Paris, 2011

La Maison Montparnasse was nice little hotel in a pretty neighbourhood. After checking in, D, HC and WK went luxury goods shopping as they had special orders from friends in Singapore to fulfill. I stayed out of it.

As we wandered the streets towards Galeries Lafayette, we came across a police presence outside a hotel. There were also guards outside what looked like the British embassy. Local photographers stood by the street poised with cameras. Rumour had it that Sarkozy was there, and perhaps Cameron and Hague as well. We didn't get to find out.

Towards evening, we hung around outside the Louvre. D and WK got tired of waiting for the lights to come on. They needed their beers.

La Cantine du Troquet

The night staff of La Maison Montparnasse recommended dinner at La Cantine du Troquet so that's where we went. They don't take reservations so go early. We had a very patient waitress who sat beside us as she explained the menu. The food was very good.

In the company of giants

The rest set out for the latin quarter but I'd been there many times so instead I took a walk around Montparnasse and Vavin areas. The cafes here - Le Rotonde, Le Dome, La Coupole, Select, etc - were favourite haunts of intellectuals and artists during the 1910s and 1920s. It felt nice to be having coffee where Picasso, Chagall, Trotsky, Lenin and the likes once sat.

I also paid a visit to Closerie des Lilas, where Hemingway wrote most of Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises. Unfortunately, I could not get a seat inside.

At Place Denfert Rochereau, a band called Le Prince Miiaou was doing sound checks for a performance later that night.

Further exploits in crime-fighting

If you have read about WK's heroic act in Granada, you will be pleased to know that he had since gone into full-time crime-spotting. I heard from the rest in the evening that he managed to thwart a 'stopped escalator trick' and save some Korean tourists from being pickpocketed, although the Koreans seemed more wary of him than grateful.

While D and HC were up on the Eiffel Tower, WK stayed below to observe, and later report to us, all the different scams taking place, some of which are explained below:

  • Gorilla suit photography scam, where men in gorilla costumes would offer to let you take pictures with them, but ask for money afterwards
  • Charity petition scam, where tourists were asked to sign something in support of a charity, and then be told that they had agreed to donate
  • 'Trilero' odd-card-out scam, where spectators are encouraged to make bets to reveal the odd card out among three cards - sleight-of-hand is involved, and often some spectators are working with the performer to make it seem easy to win.

According to WK, an Asian man realised he had been duped of €200 when he noticed some of the 'spectators' leaving with the performer. He demanded his many back from the performer and kicked up a commotion. Apparently, he managed to recover €100.

We headed to Le plan B for dinner, which the online guide mentioned had live jazz. When we checked with the waiters, they said there was no performance. Instead, we got to listen to a man with a guitar playing a token song. The mushroom feullete was rich and creamy.

Street music and dancing

On our way back to the hotel, various types of music drifted in and out of earshot. We came across a couple of performances. There must have been a music festival on all across Paris. We also stumbled into a party at an open air restaurant, where families and children were dancing in the street.

Notre Dame

The next day, we had just enough time before our train back to London to have some ice cream at Berthillon, buy books from Shakespeare and Co and take a quick tour around what we came to call, as a result of WK's mispronunciation, "nostril dame".

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