Tag Archives: New Year

Frenchie and les Fêtes – New Year

12 Jan

Sunny and warm in Le Mans. Cold and brisk in Paris upon arrival.

A mere 55-minute fast TGV train ride later transported into the bustling busy heart of the capital.

It’s like I haven’t left. Same bearings. Just that easy.

How the weather can be drastically different 130 miles (210 km) apart remains a mystery.

Goodbye Christmassy Le Mans. Bonjour New Year à Paris !

Grandma’s welcoming cosy apartment hasn’t changed. Sorry, it has.

With the winter coat still on and heavy bags in my cold and swollen hands, a careful inspection of the new installed modern windows is inevitable.

And the couch has been firmed up too. We do need to sit down to christen it.

One by one, the fresh exciting new additions of the comfortably decorated home are pointed out so I am briefed and caught up on all things current.

Regarde, c’est nouveau aussi, ça !

Nouveau or old, the place is full of memories and in my eyes a time capsule filled with visions of a past not to be forgotten – even with new windows!

Why don’t you replace this framed painting? You realize it’s been on the wall for 25 years. Here, there’s this new frame you have in the closet just dying to be hung and seen. Just sayin’.

And just like that – out with the old and on with the nouveau. The faded painting was swiftly replaced.

That’s what France is all about – a charming delightful shuffle of different eras and genres.

Just like in the post about New York City, discovering new places and neighborhoods in Paris is a favorite hobby of mine par excellence.

Loosing oneself in unknown territories, taking an uncertain turn only to end up somewhere familiar and suddenly guffawing I didn’t realize this was here!

It’s the magic of Paris. Big city, big crowds, quiet corners and silent escapes with photo opportunities at each foot step. Even when lost, familiar reference points pop unexpectedly.

The pleasure of the unexpected.

This year, my wandering mind was set to explore the areas of le Parc Montsouris (14th), la Butte aux Cailles (13th), Passy (16th) and… the list is quite long and there won’t be enough time.

La campagne à Paris (20th) and le Canal St Martin (10th) will just have to wait.

Finding different itineraries emanating provincial resonances in the heart of the city. J’adore !

A celebratory mood was floating in the air. The family was boiling with excitement.

Christmas, New Year, oui ! But also birthdays to celebrate. Gran turning 80 and Dad 53.

Just the special occasion needed to dress to the nines and dine at fancy brand new restaurant Cobéa.

Black, white and gray shaded, Cobéa served a delicate innovative tasting menu. Impressed is not the right adjective to describe the experience.

Amazed, possibly. Astonishingly and deliciously prestigious would be more appropriate.

An exceptional night to remember.

Spending time in Paris is also a way to uncover and hunt for new food places.

A morning visit to Au Petit Versailles du Marais bakery, which a dear friend recently renovated and reopened a month ago proved to be a perfect Parisian breakfast stop.

Belle Époque ceiling, tiles and mirrors. A sunny illuminated corner. Delicious breads and pastries. A restful nook for a French breakfast experience.

Americans should enjoy this spot for it provides several tables, which is a rarity in a Paris bakery.

If you happen to walk by the St Paul subway stop on line 1 and venture up to the corner of rue Tiron and rue Miron (4th), you’ll find this gem.

The early hours of the morning will brighten your day as the sun rises on your fresh and crispy pain au chocolat.

A visual pleasure.

Another day, another bakery visit.

I. Can’t. Stop.

Sébastien Gaudard opened a month ago as well on chic rue des Martyrs (9th).

Clean and refined surfaces for a bright crisp pâtisserie shop.

Uncluttered atmosphere.

The sophistication of the splendid pastries made the visit that much more exquisite.

Especially when I left with a rich chocolate tart and a mini buttery kouglof crossed with a pain aux raisins.

Meanwhile, the outdoor plentiful Christmas markets are in full swing.

Food, fabrics, Christmas gifts – it’s a gastronomic Tour de France where regional specialties collide in one spot.

A cup of mulled wine in one hand. A Nutella almond crêpe in the other. The markets swarm with crowds looking to get a taste of something they’ve never heard of before.

The Alsacian and Corsican booths are always the busiest.

But the enormous gooey cheesy tartiflette spread displayed in a giant pan at the Savoie corner attracts the biggest gatherings and gasps.

Contrasting with this country vibe, the sparkling and fully decorated shiny Grands Magasins next door provide an elegant getaway from the rustic markets.

Everybody knows that gazing at the department stores’ windows is a must-do when in Paris for les Fêtes.

On December 31, the city magically emptied itself. Subways, shops and streets.

Alone in St Germain. And alone again at Châtelet.

An end-of-year special treat while last-minute food shopping out and about.

A quest for the impromptu while consciously making lists in my head about the New Year’s Day feast menu striding along the streets.

Foie gras, duck confit, Corsican bean ragoût, mandarin-chocolate bûche – we’re all set.

A final purchase. Bon réveillon Monsieur ! Small storekeepers and customers alike glow with a joyful glee at the idea of a festive evening spent with friends or family.

At home, the apéritif and petits fours already await.

Midnight in Paris. A balmy 55 degree (13 C) night. 2012 is ahead of us.

Crowds dancing at the St Michel fountain.

Men and women kissing and hugging each other as they curve their walk to follow the winding Seine.

Champagne bottles heard popping on the 3rd floor of 25 rue du Temple.

Music playing throughout the streets between Odéon and le Champ de Mars.

And after a copious New Year’s Eve dinner with friends, a gentle 2-mile stroll with coats wide open and no scarf to admire the city at night was the best way to start a new year.

The warmest since 1883 or so they say.

And the first meal of 2012?

Delightfully prepared with love and care.

Abundantly colorful, rustic and tasty.

A simple yet stunning time spent around a cheerful table.

The wines kept for 15 years in the cellar made a [too-brief] appearance on the table.

In all honesty, they disappeared too quickly.

2012 was celebrated the entire day until dessert, coffee and 50-year old liquors and brandies were poured. Even then there was still room to ingest more.

Good wishes and steady health. A prosperous new year ahead.

Recurring thanks and wishes flying out of everyone’s mouths.

And as all good things come to an end, the trip nearing completion with a myriad of Paris memories thronging, we’ll remember while closing the 2011 window to widespread espèrance – hope – and optimism in the new year.

Bonne Année à tous.

Frenchie and the Pessimism Nouveau

4 Jan

Breaking news: “France tops misery poll for 2011”. “French, the world champions of scepticism”. “France lands in Top 5 pessimistic countries for 2011 ahead of Afghanistan and Irak”!

The French are pessimistic? Really? Now that’s not really breaking news!!

Pessimism is a French trait and that’s not new. The French are pessimists and they raise pessimistic children. Didn’t de Gaulle himself once say that the French are “temperamental, stubborn and complainers”? I think he also forgot pessimistic. So is pessimism a French invention?

Heard out and about:

– in the U.S.: “I thought the Patriots didn’t play very well last night. I don’t know, something about their game. They have a weak pass defense. And they keep loosing. But the new kid is doing a great job for them and they’re definitely gonna come back strong, I just know they’re gonna win!”

– in France: “Yeah, the French team was not too terrible last night but… I just know they won’t win. There’s no way they’re gonna make it to the finals. No way! I mean, yeah they won last night – not by much if you ask me – but the way it’s going right now, they won’t win.”

– in the U.S.: “You have good grades overall. You just have to be careful in Biology, you got a B -. Let’s set up something with other classmates so we can create a support system and hold group studies twice a week, I know it’d be very beneficial for everyone and your grades would definitely improve!”

– on a French grade report: “Shows some potential, but could do better. Must try harder”.

<Sigh!> The French grade report. Didn’t we all get at one point the dreaded and completely obscure – although now hilarious – “peut mieux faire” (“could do better”)? Weren’t we trying our hardest to get the best grades until we realized that no one could ever get a grade better than 12 out of 20? If you got 10, you could claim to be a happy man. “No need to study like crazy, you know this teacher never gives anyone more than 9 or 10 out of 20 anyway!” So pessimists from Day 1? “Nice drawing but it could use more colors” – the joys of art classes!

The French and their “buts”, somehow, somewhere, there will be a “mais” in the sentence. “It’s good but… you did not do enough work on the last part of the assignment”. “Yes you can come to the party but… there will be a lot of people”. “This recipe is very tasty but… I would have added more rosemary”. When there’s a will, there’s a but. Is “yes, but” the greatest French pessimistic tool ever invented? What a civil way of agreeing while reinforcing a pessimistic disagreement!

So which is better? The French very realistic pessimistic approach that 2011 is not going to be a great year for the economy or the American “think positive with blinders on” overcaffeinated hyper approach that all is going to be well and you just have to trust the system? A little bit of both maybe? In any case, whether you want to French-complain your New Year or American-artificially-force 2011, remember to optimistically wish every one a good New Year.

Happy Freakin’ New Year, this is so exciting woo hoo!… yes, but the Holidays are over and we have to go back to work… boo!

Pessimistic, moi?

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