Love, Loaf and Hugo

If you asked a Parisian, what love is, he would thwack you with the golden loaf in his hand, and say, ‘Why, it is this, you numskull?!’ Here you would roll your eyes, and say, ‘Oh com’on, the baguette is such an overworked stereotype!’ Yet every time we stepped out on the streets of the city, there it was. A slender baton of crusty goodness staring back at us, tucked within the elbow of the old man in the long overcoat and beret, or sticking out of the tote of the young woman as she walked ahead of us. We even saw an old lady nibbling at the end of hers — probably best to have it fresh even before the day has waned. Lest the Parisian forgot this essential chunk of his daily diet, they have a Bread Observatory in Paris. It trots out the daily reminder, “Cou cou, tu as pris le pain?” (“Hello, did you pick up the bread?”). Now if that is not love, my darling, you tell me what love is. If you need further proof, just head to the nearest boulangerie. Finding yourself in a queue is an inevitability.

If we are talking about love, I would have to pipe in about the walrus with his fantastic pair of long, white tusks and grey, fluffy beard. My eyes fell upon this thing of rare, portly beauty in the window of a boutique, whereupon the batting of my eyelids made my husband acquiesce grudgingly. So that now this walrus sits pretty at home with my family of stuffed animals. This love however was eclipsed by far when we came across an elderly woman in the shadows of the Church of Saint-Sulpice. She was old but chic, in just the way an average Parisian is (must be the baguette). Even to walk their dogs, Parisians dress well. This lady was out with her 6-month old Cocker Spaniel pup, Lulu, who was the belle of the ball I thought, till I realised that Lulu was a tiny male with velvet soft curls. The love that shone in the woman’s eyes for her Lulu was palpable and touching enough that it remains in my mind as a radiant moment wrapped up in the soft sunshine of a December noon.

Be as it is may that we were in the 6th arrondissement when we met Lulu, I would actually like to whisk you into the 3rd and 4th arrondissements where lie the Marais quarter of Paris.

Charm and amour co-exist in Le Marais like an old married couple. What were marshes (hence Marais) in the early times, from land left over when a branch of the Seine dried up, is de rigueur today. But let me also describe to you how the day built up to lend itself to the laidback beauty of Le Marais.

We reached Le Marais after time spent dawdling at Shakespeare and Company, rifling through ancient books written by unknown authors, sniffing the scent of those old books (that’s how love smells), buying wedges of cheese from a Christmas market outside the Notre Dame, looking up dusty music covers and magazines that the line-up of Bouquinistes in their big fur hats and heavy coats sell along the Seine.

Twilight was gathering around us. Bang in the middle of a bridge — I believe it was the Pont Saint-Louis — a man sat playing his piano. The cadence of his music conjured up an ethereal quality to the evening when in the half light of it we stood by the bridge, a soft and cold breeze caressing us, lights glimmering across the Seine in the grand old buildings of Paris. It seemed fitting that we should walk into Le Marais right after, the afternotes of the performance playing in our heads as an amuse bouche of sorts.

Le Marais is timeless. Here there was no trace of Haussman’s wide boulevards and neoclassical facades. Here you still found a chunk of the old Paris, the narrow winding streets and medieval house fronts, interspersed by Jewish delis, tea salons, herb shops and hat shops, hole-in-the-wall curiosity shops, art galleries, hip bars and boutiques. There remains the impossible grandness of the city hall (Hôtel de Ville), and the opulence of the private townhouses, or hôtel particulier, which were built for aristocrats during the 17th century. Now, it would be entirely amiss of me not to take you to the oldest planned square of the city, Place des Vosges, that sits within the Marais quarter. Not only do I have memories of buying a beautiful blue cloche from an old man there in the autumn of 2016, but because it is also the location of one of my favourite museums. Maison de Victor Hugo — where I dragged Adi because a) it is free, and, b) it feeds the imagination to see how a writer of means lived in the 19th century.

Before I go, I wanted to draw your attention to that pair of aged nuns. They are hobbling across a cobbled courtyard and will gradually disappear into the shadows of the temple. Faith awaits them. And, did you notice the bride-to-be? She is trying on her wedding dress, looking a bit unsure. Then she catches your eye and casts a brilliant smile. All’s well there. As for the baker behind the till and his goodies displayed in the window, the less said the better. There lies defeat in the faces of endless slices of gateaux. It has been a fair amount of gawking and walking, so if your feet perchance feel worn, dear reader, take a cue from Hugo who had famously observed that to loaf is Parisian — and pause for that carafe of wine in one of those cafés where they serve enough popcorn to make it worth your while.

These winding streets lead to baroque churches
The 17th century Church of Saint Sulpice
Rear portion of the church
Place Saint-Sulpice and its church of the mismatched towers. You will probably know it better if I mentioned Da Vinci Code. It was shot here.


A golden ball of fur charging towards her human 
Meet Lulu
Shakespeare and Company
Cohen. Amour.
Photobombed at the Notre Dame. It’s inescapable.
Bouquinistes along the Seine
My love and the Notre Dame
Busy crossings
The Seine
 Île Saint-Louis



20181220_172740-01 (1).jpeg
 Le Marais


















Hôtel de Ville






Published by

Arundhati Basu

The great affair in my life is to travel. I count myself immensely fortunate that my partner shares this passion. We are a team that likes to spend time planning and plotting out places to go. Destination check, flights check, accommodation check, cheesy grins check. Off we go.

47 thoughts on “Love, Loaf and Hugo

    1. Thank you lovely! It is special, especially when you stare up at its gigantic beauty and wonder at the industry of man.


  1. Fabulous captures of Paris in B&W. Loved then all and took me back to those wonderful times in Paris along the Seine and Notre Dame. Baguettes really are the French way of life and nothing beats a fresh one straight from the Boulangerie. Yummmmmm 😉


    1. Thanks Lorelle, ‘wonderful’ strikes the right note. As for the whiffs from a boulangerie, it drives me wild with greed. xx


  2. As you know I adore Le Marais and felt quite homesick looking at your beautiful black and white photos. I see you took a photo of one of my favourite cake shops. Aside from those in the window they make divine brioche. Did you try its wares? If not, put that on your bucket list for your next trip


    1. Well I will be… I did look at it rather longingly, but how do you have enough appetite for all the bakeries that pop up,oh so frequently. This is marked for our next visit. I shall step in and devour those divine brioches then. Just thinking of the quality of the bakes in Paris makes me ginormously hungry. I am missing it all so even though it has been a couple of months! Cheers. xx


      1. I inhale the aromas but don’t eat. Of course, most cakes I can’t eat because they include dairy and eggs. I have to rely on my my chief taste tester, my hubbie, for a detailed description.


      2. Hmm that would be difficult but I bet you are used to it by now. It is a struggle every time I am in front of any bakery. Perseverance.


    1. Thank you Jamie. Paris delivers it all in one perfect package and that pup was so lovable and soft. 🙂 xx


  3. Thank you for transporting me to Paris with your enchanting prose and stunning B&W photos. The Lulu sequence is adorable and I feel like I’ve been drawn into a film with the wedding dress and nuns photos. And, as you know, gateau is always a big hit for me. Transport me to Hugo’s, now!


    1. Danke schön, Caroline. 🙂 My words hardly do them justice — I think you know what I mean.

      Lulu was a bright spot in our trip. The bride-to-be and the nuns were my favourites too. They just added to the atmosphere of the Marais. To Hugo’s, here we go! *snap xx


  4. Lovely observations on such a beautifully photographed city! I showed this to Lex and all he said was “Leffe” Oh well, so much for that! Hope Adi enjoyed his drink because there is a man here who is very envious at the moment 😉 – Neek


    1. Thank you, Neek. Leffe is one of Adi and mine favourite blondes (ever since we tried it for the first time in Bruges). And that’s the one thing we love in America. The abundance of Belgian-style ales.
      Cheers to Lex and a pint of Leffe for him. Has he tried Duvel? That is our ultimate love. 🙂


      1. Yes! Lex has tried Duvel and has a Duvel glass also. I’ve tried Westvleteren but honestly, it was too dark for me. Hope you are having a wonderful weekend and keeping warm and cozy!


      2. Westvleteren… I see it is a Trappist brew. I have not tried it. Shall keep an eye out for it.
        Lex collects glasses? That is neat. We just have the one Kwak glass. It would be amazing to amass the various Belgian glasses.

        The weekend is going well, thanks Neek. Experiments in the kitchen. 🙂 I hope yours is going swimmingly too. xx


      3. Yes! Lex does have a Kwak glass too. His father was an avid collector and Lex inherited the glasses when he passed away. Hope your experiments in the kitchen are successful!


      4. That is even better. To have such lovely glasses to inherit and the father’s love for the drink. 🙂 Cheers!

        The experiments were, thank you, Neek. Making me eager for more!


  5. Such detailed observations of everything around. Brought back memories of the pianist on Pont St Louis, classical music wafting through Le Marais and relaxing in Place des Vosges. Love the black and white photography.


  6. As someone who really didn’t like Paris the one time I went, your post made me want to go back! That photo of the Seine is gorgeous and the story about Lulu made me laugh! Lovely post 🙂


    1. Thank you, Pam. It is our experiences that give or take away the charm from a place. I hope you do go back and see it again. You never know how you feel a second time. 🙂 I am hopelessly in love with Paris of course, and that little rascal, Lulu. xx


    1. Thank you, Brianji. It is a beautiful poem! But I didn’t come upon it. It must read more beautifully in French.


  7. Oh my gosh! I love love love this post, A! Baguette is love! The auntie named her male dog, Lulu? Sounds like a girl’s name though. Their pictures are lovely. All your pictures are lovely! They’re black and white but I can imagine how Paris sparkled last winter just by reading your story. I should ask my hubby to read this, maybe he’ll change his mind about Paris. You see he is one of the few who do not adore Paris hahah my opposite, I love Paris anytime of the year, especially in winter! 🙂


    1. Thank you A. You are kind to indulge me all the way to our December wanderings. Lulu was such a darling, and I know, what was her mother thinking! I too keep thinking of Lulu as a girl — then again this is the age of gender neutral thoughts. Maybe this woman is keeping in stride with the times?

      Even mine was not that fond of Paris. This time he forgot all his reservations about it and properly fell in love with the city. What are your husband’s arguments against Paris? Adi griped for the longest time about the Parisian’s incredible snootiness. 😛


      1. Ugh my hubby complained about how people were be a bit snobbish to non-French speakers but that was 15 years ago when we first visited Paris. Then he went again a few times on business. Our most recent visit together was 5 yrs ago, he liked the museums and the buskers and Disney, and our picnic by the Eiffel Towel. Maybe if we visit one more time on a holiday, he’ll finally see Paris the way we see it. 🙂


      2. I think our travels are for the most part coloured by our experiences. I am happy to hear that Paris has been growing on him. And to that last lovely thought, Amor. xx


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