Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Paris Diary: Day Three

Barbara: It’s hard to completely immerse myself into the magic of this city when so much chaos is happening at home. I can’t even begin to describe some of the news we’ve been getting from home and then to counter that with being here, wanting to be here, having to be here (ie, we’re not leaving until we’re scheduled to leave), and letting it all go so we can really and truly BE here. And yet, if I have to be anywhere in the world that also has the power to pull me by the hand and lead me into the sublime, the ridiculous, the audacious, the surreal, well, then it’s Paris: city of lights, people, secrets, fantasies, food, books, curated nature, history, and on, and on. All the things that transport and feed me.

Today, we started by going to Stefanie’s neck of the woods, which is the Bastille area of Paris. She wanted to show us her favourite shop, Merci—and it’s a good thing because it was the only shop that was open (check times for stores and museums when here: suffice to say that the shops of the Bastille and Village St. Paul in Le Marais are mostly closed on Mondays). It's tucked inside a courtyard off the main strip. No great photos of the inside, but this is a store that is full of the best and funkiest in clothes, books, films, dishes and shoes. Deb, if you don’t know it, you would lose your fricking mind! No, it’s not cheap, but that’s never stopped me from admiring the wares. I always treat stores like this like they’re galleries, but where you can fondle the stuff and no one will come by and “slap” your wrist.

After Merci, we were ready for lunch. If this doesn’t make time-sense (no, we did not spend hours inside), keep in mind that with the jet lag, you may, like us, allow yourself to sleep in a bit and make up for your tardiness with late nights. Also, keep in mind that one lingers over meals here. You savour your morning croissant and coffee, you enjoooooooooy it. So, after Merci, we were ready for lunch. And Merci has three different, excellent eating options, all gorgeous. We chose the offshoot café and had a huge bowl of salad, mozzarella, fig, and roasted veggies, and a glass of homemade ginger lemonade. Sooo delicious.

Then we walked the streets for hours, looking into shop windows—St. Paul is known for its vintage shops. As I said, none of them were open, which is just as well because the delights and treasures featured in every window make you want to buy them all, cost be damned: mais, it’s French! It’s one-of-a-kind! It’s so old it makes our North American antiques look like Ikea-era tchotchkes! We explored more gardens—which all have the sense of being secret gardens, the kind you suddenly stumble upon, apropos of seemingly nothing, and not at all crowded (well, it is the fall). Usually in large courtyards surrounded by grand abodes and accessed through porticoes and archways and ornamental gates.

After hours of walking, we needed another break and so we landed on the narrow street-side patio of this café. Parisians stay outdoors for as long as they can. Drizzly, damp and cool weather is no deterrent for sipping and people-watching (and, yes, smoking) on the Paris sidewalks. Most (but not all) are heated. I’m not tolerant of coffee, so my go-to is always tea. But here, I enjoyed my own delicacy: chocolat. Which is what you say for hot chocolate. This is a cup of silken dark chocolate that either comes mixed with hot milk, or for which they provide the small pitcher of hot milk and you mix it yourself to your taste. Sugar is provided to sweeten it, but I liked mine as it was. We sat here for a long time, resting our feet and enjoying the view and the atmosphere.

Next stop: Stefanie’s atelier—the designer’s shop where she works with the designer and three other interns. This was very exciting as we really wanted to place her stories with the real setting.

Jean Paul Gaultier started in this building: his boutique on the ground floor and various studios on each floor up from there, with the "atelier" (where they design and build the patterns and samples) on the fourth floor. Which is the same atelier where Stefanie now works! These inlaid tiles are left over from his time here.

Then, even more important, seeing her apartment! As I said yesterday, this is a small studio on the "fourth" floor (the actual fifth floor to my tired legs!). She served us “aperos”—or cocktail hour. She’d bought a gorgeous wheel of cheese—a Vacherin, one of the tastiest creamy cheeses you can get—and saucisson (cured meat), with an excellent baguette, washed down with a bottle of good French wine—Crozes Hermitage. This is the first time our daughter has served us in her own apartment. It was such a treat for all of us!

After dinner we headed over to the St. Germain area to watch a concert in a 6th century church. But when we got there, we realized that the concert we wanted to see was actually the next night. So we did what all good wanderers do: we wandered. We found ourselves outside Shakespeare and Co again; they were hosting a reading and Q&A with novelist A. M. Homes. We sat under a tree on a bench in the dark and listened to her lively chat. Then we looked for a place to eat dinner. On the way, we happened by the Notre Dame Cathedral (you know, the most famous of them all) and found its doors thrown open, music pouring out and a kind welcome to all visitors. It was literally divine to be able to walk into this ancient, venerable church, with an angelic boys’ and men’s choir lifting to the impossibly high ceilings, while people worshipped in the pulpits, and the priests burned frankincense. We were allowed to pass through (in reverential silence, of course). My friend Josée told me later that Notre Dame routinely invites priests, choirs and officials from all over the world to participate in the services—and that the last time she and her family had gone, the priest officiating had been from a parish in Montreal near their home!

I’m not religious, but I have to say, I used this sacred time to think of all the difficulties I knew to be happening at home—including those being suffered by some of you in the storm (thinking of you, Lori and Kelly! And you know who else I mean…). It was a powerful, moving experience for me.

This wasn’t the end of our evening (that would be the late dinner in an outside café), but, yes, we fell into bed at the end of it!

Thanks for all your lovely comments! xoxo


  1. I'm so excited for you and your trip. The pictures are lovely as are you for sharing this experience with us. Have fun!

  2. Barbara, I am so happy you all are having such a fantastic time together. The photos are absolutely beautiful. Keep enjoying it. Happy Halloween!

  3. I absolutely love that you're taking us all along on your trip. Loving every pic and word!

  4. The magic of Paris is in your photos. They are delicious to look at. I love that your daughter is loving her life there and enjoying the experience and you are exploring with her. Her spread of food was a delight to view. Keep enjoying.

  5. First of all, Happy Halloween everyone!!!! Barb these posts are fantastic! I can feel your joy, all three of you in every step you take. You have made me yearn for Paris again!!!! Toronto did not get anything of the hurricane, just big rains and winds. We did have one tragedy as a Staples sign came loose due to the wind and a woman was killed. So awful. There are some branches down in our neighbourhood and that's it. Safe trip home!

    1. Happy Halloween sweetie!

      I'm glad that the hurricane isnt affecting Toronto badly!! Thanks for keeping us posted. I was wondering how bad Sandy was affecting you guys! But so sad about the woman who got killed ....Really awful!!

    2. Oh you're home! Had I had a chance to read this earlier, I'd've known you've left the Yukon. I think.
      Barbara, I want someone to serve me the best of cheeses and wine. I'm envious.

  6. I think wandering is the best way to discover a city, and I am enjoying seeing Paris along with you.

  7. First of all...HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!

    Aww!!! CHOCOLAT....... Yum!!!! Gosh its like I'm there travelling with you..! I love it how you just plans.....Going with the flow...Its surprising how we end up going to the right places......!
    Sucha an amazing and delicious experience!... Aww I cant imagine your faces when you entered Stefanie's apartment! You guys must be so happy and proud! I'm so happy that you can see her life so closely! xoxo

    Lori and Kelly, thinking about you! Hope everything is ok there! Sending love xoxo

  8. You guys still wanting updates? I am sure by now news stations have shown all the pictures. I feel like I am high-jacking the blog a little here with my long rants about how bad thigs are. Sorry guys :) I will try to throw in some positives today.

    Well it's halloween technically...but ours is post-poned until at least Saturday. That is odd but we really can't complain about that at the moment. As we start to hear the stories of some of the southern NJ town and shore towns my heart aches. Places I used to go every summer and have gone since I was a baby are completely gone. I can't believe it.

    Only a bit more sad news and then I promise I will have something good :)

    My Uncle and cousins are still without power. They basically got out all the camping gear and are camping in their living room. It is a funny sight! :)My aunt also lost power so she was able to make it to my grandparents house for heat, laundry, and light!

    Also we went to help our friends yeaterday. Their property is destroyed....They live in a wooded area and have at least (we tried to count) 40 trees down. Big trees. On two we cut up I counted the rings and got 95 and 107. Their house wasn't hit which we are extremely grateful for. Everything else was hit. They lost a truck and a car, entire fence around their yard,a garage, power, the guy runs his own business so he lost all his big equiptment and work shop too. their driveway was blocked by 5 massive trees. We spent all yesterday helping them clear the driveway so they could make it out to family's house for for heat soon. They will need moths to clean up and get back to normal.

    I pormised good news so here it comes :)
    My college is still evacuated but will let us return tomorrow. My mom and I got one of the last gallons of milk from the food store today! And for the next probably two months every kid will have plenty of job oppertunities raking leaves since every leaf off every tree in the tri-state area is bare of its leaves. LOL : )
    Forgive me, maybe I don't pay enought attention. Where does Lori live? NY? Have we heard from her yet? Hope she is ok. There are so many people who got hit very badly.

    Ok now for some on topic stuff. Paris seems amazing. I love the little red car outside of Merci! And the lion/lady statue made me think of the sphinx in Egypt just, beacuse its Paris, their version is a little more feminie and fancy : )
    I'm off for now.

    Thank you all for the thoughts and well wishes over the past couple of days. It means the world <3

    1. Glad to know you're ok! And Love to see you focusing on the good things that are happening around you!! It was all soo horrible though! I just hope for the best for the people who suffered! Be safe! xo

    2. Glad to hear you are okey!

    3. So glad you made it through okay, Kelly! Was thinking about you!! xoxo

  9. Wow Kelly. I guess the good side is being grateful to be alive but the rest of it is just awful. Thinking of everyone and their losses as a result of this storm. Be well, Be safe.

  10. Paris looks wonderful, Barbara! And Deb, I'm glad to hear Toronto hasn't been badly hit by the storm. It must be reassuring for Barb to know that everything isn't in chaos at home while she's away.

    Kelly, I'm glad you checked in, too! Stay safe. I've never been through a really destructive storm, but we were flooded under 6 feet of water 3 years ago, and I visited Japan right after a fairly big quake and was shocked at the damage. I hope things go back to normal where you are and people will start rebuilding quickly!

    Back to Paris - Barb, I'm so enjoying travelling vicariously through you! Your trip looks amazing - the food, the architecture, the colours! And to be able to see all the things that are in your daughter's life, so when you go home you'll have images to go with the stories - that's priceless!

    My own trip starts Monday - I'll try to keep in touch and keep posting on here.

  11. what divine timing, to read these Paris posts while the East coast shakes shock from our eyes and begins the work of are serving a beautiful purpose there, Barb, so ENJOY every moment and keep spreading HOPE and LOVE and BEAUTY.........thinking of YOU

  12. So happy for the whole family, enjoy and cherish it and keep sharing the pictures they are fantabulous!!!

  13. Thanks, all, for your lovely thoughts here. Still can't believe we were gone for the exact dates of this crazy storm!


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