Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Paris Eye is on holiday
but will return August 5.
The Paris Eye-focusing on the beauty that is a city.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Cheap Hat

I thought today, instead of writing about some store or restaurant I like, it would be nice to write about a cheap hat I bought. At the end of the week I am going away for a short holiday in the south of France. Since I am follically limited, head cover has become an essential and since it can get to ungodly hot temperatures in the south, a hat is in order. Now, I did not want to take a good, Havana made fedora since I will be going to the beach, possibly going out to sea on a boat and taking the TGV all the way. Recently I passed by one of the shops in Montmartre and spotted a straw fedora. I went back there today and got one for 12 euros 50. I bought it without looking in a mirror, but trusting it would look fine. I got home, tried it on in the mirror and was a little disappointed. I played around with it, but it was not looking exactly the way I hoped. I took it off and began doing work around the apartment. Later as I was organizing my clothes for my trip, I tried the hat on again. In a different mirror and a different perspective, the hat looked much better on and I could carry it off. It also helped that my dearest said it looked good on me. In a way, I have these kinds of days here in Paris. There are days when things just don't feel quite right. There are times when I understand no one. There are days when I would love to have the city all to myself. There are days when it would be nice to be with old friends and talk face to face. Then the perspective changes. Maybe the light is different and suddenly I can not imagine being in any other place. This can apply to anywhere you are.

I am packing my cheap hat, espadrilles, thin cottons and polos in my old LL Bean tote and heading to Marseille and Toulon. Both are places I have grown incredibly fond of and with some of the nicest people I have encountered in France. Time for the beach, dipping into the Mediteranean Sea and seeing Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation are all on the list, as well as eating the freshest seafood ever. Summer getaways, no matter how short, are always a joy and a neccessity. No matter where you go, enjoy it, or has someone once said "No matter where you go, there you are."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Practical Advice

Advice for making the most of Paris:
1. Relax-Paris is not a scary city and the language difference can be solved with a few basic words, so buy a simple french language guide. The same as Americans expect tourists and immigrants to know english, the french are the same. Once you master, "Bonjour", "Merci", "Sil vous plait"...the rest is okay. Smile and show people you are happy to be here. This goes a long way.

2.Buy a Paris Pratique- No matter how pretty that guide book you bought at Borders is, the map, usually located at the back, is not too effective. As soon as you land and get into Paris, find a bookstore (perhaps one I have recommended) and buy Paris Pratique Par Arrondissement. It is a handy tool for navigating Paris by bus, metro and foot. All streets are listed and each quarter is there. Also it keeps you from looking so much like a tourist by asking for a map. Every Parisian has one of these and follow it faithfully.

3.Watch for the gold ring- There is a scam that goes on here with people, usually down on their luck, offering you a gold ring if it fits. It happened to me. I was walking, a woman asked me if a ring on the ground was mine. I told her 'no' and by then, well aware of the scam. She insisted that I keep it, but that I should give her some money. I gave her a little change, but she was not satisfied. She wanted more money. I simply told her that we could remedy this by my giving her back the ring, she giving me back the money and no one is out of anything. Needless to say, I go a gold ring for change. This goes on all the time and strangely enough the perpetrators usually speak english.

4. Don't be afraid- If you get lost, enjoy it. You will easily find your way back Paris is actually quite small and unless you find yourself passing the Périphérique (Paris' bordering freeway), all is well. It is easy to get back to where you want to be.

5. Lose the Tour- If by chance you joined a tour group, get out of it and explore on your own. There is nothing wrong with leaving the pack and you will see things the guide hasn't on the schedule. Enjoy. You are in Paris. Obviously you want to be here, or else you would not have come when the US dollar is so low.

Palais Royal

Friday, July 18, 2008

Avenue George V

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Parc des Buttes Chaumont Grotto

Parc des Buttes Chaumont

When I was younger I had the fantasy of living across from Central Park in NYC. In this fantasy I would ride my bike through the park to a deserted bench, take out a worn copy of Catcher in the Rye, eat a homemade sandwich and enjoy the green space, the laughter of children, the occasional bark of a dog and a wink from a total stranger passing by. Afterward, I would walk my bike home, grab another worn novel from a street vendor, chat with the doorman a while, go up to my apartment, open the window and experience the park from yet another perspective. I don't live in NYC, and could probably never afford an apartment on 5th Avenue or Central Park West. By beautiful circumstances I live in Paris and somewhat living out my park fantasy. I have managed to live across from a park, Parc des Buttes Chaumont. It is not quite as large as Central Park, but large enough to lose yourself in the first few times you visit. It's construction came out of the partnership of Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann in the 19th century and took shape out of a former stone quarry. To give people in the outer reaches of Paris (19th Arrondisment) a place to go, and feel they were in the country, the park was built in 4 years and has been a success. It's design is something out of a Vernet or Poussin painting, complete with rocks, slopes, cliffs, a mote, grotto, cascades and a little Greek temple. The place is incredible. It is dream-like, charming and enchanting. There are many varieties of trees, plants and flowers. There are water fowl. There are even tiny parks within that are for children, including pony rides and a puppet theater. Sure, much of it is manmade, but it is better than anything Disney could create and far more natural looking. It is a perfect place to walk your rented bike (Vélib) to a deserted bench, take out that worn novel you bought from a vendor along the Seine, eat that sandwich you picked up from a nearby cafe, sit and enjoy the green, the laughter of children, the occasional bark of a dog, the wink of a passing stranger, the strange sighting of a lonely peahen...well, the list goes on.

Restaurants of Buttes Chaumont

Paris is made up of 20 Arrondisments, or quarters, each with it's own charm and character. Some quarters are more interesting than others...not all are visited by tourists. I never visited the 19th prior to moving here and I find myself not only living in it, but living across from one of my favorite places, Parc Des Buttes Chaumont. You can spend an entire day in this park and I encourage people to do so. Oh, in case you get hungry here are some restaurant suggestions. They are all located directly around the outside of the park, all easy to find.

1. Olympe Café- Rue des Alouettes & Rue Botzaris
Simple french food, friendly service and tables out on the sidewalk. Nice place for lunch.
2. L'Estampe- Rue de la Villette & Rue Botzaris
Good tagines and couscous. Also typical french menu and good salads.
3. Le Gange- Rue Cavendish & Rue Manin
Very good Indian cuisine, over the top decor and attentive service.
4. L'Atlantide- Ave. de Laumière. One block away from the main entrance to the park (facing the town hall). Great North African cuisine. Wonderful couscous and tagines. Always full so go early or reserve a table. It has a nice authentic feel and the service is always good.
5. Sushi Tokyo- Rue Meynadier. Next to the town hall, this Japanese restaurant serves very good, fresh sushi. The service is fast and attentive. They also have take-out (importer), which is great for making a sushi picnic in the park.
6. L'Aiglon Café- Rue Botzaris & Rue Fessart. Nice restaurant with typical french food, a good bar selection and tables out on the sidewalk. Located at one of the park entrances, it is a good place to get something to eat and relax.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Salons Shiseido

Salons Shiseido @ Palais Royal- At the risk of sounding like a snob, I like fragrances, but only good ones. Every classic man and woman has used fragrances to enhance their mood and attraction. It is an important part of getting dressed, or at least it should be. I hate many of the new crop of fragrances that you can find at any retailer. They usually end up smelling vaguely like window cleaner mixed with Jovan Musk. Remember Jovan Musk? I blame the Christmas gifts my father got. Brut. English Leather. Jovan Musk and Chaps. I grew up in the 80's when every pre-teen had a bottle of Polo Ralph Lauren or Drakkar Noir in their locker, and we all sneaked a look at the racy Calvin Klein's Obsession ads. Since those beginnings, I have sought out the most unique scents. In another post I expressed my love for Salons Shiseido. The first fragrance I bought there was Cuir Mauresque. It is a combination of orange flower, tobacco and leather. It is completely masculine, warm and sensual. These fragrances do not follow the commonly used terms of "clean", "aquatic" or smelling like "nothing". These fragrances smell like something. They mix with your skin and conform to you. They do not over power and there is nothing sexier than when someone gets close enough to smell what you are wearing. They can never recall the name, but they never forget you.

Pierre Hardy

Pierre Hardy @ Palais Royal- One of the most sought after and influential shoe designers. He has been in business for years, but only now getting the recognition he deserves. He designs shoes for houses like Balenciaga and jewelry for Hermes. The shapes are modern and at times daring, but always intelligent. He only has the one shop here. It is black on black with the boldness of the shoes adding the splash of color. I have seen many women walk past the store, do a double take and then go in. The shoes are difficult not to notice or be noticed in.


Bacqueville @ Palais Royal- This place has always interested me. Old military service medals are beautiful and french ones are especially gorgeous. This store has some from all over the world in mint condition. The look always comes into fashion and the work that goes into these is beyond belief. Once I saw a medal done by Chanel selling in the thousands, this shop as more beautiful ones, authentic ones selling for fall less and to better effect. Even if you never wear it, you have to admit these make a very unique gift.

A L'Oriental

A L'Oriental @ Palais Royal- Not to advocate smoking, but there is nothing nicer than the smell of good pipe tobacco. It is sweet, spicy and dark. In a city of smokers, Paris is the only one which I can smell a pipe on the street. It is part of the city scent. I love it. A L'Oriental has been in business since 1818 and it looks it. The place is packed with pipes of every shape and size. You can not believe the stock they have and there must be up in the tens of thousands. They are all beautiful and better and more refined than anything you will find at your local headshop. This place is for real smokers and the pipes are heirloom quality. The shops is tiny but a wonder. It is history.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rick Owens

Rick Owens @ The Palais Royal-Rick Owens is an American designer who made his name in L.A. He was hired by a french house and established himself in Paris. His designs are what the french might call "sauvage". It is a mixture of hard and soft, raw and refined. His color palette is muted greys, beiges and blacks, but his look is strong. Washed leathers with multiple zippers. Jewelry shaped like bones, yet it is so luxurious. It might sound biker at first but no biker has ever looked this sophisticated. I was not a fan at first and admit his clothes are not really my style, but once I walked by and saw his store displaying, on a monitor, Identikit, a strange and rare 1974 film staring Elizabeth Taylor, with an appearance by Andy Warhol. Anyone willing to show that film in their store had to be working on a different level than most people. I developed a new respect from that moment on.

Maison Martin Margiela

Maison Martin Margiela- 23 Rue de Montpensier (Passage Portier) & 25 bis Rue de Montpensier. This is where people go for clothes that are interesting, cutting edge, yet familiar and comfortable. In the last post I give some information about the house and you can look at their website for more information. There is a brilliance to the seeming madness. It reminds me of the roots of modernism. Maison Martin Margiela is like the German Bauhaus movement, the African exhibition Picasso saw which changed the aspects of painting and the theories of Deconstruction all in one. It sounds lofty and pretension and perhaps it is, but the fact that no one really needs new clothes, knowing that at least someone out there is making us think about what we put on our backs is, to me, inspiring.

Palais Royal II

Palais Royal

The Palais Royal was just that...a royal palace where Louis XIV's mother, Anne of Austria lived before the young king moved into The Louvre next door. It has since become the home of the Comédie Française and office to the Cultural Minister. It is a lovely, charming and romantic place that seems to always be less on crowds and full on ambiance. It charmed American fashion designer enough to open his first Paris store there. There is a comfortable garden in the center that is formal enough to give a sense of history, yet relaxed enough to allow a person to feel it is more than okay to sit, read a book, talk with friends or just regard the ever changing sky. (The building frames the sky almost perfecting.) It was actually the first place I visited on my first trip to Paris. I had read so much about a perfumier, Salons Shiseido, which is a subsidiary of the Japanese cosmetics brand. It's founder Serge Lutens is legendary and I grew up seeing his ads for Shiseido in magazines. I saw a small photo of the store and was mesmerised by how exotic it looks. It was Etruscan, Roman, vaguely Egyptian...the colors of lavender, deep berry and shiny black, all with an iron spiral staircase in the middle. Even if I would hate the perfume, I wanted to see the store and get the full feeling. I went and was instantly transported. It was all I imagined and more. What the photo could not convey were the scents. They all had exotic names to go along with the feelings the scents evoked. One whiff and you are instantly sent off to Morocco or Tunisia. Another whiff you are sent to farthest Asia to a night blooming garden. Yet another whiff and you are in a french lavender field. At the same time the scents are not clichés. They are complex with hints of the known and the unknown. I bought a bottle instantly and have recommended Salons Shiseido to everyone I know. Walking around in my perfumed haze I fell in love with the Palais Royal. It is slightly shabby, like the best places in Paris are in my opinion. There are interesting shoppes which have been in operation for multiple generations, with items you can not find anywhere else. Where else can you buy old military medals in gorgeous condition because many have never been worn? Where can you find a store stocked to the rafters with smoking pipes of every decade since the early 1800's? Where else can you dine in a restaurant that played a pivotal role in the French Revolution? It is really these things that make Paris so special. Okay, I know that often I relay my opinions about loving the history of this city and it's places, but I am not being nostalgic, after all, I am not french and did not grow up in Paris. I know that there is history in the US in which much of the world really knows nothing about, that is just as interesting and dynamic as what you can find Paris. The circumstances are perhaps different, but it is there. Actually, what I am pointing out with my suggestions is that there is history still coexisting with today. This is a concept, unfortunately, unique to a few cities in the world now. The urge to do away with history and create something new is not necessarily a new concept, even Paris did it in the 19th century, but Paris is doing well in preserving it's history while creating modernity along with it. Parisians decorate their homes with a Napoleon III commode and will put a plastic Kartell chair next to it. History and the modern easily exist side by side. Next to the Palais Royal is Maison Martin Margiela. Martin Margiela is Belgian, but has been part of the french fashion world for decades. He has completely changed fashion and the role, and appearance, of the fashion designer. First off, he has never been photographed. He does not allow it. No one knows any real information about him. He speaks through fax or through Maison Martin Margiela representatives. It is avant-garde maybe, but totally modern. He makes the clothes speak for him. The stores are white spaces. The staff wear white lab coats and it all makes sense when you see the clothes. They look and feel familiar. The leathers feel worn. The fabrics are soft. The details change the way the wearer moves, stands feels about themselves. His fashion influence is everywhere on the streets of Paris. It is the tall boots worn with a jersey "sweatshirt" dress and a little washed leather jacket. You see these women walking, in every age group and they always look seductive. They may wear their hair up, or down, like they just got out of bed. None, or very little make-up. A confident stride. They always catch your eye. This is part of the Margiela language that allows the person to get noticed with as little as possible. This modern look is just as much Paris as the grand architecture of the 17th century and before. This duality is Paris.
I have photographed the Palais Royal many times and have visited even more. I love it's calm nature and it's quiet chic. If shopping or fashion does not really interest you, it is a great place to just go and not worry about crowds. There are some lovely, discreet restaurants and cafes where you can sit for hours sipping a single espresso. It is civilized Paris and just a few yards away from the madness that is The Louvre. Everyone I have suggested the Palais Royal to have thanked me and made it a place they often visit. It is a truly special place.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Vive La France

Vive La France!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Paris Doors


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Paris Eye


Monday, July 7, 2008



Friday, July 4, 2008

Jardin des Tuileries and Rue de Rivoli

Inside the Jardin des Tuileries are two very good, small museums and usually feature very important exhibitions. The Orangerie was once the greenhouse for the Palais du Louvre. Years later it was turned into a museum and I was told that it once house the collection which now is exhibited in the Musée d'Orsay. It still houses the enormous paintings from Monet's series of waterlilies. There are also sculptures from artists of the period, but the museum works with contemporary artists as well. For more contemporary art walk across the jardin to the Jeu de Paume. Once a kind of royal gym where they played a game similar to handball, the Jeu de Paume is now a museum devoted to art of the 20th and 21th century. I have attended a few exhibitions there and am always pleased with the interesting way they explain, exhibit and introduce the art. Also, they manage to get the best works from an artist's collection. Next to the jardin you have Rue de Rivoli. It is a long arcade filled with shops of all types, from typical tourist items to high end clothing like D&G, along with hotels and cafes. It is something of a melting pot with every tourist from around the world there and believe me it is daunting. I don't frequent it very much because it is difficult to maneuver. When I do venture there, it is usually to a handful of places I will mention in my suggestions list. Places like getting money exchanged when you need to, finding an English language newspaper or book, picking up a nice gift for someone quickly...all good information. I hope these suggestions are helpful.

01. Change and Collection- 2 Rue Rouget d'Isle -Probably the only place I trust to exchange money with. I have experienced places with lots of hidden fees and odd exchange rates. Each time I have done exchanges here, it was fair and the owner very nice.
02. WH Smith Books- Rue de Rivoli-English language bookstore that carries and very wide range of items and subjects.Like a typical American bookstore, there are hundreds of magazine from all over the world. There are the best-sellers as well as the classic novels. There are language books and guide books. You can buy greeting cards and small children's toys as well. I usually go there for the New York Times because it is always available. It is not usually a place I like to go and spend time and there is nothing special in terms of atmosphere, but if you need a quick magazine or newspaper,it's good.
03.Galignani- Rue de Rivoli-Perhaps my favorite bookstore in Paris. The books are mostly french, but there is a large selection of English language books as well. The store is well thought out and has a sleek, yet old fashioned feel, if that makes sense. There are books on various subjects, but the selection seems very edited. The store is calm and I find myself spending long periods looking at the beautiful selection. Great books on art/artists, fashion, furniture/decorating, history and biographies. There are books on literature, french and world also. The English language books take up two levels in the back and there are English speakers on staff to help. Nice selection of magazines as well. One of the only places I have found in Paris selling The New Yorker Magazine.
04.Editions de Parfums- 21 Rue du Mont Thabor-Started by Frederic Malle, these fragrances are part of a new generation of french parfums. The scents are rich and complex. When I first discovered them years ago, there was only one store and it was in Paris. I was living in Texas at the time. I found out about them online and e-mailed them for information. They sent me fragrance cards in the mail and were very helpful, through e-mails, in my selecting a suitable scent. Incredible service and kindness as well. Of course, now, you can buy them in the US at Barneys New York, but if you are close, why not go to the source.
05.Hilditch & Key- Rue de Rivoli-This is one of the classic men's clothing shops. This kind of place is a dying breed in the US, but there are still quite a few here in Paris. These are places to get suits made by hand, shirts made by hand, almost everything a man needs in his wardrobe.This store has a similar feel to Charvet, but a little more relaxed, especially in cost. It is a quiet, discreet place all the way at the end. It is the last shop on the Rue de Rivoli, just across from Place de la Concorde. Great selections of ties and cashmere, which many times are on special.