Tag Archives: Tourism

Frenchie and a Colorful Adventure

23 Oct

I feel lucky!

Lucky to have amazing family and friends who took care of me for 3 weeks.

Lucky the weather smiled at me throughout the trip with warm temperatures and a bright golden sun.

Lucky to still discover unknown streets and areas – nooks and crannies to stumble upon.

Lucky to have readers who push me to share more of my experiences, tips and addresses.

Some of you asked me to include new addresses I’ve noted along the way, which I have done in the past but apparently not enough.

So without further ado, my Top 10 list in no particular order of my recent French trip.

1. Lunch at Buvette to share small plates, a slice of pâté, a glass of rosé, a tartinette and a pastry. Little, cosy and rustic. And if you cannot make it to Paris, there is a location in the West Village in New York City.

2. La campagne à Paris in the 20th. A small parcel of land with plant-covered houses, small gardens and picket fences – in Paris! A quick magical instant resembling more la province than the capital we all know (rue Irénée Blanc, rue Paul Strauss).

3. Tucked away in the 1st is Verjus with a tasting menu that would most likely thrill the pickiest eaters. French in spirit but American to the core, it is a unique experience.

4. Did you know that 55 minutes by train from Paris there is a town where the old city is so well preserved that the Roman wall surrounding it is still partly standing and dates back to the 3rd century? How could I not encourage friends visiting France to spend a day or two in Le Mans. It is picture perfect for anyone looking to snap pictures of a cathedral built between the 11th and 15th centuries and to walk the tiny narrow streets where the oldest houses are from the 14th century and the newest from the 15-16th centuries with people still living in them.

5. My friend Lindsey took me to La Pulperia one night for a meal I won’t forget anytime soon. And dragging this Rive Gauche boy to the other side of the world in the 11th is not easy, trust me!

6. If there is one thing that I absolutely love about Paris is the small non-touristy streets with lots of plants, colors and charm. Rue des Thermopyles in the 14th, Villa Santos Dumont in the 15th, la Cité Florale in the 13th (rue des Iris, rue des Glycines), and the stunning rue Crémieux in the 13th where Notting Hill meets Paris – truly a feast for the eyes.

7. Is there a prettiest name for a hotel than Hôtel Amour? The courtyard in the back is a must-see, especially before winter and before the leaves fall and disappear from the trees, for a goûter or an apéritif with friends. A peaceful serene greenhouse-like ambiance away from the hustle and bustle.

8. While I mentioned this bakery several times already, it is always a stop for me when I am in town – Au Petit Versailles du Marais. And I decided to mention them again because they won 2nd place in the baguette tradition competition this year. First place next year? I hope! Even if you’re not hungry when you walk by it, the Belle Époque ceiling, the tiles and the mirrors will give you a stiff neck from looking around, up and down.

9. Even though I only had a kir there during their happy hour, I was fascinated by the space at Le Jules in the Carreau du Temple. Truly creative and impressed by the renovation they did of that space. Very spacious and modern, yet chic and warm with a voluminous design soothed by the wooded light framework. Bravo!

10. If you like the New York High Line, you will like the Paris Coulée Verte. They are still working on it as I am writing this so don’t expect the same length of green path through the city. However, the Petite Ceinture in another area of town also offers a walkable green promenade.

Frenchie and the May Lilies

1 May

May 1 will always be a Holiday to me even though it’s not celebrated in the U.S.

And what comes to mind are my all-time favorite Holiday-related questions, which are without a doubt: “Do you have Labor Day in France?” and “Do you have 4th of July in France?”

When faced with the challenge of answering these questions, one can only hope for a glimmer of wit to magically appear from somewhere – hopefully somewhere not too far! Depending on who is asking these types of questions, the answers will obviously need to be customized and will vary greatly going from a degree of sweet yet informative explanation – aka Foreign Cultural Experiences 101 – to a degree of scathing remark – aka Sarcasm-Advanced Level.

It’d look something like this:

“Actually, Labor Day in France is celebrated on May 1 and not on the first Monday in September. May 1 only became the official day to celebrate Labor Day because of an American event – how about that?!?! – called the Haymarket Affair which started on May 1, 1886 when workers demonstrated and fought for an 8-hour work day. In 1889, the French decided that May 1 would be the day to demonstrate and protest for reducing work days to 8 hours. And in 1947-1948, May 1 was officially known as Fête du travail (Work Holiday), understand Labor Day.”

Nice and sweet.

But then, this happens:

“Do you have 4th of July in France?”

I’ve heard this one at least 50 times! What this truly means is “Do you celebrate 4th of July in France like we do here?” The best possible answer about whether “we have July 4th in France” can only and truly be: “No, in France, the calendar strangely skips July 4th, we don’t have that day. We go from July 3 directly to July 5.” [smirk]

So with May 1st also comes another sensory celebratory landmark: le muguet – lily of the valley.

Labor Day is not only fun because it’s a day off; offering and giving out lilies of the valley to friends and family is part of the French tradition. They are a symbol of Spring and are thought to be a lucky charm since King Charles IX of France supposedly gave the ladies of the Court a sprig of lily of the valley on May 1, 1561 to bring them good luck throughout the year and celebrate the joys of Spring.

Every year shortly before May 1, the May lilies pop out of nowhere in all flower shops and supermarkets. Even on street corners, it is not unusual to see independent street-hawker-florists trying to make some money by selling sprigs and planted pots of lilies. And seriously, isn’t there anything better than to get up early on a beautiful May Day morning in Paris, walk down the streets before anyone is out and about when the sun is still light and soft, breathe the air, hear the quietness around and spot the lilies at each street corner shinning in the sun with their tiny blinding white bells?

Special guest photographer: Roger Noiseau for the photo of the lily of the valley (above)

As the French saying goes: “in May, do as you please”.

So wear your lilies proudly and however you feel like.

Look, this young lady placed sprigs of lilies on her bike’s handlebars! I wonder if she is going to meet some friends for a picnic by the Seine. And this guy here is wearing a sprig as a boutonnière on his coat. He must be going to a Labor Day lunch with family.

As Parisians walk by with sprigs in their hands, the crisp, light and distinctive sweet smell of the lilies fill the streets of Paris wherever you walk. It’s a once-a-year treat allowing everyone to bask in their floating aroma and enjoy some well-deserved time out from the world.

Frenchie and the Easter Brunch

24 Apr

There is this thing in the U.S. called brunch. You might have heard about it! A twilight zone between breakfast and lunch taking you straight from 8 a.m. to noon on an express train via a Champagne glass. Unfortunately for them, the French aren’t much into the brunch fad and it’s hard enough to find a place open for breakfast on a week day at 8 a.m. in Paris, you might as well just give up and eat your sugar brioche at home. It’s true! The French just don’t go and eat outside for breakfast or brunch. Actually, let me rephrase that: the French have tried to bring the concept of brunch in the country and for the past 5 years now restaurants advertise brunch menus on weekends – but let’s just face it, it’s slowly picking up in Paris only and it can’t compare to a good, fun, loud and opulent American brunch.

Here’s what I love about brunch and especially about Easter brunch. The casualness of brunch is easy and relaxing. It can be as simple as elegant and sophisticated as you want. It can be hosted at home or outside with family or friends. And it is by far the best opportunity to drink before 2:00 p.m. without judgement. There is this little something about brunch that I can’t quite explain. A fun day when everyone is just happy it’s Sunday – no worries nor troubles. A time when you can just kick back and appreciate what you’ve been working towards all week-long. And let’s be frank, Americans have this tremendous and fantastic ability to give up and/or surrender – you choose! – all moderation when it comes to food and drinks. There is enough to eat for 35 and trust me, it’s just that good to sip Champagne amongst friends mid-day for as long as you pleasurely want. As any Parisians would testify – or only testify under torture for fear to actually admit it’s true – Sundays are the dreaded day. It’s the worst day of the week. [Great post explaining why here] And I am so relieved to live somewhere where Sundays are simply considered “fundays”.

Easter brunch is a great tradition here in the U.S. Throw together some painted eggs, some coffee, oj, a little champagne, some pastel colored clothes, a jacquard sweater and you’ve got yourself an Easter brunch party. Americans love to dress up for Easter brunch – they bring out Spring colors and welcome the season with a warm hug one can only find on this side of the pond. Forget the boring rainy French Easter lunches at grandma’s house where aunt Monique is telling you again for the hundredth times not to put your elbows on the table.

Today, with a 70 degree F (21 degrees C) weather shinning beyond the beautiful yellow daffodils in bloom in the neighborhood, the Spring game of peek-a-boo was more than taunting and tantalizing. Easter brunch started with tangerine Champagne cocktails, Mimosas and Bellinis with a home-made peach granita. Today’s menu and appetizers included a prosciutto plate paired with Asian pear wedges and mint, a blue cheese wild mushroom spinach quiche and a salad of shrimp and roasted peppers (aka Insalata di scampi e peperoni arrosti).

As the afternoon went on, the Moroccan leg of lamb with mint sauce accompanied with a vegetable sauté with orange and balsamic was ready to be consumed. I don’t know if it was the harissa, the ras el hanout, or the strong mint flavored sauce, or perhaps even the overindulgence of Champagne, but the light was shinier, the flowers more fragrant, the guests and the birds happier carrying noises of Spring and a new season about to bloom through the open windows.

As expected for brunch, desserts were plentiful and varied. Mini tarts for all! Lime and ginger, chocolate raspberry with cayenne pepper, rhubarb and almond with a St Germain syrup – and to continue the celebration of citrusy fruits and fresh flavors, a pomelo-pistachio tart.

The afternoon went by and the bottles got empty. Everyone left with a sense of fulfillment that only a brunch can bring. This feeling of togetherness and of a delightful happiness that Sunday night is going to be a slow and enjoyable night with fun memories rushing through to be treasured forever. Oh and this old fear of Monday morning looming over your shoulder? Disappeared in a puff of smoke. Happy brunch!

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