Renewal Blues

April 13th, 2015

passportEvery ten years I have to renew my US passport. When you live in Paris, you do it through the US Embassy by mailing in your old one with the fee and photo and special forms you need to fill out and print. There are very specific directions on how to do this, so it’s not a mystery, but it is time consuming and requires a bit of running around and QUITE a bit of cash.

Passport Photo (only a few places in Paris will do the “approved” format) €9.95 + 60 minutes to get there, get photo and return home.
Mandat Cash (money order) €105 + fee €7 + 20 minutes at the Post Office banking counter getting the Mandat (you can’t do it at the mailing counter).
2 Chronopost envelopes (one to mail my passport to the Embassy, one self addressed for them to send my new one) €50 + 20 minutes to get the envelopes and pay at the Post Office (including arguing with the clerk who wouldn’t let me tear off and keep the top copy, as directed by the embassy).
Plus 20 minutes to find, read, fill out the online forms and print them at home.

Total cost: €171.95


Go Go Gaultier

April 7th, 2015

gaultierThe phenomenal show that has wowed over a million visitors worldwide, “The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk,” finally arrives in Paris with a special edition. One of the longest-enduring fashion icons, Jean-Paul Gaultier, the original bad boy of Paris fashion, the exhibition tracks his roaring success from haute couture and pret a porter from 1970 to 2013. The multimedia show includes sketches, archives, stage costumes, film footage, fashion shows, concerts, video clips, dance and television shows.


Thrill on the Hill

April 2nd, 2015

terrace tres particulierSummer is around the corner, so it’s time to start talking terraces. And, one of the city’s most divine and discrete of garden terraces is at Montmartre’s Hotel Particulier. Their bar the Tres Particulier has had a recent revamping.

After opening, the Très Particulier underwent a few facelifts and hosted a few ephemeral bars. Most recently, interior designer Pierre Lacroix was pulled in to recreate the space into something sophisticated and special. The remodel brings a Lynchian tropical touch to the main bar space with jungle plant-and-parrot wallpaper. checkerboard floorClever little quirks like the masked owl lamp or the mirrored bar panels add a dreamlike element to the experience. Adjoining the bar area is the greenhouse terrace with large, lush plants whose color pops against the red velour armchairs and black-and-white tile floor. Beyond the bar is the outdoor terrace and garden where you can drink under the stars. The bar, like the hotel itself, with its whimsical qualities and rich textures and colors, slides you into a surreal state of mind.

tres particulier barFrancesco, the current barman, has some familiar cocktail spots on his C.V. including Gocce, le Demon, Andy Wahloo and Miss Ko. But, it’s the Gocce influence that is most evident in his current work that features bold flavor and fragrances. There are 10 cocktails ranging from 13 to 15 euros in price. The names are inspired by film and books such as the “L’attrape-Coeurs” (translation: Catcher in the Rye – which features not rye, but cognac) or the Twin Peaks-inspired “Laura Palmer.” In addition, a regularly changing punch of the day is available for 11 euros per person. or 41 euros for four people.


Cringe-Tastic Candidates

March 25th, 2015

meerkatWho says the French have no humor? Don’t answer that because I already know (#everybody). But here’s something hilarious, if unwittingly so. Posters for candidates in the local municipal elections taking place right now across the country. From the BCBG boy who wouldn’t hurt a…meerkat? to the duo who fancy themselves on the cover of Voici magazine, the hopefuls may not do much to change France’s turgid political system but they will bring a smile to your face. As the French say: MDR. Thanks to my pal Charlie Sputnik for spotting this round-up of even more cringe-tastic examples.


New Girls in Town

March 18th, 2015

madeleinesMany new gourmet shops have opened on rue des Martyrs in the 9th arrondissement; it seems as though a new one pops up every few weeks. I stumbled upon a most adorable pastry shop, Mesdemoiselles Madeleines.

A recent trend in pastry shops in Paris is taking a classic pastry, such as éclairs and cream puffs, and ramping them up with unusual flavors and fillings and also creating mini versions of them.

Mesdemoiselles Madeleines takes the beloved Madeleine and gives them bursts of new flavors including salted caramel, hazelnut, grapefruit/pistachio, raspberry/rose, and chocolate/mint.

I’m a pushover for anything with salted caramel, so I sampled the mini version. It was moist and chewy and the caramel was subtle.


For Map Maniacs!

March 12th, 2015

foret noireThe first foret noire I ever ate was outside a patisserie in the 9th arrondissement. In typical American fashion, I tore into it right on the sidewalk outside the shop. Something remarkable happened that spring day on rue des Martyrs. I FORGOT WHERE I WAS. The experience of eating this fluffy delight of chocolate, cherry and cream enveloped me for a long, luscious moment to a place beyond time and geography. I don’t know how long I was standing there before I came to with chocolate all over my hands and mouth.

What does that have to do with the new book Paris Les Boulevards (Rizzoli)? Everything. Like my street-side taste-treat, this slim hardcover offers a delectable nugget that has the power to transport you into a bubble of Gallic magic. It will be short, sweet trip, as the book is comprised of just 11 gate-folded illustrated maps.

paris les blvds 2The card-stock pages each open out into six-panel panoramas of the center of people-watching in the late 1800s: the wide boulevards in the center of the city. Boulevard des Italiens, rue de la Paix, and Avenue de l’Opera are among those grand spaces, whose facades ushered in a new era of glamor and uniformity, and whose wide sidewalks invited flaneurs and dragueurs. If these map illustrations of the main 9th arrondissement thoroughfares look vintage, it is because this book is actually a rare find of a 19th century volume that Rizzoli has re-published.

paris les boulevards partial

The book isn’t comprehensive; you won’t even find Boulevard Haussmann in it. And the texts, written by museum curator Pamela Golbin, are less satisfying than Wikipedia entries. But Paris les Boulevards is a snack—an unusual one–not a meal. Eat up, map maniacs.

Southern Comfort in the North of Paris

March 9th, 2015


baton rouge cocktail bar parisPigalle continues its play for one of Paris’ best bar destinations with its latest addition, Baton Rouge. This opening brings some fresh Creole flavor to the neighborhood with a voodoo bar and Louisiana-inspired menu.

The team behind Baton Rouge includes a couple of topnotch industry personalities with Julien Escot (Papa Doble, Montpellier) and Joseph Biolatto (Bols Ambassador & previously of Bar le Forvm). Inspired in part by the Stanley Clisby Arthur’s 1937 book Famous New Orleans Drinks and how to Mix ’em, the boys have created a cocktail menu of New Orleans classics that includes Highballs from the Bayou, Egg & Milk Punches, Bottled Aged cocktails and a few other NOLA-inspired surprises at 13 euros each.

baton rouge 2I stopped in for a pre-opening apero of their namesake cocktail and taste-tested some muffaletta and garlicky cilantro dip. The dip/Baton Rouge cocktail is a great combo with the garlic working it nicely against the sweet & sour cherry of the guignolet in the drink. A few nights later I caught up with some of my favorite drinking partners to taste more of the menu. After a sazarac, manhattan and a special concoction by Joseph, I am convinced that the boys have created a most excellent selection.


Your Own Parisian Dinner Party

March 6th, 2015

dinner 2If you’d like to really “eat like a local,” nothing beats dining in a Parisian home. And if you don’t have any Parisian friends, you can simply sign up to join a dinner through meal-sharing websites. Vizeat has hosts in 18 cities, including Paris, Nice, Marseille and Lyon, where each meal (regularly scheduled or on request) is listed with the location, price, description of the meal and a description of your hosts, along with photographs and ratings. These tend to be smaller, meaning it may just be you and your hosts. You can also sign up to become a host yourself. Voulez-Vous Dîner is a similar site with hosts in Paris, Marseille and Lyon, but generally involves bigger groups, so you would be booking one of the seats at a set table for 6-14 people. This could be interesting if you’d like to practice your French in a group setting. The descriptions are written in French first, then English beneath that. Sometimes there is even entertainment with some meals. My host Sacha was a concert pianist who played us Mozart pieces; another host, Adrian, is also a professional illusionist who does a Mystery Dinner Show.


Aussies Do Paris

March 5th, 2015

paris tragics book“You can get ripped off, you can have your pockets picked, some places smell awful, some of the people are rude and arrogant, the whole place is busy, noisy and full of traffic and even some of the food is crap,” write Oleh Butchatsky and Graham Jones in the new book Paris Tragics. “But you can say that about any metropolis. What you won’t find easily elsewhere is the sheer richness of human experience that represents some of the best things ever created by humanity.”

Written by two retired Australian menthe kind of guys who watch sports and don’t typically go in for girly stuff like macarons and Mariage Freres afternoon tea, Paris Tragics is the latest entrant into the crowded field of the anecdotal guidebook to Paris. The title of the book uses Australian slang for what we Americans might card a ‘tard–someone ridiculously into something. The book doesn’t take you far off the beaten track but rather offers you an armchair visit with humorous and quick-paced, to-the-point narration.

graham and olehIf you, like me, enjoy the self-effacing humility and directness so refreshing chez les Australiens, you will enjoy this preamble through the city with observations such as this: “This contrast between external restraint and internal opulence continues to be a definitive feature of French ornamental design.” There are useful tips, too, such as why the seemingly cheap Paris taxi fares are, well, not so much. “when you add the cost of the many tricks (and outright refusals) used by Parisian cab drivers on tourists (indeed on fellow Parisians) it usually works out to be more expensive.”

Graham Jones’s sketches of landmarks are delightfully simple and will undoubtedly remind you of the drawings you may have made on your own trips to the city.

Lanvin in the Limelight

March 2nd, 2015

lanvinCelebrating the oldest French fashion house still in existence, the Musee Palais Galliera has put together Jeanne Lanvin, the first full-scale exhibition of the designer. It has more than 100 garments from its own archives and from Lanvin. Alber Elbaz, the current artistic director of Lanvin, has worked closely the with museum to curate the show, which opens March 8.