Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sunday strolling

France hasn't really embraced Sunday opening yet (although our president is striving to make it 'voluntary') and although the tourist centre of Paris isn't completely dead on a Sunday it certainly is a lot quieter, with many shops and restaurants closed. Fair enough.

However, the Marais area near the Great Apartment, and more specifically the rue des Francs Bourgeois, has always been open on a Sunday, attracting a sizeable crowd. Now that the area is also pedestrianised on Sundays, the crowds are a little less hard to brave, but they remain crowds nontheless.

Rue des Francs Bourgeois used to look like this. Thank goodness they stopped the cars!

photo by Alan Bell used under cc licence

And rue des Rosiers in the heart of the Jewish area gets very packed, very quickly too:

photo by rsepulveda used under cc licence

Both these streets, indeed the whole Marais area, remain an agreeable, fume-free walk on a Sunday, and handy if you have a shopping urge that you just can't resist.

Checking out exactly which streets are cut off to traffic, I came across a second area near us that is also pedestrianised on Sundays: the Sentier, a little to the north. If you add to that the whole Les Halles area and the adjoining Montorgueil area, both permanently pedestrianised, it struck me that there are loads of streets to explore around us that are traffic-free much of the time!

I'll write more about each sometime soon, bit in the meantime I've made a Google map of the pedestrianised areas that you can peruse comfortably here or uncomfortably below. I'd definitely recommend heading down the rue des Francs Bourgeois on a Sunday as an interesting way to spend an afternoon, equally good in summer or winter. Try it out!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Really thrilling flower update

Just thought I'd let you know that with all the warm weather we've been having, our window box has been doing rather well. The big plant in the middle is even threatening to flower again after getting heartily microwaved this summer. Don't ask me what it is called. (It's an Aster. Thanks Mum). I have no idea what any of them are called...

...apart from the lavender.  I've bought some - again - and despite usually having really awful luck with them, I'm hoping that this one will be happy in its own pot, kept relatively dry (the others were together with the other flowers and just mouldered away).

I think a window box really changes the outlook of a window, and I'm hoping to have flowers well into the autumn. Hope's a good thing, right?

Monday, 21 September 2009

Marc Jacobs
and the sweet smell of the Great Apartment

I'm not much of a label hound (food shopping at Monoprix doesn't count), but I do admit to having a slight soft spot for Marc Jacobs, partly for the great Jürgen Teller photography that accompanies his advertising and partly for the sheer cheek/courage of being both artistic director at Vuitton and a very public newly wed homosexualist.

Whilst riding around town the other day I came across what can only be described as a Marc Jacobs enclave on one corner of the Marché Saint Honoré, just 2 seconds from hip (but hateful) store Colette. Here, you'll find two outlets called Marc by Marc Jacobs, apparently his diffusion line: both boutiques (one for men and another - bigger and much more interesting - for women) are crammed full of extremely cheap items branded with the Marc Jacobs name: umbrellas, key fobs, bags, t-shirts... as well as a few full-priced articles such as sunglasses and a selection of art books. If you want to show off and save money at the same time, this would be the place to go.

A third shop is due to open soon for Jacobs' children's line called Little Marc Jacob. Ah, bless!

After going to the place a few times, I'm afraid that we did eventually succumb to the hype. Unfortunately, the room fragrance I had seen presented in-store and wanted to buy wasn't actually available there, and I had to go to the rather more upmarket and stuffy Palais Royal outlet to get it, where they were playing reggae with no bass, the idjuts.

Anyway, if you come to stay at the Great Apartment you'll be able to get the sweet smell of Marc Jacob's designer wonderfulness every day! That's how chic you are.
You'll find the Parisian location of the wonderful (and cheap) world of Marc by Marc Jacobs on our lovely Google map of all things cool, here: www.tinyurl.com/nearthegreatapartment

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Maps for the power shopper in you

When you arrive in a city it's not always easy to get your bearings quickly. For any power shopper this is obviously a serious problem. Yeah, we can all find H&M and Zara (and the Zine Fashion Store is difficult to miss), but where's the real good stuff? The designer boutiques? The important finds?

The Paris Mini Guides are free little maps giving you all the pointers to the best designer shops. They're bilingual (with some info also in Russian, Chinese and Japanese) and stuffed to the brim with great addresses: 200 alone for the map of the Marais, the area around the Great Apartment. Look!

There's also a map available for the posh Palais Royal area which apparently starts at rue Tiquetonne, also just two minutes from the Great Apartment. This time though there's 'only' 150 addresses. Shame...

They also do a guide to Saint Germain and have a new map for art, decoration and design coming out in November and their first Montmartre map due in March 2010.

The maps can be found in various places (list of outlets here), but as we are super super nice, you'll also find them waiting for you in the Great Apartment. Feel free to keep 'em. And pass on your tips if you come across something amazing!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Cool new bar/restaurant (and gym)
near the Great Apartment Paris

The Klay club is actually a new gym, spread over 2.000m² and five levels (including a really cool top floor with glass ceiling and DJ)... but you have to buy a yearly (1,500€) or monthly (280€) subscription to use their facilities.

However, the ground floor bar and restaurant are open to all, all day, and rather cool they are too.

We were given the guided tour of the place by a lovely PR girl in green high heeled shoes, and you'll find a mini slideshow of our photos below. However, you may also like to check out the lavishly illustrated, in-depth article (here) that I wrote for the Paris Newsblog belonging to our friends at the Hôtels Paris Rive Gauche group.

The Klay only opened a couple of months ago and it's pretty stunning. As it's only five minutes from the Great Apartment, it might be nice for an afternoon coffee, or maybe even dinner?

Click here to read the full article.

The Klay club is also on our map of all things cool near the apartment, here.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Nearby Jean-Paul Gaultier building makes us cool by osmosis

Jean-Paul Gaultier is probably one of the best known Frenchman abroad. We thought the 80s were his heyday, but apparently his perfumes are now amongst the world's best-sellers, and despite coming up to his 60th birthday in a few years time he looks surprisingly spritely (as well as coming off as rather a nice bloke).

Anyway, on the route from our apartment to the Great Apartment are his head offices, and rather splendid they look too, from the outside I mean (I've never gone in). The building was recently cleaned (and extremely quickly at that, taking only a couple of days) and I had to take some shots of it for you. The stone- and metalwork is lovely, and the place is obviously a testament to his wealth, as he seems to have the whole bloomin' building to himself. Makes our 17m2 look modest indeed.

The building dates from 1912 and belonged to a philanthropic company called "l'Avenir du Prolétariat" (the future of the people) which had 200,000 benefactors, investments in over 40 other buildings, and the vision of using its profits to make sure that those with little means of support had a pension. Their inscriptions can still be seen carved into the façade and on the corner of the block (which is now owned by someone else).

The Jean-Paul Gaultier building bit spans 5,000m2, has seven floors, a monumental staircase and a ballroom that is 380m2 (60 metres long, 14 metres wide and a ceiling 11 metres high)! That's over twenty times the size of our apartment, dammit! Despite this amazing architecture, strangely enough it isn't even a protected building.

I was intrigued to see inside, and after searching around the web I found a few photographs of during and after the massive restoration work that was done in 2004 by architects Moatti and Rivière. The dimensions are pretty impressive (as is the price of the work done: 7.3 million euros / $10.4 million / £6.4 million) ...

The finished version looks like this:

You can see more on the photographer's site: Sophie Elbaz. Click 'English version', then choose 'The Abyss'.

By the way, the Gaultier building (map here) is opposite one corner of the equally splendid Arts et Métiers building, but there's whole other post to be done on that...

And of course we've added the Gaultier building to our wonderful Google Map of all things excellent near the Great Apartment here.