Category Archives: Place de Vosges

Paris In Winter


Well bonjour!! Thanks for taking my call after I so rudely ghosted you. I seem to be spending a lot more time on Instagram (@maihem)  than I do on this blog, which I suppose is a sign of the times. However, my husband asked that I post about our recent week in Paris, and it seemed the least I could do. This one’s for you, mon amour!

Paris calls to me in all seasons, but I have a particular weakness for her in winter, when the days and queues are short. The light, though elusive, is especially golden, and reveals the silhouettes of the trees normally clothed in foliage. The beauty is more austere than in other seasons, but no less compelling.

When I lived in Paris, the one inquiry I dreaded from friends was where they should stay. I was ill-equipped to answer, as we spent very few nights in hotels  before we moved into  our apartment. I have returned several times since we moved, however, and can now recommend several hotels, all of which I have stayed on more than one occasion and found to be consistently good.

The Marriott Renaissance Arc de Triomphe is short on atmosphere but was a great hotel for us the times we were there on business. It is surrounded by fun shops and is conveniently located in the 16th.


I have loved Hotel Le Saint both times I stayed there. This is a small boutique hotel located in the swank neighborhood of Saint -Germain -Des -Pres in the 7th. The quiet street is a short walk from the lively Boulevard St. Germain, lined with stores and cafes and bars. The rooms are generously sized and very comfortable.

Who wouldn’t love staying in a boutique hotel just off of the picture-perfect Place des Voges in the Marais? La Pavillon de la Reine is a lovely 17th century building with fifty-six rooms, a quiet bar, and an enchanting terrace perfect for tea or cocktails. I love the calm, unstuffy elegance of this place. An added bonus is that you will never have trouble  finding your way back to the hotel because of the frequent signs pointing to the famous Place des Voges.


This was taken when I was there in August- not quite as verdant in winter!

None of these hotels are inexpensive; however, we were always able to use credit card points or to find special deals on travel sites. Obviously there are many less- spendy places to stay in Paris- I am just sharing my experiences, which were all wonderful.

It’s always tempting to return to old favorite restaurants in Paris, but this time we made a concerted effort to try some new (or new to us) places to eat. Our favorite discovery was Le Rigmarole, a tiny place in the 11th opened in October by a French-American chef. The tasting menu was original and vibrant and crazy delicious. I am sure it will quickly get harder to book, and will also become more expensive than the reasonable 49 euros currently charged for the tasting menu. Go toute suite!

Another exciting find was Le Grand Bain, tucked away in the (sort of) gritty Belleville neighborhood. Despite our early 8:00 reservation, the place was packed with (mostly French) people enjoying the creative small plates. Two dishes we wanted were already sold out, which happens in these small restaurants that cook their food fresh and in limited quantities. Our waiter was most helpful in steering us toward other choices, and we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner.

For some reason we rarely ate Asian food when we lived in Paris, despite the abundance of good Asian offerings. This time we popped into a very popular Japanese restaurant in Saint Germain called Ippudo. Ramen and pork buns were the perfect antidote to the cold weather and to our empty bellies.


I was even able to find a spicy one, which is not easy to do in Paris!

We did make the required return visit to one of our enduring favorites, Ellsworth, where we have dined many times and never been disappointed. Americans Braden Perkins and his wife Laura Adrian moved to Paris in 2007 and soon opened Verjus (another of our darlings) and then Ellsworth, both of which were received  with much approval by Parisians and tourists alike. The Ellsworth menu is shared plates from a fairly limited menu that packs a lot of flavor and food into a small space. The only savory to remain a constant on the changing menu is the fried chicken with pickles, and we wouldn’t dream of not ordering it. This time the raw scallops made my eyes roll back in my head.


Hey- looks aren’t everything.

The malt ice cream with crispy bits is a regular among the desserts and for good reason.

I understand that the owners are in the process of opening a third restaurant, so we will have another place to add to our rotation. This reporter looks forward to giving you the scoop on it as soon as she possibly can. I’m here for you. mes amis.

We only had six days, but we hit several museums, a few parks, walked our Fit Bits into ecstasy, saw some old friends, and drank way too much vin rouge. It was glorious.



Don’t go changin’, Paris. I”ll be back.


Filed under Arc de Triomphe, Belleville, Paris, Paris dining, Paris hotels, Paris in winter, Paris photos, Place de Vosges, Saint Germain des Pres, Uncategorized

Happy New Year, Paris!

Mark and I took the mid-afternoon train on Thursday from London to Paris, arriving just as the City of Light was getting dark. Mark has some business here (hooray!), so we thanked London for her hospitality, kissed her goodbye, and returned to this place that holds so many wonderful memories.

Can I just tell you how happy I am to be back in my favorite city??? I don’t think I have stopped smiling in the two days we have been here. Paris in January is divine-the big winter light is everywhere and the crowds have disappeared. Restaurants that usually require reservations days in advance are happy to offer us a table on short notice. PLUS it’s SALE TIME again! I have virtually no room in my suitcase but I am not opposed to jettisoning all of the clothes I have been wearing non-stop for four months to make space for bargains. Or even for “not quite bargains”. For the first time in several years I don’t know when my next trip to Paris will be, so I might need to take some Paris home with me. And compared with London, everything is a bargain. I think you can see where this is going.

I covered some serious ground yesterday.




It’s King Cake time again!


I stopped by Merci, hoping for bargains.



Of course I had to go say “bonjour” to the Place des Vosges. It looked a tad woebegone without its leafy green canopies, but still managed to be elegant.


My favorite fancy hot chocolate spot was sparkly and beautiful.



With some quick steps I managed to just catch the pink of the sun on the tops of Notre Dame.



That evening I met Mark and some co-workers at the Mini Palais, one of our favorite places for drinks or dinner. I took the metro, and when I popped up I was pleasantly surprised to find the Champs Elysees still wearing her Christmas best.



The Christmas vendors were still hawking their wares.


The Mini Palais sits in a corner of the Grand Palais, and has one of the best terraces in town.


The food looked almost too pretty to eat.

pumpkin soup with chestnuts

pumpkin soup with chestnuts

the BEST scallops

the BEST scallops

Not a bad day at all.


Filed under Champs Elysees, Christmas, Grand Palais, Marais, Notre Dame, Paris, Paris dining, Paris in winter, Place de Vosges, Uncategorized

More From The Weekend

Don’t worry- I promise not to go on any more about our boss seats at the French Open Women’s Finals on Saturday or that you might have seen us on TV sitting right behind Serena. Not another word.

If you come to Paris this summer you shouldn’t miss the Berges de Seine, which I have featured here several times. We love to walk down to this re-vitalized and pedestrianized bank of the river between Pont d’Alma and the Musée d’Orsay. Lucky for us it’s not too far to walk carrying a picnic or just a bottle of wine, as we did on Saturday evening. The sun is not setting here until close to 10:00, which allows plenty of time to enjoy the surroundings, the wine, and the sunset.


Hey- didn’t I see you on TV earlier today?







The Petit Palais was aglow when we passed it on our way home.


Sunday afternoon Mark had to go to the office and I wandered around the Marais a bit. While many parts of Paris are closed on Sundays, the Marais is reliably hopping.

I was reminded that we are well into tourist season here in Paris. The streets were thronged with happy travelers, and the lines for falafel and gelato were staggering.


The Place de Vosges was as crowded as I have ever seen it.


I wandered off a main street and found this quiet spot.


This lovely place, the Hôtel-de-Sens, was built from 1475-1519.





A few other random things caught my eye.





pomengranate juice, anyone?

pomegranate juice, anyone?

And finally, this group had attracted a nice crowd on a shady corner.

Do wop, do wop.


Filed under Marais, Paris, Paris sunsets, petit palais, Place de Vosges, Seine

More Paris Love

On the second full day of my mom and niece’s visit we headed over to Notre Dame and the Marais.

Our first stop was the Hotel de Ville, which is offering an amazing exhibit of Paris photos taken over the past eighty years. I had seen it with Mark but knew my mother would love it, too. She did.


hotel de ville

hotel de ville

From there it is a quick walk across the river to Notre Dame. One would think that after so many visits I would no longer feel compelled to take pictures, but I just can’t help myself.





After lunch we walked to the Marais and I introduced my niece to Amorino gelato.

she said "grazie"

she said “grazie”

Our favorite place to eat gelato is the Place de Vosges.


Finally, we walked to the newly-reopened Picasso Museum, which had been closed for a hundred years or so. Well, almost. It was closed for six years, which (even in France) is an inordinately long time for the renovation of a small museum. The home of the museum is the gorgeous 17th century Hôtel Salé, named after the original owner who was responsible for collecting the salt tax. Not being a huge Picasso fan, myself, the house was my favorite part. I confess to engaging in a little fantasy of being “Madame Salé”, telling the servants where to serve me my afternoon sherry.







Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, mes amis!

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Filed under art, Hotel de Ville, Marais, Notre Dame, Paris, Paris museum, Place de Vosges

Just A Short Walk

The sky on Tuesday morning was bluer than it had been in some time.  The temperature was about 36 degrees, and I decided it was a good day for a long walk.  And walk I did.  I took the metro to Bastille and wandered all the way home, never stopping for a coffee or a purchase- only to take pictures.  Here is what my walk looked like on my handy-dandy new app called Map My Run.


Isn’t that cool?  It also told me that I had walked 7.3 miles in 2 hours and 3 minutes, burning 739 calories!  Not bad for a morning’s stroll, right?

So if you start at the far right of my squiggly red path, you will be at Bastille, where I got off the metro and turned on my app.

Starting point: Bastille

Starting point: Bastille

Opera House at Bastille

Opera House at Bastille

The first little detour off my path was to go see what one of my favorite spots looked like in the morning light.

That's where!

That’s where!

Place des  Vosges

Place des Vosges

morning light on Place des Vosges

morning light on Place des Vosges

At Hotel de Ville I decided to head to the river and maybe take a peek at Notre Dame.


As you can see from my little red trail, I got carried away admiring the bridges and went too far, which is why you see the big loop back to Notre Dame.  That little jaunt wasn’t very scenic.  I was kind of mad at myself for missing my bridge.  But I wanted to see the Christmas tree, which you may remember was such a disappointment last year when I made a special trip over there to see it at night.  Turns out it’s more a day thing.  But this year, it isn’t a thing at all.  Apparently the cathedral’s 850 year birthday celebration has preempted the Christmas tree this year.  I’m sure there will be some nice events, but they really kind of trashed out the place with all their preparations.  If that had been my only day to see Notre Dame, I would have been pissed.



But the tree was right here last year....

But the tree was right here last year….

After being uninspired at Notre Dame, I decided to cross over the Left Bank for a stretch.  I walked up Boulevard St. Germain, where I was sorely tempted to stop for a coffee at Les Deux Magots or Cafe de Flore, but I resisted.  I crossed back over the river by the Musee d’Orsay and entered the Tuileries.


This year there is an enormous Christmas tree just outside the Tuileries gate, almost to the Place de la Concorde.


This tree probably looks better at night.  What is the deal with that horrible blue thing surrounding the base of the tree?  Is it to hide all the presents that are under there?

While I was pondering these things, I noticed a long line of horses being ridden by military guys walking down the street along the river.  It was so pretty and so unexpected.



From there it was an easy walk home, avoiding the Champs Elysees because the Christmas market is set up there and it gets pretty thick with tourists.  Bah.

Now that, my friends, was a great walk and a great morning.  I really should do it more often.


Filed under Champs Elysees, Notre Dame, Place de Vosges, Tuileries, Uncategorized

C’est moi

I told you they were coming to see me!

Bonjour, my loyal friends!  Did I mention my parents were coming???  Sawyer and I were so happy to see new people we almost couldn’t stand it.  I was getting pretty sick of me, and I think the dog was, too.  And poor Martha was really tired of  Sawyer and me jumping up to lick her face when she walked in the door from school.  Mom and Dad were pretty stoked to see us, as well, even if Mom doesn’t look like it in the above photo.  Blame it on jet lag- this was the afternoon of their arrival and we were schlepping around Sacre Coeur in the drizzle.  I was the only one of the four of us (Mark was the photographer) who wasn’t jet lagged, and it kind of reminded me of being the  only sober one at a party. Or, what I would think that would be like.  I would much rather be drunk than jet lagged, though.  Wait, where was I going with this?  Oh yeah- they were all bleary eyed and yawning and occasionally babbling nonsense, and after awhile I started feeling like I had just stayed up all night, too.  Weird.
They arrived over a week ago and we have been movin’ and shakin’ and covering some ground.  This morning they boarded the fast train to Avignon for a few days, and I came home to play catch up.  I guess I am not a very good multi-tasker, because the housework, French studying, grocery shopping, and oh yeah- BLOGGING- have gone to s*it since I have been wearing my hostess cap.  I really intended to make a bigger dent cleaning up this joint today , but Mark just left me a message that I needed to update my blog, so I guess the dog hair and general disarray can wait.  I think Mark is worried that you guys will all abandon me and start reading a blog about tennis or life on an Oklahoma cattle ranch or something  (right- like THAT would ever happen ) and then I would be all depressed and weepy and he would feel like he had to buy me something and it would all go downhill from  there.  So you can thank him for today’s post (or blame him, depending on how this post turns out).
Amazingly, the Sunday they arrived was the only drizzly day we have had so far.  Monday morning they woke refreshed and we took a self-guided walking tour in the Marais.  We found ourselves in the very chi-chi Place de Vosges, which was built by Henry IV in 1608 and called the Place Royal.  This was Paris’ first square, and was the site of duels and tournaments.  It is lined by nine symmetrical houses on each side, with slate roofs and dormer windows over arcades,  and is gorgeous. Henry IV lived here, as did Victor Hugo (but not at the same time). The Place Royal was the home of the aristocracy and is still very prestigious real estate.  You may have heard of one of today’s residents- Dominique Strauss-Kahn?  Well, I think that’s where he lives, anyway.  My French teacher told me he did, but she may have said he once dated several  women who lived there.  Never really sure how much of what she says I am  understanding, but I smile and nod and say “oui” a lot, and it seems to work.

Rows of trees line the outside of the green area of the Place de Vosges.

love the curved light fixtures- so elegant

This photo (below)  shows the beautiful underside of the arcades, which are lined with cafes and shops, but nothing
very exciting.
This photo reminds me that we ate lunch at a cafe under this arcade, and the people next to us were eating blood sausage that was almost black.  There was also a woman eating a bowl of what appeared to be raw hamburger meat with a sprinkling of vegetables on top.  Whew- and I thought I was making great strides in learning to eat olives here.  This is going to be harder than I thought.
Never leave me, friends, even when I get distracted with other things or quote completely inaccurate facts.  There is an abundance of blogs that give really good historical background on Parisian sites.  This is not one of them.
I’m not sending my parents back to Texas until it quits getting to 100 degrees in Austin.  Hear that, Texas?


Filed under family, Paris outings, Place de Vosges, Uncategorized