Friday, December 25, 2009

Joyeux Noel

I hope everyone is having a wonderful, heartfelt, happy Christmas season.

I'm currently binging on Mom's Christmas cookies in Buffalo, heading off to Aspen on Sunday to ski and ring in the New Year with friends, and then it's back to Paris to start 2010 in the most beautiful city in the world.

What will the new year bring? French proficiency? More travel for work? More fun writing assignments? Will the City of Looove finally open its arms to me? I can only guess. But I know I am looking forward to the planned parties and the unknown adventures; to exploring France and Europe and being seduced all the charms and customs; to building my current friendships and meeting more Frenchies and expats; to dancing until 3 a.m. and dining for four plus hours; to more cooking and eating (and more yoga, spinning and Velib'ing to keep it all in check); to more living and learning; to more, more, more!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! xo

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lights, Christmas, Magic!

Which is more magical?

Place de la Concorde with the giant grande roue?

Or Place Vendome with its giant hanging lanterns?


I'm happy to see the French putting some of those plastic bottles they gobble up like mad to good use.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

French phrase of the day: Ça vaut le coup

Def: It's worth it.

And it is.


I read and link to many blogs here in Paris. At least a couple times a week, I try to run through my list of "Paris Reading" to see who's doing what and what I shouldn't be missing in this grand city. I love them all for different reasons, but I feel compelled to give a special shout-out to ParisDailyPhoto. Not just because I'm one of the world's worst photographers and tres jalouse of M. Tenin, but because every one of his shots is framed perfectly, whether it's poetic or with a wink or just somehow, so overwhelmingly beautiful. He offers such a wonderful vision of all the city—it's definitely a blog not to be missed.

Listmania: Turn up the dial

I’ve fared better with music this year than with books, movies or news. Even so, I’ve never heard of seven of the 25 bands (yay, The XX and Camera Obscura; nay, Heartless Bastards and Empire of the Sun) on Spinner’s list of the Best Songs of 2009. But their list links to each video, offering a toe-tapping journey through a whole cache of new tunes. Yay.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Take two of these and call me in the morning

Do you ever go to the doctor and want something to be wrong with you just so you won’t feel crazy? I’m not a hypochondriac at all, but I’ve been having certain health issues this past year for which I’ve been to my GP a couple times as well as a couple specialists. It seems like every time I go, the news is totally different—sometimes positive, other times, scary— which has resulted in a total emotional roller coaster ride.

I had an appointment with a specialist this morning and truthfully wasn’t expecting the news to be good. But it was. Which is great, of course. Except… I was so ready for bad news that I almost can’t relax and believe the doctor’s advice. But no matter. I can and will do it.

But the visit was a classic French experience. She wasn’t the warmest of doctors and at the end of our thorough discussion of my current issues and symptoms, my and my family’s health histories, blood test results, etc. her prognosis was quite simple and delivered with complete and utter confidence: “Profiter d’etre à Paris.”

That’s it! Just enjoy being in Paris! It seems my internal stressing has caused my system to go a little nutty. But if I could just relax and enjoy being here—the theater, the food, the arts… after all, so many people would love to be in my position…. This was literally her advice to me. I couldn’t help but giggle.

Yet when I separate myself from my American crybaby ways, it does make sense. Packing it up at the age of 36, leaving my good friends and dear family and safe job and happy life in New York to dive into a world of uncertainty, insecurity and enormous and trivial challenges was no small thing. All my external tough girl posturing could very well mask some serious internal stressing—even from myself.

So I’m willing to accept her good news and optimistic prognosis. 2010 is going to be the year je profite d’etre à Paris, c’est certain. It’s also going to be the year of splurging on good moisturizers. Her other piece of advice was to take care of my skin as it’s ultra dehydrated.

Will it fit under the tree?

A Ladurée macaron croquembouche? Brilliant!
I'll take three, please.

Colette's vitrines usually make me stop and drool, but this one really (sorry, can't help it) took the cake.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weather check: iced in

Okay, so we didn't get a Nor'easter. But the cold has clung to Paris and snow is still in the forecast and I'm ready for the thaw.

French phrase of the day: pas si simple

Def: It's complicated. Literally, it means not so easy. But that's what the Frenchies are calling Meryl Streep's new movie.

Listmania: Parisian parks & squares

I'm steeling myself to walk over through the Jardins des Plantes to have chicken pastilla at La Mosquée. It's a Christmas gift to myself. (Yesterday's gift to myself was a Thai massage—pas mal!) Though I'm all about the food at the end of the walk, the park is a treat in and of itself—one of the top 20 in the city.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bonjour Papa Bear

French phrase of the day: je pense à toi

Def: I'm thinking of you

It's a nice phrase to know, especially this time of the year.

And I'm thinking of several friends right now, wishing them better health, peaceful minds, and safe and happy travels.

More Christmas magic

I love the way everyone gets into the spirit here. Shopkeepers put out small trees with balls and blinking lights. Neighborhoods make key streets sparkle with waves of lights and ornaments. And of course the monuments are lit up, bathed in red, white, green and blue. There's nothing more festive than walking around at night and watching the (free) show.

I climbed up rue des Martyrs to have dinner with Jo at La Famille (totally overrated).

Nevermind the trees and Ferris wheel that make walking the Champs-Elysees such a spectacle. There are other small delights and big buildings that dazzle.

City Hall has its own little light show going on.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Roses at the Palais Royale

It was another magical winter morning in Paris. I found myself with an hour to kill before work so I took a walk in the snow.

I wanted to see the rows of trees and feel the silence inside the Palais Royale.

There were a couple other people strolling but it was largely empty and tres calme. Exactly what I was hoping for.

But I was so surprised to see all the rose bushes in bloom. How can it be? Red roses in the white snow...

Listmania: Women rule

Women and business. Businesswomen. Why the negative connotations, snide comments and stereotypical beliefs? These 50 most powerful women come from all different backgrounds to show us that yes we can.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Weather check: il neige!

When I walked outside this morning (yes, it was still dark), I was greeted by snow.

It was magic.

It snowed off and on all day.

The only thing worth enduring the cold for is snow.

Listmania: Top '09 stories you missed

I’ve been woefully remiss about keeping up on news here. I blame Louis Vuitton, French lessons and Milo, in that order. Here’s a little tutorial in the year’s top stories that helped me feel slightly more in touch.

New Year's in Paris

Friends of friends are always visiting Paris and wondering where to go. I’m slowly developing my favorite bars and restaurants but really have yet to get a grasp on this city’s best scene. So for New Year’s in Paris? Your guess is as good as mine. That said, here are some places that might be worth checking out.


Cha Cha
Le Baron
Le Montana
Social Club

Fancy cocktails
Experimental, Curio Parlor, Prescription
Hotel Particulier, Mama Shelter
Le Fumoir

Trendy dinners
Hotel Amour
Le Cheri Bibi

Classic dinners
Au Vieux Comptoir
Chez Julien

Casual dinners
Café Charlot
Café Ruc

Eiffel Tower magic
Watch the fireworks from
Ponts des Arts
Place de la Concorde Ferris wheel (Weeeee!)

Or just walk around, listening to all the kids throwing pop rocks and shouting “Bonne année!” and take in all the beautiful Christmas lights.

And just as important, areas to stay away from:
Moulin Rouge
Latin Quarter

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Listmania: Where to eat & look cool

Let's face it: we all want to be cool. We all want to be told where to eat. Here's a brilliant international list of the best dining scenes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's up with that?

The Hangover? James Cameron? Sandra Bullock!?

I thought I was missing some good movies while living over here in Paris. But if these nominees are the best the Hollywood Foreign Press could come up with, than maybe I'm better off just watching Glee, The Wire and Top Chef on my laptop for the next year.

Food to the rescue

I was feeling pretty blah after my return from New York last week. But leave it to a good restaurant to give me a surge of inspiration and adoration for this city. It was a dinner party for Lionel’s birthday, and a big group of us went to Au Vieux Comptoir. I loved it. I loved the atmosphere, the food, being with a big group for a four-hour dinner (three would have sufficed for me, but…) and practicing my French with the locals.

Au Vieux Comptoir: 17 rue des Lavandières-Sainte-Opportune, 1eme
Went with: Lionel, Sylvia and eight others—a surprise mix for Lionel.
Had: Delicious bread; beaucoup de Bordeaux; a salmon tartare starter: chunks of lightly dressed salmon and mango; a special black truffle risotto; tarte tatin and champagne.
Impressions: Loved it. This is the kind of place where the proprietors make the regulars feel like family and, as a result, the atmosphere is fun, familiar, buzzing and happy. It’s a relatively small space, very casual and cozy. The menu is meat-heavy, but there were scallops plus plates of the day for non-meat-eaters. Everything I had was delicious, and between the cream and truffle oil, my risotto was perhaps the richest risotto I’ve ever eaten. We were the last ones to leave at about 12:45 a.m. What a great night.

Some other recent restaurants...

La Fidélité: 12 rue de la Fidélité, 10eme

Went with: Mel on a Tuesday night
Had: We split this beautiful eggplant and mozzarella starter that had the meatiness of eggplant parm, and duck magret for my main. Not the best menu—pretty limited and random options. But it’s all about the scene; you don’t go here for the food. That said, what we did have was good.
Impressions: Dark, sexy and seductive. I instantly fell in love with the lofty dining room, red banquets and hipster staff. Mel and I were surprised at how not crowded it was and we enjoyed our waiter who was attentive and sweet. But, I just read (using the term loosely with my terrible French) reviews on Le Figaro and it sounds like this place has its fair share of attitude. But what can I say? I’m a sucker for a good scene and would go back.

Rice and Fish: 22 rue Grenata, 2eme
Went with: Jo on a Tuesday and Michael on a Friday
Had: Tofu gyoza to begin; two rolls for din-din
Impressions: This place has been touted as the first place in Paris to do super American-style sushi: rolls with crunchy bits sprinkled on top and “le vrai Californien” with crab and avocado. Conveniently located across the street from me, and open since the summer, I’ve been dying to check it out. When Jo and I went a couple weeks ago, it was pretty decent. Though our gyoza were partially cold, the rolls were pretty good. But Michael and I went the other night and I was so not impressed. The space is small and strangely set up, so we had to move twice in order to accommodate the growing number of diners. Annoying. Then they served us our gyoza at the same time as our sushi. Tres annoying. And they were pretty greasy and my rolls were mediocre. Overall, sadly disappointing.

Livingstone: 106 rue Saint-Honoré
Went with: Jo and Benjamin for lunch
Had: Tilapia cooked in banana leaf and veggies
Impressions: Tres chic! Tres cool! Even though the new Vuitton offices are not far from my apartment, I have a whole new neighborhood of lunch options. I’ve already found a great salad place and two delicious bakeries. But on Friday, Jo and Benj met me for lunch so we wanted a place to sit and went for Thai. We walked into Livingstone and were all seduced by the black interior, decorated with exotic lamps, oversized mirrors, velvet banquets, animal horns and such. And the food was stellar. Jo got the pad Thai and Benj got a big combo of spring rolls, salad and meat. But my fish and veggies were divine—a great change-up from the food I typically eat in Paris.

Le Cul de Poule: 53 rue des Martyrs, 9eme
Went with: JP and Kyoko on a Wednesday night
Had: A giant rice ball appetizer, filled with salmon and—unbeknownst to me until I wizened up and realized the salmon couldn’t taste that smoky—pork. That’s when I stopped eating it. Which was a shame because it was pretty big and delicious. And, given that the translation of “cul de poule” means chicken butt, I had to try the chicken. Besides…
Impressions: My very first impression when I walked through the door: Mmmmmm. All I could smell was roast chicken. The chicken itself was actually really bizarre. It was tasty, but it was the driest, crispiest chicken I’ve ever eaten. Served with creamy potato gratin. The restaurant is super unfussy and friendly with a bit of a 70s vibe: orange lamps, a turquoise wall, warm woods. Filled with cool people, a nice, homey vibe and a 22 euros prix-fixe menu, I likey.

Listmania: Best books of 2009

Not that I've read any of these. Sadly. (I'm finally getting back my reading groove with Lush Life.) But here are The New York Times' picks for best books of the year.

Weather check: bitter, bitter cold

I didn't realize Paris could even get this cold. It's that Ow, my face is about to fall off cold. Cold, cold, cold. It's cold.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas lights

I have yet to visit a more beautiful city than Paris. And during the holiday season, with all the Christmas lights, it’s even more magical.

I was happy to come home to rue Montorgueil, all lit up.

And the lights at Stohrer give me yet another reason to linger and breathe deep the beautiful pastry smells.

Plus, there’s a little camp thrown in for good measure.

But not as much as on this dude’s motorcycle, right by Chatelet.

Cute but crazy

Maybe we’re all destined to become crazier as we get older. I know I am. Milo, too. If he’s not eating, he wants to be cuddled, and vice-versa. He’s still pulling his fur out, but only in little bits. I'm determined that we’ll get each other through this!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

French word of the day: empiler

Def: To stack

As in, “Empilez tes genoux”—stack your knees.

It was a good yoga class today. Well, except that we listened to Michael Jackson the whole time. I feel like I’m the only person who hasn’t gotten swept away by MJ mania since he died. But our yoga drill sergeant worked us a little harder than usual and it felt great. “C’mon! If you’re going to try, try! We don’t have all day, this class is only an hour.”

My new challenge: Le Petit Victor

My landlords, who live downstairs, had a baby in June, Petit Victor. So he’s about six months now. Or, apparently the age when his parents are ready to let him wail and howl forever in their effort to get him to sleep through the night.

As luck would have it, his bedroom is right below mine and this new situation is causing me as much angst—due to middle-of-the-night wake-up calls—as the thugs on rue Saint-Dennis.

My jet-lag wasn’t so bad after this past week’s return from the states, but the couple times Victor has woken me up has me dreaming of the 10-hour night of sleep I caught in Connecticut, where it is so calm, comfortable, peaceful and quiet.

Weather check: winter in Paris

I have seen snowflakes in Paris, my friends! Yesterday the light, the air and the temperature all had that feeling like it was about snow. And right now, finally, there are big flakes floating by my windows.

I think it’s fairly rare for it to snow here and I doubt it will accumulate—it’s very wet. But it of course adds to the Christmas magic and beauty of the city.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My best friend got married

Amee and I have known each other for 25 years. We met in gym class on the first day of seventh grade and it wasn’t long before we were best friends, in matching braces and Espirit t-shirts.

The other girls—Jules, Elisa and Mer—entered the picture in high school. They were a year older, giving us instant cred, letting us feel super cool for being friends with upper classmen. Soon, we were all best friends. Lucky girls.

Exactly a week ago, we got to celebrate Amee marrying Michael. It was a fabulous Saturday night wedding in the city and Amee couldn’t have looked more beautiful or happier. It was amazing.

And it was fun to act like teenagers again. After all the drinks and food and toasts and socializing, we took to the dance floor and bogeyed on down to the awesome playlist that Michael put together.

After all the nights and all the years dancing in clubs from New York to San Francisco to Paris to Freiberg, it was sort of surreal seeing Amee dancing in a wedding gown. But that’s the fun of life: being able live and learn and laugh and look back on things—if you’re lucky, with your girls by your side.

Friday, December 11, 2009

All I want for Christmas

If you were asking yourself, “Hmmm… what could I get Amy for Christmas this year?” I’ve put together this little wish list.

• A book contract
The teal Alma
A pink convertible
A French pastry chef
• A lifetime supply of dried pineapple. Or chocolate pralinés. Or Pierre Hermé macarons.
• Ruinart rosé
• Private yoga lessons
• A 35-hour workweek

That’s all.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Books by smart chicks

’Tis the gift-giving season. Two friends have recently published books, and I would recommend them to anyone who likes to… think.

Not that Museum Legs or In Thrift We Trust (by Amy Whitaker and Lauren Weber, respectively) are all highbrow and dull. In fact, they’re down to earth, fun and insightful. It’s not every day that someone can write about art fatigue or thrift for hundreds of pages, and do it with smarts and style.

So go ahead and impress your nearest and dearest this holiday season while also supporting a couple of smart cookies. And while you’re scooping them up at, go ahead add Convertible Houses to your shopping cart. lol.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

French word of the day: baskets

Def: gym sneakers

Sometimes my dad gets endless enjoyment out of one joke, memory or word. When he was visiting in October, I mentioned that the French call their sneakers “baskets”—American speak for basketball sneakers. It still cracks him up. So when I was home and got my snazzy new Nikes, we got a lot of mileage out of the baskets joke.

But my new baskets are no joke. I love new sneakers when they’re all springy and make you feel like you can literally go that extra mile. This morning, I went to another goofy aerobics/body conditioning class at the gym. Just me and a couple French dudes, doing Jazzercise-type dance moves and pumping iron to club music. Awesome.

But soon I will try Klay’s spinning classes. Mary dared Dad and me to go to an 8 a.m. spinning class when I was home and we rose (tres early from bed) to her challenge. I was petrified that it was going to kick my butt. But I loved it; I’m a convert and can’t wait to do it again (after all, there are all kinds of Christmas cakes and pastries begging to be tried…).

Weather check: pas mal

I really lucked out with the weather back home. There were a couple days of rain and cold, but I was mostly treated to mild, sunny days.

While it's definitely winter gray back here in Paris, it's still not bad. It showers every day or two, but it's mild enough—flirting with 50 all week.

The glass heart of Paris

I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I rarely read the newspaper or watch the news in Paris. There's just not enough time to track down Anglophone news sources or translate French ones. The sad thing is, I go home and realize nothing's really changed. The world is still fighting the same wars, elected officials are still misbehaving and the same issues are being debated with nary a resolution in sight.

But sometimes someone from home will send a bit about France or Paris that I'm happy to read—like this NPR piece on the 20th anniversary of I.M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre. Thanks, Nadia!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy to be back

New York was a blast. Annie and Misha; AJ and Michael; Papa and Lo; Connie and Mitchell; Mel and Kerry; all the girls, Cheryl, Mr. B… I got to see lots of great friends and work with all my old colleagues again. The weather was great, I took nice walks, bought winter sweaters, had spa treatments and fell in love with the city again instead of feeling depleted by it. I was on a great photo shoot and watched my best friend get married. Pas mal.

And now I’m back. Operating on about 90 minutes of sleep, smooshed as I was between an Italian kid chomping on his gum and another guy shamelessly picking his nose on the red-eye. But I am happy. Not the giddy, let-me-at-it euphoria I felt upon returning to Paris from New York in September. But just a content and full feeling. Happy.

It changed over to winter while I was gone. As much as I hate cold weather, I like winter in Paris. I’ve spent the most time here in the winter months and have good memories. Without the leafs on the trees, the different grays in the city really emerge. There are Christmas lights out, there’s a bite in the air, and it’s Paris, it’s Paris, it’s Paris.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November Tour: Rue Montorgueil’s Embarrassment of Rich-Riches

I don’t mean to boast, but I chose my neighborhood well. At the one end of rue Montorgueil, you have Deliziefollie. At the other, Eric Kayser. And in between, it’s a sheer embarrassment of riches.

Let’s start with Deliziefollie (7 rue Montorgueil), the Italian gelateria. They have dozens of decadent flavors to ogle, from the savory (hazelnut) to the spicy (cinnamon); from fruity (mango) to boozy (rum raisin) to just plain sweet (strawberries and cream). And if a frozen dessert on an autumn day doesn’t cut it, you can get a piping hot Nutella crepe from their stand out front.

Just a couple doors up, Charles Chocolatier (15 rue Montorgueil) is a heavenly oasis of artisinal treats. The long-standing chocolate shop (since 1910) offers lovely dark chocolate bonbons and tablettes, plus killer hot cocoa.

Does Stohrer (51 rue Montorgueil) have the best chocolate éclair in the city? Despite the obscene number of times I’ve been in this gorgeous little patisserie—a historic gem, founded in 1730 by King Louis XV’s pastry chef, Nicolas Stohrer—I still haven’t tried one. Although Stohrer has received city’s best honors from Le Figaro, I can’t seem to get beyond the puits d’amour, tartelette aux figues or Neptune cake, which is like a giant Rocher chocolate.

I know Paul (63 rue Montorgueil) is a chain, and I can be a world-class snob when it comes to chains. But besides their heavenly baguettes, Paul makes a perfect pit-stop for pain au chocolat, tartes aux citrons and those pepito loafs that are chock full of chocolate chips and sweet pastry cream.

My love for dried pineapple is no secret. Nor should it be a surprise that A la Mere de Famille (82 rue Montorgueil) is my supplier. Beyond their luscious bins of dried fruit is a cute little store filled with caramels, marzipan, lollis, marshmallows and chocolates.

My incredibly rich mocha birthday cake this year came from Maison Collett (100 rue Montorgueil) so I have a soft spot for this patisserie.

Despite having all these delicious options, I will often walk by them to get to Eric Kayser. Another master breadmaker, Kayser also knows his sweets. With goodies like the chocolaty Opera cake, beautiful raspberry pistachio cake, and strawberry bressane—a round, flat pastry topped with cream, sugar and berries, from the Bresse area of the Rhône-Alpes—wouldn’t you?

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I love that I'm home for Thanksgiving. It was totally not planned but so wonderful as there is so much to be thankful for.

First, I'm thankful for my Parisian adventure. It's been a struggle lately, but it's been a brilliant year and I would change nothing. I feel so lucky, happy and proud to be living in the most beautiful city in the world. And I'm grateful for the lessons I'm learning while I'm here.

I'm so extremely thankful for friends - both old and new. It's extraordinary to think of the friends I've made in Paris and, that a year ago, they weren't in my life. They are such a big part of my life now. You are such a big part of my life now. Thank you, thank you.

And, of course, my old friends and my family. Coming back, being welcomed into everyone's home, being showered with affection and support, feeling the old bonds and connections - it's absolutely priceless. I know I sound so corny, but it's such a beautiful thing.

One of the nice things about holidays, in fact, is that it forces us to pause, break from routine, and actually get off our butts and reach out to friends and family. These are the key things in life. And coming to Paris has allowed - and forced - me to do that in spades.

So at the risk of sounding like a total drip, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and thank you to everyone. For sharing this with me, and for adding a little more light and love to this girl's life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A girl can get used to this

I had to come to New York for work and have been staying at 60 Thompson… where the Times is delivered every morning, and, each night, turndown service includes a Fat Witch brownie. Where the bathroom is stocked with Kiehl’s and the minibar, with Dean & Deluca. Where they hold the door for you as you come and go and all of Soho is just outside. And I’m thinking I could get really used to this.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

37 say "oui"

Two days until the casting call for the big American/French dating show. 37 of you thought I should go for it, and I appreciate every one of you who took the time to weigh in and give me the nudge to be a big American dork in Paris.

But after all, for better or worse, I won't be around the participate. I'm off the New York for two weeks for a mix of work and fun. I probably won't be writing as much due to all the chocolate chip cookies I'll be consuming. But maybe I'll find time to find an American boy while home. Maybe not. In any case, let's all keep the adventures going!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Velib to the rescue

1:14 > Should I do it?

1:14:30 > F-it. I have to.

It’s Friday. I’m leaving for New York for two weeks tomorrow. Oh, you know, just a couple small things going on like a photo shoot with two creative geniuses and my best friend’s wedding. Plus, I’ll be working in between those events. So I have a lot to wrap up before I go. And work is crazy as always.

I got my dress for the wedding yesterday. Which made it very clear that I needed shoes to go with it. Which meant, yes, I should go back to the 7th arrondisement for that pair I tried on on Saturday but deemed too expensive. I might be able to find a pair in New York, but I might also be too crazed. Did I mention it’s my best friend’s wedding? And I’m giving a toast? I need to look and feel great.

I had a meeting at 2 and had been planning to dash over at lunch but suddenly it was after 1. Should I try to scramble across town, or put it off (and stress overnight) until the morning, before my flight?

1:14:30 > F’it. I have to.

1:20 >
Hopped on a Velib and pedaled over to the seventh. Waoh. Fast, fun, what a gorgeous day!

1:28 > Grab that last free opening at the Velib station and ditch the bike

1:33 >
Am trying on the shoes for a second time. Yup, still love them.

1:39 >
Oh, okay, pop into another store real quickly.

1:44 > Back on a Velib! Back to the second!

1:52 > Rats, no openings at that Velib station.

1:53 > Merde, no openings at that one either.

1:54 > Yay! Opening! Ditch the Velib, three blocks from the office

1:55 > Grab a salad a emporter from the “design your own” place I found the other day.

2:01 >
Back in time, fortification and shoes in hand, for the meeting. Though the rest of the crew is still at lunch.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Viva la France!

What's bigger and louder than New Year's in New York? Rowdier and more exciting than Halloween in the Castro?

Apparently, Paris when Algeria beats Egypt in the World Cup qualifiers.

I was meeting JP and Kyoko for dinner in the ninth after a looong day at the office. As there wasn't a direct Metro route, I decided to pick up a Velib. Oh Velibs, I love you so. I forget what a rush it is to bike along, switching from major boulevards to abandoned side streets, barely registering the cafe terraces, pinkish street lights and autumn smells. It was so fun pedaling away at breakneck speed. But then I had to slow down a little. For there were all these people walking down the middle of the street. And, what's that? More people, sitting on the hoods of honking taxis and dancing in the intersection? Horns were beeping, crowds were chanting, and apparently every North African immigrant (except Egyptians of course) and diehard soccer fan was out in the street celebrating their victory.

And with France's victory over Ireland, I'm not sure that I'm going to sleep in peace tonight.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Paris for the first time

The Eiffel Tower is amazing, it’s true. And the Louvre and L’Arc de Triomphe are massive and impressive. All the things you’ve heard about Paris, in fact, are true. It’s a city of immense beauty and wonder and rarely does anything disappoint.

But still, many of its charms are in the small nooks and lesser-known areas. If you wander off the beaten path, you’ll be rewarded with small delights like hidden courtyards, homemade ice cream and cute old-timers shuffling down cobblestone streets with their baguettes in one hand and French bulldogs in the other. Here are a few small ways to guarantee you’ll fall in love with the city.

• Walk around the residential neighborhoods. Get away from the first and sixth arrondisements (not that there’s anything wrong with them) that, head for head, probably have more foreigners than locals. When you stumble into Parc de Monceau, on the border of the eighth and seventeenth, or climb the hills of the thirteenth instead of the tourist-clogged eighteenth, you’ll get a true sense of Paris’ charms.

• Stroll through the flower market on Ile de la Citie.

• When it comes to art, think small: museums (l’Orangerie), fondations (Cartier) and galleries. Going to a vernissage (gallery opening) gives you the bonus of great people-watching, too.

• Take a Velib for a spin.

Markets, markets, markets. The produce, the cheese, the flowers, the soap, the honey, the rabbits getting skinned right in front of you! It’s an orgy of sights and smells, and it’s one of the best things in the world.

• Get dolled up and visit a salon de thé like Fauchon or Maxim’s.

• Picnic: pick a prime spot along the Seine. Or settle on a hill in Buttes Chaumont. Pull up a chair and watch the mini sailboats racing at the Luxembourg Gardens. Any excuse to pack some bread, cheese, chocolate, wine and fruit and sit and watch the world go by.

• Pick a public bus route and ride it from end to end. In this city, chances are you’ll see at least one gorgeous monument, plus all the cafes, boutiques, parks, markets and restaurants you’d never know otherwise existed.

• Bonjour, chocolate tour! Pick a neighborhood and follow a trail from one chocolatier to another, sampling just a bonbon or two from each. Go from Jean-Charles Rochoux to Pierre Hermé to Pierre Marcolini in the sixth. In the first, start with Jean-Paul Hevin, to Michel Cluizel, followed by cocoa at Angelina. In the eighth, a Maison du Chocolat, Patrick Roger and Neuhaus all peacefully coexist on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

• Linger on a café terrace. Have a single café crème or coup de champagne. Or get a chevre chaud salad or poulet roti with frites. Imagine yourself in a Bresson photograph. Paris. Perfect.

French phrase of the day: l'embarras du choix

Def: an embarrassment of choices.

We could all be so lucky.

Monday, November 16, 2009

More beautiful art

If you're lucky in life, you have really good friends. But when those friends introduce you to new art on a regular basis, then you're really, really lucky.

Tonight, Mel introduced me to Elger Esser. There's a lovely little exhibition at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac that is as small as it is fleeting, here until Saturday in celebration of Paris Photo. Catch it while you can. And thank Mel for it. xo

Allons-y à Asnière

Asnière. Chances are, you’ve never heard of this town. Unless you grew up north of Paris. Or are a Vuitton fan. Since I’ve been drinking the Vuitton Kool-Aid for eight months now, I count myself a fan. And my visit to their atelier/museum/home last week in Asnière only made me more so.

I guess the fete was to properly kick off a new beginning for us—moving to the Vuitton space, starting on this new project, etc. Plus a good brand will do everything it can to bring its heritage, beliefs and sensibilities to life for its adherents.

I had taken the online tour, but there’s no way you can appreciate the immaculate detail of the historic Vuitton house unless you’re there in person. Three generations of the family lived there; now it’s a private museum—an Art Nouveau gem.

The day began in the late afternoon, with the museum director sitting us down for tea and cookies, while giving us a little family and company background. Genial! Herbal tea from fine china, surrounded by plushness on all sides? I could get used to it. I couldn’t help but notice that the sterling silver serving set offered that new, fake sugar stuff in addition to classic sugar cubes—a prime example of the company’s balance of tradition and innovation.

After our indulgent moment, we were taken inside the atelier—a fancy word for factory because this factory is indeed fancy. We weren’t allowed to take photos, but all I can say is it was sort of thrilling to see spools of multicolor monogram canvas, stacks of hard-frame briefcases, and special order wardrobes, trunks and cases in progress. It was really too cool.

On the second floor of the home, there’s a small but significant museum devoted to the company’s founding principles on travel. After all the months of research and writing I’ve been doing, it was inspiring to see some of it brought to life.

After a proper team-building meeting, it was onto aperos and dinner. Veuve Cliquot was passed. A beautiful yet casual buffet dinner was served. And I got my fill of dessert.

Details are everything.