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.


Paris in Motion – Part 5

October 10th, 2014

paris in motion 5
Another armchair trip to the City of Light. This has become quite a popular video genre!

What the King Heard

October 9th, 2014

festival marin maraisEvery year the Festival Marin Marais, first held in 2006, celebrates the birthday of the musician and composer Marin Marais, who played in the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, for 40 years.

This year 18 Baroque concerts will be performed now throught November 9 at 3 different venues for a one-time price of 10 euros. The musicians work for donations and the venues are the church Temple du Foyer de l’Ame (near Place de la Bastille), in the Lycée Henri IV chapel in St. Germain, and the intimate cellar of 38Riv’.

The first time you attend this unusual event, you fill out a registration sheet and pay the 10 euros. The registrar will give you a membership card. Show this card at each concert. The printed program costs 3 euros, and covers each concert date, the music, the musician biographies, history of the music. (It’s in French.)

At the beginning of the fest late last month, we listened to the Ensemble Marin Marais. Instruments used in the Renaissance and Baroque periods (1600-1700s) and might include a viola de gamba (decorative head), harpsichord, varieties of flutes, theorbo, violoncello, violin, lute, and cittern (cistre).


Les Hoops

October 8th, 2014

Basketball2The world’s oldest surviving basketball court can be found in the basement of a building in the city’s 9th arrondissement. But how did Paris come to be one of the earliest homes of a sport invented in America? To find the answer, we need to push open the doors of a YMCA hostel on the rue Trévise.

The recent Journées du Patrimoine (heritage days) event gave me the opportunity to discover a little-known location – and a Paris claim to fame  that few people are aware of. Yes, the oldest (surviving) basketball court in the world really is in Paris, but it is just one part of a unique building in the city.

harlem globetrotters in franceAt the origin of this building – and of the sport of basketball – is the YMCA, an international christian organisation that originated in the UK. From its origins, the organisation placed an emphasis on the development of three elements; a healthy “body, mind, and spirit.” This trio is still represented today by the triangle in the organisation’s logo.

Following these principles, any YMCA construction would necessarilly place an importance on facilities for sport and exercise, and their first Paris building would be no exception. In this building, which dates from 1892, the entire basement level is given over to such facilities.