Sunday, September 1, 2013

Les Puces St. Ouen, Sunday in the Marais and Train to Cologne

Today is Sunday and many stores and attractions in Paris will be closed. This doesn't mean that there aren't places to enjoy and things to see. I have planned accordingly and we will visit a few different venues in Paris today. Our first stop is Les Puces St. Ouen (flea market) which is actually far from tatty and rather upscale. We will spend a few hours there perusing the shops. Afterward we will walk around the Marais and have lunch near the beautiful Place de Vosges. The stores, museums and restaurants will all be open in the Marais and it is a great place to spend a Sunday. Toward the end of the day we will take the Thalys train to Cologne, Germany where we will stay overnight.

Before I jump ahead on how our day progressed I thought I would begin by showing photos of the hotel's 4th floor where our room is located. I described it in prior posts but didn't upload any photos. Les Plumes Hotel's literary theme is nicely expressed by the sepia-toned bookcase wallpaper in the corridors. It compliments the wide hallways and along with the dim overhead lighting provides a relaxed feeling to the surroundings.

Les Plumes Hotel 4th floor
During our stay we have been using the elevator but the stairs are easy to navigate. They take very good care of the premises. The entire hotel including our floor is spotless. The a/c also works great and is very quiet.

Nice stairway and hall
With the 4th floor explored and our itinerary set we proceeded downstairs for breakfast. I tried some different items today including a little crepe and some eggs. They were okay but in the future I would stick with the cheese and fruit.

Breakfast on our last day
There was plenty to sustain ourselves until our lunch break.

We waited in the lobby while reception called a taxi to take us to the Flea Market as it is a bit out of town in the 19th arrondissement. You can take the Metro there but it is a long walk from the nearest stop so a taxi is more efficient.

Lobby Les Plumes Hotel
We brought our bags down with us and left them at the front desk as we will return past checkout time. The hotel staff are very kind and I have been very pleased with our choice of Les Plumes Hotel. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way but it has been a pleasant surprise. Originally I planned to stay on the Ile Saint-Louis near Notre Dame. The island is charming and has the feel of a small neighborhood. I cancelled the hotel I had booked there when I discovered Les Plumes. I love boutique hotels and it satisfied all our requirements with a great rate, twin beds, stylish decor, a/c, location on the Right Bank and within close proximity to the train stations.

The taxi arrived and we zoomed north to the edge of town. But it was far from the "edge of darkness" as I had feared. I had read about this area being dodgy but it appeared quite safe. The Les Puces St. Ouen market is well established and has been located here since the late 1800's. As there was no traffic it took less than 20 minutes to arrive at our destination. It was so easy and quite reasonable. I am glad we did not take the Metro.

Clignancourt / Les Puces de Saint Ouen

I was very much looking forward to visiting the most famous flea market in Paris at Porte de Clignancourt. Known informally as Les Puces de Saint Ouen "The Fleas" (sounds lovely doesn't it?) it covers 7 hectares  (17 acres) and is the largest antique market in the world. It is open every Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I read about the propensity for pickpockets and will be vigilant.

Rue des Rosiers
We were dropped at the beginning of Rue de Rosiers which is the main street for the market. From here you can access separate markets which run perpendicular to it. However all the markets sort of run into one another.

Map Les Puces
I had the map above with me to help us navigate the different markets.

Walking down Rue des Rosiers we immediately found several interesting shops selling Empire-style furniture, chandeliers, fireplaces, mirrors and other wonderful decorative items.

Shop on Rue des Rosiers
This shop with the chandeliers was amazing. I loved the tiered Art Deco chandelier in the center. We had no plans to buy anything today. Initially we just planned to look. However, it was a constant struggle not to wander inside and ask about prices.

I was enamored with the marble and bronze Chenets at the foot of the table but didn't inquire about the cost. I am guessing several thousand dollars. They were very tempting!

My mother loved the fireplace screen on the lower left. I agreed that it was very nice and perhaps we should have gone inside to take a closer look. How amazing we both found items to covet within 5 minutes of our arrival!

Baccarat Table
Continuing down the street we saw more beautiful pieces. This Baccarat table was very impressive but it doesn't appear that useful. . I am guessing it is used in a dining room or bar area. Our window shopping so far is a big success and it wasn't costing us a centime!

This shop wasn't as fancy with a metal door and more closely resembled a storage container. The items looked very nice though.

This shop named Evelyne wasn't open yet but they had a good selection of smaller decorative items we could spot from the window. I particularly liked the lit rose colored pendulum chandelier in the center. Good thing they are closed. My self-control is holding but at any minute I might be in trouble!

It was wonderful to see these items in person instead of through a Christie's catalogue. When we finished walking up the street we then made our way to the other markets including Serpette, Vernaison, Antica and Biron.

After Vernaison and Antica which didn't take long, our next stop was Serpette. Here we spotted some unconventional merchandise. All the shops in this market are located inside an enclosed building. There were a few closed shops too as the poor economy has sadly put some dealers out of business.

I found this small kiosk that designs clothing in unusual styles. I don't think I could get away with rocking a skirt made of ties but I am sure someone could!

Next door was a truly amazing shop selling vintage jewelry. We meet the owner, Ms. Olwen Forest who definitely has a flair for the dramatic sporting spiky red hair and an abundance of bright green eye shadow. Her shop is a labor of love and she delighted us with an explanation of her amazing collection. .

Olwen Forest

Olwen Forest is British by birth and was a dancer in Southern California. Her specialty is costume jewelry from the golden age of Hollywood. Many of the pieces were created specifically to be worn in films including Liz Taylor items in Cleopatra. Now thousands of miles from Tinseltown the collection at her little booth on the outskirts of Paris is spellbinding.

A photo of the store on Olwen Forest's website
Ms. Forest was very kind to us neophytes and explained the history of the pieces and the designers who made them. There were photos next to many of the items indicating who wore them from Greta Garbo to Grace Kelly. The items span from 1920 to 1970. We spoke for nearly an hour and learned about designers Elsa Schiaparelli, Hattie Carnegie, Coco Chanel and Kenneth Jay Lane among others. Ms. Forest has intimate knowledge of each piece and they are more like treasures to enjoy rather than adornments for sale.

Elsa Schiaparelli brooch and earrings
Olwen Forest's current exhibition is titled "The Jet Set" and will start in early September 2013.

I asked if I could take a photo of her display with the write-up on the new show and she agreed. She also gave me a brochure and business card. It was a truly fascinating encounter!

We next made our way to the Marche Biron which is adjacent to Serpette and also located in an enclosed building. There are 220 art and antique dealers in Marche Biron which are classified in 6 areas: 19th Century, 18th & 19th Centuries, Asian Art, Printing and Graphic Art, Art Nouveau and Art Deco, and 20th Century. Should we find anything we cannot part with we also spotted a transport company to ship everything home. Many of the items were quite nice but we kept moving.

We headed outside and this time found the inexpensive market areas.

It is not as fancy in this area.

It does look much cheaper here! However, it did not captivate our interest.

This area definitely seemed more like a flea market. As we walked down the street we came across some horses having their lunch. What a nice surprise! They were just gorgeous!

I said hello to one of the horses and he started to walk toward me and his buddy followed!

Here they come! I wish I had an apple or something they would enjoy.

Once they realized we had nothing for them they turned around and went back to their hay. It was not too warm out and they seemed very well cared for.

Around this time we started to make our way down the street to look for a taxi.

Looking for a taxi
We passed this store which my mother found fascinating. I really enjoy this style of furniture too. Perhaps my grandmother's influence has something to do with it.

I love the cherubs on the doors too.

We found a taxi without much trouble and then proceeded to the Marais.

On the way to the Marais
Being Sunday there weren't many people about. However, once we arrived in the Marais it was a whole different story! There were several families enjoying the splendid weather. I noticed lots of dad's with their kids.

Place de Vosges.
The Marais

The Marais literally means "the swamp" and is located in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. In the 16th century noblemen and the bourgeoisie built magnificent homes in this undeveloped area. Through the 18th century beautiful houses were built with many resembling palaces. This area is also the location for the old Jewish Quarter and provides an interesting cultural backdrop.

We walked around a bit before deciding where to have lunch.

There are lots of cars around the square but it almost  feels pedestrianized. The buildings with the arches provide a shady and cool place to relax, eat and shop.

Above is Carette where I planned to eat lunch but as time appeared to be in abundance today we also looked at few other places. Having extra time is not something that normally happens!

Cafe Hugo in the Marais
We checked out Cafe Hugo which seemed very nice. It was not yet lunch time which made our decision all the more difficult since it was not crowded and we could eat anywhere.

Perhaps perfumes from the Pays Basque?
This shop selling scents was very cute!!

The other main attraction in the Marais besides the lovely shopping and the restaurants is the striking Place des Vosges. The buildings are arranged in a quadrangle and are considered by many as the most magnificent architectural accomplishment in Paris.

Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges is Paris’s first major architectural ensemble, where the whole is more impressive than its parts. Originally known as place Royale, Henri IV ordered its construction in 1605. (Other well-known squares such as place des Victoires or place Vendôme were built much later under Louis XIV (1643 -1715) and place de la Concorde, during the 18th century.) Place des Vosges consist of three stories, steep slate roofs and red brick facades whose corners are edged with quoins in the same white stone that frames the windows.

Between the 18th and 19th-centuries, the Marais was sadly neglected and in the 20th-century, it was planned to be razed through the center of the Right Bank and to widen the Rue de Rivoli. Fortunately once demolition was imminent an immediate intervention was successful and no destruction occurred.

Place des Vosges
We next headed over to the park to get a nice view of it and the beautiful Place des Vosges beyond. Victor Hugo's former home is at number 6.

It is such a beautiful wide area and perfect on a warm summer day.

After enjoying the park it was time to eat. I took another look at the restaurant below as I was having a hard time making a decision.

This place was very cute but since I wasn't that hungry we ultimately went back to Carette where I could order a pastry or dessert.


Carette was founded in 1927 in the Place du Trocadero. They opened the Place des Vosges offshoot several years ago. Famous for macaroons and pastries, the menu also features salads and sandwiches. We whet our appetite by viewing the delectable pastries in the case by the entrance.

Yummy Carette Pastries

We sat inside and looked at the menus and ordered our drinks. Raspberry soda for me and wine for mother.

While Carette is famous for their pastries I was feeling peckish and decided  to order an ice cream dessert. My mother had a salad.

My Cafe Leigeois was delicious! It is made with coffee ice cream and Chantilly cream and was perfect on a warm day. Until World War 1, the dessert was known as Cafe Viennois.

Afterward we both took a look at the pastries and my mother had one with strawberries and I ordered 2 macaroons.

The pastries are truly the star here. The little wrapped sandwiches looked good too and were also very reasonable. I thought of purchasing a few to save for our train ride later today but passed as they might not do well in the 77 degree temperatures today.

It was now time for some shopping, but again we mostly looked in the windows.

Rue de Francs Bourgeois
The streets were very busy with lots of people. This area has many boutiques but in recent years the appearance of chain stores has become more prevalent.

This is one of older Jewish Quarter buildings.

Saint-Paul Saint Louis Church in the rear
At the end of the street is the Saint-Paul Saint-Louis church in the background on Rue Saint Antoine. The present building was constructed from 1627 to 1641 on the orders of Louis XIII. The design is traditional French with Italian inspiration. It was here on February 15, 1843 that Leopoldine Hugo secretly married Charles Vacquerie. Sadly, Victor Hugo's eldest daughter and her husband died just a few months later when their boat overturned on the Seine. Her heavy skirts pulled her down and her husband died trying to save her. The impact of this event affected Victor Hugo deeply and he expressed his grief in many of his poems.

We continued in the opposite direction of the church. This store had some very interesting jewelry in the windows on either side. Blue on the left and gold on the right. 

I liked the blue ones and my mother preferred the gold items. They certainly make a statement!

We didn't have plans to visit any of the museums but soon arrived at the majestic Musee Carnavalet. It is open everyday but Monday.

Musee Carnavalet
The museum specializes in the history of Paris and its development. The main entrance is to the right. We probably should have spent a little time in the museum but were so much enjoying our walk in the Marais that we decided to pass.

The area is certainly well marked. We continued down the Rue Des Francs Bourgeois and then to Saint Antoine.

Hotel de Sully
Above is the Hotel de Sully at 62 Saint Antoine. It was built in 1624 and was constructed in the renaissance style. It is known as a "Hotel Particulier" which were beautiful townhouses in their day. As these buildings were free standing they were distinguished from the other Paris mansions in not sharing any walls. Apparently it is a gorgeous building inside and the courtyard is accessible but the interior is closed to the public.

We next passed some interesting clothing stores with cute names including Bumba and Lola and Officina Slowear.

We would soon round things up and contemplate leaving. Nonetheless, we still had lots of time and could have stayed a bit longer. We were however worried that finding a taxi might not be that easy and we did want to rush back in a panic.

Jam and tea shops
What better accompaniment to go with jam but some nice tea? I can hear Julie Andrews from the Sound of Music singing in my head "Tea and Jam, Jam and Bread...."  Both stores looked very nice.

It was still a bit early but our taxi predicament was weighing on us. We needed enough time to go back to the hotel to finalize the checkout and pickup our bags and then get to the train station. At first it looked like finding a taxi was going to be a challenge. We had only seen one taxi the entire time we were walking around.

No taxis
We walked a bit further away from the main shopping area and fortunately after 15 minutes spotted a taxi to take us "home". It was just luck though. It could have taken much longer.

Poster of Naomi Watts as Princess Diana
On our way out of the Marais I finally had a good look at the "Diana" posters my mother has been seeing all over the city. I had to inform her that the poster is not commemorating the 16th anniversary of death of Princess Diana. The poster is an advertisement for the Naomi Watts movie based on Diana and soon to open in theaters.

We passed some beautiful buildings on the way to our hotel.

Soon we were back in the Haussmann area of Paris and drove by Printemps again. Paris is actually quite a small city and you can cover a lot of ground in just 15 - 20 minutes.

The stores are closed today so there are no people around.

There was hardly any traffic and we sped along at a leisurely pace.

I liked this narrow building above with its beautiful balconies. I will try to figure out what it is online.

We arrived at the hotel and asked the taxi to wait for us to take us to Gare du Nord.

Exterior Les Plumes Hotel
I went inside to reception while mother waited in the taxi. I finalized our checkout and picked up our bags. I also thanked the staff for a wonderful stay. I ran out, dumped the bags in the trunk and we headed to the train station. It was all very efficient but perhaps we were getting ahead of ourselves. We arrived at the train station early but I planned to spend some time in the Thalys lounge.

Gare du Nord
Once inside Gare du Nord I went to the Thalys booth to inquire about the lounge. I also wanted to see if we could change our seats as they are facing backward on the train. I noticed the seat issue a few minutes after booking the tickets online many months ago but couldn't figure out how to remedy it. Emails to Thalys went unanswered and I was not about to call them as they only had an international number.

The woman at the booth said she couldn't change the seating but that the lounge was upstairs.

2nd Floor Gare du Nord
However, she forgot to mention that as it is Sunday, the lounge is closed today. We did have a nice view of the station from the second story though. Our Comfort Class tickets included lounge access which offers free wifi so I was disappointed. We went back down in the glass elevator and retreated to the ground level. There were very few places to sit at the station. This is not an exaggeration! We finally found a place at one the food outlets. I ordered a small sandwich just so we could sit there.

Being early and with no lounge to relax in, we occupied ourselves by chatting a little and watching the armed security force march up and down the station. It made me feel secure and at risk simultaneously!

Security at the train station.

As someone had to stay with the luggage, mother and I both took turns taking walks in the station. During my walk I looked at the Thalys trains parked on tracks 6 & 7.

Thalys Train
Thalys is a high speed train operator offering service between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne. The Dusseldorf Airport station is being added in winter 2013. Peak speed on a dedicated track is 186 mph.

Thalys Routes
The largest segment of Thalys sales come from the Paris-Brussels route. When booking the train I registered for the Thalys Card which you earn points on like an airline frequent flyer program. The card which looks just like a credit card, also has your booking info on it which can be read with a scanner.

I booked our tickets in Comfort Class 1 which is the equivalent of first class. The cost for both tickets together was 186 EUR. Our train will depart at 4:01 pm and will arrive in Cologne at 7:15 pm. It was now finally time to board and we made our way to Coach 22 and seats 52 & 53.

Thalys Comfort 1 seating
The seats were comfortable and had a foot rest.

I went down to the next car to take a photo. In Comfort Class they offer free wifi but I found out later that it was not working. The ride was very pleasant though. At some point someone did come over to check our tickets.

Beautiful Scenery
The scenery was very nice and I love taking the train over flying. The train only had one or two stops before arriving at Cologne.

Aachen Station
We stopped at Aachen which is a small town in Germany and was a favorite of Charlemagne. It was heavily damaged during World War II. The station looked very nice!

Crossing the River
We crossed the river and it was then just a a few minutes before we arrived at the station. We were soon arriving in Cologne. This is our first time in Cologne but unfortunately we have no time to see any of it.

Cologne (Koln) Station
We exited the station and looked for a taxi.

The beautiful Gothic Cologne (Koln) Cathedral known as the Kolner Dom, is directly outside the train station doors. It is perhaps 200 yards away. It may have still be open but due to the luggage we had to just enjoy the view from the curb.

We jumped in a taxi and headed to the Hyatt Hotel on the opposite side of the Rhine. Easier said than done. Apparently they were holding a road race earlier in the day and closed several roads including the main access point to the hotel. Around and around we went and still getting nowhere. We were both tired and it was getting frustrating. I think the driver was doing his best but after the 4th attempt we were ready to just walk there.

We went back to other side of the river and asked a road worker for assistance. He suggested another way to get there and thank goodness it worked! What should have taken 10 minutes ended up triple that.

Hyatt Hotel Cologne
Checkin at the Hyatt was a breeze and we were soon upstairs in our comfy room.

I had planned to eat dinner here so there was not rush to go anywhere. We eventually made it downstairs to the bar area where they have a small restaurant. I thought we might be able to eat outside and enjoy the view of the river but it was closed. The Hyatt also has a second fancier restaurant upstairs but we preferred the bar area.

We sat at a table near the back and looked at the menu. Most of the items were very reasonable and we ordered our drinks. The drinks were taking a looong time as the male bartender was schmoozing a couple from the UK. He was apparently in no rush to make our cocktails but I was rather desperate for it as if it were my last. We gave our food order to another server and inquired about the drinks. She looked over to the bartender gabbing away and with a smile said she would check on it.

That did the trick as our libations were now being prepared. We enjoyed the ambiance of the little restaurant which resembled a small pub with wood tables and low lighting. The cocktails were served and looked super!

Our cocktails At Last!
The food came out fairly quickly as opposed to the drinks. I love Currywurst and usually order it if it is on the menu. The sauce on this one was a bit tame and could have used a little more kick.

During dinner I took a short break to take some photos outside. The hotel is located in a great spot with a spectacular view of the Dom (cathedral) lit at night and the nearby bridge. I had to use my phone as my camera battery had died earlier. I think it came out okay though.

Cologne Cathedral and Bridge at night
It was a challenge to get the photo as there was barbed wire as a protective barrier at the hotel. I actually had to hold the phone outside the hole in the wire and hoped I didn't drop it to take the photo!

I then went back and finished dinner. We were tired from a fun but long day. Tomorrow we will get up early to take the train to the Dusseldorf Airport and then board our flight home.

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