During the first weekend of September, my husband and I headed to northern France to go to la Braderie de Lille, which is something I had been looking forward to doing all year long. The annual braderie is the largest flea market in Europe and its history dates as far back as the 12th century. The event has evolved over time since its inception during the middle ages, originally being something of a trade show where folks sold their merchandise. Servants at the time had also received permission to sell their masters’ unwanted clothes and things once a year, so they piggy-backed onto the trade show to unload their masters’ goods. Today, over 10,000 professional antique sellers and individual vendors wanting to empty their attics take over more than 100 km of Lille’s streets, setting up stalls on just about every corner of the city. The annual event is held the first weekend of September, starting on Saturday afternoon and goes through the night and ends Sunday evening at around midnight.
Each year, I wait with giddy anticipation for the summer months to arrive, during which time we can finally forgo the obscene number of layers of clothes and parkas for dainty sundresses and sandals. But this year, summer never came to Paris. With the exception of a few sunny yet cool days here and there, the weather has been rather dreary with unsually low temperatures. So, you can imagine how excited I was when the sun came out for a few hours and bathed us in a little bit of heat last Saturday. As I mentioned last week, we strolled aimlessly along the streets of Paris, wandering from the left bank, across to the right bank. Our first stop was at Sadaharu Aoki’s pâtisserie in the 6th arrondissement, which is only about a block or two away from the Luxembourg Garden.
The weather that we saw this Saturday is what Parisian dreams are made of – clear, blue skies with a healthy dose of sunshine. And when the weather is this great, Parisians flock in droves to the many parks that are peppered throughout the city. We, too, took advantage of this glorious weather to replenish our vitamin D reserves. After a leisurely breakfast, we grabbed our sunglasses and headed into the city.
We spent the day wandering through the city and soaking in the scenery, starting with a stop at Sadaharu Aoki in the 6th arrondissement for some French Japanese fusion pastries (more on that later!). With snack in hand, we strolled to the nearby Luxembourg Garden, which is the scene of our first outing in Paris, back when the mister and I were still mere acquaintances. So, this park always invokes a bit of nostalgia in me, bringing me back to a time when I was still charmed by the city’s beauty and my experience hadn’t yet been colored by its unpleasantries and less glamorous side. No matter how many times I’ve come here though, it never fails to amaze me.
We were lucky enough to snag a couple of the coveted reclined park chairs. After savoring our pastries and reveling in the intensity of the green color imparted by the matcha green tea, we basked in the sun for awhile and got some much needed color. As the garden started to fill up after the lunch hour, we headed north towards the river and walked along the left bank of the Seine.
Many of the Parisians still hadn’t yet returned from their month long vacations, so the city wasn’t as overcrowded despite the many visiting tourists. We cut through the Île Saint Louis, which is a tiny island in the middle of the city and only a stone’s throw from the island where Notre Dame is situated (see last photo).
Our little excursion ended at Place de la Bastille, where I picked up a few accessories at the nearby Paul Beuscher store for my new hobby, the guitar. Just as we descended into the métro, we started to feel a few raindrops. The sunshine was rather shortlived, and the pouring rain returned later that evening. And, it looks like it’s here to stay, with rain forecasted through next Sunday and tempertures as low as 14°C.
Being a bicontinental couple, our lives were naturally divided across two different countries, with my family and friends being in the US and his in France and the US as well. This did not make for easy wedding planning, since we wanted to be able to celebrate with as many of our family and friends as possible. Making everyone come to Paris wasn’t very realistic, so we had 2 weddings, one in France with our immediate family and one in California where we had a traditional 10 course Vietnamese banquet. Thus, twice a year, the mister and I celebrate our wedding anniversaries, in October to mark the day that we exchanged “oui’s” in France and in March for the feast that we shared with everyone in the US.
Going out to celebrate new year’s eve has never been my thing. Even when I lived in the US, I always preferred to spend a quiet evening at home watching the ball drop with Dick Clark. Even here in Paris, a crowd of 300k people on the Champs-Elysées doesn’t appeal to me either. For me, the ideal way to ring in the new year is by preparing and feasting on a multi-course meal at home with my husband. Le réveillon, or new year’s eve dinner, is actually something that I look forward to with much anticipation all year long.
When it comes to fabricating exquisitely, delectable pastries that would delight any tastebuds, the French without a doubt take the cake. With their innovative techniques and boundless creativity, they have elevated the craft of making pastries to a level that is unrivaled by none. In France, the profession has roots that extend as far back as the Middle Ages, so it’s no wonder that the exceptionally refined French culinary arts is renowned worldwide. Careers in pastries generally start early, where future pastry chefs enroll in professional programs as young as 14 years of age, so most will already have over a decade of experience under their belts by the time they are in their 20s. On top of that, there are numerous opporunties to exhibit their baking prowess at national and international pastry competitions, such as the World Pastry Cup, where the French have dominated year after year.
Sigh, gloomy, rainy days are already upon us again. Just last week, we were doused with a healthy dose of sunshine, with temperatures reaching as high as 33°C. This week, however, started with a downpour of incessant rain that lasted throughout the day. Already, I’ve had to pull out my trenchcoat to counter the brisk morning chill.
Like any other metropolitan city, Paris is densely populated with hordes of jostling people and the streets are lined with miles of concrete buildings, albeit much more aesthetically pleasing buildings. Yet, the city boasts a surprising number of parks and squares in each of the 20 districts, offering Parisians a nice respite from their tiny abodes. During warmer months, the frenchies flock in droves to these green spaces to picnic and bask in the warm rays of the sun.
Can the weather possibly get any worse here in Paris?!? We’ve had nothing but grey skies and torrential rains all week. These gigantesque storms have been so bad that many regions of France are currently experiencing massive flooding. It’s incredible how huge these storms have been and how much damage they’re causing. A town in the Burgandy region even saw a tornado touch down yesterda, which caused quite a bit of damage. Usually, we don’t see large storms here in Paris and when we get rain, it’s relatively light and rather brief. Frankly, I’ve never seen anything like this here, pounding rainstorms accompanied by lightening and thunder that are quite reminiscent of Texas. Global climate change is certainly making its effects known and has destroyed any hopes of a sunny and warm summer here. I just read in the paper yesterday that there were ZERO days of sunshine registered in May this year. Dude, zero days of sunshine!
I hope that the weather improves soon, because I don’t think I can take this gloominess for much longer!
Snow, snow, snow everywhere!! Well, at least this past weekend it was everywhere. Now that it has started to melt, the only reminder of the recent wintry wonderland is a slushy, mess. Over the weekend, nearly the entire country was under alert for severe winter weather conditions. Most of the regions throughout France saw heavy snowfall, and I was rather surprised to see so much snow in the Parisian area.