Paris via Film: Paris Can Wait

Un grand merci to Nancy Fulton for recommending and reviewing the film “Paris Can Wait.”

Anne (Diane Lane) is married to Michael (Alec Baldwin), a successful, preoccupied movie producer. Their daughter has recently been launched into young adulthood and Anne now faces a new stage in life. Unexpected circumstances lead to Jacques (Arnaud Viard), her husband’s business associate, offering to drive her from Cannes to Paris. As they depart in his blue Peugeot, Jacques winsomely says “Let’s pretend we don’t know where we are going or even who we are.”

And so the carefree detour in director Eleanor Coppola’s meandering daydream of a film begins.

The quirky pairing between Jacques, with his inimitable style in the art of living, and Anne’s shy luminosity and knowing ingenuity, create a humorous and romantic dynamic that keeps the viewer guessing. Who knows where shared confidences, automotive mishaps, and asymmetric attitudes toward time will take them?

Food, wine, roses, architecture, summer scenes in Arles, Lyon, and Dijon reawaken Anne’s sense of possibility. Yes, Paris waits, while so much more arrives.

Have you seen Paris Can Wait? What did you think?

Paris via Williamstown: Picasso Encounters

The temporary exhibit at the Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, MA, Picasso: Encounters, was organized with help from the Musée National Picasso–Paris.

The first work in the show, the artist’s self-portrait, on loan from the Paris museum, is a self-portrait that shows the artist as a solitary soul.

The next 35 prints and 2 paintings contradict this isolation, highlighting his collaborations — with printmakers, fellow artists, and Picasso’s famed muses, Olga Khokhlova, Françoise Gilot, and Dora Maar (Maar’s portrait is also on loan from the Paris museum).

It’s not a large show, but it contains important works and offers insights into Picasso’s creative process, including a set of color prints made from a single sheet of linoleum. And the recently renovated museum itself is worth the drive.

Until August 27

Paris via New York: A Tale of Two Pâtisseries

From frequent contributor Betty Guernsey:

Pâtisserie Claude, at 187 West 4th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in the West Village, is one of those very few, tiny places that has become almost extinct in Manhattan, vanquished due to gentrification and escalating rents. There’s nothing fancy about the place: four marble-topped tables, mismatched chairs, blaring radio, photos (including one of Claude) hanging slightly askew on the wall – but the secret of its success are its fresh-from-the-oven croissants (tender and flaky, though not necessarily buttery), brioches, quiches, éclairs – no breads here – the pride of display going to daily fresh-baked tartes (apple, pear, apricot, hazelnut).

Wonderfully old school, beloved in the neighborhood with its obvious regulars, Claude has clung to its location for years – the original owner, now retired, handed down his cherished recipes to his successor, who carries on from 8 am to 8 pm daily but for Sunday, when he closes at 7 pm.

At the other end of the spectrum, a mere hop, skip, and jump away at 137 7th Avenue South between 10th Street and Charles, is Dominique Ansel Kitchen, its lavender/white décor smacking of Parisian sophistication. Ansel, former pastry chef for Daniel Boulud, is a master of concoction, his fabulous croissants and pastries resembling mad hats designed by Schiaparelli — and his savories, works of culinary art.

Outstanding — his chilled heirloom tomato gazpacho, curvy shell-like garlic croissants, ruffly prosciutto-boursin crossantwich, and truffled crème fraîche cheesecake, all unlike any you’ve ever tasted. The menu, altered seasonally, is served from 9 am to 9 pm every day. Perhaps best of all, the Kitchen has a lovely outdoor terrace, welcoming on a warm spring day, a small but select choice of wines and beers, and for summer, their own ice cream.

Discover the Historic Covered Passages of Paris

Duck into any of Paris’s 25 covered passageways, and you’ll find history hidden in plain sight. Les passages, covered shopping arcades, are beloved 19th century landmarks.

Glass roofs were erected over narrow shopping streets in Paris as early as 1776; the oldest existing passage, Passage du Caire, in the 2nd arrondissement, dates to 1799. Most were created between 1820 and 1840.

Light and airy with glass roofs, neoclassical reliefs, and mosaic floors, the passages provided not only elegant surroundings, but shelter from weather, traffic, and dirt. Lit from within by gas lights, they became gathering places of the affluent.

The expansive nature of the second half of the 1800s did them in. Large department stores provided more merchandise in equally fancy surroundings (La Samaritaine and Le Bon Marché are good examples). And many passages were destroyed when Haussmann’s new city plan demolished neighborhoods to create broad avenues.

Pictured above is perhaps one of the most sumptuous of the remaining arcades: Passage Vivienne, behind the Palais Royal gardens. Cool in summer, warm in winter, and removed from both cars and tourist traffic, it provides visitors a chance to discover up-and-coming artisans, used bookstores, galleries, cafés, and restaurants.

As well as a chance to walk back into the past.

Un grand merci to Wikipedia for this a full list of Paris passages.

Paris via the Alps: La Bouitte

If Paris, abundant in history, rich in architecture, and bedecked with natural beauty, is the embodiment of urban luxury, I’ve found its rural equivalent: La Bouitte, a lovingly constructed hotel, restaurant, and spa in the hamlet of Saint Marcel (pop. 350), at the eastern reaches of the French Alps.

At the center of this family-owned, mountainside retreat is a gastronomic gem: a Michelin 3 star restaurant run by father and son, Maxime and René Meilleur. Their vision embraces the region’s humble Savoyard past—small alpine farms, noble cheeses, locally grown herbs and meat—while celebrating modern methods.

I tasted pear and hazelnut tea cake maison that was impeccably moist and wonderfully crumbly, and confiture de mirabelle that transported me to a fragrant plum orchard on a sunny day. I found these familiar fruit flavors exotic—delicate and concentrated, refined in ways I’d never experienced.

While the restaurant causes much of the buzz at La Bouitte, the recently expanded hotel is also a treat. Spacious, light-filled rooms feature stone fireplaces, lush fabrics based on traditional designs, beautifully restored antiques, hand-carved wooden headboards and doors, and deep porcelain bathtubs with breathtaking mountain views.

The town is a skier’s paradise in winter, and a hiker’s heaven in the other seasons. But the serenity and comfort of the hotel’s 15 rooms makes cocooning another wonderful option.

Like the rest of the property, the spa at La Bouitte looks to nature for inspiration. Treatments are made from alpine wildflowers, one of the saunas is outfitted like a marmot’s den, and the outdoor jacuzzi pays homage to a big sky.

After 3 days of hiking nearby valleys and passes, I indulged one of the spa’s signature treatments: Le Bain de Marie, a luxurious, deep tub soak infused with milk and honey. Soothing aromas filled the air as water pulsed through a dozen jets, relaxing my knotted muscles, and refreshing my skin.

As restorative as it is sophisticated, and just 5 hours from Paris by train, La Bouitte took my breath away—and then restored it.

Sunday in Paris

It’s another lovely Sunday in Paris, and visitors to the city are trying to stop time: preserving the moment with selfies near the Eiffel Tower; posing with the Mona Lisa in the Louvre; imagining life under the Louie’s as they gaze at centuries-old buildings from tour boats in the Seine.

Locals are thinking about their future. Today is the presidential election, and conversations about the merits of two relative outsiders, Marine le Pen and Emanuel Macron, emanate from park benches, neighborhood brunch spots, and spontaneous responses to posters in the streets.

It’s a crazy, delicate moment.

Early projections favor Macron, who is young and inexperienced, embraces market-driven solutions, continued support of social safety networks, and globalism.

Le Pen wants to isolate France from Europe and the rest of the world.

While none of us can predict the future, we must hope for the best — thriving economies, friendly relations between countries, safe, educational travel.

So what to do in Paris on a Sunday afternoon?

Let’s celebrate each other, and the perfection — and imperfections — of the present.

Paris Via Marseilles: Marseilles Trilogy

From regular contributor Betty Guernsey ~

Over the centuries, thousands of writers have written about Paris; very few have written about Marseilles, which is, after all, the second largest city in France. Perhaps the most notable exception is Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), author of the famous Marseille Trilogy “Marius”, “Fanny”, and “César”.

The second might well be Jean-Claude Izzo (1945-2000), whose own Marseilles Trilogy, comprising three hard-hitting volumes (somewhat surprisingly titled “Total Chaos”, “Chourmo”, and “Solea” and billed as Mediterranean Noir) not only became best-sellers in Europe but inspired a French miniseries starring a mature, salt-and-peppered Alain Delon as Izzo’s hero/protagonist Fabio Montale. (I picture Montale as an Yves Montand of a certain age – after reading the books, take your pick.)

From the point of view of Marseilles itself, the first two books in the series are the most compelling, pulling the reader into the very essence of the city – its sights, its sounds, its tastes, its smells, its unique light, and not least its people, a tangle of ethnicities from all over the Mediterranean and beyond.

Izzo paints the panorama of the port, the coastline, the Estanques, the islands of Frioul; makes your mouth water for fish fresh from the sea, a bowl of homemade bouillabaisse, a sip of crisp white Cassis, and the lingering scents of basil, mint, and anise, passionately blending them all with the political and criminal realities lurking not too far beneath the surface of his beloved birthplace.

Merci infiniment, Betty!

Springtime in Paris

Signs of spring are everywhere on this sunny Sunday in Paris: lilacs are blooming, trench coats and sneakers de rigueur, and family dinners start with sharp-scented radishes, slathered in butter and sprinkled with salt.

Pictured above is a spring tradition with a new twist, served as an amuse-bouche at La Bourse et La Vie: house-marinated heritage radishes, served with tangy sourdough bread and sweet butter.

A glass of cremant from the Jura Mountains made everything sparkle.

Click here for more signs of springtime in Paris.

Paris for Chocolate Lovers

Greetings from Paris on Easter weekend, where chocolate, always a presence in Paris, is everywhere.

The most popular form, naturellement, is the egg. Maître chocolatiers display dark filigreed orbs nearly a meter tall—impossibly delicate, wonderful to look at, and with aromas that make you swoon.

Smaller, but still impressively large and fragile, are smooth oval sillouhettes wrapped in pastel-colored foil. Miniature versions, filled with chopped hazelnuts, nestle in beribboned cellophane bags.

Barnyard scenarios, tout en chocolat, are designed for the younger set: proud mother hens with sculpted breast feathers and scalloped combs; wide-eyed, open-beaked chicks; bushy-tailed squirrels nibbling on chocolate acorns; bunnies with tall, slender ears and faraway looks.

Even a mass market bakery chain has a hand in the celebration: stopping for a croissant at the train station this morning, I saw a brioche in the form of a rabbit, its ears and feet dipped in milk chocolate.

Easter in Paris is a chocolate-lovers’ holiday!

Paris Book Review: Flaneuse: Women Walk the City

 

From regular contributor Betty Guernsey:

The verb “flâner” – a particularly French concept roughly meaning to wander the streets, and its corresponding noun “flâneur” roughly meaning one who peers behind facades, investigates dark corners, and penetrates into secret courtyards – are also both words attaching themselves to the city of Paris.

In her new book “Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London”, American-born writer Lauren Elkin explains why “flâneurs” were historically always men, and how as women emancipated, how they too gained the right to walk the streets (and travel) on their own.

As examples she chooses French writer George Sand, French filmmaker Agnès Varda, and French artist Sophie Calle, among others, whose lives and careers were not merely shaped but influenced by this hard-won freedom to be themselves in public places.

I would personally have enjoyed the book more had I not felt too much digression, often at great length, on histories and observations largely unrelated to the subjects at hand. That said, my suspicions are that author Elkin (now a bona fide Parisienne) is herself the ultimate flâneuse, in the punk tutu.

Merci beaucoup, Betty!

Readers — are you a flâneuse (or flâneur)?