Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Present. Past. Perfect.

"You can't escape the past in Paris, and yet what's so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn't seem to burden."
—Allen Ginsberg

Sunday, November 28, 2010

30 hours in Brussels

This past weekend, Jo, Sarah and I took the 80-minute train ride to Brussels (really! 80 minutes!) for a girl’s getaway.

It entailed shopping for chocolates…

…snacking on cupcakes…

…and flea market rummaging.

Sarah won the award for most finds, but I really wish Jo had bought this topper.

There was lots of photo-taking of the wonderful architecture around town…

… and a visit to the Horta Museum. (But no photos were allowed here. No buttons on outerwear either.)

Because it was freezing, our explorations also entailed numerous coffee breaks…

…and sweet reinforcements

We didn’t stop for oysters, but we did indulge in the requisite moules frites (no photos here either. I was too busy dipping the frites mayo).

And at the end of our oh-so-grueling day, we called the incredibly lovely Hooy Kaye Lodge home.

Girls should go away together more often.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Weather check: snow on November 26

If you look closely, you will see what I was shocked to see: snow. Good thing I'm home with my Eric Kayser bread, a new cheese to try, and dried apple from La Mere de la Famille.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

French phrase of the day: Je vivais ma petite vie

Def: I was living my little life

I love little phrases like this. Probably because I love little words like “little”. But my dear friend Connie sent me a link to another expat-in-Paris’ blog. Beyond the new phrase, and how much I love it, I was struck by the similarity of this stranger’s experience before coming to Paris and, especially, the jumble of emotions while living here. How, despite everything being dreamy and lovely and inspired, the reality is not exactly, well, a dream. There is alienation and loneliness, being a foreigner in Paris. Rudeness and abrasiveness. Condescension and a lack of a sense of humor. But—with perseverance and a thick skin, it is ultimately dreamy. It’s Paris, after all! The place where I protect my little dreams for myself—mes petits rêves.


It’s good to be thankful every day. Well, as one of those saps who believes that life is a gift, I think so anyway.

But with today being the official holiday of giving thanks, let me count my blessings:

• That I am here in Paris. That I’ve been here for 20 months, living a dream life. And that in two more months, I will return to my friends and family in New York.
• That I am healthy. Every once in awhile when I’m super tired or achy, sapped of energy and strength, life just feels so much harder and darker. Thank goodness I typically have good energy and tip-top health.
• That I am surrounded by some of the best food in the world and that I appreciate it. I feel sorry for people with food allergies. And anorexics. Really.
• That my experience here in Paris has been made richer by truly extraordinary friends. Really, really blessed with the best friends in the world!
• That my job has not only been stable, but really fun and fulfilling, in these less-than-certain times.
• That I’m in good spirits.
• That at least I have some wine and cheese waiting for at the end of the day, since turkey and pumpkin pie will be conspicuously absent.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Walking home from work tonight

I took the scenic route.

I braved the masses on the Champs-Élysées, but took advantage in slightly milder temperatures, to admire the Christmas lights.

And the moon over the Crillon.

Even the Christmas markets. Which aren’t very charming. Unless you like churros geantes, frites and…cupcakes.

Moi? I like the Grand Roue.

Even better, I like Place Vendome.

With the creeping, shimmering lights, it’s even more magical than ever.

Oui. Pure magique.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Go vegan, go Paris!

Here I’ve been, doing my own little Vegan Monday thing (er, um, okay, I was a little errant the last couple weeks) only to find out that vegans are coming out of the woodwork in this lovely meat-eating city!

Mark it on your calendar, mes amis: next Sunday is Paris’ second annual Vegan Day.

And one of the major sponsors is The Gentle Gourmet, a seasonal-organic-vegan kitchen-B&B-cooking school. Genius, no? That’s going on the list of must-dos. In the meantime, I’m back on track...

Coffee & soy milk
A sweet-tart Granny Smith apple

Veggie Tangine – perfect for this awful, damp weather
A couple of bananas

Roasted sweet potato, carrots and parsnips
A clementine

The cost of feeling good

I am sitting, typing in my exercise gear as today was The Day. The day, after four months of having let my gym membership lapse, and probably just as many pounds around the middle, I was going to suck it up and pay the 230 euro for a one-month membership back at my beloved gym.

I had put off renewing for so long because of the inflated cost. As a testament to how little I comprehended the dollar-euro exchange my first year here, I blithely handed over the 1400 last summer to join Klay. Even now, after the calculations, I don’t regret it. It’s a super gym: brand new, modern, clean, a sauna, hamman and small pool, exercise and weight equipment… yoga. I loved it.

When I inquired about my re-sign options at the end of July, I was told it was 1000 for six months, 650 for three months and 280 for a month’s membership. Zut! That’s alotta centimes.

I rationalized I could do extra Velb’ing for a couple months. Plus, it being summer, I was traveling a bit. Why have a pricey gym membership when you’re not going to go to the gym? I figured I’d splurge on the three-month membership in September. Or October.

Well, here it is, the end of November, and I finally decided my body and my psyche would be so happy to be back in downward dog. To take a quick sauna from time to time. To feel strong again.

So I set my alarm and trotted over to the gym with 230 euro. On the way, I realized, merde, was it 280?? Would I still splurge for 280? Was it worth it? You see, I can be so carefree with money on some things (shoes, bags, fancy hotels) and so cheap with others (makeup, transportation, and, apparently, gym memberships).

Oui, I’d do it! I deserved it! I would feel so good, back in an exercise regime!

But apparently the prices have augmenter. One month, in fact, costs 350 euro.

“Trois cent cinquante??” I asked. Twice. Just to make sure I was doing the translation and the math right. I was.

So I trotted back out into the misty morning. By my crude calculations, 350 euro could get me:

• Month upon month of Velib rides
• A fabulous Lululemon ensemble and some new baskets
• Five or six great dinners in the next month
• A round of 10 champagne cocktails at the Ritz
• A night at, say, the Regent Grand Hotel in Bordeaux or the Savoy in London
• A cut and highlights, and a massage or facial
• One Christian Louboutin shoe
• An LV makeup bag (which, oui, I also want)

What would you do with 350 euro? Cough it up in the name of physical health and mental sanity? Or put it towards an extra special treat?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

French phrase of the day: se mettre en valeur

Def: to make the most of yourself

I'm reading the lovely Almost French—left for me by the even lovelier Emily. Almost as much as hearing about someone else's memories of arriving in and adjusting to life in Paris, I love picking up a phrase or two. This one's a keeper.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Adding it up

I intended to be a little more modest in my food and booze consumption after last week’s blitz-binge in New York. But alas, it was a busy week in Paris. I got around.

There was dinner at Chartier at Kasia and Cynthia…

… And drinks at Le Pompon with Rachel and Sarah. (I’ll trust you all that this is worthy of its “new hot spot” title.)

Jo and I met for a mid-week, pre-work breakfast.

And then I hopped down to for a (relatively healthy) lunch at Artcurial.

Thursday night, Mel and I joined every other Parisian keen to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau. But Le Garde-Robe was too crowded so be bailed and had heaping bowls of pad thai at Livingstone.

This morning, I couldn't help myself: Praluline from Pralus.

And this weekend’s agenda? Angelina and Jeanne A.

God, I love Paris.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy. Sad. Schitzo!

I’m panicking a little. The end is happening too fast.

I said goodbye to Erica when she left for Italy last month. I said goodbye to Cynthia, who’s taking off for LA this week. And now Rachel, who’s spending the last six weeks of the year in Germany.

I suddenly don’t have any more free weekends. My landlord let me know he has a tenant who wants to move in January 10. And they’ve hired a new writer to replace me at work.

Replaceable! I’m replaceable!

Yes, I’ve always known Paris wasn’t forever. I came over with a six-month contract, renewed for another nine months and then, oh alright, I’ll stick around for another six months. Until December 31, 2010. But now, with less than two months to go, I’m already feeling sad and weepy.

What am I going to do without the Velibs? The smell of the bread baking at the boulangeries? The markets and fromageries, my treehouse, the little side streets? Where will I get my macaron fixes?

There are all the museums, patisseries and restaurants I have yet to try. The views I haven’t seen yet. There are weekend (Bordeaux!) and day trips (Deauville!) and extended holidays (Copenhagen! Berlin!) I wanted to take.

I haven’t built a proper French wardrobe, mastered the language (ha, not even close), figured out how to successfully flirt or developed any French cooking skills.

I still don’t own anything by Louis Vuitton.

I am so looking forward to going home. This, I know and feel in my bones and heart. But I also don’t want this to end. I have built a wonderful life here. I have overcome obstacles and dealt with challenges (not always gracefully); I have learned about a foreign culture and myself; I have grown and I have had so. much. fun.

Paris has been amazing. I know I have been living my dream and I am eternally grateful for that. I only hope new dreams will arise and the bliss I feel in this city will be found elsewhere in my future.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Christmas lights are coming!

One of my favorite things last year was the Christmas season. The lights in this city are phenomenal, with every neighborhood and monument bright, dazzling, aglow...

I've been noticing the decorations slowly going up in shop windows and on grand facades. But when I was Velib'ing home down rue Saint-Honoré tonight, I was thrilled to see the stars shining bright.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee! C'est magique.

(Parisian) life is beautiful

Oh, how I love the LV postcards from Ruben Toledo. If ever there was a gorgeous, fun, inspiring gift, it is this.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The little things I love

• The many delicious things boulangers make with pastry dough: croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, escargots, almond croissants…
• The many delicious ways the French prepare potatoes: steamed in butter, steeped in chicken fat, deep fried, Daupinois, gratin’d, mashed, pureed…
• The incredible-edible egg in all its French forms: omelettes, quiche, torts, sliced on sandwiches, the classic oeufs mayo…
• The overwhelming variety of bread: pain complet, boule au levain, pain aux cereals, pain de compagne, pain au lait, pain moulé, a good old baguette…

Monday, November 15, 2010

The traveling cat

Milo, international kitty, hasn't been content to sit at home. The fabulous Erin Hill has him cruising the Marais, Montmartre and, dang!, he even made it down to Giverny! Je suis jalouse.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shooting for the stars

New York, New York. It’ll always be home. And now that I’ve had this Parisian life, it will always be different.

Being there for a shoot this past week, not being on my own terms, was très different. Not that I’m complaining. Not at all. Despite averaging about five hours a sleep a night and 5000 calories a day (or, because of?), it was great fun.

The films we were shooting won’t be live until next spring. But here’s a cute scene from one of them.

And the set of the other.

The 30th floor of the Carlyle Hotel.

Overlooking Central Park. Mon dieu.

It was a long day, so I got to watch the sunset…

… and take in the incredible views of midtown at night.

(This view could be yours, too, for $5k a night.)

After the three non-stop workdays, which included non-stop eating and non-stop drinking, and even a little dancing, I finally had a day of rest.

Or, more accurately, a day of gluttony.

Bennie and I met for a decadent lunch at Gramercy Tavern.

He didn’t want his picture taken, so I busied myself capturing the classic autumnal atmosphere.

(Which matched the gorgeous foliage outside.)

Just a few hours later, I got ready to have dinner and drinks with Amee and Jules at The Jane.

Which was followed the next day by a quick lunch at 'inoteca with Peter, Mitchell, Mel and Alison…

… before hopping back on the plane—with Carine Roitfeld (sweet!)...

...to a pink-skied Paris.

What will this coming week hold?