Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Nina's Trip to Paris, continued ...

The carousel in the Jardins des Tuileries, where I sat late one afternoon sipping a café noisette.
Trip to Paris, continued ...
by Nina Griscom

This trip was for no particular reason other than to see friends,
to be in Paris, and to live life like that of a local.

That translates into simple things such as sleeping in and enjoying the sunlight in my bedroom with a cafe creme, instead of rushing out at 9 a.m. Parisians do not RUSH, though they do seem to arrive on time.

I was sitting alone in the Jardins des Tuileries late one afternoon, around 6 p.m., sipping a noisette (an espresso with milk), watching people; a favorite past time of Parisian's. Children were playing in a jungle gym, and the carousel was just beginning to crank up, reminding me of the times my baby girl played here when my parents lived in Paris. A pretty young blonde girl was taking boxing lessons, and a man was seated nearby on a prayer mat, intoning the Koran. A flock of students paraded by, followed by a few joggers.
Jardins des Tuileries in the early afternoon.
It occurred to me that each city has its own pace. New York is frenzied; The stride is full out, with a distinct sense of purpose and an air of determined destination. Whereas in Paris, the pace is softer and more leisurely.

I finished my noisette and walked home down the beautiful boulevards. Not in any rush.

A common Parisian scene: a cell phone in one hand and a butt in the other.
It seems that the Surgeon General has never visited Paris, as everyone and their mother still seems to smoke. Restaurants do not allow smoking inside, but one can still light up at sidewalk tables. And everyone does! Walking down the street, people have a cell phone in one hand and a butt in the other. God knows how anyone walks their dogs here.

It was really shitty weather for most of the days I was in Paris. 57 degrees and raining. I had dinner with a local friend who gave me great advice about getting an umbrella if you need one.

He told me to go to the American Church at the Quai D'Orsay and tell the priest that you had left your umbrella there. When asked what color it was, you should reply that it was black. This answer will result in a selection of 40 lovely umbrellas. It might be nice if you make a donation to the church!

I know that you want some restaurant tips that only locals go to. So here goes:

For amazing Thai food go to Spice and Wine at 142 Avenue du Maine (01 43 20 61 27), in the 14th arrondissement, which is a bit far off from the center of town but well worth the trip.

• Call ahead to be sure they have the crevisses blues
• Order the Petale de Rose 2011 wine, a lovely fresh rose
• You will never see tourists nor Americans here
• Inexpensive, and excellent cuisine in a simple setting
Food on a plate from Spice and Wine restaurant.
One of my favorite local bistros in Paris is l'Entredgen, located at 83, rue Laugier in the 17th arrondissement, 01 40 54 97 24 (closed Sunday and Monday).

This is a quintessential neighborhood bistro, where I had the best Grand Marnier soufflé of my LIFE! I also had an amazing roast pork dish. Still tasting it. Try the Brandade (cod) fritters. The lighting sucks, but the service is knowledgeable and friendly. You must reserve and be on time.

An amazing roast pork dish and the best Grand Marnier soufflé of my LIFE! at l'Entredgen.
Don't be put off by the lack of décor. The food is superb and you will love this place.

For the BEST tea sandwiches in the world outside of William Poll in New York, run to Cavette at the Place de Trocadero; a great rendition of the original WASP tea sandwich, with all the edges cut off. I raced to Cavette before catching my flight to New York, and snatched up several of their chicken and salmon tea sandwiches; the perfect pre-flight meal.

They have indoor and outdoor seating as well as take out. Only true Parisians know about this little gem.

If it is sweets that you are craving, then the insider's Patisserie is La Patisserie des Reves, headed by master Patissier Phillipe Conticini.

Part mad scientist's laboratory, part child's dream, this establishment is the Parisian go to place for the local Paris-Brest confection which sent me into a sugar high that I have still not recovered from. You must RUN to buy one of these!!!

If there is a child involved, you will have leverage over them for a long time to come with the mere mention of this place.
La Patisserie des Reves.
The famous Paris-Brest pastry at La Patisserie des Reves.
More confections from La Patisserie des Reves.
One formerly classic sight in Paris has gone missing in recent times: that of a slightly moth eaten dog sitting in the front seat of a taxi next to its master, often sporting a ratty bandana around its neck.

A whimsical exterior at Moulie at the Place de Palais Bourbon.
I asked a taxi driver why there were no more canine companions along for the ride, and he muttered something about passengers bitching about the hair and taxis being smaller nowadays. I kind of miss the old curs.

I speak conversant French, without an American accent, and still taxi drivers persist in pretending I have butchered the pronunciation; a perverse delight on their part. So enunciate!

The latest Parisian street scam involves a brass wedding band. While you are walking down the street, a man will pretend to find a thick gold ring on the pavement right in front of you, and will pick it up and act as though you have just dropped it and he is returning it to you. At first you are confused and though you know it's not yours, your instinct is to engage with the man. Bad idea.

He will then try to sell it to you with the sad tale that he needs the money to feed his child. I fell for it 6 weeks ago, and gave him 20 Euros. I can't believe what I fool I am at this advanced age. It happened again this past trip, and I brushed the guy off. So beware of men bearing brass rings.

I saw a page in a current fashion magazine of a model wearing a very similar ring on a thin long gold chain. Hmmmmm. Scam fashion?

Speaking of fashion, the 4 ubiquitous pieces seen everywhere were: a cropped black leather jacket (most of them were classic biker jackets), ballet flats, matchstick jeans, and all manner of sneakers. The French love hightops!
Hightops from the Michel Perry store at the Place de Palais de Bourbon.
Locals don't get too dressed up in Paris, but they are very well put together and accessorized. Grooming is big. I popped into the hair salon Dessange, near to the rue Cambon and the rue St. Honore for a quick "Shampooing et Brushing" (shampoo and blow dry) and they told me that if the rain destroyed my hair, to come back the next day, and they would fluff it up it for free. Pretty nice!

I didn't do too much shopping during this trip, but I do have a few places to tell you about that are a bit off the radar.

Caroline de Marchi has wonderful unusual bags that you will not find elsewhere. Depending on the season, they are made of eel skin, canvas, hemp, leather, and are embellished with fun design elements. The shapes are somewhat classic, but they are distinct. 217 rue St Honore, 33 6 12 30 15 77 (closed on Sat and Sun).
Caroline de Marchi's bags.
For Hermès-inspired bags, go to Reynard at 3 Place de Palais Bourbon on the left bank (closed Saturday and Sunday). Impeccable craftsmanship, and I believe that the family formerly worked in the atelier of Hermès. There is a nice café next door for lunch, and the greatest florist in Paris, Moulie, is across the square.

Kirat Young at Costes Hotel during our lunch together.
Brand Bazaar is the best store to buy all brands of jeans. All the hip young French girls shop here. It's located on the rue de Sevres, across from the Bon Marche department store, which is a MUST stop for any woman looking for high-end fashion brands. The selection is incredible.

Sandro, a chain of stores scattered all over Paris is where I bought a great black leather bikers jacket for 465 Euros. Great quality and a classic design. Though they have come to the US, they are worth visiting, particularly if you have a daughter.

I went to visit my wonderful friend Kirat Young, the former fashion model, and social fixture who knows everyone in town. She sells (by appointment only) the most exquisite jewelry and pashminas. If you want to see her, email me through my blog and I will connect you to her. You can pick up a pair of earrings for $500 or $5,000. Up to your budget.

A different sort of shopping involves the Puces, the famous flea market in Saint-Ouen, 15 minutes by car or taxi from the center of Paris. Sundays are the day to go. Don't get too squirrely and go early. It really doesn't get going until 11 a.m. or so.
A selection of Kirat's jewelry.
A stall at Marche Serpette at the Puces.
The new hot place for lunch is Ma Cocotte, designed by Phillipe Starck, and is located within the gates of my two favorite markets: Serpette and Biron. It is wildly popular, so either dine at 12:30 or later, around 2:30, after doing the rounds of all the wonderful stalls in the market. Try to snag a table outdoors on the terrace. Avoid the other restaurants at the Puces. You will only find greasy duck. Sadly, Le Soleil, the other great restaurant in the Puces has recently closed.
Ma Cocotte at the Puces.
I am always sad when I leave this charmed city, but 4 or 5 days does a lot to restore my mojo. I called Uber to go to the airport, and I was not thrilled when I got a text telling me that my ride had been cancelled and that a new driver was soon going to be dispatched, leaving me in a tight spot, time wise.

A friend told me to check out the Le Cab app, which is meant to be great for getting you to the airport.

I did make it to the terminal on time, thanks to a friend who called her car service. Once there, I bought the two discs I had heard playing during my visit: Carla Bruni's new one where she has a very funny track about President Hollande called "The Penguin," and another CD by a Brazilian artist, Eliane Elias, called "Light My Fire." Very sexy.

A great gift to bring home to a friend from the Duty free shop is a bottle of Poire or Framboise made by Brana, the only brand that is composed of pure elements opposed to chemical flavors. Try it.

I landed in New York, excited to see my family, but already pissed off when I saw the mile long line for taxis. The harbinger of things to come in this city of my birth.
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