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.


The Central Park of Paris?

August 22nd, 2015

park georges valbon6km to the north-east of Paris, the Parc Georges-Valbon is so big that it spreads across the territories of five suburban towns. With the future Grand Paris aiming to redynamise the region, it is perhaps not surprising that such a facility should become one of the new focal points, and plans are afoot to transform it into the Central Park of Paris – much to the chagrin of local residents.

I decided to take a closer look at this immense haven of fields, lakes, forests and prairies – although even finding an access point already proved to be quite a challenge!

“Our ambition,” declared French star architect Roland Castro, “is to create a kind of parc Monceau for the people but forty times larger, and to give Parisians a reason to cross the périphérique motorway.” Castro, a veteran of transformation projects in the Paris suburbs, was describing his “30-year dream” which aims to mold the existing park into a key feature of the new Grand Paris.


Learning French by Mastering Your Coffee Order

August 20th, 2015

eiffel tower foam

Ordering a coffee in France and more specifically in Paris can be seen as a difficult task. Even if you were to take the time to search out the answer on Google, you would see endless results on the proper way to get that perfect caffeinated treat (seriously, give it a try). If you enter a Parisian coffee house hoping to order a coffee, do you ask for un café au lait? Un café crème? Or simply café? The subtle differences between these terms will result in three different beverages, and the answer can’t be found in your French language textbook. While most French language courses begin and end in the classroom, this simple example can be used to argue that the most effective method of learning French is through total language immersion. More specifically, by interacting with locals that know it best.

education first logoRather than taking a guided museum tour, take a trip to Montmartre corner and learn French in Paris by conversing with local street artists, they won’t bite! Or consider skipping your trip to Disney Paris and getting your creative juices flowing by visiting Montparnasse on the Left Bank. Once seen as a bohemian refuge for artists such as Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, the Left Bank or “Rive Gauge” offers plenty of opportunity to practice French in an authentic setting. While one cannot deny the advantages of learning French under the guidance of trained professional, it is also important to use these skills in an outside setting, and what better setting than the City of Lights?

Learn French in France with EF and maybe, just maybe, you’ll figure out how to order coffee like a true Parisian. Education First takes pride in finding the perfect balance between intensive teacher-lead classroom learning and the use of cultural excursions in order to help students learn French and become fluent as quickly and efficiently as possible. The EF Paris language school is located in the lively area of les Grands Boulevards, and its historic surroundings are a stark contrast from the modern facilities found inside. With extracurricular activities such as trips to the aforementioned Montmartre corner, and an introduction to the game of petanque, EF understands that not all learning happens inside of the classroom.

Avoiding Paris Tourist Scams

August 18th, 2015

ssLike any large city, Paris has its fair share of scammers, pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Visitors don’t need to be paranoid, but being aware of the most common tactics used by thieves will help you be prepared in case they decide to target you.
Safety Scouts Advice is a series of animated videos created by former Paris policeman Christophe Gadenne to help visitors to Paris and other big European cities avoid becoming victims. During his five years of working with the Paris Police, he met countless distraught, traumatized tourists from around the world who had their vacations ruined by thieves and scammers, so he decided to do something about it.

There are 39 videos currently in the series (with new ones posted regularly), searchable by city or country (Paris, Italy, Spain, Berlin, and Lisbon) or by topics such as:

– The 10 worst pickpocket tricks revealed

– The 5 ATM scams to avoid while traveling

– The 5 worst taxi scams revealed

– Fake apartment rental

– Preventing female assault

– Drink spiking

– Loitering hotel thief

– Unsolicited ticket helper

– Train distraction thief

– Fake petition pickpocket

– Flat tire scam


Korean Cocktail Adventures!

August 12th, 2015

The Quixotic Project team (Candelaria, Le Mary Celeste, Glass) is once again ahead of the curve with their latest opening: Hero, Korean Restaurant and Bar. Rather than rest on their laurels, this group has brought something fresh and unique to the scene with each new opening, earning them a fiercely loyal legion of foodie and drinkie fans.

Hero isn’t a hole in the wall with big bowls of bibimbap (not that I’m opposed to places like that.) It’s three stories of cool and playful design. The street level is a tiny bar with 8 or so seats where people squeeze in for drinks and munchies. Upstairs is more restaurant-style seating with wooden stools, tables and booths. In the center is a freestanding hand-washing sink, and once you order the fried chicken you’ll understand why this is a brilliant addition.

hero 2In the lower level is where chef Haan Palcu-Chang turns out plates of sticky, sweet, spicy, crunchy and effin’ good fried chicken. We tried the gochujang version, which displayed a respectable level of heat (although I could have handled more.) And, while I was expecting something closed and steamed for the pork buns, what I got was an open, meaty, most excellent saucy pork slider (a format which allows for more meat than a stuffed bun!). The “3 snacks” was a 5 Euros tasty trio of fried sweet potato, a peanut dish and a salad.

I will be back soon to try the kimchi mac’n’cheese, which is getting rave reviews. I am also obsessed with the YOLO option for dining à deux: A whole fried chicken + a bottle of Champagne + a bottle of Soju for 100 yoyos. Along side these things, the menu offers a few salad and dessert options with prices ranging from 3 to 14 Euros. It works for both bar snacks or a more substantial meal.


Metro Fares Drop!

August 5th, 2015

above ground metropass navigoIf you have a monthly or annual Navigo pass covering Zones 1-2 (which is for metro/bus/tram and RER rides in Paris and its immediate suburbs), you can use it in any zone through August 16. That includes both Paris airports as well as Versailles and Disneyland; a savings of well over $10 per trip.

Even better, beginning September 1st, the monthly and annual Navigo passes will be zone-free all year long.


Hit the Beach!

July 30th, 2015

Paris-PlageEvery summer since 2002, Paris closes off sections of its quais to traffic and transforms the riverbank along the Seine into “Paris Beach.” Paris Plage started up again a fortnight ago (July 19th) and will run through August 17th.

Paris Plage runs roughly from the Louvre to the Pont de Sully, about 2 kilometers east. There is also an official Paris Plage in the 19th arrondissement, at the Bassin de la Villette.

As always, the creators of Paris Plage have imported sand to create actual beaches. I wouldn’t recommend jumping in the water, but it’s good for sunbathing and building sand castles! There are also spots to grab a drink or a bite to eat, listen to music, play beach volleyball or just grab a seat and relax. The Bassin de la Villette is even offering an aquagym and kayaking this year.

My recommendation is to avoid Paris Plage mid-day on the weekends, but it’s a nice little escape at less peak hours.