Flea Markets

When I think of a flea market, I think of the kind where you have rows of people selling cheap sweatshirts, t-shirts, and second hand DVD’s. The true flea markets of Paris are NOT like that- well, for the record, they do have some rows of that stuff BEFORE you enter the REAL thing. You will have to walk through that part, but THEN, you get to the real stuff. I don’t know why the flea markets are set up the way they are- my experience is with the Marche Aux Puces at the Clignancourt metro (at one end of the “pink” line). One of my husband’s grandmother’s friends had a “stall” there for years selling old records. A “stall” is actually like a small room with three walls and an opening on the alleyway. These alleyways meander around and crisscross each other so it’s easy to get turned around. My advice is that if you see something you REALLY like, then go and negotiate for it right then and take it with you– you may never find your way back again! I bought a beautiful chandelier there- I’m told it’s Vintage 1930’s alabaster from Finland. It was NOT cheap, but it is really beautiful and unique (see below). That’s my other point about these flea markets- many are legitimate antique dealers and what they sell are not cheap knock-offs. There are, of course, a variety of prices and a variety of items, but it’s great fun wandering through and seeing all the old jewelry, buttons, hatpins, clothing, dishes, silver flatware, etc, etc,. When you get off the metro at Clignancourt and emerge into the street, it’s a noisy, bustling crowd, so just make your way through it toward the raised highway (that’s the Peripherique- the road around Paris) and just beyond it is the real Marche Aux Puces. There are several sections and tons of “stalls” so plan to stay for hours and eat up there at one of the cafes. We ended up calling a taxi, when we bought the chandelier, and that’s an easy thing to do if you buy something big. ENJOY!

A Wonderful Outing

Paris is full of small museums and I’m sure I’ll never find them all, but I recently found a great one! It’s in the 18th arrondisement, next to Sacre Coeur, so when you’re planning your itinerary, and have Sacre Coeur on your list, give yourself a bit more time and go see the Salvador Dali Museum.

http://www.daliparis.com/english/ is the link to the English website and the museum is at 11 Rue Poulbot. I didn’t know much about him or his work- of course, everyone knows the melting clock, but there is so much more at the museum. There are paintings and sculptures, and it’s obvious that he was a VERY talented artist.  Here are a couple of examples of VERY cool things you can see there:

Oh, and I forgot to say, go at lunch time so you can go next door to Chez Plumeau, 4 Place du Calvaire, a really good small, restaurant. It has a great little terrace out front if the weather is good, and a cozy interior space if not. ENJOY!

The Manuscript has arrived!

Well, I got my second draft back from my FABULOUS editor and now it’s time to get the last “clean ups” done and write my mega convincing cover letter to the prospective agent.  I’ve got my blog up and running to start to get some publicity, and have just started a Twitter account- martyalmquist is my “handle”- easy, right?

For those of you thinking of writing a novel, or who have started one, or who have written, and re-written one, an editor is KEY. I had done six or seven updates to my original, based on comments from friends, and I literally couldn’t stand re-reading it any more. But I knew it was still dragging.  Then came the moment when a group of friends said, “If you’re serious about this novel, you need to hire an editor.” And one friend actually had someone to recommend (because that was one of the reasons I hadn’t “gotten” an editor yet). The other reason was money. I had to be sure enough of what I’d written to 1) send it off to a professional and 2) be willing to pay someone to fill it with slashes and cross-outs and corrections. I was VERY lucky because the person she suggested 1) liked what I’d done and 2) thinks like I do so her suggestions and questions make total sense to me.

I’ll be working hard all weekend and over the Thanksgiving day holiday to get the manuscript and letter into shape!

It’s all about presentation

Have you noticed, in walking around Paris, that presentation is extremely important? From the clothing stores to the outdoor market, everyone pays a lot of attention to how things look. And you’ll find just as much attention given to things you buy.  I wanted to take flowers to an old friend I was having lunch with so I stopped in at a flower shop along the way and chose a small bouquet. Let me note here that I made sure to say “Bonjour Madame” to the storekeeper as I entered- this is EXTREMELY important in France to show your respect for the shop and for the shopkeeper. Anyway, I took my bouquet over to her to pay and when I handed it to her, she asked me, “Est-ce que c’est pour offrir?” “Is this going to be given as a present to someone?” I answered yes and she proceeded to spend the next ten minutes carefully wrapping it in a colored paper that complemented the flowers beautifully, re-arranging the flowers within the bouquet, and tying it with a beautiful ribbon, which she carefully curled to create a small bow. She then added a small sticker onto the ribbon stating the name of the shop.    I now had something that was truly “gift-wrapped.”

Links for the Music Post

www.fnac.com is the website for the music store- it has a “translate” button so you can get it in English. It’s a great resource before ANY trip to Paris to find out what music will be there, but also what art exhibitions and other events are happening. You can buy tickets through it as well for any of the events and also tickets for any of the museums, etc.

www.olympiahall.com is the site for the shows at the Olympia and

www.alhambra-paris.com is the site for the Alhambra.


Music in Paris

I love to hear live music, especially in small venues. I’m NOT a fan of the “football stadium” approach to concerts. So now I check fnac.com, a website connected to a chain of music stores in Paris, before each trip, to see what fun music might be available. I’ve discovered three venues that I want to share with you. First, Le Bataclan. This is a small club in the 11th arrondisement on Boulevard Voltaire that holds 1,500 people. The main floor is standing space and the mezzanine has seating. It has a bar in the back and it’s a GREAT, small, venue.  I saw Peter Frampton there and the Fray and they were both terrific concerts. The extra bonus at the Peter Frampton concert was that if you waited 30 minutes after the show ended, there were CD’s available for sale of the concert itself! Incredible.

Second location, the Olympia, in the 9th arrondisement.  This is a more traditional venue, with seating throughout and when you book, you book a specific seat (unlike Bataclan which is First Come First Served). There are about 1,700 seats so again, it’s a nice, small venue for seeing concerts and the sound is very good. I saw Norah Jones here and it was fantastic!

Third location is the Alhambra in the 10th arrondisement. It holds 600 people and is in the style of the Bataclan- an open, standing area on the ground and seating above in a balcony. I saw Glen Hansard here and it was a fantastic show! No reserve seats, so like the Bataclan, you need to get there early enough to get a good spot!

Wines from Bourgogne

We went with friends last September to Burgundy to do some wine tasting. We stayed in Puligny, one of many picturesque small towns in that area, and drove to Beaune to visit the Maison Louis Jadot winery. What a GREAT experience! Louis Jadot vineyards are a longstanding family-owned and family-run business. In the 1950’s, when the then heir was killed in a car accident, Andre Gagey became the assistant to Louis Auguste Jadot and he took over the leadership when Jadot died in 1962, though the family maintained ownership. His family had also been active in Bourgogne and winemaking. He hired Jacques Lardiere in 1970  and Lardiere is now in charge of all winemaking operations. To show you how personal and friendly a place it is, Lardiere was there and he came over to personally greet us and welcome us! We were given a wonderful tour in English by a young man named Pierrick, and tried wines still in the barrels from 2010 and also wine in bottles. It was immediately obvious that 2010 was a good year for Burgundy wines, because they all tasted great, even though they were still in the barrels and very young. When we were in Paris this fall, I tried to buy some of the 2010 vintage. It turns out that there is an event every November for wine sellers to give them an opportunity to taste the wines and my understanding is that is where they can decide what to order for their stores. Anyone who knows more about this event, please chime in and fill us all in! What it meant, unfortunately, for me, was that the 2010 bottles were not in the stores yet in October, so I’ll have to wait for my next trip to buy some, but I recommend VERY highly Maison Louis Jadot wines in general, and 2010 as a year for Burgundy wines.


This is the notebook I had when I lived in Paris my junior year. I kept track of my budget in it (movie- Sonate D’Automne 10 francs, crepe, 2,50 francs, lunch, 24 francs) and I wrote recipes in it. The tradition in my family’s house was that the formal meal on Sunday was at about 2:00 and that evening we would make crepes for our dinner. They were a light, simple meal. Everyone had to cook their own and we took turns using the pan. The choices for your “dinner” crepe were egg, cheese and ham, for dessert, lemon and sugar, or butter and sugar. It was fun because it was much more casual than normal meals- someone was always jumping up to cook their crepe and conversation was lively. I have great memories of those evenings- the warm, lit kitchen, the scuffed table that we all sat around, the smell of the crepes, the cheese as it cooked, the sugar as it melted.

The recipe is on the recipe page. You CAN do it yourself, it’s not tough, and it does NOT require a special pan. ENJOY!