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.


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.


A Chi Chi Spa on Place Vendôme

October 20th, 2014

aquamoon spa paris

Aquamoon, one of the most luxurious spas in Paris, is tucked into a discrete corner of the Place Vendôme. It is surrounded by Cartier, Boucheron and Van Cleef et Arpels. With the Ritz soon to re-open next door, it is the perfect place for weary walkers to come take a load off and rest themselves a bit before returning to the adventure that is the City of Light.

Given their glitzy neighbors, it is no surprise Aquamoon considers itself the jeweler of beauty and well-being. After a visit there last week, I would have to agree. A friendly, smiling staff greets you as you are whisked away to a large locker room with calming grey walls, modern marble counter and whimsical toile de jouy fabric in an elegant blue.

spa 2Guests are invited to slip into something more comfortable before being escorted to a discussion area where you meet with your esthetician and discuss your goals. They don’t want to take you from point A to B, they want to help you get to point Z, making your beauty dreams as bright as the jewels that shine from the shop windows all around.

Men are only welcome two days a month, and on those days it is closed to women. No couple massages, here, which makes it the ideal place for a hen party or some mother daughter bonding time, especially from a lounge chair next to refreshing turquoise pool.


Season for Savories

October 19th, 2014

pata negraAmericans aren’t used to seeing huge pork legs in the window, but many epiceries in Paris sell the highly prized Iberian Ham now officially known as Jambon Pata Negra (an appellation created by Spanish Royal Decree in January 2014). My favorite is the newly-opened hole in the wall in the Passage des Panoramas, Les Grands d’Espagne, selling gourmet baguette sandwiches at lunchtime with one of the six different cuts (patiently explained in detail by the multilingual staff). Around the corner right on the Grands Boulevards is Le BAT, with a selection of fish and meat tartartes, but also other tasty dishes like roasted guinea fowl (photo above) or grilled cod. There are plenty of tables in the contemporary dining room (and seats on the boulevard, but who can stand that noise?), although my favorite spot is right at the central bar where you can watch the chefs in action. Three-course menus are just €27, which seems like a steal when you get a taste of the food.


Halloween Costume Shopping

October 16th, 2014

frenchieParisians aren’t really into Halloween,  but what if you are invited to a costume party? Where will you find a costume? For those of you on the eastern half of Paris, you have the boutique Cotillon Moderne. They also sell online!

In the 17th–metro Brochant–you have an address for a real costume shop.

Smack dab in the center of Paris, right next to the BHV, there’s another popular costume store called À La Poupée Merveilleuse.

Au Clown has two addresses. One for classic Halloween/party supplies, and one for the costume ball crowd.

For a plethora of masks and gadgets, wigs and mustaches get yourself over to Montparnasse, there’s Aux Feux de la Fête.

Boulevard Beaumarchais has an everything-you-need party and costume store. Viva Fiesta.

Or if time, ideas and budget are lacking : put on a striped shirt, draw on a mustache, don a beret, grab a baguette and stick a Gauloise in your mouth and VOILÀ! You’re a Frenchman!


Best Steak in Paris?

October 15th, 2014

marbled steaks in parisI don’t see the point in ingesting a steak unless its fatty, well aged and worth the calories. Like everything now, sourcing the very best gets you 90% of the way there. And by accident I stumbled the other night into the best steak in Paris that I’ve ever had.

It was with no expectations that I went on a rainy night with a jet lag cloud over my head to a little resto in Montmartre with my friend Maeggie. Les Tantes Jeanne was opened just two years ago on a side street off the trendy rue Lepic by Chef Octave Kasakolu who has done time in a number of Michelin starred restaurants.

chefThe focus here is beef and not just any kind, Japanese beef from Kobe, the extremely fatty Wagyu variety. Yes they have beef from other parts of the world, Kobe that’s being raised in Australia and Angus beef from the US as well as Argentine steaks – but why mess around when there was Wagyu on the menu. Like so many things its been over-hyped for the past decade and its become a bit of a joke, but not in the hands of Chef Kasakolu.


Le Petit Paris!

October 14th, 2014

old paris mapIt’s fun to look at this old map of Paris, which I took a picture of at a map dealers, and see that Paris was once much smaller than it is now. Everything between the Bois de Vincennes and the Bois de Boulogne is Paris now.

The project of Le Grand Paris was launched under French president Sarkozy, who is now fairly unpopular (although what French politician isn’t, these days?!). The idea was to make Paris bigger, more of a match for sprawling London and big Berlin. However, the idea of giving up their power didn’t appeal to the local governments around Paris, and except for expanding the metro, Le Grand Paris seems to be mostly on hold for now. 


The Train to the Palace

October 13th, 2014

versailles rer cIn 2012 The Palace of Versailles in conjunction with the national rail system SNCF, launched a series of train cars on the RER C decorated with views of the palace in photographic panels. It’s not on all the trains and the last few times I visited Versailles I didn’t get to see them but last week I lucked out and had the pleasure of experiencing one of the decorated trains on my way there. It’s great introduction to the palace and it puts you in the mood for your visit. Cars feature the Hall of Mirrors, the Battles Gallery, the gardens and the groves deigned by Andre Le Notre, as well as more intimate places such as the bedchamber of the Queen in Trianon, the Cupid’s Temple and the Belvedere in Marie-Antoinette’s Estate, the peristyle of the Grand Trianon, the Library of Louis XVI and the Coronation coach of Charles X.

The panels were installed by Encore Eux (“Them Again”), based on photographs by Christian Milet, Jean-Marc Manaï and Thomas Garnier.


Paris on the Silver Screen

October 12th, 2014

a bout du souffleTo see where scenes from films set in Paris were shot, check out Set in Paris Movie Tours, which have daily walking and small bus tours in English from their cool Latin Quarter headquarters. Bonus points for their blog post Top Ten Music Videos Shot in Paris. The big film news in town this season was the recent release of the film Saint Laurent, about the rise to fame of the iconic French couturier Yves Saint Laurent. Even if you can’t understand French, if you love Paris and you love fashion there will be plenty of eye candy to make up for it.


Let’s Be Frank

October 11th, 2014

gehry2We might as well just rename October “Frank Gehry Month” in Paris: not only is the legendary architect’s spectacular, vessel-like building for the Fondation Louis Vuitton opening on the 27th this month, but the first major retrospective in Europe dedicated to the his career is also opening this week at the Pompidou Centre.

The exhibition spans the Pritzker prize winner’s work the world over, with 67 maquettes on display, from his debut in 1960s gehry1California right up to his iconic international projects today – including his most recent project, the afforementioned LVMH project – via the Guggenheim Bilbao, LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, New York’s IAC building and more. From room to room we see how Gehry has revolutionised architecture’s aesthetics, its social and cultural role and its relationship to the city, not only via the models on display but also through over 200 sketches – which are a long way away from tightly plotted blueprints – and Sydney Pollack’s 2006 film, “Sketches by Frank Gehry.” A must-see for fans of Gehry’s distinctive work.