Autumn in Paris

April in Paris is a remarkable time when new leaves are coming out and the spring sunshine begins to lure the flowers from their sleep. As the days brighten and the rain comes, warmer days beckon you outdoors and into parks and walking paths.

October is like April in reverse. Flowers are blooming, although the variety has changed. The leaves on the trees are darker and older and are thinking about their upcoming change.

Walking through the streets of Paris, you see the shadows lengthen and wish you’d have thought to bring a hat or a scarf to fend off the chill. Then you stop for lunch at a sidewalk café and by mid-afternoon you’re thinking of taking off your jacket.  

With a month in front of us, and many visits to Paris behind us, we focus on destinations not listed in visitor guides. We talk to locals about where they shop and places they love to help us determine out-of-the-way locations. 

We’ve chosen a flat in the 10th Arr, three blocks northwest of the Place de la République. It places us north of the main tourist sites and further into local territory. We’re shopping at markets and stopping at cafés where fewer workers speak English. It provides us with an excellent opportunity to improve our French.

Our first major food shopping excursion takes us to the Marché Saint Quinten just off of Bd Magenta where vegetables for the week cost us €11,20. 

Canal Saint Martin

On a warm sunny day during the early part of our visit, we set out for the Canal Saint Martin, located just a few short blocks from our flat. This early 19th century waterway was ordered by Napoleon I to supply Paris with fresh water. Canal boats also brought freight as well as food into the city. The canal links the Seine, just behind Notre-Dame cathedral and ends at the Parc de la Villette. The street that runs along the canal is lined with Chestnut trees, and elegant footbridges enable you to cross over to the other side. Locks are present where needed to allow the boats to traverse beneath the cast iron footbridges.

Canal St Martin

Canal Saint Martin

Cafés, art galleries, boutiques and funky shops line the streets on the western bank of the canal, although not too many tourists can be found. Mallards swim casually through the water as people sit alongside reading books or eating lunch.

We stop at La Grisette, a lovely little café for escargots and pizza. You may think this an odd choice, but my friends from Taiwan don’t have many opportunities to enjoy pizza, so that’s our lunch on this fine day.

If you cross over to the east side, you can follow Avenue Richerand to the Hôpital St Louis. Erected in the 17th century to house plague victims in isolation from the rest of the city, it has a lovely, large and elegant square hidden on the grounds. We take advantage of the detour and discover that the square is hidden quite well. Being a rather formidable hospital, it takes us awhile just to find an open entrance to the grounds. But we persevere and eventually find our way inside the square with its wonderful large, old trees and beautiful circular garden in the center. Rather nice, actually.

Hidden square in Hôpital St Louis

Hidden square in Hôpital St Louis

Revisiting some favorites …

Of course, there are always favorite places in Paris that we just can’t miss. 


Located in the 13th Arr a short walk down Rue Bobillot from the Place d’Italie, this area used to be a separate village outside of Paris. Cobblestone streets and smaller private homes with modest gardens offer a less urban feel in an area more intimate in scale.

We stop first at one of my favorite Paris jewelry shops, L’Argenterie (5 Rue de la Butte aux Cailles) before heading to Chez Gladines (30 Rue des cinq Diamants) for a wonderful Basque-style lunch. 

Chez Gladines

Chez Gladines, Basque restaurant in Butte-aux-Cailles

Other restaurants along Rue de la Butte aux Cailles include Le Temps des Cerises, an old-fashioned workers’ co-op popular with the locals at #18 and at #13, you’ll find the Taverne de la Butte as well as Des Crêpes et des Cailles.

As you wander through this village-like setting, make sure you head down the cobblestone passage Barrault off of Rue des cinq Diamants and turn right at the end heading up to Bd Auguste Blanqui to the outdoor market with its tempting array of produce, cheese and other traditional French fare. The market is open on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

Le Marais

There are several places in the 5th Arr on our list to visit during this trip. On a beautiful, sunny afternoon, we walk from the Place de la République down the Bd du Temple into the Marais.  

We’re interested in visiting the Musée Carnavalet, listed as the “oldest of the municipal museums” and containing the historical legacy of Paris. While essentially a history museum, we’ve read information about it that states that it’s an art gallery exhibiting mostly original works “in keeping with the genius of Paris.” With beautiful gardens and rooms filled with historical furnishings, the Musée Carnavalet sounds like a wonderful stop on a sunny afternoon. 

Perhaps, though, we should have checked their website before walking here, as the museum, located in two town houses, is currently in the midst of a major renovation that will not be completed until the end of 2019. So, we shall keep it on our list for a future visit.

Not to be deterred, we continue on in our quest to view other places in this area previously not seen. Walking further, we stop along Rue Francois-Miron in front of two of the oldest houses in Paris. The buildings, constructed in the 14th century are half-timbered former inns. In this city of stone, they are rather remarkable in their uniqueness.

Half-timbered 14th century houses

14th century former inns

A short walk later, we arrive at the Musée des Arts et Métiers, a rather amazing and very large museum partly housed in a very old church complete with stained glass windows. Dedicated to technological achievements, scientific instruments and industrial design, complete with renditions of famous bridges, automobiles, computers, cameras and the like, the vast quantity of objects makes for a fascinating tour. In the church, there’s a bi-plane hanging from the ceiling of the dome and a Foucault Pendulum swinging slowly in the entranceway demonstrating the rotation of the Earth.

Musée des Arts et Métiers

Entrance to Musée des Arts et Métiers

October is proving to be a lovely time of year in Paris. The temperatures have been cool in the mornings and in the low to mid-70s by mid-afternoon. The trees are just beginning to change and it’s a wonderful time to walk around the city.

Crossing the causeway: St Michael’s Mount

From many places in Penzance, you can see St Michael’s Mount reaching majestically toward the sky, its flag flying proudly.

The castle is clearly visible walking across the Penzance harbor bridge on a sunny day, sitting atop its jagged slopes, catching the sunlight and beckoning you to climb its granite steps and walk among its ancient stones and tropical gardens.

St Michael's Mount from Penzance: On a clear day

St Michael’s Mount from Penzance: On a clear day

On a day when the sun has taken leave, out of the mist and barely visible, you might be drawn by the myths and legends that surround the island. Pulled by an image of the Archangel St Michael, who appeared to fishermen in 495, you might find yourself dreaming of an ancient stone chair that still stands at the entrance to the castle.

Located on one of Britian’s most prominent ley lines, St Michael’s Mount is suffused in a spiritual energy both ancient and new.

Looking back on history

Looking back on history

On a beautiful sunny day, Mark and I set out to explore this historic and most magnificent of places. The Mount is open to the public and you can cross the bay by boat during high tide, or wait until the tide is low and walk in the footsteps of time across the cobblestone causeway. Mark and I choose to do the latter, and so we spend a memorable morning exploring the lovely town of Marazion, on the Cornish coast overlooking the island.

Munificent Marazion

On a hill overlooking the bay and St Michael’s Mount is the village of Marazion, Cornwall’s oldest chartered town. With a small town centre and winding streets sheltered by pristine cottages and row houses, Mark and I walk up and around to take in the history and architecture of this beautiful coastal village.

Marazion toward the bay

Marazion toward the bay

As we round a bend in the road, snapping photos of everything imaginable, we garner a smile from a pleasant villager crossing our path. She seems surprised by us and when I point to my camera and comment that everything here is so beautiful, she responds with a simple, “I live here.” I continue my chatter about the history and architecture and she points us to the top of the hill where we will find the oldest public building, the Friends Meeting House, and the beautiful Memorial Gardens.

View of St Michael's Mount from the Friends Meeting House

View of St Michael’s Mount from the Friends Meeting House

Marazion Memorial Gardens

Marazion Memorial Gardens

As we turn to walk up the hill, our villager calls out and asks if we’d like to see her house. She clearly thinks we’re trustworthy and from our conversation of historic buildings has decided to show us her own home. We enter through a carved iron gate to a garden area.

Gateway to the house

Gateway to the house

Our lovely hostess has traced the house, and its use, as far back as 1770. It was originally used as a tool shop and subsequently used by the current owner as she created costumes and stage sets for the theatre. The shop was then turned into a home, with the first level still used as a studio. The creative touches of our hostess are seen throughout the two floors of living space and the deck off the second floor. Two stain glass windows depict the life of the house and the life of our hostess. These are now part of the building and will remain into the future as historical reference.

History of the house in Marazion

History of the house in Marazion

We leave her planting flowers in boxes along the tiny road and walk to the town centre to check out some shops, including The Summerhouse Gallery where I discover the beautiful and vibrant gold-flecked paintings by local artist Kate Richardson.

Looking over at Marazion

Looking over at Marazion

We then head to the beach to see how far the tide has gone out.

A walk across the water

As the waters of Mounts Bay part, each end of the causeway becomes more and more visible. People gather on both sides stepping farther and farther into the sea as the waters recede.

Waiting for the tide

Waiting for the tide

We walk across the rocky beach and climb onto an outcrop overlooking the causeway to wait a bit longer for it to clear. The process is gradual and since my cousins will be arriving in the afternoon and I need to get back, we decide to see how deep the waters are along the walk. Mark springs across the cobblestones as waves rush over the top. I take off my shoes and follow.

Cobblestone causeway

Cobblestone causeway

The water is warmer than expected; the stones cool on my bare feet. I walk cautiously as the path is uneven. I feel the sun on my face, the salt water rushing across my feet and the tug of history pulling me onward toward St Michael’s Mount.

St Michael’s Mount

The castle that sits atop the granite outcropping that is St Michael’s Mount was originally a monastery, tied to the Benedictine Abbey of Mont St Michel in France, following the Norman invasion.

Since the 1650s, it has been home to the St Aubyn family, with James and Mary St Levan making their home here. James is the 12th generation of the St Aubyn family, and while they reside in the fortress, many other families live and work on the island, occupying the waterside cottages at the foot of the Mount.

Cottage by the bay

Cottage by the bay

In 1954, James’s great-grandfather gifted the island to The National Trust with a large endowment fund and a 999-year lease for the St Aubyn family to continue in residence. The property is entrusted to James and Mary who live within its medieval walls, hosting events and keeping its history alive.

After lunch at one of the island cafe’s, we take a walk around where the views out to sea are spectacular.

St Michael's Mount: Looking out to sea

St Michael’s Mount: Looking out to sea

The walkway up to the castle is steep and uneven, but once you arrive at the castle door, it’s a world unto itself. Historic artifacts within its walls have been well maintained and there are many items dating to the 15th Century, including the beautiful stain glass St Michael rose window in the Priory Church. Items found on the island are also on display from the Bronze Age. The plaster work in some of the rooms is remarkable; some with intricate carvings and others depicting hunting scenes.

Through the windows looking out to sea, it’s easy to get lost in thought and wonder at the lives of those who have walked these hallways before.

Windows to the sea

Windows to the sea

Outside, the sub-tropical garden, with its variety of exotic plants growing out of cracks and crevices and clinging to the granite hillside, is serene and magnificent. Flowers delicate in their beauty, yet sturdy enough to withstand the wind and weather of this island, flourish.

Looking down at the gardens

Looking down at the gardens

St Michael’s Mount is truly remarkable, filled with serenity and hope. For centuries, standing guard and looking out to sea, it whispers of magic and myth, of knights and kings, and of time—moving in a wave from past to present and on into the future.