Paris’s Gated Communities

November 1st, 2015

gated community in ParisIn the U.S., there are gated communities. Paris has its own versions– these private streets, which abound in the 16th arrondissement. Usually you have to know a code to get in. One of them, the Villa Montmorency in the southern half, Auteuil, even has full-time guards who patrol the streets and monitor the gates. Inside, behind the screen of trees, is one of the very few (or the only?) places in Paris where large private one-family houses exist with gardens and even swimming pools.


Score 1 for Lazy Bums!

October 25th, 2015

foodora 2Food delivery is nothing new in Paris, but the choices used to be pretty slim unless you happen to adore pizza, sushi, or tandoori chicken. Now there’s a new generation of services offering delivery of food we actually want, whether it’s from popular restaurants, gourmet home-cooked meals, or just breakfast in bed. And of course, there’s an app. Being lazy just got a whole lot easier…and just in time for the chilly season when all we want to do is snuggle up inside! Here are just a few of the latest ones that look appetizing.

foodoraFoodora is food delivered to you within 30 minutes by bike courier, in Paris and Lyon. It has a smartphone app for iPhone and Android. The well-known restaurants are promoted on the home page (Frenchie to Go, Schwartz’s Deli, Chambelland, Grilled Cheese Factory), but only those in your delivery zone will be listed once you punch in the delivery address. My neighborhood in the 13th has pretty slim pickings (as it’s not close enough to the center for 30-minute delivery, I assume), but if you’re in the center of Paris there is a nice selection. One restaurant will even deliver Dom Perignon for €190. There’s a €15 minimum per order, delivery is just €2.50. They deliver when the restaurant you want to order from is open.


The Latte Generation

October 15th, 2015

cafe with wallace fountainThere are a few special places in Paris that need little introduction – the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, a handful of parks and, I’d argue, the literary institution Shakespeare & Company. cafeBut I’ll give you a little background anyway. When it was owned by American expat Sylvia Beach in the 1920s-1930s, it was a magnet for the period’s literary greats, from Hemingway to Fitzgerald and Joyce. It shuttered during the Nazi occupation and only reopened in 1951, when George Whitman, another American, took over the space. Under Whitman’s charge, the bookshop continued to be a draw for writers (Langston Hughes, Anais Nin, James Baldwin) who came to work, hangout and eventually present their work. When he passed away, his daughter Sylvia took the reigns and has grown the business ever since. That one bookshop with such legacy has been so fervently protected and cared for is a testament to Sylvia’s love for the space; what it symbolizes within her family and for so many readers and writers around the world.

I had a chance to stop by this morning for opening day of its new cafe and instantly ran into Sylvia Whitman and her husband David Delannet, the duo who took George Whitman’s archival drawings and plans and made them a reality. The space has a handful of countertop seats and a few tables (more seating outside on benches) and is poised to become a destination of its own in no time. If you find yourself browsing at Shakespeare & Company next door and feel like you need a boost, pop by the café for cake and a cuppa. While it has preserved quite a number of original features, from retro floor tiles on one side blend into the new, concrete floor on the other, the exposed stone was brushed and cleaned and the garage door from the previous space has been repurposed to enclose the bathroom – the space feels considerably more modern than the adjacent bookshop. “It felt right to bring it into the future a bit”, Sylvia told me this morning “but the past is very much still here!”


A Silent Hemingway

October 8th, 2015

22Ernest Hemingway left an impression on Paris unlike any other writer working in the English language, to the point where his mark has almost become pollution. A vast number of guides and walking tours exist that claim to offer a glimpse into his city, an industry the man himself would no doubt have thoroughly disapproved of.

I’m not particularly fond of Hemingway the writer, and even less enamoured of the man himself, but I was pleasantly surprised by the recent book by photographer Robert Wheeler, Hemingway’s Paris: A Writer’s City in Words and Images.

It so happened that I received the book at the same time as I was re-reading A Moveable Feast. It proved a perfect fit and I would recommend combining the two, particularly as almost none of the “words” mentioned in Wheeler’s book title come from Hemingway himself.

11This omission – surely due to the fact that quoting Hemingway’s prose would have been project-cripplingly expensive – proves to be the book’s major weakness. Wheeler’s text is charming and clear, expressing the ardour of a true fan, but Hemingway himself – and his first wife Hadley – seem strangely absent from the book.

In many ways it therefore becomes a tale of one man’s search for the essence of Hemingway in today’s city. This is not a simple photographic record of all the places Hemingway mentioned in his writings, but rather a series of suppositions on how Hemingway and Hadley may have interacted with the places Wheeler has captured. A statue in the Tuileries for example is described as something that for Hadley “might have been a constant reminder of being let go.”

The real power of the book comes from Robert Wheeler’s photos. Attempting to capture Hemingway’s Paris is a perilous exercise, working in locations that are now over-familiar clichés of the city. Wheeler though always manages to find a new angle and a dynamic framing which ensure his black and white photos drip with atmosphere and a certain melancholia – which certainly matches the mood of Hemingway when he wrote his Paris memoirs.


A Queen’s Enduring Appeal

September 29th, 2015

marie antoinette enduring appealMarie-Antoinette is the most controversial woman in French history. She had a complex personality. She was a multi-faceted woman; frivolous, a big spender and sentimental, but also a modern woman who wanted to preserve her intimacy and her freedom. Marie-Antoinette was only 15 years old when she arrived from Vienna to Versailles to marry Louis, who would be the future Louis XVI.

Three thousand courtesans were living in the Castle of Versailles, the most rigid and cruel court of Europe. Marie-Antoinette was just 19 years old when she became the Queen of France. She’s quickly disappointed by a boring husband whose only passion is collecting locks. Louis XVI is shy and clumsy. It takes seven years for the two of them to create an heir. Marie laid in wait, and remained a virgin for those seven years. All that time she had to bear the humiliation of Versailles and all of France. The courtesans of Versailles made fun of her and her impotent
husband who was not able to give a future king to the French kingdom.

Then there were the awful rumors. People whispered that Marie-Antoinette might be a lesbian and that among her many lovers there was her best friend the beautifu Contesse de Polignac, at the time extremely scandalous.


Paris in the Post!

September 24th, 2015

of paris rooftopsIn the 10 years since this blog launched, we have seen our various contributors get married, pop out bi-national kids, and/or become citizens. black and white parisOthers return to their home country after a sojourn in France. Others still have turned their personal blog about life in Paris into a bona fide career. Such is the case with Richard Nahem, whose Eye Prefer Paris blog is a must-read for tips on art, restaurants, and museum shows in the city. Richard parlayed his knowledge and love of the City of Light into a tour business, and now he expands his mini-empire even further with Eye Prefer Paris Postcards. A brilliant twist on the trendy product-subscription trend, EPPP sends you three gorgeous images to keep you dreaming about Paris–whether you live there or somewhere far away. Each package includes two color photographs and one black-and-white or sepia print. Since the images come in the traditional postcard size (6 x 4.25″) they can be sent through the mail, or simply kept for scrapbooking, impiration boards…or just slobbering and plotting your next dream vacation!

Another World in Pigalle

September 18th, 2015

maison souquet parisMaison Souquet‘s entrance is flanked by red lights, recalling the days when this building was a house of pleasure rather than a luxury hotel. maison souquet cocktail bar parisJust through the discrete door is a world of 1001 Arabian nights decor in the with the lobby lounge. Next you pass into the actual bar, which is designed to feel like a reading room. It’s small, intimate, plush and dark. It provides the perfect private vibe for anything from coquettish conversation to serious seduction. The next room is lighter and brighter with floral fabrics, bright red carpet and mirrored walls reflecting natural light. And finally, there is a teeny tiny courtyard space with just enough room for one bench and a garden statue.

souquet maisonThe cocktails range from 17 to 20 euros and are divided into sections with names like Cocottes (which means “fashionable prostitutes”) or les Couritisans. The menu features house creations that could feel a little precious or sweetly indulgent for a palette like my own that leans more towards the stiff and classic. However, I tried the La Castiglione (Bacardi Heritage, coconut water, yuzu and yellow chartreuse) and found it nicely balanced. It’s a foamy, fresh and elegantly presented cocktail that reflects the sensuous sensibilities location. And for those seeking something more traditional, the head bartender previously worked at the Bristol so should be able to handle off menu requests. A well-made martini confirmed this. Also on the menu is a range of snacks like burrata, tarama & toasts or truffle flavored black rice ranging from 8 to 24 euros.


Where to Stay in Paris, Nice, Rome and Venice

September 17th, 2015

eiffel apogiaGuest Post

apogia barSummer’s over. But vacation? That’s a year-round treat for globetrotters like you. In France, Paris and Nice are top destinations. For Italy, it’s Rome and Venice. Savvy travelers want the benefits of a convenient location as well as authentic charm. But they also require modern amenities such as wifi (that works). That’s why hotels in the Apogia Group have become so popular lately. With locations in prime European cities, Apogia Hotels offer trusted service and high standards. Think: late check-out, early check-in and even a free aperitif when you wind your way “home” from a day out on the town. The Hotel Apogia Nice is a short walking distance from both the Port of Nice and the greenery-filled Promenade du Paillon. hotel exteriorAnd the Hotel Apogia Paris is perched right on the banks of the Seine, a mere 15 minutes by RER from the Eiffel Tower. Headed to Venice for a romantic get-away? The Hotel Apogia Sirio, in the centre of Mestre, is very close to the historical center. And if you’re thinking of warming up this fall or winter in Rome, consider the Apogia Hotel Lloyd Rome, a 3-star spot that’s just 5 minutes from Porta Pia, and walkable to both Rome Termini Station and the Villa Borghese. No matter which destination you choose for your next trip, make sure to check online specials for perks such as a free dinner with your stay!

Open-Air Swimming on the Seine

September 8th, 2015

outdoor swimming pool in parisAlong the quai in the 13th arrondissement (across from the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand), you will see the entrance to the Piscine Joséphine Baker, a 25 x 10-meter swimming pool perched on the River Seine. The pool is open year-round but it’s a particular joy in the summer when the glass roof is opened to allow for sun-bathing on the large deck overlooking the river.
The pool complex also houses a wading pool for kids, saunas, a hammam, a jacuzzi and a gym.
It’s only €3 for a visit to the pool, or €24 for 10 visits, or €37 for a 3-month pass. Quite a bargain! It’s best to check the pool schedule before visiting, but generally the pool is open 7am – 9am and 10am-11pm on summer weekdays, 9am-8pm on summer Saturdays & Sundays.


The Unofficial Flower of Paris

August 31st, 2015

eraniums houseboatWe’ve seen them on boats. We’ve seen them on the façades of chic hotels. We’ve seen double-decker arrangements of window boxes. Why is the geranium so popular in Paris? For one thing, as Anne Wilkinson points out in The Passion for Pelargoniums, it is “easy to grow, easily available, and stands up to a considerable amount of neglect.”



It also seems to tolerate city air and dust. And in Paris it apparently overwinters: here are some dried-out specimens at Christmastime, but they will probably bounce back in the spring. Today, geraniums/pelargoniums are considered rather unremarkable plants, what Wilkinson calls “municipalized” because they are often found in city parks and in front of public buildings. They are so common in Paris window boxes that they barely register unless you look for them. But there was a time when they were considered the last word in horticultural fashion.

Pelargoniums are a native of southern Africa, and the first ones were brought to Europe by travellers in the latter part of the 17th century. They proved easy to hybridize and horticulturalists produced hundreds of versions.