A Free Cruise!

July 19th, 2017

les vedettes de - 1
Just thought I would pass along this bon plan for anyone who will be in Paris on their birthday:

Vedettes de Paris, one of the sight-seeing boat companies for cruises up and down the Seine river, will give a free 1-hour cruise ticket plus a glass of champagne (or a muffin and a soft drink) to anyone on their birthday. You just need to show up and provide proof that it actually is your birthday.

This offer is valid on all one-hour non-theme cruise all year long. How cool is that?

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Police Bust Russian Prostitute Ring

July 6th, 2017

be de b 2The law on prostitution is ambiguous here in France. A woman can take payment for sex, but no other person is to benefit from it. In other words, pimping is illegal. So is a brothel. So, too, is paying a woman for sex. In other words, a man caught paying a woman for sex is breaking French law. If caught red-handed, he maybe arrested and fined, and should it not be the first time he has been apprehended, he may go to jail.

Just last week when I went to a museum in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne, I saw several prostitutes standing alongside the road that runs through the wood and nearby, behind a tree, was parked a car, a man sitting behind the wheel. When after my visit to the museum I passed the spot again, the car was still there and the man was still sitting behind the wheel. The first time I had passed him, I thought he was a pimp or a potential customer working up the courage to approach one of the prostitutes, but that second time I passed him, was about two hours later, I realised it was a policeman, waiting to swoop should a car drive up.

b de bRecently, the police did swoop. Officers from the section of the vice squad arrested 8 people of both genders, and aged between 23 and 35. They will now be appear at a special court, the JIRS of Paris – Jurisdiction interregionale specialise – which specialises in major organised crime. At the head of this prostitution ring was a 31-year-old.

Here’s how the ring operated: Potential clients booked a prostitute on one of two websites, Amour russe and Charme russe (since shut down, of course). The two sites were based in Israel and on the island of Cyprus. According to the police, daily these two sites had thousands of hits. The ring brought women from Russia and the Ukraine to Paris. They had genuine visas. They stayed in Paris for two months when they flew back to where they had come from. Collected at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport they were taken to one of the ring’s apartments. There were twenty such apartments, all in the capital’s very chic and expensive 7th and 16th arrondissements (districts).

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365-Degree Paris

June 21st, 2017

a paris yearJanice MacLeod, who rocketed up the New York Times Bestseller list with Paris Letters, has a new book out. A part deux, if you will. “If Paris Letters is about BECOMING an artist in Paris,” she writes on her website, “A Paris Year is about BEING an artist in Paris.”

It’s an unusual book, layed out to look like a scrapbooked personal diary. MacLeod’s watercolors are luscious and precise, and add a more personal touch than her photographs, which perhaps would look less average if this weren’t the age of Instagram. I couldn’t help but wish I could see MacLeod’s real journal instead of pages that were computer-designed with ersatz moisture rings from beverages and “tape” holding down snapshots. But if you can get past the odd mix of the quaint and the commercial, you will feel like you’re enjoying a leisurely dinner with an expat friend. Paris Year 3The joys of Paris are highlighted here—farmers markets, long walks, museums and cafes. It’s short of depth but strong on color and beauty. (MacLeod’s entries rarely stray from the first 8 arrondissements, but she’s got a great eye.)

Paris Year 1The occasional batch of color swatches, illustrating a palette or particular light of the city, feel unique and insightful. “Is is the creamy neutral palette of the buildings and gray skies that make red pop?” she asks. It is those details that remind you that artists, and aesthetes, experience Paris differently, and it is a delight to hear them describe it.

Paris Year 2

More Mexican Welcome in Paris!

June 19th, 2017

bocamexaIn 2006, Julien Zattara, a Frenchman, met Alejandra, a Mexican, while they were both studying cooking in Lyon at Paul Bocuse Institute. Julien and Alejandro became fast friends, sharing sharing tequila shots and traveling together to attend a wedding in Mexico.

They decided to open a Mexican restaurant in 2006 on rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter, serving cuisine inspired by recipes from Alejandro’s grandfather. Expanding their brand and business, they started a food truck in 2013; followed by harvesting their own peppers in 2014 to make their own special salsa Gallo; creating their own beer in 2015; and opening a new restaurant on Faubourg Saint Denis in 2016.

My friend and I went for lunch on Saturday at 12:30. The interior–wicker lamp shades, light wood picnic benches and tables, midnight blue-tiled walls and vintage black and white photos–made me feel as though I was at Mexican café on the beach in Tulum, Mexico rather than on the gritty Faubourg Saint Denis.

boca 2My first barometer for authenticity when it comes to Mexican food is the guacamole; if the guacamole passes the test, then it’s usually smooth sailing for the other dishes to come. Chunky and not super spicy, the guacamole at Bocamexa passed the test well, but the quality of corn chips could have been elevated a notch or two.

Next up was the most popular dish at Bocamexa, Tacos a Pastor. Pastor is a particular preparation of spit roast and marinated pig served with fresh pineapple, and brought to the streets of Mexico in the early 1960s by Lebanese immigrants. The flavor of the little bits of pork were piquant and sweet at the same time, and the pineapple was the correct complement to the pork.

We shared a well-stuffed burrito with marinated chicken, chorizo sausage and grilled peppers and onions. Again the taste and freshness was authentic, so Bocamexa passed my rigorous tests for Mexican food and came out a winner. On top of that, Bocamexa offers gluten free dishes and vegetarian selections.

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Are You an “Interstitial Tourist”?

May 24th, 2017

curiosities of paris coverCuriosities of Paris is not for the casual tourist. Refreshingly, its cover features neither an Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, nor Sacre Coeur. No, this is for the hardcore Paris aficionado, or the “interstitial tourist,” who the book defines as someone who prefers to “explore the nooks and crannies of the urban landscape rather than its more aristocratic facets.”

This book, by Dominique Lesbros, burrows into the obscure, or, when tackling something a little less recherché, dives deeper than you’d expect. Take, for instance, the chapter on horses. We all recognize the oversized arches that once allowed horse-drawn carriages to pass through. But did you know that what look like decorative metals bars on the lower half of doorways often were utilitarian, holding a serving of hay so horses could snack on the go? Or that conical stone cornerguards, which flank the bottom corners of street-facing doorways, served as protection from the axles of carriages? curiosities layout 2Such details not only provide fresh entertainment for any stroll through any arrondissement, but also stimulate your everyday awareness of the history harbored in previously overlooked visual vestiges.

Titillating factoids about the lurid side of the city paint a fleshy portrait of yesteryear’s cheeky residents. There’s a street called “Great Scam” (rue de la Grand Truanderie) whose residents miraculously recovered from debilitating handicaps upon return home each evening from a day of begging. And did you know rue du Pélican was not inspired by the bird but is a less blush-inducing adaptation of the original rue du Poil-au-Con (which I’m going to decline to translate).

curiosities layout 1The solid writing avoids the “Aren’t-they-wacky?” tone that too often mars a compendium of oddities; it’s a fun read even if you never meander in to its many aforementioned nooks and crannies.

Smaller than a coffeetable tome but more robust than a pocket guide, Curiosities of Paris offers up more than 800 photos accompanied by captions that, while brief, pack a punch. It even manages to squeeze in new (to me) info on those old favorites, such as this: Sacre-Coeur is the only church in Paris that practices uninterrupted 24-hour prayer before the holy sacrament–and anyone is allowed to register to participate.

30-Centime Drinks? There’s An App for That

May 17th, 2017

firsty logoFancy 30 drinks for €9.99? Check out the latest drinks-related app to hit the Paris bar scene: Firsty.

Getting your daily drink on is pretty simple: download the app, subscribe for €9.99 a month, select a bar near you from their list of around 50, and head in for a drink every day of the month. That’s about 30 centimes per drink! And the subscriptions can be cancelled anytime.

I had a chance to taste test one of the cocktails up for grabs and meet the app developers Harry Knowlman (bar selection) and Kim Giaoui (app development) at their launch party at Monsieur Antoine. But, of course, the real test is a trial in the field, at a random bar, on a random night where I’m a just a random unknown customer.

firsty2So, I signed up for their five-night free trial and headed out to a bar I’d never visited before, Monsieur le Zinc. This cute and kitschy little bar just off of Odeon, with a tongue-in-cheek gas-pump décor, offers a small selection self-serve wine and beer on taps, accessed by prepaid cards. It was a quick and pretty seamless visit. The bartender immediately recognized the app, explained the bar concept and served up our drink. Easy, simple and effective.

firsty 1The 50 bars in the app comprise a wide range of options. If you’re going for good cocktails, I’d recommend: Solera, Persifleur, Les Justes, or Tiki Lounge. Otherwise, there are other bars that serve basic mixed drinks as well as dedicated wine and beer bars. The choice is diverse enough that you should be able to discover something of interest off your regular route.

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Here’s the Beef!

April 24th, 2017

beefJean-Francois Clavier, the owner of a company Archibald Gourmet, which imports Wagyu beef to France, and Jean-Francois Celbert, owner of the upscale Josephine Restaurant and Boulangerie have teamed up to serve a Wagyu tasting menu. Wagyu is a breed of Japanese cow that yields a high percentage of oleaginous unsaturated fat, producing a high quality beef with increased marbling. The most well known Wagyu beef is Kobe, which sells for about $400 a pound.

The five-course menu starts off with a platter of two appetizer meats, a thinly sliced dried version of Wagyu beef, aged six months, with Jamaican pimento and a sliced rum steak with a mélange of pimentos, dried and aged for one month with sprigs of rosemary, both created by Archibald Gourmet. They were served with thick slices country bread with honey and smoked salt, a specialty of Josephine created in collaboration with Benoit Castel and my favorite French butter, Bordier, hand-churned from Brittany.

josephineNext up was a decadent platter of Cote de Boeuf (similar to filet mignon), the signature beef of Archibald Gourmet. The meat was served rare but not bloody, so I chose the ends, which were cooked almost medium (and better suited my taste bud). In general I find most French beef is tough and hard to chew but the beef that day was succulent, easy to chew and digest. I usually like some kind of sauce with my beef such as Béarnaise or just strong mustard but the beef was so flavorful it didn’t need it. Side dishes included frites, divine potatoes au gratin and a mix of green vegetables served in copper pots.

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Rum’s French Accent

April 7th, 2017

route des rhumsRum is an incredibly interesting spirit, from its rich history to modern-day debates on its true definition. It can be sipped straight or mixed into a cocktail. There’s also its cheeky tiki side. En plus, it’s got a real French connection with artisanal rhum agricole hailing from the islands. If you’re already a rum lover or are ready to explore a bit more, then get ready for this year’s Rhumfest 22 and 23 April (general public) and 24 April (professionals) at the Parc Floral (and, note the nod to the Parc on this year’s poster with the peacocks recalling those that roam the grounds…)

rum 1Rhumfest is a salon that will showcase the spirit through tastings, master classes, talks and more. For example, catch big rum personalities like Ian Burrell giving an Appleton Estate Master Class or historian Matthieu Lange presenting rum from the mid-19th century to 1930 (Be sure to reserve online ahead of time for the classes and talks to ensure a spot).

In addition, there will be an “Eveil des Sens” session that will awaken your senses as well as tasting classes overseen by rum experts Cyrille Mald and Alexandre Vingtier. Finally, a Central Park Bar promises plenty of rum cocktails and more fun. If you can’t make the event, master classes and many of the events will be broadcast live on social networks.

rum 2There will be 138 brands present, meaning you’ll have the chance to interact with some old standbys like Havana and try their new reference Pacto Navio (available in France and Cuba –only) or taste something new and excellent like the O.F.T.D. from Plantation, created by an impressive team of rum experts.

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A Lover’s Art Re-Examined

April 3rd, 2017

Even after the publication of this illuminating and beautiful book, Dora Maar will likely continue to be remembered, first and foremost, as one of Pablo Picasso’s many lovers and muses. But despite her young age (more than two decades his junior) and what friends recall as her calculated seduction of the painter, Maar was no groupie. She was an accomplished artist in her own right by her mid-twenties, when she encountered Picasso. In the 1930s they began an affair that lasted more than a decade, documented by his famous paintings of her; notably “Weeping Woman” and “Dora Maar Seated.”

Louise Baring’s book, published this month by Rizzoli, illustrates Maar’s place in society (a tri-lingual jet-setter whose father suppoted her financially); in the professional world (a successful fashion and advertising photographer, an ace in the darkroom); and as an artist (she created some of the most indelible Surrealist images from the movement’s heyday without being exclusively associated with the group). Friends remember her as capable, intellectual and elegant.

Picasso was proud to have the accomplished, whip-smart Maar on his arm for gatherings at the famous cafes of the Left Bank and Montmartre, and on beach vacations on the Riviera. She was an ardent leftish who inspired the painter to become more politically outspoken, and she understood his work enough to photograph its evolution in creation, a rare privilege. Their personal life, however, was stormy, to the point of fistfights between her and the other women Picasso bedded. The book creates a 3-D image of the woman who embodied obvious strength and intelligence, yet suffered enormously in her relationship with Picasso. It was he who encouraged her to paint instead of take photographs—after which her career fizzled.

DoraMaar_p023Almost a century later, her photography stands as starkly original. She was as adept at capturing a personality in a portrait as she was at assembling a dreamscape using double exposures, photo-montages, and scratched negatives.

For fans of Paris’s brilliant entre-guerre period, Dora Maar: Paris in the Time of Man Ray, Jean Cocteau and Picasso is an succint and inviting document. Its straightforward essay text, which can be read in one long afternoon, transports you back, without hyperbole, to that fertile artistic period. The images, printed with Rizzoli’s usual luxury and finesse, may make you want to cut them out and frame them. Or better, inspire you to pick up a camera youself.

3 Most Illegal Things in France

March 27th, 2017

Jane GratesPost by Jane Grates, an award-winning web lover and the co-manager of some health sites like Jane’s Kitchen Miracles, Monica’s Health Mag, GearWeAre, Fishing Gadget Hub, That Sweet Gift, Winter Ninja, Runner Click, Wood Lather Report and Fighting Report. Follow her at Pinterest.

When most of us hear the word France, the first thing that comes to our mind is the Eiffel Tower. France sees some 83.7 million visitors annually, which make it the most visited country in the world. France undoubtedly like many countries has her own share of crazy decrees and laws. Until of recent, there was legislation in France that banned women from wearing trousers unless they were riding a bike. Apparently it has been scrapped.
Are you planning to visit France? Here are three oddest and interesting rules in France that will help you keep out of trouble.
kissingWork Emails After Work There is a law in France that prevents employers from sending emails to their workers after work. If a company has more than 50 employees, they are stipulated to state at what time their workers shouldn’t send or even bother answering an email. The aim of the law is to prevent companies from exploiting their workers and that they are fairly paid for work done. It also aims at protecting private time and preventing burnout after it became apparent that some employees would still work even after leaving office.
Skinny Models If you are planning to work in the Fashion industry in France, then being excessively skinny is probably not a good idea. The legislature in France passed a bill that declared any person whose BMI below the medically accepted range is banned from being a model. isabelle caroTo spice things up for the defiant agencies, the government declared that any agency caught using models with a Basal Metabolic Indicator of below 18 would be jailed for six months and a fine of $82,000. This came after French model Isabelle Caro succumbed to anorexia at only 28 years.
Kissing Whilst the Train Is on the Platform
Planning on remaking the passionate platform scene between Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson in the movie Brief Encounter? Not a good idea. In many subway stations, you will be met with no kissing signs as it’s only allowed in designated areas. All this started after concerns that these passionate embraces caused extreme commuter delays.
Conclusion: Much as crazy they may sound, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get in trouble for breaking them. So visit France and enjoy the city of light and love, and familiarize yourself with the penal codes to avoid getting in trouble.