Right around the corner from our flat is the Aligre Market, an open air street market that runs for about three city blocks on rue d'Aligre. The market is open every day but Monday. Near as I can tell this is strictly a produce market. Meat, seafood, and poultry stalls can be found in the adjacent covered market, Marché Beauvau. This is where our friend, Claudia, has her stall, Babbaluscio, where she serves up marvelous vegetarian fare. There is also a large flea market on the plaza just to the east of Marché Beauvau.
The covered market, built in 1779, is one of the oldest in Paris and one of the few still in operation. The street market has its roots in the early 20th century when the nearby Gare de Lyon train station opened. I've read that many people from North Africa living in Marseilles took the train up to Paris at that time, getting off at the new Gare de Lyon station and settling in the area. They opened up street food stalls to make a living. The stalls and permits are passed down through the generations, with many of the stalls now owned and operated by third and fourth generations. This explains the sounds of Arabic being spoken throughout the market.
The Aligre Market is a locals market with zero sense of tourism. The produce is incredibly fresh. On my first visit there I picked up a couple melons, a mango, and some strawberries. They were all out of this world! We've been enjoying fresh fruit with every breakfast and lunch, and sometimes with our afternoon wine and cheese. Today we picked up bananas and apples. Payment is in cash at the street market. They weigh things out on a scale, which shows the amount in Euros. Since I can never understand the amount they are quoting me, I've learned to look at the amount on the scale. In Marché Beauvau, the covered market, you can pay with plastic or contactless payment, as we do with our Apple Watches. It's interesting that it seems more places over here accept Apple Pay than in the States, by my observation. But, if you're buying at the Marché d'Aligre, you'd better bring cash money.
Having a market right around the corner is a marvelous thing. There's no need to drive anywhere for your basic needs. When you factor in the Monoprix a few blocks away (think a shrunken Target), everything you need is available within a short walk. Of course, the market is also a street photographer's paradise. I can walk through the market making photographs of things of interest and nobody pays any attention to me.
In these "Our Neighborhood" posts I will give you an introduction to some of the notable attractions of our neighborhood here in the 12th arrondissement. First up is the Coulée Verte (green course in French). It's pronounced something like this: coo-lay vairt.
The Coulée Verte is a raised greenway that was created on the top of an old railroad viaduct. It runs for about three miles, from just east of the Bastille toward the Bois de Vincennes park. On top Parisians enjoy walking, running, exercising, and simply relaxing amidst beautiful green space in the middle of the city. In the arched spaces under Coulée Verte reside all sorts of amazing artisan shops. Priscilla's favorite is the Confiture Parisienne, a shop where they make their own jams and Madeleines.
My goal this trip is to walk the entire Coulée Verte. My family likes to tease me about my Coulée Verte obsession, mimicking the way I say it, in an annoyingly exaggerated manner. As I like to say, I am a walking fool, and in my mind there's no better place in Paris to get in a good long walk than the Coulée Verte. Our flat is only a few blocks away from one of the entrances. The last photo in the slideshow below shows the elevated view of the street that our building is on. Ours is the building on the right with the angled front.
Late day yesterday I got out for a walk on the Coulée Verte during the golden hour. On my return leg I walked by what I thought was a figurine of a pigeon that had been placed on one of the bushes, as it was completely still. When I walked right next to the pigeon, no more than two feet away, it moved! That sure gave me a start. After collecting myself, I then slowly walked back toward the gutsy pigeon with camera in hand to see if I could get a good photo. This was as close as I got. I was about three feet away when I made this photo. Immediately after I pressed the shutter button the pigeon flew away.
So this is the Coulée Verte, one of my favorite spaces in Paris. I don't recall where I first read of it. The Coulée Verte is the type of place that tends not to make it into most guidebooks. Maybe that's why I don't tend to use them anymore.
I think for my next "Our Neighborhood" post I will cover the Aligre Market, another place that is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth a visit if you want to see authentic Paris.
It's been a whirlwind of a few days for us here in Paris. We arrived on Wednesday, September 22 and got to our flat at midday where we were met by Natasza, the agent for our flat. Her abundance of energy more than compensated for our jet-lagged persons. She gave us the rundown on our flat and the area around us. I suppose I should now give you the overview of our flat.
The flat at 2 rue Charles Baudelaire is large by Parisian standards. We have two bedrooms, a living room and dining room, an excellent kitchen, and one bathroom. The view out our balcony is beautiful. We get wonderful late day light on that side of our flat. The street directly in front of our building is pedestrian only, so this flat is nice and quiet.
Our building is right around the corner from our favorite market in Paris, the Aligre Market. There are food stalls in the covered market and then every day there is a street market that runs for a few blocks. Our friend, Claudia Cabri, has a food stall in the covered market. That's where we first met her two years ago. We enjoyed having a little catch up with Claudia. I picked up her vegetarian lasagna and a couple pieces of polenta cake for our first dinner in Paris. It was all delicious! Everything at the market is incredibly fresh. For our first breakfast, I stopped at a favorite bakery, Blé Sucré, for pain chocolat and a baguette, and then I picked up some fresh melon, mango, and strawberries at the street market.
In the afternoon we met our friends Ellen and Jean-Pierre at the Galerie Miranda, a gallery specializing in photography. A friend of theirs, Gerard Dalla Santa, had an exhibit of his landscape photographs showing there. I enjoyed his work. As I told him, his photographs from the Burgundy region and Pennsylvania were honest.
After enjoying a coffee with Ellen and Jean-Pierre, we headed back to our flat to get ready for our evening plans, the Jamie Cullum concert at the Salle Playel. Priscilla's eagle eye allowed us to score a pair of tickets to this sold-out concert. Jamie is one of our favorite performers. He is a pianist and singer whose work is a bit hard to categorize, but if forced to I'd say his work is a fusion between jazz and rock. Jamie's Paris dates are his first concerts since before COVID hit. We made it to the concert hall area early enough to grab a delicious light dinner at Bencco, an Italian deli. The concert was outstanding. I'm sure it will go down as one of the highlights of our time here.
Today is a lazier day for us, after getting in several miles of walking yesterday and taking the Metro a number of times. Since we arrived on Wednesday, I've been out a few times in our neighborhood with my camera. I'll close out this post with a slideshow of photos from our neighborhood.
This is a short post to let you know that we are on our way. Next up, Paris! I expect the next post I make will be on our first day in Paris. We will acquaint you with our flat and the neighborhood.
No, I'm not going to tell you how many pairs of socks we're packing or what outfits we've picked out. This is the alternative version of "what's in my bag". The items on this list are things that might not come to mind, but we think they are good items to pack.
Since we start our day with coffee, I'll start our list there. We prefer a good strong cup of pour over coffee in the morning. Europeans tend to drink espresso type coffee. We're covering our bases by bringing along a collapsible coffee filter holder and a coffee measure. I got the filter holder at REI. We didn't have to use the holder in 2019, as the flat had all the gear to make pour over coffee. We're not sure about this year's flat, so we're not taking any chances. We're also bringing along some paper filters, but those are easy to find in the store, so we've just brought enough to get us started.
Next up is electrical power. These days most chargers will run on the higher voltage power used in other parts of the world, but you need plug adapters. We've purchased USB charger units that come with all the various plug adapters needed. Here's a helpful hint. Apple sells an international adapter kit that provides plug adapters that fit right onto all their various chargers, whether for iOS devices or Macs. Finally, I picked up a three-pack of plug adapters that allow you to plug in two devices.
When traveling, it's helpful to have some portable power. For that we're packing a USB battery pack made by Anker, one of my favorite brands. This battery pack will charge an iPhone or iPad several times over. I could also use it to charge my Nikon Z6 camera if necessary.
One item that we will pick up in country is a small power strip. We have one that we bought in Denmark, but we gave that to Anna when she was packing for her study abroad. We've learned that Europeans tend to provide fewer power outlets than we're used to here in the States, or they may not be located in the most convenient location, so having a small power strip is super helpful.
We've learned through experience that there are a few kitchen items that tend to be missing in vacation rental flats. First off are good knives. We especially need a good serrated knife for bread and a sharp pairing knife for fruit and vegetables. This smaller serrated knife will be perfect for travel, plus it is great for slicing tomatoes. Along that line, we're also bringing along a knife sharpener (not pictured). We've found that the knives in these rental flats tend to be pretty dull.
On our last trip, the flat had plenty of salt, but no pepper, so we're bringing our own pepper grinder. We actually bought this pepper mill on that last trip to Paris. Another item that was missing was a kitchen washcloth, so we're bringing one from home. Finally, Priscilla enjoys grapefruit, so she's bringing along a grapefruit knife and spoon.
Here are a few other items we're bringing. First, Europeans tend not to use washcloths in the bathroom, so we bring our own. The mesh bag is for washing clothing that you don't want to get all tangled up. The small digital scale is to weigh our luggage at the end of our trip to make sure we don't exceed the 50 pound limit. I original bought these clips to hang film to dry in my darkroom. I think they will be handy to hang clothing and towels to dry, so I'm bringing several along.
In Europe, everyone brings their own bag or cart when they go shopping. We have shopping bags that stuff into small carrying pouches. That way we've always got a shopping bag with us when we need it. If our flat doesn't have a rolling shopping cart, we will pick one up like we did last time. They're not expensive, so it's not a big deal to leave it behind.
The Vine Shop bag is designed to carry six bottles of wine. Last time we were in Paris I would carry wine bottles in a regular shopping bag. The wine would tend to clank around in the bag, so this time we're bringing a bag specifically designed for carrying wine bottles.
The Only Way To Fly
Finally, there is this cute little carry on cocktail kit that I saw on a list of best things to get a traveler. I thought this would be a fun way to celebrate on our flight over to France.
As most of you know, photography is my thing. I've been into photography since fifth grade, so that adds up to over 50 years of making photographs. I agonize over what camera gear to bring more than any other packing decision I have to make.
In 2019, the last time we went to Paris, I brought just over nine pounds of photo gear...one DSLR and two film cameras along with four lenses. While I certainly didn't carry all that gear with me on the streets of Paris, I did have to schlep it there and back on the airplane. I'm cutting that weight in about half this time, only bringing my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera and three lenses. That's right, no film cameras this time.
Since early 2019, I've been shooting film almost entirely for my personal work. I've been developing my own film at home, and as of this year, I've also been printing in my own darkroom. It's a fair question to ask why I'm not bringing film cameras to Paris this time. Well, here is my answer to that question. A large part of the enjoyment I get from shooting film is doing my own processing, scanning, and printing. I can't realistically do any of that when we're in Paris. Plus, with more cameras and formats comes more decisions. Which camera do I bring today? What film should I shoot today, black and white or color? Do I shoot digital or film today? While I enjoyed shooting film in Paris in 2019, it did come with a certain amount of handwringing. I plan to avoid that angst this time.
Case in point. When I happened upon the scene of the Notre Dame fire in 2019, the only dedicated camera I had with me was an Olympus film camera loaded with black and white film and fitted with a moderately wide angle 35mm lens. The only digital camera I had on me was my iPhone X. The images I captured that day that ended up in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper were captured on my iPhone X. I didn't get my film back from processing for a number of days. I do wish I had taken my Nikon digital camera with me that day when I set out for a short walk down to the Seine before dinner. As it was, I ran out of film and my iPhone battery ran quite low, forcing me to ration my shots.
It's true that many of my favorite photographs from our 2019 trip to Paris were made on film. While I know that part of that is the unique way that film renders an image, I also know that in large measure it was due to the fact that when I was simply walking around with no special destination in mind, I took a film camera with me. Those images of everyday life in Paris are the ones that are most evocative for me. I'm hoping that those everyday scenes captured on my digital Nikon Z6 will be every bit as evocative. As readers of this blog, you will get to judge for yourselves.
We are less than two weeks from our departure, so that means we're in the list checking phase of travel. You can imagine that travel during COVID has led to the addition of many items on our to-do list. Each country has its own travel requirements, even within the EU. The requirements I will reference are only for France and are as of the date I am writing this.
The EU has implemented a digital COVID certificate. You need to show this certificate to get into most public places and to take public transportation. In France they call this the Pass Sanitaire. With a CDC vaccination card, plus a passport and confirmed return travel itinerary, you can apply online for the French version of the COVID certificate. Priscilla and I have both received our certificates. The process was easy and the turnaround quick. The COVID certificate comes in the form of a QR code that you can scan into a smartphone app that the French government has published entitled Tous Anti COVID. While we've heard that your CDC card will work to get you into most places, technically, it is not sufficient according to the French government guidelines. It costs nothing to get the certificate, so we went ahead and did it.
If you are fully vaccinated, what you need to get into France besides your passport are the CDC card or the COVID certificate along with a sworn affidavit that basically states that you don't have COVID and haven't been around anyone who has it. At this time, if you are vaccinated, France is not requiring a negative COVID test.
The other thing we've learned is that masking requirements vary by airline. Our flight over to Paris is a Delta flight, in partnership with Air France. Air France has a requirement that masks be either the surgical variety or N95, not cloth. We have a good supply of the surgical masks, so we will bring those. Our cloth masks fit well, so I think we will start there and if they request it we will switch to the surgical masks.
The interesting thing is that the U.S. State Department has a travel warning out for France given the state of COVID there, but when you look at the worldwide COVID heat map published on the NY Times website, you see that the U.S. is much hotter than France. Overall, the rate of new infections in the U.S. on a per capita basis is running 3x that of France (45/100k vs. 16/100k). I've included a chart of new COVID cases for France below. The trend is definitely headed in the right direction.
One last thing we're doing, in a "belt and suspenders" approach, is that we will get a COVID test the Sunday before we leave. That way if a COVID test requirement gets added at the last minute we will be covered. Most of the COVID test requirements state that the test has to have been taken within the last 72 hours. We are using the State of Minnesota test center in Brooklyn Park, which costs nothing and in the past has given one-day turnaround. The test there is the saliva test which you self-administer. The results are delivered via email and also to a smartphone app.
As far as getting back into the U.S., right now the requirement is that you present a negative COVID test. These are available at all pharmacies in France, so I expect that's where we will take care of that. In future posts I don't plan on dwelling on COVID, but I thought some of you might be wondering what we are doing to be prepared for travel during COVID. My hope is that COVID fades into the background on this trip and we have a wonderful time in one of our favorite places in the world.