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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Vannes is a Ville Fleurie


Vannes, along the river


Vannes—flower box on bridge


A one-flower town

Background: What are Villes Fleuries?

The ‘towns and villages in bloom’ award (ville fleurie) is given to French places that make a special effort to create a pleasant natural environment for both residents and visitors by focusing on plants, flowers and open areas within the town.

The awards range from 1❀ to 4❀❀❀❀ (4❀❀❀❀ is the highest). There are many places that have received 1❀ and 2❀❀, fewer receive 3❀❀❀, and about 200 that have received the prestigious 4❀❀❀❀ for their efforts. Generally, 4❀❀❀❀ ‘towns in bloom’ in France have made significant long-term efforts to improve their gardens and parks and are worth visiting for this reason alone. Many of these towns are also tourist destinations in their own right, with churches, museums, other historical sights and so on, which is probably the reason that tourists are visiting there anyway—the flowers become a bonus.


A two-flower town





Each year towns can apply for a “Ville Fleurie” rating. This rating includes the best use of green space, quality of life in the town, ways of conserving water, planting of trees and flowers. The places with a 4❀❀❀❀ rating always seem to have an abundance of flowers with vivid colors, or clustered together in striking groups of colors, all begging to be smelled, photographed and admired.

Flower plantings of various kinds are everywhere in these towns, from parks to small gardens to flower boxes on the “ponts” (bridges). The changing of the flowers seems to happen every few months and it’s fun to see what will show up in the gardens next.




Luxembourg Gardens, Paris



I cannot even begin to imagine what the flower budget must be in each town or village in France—obviously significant, as is also the time and effort that must go into creating the floral beauty. The French appear to appreciate—and use–their green spaces, which is very obvious when you wander around the wonderful gardens and parks in Paris (where most people start a visit to France). Over the years we have been in Paris at all times of the year and loved the gardens in all seasons. We’ve also enjoyed watching gardeners at work planting in the spring, pruning trees in the summer, replanting for the fall etc. This is especially notable in the Tuileries Gardens, Luxembourg Gardens and Park Monceau.


Vannes—lovely gardens in the former moat







Now, when we travel around France we take note as we enter a town or village whether it has a Ville Fleurie sign and always end up with masses of flower photos if it does.

Vannes has been a Ville Fleurie with a 4❀❀❀❀ rating, and it wanted to keep that rating, hence its special event Les Jardins Éphémères (which I wrote about here )

But, besides the Ephemeral Gardens, we noticed many other instances of the love of


Vannes—living picture frames

flowers. Here are some examples.




Agapanthus sale

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Now Always on a Sunday



Note the banners

Open on Sundays

Galeries Lafayette is an upmarket French department store chain, the flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement, very close to Opera Garnier. From January 8, 2017 it is now open on Sundays 11am-7pm (Mondays-Saturdays 9:30am-8:30pm), which marks a huge change. This came after a long and painful battle among its owners, trade unions and employees, showing how difficult it is for France to reform its labor market. Interestingly, 92 per cent of its employees voted in favor of Sunday trading.


The beautiful dome


Africa Now theme

Until recently French law did not allow Sunday trading for many stores, but that has now changed. Two years earlier French president Francois Hollande pushed through a reform package of more business friendly policies, to help boost the French economy. It’s named La loi Macron, after the economy minister at the time—now the new president. Bon Marche and Printemps, among others, have followed suit.

Going to the huge department store, the Galeries Lafayette, is an event in itself, a tourist attraction in its own right and most times we are in Paris we do pop in there, mostly to see what special decorations they have, or to have lunch in one of the eating places on the top floor.


insideGo there to do shopping, as thousands do, or just to gawk at the throngs of shoppers, and at all the merchandise in every segment from fashion to accessories, from beauty to home decoration, and fine food. I’m not really a shopper, and very soon the crowds get too much for me. But, we also go there to look especially at the lovely architecture with the gorgeous glass and steel neo-byzantine dome built in 1912. You can get a good look at the dome from any of the lower floors.

Built in 1898, Galeries Lafayette sprawls over three buildings and takes up whole city blocks. In the heart of Paris on Boulevard Haussmann, this flagship store is considered by many to be the second most visited attraction after the Louvre. Some say it’s also one of the world’s leading department stores, with more than 100,000 visitors each day and 70,000 square meters of sales area.


Africa Now

africa3We were there in late April on a Sunday and there were, indeed, thousands of shoppers, many of them foreigners, so the open-on-Sunday policy seems to be successful!

The store was also spotlighting Africa with their Africa Now—art, fashion, music, design with an African theme and flair. We’d read about that earlier and wanted to see what this special idea was—because we come originally from Africa, we are always interested in anything with an Africa theme. It was a lot of fun, and will continue until June 25. They also had strings of black banners with sayings in white writing, on different levels all across the central atrium.



Some had a love theme (“Let’s dance until we die”, “aimez moi comme un beau reve”); others a travel theme (“le grand voyage”); some seemed to be linked to Africa (“Brazzaville Libreville”, “Your eyes tell me stories of N’Djamena”); while others seemed a bit random (“ une fenetre, une porte”, “L’air du soir”, “My Hero”).

I wasn’t able to find out the significance of these. Any ideas?

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