Archive for the ‘Paris Life’ Category

Catching Up And A Few Good Reads

November 6, 2012

Pre-surgery ETs preparing for the tough times ahead

The Experienced Travelers have been on a medical hiatus throughout the summer and fall.  Nurse is battling a serious infection in her knee, but we are on the road to recovery.  Just one more surgery for another knee replacement and she’ll be dancing a gigue.

This is what Nurse was hoping might emerge from the kitchen but my cooking skills run more toward grilled cheese than galettes from the Marais.

In my dual-role of primary caregiver and temporary cook, I prescribed regular infusions of Chateauneuf du Pape for the patient and the chef.  It certainly improved her disposition – and heightened the quality of my cuisine.  So, Dear Readership, you went on the back burner – so to speak.  Mea culpa.

Here are a few Parisian “good reads” I bookmarked for just such an occasion.  It’s the season for fireside reading and these books go nicely with a glass of wine and ripe Norman camembert:

The French art of seduction extends to shopping. Barb and Chris demonstrate the effects in a Marais scarf shop. I think two of those scarves came home with them.

Elaine Sciolino, Paris correspondent and former Paris bureau chief for The New York Times is author of  La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life.  Oh Dear Readership, how we long to understand the game, and Ms. Sciolino guides us through the labyrinth of French social interactions and teaches us how to flirt with the butcher.

Seduction governs all aspects of French life – romance, cuisine, business and politics.  The ETs have been under the spell for years. Just as we were relieved to know the diagnosis with Nurse’s knee, we are thrilled to understand the frisson and shortness of breath we get when we start planning a trip to  Paris.  I downloaded a sample and so far, it’s terrific.

To the Dear Readership who reside in France — what is your take on the art of seduction?  We rely on you to give us the straight story.

Melinda just caught an edge of Philippe-Auguste’s legendary wall

I’ve always meant to tell you about Alistair Horne.   His “Seven Ages of Paris” is one of the best comprehensive histories of the city I’ve read – twice.  From the island of Lutetia to the postwar period, it’s entertaining, well-written and relevant.  It might make you want to find the extant remains of Philippe-Augustus’ 12th century fortified wall.  If you do, I can tell you that it’s against local law and ordinance to pry off a piece of the wall for personal home use.

A splendid view of Montmartre from the windows of the Musee D’Orsay.(Photo by Barb and Christine)

Another good read is David Downie, a food and travel author who resides in Paris. (someone else who is living the life I was meant for, but I shan’t be mean about it…) “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light” is a series of  essays on different aspects of the city, its inhabitants and its history.  You *will* reserve flights after reading “Paris, Paris”.  Mr. Downie also writes an excellent blog.

My current bedside reading includes Mary McAuliffe’s “Dawn of the Belle Époque” about the Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau et. al.  It’s a bit formulaic but provides an excellent introduction to this fascinating period in French history.

A symbol of the Belle-Époque “can do” attitude. (Photo by Barb and Chris)

And speaking of the Belle Époque – have I mentioned Proust lately?  Set aside Danielle Steel and read the Mother of All Modern Social Set Pieces – Mme. Verdurin and her Wednesday “at homes” with the little clan or the Princesse de Guermantes’ “see and be seen” party.  Just *try* “Combray” – the first section of “Swann’s Way”.  If you get that far, you’ll have friends for life in six volumes.

Choose the new Penguin editions, which are  easier to grasp than older translations. Don’t suffer like I did because I wanted to read the same translation that Virginia Woolf  read.  Historical verisimilitude is nice but it will make you want to walk into a pond with stones in your pockets – oh, wait a minute…

Paris seduction begins on the Seine, in view of the Pont-Neuf, and most likely in a light drizzling rain. Get reading and fall in love with Paris!

In fact, I think that “La Seduction..” makes a perfect pairing with “In Search of Lost Time”- the theory explained in Sciolino and the practice artfully demonstrated in Proust.

There.  Now your holiday wish list is done and you can spend the winter weekends “in Paris” – without dispensing with jammies and a cuddly comforter.  It’s good to be chatting with you again!

Paris Street Markets: rue Mouffetard (5e)

September 3, 2012

Get your little string shopping bags ready for the rue Mouffetard

Dear Readership you must wonder where we’ve been all summer.  Nurse underwent the first of two knee surgeries in July and we’ve been working through her rehab and adjustment to being home again.

So we delved into the archives to bring you a short report from a visit Melinda and I made to market in the rue Mouffetard.  

At home, the Experienced Travelers endure the weekly food shopping.  They clutch their coupons and wheel the grocery cart through crowded aisles, wishing they were treading the cobbles of a Parisian street market instead. (note: coupons for items you need are *found money*!)

The rue Mouffetard market is one of the oldest in Paris.  But like the holy grail,  it eluded the ETs because we couldn’t actually find it.  Somehow we always wound up near the Mosque and settled instead for a delicious couscous lunch which is very affordable at it’s restaurant.

So I was bound and determined that Melinda and I would overcome my faulty map reading and get from the Place Monge metro station to the market.

Lost!

But determination doesn’t guarantee success.  Soon we were dazed and confused in a maze of cheap Greek restaurants and second-hand stores.

Another wrong turn

Melinda relieved me of command and in very short order we were poised at the top of the rue Mouffetard with stalls of tasty goods arrayed before us.  I was confounded again, but delighted to see what lay before me.

Anyone have a cracker? Cheeses at the Fromagerie Vernon

Once the Roman road to Italy, the rue Mouffetard is replete with everything you’ll need for a five-course meal and something to wear as you serve it up.  Hemingway lived nearby at 74, rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, and like the fantasy in the movie Midnight in Paris. We hoped he would appear so we could help him with his shopping which we assumed meant getting drunk, debating the meaning of art, and having fistfights.

Baguettes, gros pain, pain au levain, pain de ménage. How to choose!

Many French families shop every day – even office employees who go first thing in the morning, and again after work.  During the day, you’ll meet an army of dapper ladies, nannies with strollers and retired gentlemen who can browse at their leisure thanks to the generous French pension programme.

Knowledge and experience at your service.

Anyone who leaves the rue Mouffetard hungry must be an ascetic in an extreme state of self-denial.  I was lost again – lost in my hungry thoughts of those scallops, that loaf of bread, and this bottle of wine.

A little something to keep the ancient Romans from getting thirsty on the road

I think that the Romans chose the rue Mouffetard for their road because they could pick up tasty victuals for the trip on their way out of town.  While all roads may lead to Rome, this road will also satisfy any appetite, ancient or modern.

Generations of dedicated shop owners and purveyors of fine foods have kept the rue Mouffetard vital. Salut!

Paris Books: A Moveable Feast

February 18, 2012

Hemingway at 113 rue Notre Dame des Champs; strong and hungry (Wikimedia)

The Experienced Travelers are reading Hemingway.  Hemingway, the legend of his time.  He knew Pound and Stein and Fitzgerald and Joyce and he liked them all some of the time.  Other times he despised them truly.  Times in between, he was indifferent.

Hemingway lived in Paris with Hadley and his son, sometimes on the rue Cardinal-Lemoine where the goatheard brought the goats early to sell milk, and sometimes next to a sawmill in Montparnasse where the wood smelled sweet.  He wrote and struggled and played the horses and observed.  Mostly he observed the faces of people and knew they would die soon or betray someone or sleep well after they were full and spent.

La Rotunde (Wikipedia)

This was 1920s Paris, between the wars.  Americans lived cheaply and ate, drank and loved well.  Americans came to Paris to live cheaply and they did.  Paris embraced them.  The Closerie des Lilas was the best place to write, in the morning when they washed the floor.  Lipp and the Rotund were for people on exhibition and they did that.

But Hemingway was hungry alot.   He had a  grinding emptiness in his gut. Every writer should be hungry because it makes him see better.  He saw the Cezannes with clarity.  He thought he would like Cezanne most of the time.  He walked home through the Luxembourg gardens or along the quays because it was the way to avoid the patisseries and restaurants where people ate golden oysters and drank Sancerre outside and were satisfied.

Ezra Pound was one of the good Christian men on earth.  He was a true friend when you needed one.  Miss Stein gave him a small chair which broke.  She could have given him a large one, for a man of his stature and talent, but she didn’t.

Alice and Miss Stein (paris-a-nu.fr)

Miss Stein was built like a peasant woman. Her companion had hair cut like Joan of Arc.  27, rue de Fleurus contained the work of men who were hungry and who broke ice to wash in the morning.  Later Hemingway hated Miss Stein after she begged Alice please don’t.  He told the maid not to say he was there, and left.

La Closerie des Lilas in the 1920s (Wikipedia)

Hemingway wrote well in Paris, first for regular pay and then not for regular pay because the novel had to come.  Sometimes people would interrupt him to tell him he wrote well which was indiscreet because you never tell someone that to his face.   He thought they knew he could kill them because he knew he could, and you can tell when a man has that in him.

Then they had a whiskey or the red wine of the quartier, which was good and it lasted.  People are truer when they are drunk, and Hemingway was true alot and had to walk home in the rain which was the cold regular rain that stripped the trees bare.

The ETs will finish Moveable Feast soon and return to real stories which are better.  Hemingway’s book is short and good and it gets in your head.  Pound told Hemingway to distrust adjectives and Hemingway showed that to the ETs.  Shortly the ETs will forget this and do things normally.  Beware when we begin again with Proust.

Happy Birthday Julie’s Paris

October 10, 2011

The ETs prefer a comfortable outdoor venue when doing research for the Readership (even when they should be looking for someone to cut their hair)

The Experienced Travelers are popping corks to celebrate one-year of Julie’s Paris. Who knew!  Nurse and I toast the Readership!

Associate ETs Joanne and Clare explore the menu at Le Petit Troquet in the 7th

We also salute Associate ETs Joanne, Clare and Melinda, who contributed travel companionship, content and photos.  They willingly walked, ate, drank, shopped, photographed, drank and persevered.

Julie’s Paris  started as a trip blog.  It would have been too tiresome to spend time and bandwidth e-mailing everyone 10-megapixel photos of duck confit.  So we decided to blog.  The format was ideal and our friends were hardly shy about sharing comments about our Paris adventures. Thus it began, and so it continues.

Stiring things up at the Bisto St-Germain

We’ve welcomed new members to the Readership from all round the world.  It’s a delight to meet you and exchange stories through comments and e-mail.  We also rely on the Fodors Travel Europe forum for information and advice to bring the Readership the very best in Paris info.

Our first post was inspired by the orgiastic 2 1/2-hour lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Versailles.  But the continuation of that post with more photos and description is a better read! We know that the Readership wants French food — the ETs will dine out and deliver.

Other popular posts over the past year include our trip to the Chateau de Versailles, some odds and ends around town, the Marais and Monet, and the most-searched term leading readers to the blog, les macarons.  Next time you’re on a conference call, check out the Julie’s Paris archive!

The ETs are ready to eat whenever necessary in service to JuliesParis

Thank goodness we have hundreds of digital photos from Paris trips over the years, so we have a robust archive of pictures and stories to keep Julie’s Paris fresh.

But for heaven’s sake, think of the Paris topics and restaurants I have yet to cover.  It’s my job to gather content, so I am going to Kayak.com right away to check on airfares.  I must insure that the Readership is entertained.  I take my responsibility very seriously.  (And if my accountant should ask, be sure you tell her how important new content is to you)

There's so much more to discover in Paris - the Trocadero neighborhood looks promising.

We all love Paris – so let’s share our guilty pleasure with like-minded friends! Go ahead — use the “Share” link at the end of each post and tell us what you think.  If you’re the shy, retiring type, you can send us a note at julies_paris@yahoo.com

We thank the Readership for your unwavering loyalty to Julie’s Paris! Celebrate! It’s the perfect excuse for a smelly cheese and a glass of wine.

Encore!

PS – Let me draw your attention to “Lost In Paris” an entertaining article in yesterday’s New York Times  where author Matt Gross describes spending $200 on an umbrella.  There’s some Found Money!

Paris QuickPics: Couture Moments

September 11, 2011

Retro is always in; in the ET closets, that is..

The Experienced Travelers aren’t poised on the cutting edge of fashion, but we certainly appreciate the style gene in others – especially Parisians.   Here are a few couture moments to enjoy—

Les chaussures for sale in the Marais.

With a little courage and a good sense of balance, you can be stylishly shod.  The ETs’ admired the audacity of these shoes, shortly before our vertigo kicked in.  Young Frenchwomen wear them, and what’s more amazing, they traverse the cobbled streets at an alarming speed.  You’ll still see older elegant ladies in sensible pumps, but if you want to live dangerously in style, these are the ones for you.

Perfect for your next Royal Wedding but beware high winds

Parisians are not great hat-wearers, but that’s not to say you can’t statisfy a hankering for a stylish topper in the rue St-Louis en Île.   Melinda –  clearly the au courant ET – hurried into the crowded shop for a look round.  The proprietress had everything from simple sunhats to more extraordinary creations that perform no observable “hat” function.  Our Melinda emerged in a dandy white straw number to keep the bright sun out of her eyes so she could see shop windows more clearly.  It was a very successful detour!

Poodle hats? Even Toby the Boy Prince would draw the line at this.

It’s no surprise that there are clothing stores throughout Paris. A casual stroll will take you by numerous fashion establishments that beg for further exploration.

Fashion for the rest of us in the rue Mouffetard

The ETs are strong believers in buying quality – even if it means bringing home fewer goodies.  But sometimes a girl wants something cheap and cheerful, and Paris has clothing stores that cater to every whim.

Melinda (in her fetching new hat) eyes some comfy cotton pants in the rue Mouffetard

Telltale racks of cotton clothing in a street market are a sure sign of less expensive goods that are made for Found Money – treat yourself to something!

Shop window in the rue St.-Sulplice - there's are those scarves again

We found several interesting windows in the streets between Pl. St-Germain and St. Sulplice.  The French are crazy for scarves, as these warm weather ensembles demonstrate.  In fact, the dominant fashion accessories we observed were scarves and dark tights with funky boots.  We can do the scarves, but funky over-the knee boots…oh dear me.

e o

We're pleased that the French maintain their interest in lingerie

Ladies, there are opportunities galore to take home some new lingerie.  The ETs admired the multitude of styles and colors, but gone are the days when our figures would accommodate such ambitious infrastructure.

Even an 18th century fashionista has choices

Even more dramatic dressers can find something to take home with them.  This period clothing store near the Odeon metro stop had the ETs wishing and hoping for an invitation to a masked ball.

Nurse demonstrates functional fashion at work

But it all comes down to what works for you.  The ETs will  never be fashion doyennes but after a few of these kirs, we’ll rise above the disappointment and enjoy the couture parade as it passes by!

Paris Cinema: Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’

July 5, 2011

It's not midnight, but it is most certainly Paris (Photo by Associate ET Dygert)

Spoiler Alert: Stop reading if you don’t want to know how the movie ends.  But don’t worry it won’t make a difference.

At last, a long weekend and a break from the Real Job.  Experienced Travelers need respite from everyday life so Woody Allen’s latest movie “Midnight in Paris” was just the ticket for a hot July afternoon.

Welcome to fantasy Paris, where people find taxis in the rain, and parking spaces in front of elegant five-star restaurants where they habitually dine (and not on the prix-fixe menu, either)   Suffice it to say that Experienced Travelers should suspend disbelief and enjoy the scenery.

Place Contrescarpe at the heart of the Lost Generation's playground

“Midnight in Paris” delights Francophiles with familiar locations photographed in a dreamy golden hue that sets a perfect mood for this magical fantasy tour. There’s Montmartre, the Clingancourt flea market, bridges on the Seine and even Carla Bruni in the Rodin gardens.  It’s as beautiful as your fondest memory of Paris.  (The ETs wonder if  Carla stopped after work at nearby Cantin to spend her Actor’s Guild minimum wage on cheese for the Palace)

Click here to see a detailed filming location list from the Mairie de Paris (large PDF file – takes a moment to download)

We get a typical Woody Allen story and stock characters, with Owen Wilson in a tatty tweed sport coat and wrinkled chinos, seeking life’s answers and being misunderstood by everyone.

Hollywood screen writer Gil (Owen Wilson) wants to fulfill his literary ambitions by writing a novel, and romanticizes Paris of the 1920s.  He’s engaged to upper-crust princess Inez (Rachel McAdams) who is firmly planted in the present – and most of the exclusive stores in the rue Saint-Honoré.  They tag along on a business trip with her unenthusiastic parents, where they meet Inez’ annoying, pretentious former boyfriend. One night, in a drunken stupor, Gil is transported in a classic Peugeot, back to the 1920s where legends like Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Picasso and Gertrude Stein help him find his true self. It’s light on plot, but that’s not why we paid a ruinous $10 plus popcorn to see it on a large screen.

The well-heeled shop in the Place Madeleine while more pedestrian ETs lunch on public benches

This crowd gets no sympathy from ETs who know better.  They are blasé enough to treat the Hotel Bristol like a Holiday Inn Express, wealthy enough to order room service for breakfast (imagine the Found Money!) and crazy enough to consider an impractical  18,000 euro chair. No one rides the metro, there’s no fumbling for museum passes, fighting with ATMs or sightseeing from l’OpenTour busses.  There is no fear of the American Express bill to come, and no one mentions ruinous exchange rates.  Suspend disbelief – suspend, suspend, suspend.

The ETs stopped by Ernest Hemingway's Paris doorway. Gil did the ETs one better with the vintage Peugeot.

After all, this is Woody’s homage to Paris, city of lights.  The opening picture-postcard sequence sets the mood for a magical city that we could not begin to afford.  And thanks to Gil’s obsession with the past we get imaginary visits to the Steins on rue de Fleurus (Kathy Bates *is* Gertrude), drinks with Hemingway at Polidor, a Josephine Baker floorshow at Bricktop’s, working girls in the Place Pigalle and a humorous sequence with Djuna Barnes dancing the Charleston.   A basic knowledge of Lost Generation history helps.  “She’s back in Paris.  The trip to Kilimanjaro didn’t work out.”

Place du Tertre: A moment from 1920s Paris or the ETs last trip?

When all was said and done, I felt that Woody overlooked a nod to the important personage who, one hundred years earlier,  created the underpinnings for his protagonist’s self-awareness.  The resolution is taken right from Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”. It’s the same story; frustrated artist in search of self-realization through art realizes that the story to write is his own.  The past fuels the artistic endeavor of the present.  Of course I haven’t found a single writer or reviewer who mentions this parallel, and I will be accused of Proustian obsession by certain people who shall remain nameless.

Midnight in Paris for lucky ETs

My viewing companions gave the movie a 4.  I generously rated it a 7.  Every time the camera swept across the city I love best, I got weepy.  Like Gil, I went on a trip through the past – when I had the best omlette of my life at that café, how I crossed the Pont des Arts there, and climbed those steps to Sacre Coeur.  Recherchez, dear Readership.

(So what did you think of the film?  Leave a comment and let us know!)

Paris Quickpics: Happy Easter

April 22, 2011

Carrots any child would gladly eat

The Experienced Travelers wish you Joyeuses Pâques and a warm welcome to Spring!  These Parisian store windows with their voluptuous displays made us long for the Easter Bunny to grace us with baskets of luscious chocolates, merangues and subtle ganaches.

Happy Easter from A La Mere de Famille

The French gauge worthiness by one’s tolerance for pure dark chocolate – the higher the percentage, the better your chances are for immigration. If you can tolerate 70-85% and conjugate 7 irregular verbs, you’re in.
To celebrate the holiday, I’m sure there are roasts and pommes de terre gratinées in ovens all across Paris, with the promise of long afternoon walks and a rendez-vous with friends for a digestif at the corner cafe.

Choco bears and chickies and eggs from Carnot

While I work on “The No Wine Left Behind Tour Part Deux”, I give you David Sedaris’ “Jesus Shaves” from Esquire.com to enjoy (Click the link and scroll down about a third of the way to read the full story)

Eggs: not just for breakfast anymore

 We hope the weather is fine, the food is good and the tenor is restful on this Spring Easter weekend.  Watch for more ET Paris reports in our next post!
Relax and enjoy a leisurely Easter weekend!

Paris QuickPics: Les Terrasses

April 11, 2011

The Experienced Traveler is coming apart at the seams at the Cafe Flore on Blvd St. Germain. It's a hardship but our research must be done.

The Experienced Travelers got 24 more hours in Paris, compliments of the airline that outright cancelled our return flight.  Next time the going gets tough, I’ll remember when Divine Providence granted me an extra day in Paris.  At the current ET exchange rate, that comes to 6 more glasses of wine each.

And isn’t this evidence that St. Genevieve, the patron Saint of Paris, is watching over us?  Melinda had a “lost day” yesterday due to a funny tummy – and voila!  She got it back today.  I assure you, she made the most of it, shopping the St. Germain neighborhood with vigor.

There’s so much more to report – including a very scientific macaron taste test, several memorable meals and hours of people-watching.  Our shoes are worn; our muscles ache;  but our spirits are in exceptional form!  Hopefully tonight we’ll visit Polidor for dinner and let you know how it goes.

The ET view from the terrace of La Fontaine St Michel on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

The Legendary Brasserie Balzar

February 26, 2011

Tout seule. Solo-traveling ETs are challenged to get into the picture.

Occasionally,  ETs  make solo trips to Paris under the guise of attending a conference.  I did this two years ago and despite Nurse’s suspicions, the conference was real and I actually did attend.  I dutifully reported in on a regular basis so she could advise on itinerary and meals.  Nurse was a very good sport about this trip.  And trust me, she has cashed in on her generosity ever since.

The Legendary Brasserie Balzar just happened to be nearby….

I did some early ET research at the Brasserie Balzar on the Rue des Ecoles near the Sorbonne.  Since 1886, this Paris institution has sustained neighborhood academics with mainstay dishes like steak au poivre, poulet roti, and potatoes dauphinois.  Leagues of devoted locals swear that the Balzar alone embodies the true egalitarian spirit of dining that forms the foundation of the modern French state.  People are very, very serious about Brasserie Balzar. 

Paris to the Moon, a collection of New Yorker columns by Adam Gopnick sent me to Balzar

I was inspired by Adam Gopnik’s “The Balzar Wars” in his book Paris to the Moon*.  In the mid-1990s, the mega-corporation Flo Group bought the Brasserie  Balzar.  In true French style, the brasserie’s habitués organized a secret résistance to preserve their beloved Balzar from corporate evils like brief 90-minute meals and prepared food.

Gopnick reported the whole story.  In a gourmand expression of taking to the barricades they organized a “dine-in’ — sort of  a 1990s version of a flash mob.  All the regulars reserved for the same Thursday night and “occupied” the restaurant. They used “slow eating” strategies to ensure the tables didn’t turn over, like ordering foie gras because it took time to spread on toast.  Once everyone arrived, their spokesman gravely rose and delivered a challenge to the new management:

“We are here to demonstrate our sympathy with the waiters, clients and traditions of the Balzar.  Is this merely a place to eat, or is it something more?  And if it is something more, what is it?  We are here… to defend the spirit and staff of a place that we believe offers a respite from time itself.” (Gopnick pp. 234-235)

Drawing on the revolutionary fervor of their ancestors, they won the day and the Balzar continues. I recalled this inspiring story as I wandered the Maubert neighborhood, thinking of a lovely, perfect steak.  By mysterious coincidence, I found myself on Rue des Ecoles.

It all looked so inviting, even though it was late afternoon when jetlagged Americans get hungry.

Fortunately the Balzar serves all day, because it was an off-hour when I arrived. The ambiance was unassuming and comfortable with the requisite banquettes, mirrors, potted palms and desert trolleys.  In true ET fashion, I relied on a glass of house wine to bring clarity to the menu.

Steak frites with herb butter

I ordered the steak-frites.  It was passable, but not memorable.  The presentation was uninspired and the service was just adequate.  I was devastated.   Why didn’t I experience the magic of the Balzar that captivated generations of Parisians, and made its regulars call to arms to protect its traditions?

Is the Balzar fairy dust kept at this waiters workstation? The ET wants some!

For two years, I’ve analyzed everything about my Balzar experience.  Where did I go wrong?   I want the joy and the contentment; the thoughtful service and excellent traditional cuisine; the feeling that I am part of an historically significant experience.  I want to be willing to take to the streets in defense of Brasserie Balzar!  Dear Readership,  there just one solution to my dilemma. The ETs must return to the Balzar. 

I did get one of my favourite pictures at Balzar. The ETs *will* return.

* Gopnick, Adam.  Paris To The Moon.  Random House, 2000.

Alors, Les Soldes!

January 9, 2011

Les Soldes! A Found Money bonanza. Photo by Heloise Flickr Creative Commons

Now that Christmas is over, Parisians resume daily life, enduring grey January skies in the City of Lights. No French bureaucrat wants a complaining wife and a bored mistress for the duration of the winter.  So, in their capacity as elected officials, they spring to action to create a diversion that will restore domestic equilibrium, attract tourists and bolster the French economy.  Voici Les Soldes

Might the ETs spend Found Money here? Photo by Heurtelions, Wikimedia Commons

The bi-annual Soldes are six-week Government-authorized periods – one in winter and again in summer – when stores across France hold sales with price reductions of up to 80%.  This year the winter event starts on January 12 and continues until 15 February. Prices fall over time – but so does inventory!  Café chatter changes from the usual complaints about taxes to informed discussions on getting into ultra-exclusive events.

The ETs scout the territory. Photo by Andreas Praefcke Wikimedia Commons

Everyone has “Soldes exceptionnels”, from the smallest Left Bank bookstore to world-famous houses on the Avenue Montaigne.  Housewares, accessories, designer suits – it’s all on sale thanks to the French government.  The Experienced Travelers can already feel the kinetic energy of les fashionistas emanating across the Atlantic.  We wondered how Parisians look so chic with prices so high.  Now all is revealed.

The French economy improves by the minute Photo by Gryffindor, Wikipedia Commons

The ETs have a plan in case they land in Paris during the sales.  We’ll scout the inventory, then set GPS coordinates for the items we want.  The goal is to buy during the second markdown to get the best price.  Proper shopping attire is one layer with no hooks, buttons or other time-wasting accoutrements that impede a fast change.

On The Day, we’ll arrive well before opening, employing knees and elbows to reach the racks before the competition.  Nurse is not above using a cane to deter rival shoppers and I can be fleet-of-foot when a jacket depends on it. 

And remember:  if we love it enough to buy it at full price, but we wait and get it at half-off – the difference is Found Money!  So shopping the Soldes is a great use for Found Money and actually *adds* to the FM account as we shop.

Gentlemen: This beautiful Charvet cuff helps justify the investment Photo by Myself, Wikimedia Commons

The Paris Perfect newsletter tells us how to get to events that the ETs can only dream about :

  • Hermès Sale: Jan 20 to 23 at Porte Maillot. The event has become so big that they could not longer hold it in the flagship Faubourg Saint-Honoré Store. Women line up the day before at dawn to make it in for the opening.
  • Chanel Sale: Starts January 6 at 42 Ave Montaigne, 75008 Paris
  • Dior Sale: Jan 9 to 12 from 10 am to 7 pm at Artcurial, Address: 7 rond-point des Champs Elysées. Easy, stroll across the river from the 7th and walk three blocks to the Rond Point intersection. Takes 15 minutes and you can stop for tea at the Four Seasons on your way home!  (Paris Perfect rents beautiful vacation apartments in the 7th.) 

    Trip the light fantastic (or just trip) in these splendid gold shoes that the ETs found near the Palais Royal

And the Paris Office of Tourism is right on top of things:

“Romantic, festive, cultural, as well as sporting, musical and… good food loving! The shopping capital has more than one string to its bow. Everyone will find something they love here and discover lots of exciting things to do. So, you just need the right addresses … Welcome to shoppingbyparis!”

The ETs are excited by shoppingbyparis’ Shopping Guide PDF.  It’s 112 pages of ads and store information.  It’s worth waiting for the download, and it has English translations that will make the $US fly from your designer pocketbook. 

The ETs don't have the bone structrure to shop at Pucci, but perhaps you do? Photo by Deuxl Sarl Wikimedia commons

Working diligently at our research. we found out how to shop Les Soldes from our couch in the US.  About.com thoughtfully links to  1000 Bonnes Affaires and L’internaute so we can shop online from those stores which will ship to the US. 

The ETs aspire to the ranks of the truly gifted, who get in early on the first day, so the best items are hanging in their closets by noon.    If we go into training today, we could be ready to compete in July!

Twelve days of revels

December 18, 2010

The City of Lights at Christmas (Agatellier, Wikipedia commons)

The holidays are nigh upon us, and the Experienced Travelers sleep with images of foie gras dancing in their heads.  Letters were duly posted to Père Noël at his atelier in the Rue Guillemites, so now we wait.   

Pere Noel forsakes the North Pole for the Rue Guillemites in the Marais

France is a secular country – unless the Church provides an excuse for leisure and dining.  Christmas is a twelve-day extravaganza, beginning with le Réveillon after Midnight Mass.  Imagine a table laden with roasts, salads, oysters, foie gras, champagne and the “bûche de Noël” or Christmas log cake. Paris will be awake all night, eating, drinking and visiting. 

Beware the hidden crown in this Galette des Rois

Twelve exhausting days later, the season comes to a close at Epiphany.  Naturally there is a meal, which features la Galette des Rois, a round cake containing a small hidden crown.  Whoever finds it in their slice gets to be King or Queen. (which can be a risky proposition in France)  We hope they chew carefully.

The ETs speculate that this tradition was started in the 14th century by the medieval guild of Baker Dentists, rivals of the better-known Barber Surgeons. Translated from the Latin, their motto reads “Bake a crown – Make a crown”. It’s still upheld by dentists across France.

We asked Pere for more time to visit this friendly fromagerie

We have been very, very good all year, so we hope that Père Noël will be generous.  Nurse wants time to explore the other fromagerie near our apartment, a Gordon Ramsay gift certificate, fresh radishes and haricots verts, Laduree macarons, the vintage Hermès scarf from the shop on the corner, and for me to get bored with Proust.

We both asked Pere Noel for dinner at Le Florimond

I asked for two chairs by the fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens, the view from the Centre Pompidou, the unforgettable omelette from La Fontaine Saint-Michel, to find Napoleon’s stuffed dog in the Musee de L’Armee and to gain entry to the bank conference room that was once Proust’s bedroom. 

Open late for last minute shopping (Noel Remi Jouan, Wikipedia Commons)

JuliesParis will be on hiatus until the New Year while we rest by the fire with a glass of wine and our Paris maps.  Until then, we invite you to join us in the final chorus of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”, which will sound better once we open the wine:

Twelve vintage bottles / Eleven lost Picassos
Ten chefs creating / Nine waiters waiting
Eight “Gordon” courses/ Seven Marly horses
Six scarves from Hermès / Five Ma-ca-rons
Four garden chairs / Three baguettes / Two camemberts
And a pied-à-terre in the Rue Cler

This video features the bells of Notre Dame on Christmas Eve.  As you listen, imagine every church bell in Paris ringing out at midnight.  We wish all the loyal Readership the best of the season, and the best of Paris!

In Paris, Four Inches of Mayhem

December 11, 2010

Quelle horreur!  Paris came to a virtual standstill this week after four inches of snow paralyzed the city.  When the Eiffel Tower ices up, can a complete shut-down be far behind?  And why not!  If a catastrophe closes the office in time for lunch, the resourceful Parisienne can head to her favourite brasserie and spend the afternoon watching French authorities deal with the gridlock while she enjoys her cassoulet.   

Let is Snow! This cassoulet will warm and restore any ET caught in a storm

Roads into Paris were closed, and over a thousand stranded citoyens slept in their cars or makeshift shelters. More than 2,000 police and protection agents were dispatched to the aid of motorists stuck on the Paris peripherique and Ile de France highways.  The ETs trust that the patrols delivered the necessities for survival – a good vintage, foie gras, a baguette and a corkscrew.  That is what the French taxpayer should expect.

Since the Experienced Travellers can’t report first-hand, they found this wonderful photo slideshow that will entertain and enchant.  Click on the link and gaze at them while you read!

Hearing weather reports from Paris reminds The ETs of their last visit.  In September, we were puzzled by Parisians bundled into heavy coats and scarves.  Now we agree that these style choices were chic preparation for a cataclysm like this blizzard.  After all, a snowstorm is no excuse for wearing last year’s outerwear. 

The Rue de Levis market in snow (2009) by Georges Seguin (Wikipedia Commons)

We hailed the bravery of ladies in the street markets maneuvering their shopping baskets through inches of snow, over decorative but lethal pavement.  The ETs were also relieved to see how Parisians made good use of the ubiquitous umbrellas.   But as they watched the first video, they wondered about the guy who was shoveling snow with a rake. 

J'accuse! Fillon holds French weathermen responsible (Lemarie Wikipedia Commons)

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Francois Fillon accused the Météo France weather service of having “failed to forecast the snow and in any case not its intensity”.  We wonder if there will be a special session in the National Assembly to ascertain responsibility.   Perhaps Fillon weighed the political implications of denouncing Mere Nature and decided that Météo France was a better target. 

This YouTube video slideshow is a little lengthy at 4:00, but it takes you around a city blanketed in snow.

From this CNN article,  journalist Celine Martelet says that she was on a highway near Paris for three hours. “There’s an incredible silence, not one noise,” she said. “People are leaving their cars and trying to go on foot. I saw one man on skis, who was going to find his wife who was stuck in a traffic jam two kilometers away. He was going to help her get out of her car.” 

The ETs hope that the man found his wife.  Perhaps the police had already been there with wine and sustenance.  Did the stranded couple pass a romantic evening on the Peripherique under the snowy skies?

(I’m sure our friends in the Midwest shook their heads over Paris devestated by a  four inch snowfall.  We will remember you when it hits the east coast!  But don’t worry – we’re well fortified by plenty of good French wine)

Park it! Outdoor living in Paris

October 27, 2010

 

 
 

The right configuration: One chair with arms, and one without for the feet.

As the trees go bare and the days grow shorter,  the Experienced Travellers wistfully revisit balmy afternoons in their favourite Paris parks.  Ooh, to drag a green iron chair to the edge of a fountain for a spot of lunch. 

Fountain-side in the Palais-Royal garden

The ETs have a particular fondness for the Palais Royal garden –  an 18th century outdoor entertainment complex.  Desperate gamblers lost the family manse in the dens over the arcades.  Prostitutes did a bit of marketing in the allees.  Actors and revolutionaries argued in the cafes.  

Then on a hot night in 1789, Camille Desmoulins leapt onto a table here in the Cafe Foy, and delivered the tirade that “started” the French Revolution.  By morning, cockades made a fashion statement that few would dare debate.

Perfect for a touch of insurgency - or lunch.

You can still promenade here, dine at the Grand Vefour or shop where Charlotte Corday bought the knife that killed Marat, but the crowd is more law-abiding.   The Palais Royal garden is a fine venue for recharging.  ETs aren’t likely to hop on tables and make proclamations, but they do enjoy an al fresco lunch in the shade.

The Jardin des plantes - zoo and botanical garden

In the 5th arrondissement, the Jardin des Plantes contains the Paris zoo, a spectacular botanical garden and the Museum of Natural History.

Fricassee? Don’t scare the wildlife!

The ETs thought the animals looked relaxed, but that wasn’t always the case.  During the Prussian siege of 1870, food was so scarce that zoo animals turned up as exotic dishes on restaurant menus.

The Paris Mosque - lunch and a Turkish bath

In search of a more amenable meal, the ETs head directly to the nearby Paris Mosque.  The excellent couscous and mint tea gurantee a restful afternoon.  It’s a lovely setting, and for the price, one of the best meals in Paris.  If you leave here without wanting to lay mosaic tile throughout your house, you are superhuman.  Did I mention the gift shop?

Float your boat in the Luxembourg Gardens

Perhaps I saved the best for last.  Deep in the 6th arrondissement, the Luxembourg Gardens are a leafy venue for sea-worthy children to hone their skills.  Formerly Marie de Medici’s backyard, today the gardens afford unparallelled vistas across the parterres to the rooftops of the 5th and 6th. 
More piegon trivia;  On his way home from Gertrude Stein’s salon, a hungry Hemingway used to catch the delectable birds for his dinner in the Lux.  (The ETs feel closer to Hemingway since GR’s pigeon dish.)

A perfect picnic

So find a garden or a small neighborhood park, arrange your hotwheels and enjoy a baguette with ham and cheese.  It’s free, it’s relaxing and it’s very French.

Julie’sParis will continue…

October 15, 2010

Inspiration for menu planning

The Experienced Travellers are home again, but the magic of Paris lingers.  The sights, sounds and flavours are still foremost in our minds.  And  I re-lived many of them when I checked my American Express statement yesterday.  I don’t regret a single euro.

A balmy evening on the terrace at Le Bosquet

So by popular demand, I’ll continue to write  juliesparis.  Perhaps 1-2 posts per week, depending on how much reality interferes with my inner world of life in the city of lights.  Lord knows, I have the photo archive and Paris info spreadsheets to keep it going!

Metro station, St. Germain

I want to thank all of you for your readership, comments and support.  This blog was a fun experiment and it will live on.  Let’s live “la vie Parisienne”  for a few minutes each week.  Now, that’s “found money”!

The spirit of Paris endures

La Mode Parisienne

October 13, 2010

La Mode Parisienne

Experienced Travellers watch the whirl of life around them.  Though I’m not a fashionista, here are a few observations about what people are wearing – and buying in Paris.  

Everyone carefully orchestrates their clothing, shoes and makeup, even to run the shortest errand.  It is a matter of national pride that the ensemble is right – whether it’s understated elegance or chic grunge.

Count the coats in this picture. It was in the high 60s and yet the coat is paramount.

Jackets and coats – preferably leather –  come out immediately following the rentree in September.  And wool scarves by early October.   No matter that the sun is blazing and it’s 75 degrees, the coat and scarf make a statement to the world, and they are mandatory attire. 

The legs matter!

Stockings and tights were a prominent accoutrement.  Ladies of every age and build made the most of them.  They were often the only splash of color or design.   And I saw lots of black tights under knee-length jersey tops finished off with a sporting pair of boots.  Lots and lots of boots on the streets…

They are all made for walkin' - and showing off those hose

What amazes me is the number of small, independent clothing shops featuring one or two designers, particularly in the Marais and around the Place St. Germain.  Each shop has a unique style and the clothing is paired with jewelry, handbags and accessories.  It’s a “one stop outfit” in an artisinal style.   ETs like this strategy because it gets you to the cafe faster.

That certain "je ne sais quois"

I loved this twirling shoe diplay in the Marais.  Gentlemen if you’re in the market for a red shoe with a chunky heel, there are plenty in stock.

Red shoes at morning / sailors take warning

Any style works, as long as it’s well-executed.  In this case, if you’re got it; flaunt it.  Jacket.  Boots.  Handbag.  It’s all there.

Retro works!

So how do ETs decide what to pack for Paris?  They are resigned to the truth.  They’ll never look like French ladies, so comfort is paramount, and black is best.  But that doesn’t mean a girl can’t shop for a dishy new jacket and top while she’s in Paris.  Besides, it’s research for the blog.  

If Foucault were alive today, he would be studying the physics of platform stillettos on cobbled streets.  And he’d be a happier man for it!

No matter what they wear, or what they're doing, Parisienne women are chic


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