Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Paris and Grace Koshida

Continuing with responses from friends who love Paris as much as I do.

When I asked Grace Koshida what she missed most, or what she might want to do when first returning to Paris, she said - 

"A magical 7 days in Paris with my mom

It was September 1993, and I took my mom on her first trip to Europe for 6 weeks.  We traveled by Eurail and this trip was unstructured and open-ended.  We did not know what country or city we were going to visit or how long we were going to stay in any location. 

But I knew we were going to stay in Paris for a while.  It was my mom’s dream destination.  She worked for an haute couture designer in Toronto who made custom-made clothes.  She loved French films, fashion and Impressionist art.

We took a train from Strasbourg and arrived in Paris’s Gare de l’Est train station.  As usual, I had booked no accommodations in advance but I wanted to stay in le Marais.  So, we looked around and ended up staying in the lovely Castex Hotel.  Here is the view from our room’s balcony.

We had 3-day Paris Carte tickets and along with my essential hardcopy Plan de Paris guide (remember this was pre-Internet/Google maps), we explored this wonderful city over the next 7 days. 

We saw many of the famous tourist attractions that other guests have already described (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre-Coeur, Montmartre), so I will try to highlight some other attractions.

One of the first things we did was to view Paris from the water onboard one of the many Bateaux-mouches that glided along the Seine at a scenic pace.

My mother loved gardens and green spaces.  She especially enjoyed visiting le Jardin des Tuileries and quiet squares such as the Place des Vosges in le Marais.

My mother loved French fashion. We visited les Galeries Lafayette department store where she bought me a Pierre Cardin scarf and some designer buttons that she used on the next handmade blazer she made for me after we returned home.

Of course, we visited the Louvre but it was le Musée d’Orsay that we really loved the most.  Renoir was her favourite Impressionist painter, and I liked Degas and Monet.

I was already collecting mystery fiction and other books for several years and remember browsing through the riverside bookstalls (Les bouquinistes de Paris) looking for a treasured find.

And of course, the food.  Every morning, we enjoyed a simple petit dejeuner at the Castex Hotel with huge bowls of café au lait and fresh croissants with butter and homemade jams.  We often grabbed a baguette, wine and some cheese or pate for a quick bite or had a simple meal at one of the many outdoor cafes/bistros in each arrondissement. And we enjoyed so many sweet treats from the various patisseries.

We did splurge on one meal in le Marais.  It was at Le Bistrot Bofinger where we had a prix-fixe dinner consisting of a house appetizer, jambon de Paris, foie gras, rable de lapin (first time my mom had rabbit), mousse chocolat and coffee.  Magnifique!  I remember that the tables were so close together that we also enjoyed watching what others were eating and eavesdropping on their conversations.

So until I can visit Paris again in person, I will revisit different arrondissements via the wonderful Aimée Leduc mysteries by Cara Black, the Lost Gargoyle in Paris by Gigi Pandian as well as Jenn McKinlay’s upcoming book, Paris Is a Good Idea.


Grace Koshida is a geographer by training, and a world traveler, foodie and mystery fiction aficionado by choice.  She is currently staying at home in Ottawa, Ontario.


Karen in Ohio said...

Such lovely memories, Grace!

For which couturier did your mother work? And are you familiar with The Wool House on Queen Street in Toronto? The owners were fellow exhibitors at sewing shows for many years, and I still have exquisite fabrics from them in my stash.

Kathy Reel said...

What a lovely trip with your mother, Grace! And, that scarf is gorgeous!

Grace Koshida said...

Karen, my mother worked for NOKOH, a Japanese haute couturier in the posh Yorkville area of Toronto. It was just a small 2 person shop with a pretty exclusive clientele, My mom worked for Nokoh from 1990 until she passed away in 2003. I never searched for fabrics so I do not know The Wool House on Queen Street. I left it up to my mother to find the fabrics for the clothes she made for me.

Kathy, the scarf was a Thank you gift from my mom to me for taking her on this dream trip. I used to wear it at work occasionally. Now that my daily retiree wardrobe consists of t-shirts and jeans, I find few occasions to dress up. So the scarf is safely stored.