Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A spot of tea at Royal Bar

I had about 45 minutes to spare on Saturday afternoon, in between my late lunch (a sandwich from my new friend—I’m addicted. Is it wrong that I dreamed about it/him last night??) and my facial (my “folly facial”). So I popped into this little salon de thé that I’ve always had eyes for: Royal Bar.

Turns out, I’m not the only one who has eyes for it. With its glowing, charming interior, it’s made the perfect set for many fashion shoots.

The proof of these shoots and the models from them hang on the walls, along with other dubious art in cheesy brass frames. And yet the place is still darling. The lovely proprietor sees to it. (Horrible picture but that's what I got.)

He has the sweetest disposition, moves smoothly and quickly amongst the eight wee tables, and serves a (packaged) financier along with tea. It’s all such a curious blend of kitsch appeal and true charm.

Next time, I’m getting whatever’s hiding beneath the rose petals.

On the subject of fate

I just came across this quote and had to share:

“All things are ready if our minds so be.”

—William Shakespeare

(Man, that man had a way with words.)

A fling with Paris

For Carey Mulligan’s sweet charm.
For Peter Sarsgaard’s dreamy eyes.
For Emma Thompson’s hairdo.
For the evocative era.
For the sock-in-the-gut story.
But mostly, just for oh-so-wonderful scenes from Paris, An Education is a must.

French word of the day: allégresse

Def: glee, mirth, delight

What a nice word to know.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Does your local department store do this?

Bring in wild safari animals to sell its Pucci gowns?

There are many things I love about Le Bon Marché (including the fact that I can afford about 2% of its inventory. It gives me another reason to dream).

(Stuffed) lions, tigers and elks included.

Republican spirit


French word of the day: zapper

Def: to channel-hop

I liked this word immediately; it somehow conjures the fun of channel surfing… Zap! Zap! Zap!

But what makes it even better is that it’s so much more innocent than I ever thought.

I live around the corner from rue Saint-Denis: sex store central. In all the grimy store windows, they happily announce “Zapping 2 euros”. Zapping?! Qu’est-ce c’est? All I know is that it sounds pretty kinky and I imagined it was, kinky, and left it at that. Now I realize it’s just harmless channel-surfing my friends! Two euros for a whole world of channels to explore!

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Vegan Mondays

Back on track, my friends! A delicious vegan Monday it was!

Cereal & soy milk
Tea & a banana

Salad with lentils, walnuts and apples
Four dried figs
Mixed nuts

Couscous with roasted broccoli, sweet potatoes and walnuts
One beautiful blood orange

Weather check: petulant

Dramatic downpours, sudden sunlight and, bien sur, cool, grey temperatures—it’s springtime in Paris.

And with daylight savings, the evening sky is even more magical.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fate versus control

Jo, Sarah and I got into a really good conversation over our second pitcher of beer on Friday night. The topic? Fate.

The question: Do you believe in it? Fate?

In one corner, we have the believers. (Doomed and hopeless?) romantic souls who believe things happen for a reason. That there is some guiding force that nudges us along our paths. That the instant connection we feel with certain people and places, being in the right place at the right time, that things happen for a reason are all because they’re all part of some greater cosmic plan that we’re not necessarily aware of but should/can just trust.

Bah! is what Jo and Sarah have to say to that.

Jo used to believe in fate until she realized that in doing so, she was relinquishing control of her own life. That if you believe everything happens for a reason, then you believe you have no control over your own path, your choices, your fate. As a Class A Control Freak, I had to cede the point to her. I definitely like to think I have control over where I’m going, over my choices and their outcomes; that I am where I am today thanks in no small part to… me.

And Sarah’s takedown on fate is, well, what about really crummy things that happen to people? Spouses who are hit by cars? Losing your job and health insurance? Kids born in the Congo to see their parents slaughtered—really? That’s supposed to happen according to someone’s/something’s divine orchestration? Or even on a lesser scale, when one plods along and nothing horribly tragic happens and yet nothing is quite what we imagined either: fate or control? If it's fate, it is cruel indeed.

I don’t disagree with either Jo or Sarah. In fact, I feel compelled to sit in the corner of fate just to play devil’s advocate. Since I am not religious, the concept of fate complements my hippie-dippie-ish beliefs in the universe. That everything is connected and beautiful in a very mysterious, unknowable way. Yes, I know I am responsible for my own success and happiness. But still, I’ve always felt like a lucky soul. I am responsible but I’ve also had a lot of help, beyond my mom, dad, family, friends and mentors. There has been more than one occasion when I have felt something stepping in for an instant to save me. Could have just been luck, and a hopeful girl’s naïve belief. Or it could have been fate.

And then there’s this little Parisian adventure I’m on. Honestly, I had nothing to do with it. Or did I? After studying here for a semester in the 90s, I was smitten. I wanted to stay but I didn’t have any friends or a job to keep me. Then I was ready to cash in my 401(k) a few years down the road so Zack and I could move over together, but he wasn’t so keen on that idea. So I just went on with life in the states, obsessed with this pretty city. I read books about it (fell in love with Janet Flanner), I’d load up on Eric Rohmer movies, I had more Eiffel Tower trinkets than I’m comfortable admitting (mostly gifts—what’s a girl to do?). Then in 2008, I spent two holidays here, doing apartment exchanges and loving the local lifestyle. I Velib’d all over town and wrote the Tour du Chocolat. Back home, I reconnected with an old colleague who was taking a leave of absence to live in the Marais for three month—it was a bold and exciting idea that hadn’t crossed my mind. I saw Man on Wire and silently wept in the dark at the views from Notre Dame. Then one morning I was breakfasting at Balthazar with my old Creative Director and mid-conversation—mid-sentence—decided that I, too, was going to take a leave of absence the next spring to spend time in Paris. But then fate walked through the door.

No? How else do you explain it? That all these little stones kept getting dropped in the bucket and finally tipped the scale? That the in-house recruiter of my ad agency walked into my office not long after that breakfast, nonchalantly asked what I thought of Paris, and basically connected me to my new boss, my new job, my new chapter in life? Somehow, for some reason, a door was opened for me. Poussez… come to Paris!

A year ago, I really believed I was here for a reason. That I was going to fall in love or get a book contract or have some grand epiphany that would explain why it all happened. Now I don’t necessarily believe that. For one, I’m still single, without a publishing deal (bah!). But also, now that the magic has been tempered with reality to some degree, I realize that living here is just that: about living here.

Living in Paris teaches you how to appreciate details and moments. Every day, you can look up and be left breathless by the architecture. You can be inspired by the charm and grace of people walking by. When you buy your bread and cheese and fennel to be eaten within the next couple hours, it somehow ties you to your daily practices in a more delicious way. The pleasures of life are more immediate. More colorful, more dramatic. When you bike through the Place de la Concorde or walk through the crooked streets of the Marias, or sit on le Pont des Arts, and have a 360-degree view of history and beauty and magic, you are conscious on a wholly different level. You see and feel things you don’t otherwise normally see or feel.

I know it all sounds terribly cliché. Guilty. But at the same time, I still can’t decide if it’s just a cliché or if it’s fate or whether I controlled my being here today.


It’s just been one of those weekends.

I stayed out until 3:30, drinking with Michael, Thursday night. Fun in the moment, not such a great idea when it comes to getting anything done the next day.

I spent 40 euros (40!) to fax the U.S. (Tax time—yay.)

I had to walk out of Ghost Writer about 10 minutes before it ended because I was late to meet Jo; which was annoying, but also okay because the movie was dumb, and the main reason I went to see Ghost Writer instead of An Education is because it was playing in Salle I, the big, beautiful room, at La Pagode, which I definitely want to see. But then it turned out, a bigger movie had bumped it off its top billing pedestal and it was actually in Salle II, where I had already seen A Single Man.

It's been cold, grey and rainy, and the 10-day forecast calls for more of the same.

I spent 85 euros (85!) on a facial that was basically just an essential oil massage for the face and scalp, leaving me with stingy, greasy hair and the instant urge to shower.

I went to Le Bon Marché to allow myself to be willingly suckered into some sale prices (30% off this 65 euros pair of underwear? I’ll get two!) but gave up after two rounds in the dressing room, realizing I have indeed put on five pounds and not even a super cute pair of Isabel Marant harem pants are going to look good.

And now I’m sick.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cake and bonbons at Bonton

I was walking along boulevard des Filles du Calvaire and these great, big black windows, revealing all kinds of fun and colorful things inside, called to me.

I went into this giant, new, super chic children’s shop and wished I were three.

No, that’s not true.

Anyone, at any age, can and should have bubble gum and cupcakes and small precious pink things that make you happy.


I am so tired of my wardrobe options lately. At least I’ve been inspired by and pleased with my iTunes selection. Thanks to musically attuned friends like Sarah, Mr B and Mitchell, I’ve downloaded some good stuff lately. Here’s a sample of my Recently Played list—the perfect mix of cool electro, classic rock and cheesy pop.

If You Want My Body Rod Stewart (when was the last time you listened to this song? Probably not recently; I suggest you download it now)
Maps Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Dance, Dance, Dance Lykke Li
Where Is My Mind? Pixies
Here I Am Baby UB40
Cosmic Love Florence and the Machine
Say It Isn’t So Hall & Oates
Left & Right in the Dark Julian Casablancas
Call to Arms Angels and Airwaves
The Mall and Misery Broken Bells
Jealous Girls The Gossip (New Young Pony Club remix)
Bad Romance Lady GaGa
Sad Song Au Revoir Simone
I’ve Got Your Number Passion Pit (sooooo good—reminds me of first being in Paris last year)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

French phrase of the day: un pilier de comptoir

Def: a bar regular

The literal translation is “a pillar of the bar”. Sort of like a barfly, but this term is more specifically someone who is always at the same bar, same place, same drink. I guess like Norm.

in time of daffodils

in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so(forgetting seem)

in times of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me

—e.e. cummings

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Whoop whoop

Ah, advertising. Another self-congratulatory industry. Last night, Jo, Lionel, Sylvia and I attended the Art Directors Club Awards Ceremony at La Coupule, where we got a good dose of the mucky mucks.

I was thrilled to finally get inside this historic restaurant. I had sat across the street at Le Select before (reading The Dud Avocado), craning my neck to peek at the ceiling under which Josephine Baker had danced and Picasso, Hemingway, et al. dined, but I had never had the occasion to go there. Until last night.

The scene cracked me up: advertising hipsters, decked out in the requisite black jackets and funky eyeglasses. But with the slim suits and disheveled hair on display, they were distinctly French advertising hipsters.

Well, I guess that included us.

The ceremony was pretty underwhelming. But maybe that was because I didn’t understand a word of it. Indeed, I didn’t even realize when we were called up to accept our award for the astronauts web site until Jo nudged me.

Aw, so humble, we are.

Weather check: the forsythia says spring is here

So do the 60-something degree temperatures.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Vegan Mondays—Thwarted!

An apple & a banana

Carrots & hummus
Falafel sandwich
Dried pineapple

Well, eveningtime rolled around and I found myself at an awards ceremony at the glorious La Coupole. What was I supposed to do—not eat the cheese and baba rhum with whipped cream??

“Best in the universe!”

Remember my vote for best sandwich in Paris? I went back for another. But as I waited in line, I spied the sandwich master concoct something else. Something that looked irresistibly delicious. Something new called the Cornet Vegetarien.

Qu’est-ce que c’est? It starts with a savory crepe…

And then come the veggies (“tout bio!”): fresh greens, grated carrots and fennel, marinated onions, thinly sliced avocado…

And it just keeps going: olive oil, chives, sea salt, diced parsley, lemon juice, lime zest, chevre, and, à la fin, honey—”the French touch!”

Then it all gets wrapped up into a giant cone of healthy deliciousness that you can take to the nearby park for lunch.

It’s too good. Indeed, “The best in the universe!”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

47 macarons later

I did it. Today was Pierre Hermé’s Jour du Macaron, and, oui, mesdames et messieurs, I did the full circuit. I could have returned chez-moi with a ridiculous cache of 53 macarons. But because I’m a woman of restraint, and I came home with only 47. Actually, 43, since I ate four along the way.

So the premise of le Jour du Macaron is you can go to any one of Pierre Hermé’s six boutiques in the city, and get three free macarons of your choice. (While there, you’re encouraged to drop some coins into a box for a couple different charities—a very nice gesture.) But if you go to all six boutiques, and get a card stamped to prove it, you’re rewarded with a box of 35 macarons. What does one girl do with 35 macarons, much less 53?! Well, I’m eating as I type, for one thing…

I intended to do something like the Tour du Chocolat and Velib to all six boutiques. But they’re spread pretty well across the city so I alternated between bike, foot and Metro.

At 10:15, the madness began. There was already a line out the door of the rue Bonaparte location, having just opened at 10.

I started there because I knew it would be the craziest, being Hermé’s first boutique and being in Saint-Germaine. But after a relatively swift move through the line, I got my three: milk chocolate and Earl Grey tea, vanilla and le Magnifique: raspberry and wasabi.

Yes, they are as delicious as they sound.

Then I pedaled onto the rue Vaugirard location. Not as crazy, not at all. My three choices?

Pistachio, caramel and an unbelievable mélange of peach, apricot and saffron.

A few metro stops later, I was in the 16th arrondisement, at avenue Paul Doumer.

There, I scooped up chocolate, the mind-bending white truffle and hazelnut and apricot and pistachio.

At Publicis Drugstore, my fourth location, there was a pretty serious line and the employees were coming through it to stamp cards. Once my stamp was added, I decided to save myself the 10-minute wait in line and forgo those three free macarons. Really. How gluttonous can one be?

The next stretch of the circuit was fun as it took me on my old commute from the Champs-Elysée down to the first arrondisement. I pulled right up to the Velib station in front of the rue Cambon location and hopped in line.

By now, it was after noon and the waits were taking awhile. But I figured I was still on target to finish by 2.

I got my card stamped, excited that I had just one more stop, and ordered up the Médélice, lemon and hazelnut praliné; Fragola, raspberry and balsamic vinegar; and the much-acclaimed olive oil and vanilla. Trust me, it’s delicious.

I left the Galeries Lafayette location to last, which was a mistake: it was the craziest scene. I stood in line for 45 minutes, hungry for proper nourishment, having only eaten a banana and another macaron. I was anxious to have the circuit done. Still on track for my 2pm goal, but I hate waiting for food.

Finally, I got up to the counter and surprised the guy when I told him I’d skip the three freebies and just get to my free boite.

Have you ever created your own assortment of 35 macaron flavors? It was crazy. I just kept ordering more and more. And more.

Lemon, jasmine, coffee, milk chocolate and passionfruit, chocolate and cassis, just plain old chocolate, more vanilla, more pistachio, more caramel, two more of my favorites… more, more, more!

I have to find out how many macarons they went through today.