Galloping with the horses along the Parisian rues and avenues

Galloping throughout the Parisian streets, trying to outrun the horses, my pink sneaker clad feet were on a sprint like no other.  Trapped in a quagmire of cheering Parisians, screeching kids, regal horses and men in uniform, I could only hope and pray that there would be an alternate escape route that would eventually guide me to freedom.  All of the major rues and avenues had been blocked off, security was on full alert and police cars were the only vehicles within visible radar.  Yikes!! What on earth was going on?  All of the inhabitants of the City of Lights were out and about, anxiously lined up for what seemed to be an event of monumental proportions.

It was not yet 10:30am on a leisurely Sunday summer’s morn and it was as if pandemonium had struck while I had been sequestered on a bus en route from the airport, having dropped the Kid off for her overseas flight home.  When I had left le dreaded apartment at the crack of dawn, the city was still in slumber mode, languishing in a state of sleepy contentedness, offering not a glint of a hint as to what type of controlled chaos was about to unfold.

Clueless as to what all of the brouhaha was about, I was none too worried at first, as I would be safely nestled in my new Parisian hotel by noon, snug as a bug in a rug, in a state of delicious cat napping mode for the next hour or two.  But, alas, that was clearly not meant to be, as it took me the rest of the day to finally place my pink sneakered foot inside my new pad.  What would normally be perhaps an hour or two long trek to le Rive Gauche, was now instead an arduous and grueling adventure by way of cordoned off streets, blocked exit routes and a cavalry of horses parading regally along the boulevards.

Stranded somewhere within the vicinity of the Opera House, I had planned to lazily stroll along the avenues, scoot across Les Champs-Elysées and meander along the Seine until I reached my new home away from home.  A totally do-able and fabulous plan, that is, if you’re not planning on sauntering and meandering out and about on one of the most celebrated of French national holidays. Yikes!!  What had I gotten myself into?

Police and gendarmes seemed to have quite literally swarmed upon the capital, camera crews and radio vans were positioned about, and the sense that something colossal was in the works permeated the atmosphere.  What the heck was going on?  And then it dawned on me - it was Bastille Day, or la Fete Nationale and the celebration of the storming of the Bastille on July 14th, 1789, which ushered in the French Revolution, and which was now in full-blown processional swing.

Puzzled that the barricaded streets were barren and devoid of vehicles, I still hadn’t clued in as to the magnitude of the festivities, with the shutting down of Les Champs-Elysées for the arrival of the French president and his military arcade.  Darting up and down the garrisoned avenues, my pink sneaker clad feet were reluctantly turned back, politely told that this or that particular rue was temporarily closed, locked down until the end of the parade and festivities, some several hours from now.  You’re kidding, right?

Not one to argue with the French military, I thought, well, surely there must be some way to get from Point A to Point B and how difficult can it possibly be to find an alternate route to get across town.  Map in hand, seasoned traveller that I am, I rationalized that if I can’t walk to my hotel, then I’ll just have to fork out a couple of extra Euros for the luxury of a taxi ride to wisk me to my destination.  Easier said than done, as not only were pedestrians barred from accessing the majority of the streets, so were the cabs!  And so the hunt for that lone taxicab took on larger than life magnitude, my desperate attempt to flag down such a vehicle quite the daunting task indeed.  Veering further and further away from Les Champs-Elysées, I was by now almost in Montmartre, and miles and miles away from the hope of arriving at my hotel anytime before sunset.  Yikes!!

What now? Well, dear reader, not to bore you with the mundane details of my frantic sprint along the rues and avenues, but let’s just say, my poor aching tootsies had no choice but to dejectedly traipse along the boulevards in search of a park bench to rest up in anticipation of the next leg of my journey.

And that is how I ended up in the midst of an ever-growing crowd of curious spectators, cheering Parisians and military personal, finding myself smack dab in the heart of one of France’s most celebrated of holidays, enthusiastically hooting, hollering and reveling with the best of them.

As, after all, being such the Parisian wanna-be, it somehow seemed appropriate that I partake of the festivities and experience for myself the magnitude of the day’s events.

And, last but not least, the proud men resplendent in their decorated uniforms were quite the pleasing eye candy indeed– ahhhh Paris – just another joyous fete in la ville de la joie de vivre

Come scamper along the deserted rues and avenues with me, as all routes somehow collectively conspire and lead one towards the direction of La Fete Nationale, a celebration of France’s most glorious of holidays.

Next week – still stuck in the park along Les Champs-Elysées or do my pink-sneaker clad feet eventually end up in le fabulous hotel, on le Rive Gauche?  Stay tuned!!

Le vin rouge, les croissants, le Louvre and so much more - my top 10 reasons for jetting to the City of Lights

No matter how many times my pink sneaker clad feet scamper about the rues and avenues of my beloved City of Lights, it never fails to amaze me that there is yet another discovery to be made and new perspectives to be gleaned, as if appreciating the Parisian landscape for the very first time.  I’m often asked as to why I jet away to Paris so often, as surely there are other equally as fascinating and appealing foreign lands to traipse about, and don’t I get bored travelling year after year to the same mundane location?  You’re kidding, right?  And so I’ve compiled my top 10 reasons as to why this French gem has been and continues to be a magnet for artists, writers, dreamers, lovers and just regular folk, all of whom harbour their very own reasons for stepping foot on this seductively mesmerizing parcel of land.

Reason #01 – Who hasn’t envisioned languishing the days away sequestered in a quaint nook of a café, sipping vino whilst penning that next great “yet to be discovered” novel, immersed in the inspiration of long-gone masters of the written word.  My imagination runneth over as I fantasize about randomly bumping into the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Callaghan as we linger over a pint or two and enthusiastically debate about plot structure and character idiosyncrasies.  Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity of being mentored by any one of the literary geniuses of the 1920’s “lost generation”, but alas, that is clearly not meant to be, so I’ll reluctantly have to contend with absorbing all of their creative wisdom through the power of osmosis and hope that some of it filters through my pink-sneaker noggin.

Reason #02 – There is nothing more magical than meandering along the banks of the Seine on a late summer’s eve, watching the blushing heavens transform from a glowing salmon hue into an effervescent rainbow of twinkling lights and shadows.  A mesmerizing mélange of dusty pinks and vibrant acquamarine colours playfully shimmer from above, as if elevating the intricately carved arches of the ancient bridges below to a heightened level of perfection.  Add an element of mysticism and romance and you’ve got a picture perfect postcard of a hauntingly spellbinding moment in time forever imprinted upon your soul. 

Reason #03 – Waking with the roosters and queuing in a snaking line-up at the boulangerie at the onset of dawn, jostling with the locals for that melt in your mouth deliciousness of a fresh out of the oven golden croissant.  Scrumptious.  I don’t even feel guilty ordering a dozen of the butter infused delicacies, savouring each and every last crumb, all the while rationalizing that since I’m in Paris, it is my duty to consume as many heavenly baked goods as possible, as, after all, I’m in the land of gastronomic delight.  Hence, this is why I walk and trudge and schlep luggage for hours and hours and hours on end.  If you’ve read my previous posts, then you know what I’m talking about.

Reason #04 – the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame,  Sacre-Coeur and so much more...

Reason #05 – Le vin rouge, le vin rouge, le vin rouge – need I say more?  On that note, time for another libation of the bubble bath for the mind kind...

Reason #06 – Cutting edge fashion, where 12 year olds and babes in arms are attired in cooler than cool ensembles, setting the bar for that unattainable “je ne sais quoi” in attitude and “to die for outfits”.

Reason #07 – Les moules et frites.

Reason #08 – Stumbling across a quaint nook of a café or bistro that becomes your home away from home whilst traipsing about the City of Lights.

Reason #09Le joie de vivre pretty much says it all.

Reason #10 – After all, it’s Paris and in Paris anything is possible.  You just have to dream and believe.

Come believe in the dream of Paris and all things French….

Next week – where else in Paris do my pink-sneaker clad feet take me?  Stay tuned!!

Monsieur Eiffel's elaborate wrought iron structure

No matter how many times my pink-sneaker clad feet have traipsed along Parisian rues and avenues, they return time and time again to familiar stomping grounds and queue with the rest of them to gawk at one of the world’s most photographed landmarks, the Eiffel Tower.

 Constructed in 1889 for the International Exhibition of Paris or Exposition Universelle commemorating the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, the 300 meter tall structure was originally purposed to be the main entrance archway, a wrought iron monstrosity situated on the Champs de Mars.  Chosen from more than 700 prospective designs, Gustav Eiffel’s winning bid was petitioned against by 300 plus artisans and architects, all of whom canvassed concerns that the proposed design would be an eyesore on the landscape, a revoltingly ugly tower dominating over Paris “like a gigantic black smokestack”.  The litany of complaints, led by Charles Garnier, who was the architect of the old opera building, read as such: “a gigantic factory chimney whose form will disfigure the architectural harmony of the city” and “we, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection – of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower”. 

Despite the uproar, construction forged on and the Tower was completed within a 2 year period, the 7,000 steel ton structure an instantaneous sensation with locals and foreigners alike.  Slated to be dismantled upon expiration of Gustav’s 20 year land lease to the city of Paris, the Tower was granted a second lease on life, as the onset of World War 1 elevated its status from questionable curiosity to a bona fide necessity, as its radio tower technology intercepted enemy communications and aided in the capture of renowned spy Mata Hari. 

From a meeting place of scientific minds conducting out of this world experiments such as measuring the speed of wind as well as dabbling in radio transmission technology, the Eiffel Tower secured its position as a now prominent landmark dominating the French landscape. 

Fast forward a couple of decades and the rest, of course, is history.  The Eiffel Tower is beloved the world over, symbolizing the heart of Paris, its allure drawing millions of visitors a year, 250 million at last count. 

And to think, it could all have ended up as scrap metal.

Pink Sneaker Interesting Tidbits and Fascinating Facts:

·         Did you know that the cost of construction was 7,800,800 gold francs?

·         The Eiffel Tower is re-painted every 7 years in order to protect it from rust.

·         More than 50 tons of paint is used in re-painting the tower.

·         The wrought iron structure sways up to 12 cm. on windy days.

·         The tower has been quite the alluring object for daredevils to conquer, as it was scaled by a mountaineer in 1954, was parachuted off by two Englishmen in 1984 and in 1987 a bungee jumper was arrested after completing his one and only jump.

Come hang out with globe-trotters and locals alike in appreciative wonder of Monsieur Eiffel’s lattice wrought iron structure, a tower like no other...

Next week – where else in Paris do my pink-sneaker clad feet end up?  Stay tuned!!

Tic Tock Tic Tock and Waking with the Roosters in Le not so quaint Parisian apartment

Now that I had somewhat uncomfortably settled into my temporary Parisian digs, full blown on paranoia hit, as the idea of being sequestered in this labyrinth of a maze apartment complex was not my idea of fun, and certainly not what I had envisioned for my five day stay in the City of Lights.  Casually languishing the morning away in a cocoon of contented bliss, sipping endless steaming cups of café au lait whilst gazing out the picturesque window pane mindlessly contemplating the deliciousness of life, was clearly not meant to be, replaced instead with a frantic determination to bolt for the door and race towards freedom.  Savouring the melt in your mouth buttery decadence of golden hued croissants baked in my very own French kitchen was also clearly not in the cards, my inner Martha Stewart stubbornly refusing to spend even an extra nano-second in these confining and cramped quarters.  Visions of culinary perfection of creating that succulent duck a l’orange or coq au vin no longer danced excitedly in my head, the five star gastronomic delicacies that were to be creatively replicated in my quaint Parisian kitchen would now have to be forsaken with cuisine of the nutritionally challenged fast food kind.

The quaint breakfast nook of my favourite Paris apartment from years ago

Languishing the morning away in contented bliss was clearly not meant to be 

Really wish this was my Paris apartment - Le grand sigh

Parisian fast food 

What's a gal to do if she can't use her fancy French oven?  There's always a Patisserie around the corner!

Day five of not cooking and indulging on le French fast food

Breakfast took on an entirely new meaning as I woke with the roosters and waited for daylight to stream through the grated windows, the now sleepless nights spent counting down the minutes until the pinkish blush of dawn.  Never one to embrace the cheery optimism of morn, snug as a bug in my rug, I now jolted awake at the witching hour, wishing the tic tock of the clock to speed up its pace and chime the start of a new day.  A tad dramatic and somewhat over the top, I know, but desperate measures call for desperate descriptions of the word embellishing kind. 

Plotting and planning my escape from le not so quaint French apartment consumed my nocturnal thoughts and prevented me from slumber, my last resort being to watch endless You Tube videos of Chunnel trains speeding underneath the Strait of Dover, effectively lulling me into a much needed couple of hours of fitful sleep.  Secure in the knowledge that I was home safe and sound, no matter that I was currently residing in a cracker-jack box, I was strangely comforted by the thought that at least I wasn’t trapped hundreds of miles below the English Channel, sequestered in an even more constricting space.  Sad but true.

Not a morning person and one to repeatedly hit the snooze button until at least noon, I now found it ironic that the 5:00am shrill of the alarm was music to my ears, no longer an annoying interruption robbing me of much desired sleep, but a much anticipated beacon of limitless possibilities, one of them being to jump ship and hit the pavement lickety-split.

Meandering along the darkened rues and avenues

As I shook the Kid awake, my pink-sneaker clad feet scampered about, eager to hit the road and traverse the darkened avenues in search of a patisserie that was open for business, lest we spend even one more second in le claustrophobic cave of a dwelling.  Needless to say, we became fixtures at the café around the corner, where I willingly forked out Euro after hard-earned Euro for yet another cappuccino and a pain au chocolat, all the while beaming contentedly that we wouldn’t have to step foot into le dreaded apartment until the descent of nightfall.  Once again, sad but true.

Waiting for le bistro to open 

Come traipse along the rues and boulevards from the wee hours of the morning until the onset of dusk and midnight, all the while wearing out the treads of our sneakers day in and day out, in our desperate attempt to stay away as long as possible from you know where….

Next week – what next?  Where else in Paris do our pink-sneaker clad footprints take us?

Stay tuned for more on the fabulous escapades of the Kid and her slightly cuckoo and eccentric Auntie!!