The exterior of the Reims Cathedral is undergoing extensive renovations, so the main entrance is now on the right side, and scaffolding is on both the front and back obscuring at least a third of the building.

Hidden in the rear of the cathedral is a beautiful garden,

 with a long path and several seats.

 

On the left side of the church (facing the front) there is a delightful little specialty food shop Terroir Des Rois. They have everything from chocolate to 30 year old balsamic vinegar, and if you can’t decide, premade gift baskets are available.

In front of the shop are a few chairs and tables so you can taste their featured champagne of the day, a cold non alcoholic drink, or sip the champagne you just bought,

for a very modest supplemental fee depending on the size of the bottle you purchased,

while gazing at this magnificent view from your table:)

In the Summer, there is a light and music show projected onto the front of the cathedral twice a night starting at 11 PM and each lasts for 20 minutes:)

 

Not all the projectors were working, so there were several blank/black spots,

but the last projection worked fine:)

 

The Cathedral of Reims is undergoing extensive renovations, so the best view of what it would be like without cranes and scaffolding is this model inside the cathedral.

 Most of the interior is not under renovation, so enjoy today’s photo post:)

 

 

 

 

 One of several pulpits.

 

 One of several organs.

 

 

 My favorite part of the cathedral was these stained glass windows by Chagall:)

Reims (pronounced “Rance”) is only 45 minutes from the Gare de l’Est in Paris. You can easily enjoy a day trip, but a girlfriend and I wanted to explore a few Champagne Caves and the city, so we booked a rental with AirBnB.

Thierry and Corinne speak English, so no worries if you don’t speak French. The apartment is  a spacious 80 M2 or about 850 Sq Ft, with 2 bedrooms, so there is room for up to four people. At 85 Euros per night (about $95 USD), it’s a great price for the location, literally one block from the Cathedral.

We took advantage of the private courtyard from the moment we arrived:)

The kitchen had everything, from coffee maker and electric kettle, to oven, toaster, and food processor. A self serve breakfast is included, and there was juice, butter, jam, and organic milk in the fridge, along with a selection of teas and coffee in the cupboard with some spices and sugar.

The open floor plan from kitchen to dining area made it a very inviting space.

Everything was light and open, and towels and bedding were delightfully fluffy and comfortable.

I took the room with two single beds and appreciated the huge multiple pillows with a light duvet.

My friend took the bigger bed with the firmer mattress and closed the outside shutters at night to keep it dark.

Corinne and her son welcomed us with a delicious (still warm) cake baked for our arrival! We enjoyed a piece each while it was still warm and it was our daily breakfast during our four day stay:)

If you drive into town there is paid parking in front and by taxi it’s only 7 Euros from the central train station. If you want to take a tram or bus both have stops only 2-3 blocks away.

You can literally see the Reims Cathedral from our front door!

After sorting out paperwork with the French administration, an Australian friend and I headed to a L’Arcade Café in the central square of Saint Germain-en-laye for lunch. Although I had recommended some other places without a view, I did the touristy thing because she was so keen on sitting out on a terrace looking out into the center of town, hoping that it would be better than the other cafes in the same square. The dark clouds sprinkled a bit of drizzle, but the sun also came out intermittently. It was a lunch of many good and bad facets, just like the weather…

Our view of the square was very nice, and even though we had three servers during our 1 hour meal, service was friendly and professional.

A pleasant surprise was the generous serving of smoked salmon appetizer for 14 Euros which included crème fraîche and a bit of lemon. The sliced bread on the plate was a bit dry, but had good flavor nonetheless.

My friend ordered the Caesar salad for 14 Euros. The dressing should have had at least a bit of anchovy or garlic, but it tasted very much like plain mayonnaise, and the rest of the salad did nothing to compensate for the lack of punch. Yes, that is balsamic you see drizzled on the salad, and no I have no idea why they would add that to a caesar salad…..

I ordered the filet de bar (sea bass), which came with plain basmati rice (under the rocket greens) and a small salad of rocket and sun dried tomatoes for 17 Euros. The fish was crisp but not overly cooked, and the sauce vierge of olive oil, tomatoes, and shallots was pleasant if a bit bland. The dish was very plain and could have used a spark of acid, or heat, or seasoning, but it was a fine choice for my slightly upset stomach.

We went clothes shopping at the stores after lunch, and stopped by for some fresh fruit and viennoiseries on the way back for our afternoon snack, proving that sometimes the best meals are the ones you put together yourself:)

Blé Sucré is on so many lists as the best croissant in Paris that I had to taste them for myself:) The tiny shop has a few tables outside if you want to have a coffee and eat facing the park, but I didn’t want my croissant accompanied by the melody of screeching children, so I took mine to go. This is a pâtisserie not a boulangerie, which means they offer pastries but do not sell bread. If you want a baguette, go elsewhere, but come here for the madeleines, the pain au chocolat, or the croissants. The croissants here are HUGE by Parisian standards, easily twice as big as others.

The airy light layers and satisfying crunchy flakiness make for the best of combinations, and I added these croissants to my favorites list along with all the others who came before I did:)

Not far away is another kind of pâtisserie, La Rose de Tunis, specializing in North African sweets infused with honey, nuts, and spices. This one is in Belleville in the 11th, but there are other locations in the 15th and 18th, as well as in other cities throughout Europe. There is always a line out the door, so be prepared to wait for your sweet treats.

Since I went to the Yelp event at Les Piaules, I wanted to explore the Belleville area a bit more along Blvd Belleville with all the streetside vendors making freshly grilled breads filled with your choice of meat, tomatoes, onions; think of it as an alternative to pizza:)

The stores sell products I’ve never seen before, like Rose jam!

There were also markets that sell products I knew very well,

like roasted ducks and char siu.

Off Rue Belleville, which intersects Blvd Belleville, the famous graffiti of Rue Denoyez adds color

 and art to everything from the storefronts to the plant holders.

Some artists were working as I passed by, but this area will be transforming in the next few years to “modernize” the street and about 30 of the local workshops and artists will be displaced despite a petition with over 10,000 signatures trying to preserve the character of this street.

The most surprising thing I saw in the neighborhood wasn’t the rose jam or the graffiti, but a Lamborghini, the only one I’ve ever seen in Paris:)

Yelp Elite events in Paris are all fun, but the one last week at Les Piaules was one of my favorites:) Les Piaules translates to “little room” or crashpad” so it’s a perfect name for a hostel! Les Piaules is also a local hangout offering free wifi, 3€ ($3.30 USD) craft beer, and weekly events like live music and movies. This is one of the rare places that comfortably and easily allows tourists to mingle with people in the neighborhood.

A spacious outside terrace lets everyone take advantage of the rare days when it doesn’t rain, but comfortable sofas and stuffed chairs inside by the fireplace offer a cozy haven when the weather is chilly or wet.

Rooms come in a variety of sizes and prices, ranging from private double rooms with its own bathroom, to a shared dormitory for eight with shared bathroom. Prices range from around 35-120€ ($40-140 USD) depending on the season and space. This is one of the 4 bed dorms, with privacy blackout curtains, individual sockets, a private locker, and reading lamps.

The sense of humor of the owners is evident in the hallway signs:)

If you want to escape your room, and don’t want to relax in the bar, the rooftop is reserved for guests of the hostel with panoramic views of Montparnasse to Sacré Coeur.

Even on a gray day, the sunset over Paris rooftops is a picture worthy way to say goodnight:)

Living in the center of town means that musicians meander beneath my windows when there is a festival, so this year’s European Heritage Festival began when I saw and heard this:)

I walked the two blocks to the center of my neighborhood to see all the booths.

 France was of course represented by wine and champagne,

local honey,

 as well as handmade soaps.

 Italy was prominent with masks,

glass jewelry,

glass gifts,

 and of course food.

 Poland had a handcraft stand along with a food stand.

Spain displayed and sold their famous jamon

 at prices befitting the high quality of pork fed only acorns and aged for 2 years.

Most stands had both crafts and food like Romania’s,

 which had a line around the stand for the grilled meats.

Sweden showed off warm clothes.

 Poland displayed their handmade bags.

Belgium sold their waffles and beers.

England had tea and jam,

 and Scotland sold their famous marmalade.

 Musicians roamed the streets all afternoon,

making it a street celebration all day long:)

One of the advantages of walking in Paris is that you may find places you would miss using any other mode of transportation. The slower pace of life here can take some adjustment, especially for people from cities in the US, but there are rewards of pleasurable discoveries like La Trésorerie (they are working on an English version of their website, but they have people who speak English answering their phone lines). Prices are reasonable, neither the lowest and nor the highest for brand names and types of products; you may find lower prices in the big department stores during sales, but this place will have less crowds and better service.

I don’t really have room for any more pots and pans, but it’s always fun to browse:)

Tea and coffee sets and cups give you an option of making a beverage at home.

They have utensils from butter spreaders to zesters.

If you need extra hooks, they have those too.

Lights, tables, throws, curtains,

and coordinated linens to enhance your decor.

They even have practical things like cleaning supplies and tools.

The most practical part of this store was their attached cafe,

with Swedish snacks and sweets to sustain you as you shop:)

Even though it may seem charming to walk the streets of Paris with an umbrella, I prefer to spend cold rainy days indoors, so I’ve spent most of the Winters here hibernating in my heated home. The lure of shopping with friends in a warm covered market got me to venture out a bit to the Marché Saint Martin. We were seeking something to bring to a goûter, or the afternoon snack between lunch and dinner. Even though my three friends were all French natives, no one had ever been to this market, so we meandered and shopped the stalls as tourists:)

Fresh vegetables for crudites,

 cheese from cows, sheep, and goats,

 and bread made with pumpkin seeds, nuts, and sesame.

 It wouldn’t be a French market without wine,

 and local beef.

 If you don’t want to cook, you can buy prepared food to warm up at home,

 or snacks to nibble on as you await dinner.

 The center area was full of bins of oysters,

 or you can opt for seafood, already cooked and ready to eat.

Some of the stalls were closed on Saturday, like the one selling pastries, but you can always have fresh fruit for dessert:)

It would take several lifetimes to find all the neighborhood treasures in Paris. The only way to really get to know where they are in any quartier is to live, work, or attend school in the area. I am lucky enough to have friends who have done the hunting for me, and found Les Parigots, which literally translates to “The Parisians”, near Place de la République.

This warm comfortable café is what most Americans think of when imagining a meal among the neighborhood natives. For those of you who want to eat in a classic casual place away from tourists, Les Parigots has two added incentives for Anglophone visitors: they serve food all afternoon, without a mid afternoon break between lunch and dinner; and they have an English menu printed on the reverse of their French one. Even with the restaurant completely full, I did not hear one word of English, so I’m not sure why they had the translated menu, perhaps having it printed avoided having the servers trying to explain the menu to any non French speakers. The menu choices include enough variety for vegetarians, meat lovers, and fish eaters, all very reasonably priced for quality ingredients.

The front room has views of the street, and behind the bar, there is a back area for larger groups. We opted for sidewalk view and ordered 4 kirs to start and a 46 ml carafe of red Samur to share with our meal, totaling about 40 Euros or $50 USD for all our drinks for the four of us.

Two of my friends ordered the mushroom risotto, made with shiitakes, served with a side arugula salad and confit walnuts for 16 Euros, or about $18 USD. I found the rice needed salt, but since a salt cellar was on the table alongside a pepper grinder, it was no problem to add it.

I ordered the hand cut beef tartare, which came with crispy excellent fries, and a nicely dressed side salad for 16 Euros, or about $18 USD. Condiments were offered on the side, including Worcestershire, tabasco, mustard, and ketchup, so I happily mixed my tartare to my taste. The meat was tender, lightened by bits of Granny Smith apple, and although I appreciate cheese, I picked out the cubes in the tartare to eat with my salad rather than my tartare.

The other meat lover at lunch ordered the steak for 25 Euros or $30 USD which she requested bleu (very rare) but warm. It came bleu but not warm, and it was such a large piece of meat that it took her 30 minutes more than the rest of us to finish her meal.

Since everything is made in house, the desserts were creations that allowed the chef to be fanciful, like this grapefruit “pie” on a cookie crust,

and this “soup” of clementines with cardamon and bits of meringue; both desserts were 8 Euros or $9 USD, and both were refreshingly light ways to end a meal.

The best part of any meal is the company:)

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