Friday, 28 August 2015

if these walls could talk...

c o u r   d u   c o m m e r c e   s a i n t - a n d r e

I wonder if any other street in Paris contains as much history as this one does. 

Walking through Cour du Commerce Saint-Andre can give you two very different experiences. The first one would be if you stumbled upon it by chance & strolled around while thinking what a cute little passage, full of Parisian charm. The second one would be going there knowing what it has witnessed of this city's bloody & turbulent history & looking at it with entirely different eyes. It won't take away any of its charm, only increase its value by making you aware of how much of Paris' history is still among us. These old cobblestones & walls have seen so much. For us to be able to watch, touch & feel history so closely still fascinates me... And then step out in 2015 and ask for an espresso at the terrace next door.

Last time I went there, I was greeted by one of the waiters who asked me if I knew about this place' s history. I was taking pictures & waiting for him to make a reference to Guillotin or Danton, but no, he just asked me if I knew that Kevin Costner used to come here all the time... (by the way this was the moment my right foot chose to get stuck between the cobblestones, which is why my best advice is to not wear heels when you visit this passage).

Of course, the stories this street has to tell go a bit further back. One of the leaders of the French revolution used to live here: Georges-Jacques Danton, although the building he lived in has since been demolished. In number 8, another protagonist of the revolution, Jean-Paul Marat established the newspaper "L'Ami du Peuple". As most of you probably know, he was murdered in 1793 by another revolutionist, Charlotte Corday, who stabbed him with a knife while he was in his bathtub. David depicted the scene in his famous painting. 

Meanwhile, in the basement of house number 9, live sheep were getting their heads chopped off as Joseph Guillotin started experimenting with what would later become the infamous guillotine. The funny thing is that this physician was actually opposed to death sentence & through his work sought to relieve the convicted by finding a more humane way of carrying out the capital punishment. At that time, beheading in France was usually carried out by sword or axe where the first attempt wasn't always successful.

Little did he know that this death machine would be named after him although it was in fact Antoine Louis who made the first prototype. For a while it was even known as the Louisette. But apparently guillotine sounded better.  It was since used as France's main form of execution up until 1977.

And there's more to be found in this little passage, Procope, the world's first literary cafe, where Voltaire, Oscar Wilde, Musset & Balzac are said to have been regulars. The place is still very popular among actors & politicians. Clearly, the waiter mentioned above would agree with me.

Plese also stop to have a look at the lovely Art Deco design at Relais Odeon, also known as Bistro 1900, another landmark.

Frog legs & onion soup anyone? Please pretend you can't see the new, hip, Kusmi tea boxes.

Or why not combine culture with a bit of chocolate? Un dimanche a Paris is a chocolate shop & tearoom serving delicious pastries, owned by Pierre Cluizel. Inside, you will find the remains of one of the defence towers built by King Philippe-August when he decided to fortify the city of Paris by building a 9 m high defencive wall. This takes us even further back in time, to the year 1200...

Beautiful, old wrought iron signs:

And eh, some more modern signs, because it's time to leave the past:

Saturday, 22 August 2015

ile de re - french island love

t r a v e l   p o s t   0 0 2

I did actually make a travel category when I started this blog & then maybe forgot about it. But now that summer holidays are over, there's nothing better than going through your pictures once more & remembering everything. Summer slips away so quickly.

Ile de Re is a beautiful island off the west coast of France linked to the continent only by a bridge from La Rochelle. The island is only 30 km long & 5 km wide. It's supposed to be a very popular tourist destination, but I find there aren't that many foreigners here. Most tourists seem to come from France, Paris in particular. There are a lot less tourists than on the famous Cote d'Azur in southern France, yet you get almost the same number of hours on sunshine here & a much more authentic atmosphere. There's definitely an island vibe going on. Everybody gets around on bicycles, hollyhocks seem to grow against every wall, large white sandy beaches can be found all around the island, water is clear & there are plenty of beautiful salt marshes. Then there's that magical Atlantic light & charming houses with pastel coloured shutters, covered with plants & flowers. It's beautiful in a quiet, understated way that keeps me coming back every summer.

The first cause of mortality on Ile de Re is hollyhock overdosis. Nah, we both know that can't happen.

Breakfast of champions & then off to the sea:

Strolling through the streets of Les Portes en Re:

Fresh oysters & schrimps while watching the sun set over the salt marshes

And that island vibe

Oh & cheese. That's going to be my final argument. If everything else fails, creamy goat cheese prepared with Re's famous sea salt will get you here...

Most of the pictures shown here were taken in the village of Les Portes en Re located at the far end of the island. If you're looking for a new destination in France, I warmly recommend this place or any other spot on Ile de Re. Spring & summer months are the best.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

paris' prettiest pastel street

r u e   c r e m i e u x 

Okay, so maybe competition isn't that fierce when it comes to streets in Paris made of only pastel coloured houses, but there's at least rue Dieulafoy. When I wrote about the latter, I said it was possibly the cutest street in Paris. That "possibly" comes in quite handy now as I think rue Cremieux beats it. It's not only about the pastels. It's the details that make the difference; the beautiful streetlamps, the painted wisteria vines on one of the facades, a legendary red cat portrayed on a house chasing birds (you'll most likely find le chat in person lying on one of the doorsteps), wrought iron signs & a hidden hotel just to name a few.

I've seen rue Cremieux time & time again on Instagram & I've been meaning to go for so long. I really don't know what took me so long. Maybe the fact that everybody seemed to know this place except me. I felt like there wasn't anything new to discover, no sense of trespassing or finding a hidden side of Paris. Pfff. Really, once I got there, I couldn't have cared less about any of that. The place is just incredibly charming. The colours are stunning & the architecture is full of surprising details (many of the shutters have carved motives such as lizards or stars). The cobble stones, potted herbs & plants and parked bikes make it near perfect.

The red cat chasing birds

And on the doorstep not chasing so much.

In 1865 when all 35 houses were built almost simultaneously, they were for sale for 700 francs. Needless to say that prices have gone up a bit since then.

The street has been pedestrian since 1993 & I strongly advise you to go next time you're in Paris. I went on a very quiet Sunday afternoon in August. The street was almost deserted & I didn't have to ask anybody to step out of my picture. Of course I never do that (I sight loudly & wait with an insisting look, thats all...) The cat can stay of course.

My husband is allowed on my pictures when his shorts matches the colour of the walls.

Shutter details. Spot the lizards.

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