December 22, 2014

Left Bank Luxury at Le Bon Marché

Saturday afternoon we stepped out for a stroll, and found ourselves at Le Bon Marché, one of Paris’ oldest and loveliest department stores. As one can imagine, the weekend before Christmas was a bit more than “busy”, and navigating the crowds was a true adventure, not for the faint of heart.

We quickly took in the holiday decorations in the main store before heading over to La Grande Épicerie, one of my favorite food halls, right up there with Lafayette Gourmet.

Holiday decorations at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, Paris

Throngs of customers pushed by with full baskets and stood in winding lines to procure the finest foie gras, oysters and caviar for their end of year feasts. Holiday sweets from around the world took center stage throughout the aisles, and bûches de Noël sat festively behind the bakery’s glass cases.


Cave à vin at La Grande Epicerie de Paris

Food counter at La Grande Epicerie de Paris


Produce truck at La Grande Epicerie de Paris


Bûches de Noël at La Grande Epicerie de Paris


Giant panettone at La Grande Epicerie de Paris


It’s always a pleasure to discover Le Bon Marché and Le Grand Épicerie's unique goods and specialty items, however if you’re looking to peruse leisurely, weekend and pre-holiday visits are to be avoided!

Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche
24, rue de Sèvres
75007 Paris

La Grande Épicerie de Paris
38, rue de Sèvres
75007 Paris 

December 18, 2014

Interview with French Painter Jacques Illy

Jacques Illy, a friend of mine, recently released a stunning series of Paris paintings. Capturing idyllic scenes of some of the city’s most beautiful quarters, his works are a window to what can only be described as “la belle vie” in Paris. Jacques was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Rue de Monttessuy - Jacques Illy

Place du Tertre - Jacques IllyMontmarte - Jacques Illy

When did you start painting? Were you professionally trained?
I have been passionate about drawing and painting since I was a child, and each year at school, I received 1st place for my drawings. I started to paint around the age of 16. We were a group of friends in Dieuze in Lorraine, where I was born. Some of them sculpted, others painted. After attending a few workshops, I began oil painting for several years. I was later seduced by acrylic.

Where do you find inspiration for your art? What are your favorite subjects?
I liked Nicolas de Staël’s paintings. I then looked for something a bit more abstract, to move toward a poetic reality that was not necessarily visible to everyone. My painting is very gestural and spontaneous. Sometimes I go back to a work that is too violent or shy, until I find the good balance. The difficulty of an artist’s expression is not finding the right image, but expressing and conveying what he means. I also sometimes combine lyricism and geometry. My painting moves. While maintaining the same style, the way I see things changes and increasingly opens, following a personal path.

Concerning my figurative paintings, I find inspiration during my travels. I take photos of places that call out to me with their colors and rhythms, like New York, or with their picturesque scenes, like Paris. My current theme is Parisian life.

Regarding portraits of women, I keep only the faces, and work the hair according to my mood and feelings at the moment.


On average, how long does it take you to complete a piece?
I can create an abstract painting in 2 or 3 days, but sometimes I set it aside for a while, and come back to rework it later. A figurative urban painting can take around 2-3 weeks to complete.
 

You recently received the prestigious Médaille d'Argent Arts Sciences Lettres. What was that like?
It was of course a sense of recognition of my work. It was also an occasion to meet other artists and exchange in a wonderful setting (Intercontinental Hotel Paris).

Have you already exposed in Paris? Do you have any upcoming expositions where we can view your work?
I exposed twice at the Carrousel du Louvre, and at the Ministry of Finance. I am currently exhibiting in my region, in Faulquemont.


About the artist: Jacques is an abstract painter currently residing in Faulquemont, France. To learn more, please visit his website.
 


Interview avec Jacques Illy, peintre français

Jacques Illy, un  très bon ami, a récemment complété une série de tableaux Parisiens. Avec des scènes idylliques des plus beaux quartiers de la ville, ses ouvres donnent une vue de la belle vie à Paris. Jacques a gentiment pris le temps de répondre à quelques questions.

Quand est-ce que tu t’es intéressé de la peinture? Es-tu formé professionnellement ?
J'ai été passionné par le dessin et la peinture depuis mon enfance. Pendant toute ma scolarité j'ai obtenu le 1er prix de dessin chaque année.J'ai commencé à peindre vers l'âge de 16 ans. Nous étions un groupe d'amis à Dieuze en Lorraine où je suis né, certains sculptaient d'autres peignaient. Après avoir pratiqué quelques ateliers j'ai commencé par la peinture l'huile durant plusieurs années. J'ai ensuite été séduit par l'acrylique.

Où trouves-tu l’inspiration pour tes œuvres ? Quels sont tes sujets préférés ?
J'ai aimé la peinture de Nicolas de Staël. J'ai cherché ensuite quelque chose qui soit plus décalé pour venir à l'abstraction, afin d'aller vers une réalité poétique qui n'était pas forcément visible par tout le monde. Ma peinture est très gestuelle, spontanée. Il m'arrive de revenir sur une oeuvre soit trop violente ou trop timide, jusqu'à trouver le bon équilibre. La difficulté d'expression pour un artiste, n'est elle pas de trouver l'image juste qui pourra exprimer et transmettre pleinement ce qu'il veut dire.
Il m'arrive également d'associer lyrisme et géométrie. Ma peinture bouge. Tout en conservant la même écriture, ma façon de voir les choses change, s'ouvre de plus en plus en suivant un chemin personnel.

Concernant mes tableaux figuratifs, je trouve l'inspiration lors de mes voyages. je photographie des lieux qui m'interpellent pour leurs couleurs et leur rythme  tel que NY. ou pour leur côté pittoresque comme Paris. Mon thème actuel est la vie parisienne.

Concernant les portraits  féminins je ne garde que les visages et je travaille la chevelure selon mon humeur et ma sensibilité du moment.


D’habitude, combien de temps mets-tu pour réaliser une œuvre ?
Je peux réaliser une toile en 2 ou trois jours concernant les abstraits mais il m'arrive de la mettre en retrait un certain temps pour la retravailler ensuite. Pour un tableau figuratif urbain il faut environ deux ou trois semaines pour le réaliser.

Récemment, tu as reçu le prestigieux Médaille d'Argent Arts Sciences Lettres. Quels sont tes sentiments ?
C'est bien sûr un sentiment de reconnaissance de mon travail. C'était également une occasion de rencontrer d'autres artistes, des échanges enrichissants et épanouissants dans un lieu merveilleux.

As-tu déjà exposé à Paris ? As-tu des expositions prévues prochainement si nous souhaitons découvrir tes tableaux?
J'ai exposé à deux reprises au Carrousel du Louvre, au Ministère des Finances. Actuellement dans ma région à Faulquemont.

A propos de l’artiste: Jacques est peintre abstrait et réside à Faulquemont, France. Pour en apprenez plus, n’hésitez pas à lui trouver sur son site web.

December 11, 2014

Paris Sparks Digital Innovation at LeWeb'14

For the past 3 days, Paris became a hub of digital creativity and innovation, as the world’s top tech players flocked to LeWeb.

Created by French entrepreneur LoÏc Le Meur, and his wife Geraldine, LeWeb is one of Europe’s most notable digital conferences, and gathers “visionaries, startups, tech companies, brands and leading media to explore today’s hottest trends and define the future of business”.

I had the opportunity to swing by yesterday. Check out some of the highlights below.

Sponsors of LeWeb'14 Paris
Sponsors on show in Pullman Dock
Google at LeWeb'14 Paris
Google sporting its trademark primary colors
Exhibitors at LeWeb'14 Paris
Exhibition and networking in Eiffel Dock
Yoga session at LeWeb'14 Paris
Group yoga led by Irene Au (Khosla Ventures) during the session "The Future of the Mind"
Lars Silberbauer Andersen at LeWeb'14 Paris
In conversation with Lars Silberbauer Andersen, Global Director of Social Media & Search at the LEGO Group

Michael Aidan and Anicet Mbida at LeWeb'14 Paris
Michael Aidan, Head of Digital and VP Digital Brand Platforms, Danone Group with journalist and M6 TV personality Anicet Mbida


December 10, 2014

Weekend Getaway: Strasbourg

With limitless things to see and do, Paris certainly is a wonderful city. However, from time to time, it’s nice to have a little change of scenery.

France’s impressive railway system and TGVs (high speed trains) connect the country’s major cities in only a few hours, making it simple and convenient to slip out of town for a weekend. And when booked well in advance, or with a flexible schedule, many great deals on tickets can be found.

Friday night, we made our way to Strasbourg. A direct train from Gare de l’Est had us there in only 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Strasbourg, France

Having never visited before, we got up early on Saturday morning to begin exploring. The weather was cold, rainy and miserable (as evident in my photos), but we didn’t let it put a damper on our mini-vacation.

In December, Strasbourg transforms into the “Capital of Christmas”. It becomes a magical place, unlike any other, with decorations, lights and traditional Christmas markets on practically every corner. Although anxious to get to the markets, we decided to wait until later, and see a few sights first.

Christmas decorations in Strasbourg, France


Au Vieux Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France

Our first stop was the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg to view the beautiful gothic architecture and famous astronomical clock housed within.

Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral entrance

The cathedral’s first astronomical clock dates back to 1352 - 1354 (the current clock, now the third version, dates from 1842).  It is a masterpiece imagined by various artists, mathematicians, technicians, Swiss watchmakers, sculptors, painters and creators of automatons.

Every 15 minutes, the clock moves to show the different stages of life, which are represented by figures of a child, a teenager, an adult, an old man, and finally, death.  At 12:30pm each day, a mechanical rooster crows, and the clock is once again animated, with a procession of the 12 apostles walking before Christ.

The cathedral is closed to the general public during the procession of the apostles, but tickets to view the event can be purchased. The ticket window (located on the right-hand side of the cathedral) opens at 11:30am. Tickets cost 2€, and discounts are available for large groups, students, young children and seniors. At 12pm, a short film in French, English and German, presents the history of the clock, and at 12:30pm the procession begins. 

Astronomical clock in the Strasbourg Cathedral

Once finished, we stayed for a little while to marvel at the architecture, stained glass windows and magnificent crèche that was in place for Christmas.

Nativity in the Strasbourg Cathedral

At lunch time, we found a small restaurant, and eagerly ordered one of the Alsace region’s most notable foods, Flammekueche, or “flam” for short. This thin flatbread smothered in crème fraiche, onions and bacon, is a must-taste if you ever get the chance.

Flammekueche in Strasbourg, France

After getting warmed up a bit, we ventured back outside to continue our tour. Walking through the winding cobbled streets and German style buildings, we entered La Petite France, an adorable quarter full of cozy restaurants and charming gift shops. We then continued onward to the Place Kléber to gaze upon the most enormous Christmas tree I have ever seen. 

Restaurant in La Petite France, Strasbourg, France

Christmas shop in La Petite France, Strasbourg, France

Christmas tree in the Place Kléber, Strasbourg, France

As the sun was beginning to set, it was time to hit the Christmas markets and take in all of the holiday lights. The crowds were a bit overwhelming, but the excitement and scents of hot wine and gingerbread, made it well worth the effort.

Christmas market in Strasbourg, France
Sweets at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France

Christmas lights in Strasbourg, France

Both of us were enchanted by this lovely city, and hope to return again in the summer months to enjoy more of its fairy-tale streets and rich history.

December 2, 2014

Paris: Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Over the past few weeks, Paris has transformed into a veritable winter wonderland. There’s a certain magic in the air that floats among the millions of fairy lights, sparkles and ornaments sprinkled across the city. A touch of holiday warmth has swept in to make Paris’ drab December skies seem a little less foreboding.

Late Sunday afternoon, my husband and I set out to explore the merriment, and were left wide-eyed and mystified with what we found on two of the world's most beautiful streets: the Champs-Elysées and Avenue Montaigne. 

Holiday lights on the Avenue Montaigne, Paris
Dainty lights on the Avenue Montaigne

Dior's holiday lights on the Avenue Montaigne, Paris
Dior's holiday display: anything but understated

Holiday lights on the Avenue Montaigne, Paris
Classic holiday lights on the Avenue Montaigne

Fendi holiday window, Avenue Montaigne, Paris
A not so traditional, yet gorgeous, Fendi holiday window

Fouquet's holiday lights, Champs-Elysées, Paris
Fouquet's neatly wrapped up for Christmas

Guerlain holiday decorations, Champs-Elysées, Paris
Guerlain's elegant seasonal touch

Sephora holiday decorations, Champs-Elysées, Paris
A shimmering Sephora, full of busy shoppers and fab gifts

Tiffany & Co. New York themed holiday window, Champs-Elysées, Paris
A miniature New York taxi in Tiffany & Co.'s holiday window

Tiffany & Co. holiday window, Champs-Elysées, Paris
A sweet Champagne toast in one of Tiffany & Co's holiday windows

November 30, 2014

A French Inspired Movie Marathon


Unfortunately, I spent the beginning of this week home sick on the couch, which certainly wasn't conducive to going out and exploring Paris. It was however, a fantastic opportunity to watch a few French inspired films, which to me, were some of the best medicine of all.


An American in Paris movie poster
An American in Paris (1951)
A classic musical starring the talented Gene Kelly, An American in Paris tells the story of Jerry Mulligan, an ex GI who moves to Paris to become a painter. Life becomes a bit complicated when the struggling artist and one of his good friends fall in love with the same girl. The quaint Parisian scenes combined with outstanding choreography and gorgeous costumes make it the perfect feel-good film.

PS A world premiere stage adaptation of An American in Paris just opened in Paris last week. Read more about it here!


Chocolat movie poster
Chocolat (2000)
Set in 1950, Vianne and her daughter Anouk move to a small and very traditional French village to open a chocolate shop during Lent. The holier-than-thou mayor, among other townspeople, is a little less than enthused to have her and her sinful business in town. Slowly but surely, Vianne’s decadent chocolate, kindness and free spirt win the hearts of her neighbors.


Julie & Julia movie poster
Julie & Julia (2009)
Two stories rolled into one, Julia & Julia tells the tale of how Julia Child made a name for herself, and how years later, blogger Julie Powell dedicated one year of her life to testing every recipe in Child’s famous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.





November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving at Café de Mars

A hop, skip and a jump away from the Eiffel Tower, lies one of my favorite restaurants in Paris, Café de Mars.

Although I don’t get there nearly as often as I’d like, each time I stop by, it's always a real pleasure. Whether it’s for their delicious daily menu, or annual Thanksgiving feast, Café de Mars is an address not-to-be-missed. 

Café de Mars, Paris

As usual, this year’s Thanksgiving dinner drew a large American (and French!) crowd. Boisterous children and happy families filled the small café, crowding around tiny tables of succulent food and good wine. 

Thanksgiving sign at Café de Mars, ParisThanksgiving at Café de Mars, Paris

We began with a spicy butternut, chili and mint soup, followed by a wild rice, cranberry and kale salad. Then came a silver platter full of all the classic favorites: oven roasted turkey with gravy, chorizo, sweet potato, thyme and hazelnut stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry chutney (The chutney was oustanding) and green bean casserole with mushrooms and crispy fried onions.

To finish things off, there was a choice of apple or pumpkin pie. We both eagerly asked for the pumpkin, topped with fresh whipped cream, which was to die for. 


Thanksgiving platter at Café de Mars, ParisPumpkin pie at Café de Mars, Paris


It was another successful Thanksgiving at Café de Mars. Hats off to the owner, chef and servers for a wonderful night!

Café de Mars
11 Rue Augereau
75007 Paris