The 9/11 Moment for Paris?

January 7th, 2015

Charlie-Brancard-mToday’s massacre in the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine is the most shocking Paris terrorist attack since 1982′s bombing of Goldenberg restaurant in the Marais. It marks a bloody beginning to a new year following a worrying series of attacks in 2014 on Jews and synagogues. Now it’s the free press under attack, too. We’re following the news on France24.

Will this mean the end to the seemingly lax security around Paris, certainly in newspaper offices? It is sad to think that this is the 9/11 for France, the tipping point after which everything feels different.



Ready, Set, Soldes!

January 7th, 2015

The annual winter sales start in Paris TODAY.  Now is the time to make your plan of attack or risk losing out on the best deals or your favorite pair of shoes.  To get started, take a look at what Amy Thomas had to say in her article on the Girls Guide to Paris site a while back. And don’t forget: pretty much everything is on sale during les soldes, not just clothes. It’s also a great time to buy housewares such as Gien porcelain, Jacquard Français linens, or any other French souvenirs you might have been eyeing.

Eiffel Tower Skating Rink

January 3rd, 2015

skating rinkCan’t make it to the Alps for a winter sport vacation? There’s another option high in the air for enjoying leisure time in the great outdoors. Almost 200 feet up off the ground, the Eiffel Tower skating rink allows you to swirl and slide inside the monument itself. Open through February!

New Year’s Cards

December 31st, 2014

bonne anee1In France, instead of sending Christmas cards, it’s more popular to send New Year’s cards. New Year’s wishes can arrive up to a few weeks after the 1st of the year,  which means that I can take my time writing them, and my family and friends can receive and enjoy them away from all of the crazy mayhem of the “normal” holiday season. In France, you can find New Year’s Cartes de Voeux at any card shop this time of the year. Online, I like for funky and modern cards, or for more traditional or corporate cards.  In the U.S., I recently saw that Wedding Paper Divas has a nice line of New Year’s cards in their Tiny Prints line.  Honestly, it’s a great way to relieve some of the holiday pressure, and a nice little Frenchy tradition to adopt as your own.

Big Easy Cocktails

December 29th, 2014

lulu white 1With a Parisian Belle Époque meets New Orleans’ Storyville vibe and named for one of NOLA’s notorious madams, Lulu White couldn’t have picked a better location than this neighborhood full of working girl bars and girlie-cum-cocktail bars. Pass through the discrete entrance located just next door to Dirty Dick and escape into an elegant, art nouveaux world with a carrousel style bar reminiscent of New Orleans’ Hotel Montleone (a place near and dear to the cocktail lover’s heart). Considering that the duo behind this drinking spot, Dotan Shalev et Timothée Prangé, made a name for themselves with the nicely designed Little Red Door, it’s no surprise that we like what we see here.

But, let’s move past her pretty face and check out the personality. In a nod to the Bohemian culture of Paris in the ’20s, the menu includes an absinthe flight, 7 absinthe-infused drinks at 11-12 euros, one cocktail priced at 15 euros, bottled beers, wine and Champagne. Putting absinthe in every mixed drink on the menu is a ballsy move. The menu has been crafted so that the lulu white 2absinthe improves each cocktail without taking over. Even if you think you won’t get along with the Green Fairy, I encourage you to work through a few of their choices, which will at least challenge if not change that notion.

On my visit, the Kelly started me off with Le Carmen Miranda: Four Roses Bourbon, Strawberry Cordial, and Pernod Absinthe, served slushy style in a coupe. What?! Cordial + bourbon – that can be kind of too sweet, non? That’s what I thought, and under other circumstances I may have shied away from it, but thankfully I let myself be led. Le Carmen Miranda is refreshing and well balanced. The bourbon brings strength, and the cordial made with dried strawberries and tartaric acid (among other things) adds just the right one-two punch of sweet and sour to balance it out and leave you smacking your lips and salivating for the next sip. Finally, a touch of absinthe adds some depth. I moved onto something more in line with my personal tastes with the Beefeater-based Lea d’Asco, which was equally good (but less surprising given my imbibing inclinations).


Get Illuminated

December 24th, 2014

festival of lightHordes turned out for the annual Festival of Light in Paris. Take a photographic tour here without getting bumped by hot wine-addled spectators.

A Museum’s Storied Past

December 23rd, 2014

the tenants of hotel bironHow many visitors to the Musee Rodin know the details of the building’s strange, entangled history as a crucible for avant-garde art? Once known as the Hôtel Biron, by 1907 the eighteenth-century mansion had fallen into disrepair. For a brief time, the crumbling mansion became an artists’ haven.

Low rent attracted the likes of Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Jean Cocteau, Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau, Eduard Steichen, Eric Satie, Rainer Maria Rilke, the sculptor Camille Claudel, and the famous dancer of the Ballets Russes, Vaslav Nijinsky.

Laura Marello’s novel The Tenants of the Hôtel Biron invites us into this hotbed of artistic experimentation. She talks with Marylee MacDonald in a Paris Writers News interview

MM: Laura, how did you stumble on this story?

laura marelloLM: In 1973, as a freshman in college at the University of California Santa Cruz, I saw slides of Rodin’s artwork. As a sophomore I wrote a psychobiography of him for another course, and compiled a catalog of his work. As a senior I spent ten months studying in Paris. On Sundays I visited the Rodin museum. I knew I wanted to write a book on Rodin, but also a book about false documents. Eventually the two ideas merged and I wrote the book 1988-92 after fifteen years of research. Clara Westoff, Rilke’s wife lived in the house. Then Rilke encouraged Rodin to rent there. Matisse taught art classes in the chapel. Cocteau had a small bachelor’s apartment. I invited the rest into the house, though they never really lived there. The other details are mostly accurate.

MM: You tell the story from several different angles: letters (unsent), diaries, fictional biographies written by one tenant about another, and meditations on music, health, and spiritual practice. Each artist has his or her particular section, such as Pablo Picasso’s chapter on “Tribes and Tribesmen,” which is a kind of disquisition on the way Picasso might have viewed his art in relation to earlier art and to the art of his contemporaries. In “The Consolations of Eric Satie,” you’ve created a fictional notebook having to do with doctors, whether to marry or not, befriending Spanish painters, and contrapuntalism.

cocteau and matisseTo weave all these disparate elements together, you’ve created editorial interludes by the photographer Eduard Steichen. He begins the book by introducing us to the time and place, when all the dramatis personae lived at the hotel. Steichen’s editorial voice tells us that he is supposedly looking back from his home in Connecticut and the year 1967. Thus, he establishes his bona fides as a fellow artist, but one who makes his observations with the benefit of hindsight.


Jim Morrison’s Mysterious Door

December 22nd, 2014

jim morrison marais death locationThe death of Jim Morrison is not the only mystery in the Rue Beautreillis. jim morrison in parisOn this street where the leader of The Doors spent the last few months of his life and where he (probably) died, another door stands curiously alone. This large stone gateway is the last remaining element of the Hotel Raoul, a historic house in the Marais, but why was it preserved when the rest of the building was demolished?

What is this strange solitary doorway here and to what did it once provide an entrance? Although our eyes may be attracted by the door and walls – and the handsome fig tree that reaches over both – to one side there is a homemade plaque with a URL written on it (although someone has tried to paint over it). Type in this address and you’ll find a well-documented site covering the full history of this location.

The faded writing above the door undoubtedly reads Hôtel de Jean-Louis Raoul. This was its most recent name, but buildings on this spot date back to the 14th century.

The first building was the Hôtel Saint-Pol, a royal abode and sometime home to King Charles V. BeautreillisSquareA little outside the centre of the city, it was protected by the Bastille chateau and also provided a home to a dozen or so lions! Over the following centuries, the grounds of this house were chopped up into smaller units and criss-crossed by new roads. One of these lots was bought by Paul Ardier, an advisor and minister to Henri IV, who built the first hôtel on this spot, roughly at the same time as the nearby Place des Vosges was in construction.


Craft Beer in Paris

December 21st, 2014

craft beer ParisLast month I trekked out to the gritty (okay, that’s code for ugly and covered in un-attractive-not-artsy graffiti) suburb of Montreuil by line 9 metro to pick up a fresh batch of Jolly Roger pumpkin beer from the rather spiffy micro-brewery of Deck & Donohue. It’s a young expat team from the US and Ireland who give tastings of their beers every Saturday 11am-3pm. A neighboring craft beer brewery, La Montreuilloise, gives beer-making workshops every Saturday morning and afternoon (you have to wait 13 days for fermentation if you want to take home the beer you actually made), or you can simply stop by for tastings and beer shopping Saturdays 10am-noon. 

The Yule Log: Back to Its Roots

December 20th, 2014

buche de noel logThe fabulous Un Dimanche a Paris, a concept shop, restaurant, and bar all about chocolate has a new collection of Christmas cakes and Buche de Noel for 2014.

Renewing an ancient tradition, Un Dimanche a Paris has gone back to the roots of the Buche de Noel, Un Noel en Foret (Christmas in the Forest) brings the log from the forest into the hearth. L’ecorce de Chocolat (chocolate bark) is filled with chocolate mousse and spiced mandarin cream and the shell or bark is made of streusel (crunchy chocolate biscuit).

>see more “concept” Yule Logs