The Café Marly at the Louvre

Here’s a fabulous place to have breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, champagne, cocktails, whatever:  it’s open 7 days a week from 8 am to 2 am, it’s stunning, reasonably priced, and it overlooks the courtyard of the Louvre.  Both Parisians and tourists come here, so it’s a nice mix.   Classy, or as the French say, “La classe !”

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More budget hotels in France

For those of you travelling to the French Riviera, Brittany or Normandy, here are some lovely offerings culled from The Guardian newspaper in London:

The Côte d’Azur’s top 10 beach hotels and B&Bs on a budget:

Brittany’s top 10 beach hotels and places to stay on a budget:

Normandy’s top 10 beach hotels and places to stay on a budget:

Cycling holidays in France:

12 Parisian hotels with character:

Paris – random photos

Hello blog readers,

Here are a few pics taken last Sunday afternoon during a ramble around central Paris.  I must admit I’m pretty lucky to be able to jump on the metro and in 10 minutes find myself standing in front of the magnificent Louvre museum.  Another thing I like about this city is its compact size.  You can cover a lot of ground, on foot, in just half a day.

It was a gorgeous, breezy day and as I look at these pictures, I must confess:  Paris is one beautiful city!

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YSL Touche Éclat


Here’s a marvellous discovery I made while wandering the aisles and perfume counters of Au Printemps department store on the boulevard Haussmann in central Paris. Accosted by a ravishing sales rep promoting Yves Saint Laurent products, I was asked if I’d like to try the new Touche Éclat – they were offering a 20% discount.  I said “sure.” Or rather, “bien sûr !”

I wasn’t really in the market for foundation because I was quite happy with my Diorskin Nude.  However, after the sales rep had finished with my face, I walked away with a new bottle of Touche Éclat creamy foundation at 44 euros ($59CAD/$58US/£37GPB) minus the discount and I haven’t touched the Diorskin since. It appears that a lot of women worldwide – and some men, too – are raving about this product. Yes, it’s more expensive than other foundations, but I’d say it’s worth the investment.  

So what makes this French product stand out from the crowd?  Firstly, it goes without saying that Yves Saint Laurent is a valued and luxurious cosmetic brand. Secondly, as you apply the foundation to your skin you notice it has a lovely delicate scent which is a pleasant thing to acknowledge as you stand bleary-eyed in front of the bathroom mirror early in the morning. Thirdly, it blends easily into the skin with an almost-moisturizing texture because it’s gel and not water-based like other foundations. Fourthly, it has a super-lightweight consistency (what YSL calls “weightless”) which is great for summer and it has a built-in sunscreen of SPF 20.

Oh, and did I mention it comes in 22 different shades segmented into three complexion groups of pinks, yellows and beiges?

This is an illuminating foundation which means it’s light reflective, hence the name éclat which means Radiant. Bright. Luminosity.

What’s really special about this product, as if the above features aren’t enough, is that it’s a long-awaited follow-up to – and has the same properties of – the iconic Touche éclat stick which came out in the 1980s and caused a sensation among makeup artists and models.  A lot of people, however, don’t know how to properly use this stick.  I’ve had several over the decades and was initially baffled by it.  The stick is called a complexion highlighter and claims to illuminate your skin and make dark circles, lines and signs of fatigue disappear with a few strategic strokes.  It is also light reflective.  All this interested me because I’ve had dark circles under my eyes since I was 6; as a result, I think I’ve tried every concealer and highlighter on the market.

Here’s a video of a French makeup artist (looking quite pleased with himself) using the two above products on a model who looks like she’s walked straight out of The Stepford Wives. Only a Frenchman would say “long strokes that caress the skin”, and I’m guessing that the YSL brush he’s using costs more than the foundation itself (why are those brushes so expensive?)  

But the video serves as a tutorial on how to correctly apply skin foundation, as well as that Touche Eclat stick.  I found it informative and maybe you will too.  Applying foundation to your face with a quality brush seems like a good idea.  One last thing – at the beginning of the video he explains how to select the right shade for your skin.  You shouldn’t be doing this (because we always get it wrong.)  YSL sales reps are trained to select the right shade for you.

France worse off than the UK in the 1970s

France is in a bad state.  Last week a British newspaper (The Telegraph) wrote that France is in a worse state than Britain was at the time of its 1976 bail-out by the International Monetary Fund.

And it’s true.  As I mentioned in a previous post, since the recession has hit the Eurozone, the atmosphere here is full of tension.  Last week an anti-fascist campaigner and university student, Clément Méric, was killed by skinheads on a Paris street in broad daylight during a clash. The French government is now taking steps to break up the far-right group allegedly linked to the death of the left-wing activist. Unemployment is at record levels, especially amongst young people, and the current government is short on ideas in terms of remedial solutions.  That’s putting it mildly. The current government seems to be paralyzed by ineptitude as to how to tackle the problem.  Men and women in their 20s are flocking to the U.K., Canada, Australia and Asia in search of work because there’s nothing for them here.

Today I watched a news report on TV showing images of French retirees fleeing the country.  And guess where they’re going?  To my country. Yes, they’re fed up with France and they’re going to give Quebec a try.  I think human migration patterns are fascinating.  In a surprising reversal and because of the dire situation in Spain, Spaniards are now seeking work in Morocco.  And Portuguese workers are trying their luck in former colonies in Africa.  They are also flocking to Brazil.

On Planet France, the majority of the French population, along with trade unions, dig in their heels and resist all attempts at reforms.  When President Sarkozy pushed for raising the retirement age from 60 to 62, there was rioting in the streets.  Coming from a country where the retirement age, for as long as I remember, has always been 65, I find this behaviour not only incomprehensible but archaic.  Because we are no longer living in a baby-boom era where a sufficient number of children today will pay our pensions tomorrow.  It’s as if the French have blinkers on.

There’s a term you hear a lot here: “l’exception française”….”the French exception.”  What does that mean, exactly?  It means that the French believe they are special and apart, sort of like an exalted race, and that whatever the rest of the world is doing to adapt to changing times, they need not conform to any general rule….especially rules dictated to them from Brussels or Berlin.

Last week, the European Commission told France to cut labour costs, reform its pensions system and open up its protected markets in exchange for a two-year window to bring its budget deficit under 3 percent of its GDP.

The average French citizen associates globalization with “Americanization” and believes it threatens their national identity.

Deep down, the French are romantics, not realists.  Wake up, France, and smell the espresso!

That said, when the chips are down I have confidence in the French.  In the twenty years I’ve lived here, I have seen again and again the nation strongly resisting all kinds of foreign imports, at first treating them with extreme suspicion, not to mention disdain – i.e. the arrival of the Internet, culinary trends other than their own, Eurodisney and McDonalds, the learning of foreign languages – and then slowly slowly coming round and accepting them, but only because these foreign imports create jobs for the French and are profitable.

The French love their country too much to let it go to ruin.  It’ll take time, but they’ll eventually rise out of this quagmire.  Self-preservation is critical.  They might be intractable, but they are also inventive.