A Little Trip to Paris Two Weeks after the Terrorist Attacks

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We’ve been planning to go to the Independent Wine Growers’ Fair in Paris for some time. During our two-day stay, I’ve lined up three routine medical appointments and organised to see two lots of friends. We decide not to let the terrible attacks on 13th November dissuade us from going. You may wonder why I am seeing doctors in Paris when I live in Blois but it’s hard to change medical pratitioners you’ve been seeing for twenty years or more …

Stade de France
Stade de France

We leave home at 8 am on Thursday on a clear, bright day and arrive in Fontenay sous Bois where we used to live many moons ago with 20 minutes to spare for the first appointment at 11.15 am. From there we go across to the other side of Paris, past the Stade de France, which was the scene of one of the attacks. The sun’s out and it’s hard to imagine that is was the site of such devastation.

Typical apartment buildings in Neuilly sur Seine
Typical apartment buildings in Neuilly sur Seine

In Neuilly, we visit our good friends Maryse and Claude who have invited us for a delicious lunch. We talk about the attacks but then move resolutely onto other subjects. I keep my eye on the clock because our next appointment is at 3.30 pm in the 16th arrondissement where I have a dermatologist who knows all about sunspots and skin cancer. This is important if you are an Australian as so many of us were exposed to the tropical sun as children without receiving adequate protection. I am reassured that I don’t have a sunspot just a solar keratosis. Dr Jeanmougin burns it off with dry ice.

La Défense as we arrive in Neuilly
La Défense as we arrive in Neuilly

We then head for the outlet stores in the north of Paris where I want to buy some Blanc des Vosges sheets. The underground parking lot is closed and we wonder whether the stores are open. Yes, they are, so we park in front of the complex. The security guys ask to look in my handbag but their check is only very cursory. There is practically no one in the huge shopping centre. We find the sheets and a woollen blanket which has become a very rare item (everyone uses duvets these days) but are sad to discover that the Sym boutique where I have bought practically all my trousers for the last 20 years has closed.

Sunset over Paris :) on our way back from Paris Nord
Sunset over Paris 🙂 on our way back from Paris Nord

Next stop is Vincennes where we are having dinner in a Thai restaurant with our friend Anne. I order some delicious little chicken parcels followed by Peking duck (which is probably not very Thai I have to admit). After two forkfuls, my mouth is on fire. It turns out I’ve eaten a tiny chili. Not even in India did I taste food this spicy. The staff rushes over to see what’s happening to me. After downing a bottle of water the pain starts to subside. The rest of the duck is not spicy at all!

Château de Vincennes
Château de Vincennes

We finally reach our hotel on avenue Daumesnil in the 20th arrondissement at nearly 11 pm. I chose it on booking.com by asking for a 3-star hotel with a rating of at least 8/10 for less than 100 euros. I didn’t have a very big choice … The man at reception is very friendly. The room is minute, with a double bed, a single bed, a small wardrobe, a bedside table, a mini-bar that doubles as a second bedside table, a table and chair with an electric jug, 3 cups, several sachets of coffee and tea, and a luggage stand. You have to step over the end of the bed to get out on the window side. The bathroom has a shower bath, a toilet and wash basin. All very clean and functional. The bed and pillows are comfortable and there are good quality sheets. The only other negative point (apart from the size) is the metro which we can hear rumbling in the background. Fortunately it stops between 1.15 am and 5.30 am.

Our hotel in Avenue Daumesnil
Our hotel in Avenue Daumesnil

It’s next morning and we’re down at reception by about 9.30 am. The man at the desk greets us in English to my surprise. Jean Michel says he can speak to us in French. It must be the Australian hats. I ask him whether they have lost a lot of custom since 13th November and he tells me that it’s not the foreign tourists who have cancelled, but the French!

Place Félix Eboué
Place Félix Eboué

We put our overnight bags in the car which is parked just across the street and look for a likely place for breakfast. There is a thick fog. We see a brasserie next to a street market on Place Félix  Eboué. It’s very busy but we’re told there are no croissants or even baguette left because of the market so we leave again. The moral of this is that you can’t count on croissants after 9 am …

The brasserie where there are no croissants left
The brasserie where there are no croissants left

Fortunately we find a smaller place down the road run by some Asians who instantly go off to the nearby baker’s to buy us some croissants. They are excellent.

A remembrance flag on a  window in the 20th arrondissement
A remembrance flag on a window in the 20th arrondissement

Back in the car, we turn on the radio and hear that there are 2,000 people attending the commemoration ceremony for the victims of the 13th November and their families. President Hollande has asked people to hang flags out of their windows as a sign of solidarity. We look around but don’t see very many. We personally don’t have a French flag and have no idea where we could buy one so we guess many people are in the same predicament.

The underground car park at Printemps Nation is completely closed off so we find some street parking. Once again, my handbag is checked when we enter the store and Jean Michel is asked to open up his anorak.

The new Ministry of the Interior near Porte de Vincennes
The new Ministry of the Interior near Printemps Nation

We manage to buy most of what we need then head for Nogent-sur-Marne where I am meeting up with a dentist friend for lunch and a check-up. Before I moved to the Palais Royal in Paris ten years ago and was still living in Fontenay-sous-Bois, I had my office in Nogent. I wander around for a bit and discover that many of the shops have changed. It feels a little odd. However, the man at the Italian restaurant remembers me and welcomes me with open arms!

Jean Michel has gone off on his own in the meantime and comes back for his 2.30 pm appointment after which we set off for our last venue, the Independent Wine Growers’ Fair at Porte de Versailles. We park in one of the side streets (we do not want to brave the underground parking lot even if it’s open) and are surprised (and reassured) to see that all the exits are manned and there is a very serious body search at the entrance. This is the only place I’ve been worried about because the hall is enormous and if there is a terrorist attack, there will be little chance of escape.

Jean Michel at the end of the wine fair
Jean Michel at the end of the wine fair

Once we’re inside, we forget about possible terrorists and concentrate on rebuilding our depleted wine stock. Only one wine grower, from Alsace (Adam), tells us that he seems to have fewer customers this year. We buy his pinot auxerrois and riesling then head to the next name on our list – a minervois (L’Amiral) where we spend quite a bit of time discovering their different wines. We buy some full-bodied vacqueras from Le Pont de Rieu, and order 18 bottles of our favourite sancerre (Domaine de la Rossignol) to be delivered before Christmas. We discover a new petit chablis (Domaine du Colombier) because our former supplier has hiked up his prices.

We buy another carton of corbière from Domaine du Grand Arc (Cuvée des 40). Our trolley is now full so we decide to give the quincy a miss but go and talk to another minervois wine-grower (Malys-Anne) whom we missed the last couple of times we came to the fair. We have a long conversation with him and taste all his wines again. We promise to visit him at the next wine fair in Orléans with an empty trolley.

We love our fireplace!
We love our fireplace!

After a very busy two days, we are pleased to be back on the road to Blois. By 9 pm, we are in front of the fire with a relaxing glass of our local cour cheverny. Many people ask me whether I miss Paris. The answer is a resounding “NO”. I have become a very happy “provinciale” !!!

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12 thoughts on “A Little Trip to Paris Two Weeks after the Terrorist Attacks”

  1. Just starting to read your blog and as Francophiles we love it. Noticed your reference to sancerre (Domaine de la Rossignol) wines and wondered if you know if it is available anywhere in Australia or an email address for it in France. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Tony, it’s only a small winery which means that it’s not viable to export to Australia (particularly as Australia has very severe wine import laws). The price per bottle for the one we prefer (L’Essentiel) is 9.80. You’d probably pay twice that for shipping. If you’re still interested I can ask him about sending you some as we know him well now.

      1. Hi Rosemary,
        Thanks so much for that information. I feared that might have been the case regarding importing into Australia. Several years back we imported a dozen Bordeaux wines after we visited and I think it cost us about three times as much and involved half a day at Tullarmarine Airport in Melbourne filling out forms. We’re heading back to France in July next year so we will make a point of visiting the vineyard and checking out the L’Essentiel. Again, many thanks for the information and for your blog.

        1. Yes, it’s a pity isn’t it? You’ll just have to visit the vineyard next time you come. Please say we sent you – monsieur et madame Avril.

  2. Thank you for taking me on such a pleasant little whirl through Paris on this chilly Monday morning. I smiled at the little hotel room that reminded me of similar places we have stayed, where you stepped directly on to the bed from the door, because there was no floor space that wasn’t already filled with a piece of furniture. 🙂

    I liked the croissant tale, too. A culture clash between one race where the customer so often is of least importance, if not a bit of a nuisance, and the other who will walk a mile to find something to please their clientele. 🙂

    Nice photos too. And very important to have those skin tests. Last year I saw a dermatologue because of a mark on my face. It turned out to be nothing, but while I was there she did a full body scan, and picked up a basal cell carcinoma between my shoulder blades. However carefully one may inspect one’s person, unless your are a contortionist I think it’s unlikely you’d be able to check that part of your anatomy or indeed even think of doing so.

    It sounds as if you probably have sufficient wine to see you through the festive season.

    A votre santé

    1. Thank you for your comments. The room did, indeed, have practically no space to walk in at all.
      Having lived most of your young live in Kenya, you have the same problem as us Aussies with regard to skin cancer. Glad you managed to have it fixed up. My dermatologist goes over me with a fine tooth comb, I’m pleased to say.
      Hopefully, the wine will take us a little further than the festive season …

  3. There, what did I tell you about the skin spot? 🙂 Just as I predicted — not cancer but worth removing just in case it developed, which he did on the spot. I wish the dermos here thought to use the scanners though. My one definitely thinks I’m neurotic for asking.

    A couple of words you might want to change: I’m sure the security guys at the entrance to the shopping centre weren’t vigilantes in the English sense 🙂 and I think ‘dooner’ is spelt ‘doona’. I’m a bit vague about it because I got used to calling them duvets in the UK. I assume doona is a Scandanavian word. I could look all this up of course, but … And needless to say, neither is the word a French speaker would use. I buy our bedding from John Lewis in the UK because our beds are not French sizes. A friend recommended LinVosges, but whenever I look they have nothing I like.

    I’m not surprised you were a bit worried by the wine fair being a target. That would be a proper den of iniquity as far as the religious fundamentalist go. Interesting comment by the hotel receptionist too. And we have a friend called Anne in Daumesnil too. We haven’t seen her much since her husband died (he was from Preuilly).

      1. Yes, that is what I would have eaten but the staff didn’t appear to have any. The water helped because it was iced.

    1. My dermatologist looks me all over with a magnifying glass.
      I’ve fixed up the spelling – plus corrected all the other errors you were too polite to mention!
      I tried LinVosges and had to send it all back. The quality didn’t match the price …
      Yes, going to a wine fair must seem like a den of iniquity indeed to the fundamentalists.
      The reception’s comment was echoed on the news this morning when they said that the school delegations had all arrived for COP21 with the noticeable absence of any French students.

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