Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Marché Père Lachaise

The Père Lachaise market takes place every Tuesday and Friday from 7 am to 2.30 pm in the vibrant Ménilmontant neighbourhood nestled between Saint Ambroise and Belleville. It is listed as being on Boulevard de Ménilmontant, between rue des Panoyaux and rue des Cendriers. This is the section I wandered along at first but then I realized it joins on to the marché de Belleville, a bustling street market full of vegetables, exotic fruits, clothing (equally exotic), spices, lengths of colourful fabric, and useful bits and bobs.

The Père Lachaise section contains stalls offering a selection of French cheeses, Mediterranean specialities, and fresh fish. The Belleville section is more of a haggling ground where prices are incredibly low – it is known as the cheapest market in Paris – and spririts are very high: dozens of languages can be heard; locals mingle, argue, laugh; and stallholders create a show with their strange cries willing you to buy their produce. Un euro! Un euro!

What: Marché Père Lachaise & Marché Belleville

Where: Boulevard de Ménilmontant

Cost: Free! (well, not if you want to buy some delicious mangoes etc...)

Metro: Ménilmontant

Bus: 26,96

When: Tuesday and Friday 7 am to 2.30 pm

This market is perfect to visit if you are staying Sensational Servan, our fantastic loft in the Saint Ambroise neighbourhood.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cheese & Wine - Calories we love (the French Paradox)

You really can't say you've experienced the true taste of France if you haven't tried French cheese and wine. I must admit that before arriving in Paris I was not much of a wine drinker and I am certainly still learning. As for the cheese, I've always loved that and my palette has certainly gotten more sophisticated (it helps being married to a French chef I guess).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Musee Carnavalet

Tucked away on a small street in the trendy Marais district, you will find one of my favorite museums of Paris. The Carnavalet museum occupies 2 adjoining mansions that were built in 1548. Everything exhibited inside the museum is a tribute to the history of Paris. When you first enter the courtyard, you find a beautiful bronze sculpture of Louis XIV which is apparently the last one left, as the others were melted down during the revolution. Inside you will find everything from canoes dating back to A.D. 52, to entire rooms re-constructed as they would have looked originally (think baroque), to old street signs, to Napoleon's death mask. The museum is hardly crowded and has beautiful gardens to lounge in. And because it is run by the city of Paris there is no charge to get in! All of the descriptions are written in French, but you can enjoy the sights even without understanding the descriptions. The Marais is a fun neighborhood to wander around as well (with some great shopping!) so the Musee Carnavalet would be a great place to start a day of exploring things off the beaten track.

What: Musee Carnavalet
Where: 23, rue de Sevigne, 75003 Paris
Cost: Free (except special exhibitions)
Metro: Saint Paul (1)
Bus: 29,69,76,96
When: 10 AM - 5:40 Pm. Closed Mondays.

photo credits: Stacey Pedersen

Sunday, September 5, 2010

September 7th 2010 - A day of Strikes in France

On Tuesday the major French unions CGT, CFDT, FO, CFTC, Solidaires, FSU, UNSA, but not CFE-CGC, will be requesting that their members exercise their right to strike in protest against the Retirement age reform that has been proposed by the French government.

Tuesday the 7th of September marks the date that the reform which has been under discussion for several months, will be presented to French deputies at the Assemblé National.

The reform which proposes to change the current retirement age from 60 to 62 and 67 (the latter in order to have full benefits), has provoked quite a bit of controversy. This reform seems to be penalizing those who started working at a very young age as well as those who had trouble sustaining continuous work over the lifetime of their careers. Also stated was that it only further deepens the inequality between men and women by no longer taken into account the number of years a mother may spend raising her children instead of focusing on her career.

What can you expect on Tuesday:

Public services will be either completely shut down or on limited service. Post office will be closed, schools closed, public museums (The Eiffel Tower is a public entity but privately run - therefore not closed).

Metro and bus services will be "très perturbé" - service will run but expect lots of delays and crowding. I have heard that those who do manage to use them will not have to pay - in any case the guys who give you the tickets for not having a valid metro pass won't be around. The government had put in place what they called a "service minimum" a few years back, which required the RATP (bus and metro service), to provide the city of Paris with a minimum service on days of strikes.

Avoid Republique, Bastille and Nation starting at 2 PM! Don't say I didn't warn you.

The major assembly of unionist will be gathering at Place de la Republique at 2 PM on Tuesday and will head via the Bastille towards Nation. So unless you want to experience the strike ambiance LIVE, avoid these areas; the procession will take several hours to move along.

Last piece of advise - take it all in stride. This is the French way. The right to strike is a fundamental part of French culture and has sometimes been cause of great unrest (May '68) or has incited the government to renounce their reform program (strike against the student reform in '95). So you see French strikes do serve a purpose beyond messing up your holiday.

Bon grève!

Photo source: AP/CLAUDE PARIS
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