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

November 24, 2014

A Touch of Christmas at La Défense

I think it's safe to say that the holiday season is in full swing in Paris. One look in any corner of the city, and you're bound to find twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, lush garlands and people dashing around frantically on their quest for the perfect gift.

Sunday afternoon, we found ourselves at La Défense for a quick shopping trip. Both the CNIT and Les Quatre Temps were decked out to the nines, and teeming with fellow Parisians who had the same idea. After popping into a few stores, and making our way through the crowds, we were pleased to exit out on to the parvis and discover the Marché de Noël de La Défense.

Although not as traditional as other Christmas markets, it's still fun to see. You can stroll between 300 tiny wooden chalets to pick up unique gifts, seasonal foods, hot wine and a bit of holiday spirit.

Entrance to the Marché de Noël de La Défense
The entrance to the bustling Marché de Noël de La Défense.


Canada stand at the Marché de Noël de La Défense
A welcoming Canada stand featuring delicious maple syrup.


La Grande Arche at La Défense
La Grande Arche as the backdrop for La Défense's modern Christmas market.

Marché de Noël de La Défense
November 20, 2014 - December 28, 2014
Every day 11am-8pm

November 19, 2014

Driving in Style with Autolib'

There are a multitude of ways to get from point A to point B in Paris (métro, tram, RER, bus,Vélib',...), with one of the most recent modes of transportation being Autolib’ self-service cars, available in the city and many of its surrounding suburbs.

A few months back, my husband came across a great deal on a yearly subscription. Normally 120€, it was on special for only 72€. Having signed up and tested it out, we're sold, and here's why.



  • Subscriptions are available for the day, week, month or year, and discounts are offered regularly
  • More cost-efficient than maintaining a personal car: 5,50€ per ½ hour of use + the initial yearly subscription fee (Different rates apply depending on the type of subscription
  • Green…It’s electric!
  • Automatic and simple to operate
  • Built in GPS in English and French
  • 24/7 on call customer assistance
  • Cars can be reserved ahead of time (maximum 30 minutes in advance)
  • Guaranteed parking
  • Special weekend deals, like free trips from the suburbs to the city
  • A great way to get an aboveground view of Paris that isn’t possible with the métro

Although an extremely convenient way to travel, we did note a few important points worth keeping in mind when deciding whether or not to use this form of transportation.
  • Only International and European driving licenses are accepted
  • You must be courageous enough to drive in Paris traffic
  • Cars are not always available when and where you need them 

November 18, 2014

Dressing for Paris: Winter Edition

If you’re headed to Paris this winter, it’s not too early to start thinking about what to take. Check out my suggestions below, to help you make the most out of your trip.

Massimo Dutti model looking chic in black
Photo credit: massimodutti.com


1. A black or dark colored coat
Scan any crowd in Paris, and it looks like almost everyone is wearing the same black wool coat. If you’re hoping to blend in and look more like a local, steer clear of bright colored, attention-grabbing garb.

2. A pair of black boots
Winter boots are often heavy and cumbersome, so if you can, limit yourself to bringing one pair. Opt for something warm and waterproof, with good traction, to successfully tackle slippery cobblestones and metro stairs.

3. Neutral basics for layering
Paris’ winters are the damp kind that chill you to the bone. Bring the same easy-to-layer clothes as mentioned in my fall post, plus a few cozy sweaters to really stay warm.

4. Winter accessories
Don’t forget to throw in some cold weather essentials like sleek leather gloves and a thick knit scarf. And of course since this is Paris, an umbrella is a must!

5. Extra space
If you’re lucky enough to be in Paris for les soldes* (sales), be sure to leave yourself some extra suitcase space. Don’t miss out on the deal of the century, because you haven’t got any room left in your bag! *January 7- February 10, 2015

November 14, 2014

A Cheery Paris Reading List for Dreary Winter Days

After a few relatively mild and bright November days, dark clouds and plump raindrops have now come out to play. With the days getting shorter and the temperatures going down, it's the perfect time to catch up on a bit of reading, warmly tucked in at home.

Looking to bring a bit of France chez vous? Check out these two lighthearted books by Stephen Clarke.  


A Year in the Merde book coverTalk to the Snail book cover

  
A Year in the Merde (2004)
Englishman Paul West is recruited by a French businessman to help open a chain of English tearooms in Paris. He uproots his life across the Channel and makes his way to the City of Light, where he meets his pigheaded boss, quirky colleagues and several complicated French women who turn everything upside-down. As he recounts his daily dealings in a foreign country, hilarity ensues.

Talk to the Snail (2006)
Talk to the Snail is a comical (yet, sometimes shockingly accurate) guide to learning how to deal with the French, and get what you want. In 11 commandments, discover the keys to getting served in a restaurant, speaking the language of love and much much more. Chapters include gems like Thou shalt be wrong (if you’re not French) – Why every Frenchman is Monsieur Right”, “Thou shalt eat – Just because it smells of pig’s droppings doesn’t mean it’ll taste like them” and “Thou shalt speak French– Fun ways to mispronounce words and offend people”

November 13, 2014

A Culinary Field Trip to Lafayette Gourmet

Tuesday was a day off in France, and having not yet been to the recently revamped Lafayette Gourmet, it was the perfect opportunity to check it out. 
 
Formerly located next to Galeries Lafayette Homme, Lafayette Gourmet has now moved across the street to join Lafayette Maison.

The previous location was already a foodie paradise, with gorgeous produce displays, luxury gift sets, hard to find international products and a variety of appetizing food counters for grabbing a mid-shopping snack. Now spanning two impressive floors at 35 Boulevard Haussmann, the new location is even more incredible than before. Their mix of gourmet products with everyday grocery staples means that no matter what you’re looking for, you won’t walk out empty-handed.
 
Cave à vin at Lafayette Gourmet, Paris
This beautiful cave à vin puts our wine cellar to shame.

Champagne at Lafayette Gourmet, Paris
Gold bubbles on the ceiling set the scene for the champagne below.


Produce at Lafayette Gourmet, Paris
A touch of fall can still be found amidst the holiday decorations.

 A trip to Lafayette Gourmet is a true feast for the senses. The aromas of rare spices and ethnic food bars fill the air, divine chocolates and pastries beckon from their perfectly polished glass cases and languages from all over the world blend together amidst the excited throng of patrons. And with Christmas approaching, the store is decked out with holiday cheer, as well as heaps of seasonal treats that one can only find this time of year.

Chocolate stiletto at Lafayette Gourmet, Paris
A fabulous chocolate stiletto sparkles in this chocolatier's showcase.
 
Christmas puddings and brandy butter at Lafayette Gourmet, Paris
Christmas puddings, brandy butter and just out of sight, tiny mince pies.
3kg Nutella bucket at Lafayette Gourmet, Paris
3kg of Nutella...in a bucket. Yes, it's for real!

Making my way through each aisle was an adventure in its own. Hundreds of fine mustards, olive oils, herbs and vinegars. Every imaginable dried fruit, sugar and baking aide. Shelves piled high with American, English, Italian and other cultural guilty pleasures. I could have easily spent the entire day.



Lafayette Gourmet
35, Boulevard Haussmann
75009 Paris

November 12, 2014

50 More Reasons to Love Paris

The creators of My Little Paris are at it again, with another hip new app, The Fifty.

Available for iPhone and Android, The Fifty is the latest guide to dining in Paris. Here you’ll find 50 must-sample dishes in restaurants around the city, as well as a GPS based map that lets you see which eateries are in proximity. 

Looking for fun French toast fries? (No.11)
A refined lobster croque-monsieur? (No.13)
Or how about a fresh lemon foie gras macaron? (No.7)

Download The Fifty here.


Screenshot of "The Fifty" app

November 11, 2014

Happy Hour Au Bureau

Most people don't like to spend an evening au bureau (at the office), but when Au Bureau is the name of a pub, it's a whole different story.

Last night, I discovered a place that brought me back to my student years in England. Walking into Au Bureau, I knew I'd found a great new spot to hang out. A French chain of British style pubs launched in 1989, Au Bureau has really gotten this concept right.

After a long day of work, you can stop by for Happy Hour (Monday-Friday, 5-8pm), cozy up in a big leather booth, order a few sinful snack foods and wash them all down with a pint of beer. What more could you want?

As they say, "Vous allez aimer passer du temps Au Bureau!"...You're going to love spending time at the office!

Bar at Au Bureau, Suresnes 
Tables at Au Bureau, Suresnes
Au Bureau, Suresnes
Finger foods at Au Bureau, Suresnes

Au Bureau (Suresnes)
2 Boulevard Henri Sellier
92150 Suresnes

Au Bureau (Boulogne-Billancourt)
14 Bd de la République
92100 Boulogne-Billancourt

Au Bureau (Paris 8 Champs-Élysées)
66 rue Pierre Charron
75008 paris

 


November 6, 2014

Galeries Lafayette Kicks off the 2014 Holiday Season

No matter how long I’ve been in Paris, each year I look forward to going to Galeries Lafayette to see their colossal Christmas tree and animated holiday windows. I was thrilled to discover that their 2014 display was officially inaugurated yesterday.

Designed by Luis Viola-Nevado, this year’s tree is even more extraordinary than in years past. It’s the first upside-down tree ever constructed in one of Paris’ grands magasins. One year in the making, this super structure has been artfully pieced together over the past few nights. It tops out at 25 meters (82 ft.), and although sporting a light lattice-like structure, weighs in at 4 tons! 

2014 Christmas tree at Galeries Lafayette, ParisUpside-down Christmas tree at Galeries Lafayette, Paris


This year’s furry monster themed windows along the boulevard Haussmann certainly don’t disappoint. The unconventional theme was chosen by Frédéric Louvau, inspired by wooly jackets he’d seen at a fashion show in Milan. Popular among locals and visitors alike, the windows are estimated to attract some 250,000 people each day over the coming months.



Monster window at Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Animated monster window at Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Gustave, Galeries Lafayette's monster leader

PS If you're looking for Lafayette Gourmet, it's recently moved to join Lafayette Maison at 35 boulevard Haussmann.

November 5, 2014

What the duck? A Delicious Recipe for Counterfeit Duck Confit

After recently purchasing David Lebovitz’s latest cookbook, “My Paris Kitchen”, I was eager to start trying my hand at some of his mouthwatering recipes. I’d had my eye on the “Counterfeit duck confit” in particular, and finally had a chance to test it out this past weekend.

Before moving to France, I swore that I would never eat duck. I’m not really sure what I had against it at the time…perhaps it’s because they’re really cute? But upon tasting my first confit de canard at a Parisian brasserie in 2010, I discovered what I had been missing out on for all those years.

Normally a long, labor-intensive dish, David’s simple adaptation of this classic French recipe makes it accessible to chefs at all levels.

Following the recipe to a tee, the results were outstanding: perfectly browned crisp skin, succulent meat that fell off the bone and an aromatic and flavorful juice that would be delicious on just about anything.

As this is quite a heavy dish, I opted to forgo the traditional potatoes as a side, and served it with a mixed green salad and light homemade vinaigrette. 


  
Counterfeit duck confit
Adapted from “My Paris Kitchen” by David Lebovitz

Ingredients
4 duck thighs
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon gin
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
2 bay leaves

The night before…
Prick several holes through the duck skin using a needle.
In a small bowl, combine the salt, gin, nutmeg and allspice.
Rub the duck on both sides with this mixture.
Place the bay leaves and garlic on the bottom of a baking dish, just big enough to fit the meat snugly.
Place the coated duck thighs on top, skin side up, assuring that the garlic is covered.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least 8 hours).

To cook the duck…
Remove the plastic and blot each thigh with a paper towel to soak up any extra salt.
Place the dish, uncovered, in a cold oven, and bake for 2 ½ hours at 300° F (150°C). 
Feel free to baste with the pooled juices regularly.
Increase the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C) and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and skin is crispy and golden brown.
Serve immediately.

November 4, 2014

Enchanting Illuminations in the City of Light

Before any of us expats even celebrate Thanksgiving, Paris will already be gearing up for a magical Christmas season.
Don't forget to mark your calendars for the upcoming holiday fun!

Holiday decorations on the Champs Elysées, Paris (2012)

On Friday, November 14th, the popular Village de Noël will open along the Champs-Élysées with some 200 Christmas market stalls, as well as a variety of festive attractions.

On Thursday, November 20th at 6pm, French film actor Omar Sy will inaugurate this year’s stunning new illuminations on the Champs-Élysées. Place Vendôme and Avenue Montaigne will also kick off their bright winter wonderland decorations.

Village de Noël
November 14, 2014-January 4, 2015

Les Illuminations de Noël des Champs-Élysées
November 20, 2014-January 8, 2015
6pm-2am

Les Illuminations de Noël Place Vendôme et Avenue Montaigne
November 20, 2014-January 5, 2015

November 3, 2014

Thanksgiving à la française

My first Thanksgiving in Paris was spent eating store-bought soup late after work. My second was a small step up with pasta. But by the time my third Thanksgiving in France rolled around, I decided I couldn’t go another year without a proper celebration.

Since Thanksgiving always falls on a workday, there isn’t much time to prepare a homemade feast. Knowing that as long as we’re in France we’ll never officially have the day off, my husband and I have started to build our own, French-adapted traditions. 

Traditional Thanksgiving dinner in one of Paris' cafés

For the past two years, we’ve headed to one of our favorite restaurants, who for this very special day, draws a big American crowd. If you, like us, don’t have time to cook at home, you can still enjoy a traditional meal out.

Several restaurants in Paris offer Thanksgiving menus, but due to the high demand, reservations need to be made well in advance. Check out a selection below and be sure to book your table early!

17, rue des Ecoles
75005  Paris


11 rue Augereau 
75007 Paris
 
30 Rue Pierre Lescot
75001 Paris

25 Rue Louis Blanc
75010 Paris

We’ll be enjoying dinner in one of the aforementioned cafés. Perhaps we’ll see you there!

PS For those of you who will have some time in the kitchen, you can pre-order your holiday cooking essentials from the American épicerie Thanksgiving. Read more about it here.

 

November 2, 2014

A Weekend Walk in Paris' 5th and 6th Arrondissements

Yesterday was by far the most beautiful November 1st that I have ever seen in Paris. The sun was shining down gloriously over the city, and everyone was stepping out in their summer tees.

Wanting to take advantage of this unseasonably warm weather, my husband and I set off for an afternoon stroll. Starting in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, we took in a little window shopping on the Boulevard Saint-Germain and meandered down to the Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, to find l'église Saint-Germain and bustling terraces of Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots.

L'église Saint-Germain, Paris

Les Deux Magots, Paris


Continuing onward, we made our way past l'église Saint-Sulpice and to the Jardin du Luxembourg to take in the sunshine and beautiful fall reds and golds.

Street near l'église Saint-Sulpice


Jardin du Luxembourg in fall, Paris

Crowd at the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Palais du Luxembourg, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Statue of St. Clothilde, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

La fontaine Médicis, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

L'acteur Grec, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Bright fall flowers at the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

As the sun was beginning to set, we continued on to the steps of the Panthéon, where some of France's most famous citizens lie.

View from the Panthéon, Paris


And before heading home, we made a quick trip through the Quartier Latin and were just in time for a lovely procession in front of Notre-Dame in honor of "Toussaint", All Saints' Day.

Notre-Dame, Paris