Friday, November 29, 2013

The highly anticipated Champagne Social - a glittering celebration of the inspired and inspiring!

Paris, like any large city, can make a person feel small because it's not easy to make friends in a sprawling metropolis. That's why, on this day after Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks for my very first blogger buddy in Paris, Lisa Czarina. On her blog, Ella Coquine, Lisa unflinchingly shares her adventures in the City of Light. Whether it's dealing with overly flirtatious French guys, expired visas or financial woes, Lisa brazenly approaches every situation with a good dose of humor and lots of sparkle.

When Lisa announced that she was joining forces with another native New Yorker, Cara Alwill Leyba of The Champagne Diet, to host The Champagne Social, the news set the world of social media atwitter. Literally. There were excited tweets about glitter, tulle and silver stars. There was even one about Liberace. The phone lines buzzed with bloggers calling each other to get wardrobe advice. What does one wear to an event described as a prom, an early New Year's Eve party and an afterparty to a fulfilling year?

When Lisa emailed a sneak peak of the swanky Popincourt Loft where Habitat Parisien had generously offered to host the fête, the anticipation was palpable on Twitter. The weekend prior to the event, Lisa and Lauren Lou Bate of Folies du Bonheur  donned face masks (the paper not the beauty kind) and white hazard suits to make the glittery decorations for the party. There were tweets with photos of pink rubber gloves, wire cutters, wire and two starving crafters taking a much-needed Shirashi break.

After weeks of waiting, the 18th of November finally arrived. I put on my high heels and tottered over to the Popincourt Loft, which is even more impressive in reality than it is in the online photos. Silver, pink, black and white tassels dangled from the ceiling and copies of Cara's book Sparkle: The Girl's Guide to Living a Deliciously Dazzling, Wildly Effervescent, Kick-Ass Life adorned the baby grand piano. The sound of champagne being uncorked welcomed guests as they joined the throng. The first ever Champagne Social was an effervescent, bubbly success. Congratulations to Lisa, Cara, Lauren and Habitat Parisien for throwing a dazzling fête and thank you for including me!

Since only a few of my photos turned out (I guess I was having way too much fun to focus!), I invite you to read more about The Champagne Social on the following blogs:

Ella Coquine
Paris Living (Habitat Parisien's blog)
The Champagne Diet
Danielle Abroad
Expat Paris 
Prete Moi Paris
Patricia Parisienne

Quotation in one of the bedrooms in Habitat Parisien's Popincourt Loft.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Choo-choo! The chocolate TGV pulls into Paris with FREE "Les Secrets du Chocolat" exhibition

If you commute to Paris or are taking a train during the next week, be sure to look for "The Secret of Chocolate" TGV at the train station. You can't miss it. It's the TGV covered with huge photos of chocolate bars and "Les Secrets du Chocolat" emblazoned in gold on the side. If you have a good sense of smell, you may even detect the tantalizing aroma of chocolate.

Divided into three sections, the first part of the FREE exhibition is devoted to the history of chocolate. The journey begins in South America, where the Mayas and Aztecs used cocoa beans as currency and made a rich drink from cocoa powder mixed with spices and water. Colorful photos and interactive screens trace the production of chocolate from cocoa plantations to factories that use specialized machines to transform it into delicious treats.

Since I made the mistake of going during lunchtime, I spent quite a bit of time in the car devoted to the history of Marquise de Sévigné chocolate when the movement of the line came to a halt because everyone wanted to linger in the next car. That's where Yves Thuriès, who was twice awarded “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” (Best Craftsman in France), was revealing some of his secrets and inviting visitors to sample chocolate.

In case you're worried about indulging before the holidays, nutritionists from the Fondation PiLeJe are on hand to explain the scientifically proven health benefits of chocolate. And, best of all, chocolate makes people happy!

Please note that all of the signboards are in French and that the exhibition space is confined to the interior of a TGV. If you're at all claustrophobic, I recommend getting your chocolate fix elsewhere.

Click here to see more photos from "The Secret of Chocolate"

TGV-Expo: Les Secrets du Chocolat
Gare de Lyon : Tuesday 11/26 (10 am - 6 pm) and Wednesday 11/27 (10 am - 4 pm)
Open from 10 am - 7 pm)
Gare d’Austerlitz : Thursday 11/28 and Friday 11/29
Gare Saint Lazare : Saturday 11/30 and Sunday 11/01
Gare de l’Est : Wednesday 12/04 and Friday 12/06
Gare Montparnasse : Thursday 12/05
Gare du Nord : Saturday 12/07

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Artists and designers unveil "Wonderful Paris" ("Le Paris Merveilleux") at the 11th annual “Frimousses de Créateurs”

Chantal Thomass and Chanel

If you're in love with Paris, you'll be completely charmed by “Frimousses de Créateurs”, an art exhibition benefiting UNICEF France and the children of Darfur. Fashion houses Dior, Chanel, Vuitton, Gucci, Lanvin as well as independent designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, Alexis Mabille and Chantal Thomass have created one of a kind dolls that pay tribute to Paris, the city symbolizing art and fashion.

With "Wonderful Paris" as the theme for 2013, the Eiffel Tower stars in many of the designs. Chantal Thomass' creation features a black Eiffel Tower adorned with a large pink bow, beret and frilly garters, while Richard Orlinksi's piece is a shiny red shoe with an inverted Eiffel Tower heel. As I snapped a closeup photo of a miniature Louis Vuitton bag, I overheard a Frenchman and his wife exchange astonished remarks about the doll's elaborate black feathered headdress. It's obvious from the amount of work that the designers devoted to their creations that they're determined to raise as much money as possible for UNICEF.

With more than 300,000 children vaccinated in the Darfur region last year, UNICEF and the partners of “Frimousses de Créateurs” hope that the proceeds raised from the "Wonderful Paris" auction will continue to bring hope and provide a better future for the children of the region.

If you're in Paris, I highly recommend this exhibition. All that you need to do is ask for a free ticket at the reception desk of the Petit Palais. As it's for a very worthy cause, I hope that you'll feel inspired to leave a donation at the UNICEF table when you leave.

From November 26 until December 1, the dolls will be on display at the Petit Palais. On December 2, Artcurial has organized an auction of these works at the Four Seasons Hotel George V. The event will be streamed live on the internet thanks to Figaro Enchères. One of these dolls would make a perfect Christmas present for a fashionista Francophile!

Click here to view the “Frimousses de Créateurs” photo album.

Amour ... toujours (Love ... always), a card addressed to Mlle Paris

Saturday, November 23, 2013

An exclusive Parisian experience: a floral arrangement class with Jeff Leatham at the Four Seasons George V

"I love Paris in the spring time" - the unforgettable lyrics written by Cole Porter are frequently the first thing that pop into someone's mind when they start planning a trip to France. But whether you're in Paris during the coldest days of winter or the sultriest days of summer, you'll be wowed by the gorgeous floral displays in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel George V.

The genius behind these spectacular floral creations is Jeff Leatham, a rock star of a florist who won the title "Best Hotel Florist in Europe" for three years in a row. As a former model in Paris and Milan, Jeff never dreamed of working with flowers until he was blown away by the arrangements at the Four Seasons in LA. Since that momentous day nineteen years ago, the American florist has revolutionized the way that people think about flowers. Jeff's approach has been so successful that he frequently choreographs events outside the hotel, including the reopening party of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tina Turner's wedding in Zurich and Eva Longoria's wedding in Paris. He even appeared on Oprah Winfrey when the American talk show host invited him to be a guest on her television show about dream jobs in 2012. Now, she's a huge fan of his work.

Excited by the opportunity to join one of the quarterly floral workshops that Jeff organizes for guests of the hotel, I was stunned by my first glimpse of the Salon Louis XIII. Enormous bunches of purple orchids, red roses and deep purple calla lilies decorated one side of the salon, while white calla lilies, cream-colored roses, massive bunches of baby's breath and Lily of the valley adorned the other side. The air was scented with the delicate aroma of hundreds of flowers and flickering candles. It was a magical sight to behold.

After Jeff turned on the music and ensured that everyone had a glass of champagne, we got down to business. Following Jeff's instructions, we stuck the stems of our purple roses into an oasis. Next, he showed us how to position the Vanda orchids in the middle and to finish the arrangement with dark calla lilies. If it sounds easy, it's because it was. Jeff's helpful assistants cut the stems of the roses, showed me how to best place the flowers and even took a photo of me with my floral creation when I was finished. The only mishap occurred when I inadvertently knocked over my glass of champagne. Oops! And even that wasn't a problem because I had a new glass of bubbly to enjoy with the delectable pastries within seconds. Who knew that arranging flowers could be so much fun?

For stunning floral arrangements, Jeff suggests:
  • Simple, clean vases.
  • Monochromatic flowers (Our orchids, roses and calla lilies were different shades of purple.)
  • Don't use more than three different kinds of flowers

It's always a pleasure to be in the company of someone who loves their job and Jeff's enthusiasm for floral art is contagious. Thanks to an annual budget of 1.2 million euros and fresh flowers delivered from Holland three times a week, Jeff concocts a new theme for the Four Seasons Hotel George V every month. Whether it's fir trees frozen in ice for Christmas 2012 or 15,000 Naomi red roses surrounding a collection of Elie Saab dresses during Fashion Week, the results are always breathtakingly spectacular. I can't wait to see what Jeff does for Christmas 2013!

Jeff Leatham's workshop is free of charge and open to all guests of the Four Seasons Hotel George V and the Michelin starred Le Cinq restaurant upon reservation with the concierge at + 33 (0)1 49 52 71 07.

More photos of the floral workshop
Photos of the 2012 frozen Christmas trees and afternoon tea at the George V
Photos of Elie Saab gowns and flowers at the George V

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Le Foodist: Discover the culture of France through its food and wine

Fred Pouillot sharing his love of France through stories about food and wine. Photo credit: Le Foodist. 

Whether it's helping a village woman make spicy fish wrapped in banana leaves for a Diwali celebration in Bali or assisting a Japanese friend prepare Chirashi for her husband's birthday dinner, I've always been fascinated by how much you can learn about a country's culture through its food.

Fred Pouillot, a world traveler and French chemical engineer with a PhD from Georgia Tech, obviously feels the same way because it was the desire to share his culture with guests that served as the inspiration for Le Foodist, a recently opened cooking school in Paris. In Fred's words:

When I travel I love to meet locals, understand how they live and discover their culture. Whether by learning what people buy at their local market, how they prepare traditional meals - or by tasting the local products and sharing a meal of fresh, seasonal produce with fellow travelers and local people. 

Even though there are many schools offering market visits, wine tastings and cooking classes, Le Foodist creates lasting memories. During the two-hour course "Chardonnay Around the World", not only did we taste five different wines, including champagne, but the sommelier entertained us with historical anecdotes and stories about each one. Additionally, Stéphane provided us with a vocabulary to describe the visual aspects of Chardonnay (golden rather than yellow) and used a professional aroma kit to enhance our sense of smell. You wouldn't believe how challenging it is to identify specific scents, like pineapple, honey, butter and vanilla, when you get a whiff of them from an unmarked vial. Even though your brain recognizes the scent as a familiar one, it's difficult to retrieve the information from your memory bank without training. Yet, we all started to feel like pros after Stéphane's explanations and encouragement.

Stephane Bonnerot, Le Foodist's sommelier

While Stéphane regaled us with stories about Napoleon Bonaparte's fondness for Vin de Constance, the sweet, nutty dessert wine of South Africa’s Constantia region, and told us the story of how Chardonnay saved France, Fred recounted tales about the different cheeses that were paired with each wine. As a piece of young Selles-sur-Cher melted in my mouth, Fred explained that this luscious French goat cheese coated with edible ash originated in the Loire Valley. The young cheese's delicate flavor reminded me of spring flowers while the more aged one had an interesting peppery taste. My favorite was an aged slice of Comté, a mountain cheese similar to Gruyère that comes from the Franche-Comté region of France. Trying not to seem overeager, I hovered near the cheese plate and possibly helped myself to more than my fair share. I couldn't help it.

Trained as a professional chef at Alain Ducasse Formation training center in Argenteuil, Fred has created a delectable recipe. He started with a unique concept, added an impressive professional kitchen and topped it all off with an interior space tastefully decorated by Amanda, his English wife. I was so impressed by the Daring Pairings Wine & Cheese class at Le Foodist that I can't wait to return. Next time, I think I'll try their "Once Upon a Table" hosted dinners where fifteen guests from around the world share a 5 course gourmet dinner with matching wines and champagne while the host and sommelier animate the evening with intriguing anecdotes. Whether you're on your own or part of a group, it's sure to be a memorable way to spend a delightful evening in Paris.

In addition to Once Upon a Table hosted dinners and Daring Pairings wine and cheese classes, Le Foodist offers Sweet Stories patisserie classes, Travel & Chef cooking classes and market visits. Fred also told us that they have some exciting plans for the future so be sure to keep an eye on their website for updates.

If you're still trying to decide how to celebrate Thanksgiving in Paris, Le Foodist has organized a special lunch from 11:45 am to 2:30 pm on November 28. In addition to a delicious 5 course meal, there will be an introduction to wine tasting by a sommelier and stories shared about each dish. The theme for the stories will be giving thanks to the relation between intercultural exchanges and our foods. It's Thanksgiving with a French twist!

Le Foodist
59 rue du Cardinal Lemoine
75005 Paris

Paris Weekender's interview with Fred Pouillot of Le Foodist
Reviews of Le Foodist on Trip Advisor

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Now I will believe that there are unicorns... "The Tempest" performed in English in Paris

One of the downsides of being an Anglophone expat in Paris is that there isn't a lot of live entertainment in English. I'm not complaining. It's to be expected when you reside in a French speaking country. But since I can't afford to dash off to London whenever I get a craving for live theatre, I've learned to take advantage of whatever Paris has to offer. I went to see Streetcar Named Desire when it was performed at Le Comedie Française and Romeo and Juliet at Le Tour Vagabond. While I enjoyed both productions, I had to work harder than I wanted to understand the French translations. It wasn't possible to relax and let the words wash over me.

That's why I was overjoyed when Sylvia and I received an email from author Cara Black with the exciting news that her good friend Joanna Bartholomew is producing and acting in The Tempest. That's right -- The Tempest in English, not Le Tempête in French! After a flurry of emails back and forth, Sylvia and I made a date for the show's opening night at Théâtre de Nesle in the sixth arrondissement.

As Sylvia and I settled into our front row seats, the sound of a rainstorm and a series of thunderclaps transformed the intimate theatre into a ship tossed violently upon the turbulent sea. With little on-stage scenery, the professional cast of five used dramatic sounds effects and Shakespeare's words to set the scene. Nick Calderbank's Prospero was by turns tender and merciless as he plotted to reclaim his stolen dukedom. At his side, Joanna Bartholomew's Ariel was sprightly and beguiling. Joanna is so agile that I found myself momentarily wondering if she does yoga. How else, I thought, could she remain perched with one foot upon a log for such a long time. With quick changes of costume and expression, Adrienne Mei Irving convincingly transformed herself from the naive Miranda into the aggressive yet cowardly Sebastian. All too soon, it seemed, this abridged version of Shakespeare's last great play came to an end.

Reserve in advance and get two tickets for the price of one (20€) until the end of November. That's about the same price as a movie ticket and it supports live theatre in English in Paris.

The Tempest, performed in English with French subtitles.
Wednesday - Saturday at 7:30 pm until December 28, 2013.
Théâtre de Nesle
8 rue du Nesle
75006 Paris

Miranda (Adrienne Mei Irving), Ariel (Joanna Bartholomew) and Prospero (Nick Calderbank)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Take the bartender's advice. Go to the Miss Dior exhibition at the Grand Palais!

I admit to being guilty of eavesdropping. In my defense, it's hard not to listen attentively when you overhear the bartender of a ritzy hotel say, "While you're in Paris, you absolutely have to see ...." to one of the female guests. Pretending to be absorbed by a message on my iPhone, I inclined my head towards the pair and listened intently as the bartender rhapsodized about the current "Esprit Dior, Miss Dior" exhibition at the Grand Palais. "Brand ambassador Natalie Portman was at the opening with her husband Benjamin Millepied last night" he whispered with a conspiratorial air. When the woman asked for more details, he explained that part of the exhibition includes works by artists who inspired Dior, like Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti, while another section features the work of fifteen female contemporary artists who created large scale works inspired by Miss Dior. The woman agreed that it sounded like a "not-to-be-missed" event.

Hoping that I wouldn't bump into the lady from the hotel bar, I hustled over to the Grand Palais yesterday afternoon and joined the line of people waiting patiently in the rain to see the free exhibition. Fortunately, it wasn't long before we were ushered inside and given a booklet with information about the history of the iconic Miss Dior fragrance and the fifteen female artists whose works are on display. 

Launched in 1947, the iconic fragrance was named "Miss Dior" after the designer's sister when Catherine Dior suddenly burst into the room where Christian was brainstorming names for his first perfume. In one of those lightbulb moments, Dior knew that he didn't have to look any further when his colleague and muse Mitzah Bricard said, "Ah, here's Miss Dior!" But while the fragrance Miss Dior exudes a seductive air of femininity, Catherine Dior was a member of the French Resistance, or more specifically of a Polish intelligence unit based in France, during World War II. After being arrested for gathering information about German troop movements and weaponry, Catherine was tortured and deported to Ravensbrück women's concentration camp. Two years after she returned to Paris completely emaciated, "Miss Dior" was named after her.

66 years later, Dior's signature fragrance is the subject of a special retrospective exhibition that recounts the story of Miss Dior and delves into the history of the couture house through a presentation of archival documents, photos and Dior couture gowns. Take the bartender's advice and go see this FREE exhibition!

Click here to see the album of photos from the exhibition.

Esprit Dior, Miss Dior (November 13-25, 11:00 am until 8:00 pm)
Grand Palais - Galerie Courbe
Entrance on the corner of Avenue Franklin Roosevelt and Cours la Reine
75008 Paris
FREE entrance

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Joyful Obsession: Prada Christmas windows at Printemps combine tradition with originality

Children captivated by the playful bears in the Prada Christmas windows at Printemps

When I was a child, Christmas was the most magical time of year. There were festive trees adorned with twinkling lights, carolers singing songs of joy and "The Enchanted Forest" at our local department store. Every year, we made the long trek downtown, stood in line for hours and marveled at the animated displays. The memory of those holiday outings with my family are forever etched in my memory. They haven't faded with time or distance.

If you would like to create some lifelong memories with your children, don't miss the delightful Christmas windows at Printemps. The excitement starts with a glimpse of 150 stars and snowflakes magically illuminating the facade of the luxury department store. The sense of magic intensifies while watching 80 playful bears frolicking in the snow, swinging from strands of lights and dancing to the tunes of Christmas melodies. Both children and adults will be enchanted by the four animated windows, especially the one where adorable Prada bears are seen mountain climbing, skiing and sledding. Wanting to join in the fun, I told Stéphane that we should plan a ski vacation for next year but changed my mind as soon I noticed a darling little bear shivering in the cold!

A massive Christmas table laden with holiday treats, crystal, silverware, porcelain and sequined Prada shoes is the star attraction in one of the windows devoted to fashion. In another, a fashionably dressed mannequin with blue sunglasses sits astride a sports car completely covered with twinkling lights. The unifying theme of the eleven holiday windows are the two-toned checkered tiles that recall Prada's heritage store, the Galleria, which opened in Milan in 1913. Together, Printemps and Prada have created Christmas magic.

Click here to see the the complete photo album of the Christmas windows at Printemps.

Printemps Department Store
64 Blvd. Haussmann
75009 Paris

American actress Gwyneth Paltrow unveiled the Christmas windows at Printemps on November 7, 2013.
Photo credit: Romain Ricard

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Them and Us: "Yousuf Karsh: Icons of the 20th Century" and graffiti artist JR's "Inside Out Project"

Yesterday, I went to two diametrically opposed yet strikingly similar photography exhibitions -- Yousuf Karsh: Icons of the 20th Century at Mona Bismarck American Center for art and culture and graffiti artist JR's Inside Out Project at the Palais du Tokyo.

Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can. — Yousuf Karsh

During his lifetime, Yousouf Karsh (1908-2002) captured the souls of some of the most famous political, cultural and intellectual figures from France and the United States. The exhibition of 70 of the photographer's most striking portraits juxtaposes an original portrait of Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces during World War II and President of the French Fifth Republic, with an intense close-up of Dwight D. Eisenhower, five-star general in World War II and president of the United States. In another gallery, portraits of American authors Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and John Steinbeck intermingle with those of French writers Albert Camus, Marguerite Yourcenar and François Mauriac.

Karsh's remarkable portraits are so powerful that the acrid scent of Humphrey Bogart's cigarette actually tickled my nose. Gazing into the troubled eyes of Ernest Hemingway, I felt his insecurity and pain, while Marcel Marceau's portrait conveyed a certain lightness, even though the French actor began miming as a way to keep children quiet and safe from the Nazis. When it came time to leave, I had a hard time pulling myself away from Albert Einstein's kindly eyes for they seemed to hold all the secrets of the universe.

Yousuf Karsh: Icons of the 20th Century (October 16, 2013 - January 26, 2014)
Mona Bismarck Center for arts and culture
34 Avenue de New York
75116 Paris

"I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we'll turn the world...INSIDE OUT." — JR

While Yousef Karsh's collection of 150,000 negatives includes some of the most well-known figures of recent times, JR uses his camera to show the world its true face. Winner of the 2011 TED conference prize of $100,000, the French graffiti artist, who made a name for himself by plastering giant black and white portraits of people in cities around the world, has returned home to Paris.

From November 6 - 8, the Inside Out photobooth truck took photos of over 900 Parisians and visitors, many of whom resolutely waited in line under the pouring rain, while the project's dedicated wheatpasting crew covered the exterior walls of the Palais de Tokyo with posters of men, women and children. Some people appear contemplative while others make silly faces. The cumulative result is astonishing. Even though these are the same faces that I see on the metro, standing in line at the bakery and pass on the street, there is something captivating about them. They're you. They're me. They're us.

Inside Out Project's photobooth truck will be stationed in front of the MK2 cinema at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France prior to the premiere of the documentary, Inside Out: The People's Art Project on November 12 at 8:00 pm. and in cinemas on November 13. Go and get you picture taken!

Inside Out Project at the MK2 Bibliothèque Cinema, 128/162 av. de France, 75013 Paris from November 10-12, 1-7 pm. Line closes at 5.15 pm.

Photo album on Facebook
JR's "My wish: Use art to turn the world inside out" TED Talk
JR's "One Year of Turning the World Inside Out" TED Talk

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tick-Tock ... It's time for Christmas! Léa Seydoux and André Dussollier unveil animated Christmas windows at Galeries Lafayette

  Stars of the French remake of Beauty and the Beast Léa Seydoux (Midnight in Paris) and André Dussollier (Amélie Poulain) in front of the interactive window. Swipe away the roses and a castle magically appears.

I don't know what it is about living in Paris but time seems to pass at a much faster rate than it does anywhere else. No sooner did I finish my post with ideas for where to celebrate Thanksgiving in Paris than I found myself writing about the unveiling of the Christmas windows at Galeries Lafayette. And to think that it was Halloween only a week ago!

Catch a falling star...

But time must have also passed at warp speed for the team of carpenters, decorators sculptors, painters, puppeteers, artists and lighting experts who started working on Galeries Lafayette's magical window displays ten months ago. With the theme, "Once upon a Christmas...Before the Clock Strikes Twelve", the displays depict the travels of Lilly the Doll and Martin the Teddy Bear. Along the way, Lilly and Martin encounter hundreds of animated characters, including adorable mice dressed in gossamer tutus using a net to catch a falling star and monkeys in top hats swinging back and forth from dangling pocket watches. The whimsical displays invite your imagination to run wild and remember what it was like to be a child at Christmastime.

Animated Christmas tree at Galeries Lafayette

Equally magical is the first animated Christmas tree suspended from the glass dome of Galeries Lafayette. Created in collaboration with Swatch, the 60 foot (18 meter) tree is decorated with approximately 1.9 miles (3 km) of twinkling lights. Even though it only took about five days for the fairytale like tree to be installed in the middle of the store, it's the culmination of nine months of intense labor. Like Swiss clockwork, sixty animated characters dance and twirl around the village nestled at the base of the tree every hour. Be sure to take the escalator to the second and third floors for better views of all the animated mice, rabbits, monkeys and sheep.

Beauty and the Beast interactive window.

In addition to the twelve storefront windows on Boulevard Hausmann, the five windows on Rue de la Chaussée-d'Antin are decorated for Christmas with scenes from Beauty and the Beast. The most popular is an interactive window covered with hundreds of virtual red roses. Working in tandem with little children, I noticed the faces of several formerly aloof Parisians break into broad grins when they succeeded in sweeping away the flowers to reveal a gothic castle perched atop a craggy mountain. Now that's magical! The new French remake of Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) with Léa Seydoux, André Dussollier and Vincent Cassel will be released in cinemas on February 12, 2014.

If you're in the mood for something sweet after marveling at all the holiday displays, Jean-Paul Hévin has opened a pop-up hot chocolate bar on the 8th floor terrace of Galeries Lafayette. He's the chocolatier who won my award for "best hot chocolate" in 2012.

Photos of the animated Christmas tree, window displays and unveiling ceremony.
Closeup photos of the animated Christmas tree taken before it was illuminated.

Animated Christmas tree at Galeries Lafayette

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wondering what to do this weekend? Go see "Sebastian Marx: A New Yorker in Paris" - one man comedy show in English

Aside from the entire male/female thing, Stéphane and I have completely different senses of humor. My Swiss husband grew up watching the giants of French comedy, Louis de Funès and Fernandel, while I came of age laughing at the antics of John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner and the other original cast members of the American television show, Saturday Night Live. Over the years, we've learned to accept the fact that there just aren't that many comedy movies that we want to watch together.

All of this explains why I was truly amazed by how much Stéphane and I both enjoyed "Sebastian Marx: A New Yorker in Paris" when we went to see this one man comedy show a couple of weeks ago. Influenced by Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and Louis CK, Sebastian skillfully warmed up the audience by asking people where they were from and what had brought them to Paris. Surprisingly, considering that the entire show is performed in English, at least half of the audience were locals. It seems that Parisians' recent love affair with New York has spread to comedy and the French are curious to discover what we secretly think of them! With great affection, a refined style and perfectly timed delivery, Sebastian isn't shy about revealing just what it is that outsiders find challenging about living in Paris. Yet, he does it with such charm and an impish grin that the entire audience falls under his spell.

If you're above sixteen years old and don't have any problems climbing up four flights of stairs to the SoGymnase comedy club, I highly recommend Sebastian's show. Combine it with dinner at Le Marie Bell, located on the second floor inside the Théâtre du Gymnase Marie Bell, or one of other nearby restaurants for a perfect Friday or Saturday night out in Paris. Frenchie Wine Bar and Experimental Cocktail Club are good options for drinks after the show.

Sebastian Marx: A New Yorker in Paris
SoGymnase Comedy Club
38 Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle
75010 Paris

Tickets reserved in advance are 10 euros and include a free drink. Insider's tip - the comedy club is located inside the Théâtre du Gymnase Marie Bell. When you're facing the theatre, you'll see some signs on the left side of the building. Follow them to the fourth floor. Have fun!

Reviews of "Sebastian Marx: A New Yorker in Paris" in French on BilletRéduc and in English on 
Trip Advisor.

Stephane's review on Trip Advisor: Sebastien décrit avec beaucoup d'humour ses expériences parisiennes depuis qu'il est venu y habiter, il y a de cela 9 ans. On passe une heure à écouter ses impressions qui, si l'on a passé seulement quelques jours ou quelques années à Paris, nous font d'autant plus rire qu'elles sont partagées. Ses années à Paris lui font aussi porter un regard différent sur sa ville d'origine qu'il ne manque pas non plus de critiquer avec quelques boutades. Un début de soirée donc très amusant avant d'aller manger dans un des nombreux restaurants des environs. Et pas de soucis pour l'Anglais. Sebastien est facile à comprendre même pour nous les francophones.

Follow the signs to the fourth floor for a fun evening in Paris!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Some ideas for where to eat Thanksgiving dinner in Paris - 2013

A table set for a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. Photo via

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's a day for families. A time when we pause to give thanks for all of our blessings. If, like me, you're going to be far from your loved ones on Thanksgiving Day, here are some ideas for where to celebrate this American holiday in Paris.

Breakfast in America: This American diner is offering two seatings of a traditional dinner that includes an aperitif, a starter, turkey plate with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetable, cranberry sauce and a slice of pumpkin, apple or pecan pie for €32.95. Wine, alcohol and other drinks are not included in the price. Reservations via email required: Breakfast in America, 17, rue des Ecoles, 75005 Paris.

Ralph's: Ralph Lauren’s namesake restaurant in its flagship boutique in St Germain des Prés celebrates Thanksgiving in true American tradition with the season’s most festive dishes including turkey, stuffing, apple pie and more for €120 per person. Call Ralph's at +33 (0)1 44 77 76 00 to make reservations. The two seatings (6:30 and 9:00 pm) are sure to fill up fast.

O Chateau Wine Bar is offering a traditional Thanksgiving dinner every night of Thanksgiving week, November 25-30! The set menu includes pumpkin velouté with pumpkin chips and sorbet, stuffed roasted turkey, macaroni and cheese, green beans, cranberry sauce and apple pie served with vanilla ice cream for €39 per person or €70 including champagne and wine.

Blues-Bar-B-Q: My favorite barbecue joint in Paris will be serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for €35 per person. There will be two seatings (6:30 and 9:00 pm). Reservations are required. Blues Bar-B-Q, 1 rue Sedaine, 75011 Paris. Phone: +33 (0)1 48 06 79 53

The Moose: This Canadian sports bar and grill is organizing a Thanksgiving party with a traditional menu. If you would like to follow the NFL football games direct from the United States, this is the place for you. Call for more information and to make reservations. The Moose, 16 rue des 4 Vents, Paris 75006. Tel: + 33 (0) 1 46 33 77 00

La Cuisine de l’E7: The restaurant of the 4-star Hôtel Édourd 7 is offering a fixed price menu with pumpkin soup, cornbread, stuffed poultry, sweet potato purée, cranberry sauce, pumpkin tart and ice cream for €40 per person, drinks not included. Reserve online or contact the restaurant. La Cuisine de l’E7, 39 avenue de l'Opéra, 75002 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 61 86 11

Joe Allen: The classic American restaurant has created a special menu with traditional favorites and interesting alternatives, like corn chowder with Thai curry, roasted pumpkin and ricotta enchiladas with spaghetti squash coleslaw, grilled marinated tuna steak. The three-course menu is €46 and includes coffee or tea. Reserve online or send an email to Joe Allen, 30 Rue Pierre Lescot, 75001 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 36 70 13

Le Saint-Martin: Just in case you don't eat your fill of turkey on Thanksgiving Day, this bistro is offering a traditional menu for €40 per person on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. Reserve your table or order your feast to go via email ( or phone. Le Saint-Martin, 25 Rue Louis Blanc, 75010 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 46 07 73 68

American Church in Paris: For a less expensive option, enjoy turkey and all the trimmings for €25 per adult and €18 per child under 12 in the Thurber Room on Saturday, November 23. The family seating at 5:00 pm features children's activities and a special movie. The adult seating is at 8:30 pm. Tickets available online. American Church in Paris, 65 quai d'Orsay, 75007 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 40 62 05 00

Meetup's "The Paris Thanksgiving Dinner": Mainly for expats who live in Paris, Meetup's traditional Thanksgiving dinner will be between €37 and €40, including a glass of wine. A short, digestive, slow-paced, post-meal walk to Sacré-Cœur will follow the meal. Join Meetup and reserve online.

Grange aux Dîmes de Wissous: located outside of Paris, this gastronomic restaurant is offering an all inclusive traditional Thanksgiving dinner for €49.90. Included in the menu are pumpkin souffle, corn pancakes, roasted turkey stuffed with chestnuts, cranberry relish, pecan pie, pumpkin pie and more. La Grange aux Dîmes,  3 Rue André Dolimier, 91320 Wissous (approximately 30 minutes from Paris) Tel:+33 (0)1 69 81 70 08

Ideas for a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner:

Whether you're on your own or in a group, I highly recommend Le Foodist's "Thanksgiving in Paris" five-course lunch with wine pairings and a glass of champagne. In addition to a delicious meal, there will be an introduction to wine tasting by a sommelier and stories shared about each dish. The theme for the stories will be giving thanks to the relation between intercultural exchanges and our foods. It's Thanksgiving with a French twist! The all-inclusive lunch from 11:45 am -2:30 pm is €110. Reserve online. Le Foodist, 59 Rue Cardinal Lemoine, 75005 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)6 71 70 95 22.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, La Cuisine Paris has schedule two cooking classes where you'll work with new found friends to create an elegant menu that is a fusion of favorite dishes from France and the USA. After all of your hard work, you'll toast yourselves with a glass of champagne and dine in an area overlooking the Seine. The "Thanksgiving in Paris" cooking classes are €100. Reserve online. La Cuisine Paris, 80 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 Paris. Note: Both the lunch and dinner classes are already sold out.

Alternatively, we thoroughly enjoyed stuffing ourselves with delicious Basque food at Chez L'Ami Jean two years ago. Here's a blog post from the archives with more information.

Make your own Thanksgiving dinner:

You'll find all the essential ingredients to make your own holiday dinner at the aptly named Thanksgiving and The Real McCoy, two small American grocery stores in Paris.

It's also possible to order a roasted turkey from your local butcher. Just be sure to plan ahead and order it about three weeks in advance.

As I'm sure that there are many other restaurants that are organizing Thanksgiving dinners in Paris, please let me know which ones I missed so that I can include them in this post. Thanks!