Friday, December 25, 2009

Joyeux Noel

I hope everyone is having a wonderful, heartfelt, happy Christmas season.

I'm currently binging on Mom's Christmas cookies in Buffalo, heading off to Aspen on Sunday to ski and ring in the New Year with friends, and then it's back to Paris to start 2010 in the most beautiful city in the world.

What will the new year bring? French proficiency? More travel for work? More fun writing assignments? Will the City of Looove finally open its arms to me? I can only guess. But I know I am looking forward to the planned parties and the unknown adventures; to exploring France and Europe and being seduced all the charms and customs; to building my current friendships and meeting more Frenchies and expats; to dancing until 3 a.m. and dining for four plus hours; to more cooking and eating (and more yoga, spinning and Velib'ing to keep it all in check); to more living and learning; to more, more, more!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! xo

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lights, Christmas, Magic!

Which is more magical?

Place de la Concorde with the giant grande roue?

Or Place Vendome with its giant hanging lanterns?


I'm happy to see the French putting some of those plastic bottles they gobble up like mad to good use.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

French phrase of the day: Ça vaut le coup

Def: It's worth it.

And it is.


I read and link to many blogs here in Paris. At least a couple times a week, I try to run through my list of "Paris Reading" to see who's doing what and what I shouldn't be missing in this grand city. I love them all for different reasons, but I feel compelled to give a special shout-out to ParisDailyPhoto. Not just because I'm one of the world's worst photographers and tres jalouse of M. Tenin, but because every one of his shots is framed perfectly, whether it's poetic or with a wink or just somehow, so overwhelmingly beautiful. He offers such a wonderful vision of all the city—it's definitely a blog not to be missed.

Listmania: Turn up the dial

I’ve fared better with music this year than with books, movies or news. Even so, I’ve never heard of seven of the 25 bands (yay, The XX and Camera Obscura; nay, Heartless Bastards and Empire of the Sun) on Spinner’s list of the Best Songs of 2009. But their list links to each video, offering a toe-tapping journey through a whole cache of new tunes. Yay.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Take two of these and call me in the morning

Do you ever go to the doctor and want something to be wrong with you just so you won’t feel crazy? I’m not a hypochondriac at all, but I’ve been having certain health issues this past year for which I’ve been to my GP a couple times as well as a couple specialists. It seems like every time I go, the news is totally different—sometimes positive, other times, scary— which has resulted in a total emotional roller coaster ride.

I had an appointment with a specialist this morning and truthfully wasn’t expecting the news to be good. But it was. Which is great, of course. Except… I was so ready for bad news that I almost can’t relax and believe the doctor’s advice. But no matter. I can and will do it.

But the visit was a classic French experience. She wasn’t the warmest of doctors and at the end of our thorough discussion of my current issues and symptoms, my and my family’s health histories, blood test results, etc. her prognosis was quite simple and delivered with complete and utter confidence: “Profiter d’etre à Paris.”

That’s it! Just enjoy being in Paris! It seems my internal stressing has caused my system to go a little nutty. But if I could just relax and enjoy being here—the theater, the food, the arts… after all, so many people would love to be in my position…. This was literally her advice to me. I couldn’t help but giggle.

Yet when I separate myself from my American crybaby ways, it does make sense. Packing it up at the age of 36, leaving my good friends and dear family and safe job and happy life in New York to dive into a world of uncertainty, insecurity and enormous and trivial challenges was no small thing. All my external tough girl posturing could very well mask some serious internal stressing—even from myself.

So I’m willing to accept her good news and optimistic prognosis. 2010 is going to be the year je profite d’etre à Paris, c’est certain. It’s also going to be the year of splurging on good moisturizers. Her other piece of advice was to take care of my skin as it’s ultra dehydrated.

Will it fit under the tree?

A Ladurée macaron croquembouche? Brilliant!
I'll take three, please.

Colette's vitrines usually make me stop and drool, but this one really (sorry, can't help it) took the cake.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weather check: iced in

Okay, so we didn't get a Nor'easter. But the cold has clung to Paris and snow is still in the forecast and I'm ready for the thaw.

French phrase of the day: pas si simple

Def: It's complicated. Literally, it means not so easy. But that's what the Frenchies are calling Meryl Streep's new movie.

Listmania: Parisian parks & squares

I'm steeling myself to walk over through the Jardins des Plantes to have chicken pastilla at La Mosquée. It's a Christmas gift to myself. (Yesterday's gift to myself was a Thai massage—pas mal!) Though I'm all about the food at the end of the walk, the park is a treat in and of itself—one of the top 20 in the city.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bonjour Papa Bear

French phrase of the day: je pense à toi

Def: I'm thinking of you

It's a nice phrase to know, especially this time of the year.

And I'm thinking of several friends right now, wishing them better health, peaceful minds, and safe and happy travels.

More Christmas magic

I love the way everyone gets into the spirit here. Shopkeepers put out small trees with balls and blinking lights. Neighborhoods make key streets sparkle with waves of lights and ornaments. And of course the monuments are lit up, bathed in red, white, green and blue. There's nothing more festive than walking around at night and watching the (free) show.

I climbed up rue des Martyrs to have dinner with Jo at La Famille (totally overrated).

Nevermind the trees and Ferris wheel that make walking the Champs-Elysees such a spectacle. There are other small delights and big buildings that dazzle.

City Hall has its own little light show going on.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Roses at the Palais Royale

It was another magical winter morning in Paris. I found myself with an hour to kill before work so I took a walk in the snow.

I wanted to see the rows of trees and feel the silence inside the Palais Royale.

There were a couple other people strolling but it was largely empty and tres calme. Exactly what I was hoping for.

But I was so surprised to see all the rose bushes in bloom. How can it be? Red roses in the white snow...

Listmania: Women rule

Women and business. Businesswomen. Why the negative connotations, snide comments and stereotypical beliefs? These 50 most powerful women come from all different backgrounds to show us that yes we can.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Weather check: il neige!

When I walked outside this morning (yes, it was still dark), I was greeted by snow.

It was magic.

It snowed off and on all day.

The only thing worth enduring the cold for is snow.

Listmania: Top '09 stories you missed

I’ve been woefully remiss about keeping up on news here. I blame Louis Vuitton, French lessons and Milo, in that order. Here’s a little tutorial in the year’s top stories that helped me feel slightly more in touch.

New Year's in Paris

Friends of friends are always visiting Paris and wondering where to go. I’m slowly developing my favorite bars and restaurants but really have yet to get a grasp on this city’s best scene. So for New Year’s in Paris? Your guess is as good as mine. That said, here are some places that might be worth checking out.


Cha Cha
Le Baron
Le Montana
Social Club

Fancy cocktails
Experimental, Curio Parlor, Prescription
Hotel Particulier, Mama Shelter
Le Fumoir

Trendy dinners
Hotel Amour
Le Cheri Bibi

Classic dinners
Au Vieux Comptoir
Chez Julien

Casual dinners
Café Charlot
Café Ruc

Eiffel Tower magic
Watch the fireworks from
Ponts des Arts
Place de la Concorde Ferris wheel (Weeeee!)

Or just walk around, listening to all the kids throwing pop rocks and shouting “Bonne année!” and take in all the beautiful Christmas lights.

And just as important, areas to stay away from:
Moulin Rouge
Latin Quarter

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Listmania: Where to eat & look cool

Let's face it: we all want to be cool. We all want to be told where to eat. Here's a brilliant international list of the best dining scenes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's up with that?

The Hangover? James Cameron? Sandra Bullock!?

I thought I was missing some good movies while living over here in Paris. But if these nominees are the best the Hollywood Foreign Press could come up with, than maybe I'm better off just watching Glee, The Wire and Top Chef on my laptop for the next year.

Food to the rescue

I was feeling pretty blah after my return from New York last week. But leave it to a good restaurant to give me a surge of inspiration and adoration for this city. It was a dinner party for Lionel’s birthday, and a big group of us went to Au Vieux Comptoir. I loved it. I loved the atmosphere, the food, being with a big group for a four-hour dinner (three would have sufficed for me, but…) and practicing my French with the locals.

Au Vieux Comptoir: 17 rue des Lavandières-Sainte-Opportune, 1eme
Went with: Lionel, Sylvia and eight others—a surprise mix for Lionel.
Had: Delicious bread; beaucoup de Bordeaux; a salmon tartare starter: chunks of lightly dressed salmon and mango; a special black truffle risotto; tarte tatin and champagne.
Impressions: Loved it. This is the kind of place where the proprietors make the regulars feel like family and, as a result, the atmosphere is fun, familiar, buzzing and happy. It’s a relatively small space, very casual and cozy. The menu is meat-heavy, but there were scallops plus plates of the day for non-meat-eaters. Everything I had was delicious, and between the cream and truffle oil, my risotto was perhaps the richest risotto I’ve ever eaten. We were the last ones to leave at about 12:45 a.m. What a great night.

Some other recent restaurants...

La Fidélité: 12 rue de la Fidélité, 10eme

Went with: Mel on a Tuesday night
Had: We split this beautiful eggplant and mozzarella starter that had the meatiness of eggplant parm, and duck magret for my main. Not the best menu—pretty limited and random options. But it’s all about the scene; you don’t go here for the food. That said, what we did have was good.
Impressions: Dark, sexy and seductive. I instantly fell in love with the lofty dining room, red banquets and hipster staff. Mel and I were surprised at how not crowded it was and we enjoyed our waiter who was attentive and sweet. But, I just read (using the term loosely with my terrible French) reviews on Le Figaro and it sounds like this place has its fair share of attitude. But what can I say? I’m a sucker for a good scene and would go back.

Rice and Fish: 22 rue Grenata, 2eme
Went with: Jo on a Tuesday and Michael on a Friday
Had: Tofu gyoza to begin; two rolls for din-din
Impressions: This place has been touted as the first place in Paris to do super American-style sushi: rolls with crunchy bits sprinkled on top and “le vrai Californien” with crab and avocado. Conveniently located across the street from me, and open since the summer, I’ve been dying to check it out. When Jo and I went a couple weeks ago, it was pretty decent. Though our gyoza were partially cold, the rolls were pretty good. But Michael and I went the other night and I was so not impressed. The space is small and strangely set up, so we had to move twice in order to accommodate the growing number of diners. Annoying. Then they served us our gyoza at the same time as our sushi. Tres annoying. And they were pretty greasy and my rolls were mediocre. Overall, sadly disappointing.

Livingstone: 106 rue Saint-Honoré
Went with: Jo and Benjamin for lunch
Had: Tilapia cooked in banana leaf and veggies
Impressions: Tres chic! Tres cool! Even though the new Vuitton offices are not far from my apartment, I have a whole new neighborhood of lunch options. I’ve already found a great salad place and two delicious bakeries. But on Friday, Jo and Benj met me for lunch so we wanted a place to sit and went for Thai. We walked into Livingstone and were all seduced by the black interior, decorated with exotic lamps, oversized mirrors, velvet banquets, animal horns and such. And the food was stellar. Jo got the pad Thai and Benj got a big combo of spring rolls, salad and meat. But my fish and veggies were divine—a great change-up from the food I typically eat in Paris.

Le Cul de Poule: 53 rue des Martyrs, 9eme
Went with: JP and Kyoko on a Wednesday night
Had: A giant rice ball appetizer, filled with salmon and—unbeknownst to me until I wizened up and realized the salmon couldn’t taste that smoky—pork. That’s when I stopped eating it. Which was a shame because it was pretty big and delicious. And, given that the translation of “cul de poule” means chicken butt, I had to try the chicken. Besides…
Impressions: My very first impression when I walked through the door: Mmmmmm. All I could smell was roast chicken. The chicken itself was actually really bizarre. It was tasty, but it was the driest, crispiest chicken I’ve ever eaten. Served with creamy potato gratin. The restaurant is super unfussy and friendly with a bit of a 70s vibe: orange lamps, a turquoise wall, warm woods. Filled with cool people, a nice, homey vibe and a 22 euros prix-fixe menu, I likey.

Listmania: Best books of 2009

Not that I've read any of these. Sadly. (I'm finally getting back my reading groove with Lush Life.) But here are The New York Times' picks for best books of the year.

Weather check: bitter, bitter cold

I didn't realize Paris could even get this cold. It's that Ow, my face is about to fall off cold. Cold, cold, cold. It's cold.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas lights

I have yet to visit a more beautiful city than Paris. And during the holiday season, with all the Christmas lights, it’s even more magical.

I was happy to come home to rue Montorgueil, all lit up.

And the lights at Stohrer give me yet another reason to linger and breathe deep the beautiful pastry smells.

Plus, there’s a little camp thrown in for good measure.

But not as much as on this dude’s motorcycle, right by Chatelet.

Cute but crazy

Maybe we’re all destined to become crazier as we get older. I know I am. Milo, too. If he’s not eating, he wants to be cuddled, and vice-versa. He’s still pulling his fur out, but only in little bits. I'm determined that we’ll get each other through this!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

French word of the day: empiler

Def: To stack

As in, “Empilez tes genoux”—stack your knees.

It was a good yoga class today. Well, except that we listened to Michael Jackson the whole time. I feel like I’m the only person who hasn’t gotten swept away by MJ mania since he died. But our yoga drill sergeant worked us a little harder than usual and it felt great. “C’mon! If you’re going to try, try! We don’t have all day, this class is only an hour.”

My new challenge: Le Petit Victor

My landlords, who live downstairs, had a baby in June, Petit Victor. So he’s about six months now. Or, apparently the age when his parents are ready to let him wail and howl forever in their effort to get him to sleep through the night.

As luck would have it, his bedroom is right below mine and this new situation is causing me as much angst—due to middle-of-the-night wake-up calls—as the thugs on rue Saint-Dennis.

My jet-lag wasn’t so bad after this past week’s return from the states, but the couple times Victor has woken me up has me dreaming of the 10-hour night of sleep I caught in Connecticut, where it is so calm, comfortable, peaceful and quiet.

Weather check: winter in Paris

I have seen snowflakes in Paris, my friends! Yesterday the light, the air and the temperature all had that feeling like it was about snow. And right now, finally, there are big flakes floating by my windows.

I think it’s fairly rare for it to snow here and I doubt it will accumulate—it’s very wet. But it of course adds to the Christmas magic and beauty of the city.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My best friend got married

Amee and I have known each other for 25 years. We met in gym class on the first day of seventh grade and it wasn’t long before we were best friends, in matching braces and Espirit t-shirts.

The other girls—Jules, Elisa and Mer—entered the picture in high school. They were a year older, giving us instant cred, letting us feel super cool for being friends with upper classmen. Soon, we were all best friends. Lucky girls.

Exactly a week ago, we got to celebrate Amee marrying Michael. It was a fabulous Saturday night wedding in the city and Amee couldn’t have looked more beautiful or happier. It was amazing.

And it was fun to act like teenagers again. After all the drinks and food and toasts and socializing, we took to the dance floor and bogeyed on down to the awesome playlist that Michael put together.

After all the nights and all the years dancing in clubs from New York to San Francisco to Paris to Freiberg, it was sort of surreal seeing Amee dancing in a wedding gown. But that’s the fun of life: being able live and learn and laugh and look back on things—if you’re lucky, with your girls by your side.

Friday, December 11, 2009

All I want for Christmas

If you were asking yourself, “Hmmm… what could I get Amy for Christmas this year?” I’ve put together this little wish list.

• A book contract
The teal Alma
A pink convertible
A French pastry chef
• A lifetime supply of dried pineapple. Or chocolate pralinés. Or Pierre Hermé macarons.
• Ruinart rosé
• Private yoga lessons
• A 35-hour workweek

That’s all.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Books by smart chicks

’Tis the gift-giving season. Two friends have recently published books, and I would recommend them to anyone who likes to… think.

Not that Museum Legs or In Thrift We Trust (by Amy Whitaker and Lauren Weber, respectively) are all highbrow and dull. In fact, they’re down to earth, fun and insightful. It’s not every day that someone can write about art fatigue or thrift for hundreds of pages, and do it with smarts and style.

So go ahead and impress your nearest and dearest this holiday season while also supporting a couple of smart cookies. And while you’re scooping them up at, go ahead add Convertible Houses to your shopping cart. lol.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

French word of the day: baskets

Def: gym sneakers

Sometimes my dad gets endless enjoyment out of one joke, memory or word. When he was visiting in October, I mentioned that the French call their sneakers “baskets”—American speak for basketball sneakers. It still cracks him up. So when I was home and got my snazzy new Nikes, we got a lot of mileage out of the baskets joke.

But my new baskets are no joke. I love new sneakers when they’re all springy and make you feel like you can literally go that extra mile. This morning, I went to another goofy aerobics/body conditioning class at the gym. Just me and a couple French dudes, doing Jazzercise-type dance moves and pumping iron to club music. Awesome.

But soon I will try Klay’s spinning classes. Mary dared Dad and me to go to an 8 a.m. spinning class when I was home and we rose (tres early from bed) to her challenge. I was petrified that it was going to kick my butt. But I loved it; I’m a convert and can’t wait to do it again (after all, there are all kinds of Christmas cakes and pastries begging to be tried…).

Weather check: pas mal

I really lucked out with the weather back home. There were a couple days of rain and cold, but I was mostly treated to mild, sunny days.

While it's definitely winter gray back here in Paris, it's still not bad. It showers every day or two, but it's mild enough—flirting with 50 all week.

The glass heart of Paris

I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I rarely read the newspaper or watch the news in Paris. There's just not enough time to track down Anglophone news sources or translate French ones. The sad thing is, I go home and realize nothing's really changed. The world is still fighting the same wars, elected officials are still misbehaving and the same issues are being debated with nary a resolution in sight.

But sometimes someone from home will send a bit about France or Paris that I'm happy to read—like this NPR piece on the 20th anniversary of I.M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre. Thanks, Nadia!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy to be back

New York was a blast. Annie and Misha; AJ and Michael; Papa and Lo; Connie and Mitchell; Mel and Kerry; all the girls, Cheryl, Mr. B… I got to see lots of great friends and work with all my old colleagues again. The weather was great, I took nice walks, bought winter sweaters, had spa treatments and fell in love with the city again instead of feeling depleted by it. I was on a great photo shoot and watched my best friend get married. Pas mal.

And now I’m back. Operating on about 90 minutes of sleep, smooshed as I was between an Italian kid chomping on his gum and another guy shamelessly picking his nose on the red-eye. But I am happy. Not the giddy, let-me-at-it euphoria I felt upon returning to Paris from New York in September. But just a content and full feeling. Happy.

It changed over to winter while I was gone. As much as I hate cold weather, I like winter in Paris. I’ve spent the most time here in the winter months and have good memories. Without the leafs on the trees, the different grays in the city really emerge. There are Christmas lights out, there’s a bite in the air, and it’s Paris, it’s Paris, it’s Paris.