Monday, October 28, 2013

La Vie en Rose! Prête-Moi Paris celebrates four years of fashion, bubbly, gourmandise and DIY

Prête-Moi Paris celebrates 4 years in style!

Whether they're about food, art, daily life or travel, there are a bazillion new expat blogs launched in Paris every year. There seems to be something about living in the French capital that inspires many of us to share our interests online. What's much more rare is when a blogger is so committed to writing about fashion, bubbly, gourmandise and DIY that they're able to celebrate their four year blogiversary. That's exactly what Melissa, whom I will forever think of as the 'hostess with the mostess', did last Tuesday evening.

The fun started when I received the official invitation for the Prête-Moi Paris four year party via email. Liberally sprinkled with red hearts and pink sentences, Melissa tempted us with bubbly from Mon champagne, cupcakes from Sugar Daze, a fashion show featuring Vintage Galerie, Cleopatra's Bling and Kasia Dietz Bags and a drawing every hour. After a quick glance at my calendar, I RSVP'ed with an enthusiastic "Yes!"

The 'hostess with the mostess', Melissa of Prête-Moi Paris 

As soon as Melissa welcomed me into her apartment, I was enveloped in a rose colored universe of femininity. In keeping with the main themes of Prête-Moi Paris, there was a DIY station for Campari cocktails with fizzy water and mint and another where guests could decorate their own tea bag holders. A bouquet of pink and white roses perfumed the air while crepe paper blossoms decorated the walls. Over the course of the evening, we learned more about Melissa's favorite brands:

Vintage Galerie: Elisabeth and Camille have an on-line boutique for their collection of vintage fashion and accessories from the 1920's to the 1980's. Unique, luxurious, timeless and of course trendy, these ladies hunt down exceptional pieces for their clients. You can find them at various vintage salons, or you can welcome them into your home for a private showroom of a selection carefully conceptualized just for you.

Mon ChampagneMon Champagne has taken a product that everyone loves, champagne, and given it a personality. Their by-line : Adopt a champagne! Awwww! You can test a selection of 3 (or more), until you find the one that you like best, and then stock your "cave" with it. Why? Because these champagnes are not as pricey as the big brands. How? Mon Champagne selects quality champagne producers from lesser know areas of the Champagne region, tests, tastes, showcases their best "champagnes créateurs" and passes the savings on to you. And now, Parisians, you can have it delivered to your door. Or... Sunday's at 11am you can also taste and buy these bubbly bottles at the Marché Saint Eustache 75001.

Kasia Dietz Bags: New Yorker transplanted to Paris with an Italian amore. Kasia once worked in the crazy New York marketing world, and exchanged it all for a life of travel and design in Paris. Now she creates tote bags for the urban, hip woman who has an appreciation for nature, art and design. Her fabrics are carefully selected from a secret place in Paris, for each collection, and her painted city pieces are lovingly made one at a time by hand. Her work has been featured in magazines and online publications all over the world. What's best about her bags? They are reversible! Each bag has two personalities!

Cleopatra's Bling: Olivia is the sunny Australian, bubbly, contagiously happy, down-to-earth creator of Cleopatra's Bling, her ethnic inspired jewelry line. Her pieces are bold and beautiful, full of rich colors, textures and fabulous semi-precious stones that are big and luscious. Her pieces are made in either Istanbul or India, and can work both in a trendy boho chic look, or a Parisian cocktail ensemble.

Sugar Daze Cupcakes: The authentic American cupcake in Paris. 'Nuff said. Okay, but there is a lot more to say about Sugar Daze : Cat, the creator, makes hands down the best cupcakes you'll find on this side of the Atlantic. She also has a thing for 1990's rock bands and her cupcakes are inspired by them. Her shop is in the trendy 9th district on the hip rue Henri Monnier. She shares the knowledge by offering cake and cupcake classes in her boutique. And well, she is creative, inventive and just totally sweet, but not to sticky! 

From one American expat blogger in Paris to another, I wish Melissa of Prête-Moi Paris lots of success with her blog and other endeavors. Here's to four more years!

Other blog posts about the celebration:
De Quelle Planete Es-Tu?: Prête-Moi Paris's Four Year Anniversary
Perfectly Paris: Prête-Moi Paris Celebrates 4 Years
Ella Coquine: pretty in pink with prête-moi paris.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Beaugrenelle Paris, the newest shopping center in Paris with FREE shuttle boat service from the Eiffel Tower!

Magnetic, one of the three shoppings areas that are a part of Beaugrenelle Paris

My neighborhood isn't trendy like the Marais, exclusive like Saint-Germain-des-Prés or charming like Montmartre. It's a residential area that attracts families who need an extra bedroom rather than hipsters who want to be close to the newest, latest, hottest spot in town. But thanks to the opening of Beaugrenelle Paris, my part of town is on the "must-see" list of Parisians this week.

For the first time since I've lived here, I walked out the front door of our apartment, strolled along the Seine, crossed the Pont de Grenelle and had easy access to stores like Guerlain, Baccarat, Michael Kors, Sandro, H&M, Zara and Desigual. I didn't have to hop on a bus or fight the crowds in the metro. When it started to rain, I didn't have to worry that I had forgotten my umbrella (again!) because I was safely inside the newest shopping center in Paris.

Since I had carefully calculated my trip to coincide with lunchtime, I considered my options: a falafel and Taboulé from Noura, a healthy bulgur and tuna salad from Exki or some spicy Bibimbap from Panasia. If Chipotle had been open, I would have immediately gotten in line for one of their freshly made burritos. Or, maybe I would have gone to the Parisian Pub for fish and chips or a burger. When I had to return to the shopping center last night because I rather stupidly deleted all the photos I had taken for this blog post, I planned to console myself with an lemon tart or Paris-Brest from La Pâtisserie des Rêves. Not surprisingly, all the individual ones were gone by the time I got there and only a family-sized one remained. It looked tantalizingly delicious!

Paris-Brest at La Pâtisserie des Rêves

Judging from the excited chatter, everyone is thrilled about the huge Marks & Spencer that covers four floors. I decided to abort my mission to buy streaky bacon and English muffins because it was almost impossible to navigate the crowded food hall. While I was ogling the wide assortment of chips, I overheard throngs of Parisians marveling about the English biscuits, Advent calendars and smoked salmon. With more than 2,900 British products, a deli, a bakery and a rotisserie, I'll be shopping at Beaugrenelle Paris on a regular basis even if it means schlepping my groceries back home across the windblown Grenelle Bridge.

On November 6, the ten screen Pathé cinema with 1930 style seats and Dolby surround sound is scheduled to open.

To encourage tourists to visit the new shopping center, there is even a FREE shuttle boat service between the Eiffel Tower and Beaugrenelle Paris. Here's the schedule:

Depart Eiffel Tower: 12:00; 12:45; 13:30; 14:15; 15:00; 15:45; 16:50; 17:45; 18:20; 19:05
Depart Beaugrenelle: 12:25; 13:10; 13:55; 14:40; 15:25; 16:30; 17:15; 18:10; 18:45; 19:30
On Saturday nights, the boat will run every 50 minutes.
Depart Eiffel Tower: 19:05; 19:55; 20:45; 21:35
Depart Beaugrenelle: 19:35; 20:25; 21:15; 22:00
It will run on Sunday October 27 and December 1, 8, 15 and 22.

Beaugrenelle Paris
Metro Line 6 - Bir-Hakeim and Line 10 - Charles Michel or Javel
Boutiques: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. Thursday until 10:00 pm.
Restaurants: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 am to midnight.
Cinema: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 am to midnight.

More photos on Facebook.

Special thanks to Élodie Berta of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau for giving me the "inside scoop" about the shuttle boat service and the goodies at  La Pâtisserie des Rêves. If you're on Twitter, I highly recommend following @Paris_By_Elodie for the latest news on Paris.

Beaugrenelle Paris

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Le Manoir de Paris" - Visit a haunted house in Paris for Halloween!

In between sipping my coffee and munching a croissant, I've been frantically scanning Le Monde and Le Figaro to see if either of those newspapers has an article about a missing Finnish family. Stéphane and I formed a tight group with the father, mother and teenage daughter at Le Manoir de Paris last night. Alternately screaming and laughing, the five of us clung together as we made our way past the ghouls of Père Lachaise Cemetery, the ghost of the Tuileries Garden and the flesh eating lunatics in the asylum, but we lost sight of the family when a ghastly man in white ordered Stéphane and me to proceed down a long corridor. When I protested that we were with the Finns, the man snarled and said that he wanted to play with them for a little while longer. The teenage daughter's spine tingling screams followed Stéphane and me as we made a hasty retreat to the exit. Since we never saw the family again, I fear that their vacation in Paris may have come to a grisly end in the mystifying maze of Le Manoir de Paris.

If you're someone who likes a "treat" along with some "tricks" on Halloween, Le Manoir de Paris is a haunted house located in a former ceramic showroom that's a protected historical monument. While standing in line, be sure to admire the tile frescoes in the courtyard as ghouls pretend to strangle innocent bystanders. Don't let the blood dripping from the monsters' wounds deter you from asking them to pose for photos in front of the beautiful murals signed by Arnoux et Guidetti. They'll happily oblige.

But their demeanor quickly changes as soon as a vampire with a blood smeared mouth straps a blue glow stick around your neck to indicate that you're an English speaking guest and yells, "Fresh meat!". Once the heavy wooden door clanks shut behind you, you'll spend the next 45 minutes to an hour passing through a series of rooms where professional actors bring 13 Parisian legends to life ... or, perhaps "death" would be the more appropriate word. If you would like to know more about the young woman who was found stabbed to death on line 8 of the Paris metro or the bloody baker who sold his customers pâté made from finely chopped human flesh, I encourage you to print a copy of the legends from Le Manoir's website because the diabolical demons don't take kindly to questions.

Ironically located on rue de Paradis, (Paradise Road), Le Manoir de Paris is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings throughout the year. The busiest period is from October 18 to November 11. While Le Manoir welcomes children of all ages, their website states that it's not recommended for children under the age of ten. And, I agree. It's also not recommended for women who are pregnant or for people with a history of heart problems, seizures or poor general health. In case you're worried about having too close of an encounter with a French Dracula, Phantom of the Opera or Hunchback of Notre-Dame, it's helpful to know that the actors are not allowed to touch the visitors, although they do get chillingly close!

Le Manoir de Paris
18 rue de Paradis
75010 Paris
Admission: 25 euros for adults. Yes, it was expensive but worth it for a Halloween treat. Plus, the building is exceptional and there are a lot of actors inside the mansion.

More photos on Facebook
Reviews of Le Manoir de Paris on Trip Advisor
THATLou Halloween Death Hunt at the Louvre
Other suggestions for Halloween from Guide2Paris

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Whisked away to Italy with Risotto and "Love is All You Need"

Boletes, or as Stéphane would say in French, "bolet" or "cèpe" and in Italian, "porcini"

I love Sundays. It's when Stéphane takes over the kitchen. The scent of onions sautéing in butter perfumes our apartment and the sound of my husband singing, somewhat off key, along with Dean Martin's "That's Amore" fill the air. While I struggle with French on a daily basis, my husband has recently started learning Italian. Stéphane listens to Pimsleur Italian lessons on his way to and from work and greets me with an enthusiastic "Buongiorno" accompanied by kisses on both my cheeks when he walks through the door in the evening.

Part of the reason that Stéphane is in such a good mood today is that we took a mini-trip to Italy with Oscar winning filmmaker Susan Bier's latest movie, Love is All You Need, yesterday. Filmed in Sorrento, there are plenty of shots of cheerful blue beach umbrellas, the fiery red sun sinking into the Bay of Naples and lemon groves. But, more than that, the film tells the story of two middle-aged characters, played by Pierce Brosnan and Danish actress Trine Dyrholm, who discover that life is about moving forward even after you've experienced profound pain. It's a middle-aged love story.

If you want to be whisked away to the sun drenched coast of Italy and don't mind reading a few Danish subtitles along the way, Love is All You Need.

And, Stephane's risotto? It was amazing, especially when accompanied by some French wine that we picked up while we were in the Jura. With strong walnut aromas, we're discovering that this Savagnin wine, the "little brother" of the uniquely flavored Vin Jaune (Yellow Wine), goes well with all kinds of traditional Fall dishes made with cheese, cream and  mushrooms.

If you would like to know more about Vin Jaune, here's the link for an interesting article from The New York Times: Wine and Cheese as It Was Meant to Be

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day trips from Paris: Rouen, city of Joan of Arc and Gustave Flaubert

Looking for something different to do this weekend?

If you leave Paris St. Lazare train station at 8:50 tomorrow morning, you'll be walking the cobblestoned streets and admiring the colorful half-timbered buildings of Rouen an hour and eleven minutes later.

While I would like to say that Stéphane and I went to the historic capital city of Normandy with a well-developed plan, we didn't. We only had a vague notion of what we hoped to see - the cathedral famously painted by Claude Monet, the astronomical clock dating back to the 16th century, the Joan of Arc Tower where Joan was questioned before she was burned at the stake for wearing men's clothes and claiming that God had spoken to her and The Museum of Flaubert and the History of Medicine, if there was enough time.

Instead, Stéphane and I, who had made the mistake of driving to Rouen, spent a good half hour circling the city looking for a parking spot. While this allowed us to get a general idea of where the monuments were located, it also lead us to mistakenly believe that we were at Monet's Notre-Dame Cathedral when we were actually inside the more impressive Abbey Church of Saint-Ouen. Fortunately, the friendly woman at the information desk recognized two lost souls and supplied us with a city map and advice on what to visit next.

Equipped with a plan, we made our way to the Aître of St.-Maclou, a somber courtyard surrounded by half-timbered buildings decorated with macabre carvings of skulls, crossbones, spades, sickles and hour glasses. When the Black Plague decimated three-quarters of the local population in 1348 and wiped out two-thirds of Rouen's citizens in the 16th century, the courtyard served as a temporary cemetery. Later, the bones were exhumed and stacked in the ossuary. The cemetery was closed by royal decree in 1781 and the area was designated as an historical monument in 1862. Currently, it's the Regional School of Fine Arts.

As so frequently happens in Normandy, Stéphane and I sought refuge in a café when the ominous grey clouds fulfilled their promise of rain. One of these days we'll remember to carry umbrellas, but until then we seem to have remarkable luck in stumbling across places like Ici & Ailleurs. Located at 31 rue Damiette, the cozy café/tea room offers the additional advantage of being a bookstore with comfortable chairs and games for customers to play. The free wifi also came in handy when Stéphane's and my English Scrabble game played on a French board became contentious over the validity of the word, "VET".

Even though the next stop on our agenda was ostensibly Notre-Dame Cathedral, we meandered down narrow medieval streets, dawdled in antique stores and peered through a milliner's window. The streetlights were just starting to twinkle by the time that we made it to the Tourist Information Center on the Place de la Cathédrale. When the travel advisor recommended that we stay for the 10:30 pm illumination show projected onto the cathedral, we were tempted to book a hotel for the night. There was still so much that we wanted to see, including the "Dazzling Reflections" exhibition at the Rouen Museum of Fine Arts. But after promising each other to return, Stéphane and I headed for home. Maybe you'll see us on the train to Rouen tomorrow morning!

Additional photos posted on "Out and About's" Facebook page.
Tourist and Conference Information Centre Rouen and Seine Valley Normandy
The New York Times article: "Near Paris, a City of Flaubert and Joan of Arc"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Searching for "La Vie en Rose" - the 50th anniversary of Edith Piaf's death

Je vois ... "La Vie en Rose" (I see ... "La Vie en Rose") 

As a preface to this post, I should explain that most of my formative years were spent in Memphis, Tennessee. Aside from being the "Home of the Blues", this southern city is also known as the "Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll". Elvis Presley used to live there in a white-columned mansion called Graceland. After his death on August 16, 1977, Elvis fans and impersonators from around the world started making annual pilgrimages to Memphis. Every August, Beale Street overflowed with men wearing sequined costumes singing "All Shook Up" and "Love Me Tender". Whether you were an Elvis fan or not, it was always a rockin' fun time to be in Memphis.

Knowing that Edith Piaf is as beloved as the "King of Rock 'n' Roll", I anticipated that fans would be singing "La Vie en Rose" and "Je ne Regrette Rien" on the streets of Paris for the 50th anniversary of Edith Piaf's death. I just had to find them.

As the exact date of Piaf's demise is disputed, I started my quest on Thursday, October 10 with a gathering of "The Friends of Piaf" next to her tomb in Père Lachaise cemetery. While we didn't sing any of Piaf's famous melodies, a priest was on hand to say The Lord's Prayer and to invite everyone to a memorial mass at Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Belleville, the same church where Piaf was baptized Edith Giovanna Gassion in 1917. How different, I thought, from when Piaf was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Paris and the Vatican declared that she had lived her life in a "state of public sin" and condemned her as an "idol of prefabricated happiness."

Thanks to a chance encounter with my friend Nancy's "Paris Greeter" in Père Lachaise cemetery, my next destination was "50 Years Already: The Paris of Piaf", an exhibition devoted to Edith Piaf in the town hall of the 20th arrondissement. Perusing photos of Edith from the time she was an innocent young girl with an over-sized white bow in her hair to when she was a middle-aged woman ravaged by drugs and disease, I was awed by the trajectory of her life. How had a waif born in the gritty district of Belleville created such a long lasting impression on the world? It was her remarkable voice. The one that sends shivers up your spine as soon as you hear the opening notes of "Je ne Regrette Rien".

While it's no longer possible to see the "Little Sparrow" in concert, I decided to do the next best thing. On October 11, the date on which the official announcement of Edith Piaf's death stunned the world, I went to Caroline Nin's "Hymne à Piaf". As Nin recounted the stories behind some of Piaf's most famous songs, I felt myself magically transported back to another time. Through her talented performance, the passion and anguish of Piaf's life was palpable in the intimate setting of the Essaion Theatre. If you're searching for "La Vie en Rose", don't miss Caroline Nin's show!

Reviews of "Hymne à Piaf" on Trip Advisor
My interview with Caroline Nin
Additional photos from the 50th anniversary of Edith Piaf's death

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Edith Piaf's death, Caroline Nin organized two very special evenings at L'Excelsior after her show, "Hymne à Piaf" on October 10 and 11. Here's a video taken during one of my most memorable evenings in Paris. Click on the arrow and sing along:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How long would you wait in line? "Tour Paris 13", the largest street art exhibition in the world

Living in Paris has forced me to confront some difficult questions, ones that I haven't had to ask myself in other places. Questions such as "How long am I willing to stand in line for a falafel, a movie, vegetables from my favorite vendor at the market, or the opportunity to ascend to the Eiffel Tower?" Answers range from approximately 20 minutes for a falafel (yes, they're really that good!) to 40 minutes for the Eiffel Tower. Through rigorous training on an almost daily basis, my endurance for standing in line has increased dramatically over the past 2 1/2 years. But I'm still not sure that I'm up for the ultimate challenge -- standing in line for three to four hours to see the largest street art exhibition in the world.

In my naiveté, I proposed to Nancy that we go to "Tour Paris 13" last Wednesday afternoon. The way I saw it, we would arrive shortly after lunch, stand in line for an hour at the most, take lots of photos of the 36 apartments that have been painted by 100 street artists and be home in time for dinner. Instead, there was a line of people snaking its way around the entire apartment building. Some of the people were chatting, others were reading books and quite a few were playing games on their phones.

"Tour Paris 13" is an exciting concept. Take a low-income housing project that was deemed too expensive to renovate, invite 100 street artists from around the world to paint the interior of the 10-story building, keep the entire project a secret until the day that it's unveiled to the public, welcome everyone to see the world's largest street art installation and then demolish it. The clock is ticking. At this very moment, you have 16 days, 13 hours and 21 minutes before the doors of this ephemeral exhibition close forever. In keeping with the essence of the street art movement, "Tour Paris 13" is free and open to all. The question is, how long are you willing to wait in line to see it? One of the security guards advised me to arrive at least three to four hours before the doors open.

Click here to see more photos of the outside of "Tour Paris 13". To see pictures of the inside, here's a a blog post with lots of photos taken by "The Savoir Faire Paris Team". The work that I would most like to see is the recreation of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that is only visible when you look at it via a small mirrored ball.

Tour Paris 13, 5 rue Fulton, 75013 Paris
Métro Quai de la Gare line 6
Free and open to the public from October 1 to October 31, 2013
Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00 - 8:00 pm, last visit at 7:15 pm
Open from 10:00 am - 8:00 pm starting October 18
Access limited to 49 people at a time

If you're a fan of street art, the city of Paris has just released "My Paris Street Art". It's an interactive app that allows users to discover more than 100 works in Paris and share photographs of street art. For a street art app with worldwide coverage, check out Urbacolors.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Turn Paris Pink with "Dailey Donate Week" and Tommy Hilfiger

"Turn Paris Pink"! Kelly Dailey at the barre wearing a pair of pink exercise socks. All proceeds from the sale of the socks go to Breast Health International's "Fund for Living".

As I headed towards the elevator after "Words and Wine", Sylvia's recently launched literary salon, last Monday night, Sylvia called from her apartment, "See you at the barre tomorrow!" Performing a quick knee bend that I hoped made me look more like a graceful ballet dancer doing a plié than an awkward middle-aged woman wobbling on her high heels, I told Sylvia that I was looking forward it.

The "barre" to which Sylvia was referring is located in a chic exercise studio with a smooth wooden floor and exposed brick walls tucked into a quiet courtyard in the 16th arrondissement. Taking our places on bright orange mats, Sylvia and I followed instructor Kelly Dailey's movements as she demonstrated The Dailey Method, San Francisco's original barre class that combines ballet barre work, core conditioning, stretching and orthopedic exercises. The controlled movements, as we quickly learned, are very focused and effective. Under Kelly's careful guidance, I stretched my long-neglected muscles until I felt them become supple and relaxed. An hour later, just when I thought it couldn't get any better, Kelly told us to rest in child's pose while the instructors gave everyone a gentle back rub. The entire experience left me feeling transformed and wanting to return for another session.

Kelly Dailey of The Dailey Method Paris with the 2013 Tommy Hilfiger handbag.

Now it's your turn to improve the alignment of your body and tone your muscles with The Dailey Method Paris during "Dailey Donate Week"!

In an effort to "Turn Paris Pink", The Daily Method has partnered with Tommy Hilfiger and are offering a week of classes to promote breast health awareness. From October 14-18, classes are donation based and 100% of all donations will go to Breast Health International's (BHI) "Fund for Living". "Dailey Donate Week" is a wonderful way to work off all those macarons, make a donation to support French women who are fighting breast cancer and try a class with Kelly or one of the other dynamic instructors.

In its continued support of Breast Health International, Tommy Hilfiger has reunited with supermodels Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Cambell to launch a new limited-edition handbag made of Italian pebbled leather. The 2013 handbag is a midsize satchel-tote cross with a midnight blue core and cherry red side panels. These handbags are available for 299 euros at The Dailey Method Paris studio during Dailey "Donate Week". A percentage of each sale will go directly to BHI's Fund for Living.

Reserve your spot in a donation class now. Space is limited! Dailey Donate Week classes October 14-18, 2013 -- Monday: 12:30 & 20h30; Tuesday 11:00 & 19h00; Wednesday: 12:30 & 19h30;
Thursday: 12:30, 14h00 & 19h00; Friday: 12:30 & 18h30. or sign up online:

Dailey Studio
71 avenue Victor Hugo (second courtyard, downstairs ramp on the right)
75116 Paris

Turn Paris Pink! Click here to see a photo of the Conciergerie illuminated pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

"Turn Paris Pink"! Kelly Dailey wearing a pair of pink exercise socks. All proceeds from the sale of the socks go to Breast Health International's "Fund for Living".

Monday, October 7, 2013

Something sweet for Monday - La Maison du Chou

Choux à la crème at La Maison du Chou

Whether it's an unexpected glimpse of the Eiffel Tower as you round a corner or a chance encounter with a beloved friend in a bistro on the Île Saint-Louis, the best things in life are often unplanned and completely spontaneous. In Paris, I know exactly where to go for the most delicate macarons and the richest hot chocolate. What I didn't know, at least not until yesterday afternoon, was where to find the lightest choux à la crème.

If you would like to serendipitously discover these delightful cream puffs freshly filled with a mousse-like mixture of sugar and fromage blanc, stroll down Rue Bonaparte past the famous Deux Magots Café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood of Paris. In your best flâneur style, casually turn right on Rue de l'Abbaye and left when you see the quaint Place de Fürstenberg. As you admire the four Paulownia trees planted in the middle of the charming square, once the residence of French painter Eugène Delacroix, exclaim when you spot a recently opened shop on your right. Wander over and peer through the sparkling clean windows as the friendly shop assistant pumps succulent puffs full of cream right before your eyes. It's a tantalizing sight. Hope that your husband (or significant other) notices that one of the three wooden tables is empty and readily agree when he asks if you would like to sample a puff with a cup of coffee.

Once you're settled inside, agree that it's more sensible to order three choux à la crème for 5 euros than two single ones at 1.80 euros a piece. And, finally, make an effort not to eat more than your fair share of the classic nature, coffee and chocolate cream puffs placed in front of you. I guarantee that the last step will be the most difficult! If you decide that you would like to take some of these cream-filled delicacies  home with you, the shop assistant will wait to fill them until right before you leave to maintain the crusty texture of the pastry. Six choux are 10 euros and twelve choux are 18 euros.

La Maison du Chou
7 rue de Fürstenberg 
Paris 75006
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 7 pm 09 54 75 06 05 

La Maison du Chou

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday's Video: Join me for a visit to the National Flea Market and Ham Fair in Chatou

Foire Nationale Antiquités Brocantes et Jambons à Chatou

We're up early this morning waiting for a Sunday delivery of an antique secretary desk. It's not that we absolutely needed another desk, but acquiring furniture and other knick knacks is the risk that one takes while visiting the Foire Nationale à la Brocante et aux Jambons  à Chatou (National Flea Market and Ham Fair in Chatou).

In addition to antique furniture, linens, silver, vintage clothing, paintings and lots of unusual bric-a-brac, ham has a star billing at this biannual fair. It's a rather odd tradition dating back to the Middle Ages when farmers from the French provinces brought their hams to Paris during Holy Week. The butchers sold their pork to the bustling crowds headed to Notre Dame Cathedral for mass. In 1451, the city of Paris officially recognized the fair and started regulating the wares. If a vendor was selling rancid hams, the meat was promptly thrown into the Seine. Due to its success, the fair quickly outgrew the Île de la Cité. Over the centuries, it was moved to a series of different locations around Paris. When the fair relocated to Boulevard Bourdon in 1840, enterprising butchers expanded their offerings to include old clothes, bric-a-brac and scrap iron. The Foire à la Ferraille (Scrap Iron Fair) was born and henceforth inextricably connected with the sale of ham. In 1970, the fair moved from the Beaubourg quarter, its final Parisian address, to its current location on the Île des Impressionnistes (Impressionists' Island) in Chatou.

Without fail, Stéphane always invites me to accompany him to the Flea Market and Ham Fair. Sometimes we take home a new treasure and other times we only go for the succulent jambon a l’os (ham on the bone). Either way, it's always an idyllic outing because the market is located on a picturesque island that attracted numerous Impressionist painters and authors.

Now, I would like to extend the invitation to you. A singing cheesemonger, a charming crepe maker and an accordionist agreed to appear in this short video that I made yesterday afternoon. So, come along and join me at the market by clicking on the arrow below. To view more photos, click here to see the album that I posted on Facebook. Please note that you don't need an FB account to access the pictures.

La Foire Nationale à la Brocante et aux Jambons à Chatou (National Antique and Ham Fair in Chatou)
Île des Impressionnistes, Chatou
Biannually at the end of every March and September. March 7-16, 2014, everyday from 10:00 am until 7:00 pm. Admission is 5 euros for those over 15.

Photo taken from the Île des Impressionnistes in Chatou 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Joie de Vivre" and "Ooh La La!" - What can we learn from the French way of life?

Joie de Vivre by Harriet Welty Rochefort and Ooh La La! by Jamie Cat Callan

After days of eating chocolate chip cookies, scouring Marshall's for bargains and speaking English, it's always a cultural jolt to return to the world of delicate macarons, elegant Hermés scarves and French. To help expedite the process and force myself to stay awake for as long as humanly possible after my flight from Boston, I decided to take my jet-lagged body to "Living Frenchily" at the American Library in Paris last Wednesday evening. With American authors Harriet Welty Rochefort and Jamie Cat Callan talking about beauty, style, happiness and what we can learn from the French way of life, I was sure that there would be some spirited discussion. I wasn't disappointed.

Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French

Pointing at a distinguished gentleman with a scowl at the back of the room, Harriet Welty Rochefort said that it's not because the French don't have big American smiles on their faces that they don't have "joie de vivre". She added that the man, who is her French husband, often resembles the stereotypical image of a glum Parisian but has filled her life with laughter for forty years. It's this very dichotomy between their public appearances and their private lives that frequently misleads people. While the French are depressed when it comes to current national challenges, like unemployment and diminishing buying power, polls show that they're very satisfied with their private lives.

Unlike Americans with our continuous refills of soft drinks and huge homes, Welty Rochefort has also discovered that "In France, small things procure big joys. In fact, la joie de vivre is composed of many small and simple pleasures: a stroll on the banks of the Seine, a tiny taste of dark chocolate with your wee espresso, a petite verre de rouge (little glass of red wine). Small is good!"

The author, who described herself as a frustrated ethnologist who has been studying French culture for years, advised the largely Anglophone audience not to lose our nerve when we encounter a surly waiter or an argumentative salesperson. Controversy, according to Welty Rochefort, is the French national sport and not to be taken personally. She added, "For the Gauls, a day without a clash is a sad and boring day indeed."

Jamie Cat Callan, author of Ooh La La!

Ooh La La: French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day

Thanks to Jamie Cat Callan's elegant French Canadian grandmother, who was unlike any of the other women that Jamie encountered while growing up in a small town in Connecticut, the author noticed that there was something remarkably different about French women at an early age. Determined to discover their secrets, Jamie traveled to France and interviewed hundreds of women. Her extensive research uncovered one word that is the secret to French women's confidence and mystery. Lingerie! According to French women, the bra and panties must always match. Who knew?

Just about the time I felt myself start to internally rebel against Jamie's enthusiasm, which is what instinctively happens whenever someone is overly effusive about all things French, the author surprised me by explaining that the secret to French women's approach to beauty is about being in alignment with your true self. It isn't about finding something outside yourself. It's about being true to what's inside. Thanks to Micheline Tanguy, a French charisma expert, Jamie said that she finally realized that she isn't French. She's an American. With that in mind, Micheline guided Jamie towards a style more closely aligned with her true identity and advised her to wear blue instead of red. What Micheline had in mind was a short-sleeved cobalt blue sweater dress. What Jamie bought was a bright blue feather boa and beret. Oh La La! I started reading Jamie Cat Callan's book last night and it's every bit as insightful and engaging as its author.

While most of the comments were of the "Vive la France" variety during the Question and Answer session, a Frenchwoman prefaced her statement by declaring that she was going to be stereotypically French and say something controversial. "When I see all the books that the French are the best mothers, they don't get fat, they don't sleep alone, they're sexy, etc., etc., I have to tell you that it really gets on my nerves. I don't know if you read in Le Figaro but there's a writer who said that the French are not perfect. We're not better than Americans. We just pretend and we fake..." Needless to say, I've already asked Edith, who's a lawyer, French teacher and guide, if I can interview her for a future blog post.

Whether you're jet-lagged, on your own or with a friend, the free "Evenings with an Author" at the American Library are always a wonderful way to spend a Wednesday evening in Paris. Not only will you have the opportunity to hear authors talk about their books, but you'll also meet interesting people, both residents and visitors. Wine and snacks are available free of charge before and after the event.

Interesting article in Newsweek about the French way of living: Leaning Out A La Francaise: "Having it all" the French way means more Brie and less briefcase.

Edith, the Frenchwoman in the audience, and Jamie Cat Callan, author of Ooh La La!