Seven things I learnt in Paris …

  • Gutters are not for rain they are for dog poo and cigarette butts.
  • Pavements are not for pedestrians they are actually extra parking spots, particularly for Vespas.
  • Red lights do not apply to Vespas, bicycles or anyone in a hurry.
  • There is a solution to the Vespa problem…. (see photo above)
  • “Open Daily” means open on the days that we are not closed
  • Pedestrian crossings are only there to test your nerve.  You are expected to make eye-contact with the oncoming driver, smile and dare him (or her) to run you down!
  • Smart cars were invented to address “le parking” problem in Paris.
    (see photo below)

 Smart parking

Looking for Amélie …

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Outside La Maison Rose with Kate

Fans of the movie “Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain” (or Amélie for short) will know that many of the exterior shots were filmed in Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement.  I arrived early on my second day of exploring the village, so apart from the locals I pretty much had the place to myself.  I easily found Amélie’s café Les Deux Moulins, Monsieur Collignon’s greengrocer and her apartment in rue des Trois Frères and then set off to explore the backstreets of Montmartre – movie set, home of the Moulin Rouge and before it became “Bobo” (bourgeois bohemian) and too expensive, home to struggling and successful artists.

My first stop was the Musee de Montmartre, where for reasons unknown, but possibly due to the 8 Euro entrance fee – I had the museum almost to myself.  This wonderful museum is built in one of the oldest surviving houses in Montmartre and was home to such artists as Renoir, Raoul Dufy, Suzanne Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo.  The musueum houses beautiful artworks, historical artifacts and an accurate scale model of Montmartre.

Nearby is Clos Montmartre, the last active vineyard inside the Paris city, and an old cabaret venue named Le Lapin Agile, actually a play on words as the artist who painted the sign was André Gill hence ‘Lapin à Gill’.

La Maison Rose, is situated in rue de l’Abreuvoir one of the prettiest streets in Montmartre and it’s a lovely spot to lunch – I had a grilled goats cheese salad and a glass of Bordeaux.  Then I meandered my way down the hill through backstreets until I reached the Lamarck-Caulaincourt Metro Station (another Amélie location) and headed back to my hotel to rest my aching feet.

La Grande Mosquée de Paris …

Mint Tea & pastries

Le Salon de Thé  in the courtyard of La Grande Mosquée de Paris is a lovely spot to stop for mint tea and pastries if you are walking the 5th arondissement.  The courtyard is cool and shady and decorated with beautiful Islamic tiles. Order your mint tea from one of the waiters if you can catch his eye, and then visit the pastry counter to select from their colourful array of middle-eastern delicacies.  The cafe is a few blocks from the Censier Daubenton or Place Monge metro stations, and can be combined with a visit to the Jardin des Plantes and Marché Mouffetard.  As always, try and avoid weekends when the whole population of Paris seems to go for a walk!

Caviar Kaspia – a little bit of Luxe …

The caviar counter

I first visited Caviar Kaspia 19 years ago, and nothing has changed … I blew my budget then and I blew my budget today but it was worth every Euro.

Established in Paris in 1927 by Russian émigré Arcady Fixon, the restaurant and shop has been in its current location at 17 Place Madeleine since 1953. At street level there is a shop selling exceptional caviars, wild salmon, smoked fish and vodkas.  (The traditional accompaniment to caviar we are told is frozen white vodka – but we opted for champagne)

Upstairs is an intimate wood panelled restaurant decorated with antique paintings.  The waiters all speak English and are happy to help you with your menu selection.  I selected the Printemps (Spring) menu for 79 Euros which consisted of – Norwegian Smoked Salmon with blinis and sour cream followed by 30g of Caviar with stuffed baked potato.

It was absolutely delicious, and just the right quantity.  Kate had Crab Gazpacho followed by Champagne Risotto with Prawns.  The coffee included with my menu selection turned out to be Segafredo (my favourite) and came with a selection of chocolate truffles.

If you are in Paris and don’t mind blowing your budget, drop into Caviar Kaspia mid-morning, and make a booking for lunch.  You can then fill in time worshipping nearby at the altars of Ladurée,  Maison de la Truffe, Hediard and Fauchon.