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April showers, April flowers

April showers, April flowers, April market produce that sings of “spring”…

April in Paris flowers 2April showers, April flowers: a flower stand at the Bastille open market

As everyone knows April is the month in Paris when “thrill” rhymes with “chill” (I’m quoting from my own book about Paris…).

Paris in April flowers 1April showers, April flowers: a flower stand at the Bastille open market

Spring greenery is not only beautiful, it’s edible: fresh tender baby peas, artichokes, asparagus… fresh fruit from the four corners of the globe (locavores must pardon Parisians: the city is north of Montreal and we don’t get much to eat if we don’t ship it in during cold months).

April in Paris flowers 3April showers, April flowers: a flower stand at the Bastille open market

April in Paris flowers 4April showers, April flowers... more blooms from the Bastille market

Our favorite markets: Boulevard Richard Lenoir (Bastille, 4th/11th arrondissements), Marche’ d’Aligre (12th arrondissement), Marche’ Biologique Raspail (organic market, 6th arrondissement).

April in Paris Bastille marketShopping for flowers and produce in Paris is a joy, especially in spring. The Bastille market is one of the city's best.

For these markets and reliable Paris market information, addresses and hours from the City of Paris click here

Read about David Downie’s Books

Take a private custom tour with us in Paris, Rome, Genoa, on the Italian Riviera, or in Burgundy

Categories Paris, France Travel Tips

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The Marais and Place des Vosges

place des Vosges, Paris, jousting, pageantThe celebrated pageant and jousting match that inaugurated the Place des Vosges in Paris.

Another look at the Marais and Place des Vosges—our backyard—posted on, where I’m a European correspondent.

Here’s the beginning of the article and link… bonne lecture (happy reading)

“French star architect Jean Nouvel once gave me a ride home from his studio in Paris’ edgy 11th arrondissement. I chuckled to discover that the guru of transparency, glass and steel lives around the corner from me in a 1600s building on the Rue des Francs Bourgeois, the spinal column of the Marais. Old is better?

I was amused but not surprised: after 40 years of blanket gentrification the Marais has reportedly become theplace to live for a mix of fashion designers, artists, architects, auctioneers and other professionals–plus droves of bobos, meaning bohemian bourgeois. It’s so desirable that it’s practically unlivable.”

Keep reading

Categories Paris, Paris

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Food Styling in Paris in March 2012

Paris Cookbook Fair 2012 Denise Vivaldo
The celebrated food stylist Denise Vivaldo in Paris with a handsome "Cheese Hunk."

Why is WanderingParis writing about the Paris Cookbook Fair 2012?

Simple: because March 8 & 9 will be upon us in no time, and reservations to attend Denise Vivaldo’s food styling master class should be made as soon as possible.

Here’s the information you need, followed by an email address where you can write for more info and to reserve your spot:

Food Styling in Paris
with Denise Vivaldo
Food styling for today’s global marketplace

at the Paris Cookbook Fair 2012
Venue: Le 104, 19th Arrondissement, Paris, France

March 8 & 9, 2012
Attend any single day for $400.00 US or both days for $800.00 US

Join Denise Vivaldo and Cindie Flannigan, authors of The Food Stylist’s Handbook, for these two information-packed classes; demonstrating food styling techniques that will improve the look of your food photographs. Joining us will be special guest: author David Downie.

Thursday, March 8:
We start our class with a demonstration of styling already prepared meals. Whether frozen or refrigerated, prepared meals are increasingly popular and generate much business for food stylists and photographers. We show how to present these products in the best possible light. Moving on, we’ll discuss how to achieve fire, heat and steam. Then we demonstrate how to give shape to the formless; containing and giving definition to foods like oatmeal, yogurt, and pudding. Next, we demonstrate making and plating that most popular dinner item: a delicious-looking roasted chicken. After a short break, we move on to. To end our day, we demonstrate how to prepare and present seafood for maximum impact, how to repair damage, and how to correct color.

Friday, March 9
We begin our second day with a demonstration of getting a grilled look without a grill. We work with packaged and fresh product to make it look great with an emphasis on how to prepare and cook, how to color, how to make it look moist and hot, and how to best present it. Our next segment is a student hands-on; everyone will get a chance to build a gorgeous hamburger while learning how to prepare, color, and refresh it as needed. After returning from lunch, we demonstrate working with ice cream and other frozen desserts, and share our secrets for making perfect fake ice cream. We end our second day with another student hands-on: cheesecake, tarts, and dessert sauces.

For more information please contact Mandy Unruh at

Categories Paris, French Food

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Epiphany in Paris: Inspiration of Many Kinds

January 6 is Epiphany, when the Magi or Kings of Orient arrive at the manger bearing gifts. Or so the legend goes.

Epiphany Creche in Paris
One of the more unusual Nativity Scenes (creches) in Paris: ecumenical, global, mixed (media and ethnicity).

Epiphany is defined in many ways today, and most have little enough to do with religious tradition. Even those who know what the Epiphany is all about for Christians nowadays express their Epiphany scenes is different, novel ways.

Epiphany Creche in Paris: Hanukah too?
Another one of the more unusual Nativity Scenes (creches) in Paris: ecumenical, global, mixed (media and ethnicity), with a distinctly Jewish flavor.

“We are the World” might be the overall title for these unusual, sometimes funny, sometimes moving or bizarre Nativity Scenes, all displayed in the windows of an unidentified corner building in Paris’ 5th Arrondissement, near the church of Saint Severan.

Epiphany Creche in Paris: Africa meets Jerusalem.
Close up, another of the most unusual Nativity Scenes (creches) in Paris: ecumenical, global, mixed (media and ethnicity), with black African and Jewish features.
Epiphany and Noah's Arc in Paris
One of the more unusual Nativity Scenes (creches) in Paris: ecumenical, global, mixed (media and ethnicity), this one featuring Noah's Arc.
Epiphany Creche in Paris: We are the World
Polynesian? In any case, one of the most unusual Nativity Scenes (creches) in Paris: ecumenical, global, mixed (media and ethnicity).

For those who think of epiphanies with a lower-case “e” (but upper-case significance), my favorite symbol of inspiration in Paris is the hard-to-see “Genie”—the Genius or Spirit—atop the Bastille Column at Place de la Bastille. The Spirit of the Bastille is all about Liberty, which also, at least to me, means freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of inspiration (and, perhaps, freedom from oppression in all its forms, secular and religious).

Epiphany by another name: Inspired Genius
Epiphany as in inspiration, the genius of creativity and freedom of thought.

Yet others think of delicious desserts when Epiphany arrives in Paris: January 6 is the day the Galette des rois—the old-fashioned flaky cake often filled with marzipan—is baked by thousands of bakeries and pastry shops.

Galette des rois, Epiphany treat in Paris
The traditional galette des rois (the Magi's cake) is still a favorite in Paris on and around Epiphany (Jan 6).

To each his own Epiphany (or epiphany)! Bonne inspiration…

Categories Paris, Pictures of France

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The Historical Present

Shown: The ship of state tossed by waves and buffeted by Seine breezes, with the device Fluctuat Nec Mergitur (the unsinkable). This has been Paris’ coat of arms since the Middle Ages.

Paris, Fluctuat Nec Mergitur, unsinkable city symbol
The symbol of Paris since the Middle Ages: a ship buffeted by breezes and tossed by waves, with the device Fluctuat Nec Mergitur. Copyright David Downie all rights reserved.

Why end this first part of the Paris time line with 1572? That’s the year of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, a watershed in Paris history. See below for details, and a graphic illustration.

My personal Paris time-line starts in 1976. That’s when I spent a couple of weeks in a tiny mezzanine apartment perched above the original Shakespeare & Company in Rue de l’Odéon. The bookstore was run by Sylvia Beech (and her partner, Adrienne Monnier, whose French-language bookstore was across the street). There were moments when I wondered what all the fuss was about—Paris was an unholy mess in many ways, and the Parisians often struck me as less than cuddly. At other times I was enthralled and delighted, and secretly made plans to move here and write (but how to make a living?).

Ten years later, in 1986, I settled into my cozy garret in the 17th arrondissement and began the never-ending explorations that to this day keep me fascinated by Paris and its layered history—a past evident not only in book form.

The city’s streets, courtyards, parks and riverbanks are living volumes open to anyone who learns to read them. It helps to have a handful of key dates and a cast of characters in mind.

Surprisingly, given that Paris is the modern capital of one of the world’s richest, most industrialized nations, traces of the city’s 2,000-year history still crop up everywhere you turn: Paris lives in the historical present. Pick a period or a historical theme, hit the streets and you’ll find something solid to transport you down a time tunnel of your own making.

Paris Time Line Part One: Prehistory to 1572

8000-200 BC Mud huts and dug-outs moored in what’s now the Bercy neighborhood on the Seine: Paris’s neolithic, pre-Gallic beginnings go back 10,000 years.

300-52BC Les Gaulois—Astérix’s real-life ancestors—sweep in, subdue the fisher-folk, and expand from Bercy to l’Ile de la Cité. They call themselves “Parisii” tribespeople, build roads and bridges and boost the salt and tin trade.

52BC A bad year for les Gaulois: Julius Caesar takes over and ushers Gaul into the Roman-Mediterranean world. Later, the Romans build a large city on the Left Bank and fortify their island-stronghold. The murky Seine inspires the name “Lutetia Parisiorum”: in Latin lutum means mud. Later inhabitants soften Lutetia to “Lutece.”

1st to 3rd century The city covers much of the Left Bank’s “Latin Quarter”: administrative buildings, bathhouses, a forum and arena.

Late 3rd century “Barbarian” invasions, primarily Germanic, force the Romans to dismantle their monuments and reuse the stones to further fortify the Ile de la Cité.

250 St-Denis becomes Paris’ first bishop but is beheaded by a pagan mob.

292 Emperor Constantius makes Paris his capital in Gaul.

312 The edict of Constantine officially recognizes Christianity. Gaul resists.

Emperor Julian the Apostate crowned in Paris at the baths of ClunyEmperor Julian the Apostate crowned in Paris in the year 360 AD at the baths of Cluny, as imagined by a 19th-century artist.

360-362 Julian the Apostate is declared Emperor in Lutece and makes it his unofficial capital; he calls it “Paris” for the first time in recorded history, and tries to roll back Christianity. But he’s murdered while campaigning in the Middle East and fails to achieve his goal.

451 Attila the Hun and his hordes attack Gaul but don’t destroy Paris. The city’s “savior” is Geneviève, a Christian from Nanterre, later sainted.

461 The Franks, a Germanic tribe, surround Paris and try to starve out the population. Geneviève to the rescue again. She becomes the city’s patron saint, a job she holds until the reign of Louis XIII (when the Virgin Mary ousts her).

464 Despite Geneviève’s efforts, Childeric the Frank takes over: the Merovingian dynasty begins.

508 Clovis I, son of Childeric and King of the Franks, star Merovingian, trades in his pagan gods for Christ and makes Paris his capital. The Gallo-Roman-Frankish fusion is complete.

752 Upstart “mayor of the palace” Pepin the Short usurps Merovingian rule, founds the Carolingian dynasty (752-987) and sires Charlemagne (reigns 768-814).

800 Pope Leo III in Rome crowns Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor. Christianity in France is here to stay. And Paris never looks back.

885-886 Norman pirates besiege Paris; their devastating raids continue for decades, leading city authorities to build the first medieval city walls (on the Right Bank).

987 Hugues Capet (reigns 987-996), creator of the Capetian dynasty (987-1328), becomes King of France in Senlis, Paris’ main rival.

1108 Building work begins on Notre-Dame de Paris.

1120 Saint-Denis cathedral is expanded and rebuilt in the new Gothic style. Ecclesiastical architecture will never be the same.

1100-1200s River trade is a mainstay and the city’s symbol becomes (and still is) a ship with the motto “fluctuat nec mergitur” (“It floats without being submerged,” and sounds better in Latin).

1180 Emperor Philippe Auguste (Philip Augustus) begins building a royal fortress, the Louvre.

place des Vosges, Paris, jousting, pageantThe celebrated pageant and jousting match that inaugurated the Place des Vosges in Paris.

1190-1210 Philippe Auguste girds Paris with walls. The city’s spider-web shape is established forever (not even Napoléon III and Haussmann can destroy it).

1200-1285 University of Paris (1200) and Sorbonne (1257) established. The Left Bank’s scholarly vocation is assured ad aeternum. Sainte Chapelle built, Saint-Denis further embellished.

1285-1314 Philippe IV the Fair, a handsome scoundrel, builds the Conciergerie to imprison and torture his foes, wipes out the Templars and massacres Jews.

1328 The Valois dynasty (1328-1589) gets off to a rough start with King Philippe VI (reigns 1328-1350), a war-monger with eyes focused on the English.

1358 Uprising of Étienne Marcel, mayor of Paris and provost of merchants: the trend-setting first of many popular Paris revolts.

1364 Charles V (reigns 1364-1380) is dubbed ‘the wise’, restores law and order to Paris and unwisely builds the Bastille and city walls marking les Grands Boulevards and l’Arsenal, later the quintessential symbols of oppression.

1420 Henry V of England invades France and takes over Paris. The city remains in English hands until 1436, when Charles VII retakes it.

1429 Joan of Arc tries but fails to free Paris. Where is Sainte Geneviève?

1431 Paris still in calloused, beery English hands. Henry VI of England is crowned king in Notre-Dame. Joan of Arc is roasted by English occupiers in Rouen. Perfidious Albion rules the roost.

1436 The English get the boot from Paris, but don’t evacuate Calais until 1453.

1461 Crafty Louis XI (reigns 1461-1483) wields the scepter with an autocratic hand. Paris booms. The first medical school opens. The postal system is created (and still operates, despite efforts to destroy it by Rightwing governments).

1470 German printer Ulrich Gering creates Paris’ first printing press, at the Sorbonne. Bouquins, Parisian argot for “books,” become synonymous with the Left Bank.

1515 King François I (reigns 1515-1547) begins rebuilding the Louvre and filling it with artworks. He is Leonardo da Vinci’s patron: the Italian Renaissance at last begins to pull France out of the Middle Ages. Townhouses line Paris’ growing number of Renaissance streets.

1547 Henri II takes the reins (reigns 1547-1559) but his queen, the Florentine Catherine de’ Médicis (aka Caterina Maria Romula di Lorenzo de’ Medici) is a backseat driver. She builds the Tuileries Palace.

1559 Henri II is accidentally killed while jousting with Montgomery at Place Royale, now Place des Vosges, centerpiece of the Marais. “Thanks to Montgomery’s lance the Place des Vosges was created,” notes Victor Hugo three centuries later.

1559-1589 Catherine de’ Médicis demolishes the Tournelles palace on Place Royale and oversees the start of the Wars of Religion. Her sons, kings François II, Charles IX and Henri III prosecute the war.

saint bartholomew's day massacre paris3,000 Huguenots were slaughtered in Paris on Saint Bartholomew's Day in 1572 at the instigation of Catherine de' Medicis and her son, King Henri III.

1572 One of Paris’ bloodiest events ever is the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre when 3,000 Huguenots are butchered. Turmoil continues until the end of the Valois dynasty in 1589.

Watch this page. The march of time will continue soon, starting with the Bourbons and Henri IV, builder of the Place des Vosges.

place des Vosges, Paris, jousting, pageantThe celebrated pageant and jousting match that inaugurated the Place des Vosges in Paris.

Categories Paris, History of France

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