May It Be Deliciously Spooky

October 31st, 2014

maison du chocolat
Happy Halloween from The Paris Blog!

Don’t Get Too Literal

October 30th, 2014

walrusTo have long teeth, in French parlance, does not equate being long in the tooth. Having long teeth means someone is (idiomatically) ambitious, not old. “Eating on the thumb” and “breaking people’s feet” are two (literally translated) French expressions you will hear more frequently (if not daily) in France. Here’s a handy list of many of the most frequent idioms.

The City’s Oldest Pastry Shop

October 29th, 2014

stohrerThe baba au rhum dessert was invented at Patisserie Stohrer on rue Montorgueil in the early 1700s. By Louis XIV’s personal pastry chef. The shop is still open, and you can still eat those delicious brioche soaked in booze!

Rethinking La Defense

October 28th, 2014

la defense parisI am not a big fan of modern French architecture, and most of it in Paris is mediocre at best. A few years ago I ventured to La Defense when the first Uniqlo store opened. I didn’t think much of it at the time, just a set of mostly nondescript modern glass towers, which could have been in any city in the world.

For some reason I wanted to give La Defense a second try, as I thought it could be photographically interesting. I hadn’t taken my camera out in ages, as I have been so busy with my photo show and tours in the past weeks, so it felt good to have my camera around my neck and ready to shoot.

cross in la defenseOn an Indian summer day last week, it was sunny and clear with the temperature hovering about 72 degrees. As I exited up the escalator I got a great shot of La Grande Arche, a modern day arch on the same axis as the Arche de Triomphe. The shapes and juxtaposition of the buildings clustered near each other against the crystal blue sky were a feast for my camera eye. The more I shot, the more appreciative and aware I was of the architecture, not dismissing it like I did the first time I visited. Another surprising feature I didn’t notice before were the striking sculptures in the complex. I learned there are 60 monuments and sculptures by such noted artists such as Cesar, Miro, Calder, and Francois Morellet. 

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Last Week for Outdoor Photo Fest

October 27th, 2014

La Gacilly festivalEvery summer, the town of La Gacilly on the border of Brittany’s Morbihan and Ile-et-Vilaine departments hosts the Festival Photo, the largest outdoor photo festival in France. If you happen to be in area, the 2014 exhibit runs one more week, until November 2nd!

I’ve visited La Gacilly’s photo festival the last two summers. What is great about this event is it’s all outdoors. Photos line the cobblestoned streets and are exhibited in the parks. You don’t need to buy tickets–by walking around the town, you are there!

The theme of the festival every year is “people and nature”. In 2014, the United States is the special invitee. The exhibit includes photos from a range of decades, including those by Ansel Adams, Steve McCurry, Robert Capa and many more. There are also some photos on display (in large format) that are the property of NASA.

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France and the Sharing Economy

October 26th, 2014

sharing economy franceA recent cover headline of the news magazine Marianne was “La France Anti-Système,” with several pages about how French people are sick of bureaucracy, taxes, the weak economy and the current administration. They have decided to stop whining and take matters into their own hands to beat the broken systems by joining forces to get more done efficiently and reduce costs, or by completely “opting out” by creating their own alternative banks, bartering economies, and off-grid living. Ironically, the big bank BNP sponsored the exhibition “The Wave” at the Parc de la Villette earlier this month, highlighting start-ups and innovative projects that promote “Collective Ingenuity,” or the capacity for individuals working together to find simple and efficient solutions using less resources. Even the free metro magazine A Nous Paris has dedicated a few pages between restaurant reviews and concert listings to talk about technology and social networking being used to nurture community spirit and generosity…let’s call it “Fraternité 2.0”. An exciting trend to follow for anyone concerned about France’s future!

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They Parle

October 24th, 2014

bradley cooperWho knew? Among the celebrities who speak French are Angela Davis, Viggo Mortensen, Tommy Lee Jones, Angelina Jolie, Brooke Shields and Bradley Cooper!

Fun with Stereotypes

October 23rd, 2014

european and american stereotypesGot 2 minutes? This will make you laugh.

The Angel Being: A Concept Shop

October 22nd, 2014

etre ange 2In a world of globalization with familiar chain stores and high fashion brands invading even the remotest places, it’s always nice to see new shops with individual owners who have a singular vision.

Off the pedestrian Place Catherine in the Marais is the charming L’Etre Ange, a hybrid home design shop, café, and restaurant. I first peruse the home section of the shop and I am drawn to almost everything, with items cleverly displayed on distressed wooden crates. It’s one of those, I could own everything in here/ I could decorate my whole house, kind of shop. The Melamine plates with bold graphic lines and female faces and the white teacups embellished with insects especially strike my fancy. I also love the flower chandelier covering the ceiling.

etre ange 1Before I get into too much trouble by buying out the store, I sit down for lunch. The menu offers an appealing selection of salads, charcuterie plates, sandwiches, and main courses. I spot a woman eating a colorful salad, and I ask what it is. I am told it is a special salad of Iberian ham and aged Comté cheese garnished with vegetable chips that’s not on the menu, made for a frequent customer. I asked if I could have the same salad and they graciously accommodate me. As I am waiting for my food there’s Japanese magazine crew shooting a story in the shop and having lunch. The taste of the salad matches the external beauty and I savor the rich, buttery ham and the bite of the aged Comté.

After I finish my salad, I notice the waiter serving a white large white cup with a chocolate cube with a wooden skewer going through the middle at another table. Curious, I ask him what is it, and he replied it was hot chocolate. He then brought out a pitcher of hot milk and poured it over the cube and swirled it around the cup till it was completely melted. Wow, that is the most unique way I have ever seen hot chocolate served. I, without question, have to experiment with this new found way of making hot chocolate. The owners Diane and Miguel kindly offer me one on the house and I madly swirl the stick chocolate around in the milk till the last morsel dissolves, then drink it to the last tummy warming drop.

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Origins of the “Lost Generation”

October 21st, 2014

hemingwayernestThe hectic pace of life in the 1920s–the jazz, the gin, and the flappers–reflected unease as much as release from WWI. And although the Americans had participated only in the last 18 months of the war and had not suffered the same catastrophic loss of life, they too felt the anxiety underneath the gaiety.

Ostensibly, this is why Gertrude Stein called those who were still young in the 1920s the “Lost Generation.” But were they really? It’s an odd epithet. In fact, Stein did not invent the expression. According to one account:

During one of their regular talks, Stein told Hemingway of having taken her Model T Ford to a garage to have the ignition repaired. The young mechanic who did the work bungled it in some way, and his patron scolded him for his incompetence. The young man had served in the war and the patron said to him in exasperation, “You are all a génération perdue.”

“That’s what you are,” Gertrude Stein assured Hemingway. “That’s what you all are. All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.”

Ernest began to object. “Don’t argue with me, Hemingway,” Stein said. “It does no good at all. You’re all a lost generation, exactly as the garage keeper said.”

gertrude steinI’m not surprised Hemingway objected. He had come to Paris to find his voice as a writer – and he succeeded. So did many other writers and artists. Stein may have liked the sound of the expression, but it didn’t fit Hemingway, nor did it fit others he knew. Still, he used it as an epigraph for The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926. Perhaps it was to please Stein. It was his first novel, after all, and he needed the goodwill of his influential friend.

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