Chalk Artist


Chalk artist shares the open space with a dancing group

full“Life without art is stupid”

Paris, the same as many cities around the world that play host to thousands/millions of tourists, is well known for street buskers and entertainers, all hoping to earn a few coins from those passing by. Mostly these buskers are entertaining and it’s fun to stop and look at what they are creating or to watch a mini performance of some sort.

A popular spot for this in Paris is around the Beaubourg and the Stravinsky Fountains. closerOver the years we’ve seen many different folk doing many different things here. The last time we visited, however, this chalk artist stood out. We’ve seen other chalk creations, but none quite as good as this, with its shading and nuances. What do you think?

Interesting too is that his message is in English, so very obviously geared to the tourists. When you think that people will walk all over this creation and that water or rain will wash it away, that this is really ephemeral art, then I believe that it’s well worth it to give the artist some recognition and therefore some coins.

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Tuileries Garden Statues


Part of the gardens, outdoor statues and a wing of the Louvre

Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries)

I’ve written about the Tuileries Garden in Paris before, but these gardens are so lovely and so popular that I want to feature them again, although here I’ll focus on a few of the statues in the gardens.

Here is one called Annibal or Hannibal by Sebastien Slodtz (1655-1726). It’s marble done in 1722 and placed in the Tuileries the same year. What’s interesting is that many of these outdoor sculptures have been outdoors for so long.


gardentoLPart of the fun of being in Paris for a while is strolling through the beautiful Tuileries Garden, which we do every time we visit, regardless of the weather. Created by Catherine de Medicis as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564, it was opened to the public in 1667 and became a public park after the French Revolution. Parisians immediately loved it as a place to relax, meet, celebrate and promenade, and this continues to this day.

The gardens are a “happening” place almost any time of the year, but especially in warmer weather. These lovely gardens are free to the public, well loved and well cared for and you’ll often see a group of gardeners hard at work, cutting, pruning, planting, raking. From about mid-March, when the lawns are just greening and the trees budding, the gardeners already have the flower beds beautifully planted so they are colorful, and this continues way into the late autumn.

Wide straight gravel walkways lead from the Arc du Carrousel at the edge of the Louvre gardenpondMuseum, to Place de la Concorde, with views all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. The paths are lined with flower beds, swathes of lawn, avenues of trees, and meander around huge circular fountains that are fringed with white marble or bronze statues of saints, Romans, nymphs, men with beasts etc.

Playgrounds with trampolines, a musical carrousel, chairs a-plenty, four outdoor cafes, and various food/drink kiosks all make it very people-friendly. Locals flock here—groups of school kids, people with kids in strollers or running around, bikers, young and old, dogs; tourists by the gazillion; youth on roller blades; folk with icecreams. People sit by the fountains, or pull up a chair to read or to have a nap.

The last time we were in the gardens we stopped to look more closely at some of the statues, all very interesting, with a theme and a story (many of which are battles and victories of some sort). We’ve never really done that before, and it seems that for most locals (and visitors even) the statues are just background sights: they are just there, and yet they do help to make the gardens what they are and add to their character.

Return from the Hunt, bronze 1888, by Antonin Carles (1851-1919), placed in the Tuileries 1890.


He seems to be shouting “victory”!

Theseus fighting the Minotaur, by Etienne Jules Ramey (1796-1852), marble 1821-1827. Placed in the Tuileries 1832.


Looking very heroic!


Tigress carrying a peacock to her babies, by Auguste Nicolas Cain (1821-1894), bronze 1873-1876, placed in the Tuileries 1884.


She seems very proud of herself

Tiger bringing down a crocodile, by Auguste Nicolas Cain (1821-1894), bronze 1869, placed in the Tuileries 1874.


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Twinings Tea Room in Paris



teascones2Twinings Tea Room

Feel like a little bit of England in the heart of Paris? Feel a hankering for the tea-room atmosphere and some tasty scones? Well, this is just the place.

I have been into the WH Smith English Bookstore on rue de Rivoli (opposite the Tuileries Gardens) many times over the years, especially if looking for English language travel books. It is France’s largest English bookshop, which opened here in 1903. WH Smith became part of the ex-pat life in Paris, and many celebrities and intellectuals (for example Marlene Dietrich, Jane Birkin, Woody Allen, Isabelle Adjani) visited to enjoy tea and scones. Sadly, the famous tea-room closed for about 26 years, so when we visited before we never even thought about having tea.



A courtly painting on one wall

But, in October 2016 a tea-room re-opened upstairs and the proprietors called it Twinings Tea Room. WH Smith worked in partnership with Twinings in London to make this possible.

Point to note: In 1717, at 216 Strand, London, Thomas Twining—ahead of his time—opened the first address in the western world that was dedicated to tasting tea and where women were allowed. It’s still there today.

One day this past spring, we had been in the Tuileries Gardens and thought that, just for fun, we would try to have coffee in Angelina’s, where Coco Chanel famously had a regular table. Two things changed our minds: Angelina’s (226 rue de Rivoli) is really rather over-priced we discovered, plus the Twinings sign beckoned to us and we decided to go there instead.



queenIt was a great idea. The Twinings Tea Room is upstairs in three beautifully decorated rooms, done by combining contemporary forms with a strong salute to the past. So, we see coats-of-arms, plaster moldings and original carved woodworks, and colorful furniture with modern shapes. There’s even a photo of young Queen Elizabeth! Patrons can peruse a range of books, English daily newspapers, magazines, stationery and greeting cards. It’s a great way to unite the worlds of books and teas.

The Tea Room serves different things all day. How about Scottish porridge for breakfast? For brunch or lunch, they offer salad du jour, quiche du jour, sandwiches, Scotch Eggs, Welsh Rarebit, and a Ploughman’s lunch, to name a few. For Afternoon Tea you can choose from an assortment of puddings, pies, crumbles, and of course scones with cream and jam.


They offer a large range of all kinds of teas, but we just opted for two Earl Grey teas, which came in a lovely glass teapot, and the Cream Tea—two scones with jam, cold butter and cream. Plenty.

It’s a fun place to sit and relax, chat, catch up on my journal and enjoy a real cup of tea and a scone.


Catching up on my journal

EBlytonAn extra fun find (not linked to tea, but related to books): We found a shelf with new Enid Blyton books (anyone remember the wonderful Enid Blyton kids’ books?). These are very modern and obviously geared towards adults, with titles like “Five Forget Mother’s Day”, “Five on Brexit Island”, and “Five Go Gluten Free”. What fun!

WH Smith, 248 rue de Rivoli

Closest Metro: Tuileries

Bookshop open Mon-Sat 9:30am-7:30pm, Sunday 12:30-7pm

Tea Room open Mon-Sat 9:30am-7pm, Sunday 12:30-6:30pm.



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Cafe near the Grand Palais, Paris


The Grand Palais, Paris


Le Grand Palais restaurant


Rodin exhibition in the Grand Palais

Le Grand Palais Restaurant,  21 Ave D. Franklin Roosevelt

If you are planning on visiting the Grand Palais and are looking for somewhere for lunch or a snack, this is a good place. We were going to a special exhibit on Rodin at the Grand Palais, and had planned to eat in the café in the Petit Palais opposite (where we’ve eaten before and really like it). But, it was a Monday and the Petit Palais is closed on Mondays.

So, we headed here instead. It’s on the street that runs behind the Grand Palais, and we’d noticed it earlier as we walked past the Palais de la Découverte. Turns out it was a good alternative.


Outdoor seating under red awnings



Salade Nicoise with fresh anchovies


salade chevre miel

Seating is both inside and outside, under bright red awnings that cast a reddish glow over everything. We opted for a table outside even though it was a little cool. Luckily we were right under a heater!

Service was friendly and quick and we enjoyed our salads: I had a salade nicoise; and Rod a salade chevre miel (goat cheese with honey). With a pichet of rose wine and 2 coffees, the total was just under 50 euros.

Metro: Franklin Roosevelt


Even the coffee has a reddish tinge from the awning!

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Quiet Places in Paris: The Swiss Valley


This garden is next to the imposing Palais de la Decouverte



The garden’s actual name is Jardin de la Nouvelle France

Quiet Corners of Paris: The Swiss Valley

One of the pleasures of wandering around Paris is finding small squares and gardens in unexpected places. These quiet green spaces add another dimension to this beloved city, which can feel frenetic and over-run with people at times.

Each time we visit, Rod and I try to find another out-of-the-way quiet garden or small park. On our latest visit we found this one, thanks to Elaine Sciolino’s “Hidden Gardens of Paris”.

Sciolino calls this La Vallée Suisse (the Swiss Valley)—not sure why. A sign at the edge of the garden tells us it’s actually called Jardin de la Nouvelle France. Its history dates from 1616, when Marie de Medicis decided to create a country-style path on marshy ground. It was updated in 1859 in the Haussmannian style.


Large sculpture with Alfred Musset



Steps down into the garden are to the right and behind the sculpture

We got out the Metro Line 1 at Franklin D Roosevelt and walked down Avenue Franklin D Roosevelt towards the River Seine. First we passed the very imposing Palais de la Découverte, in the rear section of the Grand Palais. It’s a wonderful interactive science museum now.

After that we found a large outdoor sculpture of Alfred Musset, the romantic poet. He is gazing on a group of his admirers and muses: probably the most famous of them was George Sand. Just to the right of the statue are some narrow, uneven stone steps that lead down to a small hidden garden, or “valley”.



Note the miniature waterfall

path2It’s quiet, green and leafy, and a very soothing place. A path runs along a small stream, into which a miniature waterfall gently cascades. Old weeping beech trees shade some large rocks on the edge of the pool. Flowering bushes add to the feeling of quiet beauty. The whole is surrounded by tall evergreens and maples, through which we can just see the outline of the Palais.

There were very few people in this tiny park, so we really did feel a kind of solitude, and it’s almost a shock when you walk back up on the other side and find many people walking around, workmen coming to the back of the Palais and trucks parking.


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Vannes: Crêperie St Vincent




Another creperie in Vannes

We discovered galettes while living in Paris and have always loved them as a pleasant lunch. We knew that the probable origin of this tasty dish is Brittany, so on our first visit to Brittany we were eager to try them there too.

Our first stop was Vannes and while wandering around the old city the first day we passed a couple of crêperies, including Crêperie Saint Vincent. We took note, as it looked attractive from outside and was easy to find again as it’s on rue Saint Vincent, which leads directly to the St Vincent Gate and through to Place Gambetta that faces the marina. See my earlier post on St Vincent in Vannes here


Inside Creperie St Vincent


Rod M at our table


Poster about ble noir (buckwheat)

On another day for lunch we decided to eat there and it was a great choice. It’s a pretty place in white and blue with interesting pictures and posters, with seating downstairs and upstairs inside, and some seating outside too. We opted for inside as it was quite windy but some people sat outside and the wait staff happily ferried food out.

Our galettes and a dessert crêpe were very good, so we were very happy that we came and tasted “from the source’, as it were. Galettes are a kind of crepe made from buckwheat flour (farine de blé), sometimes mixed with regular wheat flour (maximum 30%). Buckwheat is not actually wheat as it is not a grass. The plant is related to sorrel, knotweed and rhubarb and it’s the grain-like seeds that are eaten. Its origins appear to be in Southeast Asia many thousands of years ago, and it is still very popular in Japan, China and Russia. It spread to Europe and apparently has been known in France since about the 12th century.


Cider poster


Viv M about to enjoy the galette

Vivscrepe2I had the special galette (shrimp, and vegetables in a curry sauce), Rod a galette complète (cheese, ham, egg), and we each had a small green salad. Galettes are traditionally served with (hard) cider, served in large ceramic cider cups, but we opted for a pichet of wine. We finished off with a shared flambée crepe and a coffee each. The total for all of that was only 38.10 euros. Very well priced we thought.

A great crêperie we thought, with the added bonus of helping us learn about St Vincent in Vannes.

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Vannes: St Vincent Ferrier



Walking towards Cathedral St-Pierre


Old city gate at Place Gambetta has a statue of St Vincent

I wrote a general introduction to Vannes earlier (see here ). It’s a lovely place, for many reasons, as I explained.


St Vincent at the top of the gate

Another interesting feature we noticed all around the city is the frequent reference to St Vincent, and he seems to be part of the fabric of this city. For example, we found a statue of the saint high on the gate, at the end of rue St Vincent, which leads from the city to Place Gambetta and the marina. So we decided to try and find out who this saint was and why he is important here.

We started at the Cathedral St-Pierre, built in the Flamboyant-Gothic style but with neo-Gothic additions. At the ornate front entrance is a statue of St Vincent that welcomes people in, telling us that he is obviously important here. Inside we got a pamphlet on St Vincent Ferrier, which was pretty informative.


Cathedral St-Pierre


St Vincent welcomes all to the Cathedral


Bust of St Vincent in Cathedral St-Pierre (on his tomb)

Turns out he was a Spanish monk born in Valencia in January 1350. He was obviously very intelligent, studied hard, and joined the Dominicans of Valencia, taking his first religious vows at age 18. By age 28 (1378) he was an ordained priest, with a doctorate in theology and knew Latin, Hebrew and physics. In those times (1378-1415) the church was divided between three rival popes (one in Rome, one in Avignon, one in Pisa), a situation that Vincent realized was not good for the church. So one of his missions was to try and heal the schism. At this time, too, the One Hundred Years War between the kings of France and England was wreaking havoc on the country. So, Vincent’s other mission was to travel the roads of Spain and France, calling for reconciliation and peace.

Vincent travelled extensively in both countries, getting as far north as Franche-Comte and Savoy in France. In 1418 he arrived in Brittany, preached in Vannes and then all over the province, finally arriving back in Vannes in 1419.

StVstatue copy


St Vincent’s house in Vannes

StVhousesignHe was tired from all the walking and preaching and felt that he wanted to get back to Valencia before he died. But, a storm on the Morbihan Gulf forced his craft to return to Vannes. The city gave him a small house on Place Valencia, close to the Cathedral. Sadly, after a few days he died there, on April 5, 1419.

Vannes and the surrounding area organized a very solemn funeral for him in the Cathedral, as he was already considered a saint here. The location of his grave changed several times in the Cathedral but since 1956 it has been in the rotunda Renaissance Chapel. Its official name is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. We visited it, and it is still very solemn as it is a place of pilgrimage in his honor. It’s a circular space, all in grey stone, with a high ceiling, and little decoration other than the bust of St Vincent on his tomb. In the Cathedral there are some pictures and stained-glass windows depicting scenes from his life, but we have no photos of those. We did, however, see this banner/panel on the pillar near the entrance to the chapel.



Rotunda chapel with St Vincent tomb

We then found Place Valencia near the Cathedral and the house that he lived in briefly. It’s another pretty square in Vannes, with timber-framed houses and small streets leading off it. Standing there quietly, it is possible to imagine life those hundreds of years ago and to imagine an old priest coming here to rest.

Apparently the city has embraced him as their own.

We also had lunch at a creperie called Creperie Saint Vincent one day (see next post).



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