A Sunny Weekend “Flâneuse-ing” in Le Marais
When Parisians are happy, life in the Capital seems blissful. This it what I came home to Friday night. The weather had turned warm, sunny and beautiful. This seems to happen every March—a week or so of serious signs of spring with beautiful warm sunny weather. We put away our winter clothing, then we’re hit with the cold and rainy days of April, making us regret having put away the sweaters and coats. I call it the “big fake out!”
Meanwhile, everyone hit the streets making the weekend a perfect opportunity to become a “flâneur” or “flâneuse.” A “flâneur”(masculine) is someone who strolls, lounges, saunters or loafs…wandering in a detached way with no other purpose than to observe. A “flâneuse” is the female version. Wandering in Paris with no particular destination or goal is not something I have the luxury of doing very often. In fact, it’s closer to something I NEVER do, because one must have the time to while away wandering, which is not one of my usual privileges as a “working girl.”
However, both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, every single Parisian was on the streets, many of whom were clearly “flâneur-ing,” including even me. In those brief moments, I discovered a Paris new to me.
As I was sauntering down rue de Thorigny on the way to dropping recyclable coffee capsules at the Nespresso shop on rue des Francs Bourgeois, https://www.nespresso.com/boutiques-fr/paris-marais I heard someone call out, “Madame!, “Madame!” I looked around and saw no one calling for me. Then, I heard, “Madame, je suis en haut!” (Madame, I’m up here.) I looked up to see this young and very handsome man standing in an open window. He continued, “Bonjour, Madame. On this very beautiful day, I just want to wish you a very pleasant afternoon!” (He said this in French, of course.)
Quel surprise! Where was I? Was I in Paris? Was this really a Parisian? They aren’t normally so full of good cheer, but that’s when I knew that thanks to the beautiful weather and glorious sunshine, Parisians were emerging from their normal sullenness.
Lunch at La Carrette at Place des Vosges Saturday afternoon, basking in the sunshine, was one of those weekend luxuries one would remember forever. The restaurant had a line to get a table and 400+ year-old Place des Vosges was a beehive of activity with a “brocante” (rummage sale) with stands along two sides of the square. The quality of goods on sale was clearly a step above the usual.
One silver merchant had enough forks, spoons and knives to sink a battleship, all perfectly arranged and tied with ribbons like the spears of asparagus I eyed at the Bastille Market the next morning. One rug made of a huge Picasso-esque face caught my eye, as it must have everyone else’s–I just wish I had a place for it! But, I am in the market for a vase to replace the one I broke two weeks ago. Sadly, I came up empty-handed.
Whether we have the pandemic to blame or not, there are lots of new establishments that have popped up. A new bakery with five outlets in Paris called “Land & Monkeys” has recently opened on boulevard Beaumarchais—it’s 100% Végétale. What a strange name for a bakery: Land & Monkeys. It’s a bakery “that produces good food and does good! More than a local business, it is a brand with a positive impact on the planet and all living things.” Don’t ask me if the bread is good or not. I’m avoiding bakeries at all cost (eating baguettes and other goodies like croissants, is a bad habit tough to break, especially in France), but you shouldn’t! And please let us know how it stacks up against the others.
Sunday morning at the Bastille Market is one of those adventures that one must do every now and then, if not weekly. It was here Geraldine, Jeffrey and I set out to purchase oysters for our traditional “Oyster Sunday,” salad fixin’s and smoked mackerel. Jeffrey Rauch, shucker extraordinaire, has his favorite venders for such goodies, which is quite a talent for scoping out the best of the more than 100 stands at the market, one of, if not the largest of, all markets in France. It’s confusing to say the least to know which vendors are best, but it’s a cornucopia of sights, sounds and smells…so take your rolling cart and load up! We did!
To say we dined well, is an understatement. The “fine de claire” oysters were superb, as was the smoked mackerel, the green salad and berry fruit salad. It was our last oyster lunch until they return next winter, so we made the most of it and ate enough for two lunches.
That afternoon, the Carreau du Temple was just as buzzing as was the brocante, but with the Salon du Vintage. “Organized every year, the Vintage Fair brings together 100 exhibitors on 2,000 square meters and offers a wide selection of designer furniture, fashion, vinyl records and classic vehicles. It’s a moment of shopping, aesthetic, nostalgic, ecological backed by a soundtrack resolutely nostalgic of the 70’s and 80’s.”
I didn’t find a vase, but did find a clock I simply had to have. The stand was only displaying things that were red, black and white. Both Geraldine and I were wearing exactly those colors, so our presence in the booth was a perfect joke. We chuckled about this with the seller as he told me the price of the clock: 20€. I didn’t bother to bargain for it, quickly handed over a 20 euro bill and now it’s just a matter of where to hang it! (Except that it doesn’t work, so a trip to my watch repair is now in order. C’est la vie.)
Just steps away from the Square du Temple, more people were taking advantage of the sunshine at the park than I have ever seen there…on the grass, on the playground and on the benches soaking up the sun.
Walking home from Place des Vosges Saturday, we wandered into the courtyard of what is known as the Caserne des Minimes. Seventy social housing units dedicated to student-shared apartments and several entirely adapted for the elderly have been built in a former gendarmerie barracks, 100 meters from the Place des Vosges.
We happened upon it only to discover a beautiful newly renovated building, a public garden and a dozen new businesses. The historic building was the Convent of the Minimes from 1605 to 1790. The convent church was sold during the Revolution and demolished in 1798, then it was transformed into barracks of a gendarmerie until now. The Caserne des Minimes is now a 7,550 square meter building complex bordered by rues Saint-Gilles, Béarn, Minimes and des Tournelles in the heart of the Marais, owned by Élogie-Siemp, the third largest social landlord in Paris, which manages more than 29,000 housing units in Paris and the suburbs. Several entrances allow access to this city block, which was previously closed. In its center, the former parade ground, with an area of about 2000 square meters and quite typical of the size of Parisian squares, has been converted into a public garden. It was named Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, in honor of this gendarme who, at the risk of his life, took the place of a hostage during the terrorist attack in Trèbes, in 2018.
Posters of French political personalities have been posted all over town, and in other cities in France, by a street artist based in Paris, Jaëraymie. The 35 year-old launched his artistic action called “Distorsions,” composed of a series of six original paintings of personalities, made with oil paint and surrounded by a frame. You might spot French President Emmanuel Macron dressed in a yellow vest with an eye swollen, like I did.
Round 1 of the French Presidential election is scheduled for April 10th, so supporters are on the campaign trail to win votes for any one of the 10 candidates (Thanks to the Policy Insider for this comprehensive list):
• Nathalie Arthaud, Workers’ Fight (Lutte ouvrière), economics teacher and former local elected representative
• Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, France Arise (Debout la France), MP for the Essonne department and former mayor of Yerres
• Anne Hidalgo, Socialist Party (Parti socialist, PS), mayor of Paris since 2014
• Yannick Jadot, Europe Ecology–The Greens (Europe Écologie Les Verts, EELV) MEP since 2009 and former campaign director for Greenpeace France
• Jean Lassalle, former member of the center party (MoDem) and MP for the Pyrénées-Atlantique department
• Emmanuel Macron, La République en Marche, incumbent French President since 2017
• Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Unbowed France (La France Insoumise, FI), former senator and MEP, is actually MP for the Bouches-du-Rhône department (873 signatures)
• Marine Le Pen, National Rally (Rassemblement national), MP for Pas-de-Calais’s department. She was MEP (2004-2017)
• Valérie Pécresse, The Republicans (Les Républicains), won the Congress of Republicans (the primary of the conservative) on 4 December 2021. The Republicans party officially invested her on 11 December 2021 as candidate of the party to the presidential election
• Fabien Roussel, French Communist Party (Parti communiste français, PCF), MP of the Nord department and journalist
• Éric Zemmour, Reconquest!, political journalist and author, he announced his candidacy on 30 November 2021 in a YouTube video
Should no candidate win a majority of the vote in the first round, a runoff will be held between the top two candidates on 24 April 2022. Round 2 will take place just before the 2022 legislative election that will be held on June 12th with runoffs June 19th, to elect the 577 members of the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament.
For an in-depth look at the elections, the American Library is sponsoring a discussion, live and on Zoom: “The French Election, Analyzed”
with journalists Vivienne Walt, Stanley Pignal, and François Clemençeau, moderated by David A. Andelman. “The Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) and the American Library in Paris will convene to discuss the outcome of the 2022 French presidential election. Broadly seen as a litmus test for the rising tide of populism across Europe, the results of this election may determine the future of the European Union and its international vision. At stake is the identity of the Fifth Republic: will the French people align themselves with Macron’s image of France as the center of European partnership, or with the nationalist picture of a once-strong France in decline? What will happen to immigration, secularism, security, and social cohesion in France in the election’s wake?”(For more information click here)
David Andelman is blogging regularly about the elections, if you need a good fix, so visit his site and subscribe!
And take advantage of the good weather while we have it!
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
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