Are You an “Interstitial Tourist”?

May 24th, 2017

curiosities of paris coverCuriosities of Paris is not for the casual tourist. Refreshingly, its cover features neither an Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, nor Sacre Coeur. No, this is for the hardcore Paris aficionado, or the “interstitial tourist,” who the book defines as someone who prefers to “explore the nooks and crannies of the urban landscape rather than its more aristocratic facets.”

This book, by Dominique Lesbros, burrows into the obscure, or, when tackling something a little less recherché, dives deeper than you’d expect. Take, for instance, the chapter on horses. We all recognize the oversized arches that once allowed horse-drawn carriages to pass through. But did you know that what look like decorative metals bars on the lower half of doorways often were utilitarian, holding a serving of hay so horses could snack on the go? Or that conical stone cornerguards, which flank the bottom corners of street-facing doorways, served as protection from the axles of carriages? curiosities layout 2Such details not only provide fresh entertainment for any stroll through any arrondissement, but also stimulate your everyday awareness of the history harbored in previously overlooked visual vestiges.

Titillating factoids about the lurid side of the city paint a fleshy portrait of yesteryear’s cheeky residents. There’s a street called “Great Scam” (rue de la Grand Truanderie) whose residents miraculously recovered from debilitating handicaps upon return home each evening from a day of begging. And did you know rue du Pélican was not inspired by the bird but is a less blush-inducing adaptation of the original rue du Poil-au-Con (which I’m going to decline to translate).

curiosities layout 1The solid writing avoids the “Aren’t-they-wacky?” tone that too often mars a compendium of oddities; it’s a fun read even if you never meander in to its many aforementioned nooks and crannies.

Smaller than a coffeetable tome but more robust than a pocket guide, Curiosities of Paris offers up more than 800 photos accompanied by captions that, while brief, pack a punch. It even manages to squeeze in new (to me) info on those old favorites, such as this: Sacre-Coeur is the only church in Paris that practices uninterrupted 24-hour prayer before the holy sacrament–and anyone is allowed to register to participate.

30-Centime Drinks? There’s An App for That

May 17th, 2017

firsty logoFancy 30 drinks for €9.99? Check out the latest drinks-related app to hit the Paris bar scene: Firsty.

Getting your daily drink on is pretty simple: download the app, subscribe for €9.99 a month, select a bar near you from their list of around 50, and head in for a drink every day of the month. That’s about 30 centimes per drink! And the subscriptions can be cancelled anytime.

I had a chance to taste test one of the cocktails up for grabs and meet the app developers Harry Knowlman (bar selection) and Kim Giaoui (app development) at their launch party at Monsieur Antoine. But, of course, the real test is a trial in the field, at a random bar, on a random night where I’m a just a random unknown customer.

firsty2So, I signed up for their five-night free trial and headed out to a bar I’d never visited before, Monsieur le Zinc. This cute and kitschy little bar just off of Odeon, with a tongue-in-cheek gas-pump décor, offers a small selection self-serve wine and beer on taps, accessed by prepaid cards. It was a quick and pretty seamless visit. The bartender immediately recognized the app, explained the bar concept and served up our drink. Easy, simple and effective.

firsty 1The 50 bars in the app comprise a wide range of options. If you’re going for good cocktails, I’d recommend: Solera, Persifleur, Les Justes, or Tiki Lounge. Otherwise, there are other bars that serve basic mixed drinks as well as dedicated wine and beer bars. The choice is diverse enough that you should be able to discover something of interest off your regular route.


Here’s the Beef!

April 24th, 2017

beefJean-Francois Clavier, the owner of a company Archibald Gourmet, which imports Wagyu beef to France, and Jean-Francois Celbert, owner of the upscale Josephine Restaurant and Boulangerie have teamed up to serve a Wagyu tasting menu. Wagyu is a breed of Japanese cow that yields a high percentage of oleaginous unsaturated fat, producing a high quality beef with increased marbling. The most well known Wagyu beef is Kobe, which sells for about $400 a pound.

The five-course menu starts off with a platter of two appetizer meats, a thinly sliced dried version of Wagyu beef, aged six months, with Jamaican pimento and a sliced rum steak with a mélange of pimentos, dried and aged for one month with sprigs of rosemary, both created by Archibald Gourmet. They were served with thick slices country bread with honey and smoked salt, a specialty of Josephine created in collaboration with Benoit Castel and my favorite French butter, Bordier, hand-churned from Brittany.

josephineNext up was a decadent platter of Cote de Boeuf (similar to filet mignon), the signature beef of Archibald Gourmet. The meat was served rare but not bloody, so I chose the ends, which were cooked almost medium (and better suited my taste bud). In general I find most French beef is tough and hard to chew but the beef that day was succulent, easy to chew and digest. I usually like some kind of sauce with my beef such as Béarnaise or just strong mustard but the beef was so flavorful it didn’t need it. Side dishes included frites, divine potatoes au gratin and a mix of green vegetables served in copper pots.

>more courses!

Rum’s French Accent

April 7th, 2017

route des rhumsRum is an incredibly interesting spirit, from its rich history to modern-day debates on its true definition. It can be sipped straight or mixed into a cocktail. There’s also its cheeky tiki side. En plus, it’s got a real French connection with artisanal rhum agricole hailing from the islands. If you’re already a rum lover or are ready to explore a bit more, then get ready for this year’s Rhumfest 22 and 23 April (general public) and 24 April (professionals) at the Parc Floral (and, note the nod to the Parc on this year’s poster with the peacocks recalling those that roam the grounds…)

rum 1Rhumfest is a salon that will showcase the spirit through tastings, master classes, talks and more. For example, catch big rum personalities like Ian Burrell giving an Appleton Estate Master Class or historian Matthieu Lange presenting rum from the mid-19th century to 1930 (Be sure to reserve online ahead of time for the classes and talks to ensure a spot).

In addition, there will be an “Eveil des Sens” session that will awaken your senses as well as tasting classes overseen by rum experts Cyrille Mald and Alexandre Vingtier. Finally, a Central Park Bar promises plenty of rum cocktails and more fun. If you can’t make the event, master classes and many of the events will be broadcast live on social networks.

rum 2There will be 138 brands present, meaning you’ll have the chance to interact with some old standbys like Havana and try their new reference Pacto Navio (available in France and Cuba –only) or taste something new and excellent like the O.F.T.D. from Plantation, created by an impressive team of rum experts.


A Lover’s Art Re-Examined

April 3rd, 2017

Even after the publication of this illuminating and beautiful book, Dora Maar will likely continue to be remembered, first and foremost, as one of Pablo Picasso’s many lovers and muses. But despite her young age (more than two decades his junior) and what friends recall as her calculated seduction of the painter, Maar was no groupie. She was an accomplished artist in her own right by her mid-twenties, when she encountered Picasso. In the 1930s they began an affair that lasted more than a decade, documented by his famous paintings of her; notably “Weeping Woman” and “Dora Maar Seated.”

Louise Baring’s book, published this month by Rizzoli, illustrates Maar’s place in society (a tri-lingual jet-setter whose father suppoted her financially); in the professional world (a successful fashion and advertising photographer, an ace in the darkroom); and as an artist (she created some of the most indelible Surrealist images from the movement’s heyday without being exclusively associated with the group). Friends remember her as capable, intellectual and elegant.

Picasso was proud to have the accomplished, whip-smart Maar on his arm for gatherings at the famous cafes of the Left Bank and Montmartre, and on beach vacations on the Riviera. She was an ardent leftish who inspired the painter to become more politically outspoken, and she understood his work enough to photograph its evolution in creation, a rare privilege. Their personal life, however, was stormy, to the point of fistfights between her and the other women Picasso bedded. The book creates a 3-D image of the woman who embodied obvious strength and intelligence, yet suffered enormously in her relationship with Picasso. It was he who encouraged her to paint instead of take photographs—after which her career fizzled.

DoraMaar_p023Almost a century later, her photography stands as starkly original. She was as adept at capturing a personality in a portrait as she was at assembling a dreamscape using double exposures, photo-montages, and scratched negatives.

For fans of Paris’s brilliant entre-guerre period, Dora Maar: Paris in the Time of Man Ray, Jean Cocteau and Picasso is an succint and inviting document. Its straightforward essay text, which can be read in one long afternoon, transports you back, without hyperbole, to that fertile artistic period. The images, printed with Rizzoli’s usual luxury and finesse, may make you want to cut them out and frame them. Or better, inspire you to pick up a camera youself.

3 Most Illegal Things in France

March 27th, 2017

Jane GratesPost by Jane Grates, an award-winning web lover and the co-manager of some health sites like Jane’s Kitchen Miracles, Monica’s Health Mag, GearWeAre, Fishing Gadget Hub, That Sweet Gift, Winter Ninja, Runner Click, Wood Lather Report and Fighting Report. Follow her at Pinterest.

When most of us hear the word France, the first thing that comes to our mind is the Eiffel Tower. France sees some 83.7 million visitors annually, which make it the most visited country in the world. France undoubtedly like many countries has her own share of crazy decrees and laws. Until of recent, there was legislation in France that banned women from wearing trousers unless they were riding a bike. Apparently it has been scrapped.
Are you planning to visit France? Here are three oddest and interesting rules in France that will help you keep out of trouble.
kissingWork Emails After Work There is a law in France that prevents employers from sending emails to their workers after work. If a company has more than 50 employees, they are stipulated to state at what time their workers shouldn’t send or even bother answering an email. The aim of the law is to prevent companies from exploiting their workers and that they are fairly paid for work done. It also aims at protecting private time and preventing burnout after it became apparent that some employees would still work even after leaving office.
Skinny Models If you are planning to work in the Fashion industry in France, then being excessively skinny is probably not a good idea. The legislature in France passed a bill that declared any person whose BMI below the medically accepted range is banned from being a model. isabelle caroTo spice things up for the defiant agencies, the government declared that any agency caught using models with a Basal Metabolic Indicator of below 18 would be jailed for six months and a fine of $82,000. This came after French model Isabelle Caro succumbed to anorexia at only 28 years.
Kissing Whilst the Train Is on the Platform
Planning on remaking the passionate platform scene between Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson in the movie Brief Encounter? Not a good idea. In many subway stations, you will be met with no kissing signs as it’s only allowed in designated areas. All this started after concerns that these passionate embraces caused extreme commuter delays.
Conclusion: Much as crazy they may sound, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get in trouble for breaking them. So visit France and enjoy the city of light and love, and familiarize yourself with the penal codes to avoid getting in trouble.

Showbiz, French Style

March 19th, 2017

Here’s an armchair trip to Paris without the tourist trappings of foie gras, fashion shows or palaces. 10 percent 2It’s the TV series “Call My Agent!” (French title “Dix Pour Cent”) whose first season is available on Netflix. Set in a French talent agency, it follows four agents and their assistants scrambling after the death of their boss. It’s a small, scrappy company with a handful of megawatt star clients (such as Nathalie Baye and Cecile de France, who play themselves), whose agents undercut each other as much as the competition.
Playing out in all your favorite Parisian settings–Pere Lachaise, the Tuileries, ridiculously chic cafes–“Call My Agent!” illuminates social dynamics both Parisian (a lesbian and her straight male coworker consider having a baby together) and universal (the incessant insecurity of actors). 10 percent 3

The production and costume design are on point, the actors are adept at carving out distinct personalities in a large ensemble cast, and the plot lines are just over-the-top enough to soften the cynical underbelly of showbiz. Highly recommended!

Chi-Chi Cocktails in the 8th

March 15th, 2017

the cocktail

Les Heures bar in the Prince de Galles luxury hotel made its mark on the cocktail scene starting a few years back under the helm of Christopher Gaglione. As head bartender, he created a cocktail program packed with some great drinks. But, what often grabbed the attention was the stunning and creative presentation plus the occasional tableside trolley service. After his departure, the question lingered: “What’s going to happen behind the bar now?” Answer: Florian Thireau.

florian-thireau-1Les Heures’ new manager, Thireau is a young, well-traveled barman, having done stints in both the UK and Australia, in addition to his start bar-backing at the Buddha Bar. Notably, his time in London included working under the well-respected and famously talented Tony Conigliaro at the Zetter Townhouse, where he says “With Tony I discovered a unique vision of the barman’s art, a sort of adapted form of gastronomy in which absolutely nothing is left to chance. Everything is considered, weighed up and tested. The origins of the spirits, the quality of the ingredients, the chemistry of the textures – everything counts.”

princedegallesWith his intense focus on the contents of the cocktail glass, his direction took a 180 from the previous program with a clean and simple presentation philosophy. While the team can handle any traditional or bespoke order, Florian has developed a menu of 12 cocktails at 24 Euros each. The first three make a mini-homage to craft cocktail classics with the Savoy Corpse Reviver (from the hotel and influential cocktail book of the same name), Les Fleurs du Mal from his old stomping grounds at the Zetter Townhouse and the modern classic by NYC bartender Sam Ross, the Penicillin. All important drinks in their own right, and worth trying if you’re unfamiliar with them.


Where It All Goes

March 2nd, 2017


(I don’t know what this is, but I love it.)

The Lonely Center

February 26th, 2017

PlaceChateletAlthough it is difficult to plot the center of a city coiled into 20 different arrondissements, geographically the spot wouldn’t be too far away from the Place du Chatêlet. Despite this centrality, the square and its surrounding streets wear an air of melancholic emptiness, as if imprisoned by their stifling past.
Paris is not short of celebratory statues and columns, or fountains that rarely spout water. The fontaine du Palmier on the Place du Chatêlet is a typical example – another monument that serves little purpose today beyond marking a point on a map. As with several other city monoliths, you can be fairly sure that it celebrates Napoleonic victories without knowing anything about the object (and that it obstinately remained anchored in the city despite the later Napoleonic defeats).

ChateletInvaderIt takes its name from the palm leaves being held by the statue of Victory at the top of the column, and was completed by the sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot in 1808. The victories were those of the Emperor in Italy, Egypt and Poland, but the monument has changed greatly since then. Even the winged lady is a copy, added in 1898 (the original is in the Musée Carnavalet).
It was of course during the Second Empire – and the rule of Napoleon III, Bonaparte’s nephew – that it was transformed and enlarged, with serial fountain specialist Gabriel Davioud adding the spouting sphinxes. Davioud also designed the twin theatres – the theatre du Châtelet and the theatre de la Ville – which took up position either side of the fountain in 1862.
prisonCarnavaletThe original reason for the column was not so much to celebrate some fairly inconsequential victories, but instead to fill a gap in the city that appeared after the destruction of the hated Grand Châtelet at the beginning of the 19th century. The construction could date its origins back nearly a thousand years when it helped the city fight off Viking invasions, but the succession of buildings that followed on the spot were always dark, dismal and invariably linked to punishment and death.