Tag Archives: france

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



Filed under reality bites, Uncategorized

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


Filed under reality bites, Uncategorized

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…


Filed under reality bites

typique : “chanson”

chanson (n.f.) : song

In spite of my obvious culinary leanings and insatiable appetite (both literal and conversational/conceptual) for all things food – when I think back on Paris, it isn’t the things I tasted that bring back the memories les plus vifs.  It is la musique, in fact, that reincarnates Paris for me most vividly.  And I’m not simply speaking about a clever air played on an accordéon.  There are certain chansons– whether the obsessions of friends, the big “tube” of the moment, or a true classic – that will forever be Parisian, for me.

And so, I bring you  (à la suite de my favorite edible aspects of Paris):

Part II : Mes meilleurs…Chansons qui évoquent Paris (Songs that evoke Paris)

1) Le poinçonneur de Lilas (The metro attendant/hole-puncher of Lilas), Serge Gainsbourg  (Think : Morning rush hour)

The first time I heard this song was in a cours de français in college.  It embodies for me everything that is right about French singer/songwriters.  They may not have the best voix (Gainsbourg, in fact, wanted to be an artist, not a musician), they may not be the most beau, but gosh can they tell a story.  In both text and music, this song is the métro incarnate.  And as a (perhaps over-zealous) fan of the Paris métroj’adore.

2) Koop Island Blues, Koop (Think : Killing time smoking/strolling by the Seine)

Yes, the music video starts with a glimpse of the Moulin Rouge.  And the two men searching for this seeming prostitute in the woods does remind me of the time I took a taxi out to a swanky soirée in the Bois de Boulogne at night – and passed a whole slew of femmes de bonheur en route.  But long before I ever saw the music video, I always thought that there’s something about this song – and really anything by Koop (a Swedish group) – that makes me think of Paris.  There’s a sort of care-less, rambling, lounge-style to their music that mimics the lifestyle.  And when I heard their music playing at several French parties – I realized that my French friends étaient d’accord.

3) Lady, Modjo (Think : Getting ready for the club)

As a rule, I don’t like house music.  In fact, je l’ai détesté before I moved to France.  But like the first bottle that turns you into a wine-lover, Lady was the first chanson that made me appreciate House.  It’s a throw-back for me, from my undergrad study-abroad days.  But I remember the first night je l’ai entendu – out dancing with some fashion-designer guy friends.  And they could definitely could move.

4) Aerodynamic, Daft Punk (Think : Walking home as the sun rises)
This song is really a Parisian nightlife anthem (or at least was for a time).  As perhaps best memorialized in the drunken revelry of L’Auberge Espagnole – it forever reminds me of blurry, care-free dancing and the time entre leaving the bar and crawling into mon lit.

5) La valse à mille temps (The thousand-tempo/time waltz), Jacques Brel

One phrase comes to mind whenever I hear this song.  “Ouai, Brel – il est belge – mais ça va.”  (Yea, Brel – he’s belgian – but it’s ok).  It was a chilly November night in La Butte aux Cailles – and we had stopped for a post-dinner drink in a cozy dive.  In no time, everyone was dancing – backyard wedding style – and they really went crazy for this chanson.  Waltzing and swaying – de plus en plus vite – it’s the perfect drunken end to a lovely evening.  (Much better than Stairway to Heaven, or Pianoman anyway…)

6) Queremos Paz, Gotan Project (Think : Daily life under grey skies and rain)

I don’t know why, but this song was partout in 2009-2010.  In every film, every commercial – it seemed the unofficial soundtrack to Parisian life.  It thus reminds me of every stereotypical scene from a good Paris movie – taxi rides in the rain, grey-skied ponderings off a wrought-iron balcon – essentially anything that Roman Duris does during the movie Paris (which I love, despite the mixed reviews).

7) Walking on a Dream, Empire of the Sun (Think : The best damn house-party ever)

One thing qui me manque about Paris is the house parties.  Living in New York, everyone has very little space, and so we head out to bars instead of congregating in peoples’ homes.  My friends were the masters of the house party.  We threw not only cremaillères de pendaison, but re-cremaillères and moving-out parties — any excuse to get everyone together for a snack, a drink, and dancing.  And while Parisians may think our habit of going out in public in costume for St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween bizarre – they throw fantastic costume parties.  Case in point – our “Empire of the Sun” party.  So yea, we played this song on repeat.

8 ) J’en ai marre (I’m Fed Up), Alizée (Think : French people do Karaoke)

(It was a toss-up between this one and “Je vais à Rio” by Claude François) – just in case you were starting to think that French people only listen to good music.  This gem of a catchy love-it/hate-it tune is representative of the ugly, delightful underbelly of French pop.  Oh, Alizée – where to begin?  I think perhaps that what I like best about you is the absolute lack of coherent connection between the “peau douce” and “j’en ai marre” sections of the song.  I mean, what does your suggestive bain de mousse have to do with your list of complaints?  Rien, that’s what.  Annnd…instant classic!

9) Buika (Think : Palais Royal under the stars on a balmy spring night)

For this one, it’s not just one song – it’s a concert.  Now I’ve gone to my share of concerts in Paris – including an amazing Kurt Elling (my fave) concert at New Morning – but by far, the best concert I ever saw was Buika at the Fête de la Musique in 2010.  I immediately went home and bought all her recordings – but they just do not stand up to her live performance.

10) Ne me quitte pas (Don’t leave me), Nina Simone (Think : The days you can’t leave your lit)

The remix of Simone’s Sinnerman was extremely popular when I first lived in Paris – so it was only a matter of time that I came across this lovely cover.  Given, I’ve loved this song since the first time I heard the Brel recording – but it was Nina Simone who got me through my première séjour à Paris.  Something about her crackly, soulful voice was so fitting for the grey-sky’ed winters – it’s no wonder the French have practically adopted her as their own.

And a few more chansons nécessaires on my Paris playlist?

Elephant Gun & Bratislava, Beirut (because it brings back memories of many nights drinking Rakia in a Serbian hole-in-the-wall bar)
Paris s’enflamme (Paris is Burning), Ladyhawke (It’s a perfect pre-party groove, and I heard it -ironically – for the first time during the whole “death of Paris nightlife” debate)
Rabbit Heart, Florence & the Machine (this was my Basque crew’s anthem)


les plus vifs > the most vibrant, striking

la musique > music

accordéon > accordeon

tube > hit (as in chart-topping hit)

à la suite de > following

cours de français > french class

voix > voice

beau > beautiful/attractive

métro > subway

j’adore > I love (it)

Moulin Rouge > The “Red Windmill”, a famous burlesque club in Paris

soirée > party

Bois de Boulogne > a large park on the western edge of Paris

femmes de bonheur > “women of happiness”, prostitutes

étaient d’accord > were in agreement

je l’ai détesté > I hated it

je l’ai entendu > I heard it

L’Auberge Espagnole > “The Spanish Apartment” A very popular French film starring Romain Duris

entre > between

mon lit > my bed

La Butte aux Cailles > One of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris, in the 13e

de plus en plus vite > faster and faster

partout > everywhere

balcon > balcony

qui me manque > that I miss

cremaillères de pendaison > house-warming parties

re-cremaillères > re-house warming parties

peau douce > soft skin

bain de mousse > bubble bath

Rien > Nothing

Fête de la Musique > An annual music festival in Paris

première séjour à Paris > first time living in Paris

chansons nécessaires > necessary songs

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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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snapshot : “galette des rois”

galette des rois : “king’s cake” – a traditional cake eaten in France in January to celebrate the feast of the epiphany.

No, I didn’t make this galette.  But I’m going to!  For the next two weeks I’ll be working chez moi (due to renovations at work), and so in addition to the endless flow of emails and other daily tasks, I can also cook (see: not burn the house down by putting things in an unwatched oven).

Anyway, the lovely Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini posted a recipe for this traditional dessert online – and I thought I’d help spread the word to other eager, ambitious, francophile bakers.

But as Clotilde suggests – n’oublie pas la fève!


galette > a plain, round, flat cake

chez moi > at my house (well, apartment)

n’oublie pas la fève > don’t forget the bean! (the bean being a little porcelain object – usually a religious figure, crown, etc. – that will hold up during baking.  The person who gets the bean in their slice of galette wins – i.e. is “king”.)

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