photo by me
turkey sandwich from Breakfast In America
photo by me
turkey sandwich from Breakfast In America
The weather in Paris for the past week has been cold but full of sunshine and has given me false hope that warmer spring weather is just around the corner.(EDIT: As I post this, we just got over a few days of snowy, freezing weather and are now experiencing yet another rise in temperature.. 61 and sunny this Tuesday! ) It will probably be some time before I can leave the house wearing a single or even double layer of clothing but that hasn’t stopped me from trying to profit from the absence of gray skies that has plagued Paris everyday since the beginning of winter. I am almost positive I’ve developed some sort of allergy to my wool scarf.
The seasons have always had a rather measurable affect on my mood. And it’s sad to admit that living in Paris has done little to free me from this this tendency. I can’t even remember a time before this week when I didn’t wake up and bury myself deeper into the covers at the thought of leaving my apartment. I would of course to go to class and go to lunch, but the fact that I’ve watched five seasons of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, 3 seasons of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and 4 seasons of the Real Housewives of New York City since I’ve been back from Christmas vacation speaks for itself.
I definitely felt and still do feel guilty thinking of all those hours I could have been out and exploring but all I can promise myself now is that I spend every agreeable weathered day from now until the end of May walking aimlessly, walking to explore walking to take photos and walking to lunch spots.
My newly discovered favorite is a cafe on Ile St. Louis. It faces the Notre Dame, close enough to the Pont(bridge) St. Louis to enjoy the music of what is the Parisian version of troubadours as they play their accordions or celli, busy with tourists and natives walking about but it still maintains a certain calmness that you can’t find sitting at the terrasse of one of the famous cafes on st Germain.
You’re welcome to stay as long as you want and if you orderes one of the overpriced veverages (a cappuccino will run you 5€70 or $7.40!!) you really should stay there for an hour or two. Before the sunlight reached our tables and tanned our faces we were kept warm by the overhead heaters- a staple of almost all parisian cafes. And if that’s not enough you could always grab one if the fleece blankets offered by the cafe, which is cute concept but just about as appealing as wearing a sweater that 100 strangers have worn before you and has never been washed.
The day before Valentine’s day I celebrated my 21st birthday in Paris. During the week I had been searching for a French restaurant that offered great quality food but wasn’t incredibly expensive. I found two restaurants in Paris that looked very promising menu wise, but were both unfortunately no gos- one restaurant had thoughtfully closed during Valentines day week for renovations and the other restaurant’s days of ouverture conflicted with when I would want to have my birthday dinner- Wednesday night.
The night before my brithday I had finally found the perfect dining location: Cafe Constant. This restaurant is one component of the trifecta owned by Chef Christian Constant located in the 7th and a five minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. The menu was full of French-inspired innovated dishes and it would actually be open on Wednesday. When I arrived there that night I found that Cafe Constant was closed for renovations!
Luckily the night was not spoiled. My dinner companion and I wasted little time finding a substitute: Les Cocottes– the second of Chonstant’s restaurants on Rue Saint Dominique whose price range falls right in between Cafe Constant and his 3rd and most ritzy restaurant Le Vilolon d’Ingres.
One thing that I spend little time worrying about when living in New York is the opening and closing hours of stores. While chain stores are virtually always open, even smaller shops are usually open 7, maybe 6 days a week, and if so the day of rest for businesses is usually on Sunday. In Paris, the ‘day of rest’ can equally affect business Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Wednesdays. Good luck trying to find a lunch spot that’s open after 2 :30 and before 6 :30pm in case you’re in need of a late lunch- that’s when the workers are taking their break and preparing for dinner. In additional to that there are always fermeteures exceptionelles that you won’t know about until you arrive at the store front.
Moral of the story. If you’re in Paris and plan to go to a specific museum restaurant or store Always have a plan b
After spending two and a half weeks in NYC for Christmas vacation and another 2 weeks in Paris pre-Spring semester, this Monday marked la rentrée: the commencement of school in France.
Flying back into Paris in 2013 and settling in again in my room and old routines reminded me of how different this period will be compared to Fall Semester. Being in New York reenergized me and made me approach my experience in Paris differently. I’m not in need of an adjustment period, other than the first few days spent to get over le décalage horaire. And instead of conforming to every social expectation and custom that is typified as the French way to do things, I will be less apologetic about doing the things that I enjoy though not considered ‘normale’.
I’ve been somewhat disappointed with the way Parisiennes dress. I appreciate that the Parisian uniform dictates a clean, well-fitted style and that, contrary to the overwhelming abundance of borough folk I saw in NYC, no one is wearing pajama pants, sportswear, or carpenter jeans. I’m conscious of respecting people’s style even if I don’t agree with it or find it boring (the more I disagree with your outfit, the more diversity there is!) but the fact that there is such a limited variety in what Parisiennes wear is a bit frustrating knowing that this city is supposed to be one of the fashion capitals. There’s little room for daily creativity or innovation when you’re in a society, especially as a foreigner, where people generally feel it’s their duty to correct you if your appearance or behavior is ‘abnormal’.
The main categories of style as worn by women in Paris seem to be of three camps:
A: The young Parisienne rebels with blank, unsmiling faces
B: The young to middle aged ‘professional’ women usually toting a novel, a shopping bag from Le Bon Marché or a child while coming home on the metro.
and the most daring of them all!
C: The 60+ ladies who will not be slaves to your fashion humdrum!
Camp A: They shop at Zadig et Voltaire, Sandro, H&M and Zara. They wear the same exact styles, in approved colors (black, brown, gray, olive or eggplant), and can’t say no to apparel that is studded. They own a pair of black motorcycle boots with studs, sneaker wedges, skinny jeans and cotton fingerless gloves so their hands are always free to text or light up a cigarette. Leather jackets or large fur coats are what she prefers to complement her chunky infinity scarf. And she usually sports long, wavy hair and black eyeliner. She loves a good leather bag with some studs or zippers or the infamous Vanessa Bruno bag with all those sparkles. She broke curfew once two years ago and since that night she has been using fashion as her way to rebel.
Camp B: She’s a newly graduated woman searching for work or a middle aged professional who keeps Americans begging the question ‘How can I attain that classic, Parisian je ne sais quoi?’ The answer does not lie within Chanel number five or grandmother’s Hermes vintage scarf (although it could), but Repetto ballet flats or heels no taller than 2 inches (I can attest that footwear higher than 2 inches will cause too much of a rio), opaque tights paired with a pencil skirt, and poncho-styled wool coat. She generally abides to the neutral-colors-and-black-only rule but may surprise you with a flash of blue, red or pink with her cashmere scarf. Her bag of choice comes from Tod’s, Lancel, Hexagona, Longchamp or Chanel. Makeup is minimal and confidence is foremost; never look up from your phone or book while on the metro unless you want to surrender your expression of indifference.
Camp C: My favorite group of Parisian woman who inspire me and make me feel like maybe it’s okay to stand out. While not all older woman dress super stylishly, most of the time the most daring outfit and the boldest of colors are worn by a woman above the age of sixty. While modest in her choice of skirt lengths and necklines, she is the true rebel when it comes form deviating from fashion norms by wearing prints, colors and flashy accessories. She has the advantage of a stockpile of clothing from different eras including at least 3 different designer bags from each decade and no one can critique her look. She’s got moxie and she doesn’t think twice about smiling in public. She prefers her hair in a bun and who knows she may even be in your ballet class. (Yes, really!)
This was all in good fun and I hope this doesn’t come off as offensive to anyone! I don’t think that I dress so incredibly different from the rest of the crowd, but I was definitely more concerned about fitting in with the Parisiennes during the fall than I am now. I have always been one to take some risks even if they were huge mistakes and I am here in Paris to continue said lifestyle.
Maybe I am not really going to be Stacey: La Parisienne and more like Stacey: Hey, I once lived in Paris, can you tell?
Last month, when the temperature in Paris began its descent below 50 degrees, I saw the first appearance of “fondu” for dinner. Since then, I’ve had it just once more as, according to my host mother, one should really only eat this dish once a month lest your arteries clog and you can’t fit into your Moncler winter coat.
Raclette is a traditional Swiss/French regional dish, and also the name of the cheese that can be used. Legend has it that it’s high-caloric value would keep you warm, which is necessary in the French Alps from where this dish originated. In other words, from a nutritional perspective, if you don’t live in the mountains you really have no business eating this. But from a culinary and hedonistic point of view, why the heck not.
The dish I had started with with Mont d’Or (advertised as “the authentic cheese of the mountain”) that comes wrapped in a “belt of bark” and will go into the oven to be melted. The melted cheese will be spooned over a sliced open baked potato, accompanied by some charcuterie (sliced meat) and maybe some small pickles on the side.
If it sounds familiar that’s because it bears close ressemblance to its unrefined American cousin the bacon and cheese potato chez Wendy’s. Of course, every ingredient that composes the traditional Raclette is superior in quality than those found at in a fast food joint, but that still didn’t stop me from thinking I had definitely eaten this “dish” a few times before, despite a different presentation (a steaming potato cradled in a styrofoam and plastic container, inside a brown paper bag and handed to me from a drive-thru window.)
I was also a bit surprised to hear that a dish I had been eager to eat and as well as recreate, boeuf bourguignon, did not live up to my expectations. Maybe if I tried it in a top notch restaurant or cooked it following Julia Child’s recipe down to every last detail, including boiling bacon, I would find that I actually love it. I had no idea until recently that this dish was made with “noix [de joue] de boeuf” (as in the cheek of the cow). After my initially incredulousness, I didn’t even mind that the meat came from such an unlikely source. My problem was that this cut of beef closely resembles a slice of marble cake in which the meat and fat alternate to create a maze, making it difficult to cut, consume and enjoy.
I also had a fig and foie gras macaron yesterday from Pierre Herme. It’s only out for the holiday season, and not a complete waste of money if you want to try a unique combination flavors.
I have been thinking about different European cities I could visit ever since I found out that I would be in Paris to study for the year. I did minimal research, but I managed to decide I would like to visit London, Berlin, Venice or Rome, Prague if I got the chance and maybe travel to Nice for a weekend. Basically everyone I spoke to who has been to Europe says traveling is a must and that there’s no better time to do than in my twenties while I’m living in Europe anyway.
Sometime in October I began looking up the cost of tickets and hotels for a multi-European city tour for December’s holiday vacation. After adding up all the costs, I figured just staying in one city for the entire break wouldn’t be a bad idea and would actually maybe give me the exact time I needed to get to know the city well.. As it would have turned out, I would have spent Christmas alone in Berlin, which at first didn’t bother me as i thought of how I could make myself my own little Christmas dinner and walk around the city at night. But then I began to really think about it and the idea became depressing. Suddenly, returning to NYC to spend my vacation with my family looked incredibly appealing.
After deciding it was not only the most feasible option but one that I was happy with, I booked my ticket home. The following week everyone in our program was discussing their holiday travel plans and I couldn’t help but feel ashamed that I was now one of those girls who returned to the U.S. for holiday and wasn’t going to take advantage of the fact that she was in close proximity to Italy, Belgium, Spain and Germany. I also felt that my early and unexpected return to NYC would cheapen all of my goodbyes with my family and friends. I imagined them rolling their eyes at the news and thinking I only deserved a goodbye half as heartfelt in August, if only they had known I was coming home a mere 4 months later.
Then I reminded myself of all the things I get to do while in the U.S., with my family. I know that I haven’t spent Christmas in any other city but New York (so I’m not only biased as a New Yorker but ignorant), but for me there is no better place to spend Christmas.
I heard of how beautiful Berlin, Vienna and Prague can be during this time of the year, especially with their Christmas markets, so I understand their appeal and why they are considered the best cities where one can pass the holidays. But my ideal Christmas isn’t spent exhausted from traveling or alone in a foreign city, no matter how charming or how much more it can enrich my experience abroad.
I will eventually do some more traveling while I’m in Europe, but for now I am full of anticipation to visit Alice’s Teacup with a friend for tea and scones, go to Wild Ginger in Brooklyn for some vegan food, to bake certain cookies and cakes that call for American ingredients, or just walk from Madison Avenue to Bryant Park, passing the display at Bloomingdales, Saks, the tree at Rockefeller Center and carrying my ice skates to spend hours at Citi Pond.
I also can’t wait to go home so I can pack up and bring to Paris my UGGs; a pair of boots I never thought I would need or feel comfortable enough to wear in Paris. On the contrary, it seems like not only are they quite popular here but they’re necessary even indoors where, even with 4 pairs of socks on, my feet are constantly gelé.
Today for lunch I ventured up to Montmartre to try something new. I paced back and forth in front of the display of sandwiches and pastries for ten minutes before choosing.
No, that’s not a burnt bun but a Squid ink bun with smoked salmon and ham. You can find this and other buns & baguettes composed of unique ingredients chez Gontran Cherrier.
The verdict: Tasty and unique, although nothing outrageous. But for 5,95€ I expected it to be more filling than it was.
After lunch I went over to Tuileries to wait in line for a table at La Maison Angelina for a cup chocolat chaud à l’ancienne.
The verdict: The hot chocolate was definitely chocolatey and good quality, but I personally found it so sweet and rich, rendering it undrinkable. I might not even mind drinking a thimble of the mixture if just for the experience of it all I wasn’t paying 7,50€ (the smaller of the two carafes serves one person or 2 cups of the hot chocolate). It was a special experience to be invited in to this restaurant, with it’s early 20th century styled decor and glowing holiday lights. However, if I ever manage to crave hot chocolate before May, I’ll be heading over to my “regular spot” on Rue de l’Ecole Medecine for a small cup of bitter hot chocolat.