May 1st in France: Lily of the Valley

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On May 1st in France, it’s a tradition to offer a mini-bouquet of Lily of the valley to your loved ones. According to legend, while Charles IX and Catherine de Medicis were travelling in the Rhône-Alps, the knight Louis de Girard de Maisonforte offered the young king a sprig of Lily of the valley from his garden as a good-luck charm. Charmed by the flower, the king ordered its distribution to the ladies of the court every May 1st. However this is the traditional flower of the Parisian region/Ile-de-France since the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the famous fashion designers who offered a small bouquet to all their seamstresses on May 1st. The working population was inspired by this ritual and in 1907, they replaced the symbolic dog rose with the Lily of the valley.

FR On offre le Muguet, un rituel convivial qui remonte à la Renaissance quand le chevalier Louis de Girard de Maisonforte offre au jeune Charles IX offre en gage de bonheur, un brin de muguet cueilli dans son jardin. Au début du XXème siècle, la fleur devint la fleur traditionnelle de l’ile de France, quand le jour du 1er mai, les grands couturiers parisiens offraient un brin de muguet aux petites mains des ateliers comme un porte-bonheur. Inspirée par cette pratique, en 1907, la population ouvrière remplaça la fleur d’églantine par le brin de muguet à l’occasion de la fête du travail. Merci à #actuelflors pour ce joli bouquet parfumé.

Love in Locks

love lock it down

All the news tells you is how much hatred there is. Meanwhile in Paris, bridges are falling down with the weight of love. So, Love 1 – Hatred 0 | Presque tous les reportages parlent de la haine. En attendant, à Paris, il y a des ponts qui s’écroulent à cause du poids d’amour ❤️

Paris Diary: Berenice Abbott, Sunset and Macarons


I had the honour of admiring Berenice Abbott’s photos in person this week at Jeu de Paume. Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) is a world famous photographer and an inspiration to all women in the field. She is best known for her powerful black and white photos of New York and providing an incredible visual record of the changing city. She was 21 when she decided to move to Paris (same age as me when I made the same decision! :)  She studied sculpture but also worked as a darkroom assistant for Man Ray. Photography immediately became a strong passion and and soon opened her own studio. She photographed imminent writers like James Joyce and Jean Cocteau. On her return to New York, she decided to open her American studio and also took up teaching. She was also a pioneer in the field of science photography. She felt that science can in fact be an artist’s muse. During this period, she photographed many scientific elements, laboratories and equipment. During her travels through the United States, she made sure to document the unique “American Scene”. The photographs taken during this phase are my favorites. P.S. all Abbott related photos are courtesy Commerce Graphics Ltd.

Photos of soap bubbles and a portrait of James Joyce! 

I love seeing how the world looked in the past and Berenice Abbott’s records are flawless! I love how the photos are so clear and crisp!

The American Scene. Love it! :)
After the museum, I was in for a treat. It’s been ages since I saw a sunset. And what a beautiful sight to see the sun go down behind the Eiffel tower. 
Maybe I’m too enchanted by the city because I can’t stop admiring the minute details that pop up everywhere I go! :) 
Gorgeous! don’t you think? 
The Luxembourg gardens are just next to the museum, so you have to take a trip there and let time while away for a bit. Of course there are the ducks to keep you company.
Then it’s off to your favourite store to buy one of your favourite things! Macarons! Your love affair with macarons is surely never going to stop. If you’re ever in Paris, don’t forget to go to Ladurée and try their desserts.
My favourite flavours are rose and blackcurrant. With all the money I spend buying these, it’s about time I spent some time learning how to make them! 
What a great day and what a nice feeling to have free time to immerse oneself into lovely things. Work is getting more and more stressful but I’ve made a promise to myself to discover at least 5 new things a month (hence one each week) inorder to keep my brain active and peppy. I will open my mind to a new artist, a new recipe, a new hobby or even a new flavour of macaron! :)

Dear Valentine, see you in Paris!

I know my post is a bit late and many people have put Valentine’s day behind them. Well, I just received my gifts (prompt much eb*y?) and I thought I should dedicate a post to my adorable ‘Valentin’. In France you either have a Valentin or a Valentine (pronounced valantaem/ valanteen). I woke up on V-day to an intimate note, a huge bouquet of red roses and these adorable chocolate heart biscuits left on the counter :) I loved the gesture. I love cheesy, mush, clichés and just feeling two feet off the ground. At 24, it’s a bit odd to say but this was my first real Valentine’s day. Yes, you read that right. I hated Valentine’s day previously, mainly because I had to always spend it alone :D I have either broken up before V day or started a relationship afterwards and last year Monsieur S. and me were in two different cities. So this really was my first exquisite experience. I don’t give a damn if it’s overly-hyped and commercialized. Any occasion to receive roses and chocolates is most welcome! :)

The French usually go all out during Valentine’s season but I was quite disappointed to find that this year, there wasn’t much festivity in the ville de l’amour. The only people really keen on the day were the chefs in Paris’ fab restaurants. No matter how big the economic crisis, no matter how low the ressources, French people will never neglect their taste buds!

Monsieur S. invited me to a fine dining experience in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a neighbourhood in the center of Paris, infamous with the culinary elite. You can find some reasonable pubs for some quick grub. But my Valentin decided to treat me to the finest. So we went to Le Procope! The restaurant was founded in 1686 and is the world’s oldest restaurant/café! I had seen the restaurant a few days ago and hadn’t stopped yapping (Freudian slip I guess) about the history of the area, the great food they must serve, the number of literary figures who went there, etc. In fact almost all of France’s 18th century literature was created here by Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, (to name a few).. I was literally in the clouds when we entered the place. It was like we had stepped back in time.

Le Procope

We were surprised to find the prices reasonable enough (to be precise you can have a delicious meal for 40 euros each). We opted for the Philosopher’s menu and since we were sitting exactly were Voltaire did, I say it was most fitting. I decided I would finally try the escargots snails for entrées. I have avoided them all along my stay in France because I thought they were eaten raw and that was just creepy!

But don’t let first impressions fool you (both with people and food) because the escargots were divine! They are not eaten raw, in fact they are boiled and marinated with something awesome. I must have come off as a ridiculous tourist to the other diners with my non-stop clicking, but I didn’t care. I wanted to remember the experience forever. When I felt like a real princess :) ha! There I go again, playing movies in my head!
By the end of 
  • trout with almonds (for me)
  • supreme farm turkey cooked in wine (for him)
  • Sabayon (dessert of egg yolk, sugar and wine beaten together..) for him
  • Dessert du moment for me which just happened to be made of one of my favourite flavours, cassis! blackcurrant,

we were stuffed! I don’t think I even finished all of my pastry. There wasn’t too much on our plates but we were filled to the brim. That’s what French food does to you. You eat little, but you savour it and thus your stomach is fooled into thinking you’re eating a lot. Hence why French women never get fat!

We took our time in admiring the tiny details of the decor. I loved the framed manuscripts of Marie Antoinette. However, the restaurant’s most prized possession is on the right of the picture, that’s Napoleon’s very own hat. Apparently he offered it to the restaurant because of the excellence in their cuisine. Hat’s off literally! 
Our date finished with cocktails at a pub in the quartier. Everything was romantically perfect, including the weather (which believe me is rare for Paris). The thing I cherished most that night was la lune.
The moon! It was so big and bright. I think on purpose, maybe it wanted to add to the romance on Valentine’s day. Well it worked :)

My gifts are as extraordinary as my chéri. I think only he can understand my craze for vintage, especially vintage cameras! So voilà! Four beauties to add to my collection.

 Left: Fed 3b, 1964, ex-USSR.
Right: rare Welta Penti, 1959, Germany.
 Kodak Retina 1B, 1957, Germany.
Voïgtlander Brilliant, box camera, 1932!, Germany.
My favourite! I mean I’m literally obsessed with everything Voïgtlander (the world’s oldest camera brand) has ever made and to receive the rare Voïgtlander Brilliant is just incredible!
Love is just so lovely isn’t it? :D

Sunday in Paris: Vincennes Woods

Spring is almost here. You can feel it all around you, the birds are here, the children are feeding the ducks, the waters are less icy and the paper boats are a plenty, the grass is growing again and the trees about to send us their gifts. Sundays in Paris are becoming lovelier by the week. Today we went to Bois de Vincennes. (bois = woods). The ambience was lovely. I met some of my favourite friends. The seagulls and the ducks :) It’s a strange sight to hear the cry of seagulls in the middle of Paris. It makes me nostalgic of the Normandy coast where I lived last year and the cry of the seagulls was a constant.

Conifer cones :) I remember the first time I saw them and decided I would use them in my pot pourri vase. I need to get around to that!
 Pretty leaves on vines.
 You look at the trees and can’t wait for more yellow to brighten the park.
 You’re happy to see the ducks after a long while. 
You look at the Saint Mandé lake and wonder if that’s a weeping willow in the distance. And indeed it is! :)
 Je suis un canard :)
 Cloudy day reflections mingle with the ripples, ducks paddle around hoping for crumbs.
 In the woods, poetry is everywhere. 
 Every move can be transformed into verse..
 I thought of these words when I saw this cute guy gazing away. When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?

Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage days): Victor Hugo

Every year France organizes Les Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage days). The public is given the opportunity to which a variety of monument which are usually off bounds. Right from le Palais de l’Elysée (residence of the president), the sénat, l’Assemblé Nationale, in fact every single monument undertaken by the government is opened to the general public during an entire weekend in September. Of course an idea that has a lot of success for over 30 year now. Other countries like India should take up such kind of interesting ventures in order to encourage the random public to understand, value and protect their very own heritage. So Monsieur S., the brother and me decided to visit Victor Hugo’s house which is located at Place des Vosges in Paris. Originally I wanted to see the house of the president but no one was keen on waiting in queue for 8 hours with me, so we had to drop that idea and think of another monument that excited people a little less. Victor Hugo is undoubtedly one of the world’s most influential writers, poet and politician, made famous by his works like Les Miserables, Notre Dame de Paris, etc.
Every visit in Paris is filled with the discovery of beautiful things. Tobacco free cafés and tobacco filled térrasses, a pistacchio green autobianchi which drove to France all the way from Italy (thanks to Monsieur S. for details on said car), very green trees at the start of autumn and two cute dogs huddled together on a cold gray sidewalk.. ah Paris! je t’aime :)

Arriving at Victor Hugo’s house, you are immediately bowled over by the amazing buildings surrounding his, you wait anxiously for your turn to enter into the uber chic apartment of one of your favourite people in the world.
You enter. You see. You love. You want to read everything he wrote all over again. 

Like every other uptown Parisian appart, Victor Hugos’ doesn’t fail to impress. There’s so many details, so many porcelain beauties, chandeliers, etc.

But your favourite item is the quill pen you find in the inner most room of the apartment, where magic was created by candlelight, sweat and stress. You leave the house happy and inspired, ready to spread the word to your students, your blog, your family that Victor Hugo still lives through words. Powerful words.

Later you walk along the Seine which is always eventful. You decide that sometime soon you will try visiting Paris by boat/ par les bateaux-mouches.

You arrive at Notre Dame de Paris. Coincidence! Did Victor Hugo want you to open your eyes wide and really take in his muse? I wish to think yes. 

On looking at the cathedral, unlike for the tourists present, all that unfolds before you is the entire scene from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. You can sense the fury, the betrayal, the treachery, the sorrow and ofcourse the eternal love, witnessed only by two other people in the world: Victor Hugo and his eternal Notre Dame de Paris.

Paris bloqué

Ô ville, tu feras agenouiller l’histoire.
Saigner est ta beauté, mourir est ta victoire.
Mais non, tu ne meurs pas. Ton sang coule, mais ceux
Qui voyaient César rire en tes bras paresseux,
S’étonnent : tu franchis la flamme expiatoire,
Dans l’admiration des peuples, dans la gloire,
Tu retrouves, Paris, bien plus que tu ne perds.
Ceux qui t’assiègent, ville en deuil, tu les conquiers.
La prospérité basse et fausse est la mort lente ;
Tu tombais folle et gaie, et tu grandis sanglante.
Tu sors, toi qu’endormit l’empire empoisonneur,
Du rapetissement de ce hideux bonheur.
Tu t’éveilles déesse et chasses le satyre.
Tu redeviens guerrière en devenant martyre ;
Et dans l’honneur, le beau, le vrai, les grandes moeurs,
Tu renais d’un côté quand de l’autre tu meurs.
                                     
                                                 – Victor Hugo


Parisian Dreams.

 
It takes nearly three hours from your house to Paris. Three hours before you can hug your chéri. Three hours before you can sip the hot cappuccino and bite into the macaron he’s holding for you at the train station. Three hours before your world revolves around two people alone. You pass your time by taking in the beautiful sunrise in Normandy. You dream of what new adventure you will have in Paris today. You dream of the tender nothings he’ll whisper. You dream of holding hands and walking down the same boulevards your favourite writers did.
 
You love the precious sunrises, you see them so rarely because you always wake up late. You see the sunrise only on the day you’re heading to Paris. You love them. They hold all your Parisian Dreams. 
And indeed you meet another charming and elegant Parisian. 
He’s not really easy going, he’s classy. Oh those Parisians! 

Hello China!

Well ok, I exaggerate. I’m not in China. I’m in China town in Paris. Yesterday the Chinese population in the capital came out to celebrate Chinese New Year and boy was it superb! This was my first experience with real Chinese culture (not inclusive of the tourist trap we fell for which claimed it was an authentic Chinese restaurant). I love how the streets of the Olympiades (location of China Town) were filled with parades, the exotic costumes, the incense, the idols and of course fans! I love fans, in all shapes, designs and colours! The weather cooperated with the tourists and the paraders. Monsieur S. gifted me two large Chinese fans at the end of our rendez-vous and I’m très contente with my gifts. I in turn bought him a miniature car from a “vide grenier” which is basically an outdoor antiques market. We share a passion for classic cars and he seemed happy with his cadeau :)

This guy was such a sport! He posed like this for everyone’s pictures! I loved his costume too :)
This girl was exquisite. There was something so enchanting about her, her costume, her make up and her entire look in general!
I loved her head gear, especially the flowers!
This last couple had the best costume according to me! Everything about them was magnificent. One can even see their personality through the photograph! I loved my tryst with little China :) I’m dying to go there and soon!
                                                   HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! x

Parisian Date: Cher Monsieur S.

I found new love and old love again. My new love is a Parisian gentleman who’s slowly renewing my faith in men. My old love is none other than Paris! When I first came to France as a tourist, I fell in love with the capital city. Then I moved to Normandy for work and Paris lost its charm. It turned into the city one passes through on the way to another place. Now that I have found Monsieur S. I have a profound desire to rediscover the city I once loved so much. Paris is filled with wonderful things. Shadows of lamps on walls, gai Parisians who dance in streets filled with mosaics and charming “restos”.
Monsieur S. is my soulmate I believe. We have similar likes and dislikes. We laugh so much together and according to me that the biggest sign you love one another. When you find the same things are funny, you’re meant to be. We both love photography too. I overdo it of course and he just lets me :)
We love walking around the city and I take pictures of grilles, doors and windows. We come across a random church and we’re so fascinated by it, we enter and sure enough it’s magnificent. 
This is the church of Saint Etienne du Mont. The 16th century gothic masterpiece has been beautifully preserved and extra treat for literary airheads like me. It holds the remains of famous literary figures like Blaise Pascal and Racine!

Since I have never visited the Notre Dame Cathedral made infamous by Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. Monsieur S. made sure we visited the Cathedral before I left. I love Gothis churches but Notre Dame de Paris was really creepy and sinister inside. I would NOT want to be trapped here at night.
Unfortunately it’s time to leave. I get to spend a mere five to six hours everytime I visit the Monsieur. Since it take me three hours each way from Saint Valéry to Paris and back :( but it’s worth it. The love, the giggles, the nice bad Parisian weather, the rarely empty Parisian metro, the hand holding, the whispering, the endless noisy and silent conversations, etc.
He sees me off at Paris Saint Lazare station. I hate goodbyes. I will be seeing him the following week at my place but I can’t stop feeling sad, empty. I will miss Paris, my Monsieur S and above all that amazing thing called Amour :)
Au revoir Paris, mon chéri..

Paris with an American

I went to Paris again today with my roommate. We must have walked for over 8 hours all over the city. It was a glorious day in Paris and I never get tired of visiting the city. The weather was particulary lovely today and the highlight of my trip was catching the first rays of the sun at the Louvre and in second place comes the walk on the street off Champs Elysées, where high end designers like Chanel and Dior just spruce up the pavement! We also walked to Musée d’Orsay and guess what they were on strike. I mean how is it possible for a museum to go on strike?!! Tsk Tsk only in France mes chères! I chalked out an itinerary for us all by myself and it involved all the places Ive been to and which Andy hadn’t. Musée d’Orsay was going to be the only new thing I visited in Paris and so you can imagine my disappointment when I saw the sign that said Museum is on strike in four different languages. My day got better when we went to Pierre Hermé, undoubtedly the best macaron shop in Paris. I also went into Ladurée, the macaron store and tea salon on Champs Elysées because that was on my to-do list and there was an hours long queue! A queue to buy macarons! sheesh!