It’s not easy being green…

kim-vege-2…So said some frog or another on a lonely Monday afternoon. Well, whatever his particular woes, he may have had a point, but in the Paris of 2016 under the environmental-leaning lead of mayor Anne Hidalgo, the statement doesn’t really ring true. In fact it is unbelievable easy to be green in France’s modern capital, despite how life in a congested, polluted, concrete-coated sprawl might suggest otherwise.

Long-term readers may have picked up on the point that thanks to a country upbringing, I have chlorophyl rather than the red stuff coursing through my veins. Despite the miniature confines of my precious Granny Flat actively discouraging me from persuing my horticultural passions, I’ve managed over the years to grow in my window boxes everything from mustard leaves to rocket, basil to kale. Yes, kale. I have a family of spider plants who between them have produced over 25 babies. Too long a time between seeing a green tableau of trees and I start to turn into a quivering crazy person.

kim-vege-3So a strange choice to move to the big bad city you might say, but just because the urban address often wins, doesn’t mean any of us need to forgo a frequent inhalation of green air in our daily lives. Despite not having a central blanket of luscious green as cities like London and New York can boast, Paris can offer the bookend parks of Boulogne and Vincennes and plenty of little pockets of lawn and flowers for picnics and plant-gazing.

But cast your eyes away from your smart phone whilst trotting along the pavement (dear God, please), and you might just find something a little bit more guerrilla going on. In numerous tiny pockets around the city, local residents have said a rousing non to allowing useless slabs of ugly wasteland to remain untouched and unused, taking it upon themselves to get planting, turning these urban eyesores into environmentally friendly tableaus, full of flowers and green things, and even fruit and veg.

kim-vege-1Many have to fight the powers-that-be to stay as horticultural spots, coming up against urban developers who would prefer to fill the voids with concrete instead. But thankfully, the Parisian authorities have realised the power of nature, and in summer last year launched a scheme to allow and persuade local residents to cultivate their own patches of vegetation wherever they could find an empty space ripe for planting, whether it be a lonely street corner, a bare patch of wall or the base of a pavement tree.

Willing participants must contact the city of Paris and obtain a permit giving them the right to greenify their chosen spot, and are sent a planting kit complete with earth and seeds ready to burst into colourful life. Your permit will last for three years (though renewal is possible) and there are a team of green-fingered experts on hand if you don’t know your pansies from your begonias.

kim-vege-6And it needn’t only be flowers brightening up the urban landscape; walking past Montparnasse one afternoon, I spotted a fledgling veg patch bringing the grocer, quite literally to the streets. In these times of increasing poverty and food banks, what could be better then a couple of home-grown free tomatoes? If your plant skills encompass only the power to kill anything in a pot, then just walk by and silent appreciate the efforts of others. Just don’t let your pooch pee all over their hard work, ok?

 

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Gut instinct

Kim Brass 3If you’re currently in Paris in this hazy last gasp of July, I’d bet the last slice of Raclette that you’re relaxing languidly in a rattan chair on a terrace somewhere, watching the people go by (and for the uninitiated, at this time of year, they’re not actually Parisians – they’ve all buggered off down south for the holidays, which is probably why you got a chair on the terrace in the first place). If you’re not currently semi-horizontal in France’s capital lazing with a glass in your hand, then I’d raise you my dessert that that’s where you’d actually rather be.

Kim Brass 6And mon dieu haven’t you got a job on your hands trying to decide which particular one to spend your hard-earned euros in? In rattan chair terms, Paris has provided wannabe loungers with an embarrassment of riches (a termed coined by a Frenchman don’t you know), and as many an inhabitant and visitor knows, trying to pin-down the specific markers of establishment quality is as difficult as avoiding a sun-splashed terrace in the first place. Hell, they can’t even seem to decide amongst themselves what names to go under, meaning the capital’s many awnings are stamped with the seemingly interchangeable terms restaurant, café, brasserie and bistro(t). 

Assuming each establishment offers relatively the same thing is as foolhardy as assuming that you’d experience the same level of warm welcome in Paris as you would in Provence (erm, nope). There’s a fine art to this thing, and you’re lucky things that I’m here to give you a hand in negotiating it all.

A restaurant is much the same as you’d expect from most countries in the rest of the world; the most formal of the bunch, with menus depending on the food type and chosen price range of the place. If you’re sucking up to/trying to score with/grovelling your heart out to someone, a restaurant is where you’d head to. If you know what’s good for you.

Kim Brass 4Don’t confuse a café with the greasy spoon type you get in the UK. Easily identified most of the time as there’s often a tabac (peddler of cigs and lottery tickets) attached, here is where you stop for a quick coke-and-toilet stop or a swift espresso before work (and FYI order just a ‘coffee’ and that’s what you’ll get as standard). Beware – prices are cheaper standing at the bar and take a leap higher if you choose to sit (often higher still if that’s on the terrace), and if you’re after more solid refreshment, the most you can hope for is a menu of lighter meals and snacks like omelettes and croque monsieurs.

Kim Brass 2A classic French brasserie used to be a place that brewed its own beer on site, but is now known for its professional service, printed menus, tablecloths and waiters in penguin-esque outfits. Here you’ll find a static menu of classics like steak tartare, confit de canard and andouillette (only for the brave, you have been warned). They tend to serve food all day, and here’s one thing that will BLOW YOUR MIND – some of them are called Le Such-and-Such Café so you’ll have to make sure you pay attention. Stand at the bar waiting for an espresso like a lemon in a brasserie, and you’ll be waiting a very. LONG. TIME. And just to confuse you, there’s a fledging beer scene in France which means that you might also stumble on a micro-brasserie, which doesn’t mean short waiters and tiny portions, but a (hopefully) great selection of Paris-brewed craft beer.

Kim Brass 5Finally, if you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, then try a bistro(t), a smaller type of restaurant, often with just one owner or family in charge that specialises in moderately-priced French home cooking like traditional cassoulet or blanquette de veau. Bistros were originally thought to originate from basement kitchens in Parisian apartment blocks, but these days they serve to be some of the quaintest eateries in the city. And if you’re still furrowing your brow in dissatisfaction, then the only places left to go are salons du thé for tea, coffee and cake, or bars for hardcore liquor to toast the highs and the lows of your holiday/afternoon/life.

And if you’re still not content after all of that, then I, nor Paris, can help you…

And Sceaux it is…

Kim Sceaux 5Despite a healthy sprinkling of rain at all-too regular intervals, I’m having a ball in Paris this May. I’ve just turned freelance, meaning me and Granny Flat are bonding to the max, I can drink as much tea as I goddamn like (though intake is becoming quite extreme) and taking a break from keyboard tapping means working out the muscles making a loaf of bread. Bliss.

Even the rain is a welcome friend, allowing me to turn my attention to the computer screen without that nagging feeling that I’m missing out on the glorious sunshine outside (life goal #35: live somewhere with a balcony). But all work and no play means I get a bit antsy and as any efficient freelancer knows, outdoor excursions are a must if one is to stay relatively sane (we are writers after all with sanity always at arm’s length). A walk around my ‘hood high up in the 18th demands far too much effort negotiating the dog-mess slalom on the streets, and besides, it’s just not green or breezy enough around these parts to adequately recharge the creative juices.

Kim Sceaux 2Paris can offer some gorgeous pockets of green, even on the smallest scale. But variety is the spice of life don’t you know, and I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t search out some new places for both me and you to galavant about in. And so, with a couple of friends and their giant dog Brian in tow (always in need of a scamper), we headed out on the RER B to have a refreshing stroll in Parc de Sceaux.

Kim Sceaux 3Not a park in your traditional sense, this sprawling patch of green lies south of Paris, just before Antony (of Orly airport fame), wrapping itself around the sides of the château which gives it its name. If you’re taking the train, RER B direct from Paris is quick enough, and you can get off at either Sceaux, Parc de Sceaux or La Croix de Berny, depending which part of the grounds you fancy attacking first.

Kim Sceaux 4Directly in front of the château (a rebuild dating from 1856-62) lies a classic French landscape masterpiece, the formal tableau of manicured lawns and a network of straight avenues typical of famous garden tamer, André Le Nôtre. Not just any old green-fingered enthusiast in possession of a hoe, he was the man responsible for most of Paris’ most beautiful gardens, including those at Versailles, Fontainebleau, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Chantilly and Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Let’s hope he had one of those ride-on lawnmower things, or at least a good pair of scissors.

Kim Sceaux 1If you like your nature a little less polished, then the park can offer you all number of green environments. You can wander down tree-lined avenues to your hearts’ content in the dappled leaf shade, spotting as you go the number of statues and traditional pavilions that will greet you along the way. There are also handy enclaves off the beaten path for keen picnickers in search of a quiet alfresco dining spot, and even Brian and his canine peers are catered for with designated dog areas where they can run about and sniff each other, lead-free.

Those sans chien, or without the get-up-and-go to put in the hard kilometres can take advantage of the on-site café to monitor collective walking techniques over a leisurely glass of something chilled. Me, I’ll be doing all of the above, as well as spinning arms wide Sound of Music style, revelling in my new-found creative freedom. Do come and say hello…

For more info, click here.

Petal, I’m back!

Kim flower 4Hello? It’s me! No, I haven’t entirely disappeared off the face of the earth and left Paris with my tail between my legs; I’m very much here and still plugging away at uncovering the city’s secrets. Apologies for the lengthy pause; the Motherland got hold of me and wouldn’t let me go and when you’re happily stuck in rural England without the technology to get the blog updated (doh!), there’s nothing for it but to dig your Mum a veg patch. So that’s what I did.

Happily in my absence Paris has had her gardening gloves on too, and she’s positively blooming in colour as the spring sunshine blankets the streets. Seeing beautiful flowers at every turn made me pine for a visit to one of my favourite places in the very centre of the city, where nature’s own art reigns as king – the Marché aux Fleurs on the Ile de la Cité.

Kim flower 1Well I say ‘king’, but if we’re being proper, the full name is Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II, as in June 2014 on a visit to commerate the 70th anniversary of D-day, our Queen Liz’s name was added to the full title as a gift from the French state. Since our dear monarch turns 90 this month, it seemed more than appropriate to pay her plaque a visit (and try and find some parsley for the windowsill too).

Kim flower 2Long though her reign may be, the market has been around much longer, having existed in some form or another since at least 1808. Its distinctive green pavilions were an addition in the early 20th century meaning that rain shouldn’t ruin the hunt for the perfect pot plant. Wander through the leaf-filled aisles spilling out into the open air, and you’ll forget you’re slap-bang in the middle of Paris, nestled in the heart of its biggest central island. Whereas plants grow from seed into magnificent blooms, even the grandest of cities has to start from a tiny geographical grain, and it was right here way back in 52 BC that the first settlers were believed to have set up camp.

Kim flower 6Whatever your horticultural needs, you’ll find them answered with a huge array of pot plants, flowers (though less of the cut kind), herbs, trees and shrubs, with even tiny cactuses for the less green-fingered. Head over the threshold of the individual shops and your present-finding stresses will be calmed with a not-tourist-tacky range of ornaments, knick knacks and plant-themed merchandise that serve nicely as gifts for those gardeners in your life.

Kim flower 5Head over on a Sunday and the feathered ferns turn into real-life plumes when the bird market pecks the plants into submission. Not quite as exotic as it sounds, it’s more of a magnet for strange small-time bird traders to make a bob or two on a couple of off-loaded zebra finches, but worth a look if you’re in the vicinity nonetheless. Because who knows, maybe a sorry looking budgie is the perfect birthday gift for the Queen who has everything?

Croque of the pops…

…or How to lunch like a Parisian.

Kim croque 4You know how there are some things you can do in life, and then there are those that you can’t? Me for example. Great at cooking and writing, but try and make me drink a bottle of water whilst walking and you uncover a serious weakness. Dear old Paris is the same, though like a real lady, she wouldn’t thank me for pointing out one of her flaws.

But the fur coat of luxury that sits upon her shoulders hides a few dark secrets, and if we’re talking about food, she might not want us looking too closely under that glitzy exterior. Let’s face it Paris, despite France having what’s regarded as one of the best cuisines in the world, if we’re being honest, there’s really not a great deal you can bring to the party, love.

Kim croque 3Sure there are bistros and brasseries galore and a thriving modern restaurant scene, but check out the menu and it’s really her regional cousins propping up the reputation with dishes from all corners of the country. Beef stew and coq au vin from Burgundy, mussels and cider from Normandy, crêpes from Brittany, enough meat to terrify vegetarians in Lyon, and classic Bouillabaisse from the south – wherever you travel you’ll be spectacularly well fed.

The same is true in Paris of course, and you can find all of these dishes faithfully occupying space on the city’s menus and filling the bellies of her hungry inhabitants, as if she herself invented them. But between the confit de canard (Gascony), cassoulet (Toulouse) and wildly popular foreign import the amburger, just take a moment to try and locate Paris’ contribution to the national food culture. Suddenly old dame Paris falls strangely silent.

Kim croque 1See, she may be all culture and style, but when it comes to feeding and watering us, Paris skipped dinner and preferred to head straight to the cabaret instead, blinding our appetites with her sparkling nipple tassels. I’ve been here for 7 years, and I can’t help but picture the traditional Parisian dish as a McDo and a Coca Light, with half a packet of cigarettes on a café terrace to finish.

If you’re in the mood for lunch though, there is at least one classically Parisian dish to sink your teeth in, first recorded on the city’s menus in 1910 – the famous croque monsieur. It’s hardly the height of culinary sophistication being essentially a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, but if you’re after a fancier edge, you can always add a gender-changing fried egg on top and tuck into a croque madame.

Kim croque 2cLiterally meaning ‘Mr Crunch’ and his wife ‘Mrs Crunch’, legend has it that some dim workmen left their lunches of ham and cheese sandwiches on a radiator whilst they hammered and chiselled away, and were surprisingly delighted with the result when the midday hunger hit. It didn’t take long for the dish to hit brasserie menus in the capital given the French’s penchant for talking about food (like ALL. THE. TIME.) and now it’s considered a classic, occupying blackboards with its more sophisticated regional friends.

Amateur chefs can recreate their own with bread, ham, béchamel sauce and grated gruyère cheese (but rule breakers are style makers, remember) but for those in France with a lazy constitution can head to the supermarket and purchase the packaged version ready to be cremated in your frying pan. Chips and following food baby optional.

Market hall of fame: Marché des Enfants Rouges

IMG_2562I’ll admit it – after nearly seven years in France’s fair capital, there’s still a list of things I sorely miss from the motherland for which Paris can supply no substitute. It has diminished over time, a mere scribbled shadow of what it once was, but the one thing that remains steadfastly stubborn at the top (and I’m not proud of myself, dear readers), is the British supermarket. Sorry Carrefour, Monoprix et al, but you’re just simply no match for the behemoths I’m used to (and guys, if you insist on selling Marmite at such an offensively inflated price, you never, EVER will be).

IMG_2561In Paris though, there’s one thing on the other side of the coin that floats high above these pile-’em-high grocery warehouses, and that’s the traditional produce market, largely abandoned back home in favour of convenience and the fruitless (ha!) search for the cheapest price. And I don’t mean the status-coated ‘farmer’s markets’ either – throughout the city you’ll find both covered and outdoor markets every day of the week selling ordinary fruit and veg from mere pennies to the more upmarket selections in the more well-to-do arrondissements.

IMG_2559Whereas the supermarket is a relatively modern invention at a mere 100 years old*, showing its true influence in our food culture only in the last 40 years or so, the traditional market goes way, way back into the very deepest mists of time – so far back you can hardly even see the beginning anymore. I’ll leave Tesco, ASDA and friends to contemplate their frustratingly unflinching stranglehold on the UK economy, and instead celebrate the birthday this weekend (8th November) of one of Paris’ oldest and most charming fruit and veg bazaars; le Marché des Enfants Rouges.

IMG_2560You’ll find this rain-friendly covered market in the 3rd arrondissement near the Rue de Bretagne, and its name, ‘Market of the Red Children’ comes from the red-suited inhabitants of an ancient orphanage that used to stand nearby. Though the latter is long gone, the market has stood strong for the last 400 years, though understandably needed a facelift after centuries of trading, and closed for six years for a spruce-up in the late 1990s.

Kim fish and chipsRainbows of produce await hungry punters, but waiting until to you get home to satisfy your hunger sounds like unnecessary torture to me. To save you from breaking your teeth sinking them into a raw turnip, the real draw of le Marché des Enfants Rouges is the huge selection of freshly prepared food on offer from all corners of the world, hot and cold, served in compact glass pod-like structures with plenty of seating scattered around to take the load off. Happily the menu also includes fish and chips, so authentic that you could close your eyes and be sitting in a café on Brighton seafront. That’s another British comfort ticked of my list then.

Things do get manically busy at the weekends, and this one will be more sardine-like than most, so best to take a wide berth if you want to be able to find a seat. And being able to tuck into fish and chips whilst occupying yourself with the weekly produce shop sounds well worth the wait to me. I’ll be at home screwing up my ‘things I miss from home’ list and flinging it into the bin.

Open Tuesday to Sunday.

*The very first was called, wait for it, ‘Piggly Wiggly’

It’s a fine line…

Kim axis 3Pondering the beauty of my home city the other day, it struck me that the ‘P’ for Paris also stands for ‘paradox’ – and I don’t just mean the presence of sheer mountains of dog merde clogging up streets in a place so celebrated for its good looks. When we think of France’s capital, we often think of it as a place to spend a romantic weekend, or a few days’ shopping. Whatever the purpose of your visit, it seems that most of us intend it to be a short one, which quite frankly sells the old Dame a bit short.

With so many gorgeous things to see, having a mini break here seems as nuts as trying to fit your worldy possessions into a 10m² apartment (trust me, despite optimistic projection is NEVER. GOING. TO. HAPPEN.). Your experiences will just end up bulging out of either side, and no one likes squashed memories. Sure, life is busy and there are so many amazing places to see, not just in France but in the whole world, and finding time for a holiday is as difficult as locating a Parisian parking space.

Kim axis 2Coupled with this, we’re used to having things at the touch of a button, in an instant, in a tiny package that fits into the palms of our hands. Well as much as I’m reluctant to move with the times (still resisting that smartphone would you believe), I have to admire the way that Paris caters to these modern needs and provides us with all the best bits in one bite-size chunk. Want to see all the big players in one tidy tableau without spending precious sightseeing time zigzagging the city map encased in the metro? Paris delivers like a pro.

KIm axis 1If cityscapes were apps, the Axe Historique would gain top marks for usability. An axis, or straight line extending from the centre of the city out to the west, it connects a large number of the most famous sights, meaning that if you’ve no other option than to limit your time to a couple of hard-won days off, or God forbid, mere hours (shudder), you’ll get to bask in the delights of the city’s most revered structural gems without sacrificing too much time.

Kim axis 6The concept of this handy continuous perspective across the city (clearly completely impossible these days in our cram-’em-in pile’em-high urban tangles) was hatched back in the 17th century with the creation of the straight-as-a-poker Champs-Élysées, and encompassed the neighbouring Tuileries gardens (and ancient palace that has since burned down). These days the collection of famous faces has swelled, and now includes from east to west: the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Place de la Concorde and its central Obelisk, Champs-Élysées, Place de l’Étoile dominated by the Arc de Triomphe (regular) and the modern Grande Arche in the satellite CBD way out at La Défense. Currents plans will see it extend even further into the well-to-do suburb of Neuilly.

Kim axis 5I’m hardly the greatest fan of modern scourge the ‘selfie’ (savour life through your very own peepers, not through the screen of your blinking’ phone!) but even I have to admit the gold star value of this particular spot. Position yourself at the eastern end of the Tuileries gardens and the Eiffel Tower will also be in clear view (seriously, what more could you want?!), and turn 180° and ponder exactly how drunk the builders must have been to ensure that the great pyramid of the Louvre will forever be frustratingly off-centre*. Perfectionists beware.

*Said drunkenness is probably not in the slightest bit historically accurate.

Friday I’m in love…

Kim friday…so sang The Cure. ‘TFI Friday!’ said anyone who’s ever worked a week in their life. That sacred bookend day when the foot begins to slip off the gas just a little to allow our frazzled brains to contemplate the glorious expanse of the two days of freedom that hover tantalisingly close.

In terms of productivity, I’ll bet that out of Friday and its four weekday siblings, it’s the fifth and last of the bunch that takes the thinnest slice of the pie. It’s a day to relax a tad, and to congratulate yourself on a week’s work well done. It’s a time to let off social steam when the professional tank is running near empty. And you know what’s best about it? It’s the best day of the week to be reading a blog.

Well, what a stroke of luck! It just so happens that Wednesday and Thursday have been cruelly abandoned, and Friday is now officially pARIS: small capital blog day. I’ve decided it’s when the minds of you darling readers are at their ripest and most receptive, or at least in the most organisational mode for making a plan for that deliciously open weekend. Add us to your to-do list (just under ‘walk the dog’ and ‘call the folks’ if you must), and rather than enjoy reading in a crazily busy office, now is your chance to kick back and enjoy the posts in the tranquility of your own home, at whatever rhythm you prefer.

But wait! There’s another twist in the tale. Certain audience members have kindly given me some feedback (highly valued, I assure you), and it appears sensible to me to publish bi-monthly instead of weekly from now on, as too many posts just clog the intellectual pipe, and we can’t have that. Yesterday’s newspaper might be today’s chip paper (ask a Brit if your brow’s all furrowed in confusion), but I’d hope that my ancient blog posts are kept on file and visited from time to time and treated to a warm embrace, like a treasured, elderly relative.

Plus extensive renovations are underway at the Granny Flat and tackling home decor all on my lonesome takes a great deal of time, not even counting the layers upon layers of paint, dust and memories that my humble abode has given me to tackle. But some super exciting things are happening (roll-out bidet is now roll-out indoor bathroom garden – such is the level of DIY magic taking place) and I will give you a glimpse of Granny’s new decor when I’m past the ‘looks like I’m just making a mess phase’, where I currently reside.

As for now, make sure your weekend is smile rich and fun filled, and I’ll catch you at the end of the next glorious Parisian spring week at the start of June.

Bisous!

 

Sunday morning glory

IMG_1966Ah, Sundays in Paris. I’ve been here for nearly six years and I still haven’t worked out where everyone gets to. It’s like somebody pulled out the plug just under those large taps in that crazy fountain at Châtelet and sucked the residents into some sort of French Bermuda triangle for the daylight hours. Worse than that, my brain still hasn’t learned the trick of remembering to go to the supermarket a day before that laziest of weekend days, leaving my cupboard barer than Mother Hubbard’s and those overpriced corner shops the only available option if I want to eat something other than a pasta sandwich.

Kim respire 1But it’s not as desperate as all that, as I discovered when I lived in the southern part of the 18th arrondissement a few years ago and fell upon Rue des Martyrs, to this day one of my favourite roads in the capital. Here all the punters were, pushing their strollers, enjoying the view and stocking up on supplies from the many shops that were open. On a Sunday. Rarer than a Frenchman raving about English food. Not only were they having a fine old time, but they were brazenly wandering about in the middle of the road, the road seemingly closed to traffic, Paris’ cars terrorising pedestrians in another part of town.

IMG_1969Popping my eyes back into their sockets, I scooped up some bounty for lunch and headed back home to do some research. Had the local residents protested their hearts out until the shops were forced to open? Or was I in an alternative dream world in which Paris was actually behaving the way I wanted it to for once?

Well, neither of the above. This miraculous happening was also playing out in many other parts of the city, as part of an initiative known as Paris Respire, or ‘Paris Breathes’, in which certain roads and quarters are closed off to traffic, meaning that flâneurs, cyclists, dog walkers and rollerskaters can circulate in complete peace and tranquility, without losing the skin off their heels crossing a zebra crossing thanks to an impatient motorist. With hordes of potential customers passing their premises, many shops decided to open to take advantage of this stellar opportunity, and thus you’ve got until 13h to stock up on food, booze or even clothes; whatever is your retail poison.

IMG_1968There are 14 areas in total, sometimes a mere street as in this case, in other arrondissements you might find a whole neighbourhood throwing out the vehicles and welcoming your custom with open arms, with the Marais and Montmatre being two of the most popular. Down by the Seine you get to breathe properly for once too, with lengthy stretches of the banks proving to be a hotspot for leisurely joggers, afternoon strolls and intense marathon training.

Kim respire 2In the summer four more areas follow suit, including Rue de la Roquette and parts of the Canal Saint Martin, so when the sun’s turned up to full, your only Sunday challenge is to get round all of them before the colder weather kicks it in to touch. So whether you’ve been trying to work out how to sate that roasted rotisserie chicken addiction that plagues your post Saturday night recovery, or your feather brain has forgotten to buy a present for your afternoon birthday party host, then here’s your answer.

If anything, some of these parts of the city are the best places to find those darling independent shops you thought every man and his dog shopped at in France (no, supermarkets rule here too, just like everywhere else), and even if your wallet stays securely bolted together, the scenery if more than worth it. More than that sacred lie-in until noon perhaps?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t keep a good woman down…

Kim emblem 3Sometimes, readers, a 60s roll-out bidet just isn’t enough to keep a gal entertained. And so this week, rather than trying to understand a bygone decade by studying its porcelain contours closely, I decided to take a long-overdue dive into the world of Mad Men where the retro scenery is a huge part of its charm, not unlike chez moi. Hardly Parisian you might argue, but what with the chain smoking and penchant for extra-marital affairs, it seems that in 1960s Manhattan, the spirit of Paris was alive and well.

Kim emblem 4Which got me to thinking. If Don Draper (the central character and creative director of a New York advertising agency, for the uninformed) was given the account for the city of Paris, what kind of marketing spin would he pull out of his Brylcreem-sodden hat to show off the city in its best light? Can-can dancers on every spread for sure, channelling the party atmosphere and old-time glamour in a sumptuous print show. A slogan? ‘Paris: Because even New York needs a mistress!’ I can only imagine.

As history would instead have it, the original guardians of Paris’ image didn’t know how this unique urban flower would bloom, and the original symbol of the city is as head-scratching today as the Eiffel Tower would have been back in its days of creation in the Middle Ages. The first chosen emblem? A ship. As the city has grown and the importance of the Seine as a source of industry has faded, a big ol’ ship floating through the city today would seem as out of place as Francois Hollande attempting a high kick on stage at the cabaret.

Kim emblem 2But sure enough, look closely as you meander around the place, and you’ll spy this municipal symbol, these days a fully-fledged coat of arms, on many public buildings, mairies, stations, schools and bridges; and displayed proudly on the gates and doors of the Hotel de Ville. But what’s a snazzy image without a carefully considered slogan to go with it? Well Paris has one of those too (though it would probably make Don Draper wince into his whisky), the far-from-elegant-sounding ‘fluctuat nec mergitur’. Hmm.

Kim emblem 1Sticking with the boat theme, translated from its original Latin it means ‘gets tossed around without sinking’, just like a wooden ship being battered by waves in a storm. You’d hope that they were better sailors than that in the industry’s heyday, but on a metaphorical level it fits old Dame Paris perfectly if you sail through her history. Revolutions, slaughter, floods, starvation and death; it’s easy to see why our old friend Baron Haussmann officiated the motto in 1853, and it now sits proudly upon the city’s emblem, a reminder of every tempest she’s had to endure from past until present.

So sometimes when Paris kicks me in the chops and the dark clouds of gloom roll in, it’s nice to remember that the old gal has had her dark moments too, but has bucked like a mule back, and survived every hardship and tumult imaginable with her head held high. Love, light and advertising are all well and good, but isn’t that what life is really about?