Monthly Archives: June 2011

We will always have Paris [and Le Marais] (Europe ’11 – Part 4)

We will always have Paris [and Le Marais] (Europe ’11 – Part 4)

Rue des Rosiers, le Marais

When you travel to France as we do every year, you often get shopping requests from friends. Occasionally, these requests send you to special stores or neighborhoods you have not visited for a while. This week, honoring such a request, I traveled to my favorite Right Bank neighborhood, Le Marais (the marsh.) A long time ago, that area, flat as a pancake like most of Paris, used to get flooded by the Seine river. These days are long gone, thankfully.

Le Marais is easy to get to. A mere 15-minute walk from le Louvres, It is flanked on one side by La Bastille neighborhood, and on the other side by les Halles (the former food market, and the location of the Modern Art museum, Le Pompidou Center a.k.a. Beaubourg.)

Le Marais has it all; quaint medieval streets left untouched by the great Paris remodel undertaken by Napoleon III and his wingman Baron Haussmann in the mid 1860s; more boutiques and restaurants than one will ever need; world-class museums; trendy art galleries; gorgeous architecture; excellent people-watching. Le Marais, in a nutshell, is Paris at its best. 

I fell in love with le quartier (the neighborhood) a long time ago, while I was a college student in Paris. I will get back to this part of the story later on. For now, I have to take you out of the St. Paul Metro station, off of bustling Rue de Rivoli, and to the heart of the Jewish neighborhood, la rue des Rosiers (street of the rosebushes.) Fleeing persecutions, thousands of Eastern European Jews flocked to this area from the late 19th to the mid 20th century. It was known as “The Pletzl” (the small square.) They settled down and many specialized in the clothing industry. Le Marais became a thriving commercial area. During World War II, le Pletzl and its population were targeted by the Nazis. Many died in concentration camps. 

Today, la rue des Rosiers is still the heart of the Jewish community in Paris. It is a lively street, neighbors chatting with neighbors, shopkeepers standing outside their door on a sunny afternoon, tourists, and a French Girl from Seattle…

I told you I was sent on a special errand by a friend. We will name her “Madame M.” She asked me if I could bring back a special fragrance that can only be found at the Paris boutique of Miller & Bertaux, a business created in the mid-1980s. When I looked up the address, I was delighted to find the shop in Le Marais. What a fun visit I had in the small, but elegant boutique! I was treated to an informative lesson in perfume-making as Julie, the friendly salesperson, introduced me to Miller & Bertaux’s exclusive fragrances. Not only will “Madame M.” get a supply of her favorite perfume, but I also found one pour moi

Miller & Bertaux’s fragrances

A seasonal selection of comfortable but trendy clothes
Since I was in Le Marais, I decided to make the most of the afternoon, and took a stroll in the neighborhing streets. Everywhere I looked, there were boutiques with their doors open, enticing customers with “Soldes” (sale) signs. Ever since the Middle Ages, sales have been regulated by the French government. Shopkeepers are allowed to run sales twice a year (do you hear that, Macy’s?). When the time comes for the summer sale in late June, customers flock to local stores! I was tempted often, but was very good, and only made one purchase at a favorite boutique (my Besties will understand why I had to get it when they see it.)

J’adore le Comptoir des Cotonniers!

Les soldes! Les soldes!
Finally, I arrived at the heart of Le Marais, la Place des Vosges (the Vosges square), the oldest square in Paris. This is the French capital at its most elegant. A long time ago, le Marais was an aristocratic district of Paris where French nobility lived in beautiful mansions, complete with private gardens, les hôtels particuliers. Many became museums where [it is common in Paris] art collections compete with the buildings for the visitors’ attention. 

Hôtel Salé (built 1656-1659) hosts the Picasso museum

A favorite: Hôtel Carnavalet, and the Paris historical museum

The Picasso museum is undergoing major renovations and is closed for another year. I went to the Carnavalet museum last December. There was another option: French novelist Victor Hugo’s house on la Place des Vosges. In the USA, he is best known for writing Les Misérables. In France he is famous as a playwright, poet, novelist, and a man of strong political convictions.

Victor Hugo lived at the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée from 1832-1848.

While Victor Hugo lived in le Marais, in this dark mansion overlooking la Place des Vosges, or as it was known then, la Place Royale (the Royal Square) he enjoyed amazing views from his windows:

La Place Royale was built between 1605 and 1612

The gardens in the middle of the square were added in 1682

Four fountains, one in each corner of the gardens

Louis XIII: La Place Royale was completed during his reign

Under the arcades, antique shops, galleries, and cafés

I mentioned earlier that I had a special reason to love le Marais neighborhood. 

In 1985, after I returned from Atlanta, GA where I completed part of my college education, I completed my Master’s Degree at the Charles V Institute of English and American Studies. The Institute belonged to a major Parisian university. The building was located a few streets away from la Place des Vosges, in le Marais. My friends and I were lucky enough to study (and cram for finals) in this amazing neighborhood. Studying under the watchful eye of King Louis XIII in the beautiful gardens must have helped us focus!

A trip down memory lane for this French girl

Charles V Institute of English and American Studies
As I walked the old streets, I was happy to find some of my favorite landmarks… The American grocery store where I (and local expatriates) could satisfy our cravings for Cheerios, cream cheese, or  pumpkin-based products. 

A legendary American grocery store on the Right Bank
The old café where some of the Institute students would meet for drinks and lively conversation.

Le Temps des Cerises

It was time to go and meet Le Husband near la Bastille a short walk away. We had tickets to a fun show – delivered entirely in English – “How To Become a Parisian in One Hour.”  I found out about it in the New York Times, of all places! 

Let’s save this story for another day. We will be leaving Paris on Friday morning. This has been a successful visit on all accounts, and I am bringing enough memories and photos to fuel many more Paris stories when we go back to Seattle in July. 

Thank you for taking a stroll in le Marais with me today. I have enjoyed our walk through the old streets and I hope you have too.

Le Marais 
Au revoir, Paris!

I love Paris in the springtime,
I love Paris in the fall.
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.
— Cole Porter, Can-Can (1960)

14 Responses to We will always have Paris [and Le Marais] (Europe ’11 – Part 4)

  1. OH V- WITHOUT A DOUBT….i have enjoyed this little stroll with you….my mouth is hanging open…thanks as always for taking us along…safe travels with the next leg of your journey!!PLEASE keep us posted !

  2. What a gift for me for today! My favourite place in the world. I’ll pour myself some green tea, and examine the photos over and over 🙂

  3. Merci beaucoup for yet another delightful stroll through Paris. I have fond memories of Le Marais with Steve and Heather. It was winter; Marita and I will have to put it on our agenda for Paris this September. BTW, what is the name of the fragrance for your friend? You know me, always on the lookout for fragrance and makeup. Bonne chance et sante.

  4. v- yes i have spent time in the marais- with a boy- a french boy- whom i had met in philadelphia 2 years prior to my visit. then again, with my roommate from college. but truly the fondness you have for the area is stirring my curiosity for a more indepth look and oh the perfume-like your reader cherie-perfume is, was and always will be a favorite and necessary indulgence of mine!!! (as we touched on with your coco post!).if you asked me, as this post has got me thinking, i truly couldn’t say which quartier is my favorite….i’m going to have to noodle that for a while. thanks for asking…travel safe and PLEASE PLEASE KEEP TAKING US ALONG.

  5. g- There are so many wonderful neighborhoods in Paris, each wlth a distinct atmosphere. Sometimes, you will hear French people say they like a particular section of a neighborhood. For example my MIL, Mutti, loves the 17th arrondissement and she can tell you exactly what streets she would live on 😉 Paris is a great city. I prefer to experience it as a visitor, with time and a little money, though. Living there for ten years was not always as enjoyable as it could have been. I am sure you can guess why (high prices, crowds, traffic and lines everywhere.) Such is life in big cities I am afraid. I feel fortunate to go back every year and get to enjoy Paris as it should be enjoyed. A bientot. V.

  6. Merci Véronique, pour ce retour au Marais… j’aime ce quartier… pendant un bon moment notre adresse dans Paris était au 70 rue Quincampoix… à deux pas de là…

    We loved it and we miss it, but the apartment got too small, and it was impossible to park there, so expensive underground parking became a costly necessity, finally forcing us to move out of Paris. But we remember our days there fondly. Did a post in which the Carnavalet Museum figures a while back :

    Hope you are having a lovely time in Paris ! Are you here all summer ? We are off next week to the Cévennes, can’t wait…

  7. I enjoyed this little tour with you. I used to go to La Riviere Enchantee with my mother every summer when I was growing up. Just less than 6 weeks ago we rented a little studio in the Marais, one street below Rue des Rosiers, so everything looked so familiar. It was warm then but not as warm as you mention.

  8. Owen– Thank you for stopping by. We are in Sarlat this week, enjoying the beautiful Black Perigord. Just arrived last night. Can’t wait to see more. We were here three years ago and have been dying to return. Just visited your post on le Carnavelet and left a note on your blog. Bon voyage dans les Cévennes!
    Vagabonde– Welcome back. I love to imagine how many children over the years have sat in those little boats on La Rivière Enchantée. I do the same thing in Le Jardin des Tuileries when i watch the children play with the small wooden boats. 😉 Le Marais is always a good pick for an apartment rental. I am definitely staying there next time I stay in Paris! A bientot!

  9. I stumbled upon your blog today because I was feeling particularly nostalgic for Le Marais and googled “Le marais” in google images so that I could take virtual tour of my favorite quartier. I lived in the marais–directly across from the Saint-Paul metro–in 2009 when I was in Paris for a semester abroad. In the 5 short months that I lived there, le marais became one of my favorite places in the world, and more of a home to me than anywhere I have lived in the US.

    When I moved back to the States, I think that I left a piece of my soul somewhere in the 4me. I hope to return some day to make myself once again complete. Until then, I have your blog. I loved your take on the marais; your thoughts and sentiments reflect how I feel about the quartier. I look forward to digging further into your blog posts and reading your thoughts.

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8 Responses to London, I have missed you so! (Europe ’11 – #1)

  1. London is one of my favorite cities (definitely in the top 3 I think). I always forget how big it is; there is so much to see and so much to do, but it looks like you got quite a bit covered.
    And I have a picture of myself in front of that Peter Pan statue from when I was a little girl 🙂

  2. I so enjoyed your travelog of London – it brought back great memories of my trip there with Heather. Such a wonderful city, I’m hoping Steve and I go next year. I’m glad you are all having such a great time. Bonne chance!

  3. sadly this is one city i have not yet been blessed to visit…soon i hope! although, i felt i had a personal peek into her vibe from your wonderful details. hailing from philadelphia, our city is very similar to that of london…our founding fathers had something to do with that…our squares, our parks, our row homes all very english in style.

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26 Responses to France facts the tourist office does not want you to know

  1. To my wonderful readers– My apologies. I was going to “tweak” a few things in this post last night but the Blogger software has been temperamental the last couple of days. I have not been able to edit the story properly. I hope you enjoy this version anyway. Merci beaucoup– Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

  2. all I can muster right now is WOW and double WOW!! perfect the way it is…and ALWAYS enjoyable. i suspected you were a teacher(in france) because of your methodology/presentation-simply superb(truly) or maybe very agreeable to my style of learning…i think i would fly out to the west coast for one of your classes, really! now- i was so excited by this post, i have to go back and reread it(which i do often with your material), so you might see another comment…-g from the opposite coast

  3. each time i have been to france, i have never encountered the typical french stereotype people talk about. what i have come to realize, with any foreign travel i have done , is the country’s people will often reflect my mood-my temperment on any given day-say my nerves are short because of communication frustrations, i tend to go right to “oh gosh why don’t they speak english”-(well maybe because you’re in spain). if it’s a good day for instance-well rested and map reading has been spot on , my horrific spanish seems just fine. i hope that makes sense. and on the other end of that spectrum, i get irritated that every loud talking, short and sneaker wearing, impatient, temper weilding person is assumed to be an american. simply put all groups possess a little bit of the “offending” group…i was in the south of spain this feb/march and yes there were very loud americans, brits, french(did i just say that-but true), spainish and germans…my point is they are on holiday- everyone is excited -stressed-happy or something… so the volume is uped as a result and as for some of the fashions i saw, i would never dream of wearing any element of some ensembles, but i admire their own personal sense of style. if people want the comforts of home- then go with the familar- but i think travel is meant to take us out of our comfort zone stretch us a bit. i so enjoy reading it all from someone who experiences it from both sides. when are you going to france-i loved the december posts from the last vacation…personally i cannot wait to “hear all about it”! are you renting the same flat?well enough from me-as stated before another one straight out of the park. thanks again!-georgeanne(g)

  4. Brilliant Véronique!

    I have travelled to France a number of times, and can say with confidence that you have captured the most obvious nuances of the French culture that an American might encounter. I have found the French to be nothing short of friendly, polite, helpful, but most importantly, authentic.

    Unfortunately, some aspects of the Western culture have already permeated parts of France (Starbucks, McDonalds, etc) but there continues to be a strong sense of cultural pride throughout the country which makes this such a unique and charming place to visit.

    Thank you for summing up a fantastic set of travel tips!

  5. Merci for contributing g. It’s funny. I go to Spain often and, like you, have always seen “groups” behaving wildly. The French were among the lot, of course. What is it with people traveling abroad in groups? I guess you just clown around more for your friends’ benefit, or maybe because there is anonymity in large numbers. As for dress codes by the Mediterranean in the summer… Ouch. Painful, really. 😉

  6. Great blog!! I was a little nervous my first trip to France, but it was wonderful! The people were lovely and friendly and we never felt like we were treated badly. Two years later I got to go again and thought maybe the first time I went was a fluke. Nope! People were just as wonderful, friendly and helpful.I can’t wait to go back….oh wait I am!! 16 days from today 🙂


  7. To Anonymous– Thank you for visiting le Blog. I am happy you have enjoyed such fun and positive travel experiences in La Belle France. France is changing, that’s true, but it’s not always a bad thing. I remember the time when a lot of families did not have a personal computer (and let alone an internet connection) at home. The Minitel was handy, but I prefer the internet.
    Kimbery– Thank you for your post. I am glad you enjoy going back to France on a regular basis. So do I, of course, but you already knew that 😉

  8. As usual, a very interesting and informative post. As you know, I love Paris and other cities in France and have been a few times. I have always been treated well and firmly believe you receive what you put out in life, which includes France! The French appreciate Americans’ attempts at speaking French even if it includes pulling out your dictionary to find a word or two. I am looking forward to my next trip in September!

  9. Cherie– Merci beaucoup. I totally agree with you. “You receive what you put out in life.” – This being said, you do bump into the occasional jerk, here in the US or in France. When that happens, I say just move on. One thing that never works in France is to try and set people straight. I speak the language fluently and don’t even attempt it. A favorite of mine is: “Merci pour rien.” Thanks for nothing. I use it here too now and then. 😉

  10. FANTASTIC, FANTASTIC post! So well written and very true!
    And I’ve recently gotten my French husband hooked on Dallas thanks to my dvd collections (I’m preparing him for our trip to Texas this summer… hee hee!)

  11. I hate that people label citizens of one country as something, because it is not true. When I travelled to Argentina, I was told that they had the “Argentine Proud” and that they were pedant too. In the buenos aires apartments I was in, with Argentine roommates, I found no arrogant person at all. We have to get rid of the stereotypes and get to know the people by talking to them!

  12. I agree Nikki. Thanks for posting. I guess it is somewhat comforting to hang on to stereotypes and adopt them as “universal truth” about other people. It is certainly easier than making the effort to actually go to a foreign country, do some research about it, and meet the locals, don’t you think? I have always wanted to see Argentina. Maybe one day.

  13. All I can say is Excellent read! Bravo. So true. I just came back from souhtern France AKA Occitania. Only met one kind of rude man that talked bad about americans. One out of so many more that were super nice. Isn’t there always one in every group.

  14. Well done blog, Vero. Bravo. It was very entertaining. You really should write a book.
    -Jean Le Vigernon

  15. I really enjoyed your post. I wish all your comments were printed on a small brochure and given to all tourists going to France. One thing you could add is that when you get a drink you most often don’t get ice unless you ask, and sometimes they may ask “how many ice cubes?” It was very warm in Paris a couple of weeks ago and my husband who needed a really cold drink had to go to MacDonald to get one. Another thing I’d like to add is that most French people who don’t speak English won’t know if someone is American, Canadian, Australian, English etc. So if someone is not pleasant don’t think it is because they think you are an American, they don’t know from which Anglophone country you come from. Actually I was in the market and there were a bunch of school kids there speaking English – I had a hard time understanding them and asked – they were from Scotland. Also, I found on this last trip that many young people spoke English and were quite ready to help us with directions (I was speaking to my husband in English and they did not know I was French – they could not get my accent…) Also, there are many people wearing tee-shirts with English written on them – it is the style right now. I was trying to buy a tee-shirt for my grandson with something written in French, and I never could find one. It is true about Paris and the rest of France – it is like being in New York or a small town in a Midwest town – it’s very different.

  16. Merci Vagabonde! I did forget about the ice cubes, didn’t I? I watched two American tourist ask for ice cubes once on the Champs-Elysees. The Parisian waiter (who was a bit of a smartaleck if you ask me) came back a few minutes later with TWO ice cubes on a small plate. He proceeded to place them on the table with decorum and a loud: “Voila mesdames.” I thought that was funny, but I am not sure the poor ladies agreed. 😉

  17. This is lovely. I know that I am a little late coming to this article but I only just found it.
    I am an ex-pat Brit married to a French man and living in rural France. I sometimes despair of the negativity of visitors. French administration is frustrating even for the French but I moved here because I wanted a slower pace. I got a slower pace so why complain.
    This post should be required reading for all Americans and Brits coming to France.

  18. Bonjour ! Great article. I wish someone had written this 20 years ago when we moved to ‘la belle France’ . We enjoyed 3 years of French living but too much of it was spent learning these basic facts. For example, no matter how badly you need the use of la toilette never forget to say ‘Bonjour’ before asking directions. Otherwise you could be reprimanded. The mistakes, the challenges, all worth it… best 3 years of my life! I’ve since returned on my own, staying a month at a time in a rented gîte or wonderful B&B, visiting dear friends. Je m’ennuie de france magnifique et les gens .

    • Thank you for stopping by! It’s always heart-warming for this French Girl to hear stories like yours. I am happy you look at your three years in France fondly, and that you return on a regular basis. Come back soon, here, or to la Belle France! 🙂

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From Paris to Bear country – A series – Part 2

From Paris to Bear country – A series – Part 2

Is there more to Woodinville than rural living? Peut-être (maybe). If you read the last post you may remember the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce website states: “[Woodinville offers] rural living in an urban setting.” Not to disagree with the Chamber of Commerce, but the town scores more points in the rural living/outdoor recreation category than in the urban…

13 Responses to From Paris to Bear country – A series – Part 2

  1. Fun reading about Woodinville from a French girl’s perspective. I always wondered where the centre ville was and now I know that there isn’t one!

  2. Ahh Little house on the Prairie, happy memories. I did not think, they had roundabouts in the States, they seem to prefer intersections, most Americans seem to struggle with them when they come to Europe, especially l’Arc de Triumphe, always amusing! Roundabout education most definitely needed!

  3. Thank you for visiting and for your comment, Dash. It’s true, there are not that many roundabouts here, at least on the West Coast. I must say Woodinville has made it even more challenging by adding three back to back! As for the Arc de Triomphe, I can honestly say driving there should scare anyone in their right mind. My brother is the only person I know who will go around it twice (with his sister -Moi- screaming next to him with her eyes closed) “just for fun!”

  4. Great read! I’m in the south of France visiting my mother but have to go back soon to the father land in the southwest. I always end up missing the centre ville big time! =) moi.

  5. My first visit to your blog and I found it delightful. This little town of yours looks very pretty. I have been to Seattle a couple of times but we stayed in town – I had read about the wineries. I also took a quick look at your posts in French and I’ll come back to read them when I am caught up reading all my friends’ blogs as I rarely hear any French around here (near Atlanta.)

  6. Merci Vagabonde (what a pretty name) and welcome! There is a special place in my heart for Atlanta where I studied in college 25 years ago as an exchange student. I need to go back soon and make sure “my American family” still recognizes my son when they see him. Come back anytime and do let me know what you think about the posts en francais.

  7. v- this was SIMPLY incredible…again i say to you WELL DONE!! i just love your presentation of information on such various topics and your own take on them. i cannot express how i ENJOY time spent here…the blog looks great…the comments are also nice reading and your fan base is growing…and to think i’ll be able to say i “knew” her when…SERIOUSLY-just GREAT!!enjoy your weekend and hope to be reading again REAL SOON. thanks for all the time and effort from one very grateful reader.-g

  8. g. — Thank you, as always, for the encouraging words and enthusiastic comments. I do believe you are right: my fan base is growing. I am flattered, and happy, as i am meeting pretty cool people along the way, and discovering great blogs at the same time. I am off to Europe soon and will be posting during the trip. This has become a bit of an addiction I must confess. Bon weekend to you too. Come back soon.

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