Hermes hors les murs

Last weekend, and all through this week, the master craftsmen and women from Hermes have left their workshops and taken up residence at the Carreau du Temple in the Marais to showcase their skills, passion and exquisite craftsmanship. Ten different metiers are carefuly demonstrated and explained – I particularly enjoyed watching a bag being hand stitched, gloves being cut out and the edges of the famous scarves being handrolled. You can gather right around the workbenches and chat to the artisans about their work, the studies that took them there, day to day life in the Hermes ateliers, and the techniques that they are demonstrating.

There is also a creative workshop if you want to join in, a bookshop, an organic café, and a wide programme of presentations and discussion forums thoughout the week. It’s a rare chance to see first hand and up close the incredible craftsmanship that goes into making these beautiful pieces of work.

Until 26 Nov 2016. Entry is free.

  • Le Carreau du Temple, 4 rue Eugene Spuller, 75003 Paris.  metro: Temple

Website (in English)

Good coffee in Paris. 4: Fondation Café

This tiny café serves up not only a fantastic cup of coffee, but also a delicious selection of cakes and a tasty avocado on toast, complete with chili powder and salt. The decor is minimalist (check out the 2 beautiful Jean Prouvé Potence lights), the coffee machine being the main attraction, and with 3 small tables inside and just a few more outside, you can also get your coffee to go if you can’t find a seat. Opened in 2013 by an Australian barista who had previously worked at Ten Belles, the café has recently changed hands, but continues to attract a non-stop stream of customers and rave reviews for the quality of the cofféé and the warm welcome.

  • Fondation Café, 16 rue Dupetit Thouars, 75003 Paris.  metro: Temple

Open 8:00 – 18:00 weekdays and 9:00 – 18:00 weekends

Fondation café Facebook page


Yves Saint Laurent at the Salon du Vintage

It’s the Autumn edition of the Salon du Vintage this weekend at the Carreau du Temple in the Marais. Not only do we have the chance to peruse and buy from an incredible range of vintage clothes stands, but there is also a wonderful collection of the iconic ‘Sahariennes’ by Yves St Laurent on show.

First presented in 1968, the Saharienne became one of the emblematic pieces in the Yves Saint Laurent collections, and was remodeled many times over the years. The beautiful pieces on show here range from 1969 to 1980 and are from the collection of Olivier Chatenet.

As well as this amazing collection, there is huge range of vintage clothes stands to suit all budgets. If you are looking for quality vintage clothes or some iconic designer pieces, this is the place to come. There’s also an exhibition of designer chairs from 1960 – 1990, mid-century modern furniture, vinyl records and handmade jewellery.

The Salon du Vintage is open again tomorrow 18 October, and is held several times a year, usually in the Marais. Check out their website for upcoming editions and locations.

  • Salon du Vintage, Carreau du Temple, 4 rue Eugene Spuller, 75003 Paris

Salon du Vintage website (in French)


La Maison du Pastel

At the back of a small courtyard in the Marais there is a tiny shop, open one afternoon a week for 4 hours, selling the finest handmade artist’s pastels. La Maison du Pastel opened its doors for a few small group visits this weekend for the Journées du Patrimoine, and I was lucky enough to be able to get myself a place on the list.

Maison du Pastel - Paris

La Maison du Pastel is home to the Pastels Roché, owned and run by the Roché family since 1865, (although it was started in 1720, five years after the death of Louis XIV, making it the oldest pastel house in the world). We were welcomed by Isabelle Roché who took over the family business from cousins 15 years ago, and who has put all her passion and energy into bringing the declining business back to life.

Suppliers of exceptional quality pastels to artists such as Degas, Whistler, Redon and Vuillard, Pastels Roché were producing over 1600 different shades by the 1930s (other quality pastel makers – and there are fewer then 20 of them in the world – produce between 500 and 600). In 1937 they won a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition. During World War II the business was almost completely destroyed, it was revived by the Roché family and run through the 1960s and 70s with some success, thanks to artists such as Sam Szafran, until it eventually started to decline in the 1980s.

The pastels are still made in the original atelier in the countryside 60km outside of Paris, all are handmade from start to finish – from mixing the pigments to rolling each individual pastel. The exact ingredients used are secret, and the results are beautiful, intense shades with an incredible depth of colour, beloved by artists the world over. Isabelle has brought the palette of shades back to just over 1000, the business had almost disappeared when she took over in 2000, and she and her American assistant Margaret continue to develop not only the business but also the amazing range of colours, still producing everything themselves.

Spending an hour listening to the fascinating history of the Pastels Roché, witnessing the passion, hand work and perseverance that has gone into creating and maintaining this very special family business, and watching box after box of beautiful and luminous jewel-like colours being opened on the counter before us, was a joy and a privilege. Artist or not, a visit to this tiny shop is a very special moment.

  • La Maison du Pastel, 20 rue Rambuteau, 75003 Paris.  métro: Rambuteau

Open Thursday 14:00 – 18:00 or by appointment

La Maison du Pastel (website in English)


The Picasso Museum

I have just re-discovered one of the most incredible museums in the city. The Picasso Museum re-opened a few months ago after 5 years of renovations. Set in the historic district of the Marais, housed in a spectacular ‘hotel particular’  or town mansion – the Hotel Salé, built in 1660 – the new Picasso Museum completely took my breath away. Visiting this museum is a delight – each room producing more and more treasures, each work set in a magnificent, light and airy space. The collection is comprehensive and is arranged in thematic and chronological order, enabling the visitor to follow and better understand the development of Picasso’s art. Despite the amazing collection of works, the museum is not overwhelming, it still feels small and intimate. I haven’t felt so excited by a museum in a long time, and can’t wait to go back and take friends and family with me.

As with all the museums in Paris, watch out for the huge lines! Buy a timed entry ticket on the internet, or be prepared to wait (although the lines are well managed and move pretty fast). If you’re hungry afterwards there is a pretty café on the roof, otherwise pop round the corner to one of my favourites, the Swedish Institute Café, and then enjoy a stroll around the beautiful Marais afterwards.

  • Musée Picasso, Hotel Salé, 5 rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris. metro: St Paul

Open Tuesday – Friday 11.30 – 18:00. Saturday and Sunday 09:30 – 18:00


Lunch in the Marais: the Swedish Institute café

The Marais is a beautiful part of the city to spend a day. One of the few areas that was not destroyed and rebuilt under Haussmann’s redesign of the city in the mid-19th century, it still retains the charm and history of the narrow streets of old Paris.

There are plenty of wonderful places to eat. I recently discovered one that is perfect for a sandwich and a cake, and is also extremely good value – something that can’t be said for many places in the area. The Café Suedois is housed in the Swedish Institute, and boasts a tiny café sitting in a beautiful cobblestone courtyard typical of the ‘hotel particuliers’, or grand old mansions of the Marais. The sandwiches are open faced Swedish style, which makes a very welcome change from a baguette now and again, the cakes and typical Swedish baked goods are homemade and delicious. Throw in some free wifi, and I could happily spend hours here.

The Swedish Institute also hosts many art shows and concerts, as well as offering Swedish lessons. Check out their website for upcoming events (it’s only in French or Swedish though I’m afraid!).

  • Le Café Suédois (in thé Institut Suédois), 11 rue Payenne, 75003 Paris. metro: St Paul or Chemin Vert

Open Tues-Sun, midday to 6PM

Rose Bakery

Much as I love French pastries, sometimes it’s really nice to have a taste of home. Rose Bakery has managed the seemingly impossible and seduced the Parisians with their British cakes, lunches and brunches. It was the carrot cake that initially made them popular, and people keep coming back for the fresh, organic, homemade food and juices. All the ingredients are sourced locally and change with the seasons, or even daily depending on what is delivered. The kitchenware is handmade and comes from a cooperative in Norfolk. The food is simple, fresh and delicious.

Part café, part grocery shop, you can eat in or take away. Weekend brunches and lunch times are especially popular, go early if you want to be sure to find a table. The atmosphere is relaxed and laid back and the decor minimalist.

There are now 3 Rose Bakeries in Paris, the original one here on rue des Martyrs, one in the Marais and one inside the Bon Marché department store. They are also a great place to pick up English teabags, Marigold bouillon (which I have not managed to find anywhere else in Paris) and some great recipe books.

  • 46 rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris. metro: St Georges
  • 30 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris. metro: Filles du Calvaire
  • le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sevres, 75007 Paris. metro Sevres Babylone

Pain Poilane

Pain Poilane is reputed amongst many to be the best bread in Paris. A family run bakery established in 1932 in St Germain des Près, the bread is made the traditional way, using stone milled flour, water, sea salt from Brittany and yeast. Cooked in a wood fired oven, the big 2kg loaves are instantly recognizable, both in their texture and flavour.

Around 1000 loaves a day are exported to the US, Japan and the Middle East (I even heard a story about an American who loved it so much he placed an order to have a loaf couriered to him and then to his children in the US each week for life). You will often find it used for sandwiches in brasseries around the city, and you can buy a quarter or half a loaf if 2kg seems like too much!

  • 8 rue du Cherche Midi, 76006 Paris.  métro: Sevres Babylone or St Sulpice, closed Sunday
  • 49 Boulevard de Grenelle, 75015 Paris.  métro: Dupleix, closed Monday
  • 38 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris. métro: Filles du Calvaire or St Sebastien Froissart, closed Monday

The farmer’s market in autumn

As the seasons change so do the fruit and vegetables available at the farmers markets in France. I love the way people still buy and eat locally and seasonally here, it encourages us to experiment with new foods and recipes, and ensures that what we eat is fresh and at it’s best. Even the colours have changed to match those of autumn!

When we lived in the countryside near Bordeaux, we would forage for mushrooms, wild leeks and salad leaves. We used the wild elderflower to make drinks and our cupboards were full of jams, fruits in syrup, dried mushrooms and fruit compotes. We even made fresh ice creams with fruits from the orchard. It’s much harder with a small Parisian garden, but local markets are all over the city and growers come from the countryside bringing fresh, local produce. You can find a market somewhere every day, just make sure you go in the morning, by lunchtime everyone has packed up and gone home.

And nowadays we can even find kale in Paris, thanks in a large part to this wonderful blog, The Kale Project. I used to grow it, and really missed it when I got back here. Running around Paris looking for it (use the great map on the blog) allowed me to discover all kinds of wonderful farmers markets that I may not have otherwise got to.


The above photos were all taken at the Marché des Enfants Rouges in the Marais.


Vintage couture fashion – the salon du vintage

Like the Puces du Design, the Salon du Vintage is held twice a year in Paris, and its locations vary, although the two I have been to this year have both been in the Marais. This weekend it was held in the magnificent Carreau du Temple, a covered market hall built in 1860 in the haut Marais that has recently been completely restored.

The theme of this edition was British fashion from the 1950’s to the 1990s, and there was an exhibition of iconic designer dresses, curated by a lovely friend of mine Tara from Oh la la! Vintage – featuring Ossie Clarke, Mary Quant, Biba, Vivienne Westwood and many more. All the dresses in the exhibition were for sale, a chance to buy something really rare and special.

There’s fashion here for all budgets, including the most beautiful designer pieces from all the big names. If you love vintage fashion, and want to pick up an amazing collector item as an addition to your wardrobe, something individual, or just browse for ideas, this is the place to do it. There’s also a DJ (Boy George played the Saturday night set) and dancing, as well as a hair salon and café.

Check out their website for locations of upcoming editions.

Salon du Vintage



Gardens made for sharing

The other day I stumbled across a wonderful garden in the middle of the Marais.


Peering through a gate I could see an amazing profusion of fruit trees, vegetables, flowers and herbs all growing in a fairly tiny space. I was lucky that one of the gardeners happened to be in there, and he invited me in. And so I discovered that there are ‘Jardins partagés’ or shared gardens dotted all across Paris. Lovingly cared for by people living locally who share the space, the work and the produce as a community, this one also provides a place where they meet, organize picnics and parties and sometimes art exhibitions – they have even produced a book.


In a city where people mainly live in apartments, it is wonderful to find these tiny pieces of countryside hiding amongst the buildings. If one of the gardeners is in there you are free to go in, wander around and learn about the community that tends the garden, as well of course as enjoying a few moments of country life in the middle of the city.

  • Le Potager des Oiseaux, 2-4 rue des Oiseaux, 75003 Paris  Metro: Filles du Calvaire

Le Marché des Enfants Rouges

Created in 1615 under Louis XIII, the Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest market in Paris. It was named after the orphans from the nearby orphanage – dressed in red as a sign of charity, and was set up to feed the new neighbourhood of the Marais.

Today it is a small but vibrant and diverse covered market. Saved by locals in 2000 who petitioned vigorously to have it reopened, it now houses various stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meats, bread and flowers, but also an eclectic range of eateries, always busy at lunchtime and a wonderful place to grab some lunch and sit on the terraces amongst the market stalls. I went on a Sunday, and had a choice of Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, Moroccan, farmers burgers, brunch, traditional French bistro fare, crepes or charcuterie and cheese plates from a wine bar. The atmosphere is lively and local, the setting picturesque (the market is now a listed historic monument) and the food delicious.

The market is located in the top end of the Marais, or ‘Haut Marais’, now even more fashionable and still less known to tourists than the lower end. A visit and lunch in the market followed by a stroll down through the lively southern end of the Marais is a great way to spend a day.

Open daily 8:30 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 19:30. Sunday 8:30 – 14:00. Closed Mondays.

  • Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39 rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris. Métro: Arts et Metiers