Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to Get Into Paris by Train

The subway line named RER B will get you started. I had to get from Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2 to the Luxembourg Metro Station.

The most excellent website helped a lot but it was really pretty simple. Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2 is the last stop on the line. You can only go one way.

After picking up your baggage, you'll see overhead signs saying "Paris by Train". Follow these to a main concourse leading down to the trains. Ticket machines are located there and on the left of the escalator is a bureau with real-live attendants to help you. ( It helps to do a bit of research ahead of time via 's very useful website to determine what you need).

With ticket in hand  - go through the turnstiles by entering your ticket (and retrieving it). The RER B train line runs north-south through the centre of Paris terminating at Orly Airport. You can only head one way - downtown.

I really recommend checking out the Paris By Train site.  It was a big help. Thanks to them for the above picture.

Bonne Chance!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My "I'm Not Leaving" Day

I knew I was in the right place when Vincent's eyes pinned me down. After exiting the Musée d'Orsay Metro stop, the eyes that stare at me every night over dinner had found me again.

Getting into the Musée d'Orsay with my ticket from FNAC was une morceau de gateau. I entered through Door C, checked my bag and marched on in.

The Musée d'Orsay is an absolutely stunning facility. Until the late 30s a train station, this building has been turned into the one of the world’s best art museums focusing on the Impressionists.

Architect Gae Aulenti transformed this building into a museum in 1986. The space inside is light and soaring due to the fact that it was a rail terminus. In my favourite movie, A Very Long Engagement, director Jean Pierre Jeunet is able to turn the gallery back into the train station circa 1920 via CGI.

The Musée d'Orsay has some of the world’s most famous impressionist paintings. Photo-taking is not allowed but I can tell you that Pierre-Auguste Renoir's — Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre is on exhibit. Monet is represented here.  Pissarro, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec and Seurat are displayed as well. Manet's incredibly famous and widely mimicked Dejeuner sur l’Herbe hangs here as does his Olympia. Van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet and the Church at Auvers is here as well as the self-portrait featured above.

The Museum was under renovation but I was able to see every single thing on display. I wrote all over my map of things to tell the boys back home. I felt great; full of promise - very happy and hopeful.  I thought this might be my "I'm not leaving day".

My ticket included admission to L'Orangerie. Across the Seine in the corner of the Tuileries, Monet's Nympheas, murals of his waterlilies, are showcased in the Orangerie's two elliptical rooms. The naturally-lit rooms are very pretty and calm. It was as if people are subdued by the blue and mauve palette Monet used.

But the basement held a surprise for me. There was a huge collection of paintings once owned by collector Paul Guillaume. Everybody from the early 20th Century was there. Rousseau, Matisse, Modigliani, Marie Laurencin, Picasso, Cezanne, Soutine. Really famous examples of pictures I'd only seen in books.

I gawped at the walls for a good long time. Stocked up on post cards and headed across the Tuileries, heading for the famous tearoom - Angelina's. 

Monday, October 25, 2010 for Tickets for Concerts, Exhibitions, Excursions

I wanted to go the the Musee D'Orsay on Sunday but I wanted to avoid the Sunday line-ups. While still at home, I found a link on the Museum's website for FNAC to purchase my tickets ahead of time.

I ordered my tickets on-line. Seamlessly. And arranged to pick them up at the FNAC Digitale location at 77-81 Boulevard Saint-Germain.

The location was so central; extremely close to the intersection of Boulevard Saint-Michel. The store itself is like a Parisian version of HMV or Future Shop, which is confusing enough for me but apart from being in a parcel-pickup line for a while before I saw the sign for Ticketing (Billetterie), all went smoothly, except for when I dropped a pile of pamphlets on the floor.

You can order your tickets for just about anything going on in Paris or the whole of France through FNAC. Concerts, comedy, balloon rides, cooking classes. I'd recommend having a look by clicking right here for

Image from

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rue du Bac

The Conran Shop, Paris
After finding my way out of  Bon Marche’s Grande Epicerie and its humourous selection of North American delicacies – Fluff, Peanut butter, Maple Syrup, I ventured into The Conran Shop at 117 rue du Bac. We don’t have Conran in Toronto, so I was very interested to see what Sir Terence’s shop was all about.

I liked it. I found it to be like a very tasteful IKEA. The building The Conran Shop is housed in was designed by Gustav Eiffel himself. The prices were good and the quality good too. I would definitely patronize them if I had one in my home town    (Or if I moved to Paris…)

Things I liked at The Conran Shop

Then to Pylones which is like a toy box of funny things for yourself and for your home. See my entry below.
Then Deyrolle at No 46 rue du Bac. It is simply one of my most favourite places in the world. Deyrolle is a cabinet of curiosities. A taxidermist and a shop, Deyrolle has been around since 1831. I was  met at the top of the stairs by a lioness where a little boy was having a game with his mother. “C’est faux. Non, C’est vrai. Non. C’est faux.”

Beyond are decades-old display cases containing multi-coloured birds, fish, and shells. There’s full-sized giraffe and a water buffalo and a bear. I was face to face with the cutest little black pig.

Pull open a drawer and you come across an esoteric collection of finches, or shiny green beetles. The farthest room is filled with drawer upon drawer of butterflies. Blue Morphos, sulphurs, you name it. They have the materials available for the collector too. The butterflies are almost affordable, but the specimens don’t come cheap. Deyrolle has a huge selection of reasonably-priced botanical prints (otherwise known as pedagogical boards). I was tempted to buy one about ant-eaters but I didn’t want to carry about a tube all day.

Deyrolle  suffered a devastating fire in February 2008. But the renovation has gone seamlessly. Apart from a faint bonfire smell in the air, I would never have known. A phoenix from the ashes. See more about my earlier trip to Deyrolle by clicking here.

I treated myself to a linen tunic from a store at No. 32 rue du Bac, called Le Rideau de Paris. Selling matelasse bedding and good quality bedspreads, they also had a rack of Italian linen garments for sale.

The antique cookbook store I had been looking for at Number 9 was closed. But never mind. I went up to the Seine and crossed the Pont Royal and found the Eiffel Tower.

À Bientôt

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Pylones is a really cool and colourful store. I think they've gone world-wide but I think of them as being quintessentially French-Modern.

Pylones Sugar Shaker
Think of any drab household item and imagine it going through a Willy-Wonka machine and you've got what Pylones is all about. A toaster with poppies; A handbag that looks like a flower pot; a pizza cutter that's a soccer player.

Pylones Handbag

Pylones Umbrella

Pylones Laptop Sleeve
Despite the whimsy, Pylones products are well-made. If only they were edible. I found Pylones at 98 rue du Bac. They are closed on Sundays and holidays. Check them out.

À Bientôt

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 2 - The Clever Pup as a Flâneur

Close-up toward the West, down rue Soufflot
Or maybe make that a flâneuse. What's a flâneur? A flâneur was a 19th-Century gent; top hatted and using a cane - a stroller, a saunterer. I like the definition coined by Baudelaire - "a person who walks the city in order to experience it". That was me alright - all day Saturday in Paris.

The weather was beautiful again; 25 C. Once I  manoeuvered around the pink-clad runners participating in the French version of the Run for the Cure, I came out the other side of the Luxembourg Gardens and strolled along Rue Vaugirard. Past the Sénat which just infamously okayed the changes to French retirement legislation. Took a picture at the La Maison de Poupée at 40 rue Vaugirard. Hello PeeWee!

La Maison de Poupee

After avoiding some avid street-cleaners, (thank you,by the way), I doodled around and headed to Rue du Cherche-Midi. I had heard great things, but that early in the morning I couldn't find too much to interest me. I saw Mamie Gâteaux and Tugalik, but what really floored me is the architecture in Paris. Everywhere you look there's something beautiful. Do you know how many times I'm awestruck walking down Bloor Street West in Toronto? 0.

Tartes in Montparnasse
 Then I  found my way onto Rue du Sèvres where I was handed a perfume sample of Thierry Mugler's Womanity. Mmmm. And then I found Bon Marché at No. 24. Bon Marché is pretty nice, but pretty similar to a Toronto-style flagship store. Dating from 1852 it is the oldest department store in Paris, evidenced in the creaky wooden floors. Very much in layout like a North-American shop, Bon Marché had less merchandise, just more expensive. The main floor with the scarves and perfume and handbags was a very exciting jumble of sights and smells but for a really eye-popping experience, or if you have less time, save it for Galeries Lafayette. 

À Bientôt

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dinner on the Rue Mouffetard

Café Le Mouffetard, early morning
After napping for 3 hours, I tidied up and struck out on my own to find a place to eat. Anybody who's been following my previous blogs knows that eating out alone in Paris was one of my biggest worries.

Around the corner from the Hotel du Pantheon is the Rue Mouffetard. I felt as if I had stepped into a wonderland for adults. Along this steep, cobbled street are many hole-in-the-wall restaurants - Middle-Eastern, Seafood, Mexican, Japanese. And Tango de Buenos Aires for those inclined to dance.

Most of Rue Mouffetard is pedestrian-only and lined with with many small chocolate shops, boulangerie,and boutiques selling jewelry, things Tibetan, and a splendid shop called Diwali selling all manner of Indian accessories. Plus a place wittily called Mouffe-Tart!

Monoprix and L'Occitane can be found there as can a Marrionaud Parfumerie. For the community, it hosts a daycare, two libraries and a bowling alley!

Rue Mouffetard is known for its street market which mainly congregates at the bottom of the hill. But because the businesses along the street wheel out their wares onto the cobblestones the whole place feels like a Marché with oysters and cheese and wine; fresh fruit and vegetables on display.

Café Le Mouffetard at 116 rue Mouffetard,  was the place I thought suit me best for dinner. It was just the right mix of casual yet not too boisterous. After securing a seat on the street, I ordered a glass of Bordeaux and a "Croque Blue Bacon Oeuf", that consisted of toasted rye and back-bacon, with Emmenthal and Blue cheese melted over top. Crowning it was a fried egg with the orang-est yolk I'd ever seen.

View from my seat on the terrace

The street has a real old-world community feeling. The waitress had to tote a big bag across the street to Les Chants de Blé to stock up on bread for my Croque and others.

Eugene Atget, the same corner

I was there early, but it was the perfect time for people watching. Children were getting home from school. Younger ones were hand-in-hand with their parents. Very cute and be-satcheled. Parents with food and flowers in their carriers. It was simply wonderful just to breathe it all in.

Juliette Binoche sat here too, as I was able to confirm. Le Mouffetard was the cafe in which her character chose to withdraw in the film Bleu.

À Bientôt

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 1 - My Room

The Hôtel du Panthéon at 19 Place du Panthéon is where I chose to stay. It fit within my criteria of being small and close to the Seine. It was more than the $250 CA I had hoped to pay. But it was worth every extra penny. I had a beautiful safe room with an AMAZING view. Breakfast was meager, but healthy and included in my agreement.

Upon arrival I took a couple of pictures of the exterior of the Hôtel du Panthéon, not knowing which room was mine. Mine is the 2nd from the top on the far left.

The view from my bed

The view from my balcony.

I did have a balcony, although it was not wide enough for a table and the railing came up to about my hip-height. I wasn't sure if I actually should be standing on it or not. It was wonderful have windows that opened to freshen the room air and to hear the bustle below. The traffic, with it's occasional wee-ah, wee-ah of the police; later the skaters in the Place du Panthéon and the ravens making a nuisance of themselves along the railings of the Panthéon itself. I was tempted at night to leave the windows open - the weather was warm enough- but I've seen enough Cary Grant movies to know that probably wasn't a safe idea. Anyway, here's a mini-film from my mini-balcony. I could see Sacre Coeur on the horizon if the weather was clear.

À Bientôt