Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Other Woman for President

Nom d'une pipe! She's at it again. Va-va-va-voom French presidential candidate Cindy Lee is scouring the French countryside to try to get the required 500 mayoral signatures to secure a spot for her Parti du plaisir http://www.parti-du-plaisir.com/ on the ballot for the first round of voting in April.

With only 50 signatures so far, she has a lot of work to do. I bet there are a lot of village mayors who will be happy to curry her favor(s).

Year of the Monkey

Oh, don't be so quick to correct me. I may be jet-lagged, but, yes I KNOW that this is the Year of the Pig.

But we might just have to shuffle animals around a bit, now that I have heard this fabulous just-released song by Paris resident Rhoderic Land. It should be christened the Year of the Giant Monkey. King Kong has never been more ooh-la-la. Or more fun.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007


As much as I love Paris, it is a good thing once in a while to get out of town. "Escape the golden prison," as they say. Also a brief respite from Parisian pigeons and sidewalk doggy-do is always welcome. So this week I found myself jackknife-folded into seat 22A on Air France to Miami.

A very kind but somewhat super-sized German couple were in B and C, merrily drinking their way across the Atlantic. Although they spoke virtually no English or French, they made do quite well using grunts and sign language with the flight attendants and managed to get refill after refill of Bordeaux, cognac, pear brandy, or whatever was being offered or not at the time. Fortunately it meant that I didn't have to attempt to engage in any meaningless chit chat with them. Herr Trinker, however, did keep trying to raise the armrest so he could spread over into 22A. I smiled sweetly and motioned that I needed to have access to the entertainment buttons. Fortunately, all that liquor also made Herr und Frau quite sleepy. They nuzzled bloatedly for the remainder of the trip. Meanwhile, I guzzled Evian in a vain attempt to stave off puffy ankles and jet lag. Ha ha ha.

Ten hours and 2 liters of water later we landed in Miami International. At the luggage carousel, three massively beefy airport workers hauled the bags off the conveyor belt to make more room. After standing there together for a while, I finally decided to break the ice and chat them up a bit, in the vague hope that they might help me when my suitcase came along. "So I guess you boys don't have to head to the gym after work," I joked (or some such inane comment). The only guy who responded to me turned and said "Valisas esta aqui" or some such thing in Spanish. Foiled again.

When will I actually get to speak English in the good ole US of A?

Bienvenue en Floride

Ah, Florida.

Swaying palm trees.
Sunny skies.
Salty sand.
Tropical wildlife.

Today on my morning walk, I spied a huge flock of snowy white egrets.

They were huddled together, pecking holes in filled plastic garbage bags in the dumpster behind the CVS.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I [heart] La Poste

I love stamps. I gleefully giggle when sending letters to the US with Cezanne stamps featuring lots of nudes. So I was worried when I noticed that La Poste is sporting new signs in many locations, with its new name, "La Banque Postale". Would it mean doom to the philatelists who love adorning their envelopes with beautiful artwork? Somehow I pictured the newly formed agency declining in creative energy and resorting to using only Pitney-Bowes type stamping machines. Ugh.
But not to worry! La Poste -- er, I mean La Banque Postale -- is still a great provider of stamps and packages. Avoid lines and shop by internet.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Not a Sign of Spring, Necessarily

One little detail that most people forget to mention.
Paris window-boxes like this one are filled with flowers all year round. Yes, even in February, even when the month isn't as mild as 2007 has been.
Evidently there is never enough of a hard frost to kill off the hardier potted flowering geraniums, cyclamen, etc. And with the ambiant heat from the vast single-glazed window panes, it's a virtual greenhouse.

Ici est Tombé

Paris immeuble walls are plastered with a multitude of plaques commemorating where this illustrious author lived or that famous painter spent his final days. Living history. Fabulous.

Then there are these plaques, sober souvenirs dedicated to the mostly anonymous or unknown Resistance fighters who died for their patrie during the Liberation of Paris in August 1944. Each plaque has a little ring at the bottom. This is to hold a bouquet of flowers placed there on various State holidays in tribute to these heroes of modern France. They are honored and remembered, with flowers and a ceremony, many times in the year.

This plaque, near the Ecole Militaire, is for a man who was 40 years old when he died for his country.

Monday, February 12, 2007


I didn't think I'd ever see
A death announcement for a tree.

Lovers' Quarrel?

These two ducks in the Parc Andre Citroen are clearly not on speaking terms today.
No little nuzzles or quoin-quoins d'amour on this pond.
Perhaps one of them just finished reading Cecile Slanka's book, a potent little collection of "Dear John" letters, Comment lui dire adieu.

Signs of Spring

My morning walk led me to the magical Parc Andre Citroen. Spring is arriving.

Let's Be Franc

Torchlit anti-euro manif on Saturday. Sounds positively Hugoesque.

I'll be out of town, so will have to miss this one.

As a foreigner, watching manifs is incredible to me. I'm also fascinated by the secondary demonstration-related businesses that have emerged, from Manif-burger stands to chartered suburban transportation. All for the cause, of course.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Power of Seduction

A picture is worth a thousand.....

This one is just in time for Valentine's Day. Paris is all about l'art de seduire.

The above vitrine is at the Isabelle Marant boutique on rue Jacob.

Honestly, I keep intending to venture regularly into museums and see exhibits; but I find I'm so seduced by Parisian exteriors: playful store windows, the bas-relief of building facades, inventive scaffolding covers. Only in Paris!

This one I captured on the spur of the moment.

Don't Steal the Ashtrays

Cafe de Flore, Cafe de Flore. We just can't get enough of it. It has possibly surpassed its neighbor Les Deux Magots as the enduring Left-Bank icon of literary/philosphical cafe celebrity. But please, don't steal the ashtrays.

Anyway, there is no need to. Just around the corner from the cafe (it would be decidedly un-hip and impractical to do otherwise) there is a nifty little shop selling vintage and replica Cafe de Flore EVERYTHING, bearing the Flore logo. Ashtrays, bien sur. But smoking is sooo last year, n'est-ce pas? So how about some authentic little white cups for your cafe serre, tea pots, wine glasses, or any of dozens of other items that one might have actually used there. Plus aprons, tea cosies, dishtowels, and more and more.

Bernard Felix, the very friendly owner, explained that they ship all over the world. He also confided that Cafe de Flore has opened branches in Japan, which have met with huge success. (Hmmm, I am thinking, if an august French institution like Cafe de Flore can open succursales around the world, what's the big stink about the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi?)

Americans have discovered M. Felix's boutique and are happy customers. "Today I'm shipping a table and two chairs -- the same ones that you would sit at on the terrasse -- to a gentleman in San Francisco," he announced proudly.

Moral of the story: if you want to be sure of having a table at the bustling Cafe de Flore, maybe it's better to purchase one. Cafe de Flore -- to go!

Cafe de Flore Boutique
26, rue Saint-Benoit
75006 Paris
01 45 44 33 09

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Meet the Parisians at Work

The Paris Tourism Bureau has a cool program called "Meet the Parisians at Work" http://en.parisinfo.com/paris_sightseeing/rub7865.html that allows any Guy (or Gal) Average step in and observe -- ta-da! -- Parisians at work. A kind of homosapiens twist to ecotourism, if you know what I mean. Live! Real Parisians! Doing very Parisian jobs!

Kidding aside, it sounds like a fun way to see a bit of insider's Paris, for either the newly arrived or the jaded-seen-it-all crowd. If you’re intrigued to learn more about real Parisians whom you might not otherwise meet, and chat with them in situ about their professional life, then check out this program of visits.

Activities and professions run the gamut: from guide dog trainers to chocolatiers, bookbinders, dockmasters, Poilane bread bakery, and lots of behind-the-scenes visits, from mundane to luxurious. Most are available in English. In case a great activity catches your fancy but requires a group tour, grab a bunch or your friends and go!.

Monday, February 05, 2007

La Tour Montparnasse

It was a full moon this weekend so I really have to factor that into any feelings that I have. And on a whim, I put myself just that much farther into the moon's magnetic pull by travelling to one of the highest spots in Paris, the top of the Tour Montparnasse http://www.tourmontparnasse56.com/

I was out on my morning walk and decided to hop up -- way up -- for a view. For 9 euros, the elevator takes you from 0 to 56 floors in 30 seconds, a nice little ear-popping rate, with a video showing you your virutal view as you go. Nice touch for the claustrophobics on the lift. However, this is not a place for phobics of any sort, especially not acrophobics. A dizzying panorama of Paris at the top. Unlike the view from the Eye-full, which I don't really like (it's like trying to count the ears when you're in the middle of the cornfield. And too many tourists.) Funny, from the Montparnasse, the Eiffel looks like a tinker-toy plunked down on a game board. Or like a souvenir of itself. Beautiful but wiry and lightweight.

At the top of the Montparnasse, you feel as though you are the artist of a birds-eye lithograph of Paris, a little bit on an angle and able to see into eveyone's windows. It's infinitely better than Google earth or Pages Jaunes aerial views. You can scrutinize an area at a time, get the larger picture, and make sense of all the puzzle pieces of streets that you've been walking down lo these many months. What's more, you can practically see what Mr. Handsome is being served for lunch on his terrace at the Hotel Matignon, and admire his humongous adjoining garden, surely the largest private garden on the Left Bank.

Which brings me to the first drawback. Montparnasse is great for views of the Left Bank only. Even on a crystal-clear day, the Right Bank is just a little blur of slabs except a few stand-outs such at the Madeleine, Beaubourg, and of course, Sacre Coeur. You can only surmise where the Seine is. But for Rive Gauche accros like me, this top is top-top.

I was there on a breezy, clear Saturday morning. It would be scintillating at night, with all the lights of the city to see. It gets my vote hands down for a great cheap date spot -- perfect for leaning together and looking at all the sights.

As I climbed the three flights to the rooftop, the musak was playing Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?" Did they plan that? She is so beautiful, our Paris. The windswept terrace on the 59th floor is a spectacular. You could imagine a 21st century Doisneau couple embracing there in the middle of the helipad, with la belle Paris below as a backdrop.

But I was there solo, which brings me to the next drawback. I don't recommend going to the top of the Montparnasse toute seule. Somehow when I am savoring being a flaneur in the streets of Paris, I feel embraced by the architecure. At ground level there exists a more intimate relationship with my beloved city. Maybe this explain some but not all of these full-moon woe-is-me feelings when looking at the most specatcular bien aimee from on high. Maybe I didn't like sharing my Paris with the rest of the world. Being up there made me feel tiny and alone.

But the the best thing about being at the top of the Tour Montparnasse? As the saying goes, the good news is that when you're on top of it, you don't have to look AT it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


The new movie. Just out yesterday.

Go see it right now. If you don't speak French well enough, go see it anyway. It will inspire you to improve your French. More about that later.

Here's a trailer

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