‘Tu’ or ‘Vous’ Made Easy

July 15th, 2014

infographic tu or vousThe Los Angeles Times, a paper whose coverage of France is typically lame, has redeemed itself with this handy and hysterical chart on whom to tutoyer and whom to vouvoyer. Thanks to Polly Vous Francais for spotting!

Bastille Day from Far and Near

July 14th, 2014

orchestre national de franceNo matter where you live, you can commune with Parisians today, the national holiday known simply as “July 14th” (only outside of France is it known as Bastille Day). The National Orchestra of France will play a classical concert with a theme of “War and Peace.” The show, which takes place on the Champs de Mars, in front of the Eiffel Tower, will be simulcast here starting at 9:30 pm Paris time. Tune in, turn on, frog out!

A Car-Less Champs-Elysees?!

July 12th, 2014

champs elysees parisFor the first time ever, the Champs-Elysees will be closed to automobiles in observance of July 14, or what Americans (but not the French) call Bastille Day. From 2pm-6pm, the famed promenade will be for pedestrians only. Most Parisians and savvy expats avoid the Champs-Elysees, a morass of tourists and chain stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch.This novel event might be a chance to rediscover it.

Velib for Velittle Ones

July 10th, 2014

velib childrenThe famous city bike-sharing system Vélib’ is now available for kids. P’tit Vélib’ exists in four sizes (and always with helmets) through special rental centers in the Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes, Les Berges, Canal de l’Ourcq, and Paris Plages. They can only be rented by the parents, of course, from €4-€6/hour.


The Goat Moat!

July 8th, 2014

the goat moatYou may have noticed, while strolling through the Jardin des Tuileries, that there are goats in the grassy “moat” near the Grand Bassin (on the east end of the gardens). Don’t feed them! These are an endangered breed of goats (Chèvres des Fossés) brought in to “mow” the grass in the steep ravines that are inaccessible to the gardeners’ regular lawnmowers. And they make less noise. The goats are managed by a non-profit association that’s trying to reintroduce this old French breed known for its milk and its docile disposition.

Against Type

July 5th, 2014

amy alkon by Gregg SutterBucking against that shopworn stereotype that all French people are rude, writer Amy Alkon invokes a Parisian habit in her book on how to be nicer to people. Ironic, no?

It’s also nice to do as they do in Paris, where passing strangers are likely to greet each other. You’ll walk through the courtyard of a building and cross paths with a woman you for sure will never see again, and she’ll say, “Bonjour, madame,” and you will say it back to her. It’s really nice. It’s this little moment in which you’re connected to somebody. They’ve saluted your existence.


After experiencing this in France, I started greeting people everywhere—saying ho to coffee shop and takeout cashiersinstead of just giving my order, and smiling and saying good morning to passersby. In time, I came to realize that a stranger is just someone you have yet to treat like a neighbor and thast a friendly hello is shorthand for the French phrase, “Ne seriez-vous pas nom voisin?” Or, as Mr. Rogers used to put it, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Amy’s new book, Good Manners for People Who Sometimes Say F*ck, has just been published by the St. Martin’s Griffin imprint. For some of the best quotes from the book, click here.

Photo by Gregg Sutter

Flower Power

July 4th, 2014

flowersLike pretty much every expat, I like the small boutique aspect of Paris. I love the pride that independent shopkeepers show for their spaces, hosing down the street in front every day, tending to their windows displays, and the care they out into even the smallest order.

The downside to this is pricing that varies so widely that you have to become an expert to know whether you’re getting gouged or not.

Case in point: this bouquet of peonies ran me 35 euros. In a middle class neighborhood, nothing overly swishy. The day after I ponied up for the bunch, I saw, in the 6th arrondissement (which often is way more expensive than the 18th), the same amount for 20 euros.

Now, especially when buying blooms for others, I am temped to simply send flowers online! In the US I often rail against the mainstream and mass produced. In France you get a taste of the undeniable benefit of competition keeping prices more or less aligned.

Kickstarting a Sexy Guide

July 3rd, 2014

naughtyparis_coverSecrets of Paris blogger Heather Stimmler Hall launched a crowdfunding effort recently to finance the printing cost of the beautiful four-color second edition of her insider Paris guidebook, Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City. The book will be released in December.

Intrigued by her use of crowdfunding – and a longtime fan – I asked Heather to tell us about the venture.

Laurel Zuckerman: Why a Kickstarter Campaign? (As opposed to Indiegogo, Bookslush or the others)

Heather Stimmler-HallHeather Stimmler Hall: I’m doing this campaign with the Naughty Guides photographer Kirsten Loop. We prefer Kickstarter because it still gets more traffic than any other crowdfunding site, and being able to reach as many NEW readers as possible was part of the reason we wanted to crowdfund the book in the first place.

We’re raising the funds to make the last payment to the printer. Unlike the first edition printed and shipped from China, this time we used a family-owned, green certified printer here in France; to try and bring down the expensive per-unit price we’re having 4000 printed at once, which is a lot of books, and quite a big upfront expense for an indie publisher. But we hope our commitment to quality and sustainable publishing practices will resonate with the public.


Plastic Not-So-Fantastic

June 30th, 2014

plastic salmonLe Fooding is creeping northward, even reaching my neck of the woods behind Sacre Coeur. I tried out Jeanne B, one such place, and hoped for the best. Alas. My salmon in “papillote” turned out to be salmon “en plastique” though no mention of it was made on the menu. Neither did the server deem it necessary to tell me when I ordered. Whether the plastic was to blame or not, the salmon was unimpressive–as was my potage d’asperges starter. (The artisanal limonade was pretty good.) When the waiter asked if everything was OK, I told him the petroleum-based wrapping had been a bit of a surprise. Oh, but it’s edible plastic, he said. It’s made for this purpose. I left it on my plate. I now call the restaurant Jeanne Bogus or Jeanne Begone.

Hair Apparent

June 29th, 2014

linda morand1Hair. That is what is most different about the appearance of Parisians and Americans. The African women do serious weaves, often in koo-koo colors (think: weave salons near Strasbourg St. Denis metro station), while American black women go for more natural looking fake hair . Or just natural hair. As for white women, you will not see that cheese-ball Farrah look on a French woman. Nor its modern-day version, the long soft curls that look fake from a mile away. I call it the “actress coif.” What you do see on white women in Paris–and which I LOVE–is natural gray hair in super chic cuts. Seen here is model Linda Morand, who may not be a Parisienne, but certainly embodies the look I’m discussing. J’adore!