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MlleFifi's week in Par(ad)is, with a side trip to Nancy

MlleFifi's week in Par(ad)is, with a side trip to Nancy

Dec 11th, 2008, 05:48 PM
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MlleFifi's week in Par(ad)is, with a side trip to Nancy

How can such a long-awaited vacation be over in a blink? Came back home a few days ago and have been suffering from painful withdrawal, so I'll start this trip report to help myself and others relive some Paris moments.

Day 0 - The day before Thanksgiving

Packed light this time-- just an 18" wheeled carry-on. 4 sweater-dresses, many wool tights, Under Armour Coldgear leggings, 1 turtleneck top, 6 scarves, socks, underwear; leotards/tights/shoes for ballet class; gloves, earmuffs, umbrella, binoculars; alarm clock, tiny computer, camera, extra memory cards, flash drive, cords and chargers; Moleskine Paris book, Paris Red Map, printouts; Passport, euros, dollars, ATM/CCs, Navigo pass, leftover RER/metro tickets, theater tickets; toiletries, glasses/case; coat, boots, handbag.

Cat was "tres sage" this time-- didn't whine, didn't pee in protest, didn't struggle before getting into his carrier. Dropped him off at boarding and brought my luggage to work. Boss let us out early at 2pm that day, so I had plenty of time for last-minute errands before heading to the airport. This time I flew from Newark, which was so much less stressful than JFK on this "busiest travel day of the year"! At the AirTrain entrance and all over the airport, there were workers efficiently directing clueless travellers. Went through check-in and security quickly. No chaos at all.

Day 1 - Paris!

Shortly before landing, I overhear the people in front of me chatting with one of the (Air France) flight attendants; he tells them he enjoys visiting NYC: "...a city like New York you can visit 20, 50, 100 times... always something new to discover." On my way out, I tell him that's exactly how I feel about Paris.

Landed at 8:30 in the morning. At immigration, the line for non-EU is labeled simply "Tous Passeports" -- not the humiliating "Rest of the World" as Heathrow puts it-- but of course the people who came up with terms like "belle mere" would be more diplomatic than the English.

Took the Roissybus to Opera. First half of the ride was completely unscenic-- on the freeway through ugly suburbs-- but then suddenly we enter the 18eme and I see a boucherie, several patisseries, and those Haussmann buildings I adore. A dog sits in front of a boulangerie. His owner comes out to untie him after having bought a baguette. He's so happy to see her that he hopped several yards on his two hind legs. Today, I understand that joy. In Paris again!

(to be continued)
MademoiselleFifi is offline  
Dec 12th, 2008, 04:32 AM
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Oh, MFifi, I was past our return from Paris by now, then you had to start up this report!
Travelnut is offline  
Dec 12th, 2008, 05:25 AM
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Ah, lovely, please continue.
Nikki is online now  
Dec 12th, 2008, 05:45 AM
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Wonderful start to your report -- I'm looking forward to the rest.
Samsaf is offline  
Dec 12th, 2008, 07:45 AM
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More, please!

gracie04 is offline  
Dec 12th, 2008, 08:06 AM
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Looking forward to more!
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Dec 12th, 2008, 08:32 AM
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MademoiselleFifi- Wow, I can't believe you are back already! Time sure flies by quickly when you're having a good time! Can you tell me what 18" rollaboard you ended up getting and do you like it?
yk is offline  
Dec 12th, 2008, 09:59 AM
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Fifi, I was just thinking about you the other day because I know you stayed in the apartment on JP Timbaud and I was wondering how you made out and hoped to ee your trip report soon. And here you are. Can't wait to read more!
Apres_Londee is offline  
Dec 12th, 2008, 10:06 AM
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This will be excellent.
kerouac is offline  
Dec 12th, 2008, 04:57 PM
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Good start - can't wait for more!
LCBoniti is offline  
Dec 12th, 2008, 05:44 PM
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Fifi Don't stop now. I have had a hell of a day and need some relief. Hey I'm in Detroit and it's been a painful day. I came here for some much needed distraction.

Thanks Theresa
Mamaw is offline  
Dec 12th, 2008, 07:46 PM
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Thanks for the encouraging comments! Weekend is finally here, so I'll have time to sort and upload some photos.

Day 1, continued

The Roissybus drops off behind the Opera Garnier. The day is cold but beautiful, with a photogenic blue sky. http://images47.fotki.com/v1404/phot...11B4038-vi.jpg First stop: Repetto on rue de la Paix for a new pair of my favorite ballet slippers, in leather as soft as kid gloves. This store, founded by Rose Repetto, the mother of Roland Petit, also sells dance-inspired street shoes in gorgeous colors, but those are way beyond my budget. There's a snowy display in the windows. http://images47.fotki.com/v1400/phot...11B4045-vi.jpg

Next, metro line 3 to "my" apartment in the 11eme. http://images45.fotki.com/v1424/phot...11B4051-vi.jpg Thanks to Apres Londee's trip report last spring (http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=35128263) , I can now afford to stay in an apartment even on solo trips. Her report describes the place in detail, so I don't need to repeat here.

Don't we always underestimate the down-time needed on the first day. When reading another trip report on Fodor's recently, I didn't understand how they landed at CDG in the morning, settled into their apartment, and were suddenly watching the sunset at the Eiffel Tower-- what happened to all the time in between? Now I remember. After various errands (such as trying to load my Navigo pass for the next week, forgetting it couldn't be done before Friday) and distractions (snapping photos, sampling pastries, soaking in the sound of the beautiful language, and just ogling the sights I've been missing for 51 long weeks), I don't arrive at the apartment until a little past noon. The neighborhood looks much brighter than in the Pages Jaunes photos. I love the winding wooden staircase (102 steps) and the Pissarro-esque view of the zinc roof tops. http://images42.fotki.com/v1372/phot...11B6535-vi.jpg
I set up the wifi on my computer, check some museum websites, and intend to go right out to buy groceries and supplies but feel too dead-tired to move (not jet lag but just sleep debt). Lie down for a while and finally get head out again in the late afternoon.

Been curious about the Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs for a long time. According to their website, anybody can obtain a library card by providing a small photo and an ID. Having had no luck finding any good books about Nancy in NY book stores, I decide to try there. Turns out I don't even have to set up a library card-- the librarian just writes up a temporary one-week pass. My search for "l'Ecole de Nancy" on their database turns up a long list of books, from the early 1900s to the present, some in English even. Unfortunately, it's only a half hour before closing time, so it's too late to ask for any of the (non-circulating) books. Next time.

Before heading over to the Musee de la Mode et du Textiles next door (open late Thursday nights), I stroll around outside for a while. Wanting to pick up some Dondon & Kamkam (http://www.petsatwork.fr/) items at Colette, I look in vain on the wrong block of rue St Honore for the store. Lesson: the numbers on the odd and even sides of the street do NOT match up! #213 is across from #330, nowhere near #204. That's OK; even getting lost in Paris is fun. The Palais Royal Metro entrance looks like sparkling jewelry at night.
When it becomes too cold outside, I return to the Musee de la Mode to see its Sonia Rykiel exhibit. It's much bigger than I expected. The first few rooms were so-so, not really my style, but the second floor had some fascinating pieces. Didn't have time for the furniture at Musee des Arts Decoratifs (included on the same ticket) before closing.

Tomorrow: trip to Nancy, the birth place of macarons and Galle.
MademoiselleFifi is offline  
Dec 13th, 2008, 04:37 AM
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Wonderful reporting, MademoiselleFifi!

"even getting lost in Paris is fun." So true.

The metro pictures are gorgeous.

We'll be in Nancy next summer, so I await your comments.

Good job!
swisshiker is offline  
Dec 14th, 2008, 07:17 PM
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All these years of going to Paris, I've never ventured anywhere else in France. Being an art nouveau fan, I decide to add on Nancy this time. I want to thank all you Fodorites for your helpful input during my research phase.

None of the guidebooks at my local book stores provide much detail on Nancy-- some have only one or two paragraphs, at most two or three pages-- and I don't want to lug around a heavy book on all of France anyway. This old NY Times article http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/07/29.../29dayout.html and Nancy's tourist office site http://www.ot-nancy.fr/ are useful.

Day 3 -- Self-guided art nouveau tour of Nancy

(Warning: this part may get long and wordy because I'm obsessed with this stuff. That's why I travel solo to such places-- no travel companion would have the patience to tag along while I gawk at fancy doorknobs).

The alarm clock buzzes at 5:50am. Not having shopped yet, I have no shampoo but the dish soap works surprisingly well. Although I'll be staying overnight, I don't want to have to worry about what to do with luggage before check-in and after check-out, so I bring just my large handbag with a change of scarf, underwear, and socks, plus my little computer (shouldn't have) and camera.

Two short metro rides to Gare de l'Est, a nice tarte au sucre aux framboise for breakfast, and I'm on the 7:12 TGV to Nancy. About 2/3 of the way there, snow appears along the train tracks. When we arrive in Nancy, there's no snow, but it's VERY cold. Even with gloves on, my fingers hurt.

Looking out from the train station across Place Thiers, one distinctive building stands out, with strange spiky shapes on top. It turns out to be Brasserie l'Excelsior. The interior decor is sumptuous, but the breakfast menu doesn't look very interesting, so I continue on one of the art nouveau walks downloaded from the OT site, http://www.ot-nancy.fr/brochures/art_nouveau.pdf (the yellow trail). On Place Maginot, booths that resemble little wooden huts are set up for a Christmas market. http://images48.fotki.com/v1407/phot...1B4092e-vi.jpg

One of the prettiest AN buildings is the Chamber of Commerce at the T-intersection of rue Henri Poincare and Rue Chanzy, with lacy ironwork, a gracefully curved glass awning, and stained-glass windows depicting various industries.
Entrance: http://images45.fotki.com/v1424/phot...11B4114-vi.jpg
Windows: http://images42.fotki.com/v1372/phot...11B4123-vi.jpg

Nearby on rue Stanislas stands Immeuble Margo, an apartment building from 1906. As I'm admiring the sinuous facade, a resident returning home lets me in to see the lobby and stairwell. That's the nice thing about less touristy cities like Nancy and Budapest-- people living in landmark buildings are happy to show them to visitors; I don't expect the same welcome in, say, 29 ave Rapp in Paris or the Osborne in NY.
Facade: http://images44.fotki.com/v1420/phot...11B4147-vi.jpg
Stairs: http://images43.fotki.com/v1389/phot...11B4143-vi.jpg
Ironwork: http://images47.fotki.com/v1397/phot...11B4145-vi.jpg
Exterior: http://images45.fotki.com/v1424/phot...11B4146-vi.jpg

A fun trompe l'oeil painting: http://images47.fotki.com/v1401/phot...11B4161-vi.jpg

By now, I'm really freezing. Now, winter is my favorite time of year and I love off-season travel, but this week feels MUCH colder than the same time last year. Although there's not much wind, the "Feels like" temperature on weather.com is 8 degrees lower than the actual temperature (high 30s to low 40s). Luckily, my next stop, the former Banque Renauld built in 1910, is now a PNB Paribas open to the public and heated, so I take a break in there. The marble staircase has an intricate leafy metal railing by Louis Majorelle; too bad my badly-focused photo doesn't do it justice.

On to rue St Jean. The former Graineterie Genin (1901) is currently vacant and being renovated inside. Wonder what it will become next? I hope some charming boulangerie and not just a chain clothing store; this street is filled with many H&Ms, Gaps, etc. Wouldn't this house look great with baguettes and croissants in the windows?

Still freezing, I duck into a boutique and buy a thick, fluffy sweater-dress (19 euros) to layer over what I already had on. Much better. Another AN building now houses a McDonald's, and I stop in to use the toilettes. It's locked and requires a code from a receipt to unlock, so I buy a chocolat chaud and a pastry from the McCafe section up front. Surprisingly, it's thick real chocolat chaud like at other French cafes, not instant sugar-water like from US fast-food places, and the tarte aux framboise is not bad either.

A few other gems along the AN trail include the former Arnoux-Masson tailor shop (1911-13) http://images45.fotki.com/v1394/phot...1B4211e-vi.jpg
the credit Lyonnais' enormous glass ceiling (1901)
the wood and iron doors of the turquoise-blue tiled Pharmacie Rosfelder (1902, and still a pharmacy now, with an un-decorative preservatifs dispenser out front-- had that be around in 1902, would it have been in ornate bronze?)
the carved wood on the former Magasin Gouchaux of 1901, now a bank (I wish I knew enough about botany to describe identify all these plants)
and the Maison du Peuple (1900-02) with sculptures by Victor Prouve.

The end of AN trail #1 brings me to the spectacular Place Stanislas. From descriptions in books, I expected it to be a smaller version of Brussels' Grand Place, but it's completely different, grand yet muted-- for some reason, it reminds me of one of my favorite places, the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Here's a view which, by chance, happens to be same perspective as on the Bergamotes tin: http://images47.fotki.com/v1402/phot...1B4290e-vi.jpg
At the tourist office, I pick up a map and a shiny new copy of the AN brochure that I had printed out on a bad ink-jet printer. So much more legible. I ask the man at counter how long it would take to do all five walks. "Trois heures." "Pour tout?" "Oui." He points to the map, une heure for these two sections, une heure for those other two, and about une heure more for the rest. Hmmm, I've been here over five hours and have barely finished ONE trail. And I'm not even a slow walker. Guess I stop for too many photos.

The Musee des Beaux Arts is on Place Stanislas, but, wanting take advantage of the remaining daylight, I stroll around a bit more first, up past Place de la Carriere (kind of gloomy and deserted) to Place St-Epvre. Unfortunately, the basilica is closed. There's a note on the door announcing that mass will take place in the crypt, so the main part must be undergoing restoration work. Been so busy gawking at architectural details that I've forgotten to stop for lunch and am suddenly starving. Luckily, my other destination on Place St-Epvre is open. Patisserie Adam is known for a pastry called the St-Epvre, made from "almond meringue, vanilla cream, and crushed nougatine." Local customers are busy ordering a birthday cake and buying desserts for the night, so it doesn't seem to be a tourist trap. I pick up a St-Epvre, a tourte lorraine, and the most delicious quiche aux poireaux. http://images46.fotki.com/v1395/phot...11B4372-vi.jpg

Back to Place Stanislas for the Musee des Beaux Arts. With limited time, I take just a brief look through the ground floor paintings before heading down to the basement for their immense collection of Daum glass. These alone are worth the trip!

When the museum closes, it's already very dark out, and Place Stanislas and the surrounding streets are lit up with Christmas lights. I finally check into Hotel de Guise, rest for a while, and go to dinner at nearby P'tit Cuny. Flammenkuche menu: one with saumon for the main course and one with mirabelles for dessert.
MademoiselleFifi is offline  
Dec 14th, 2008, 08:16 PM
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I love your photos from Nancy, it looks so beautiful (and cold...something about the light, it really does look cold!)

>>>Hmmm, I've been here over five hours and have barely finished ONE trail. And I'm not even a slow walker<<<

Same here. I'm a fast walker, but incredibly slow when it comes to sightseeing. The number one major benefit of solo travel = not getting dragged away from anything before you're ready.

Where did you take ballet class? Are there places with something like an open master class? I always wished I'd kept up taking classes after I quit.
Apres_Londee is offline  
Dec 14th, 2008, 09:15 PM
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Beautiful pictures - I love the way you are including them in your report.
LCBoniti is offline  
Dec 14th, 2008, 09:48 PM
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I'm obsessed with art nouveau too and am so enjoying your report!
tara3056 is offline  
Dec 15th, 2008, 12:23 AM
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I am enjoying your report too, it brings back memories of Nancy and your photos capture the feel perfectly. I especially like your stairwell photo, excellent.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Dec 15th, 2008, 03:26 AM
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Lovely, lovely, lovely .

The glass ceiling of the CL - so beautiful!

I am enjoying soaking up the delicious flavor of Nancy with you. You have surely captured its beauty in your writing and photos.
swisshiker is offline  
Dec 15th, 2008, 08:00 AM
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M Fifi-

Finally caught up with the most recent posts. LOVE your Nancy descriptions and photos. Love the Art Nouveau architecture and decors. I need to save your TR so that I can follow your footsteps when i go to Nancy (which has been pushed up my list based on your report).

BTW, your London trip report was such a gem, and thanks to you for inspiring me to visit Leighton House, William Morris Gallery, and the V&A dining rooms.

Looking forward to the rest!

Still waiting to here what brand of 18" carryon you used.
yk is offline  

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