When The Cheese Princess and her sister, The Chocoholic, were in Paris for two weeks over Christmas, I knew that we needed to do some serious degusting of the great and powerful ambrosia of the cacao, the food of the gods. Oh, the paste from the seeds of the cacao that breathes us into its addictive magnificence, rolls us around in its luxury of smell and taste, and leaves us in its creaminess. Yes, we were going to experience and savor some extraordinary chocolate.
As I have made clear on at least one previous occasion, I am a lover of Frédéric Malle's luxe Editions du Parfum. Every breath I take could be filled with his divine fragrances--and many are--though I will not divulge the ones M. Malle chose for me himself. Can you imagine how much fun this was?
Perfume is actually no little subject. As Coco Chanel (on right) said, "A women who doesn't wear perfume has no future."
This photo wall of M. Malle's perfumers shows the dashing group of "noses" who each have natural and extraordinary talent in fragrance alchemy.
ONCE UPON A time when I moved to Paris, I lived a charming small place away from one of the loveliest passages in the city, the Galerie Vivienne. My eyes sparkled when I visited this historic hall and put my face up to the windows brimming with luxurious and fashionable items, among them the excellent wines, candies, and terrines at the Legrand Filles & Fils. At Wolff et Descourtis, I glimpsed shimmering scarves and shawls not to mention the elegant book and photography shops, clothing boutiques--most importantly John-Paul Gaultier...where sometimes I would drool--and art galleries, a framing shop, and toys.
My friend Laurent's modish boutique Odette & Zoe, which no longer exists (though you can see it in the podcast of my old neighborhood here), was my first and ever after regular stop though the passage. And I am still an addict of the richly delicious A Priori Thé, which bakes the most delicious scones I've ever tasted.
But since I have always have been a lover of sunglasses (how many pairs have I had?) and then glasses once I had to wear them, I salivated every time I passed by Traction, which as far as I'm concerned is the chicest optician in Paris.
Crossposted at the HuffPo.com. Comments not included here.
Like any fine city, Paris has secrets.
Ssh, don't tell anyone, but one of her confidences that most visitors
and many Parisians themselves may never discover are her secret gardens
that hide in plain sight or wait down tiny alleys concealed in Paris's
grid of a skirt. These desirous green spaces are scattered throughout
the concrete reality, gritty or polished, that most people think of the City of Light.
But here's a new notion...Think of Paris as a City of Green. Urban gardens are in, and Paris is full of them.
Green is what gives us breathing space, growing space, space to be --to find ourselves--in the cityscape that's less forgiving. We must commune
with nature--or we die a little inside. Green is the color of
regeneration, and that's what these urban gardens give us. And, yes, this is
true even in Paris.
A tip to make your own classified secret garden discoveries: Take long liquid walks up and down the streets of the 19th and 20th
Arrondissements. Check out the village streets and boulevards one
finds there, and think about tip-toeing down the alleys that look like
For now, I'll open the gate and let you into a Parisian down-home funky one...
In France, we are lucky to have beautiful markets full of vegetables
and fruits, meats, poultry, and fish, artisan sausages and cheese, fresh
eggs, jams, jellies, and honey not to mention butter full of crusty
salt that is cut from huge rounds. French butter is spreadable gold on
still warm baguette, which you can sometimes be lucky enough to find at
the markets as well. Oh, woe are our waist lines with such bounty.
There is so much more, and if you've ever been to France, it is
likely that you've filled bags with these goodies and carried some of
them home. Tapenades, terrines, a hearty cassoulet in a big jar, sweet
lavender soaps, Herbes de Provence, caramels, chocolates, and salt.
These markets are a part of French heritage and culture that the
French are quite proud of--and everyone who visits absolutely adores.
Open-air markets seem closer to the Earth than a huge Costco or Sam's
Club. It is experiential shopping, especially buying food from the
farmers or winemakers who produce it themselves. The personal touch
always makes a difference no matter what individualized communication or
business transaction is occurring.
Our need to connect to others as well as tapping into deep, primal parts of ourselves is a potent component of the culture surrounding planning,
shopping, cooking, and serving a simple or grand meal to share with
family or friends. We break bread with others, therefore we are.
In my neighborhood--the 20th Arrondissement--we have a huge and
marvelous market with what seems like a mile of fine foods. It is le Marché Belgrand, and it runs along the Square Edouard Vaillant by the hospital where Edith Piaf was born, and turns onto the rue Belgrand and continues until the Place Edith Piaf.
In this last embrace of summer, here are a few photos...
I love the Ritz and thePlace Vendôme where it sits so majestically. It would be heaven to stay in the suite where Coco Chanel lived and changed the habits and ideas about the dress of modern women (even if she consorted with Nazis).
The Hemingway Bar is my kind of place with its icy martinis, even if they're a little silly with flowers in them. What would Papa say about that? Fish them out. (Here is the previous blog I wrote about my favorite Pariswatering hole.)
The salty cocktail mix and olives are the perfect accompaniments along with the other little hors d'oeuvres that one can order or that sometimes magically come your way, as if the Cocktail God has bestowed a great gift on us for being in such a hallowed hall. And Colin, the bartender, is a Hemingway Bar icon as well as a poobah in the world of cocktail mixing. In my opinion, it's only proper to give him a respectful nod if one is ingesting his artful libations.
One of the
striking things about Parisian pastry shops is the absolute consistency of the
offerings. There’s a repertoire of 30-odd confections upon which the
establishment is judged, which constitute an unyielding part of the French patrimoine. Surprises are quite rare in the French
because of, the presence of some 50,000 Americans living here, one would never,
ever find American-style cake, with its vulgar and unwieldy wedge-like slices,
or a slice of pie,
with its disorganized fruit, and imperfect strips of crust, in a French pastry
shop. The Parisians are
warming up to le muffin,
and the odd brownie, and cupcakes are sprouting up in some of the ice-cream
stores in the 6earrondissement (think Upper East Side), and le
Marais (think Chelsea).
Parisians like single-serve items.
Sugarplum Cake Shop
The new Sugarplum
Cake Shop is a total and
extremely welcome aberration for Paris. Its unabashedly American-style
offerings, and extremely high quality put most Manhattan bakeries
Separated from me at birth--in spirit if not by looks--my friend Katherine Mosby was in town to meet with her French publisher, La Table Ronde Editions. With the publishing success in France of her novel The Season of Lillian Dawes, they were bringing out her first novel, Private Altars (which will be called Sanctuaires Ardents here), this fall. Hurrah!
I have known Katherine for many years, and I hadn't seen her since last June when we had taken ourselves on a much-too-short road trip to Burgundy. Oh, yes, we had a grand girlfriend time. Old friends, good food and wine, and road trips go together like fried okra and fresh tomato slices in the South. Now, if we'd only had spa treatments to pamper us, the trip would've been absolutely divine.
Sadly, Katherine's mother had died since our Burgundy trip, and we had much news to recount, gab or rant, and console each other over. When we see each other we tend to talk non-stop, hopping from one subject to the next and back again, covering a lot of territory as good girlfriends do. We had the afternoon to fill ourselves up with our new stories, and then we would return to my new pad in the 20th for dinner with the Lone Wolf, after a drink at the Hemingway Bar, of course.
As luck would have it, Katherine's swish hotel was not far from a shoe store where I had to go buy a pair of mile-high platforms that I'd seen in the window a few weeks before. (Ladies, for those of you who tweet with me, here they are!)
Drum Roll...announcement. The Lone Wolf and I are beginning to really like living in the 20th Arrondissement.
Yes, I know I've whined about being out here. The 20th is not the center of the city--the picture postcard Paris, where I lived for five years, and which I adore even if some people call it "bourgeois." It is that heart of Paris that is so stunningly beautiful that I can never get over it. On the hush-hush, I must confess I relish the feeling of being wrapped in Parisian history that was played out in its monuments and streets.
It is this beauty and elegance of the material foundation of Paris--its streets and architecture, the rolling Seine, the handsome bridges that connect Left Bank to Right, the treasure of art and monuments--along with the spirit and specter of personages that lived or spent time here to elevate their knowledge and consciousness that give Paris its grace.
But that was then. Today, I live in the Paris that is made up of hamlets and villages--Ménilmontant and Belleville--that were once on the outskirts of the great capital, and were absorbed into the city's voluptuous skirts in 1860. It actually feels like a village out here on top of our hill. From the rise of Ménilmontant, we can stand and see the smog that hovers over the Paris where we used to live, a cloud over the Centre Pompidou. I never knew it was there until I moved.
From 25 May to 19 September 2011, the CENTRE POMPIDOU presents a major exhibition that explores Indian society through the eyes of Indian and French artists. A FUN & DYNAMIC exhibit! For more INFO: http://bit.ly/nID8Ym
I'm on a mission--to walk to all the addresses I can find of The Lost Generation writers--Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and more. I've gotta tell you. They had some great digs, and it's a kick to look them up. As M. Malrick of our beloved Hotel Saint Germain would say, not bad. That wild gang knew how to create their lives. Something to think about.
I'll try to get some photos up soon. Ciao.