Multi-Media Arc de Triomphe

January 13th, 2015

new years eve on he champs elyseesThe Paris Mayor’s Office brought in the new year with a spectacular display of “video-morphing” on the Arc-de-Triomphe. The spectacle lasted 20 minutes and ended with fireworks from the top. Wherever you were on December 31, you can relive a slice of the moment virtually on their Daily Motion (think: French YouTube) channel.

Visit the Mairie de Paris’ website for more virtual moments, with New Year 2015 page for photos along Champs Elysées and stills from the video. You will be awestruck by the masses that clogged the boulevard and the fun the mayor’s office had “morphing” the Arc.


New Year Price Hikes

January 12th, 2015

postage stamp vintage french- Metro tickets went from €1.70 to €1.80 and a carnet of 10 rose from €13.70 to €14.10 (however any tickets purchased before January 1st are still valid). Monthly Navigo passes are up 4.3% to €70.
- Airport RER/bus tickets rose on the Orlyval (€9.30 euros), the Orlybus (€7.70), and Roissybus (€11).
- The minimum taxi fare is now €7, no matter what it says on the meter.

- Regional train tickets (RER, TER, TGV) went up 2.1%.

- Parking in the 1st-11th arrondissements has gone from €2.50 to €4/hour for street parking (€2.40/hour in the 12th-20th arrondissements). It has been extended to 8pm and now includes Saturdays and August. And if you are a resident you now have to pay €45 for your annual street parking permit plus €1.50/day.

- Postage stamps just went up a record 7% (wish I had bought a bunch last month!) so now a regular French stamp is €0.76, a Timbre Vert is €0.68, and to mail a letter internationally beyond Europe (ie US or Australia) will now cost a whopping €1.20 (it was €0.95 before…some of you may not get your new year’s cards). On the plus side, packages are up just 1%, and they have simplified the shipping rates, so now there are just 30 whereas before there were 200 (yes, 200; that’s not a typo) and now offer more pre-paid envelopes and boxes for small packages.

Oh, Kei!

January 11th, 2015

keikobayashiDining in Paris has gotten more exciting this year with the addition of Kei to the roster of divine Parisian restaurants. As a student of Ducasse, Piège and Moret, Kei Kobayashi is known for bringing together the finesse of Asian cuisine and the strong tastes of local French dishes – this, obviously just reeled me in more.

With a purposefully plain exterior: you would never think to stop in when walking by Kei. Once having entered the unimaginative and immaculately white dining room, it becomes hard to imagine that you would be served beautifully plated and colorful dishes.

For an appetizer, we start with a granita (sorbet) that smoothly caresses our palette, a mini black olive loaf to die for, and a bread and butter combo sporting the Kei name: OK, I’m starting to understand…

Except, no…It’s unbelievable. In this next spectacularly plated dish resembling Eden’s Garden with its delicate feminine touches, Joël Thiebaut’s vegetables are presented solely with their natural beauty – delicately sliced with sublime precision alongside a cube of beech tree wood smoked salmon, lemon mousse and arugula emulsion.


Multi-Platform Terror

January 10th, 2015

The website for a university in Paris has been hacked by Islamic militants. Here’s what a student friend of mine found when she went to her school’s website today.
hacked school site

Shorten Your Wait at St.-Chapelle

January 9th, 2015

paris sainte-chapelleMany visitors want to go to Sainte Chapelle, the only chapel in Paris that you have to pay to enter (because it’s no longer used for religious services, as it’s inside the Palais de Justice (Supreme Court) walls. Lines are long because of the security measures to enter, so don’t end up having to queue TWICE because you also need to get into the ticket line once inside. There are three options to avoid this: buy any museum pass in advance (they all work here); buy your ticket online in advance that is good any day for a year (you’ll need to print it out); or go to the Conciergerie first and buy a €12.50 “jumélé” joint ticket for both that is – as a bonus – good for two consecutive days starting the day of purchase. The Conciergerie is also part of the Palais de Justice (the former royal palace before it moved into the Louvre), used as a banquet hall and then a prison, most famously during the French Revolution (Marie Antoinette spent the last months of her life here before the guillotine). I recommend the third option, as there is rarely (but not never) a line to get into the Conciergerie (and security check is a LOT faster).



The Man Who Made the Cow Laugh

January 8th, 2015

laughing cowFor years, Benjamin Rabier (1864–1939), the illustrator who created the jovial red cow, was an inspector at Les Halles, the central Paris markets, where he could observe animals up close. But he also drew and painted, creating a menagerie of creatures with distinct personalities, which appeared in books, journals, and children’s papers, in series that were precursors of today’s cartoon strips. His output was vast.

A Gallica newsletter article on him contains more than a dozen links to his illustrations. Among them, I found unexpected uses for snakes.


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.