Passionate About Paris: January 11th 2012

Happy New Year and welcome to the first post for 2012 in my weekly blog series, Passionate About Paris.

The Christmas illuminations may have been taken down and the galettes des Rois no longer adorn the patisserie windows (having been avidly eaten on January 6th), but Paris never rests on its laurels. There’s buzz and excitement even in gloomy January and the chilly weather justifies the calorific excesses of the superb chocolat chaud on offer, especially from Angelina’s and Berthillon.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor to Paris or like me a can’t-get-enough-of-Paris devotee or just mildly curious about the City of Light,  I hope you’ll find in these posts some ideas to inspire, hints to help and a sense of sharing what’s great about this awesome city.  Here’s my round up of what’s on and what’s new.

What’s on                                                                                                                       If you plan to travel to Paris in January, do be aware that Paris Fashion Week (January 18-22) previewing men’s autumn fashion collections and the Haute Couture SS2012 collections January 23-26) mean that there’s pressure on hotel accommodation, which is often more expensive.   More detail on the shows can be found here: http://www.modeaparis.com/en.  The Paris Capitale de la Création Trade Show is also on between January 20-24.

Rather better news is that the winter sales season starts in Paris on January 11, running until February 14th.  Some stores will extend their opening hours and also open on a Sunday, but this is down to individual choice.  Some stores discount by as much as 70% as they clear stock ready for the new season.

A spectacular treat is in store for those in Paris for Chinese New Year.  The Year of the Dragon begins on January 23rd and on Saturday 28th there will be a traditional and vibrant procession featuring lions and dragons starting at 2.30 p.m. in front the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) in the 4th arrondissement.

Budget Ideas for that Post-Christmas Purse Pinch                                    Here’s a few budget ideas if your wallet has been squeezed by the festivities:

Get a marvellous view of the Eiffel Tower from Maison de Balzac’s garden, 47 rue Raynouard (16th), open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10a.m. to 6 p.m. The home of 19th century writer Honoré de Balzac, the permanent collection always welcomes guests free of charge to view Balzac’s manuscripts and works.

Just behind the walls of the Palais de Justice on the Île de la Cité, the awesome Gothic chapel of Sainte-Chappelle’s walls have 15 glorious stained-glass panels   and a large rose window. Admission is free on the first Sunday of the month from November to March and always for children under 18.

Nearby the Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral holds free organ recitals on Sundays at 4.30 p.m.

Frequently overlooked by visitors, the Bois de Boulogne (16th arrondissement) is a wonderful place for a brisk walk, with a beautiful lake.

Pari Roller leads Friday Night Fever Skate tours of the city, starting at 10 p.m. at Place Raoul Dautry. The route for the three-hour ride changes each week but is always roughly 18.6 m long.

If your wallet is seriously pinched, try out these free food offers:

Le Grenier, 152 rue Oberkampf  (11th) serves complimentary couscous on Saturday nights from September to April from 7 p.m. with live jazz.

The buzzy Le Tribal Cafe, 3 cour des Petites Ecuries (10th) offers a choice of free moules frites on Wednesdays and Thursdays or chicken couscous on Fridays and Saturdays.

Free couscous is offered after 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays at La Chôpe du Château Rouge 40 rue de Clignancourt in Montmartre (18th).

And finally….that wallet-busting item?  That would be a truffle sandwich at a whopping €65 and now available ‘to go’ from La Grande Epicerie at Bon Marche.  Apparently the chic-est sandwich (in let’s face it a very chic city), Michelin-starred chef Michel Rostang’s creation does need to be baked until golden, so eat in to savour the experience unless you have Parisian friends who will lend their kitchen facilities.

The sandwich is made up of black truffle from the Rhône Valley or Périgord Valley, minced between two slices of country sourdough bread with a little salted butter.  Not a lunchtime snack, it’s one to be savoured and certainly not microwaved – a major faux pas!

À bientôt!

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