Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wish you were here! Six days in Dubai.

Burj Kalifa (left) and Burj Al Arab (right)

If Paris is a grande dame with a rich history, Dubai is an up and coming teenager with its eye firmly fixed on the future. With the tallest man made structure in the world, which at 829.8 meters is almost three times as tall as the Eiffel Tower, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, the world's only seven star hotel and a man-made palm island that is visible from space, Dubai is a city of superlatives. During the past three days, I've found myself overusing the words, "amazing", "incredible", "unbelievable" and "wow". But what other words would correctly convey the awe that I've felt while craning my neck skywards to see Burj Kalifa's spire piercing the nighttime sky or gazing at the ultra-modern city that emerged from the desert sands less than fifteen years ago.

Since quite a few people have told me that they're currently planning trips to Dubai, here's my schedule for the week. I hope to write more detailed blog posts once I'm back in Paris. But right now, I've still got a lot more to explore!

Monday - Afternoon tea at Burj Al Arab, the world's only seven star hotel. Book early to ensure that you get a table at the Skyview Bar to watch the sunset. (I've got lots of insider's tips that I'll share in a future post.) Visit the nearby Madinat Jumeirah Hotel and Souk Madinat Jumeirah that are styled after an Arabian souk with narrow waterways, wind towers and lantern lit hallways. If you have a reservation at one of the restaurants, you can go for an abra, or small boat, ride through the canals to the restaurant. Otherwise, an abra tour costs AED 75 for an adult.

Tuesday - Learn about Emarati culture and religion while eating traditional dishes at a Cultural Lunch at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. (More in a future blog post). While in the area, visit the Dubai Museum, which is more interesting than it appears from outside, and stroll along the Bur-Dubai creek. If you have time, go for an abra ride. Visit the Dubai Mall, one of the world's largest, and watch the impressive dancing fountain show on Burj Kalifa Lake. With designer boutiques, an Angelina's and a Ladurée under the same roof, I almost felt as if I was in Paris. There's also a huge indoor aquarium and an ice skating rink. If you're looking for a good coffee or Italian food, go to the newly opened Eataly.

Cultural Lunch at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

Wednesday - Visit the Mall of the Emirates to see Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East. Take the Palm monorail to the Atlantis Hotel, dine at one of the 21 restaurants, take lots of photos of the magnificent lobby with the massive glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly and be enthralled by the Lost Chambers Aquarium. Even though we didn't go inside, it's possible to view parts of the aquarium while strolling through the hotel or sipping a coffee at the Poseidon Café. Or, you can dine "Under the sea..." at Ossiano.

Thursday - Relax at the hotel and write a blog post. Eat breakfast but not lunch because you need to save room for an "Arabian Food Tour" with Frying Pan Adventures. (I'm leaving for this tour in one hour and my stomach is growling thinking of all the delicious food I'm going to eat!)

Friday - Have breakfast at the Dubai Marina. In the evening, go for a dessert safari with Platinum Heritage.

Saturday - Wake up early to watch the sunrise from the top of Burj Kalifa. Depart Dubai at 3:00 pm.

Lobby of the Atlantis Hotel with the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Roses, love and flashmobs - Valentine's Day in Paris, the most romantic city in the world

Couple kissing on the rose strewn Pont des Arts on Valentine's Day in Paris

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay, I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café. -Oscar Hammerstein II

If Paris's heart is normally warm and gay, it must have been overflowing with joy yesterday. Love was floating in the air, literally, but I'll tell you more about that later.

First, let's go to the Ponts des Arts, the metal footbridge that many consider to be the most romantic spot in Paris. Originally constructed between 1802 and 1804, the nine-arch nine-arch pedestrian bridge attracts couples from around the world who pledge their undying love to each other by inscribing their initials on a padlock and attaching it to the bridge*. The keys for the lock are ceremoniously tossed into the Seine River as the couple immortalizes the moment by snapping a selfie.

In honor of Valentine's Day, the French watch company Sismeek lined the bridge with pink and red roses bearing the message, "It's time to say 'I love you'". Passersby, whether they were walking, cycling or jogging, were offered free roses for their sweethearts. Even though it was cold and pouring rain, I hung around much longer than expected because it was so much fun watching people's reactions to the rose strewn bridge.

Antonio Canova's sculpture Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss at the Louvre

As I had rather optimistically and somewhat foolishly left home without my umbrella, I made use of my Louvre membership to escape the deluge. I'm sure that there are quite a few Chinese tourists who will have tales to tell about the manner in which a disheveled woman used the public hand dryer in the bathroom to dry her hair in Paris. Yup, that sodden creature was me! Before leaving, I checked if Cupid was still locked in his embrace with Psyche or if he was on a last minute Valentine's Day mission. When I left the Louvre, I spread the love by giving a woman security guard the rose that I had received on the Pont des Arts.

Jeff Leatham's Pop Up Flower Shop at the George V

Before heading home for a quick lunch, I used Jeff Leatham's Pop Up Flower Shop as an excuse to pass by the George V for a cup of coffee.

My final destination for the day was the KISS flashmob at the Louvre. Organized to coincide with the launch of WikiLove, the encyclopedia of love, people were invited to gather near the Louvre's pyramid for the world's most diverse kiss party. At precisely 14h14 (2:14 pm) mothers kissed daughters, friends kissed friends, men kissed women, women kissed women and men kissed men. With the release of heart-shaped balloons, love was literally in the air. Isn't Paris the most romantic city in the world?

Please click here to see the album of photos from Ponts des Arts and here to see the album of photos from the KISS flashmob at the Louvre.

*If you would like to help free the historic bridges of Paris from love locks, like No Love Locks' Facebook page.

Recognize this couple? They're the ones in the first photo taken on the Pont des Arts. After I snapped their picture at the Louvre, they told me that they're studying in Paris.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Shinseki - A new Japanese restaurant hosting musical evenings and more in Saint-Germain-des-Prés

If you took a peek inside my Parisian kitchen, you might be surprised to find that it's stocked with dried seaweed and shiitake mushrooms rather than cheese and chocolate. Seven years of living in Southeast Asia left such an indelible mark on my culinary habits that there's even a Zojirushi rice maker instead of a toaster sitting on my countertop. But since I never make sushi or sashimi at home, I was delighted to hear about Shinseki, a new Japanese restaurant in Saint-Germain-des-Prés that uses the freshest ingredients available in France to make traditional, yet innovative, Japanese food.

Last Monday, Sylvia (Finding Noon) and I were pleased to accept an invitation* for lunch at Shinseki. The interior is a haven of natural stone walls and wood, a welcome contrast to the rather nondescript exterior. Modeled after the Izakayas of Japan, the three-floor bistro was designed to provide a zen-like atmosphere where friends can relax over a bottle of wine from the well-stocked cellar and small plates, like fried eggplant with miso, sea bass carpaccio and cod beignets, after a long day's work.

While the freshness of my salmon carpaccio and assorted sashimi convinced me to return for lunch, I can't wait to take Stéphane to one of Shinseki's weekly musical events on Thursday nights. On the schedule tonight is the jazz duo, Terrance Gelenter and Sheldon Forrest, performing songs from the great American songbook. Diner is at 7:30 and the concert starts at 9:00 pm.

Only a portion of Shinseki's well-stocked wine cellar

Insider's tip: Be sure to check out the wine cellar in the basement. It's a treasure trove of wine, champagne and saké that patrons are encouraged to visit. While you're there, take a look at M. Chapoutier's Chante-Aloutte with its Braille label. Not only is it an excellent wine from the northern Rhone Valley, but I like the winemaker's show of respect for the visually impaired. The price of a bottle of wine ranges from 21 to 137€. Glasses of wine are available from 5.50€.

6 rue de Montfaucon
75006 Paris, France

*My policy when accepting an invitation for a meal at a restaurant, tour or show is that I only write about it if it's something that I would recommend to my family and friends. I'll definitely return to Shinseki for lunch when I'm in the neighborhood and for one of their musical evenings.

Shinseki's lower level is the perfect place to host musical evenings.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Love is in the air: lots of unique ideas for Valentine's Day in Paris

Whether you're single, married or divorced, there's a lot happening in Paris on February 14:

Feel like a star - For Valentine's Day, the RATP is offering you and the person of your choice a FREE glamor shot. Five Harcourt Studio photo cabins will be available from 12:00 - 6:00 pm at the following stations: Gare de Lyon, Denfert-Rochereau, Villejuif-Louis Aragon, La Motte Picquet-Grenelle and Jaurés.

One minute to "spread the love" at the Louvre: At precisely 14h14 (2:14 pm) on February 14, a flashmob will gather in front of the pyramid at the Louvre to kiss their lover, best friend, stuffed animal, dog or bicycle. Couples, families, friends - everyone is invited to share a minute of love. KISS Flashmob in Paris event page.

Follow your nose to love at the first Pheromone Party in Europe - Here's how it works:
1. Guests sleep in a clean, white, cotton t-shirt for 3 nights in a row to capture their odor print and bring this in a ziplock bag to the party.
2. Bags are labeled pink for girl, blue for boy. Each bag is assigned a number. Only the guest knows the number of their shirt.
3. Bags are placed on a table. Guests smell the bags at their leisure throughout the party.
4. If a guest finds the smell attractive, they take a picture with the bag at a photographer station. These pictures are projected as a slide show on the wall at the party.
5. If you see a picture of a guest you find attractive holding your number, this is the green light to talk to them.
6. At the end of the party, a facebook album is created and all of the pictures are tagged - so if you missed your match at the party, you can still contact them. Event website.

Find Beauty and not the Beast at Pathé Beaugrenelle - The cinema promises 50% women, 50% men and 100% encounters at the private screening of the French remake of "La Belle et la Bête". With champagne and popcorn to share and a "speed-dating" dinner, Valentine's Day 2014 may become your new, favorite romantic comedy. Event page on Facebook. (Edit: There are still some spots available for men but all of the ones for women are already full.)

A "suite" contest - The Shangri-La Paris is offering residents of France with a Facebook or Twitter account the chance to win a night for two in one of their deluxe suites. From February 10 to 13, you can enter the #SLParisLove contest by completing these steps:
1. Capture a photo of your most romantic spot in Paris.
2. Post it on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile: your profile has to be public.
3. Include the contest hashtag #SLParisLove and tell us why it is your most romantic spot. More info on Facebook.

Say "Je t'aime" with a special Jeff Leatham bouquet - Give your sweetheart (or yourself!) an extra special bouquet of flowers from the Jeff Leatham Pop Up Flower Shop at the George V on February 14.

The language of love - Stroll through the romantic streets of Montemartre and have your photo taken in front of the Love Wall. Square Jehan Rictus, Place des Abbesses, 75018. M° Abbesses.

For more ideas, keep an eye on my Facebook page!

Did I miss an event? Please let me know so that I can include it.

La Tour d'Argent's Brut Rosé and Patrick Roger's chocolate lingerie

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gustave Eiffel Merry-Go-Round in Dijon, France

Carrousel Gustave Eiffel in Dijon, France

After yesterday's post about Gustave Eiffel's passion for aerodynamics at the end of his life, let's go for a spin on the merry-go-round honoring the French engineer's numerous achievements in his hometown of Dijon. Mount a white horse, fly a biplane or board a green trolley. After admiring the half-timbered houses and cafés surrounding the Place François Rude, one of the city's most beautiful squares, take a moment to look at the paintings decorating the carrousel. They celebrate some of Eiffel's most notable structures: the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the internal framework of the Statue of Liberty in New York City and the Garabit Viaduct spanning the River Truyère in the Cantal region of France.

While you're in Dijon, be sure to visit Les Halles. The covered market, a masterpiece of metal and glass, was also built from plans designed by Gustave Eiffel. Other famous structures attributable to Eiffel include Bon Marché's internal framework of cast iron, which was lost when the original store was destroyed by fire in 1915, the train stations in Budapest, Hungary and La Paz, Bolivia, the Porto viaduct over the Douro and the dome of Nice observatory.

Please click here to see additional photos of Dijon's Carrousel Gustave Eiffel posted on Facebook.

Related posts:
Blown Away: Visiting Gustave Eiffel's Wind Tunnel
The best way to visit the Eiffel Tower - "The Eiffel Tower Romance" with Visites Spectacles
Divergent points of view - the Eiffel Tower as seen by an engineer and his wife! 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Blown Away: Visiting Gustave Eiffel's Wind Tunnel

Part of Eiffel's wind tunnel

My desk is a mess. It's cluttered with notebooks full of scribblings hastily written during tours, interviews and my meanderings around the city. On one of the tattered pages, I had written the cryptic message, "Eiffel built wind tunnel. Rue Boillet. Can visit." It's something that I noted during our behind-the-scenes tour of the Eiffel Tower with Gilles last July and had intended to pursue at a later date. Fortunately, visiting the wind tunnel was one of the exceptional experiences offered by "Paris Face Cachée" ("Hidden Face of Paris") this year.

When Gustave Eiffel's company built the tower that bears his name for the 1889 World's Fair, many regarded the iron structure as either unsound or as an eyesore. Critics eagerly anticipated the day when Eiffel's twenty year contract would expire in 1909 and the “giant and disgraceful skeleton" (Guy de Maupassant) would be torn down and used for scrap metal. In the meantime, Eiffel put the tower to good use. He dropped objects off the second level to conduct wind resistance experiments, installed a meteorological laboratory on the third floor and used it as a giant aerial mast for the new science of radio broadcasting.

Fascinated by the resistance of objects to air, Eiffel constructed his first wind tunnel at the base of the Tower. From 1909 to 1911, Eiffel conducted over 5,000 trials, most of which he financed himself. When neighbors complained about the noise, Eiffel built two new wind tunnels in Auteuil, a former borough of Paris now part of the 16th arrondissement.

Thanks to Eiffel's reliable data and repeatable research methods, he produced the most accurate aeronautical data of the time. When aircraft manufacturers adapted his suggestion to reinforce the upper part of an aircraft's wings to prevent breakage, it greatly reduced the number of fatal accidents associated with early aviation.

Over the years, Eiffel's wind tunnel has been used to test the wind resistance of cars, buildings, cyclists and skiers. To achieve the desired windblown look in a portrait, a photographer even placed a model in the wind tunnel. It's currently being used for new studies on hot air balloons, like the one in the Parc André Citroën, and to test the pressure that wind puts on the facades of green buildings using natural ventilation, a sustainable resource technique that provides free cooling without the use of mechanical systems.

Eiffel's laboratory, which is the oldest surviving aeronautical laboratory with its original wind tunnel intact, is designated as a French National Monument and an Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

Laboratoire Aérodynamique Eiffel
l67 rue Boileau
75016 Paris, France

Please click here to see additional photos of Eiffel's Laboratory posted on Facebook.

Related posts: 
The best way to visit the Eiffel Tower - "The Eiffel Tower Romance" with Visites Spectacles
Divergent points of view - the Eiffel Tower as seen by an engineer and his wife!

"Be careful for your glasses!" That's what our guide told us when we tested Eiffel's wind tunnel. The wind speed can go up to 130 km/h.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Emblematic Italian Design at Sotheby's France - Gaetano Pesce

Gaetano Pesce, Italian designer, architect and artist, with his iconic UP chair at Sotheby's France

For the first time since the Centre Georges Pompidou honored Gaetano Pesce with a comprehensive career retrospective in 1996, Sotheby's France presents an exhibition-sale of some of the most exceptional pieces created by the Italian designer, architect and multidisciplinary artist.

On Monday evening, I had the rare pleasure of listening to the 74 year old artist talk about the inspiration behind many of his extraordinary pieces, including the iconic UP 5 chair. Created in 1969, the anthropomorphic chair was designed to resemble a prehistoric, female fertility figure, with a ball attached to symbolize captivity: “In this design I have expressed my idea of women. A woman is always confined, a prisoner of herself against her will. For this reason I wanted to give this chair the shape of a woman with a ball chained to her foot to use the traditional image of a prisoner.”

Gaetano Pesce and his ""L'Abbracio Cabinet"

Pesce, whose work is displayed as part of the permanent collections of some the most important museums in the world, such as MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, was born in La Spezia, Italy in 1939. Described by prominent architecture critic Herbert Muschamp as "the architectural equivalent of a brainstorm", Pesce projects include the Hubin's Apartment in Paris (1986); the Organic Building in Osaka (1989-1993); the Gallery Mourmans in Knokke-le-Zoute, Belgium (1994); and the Shuman residence in New York (1994).

Gaetano Pesce's work is infused with sensuality, generosity, intimacy, comfort and optimism - all recurrent themes cherished by the artist. Don't miss this exceptional opportunity to view a retrospective survey of his work presented by Sotheby's France in association with B&B Italia.

The exhibition is open to the public from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm  February 5-15, 2014 (closed February 9).

Sotheby's Galerie Charpentier
76 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris

Please click here to see more photos of Gaetano Pesce's work posted on Facebook.

Insider's tip: In addition to the exhibition-sale at Sotheby's, the window of the B&B Italia Store in Paris is currently dedicated to Gaetano Pesce. Be sure to check it out if you're near 35 rue du Bac, 75007.

Gaetano Pesce's "Moloch Lamp" (1970). Another prototype recently sold for $197,000 in New York in December 2013.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Sexy, Sophisticated Soirée at the Chamber, a Private Popup and Cocktail Club in Paris

Photo credit: The Chamber

As an expat who's only passing through Paris, it's always exciting to learn about the projects of other expats who have made the city their home. One that's creating a lot of buzz right now is The Chamber, a private popup and cocktail club created by Forest Collins of 52 Martinis.

The concept is simple yet perfectly executed. Host ultra swank, convivial cocktail experiences in exceptional spots. The membership only club, which will offer cocktail classes, master classes, Bloody Mary brunches, wine tastings and more, aims to create a sense to community amongst its 500 members by offering unique ways to socialize with an array of interesting people. In keeping with the idea of "sexy and sophisticated" guests are encouraged, although not obliged, to wear cocktail appropriate attire.

Last week, I put on my little black dress and attended one of The Chamber's "Focus on France" cocktail popup soirées in a lovely private apartment. While chatting with the other guests, who were a mixture of nationalities and ages, Forest invited us to sample a variety of cocktails. The Champagne Cocktail was simple yet sophisticated, the St-Germain Cocktail made with France's latest liquor darling was refreshing and the signature Citadelle Gin and Tonic was a surprising revelation to someone who doesn't normally drink gin. Also on the menu was the Scofflaw, a cocktail that originated at Harry's Bar in 1924. After a delightful couple of hours socializing and savoring cocktails, Forest passed out red goodie bags as we reluctantly said our goodbyes.

If you would like to join The Chamber community and participate in exclusive membership only events, normal membership rates are 120 euros per calendar year. Benefits include access to regular monthly private popup events; invitation to the year-end chamber anniversary party; access to other organized events, classes, parties and more; samples and goodie bags; discounts on related events and products; and one guest allowance for private popups and the anniversary party.

For additional information, please click here to visit The Chamber's website.

Related articles: 52 Martini's Private Cocktail PopUp Adventures: The Chamber
Secrets of Paris's A New Private Cocktail Club (Newsletter article)

Thanks to Sylvia of Finding Noon for introducing me to Forest.

Photo credit: The Chamber

Monday, February 3, 2014

Discovering the hidden face of Paris with Paris Face Cachée - Musée de l'Éventail (Fan Museum)

"Marriage of Louis XV and Marie Leczinska" French fan (1760-70). Fan Museum in Paris.

Last weekend was full of adventure as Stéphane and I discovered the "hidden face of Paris": a fan museum, Gustave Eiffel's 1912 wind tunnel, a private mansion in the 16th arrondissement, an old bathhouse in the 15th and the workshops of a bookbinder, lacquer artist and a painting restorer in Meudon. All of these exceptional experiences were part of Paris Face Cachée, 72 hours of unique moments in unusual places that are normally closed to the public.

The idea of this annual event is to be adventurous and sign up for an experience without knowing exactly where it's going to take place. Carefully reading the teasers, I was captivated by this one:

Power and Seduction at your Fingertips - Present throughout history, these little gems are a symbol of elegance, charm and intrigue. True works of art, they are made of ivory, pearl, wood, bone, silk, lace, feathers, satin, organza .... Not used on a daily basis anymore, they still have a prominent place in Haute Couture and theatre. From its creation to its use, let yourself be seduced by this little thing that's not lacking in sophistication.

Puzzled yet intrigued by the description, I completed the registration and was excited to learn that it was for the Musée de l'Éventail (Fan Museum) located in the 10th arrondissement.

Anne Hoguet, a fourth generation fan maker and restorer, welcomed us to the private museum located in her workshop. In the first room, she recounted the fascinating history of fans from the time that plaited palm leaf fans were used to ignite fires, chase flies and cool oneself to the introduction of folding Italian fans to the French Royal Court by Catherine de Medicis. During the reign of King Louis XIV, the fan makers' guild was created in France. Fan makers were those who could fold and assemble the leaves, while the marquetry artists made the frames in l'Oise, 50 kilometers North of Paris. During the height of their popularity at Versailles, the price of the most exquisitely crafted fans was the equivalent of what a car costs today.

Around King Louis XIV. Spanish fan (1840-50). Fan Museum in Paris.

Some of the most lavish fans date from the second half of the nineteenth century when the artists who painted the fans were often fashionable painters. While painting the leaves of a fan, artists had to arrange the composition so that the heads of the figurines weren't placed within the folds of the fan. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, many of the leading Impressionists, including Degas, Gauguin and Renoir, were intrigued by the challenge of painting on fan leaves. The most prolific was Camille Pissaro, who painted approximately 90 fans between 1878 and 1895.

At the beginning of the 20th century, fans made from ostrich feathers as well as those with beautifully painted leaves inspired by the "Art Nouveau" and "Art Déco" styles were fashionable. After the First World War, women's values and lifestyles changed radically and fans were no longer a necessity for the well-dressed woman. Thus, the reign of the fan came to an end. Anne Hoguet, however, hopes that one day women will replace their cell phones with hand fans. In the meantime, she's the very last producer specialized in high quality hand-made fans.

Created in 1993, the Musée de l'Éventail (Fan Museum) features the art of fan making, the tools of the trade and an exhibition room located in the Lepault & Deberghe showroom from 1893. Preserved in its original state, the former showroom is furnished in Henry II style and  classified as an historical monument. With more than 2,000 pieces dating from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the display changes periodically.

Musée de l'Éventail (Fan Museum)
2 blvd de Strasbourg, 75010 Paris
Hours: Monday to Wednesday 2 - 6 pm. Closed in August.
Admission: 6.50 euros
Metro: Strasbourg St Denis

Click here to see more photos on Facebook. Related Posts:

"Elegance and fabrics at the time of The Great Gatsby" - Exhibition at Prelle et Cie

Musée de l'Éventail (Fan Museum)