Thursday, January 31, 2008

Real Estate in Paris

While working on a longer piece about Paris real estate, I had a flashback to one of my favorite views of a typical immeuble parisien. I first saw it when studying Balzac in college. It is by Bertall, in Le Diable à Paris, 1845. Intended as a comic cut-away view of life inside a Parisian house, it shows many stories in each storey. Look at the concierge and cook on the rez-de-chaussée. The luxurious life of the bourgeois couple on the 1er étage. Each room is a marvel to analyze. Follow up the stairs.

Finally, in the chambres de bonne on the top floor: bohemian artists cavorting; the umbrella; the weeping mother.

Of course, this is a pre Haussmannian building. Haussmann built seven-storey buildings, usually with balconies on the 2e and 5e etages.

Still an element or two in this illustration that many Paris residents might identify with today, I warrant.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Business Franglais

I found this website of a Le Dialector, small business-related Franglais dictionary, kind of a mini French Urban Dictionary. Like the Urban Dictionary, you can contribute; in this case it's any great business-based Franglais you hear.

Such as,"J'ai trop faim; je vais faire un peu de datamining dans le frigo."

I've sent the link to so many friends that I've forgotten the path that led me here. Thanks, whoever it was!

I Heart Picard

Like many people, I have become a huge fan of Picard. Picard, the "surgelé king" of France, where you can get deep-frozen comestibles, from foie gras to haricots verts to ... well, you name it, just about everything except lettuce for your midday or evening meal. If Picard gave frequent buyer rewards, I'd be one rich lady.

But I have to admit that I was too intimidated to enter Picard for the first six months that I lived in Paris. I didn't grasp what it was when I passed by, assuming that it was a laboratory or maybe an appliance store. I had no idea that it held in its deep frozen storage lockers the secrets to easy, tasty dinners for one, two, or even 16. From the sidewalk, it has a fluorescent, chemistry-lab look that, as a newbie in Paris, I didn't associate with yummy microwaveable gourmet dining. It was simply a clean, well-lighted place.

I have no fear of frozen food -- heck, I was raised on it -- but in recent years in the US, I associated quality frozen food with the folksy, organic charm of Trader Joe's: employees in Hawaiian-print shirts, jovial atmosphere, wood paneling. And a great produce section as well.

Having passed by many Picard storefronts since my arrival here, I was flabbergasted to learn, eventually, that Picard was the secret source of many a good dinner party in Paris. Sssh. Don't tell. Most hostesses, unless they are really close friends, won't tell you that dinner came from Picard. Many friends say that their purist spouses will not allow Picard in the house. But they sneak Picard int o the kitchen from time to time, and hide the emptied boxes deep in the recycle bin.

But the thought that I've been ruminating about for some time is: why, in a country where enticing store displays are otherwise de rigueur, does Picard have such an austere, almost sterile look? The best I can figure out -- and I'd love feedback on this -- is that French tradition has for a long time distrusted frozen food. Certainly, there is nothing that can compare to the fresh produce, meats, cheese, and fish at the outdoor marchés. It whets the appetite just to stroll down the stalls at any of the open-air markets anywhere in France.

So perhaps Picard, from what I can see, has taken the marketing angle of emphasizing what they do best -- FREEZING. The notion of respecting the maintenance of sub-zero temperatures (respecter la chaine du froid) is the mantra of Picard. They sell insulated bags to make sure the products arrive home properly frozen.

I always feel that I'm being a lazybones, cheating in a way, in my all-too-quick-n'easy dinners. Ah, but I can justify my way out of a paper bag (or an insulated one). I tell myself that if I were really cheating, I'd use their handy home delivery service.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Weird Blogger Issue

I just wanted to alert anyone who has a Blogger account that they may be receiving apparently non-official blogger alerts like this. I almost clicked on their link when I got this email, but then realized that they had sent this to the wrong email address.
I forwarded this to Blogger, but who knows how long it will take for them to sort through the emails.
The subject line says "Blogger error, please read."
Caveat bloggor.

How Fuite it Is

As I was watching Claire Chazal, a popular news presenter on TF1, I thought, Damn, she looks pretty good, and she's about my age. I remembered having read in Paris Match or Gala last summer an interview with her in which she divulged her beauty regime for keeping her youthful good looks. I recalled something like a cold shower and 200 abdominal crunches every day.

Inspired, I started Googling like crazy to see if I could find the Magic of Claire. She's French, fiftyish, gorgeous, articulate, successful: what's not to imitate?

Well, I never found the Secrets, but I found another secret. La Sante au Feminin. Mostly a women's health web site, it has one rather insistent icon to click on: la fuite urinaire.

God, I just love the French language. It's so poetic. Une fuite urinaire. Sounds like a lilting piano melody, when it actually means -- yes -- incontinence. French is just sublime! Instead of a weak bladder, you have une faiblesse urinaire. Sounds like a Perrault fairy tale. Instead of Depends, there is a lovely line of products called Tena. That sounds like a garden party, not a diaper.

Think about it. Wouldn't you rather say "Oops, I've got a little fuite urinaire. Anyone have a spare Tena?"

But here's the amazing thing I found. One method of treatment for incontinence and other gynecological muscle problems: a little device called KEAT© (pronounced kay-ot). There is a video tutorial you can watch. And all you wise guys can stop cracking jokes right this minute that this looks like a vibrating thingy. It's way too small for that. It is for rééducation périnéale à domicile.

You gotta just adore French. A most mellifluous and charming language. There's no question that it's so much more elegant to say "I'm doing some rééducation périnéale à domicile" than "I gotta go home and do my kegel exercises."

But I still couldn't find Claire Chazal's French beauty secrets. Maybe this is one of them.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Casting Call

It takes me at least three days to plow through the entire weekend edition of Le Figaro. So much to savor and digest, from political and economic news in the main sections to gossip and fashion tidbits in Madame Figaro. And it's like the tip of an iceberg: the more I learn about French current events and the key players, the more I realize that I'll forever be hopeless at knowing it all.

But I persevere. Today I decided to look at the TV Magazine supplement. In a small blurb called "Casting" was the following announcement for a popular Oprah-style show

"Are you about to get married but you've only known each other a few weeks?
Have you been together for a short time and are already expecting a baby?
Toute une histoire, on France 2, is asking about commitment."

Hmm. Something vaguely rings a bell. Sounds like a couple I've heard a lot about recently...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Gimme One Eiffel Tower, To Go

Fans of Sex and the City who crave the ultimate Paris bling-bling need look no further.

The company that created Sarah Jessica Parker's Eiffel Tower handbag for the opening scenes of the upcoming movie is now taking orders for the precious tote.

Cost: $375 for the plain-vanilla version; a walloping eight times that amount if you simply must have the model that's encrusted with a gazillion Swarovski crystals.

I think I'll just get a movie ticket this spring.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Anyone who wants the thrill of scuffling around the house in the slippers of a former French President should head directly to famed auction house Hotel Drouot this week.

On Tuesday, January 29 at 2:30 pm Drouot will be auctioning the clothing and personal effects of late French President François Mittérand. Shoes, slippers, hats, watches, business suits -- all are up for grabs, at a price. Also to be included are gifts that Mittérand received as head of state, such as sets of porcelain, a souvenir from Castro, a crocodile bag or two.

As much as the items might be of interest to curiosity-seekers, the crowd in attendance could be an equally fascinating star-studded group of mittérandistes, history buffs, and more.

The sale is expected to fetch between 60,000 and 90,000 euros. Proceeds will go to the Fondation France Libertés. Auction preview is Monday from 10 am to 6 pm.

Address: Espace Tajan, Hotel Drouot, 9 rue Drouot in the 9e arrondissement.

Friday, January 25, 2008

No Comment(s)

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. But this is sooner.

After a busy day out and about in lovely Paree, I arrived home to find the following anonymous comment on my blog, in reference to My Kingdom for a Torch:

About Hubert, it's not about being well-educated or democratic, but respect and sensitivity to another's culture. Your giggling was ignorant and rude. Maybe it's time for some sensitivity training , or at least some behavior changes. Or maybe more doors closing! It's time for me to stop reading your blog.

Gee, I just love it when people have the courage of their convictions. Perhaps someone needs to learn a bit more blog etiquette.

So, three weeks after I bravely (for me) started having comments on my blog, I am unfortunately going to stop allowing anonymous comments. Don't worry, you can still use an alias. I'm not moderating comments -- yet.

Anyway, adieu, dear Anonymous, merci for your view. We would say we'll miss you -- if we knew who you were!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reserve Your Table Now

By 2010-- just two years away -- melomanes seeking a place to dine after an evening of Verdi or Puccini at the Opera Garnier won't have to dodge a single raindrop.

According to Le Figaro, plans are underway to install a luxury 200-seat, 4000 s.f. restaurant inside the fabled opera house, under the rotunda on the east side of the building.

Opera officials are currently reviewing proposals by a number of hopeful restaurateurs, and are expected to announce the name of the lucky winning bid in mid-February. Construction should begin in June.

(I guess that means No More Rice Krispies for lunch.)

Just thinking about possible names for the new restaurant gives me goosebumps.

Airing My Clean Laundry

One of the first domestic challenges most Americans encounter when moving to France is learning how to dry clothes without a clothes-dryer. When I first arrived in Paris, I had a lot to learn. Once I figured out how to make the washing machine work, I had to untangle the collapsible clothes drying rack, and assemble it. The first few times I had it sideways. Next challenge: inventing the most efficient way of draping damp clothes across so they would actually dry in less than 24 hours. That was a particularly steep little learning curve. But now, armed with various clever drying racks and helpful tricks from French friends, why, gee-- I whistle zippedy-doo-dah all day on laundry days.

I am actually quite partial to air-drying of clothes. In the States, like most red-blooded Americans I was slavish to my drying machine; but I hated going to its dungeon in the cold, murky basement, and avoided it at all costs. Thus I usually ended up re-drying the same load of wadded, crumpled laundry three and four times in a week, just to remove the now-permanent wrinkles. Talk about wasted energy consumption! But when I'm back in the States now, I can't bring myself to put clothes in the dryer, except for emergencies and fluffy towels.

In Paris, drying the clothes means that they are in your face -- no out-of-sight-out-of-mind excuses. On laundry days in my apartment, clothes are everywhere: doorknobs, radiators, shower curtain rod, flung over doors or on various racks. I certainly straighten up before company arrives (oops -- forgot that pair on the window knob once!).

There are so many ways to dry clothes in the air, even without a clothes line or rack. A friend who lives in a farmhouse in the south of France dries her sheets by unfurling them on the lawn. The stiff grass is not short, so dirt never touches them; they dry in a jiffy in the sun, and -- voilà! It took me a while to adjust my sensibilities to that notion; I had believed that laundry couldn't touch the ground or even the floor, or else it was unclean and needed to be re-washed. But I get it now. Sheets drying on the grass? Cool. I guess I'm a reformed woman.

But in Paris, where apparently it's illegal to hang laundry outdoors, there are myriad indoor sechoirs à linge to choose from. So, in honor of air-drying clothes, and encouraged by Blue Vicar, I present a photo gallery of apartment contraptions for laundry day. An over-the door rack from IKEA, a charming Italian wooden lingerie dryer from Habitat, an over-the radiator rack from the local droguerie, and others available from Herby.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Full Moon in Paris

As I turned out the lights at bedtime last night, I realized there was a full moon. The beams shone directly onto the tiles of my kitchen floor. My amateur photography skills don't do it justice. It looked as if it were from my favorite childhood book, Goodnight Moon.
Goodnight stars, and goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.

It also reminded me of the daytime version, last fall.

When You Gotta Go...

When you're out and about in Paris and you need to "use the facilities," it's not always easy to find the nearest public loo.

Blessed relief is here! Now, no need to cross your legs in agony any more-- there is a website dedicated to listing all the public restrooms in France, Switzerland and Belgium. Geopipi gives all the details, from cleanliness to price, to handicap accessibility.

Fabulous, especially for anyone with a BlackBerry. Fortunately, Geopipi will soon be available on GPS.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Raindrops Fallin' on My Head

Heading to the FNAC on rue de Rennes today, I stroll down rue du Cherche Midi. A gorgeous January day: the sky is cerulean blue, and puffs of white clouds lazily glide overhead.

I turn the corner on the tiny rue Blaise Desgoffe. It's raining -- a real downpour.

A quick glance upwards. Am I dreaming? No, the sun is still shining brilliantly.

Approaching the bend in the narrow street, I spot three 25-foot-tall telescoping sprinklers showering the building and the street in front. Inside Le Palace café, there are bright lights. A film crew! Fat rubber hoses run down the street from the corner, to supply the water for the rainmakers.

Ah, Paris, so photogenic. It seems there is always a movie being filmed in any given arrondissement. Now at least I know how the special effects guys create those rainy-day-outside-the-café mood scenes. Should have brought my umbrella.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Kingdom for a Torch

On January 21, 1793, at 10:22 a.m., Louis XVI, King of France, was guillotined at age 38. The execution took place on the Place de la Revolution, what is now known as Place de la Concorde.

Tonight, a group of a hundred or so French citizens and a handful of curious foreigners assembled in front of the steps of the Madeleine, just a block away from place de la Concorde, for the torchlit procession to pay homage to the deceased -- martyred -- king. There were all ages, from a young Scout to a white-bearded man in a beret. The crowds had gathered, and the organizers distributed candles and torches among the group. When queried about his reason for attending, one elegantly dressed man simply replied matter-of-factly, "Je suis monarchiste. Je suis Orleaniste." Someone offered me a torch to carry for the procession, but since I couldn't stay for the whole event, I had to decline.

My ability to explain French political history is woefully inadequate, so I'll leave it up to you to read all the links. My interest in participating in this event was to try to absorb the social and cultural significance of such a gathering, from my all-too-American perspective.

For those who are dedicated Royalists, on Monday there is a commemorative annual Mass for Louis XVI at the Eglise St. Germain l'Auxerrois (which, by the way, is not in St. Germain, but is just to the east of the Louvre). A solemn religious event where I would feel awkward as a curious onlooker.

Here's why: the naive prelude to tonight's story.

A year ago I dated Hubert, a most charming, witty, handsome, and very aristocratic Frenchman. My moving-to-Paris dream come true! After our first date, things were looking pretty promising. Actually, very promising indeed. We had such fun strolling along the Invalides, then relaxing and and discussing everything under the sun, from literature to education to America to why we love Paris so much, and how it looks like the backdrop to a movie. I was smitten, swooning.

After many sweet phone calls in the interim, Date Two finally rolled around. Hubert and I were delighted to see each other, and all was going well. Somewhere in mid-date he mentioned to me that the next day he was attending a church Mass in honor of the death of Louis XVI.

I giggled innocently, endearingly.

Wrong move. I'm sorry, I didn't really mean to. Hubert looked startled, and just politely restrained enough not to show being really vexed.

"Non, non," I tried to weasel out of my reaction. I wasn't making fun of it; how could I explain this to him? . "C'est charmant. Mignon. C'est adorable."

Wrong, wrong, wrong words to choose. I was trying to express to him... what? That I thought the notion of praying for a king who's been gone for over two centuries was a wonderful, old-fashioned thing to do. Like nothing I'd ever imagined, or heard of before. Sweet and different from my viewpoint. Alas, no amount of back-pedaling was going to get me out of this mess, for sure. It's just that as an American, no matter how well-educated we are, to us -- emotionally and spiritually -- kings and queens are on a par with fairy tales. We're breast-fed on democracy. I mean, think about it: in the US, to commemorate our dead presidents we have car sales in February. I couldn't explain this to Hubert.

How do you combine perplexed and vexed -- verplexed? Whatever the verb is, he was that.

We had a sweet enough remainder of the evening, dining and strolling around our beloved 7e arrondissement. As we parted at my apartment building entrance, he gave little cheek bisous and said, "A très bientôt. On s'appellera."

On s'appellera is the kiss of death, relationship-wise, in France. I haven't heard from Hubert since, though I held a torch for him for a long while. Sniff.

Oh well, I guess I can still carry a torch -- for Louis XVI. Next year.

Paris at Dawn

Up early this morning, so while the rest of Paris slept, I explored.

It is still dark at around 7:30. The police guards behind the Hotel Matignon are conversing animatedly in the dark; usually they stand there stone-faced and silent. Rue du Bac is quiet and clean. The sidewalk cleaners have already made their rounds.

Crossing the Pont Royal, I notice this administration building of the Louvre. What were those two circles of light coming from the attic windows? Does someone live up there?
Normally when I think of the expanse of courtyard at the Louvre, I envision lines of tourists snaking around the entrance, hundreds of others posing for snapshots in front of the Pyramide. It is refreshing to have a pure, uncluttered glimpse. It looks like a giant ice sculpture.

The stillness of the Palais Royal echoes softly. Only a few morning joggers break the silence.

Time to check my future in the crystal ball. (Okay, it's chrome.)Crystal ball tells me that I definitely require more café au lait; time to start heading home. No cafés open on the Place Colette.
A few more early birds have arrived at the Louvre.
The Café Marly is ready for its first customers. Almost.

The Ile de la Cité looks like an oil painting. Paris is waking up.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Chalk it up to Experience

I don't know about you, but I'm just a teensy bit afraid of plumbing.

In the States, whenever the floater thing in the john went haywire, I knew how to do little band-aid fixes. Jiggle the handle, attach loose parts with wire: it never lasted long, though, and eventually I had to call in the authorities. Men always used guy-terms around plumbing, mostly to scare the women away, I think. Gasket, trap, flapper valve, trip lever, pipe plug. And phrases like "Your female threading is worn down," or "I think you need a new ballcock." Excuse me?

In Paris, plumbing takes on a whole new meaning. Forget the terminology for now. There's a beast lurking in the plumbing, and it's called calcaire. The water in France is very lime-y. Early on here I heard dire warnings of the need to put anti-calcaire tablets in the dishwasher, the washing machine, yadda yadda. I complied. Ever obedient, I pour special rock salt into a compartment of my dishwasher every few months, and I don't know why. I am among the truly intimidated.

French television commercials feature concerned (but secretly thrilled) plumbers removing chalk-caked, unrecognizable elements of various cleaning machines, the anxious female homeowner looking aghast. Invariably she has her head in her hands, wishing she'd remembered to use XYZ anti-calcaire product. "Don't let this happen to you!" is the message. Honestly -- it's scary.

When I moved into my apartment, a shifty plumber came to fix my water heater (which also heats the radiators). Once again, dire warnings -- this time about cleaning my pipes and faucets on a regular basis.

"Oh it's simple enough, madame, he said. Once a month you soak them in white vinegar, and it will clear out the calcaire."

So wait a minute. You mean to say that someone like me who is challenged enough just remembering to pay her bills on a monthly basis is supposed to remember to go around the the various mesh-screened spouts in the apartment and soak them in vinegar for half an hour -- every month?? I think not. And even if I did figure out how to remove the mesh screens, what about all that evil calcaire clogging my pipes? I can't exactly flush them with a white-vinegar enema. I thus imagine my pipes slowly getting hardening of the arteries with scale build-up, and eventually the water flow will slow to a trickle, then a drip, then... oh no!

So I've been pretty much ignoring that creepy guy's edict and somehow doing just fine. I simply can't believe that each citizen of the entire population of Paris spends six waking hours per year soaking their plumbing parts in vinegar. There is too much else to do in this burg.

But this week I started noticing that my shower nozzle was weakly spewing little arcs of water off to the side, and precious little water was dousing me where it needed to go. It was clogged with calcaire! Finally, last night I braved the plumbing frontier, and actually unscrewed the shower head. I soaked it in an anti-calcaire solution, brushed off all the little white pieces of chalk, and screwed it back in.

And I lived to tell the tale.

Juliette Binoche Makes News

Did posing for Playboy help Juliette Binoche land her new gig with Lancome?

Last night I read in a French fashion mag that Juliette Binoche had appeared nude in Playboy's November issue.

I couldn't believe it. It seemed so out of character. (And why hadn't I already heard about it? That was over two months ago.) Then I found out it was for French Playboy.

So who knew there was a French edition of Playboy? It seems almost de trop to have a steamy naked-babes mag in a country where nudity is not merely accepted, but considered one of the highest forms of beauty. In France, all you have to do to see beautiful nude women is to skim the pages of Elle or any women's magazine.

Be that as it may, French Playboy does indeed exist, and the new editor-in-chief, Yan Céh (quite a feast for the eyes himself), is setting about to reposition the magazine. His goal is to change the naughty-no-no-Hustler aspect of French Playboy, and take it back to its roots: a magazine with excellent photography, beautiful women, good fiction, intelligent reporting and the latest cultural trends. It seems as though the print version is in fact taking on a new look and content.

(Note to Yan: the Hooters-style website needs a little mise à jour, if you're really trying to change the image of Playboy France. Just my humble opinion.)

Here's what the 43-year-old Binoche said about posing for Playboy :

"I was persuaded by a new, young editorial team who want to change Playboy, as one wants to change the world, by speaking of the body in a different way, giving it back its soul. We have a tendency to separate the body from the spirit, separate the body from its emotions. We put pleasure elsewhere. In a way, posing nude for Playboy was a militant act. And also, it was a way of thumbing my nose at the fear of "what-will-everyone-say"; I wanted to have the courage to present my body as it is."

So is it any wonder, looking so gorgeous in photos, having more starring movie roles, that Binoche was tapped this week to be Ambassador for Lancôme's "Rénergie," a line of anti-aging products. Far from being an embarrassment to the international cosmetics giant, the Binoche feature in Playboy apparently was more of an affirmation, a credit to her elegant beauty and her convictions.

According to Lancôme, Juliette Binoche personifies French femininity. “It is an immense pleasure for us to welcome Juliette Binoche back to Lancôme. Her career choices, her natural and moving beauty, her independent spirit and generosity epitomize the values essential to our brand,” said Lancôme International President Odile Roujol.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sounds All-White to Me

Les Excellents Cinemas de Paris has a few places left for C'est la saison du blanc, its novel white-themed day for hungry cinephiles this Saturday, January 19. A clever way to experience these exceptional movie houses in a different light.

Here's the plan:

10 am. Meet at the Rex for a welcome brunch and a screening of No Country for Old Men, with Tommy Lee Jones.

1 pm Lunch at L'Arlequin. Menu is all-white. It will be followed by some short films and a few surprises.

4:30 pm "Gouter" at Le Balzac, catered by famous Angelina chocolatier, and feast on... Mont-Blanc, of course! Next comes a mini-recital with a few operetta airs by mezzo-soprano Xenia Fenice Ambrosio. It will be followed by a screening of -- oh, you guessed already! -- White Christmas. Yes, Bing and Danny.

8 pm Because the day's dining and entertainment will have merely whetted your appetite for more cuisine and cinema, the evening will conclude with an all-white meal at the Club de l'Etoile. A few excerpts from the film Chacun son Cinema, and then a pre-screening of Promets-moi, by Emir Kusturica, due out in theaters on January 30.

Cost for an entire day of movies, meals and fun: 65 € per person.
Dress code: White (of course!)
Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Rex or the Balzac

For more information: 01 43 59 05 00

American Idol

I've often heralded on these pages that Lafayette is in vogue. But now Lafayette is in Vogue. The January issue.

The Hermès scarf was too good for the editors to pass up, I guess.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Aunt Polly

It's such fun to appear to travel in the fast lane -- writing about living the woo-hoo single-again femme-fatale life in Paris. So glamorous, so wow-wish-I-could-do-that. I do try to keep up appearances.

Then. I've been "outed," in a way, as being an "Aunt Polly." AUNT Polly! Sounds like I should be flipping griddlecakes in my gingham apron. Serving up steaming wedges of flaky-fresh blueberry pie à la mode. Yikes. So un-Parisienne! But nepotism being what it is, I proudly salute Molly-Vous Français and her charming consort Monsieur Beiderbecke Affair, and have added them to my links. Molly-Vous isn't a mere niece; she was my first shot at substitute parenting before I married and became a mother myself.

I craved motherhood in my twenties, and so offered to babysit and take her for wacky jaunts into town. Of course, I would have done so under any circumstances, such a charming toddler was she. At age three Molly-Vous scooted around Boston with me, proudly mugging for photo-booth photos with her new deely-boppers, much to her delight and to her grandmother's dismay. She bravely took field trips at an early age in my extremely rusted and unsafe, but much beloved and way-cool antique 1961 Mercedes (the first car I ever owned) when she was a wee lass in the 1980s. She didn't snitch and tell her mom that the seat belts didn't function.

Molly is now about the same age I was when I took her on those first field trips. But that's as far as the auntly influence goes. She is far a better writer than I. Check out her blog, All School Chorus, and I'm sure you'll agree. It offers much literary promise, as does the well-established Beiderbecke Affair.

I, the Unemployed Ancient One, have more free time to ramble on, unedited, in my posts. They, the Writing-Degree-Bearing/Worker-Bee Bloggers, put me to shame.

But fambly is fambly.

If You Can't get to France...

You can still go to Paris:

My apologies to those who couldn't get the USGS link. Un mystère!

Jazz in Paris

The Swan Bar! If you like jazz, and you're in Paris, here's where to be Wednesday night, starting at 7:30 pm. No cover.

Miz Polly's Random Links du Jour Numero Trois

Uh-oh. Couldn't sleep. Too sleep-deprived to write. Here's the result.

If you can't get to France this year, you can still go to Paris.
I forgot to ask Pere Noel for this at Christmas. I can dream, can't I?

Teen alert! This is a good reason to study French in high school, and to do your homework. Just one of many good reasons, of course. More details here. Deadline is February 1, so dépèche-toi! Facebook can wait.

For aspiring francophiles, this is a good list to study for starters. Not complete by any means. What, no Bruni? Bonnefoy? Tin-Tin? Quasimodo?

Certain Paris watering holes. If you want to take the plunge.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Le Petit Prince

Hundreds of posts I have written. Scores of explanations and references about a lifetime of becoming a francophile. And all the while, a young fellow sat politely in the corner of my cerebellum, waiting for me to mention him: Le Petit Prince.I found a website which has the entire English version, illustrations and all, online for everyone to read and enjoy. But s'il vous plaît, if you don't already own this St. Exupéry classic, please also go to your local bookstore and buy a copy to keep, always. And don't believe the silly warning about its not being for grown-ups.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Miz Polly's Random Links du Jour Redux

So much to write about, so little time. Instead, a few more links...

If a Paris crepe stand isn't within reach, here's a DIY version. Child's play, except for weighing the flour.

Need new wheels? This costs only $12,000 and doesn't take up much parking space. Quick, put your order in now. Chic!

A new blogger on the scene. French. Female. Used to live at Hotel Matignon.

Rising and falling popularity of French politicians, at the beginning of the New Year. I'm still learning all their names.

When in doubt, don't throw it out! Recycle your Christmas tree at a nearby Parisian park, to make mulch for the trees. One more week left. What, your tree is still up?

Nothing French about this one. I wish this had been around during my college days, when Pac-Man was the only video entertainment when ... oh never mind.

Now I can go get some real work done.

Miz Polly's Random Links du Jour

If I were an artist in New York City, I'd sure apply for this six-month stay in Paris. Such a deal!

Parisian Remi Gaillard is not only handsome, and sportif, but funny as hell. Le Grand Journal dubbed him "le Roi du Gag." Whew, that means we don't have to pretend to worship Jerry Lewis any more.

Moleskine City Noteboooks are simply the best. You read and write in your own print version. Yours truly contributes to their online Paris site occasionally.

Paris is so telegenic. Movies galore being filmed here, including a new film about Paris, to be released in February. Star-studded French cast. Just don't try to find it by Googling the title.

I kind of figured that someone would dream up a way to get around the new no-smoking law.

Paris has some Noisy neighbors. Big Noisy, King Noisy, and Dry Noisy. Nwah-zee. They are actually rather quiet.

Where to find your triple-grande-no-foam-non-fat-latte in Paris, if you can't bear a day without. Twenty-five and counting intra-muros. Haven't been there yet.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Marche aux Puces at Vanves

Another Saturday morning outing to the Marché aux Puces de Vanves. I wasn't looking for anything in particular. Just wanted to soak up the atmosphere and spirit, and have a little feast for the eyes.

In some ways it's like an outdoor party, and all the hosts want to sell or tell about their wares. Joie de vivre runs down the lanes. The regular poker-playing guys, halfway down on the right, were having so much fun that I wanted to join them at their table. But, ahem, I don't think ladies were invited to the game. Up at the corner there was a man playing an old miniature or toy piano, non-stop. He was quite talented; his playing added the perfect festive air.

But the Marché is also like a free outdoor museum, exhibiting antique objets ranging from a huge tableaux from the 1930s, fetching thousands of euros, to thousands of simple button cards for a euro apiece. But in this museum, you're allowed to touch the displays. The vendors are the curators, and provide even more answers than you've asked for.

Each display is a story in itself.

The fellow selling this silver gave me a short lesson in the history of silver in France. "Tout ça, c'est de l'argent massif," he said. It's all quoined silver, not sterling. There's very little pure antique silver left for sale in France, he explained: it was all melted and sold to pay for various wars.

I flashed back to a familiar Balzac scene, when le Père Goriot melts his heirloom argenterie so he can slip extra money to his married spendthrift daughters. Love and war: there goes the family silver.

But I like the way you can see the bright blue sky in the reflection of this silver dish. It was a surprisingly crisp, cold day; though most browsers gravitated toward the stalls in the sunnier areas, even there the cold was still bone-chilling.

I asked a nearby vendor about a stack of a dozen Luneville plates that match some I already own. He was willing to sell them on a piece-by-piece basis, 10€ each. "Je vais réfléchir, merci," I said to him. I'll think about it. "Thinking is always a good thing," he replied with a smile, and went back to his reading.
Further down, two marchands were joking around with each other. "You're asking how much for that table, mon vieux? One thousand? You must be talking in francs!"
A lot of French people my age and older still re-calculate all sums into French francs.

Maybe what draws me so much to Vanves is how it pulls the past into the present. Here, history here isn't in a book, or a distant object on a dusty shelf or behind a glass display case; it's everday history brought out into the bright, cold sunlight, for observation and inspection.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tooting that Horn

Ladies and gentlemen, the envelope, please...

And the ClustrMaps User of the Month is... Polly-Vous Francais!

Well, I'm one of three. I don't know how many customers, i.e. blogger accounts, they have, but they've "served up" over 2 billion maps to date. I'm honored. Aw, shucks.

I guess it means that I get to foot the bill for the champagne.

Most blogs have some sort of stat-tracking mechanism, and I do love the visual aspect of ClustrMaps. To me, mere numbers are so abstract. Seeing all those red dots on the world map is kind of a WOW moment.

My ClustrMap "widget" has moved to the very bottom of my blog page, with the all-new page layout. But, attention-needy that I am, it's one of the first bits I click on every morning when I turn on my computer. Oh, vanity.

I've run across a few funny comments about ClustrMaps and geography. I used my ClustrMap for my Happy New Year Card. I expressed absolute awe the first time I got the ClustrMaps feedback last spring.

So, thank you ClustrMaps Team -- and a special merci to CJ, whoever you are!

Next Stop: Love?

The RATP has done it again this year, with a charming and witty form of expressing "Meilleurs Voeux," its annual New Year's greeting.

click on map to enlarge
This year they have created a fictitious map of the Paris métro, and replaced the regular names of the stops with names of elements of happiness and prosperity. Some of the new names are love, laughs, winning ticket, joy, energy, flirts, sharing, and surprises.

Time to hop on the metro, I guess, and see where it takes me!
But, as ever, "Attention à la marche en descendant du train."

I presume that the creative team at the RATP was inspired by Mademoiselle de Scudéry's "Carte du Tendre" from the 17th century.

Merci à Bonheur Occidentale pour l'inspiration.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tom Hanks in Paris

Okay, Paris denizens, keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for Tom Hanks, who will be in town to promote his new film, Charlie Wilson's War (La Guerre selon Charlie Wilson), which opens on January 16.

No news on how he's arriving from today's gig in London, but Monsieur Tum Onx will be appearing on the popular show Le Grand Journal on Canal + Friday evening.

Not that there is ever a shortage of celebs in town.
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