Don’t Go Home Without It

September 24th, 2016

top-20-souvenirs
A little fashion. A little food. A lot of style. Girl’s Guide to Paris has a wonderful cheat sheet of the very best gifts to bring back home to friends and family after a visit to Paris. Hint: There’s nary an Eiffel Tower in sight.

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Parisian-esque

September 13th, 2016

inspired-by-parisEver wonder if maybe Americans enjoy “being French” more than the French themselves? It’s an interesting theory explored with humor by author and part-time Parisian Jordan Phillips in her new book, Inspired by Paris: Why Borrowing from the French is Better than Being French. I met Jordan Phillips when she was living in Paris several years ago. Now she’s mostly in NYC, but still gets to enjoy the best of Paris by “borrowing” the best parts, from the food to the fashion (with a cameo appearance by “Naughty Paris”). Here is an excerpt from the chapter, The Paris Syndrome.

The Paris Syndrome

The modern French mind-set was established during the Revolution. Parisians are frugal and practical. Meanwhile, the rest of the world clings to the gilded Versailles vision of France, all Champagne towers and layers upon layers of macaron-colored garments.

black and white parisThough the Revolution seems like ancient history, it was a recent occurrence in France, relatively speaking. The United States is a toddler compared to France, and the events surrounding the birth of the United States are still very relevant to the modern American mind-set. Both countries are theoretically founded upon many of the same principles, but Americans emphasize the liberté while the French emphasize the fraternité. Strikes in the street in Paris are still commonplace, and we know that—we see them in the news; we make jokes about them—but why are they celebrated? To understand the reasoning is to understand the French. Asserting revolutionary heritage is of the utmost importance.

Putting the nuisances of strikes aside, French solidarity is a really beautiful thing to witness. A strong sense of place pervades all aspects of life in this prideful country. Powerful feelings about les droits de l’homme (human rights) hang like watchful clouds over every conversation and every decision. Fairness trumps all. In a time of crisis, there is nowhere better to be than surrounded by French people, who instantly kick into fraternité mode and will go to any length to help out a fellow human being.

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Book ’em, Danico

August 26th, 2016

barmanA while back I made a visit to Mama Shelter where I was impressed by the drinks, as well as the person making them. That was 2009 and the bartender was Nico de Soto. And while Mama Shelter may have kind of lost cocktail cred over the past few years, Nico has seriously gone places (literally and figuratively.) He went on to work with the ECC group in Paris, London and NYC, travelled all over the world, won awards (including most influential bartender at 2014 Cocktails Spirits), and opened his own successful New York bar, Mace. And now, he’s completed the cocktillian loop, returning to France to open his second spot, Danico.

wallpaperDanico is the bar attached to hotspot Darocco, a large light, and chic 180 seat Italian eatery all housed in Jean Paul Gaultier’s former flagship location and brought to you by Alexandre Giesbert and Julien Ross. Don’t hesitate to head straight through the busy trattoria to this bar hidden at the back or slip in via the Passage Vivienne side entrance.

In terms of décor, French contemporary and tattoo artist SupaKitch added signature touches like quirky wallpaper and a cool cocktail bar logo to the otherwise casually chic and unassumingly elegant small bar and its mezzanine. In Paris, where space is often at a premium and service is not, Darocco and Danico’s welcoming ambience and attitude offer a more inviting alternative that let you feel like you can breath…

mixing a drinkBehind the bar, good-looking Frenchmen in nautical striped shirts (*wink, wink* Monsieur Gaultier) welcome incomings with a friendly smile and ‘bonjour.’ The Paris-based bar trio have all worked internationally with the Experimental Group and Nico, making for a tight team with a shared vision, set of skills and an understanding of service that allows them to function well even when the big man behind the bar is back in the Big Apple.

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The 21st Century, Seen by French in the 20th

August 25th, 2016

molecular cuisineMolecular cuisine and mobile homes were predicted long before they became a reality. Other notions about the future, such as a barber shop where machines tended to your haircut and shave, didn’t quite happen. Either way these illustrations by French artists in the year 1900 (and thereabouts) are a delightful look at what the French envisioned for the year 2000. See them all here. rollin house

They’re All the Same, Right?

August 22nd, 2016

brasserie lippBefore setting out for an unforgettable day of Paris dining, it’s important to understand the differences between these types of establishments. And once you do, it’s important to understand that the distinctions are becoming blurrier all the time.
Bistros are generally small, often family-run and open for limited hours at lunch and/or dinner. The food is typically hearty and traditional, but today’s bistro chefs are putting out creative, inventive cuisine, and many bistros have been opened by chefs who paid their dues at high-end restaurants before striking out on their own. Like the food, the wines can range from basic to spectacular. A few favorites are Le Bistrot Paul Bert, Chez Michel, La Régalade, Chez l’Ami Jean and Jadis. Always reserve–not just to make sure you have a seat but out of politeness.
Restaurants are traditionally the most formal of the lot, and from them you can expect an elegant, multi-course meal, careful service, great wine lists and a hefty check. This term certainly applies to legendary two- and three-star tables like Taillevent, Le Meurice, L’Arpège and Pierre Gagnaire. Booking in advance is imperative.
Brasseries, Alsatian in origin and many with glowing Belle Epoque decor, are iconic Paris dining. Numerous brasseries still serve specialties like choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with several different kinds of pork) and have beers on tap, but you can expect a broad menu and a bustling atmosphere. Many have oyster stands out front where an écailler prepares grand platters of shellfish. Two of the most famous—Bofinger, with a stunning stained glass dome, near the Bastille; and Lipp, in St.-Germain-des-Prés—are worth visiting for the atmosphere, though perhaps not for the food. Other classics include Julien and Le Grand Colbert.

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The Last of Summer

August 19th, 2016

august in ParisAugust is a famously sleepy month in Paris, the time when the juilletistes (those French who take their summer holidays in July) switch places with the aoûtiens (pronounced “ah-oo-sien”, who prefer their vacation in August). Small shops may close for the month, and bakeries go on rotation. Even some cultural institutions go into standby mode. For those stranded in the city, there’s always “Paris Plage,” that bizarrely agreeable transformation of the banks of the Seine into a stretch of the Côte d’Azur. Anyone not familiar with it should go. On the right bank, stretching from the Louvre to Bastille, you’ll find more than artificial beach (5000 metric tons of sand) available for lounging and tanning, but also tai chi, games for kids, an open air library, space for playing boules, and more. (A similar installation runs along the Bassin de la Villette, which you can access near the Métro station Stalingrad.) This year Paris Plage runs through September 4th, so there’s still plenty of time to enjoy it.

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An Action-Packed Day for 50 Euros

August 6th, 2016

I don’t normally work with companies promoting services, but I recently received a challenge that I thought would be genuinely interesting in connection to a service that seemed particularly useful to travellers. The challenge came from WeSwap, who asked how I would spend £50 in one day in Paris. Obviously it’s pretty easy to spend that amount of money very quickly in the French capital, but the challenge was rather to see just how much I could do with that sum.

weswapWeSwap is a social currency service that enables travellers to exchange money between themselves without the need to go through banks. WeSwap credited my account with £50, which I actually swapped before the Brexit vote, meaning I got a now generous looking €64.25 for my £50. Given that withdrawing money from a cash dispenser is charged at €1.75 (although this fee is waived if you withdraw €200 or more), I have rounded this down to €60 for the purpose of this challenge.

So what did I do with €60? A mix of history, culture and sport, with a little bit of food and drink to keep me going!

Museum of Fun!

July 25th, 2016

Blue Sky RioA new museum opened in Paris by the name of Art Ludique Musée, housed in the same building as the MoonRoof restaurant and the Mode et Design museum–you know, the big crazy green thing on the Quai D’Austerlitz. If you’ve not yet been there it’s a hotbed of happenings including Wanderlust and Nuba restaurant, cocktail and nightclubs.

Jeanne & Chris Wedge, whom I know from back home in New York, were attending a show in Chris’ honor at the Museum, a retrospective on his work at Blue Sky Studio–the only East Coast animation studio in the US. Despite the rainy week, we had Blue Sky in Paris. He’s an Academy Award-winning animation director and has directed such movies as Epic, Robots and the first of the five Ice Age movie. His studio has produced many more films. Some of the best animated work out there in the past 30 years was created Blue Sky Studios. The company that he created with a group of colleagues will turn 30 next year.

ludiqueHe says it all with art. And that’s the point of this show and in the museum in general, to let people in on the artwork and illustration as well as the hundreds of hours of conception work that is done to create great animated movies. As a lover of film but someone who knows absolutely nothing about animation, getting the headphones at the museum was critical.

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Understanding Champagne

July 15th, 2016

dave in champagneFact: A bottle of Champagne pops open every 2 seconds somewhere around the world. If you’re like me, that fact conjures up a bevy of celebration images; people clinking glasses at weddings, Bat Mitzvahs, graduations, anniversaries, cheering career promotions, expanding families or new adventures. But the reality is that in France, Champagne isn’t merely reserved for momentous occasions nor is it only suitable pre and post-mealtime. This is something I came to fully understand on my recent trip to the Champagne-Ardenne region (now known as the Grand Est region, which also includes Alsace and Lorraine) where I was on assignment for Atout France last month. In fact, awareness around champagne (it pairs well with food! It’s complex!) and its aging process is still rather weak. I had a lot of ground to cover in four days but I do believe I came away with a new appreciation for Champagne the drink, and Champagne the historical and cultural destination, thanks to pairings, tastings and tours, both through the vines and through cities like Reims, Epernay, and Troyes.

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Moroccan Paradise in the Latin Quarter

July 10th, 2016

MosqueParis is not only a romantic city, it’s also a melting pot of cultures. So sometimes your steps lead you to an exotic architectural site right in its heart. That’s what happens in the 5th district, at the foot of the Saint Geneviève hill, where a white wall hides a mysterious building, flagged by a colorful tower and a massive wooden door. This monument is actually the Great Mosque of Paris, a little piece of Morocco hidden in the French capital.

mosque3This sanctuary, built between 1922 and 1926, is a tribute to the Muslim soldiers who died during World War I fighting for the French Republic. 100,000 volunteers from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia perished during the war, far from their native lands. Afterwards, the French people wanted to give the Muslim community a place to commemorate this tragedy. That was the beginnings of this mosque, a Muslim Institute, several reception rooms, and a library. A restaurant and hammam (steam baths) completed this Moroccan haven in the heart of the Latin Quarter.

Mosque2Nowadays, visitors and prayers go together in this quiet atmosphere of the Great Mosque. A peaceful garden welcomes you to this reconstituted paradise, with its fountains, palm trees and roses. Beyond that is the courtyard of the mosque, decorated in the tradition of Fez, the spiritual capital of Morocco. Ceramics, engraved plaster, sculpted wood, and calligraphy running all along the walls and beneath the arcades evoke the North African heritage. At the end of the corridors and terraces a huge door opens onto a majestic reception hall reminding us of the Tales of 1001 Arabian Nights.

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