opportunity to take some tripod shots of the sun setting by the louvre but couldn’t be bothered to set it up.
Instead I simply drank it all up, including a glass of wine at a favourite restaurant near the Louvre, Le Fumoir and simply relaxed, because I can.