Many of the exhibitions in Paris are free to the public, the only price you pay is waiting, unless you have a Paris Visite Pass (it may be worth it just for the often hour or more waits at popular attractions).

Photographer Brassaï, has an exhibit at the Hôtel de Ville de Paris, 5 rue de Lobau 4e (Metro Hôtel de Ville) until March 8, 2014. His famous black and white shots from 1930-1960 are on display everyday except Sunday from 10am-7pm (last entry at 6:15pm). About halfway past the length of ONE snake of the line, there is a sign that says your wait is approximately 30 minutes, so if you see a double file, the wait is 2 hours! You must go through a metal detector before entering, so be prepared for a TSA style screening (you can keep your shoes on).

Keep in mind they close for lunch from noon until 1:30pm, so go have lunch before you go, or you may end up as I did, eating in a very mediocre place nearby. I went to a well known place where I had eaten years ago, but now it is really about as good as Sizzler. The only redeeming quality was the view. I would have eaten better getting a sandwich or crepe nearby, but I was freezing and wanted to sit somewhere warm. Maybe one day I will put up a list of places to avoid here……

Since it was 2pm by the time I finished lunch, I headed back to the exhibit and saw this beautiful merry go round on the other side of the Hôtel de Ville. It was not just a display, it was actually running and they sold tickets for rides.

This was one of the best maintained merry go rounds I’ve ever seen, but since it was at City Hall, it had a certain standard to uphold 🙂

Afterwards, I wandered over to the Jardin du Luxembourg before they closed at 6pm. Winter can be quite stark in a garden, but they still keep flowers in as many places as possible until the snow comes.

The fallen leaves are raked into huge piles which signal the beginning of a much starker landscape of barren trees.

A few stubborn leaves still hang on to branches.

The small pond where children play with boats in the Summer is empty and the only children playing were bundled up like little Michelin men.

Mary Stuart looks cold even with her cape 🙂

Montparnasse has great views of the city from the observation floor, but it was nice to see it from the park as a reminder of how close everything is in Paris.

The Hotel de L’Avenir (Hotel of the Future) is just steps from the park, and even though I now live here (still haven’t quite adjusted to the difference yet), I stayed here on my FIRST trip to Paris! It looks like it’s been completely renovated and prices are still very reasonable, starting at only 91€ per night (about $120 USD). When I arrived I barely spoke French even after years of study, but by the end of my stay I was translating for the mostly English speaking guests, and the owner asked me to stay on as long as I wished:) He was about 70, so it must be his kids or grandkids who own it now (or it’s been sold). It was a “Back to the Future” moment since the hotel was named so appropriately for my first stay!

One of the best meals I’ve had since moving here (pinching myself) was at the Nemrod. Ok, I know it sounds like a strange name, but this wine bar / restaurant is a true neighborhood gem. All the neighboring tables were full of regulars from the area and the servers all knew them by name. I appreciated that the host asked me if a small corner table was ok with me before seating me because it was the only seat available inside, and it was so tiny I doubt anyone bigger than me could have squeezed into the space. He said, “I only permitted suggesting it because you are so petite.” It was a very charming and gallant way to say, “Thank-you for taking this tiny space that I could not have given to anyone else.”

They serve excellent wines by the glass for about 5€ (about $7USD), or bottles for around 25€ ($35 USD). The specials of the day were either lotte (Monkfish) or a “Poire de Salers” which is a cut of Salers beef from the upper thigh. Like Aubrac, Salers is a top quality beef (like Bresse for chickens), so I ordered the special for 18,30€ (about $25 USD) which came with a small salad made with AGED balsamic, shallots and grape tomatoes, a potato gratin that was HUGE, rich, and comforting, and best of all the beef was wonderfully tender and cooked bleu (raw on inside) with a little toothpick showing a blue cow)! I usually don’t sauce my steak, but the morel mushroom sauce was so addictive, I would have drunk it without any meat!

I wish I had room for cheese or dessert here since both looked great at nearby tables, but that just means I have to come back (and I will)!