Saturday, 7 February 2015

We'll always have Paris....

 Lots of birthdays in our family in January....I include darling Wolfgang Amadeus in the list...he would have been 259 on 27th. Possibly too old for me! But one person who isn't is my beloved husband, Paul...who celebrated a BIG birthday around the same time. Ten years ago, we held a fabulous and memorable lunch party for 40 friends in Salzburg. How could we top that? Well, we didn't try to, but we aimed to make this one just as wonderful. So we chose Paris. City of Light. Beautiful, charmant, amazing Paris...
 ...she glowered a little when we arrived (this is the view from our tiny but perfect hotel room...it came complete with a bijou balcony plus table & chairs for outside breakfast a deux...but NOT in January!)
 ...but by the next day, she had regained her golden glow and was looking gorgeous in the freezing cerulean blue of a winter morning...
 ..the gargoyles and saints looked disapprovingly down on us from their 800 year old perch on Notre Dame...
 ...and here it is from the front. I STILL expect sometimes to see poor old Quasimodo swinging on his rope between the two towers...
Anyway, far too bitingly cold to stay outside for long...so we popped into a favourite cafe for breakfast...
 ..there are many like this, of course, throughout the city...
 ..the bread is frighteningly addictive. Especially with the unsalted creamy butter it's always served with...
 ...ordering a 'Petit Dejeuner Complet' will get you freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, iced water and a choice of pastry (I always have a plain croissant) with preserves...some others in our party 'sized up' and added toasted pain Poilane and a (very runny) boiled egg which comes with crispy toast 'soldiers'. Anyone who knows me...that's YOU!....knows that I loathe and despise eggs. I call them 'devil's orbs'. I'm not allergic...I am fine with them in things. But serve them whole....like this...
 ...and I have to turn away. Luckily there was a beautiful display of preserves to distract me!
 After breakfast, the others went shopping while I took myself off to the Jewish quarter of the city, as I love to do wherever I am...
 ...I could've devoured these beautiful, burnished cholla whole...but I was good! Tucked away, I found a little memorial garden...dedicated to a school of children and their teachers, deported to Auschwitz in 1943 & 1944...
...it's a beautiful, peaceful place...full of rosemary (for remembrance)...

 ...both flowers and vegetables are planted here and I look forward to visiting again when it's warm and sunny to see it burgeoning...
 ...I loved the little shed in the corner, too.
On the way back to change for the party, we ran into a brilliant jazz quartet...just playing in the street...as you do! A huge crowd of toe-tappers gathered..."bravo, bravo...encore!" But it was time for us to go...
 ...and meet our guests. We'd taken over a restaurant we know and love for the lunch...and just under 40 of our friends had made the journey...by plane, by train...to join us for the celebrations. Some of them chose very - ahem - original attire ...
 ...he's well known for it!!
 We enjoyed a fabulous lunch...two choices for each course and it was so good to see everyone...
Speeches were made, songs were sung...
 ...the birthday boy blew out the candle on his chocolate orange mille feuille dessert...toasts were made...much laughter and joy. And afterwards, we retired to a friendly neighbourhood bar which was only too happy to accommodate the (by then) 25 mad British people...
 ...the day was long but wonderful. We missed - and toasted - the few very loved and absent friends and family who, for one reason or other, were unable to make the trip. But in every other respect, it was perfect!
The next day was for recovering, exploring, enjoying the city...everyone did their own thing, but a large group of us met up for another gorgeous, impromptu lunch which was huge fun. And then it was the time to leave...
 ...so we took a last walk out, around the breathtaking Place de Vosges...
 ...peeking into a hotel garden along the way - (Parisians do these 'formal' gardens so well....) and buying a few presents at the many, many chocolateries...
 we didn't buy these Valentine fish...but wouldn't they make a fabulous treat? I don't think i'd be able to eat them, though...too beautiful!
Then, we hopped on the Eurostar to be whisked back to England and the reality of a new week.

Merci, Paris. Brave, strong city of charm and elegance...
We all stand with you.

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend...and welcome to February! xx