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I have already published the posts covering  the Easter weekend, so this sees us into the week after Easter.  By now I was feeling absolutely fine.

Well, this was one of the days that last week we spent time planning for.  A trip out of Paris when the weather was likely to be good to visit Monet’s House and Garden at Giverny, 47.5 miles NW of Paris.

Getting to Giverny involved the Metro or Bus to Gare St. Lazare, and then a mainline express train to Vernon, and then a Bus or Taxi to Giverny village.

The weather duly obliged as we woke to blue skies and sunshine.  We left the apartment at 08.50 and waited for the bus, but despite several updates to the digital display promising us transport, no bus ever came.  A quick regroup and trot to the Metro station and we were on our way.  Line 8 to Madeleine and then a change to Line 14 all the way to St. Lazare.  Speedy and effortless, although a lot of walking through a maze of stairs and escalators.

We found the correct platform, ‘composted’ our tickets (which is the word the French use for punching your ticket before you get on the train, which is compulsory!) and still had time left over for a quick coffee.  When the train was opened up for passengers hordes of people began to stream onto the platform: the first four coaches were full and it was a ‘double-decker’, so L began to panic and said we must just sit anywhere.  But she is not used to train travel and I said few people bother to walk more than four or five coaches up the platform unless they have to, so we walked on past another two coaches and found plenty of space in a four-seater bay on an upper deck from where we had an excellent view.

As I saw this couple walking slowly along the platform I was reminded of an artist whose paintings I like, Charles Cambier.  He often paints elderly people battling against wind and rain, usually by the seaside.

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(Copyright of Charles CAMBIER)

 Gare St. Lazare

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We’re going off to the Normandy region now!!

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The train was headed for Rouen, and as we set off and the huge engines picked up speed I felt the blood beginning to surge with excitement and wanted to keep going, on and on!  (We had already found out that we could get right to the Mediterranean coast and back for 28 euros each courtesy of last minute booking on the SCNF website.)

However, L restrained me and said if we had several more weeks we could go further, but as it was, “no”.

Pulling out of central Paris

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It turned out that most of the train passengers were also headed to Giverny: this was a little daunting as we had heard horror stories of crowds making visits quite impossible.  Anyway, nothing to do but go with the flow.  The Ticket Inspector came round and said that we had not ‘composted’ our tickets: we explained that we had.  He replied that we had not because the correct markings were not on the tickets.  So we had a little exchange, perfectly friendly on his part but rather serious since we had infringed the rules, and then he came back with a correctly ‘composted’ ticket to show us what it should look like for a future trip.  Very decent of him.

The journey lasted 52 minutes, and it was interesting looking into peoples’ back gardens from our eyrie.  At Vernon the contents of the train erupted and headed for the local bus to take us all to Giverny.  I’m afraid we did not: I had read about someone else who had taken a taxi and therefore arrived ahead of the rest of the crowd, so that is what we did.  And in fact it worked because we had an extra 45 minutes to enjoy the gardens before everyone else got there. (It turns out that there is a 15 minute walk at  the other end from the bus stop to the Gardens, as well as waiting for the buses, which come every 20 minutes, and then they had to queue to pay and get in. We had bought our tickets previously, on-line.)

http://giverny.org    is a good website for information on Giverny and for seeing photos of the gardens at other times of year.

Claude Monet lived here for forty-three years, from 1883 to 1926. During this very long time, he had the house and garden laid out to his own tastes, adapting it to the needs of his family and professional life.  He lived here with his wife and two sons and four step-daughters.

Monet’s garden comprises two parts: a flower garden called Clos Normand in front of the house and a Japanese inspired water garden on the other side of the road.  The sections are meant to contrast and complement each other. He did not like organized or constrained gardens despite the appearance of neatness and order we saw today.  I gather that later in the Summer the plants run riot: if you look at pictures of the garden on the web you can see how they flourish!  He chose flowers according to their colours and then left them to grow rather freely.

Ten years after his arrival at Giverny in 1893, Monet bought the piece of land neighbouring his property on the other side of the road. It was crossed by a small brook, the Ru, which is a diversion of the Epte, a tributary of the Seine River. With the support of the prefecture, Monet had the first small pond dug ; even though his peasant neighbours were opposed. They were afraid that his strange plants would poison the water.

Later on the pond would be enlarged to its present day size. The water garden is full of asymmetries and curves.

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It is inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints he collected avidly. He was always looking for mist and transparencies and would dedicate himself less to painting the plants themselves than to their reflections in water, a kind of inverted world ‘transfigured by the liquid element’ as the guides say.

As he grew older he developed a passion for botany, exchanging plants with his friends Clemenceau and Caillebotte.  Always on the look-out for rare varieties, he bought young plants at great expense. “All my money goes into my garden,” he said. But also: “I am in raptures.

He was the first painter to shape his subjects in nature so exhaustively before painting them. And so he created his works twice!

Apparently it had been very busy indeed over the Easter weekend, but we found it really pleasant today, and a joy to wander round.

giverny 2015 008 Although it is very early in the year and most trees and shrubs are only just beginning to get their leaves the weeping willows were advanced

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???????????????????????????????Of course there were no water lilies to see but there were a few lily pads which suggested riches to come

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and I particularly like the man in the boat: it is a scene which could be over 100 years old!

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There was a lot of Spring planting which added welcome colour

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  Monet’s house from the garden

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There were several groups of very young schoolchildren, some of whom were practising their English colour names when looking at the plants, and they were delighted when we spoke a few words of English to them, and their teacher taught them to say “Goodbye”.  They could only have been about four or five years old:)

It was getting extremely warm too, with very bright sunshine.

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The green on the windows and doors of the house is echoed throughout the gardens, on all woodwork, chains, supports etc.  Not sure that I like the shade with green leaves but the idea is clever. Apparently the pink colour of the walls and the green of the woodwork was chosen by Monet. In those times, shutters were traditionally painted grey. Monet added a verandah in front of the house, a pergola covered with climbing roses, and grew a Virginia Creeper on the facade: he wanted the house to blend with the garden.

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By this time we were desperate for some food, and especially a drink but unfortunately one cannot exit and re-enter on the one ticket, so we had to stay and finish our visit first.  We wanted to see Monet’s studio and look round the house so we just girded ourselves against the hunger pangs and dry mouths and went round the house.

We did not think much to the studio which was a double height room with long windows but they were to the West and South, very off for a studio.  There were rather second rate works of art on the walls.  Nice to know that even the ‘greats’ have off-days and experiments which do not work.  (Later on while walking back through the village we noticed that the other house on the property had HUGE windows facing north in its roof and walls, and I suspect Monet worked there more than in the ‘official’ studio we were shown on our tour round.)

Monet’s bedroom

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(His bedroom connected with a bathroom which in turn connected with Alice’s bedroom  a fashion very common until the 1950s amongst middle-class people in Europe, I don’t know about elsewhere).

 Other bedrooms

This one belonged to Alice, his wife.

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This room belonged to one, or more, of his four step-daughters, who all had bedrooms over the kitchen.

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We took our time, especially ‘Oohing’ and ‘Aahing’ at the Dining Room and then the Kitchen.

When Monet decorated his house and chose his colours the Victorian fashion was for very dark and heavy colours.  He did not care for fashion!

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You can just imagine the dinner parties with family and friends, which took place here.  The food, wine and discussion!

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The dining room is connected to the kitchen to make service easier. Monet wanted a blue kitchen so that the guests would see the right color in harmony with the yellow dining room when the door to the kitchen was open.

This is a room which takes cooking seriously, the size of the range alone, and then the spit roast fireplace beside it:

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Again one can imagine a busy, sometimes flustered, cook, with her staff, catering for a large, perhaps, rumbustious party next door.

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and the battery of copper pans and moulds of all kinds

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All  these downstairs rooms opened out onto the South facing verandah

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and by this stage we were looking for any shade to sit in.

I could see the intelligence in planting those two yew trees outside the front of the house: as well as adding structure to the main path they provide blessed shade.

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Beside the house, at the end of the verandah is the chicken house and run:  no doubt whence some of the ingredients for the kitchen came.

giverny 2015 059I’m sure the gardens are even more spectacular when the Roses and Waterlilies are out but we did not feel short-changed being early Spring: everything looked so fresh and pretty.  It would make anyone want to paint!!

I feel that this view shows the house and garden in the local landscape well.

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And it was worth coming so early in the season to have time to breathe it all in and enjoy the tranquility rather than have to wander round in a crocodile of people as can happen in summer.

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So, by half-past-one we rather felt we must eat, since breakfast had been at 07.00.  So we left the garden and wandered along the main street of the village, past the very pretty but very crowded cafes and bistros close to Monet’s house, right through to the other end of Giverny, looking for a Restaurant we had read about before we came.  And we were so pleased we had pushed on: when we found it we were thrilled.

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It was a French country Hotel in the old style, not jazzed up for a modern crowd

.(This photo is from the hotel website at  http://www.restaurantbaudy.com/ since I did not take one of the whole front)

Restaurant Baudy - Giverny

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Although the road was tarmacked there was no traffic and it had the air of an abandoned country lane, I almost expected to see dust rising up from a muddy track!  All the shutters and doors stood open to the fresh air and sunshine and the inside was very dark and felt remote in time. As you walked inside you were met immediately by a large bar along the back wall behind which were cheery staff, in black with large white aprons tied round their waists, all smiles and ‘Bonjours’.

Just across the lane from the hotel was its open-air dining-room, with a few people already eating.

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So we sat down on metal chairs beside a small round metal table, all a rather ‘distressed’ blue that I always associate with C19 French kitchens, and placed our order for the Menu du Jour.

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We both chose the same thing: confit of duck with apple, walnuts and salad as a starter:

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duck with prune and cinnamon (only slightly so) sauce and new potatoes and a stuffed tomato for our main,

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all finished off with a baked apple with frangipane stuffing and caramel sauce.

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The apple was a variety which did not go ‘puffy’ or foamy when cooked but kept its texture: it was perfectly cooked and wonderfully tender and the flavour was divine:)

L ordered a glass of burgundy with her meal which smelt heavenly!  I just wish that my body liked alcohol, even just a little bit;)

So there we sat for two hours, slowly eating under the trees in the sun, surrounded by birdsong and butterflies, an orchard beside us with chickens in it and the occasional lazy cock-crow.

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The glasses and cutlery were kept cool under an umbrella

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which seemed to embody the atmosphere of the day.

The lane almost felt as if it were still a dried earthy path, as waitresses and waiters crossed and criss-crossed carrying trays aloft.  There were enough other discerning diners to make it feel sociable and vibrant but without a crowd.  Verily, it felt as if we were in another century and living very different lives.

To use the Ladies or just wash one’s hands, one had to go into the Hotel, through a dining room, out the back through a play room which had an ancient rocking horse in it, turn right in the yard and enter a glazed door in the barn.

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We then discovered, by reading a plaque on the wall, that this old hotel was where Monet’s painter friends used to stay, and in fact, where the American Impressionists had formed a studio and presumably founded the ‘school’ of American Impressionists!! From 1887 onwards a colony of foreign painters, mainly Americans settled in Giverny: Sargent, Metcalf, Ritter, Taylor, Wendel, Robinson, Bruce and Breck came first. For thirty years about a hundred artists stayed one after the other in Giverny, although, we are told and I have no way of knowing how much truth there is in this, they did not have much contact with Monet who apparently considered their presence a nuisance.

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While going out the back we saw the painters’ studio in the lovely gardens

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and realised what a dreamy place it must be to stay in now, and back then.

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Everything reminded me of the France I had known 50 years ago as a child: bare feet, earth paths, shadowy cool rooms, nothing quite spick or span, but serviceable with quality of life more important than possessions.  We were so relaxed and warm and well fed.  When we came to leave I felt full of sun and as if I had just been on holiday in the country:)

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Reluctantly, we made our way to the bottom of the village to a huge coach park to catch the local bus back to Vernon, the express train to Paris, and make our way home.  All went well, although the train was really full, until we got to Paris at 5.40 pm where it was rush hour.  We made our way down to the Metro which involved going down four levels underground and walking quite a distance: it was mesmerising as people walked like automatons, not looking at each other, just like something out of a science fiction film where people are brain washed into behaving like ants.  Hordes of them rushing hither and yon, on automatic pilot.

We pushed our way into a crowded carriage with no vacant seats but immediately two people gave up their seats for us: this has happened everywhere, on all transport.  Young men and women are brought up to give up their seats to  people older than they.  So kind and thoughtful.  And much appreciated.

And so to home, via our little butcher for some home made terrine with prunes and a thin steak: food for tomorrow as we are quite out of provisions after the holiday weekend.

We have had a fabulous day.  A gift of a day.  A shining day.

As I lay in bed that night I felt washed in a golden glow of happy memories, both old and new. I did not want to go to sleep and have the day end: I just wanted to lie and bask in the feelings the day had engendered.

I have taken so many medications over the last few days that this morning I feel as if I have been run over by a truck and hit hard in the head! The good news is that they work.  Also, that their effect has been to give me a sleep lasting ten hours: so this morning I woke feeling refreshed, non-achey and as if the worst is over.

I needed a really slow start to the day so L. went out for a long, fast walk to discover some of the old lanes round the back of the Bastille that used to contain wood working shops.  The wood was brought down the Seine and easily transported the few metres to these shops.  Unfortunately for us tourists the little workshops have all gone, to be replaced by more up market boutiquey shops.

By the time she returned she was famished: after a slow start for me and very little breakfast I was more than happy to accompany her!  We had decided on a Bistro we have been to on previous visits down in the St. Paul district. We knew that B, L’s husband, had very fond memories of this bistro and would be pleased that we had revisited it.  On the walls were photographs of Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, and other film people I did not recognise, perhaps producers/directors: all people who had eaten here in the past! Knowing how full it used to get we arrived there bang on 12.00 noon and already one table was occupied.  It is run by an Italian family but the menu is not what I would expect Italian food to be back in the UK.  Very little pastry or pasta so plenty of choice for me.

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more richard and paris 071L chose a tomato, aubergine and pancetta ham starter and a pasta and calamari dish for her main,  followed by a panacotta mould with a sweet orange sauce.  L loved her starter and dessert but found the pasta to be too al dente for her liking although the calamari and its sauce were lovely so she filled up on the bread as she loves French bread anyway.

I missed out the starter, and went for rabbit with a ratatouille sauce.which had olives and raisins in it, followed by a confit of aubergines with orange zest and frozen ricotta. The dessert sounded so strange and not at all nice, but I always feel that when abroad one should take every chance to experiment (providing one is hurting neither man nor beast) and it was a revelation.  Aubergines had been slow cooked in a syrup with candied orange peel and served in layers inbetween which were curls of very dark, very bitter, pieces of chocolate. The ricotta also had pieces of the bitter chocolate in it and had been frozen.  The depth and mix of flavour was intense.  I had to leave some because they had been overgenerous with the portion. This is what it looked like:

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and it was out of this world!!!!!!!!!!!   The whole, taken together, gave explosions of flavour which were amazing.  I was so glad I had taken the chance and ordered it.

We ate slowly, savouring everything, as the restaurant filled up to overflowing, and the wine and the talk increased.  It was interesting to hear French spoken with a very obvious Italian accent by both the ‘patrons’ and some of the customers! After a really lovely meal, we both left feeling very well-nourished and walked gently round the St. Paul area after which we walked to the nearest SCNF office to buy our rail tickets for our two outings next week.  We are not sure how the rush hour will affect our timings on  those days and thought that at least we could avoid having to queue for tickets. They didn’t speak English and were kind enough to say that my French was good, which it isn’t, but I suppose it sufficed for the interaction!  With all tickets safely bought we split up, with L going on to further exploration and me needing to go home to rest up again.  So a liesurely walk home doing some shopping on the way for the holiday weekend: as well as groceries, I bought some flowering branches and some decorations I found reduced to make my Easter branch to add a holiday flavour to the flat. But at least I managed to get out for a bit and think I am on the mend.

In the early evening I rose from my bed again and we regrouped over a cup of tea and decided that the rain was just too fierce to wander forth again instantly, so it was some hours later, after a light supper, when it had cleared up a bit that we went for a saunter  to buy L a special ice cream:)

On our way out we passed people going into the Synagogue with lots of food for a Passover meal, and as always, armed soldiers on guard.  I am sure we passed two plain clothes policemen outside too, because they stopped talking as soon as anyone walked past them.

I went round taking photographs of the chocolate in some of the specialist shops.  During Easter, the confiseries and chocolatieres, are filled with beautiful and delicious chocolates. More often than not, these chocolates look more like exquisite works of art than mere sweets and certainly put our cardboard-boxed, foil-wrapped Easter Eggs to shame.  So for the rest of this post, revel in a chocolatey extravaganza: by the way everything is made of chocolate and is edible!

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Much like peering at a masterpiece, many a Parisian, and I, can be found staring into the windows at the chocolate.

Richard II and Paris 039.jpg 1 The pieces are quite extraordinary and very expensive but they are works of art, even if they did not all appeal.  Richard II and Paris 038

Many French Easter traditions revolve around chocolate, chickens, rabbits,  fish and church bells.  Of course a lot of countries celebrate Easter with chocolate in some form and often with chickens and rabbits, but I think it is unique to France to celebrate also with fish and bells.

I have already mentioned the tradition of the April Poisson: when mischievous French children stick paper fish on to the backs of as many unsuspecting adults as possible, then run away yelling “Poisson d’Avril!” The custom is for the tagged adults to respond by giving kids gifts of chocolate fish.   Swarms, or should it be shoals, of chocolate fish fill shop windows all over the City of Light. They come in varied sizes, some packed in shiny tin boxes holding small schools of fish all wrapped up in foil.

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They are also sold unwrapped, by weight, with the larger sizes often molded to resemble either a pike or a carp.

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So, whilst there is no direct correlation between chocolate fish and Easter, since they usually begin appearing in the shops just in time for April Fool’s Day, and you will often find them still in stores around Easter time because of its close proximity to the holiday,  fish have become an Easter tradition also.

Le Notre had as its theme this year a Treasure Island, so alongside the fish, there were parrots, pirates, treasure, pearls, etc.

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Alongside these intricately decorated pieces, one can also find chocolate bells.paris 2015 easter 018.jpg 1 These “flying” bells directly correlate to the resurrection of Jesus, and with the end of Lent

What about the bells? Cloche volants or ‘Flying Bells’ are another important symbol in the French Easter tradition. Much of the country (about ninety percent) considers itself Roman-Catholic in culture whether they are truly practicing Roman Catholics or not.  Churches, with their soaring architecture and revered history, are an intrinsic part of this culture and you hear the bells ringing out several times each day to announce the times of the old monastic services.

On Maundy Thursday evening, just before Good Friday, all the bells in France become still and silent in remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death. This is quite a sombre remembrance and a real change in the texture of daily life. Traditional belief holds that on Good Friday all the church bells in France miraculously ‘fly’ off to the Vatican carrying all the grief of those mourning Jesus’ crucifixion. To ease any disquiet or fears of children, parents tell them that all the church bells have flown off to Rome to visit the Pope.These flying French bells then return to their steeples on Easter morning just in time to ring for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and the children are told that the bells have flown home again. The bells also bring back chocolate and decorated eggs in time for children to collect when they wake up on Easter morning.   Hence, the appearance of chocolate bells at Easter time

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And last, but not least, I took this photo especially for Coco the Scottie Dog, from Walkies on Table Mountain – see my side bar of blogs I follow:)

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Oh dear: a really bad night with fever, aches and pains and the cough whistling and bubbling through my chest.  Nothing to be done today but take pills, keep warm and stay in bed.  What a waste of a day in Paris:)

L went to Musee d’Orsay for the day for inspiration (she is a painter) and ate lunch there, which she said was marvellous.  I expect she was glad to be away from my lurgy!  Later on she went for a walk by herself all round the Marais to renew old memories.

So today I will just give you photographs I have taken to illustrate some of the Easter preparations in Paris: there will be a special post dedicated to chocolate later!!!

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April Fool’s Day today in the UK.  But here in France it is April Fish day!!

The following comes from: http://www.frenchmoments.eu/april-fools-day-traditions-in-france-le-1er-avril/ and is her copyright and a really good site:)

“Here in France there is a tradition of “Poisson d’Avril” is followed by all French children on 1 April. Paper fish are used to play an April Fools trick, involving sticking a paper fish onto the back of as many adults as possible, then running away yelling “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish!)

On the 1st of April, everyone has to pay attention to avoid being the victim of practical jokes and general foolishness. It is the ideal day for children (and grown-ups alike!) to tell funny jokes to those around them, including family members, friends, teachers, neighbours, colleagues at work, etc.

In France, April Fools’ Day is known for the “poisson d’avril” (April Fish) which dates back to 1564. The origin of the April Fish in France is quite obscure, maybe it was reminescent of the ichtus used by Christians in the Roman era.

According to popular beliefs, the New Year used to start on the 1st April up to the mid-sixteenth century. But as King of France, Charles IX wanted the year to start on the 1st January, he made a swift change to the French calendar and made it official on the Edict of Roussillon.

Legend has it that some people were not at all happy with this enforced law for many reasons, and continued to celebrate the new year in their own way around the 1st April. The people who embraced the new calendar started to mock the reluctant ones and gave them false presents and played tricks on them.

During that time, the 1st April coincided with the end of Lent when the Church forbade Christians to eat meat. Fish was tolerated and was often used in the offering of gifts for the New Year.

When the jokes started to become more common, false fish were often used to trick the victim. There lies the legendary origin of April Fish, stuck on the back of the fools, those who did not accept the changing times or who saw the world through their own eyes only.”

Today was a really early start so that we could get to the Musee D’Orsay before the crowds.  We arrived at 9.10 a.m. to find a queue of enthusiastic Spanish teenagers standing waiting, despite the cold wind they seemed eager and full of energy!  Although the museum opened at 9.30 they only let a few people in and then there seemed to be some kind of problem because the rest of us were kept waiting for another half hour.  Eventually, frozen through, we got in and bought our passes.  After that our first thought was ‘hot chocolate’ so we made our way up to the cafe on the top floor.  It is near the Impressionist galleries and therefore is often very crowded but today we were early enough that we were the only ones there.

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It is also situated behind the Old Station clock:

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It is quite dramatic to stand there and look up and see and hear the hands clicking on for each minute passing: makes me think of Big Ben.

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And one can stand there and look out over Paris, way over to Sacre Coeur,

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and of course to the Seine and the Tuileries just outside.

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We spent a happy time re-acquainting ourselves with some of our favourite pictures.  I got a shock when I went to look again at the Monets: stupidly I had become rather blase about them, thinking they were so popular, and therefore not necessarily of the first rank.  But of course when you are actually faced with the actual paint, the brightness and vivacity blasts you into kingdom come.  No reproduction can do justice to the life coming off the real thing.  We left, feeling very envigorated and with the creative juices running over, full of colour and movement.

Our plan was to go to the St. Martin canal area, over past Republique: L had read about a gluten free bakery and patisserie over there and we thought we would give it the once over.  So a bus to Bastille and a change of bus to Republique, then a ten minute walk to the canal.  One of the scenes in ‘Engrenages’ was set right beside this bridge:

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By this stage we were ravenous. Breakfast had been at 7. 0 am and it was now 1.0 pm: we found a small, bustling, organic, Cambodian Bistro (opposite an old plague hospital I had visited on another trip) and ordered, the same for us both.  Plain rice with lemon beef and loads and loads of veggies.  It was wonderful:)

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They were doing a roaring trade with a young student clientele, with take-aways flying out through the doors as cars pulled up outside to collect orders.  There was far too much to eat, so we both had a ‘doggy-bag’ which did L for her supper and me for my supper and breakfast the next day!

A few doors down the road and we found the gluten free bakery: it is called Helmut Newcake, a very odd name.

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But, to be able to walk into a shop and be faced with a choice of the most wonderfully delicious looking patisserie was a thing to dream of.  It took quite a while to make a selection to carry home in the box.  The whole shop was dedicated to nothing except gluten free baking.  I had gone to heaven:)  The shop had been packed and things were selling fast, even so, the top of the counter was full of bread, rolls and large cakes, and the cabinet still had some smaller ones in.

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I chose three rolls:

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and four cakes:

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Then I took L to see the old hospital which has lovely grounds and was built when plague victims were being hurried out of Paris.  But the gates were closed and padlocked and so no visitors could just walk in and look around now.  Such a shame.  So we wandered up and down the canal instead: it is definitely an up-and-coming part of Paris.

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There is just the faintest tinge of green developing on some of the trees.  When we had walked our fill we retraced our steps back to home: I must admit to being rather chuffed when a French lady asked me for directions and I could help her:)

So home, where we picked up our travel plans and headed off to the SCNF offices to book our rail tickets.  However, it was late in the day and people had come out of work and were piling in to make their own travel plans.  After waiting for a few minutes we realised we were going to be hours so left, deciding to return during work hours when it might be less crowded.   L went to do some souvenir shopping and I went off to take photos of Easter decorations and chocolate in various windows and to buy some things to make our Easter Branch for the flat.

I had one of my rolls with supper but it was most disappointing: not a yeast bake but a cake type texture, tasting of bicarbonate of soda.  Such a shame, because they look so good.  Nothing like the loaf I bought at the market on Sunday.  But I ate half of one of the cakes for dessert, and that was heavenly!  Over the next week I gradually ate my way through them all, and without exception they were divine.  Ah well, live and learn.

As the day progressed I was feeling more and more ill and getting quite embarrassed about my cough, with a banging headache, so finally I gave in and took more anti-migraine pills and went to bed early.

After our exertions yesterday we had a relaxed beginning to the day today.  Over breakfast we decided to go over to the Musee d’Orsay to buy passes.  We both like to have annual passes, not because we expect to be back again soon, but because it means that we can pop in often, for an hour or so each time, to look at one or two pictures without having to spend hours at a time getting value out of our one day ticket!  It also means that one can walk straight in past the queues which is also a big plus factor.  Getting a joint pass is much cheaper than two singles, and if one visits at least  three times, you have already paid for the annual pass.

When we arrived we were aghast at the queues: people were standing for three hours to get in.  We asked one of the attendants what the problem was and he said that it was a combination of the Louvre and other museums being closed today and it being Easter week.  Even to just buy a pass and not visit today, we would have to stand in the queue along with everyone else.  He suggested coming back tomorrow at nine in the morning to avoid the queue.

So we left, ticket- and pass- less and very shocked by the numbers of people around.  When L booked her plane tickets she had not taken into account that it was Easter and that Paris gets really full during that time.

On the way to the bus I passed this building with magnificent wrought iron work:

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We took the bus home but got off at St. Gervais to go in to the shop in case they have any Easter  things, and also to check out the church: we have heard glorious singing here in the past.  However, the shop had very little seasonal and the church was silent, being the week before Easter.

A walk along Saint Antoine to buy some de-caff coffee for L in Starbucks: a very entertaining comedy ensued whilst she tried to mime grinding coffee to the staff:)  I bought a lovely, huge, breakfast cup for my morning tea as the flat only has small mugs in the kitchen department, and then we split up, L to go home for a bit, me to visit the book shop in the Hotel de Sully, and to meet up again for lunch at Ma Bourgogne in the Place des Vosges, a Bistro recommended by David Liebowitz on his blog.

As we walked down the main street we passed six armed, and ready-for-action soldiers, marching down the pavement, with sub-machine guns in their arms and fingers on the trigger: it sends shudders down the spine, that it should be necessary.  But as I said to L when planning this trip, after the terrible Charlie Hebdo massacre, Paris would be at its safest at the moment, with every possible precaution being taken.  Incidentally, although I have not mentioned it, as I have been going round Paris, I have seen posters and banners still hanging in different places saying ‘Je suis Charlie': and Place de la Republique is full of graffiti and stuff left over from the earlier demonstrations in support of Charlie.  Their offices are only 700 metres (less than half a mile) away from our apartment.

Anyway, to more pleasant subjects.  I found the Bistro and sat down at a little table with thick, pink linen knapery, and a friendly waiter served me while I waited for L.  No English spoken but we got on fine.  I chose a hot sausage in Beaujolais sauce, hoping against hope that there would not be rusk or wheat in the sausage, used as I am to UK sausages.  L chose a fish mousse. When they came they were lovely: L’s was rather more solid and substantial than she she was expecting, delicious but a ‘meal to go to work on': mine was more modest, a few new potatoes cooked to perfection and sprinkled with a light mustard vinaigrette and chopped chives, and a few slices of sausage in the most divine Beaujolais sauce!!  And of course, the sausage was just pure, solid meat.  None of this rubbishy  stuff padded out with fillers.

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A small plate, but just perfect.  I could not eat all of the potatoes as the sausage was so filling.  Neither of us bothered with dessert, L bought an ice cream from a lovely shop round the corner on our way home.  The table next to ours had three courses plus wine and I cannot imagine how they managed to eat so much!  When the waiter came, he presented us with a bill over five times more than we had eaten: just as I was beginning to protest, he whipped the correct bill from his apron pocket laughing like a drain at his little joke:)  He may not have been able to speak any English but that was not going to stop him from having a laugh with Les Mesdames Anglaises.

We got home mid afternoon after our late, lazy lunch and went to bed for a rest.  For some reason I seem to have caught a horrible chest infection and am feeling really rough.  Given that I am scrupulous about washing my hands when I come in after using public transport I can only think I caught it from handling money at some point in the flat and forgetting to wash my hands immediately afterwards.  Anyway, whatever it is, it is giving me a hard time and a splitting headache.  Poor L is worried she may catch it so I have changed all the towels in the kitchen and am only using certain plates and utensils in order to spare her.

The evening was spent planning our transport for next week’s trips: we decided on train times, found out where the stations were and how to get to them, and are going to buy our tickets from a RATP shop on St. Antoine tomorrow so that we will not have to stand in a queue worrying about getting the right ones at the various stations.

We are going to Giverny on Tuesday which means a bus or the metro to St. Lazare, then a TGV  train to Vernon and a bus from Vernon to Giverny.  Then Thursday will be our trip to Chantilly which means getting to Gare du Nord, a TGV train to Chantilly Gouvieux and a bus from the station to the Chateau.  So we have looked up all bus and metro routes, and decided on a plan of action.

After supper we went out for a walk, marvelling at some of the shop windows as they began stocking special things for Easter.  There are several famous Chocolatieres and Patisseries near us, but their wares are way out of our range.  In Le Notre they began at 35 euros (£25.20) going up to over 50 euros (£36.00).  Most of them serve from six to seven people!!

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Flush with our newly loaded travel cards we decided that today was a good time for a self-guided bus tour.  It was a lovely day with a blue sky and sun, but still quite a chill in the air.  L had found a suggested route on-line which involved several changes and took in quite a few parts that it would be fun to watch from on high.  We did not fancy a tourist or open-top bus, we thought it would be more fun to travel with the ‘locals’, listening to their conversations and soaking up the atmosphere!

Incidentally, we both feel that Paris bus drivers are the best in the world: they always watch out for their passengers, wait until you are seated before starting off, will stop the bus in between stops both for you to mount and dismount and generally take a pride in their work:)

So we began by taking Bus 69 from Bastille, round the corner from our flat,  to the end of the line at Champs de Mars.  This route goes past Rue de Rivoli, Hotel de Ville, Palais Royale, through the narrow gateway into the Louvre, crosses the Seine on the Pont Royale

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past the Musee d’Orsay, through the Place des Invalides,

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and into the Champ de Mars.

There we got off the bus and walked past the Eiffel Tower,

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back to the Seine, to catch the next bus which was going towards Neuilly-Hopital, getting off  at Porte Maillot.

However, after a  few stops we realised that we had got on one going the wrong way, to the Luxembourg gardens in fact.  Just as we  decided to get off the bus and go back to the beginning of this new line to get the correct bus, I saw an interesting looking restaurant out of the window at Montparnasse:

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so we decided to  get off here to eat and decide our strategy over lunch – whether to change our plans and go to the Luxembourg gardens rather than finish our bus tour or to stay with our original plan.

There was the external covered area where smokers and people who only wanted a coffee or drink sat: then, as  we walked in we were blown away by the main restaurant:

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we had walked back 116 years in time: silver, crystal, damask cloths and knapkins, waiters in morning suits etc.  This was a lovely Art  Nouveau restaurant.

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We had an extremely friendly welcome and were offered our choice of seating: we decided on the lighter, brighter ante-chamber

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                              (This photo of Le Montparnasse 1900 is courtesy of TripAdvisor)

How to describe the experience?

Well, it was one of those unexpected, golden moments that serendipity sometimes throws at one.

Everyone around us was French and not much English was  spoken, but we were made to feel  so very welcome:) Friendly waiters.  Friendly people eating around us.  They chatted to us, we chatted to them.  Sitting around a corner all on bench seats probably helped the interactions!   One man was Swedish, married to a French woman who wanted him to show off his English and to practice it while he had an opportunity.  They spend all of their holidays at his summer house back in the South of Sweden, but live here in Paris.  I mentioned that my mother was part Swedish and that we had lived in France for a while when I was very young.  At the end of the meal they got up to leave, so we got up too to shake their hands: the wife kissed me affectionately several times, and said that we are all one world, one people. At another table there were people who I asked for advice on tipping in restaurants in Paris: I apologised for disturbing them and they charmingly said that it was no disturbance and that they were delighted to be able to help.  I know that most people are like this, but I never will understand why so many people I meet in the UK seem to think that French people are surly and unhelpful

L had duck for her lunch,  but I ate a simply cooked piece of beef with some new potatoes and a superb gravy.  We both tried the dessert on which the Restaurant prides itself, the Isles Flotantes.

floating_islands_01988_16x9 According to wikipedia:” this is a European dessert of French origin, a dessert consisting of poached meringue floating on crème anglaise which is prepared with the egg yolks, vanilla, and hot milk, often flavoured with vanilla and briefly cooked.  It  is a light pouring custard used as a dessert cream or sauce.  It is thought to have origins evolving from ancient Romans who used eggs as thickeners to create custards and creams. Its name may derive from the prevalence of sweet custards in English desserts.Creme anglaise p1050164.jpg) Photo from Wikipedia.

On discussion we decided that the weather was cool enough, and by then becoming rather overcast, that we would continue on with our bus tour rather than spend the afternoon in the Luxembourg gardens.  So, feeling rather full, we left to catch the bus back to the Eiffel Tower and then get on a bus going in  the right direction.  This we did, and set off once more for Porte Maillot where the directions told us to disembark.  We found this to be a very busy interchange on the Paris Ring Road, and we sat in a bus shelter for some time waiting for our next bus. It was not really a pedestrian type of place: the roads were four lanes in each direction, and we felt uncomfortable.  We did get rather a searching and odd look from two policemen on motor bikes as they zoomed past, but no other reaction.  Finally our bus came and we set off on the next leg of the journey.

This bus went round the Arc de Triomphe and all down the Champs Elysees which is a street that has no appeal for me at all.  L mentioned how she drove a car full of people round the Arc de Triomphe some years ago and how frightening it had been: I mentioned that my mother used to tell me how she rode her bicycle round it with me sitting in a child seat on the back!

Following instructions, we got off at the bottom at Rond Point Champs Elysees, where there is a sizable roundabout, and walked round and round trying to find our next bus stop.  We have found in the past that getting off a bus in one direction is no guarantee whatsoever that the return bus going in the other direction will have a stop nearby.  Returning to our original bus stop to look at a map we were stopped by a very large, concerned man who tried to turn me round: L immediately expected some kind of scam or pick pocket attempt so she grabbed me by the other arm and hurried me away!! However it turned out that all he had been trying to do was alert me to the fact that a very large and incontinent bird had shat all over one shoulder, down the shoulder blade and onto the skirt of my coat.  Bright yellowy-green and dripping:(

We tried to mop me up as much as possible and then set off once again to look for our bus stop: L’s reading of the map differed completely from mine, so after yet another circle of the roundabout, we decided to follow my understanding!  However, at this point we saw the number of the bus we wanted, and followed it to a stop, nowhere near where either of us would have gone!!  Of course it had gone by then, but we waited and finally caught the correct one, going in the correct direction.  On boarding the bus I was aware of concerned stares from other passengers, and a lady who came to sit next to me suddenly veered away from me in horror: I tried to explain what had happened and then there were smiles and sympathetic grins from all around me, although I took care to keep well away from the back of the seat and to warn any other passengers who came to sit near me about what had happened to my coat.  It was fascinating how much consternation this caused people.

This route took us past the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, through the Place de la Concorde, up Rue Royale to the Madeleine and on to Opera.  We were feeling tired by now and rather shaken up by all the bumping over cobbled roads, often at speed.  At the Opera we  got off to change yet again by walking down the Ave de l’Opera and crossing over onto the Rue de Quatre Septembre where we took the 29 bus in the direction Gare du Lyons (different from our directions) which passed the Bourse, Place des Victoires, Centre Pompidou and back into the Marais.  Here we drove along some very narrow streets passing along Rue Etienne Marcel where I saw both a Bistro Engrenage and the headquarters of the 3rd Arrondisement Police, close together.  Now, was this accidental, or did it have something to do with the series I mentioned before, ‘Engrenages’?  It was very exciting. Two plain clothes detectives were standing smoking and talking outside the police headquarters. Just like on the TV!

It was comforting to pass the Musees Cognacq Jay, Picasso and Carnavalet and to feel so at home once more.  We decided to get off at the Place des Vosges and walk home to stretch our legs after all that sitting: we fell, shattered, into our flat at 5.0 pm having left at 10.30 am.  But we had had a good look at Paris, a wonderful experience at lunch time, and an all round adventure!

I cleaned up my coat in the shower: thank goodness it was wool, which behaved perfectly.  After some tea we confirmed how we wanted to spend Easter Sunday and which outings we felt we wanted to go on.  We booked Easter lunch, tickets for Chantilly Chateau and the Equestrian Performance with a tour of the Grand Stables and both fell on our respective beds to write emails, surf the web, and catch up on note writing. (NB booking those tickets took a couple of hours trying to book online but get the tickets sent to our phones because we had no way of printing.  We did it, but it took both of us, using different pieces of equipment.  We had other days trying to do the same later.)

Whilst lying there in the early evening I heard  the sounds of a string trio playing in one of the other apartments.  The notes echoed round the courtyard in the evening light as the traffic hum dimmed, and floated through my bedroom window.  Quite magical.

What a day of contrasts.

Beside the Bastille there is a wonderful farmers’ market held every Thursday and Sunday morning: we have often been before, and now have our favourite stalls!

So this morning we had earmarked for a shopping trip to get food in: we knew we wanted some vegetables, which all come in fresh from the surrounding countryside, and a roast chicken for lunch.  L wanted some good bread too.  Unfortunately, it was pouring with rain, and dodging umbrellas, both ours and others, made it a complicated and somewhat damp outing.

We bought some French beans, some white turnips, some carrots, some broccoli, some onions, and a lovely chicken.  Then we found an Artisan bread stall and L chose her loaf with care.  Just on impulse I said to them that I didn’t suppose they had any gluten-free bread?  Knowing how the French pride themselves on their bread I expected to be laughed, politely, out of court.  But instantly they said that yes they had some, and produced a loaf.  I bought it expecting it to be like a brick, or rather cakey, but it turned out to be lovely: clearly it had been made with yeast, how I don’t know, but it had that proper bread texture, although it was definitely much harder and heavier than usual bread.  The whole trip was lovely experience, all very cheerful and chatty with the stallholders.   I had hoped for a hardware stall, they used to have a few, to look at kitchen utensils.  I find they can be very useful and nice things to take home from a trip, but today we found none of those stalls.

So we splashed and dripped our way home, where we sat down and had bread, salad and hot roast chicken for lunch.  I loved the look of the turnips so much that I had to take a photo, which L thinks she may paint as a still life when she is home again.

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Incidentally, when I cooked them and the beans the next day, both were just out of this world.  The flavour was so delicate but intense and sweet, that we only ate them with a little sea salt sprinkled on the top.  One forgets how good vegetables can taste.

Over lunch we did some more planning.  As I mentioned before, L wants to eat well to regain her strength and put on a little weight, so we wanted to choose when and where to eat.  We also want to plan a couple of trips out of Paris, and how to spend Easter day: a lot of planning to do.

The rain cleared up a little in the afternoon so we went out for a good two hours walk: first stop was the Metro station to put money on our travel cards, Passe Navigo Découverte. (There is a good article on them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navigo_pass).

We bought these years ago so our photos are getting rather dated, but they are still valid and we need to put money on each week, for the week ahead.  They can be used equally on the Metro, RER and Buses, and save having to buy fares or carnets.  We love them. L thought that it would be better to get them filled up today rather than on Monday when so many people will be at the stations needing tickets, help or directions. We were served by a delightful young man with red hair who I truly believe would have bowed to us if he had had the room and was not in his little cabin on the station:) Such graciousness and old world courtesy he showed us!

We continued walking on through the Marais almost down to Place de la Republique, and back again:  there were great crowds out enjoying the, now dry,  Sunday afternoon – all ages, and many children on scooters or in push chairs.  The centre of the Marais had been closed off to vehicles for the afternoon making it more pleasant, but even so the crowds were rather off putting.

L had read that a tea shop opened on some afternoons at the Swedish Institute.  I remembered having seen the Institute on previous visits whilst on my wanders, so later in our walk we headed off there. Although the day continued grey and chilly we passed a beautiful pink magnolia in full bloom, and later on some lovely flowerbeds in the square Georges Cain, which is opposite the Institute.

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Indeed, the gates were open and there was a board advertising an Exhibition and a Tea Shop: optimistically they had tables and chairs out in the courtyard, but we avoided those and managed to find two stools indoors.

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We were very struck by a poster they had on the wall:

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(Sorry about the blurring, but I am getting used to a new camera and its zoom is not always what I expect).

and also the table cloths and then the tray we used:

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I enquired whether we could buy any such textiles or trays and was told that unfortunately no, as it had all been designed specially for the cafe:

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by Maria Holmer Dahlgren, but that she had a website  that we could visit.  (I did so later but it is under reconstruction, but I will definitely be going back to see what she has to offer!)

I ordered tea and an almond brioche for L and was pleased and surprised to find that they had a super gluten free pear and almond tart and also Rooibos tea, neither of which I was expecting, so I could join her in a little ‘snackerel’ as Pooh Bear would say.  We certainly needed the sit down and the refreshment, as we had walked our feet off.

Then we went into their free exhibition on advertising which was splendid and gave us much food for thought.  When we could tear ourselves away, we staggered home, foot sore and now very tired, where we collapsed for the evening, in front of our laptop and ipads to continue our planning for the rest of the trip.

This morning M and L decided that they would like to go to the Museum of Modern Art.  M is a Graphic Artist and particularly wanted to see some artists’ work there.

I was very tired for some reason, but also wanted them to be able to spend some time just the two of them, perhaps talking about family matters or what not, so I stayed back at the apartment for a lazy morning.   We agreed to meet for lunch back in the Marais at Chez Marianne which serves excellent Mezes.

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When it came time to leave I had a lovely walk deep into the Marais, not bothering with a map hoping to remember my way, which I almost did!  Only one street wrong at the end.  However, walking down our road from the flat I saw more armed soldiers again outside the Synagogue.  They do not stand with their guns at rest, but in their arms, ready for action.  This is so disturbing on so many levels.  In all the years I have been coming to Paris I have never seen anything like this.

Further along, past the Place des Vosges, and across Rue de Turenne, I saw a couple of police cars speeding along with their sirens blaring.  Now, for the last few years I have been watching a series on BBC 4 TV, a French series called, ‘Engrenages’ in French, or ‘Spiral’ in English.  It is shown here in French but with English sub-titles and although it is rather bloody at times, I really enjoy the relationships within the Police Department, the portrayal of the French justice system and the action, a lot of which is shot around the 4th, 3rd and 10th Arrondisements, which I know well.  I have had great fun recognising places in the series.   So as these police cars shot past me I looked inside carefully to check whether any of the actors from the series were inside, just in case they were shooting an episode.  I know, very unlikely, given that there were no cameras etc. but I did not think of that at the time, only how exciting it was!!

When I reached the Bistro L and M were there , keeping a place in the queue as it was very busy, being a Saturday lunchtime.  After ten minutes or so we were seated and ordered a plate to share, with fizzy water to drink.  I had read some Trip Advisor reviews which said that the staff were surly and impolite:  now I have been here at least four times in the last few years and never found this to be the case.  Yes they are very busy, and yes their English  is not brilliant, but they are efficient and fast and the food is excellent, and they want you to have a good meal.

So this plate contains, going clockwise from the Jalepeno pepper sitting upright: thick yoghourt with garlic and cucumber;  Aubergine; Humous; artichoke hearts in orange sauce; a very large meaty beef meatball; a filo pastry triangle containing minced lamb and onions; a thick red pepper, olive and tomato salsa; Taramasalata; and in the middle six falafels sitting on a bed of bulghur with chopped veg.  And of course it came with a plate of flat bread.

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A good time was had by all, and this is before we have even begun to eat:)

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The food was fantastic, the service was excellent, and we had a lovely, lovely time.

After lunch we walked slowly home, window shopping through the oldest part of the Marais, passing queues of Jewish people waiting by outlets in the walls for the famed falafels served in that area, and popping in now and then to look at clothes which we fancied.  But we were restrained and only looked.

We finally meandered back home late afternoon, where of course we had tea, and chatted some more.  In the early evening M took the train back home to Haarlam.  What fun to have three women, one from Holland, one from England and one from California, meeting in Paris to eat lunch.

L and I had an evening planning what we would like to do during our stay in Paris, which involved a lot of time on computers, checking websites and reviews, then after a very light supper, we decided to have an early night.  Given her jetlag I thought that L was doing wonderfully well!

We decided to visit the Orangerie today, then walk up through the Tuileries and over to Rivoli for a hot chocolate at Angelina’s. Since we have another long day out tomorrow I suggested that we have a reasonably easy day today.

Our passes to the Musee d’Orsay include a free pass to the Orangerie and I really want to see the huge Monet paintings for which it was altered and adapted, to compare with what we saw in his gardens yesterday.  Even though it was early Spring in his gardens when we were there, the colours of the willows and reflections on the water in the shade should be similar.

As I am sure many of you know (if I have any readers that is!) the Tuileries Gardens run parallel to the Seine from the Louvre down to the Place de la Concorde: Rue de Rivoli also follows the same route, just outside the Tuileries.

So, we took the Metro to the Place de la Concorde

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and walked up to the Orangerie.

According to the museum’s website, the Orangerie was originally built in 1852 to shelter the orange trees of the garden of the Tuileries which belonged to the Palace of the Louvre.  Citrus trees grown in tubs and wintered under cover were a feature of Renaissance gardens, once glass-making technology enabled sufficient expanses of clear glass to be produced.

During a span of 25 years between the 1890s and 1920s, Monet had been busy painting diverse renditions of the Nymphéas (Water Lilies) in the pond of his gardens at Giverny. The feverish pace of his work produced nearly 250 canvases on this subject.

“Suddenly I had the revelation of how magical my pond is. I took up my palette. Since that time I have scarcely had any other model.”

Claude Monet.

At the end of the First World War he offered to donate eight giant (2x6m) panels of Nymphéas to the French state, as a monument to the end of the war, if a suitable venue could be found for their display.

” Dear and close friend,
I am on the eve of finishing two decorative panels which I wish to sign on the day of Victory, and am asking you to offer them to the State… It’s not much, but it’s the only way I have of taking part in the victory.”

Claude Monet to Georges Clemenceau, November 12th, 1918

Working according to Monet’s exacting specifications  –  ” Imagine a circular room, the dado below the wall molding entirely filled with a plane of water scattered with these plants, transparent screens sometimes green, sometimes mauve. The calm, silent, still waters reflecting the scattered flowers, the colors evanescent, with delicious nuances of a dream-like delicacy.”  –  Clemenceau suggested that Monet install the paintings at the newly-available Orangerie.

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the architect Camille Lefèvre created a space for the works in the form of an oval gallery, whose curved walls would hold the huge paintings, incorporating natural light, plain walls, and sparse interior decoration. The eight paintings are displayed in two oval rooms all along the walls

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(From wikipedia    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mus%C3%A9e_de_l%27Orangerie)

 The Musée de l’Orangerie had been born, although Monet’s paintings were not installed until 1927, a year after the artist’s death, as unwilling to relinquish his final works of art, these water lilies paintings stayed with Monet until his death on December 5, 1926.

The Second World War saw damage to the Orangerie as, in August 1944 during the battle for the Liberation of Paris, five shells fell on the rooms of the “Nymphéas”; two panels were slightly damaged and immediately restored. In 1984, this restoration work was renewed and a general cleaning was effected.  In January 2000, the museum was closed for renovation work, completely reviewed and restructured, and re-opened to the public in May 2006.

This morning there were long queues waiting to visit the Orangerie but with our passes we were allowed to walk straight past them and go in at once.

I just sat for ages looking at parts of the paintings trying to work out the colours and exactly why he had used some of the brush strokes he did. I cropped parts of the photos I took yesterday to compare with parts of his paintings, and when I did so I began to see some of  the colours he had seen.  I could not see them when I was there, or when I looked at the whole photo.  Very interesting!  You will see that I have interspersed some of these cropped photos amongst photos of his paintings to show what I mean.

I also tried out the panoramic view on my new camera.  Sometimes it worked quite well,

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and others very badly, but I am so new to this, I hope I will improve.

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08.04.2015 012Other artists’ work is also hung in the Orangerie but after looking at the Monet paintings we had no more mental room for other pictures, so after an hour or so we left, and walked up through the Tuileries,  (Photo looking up towards the Louvre)

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leaving behind us the large pond at the bottom of the Tuileries where people were enjoying the sunshine:

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turned left past a small cafe and a children’s Merry-go-Round which seem to be a feature of public places in Paris

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and exited onto Rue de Rivoli.

We saw lots of police cars and police motor bikes parked along the street,

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and as we walked under the arches up towards the Louvre and Angelinas we saw more police herding people off the pavement.

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Finally, they placed a cordon across and we all had to stand and wait.  I asked a policeman who was coming and he appeared to say, ‘President aux Etats Unis’.  Then a lady beside me in the crowd said how lovely his wife was.  So I got really excited thinking it was President Obama. But then the policeman began speaking to someone else and I realised he had actually said, the ‘President of La Tunisie’. Such a let down.

Apparently we had exited the Tuileries almost exactly apposite the Hotel Meurice which an extremely up-market hotel: well it would be overlooking the gardens wouldn’t it?  And that is where the President was staying for his two days.  His visit began the day before and he would be going home the next day.

Hoteles de lujo en París |  Le Meurice Paris | Dorchester Collection

(from the website: http://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/paris/le-meurice?gclid=CPj01_zOkcUCFSzMtAod0xQABg)

A tourist who was desperate to get to her tour bus and to find her hotel was unable to understand that the policeman on duty keeping us back did not have the authority to let her past: she could not speak French and he could not speak any other languages and he asked me to translate for her!

08.04.2015 027We waited for a while but then everyone dispersed saying that the plans had changed and that the President was not now coming out: turning round we found that we had been standing just beside Angelina’s so all we had to do was walk straight in, and there was no queue at all, so we were seated immediately.

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By now we felt more like lunch than hot chocolate so I ordered an omelette with truffles and salad and L had a Croque Monsieur.  Hers was delicious she said, but I thought my omelette was rather leathery and not at all light or puffy or fresh. However we were enjoying sitting in such splendid surroundings:

08.04.2015 031 We decided to splash out on dessert and ordered the specialite de la maison, which was ‘Mont Blanc’, a confection of meringue with firstly whipped cream and then chestnut puree piled on top. I also had a de-caff espresso which is something I have developed a taste for while here.  I like the bitterness after a good meal:

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My mother was always very fond of chestnut puree so we have grown up with it, but L had not had it before and was not sure she liked the taste.

The people at the table beside us were an American couple who began to talk to us about the proposed strike starting tomorrow.  We had heard nothing of any strike and became concerned: apparently it is the Air Traffic Controllers who are initiating the strike, but it is becoming a National Transport Strike, including of course all the trains: we are booked to go to the Chateau of Chantilly tomorrow – Thursday, I go on Eurostar on Saturday and L flies out of Charles de Gaule on Sunday.  We decided to leave Angelinas and make our way home to then look up any information we could find out about the strike.

We caught the metro back to St. Paul and wandered down St. Antoine as we both wished to buy a couple of things at the hardware shop.  I wanted a couple of their small paring knives which are so good: in choosing I managed to cut myself and bled all over the place.  How stupid.  Luckily I usually carry tape in my handbag so several strips of that were hastily wound in place just to get me home.

L then went off to Monoprix and I took myself back via the Hotel de Sully, Place des Vosges, and home.

We spent the rest of the afternoon anxiously looking up alternatives in case of transport problems tomorrow and at the weekend.  Finally, we gave up, since we gathered that nothing we read could be relied upon –  SCNF itself suggested that their own website could not be depended on for up to date information!  One thing we did do was to book a taxi each for the day we are meant to be leaving, just in case.  It would make little difference if no planes or Eurostar were running but we felt better having done something.

Having worked out all possible contingencies we finally gave up trying to plan any further.  So we decided to submit to the inevitable, whatever happened, cooked supper and had an early night, to be ready for anything the morrow might bring us.

.

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