Out Takes

So this is  Paris and there are a lot of quirky moments when something amusing pops into view and  ends up on my camera roll.  But often they just  don’t fit into the themes I am writing about this time.  I  now have enough of these images  to make a little farewell post as Alan and I will be winging back to winter on Saturday. Turn  on the sound track to Amelie and read on.

photo  I love this turn of the century Sephardic girl (from the   Musee Juif) with her pointy hat, mono-brow and hopeful expression. Zoom in.

photo 2  Watch out Alan! Giant sculpture fragment fro the Musee des Arts Decoratifs is coming after you.

photo 4  This impossibly cute little chest of drawers  at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs looks like it is going to jump up and run into a Disney animation any minute. Lumiere where are you?

photo 6  In January, bakeries feature galette du roi, a delish almond and puff pastry dessert which honours the three kings of the Christmas story. A”bean” is tucked in and whoever gets the bean  wears the golden crown that comes with the cake. Pictured is the bean, a little ceramic baker. Very cute. If you’re me, you not only get to wear the crown, you also get to call your dentist when you get back, because after  biting down on the bean you require a crown of a different kind.

photo 5 Worth peering at this poor image to see the cavorting doggies on the lawn of the Tuilleries. Used to be NO ONE got on this grass, now they have a dog run. Dogs, sculpture, the Louvre…. heaven. Speaking of which.photo 10  Around the corner is Heaven. And Heaven is on the Allee des Justes, named for those who helped the Jews during World War II. Some things just make sense.

photo 8  Here is Bacchus at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs. Note the cleverly placed draperies. He is peering into his cup as if to say, “This stuff may have a future…”

photo 3 I couldn’t agree more.

photo 7 It’s chilly just hanging out on the side of the Louvre. Can you tell?

photo 9  Time to fade out. See you in Winter.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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.

 

C’est Logique…. and a Contest

We think of the French as great chefs, glorious vintners and gifted with all things visual – art, architecture, la mode, je ne sais quoi. But when it comes to modern life, technology, engineering, we don’t usually think of the French. We don’t usually think, “Hmm, Blackberry could use some help getting back in the game. Better call some Frenchmen (or women).” But these limiting views of French savour faire deserve a rethink. There’s a lot of cleverness here . photo 2

Here is the apartment washer-dryer. Yep,  washer and dryer in one.

photo

See? It will dry, it will wash, it will take up very little room and be very, very quiet so that you can have a dinner party and sip champagne just feet from your laundry, something I don’t think you do normally at home.

At home, the vogue in laundry equipment is big, honkin’, brightly coloured front-loaders that are jacked up on platforms, perform tricks like steam clean and are just plain vulgar and unnecessary. In fact, a whole cultural analysis could be undertaken on this topic and it would reveal a lot about us and them. But I will spare you. Next example.

photo 4  Okay, this is not engineering, it is commerce, yet another field I avoided in university but that could have made me a lot richer. That’s another story. Anyway, in France, they post the prices of what is displayed in the store window, in the window. I like this. It confirms for me that even during Les Soldes I cannot afford “Sandro”, something which is nice to know before I set foot inside. Can you afford these things? Zoom to see. Next example.

photo 3   Here we see a converter. Important to come to France with many of these so that you do not spend hours searching for your ONLY ONE, and blaming your husband. Do not cheap out on these. We tried that and our daughter’s blow dryer turned into an instrument of doom with actual flames coming out. That’ll dry your hair quickly.  Have high-end converters  conveniently staged everywhere so that you do not fry your electricals. Why? Because French electricity is like Le Jazz Hot: 220, man. Fast, fast, fast. Boil water in seconds. Why don’t we have this? It’s just better.

As if I haven’t made my case, here is the final example, a favourite, since plumbing is always a potent measure of civilization and the French  learned from the ROMANS.

photo 5 Voila. Le petit et le grand. We know the difference between Number 1 and Number 2 and so does the toilet. These are starting to make their way to North America. About time.

Finally, I know you have been curious about the Contest. In this contest, Alan and I are the winners. Sorry. I do have a consolation prize for the person who makes the most amusing comment on the blog.  The thing is, Alan and I just learned we have won 1000$ for opening a bank account with La Capitale. Perhaps you can too by contacting Robert Nuss and opening your own account (you’re welcome Robert). So the contest has to do with you voting as to what we should do with the bucks. Should we:

1. Have lunch at a Michelin  Three Star Restaurant?

2. Go on a shopping spree in the Marais (Alan too)?

3. Buy art – maybe at the flea market?

4. Save it for our next trip? (Do you really want to be that boring?)

Vote and vote often (using the comment space on wordpress). Alternative suggestions not accepted (unless they are damned good). Family members are not excluded. Most amusing comment wins a mud soap bar and shea butter cream from a high end beauty shop in the Marais – more about that in tomorrow’s post.

Gripped

THE BAD NEWS: I have had the worst flu ever, something I imported to France, however unwittingly. This flu is truly the worst. Many of my Canadian friends have come down with it, and some have had it twice, which seems particularly unfair. My friend’s brother-in-law spent his Christmas holidays lying on the living room floor groaning. No one wanted to move him.

This flu feels like death. Everything hurts. Your eyeballs hurt. You are exhausted and while at night you cannot sleep, in the day you can do little else. You are wracked with a tight cough that hurts and fever that goes on for days. You have a sour stomach and no appetite. You are in Paris and you have no appetite. This is a new category of hell. Oh did I say that that is the good news? I AM IN PARIS AGAIN, FRIENDS, and I have spent the first precious two weeks with the flu.

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This is me, languishing on the couch. Alan, reflected, is taking the picture from our balcony.

“Admit it,” my friend Alison said on the phone. “There’s something exotic and interesting about being sick over there.” Sort of. At first I tried ignoring it. No, that’s not the flu, that’s jet lag. Better to just power through. So I tried just getting up and going out until I experienced a kind of cerveau fouetter (whipped brain) – like someone had gone after my brain with a mixmaster causing me to briefly black out and trip on the cobblestones. This is not chic behaviour anywhere but particularly not out in the ultra-cool Marais. I went home and decided that I would spend all day in bed. This has been fail-safe in the past. One day in bed has always fixed me right up. But this evil Canadian flu just laughs at such feeble strategies. “Vraiment?”, it says (for some reason it has a French accent). “Want some more Cerveau fouetter?”

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Hours before the fever, I am sampling a macaron.

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Next day, at the Brancusi Museum, pretending not to be sick, but looking like hell. 

I have never been sick, really sick, while away and it changes everything. Passing cafe windows, I was sickened. “Why do they keep eating and eating?” I wondered. “Eleven in the morning, four in the afternoon, they eat and eat. What for? Go home. It’s enough!”

“What am I doing here, anyway?” I thought. “I’ve seen everything already.  I can’t think of anything I want to do. Why didn’t I realize this before?”

What do the French do when they are sick? Apparently, they take a lot of drugs. “Dolyprene”, a young houseguest assured me. “Avec Advill”. “BOTH?” I said. “Le molecule nest pas le meme” he explained. “Sounds scientific” I said, swallowing down my pills. Half an hour later, I was able to sit up and within an hour, I was out on the cobblestones again. A few days later, quite suddenly, it lifted. I was on my way to the iStore (upcoming post) and I stopped for a cafe creme. A couple of sips in, everything was suddenly normal. I felt, well, perky. The waiter’s jokes seemed kindly. The rain shone on the sidewalks with an Impressionist shimmer. It was going to be okay.

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Ghost Town

“I’m placing an ad,” I told my daughter. “Wanted: Engaging young adults willing to come to our country home and pretend to be our children.”

“Mom, that’s not funny,” she said.

“Compensation includes accomodation in a house filled with antiques and art, access to  mature perennial gardens with swimming pool, excellent meals featuring local farm produce and unlimited wine, civilized conversation, beautiful surroundings.”

“MOM!”

“You do realize that July has come and gone without a single visit from you and your sisters?”

“We’re busy. Everyone’s getting married and there are showers and rehearsals, and Matt’s birthday party, and guests coming from Paris.”

“Successful applicants must say things like, “I have such great memories of this place,’ and ‘Can I help you in the garden?’ (Don’t worry, we won’t take you up on it”)

The truth is, our country house has felt like a ghost town for a few years now. Out in the garden I hear their voices:

“Mom, can we go to Ben and Jerry’s?”

“Look, we’re building a fort”

“Can we sleep out in the fort?”

“Can we come in? It’s too scary in the fort.”

“Can we swim after dinner?”

“Marco. Polo. Marco. Polo.”

Aside from  ghost voices, things are blessedly quiet out in the garden.  I try to emphasize the secondary gains of the situation: I can weed for as long  as  I want. I don’t have to worry about anyone drowning or breaking a leg. I don’t have to fight with anyone to turn off the computer and come outside.  I can READ!

Change is hard. Especially when you have loved things as they were. I think many residents of our little town of Knowlton feel much this way. Outside our gallery I bump into people I know just vaguely and with very little provocation they begin to rant: “This town is dead. DEAD!!!!” Eyes bulge. Veins pop. I glance around for zombies but there’s no one out on those sidewalks, it’s true.

Many things have happened to create this situation – the grocery and liquor stores moved to the outskirts, the ski hill closed down, the population is aging, there is a Walmart now. Still, other towns in the area seem to be jumping.

“Come on. Would you want to be Sutton?” I counter. ” Is there even one store you would want to shop in there? Aside from the bakery?” I quickly add. “And Bromont. Have you driven through lately? So tacky it’s embarrassing. At least our stores are good stores: Jones, Bromewood, Athletica, Woolrich. There’s the theatre, Shakespeare on the beach. Buzz. Florale. We’re classy. We’re interesting. The new antique stores are good. Looks like fewer storefronts are for rent this summer.”

All this falls on deaf ears.  These folks have converted to a mindset and mere facts cannot dissuade them. And it’s true, there are fewer tourists and the ones who come into our gallery are mostly older couples from small-town Quebec. They like to see the art, which is nice, but it doesn’t pay the rent.

I think it very likely that things will change for the better in Knowlton, because the opposite just doesn’t make sense. Any fool can see how gorgeous our town is, with its hill, its pond, its river, its beautiful buildings. Who wouldn’t want to spend time here? There will be a renewal but who will be a part of it? Perhaps our little gallery, amongst others.  In the meantime, there may be secondary gains we can concentrate on, like the possibility that some of our commercial buildings,  converted homes,  will once again become residential. Would that be so bad? Would we love Knowlton less? I don’t think so.

Oh, and by the way, my kids are all coming down this weekend. Hallelujah.

(I hope this post doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. I try to write in a humourous vein and part of humour is exaggeration. Still, my apologies to anyone who feels offended, especially those unfortunates who live in Sutton or Bromont.)

 

Tope Trope

We all have our little quirks. In the spirit of no-holds-barred, here is one of mine: I love topiary. I do get it that topiary is, well, silly. Why trim the heck out of some poor plant in order to give it a shape Nature never intended? The French would scoff at the idea of respecting nature’s intentions. They unabashedly fly in the face of nature. In fact, friends were shocked when we explained that we simply let the trees on our country property  grow without interfering. It just seemed bizarre to them, “You mean you don’t keep them trim?” The expression on the faces would have been the same if they were saying, “You mean you never wash your hair?” Below is an example of what untrammelled French slashing leads to:  the deformed stumps they call trees in Limoges.

IMG_0877Public square, Limoges.

 Seriously. Why would you do this? Looks like Edward Scissorhands ran amok.

Still, the sculptural possibilities of trimming plants into shapes delights me. For example, Levens Hall in the U.K.

levens Admit it, this is fun. images

 

 

 

 

His Royal Highness Prince Charles has some pretty good topes at his garden Highgrove.imagesThe-Thyme-Walk---Andrew-Lawson-2011---G395-11D-79These are yellow holly topes. So cool. How enchanting it would be to walk this allée, enjoying the artistry of the many forms these shrubs take while waiting for the White Rabbit to pop out from behind one of them. Of course, the Prince bought the topiary along with the Elizabethan era mansion that is the heart of Highgrove. I have been less fortunate. In the financial sense.

But even Prince Charles cannot manage the largesse of some other royals. Louis the XIV, for instance. One of the pleasures of Versailles are the hundreds of perfect topiary specimens that line the major axis of the gardens. I think I photographed half of them.

IMG_1651 IMG_1637IMG_1633IMG_1631 Beautiful, no?

But, having shown you Levens Hall, Highgrove and Versailles, you are no doubt breathless for a view of my own topiary, introduced some years ago in my country garden. This plan was hatched after a typically long Quebec winter that I spent poring over the very compelling book by Bunny Guiness, Highgrove – A Garden Celebrated. So what if Prince Charles had a crack team of gardeners to help him keep the Thyme Walk Topiary in trim? I had to try. And, as usual, short on time and cash, we went to our own woods to dig out baby fir trees. I chose tamaracks for their bluey-green feathery foliage. Examining our work in progress, our friend the forester, Justin, helpfully pointed to the 50 foot tall tamaracks of our forest and said, “You do realize that they get quite tall”? “I will keep them trimmed,” I said breezily.

IMG_1883 Here is half of the main axis of our garden that runs parallel to the south side of the house. The topiary were to provide structure and demarcate the axis,

IMG_1884Gulp. Here you have it . Four topiariy-in -training, one half of the topiary walk.

IMG_1875Here is my best one. I said this to a friend recently and she said, “Aren’t they supposed to be, well, round? ” “Getting there!” I responded testily. It’s OK.  Lots of other friends come to visit and say, “I LOVE the topiary!” And they smile and squeeze my hand. I think what they are saying is, I love it that you are the kind of crazy person who would conceive and try a topiary walk in a frozen little Northern garden when you are not Louis XIV or even Prince Charles. Right.