October 28, 2014

A Sweet Afternoon Tea at Le Meurice

This past weekend, my in-laws were in town, which meant a busy few days of enjoying the city. One of the highlights of their visit was a trip to Le Meurice for afternoon tea.

As one of Paris’notable palaces, Le Meurice is the epitomy of sophistication and prestige. Located on the famed rue de Rivoli, the hotel is just steps away from some of the city’s most beautiful sites including Les Tuileries, Place de la Concorde and Place Vendôme.

Tea, jams and clotted cream at Le Dali

View of Le Dali at Le Meurice hotel in Paris

Having reserved a week ahead of time, we arrived at 4:30 and were warmly received by their perfectly polished staff. Coats were taken, chairs were pulled out and ladies were served before gentlemen.

Held in Le Dali, a cozy gallery next to the chic Bar 228, tea time at Le Meurice is a decadent occasion. Each of us were spoiled with the finest brews and 3 heavenly tiers of sweet and savory deliciousness.

Cozy interior of Le Dali at Le Meurice, Paris

Tea time desserts at Le Dali

Finger sandwiches
Salmon and caviar
Tuna on mini brioche
Foie gras and jam
Mozzarella, tomato and basil
Beef and tangy cream sauce

Tradtional, served with clotted cream, raspberry jam and orange marmalade
Raspberry filled, topped with toasted almonds

Miniature desserts
Lemon tart
Chocolate lava cake
Caramel éclair
Fig, chocolate and chantilly tart
Shortbread cookie
Almond cake

The service was impeccable, and the presentation and preparation were divine. Special attention was also taken to recognize my mother and brother-in-laws' birthdays, and everyone agreed that it was a wonderful time.

Le Meurice
228 rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
Tea time from 3:30-6pm

October 27, 2014

Fun Finds at Le Grand Comptoir

Working during the week doesn’t always leave much time for leisure, so when the weekend rolls around, I am more than happy to indulge in some of my favorite things, which very often include shopping.

Saturday morning, I decided to pop into Le Grand Comptoir, a large loft/warehouse-style store stocked to the brim with interesting bits and pieces. With two Île-de-France locations, it’s a true treasure trove of fun finds, ranging from décor to dishes, furniture, fashion, accessories and shoes.

Catering to all budgets, it’s perfect for picking up cute housewares, unique gifts and casual clothing for all ages.

Le Grand Comptoir, Suresnes

Décor at Le Grand Comptoir, Suresnes

Utensil container at Le Grand Comptoir, Suresnes

Clothing at Le Grand Comptoir, Suresnes

Le Grand Comptoir sign

Le Grand Comptoir (Paris)
116 rue du Bac
75007 Paris
Monday 12-7pm
Tuesday-Saturday 10:30am-7pm

Le Grand Comptoir (Suresnes)
4 rue Pagès
92150 Suresnes
Tuesday-Saturday 10:30am-7pm
Sunday 10am-1pm

October 22, 2014

How to Become Parisian in One Hour

If you live in Paris, or have been visiting for a while, you’ve surely had your fair share of encounters with curious Parisians. Perhaps you’ve taken note of their brash attitudes and permanent scowls? Or their inability to provide customer service or wait in line?

No longer want to look the part of the confused foreigner? Well now, you too can perfect your Parisian ‘tude with Olivier Giraud’s hilarious training, “How to Become Parisian in One Hour”.

Launched in 2009, this one-man show has seen a great deal of success and welcomed over 300,000 spectators.

Completely in English, the show offers Paris survival tips through hysterically stereotypical sketches comparing French and American culture. Giraud, a Frenchman who spent time living in the US, does a fantastic job of entertaining the audience with scenarios ranging from eating at a restaurant and riding the metro, to dancing at a club and taking someone home for the night.

Seeing it twice over the past few years, each performance had me in tears. And although the basis of the show remains the same each time, Giraud continually adds new content, guaranteeing that even more laughs come your way.

Renewed to run until 2016, you can catch “How to Become Parisian in One Hour” at the Théâtre des Nouveautés every Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

October 19, 2014

A Spooktacular Parisian Halloween

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (complete with grossly misspelled name) consumed? Check.
Homemade pumpkin desserts baked and devoured? Check.
Cute Halloween decorations dispersed around the apartment? Check.
Big fat jack-o'-lantern carved? Still haven’t found a pumpkin…

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, gourds, pumpkin bread

Is it something about being American that makes me love this time of year so much? I’m beginning to think it must be in our genes. Each time I find myself on Pinterest, I am bombarded with pins from other compatriots who are equally, if not more, excited about fall and Halloween than me.

While pondering the mystery of our voracious urge to stuff ourselves full of pumpkin, and “Halloween-ize” each square inch of our homes, I realized that it was time to start seriously thinking about what Paris has to offer for October 31’s  “sorcières” and “phantomes”. 

La soirée Halloween Disney
Get ready for an evening of family fun chez Mickey. Enjoy park attractions starting from 5pm, then as night falls, discover mysterious places, kooky characters and enchanting shows. Entries are limited, so be sure to book ahead of time.

Disneyland Paris

41€ per person

On Sunday October 26 or November 2, bring your costumed little ones by for an American-style brunch, face painting, games, contests, candy and more. Reservation required: 01 53 24 60 00

Hard Rock Café Paris 
14 boulevard Montmartre
75009 Paris

Children 12€ 
Adults 25€

On the 31, come back for an adults-only evening of spooky decorations and devilish cocktails. The full program is yet to be determined.

Halloween Cruise
Get in the Halloween spirit, while enjoying a scenic tour of Paris on a Halloween-themed bateau mouche. Appropriate for all ages, there are three departure times to choose from, as well as the option of an afternoon snack. Reservation required

Bateaux Parisiens
At the foot of the Eiffel Tower
Port de la Bourdonnais
75007 Paris

Children (3-12) 16€-20€ 
Adults 14€

October 16, 2014

Where's the beef?

As one of the food capitals of the world, Paris has no shortage of Michelin-starred restaurants and innovative cuisine but sometimes, all you really want, is to sink your teeth into a big fat juicy burger with all the fixings. 

Luckily, American-style restaurants have really taken off here over the past few years, and there are quite a few to choose from when the craving hits.

Burger and fries at Happy Days Diner


Breakfast in America
One of Paris’ diner pioneers, Breakfast in America is a well-established name. Unfortunately because of its popularity, I’ve never actually succeeded in getting a table there! If you have time, and don’t mind a long wait, this restaurant comes highly recommended.

A little less-known, Chibby’s is a great place to get a taste of home. Prices are reasonable, the burgers and fries always come out fresh and their weekend brunch (including pancakes!) is one of the best that I’ve found to date.

With 6 locations across the city, you can almost always count on getting a table here. The food is consistently delicious, but portions are copious, so choose wisely if you want to make it to dessert!

This small gourmet burger joint is a must when you’re looking for a more grown-up version of your classic beef. Plus, they have amazing (and often difficult to find) sweet potato fries, that can’t be beat.

Doddy’s Coffee
A little out of the way in the suburb of Boulogne, Doddy’s Coffee is my latest favorite for American fare. They have a wide selection of cocktails, appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, as well as typical American desserts like Key Lime Pie and Cheesecake.

If you’re looking for a TGI Fridays kind of vibe, you can find it here. The burgers are nothing to write home about, but the central location, atmosphere and cocktails help make up for it.

October 13, 2014

A Heavenly Afternoon at Ciel

Since opening last year, Pâtisserie Ciel has become one of Paris’ hottest addresses. This tiny Japanese bakery in the Latin Quarter has won the hearts of locals with their selection of light as air Angel Cakes, fine whiskeys and delectable green teas. 

Cakes can be taken to go in Ciel’s trademark white origami style boxes, or enjoyed on-site around their modern 8-seat bar.

Cake display at Ciel
Late Saturday afternoon, my husband and I were lucky enough to grab two seats, and each opted for the Tea Time Set menu (12€), including a cake and a drink. I ordered a cold Matcha Latte and La Terre vanilla cake. My husband went for something a bit more exotic, with the fruit-filled Sun Set, a perfect complement to his traditional hot green tea.

Line out the door at Ciel

Ciel's "La Terre": a vanilla cake filled with vanilla bean custard and cream

Ciel's "Sun Set" cake

As promised, the cakes were “light as a cloud”, and the teas perfectly prepared. It was a lovely stop on our weekend promenade in the 5th arrondissement, one that I would definitely recommend.

Pâtisserie Ciel
3 rue Monge
75005 Paris

Tuesday - Thursday 11am - 8pm
Friday - Saturday 11am - 10pm
Sunday 11am - 6pm

October 11, 2014

To Visit, or Not to Visit: Shakespeare and Company

After four years of living in Paris, I somehow managed to never make it to Shakespeare and Company, one of the most well-known Anglo-American bookshops in town. This weekend, it was time for that to change.

Shakespeare and Company sign

Located on the Left Bank, near the Place Saint-Michel, Shakespeare and Company boasts a rich bohemian past.

In 1919, American expat Sylvia Beach opened the original bookstore and library at 8 rue Dupuytren.  Following much success, it later moved to a larger location at 12 rue de l’Odéon, where it remained until being closed down in 1940, during the German occupation.

Over the years, the shop became a hub of modern literary culture, publishing the first edition of James Joyce’s controversial book “Ulysses” in 1922, and welcoming the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein.

In 1951, American George Whitman opened another English bookstore on the Left Bank, “Le Mistral”. Following the death of Sylvia Beach in 1964, he renamed it “Shakespeare and Company”, as a tribute to the original. Whitman’s shop, like its predecessor, has since gained wild popularity with locals, travelers and literary figures.

As Shakespeare and Company is certainly no secret, I was met at the door by a long line of book enthusiasts waiting to get in.

Line outside Shakespeare and Company

Upon entering, hundreds, if not thousands, of books piled high from floor to ceiling, called out to me from every corner, begging to be read. Customers excitedly weaved in and out of the shop's eclectic nooks and crannies, until making their way upstairs to cozy reading rooms, complete with the resident cat and vintage typewriter should inspiration strike right then and there.

Reading room at Shakespeare and Company

Typewriter at Shakespeare and Company

Although I left empty handed this time, there was certainly no lack of choice. It was well worth the visit, if only to get a small glimpse of Paris' extraordinary past.

Shakespeare and Company
37 rue de la Bûcherie
75005 Paris

October 10, 2014

Parlez-vous français ?

Whether you’re living in a country, or just passing through, it’s important to have an understanding of the language, a significant factor that can make, or break any experience.

My first trip to Paris in 2008, not speaking a word of French, was an absolute disaster which involved a great deal of miming, tears and perplexed Parisians who either A) didn’t understand English or B) just didn’t feel like helping me out. I left the city with an extremely bitter taste in my mouth, vowing that I would never return again.

Flash forward to 2009. Ironically, I have a French boyfriend (today, my husband), and make several trips to France. Having not studied French in school, I begin to start buying workbooks, making flashcards and trying to memorize enough words to get by. Each trip brings more small victories like being able to order “un sandwich” at the boulangerie, or understanding when the supermarket cashier asks if I have a loyalty card.

By 2010, I have decided to move to…yes, you guessed it, Paris! Before leaving the US, I spend a few weeks revising my materials, and then I’m off to France, where I enroll in an intensive language course. As soon as the bases begin to form and vocabulary starts to click, it’s like a dingy film is peeled away, and France becomes a beautiful, magical place.

Jardin du Palais-Royal

Several years, books, courses and embarrassing grammar blunders later, I can finally hold my own in most situations and conversations. I easily chat with my coworkers, share a drink with French friends and find what I need when running my daily errands.

If you’re planning a trip or a move, it’s never too late to start learning the local language. A little goes a long way, and can make a world of difference.

For French beginners or those who just wish to brush up on their skills, I recommend the BBC’s Ma France, one of my favorite learning tools.

What are your experiences with learning another language? How has it changed your travels?

October 9, 2014

Preparing for Paris: 6 Free Printable Guides

Having done my fair share of travel, I think one of the most exciting and enriching parts about taking off to a new destination is not planning every miniscule detail beforehand, and being able to adapt your trip as you go. However, I am still a firm believer in organizing the basics, and doing sufficient research before I hit the road.

Le Marais

Once accommodation and transportation have been booked, the real fun begins. It’s the time to brush up on your local language skills and start making a list of the landmarks, restaurants, museums, shops and activities that are not to be missed. Many trips are once in a lifetime, so it’s worth it to figure out your absolute must-sees ahead of time, while still leaving room in your schedule for impromptu meet-ups, events and experiences.

Investing in a guide book is a great way to discover a city or region’s notable sites, but if there’s no room left in your budget or bag, there are plenty of free and more suitcase-friendly resources to be found.

For an upcoming trip to Paris, you can check out these six PDF guides, and just print out the pages you need.

October 8, 2014

Smooth Sailing for Bernard Arnault's Boat-shaped Building

On Monday, October 27, the recently completed Fondation Louis Vuitton will officially open its doors to the public. Conceived by American architect Frank Gehry, this bold, design-defying building is set to become one of Paris’ most prestigious spaces for promoting contemporary art and culture to a wide French and international audience. 
Fondation Louis Vuitton
"We wanted to present Paris with an extraordinary space for art and culture, and demonstrate daring and emotion by entrusting Frank Gehry with the construction of an iconic building for the 21st century.” - Bernard Arnault, CEO, LVMH

The imposing glass marvel houses 7,000 m² of total usable floor space, 3,850 m² of museum space, 11 exhibition galleries, an auditorium and a restaurant, “Le Frank”, run by chef étoilé Jean-Louis Nomicos.

Those who were lucky enough to secure a ticket for the grand opening weekend from October 24-26 (now completely booked), will enjoy a sneak peek before anyone else. As for the rest of us, tickets to explore the Fondation and nearby Jardin d'Acclimatation, are now available online for visits starting from the 27th.

October 6, 2014

Musings on Museums

After what can only be described as an Indian summer, Paris’ weather has taken a turn for the chilly and autumn has confirmed that it’s here to stay. The sun has gone back into hiding, and big gray clouds loom menacingly over the city’s skyline. While it’s a welcome change to dig out plush knit sweaters and buttery leather jackets from the backs of our armoires, it’s with a bit of melancholy that we realize that the days of sipping an apéro on one of Paris’ legendary terraces are over for a while.

Fortunately, there are many fine indoor options for enjoying some leisure time outside of the home. With Paris’ expansive choice of museums and galleries, there is sure to be something to please every member of the family, young and old.

Musée du Louvre

Here’s a brief look at various expositions throughout Paris over the coming months.

Musée du Louvre
Claude Lévêque - Sous le plus grand chapiteau du monde: April 2, 2014 - January 2, 2015 

Niki de Saint Phalle: September 17, 2014 - February 2, 2015
Hokusai: October 1, 2014 - January 18, 2015

Palais Galliera, City of Paris Fashion Museum 
The 50s: July 12, 2014 - November 2, 2014 
Fashion Mix: December 9, 2014 - May 31, 2015

Robotic Art: Ages 9 and up, April 8, 2014 - January 4, 2015
Shadows and Light: Ages 5-12, Until July 3, 2015

Musée d’Orsay
Sade. Attacking the Sun: October 14, 2014 - January 25, 2015
7 Years of Reflection. Latest acquisitions: November 18, 2014 - February 22, 2015

Musée de l’Orangerie
Emile Bernard: September 17, 2014 - January 5, 2015

October 5, 2014

A Taste of France from David Lebovitz's Paris Kitchen

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending a book signing with famed chef, blogger and author David Lebovitz. Held at 13-a baker's dozen, an adorable American-owned café nestled away in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, David’s latest book “My Paris Kitchen” was the star of the show. 

13 a baker's dozen

David Lebovitz signing "My Paris Kitchen"

After picking up my copy, I was anxious to get home and start burying my nose deep within its glossy pages. A beautfiully bound hardcover book, "My Paris Kitchen" features 100 tastebud teasing recipes intertwined with witty anecdotes, expert tips and gorgeous Paris photography. 

Having just finished reading the introduction and currently working my way through the ingredients section, I am already impatient for a trip to my local market and the chance to try my hand at some of the luscious appetizers, dishes and desserts within. I've got my eye on the Counterfeit duck confit (page 179), and Warm chocolate cake with salted butter caramel sauce found on page 262. Each look absolutely heavenly, but perhaps I will have to restrain myself from making both calorie-laden dishes in the same day...or perhaps not!

October 3, 2014

Paris in Your Pocket: 3 Fabulous Apps

Application RATPMy Little AppStylist

My Little App
From the creators of the popular site My Little Paris and monthly gift service My Little Box, comes My Little App. Each day, My Little App slips a surprise in your smartphone whether it be an adorable how-to hair tutorial, a sneak peek at a best-selling book, a free download of a hot new app or a promo code to get exclusive deals on popular brands. Download it now!

Each week, Parisiennes are eager to get their hands on their copy of Stylist magazine, a free publication chock-full of the latest fashion, beauty and lifestyle trends. Ordinarily distributed in metro stations, it’s also available for iPhone and iPad so that fashionistas all over can stay up-to-date on the hottest style news. Download it now!

Getting from point A to point B in Paris’ complex transportation system has never been easier. Set an itinerary with your phone, and forget about facing those big, intimidating maps found on the walls of each station. Plus, receive traffic alerts in real time and locate metros, RERs, buses and trams in proximity. Download it now!

October 2, 2014

From Paris with Love: The Ultimate Gift Guide

In France, since Halloween is much less commercial and Thanksgiving doesn’t exist, as soon as we hit October, Christmas decorations and foods are already starting to appear. Yesterday at the supermarket, I was taken aback, when I spotted a display of Advent calendars, festively wrapped chocolates and After Eight mints.

It may seem like we’re getting ahead of ourselves with the premature holiday cheer, but if you’re like me, you take great pleasure in finding the perfect gifts early in the year.

If you’re headed to Paris in the upcoming months, there couldn’t be a better time to start grabbing things for everyone on your list. Shop early, beat the last-minute December crowds and don’t worry about getting your pick.

Below you'll find a few of my favorite French-inspired gifts to offer for the holidays, or any time of year.

Decorative scarves (Galeries Lafayette)

Colognes, soaps and perfumes (Fragonard)

Calissons, pâte de fruits and other gourmandises (Maxim's)

Herbes de Provence (Galeries Lafayette Gourmet)

Gourmet mustards (Maille)

Traditional cookies (La Mère Poulard)

October 1, 2014

Cocktails, Mocktails and Nibbles, Oh My!

It’s only Wednesday, but my mind is already drifting to thoughts of the weekend, and the possibilities that come along with it. 

Like any major city in the world, Paris is home to countless bars and restaurants, perfect for an evening out.
Looking for something special to celebrate the end of your week? 
Check out some of my favorite places to grab a drink and a lite bite to eat.

Bar La Vue
Bar La Vue

34th floor
Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile
(former hotel Concorde La Fayette)
3, Place du Général Kœnig
75017 Paris

Courtyard Marriott 
114 Route de la Reine 
92100 Boulogne-Billancourt

37 rue Quincampoix 
75004 Paris

Experimental Cocktail Club
37 Rue Saint-Sauveur
75002 Paris

17 Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie
75006 Paris
8/12, rue Boissy d'Anglas
75008 Paris

What are your favorite watering holes in Paris?