Tag Archives: Paris

Have You Ever Found a Hidden Shop in Paris?

About three years ago, I was wandering up the Rue de L’Odeon in Paris and this tiny little shop caught my eye.  It was called SérieRare and in the shop window, there were door knobs, door knockers, and one brass gold-plated bracelet that I fell in love with.  Not really wanting a door knob or a brass knocker, but looking for presents for Christmas, I wandered in.

A lovely lady was in there and we exchanged a “bonjour” when I inquired about the bracelet.  In my terrible French, I asked her if she had any others.  “Bien sur,” she said, and she proceeded to open a hidden cabinet filled with bracelets, bangles, and earrings.  All of the items are beautifully crafted by an artist called Daniel Podva.  He also is a great photographer.

What I love about this place is that you would never have guessed it.  It has become a regular stop for me when I am passing through Paris; a secret treasure trove of beautiful jewelry.  I have even upgraded my haul to include an occasional candelabra.  Probably the nicest thing about the store is that it’s near everything.  When you come out, you can take a right to the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, one of France’s six national theaters, right next to the Luxembourg Gardens, or a left down to St. Germain and the bustle of the mainstream Latin Quarter.  There is also a fabulous restaurant, one of my favorites, at the top by the Odeon called La Méditerranée.  Who would have thought?

A Parisian Exhibition Unlike Any Other

I had never been to the Fondation Louis Vuitton before.  It is such an amazing sight as you approach it through the Bois de Boulogne.  Constructed around a cascading stairway of water, it’s an assemblage of huge glass sails and blocks known as “icebergs.”  Because of the glass, the trees that surround it, and the constant movement of water, it creates a continuous impression of movement depending on the time of the day and night.  It is quite a sight to behold.

We had booked tickets for an extraordinary exhibition based around the artworks of a Russian textile magnet named Sergei Shchukin.  One of the richest guys in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, his house, or more likely palace, in St. Petersburg, held the most extensive collection of Matisse’s in the world.  He bought them when nobody was buying pieces by Matisse.  As one collector of the time said of him and his collection of Matisse’s, “One mad man painted them, another bought them!”  He had 37 Matisse’s in all and Matisse, who visited him in Moscow several times, commented that he was a strange guy with a heavy stutter who was crazy about art and had a vision and an eye for the unfashionable.

Matisse offered to introduce Sergei to a mate of his who was doing very unorthodox things at the time.  The introduction went well.  Even though Sergei did not much enjoy the paintings from his friend, he bought them, and lots of them.  He figured that Matisse and his friend were probably smarter than he was, and one day his investment may even make him some money.  The friend’s name was Pablo Picasso.

At the end of the first World War, as the Russian Revolution loomed, Sergei fled both his country and his collection of art.  His art was scattered – not just the Picasso and Matisse pieces, but Cezanne, Gauguin, you name it, he had it.  Much of it thankfully ended up at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Although during the Stalin years – and there were lots of them – the viewing of his paintings were forbidden because Stalin thought that both Matisse and Picasso were seditious counter-revolutionaries.  Oh dear.

This exhibition in Paris was the first time that Sergei’s entire collection could be viewed and the first time his collection had ever been out of Russia.  Paintings that had been seen by most only on postcards were staring at you from across the room.  It was a two-and-a-half-hour romp through a madman’s house to view the great artists of the 20th century at the beginning of their careers.

 

Paris, Rome and London!

I’m a lucky guy – I’m spending two weeks working in three of my favorite cities.
In Paris – my all time fave place to eat is Mediterrano at the Odeon, (http://www.la-mediterranee.com/)
in Rome, it’d be Carbonara in Campo di fiori,
and in London – yes you CAN get great food especially if you go to Sheekeys!
@JSheekeyrest @RistoranteLaCarbonaraRoma

What are your fave places in these cities? I love to try new places!

Luxembourg Gardens Pietro Place Peter Jones

The Luxembourg Gardens

I like to stay in Paris somewhere close to Montparnasse.

Lately I have been staying at the Belle Juliette on the Rue du Cherche-Midi which interestingly enough is a fabulous French phrase that my Parisian friend, Claire, explained to me.  To “chercher midi à quatorze heures” means to complicate things.

From this delightful 4-star boutique hotel with a lovely garden, it’s a short walk past antique stores and tiny cafes to the Luxembourg Gardens.

The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, apart from the obvious reasons of sightseeing, the splendid palace, and the history attached to it, is simply one of the great outdoor gymnasiums.

A run around the perimeter inside of the gardens is just under two miles.  The surface is pleasant, the people watching is amazing, the flora and the fauna is over the top and you can barely believe you are smack in the center of the Latin Quarter.

The gardens are jammed between the Boulevard Saint-Michel and Sorbonne area, the Odéon and the Saint-Sulpice, and the longest road in Paris, the Rue du Vaugirard.  In the center of the gardens, there are beautiful clay tennis courts that are not terribly busy, donkey rides, petanque games, and a scattering of benches that are used for exercise.  In between all of this there is a beautiful pond where children can rent miniature sail boats.  There is a kids swimming pool that is sometimes taken over by adults that should know better.  There is a plethora of olive green chairs scattered everywhere for people to sit, read, and enjoy what has been there for centuries.  There are apple trees, oleander trees, and a miniature model of the Statue of Liberty.  Ironically in the Luxembourg Gardens there is not a lot of grass and most grass is protected by signs telling you to stay off of it.

This is one of the greatest parks in all of the world for a jog, walk, or quiet moment relaxing in one of the chairs.

Paris takes your breath away again.

Beauty and the Beast – 2 Hotel Reviews

2 Hotel Reviews: Beauty and the Beast

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Hotel Belle Juliette

One of my favorite streets in Paris is the Rue Cherche-Midi in the 6th arrondissement. The street name is actually used in a famous French expression – chercher midi à quatorze heures – to make something more complicated than it really is. The street was actually one of the main exits from Paris for the aristocracy on their hunting jaunts. And they always left no sooner than midi for a spot of light animal killing. So on this lovely street, full of cafes and interesting stores, a wonderful old working hardware store and a newspaper stand (yes, a real one), there is a delightful hotel called La Belle Juliette (http://www.hotel-belle-juliette-paris.com/en/).

I would recommend booking the superior room. Every room is different and funky with beautiful wood floors and, even though the corridors are a little dark and difficult to navigate, the rooms are wonderfully bright and the fixtures are cool and functional. Apple TVs and sophisticated lighting – suffice to say I love this place. It has a beautiful garden area with a nice lounge area. The staff was super friendly, with service living up to a location right on one of the nicest streets of all of Paris. Even the infamous Gerard Depardieu has a house opposite, but more importantly you are a 10-minute walk to the river, 5-minute walk to Montparnasse and along the street there are so many nice little restaurants. My 5-star recommendation is a 4-star hotel with 4-star prices.

GardenBelleJuliettebelle2 belle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotel Montalmbert – Don’t Judge a Hotel by its Star Rating

I have been lost since the Hotel Lutetia closed its doors over a year ago to begin a huge renovation project. It was my go-to pad in Paris. An old-style Belle Epoque hotel in the seventh arrondisement, five minutes from my office in Paris and reasonably priced. I’ve been struggling ever since – jumping from one average hotel room to another average hotel room. So this Paris stay I split myself between two hotels, to try to find a new home for my small work stays in Paris.

First stop was the Hotel Montalembert (http://www.hotelmontalembert-paris.com/).  It promised to be a fabulous boutique hotel just off the Boulevard St. Germain. I was never more disappointed in a hotel in my life. The staff looked bored. The room was smaller than a 3-star room near the Gare du Nord. The bathroom was even smaller than I could imagine in a room like that. Picture Alice from Wonderland looking for a wafer to shrink to fit into the shower. And the television had so few channels it reminded me of England in the 60s. Not to mention that the bed was the most uncomfortable small bed I have slept on for some time.  If you’re in the hotel business, you must get that right.

It was dark and dreary with dreadful décor – the set of an indie film that I didn’t want to be in. The funny thing about that particular part of town is that all the fun and vibrancy of the Rue du Bac disappears immediately after you cross Boulevard St. Germain heading toward the river. How I longed for the Lutetia. But first I had to escape and red card it!

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Eiffel Tower of Problems

Take a perfectly big monument designed by engineers Maurice Koechlin, Emile Nouguier and architect Stephen Sauvestre before the patented design was bought by Gustave Eiffel, whose company than constructed the tower and imagine that there are more and more tourists that want to visit this thing because it is so perfectly placed in the middle of this beautiful city called Paris.  It has views for miles – two restaurants (58 Tour Eiffel and Le Jules Verne) and is the most visited paid monument in the world, and certainly the most recognizable. If they could charge people to look at it, they would. They can’t so they do the next most obvious thing, make everyone who’s trying to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, truly hate the experience. Well, the French have done it.

Now you have to book reservations online with a specific time slot.  That sounds OK, no problem. Except there are hardly any time slots available! You can only book 3 months out – and at 3 months out, until zero days in, there are precisely zero time slots of available. So with no time slots available, I wonder who they’re going to. You have to resort to standing online for 2-3 hours, if you’re lucky. And this new system, if they have put in place, is called progress or avancé.  Well there is absolutely nothing avancé about this ridiculous state of affairs. If you do manage to get tickets it’s 15.5 Euros ($17) for adults, 13.5 Euros ($14.50) for ages 12 – 23, and 11Euros ($12) for ages 4-11 as well as for handicapped and those assisting them.

We’ve written to the people who run the Eiffel tower and they agree with us (which is even more frustrating and simply incredulous). Here we have yet another government agency trying to deter tourism of an iconic site that people have saved up all their lives to see. Right now all I’m looking at is a long line of kids desperate to see the world from way up on high and romance in this marvelous story of Paris, waiting and waiting and waiting. It can’t help but be anti-climactic and frustrating.  Guess what, we’ve got one in Vegas – you can’t scale it, but at this rate you can’t scale the one in Paris either. At least in Vegas, the canals of Venice are just a short walk away!  So here goes, in case you’re listening.

Dear Gustave,

You’ve no idea what they are doing to your tower. I know you just built it for the World’s Fair and thought it would be torn down. And lots of people at the time said it’s horrid. But it turns out it’s become the most iconic site in the world. More than the pyramids, even. And I know you probably can’t hear this, but if there is any way you could bring sanity to the bureaucracy that prevents us from seeing your beautiful piece of art, than I would appreciate it.

Faithfully yours,

Peter Jones

 

Paris and Versailles

My flight from Madrid to Paris would deliver me to Orly Airport, south of the city. What a delight to fly into. It is not terribly modern but transportation links on the RER or taxi are just so much easier than the dreadful Charles de Gaulle Airport. I grabbed a cab, as I was staying in Montparnasse, and was at my hotel in about 20 minutes.

Montparnasse is such a nice part of the city with its wide boulevards, its hub of a railway station that can get you anywhere across the city quickly, and the tiny, delightful streets that sit just outside the belle époque department store of Bon Marché. Walking from Montparnasse to the Rue de Cherche-Midi and then cutting across to San Sulpice before heading up to the Odeon and Luxembourg Gardens is one of my favorite strolls. It’s also conveniently close to our office on Rue de Babylone.

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Paris river and notre dame 042814

In the evening, I went to see a couple of friends in the Marais district which is another fabulous neighborhood to hang out in. There are lots of great restaurants, cafes, and tiny, narrow streets. And of course, its home to the Picasso museum and our guide Julian Brown!

Versailles gate Peter 042814

Versailles Maggie and her group  042814

The following day, I headed out to Versailles to see some of our travelers. I rode out there on the RER train which is the easiest way to get out to Versailles, plus it is cheap as chips. I had decided that I would not go into the palace but instead would go straight through to the gardens avoiding at least one hour wait in line. It was the holidays, the water had been officially turned on, the music piped around the grounds, and nine Euros was dutifully charged to everyone who wanted to get in. Versailles sure has figured out a way to monetize their attractions.

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Unfortunately, the main fountain, the Latona Fountain, was under reconstruction. This was a bit of a disappointment as when you come into the gardens, this is the main focal point for the beautiful view along the Tapis Vert. No matter; we had decided to rent bikes as we were feeling jolly athletic. We zipped around the gardens, stayed on the outside of the Hameau (there is a charge to get in), and covered a large part of the grounds efficiently while staying off the cobblestones. Always a sensible idea when biking! Biking at Versailles, weather permitting, is a real must-do attraction. You actually get to appreciate the gardens and see things you would never usually see. We then dumped the bikes and began the long walk up the hill, through the crowds outside of the palace and caught the train back into Paris. By taking the train, you give yourself lots of options and time flexibility.

Versailles peter bike 042814

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