Three Days in Paris – Candied Violets, Birthday in the Rain and Mozart Exhibit at l’Opéra Garnier

le jardin du Palais-Royal, Paris

Those who have spent time in Paris know you can experience endless sights, sensations and emotions in a single day

Here are a few photos and highlights of our past three days in the City of Light – and/or the city of intermittent rain and drizzle, as the moments may be.

Day One – les flâneurs, or walking around

Today we decided to walk as much as possible. This was partly because we spent most of yesterday riding trains and undergrounds, partly because many manifestations, or protests, were planned in response to President Macron’s proposed overhaul of French labour laws, and partly because Paris is simply a great walking city.

The most concerning event however was not a protest. It was arriving for lunch at our local café to find 1) no sign of Vlad and 2) the other waiters exceptionally, almost overly, friendly. This caused immediate alarm! We worried Vlad might be gone once again and wondered if the others were trying to ensure we remain regulars. We decided to wait a few days before asking.

Café sans Vlad

In the afternoon, we checked out a branch of a well-known French sweet shop, À la Mère de Famille, literally ‘to the mother of the family’.

Big kid in a candy shop, À la Mère de Famille, Paris

In addition to all manner of beautiful chocolat and nougat temptations, this shop offers a boiled sugar sweet I’d never tried before: candied violets. These little purple flowers are one of the most gorgeous-looking and tasting sweets I’ve ever had the pleasure of purchasing.

A supply of candied violets from À la Mère de Famille

This day we also found two patisseries unexpectedly closed – c’est la vie – and a ring of annoying trucks blasting their horns around the Arc de Triomphe. These were the only protests we witnessed, or more accurately, heard.

Trucks slowing traffic and making a lot of noise around the Arc de Triomphe

We relaxed over evening kirs at a café with purple chairs, before heading back to the apartment for Clive’s famous beef stew. It was delicious even without the parsnips.

Paris purple: love these café chairs

Day Two – Birthday in the Rain

Best birthday wake-up: cup of tea followed by coffee and birthday card and presents from my hubby.

Best birthday sight: seeing the back of Vlad from across the street as he served a table on the footpath. And lovely to think his colleagues were friendly just because they were pleased to see us. C’est bon!

Best unusual birthday experience: walking with our elderly neighbour to a local contractor and organising some work to be done later this year; making new contacts and experiencing the warmth of friendship and feeling like a local in the quartier.

Best get-out-of-the-rain activity (after lovely lunch at Cafe Louise, discovered years ago thanks to Rosemary of Aussie in France): checking out Lavrut art supply and papeterie in Passage Choiseul …

Lavrut art supplies & papeterie, Paris

… and wandering by a bookshop in la Galerie Vivienne.

Galerie Vivienne, Paris

Best Paris discovery: finding a new shortcut to the Palais-Royal as we made our way to the metro.

Best surprise moment of the day: our early evening stroll beneath the Palais-Royal arcades, along the edge of the garden. I think we were both caught unexpectedly by its beauty and serenity in the gentle rain. This historic building and garden are located in the heart of Paris, yet we were virtually the only ones there. Despite the rain, the fountain still flowed. A magical moment to remember.

le jardin du Palais-Royal, Paris

Best birthday dinner (as requested by moi): 2nd night of Clive’s stew (it’s best the 2nd night!) accompanied by a glass or two of Burgundy.

Best presents from amazon UK: when the concierge rang the bell and gave us the day’s arrivals, a new shredder and two boxes of assorted lightbulbs, all ordered before we left the UK. Spreadsheet man had inventoried our lamps and lightbulb needs. As a late-night birthday treat, he ran around replacing low-light bulbs with LED ones, brightening our space with the lightbulbs and his presence.

Best long-distance birthday event: Skype with son.

Best overall birthday experience: spending the day with Clive, in Paris.

Day Three – Mozart exhibit at l’Opéra Garnier and Violette Ice Cream at les Galeries Lafayette

Blue skies over Opera Garnier

From everything we read beforehand, attending Mozart, une passion française at the Opera Garnier seemed like a good idea.

The poster outside the building looked inviting.

Poster for Mozart exhibition at Opera Garnier

Once inside the lower-level visitor entrance, we purchased tickets in the usual way. After that, the signage seemed to disappear. We wandered around looking for hints and took a mirror-selfie before heading upstairs.

Mirror selfie on lower level of Opera Garnier

Up on the main level, we wandered a little more and a sign seemed to point to a rather dark side staircase. It didn’t seem right but eventually we proceeded up, with me muttering about the phantom of the opera (which I’ve never seen). On the next level we found another sign.

As you can see from the photo, there weren’t exactly hordes of people to reassure us we were on the right track.

Clive leading the way down hallway of Opera Garnier

Finally, voila! We reached the entry to the exhibit – and I see I have once again (this time inadvertently) taken a mirror selfie of the two of us. Looks like we’re the only ones interested.

Voila! Entry to Mozart exhibit

The exhibit was in fact quite good, giving a great overview of Mozart’s time in France and the professional and public responses to his music before and after his death. It’s the kind of exhibit the French do so very well, diving in depth into an aspect of an artist and his or her work with ever-unique commentary and illustrations of the person and the era.

Like the building that houses it, the exhibit has many marble steps and some are dimly-lit; we both nearly tripped on one set of stairs and a few minutes later, a man did fall. Otherwise this is a little gem of an exhibit.

Emerging back into the gilt of the Opera Garnier, we both felt in need of sustenance and a pause to relax, so headed across the street to Galeries Lafayette.

The gilt of the Opera Garnier

The view from the Galeries Lafayette terrace was very cloudy by late afternoon. We camped out at the level 6 café where I discovered yet another divine purple treat: violette ice cream. The taste is exquisite, so much nicer than my photo.

Cloudy view from Galeries Lafayette terrace

Violette ice cream aka heaven at Galeries Lafayette

It’s hard to capture the department store’s beautiful dome in a single phot, but it’s not a bad place for afternoon tea if you’re in the area.

Dome of les Galeries Lafayette

I conclude by adding that today we also returned to ‘our’ café for lunch, greeted and served by Vlad. It may have been our imagination, but we thought he seemed genuinely as pleased to see us as we were to see him.

Thank you to all who sent birthday emails and messages. I appreciate every one!

Cheers from Paris and thanks for reading.

4 Responses

  1. So enjoyed your birthday tour de Paris! Do you think Clive could be persuaded to publish the recipe for his beef stew?

    • Merci Martha!

      I’m afraid there’s no recipe per se for the stew; it’s one of those ‘the chef sees what’s fresh at the market and adjusts ingredients and amounts accordingly each time …’ 🙂

      Thank you for asking and best to you and John!

  2. Your post makes Paris quite irresistible! Thanks for sharing all the details of a lovely visit to your favorite place. XXOO

    • Thank you Mary! Appreciate your comment … I’ve never said Paris is perfect, only perfect for me even in all its imperfections (if that makes sense!) 🙂 xx

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