Friday, November 26, 2010

The Future of La Samaritaine

photo via Wikipedia
More updates on Paris real estate news.

Famed Paris department store La Samaritaine is now 100% owned by luxury goods conglomerate  LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy), which this week bought out the 40.1% ownership that had been retained by the Fondation Cognacq-Jay, according to an article in Le Nouvel Observateur. So that last speed-bump in the path of its renovation is out of the way, and plans will move forward.

I wrote earlier that the beloved department store was shuttered abruptly about five years ago by LVMH.  The website and signs on the building's exterior enigmatically announce "Department store closed due to works for the purpose of security."   It has been sitting vacant since 2005 (always a disappointing surprise to past travellers to Paris who haven't been in the city recently).  The building apparently will be transformed into a mixed-use complex: a luxury hotel filling out the historic facade with the fabulous view of the Seine, retail space on rue de Rivoli, offices and mixed-income housing, and a day-care center (“une crèche”). The renovations will be designed by the Japanese architectural firm Sanaa.

Shovels will go in the ground in late 2011, with a planned opening of the newly configurated spaces at the end of 2013.

I understand now how the building will be re-purposed-- but will the department store as an entity be resurrected?

Monday, November 22, 2010

There Goes the Neighborhood

I used to have a love/hate relationship with fashion shopping my Paris neighborhood.  I loved it of course because Le Bon Marché was there, but more importantly because there were two tres tres cool designer discount shops nestled in among some of the more mémé (matronly) shops.  One, Le Mouton à Cinq Pattes on rue St. Placide, was so incredibly inexpensive that I bought (among many other items) a Jean-Paul Gaultier blouse that didn't fit "but might someday," so I simply had to take it home.

Enter the "hate" part.  The thing hung in my closet, tags on, until I packed it up and took it with me to the States, and sold it at a US consignment shop for way more than I had paid for it.  "Hate" because I couldn't go into the shop without parting with my dwindling savings, which had been budgeted in les dollars.  Yes, it was that wonderful.

Moreover, there was La Piscine on rue de Sevres, incredible discount designer clothing and shoes in an old indoor hotel pool (drained of water, but with sand and fake palm trees, fabulous mosaic of tiny original turquoise tiles, and, well, just so cool and so very French.) Rows and rows of marques degriffees arranged by color.  A few white wicker folding screens that served as dressing rooms. I dropped some major euros at La Piscine, but it was a key spot in helping me shed my New England wardrobe for a more Parisienne look.  I'm just a girl who can't say no... to a fashion bargain. 

Finally, in an extreme fiscal move, I forbade myself from entering either beloved shop.  It simply was too much of a hit on my wallet, you know, "saving" all that money on bargains.  But when I walked down rue de Sevres, I would often gaze longingly at the entrances, imagining the enticing discounts beckoning me from within.

Then, one day I walked by La Piscine , and *poof* -- it had disappeared.  Boarded up,  just like that. La Mosaique next door had its windows soaped over.  I mourned, I asked the nearby shopkeepers, but no one seemed to know the fate of the store.  I imagined with horror that some luxe developer was going to turn it into a luxe spa. The sign on the door invited customers to visit another "La Piscine" location.  But I knew that wherever the location was, it didn't have a swimming pool and palm trees. I wanted my bargain-basement-swimming-pool in my neighborhood, even if I wasn't buying!

Now.  Guess what? The La Piscine space on rue de Sevres has just been resurrected, but don't go looking for bargains.  It is none other than the brand-new chic left-bank flagship store for Hermès. 

I love Hermès.  The rive droite side of me loves Hermès, but it seems that there is less and less of a distinction between the right and left banks these days.  Hmm -- the 7e and 8e arrondissements are becoming the 7.5e arrondissement??

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Coca Light

Here: a can of Diet Coke snatched from the fridge at the local convenience store or kebab take-out spot. 

Paris: a Coca Light savored at at the Nemrod on rue du Cherche Midi.  Not just oceans apart, worlds apart. Light years.  Universes.

 A cube or two of ice, a wedge of lemon, a long spoon.  Not to mention a completely different recipe for the beverage itself.  Not to mention the setting, people watching, and scanning le Pariscope for movies.

Oh yeah, not to mention price.

Worth it.  Every sip.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Who put the 'cozy' in Sarkozy?

France24 is a great news source for just about everything having to do with France, or world news from a French perspective.  Frankly, since I'm not in Paris I'm somewhat rabid about keeping up with French news, cruising the French dailies' websites, trying to keep au courant

Yet I fail.  Why, you ask?  Well, partially because when I start watching half-hour panel discussions such as last week's France 24 roundtable with top Anglophone journalists in Paris, I get... distracted.

I know, I know.  I should be following the substance of the discussion, and ... yet... in the mean time I am swept away by one persistent thought:  Why does Alison Smale of the IHT refer to the president as sar-koh-ZEE while Mark Deen of Bloomberg refers to him as sar-KOH-zee?  Didn't they referee the Proper Presidential Pronunciation before going on air? 

And secretly, I am delighted.  I love pronunciation battles, and this one is ripe.

On the one hand, of course, in French no syllables are accented.  So officially it's pronounced sar-koh-zee, equal emphasis on all syllables; but in reality it ends up sounding a bit more like sar-koh-ZEE. Americans, on the other hand,  need to find a syllable to stress in English, and somehow in popular US media, it's most often pronounced à l'américaine, sar-KOH-zee.

I still recall the mild sting of being reprimanded by my dear late friend Polly Platt for saying 'sar-KOH-zee' in mid-sentence.  "But, Polly," I pleaded, "I'm speaking in English right now.  When I'm talking in English, for example, I don't say 'Paree,' I say 'Pariss.' So in English I should say 'sar-KOH-zee,' as Americans do."

She didn't buy that defense, and told me it sounded ill-informed.  Since I deeply admired her, in all subsequent conversations with Polly I was on my sar-koh-ZEE best.

But otherwise, I was cozy with sar-KOH-zee.

Then. The ultimate revelation: French newscasters pronounce our president's name oh-ba-MAH when discoursing in French.

But of course they should.

You say 'to-MAY-toh.'  I say 'to-MAH-to.'

Let's not call the whole thing off.
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