News Views

There’s an Angel in our Courtyard

Has anything positive happened for you during this unprecedented Coronavirus time?

We hear so much about the negative side of this horrifying situation but here in France, in Paris and particularly here within the buildings I can see from my balcony and hanging out of my windows there is one change that is really heart-warming. And one very surprising, beautiful and angelic gift. Both thanking our Essential Workers.

The gift first. Since the April 13th extension the daughter of our neighbours living on the first floor of the building just above the ‘was red, now grey’ front door has been treating the whole building to a superb and positively angelic performance for a few minutes every evening.

She has been serenading us with her amazing voice. The acoustics in the courtyard are perfect, we are all hanging of of our windows to listen but why don’t you make up your mind up?

Click here to hear Debussy’s Nuit d’Etoiles. Tell me how you feel once you have listened to it. The high notes brought a tear to my eye. Another evening she sang ‘In uomini, in soldati’ from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte – her character’s name is Despina. If you want to hear more, I post her performances each night on either my Facebook page or 52 Clichy’s Facebook page.

Just before her beautiful performance, every evening at 8pm we clap, bang pans, honk horns and generally make a lot of noise to show our appreciation of all the Essential workers. I clock-watch!! We have to! Beforehand we’re glued to the TV from 7.15pm as the Director of Health gives a comprehensive and very reassuring rundown of all new Coronavirus information from France, / rest of the World plus Q&A which can take until nearly 8pm. Straight after we’re all jumping up at 7.59pm (some people are really quick off the mark).

I go out onto my balcony and from there I can see people hanging out from the building to the right, by the dance studio. They all seem young and it looks like they live on their own as they’re mainly one person per window. We’ve started waving although I can barely make out their shapes but I do know which windows to expect to open.

Opposite, through the trees, normally there is zero movement apart from the children playing football in the afternoons. That’s stopped but now families are waving to each other and people popping out onto their balconies from apartments that have looked empty for years!

The old school / new building is now peopled! During my live-streams on the construction I know I’ve been maligning the ‘poor people who would be living in the dank, dark apartments facing North’. Some people come on to their narrow balconies plus a couple of the lower levels behind the wall and, honestly, they look quite normal! We’re not waving yet, we’re nodding – come on I’m English, I can see their faces so this will be a drawn out process but this has leapfrogged past the reserve normally held by the French for anyone that isn’t family. Hopefully we have broken the ice.

Is your community thanking their Essential Workers? Do tell me what positive and perhaps unexpected outcomes you’ve found from this few weeks.

In the meantime, #StaySafe and keep washing your hands with liquid soap 😉


Lockdown – Part two

It’s blur-day every day in Paris. Even ‘our’ bakery is open 7 days a week now, rather than closed on Mondays, so I can’t ever work out where I am.

We heard on 7th April from the Prime Minister that our lockdown would ‘continue’ so we were braced for the official announcement that would be made by President Macron on 13th about this unprecedented and horrifying situation.

In a very moving speech, Macron was firm, humble, sympathetic, we got some concrete information, some hope, he said he was thankful for what had been achieved, but acknowledged the errors made in not being sufficiently prepared early on, however although the measures were making an impact, lockdown still needed to be extended until May 11th.

On the 11th there’ll be a gradual re-emergence from confinement, including the progressive re-opening of schools. There’ll be a plan in place, well in advance, so we know for who, when and how those changes will affect us, however he did say they would be adapted to the situation as it unfolds.

There’ll be a partial easing of restrictions for businesses from the 11th but restaurants, cafés, cinemas and hotels will open later. No sporting events and festivals will take place before mid-July (the Tour de France has just been postponed to 29th August) and the most fragile members of society won’t be running about outdoors any time soon.

By the 11th, and in order to tackle the virus, the entire population will have been provided with free, reusable masks which will become obligatory when outside. There’s a good, short article in English HERE, but if you want to test your French, here is his full speech so and so that you can check out if you are correct, this is his entire speech in English.

That’s the news so far and, as always, #StaySafe and keep washing your hands with liquid soap 🙂

If you want to read Part 1 on lockdown it’s HERE.

Eating Experience

Breakfast anyone ?

I’m not sure if this is a kind thing to do or not. As my bakery is classed as an Essential Service (of course!) and therefore open from 8am until 4pm every day during lockdown, I thought we could reminisce about the bakery breads and pastries you had, or will have, during your Parisian breakfast.

Normally your Day 1 Parisian breakfast order is all my favourites from the Maison Landemaine bakery. One must try baguette so my first day choice is always baguette aux céreales (multigrain baguette). I buy a croissant au beurre for each guest but not one for me. I’ve come to love the Viennoise aux noix (walnut bread). I love walnut whips and even then I don’t eat the walnuts but this bread is so moist because of the oil from the walnuts, and sweet – I hadn’t realised how sweet they were! The pièce de résistance is the Chausson aux pommes (Apple turnover) literally apple slipper in French which is pureed fresh, eating apples in pastry so light and with so little sugar that I call it ‘practically diet food’ and everyone agrees.

baguette croissants nut bread and chausson
Day 1 Parisian breakfast 🙂

What happens on Day 2? Well that depends on how picky, complicated, hungry … you were on Day 1. There are always 5 delights in Grandma’s silver tureen but almost never the same, except perhaps for croissants.

Did you eat both croissants? If not we might reduce to just one or, if you shared one yesterday and we’re in luck, there may be 2 mini croissants in the big basket of ‘mini-everythings’. They’re crispier than a normal croissant but as rare as gold dust.

Brioche aux pepites

You may be wolfing down an Almond croissant from our ‘Monday bakery’ otherwise on the occasions the Landemaine bakery makes them I’ll always take one, they’re so delicious.

Making almond croissants used to be the method for using up left-over day-old croissants by slitting them and adding almond paste, sprinkling almonds on the top and re-baking, but how often does our bakery not sell out?

We will journey through the different baguettes; Traditional baguette or Country baguette but not Baguette Blanche because you get enough opportunity to eat that everywhere else in Paris.

Instead of the walnut bread we can swap to Pain Sportif (Sporty bread), full of fruits and pistachios or we can skip through the brioches; the plain Brioche à tête, chocolate and praline but never the sugar one.

My favourite is the chocolate brioche which is unusual because I’m not a great chocolate fan and I get tense when it’s dropped into the paper bag with the rest of your goodies because sometimes it’s so warm the chocolate melts and sticks to the bag 🙁

Squishy Kouglof

I think up shapes for the brioche à tête, often chickens, UFOs and snowmen but always yummy eaten unadulterated as they’re yellow for a reason! I’ve probably encouraged you to take a brioche loaf home, I get about 10 slices from it as it’s so fluffy so ask the bakery to send it through the slicing machine (if it’s not too fresh and warm) then you will be eating ‘cloud’ for days!

Apple chausson becomes a squiggly, moist but flaky Pain aux Raisins, the Kouglof is a scientific experiment in how much liquid butter and sugar can be retained in the sponge solution or a multi-layered pain au chocolat on steroids, the famous Drops that I have to cut into 4 to stem arguments.

Whole fig and hazlenut bread

I have 2 totally favourite breads I always try to showcase if we’ve enough days to try everything, they’re the Pain Forestier (whole fig and hazlenut bread) and the gluten-free chestnut flour bread with, if we’re lucky, whole chestnuts inside. I can get a chuck of the fig bread to slice but I have to buy the whole chestnut loaf so you need to warn me if you want to try it.

It’s 70 paces to the door of Maison Landemaine from our now, sadly, grey and not red door and, despite the best planning in the World, I can be faced with this – gaps! So luck also plays its part 🙂

Bakery goods from Landemaine bakery

That’s why I try and make sure I set off 15 minutes before breakfast if you’ve chosen to eat before 8.30am, leaving as much time as possible for things being ready (if the local hotels haven’t swooped in like vultures and whisked them away at opening time). Otherwise it’s 8.30 latest, the cut-off time to avoid the massive queue out the door for the rest of the day!

Did you pop your shoes on and make this trip with me any or each morning? Will you make a date to walk with me or are you happy enough to have a surprise Parisian breakfast each morning?

Here are a couple of options to ponder :

Croissants, pain sportif, drops and multigrain baguette
Country-style baguette, pain aux raisins, apple chausson and an almond croissant

In the meantime, tell me which were your favourites or if there are any you would love to test taste as soon as possible!

See you on the balcony soon!

See you on the balcony soon!

Lockdown in Paris

The photo from the balcony is now NOT my reality, I’m here on my own! We’re in week 3 of lockdown here in Paris and I thought I’d reach out to you and find out how you are doing.
How has your daily life changed? 

We’re being ‘fed’ our news in bite-sized portions, a 2 week lockdown with a tickbox form to complete every time we leave home that must include name, address, DOB, date and signature, written in pen and we need a new form each time. Fines from €38-€135.

A phone app option was added, and just as quickly taken away because the Police didn’t want to come too close and touch our phones as they didn’t have protection. Within days the form was made more stringent, we now have to provide the TIME we leave home. Fines went straight to €135 / €1500 / jail!

I can go shopping for food essentials, supermarkets are open, mine give us 2 big squirts of hand sanitizer as we enter, there has never been empty shelves, even for toilet paper, but I will confess to once buying 6 extra rolls because I felt under pressure looking at other people’s trolleys!

The pharmacies are open. The tabacs are open, the one by metro Liège continues selling its ‘essential’ cigarettes, lottery tickets and stamps but the brasserie / café part is closed off. Takeaway places are open, some restaurants converted to just takeaway but as those working were instructed to work from home if at all possible or were sent home on technical unemployment there is little lunch trade therefore many stopped quite quickly.

Visits to venerable people are possible but as I don’t count and neither does my hairdresser that’s not an option.

We could have an hour’s exercise, within 1km radius of home, I wasn’t really sure if that meant I have to take a ball of string with me just to avoid the fine but in fact I’ve never ticked that box either 🙁 Bicycling was OK for about 3 days, then changed to only to and from work. It’s probably difficult to bike fast in a 1km radius without getting dizzy anyway.

People were however doing non-moving yoga in the park and on benches and non social distanced football with their friends, others who’d never jogged in their lives forced people off the pavement, panting heavily over them as they went. It was a great success.

That stopped today! No exercise from 10am to 7pm in Paris. We are not taking enough notice, apparently, although everyone I’ve met wears a real mask (and I’m thinking ‘give it to a health care worker you don’t need it’) and seems to be very responsible.

Here at 52 there is a BIG sign on each block door telling us not to touch the elevator buttons or door handles which is probably why I’ve seen almost no-one about for 3 weeks. I know most of them are still alive though because I hear them and see them from my balcony at 8pm every evening clapping to show our thanks to all essential workers. It’s quite heart-warming and I’ve even seen some of my neighbours at number 50, in the new building, on their North-facing cold, dank, dreary balconies – they look quite human.

There is no traffic. Quieter than my favourite month, August. Here is a video from end March taken by someone riding a bike which of course is now not allowed!

Paris wasn’t one of the first 3 cluster epicentres in France, but because one of them was the part of Ile de France that is North of Paris the sick have generally been brought into Parisian hospitals. Thankfully I don’t know anyone in Paris who has been hospitalised and only 1 household suffering badly but at home.

How does your situation differ, is it better or worse? I’d love to know.

Keep in touch and tell me how you are coping and of course, please #StayHome and keep washing your hands with liquid soap 🙂

Want to find out what has been extraordinary this past week? We have an angel in out midst.

Events Great Exhibitions Great Touristy Things to do

Much more than Red Soles

I’ve never been to the Palais de la Porte Dorée before, it’s a vast exhibition space plus aquarium (obviously a great mix !*?), but then I heard about a new exhibition on Christian Louboutin, his life, art, passions and a few shoes with red soles!

I’m not normally hot off the mark to see new exhibitions but this was widely acclaimed and quite fully booked. The idea was to get there early to avoid the crowds, whizz round then find a great new place to have lunch in this area I’d never been to before.

Plans got changed! We were there nearly 4 hours! And we didn’t even have an audioguide! I haven’t been to such a fascinating exhibition for years!

Apparently his interest in shoes was piqued by this sign in this museum when he was a child – no walking in high heels on the beautiful mosaic floors of the museum…. – and so the World comes full circle!

I’d no idea what to expect apart from seeing lots of shoes…. actually there was very little of that inside, there were 8 different rooms showing different parts of his creativity; his life, motivations, his fetishes and his muses.

This is my favourite boot!

Most of his shoes were actually designed to be pieces of art, not to be worn. This is my favourite boot! There was a room dedicated to explaining the entire process of crafting the shoes in a workshop, on video and with the individual pieces, from creation to pattern-making, stitching … You know I love How to do stuff, this was fascinating, so fascinating I didn’t take a single photo !

There was a room full of his collections of ‘Nudes’; the 8 colours of Nude stiletto shoe with a red sole. I hadn’t been aware there were 8 colours for 8 different shades of leg, fortunately the pair I bought years ago seem to be ‘pale’ enough, though it’s a bit difficult to be as pale as my legs LOL. There were also full-sized leather sculptures of female forms in the nude colours, I wasn’t quite sure about that bit…

There were holograms of Dita Van Teese doing a burlesque dance wearing his shoes and not much else by the end and also the footballer Iya Traoré (have you seen him on his lamp post at Sacré Coeur ?) but he kept his clothes on!

The fetish room was an English sitting room where the hand made carpets, furniture coverings, wallpaper and even lamp shades designs were all, if you looked reeallllly closely, explicit nudes – more ‘odd’.

Bizarre, many things were, but this shoe takes the biscuit! It was Mae West’s way of adding a bit of height under her long gowns and then skidding around when she was older! This really tickled me pink.

But the best space by far was a photographic collaboration with David Lynch. I tried to post some of the most beautiful photos on Facebook but they got banned!

You are just going to have to hope they extend the exhibition period from 26th Feb – 26th July 2020 to a lot longer as it is so very much worth a visit.

Catch up on lockdown in Paris or a little more culture from ‘our Angel’ and make sure you are following the Facebook page.