Thursday, October 30, 2008

Autumn in...Paris

I was walking in the park the other day. The light was gorgeous and with the last of the autumn leaves still around, the colors seemed heightened. At times the light was like something out of a John Constable painting. There was a storm on it's way, so soft white clouds would sometimes give way to charcoal grey ones. I managed to get some lovely shots in, which I am still going through. I will post more soon.
By the way, thanks Alain for the most wonderful gift.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

French Graffiti II

I am usually not an advocate of graffiti and for the most part, I think France should have stricter laws against this act of vandalism. You can see graffiti as far as the is truly unbelievable. But, in this case, because much of Paris' graffiti is of an old-school nature, I have something of a soft spot for it. Maybe it appeals to my inner break dancer, or that rogue tagger I so wanted to be when I was younger. Most likely now, it is the color that interests me. There are some streets near where I live that have some glorious graffiti, like what I am showing here. This is beyond the gang scribble we have grown accustomed to. This is "Beat Street" and "Breakin"! This is alive and vibrant. I also like the areas where posts have been torn away, leaving great colors. I got a few of those shots as well. I began this blog with sepia toned photos because that is what I usually work in. In time I have gone into color, but the color has to pop. Color has to say something for me to use it on the blog. It is nice to use the color photos now and then just to give a jolt. I think these fit the bill. Now, somebody give me a can of spray paint...I saw some bare wall in Belleville.

Paris Skylight

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Au Boeuf Couronné

I eat out often. I can not remember the last time I cooked a proper meal since living in Paris. This may sound almost extraordinary for those who have known me for years. I was taught to cook at a young age. The women I grew up around thought it essential for a man to know how to cook. In childhood, I was placed on a chair, or stool, in many kitchens and taught simple things like making toast, frying an egg, boiling water or cooking oatmeal. I was taught how to make a sandwich. Later I was taught to make a cake, by following a recipe (or the instructions on a box), anyway... you get the idea. I prepared my own food for years, that is if I wanted to eat. As an adult, I finessed my cooking skills but somewhere along the way recently, I have lost touch with the kitchen. I live with a wonderful cook and so this makes it easier for me not to. When I am not being cooked for, we eat out. Sure, if you live in Paris, why eat at home. Yes, there are millions of restaurants. Anyone with one square foot of space will open it as a restaurant. For the most part, all Paris restaurants have good, or at least more than adequate food. All have some kind of atmosphere, usually favorable, and depending on your expectations offer a great variety of specialties. So far, I have probably eaten in every arrondisement in Paris. That said, there are some favorites I visit again and again. One of those is Au Boeuf Couronné. It is in the 19th arr. It is on Avenue Jean Jaurès and near the Porte de Pantin. This is old-school Paris. It is bright and sleek, but in a way a well preserved classic American restaurant from the 50's is. It is the kind of place you imagine going to on the most special of occasions, like a job promotion or to announce to your friends you are getting married. But, it is not the kind of place you would pop the question to your intended. The service is as crisp as the table linens and the food is the epitome of tradition. This is not nouvelle cuisine and there is no fusion in sight. It is a place for grown-ups. This is one of the first restaurants I had dinner in once deciding to stay in Paris, so it a special place for me. An entrecote with frites and a good red wine hits the spot every time. There is an older gentleman server there who is my favorite in all of Paris. He is consistent, never up nor down, he has the answers to your questions and he never hovers. He should train servers from Paris to New York because there needs to be more like him.

Everyone connects with food in some way or another. I love good food. I usually like to keep food simple, but from time to time, I enjoy some experimentation and artful finesse. I can remember every meal I have had at Au Boeuf Couronné and with whom I have had them with. I feel comfortable there. It is not like they call me by name or anything when I enter, but when a place offers you good food, good service and good memories, it is best to hold onto it.

Au Boeuf Couronné
188 Ave. Jean Jaurès
75019 Paris
01 42 39 44 44

Monday, October 20, 2008


I know this blog is The Paris Eye, but this photo was taken on a recent trip to New York. I like the way the photo turned out and at this moment, when much of the world seems to be watching the United States, I thought I would post a reminder of something incredibly beautiful there.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

French Graffiti

Monday, October 13, 2008

Woody Allen

I have to say that seeing a Woody Allen film in France is an experience in itself. First off, I had to stand in line for the film. I can not remember the last time I stood in line for a Woody Allen film in the US. The film in question is, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and though this is not a film review, I will go as far to say that I liked it quite a lot, as apparently many Frenchmen. It is interesting that Woody Allen is almost worshiped in France, as is David Lynch. I once saw David Lynch's named used in graffiti in Paris. How is that?! The french really value American greats, those with a particular vision and unique outlook on life. Over the summer there was a Woody Allen film festival along the lines of what was shown in Stardust Memories (perhaps his funniest film ever). After watching Vicky Christina Barcelona with friends, we talked about it while walking, discussing the meaning of moments, or laughing at remembered absurdities. When on form, nothing makes me laugh more than Woody Allen or Peter Sellers, but besides the laughs, there are the after thoughts. The genius of each of these guys is that they make you think. You have to consider what you have just seen ( the performance) and what it all means in the end. Thank god there is Woody Allen around since we no monger have Peter Sellers. In my french class we were asked what characteristic do we value in a person and when a classmate responded humor, I instantly agreed. When the chips are down we want to laugh and right now, globally, the chips are way laugh in the face of these trying times is sexy, amusing, liberating and triumphant. So, laugh, laugh and laugh again. It helps in the end. As we spiral into oblivion, it is nice to feel good along the way.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Les Zygomates Restaurant

At the suggestion of friends, we had dinner at a restaurant not far from Nation. The restaurant itself is somewhat lost in time, which is a good thing. Dining rooms are separated by large, wood trimmed, windows of glass with etched hunting scenes. The decor is dark and cozy, much in the traditional Parisian style. Now the food...well Zagat has mentioned them, so there is not much more for me to say except my dish was excellent. I had wild rabbit, which I had never tasted before. It was succulent and with a game taste that was not too strong. The salad of calamari I had before was nicely prepared as well. The service was great and not oppressive and the price reasonable. Definitely a place I will visit again.

Les Zygomates Restaurant
7 Rue de Capri
01 40 19 93 04
Metro: Daumesnil
(closed Sunday and Monday)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Au Vieux Comptoir

I had dinner with friends at Au Vieux Comptoir tonight. It was my first time eating there, it is near the center of Paris, but feels authentic. The food was very good. The service was friendly and jovial. Large selection of wine and a staff willing to try English (I spied an English dictionary by the register), but don't fear francophobes, the menu is easy enough to understand.

Au Vieux Comptoir-17 Rue des Lavandiéres Sainte Opportune
Metro: Chatelet Tel: 01 45 08 53 08

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Exchanging Bon Mots and the On Going Perpetual Myths About The Ugly American and The French Snob.

Recently I began taking french classes again. It is always interesting to see who my classmates will be. This is my second semester and as with the last, my class is very international. Where as last semester was heavily represented by Japan and Vietnam, this class is by and large American. I am talking about 50%. This is incredible to me for a couple of reasons, one being the US dollar being so low and I have been told that Americans just aren't traveling abroad so much, and two, that young Americans feel the desire to study the french language. I say the last one rather cheekily because of the odd opinion the French have about Americans. Since living here, I have come under the strong impression that the French think Americans hate them. They think Americans make fun of them (well, they do, but Americans make fun of everyone), they feel that Americans are angry at them about the Iraq War (I am not getting political here...just stating), they fear the power that America has (perhaps they want some for themselves in Europe...again, not getting political), but in the end, I really hope the French understand these notions are not true. Americans get a great sense of pride when understanding french, even when speaking it badly. Americans still seek out french wines. Americans still get crushes on french actresses. If Americans only have two cents to rub together, if they are going anywhere in Europe it is to Paris.

I was chatting with a classmate the other day, a rather articulate young woman from Nebraska. She told me about how much she was enjoying her time in Paris. It was an adjustment for her since she is from a small town, so not only is she dealing with issues of being in a big city, but she is dealing with a big city in another country, different language and culture. In talking with her, I could see her excitement and enthusiasm for this new experience. She and apparently other young American women are staying on the Ile St. Louis in a house. The whole thing sounds ideal...a bit like some Whit Stillman movie where the women pair off with various French men, but in the end go back to their American boyfriends and Upper East side apartments. I have been reminded of a time when all rational and serious minded young students wanted to learn something in Paris. Classic American literature is filled with such ideas, but through all the rhetoric and hysteria of the last few years, it has been easy to forget that Americans love to explore the world in a fundamental way. Not so much conquerors, as now believed, but as observers. Americans do not typically believe the world is theirs, but feel that they are a part of it, so why not see it. In my classes, I have heard so many explanations to why a student to studying french in Paris. In most cases, it seems to have job related connections, or the even random decisions like simply spinning a globe and pointing in a direction. When asking Americans, they all say it is something they have dreamt of doing. They believe Paris is beautiful. They love the sound of the french language. They wanted the experience and challenge of a European culture, but not the comfort of everyone speaking English, as in Scandinavia. Americans come here for reasons of pleasure. I wish the french would understand this, embrace it and stop eating the negativity fed to them by media, political propaganda and old fashioned inferiority complexes. This is to the betterment of the US and France.

I am encouraged by seeing the success of exhibitions of American artists in France. American photography is strong in France, with many major museums mounting exhibitions on American masters. I mentioned Jeff Koons in an earlier post and how much attention his exhibition at Versailles has garnered. I see people reading American authors on the metro. I hear American music played in apartments and on car stereos. Still I fear that it is not happening fast on the other end. While the french seemed almost more versed in American culture, than Americans, french culture is all but deserted America. When I was a teenager, my friends and I could not wait till the next French film came out. We knew many of the classic french singers, all of us adoring Serge Gainsbourg. We would save money for french magazines and splurged on french champagne (before carding became so strict). The only thing missing with many of the young American students now, is that they have no ideas about french culture. I don't blame them. I noticed a change in my late 20's and early 30's when video rental died out. It was no longer easy to browse the international section at a video chain and be stopped by a provocative image of Isabelle Adjani, or Isabelle Huppert. As more money was being placed on sure bets, the international section as cd stores whittled down to nothing. French magazines became scarce and French champagne became ultra expensive. Young Americans don't have the cultural experience I had in regard to France. I hope this will change over the next few years, but I am not sure how.

For my part and this little blog, to whom it might concern, I will do my part. I am not only here to give suggestions on how to make the most of your stay in Paris, but I also want to share cultural information. I hope to put an end to blank stares when someone mentions Jacques Brel or Christophe Honoré. Every young American has sneaked a peek at books by the Marquis de Sade, but not Georges Bataille or Michel Foucault. If true culture exchange is to take place, then we need to exchange cultures. I believe it is the only way to combat the continued ignorance between the countries. Dear French person stop thinking America hates you. Stop seeking every opportunity to find fault with what to wrong with the US. If I see french news repeat the same Internet videos of Americans behaving stupidly, I will go back to eating Freedom Fries. It really is a discredit to news coverage in France. On the other side, dear American, once you get here, go out. See Paris. Read about Paris and places to see and things to do. Yes, see the Louvre, but also eat Chinese food in Belleville. Walk the city, get lost and once you hit the Périphérique, turn the other way. Paris is small. Before coming here, seek out a french cd, even if it is an old one. Go on Netflix and choose a couple of french films, old and new. Get an English translation of a french classic. Get french magazines because they are cheaper here. Drink champagne, because yes, it is all french (it's a national trademark). As I always say, make the most of this experience. The exchange starts with you.

This blog post is dedicated to the hard working and extremely patient french teachers of french language schools all over France. Bon Courage.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


These are just a few pics, but there is nothing in these to do the slightest justice to the incredible gardens at Versailles. My plan is to be a large scale photo project on the gardens. These are just quick snaps.