Bonnieux – part of the Luberon Golden Triangle.

Bastide les Amis in the wintry light. Home, sweet, home.

Deep in the 16th Arrondissement, lies the main store for La Bon Marche, a famous department store. Like others in the retail category, Bon Marche is struggling to keep up with the boutiques and amazon.

However, one department where there is still no compromise is the Food Hal. Unlike Galeries Lafayette where they have thrown in the towel and sub-contracted to Carrefour supermarket chain, Bon Marche still have their hands on the food pulse under the descriptive of “The premier grocers of Paris”.

Miniature vegetables to please a Michelin chef.

Exotic fruits from around the world.

More fruits.

In the Saint Germain antique heaven – through the window of the antique shop. Sheer craftsmanship.

From poverty to the opulent, inside a courtyard.

This brilliantly evocative photograph epitomises what is so prevalent in Paris – homeless people and refugees.

We are still haunted yb the image of a young man who sat next door to us in the Notre Dame, obviously a refugee, poorly dressed who gripped a roasy in his fingers and was in a state of distress during the time he was there. Our hearts went out to him.

En route to Rodin.


Our fifth day was fortunately clear and cold, ideal for walking.

We had a little business to do at the Australian Embassy and then struck out for the Musee Rodin, right next to the Musee des Armee and a 5 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower.

Musee de Armée.

The front of the Rodin Museum.

What a revelation! Rodin lived about 30 minutes outside of Paris in Villa des Brilliants in the south-western suburb of Meudon (a 20-min RER train trip), but then in latter years, rented and then bought an old manor house as a haven for  like-minded artists and sculptors – the Hotel Biron. It is this museum that he donated to the French state and it has been turned into a magnificent tribute to Rodin.

No prizes for guessing – the Thinker.

One of the Bourgeois of Calais.

Tow children – we have a derivative of this in the Bastide’s garden.

Kissing couple.

Part of the room – 1900 The Glory Years.

Apart from the beautiful building, the gardens are sculpted to an inch of their lives and there are many of Rodin’s sculptures in the gardens. The exhibits trace his early works and they give full showing to his so-called ‘glory years’ of the early 1900s.

Rodin’s Museum from the gardens at the back.

The Gates of Hell.

The Bourgeois of Calais, ready for the hangman.


After this injection of culture, we hit the pavements again and tracked across Paris from the left bank of the Seine to the right bank, via a quick turn on the Isle de Seine, home of the Notre Dame and other beautiful buildings, as the shadows lengthened. We entered the Rue de Rivoli from the Marais end and explored its entire length with a mission to end up at the Jean Patou fragrance store – sadly, it was still closed but was due to open the next day, which gave us time to do all important fragrance purchases.

The Hotel Costes rose shop.

The famous fabric Christmas Tree in Hotel Costes.

After the Rue de Rivoli we looped into the Rue Saint Honore to view the fabric Christmas tree at Hotel Costes. The tree was everything we had hoped it would be but on sitting down in the bar for a quick pre-dinner drink, the thought of 18€ for a glass of house rosé and 19€ for a small beer frightened us off!

Paris street scenes.

A festive mood.

If you’re mixing with such monied folk as we were in Hotel Costes, why not do it properly and stroll over to Place Vendome, the home of the newly restored Ritz Hotel and headquarters of the luxury brands of the world. We walked into the Ritz as though we belonged and heased for the Galleria – this is a long passage of window displays of all the major brands and couture in the world; tiny cards let you know that whaever you want, they will arrive into your hotel room and allow you to try on, touch, feel without the drudge of going into the store or – heaven forbid – using a public changing room.

STOP PRESS: since writing this article, the Galleria was burgled on Wednesday 10th January, taking 2.5m€ of jewellery from one shop alone. Five thieves were responsible and two are still at large. 

Place Vendome – money, money.

Time to ocme down to earth. Around the corner is the Marche de Saint Honore, home of our favourite Fuxia – we dined there again, satisfied and happy.

We had a drink next to these characters. The one smoking a cigarette claimed to have worked with Yves Saint Laurent. Seems that they came for a pre-dinner aperitif (red wine and pastis) and then took the ’round  table’ inside for their dinner.

Another look at the Health App – cumulatively we were at 65km! No wonder sleep came easily.



Street art in Rue de Rivoli

Day 5 in Paris … coming soon!


Christian Dior – the creator of dreams.

Day 4 was grey and rainy as only Paris can be, maybe not as bleak as London but still chilly. We were not worried as this was the day for the Christian Dior Exhibition at the Musee des Decoratif, in the Louvre complex. The exhibition marks the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the House of Dior in 1947.

We approached our nearest Starbucks which is opposite the museum entrance only to witness a queue stretching at least 1km and growing by the second. This was a good 90 minutes before opening!

But, not to worry, the ‘coupe file’ ticket had come inot its own again. After a quick coffee, we went to a specia line, only about 50 metres long, huddled from the rain for 30 minutes and in we went….. into wonderland.

A live display of the seamster’s art.

Exhibitions in the 2000s are not passive affairs.

We were transported into the studios and workshops of one of the world’s largest Haute Cuture names, with all the glitz and glamour.

Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday dress.


Rooms led into each other. We started with the jewellery, magnificently displayed in LED light cases in darkened rooms; then on to the Haute Couture showpieces. Very clever, as showing creations worn by famous people using filter screens which washed from a waxwork of the person into the actual dress. Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday Dior dress was one such an exhibit.

More miniatures

Then, much to Madame’s delight – on her birthday no less! – Christian Dior had decided early in the 1950s to make exact miniatures of each of his pieces for showcasing around the world. He was one of the global trade pioneers.

We moved through the decades; then on to the millinery; accessories and the fragrances. Dior was a keen gardener and pal of Monet so many displays were veritable gardens as he drew inspiration from the nature he loved so much.

The penultimate room featured the Dior designers who followed Dior after his sudden death in 1957.

Garden inspiration.

Movie wonderland.

Then a walk across a passage down some spectaculr stairs and into a facade of the Dior main office on the Avenue de Montaigne in Paris and the celebrity room! With coloured lights creating an Oscar atmosphere, we viewed dresses worn by therich and famous from royal weddings to Oscars award nights, all on the appropriate waxwork models. Wow! What a climax.

It was hard to upstage this exhibition but another Starbucks fortifies one for an assault on the shopping mecca of Boulevard Haussmann. Between Christmas and New Year is when some of the sales start in France, but also the time when Far Eastern shopping tours happen by the hundreds from Bejing, Shanghai and other exotic climes. People, people, people, The Boulevard was eventually closed by the police due to the weight of people; Galeries Lafayette was letting people in five at a time and the queue at Uniqluo stretched around the block. What an experience and a very happy one.

Boulevard Haussmann under siege.

Crowds and more crowds as the police struggle to cope.

Christmas under the cupola in Galeries Lafyette

There was no shopping just looking and then we headed across town to west of the Champs Elysses and before the right bank of the Seine, aptly called the Golden Triangle. We had been recommended to go to Chex Andre for the birthday dinner.

Chez Andre is another of the traditional Parisian brasseries but has been gentrified.

However, not gentrified to the extent that it has escaped the clutches of the mass tour groups with their loud voices and mass food servings. Added to this was a very cantankerous restaurant manager who argued loudly with the waitresses, food was slopped on to the floor and not cleaned up, and card machines which allegedly did not work in order to try and get the patrons to pay cash, but then did work when you refusedto pay in notes. Having said all that, the food was fine and we were able to sign off on an incredible day.

A quick glance at the Health App – 12km/17,900 steps. Not bad for two oldies.




The main Palace of Versailles

Day 3 dawned cloudy and cool – Boxing Day. Not really a festive day celebrated by the French. Pretty normal really.

This was to be Palace of Versailles day. I had never been, and Madame only once about 35 years ago so it was with a great deal of excitement that we took the Metro to Invalides to catch the RER (Reseau Express – the overland Paris railway) to Versailles-Chateau-Rive Gauche. The trip takes about 35 minutes and costs 4€ – compare this to the bus prices of 42€ charged by the tourist offices!

A friend’s daughter had also given us a priceless piece of information. Pre-book your ticket through the hotel concierge and specify ‘coupe file‘ (literally, cut the line) tickets. This means that you by-pass the ticket queues and waltz straight in. Not quite as VErsailles attracts over 250,000 visitors daily, but your eaiting time is down to about 15 minutes, compared to 2-3 hours.

Inside the Hall of Mirrors

KIng Netune with the Palace rear in the background.

We ‘couped file’ and in we went to the Pride of France – Versailles Palace. The inscription about the Palace entrance – “For the glory of all France”, is not an understatement and even though it was midwinter, the gardens were pretty much asleep but still magnificent. After touring the rooms, we took the little train around the grounds to the various other buildings. The Hall of Mirrors has just been renovated and sponsored by the company that administers our toll roads, so we could see where our little 4€ we drop into the basket goes towards.

Part of the gardens.

The Chapel inside the Palace.

The King Louis’ loved gold!

We loved all the chandeliers and embossed, decorative ceilings.

A very cool idea is that you can hire golf carts and whizz around the grounds at your own pace. We didn’t try these as the train seemed a bit warmer!

The Palace tour and Gardens takes up a good three-quarters of a day and then it is a simple RER back into the city and off you go again.

This time we walked from Invalides and soaked up the sights and sounds, not to mention the lights, heading towards the Marche St Honore area, one of our favourites in the 1st Arrondissement.

The ‘baby’ Arc de Triomphe situated at the foot of the Louvre and at the entrance to the Tuleries Gardens with a searchlighted Eiffel Tower in the background.

Restaurants and bars are dotted around the old market are which is now gentrified shops and offices. Our favourite casual eatery, Fuxia, is there. Friendly serivce, quite superb Italian cuisine and a lively atmosphere. Not a tourist in sight – bliss.

Pre-meal at Fuxia. Just the Penne Arriabatta to drive. Delicious!

Afer a satisfying dinner, a short walk to the hotel and as we tumbld into our bed, the Health App on the iphone read: 16,8km / 23,448 steps. Tired but happy!







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