Thursday, 12 September 2013

Paris and stamp hunting


                                                 view from Trocedero

Paris is rightfully a top 3 world destination. The place is like a vast museum with history at every corner. I would like to offer a few tips based on my recent experience.
We prefer to self cater staying in a flat/apartment which gives us the freedom and flexibility. The inability to converse adequately where sustenance is concerned leads mostly onto unpalatable food. Generally, it is even more expensive to eat out than in London. If in doubt, McDonalds is fairly predictable and the China food shops are generally good and competitively priced. The latter has food ready made and sells by the 100g.
The standard of uncooked food stuffs and meat in particular is very high and it would be a pity not to indulge in some self catering. The meat has excellent flavour and one does not have to add too much to it apart from the basics. A strong flavour like curry would a waste. We also add a bit of whatever wine we were drinking to the cooking. Almost certainly this is best carried out when one is mildly inebriated.
The transport system is fairly good and reliable but sign posting is woefully inadequate. One can buy open dated tickets in a carnet of ten which is a lot cheaper than individually and can be used for both the metro and buses. We used the buses whenever we could for direct journeys.

                                                              Sacre Coeur

                                                          Musee du Louvre                                                              

                                                        Hotel de Ville or City Hall

Some of the highlights include watching the hourly night light display of the Eiffel Tower from the vantage point of Trocedero, enjoying lively Sacre Coeur in Monmartre both during the day and also at night (we were staying nearby) and strolling through the Louvre onto the Tuileries Gardens. Personally, I was also dumbfounded by the huge 30 by 10 foot paintings of his water lily garden in Giverny by Monet in Musee de l'Orangerie despite having seen them before 16 years ago.


Okay, onto the stamp bit. Paris is amazingly well served philatelically with more than 30 stamp shops and a large stamp street market three times a week. Within walking distance from our apartment is Rue de Chateudum with 7 stamp shops and a few minutes away is the well known Rue Drout with about a dozen shops. Unfortunately, most of the shops were closed for August holidays until early September. About 7 or 8 were open and I ventured to try my luck.
It would be very helpful if one can speak francais. No point saying North Borneo or Brunei. They will only look blankly at you. Do not get me wrong. They were generally very helpful. Start off with something like Colonie Anglais Asie and then work your way gradually to Malaisie and then Borneo. I did manage to speak to some dealers with a good command of English.
There are stamps and postal history galore but they mostly originated from France, its colonies and Europe but no or very little stamps of Asian origin. I was told that they are hard to come by and were mostly bought up by visitors.

                                                            Passage Panaromas

A few days later, we went to see a dealer who promised an introduction but it came to nothing. We wandered a few streets away and then came upon an arcade, Passage Panoramas, off Rue du Faub Poissonniere. Amazingly, there is another dozen stamp shops here. Some were open but the same story, no Borneo stamps. One dealer tried to interest me in German post offices of China. He had stacks and stacks of mint sheets of France/colonies stamps. In this arcade, there were also quite a few local bistros mostly frequented by local Parisians. I was tempted to try the braised pig's snout!


There is an interesting history behind the street stamp market (Marche aux Timbres) in Paris. It was also featured towards the end of the film "Charade" starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant which made the place well known especially to tourists visiting Paris.
The market is held on Thurdays, Saturdays and Sundays on Avenues Gabriel and Matignon by way of Avenue Marigny off the Champs Elysees near to Place de la Concorde. There are actual stands on Gabriel and a dealer told me that in its heyday, there were many dozens of them as shown in the film "Charade" but on the day I was there it was less than a dozen formal stores. The internet has something to do with it.  It was also the holiday period of August when the majority of Parisians go away. The only item I bought was a very nice postmark unusually in blue but that was not from Borneo. You may see it on this blog at some stage.
The other good thing is that I made friends with a dealer there who collects North Borneo and is a fellow member of our Sarawak Specialist Society. He has some great stuff which he will show me. It is a rather strange coincidence that I also met a fellow member on holiday from New Zealand in a stamp fair in UK recently. The world is a very small place for people with a similar interest.
On Avenue Matignon which meets the former street at a right angle, you have about 10 unlicensed dealers who uses the park benches to display their small unimpressive stock. There is nothing of interest here where our territories are concerned. If time is the essence, I would advise concentrating on Avenue Gabriel.

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