Breakfast in America

When we look out from our balcony we generally see this:

photo 11

Which is nice. But if we look down, we see this:

photo 9photo 20

Breakfast in America. They are lining up for an 11 Euro, American-style breakfast (about $17.00 for eggs and toast). Why would you do that when you could have this:

Medication for jetlag

Because it’s American, that’s why. The French love/hate relationship with the Americans is at least as strong as ours in Canada, but what makes it fun is that it manifests itself in different ways. And, it can take quite a long time for American trends to get here. For example, in all of the Marais, I was able to find only two of these:

photo 8 La Parisienne has yet to make the  weekly commitment required  to achieve a perfect professional manicure,  as  most New Yorkers, and many Montrealers have.  When I looked at the price list of this nail salon, I could see why.

photo 2photo 3

In fact, I haven’t seen nail polish on any of my friends here, or on their friends. Young women wear it, done at home I would imagine. But I bet that the trend is  coming.

Let’s move on to something else: our shoes and theirs. Men at home, look at your feet. Women, consider the feet of the men you know. Are these feet 7 or 8 times longer than they are wide? Would they, for example, fit into these shoes?

photo 5

 

These are typical French shoes for men and they are still very much present in the vitrines of Paris. I’m convinced that only the French can wear such long, stylish and elegant footwear and it must be an aspect of their genetics that they have such a narrow last. When we came to Paris in 2009, all the men were wearing them, even the young men. Adolescents and guys in their twenties were not wearing unlaced high tops and jeans so loose they were at risk of falling off altogether. And we liked that. Instead we were seeing young guys in tailored, ironed jeans, button down shirts with  foulards and  blazers or suit jackets on top. And they all sported expensive leather shoes.  But, a change was coming, and my daughter Charlotte tells me it was, in fact, starting back in 2009 with the rising French interest in hip-hop. Hip-hop guys do not wear pointy leather shoes. It was the beginning of running shoe culture – okay, sorry, the rise of the American sneaker.

photo 7photo 6

Now they are everywhere. Everyone is wearing what here are termed “baskets”. You seldom see a young man in the style that was de rigeur just six short years ago.

But I have a theory about what happens when the French adopt an American trend and we can see an example of what I mean in the way they do  graffiti. While it’s true that graffiti goes back to  ancient Rome, and earlier, if the youth-culture-tagging with-spray-paint-thing  has a homeland, it would be south of the 45th parallel. Here in Paris we do see a fair amount of deplorable tagging.

photo 12

But what we see even more is something like this:

photo 13 Now this little fox sitting down to dinner is kind of interesting. And in our local alleyways we see something that can only be called an art form.

photo 18

photo 14

 

This is street art and it’s really cool and it’s everywhere.  I sometimes see murals and such in Montreal, but usually someone was hired to do them. So, the French have taken the night-bandit spray painting trend and transformed it into something French. Bravo.

Let’s get back to the shoes. “Baskets” are the shoe of the moment in Paris. But take a look at these:

photo  Aren’t these shoes awfully slender and tidy-looking? Perhaps a French “take” on sneakers?

And what about these?  photo 17  Is something new and French happening in the American domain of sneakers? Finding out is one more reason to come back next year.

 

 

Advertisements

On a Binge in Paris

You know what happens. After the first one, you’re feeling good. Loose, stimulated, happy.     But then you want another. Finding one is no problem, so you go ahead and indulge. The pleasure is intense. You can’t stop talking and thinking, your mind is darting everywhere, from what you know to what you wish you did. You tell yourself, no harm done.  Next thing you know you’re doing two a day. Exhaustion sets in but something is driving you. You just…have to…. keep going… to museums.

It’s true, we did two yesterday and one today. It’s too much but we can’t help it. It’s our last weekend in Paris and, il faut profiter. Yesterday we woke up to a morning that looked like this:

photo 4  Yes, that is greenery. Sunshine. Perfect day to journey across Paris and see this:

photo 14Eiffel Tower – seen from Trocadero (a plaza across the river)

At Trocadero, is another museum that we have not seen before: the Palais de Chaillot, a museum of architecture  and “patrimoine”. Like so much we have been to, it was blessedly empty (take a note, last two weeks of January are prime time for museum-going in Paris).

photo 11photo 5

photo 7  Impressive, no? Especially for fans of medieval art. I kept saying to Alan, “Why couldn’t these churches be saved?

photo 6 Dummy. These are moldings taken of the original works. I cannot imagine what it must be like to put the whole east facade Rheims cathedral in a mold. But these French are awfully clever.

photo 13  Isn’t he lovely?

And this?     photo

 

An enjoyable aspect of all this is that these architectural elements are often high up in gloomy cathedrals and here you could really see the beautiful carvings of so many anonymous master sculptors.photo 10

I got into depictions of Eve (I”m always into that).

photo 9photo 8photo 3 Upstairs at the Palais Chaillot an enormous room full of architectural models.

photo 27photo 20 But having traversed hundreds of meters of culture, Eve was ready to bite the apple. We went in search of food and found it down the hill at…. The Musee d’Art Moderne. After quiche and a salad…. are you thinking what I’m thinking?

photo 24photo 22

That’s Sonia Delauney on the left (the painting, I mean) and a gorgeous Dufy on the right. I won’t tire you with more, but it was lovely and not too much. Not really.

Today…. hmm what shall we do?

photo 17  If the army of the French Republic is going to spend so much time and money guarding the Jewish Museum, the least we can do is go, right? We waved to the two machine-gun -toting soldiers, cleared the airport-level security check, and entered this:

photo 29  Yes, a seventeenth century hotel particular, where else but in the Marais.

photo 21photo 26

photo 19photo 23

photo 18 Just a taste of what we saw. Speaking of tasting, this museum-going is hungry work. What would be the right meal after getting in touch with our Jewish heritage?

photo 25photo 15

Fallafel! Another heritage item guarded by machine gun. I kid you not.

And what are we reading?

photo 28

 

 

 

 

 

A Visit to my Aunt

How I love discovering something new, and today’s discovery particularly gratifies me because it fits so well into our current themes of the seventeenth century and the Marais. While doing a small, self-guided tour of historic buildings in the Marais -which is pretty much every building – I stood shivering and reading from the guidebook about hotels particuliers on rue Francs-Bourgeois. I spied a building flying the tri-color and took a closer look.

Unknown Hmm. Looks like a bank or insurance company. I went to see what was posted up outside. What’s this? “Visite”? “Encheres”? An auction house of some kind? I’m in.

 

photo 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entering a lovely courtyard with fountain, I had a number of doors to chose from. The one marked “ventes” made sense, so I plunged right in.

photophoto 6

photo 2 Once inside, I found a bustling auction in progress. “Madame, vous etes en retard,” the auctioneer joked. I smiled and waved.

Wow. Was this ever better than the auction house, Drouot. COMFORTABLE SEATS.

images  PHOTO: CREDIT MUNICIPAL

It was a jewellery auction and the auctioneers were flying through the lots. Many of the lots were gold items, sold in bulk.Unknown-1

Let’s back up for a minute, history buffs. What was going on here and what exactly is the  Credit Municipal de Paris? Known locally as “Ma Tante”, and originally as the Mont de Pitie, it is where you can go for a loan when you are particularly hard up. A money-lender. A massive pawn shop. You hand over your valuables, a value is assigned, and you can borrow up to 50% of the value.

Ma Tante will take just about anything of value. It turns out that she even has a wine cellar.

louis-xiii-1 _var_www_creditmunicipal_upload_1_105x152_f_722  Louis and Richelieu

Established  by Louis XIII,  and, later, supported  by Cardinal Richelieu,  the idea was to offer a fair deal to those in need.   With a few time-outs for Revolution and such, the Credit has been in business  from its seventeenth century origins to this day.  In fact we saw a number of people going in the other door off the courtyard and thinking about it later, I realized that these people were going to drop stuff off and get their “pret sur gage”.  They didn’t seem so pitiable. No Cossettes,  nor little match girls. No wailing or shifting about shamefacedly.

photo 4

A poster outside the auction hall. Victor Hugo doesn’t think we should be ashamed to go to ma tante, either. Apparently 91% of those who take a loan pay it off. If, after a year, they fail to do so, their goods are sold at auction and the money is used to fill the cash coffers for more loans.

Back to the auction.  Jewellery was flying out the door and the prices were fou. Examples.

70369 Platinum ring with a half carat diamond. Went for 200 euros. Seriously.

Another one, also .50 carats  :70316   Went for 500 Euros. Still an amazing price. Here’s another objet d’interet:

70438 Cartier Tank watch (les Must de Cartier) went for 210 Euros.

I didn’t bid but wish I had on this last item. Never fear, there is one auction left in January, and guess who will be there?

Comedy Tonight

400px-Molière_Mignard_Chantilly

 

 

Moliere

La Grande Siecle – a century that begins and ends with the reigns of  two of the greatest of French kings –  fires the imagination with French achievements in art, architecture, letters and all things civilized. It is the 17th century and it  has become the object of our studies here in Paris.  We are  escaping into the past  in Paris, just as we are escaping the Canadian winter. Here in the past you can meet  a highly interesting set of people, from forementioned kings Henri IV and Louis XIV, to Mme Sevigne and  Moliere.  Alan and I passed the field where Moliere played Jeu de Pommes; it is just a block from our house. Now it is the playing field for young Lyceens, not one of whom was fooling around on a gameboy.

photo 2

 

Exterior of the Comedie Francaise

Just a stone’s throw from the Louvre, in the Palais Royale (which was also the home of Louis XIV’s brother “Monsieur”, arguably the most famous openly gay man in European history) is another place Moliere used to frequent. His troupe of actors, officially supported by the King, were housed there beginning in 1680. It is the Comedie Francaise, an establishment that continues as a state-supported theatre to this day. It showcases classic works by Racine and  Corneille as well as modern plays. How lucky for us that Tartuffe, considered Moliere’s masterpiece, is on the boards this winter.

IMG_0003_2 Climb the stairs to the Corbeille.

 

photo 3 Moliere

photo 5Gracious corridor with natural light.

photo 4 The lounge where one can drink a jeroboam of champagne before the performance. If only we had known.

photo 9 Gracious, grand. Most people are in jeans.

photo 7 A hush falls.

photo 6  Beautiful theatre.

FrontispieceTartuffe

Tartuffe (or The Imposter)

Tartuffe is a rollicking work that takes you inside the hearts and minds of 17th century Parisians as they deal with family conflict, the demands of love and passion, and the problem of duplicity and betrayal. Tartuffe is a religious beggar who has been taken into the home of Orgon, a man of great enthusiasms but little judgement. A scurrilous hypocrite,   Tartuffe manages to cheat and trick his host into giving him the hand of his daughter, the inheritance of his son and a clear pathway to the bed of his young wife. Tartuffe intends to completely ruin Orgon while outwardly displaying a saintly demeanour and condemning all those who want to enjoy life.

photo 9photo 7

photo 8

Scenes from the Comedie Francaise (2015)

Mais…. Plus ca change…. We may be trying to escape into the 17th century but we can’t stop thinking of recent events here in Paris. What is Tartuffe if not a religious extremist who wants to impose himself on all around him? The many speeches made by friends and family about him to Orgon touch on the importance of a balanced approach to religion; they speak of the true religionist as someone who quietly and modestly serves his God without hurting or violating others. Moliere suffered censure on account of the  frank depiction in Tartuffe of religious extremism and hypocrisy. Even though the King – and the public –  liked the play, it was attacked by the Church who did not want these ideas expressed. The Bishop of Paris threatened to excommunicate anyone who watched, performed in, or even read the play. Can we understand, in the light of this, why now  the French insist that theirs must be a secular society, and that even the most caustic of Charlie Hebdo cartoons must be tolerated without interference?

Well, I have used up my quota of rhetorical questions and so, like the play, will try to end on a positive note. Charlie Hebdo sold millions of copies this week and demand for a reprint continues.  The French are still celebrating a play that a few hundred years ago they were told would effect their damnation, if seen. Vive la liberte.

 

 

 

 

 

FrontispieceTartuffe IMG_0003_2 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 6 photo 7 photo 8 photo 9

 

The Perfect Paris Apartment II

Yesterday we discussed the difficulties of finding the perfect Paris apartment to rent. Whether unrenovated, too renovated, badly located or too expensive, it is a challenge to find just the right place. Let me share a fantasy with you. How about the idea of buying a place and fixing it up just exactly to please oneself? And were we to do so, it wouldn’t be just any old ho-hum apartment. It would have to be…  atypique. I have found just the place, let’s take a look (photos from the real estate agency “Espaces Atypique”).

I think we have agreed that the fourth arrondissement, and maybe the third, is interesting, fun and central. It has a concentration of hotels particuliers, the aristocratic town mansions of the 17th century, and earlier. How about if we could get hold of a hotel particulier in the Marais, one that is for sale and in need of work? How about this one?

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_10-1024x682

 

For sale is the ground floor, terrace and sous sol.

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_08-1024x682 So far, so good, no?

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_01-1024x682

This is killer. Okay, it needs work, but how high is that ceiling? Looks fourteen feet. Look at the light. Imagine a beautifully landscaped courtyard and fountain. Plus, it already has curtains. What more do you want?

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_04-1024x682  Looking the other way, someone has begun to build a mezzanine: exactly what I would do. On the mezzanine would be a bedroom and bath. This large room is 550 square feet, enough so that the front part of the room, nearest the windows, could be left to soar up to its full height.

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_05-1024x682 Beautiful beams. Kitchenette at the back indicates that plumbing rough-in is in place.

Just to give you the vision, here are three finished apartments, all with mezzanines.

loft_urbain_paris_19e_03-1024x682 Looking down on a large living

room from the mezzanine.

M234EP_atelier_avec_jardin_dans_ancienne_laiterie_ivry_02-1024x682 Under this mezzanine, an inviting couch area.

M305EP_dernier_etage_en_duplex_pantin_01-1024x682 Spiral stairs up to a very open mezzanine space.

But the apartment in question is much more than a big, unfinished space.

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_07-1024x682  You enter through this charming gate…

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_02-1024x682  …and find this large terrace. Perfect for little doggies. A fountain. Statuary. Comfortable furnishings. It is also about 550 square feet.

And at the end of the terrace is a space they are calling ‘the Atelier’.Let’s get a grainy closeup.

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_02-1024x682

That’s the atelier, at the end, with the pretty blue french doors. It is 200 square feet, just right for a studio apartment. See where I’m heading? You have two potential rental apartments, either of which you can live in when you want to be in Paris. Oh! La-la! But that’s not all. Check out this floor plan.

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_11-1024x699

 

Grainy. Sorry. But that blue part is the sous sol, and it’s vast, 850 square feet. Here is how it looks now.

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_06-1024x682

 

atelier_avec_cour_privative_hotel_particulier_paris_4e_09-1024x682

 

I know, I know, looks like the Count of Monte Christo was imprisoned here. But this is how it could look.

M321EP_atypisue_sur_cour_beaubourg_paris_4e_05-1024x682 Quiet, dark, great sleeping in here.

Ventes532817f21a0cc or how about a cool dining area? It’s all about lighting.

Well, that’s enough fantasy for one day. Let me know if you want to go in on this with me. It’s only 1.1 million Euros (as is). Bargain, right?

The Perfect Paris Apartment

We are often asked if we take the same Paris apartment every time we are here. The answer is no. We never take the same apartment because we have  yet to find the perfect one. Our first apartment here was a splurge and  we found it, ironically enough, through the American agency Paris Perfect.

large_962173410-1236808618-cote-04-070208

It looked a bit like this one although it was smaller. It had pull-out couches for the girls and two quite excellent bathrooms. The kitchen was tiny but had great appliances (it convinced us to buy a Miele dishwasher). It offered a view of the Eiffel Tower and was in the tony, residential 7th arrondissement. We wanted to be there because Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker  lived in the 7th and we had been reading his Paris column for years. It is a great spot to raise kids and to live for a few years, but is not actually that central. The perfect Paris apartment should be an easy walk (i.e. less than a half hour) from the Louvre.

Our next place, in the 13th Arrondissement, was our home for six months. We had a challenging wish list: four bedrooms  ( a rare thing here) to house us, our two daughters, and the lengthy list of guests who wanted to come. We also needed a terrace for our two doggies. We ended up with something fantastic: a four bedroom, three bathroom, three storey house which united a cool loft-style industrial space for the kitchen/living/dining to a renovated 19th century worker house for the bedrooms. The terrace looked much like this one:

house-rue-du-loiret-paris-13--picL

 

The entryway was like this.

house-paris-13--C11

house-paris-13--C12

It had beams and stairs like this.

house-paris-13-living-room-G13

The living area had much of this vibe , a spacious area mixing  the modern and ancient.

The place in the 13th was really cool, but I don’t imagine I will ever need something so big again. Important travel tip: if you rent it, they will come. We began to feel that we were running a bed and breakfast in the 13th and we still didn’t manage to accommodate everyone who wanted to visit. SOOO, having extra space can be something of a liability in your Paris apartment.  And was this place expensive. We rented  out both our Montreal duplex and our country house and managed to cover HALF the rent of this cool house. Also, the 13th is about a 40 minute walk to the Louvre.

Last year, we found a charming place in the Marais, just the perfect location for us. With its 17th century buildings, chic boutiques, incredible food shops, youthful artiness and central location, we feel the Marais (3rd and 4th arrondissements) is us. You may have seen these photos:

photo 4 From the dining area to the living room.

photo Three nice chimneypieces.

IMG_0144  Two French windows in the bedroom and living room.

photo 3  Nice views.

By now you are wondering, what’s wrong with this place? Looks… perfect.

photo 5  Here’s what’s wrong. World’s tiniest kitchen. Broken/inferior appliances. No counterspace.  AND,  I can’t even show you the shower area, too embarrassing that I lived with that for three months. The whole space was charming but shabby. One day, it will make a great apartment, after the renovation.

This year, we went for what seemed a slickly renovated place, again in the Marais. Check it out.

photo 8 The entryway. You see the master bedroom on the left.

photo 14 Outside the master, nice details.

photo 7 The hallway leads into the dining and living area.

photo 15 The selling point: amazing, wrap around views.

photo 10 This is the Eglise St. Paul, our view from all the rooms. It looks especially lovely at sunset.

photo 1 There are two bathrooms. I like the tile work in this one .photo 12 Heated towel bar. LOVE IT.              photo 17  Walk in shower.photo 11I like the way the striped tiles wrap up onto the wall.

photo 15 It’s about the view, really. The balcony wraps around the entire apartment.

photo 4 There are custom-made curtains on every window. Do you think the fabric is a bit much? photo 5 Enough already. We know we are in Paris.

photo 13 More fabric details. Throw pillows abound.

photo 6 The leather couch turns into a double bed. There is also a tiny second bedroom with another convertible couch.

photo 16 Here is the kitchen/ dining end  of the living area. Cool chandelier. Tulip table. Plastic chairs, as seen in design magazines,  are surprisingly comfortable. AND counterspace is totally inadequate. I have, I think, twelve inches of prep space. The whole thing looks nice, though.

Is this THE ONE, then? The perfect Paris apartment? Perfect, no. All that glitz, it’s just not for me. Which of these apartments would suit you best?

 

Dames d’un Certain Age III

Faithful readers will know that I am working on a sure bet best-seller, Aging a la Parisienne.  This up-coming New York Times number- one -on -the -non-fiction list, will pay for all my future winters in Paris, especially once the movie deal is negotiated. It taps into the ever-present fascination we in North America have for the witty, stylish and beautiful Parisienne of a certain age. Last year we explored the secrets of staying slim and analyzed some particular individuals so that we could copy the look. This year I have offered myself up as a cochon d’inde in the war against age. Yes, dear readers there is little I will not do in the service of knowledge.

photo  There is a new beauty shop on rue des Francs Bourgeois, the  Marais main drag which already hosts Mac, Bobby Brown, and Diptyque. Sakare sounds Japanese but is actually from the UK. Our local shop is the first Paris boutique and their sweetly aggressive sales folk actually drag you in off the street for their sales pitch.

photo 6  This is Guido gearing up to make me beautiful. Yes, he’s Italian. He went to the Niccolo Machiavelli School of Beauty.

photo 5 This is me waiting to become a beautiful, radiant Dame d’Un Certain Age.

photo 4 Guido considers his batterie de cuisine.

photo 2 “I cannot work a miracle,” he said. He really did.

photo 3 He gets to work applying fortifying facial serum which will “freshen the most tired-looking complexions” (Sakare website).

photo He demonstrates his masque on my hand. It is a hydrating mineral complex made of …. minerals. This is clearly Guido’s favourite part of the pitch. “How do you remove metal???” he says. “Water?” “NO.” “UHHH, with a magnet?” “Precisely!”

photo 9  Here, he uses a magnet to lift off the metal- “Removing all impurities”, he says excitedly. The almond oil stays put and looks better on my hand than the black stuff.

photo  WOW. Some hand.

By now my face is ready as the serum has soaked in. Get ready to be shocked.

photo  Voila! COMPLETELY transformed. “You were wrong”, I said to Guido. “You have worked a miracle.”

There you have it. Parisiennes spend untold hours with black minerals and expensive oils on their faces because that City of Light radiance does not come without effort.

photo 7

Or without expense. Here are just a few of the advanced moisturizing products I will be bringing home. With so many miracles taking place in my morning routine, I expect to be nominated for sainthood . Perhaps Sakare will be willing to work closely with me and sponsor  the book. I see “model/spokesperson” in my future.

Finally, I have an update on how Parisiennes stay slim. Last year, you learned that this can be attributed to the appalling junk food on offer here in Paris. Vending machine waffles? Madeleines instead of Twinkies? This is not how you tempt a person to overeat. Unfortunately for the French, however, since last year the Lays potato chip company has put on a major push in the Paris market. Sure, the same old packages of jujubes are everywhere, but frankly, how many can you eat at one sitting? You don’t get fat on jujubes.

photo French candies.

No, it’s potato chips that pack on the pounds and it’s obvious that Lays has put a lot of research into convincing the French that they cannot eat just one. Their research geniuses have created a line of potato chips that are, well, unique.

photo Aren’t you dying to try  Olive/Tapas potato chips? Yummy.

photo  How about chips that taste like Spaghetti Bolognaise? I would love to meet the marketing guru that pitched that one.

Our next example should only be considered by those without an easy gag reflex. Otherwise, skip to the bottom for a contest update.

photo  That’s right. Roast chicken flavour. That is SO disgusting. Bet I can’t eat even one! And neither could any self-respecting Parisienne. So, once agin, saved from empty calories, the Parisienne can put her energies into resisting baguettes.

Contest update. Entries continue to come in for yesterday’s contest. Scroll down if you missed it. A clarification: the mud soap and shea butter sample is from Sakare so that you, too can have a morning miracle.