Silly Lists: A Guilty Pleasure

April 13th, 2014

“A blog about Paris posted a photo from one of those stupid lists on the web. You won’t believe what happened next.”

If you are like me, you no longer click on such come-ons. But I’m still a bit of a sucker for lists if I think they will involve Paris or France. I click to for 2 reasons: To take pleasure in what I believe are inaccuracies–stupid Internet!–and to make sure the country and city I love are included (Go frogs!). The latest, from Thrillist, satisfies on both counts. “The 10 Most Photographed Places in the World” includes Paris–natch–but claims that this Pigalle attraction is more photographed than the Eiffel Tower. Or Notre Dame. Or the Seine. Seriously?

A Fashion Photography Retrospective

April 12th, 2014

Starting with Baron Adolph de Meyer in 1919, the museum show Papier Glacé (Glossy Paper), presented at the Palais Galliera with Condé Nast, includes all the names who helped gave fashion its photo ID: Horst P. Horst, Irving Penn, William Klein, Norman Parkinson, Helmut Newton, Bert Stern, Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier, Corinne Day . . . the show’s selection runs right up through the latest issue of Vogue. There are plenty of talents whose work you may not know, too. From John Rawlings’s surreal fantasies in the 1930s (pictured) to black-and-white 1950s chic by Henry Clarke, they’re great. You’ll also find pictures from unexpected artists such as George Platt Lynes, Man Ray and (in one extraordinary shot) Diane Arbus.

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Discount Dining in the Marais

April 11th, 2014

The oldest covered market in the city (dating from the 1600s), this small market-cum-outdoor restaurant in the Haut Marais area (in the 3rd arrondissement), the Marche des Enfants Rouges sells both individual ingredients AND ready-to-eat cuisine from all over the world. Studded among the traditional food stands are a variety of stalls offering Moroccan, Italian, Lebanese, Japanese, and Organic dishes to take away or eat ’sur place’, all at under 10 Euros for a main dish.

Recommended in particular is the Moroccan food; their lamb tagine, an aromatic stew of tender lamb with almonds and soft fruits accompanied by fluffy couscous and followed by a syrupy slice of baklava, makes for a filling and delicious lunch. Even Julie Delpy, the Oscar-nominated actress, must think so, so rapturously was she enjoying hers last time I was there. Alternatively, try the Japanese stall; options include fresh sushi, bento selection boxes, and – my favorite – delicately spiced deep-fried chicken with sticky white rice, best paired with a refreshing Japanese beer.

Pencils at the Ready

April 10th, 2014


The only time I sketch is on vacation in Paris. That’s when I slow down enough to look at anything long enough to draw it. (Except the TV. Sad.) If you’re an amateur doodler like myself, you should check out Citysketch Paris. Alleviating the “artists’ block” of a blank page, it offer close to 100 “creative prompts” to get your pens and pencils in motion. Completely different from a coloring book, Citysketch starts you off with a portion of a neon sign, a line-drawn trench coat, an art frame with nothing in it. You do the rest.

The book serves two other purposes. It keeps your sketches in one place and prevents you from throwing them out. (How many carnets of 3 sketches amid untold blank pages have you pitched after a trip?) The book also prompts you to visit places that may not be on your “must-see” list, such as the aquarium, the Promenade Plantee, the Jewish Museum. A paragraph about each attraction gives you a little dose of cultural background. It’s all you need besides a pencil to get started.

Prep the Pastels!

April 9th, 2014

A traditional Easter egg hunt goes grand in the gorgeous manicured gardens of Chateau Vaux le Vicomte on April 19, 20 and 21. Leonidas, the chocolates company, hides over 85,000 eggs throughout the Le Notre-designed grounds. There is a separate egg hunt for adults, plus egg decorating workshops, face painting, and pony rides for children.

From the Eiffel Tower to Rat Turds

April 8th, 2014

Guest Post by Jennifer Coburn

Writing a book that begins and ends in Paris is a bit of intimidating task. It’s a like trying to speak French in Paris, knowing that you are inevitably going to screw it up a bit and make the natives cringe.

As I was finishing We’ll Always Have Paris, a mother-daughter memoir, which follows my daughter Katie and my travels through 12 European cities, I was chatting with a French journalist about the book. I asked if he’d like to take a look, and in that way only a Frenchman call pull off, he was charming in his blunt refusal. “Oh no, no, my dear, please do not take offense, but I don’t think I could possibly bear another American musing about Paris,” he said.

I can understand where he’s coming from. As an American, I can never see Paris through the same lens as a native.  And while I might write about the magic of seeing the Eiffel Tower light up the evening sky, a Parisian may roll his eyes that I’ve picked the most cliché image of the city.

Ultimately, though, writing about Paris is a privilege because it means you get to be there and experience the city. We are lucky to experience Paris, even when we hit bumps along the road. I wrote about spending the night at the Shakespeare & Company Booksellers on the Left Bank at the edge of the Latin Quarter. Although it was a crazy night where my daughter slept on a door that was set on two file cabinets with a yoga mat, and I woke up to see three rodent turds on my blanket, we were still so fortunate to have the experience of sleeping at the famed Parisian bookseller.

Writing about Paris is like doing anything else in or about Paris. It’s lovely, magical, and intimidating. And it’s just a little bit better than writing about anywhere else because it is, after all, Paris.


Watch the
trailer for We’ll Always Have Paris

A Hot Spot Goes an Extra Mile

April 7th, 2014

When I called up the restaurant Spring and asked if they could accommodate someone with a dairy allergy, and they said “oui,” I squeaked with joy. I NEVER would have EVER thought that such a posh restaurant would be willing to modify their whole menu just so I could eat there.

We arrived at Spring for our lucky reservation (someone had canceled), at the address on a tiny old street in the 1st arrondissement. We rang the bell for entry. It felt like we were being invited almost into someone’s home. We caught a glimpse of the chef, Daniel Rose, heading back to the kitchen. We didn’t think to ask for a photo with him then, plus he was busy, but we regretted it later when he left before we remembered to do so. Nonetheless we were about to “meet” him via his cuisine.

We were sat at a little table in the back of the sous-sol, next to the coat rack, (the last spot to be had) but we didn’t care, our entire focus was on what we were about to taste, and the giddy feeling of living dangerously (aka : spending way too much on a dinner). We took our daring to the max and asked for the “pairing” of wine with the meal: wines selected to compliment perfectly the flavors of each course. So for each course we would have a new glass of wine to enhance the dish.

The meal began with an aperitif of champagne served chilled with a small “mise en bouche” of razor clams seasoned with cayenne pepper and butter (so sadly I didn’t ge that dish, I had a marinated radish dish instead. There was also a celery purée garnished with a slice of pear, and a slice of compté cheese (again which was omitted on mine). A basket of buckwheat bread was placed on the table. We tried our best to make the little mise en bouche last long enough for the champagne flute to empty some.

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A Chateau Just an Air-Kiss Away

April 6th, 2014

If you want to see a spectacular chateau with no lines and no shoving crowds then you really should visit the Château de Chantilly, just 25 minutes north of Paris by train. The magnificent château houses the Condé Museum of paintings, while the thatched roof Hamlet (great for lunch or strawberries and Chantilly cream for afternoon tea) is hidden beyond the canal within Le Nôtre’s vast formal gardens. If you go in April you can see the newly renovated Living Horse Museum in the Grand Stables, as well as the new equestrian show, Kavallisté, which combines polyphonic singing with choreographed horse performances beneath the grand dome. If you have kids, they will love the pony show, but you can also take them to the Potager des Princes, where they can see rabbits, chickens, and geese in the manicured gardens (Easter activities for the family every day from April 12-May 4). The Domaine de Chantilly website has more info in French than English, but it’s handy for purchasing advance tickets: get the Domaine Pass (€20 for adults) if you’re not visiting during the horse show, or the Spectacle Equestrian (€30) which includes the Domain Pass plus the horse show on days it’s showing.

His Home is a Shop!

April 5th, 2014

Chez Moi, Paris is a new boutique in the 1st arrondissement based upon the concept of an apartment – complete with bathroom, living room, dining room and bedroom – in which owner Jean-Baptiste Charpenay-Limon lives, eats and sleeps, and in which everything is for sale. The sleek space, kitted out with a wooden runway leading from the front of the shop to the sleeping quarters, designed by the conceptual Freaks architects, is a backdrop for a sharp selection of artworks, home goods, magazines and journals (including Self Service, Purple, Roven), wine, furniture, clothes, and accessories. The idea is that you come and hang out with JB and his friends (and their cute dogs, on our visit), admire the decor, and leave with some of it under your arm.

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In a Land Not So Far

April 4th, 2014

Although the Temple of Sybil, in the Buttes Chaumont, may not appear all that high on the cliff, it is indeed a hike and a suspension bridge away. How can all of this be only a mile or two from the center of Paris?