Category Archives: reality bites

reality bites: “quatre jours” (continued, journée 4)

quatre jours : “four days”

Journée quatre : Paris monumental
Landmarks, museums and other touristic sites that are actually worth seeing.

Where’s Sacre Coeur?

1. Montmartre
C’est à vous de décider.  Start the day at Montmartre, or end the day at Montmartre.  It’s a difficult choice to say the least.  I prefer le matin, when the neighborhood is quieter and you might actually see locals milling about.  Not to mention that le village de Montmartre has some of the best boulangeries in Paris.  On my most recent trip to Paris, I stayed à deux pas de Place d’Abbesses.  Easy to get to by métro (Abbesses), this is the perfect place to start your Montmartre stroll.  Start buy buying one of those famous baguettes.  I’m a fan of Au Levain d’Antan, the 2011 winner.  And for those who prefer to eat something other than a baguette, I recommend the 2010 winner, Le Grenier à Pain.  But make sure whatever you buy is chaud, or ça ne vaut pas le coup.

2. Sacre Coeur
Rather than climbing up to Sacre Coeur via the grand staircase, head the back way.  Leave Place d’Abbesses via Rue la Vieuville, and hang a gauche on Rue des Trois Frères.  Meander towards Rue Lepic, which you can then climb uphill until you reach Rue Norvins, which will lead you to Place du Tertre.  The touristy-ness of this spot rivals the lines at the Eiffel Tower, so pass through quickly and faites gaffe à ton portefeuilleRue Azais will curve you around to Sacre Coeur.  The pristine white basilica is worth a visit, despite its unfortunate history and the shady characters that set up shop on its steps.  You can descend the steps for an alternate view on the way down.  From there, make your way down to Pigalle.

The infamous Red Windmill…

3. Pigalle
As the red-light district of Paris (though the prostituées of Strasbourg Saint-Denis might give Pigalle a run for it’s money), Pigalle is an excellent place to expore – during the daytime – unless you are an experienced Parisian wanderer.  Wander the stretch between métro Pigalle and métro Blanche, and while minding the sex shops, keep a look out for the interesting clandestin streets and gated homes tucked in on the right-hand side Boulevard de Clichy.  The Cité Veron, for example, is the former home of the famous Parisians Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian.

“Goodbye Mother”, Pere Lachaise

4. Père Lachaise
I’m not usually one to advocate the métro over walking, but there’s quite a bit of ground to cover between Pigalle and Père Lachaise, so get on the ligne 2 at Blanche and head to the métro stop Père Lachaise.  This famous cemetary is absolutely gorgeous, and totally impossible to navigate.  (Jim Morrison’s grave is anti-climactic at best, by the way).  Mes conseils? Don’t go in with a plan to find any grave in particular.  In fact, I quite enjoy meandering through Père Lachaise without a but.  It avoids the inevitable frustration of not finding the specific graves you’d like to see, and I quite prefer daydreaming about all the lesser-known souls who are enterré there.  Budget your time wisely, and try to keep a sense of direction – or else you’ll lose the full day here.

5. Possibilités…
At this point, it’s up to chacun to choose their priority, based on his or her interests.  Here’s a liste of other places worth visiting.

The Eiffel Tower, as seen from Trocadero

5a. Tour Eiffel
Well, if you must, you must.  But if il faut que vous voyez le Tour Eiffel, I’m at least going to make a few suggestions of how to see it.
Option #1 : Head to Trocadero.  You’ll be across the river here, with splendid views/photo opps.  And you’ll get a taste of the ritzier neighborhoods of Paris.
Option #2 : Take a ride on a Bateau Mouche.  There are many companies operating these river boats, and they really do offer some unique and lovely views of the Eiffel Tower (among other monuments).
Option #3 : For the absolutely stubborn among us, the Champ de Mars it is.  Do not bother with trying to climb the Tour (although I know some people will still insister), rather view it from a far (and eventually closer) in this large public garden.  Avoid the women asking if you speak English.  Trust me, you don’t.

One of the lovely sculptures from the Salle de Fetes.

5b. Musée d’Orsay
This museum really is lovely, with a splendid impressionist collection (not to mention sculptures so gorgeous that you might actually forget you came for Monet).  My favorite room is the Salles de Fêtes.  And I highly recommend checking out the Courbet paintings as well.

5c. Musée Rodin
By far, one of the most loved small museums in Paris, this gorgeous gardened enclave houses some of the most sensual sculpture around.  It is a must-see for any fans of la sculpture – though I warn you, Rodin was far from a stand-up guy (some of the sculptures credited to him were later found to be those of his famous mistress Camille Claudel).

The Louvre

5d. Le Louvre
If you haven’t fit it in already, the Louvre is just breathtaking.  I sometimes dissuade first-time Parisian visitors from visiting (at least without a trusty guide or former art history student), because you can really lose a day (or days) in there.  My favorite things to see?  The appartements of Napoleon III, the sculpture courtyards (Cours Marly, Cours Puget) and nearby Assyrian guards, the Winged Victory and Galerie d’Apollon, the large-format French paintings (David, Géricault, etc.), the Salle des Caryatides, the and the Egyptian wing.  (I spent two days a week -minimum- in the Louvre when I was an Erasmus student, so I’ve seen everything, multiple times).  These collections are sadly not all next to each other – so plan your attack systematically.  (And beware the 3-hour museum exhaustion barrier.  It is very, very real.  And sometimes will sneak up on you as soon as hour 2).

5e.  Ne faites rien de tout (Don’t do anything)
 Any of the above choix make for a long and exhausting day – so feel free to also take the rest of the afternoon/evening off and grab a verre du vin.  If you choose this option, well…you’re more parisien than I thought.

(Back to the beginning)


C’est à vous de décider > It’s up to you to decide

le matin > the morning

à deux pas de > two steps from

chaud > hot

ça ne vaut pas le coup > it’s not worth it

faites gaffe à ton portefeuille > watch out for your wallet

prostituées > prostitutes (also known as femmes de bonheur – women of happiness)

ligne 2 > line 2 (of the metro)

Mes conseils > My advice

but > goal

enterré > buried

chacun > each

liste > list

il faut que vous voyez le Tour Eiffel > If you must see the Eiffel Tower

monuments > monuments

Tour > Tower

insister > insist

appartements > apartments

choix > choices

verre du vin > glass of wine

parisien > parisian



Filed under reality bites

reality bites: “quatre jours” (continued, journée 3)

quatre jours: four days

Journée 3 : Paris chic et gourmand (Chic and foodie Paris)

Shopping for cheese at La Fermete, Rue Montorgeuil

1. Rue Montorgueil (2e)
Start the day at the nothern end of Rue Montorgueil; this historic market street is home to the supposed best éclair in Paris, among a number of other famous and lauded fromageries, boulangeries, épiceries, et bistros.  For breakfast, I’d suggest to poke your head into Eric Kayser for a morning pastry.  The brioche au chocolat blanc is literally one of my favorite things to eat in Paris.

2. Saint Eustache
When you reach the southern end of Rue Montorgueil, pop into the church on your right – Saint Eustache.  Don’t forget to check out the unique heart shaped windows, and when you leave out the front door, look for La Droguerie, a colorful tricotage shop.

Copper pots at E. Dehillerin

3. Magasins de Cuisine (1e/2e)
As you leave Saint Eustache and pass by La Droguerie, continue to suivre Rue Coquillière to the point where it intersects with Rue du Louvre.  On this corner stands E. Dehillerin, one of the oldest kitchen/restaurant supply stores in Paris, and a personal favorite shop of Julia Child.  In fact, this whole neighborhood is filled with lovely cooking stores, appropriately surrounding the former site of Les Halles (the famed central Parisian market).  Turn left out of E. Dehillerin, and follow Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Rue Montmartre, where you will find several other worthwhile cooking stores, including Bovida and Mora.

A Parisian passage couvert

4. Galeries et Passages Couverts (2e/8e)
After you’ve spent an hour or two playing le gourmand, follow Rue Montmartre north until it becomes Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre (this switch occurs when you traverse Boulevard Poissonière).  On the left-hand side, at 31 bis, you will find the Passage Verdeau.  This is one of a handful of gorgeous covered passages/galleries that remain from the mid-19th century, when the upper-crust of the rive droite found it safer and chicer to shop indoors.  Only 20 or so of the original 150 passage remain, and they are truly some of the most spectacular, interesting, and overlooked attractions in Paris.  (For a list of the most beautiful passages, click here or check out this website with a map of the passages (in French)).  From Passage Verdeau, you can follow a series of passages until you find yourself near the Opéra.

5. Palais Garnier et Galleries Lafayette
When you’ve exhausted the succession of passages heading ouest from Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, head towards the Galleries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann.  This historic department store is one of the oldest in Paris, and the main building has a gorgeous stained glass ceiling (over the perfume section) that is not to be missed.  Anyone craving a good peek at the Eiffel Tower – or who just wants to get their bearings – should head to the toit, where there is a lovely view of the Opéra de Paris

Palais Garnier, as seen from the roof of Galleries Lafayette

Garnier)The Palais Garnier is your next stop after Galleries Lafayette, a historic building known among tourists as the setting for the Phantom of the Opera (and a visit to the building will only reinforce your wildest theatrical fantasies).  The place does feel downright haunted, and you cannot help but imagine the lavish soirées and opening nights of centuries passed.  A self-guided tour is well-worth the 9€ entry fee, if you have the time. 

6. Madeleine et macarons
From the Opéra, descend southwest along the Boulevard des Capucines, to Place Madeleine.  Pop your head into the church, which has an impressive altarpiece (if you feel so inclined), or continue sans arrêt down Rue Royale to La Durée, the most famous macaron shop in Paris.  Sweet tooths should definitely sample a smattering of mini-macarons; my favorite flavor is cassisviolet.

Children playing in the Palais Royal courtyard

7. Saint Honoré et Palais Royal

While you nibble on macarons, quickly poke your head down to Place de la Concorde, renown as the spot where Louis XVI (and other important historic figures) lost their têtes to the guillotine.  Head back north on Rue Royale, and swing right on Rue Saint Honoré, the most chic shopping street (no it’s not the Champs Elysées) in modern-day Paris.  Home to stores such as the much-lauded concept store Colette, this street also runs adjacent to several historic squares, including the Place Vendôme and the must-see Palais Royal.  Make sure to take a tour through the arcaded garden and courtyard of the latter monument, which houses such institutions as the most-prominent Parisian antiques dealer and the oldest (continually operating) restaurant in Paris.

8. Et après?
The nearby Louvre is actually lovely in the evening, whether for a jaunt through the courtyard or a proper visit to the musée.  The Louvre des Antiquaires is also à cô– a veritable wonderland of antiques that could intrigue even the most bored of museum-goers.  Or if you’re feeling outdoorsy, perhaps it’s time to vadrouiller through the Jardin de Tuileries.  Those in the mood for a cocktail (or a nightcap) might enjoy a stop at le Fumoir, and the nearby Rue de l’Arbre Sec is a hot-bed of culinary hit-makers, housing some of the very best restaurants in Paris (if you haven’t made reservations, try for a spot at Le Garde Robe, a small bar à vins).

(Journée 2Journée 4)


fromageries, boulangeries, épiceries, et bistros > cheese shops, bakeries, grocery stores and bistros

brioche au chocolat blanc > white chocolate brioche

tricotage > knitting

suivre > follow

le gourmand > the foodie

traverse > cross

rive droite > right bank (of the Seine river)

toit > roof

soirées > parties

sans arrêt > without stopping

macaron > a typically Parisian dessert – meringue sandwich with jam or cream like filling

cassis-violet > blackcurrant-violet

têtes > heads

musée > museum

à côté > next door

vadrouiller > ramble

bar à vins > wine bar



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reality bites: “quatre jours” (continued, journée 2)

quatre jours : four days

Journée 2 : Paris, en Noir et Blanc (Paris, in Black & White)
The rive gauche, Notre Dame, Île Saint Louis, and Hôtel de Ville (aka the Parisian myth we love to love)

1)     Saint Germain des Prés (6e)
Start your day early with a chocolat chaudat Les Deux Magots.  This is the best people-watching in the city, and my very favorite morning boisson.  After an hour or two of relaxation, give up your spot to another Parisian dreamer, and stroll down the Rue Bonaparte.

2)     Saint Sulpice
Follow Rue Bonaparte to the church of Saint Sulpice.  I adore the fountain outside, as well the masterful sculpture of Mary in the very back of the église. Then continue south on Rue Bonaparte.

The Medici Fountain

3)     Jardins du Luxembourg
Follow Rue Bonaparte to the Jardin du Luxembourg.  This lovely jardin is home to the French Senate, and has a few lovely corners worth exploring.  My favorite spots are the pétanque courts, whereold men gather for their afternoon gossip; the central pool, where children sail toy bateaux; and the dramatic Fontaine de Medicis.  Leave the gardens via Rue Soufflot, and climb the hill towards the Panthéon.

4)     [The Real] Quartier Latin (5e)

After checking out the famous Panthéon (don’t bother going inside), walk around the back of the building on the left side.  For those who like churches, Saint Étienne du Mont is a lovely little church, housing the remains of Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris.  When you exit out of Saint Étienne du Mont, head south, along the back of the Panthéon, until you reach Rue Descartes.

5)     Mouffetard
Head south on Rue Descartes, until you reach a small square.  By this time, you might be ready for lunch, and Rue Mouffetard (Rue Descartes becomes Rue Mouffetard after the square) is the perfect place to grab a bite.  Crèpe lovers should check out Chez Nico, while sandwich lovers will find many options (including an open-air boulangerie on the left-hand side of the street that has excellent sandwiches).  Descend Rue Mouffetard until you reach another roundabout.

Mint Tea & Hookah at Café Maure (La Mosquée de Paris)

6)     La Mosquée
From here, an optional detour to my favorite marocain restaurant/tea room might be a welcome pause.  For those who want to check out Café Maure, head left on Rue Censier, then left again on Rue Monge, which you should cross to reach Rue Daubeton.  Follow Rue Daubeton until you reach the corner at Rue Geoffroy Saint Hilaire.  For those so inclined, I highly recommend the mint tea, Moroccan pastries, and hookah at the little outdoor café through the white archway on this corner.

7)     Maubert Mutualité
After (or without) the stop at the Mosquée de Paris, head north along Rue Monge until you return to Boulevard Saint Germain. At the intersection of R Monge and Blvd S-G, there will be a cluster of little shops and potentially an outdoor market on the miniscule street “Ter Blvd Saint Germain”.  All the shops here are quite good, but Fromagerie Laurent Dubois is one of the best in the whole city – as the famous fromager holds the title of meilleur ouvrier de France (MOF).  But be warned – this is no “self-serve” cheese shop.  Ask for help, and your wish will be their command.

One of the most dramatic Photo Opps inside Notre Dame

8)     My essential “Saint Germain Loop” (6e)
After checking out the cheese, head left along Blvd Saint Germain, until you reach Odéon.  Poke your head into the nearby Cour du Commerce St. André, if you can find it, for a lovely view of a charming cours pavé.  Then head back along Blvd Saint Germain until you reach Rue de Buci, on your right.  Head towards the Seine on Rue de Buci, and admire the outdoor market/pedestrian street.  You will eventually run into Rue Saint André des Arts, which will lead you towards Place Saint Michel.  If you’re craving a coffee along this route, check out Café Malongo.  Otherwise, proceed directly to the Saint Michel fountain, where you will conclude your Saint Germain jaunt.

9)     Notre Dame (4e)

Cross the river at Pont Saint Michel, and continue East along the river until you see Notre Dame on your left.  Head into the church for a quick tour (c’est gratuit).  The drippy, long taper candles on your right after the entry are my favorite bougies in a French cathedral.

Pont Saint Louis

10)  Île Saint Louis

When you leave Notre Dame, walk around the left side to the back of the cathedral.  Admire the famed flying buttresses as you walk towards the church’s gardens (where there is a fairly clean bathroom, should you need it).  Head over the small Pont Saint Louis, a spot well-noted for the omnipresence of charming street musicians, onto the Île Saint Louis.  Once of the oldest and chicest voisinages, this island holds a charm all its own.  Duck into the many shops (noting that some are more touristy than others), and make sure to try some Berthillon ice cream.  The historic Berthillon shop is open Wednesday-Sunday, but the ice cream can be found at several other shops on the island.

Amour, Rue François Miron

11)  Marais

Once you’ve taken a good look around Île Saint Louis, cross the river at the Pont Marie.

Head north along Rue des Nonnains d’Hyères until you reach Rue François Miron on your left.  Head east on R F-Miron, keeping an eye out for two unique wooden buildings – among the oldest in Paris.  A favorite Parisian photo-op is the drainpipe to the right of these twin buildings – where the word Amour has been wittily painted onto the sidewalk.  If it isn’t too late, you might also be able to poke your head into Izrael, Epicerie du Mondetowards the end of Rue François Miron on the left.  You’ll also find another fine stop for the church-loving tourists, Saint Gervais, with its stunning vitraux.

Hôtel de Ville

12)  Hôtel de Ville

As you leave Saint Gervais, you’ll be facing the back of the stunning Hôtel de Ville.  Walk around this building on the Seine side, to gain the most dramatic views.  This gorgeous mayor’s office is one of the most impressive buildings in town, and if you’re lucky, you’ll near it around dusk, when it’s beautifully lit.

13)  Et après?

The neighborhood around the Hôtel de Ville is not my favorite for eating, as it can be quite cher.  Hop the metro to the nearby Bastille district (many good restaurants can be found near the metro Ledru-Rollin, check my Paris Guide (11e/12e) for more info).  But if you’re going to take the metro, tonight is also a good night to check out some of the noteworthy restaurants of the 7e or 15e, (which are also closer to the Tour Eiffel – with a little luck, you’ll catch her sparkling on the hour).

(Journée 1; Journée 3)


chocolat chaud > hot chocolate

église > church

jardin > garden

pétanque > bocce/lawn bowling

bateaux > boats

marocain > Moroccan

Mosquée > mosque

fromager > cheese monger/maker

meilleur ouvrier de France (MOF) > “Best worker in France” – a contest that covers everything from baking to tile-laying, recognizing the very “best” craftsmen in France

cours pavé > cobbled courtyard/alley

Seine > the river that runs through Paris

c’est gratuit > it’s free

bougies > candles

Amour > love

vitraux > stained glass windows

cher > expensive

Tour Eiffel > Eiffel Tower


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reality bites: “quatre jours”

quatre jours : four days

For whatever reason, every article I read seems to cite quatre jours as the appropriate amount of time to spend in Paris.  Mon avis would be five days minimum, as I think it takes about 3-4 jours to move beyond all the things a person doit voir, and to actually begin to enjoy oneself.

Cependant, a close friend asked me what she should do in Paris in…(shocker)…four days.  So I suppose that, rather than fighting it, c’est le moment to draft my own four day itinéraire.  If you follow my lead, you won’t climb the Tour Eiffel, but you’ll absorb a bit of the city’s beauty and culture quotidienne.

These four days can (and should) be exchanged and rearranged to one’s liking.
Fais attention à
the hours and days that certain sites are open (markets, museums, etc.).

**All addresses can be found on my Paris guide**

Place d’Aligre

Journée 1: La culture BoBo
(“BoBo” stands for bourgeois-bohème.  See: a hipster/artsy/off-the-beaten path vibe)

1. Place d’Aligre (12e)
On commence à Place d’Aligre, one of the most-loved Parisian markets.  (Daily, except Monday.  Best to visit 9am-1pm)
Check out the varied commerçants in the covered market and surrounding lanes.  I highly recommend grabbing some bread or pastry at Moisan and some cheese from the covered market  If you’d rather go sweet than savory, the nearby Blé Sucré has amazing flaky pastries and sacks of bite-sized sweets.

pain libanais (au thym)

2. Place de la Bastille (11e)
If it’s a Thursday or Sunday (7am – 2pm), and you’re not marketed-out, I recommend a quick jaunt over to the rowdier Marché de Bastille (11e).  If you’re still hungry grab some pain libanais or olive fougasse.  This market is a bit more cher than the outdoor vendors at Place d’Aligre, but the products are top-notch, more varied, and well worth the gander.

3. Vélib (11-10e)
Work off your morning munch with a vélib ride.  The bike path along Boulevard Richard Lenoir is one of the safest in the city – and has enough bike stations along the length of the route to ensure that you’ll find a place to park.  If there isn’t a bike immediately available at Place de la Bastille, head north on Blvd RL towards Bréquet Sabin.  (I also highly advise the purchase of the Paris Pratique map-book, which has little purple “V” dots noting the location of all the bike stations in the city.  But it’s also a better map than anything you’ll get for free at your hotel, etc.  You can also access an online map of all the vélib stations here).

Canal Saint Martin

4. Canal Saint Martin (10e)
Once you’ve got your velib, follow Boulevard Richard Lenoir north to the Canal St. Martin.  Park your bike at Rue Alibert if possible, and check out the boutiques on the Quai de Valmy/Quai de Jemmapeslike Artazart or Antoine et Lili. (And there’s always the famous Pain des Amis at Du Pain et des Idées).

5. Haut Marais (3e)
After checking out the neighborhood surrounding the canal, head back towards Place de la Republique.  Leave P de la Rep via Rue du Temple, and head towards the Square du Temple (3e).  Hip shopping can be found all along Rue de Bretagne, and near the Carreau du Temple.  Spice lovers shouldn’t miss Goumanyat, and Photographers/Designers should check out Ofr.  Once you’ve léché quelques vitrines around the Rue de Bretagne, head down the Rue Vielle du Temple.

Marais living

6. Marais (4e)
Follow the Rue Vielle du Temple to the Rue des Francs Bourgeois.  Head left, and you’ll soon hit the gorgeous Place des Vosges, where Victor Hugo once lived. (In fact, it is said that he wrote Les Misérables about the community that frequented Rue des Francs Bourgeois) .  Exit the Place des Vosges out the SW corner, through the garden of the Hotel Sully.  You’ll now be on Rue de Rivoli.  Head right, and when you reach Metro Saint Paul, head right again, towards the Rue des Rosiers.

7. Quartier Juif (4e)
Rue des Rosiers is at the heart of the Jewish quarter, where golden loaves of challah and legendary falafel shops compete for customers.  If you’re in the mood for what the New York Times called Europe’s best falafel – check out L’As du Falafel.  Near the falafel shops is the unassuming “Vintage” store -also worth the gander, if you’re into 5€ dresses and other frugal finds.

The view of Montmartre from Centre Pompidou

8. Centre Pompidou (4e)
From Rue des Rosiers, exit west, back onto Rue Veille du Temple, and head north.  When you reach Rue des Francs Bourgeois, head left (the road will turn into Rue Rambuteau).  If you skipped the falafel and are craving something to grignoter, Rue Rambuteau is filled with wonderful shops.  Two favorites are the sandwiches at Hure Boulangerie and the guimauves at Pain du Sucre.  Continue west until you see a colorful, modern building that seems to be made of pipes.  That is Centre Pompidou.  Head around to the far side of the building to reach the entrance.  Those who aren’t interested in visiting the Modern Art collection (or in paying for a museum) should still head to the top floor for ma vue préférée de Paris.  To get the view for free, head to the elevator just left of the main entrance/line.  Tell the guard you want to grab a drink at the cafe on the top floor.  He will send you upstairs, where you can’t access the galleries, but you will have a glorious view of the Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame and Montmartre.  If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive right around le coucher du soleil.

9. Et après?
For dinner and nightlife, consider taking métro line 11 from Rambuteau to Republique and then heading towards Parmentier.  For dinner, I’d check out the very reasonable, old-fashioned bistro Au Pied de Fouet.  Then head to a bar on Rue Oberkampf or Rue Jean Pierre-Timbaud.  My personal favorite is the live music at Alimentation Generale.

(Journée 2; 3 et 4 à venir)


mon avis > my opinion

minimum > minimum

jours > days

doit voir > must see

cependant > however

c’est le moment > it’s the moment

itinéraire > itinerary

Tour Eiffel > Eiffel Tower

culture quotidienne > daily culture

fais attention à les horaires > pay attention to the hours

BoBo/bourgeois-bohème > middle-class/bohemian (children of wealthy persons who choose to live a hipster lifestyle)

on commence à > we begin at

commerçants > vendors

pain libanais > lebanese flatbread (I prefer mine with thyme, salt and lemon)

fougasse > a fluffy web-like bread stuffed with olives, bacon, anchovies, or other odd bits

cher > expensive

vélib > bike

pain des amis > bread of friends

léché quelques vitrines > “licked a few windows” (licking windows = window shopping)

grignoter > nibble

guimauves > French marshmallows, which are fluffier and all-natural (unlike chamallow, which are like American marshmallows)

ma vue préférée de Paris > my favorite view of Paris

et après? > and after?

journées deux, trois, quatre, à venir > days 2, 3, 4 to come…


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reality bites: “chanteuse”

chanteuse (n.f.)  : female singer

This past rainy Wednesday, I hit up the West Village bar à vin, Buvette, with la musique, la bouffe, et la mémoire on my mind.

I was meeting with Georgia, an Irish chanteuse, and a friend/colleague from my own collegiate jazz-singing days.  She knew me before my foodie/franglophone phase, when one was more likely to find me vocalizing than philosophizing about the perfect oeufs mollets.

I met this amie from my past in the epitome of my here-and-now – all food, and distinctively frenchy. Perching at the bar, apron-and-tie’d dandys served us heirloom légumes, grilled baby artichauts, and brandade de morue.  Deciding between two Languedoc whites, we noted: one had a nicer début, the other, a better fin.  We went for the fin, thinking that it’d be more fun in the long-run.

Sipping and nibbling, we slipped back into our old habitudes – talking of life, love, and jazz.  The conversation itself an interesting improvisation – an abbreviation of 3 years past, editing and reinserting all that seemed important.  Après dîner, I walked her to a nearby free-jazz concert, then moseyed off under the spattering rain, contemplating jazz, and jazz chanteuses in particular.

In the past year that I’ve left France, I’ve discovered a treasure trove of francophone muses – my “jazz-ladies”.  Trans-atlantic femmes who have sung me to sleep (or to work, or to play), keeping my pseudo-parisian cool in the hot mess of Manhattan.

Maybe these days I’m on a video kick, or maybe it’s just an aural-fixation, but here are a few of my favorite
chanteuses franglophones.

Cyrille Aimée (French), “Love for Sale”

Stacey Kent, (Americain) “La venus du mélo”

Melody Gardot, (American) “Les étoiles”


bar à vin > wine bar 

buvette > establishment where one drinks

la musique, la bouffe, et la mémoire > music, food, and memory

oeufs mollets > “medium-boiled” eggs, cooked white/runny yolk

amie > friend

légumes > vegetables

artichauts > artichokes

brandade de morue > a paste made with salt cod, potato and cream

début > beginning

fin > end

habitudes > habits, tendancies

Après dîner > after dinner

francophone > french-speaking

femmes > women

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reality bites: “meilleur”

meilleur (adj.) : the best

I’ll be returning to Paris in two weeks (for the first time since I left in August ’10) and I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of meilleur – and more specifically about mes meilleurs souvenirs of Paris.  The places I loved best, the food I can’t stop dreaming of, the songs that were a soundtrack to my time there – not to mention the people I shared all of this with.

And so if it be for paresse (see: the desire to break out of normal prose) or nostalgie – or even just a reminder that you should check out my Paris page (and my New York page while you’re at it)…

I’m starting a sort of countdown in installments, of the places, things, songs… – that are if not le meilleur, they are mon meilleur de Paris

Part I : Mon meilleur… (Paris comestible)

a sandwich on a Huré baguette


– (overall): Moisan; (5 Place d’Aligre/2 Rue De Bazeilles and other locations)

casse-croute : the brioche de chocolat blanc at Eric Kayser (87 Rue d’Assas and other locations)

– baguette : Huré; (18 rue Rambuteau/10 Place d’Italie)

– sandwich : Guichard Stephane (5 rue Vavin)

– meringue : Boulangerie (64 Rue des Gobelins)

fougasse : Richard Lenoir market (Thursday/Sundays at Bastille, along Blvd Richard Lenoir)

Pain de Sucre marshmallows ("guimauves")


fromagerie : Laurent Dubois (47ter Boulevard Saint Germain)

fromagerie (cheap) : Cheeses of the Day at Genty Gastronomie (169 Boulevard Vincent Auriol)

– spices : Goumanyat (3 Rue Dupuis)

– spices (cheap) : Graineterie/Epicerie du Marché d’Aligre (8 Place d’Aligre) — also my fave for dried beans and other products

– health food : Au Grand Appétit (9 Rue de la Cerisaie)

vin : Again, Le Verre Volé (67 rue de Lancry)

– cooking supplies : Mora (13 Rue Montmartre)

– sweets (general, not a chocolate specialist) : Pain de Sucre (14 Rue Rambuteau)


– overall : Place d’Aligre

– indoor : Marché Saint-Quentin (85 bis Blvd Magenta)

– cheap : Marché Auguste Blanqui (Blvd Auguste Blanqui)

My fave "ethnic" food in Paris - Lebanese at Paris Beirut


bar à vin with food : (tie) Café de la Nouvelle Mairie (19 rue des Fossées St. Jacques) & Le Verre Volé (67 rue de Lancry)

– tasting menu : Chez L’Ami Jean (27 rue Malar)

– sit-down crêperie : Breizh Café (109 Rue Vielle du Temple)

– ethnic (non-French) : Paris-Beirut (242 rue de Tolbiac)

– cheap : Au Pied de Fouet (96 Rue Oberkampf)

crèpe at Breizh Café

– outdoor : Chez Prune (36 Rue Beaurepaire)

– lunch : Rose de France (24 Place Dauphine)

– lunch (cheap) : (tie) Art Macaron (129 Blvd Montparnasse) and Cuisine de Bar (8 rue Cherche-Midi)

– nicer/date-night : La Gazzetta (29 Rue de Cotte)


– coffee : Café Malongo (50 Rue Saint-André des Arts)

chocolat-chaud : Les Deux Magots (6 Place St Germain des Prés)

– people watching : Again, Les Deux Magots

– studying/reading : Café Maure, Mosquée de Paris (39 Rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire)

This may not be an exhaustive list – but I think it’ll get any happy gastronome started…
(Please note, in terms of meat, fish, roasted chicken, vegetables etc. – I always bought them in my favorite markets.  This is why separate stores are not listed).


mes meilleurs souvenirs > my best memories

paresse > laziness

nostalgie > nostalgia

le meilleur > the best

mon meilleur de Paris > my best of Paris

Paris comestible > edible Paris

boulangerie > bakeries

casse-croute > snack

brioche de chocolat blanc > white chocolate brioche (eggy, fluffy pastry)

fougasse > a flat, almost pizza-crust-ish bread with olives or other bits mixed in

bar à vin > wine bar

crêperie > crepe restaurant

chocolat-chaud > hot chocolate

fromagerie > cheese shop

vin > wine

gastronome > food-lover, foodie

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reality bites: “merde”

merde (n.f.) : “shit”

Everyone loves a curse word.  Everyone also loves a birthday.
And I assure you, on the morning following my vingt-troisième anniversaire, the first word I declared was merde.

Not all dessert in Paris is beautiful - a simple, surprisingly tasty, but arguably sub-par Parisian birthday cake.

Let’s back this up a bit…

Over the weekend, I turned vingt-quatre.  One year closer to what I (at least used to) call “real adulthood/if-your-shit-isn’t-already-together-it’s-time” (25), one year further away from feeling like an eternal étudiante.  It was a calm birthday, to say the least.  For starters, je me souviens de tout ce qui s’est passé (apparently a rarity for many Manhattan post-grads on their anniversaire) and I spent more time meeting new friends than making out with new, um… friends.

Not that last year’s birthday ended up in an intense séance de bécotage.  (That would hardly be blog-worthy.)

So, now I present, in full disclosure -birthday #23:

All my life I’ve had friends who shared my birthday.  At one point in grammar school, there were 3 of us jeunes filles -all with the same birthday- in a class of only 20.  In Paris, it was no different.  First, there was B*.  A parisian through-and-through, this fille ran with our motley-crew of mostly non-Parisians (as I’ve mentioned, most of my French friends are basque or wanna-be basque), and was always dressed trop chic, with an air of effortless Parisian cool.  Then there was I* – an italiana, who returned to Paris from a séjour à Londres shortly after the great day of our birth.  Finally, there was F* – the most basque of all, he didn’t even live in Paris – but when he came, our nights always seemed to get a bit crazier, and he could have easily been crowed king of the legendary Fêtes de Bayonne. 4 friends out of une vingtaine thus beat even my childhood recordbut at the time of my actual birthday in 2010, B* was the only of these friends I had already met.

Some of the rescued birthday footage: La Marianne and Andy Warhol

And barely met at that.  Ouai, we ran with the same crew – but she was less loudmouthed, seemingly less audacieuse than the others – and when we found out we shared the same jour de naissance, I wasn’t sure if she would want to have a shared soirée.  But share we did, and when my small appartment was voted too small for the guest list we had assembled, she offered up her parents gorgeous flat in the 7e – and a true parisian fête was born.

Now back to this flat – it was not only gorgeous, it was sprawling.  And it was filled with objects of unimaginable value – if not monetary, than sentimental – objects which we careful hid in adjoining rooms that could be locked off from the clumsy hands of bourré 20-somethings.  The room in which we held the party opened onto a fantastic balcony – a real rêve de fumeur. And with the balmy spring air brought in by Parisian spring, it was the perfect place for a smoke or a chat (or less innocent activities that one might want to partake in).

From the get-go, ensuring that nothing was broken or stolen was a threat.  Sure, I knew my friends “well” – but how well can you know people after less than a year?  She was inviting amis d’enfance, myself – more or less reliable acquaintances.  However, these were potes that had saved me from the likes of abrasive bar-crawling stalkers, amis that had seen me through true-blue international thick and thin – and so I barely hesitated to add them to the list.

The party started splendidly.  The theme : American vs. French –  s’habiller comme le stéréotype de l’autre équipe.  So French cowboys and rappers danced besides American can-can girls and sans-culottes.  Andy Warhol even made an appearance, as did La Marianne.  We mused about the differences between French and American party snacks (a subject that deserves it’s own blog post really), attended the obligatory contre-soirée in the cuisine, and made good use of the breezy balcony when…err…necessary.

But somewhere between that celebratory bouteille de Champagne and a debate about the very Ruben-like style of the painting over the fireplace, this birthday-girl caught a case of amnésie.  My good friends J* & J* stepped in to rescue me from art-history-based seduction, and I got neatly tucked into un lit.

Up until the “Rubens incident”, that party was swell.  No – that party was super, hyper-cool, j’adorais.  But the moment my eyes opened and I saw my red beret on the floor, I knew things had taken a turn for the worst.
Merde! Point 1 : J’ai vomit pendant la nuit – which is scary enough on it’s own (especially when it’s the first time this has ever happened to you), but absolutely terrifying when it happens in a gorgeous apartment that’s not yours…on a gorgeous bedspread.  And when you drank copious quantities of vin rouge.  Ok, I think you’ve got it.
Merde! Point 2: I can find mon appareil anywhere.  It’s not in my purse, not under my discarded toga, not in the bathroom, not in the kitchen…
Merde! Point 3 : Where is *B? I find her wandering, equally distressed, in my cardigan (when she put that on, who knows?) and boxers – throwing together une valise, because she has to be at the train to her family’s vacation house for Pâques in less than a demi-heure – oh, and by the way, her friend’s coat and passe navigo were stolen as well.

More rescued birthday footage: a sans-culotte dances with a guillotine victim.

At this point, we’re in “poutain de merde” territory, and the merde is only getting deeper.

I recuperate my cardigan, literally shaking at the thought of the destroyed couette in my bedroom – as B* goes on to enumerate the other damages.  Apparently someone had tried to break into the part of the house that was locked, and bottles were found in the bedrooms, where no one was supposed to have wandered.  Also, the party was just barely cleaned-up, as the fantastic J* & J* duo again saved the day, in my unexpected absence.

Me, I’m nothing but coupable.  Should’ve eaten more for dinner, should’ve avoided that celebratory champagne, should’ve taken more care with my camera…

Par ailleurs – where is my camera???

Well, I had my own gueule de bois train-ride ahead – so we desperately threw the stained couette in the laundry bin, and as a more-understanding-than-she-should-be B* rushed to her train, je me suis depêchée towards my flat to grab a quick shower and head to my friend’s grandparent’s in the Loire for my own very-French Easter celebration.  My jello legs and pounding head barely carried me to the gare – let alone the siège where my very worried, but very amused friend awaited.

Needless to say, my appareil didn’t resurface.  It was volé, permanently introuvable – along with B*’s friend’s coat and metro pass.  So much for the loyal guestlist.  And that night I didn’t quite remember…well my point of view was lost for good as well.  I went so far as to send out a message to all the party guests, hoping that someone would at least send me the pictures – but no such luck.  (And that Pâques feast was SO very picture worthy…)

Cette année, I didn’t lose my appareil.  I took perhaps less pictures than I intended, and still drank my share of vin rouge – but when family birthday brunch rolled around, I was able to catch my train and even get down a crêpe or two.

Oh, and B*?  She’s still a very close friend.  Her mother will probably forever despise the ugly américaine who couldn’t hold her vin – but I’m pretty sure it’s all pardonné, if not oublié.

And so – albeit belatedly, B* – a very public Joyeux Anniversaire – your wish is on me ;).


vingt-troisième anniversaire > 23rd birthday

vingt-quatre > 24

étudiante > student (female)

je me souviens de tout ce qui s’est passé > I remember everything that happened

anniversaire > birthday

séance de bécotage > make-out session

jeunes filles > young girls

fille > girl

basque > from the Basque country, South Western France on the Spanish border

trop chic > too chic, too stylish (“too” meaning “so”, not “too much”)

séjour à Londres > period of time/stay in London

Fêtes de Bayonne > the legendary Basque summer festival in the city of Bayonne

une vingtaine > about twenty (of something)

Ouai > Yeah

audacieuse > bold

jour de naissance > date of birth

soirée > party/evening

fête > party

bourré > drunk

rêve de fumeur > smoker’s dream

amis d’enfance > childhood friends

potes > friends (slang)

amis > friends

s’habiller comme le stéréotype de l’autre équipe > dress like the stereotype of the other team

sans-culottes > French men of the common/poor class during the revolution

La Marianne > The patron or mascot of France

contre-soirée > counter-party, alternative party

cuisine > kitchen

bouteille de Champagne > bottle of Champagne

amnésie > amnesia

un lit > a bed

super, hyper-cool, j’adorais > super, really cool, I loved it

J’ai vomit pendant la nuit > I vomited during the night

vin rouge > red wine

mon appareil > my camera

une valise > a suitcase

Pâques > Easter

demi-heure > half hour

passe navigo > (unlimited, typically year-long) metro pass

poutain de merde > “whore of shit”; note: “poutain” is thrown into French sentences for emphasis as often as “man” or “wow” in English

couette > comforter

coupable > guilty

Par ailleurs > By the way

gueule de bois > hangover, literally “throat/mouth of wood”

je me suis depêchée > I hurried

gare > train station

siège > seat

volé > stolen

introuvable > impossible to find

Cette année > This year

crêpe > French “pancakes”, crepes

américaine > American (female)

vin > wine

pardonné > forgiven

oublié > forgotten

Joyeux Anniversaire > Happy Birthday

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