About julesparis2013

Originally from Toronto, Canada, I moved to Paris about 20 years ago.

Five Guys, and a cold Saturday night on the Champs-Elysées with the kids

It was a cold and clear night when we headed out to the Champs-Elysées. The idea that we eat homemade burgers at home fell by the wayside. I was feeling too lazy to cook, so I said, “Let’s go to Five Guys on the Champs.”

Taking out-of-town kids to the Champs-Elysées is a treat, especially at night when it’s all lit up and bustling with tourists. So we jumped on the metro and within fifteen minutes got out at George V station. My 7-year old godson below, in his new red parka.

Burgers and fries, the new French gastronomy. It’s sad but true.

    From the internet:

Street Food To Haute Cuisine, How The Burger Conquered France

PARIS — At the Ritz palace overlooking the Place Vendôme, the “Ritz Burger” beaufort cheese, fries and a green salad is sold for 42 euros. At the Crillon bar, the chef’s mini burgers are sampled until 6 pm, for a cool 28 euros. A longstanding symbol of junk food, the burger seems to have found its nobility: In just a decade, it has earned a seat at some of the most beautiful tables in France, including the prestigious Hotel Meurice on the rue de Rivoli. The New York Times anointed it as the maker of the world’s best hamburger.

Five Guys is ridiculously expensive. A burger costs 9 euros, 25 cents. For three burgers, two small fries and two Cokes, I paid 42 euros, 75 cents.

We ate on the outside patio under heat lamps. I must admit their burgers and fries are very good. Then we jumped back on the metro and rode down the line to Tuileries station and the rue de Rivoli.

The rue de Rivoli runs alongside the Tuileries Gardens. Crossing over, you walk under beautiful 19-century arcades past shops, cafés and restaurants. The most photogenic is the café-bar-restaurant L’Imperial at number 240.

I was tempted to stop off for hot chocolate but, to be frank, I was so stunned by the high prices I had just paid at Five Guys, I had a better idea: hot chocolate at home. And so, walking briskly in the cold to the Place de la Concorde, we jumped on the metro and rode home for mugs of hot chocolate and the Narnia DVD. It was 4°C (39°F). The weather forecast all this week is cold, dry and sunny.

Next blog post: Christmas office party at the Paris Aquarium

one hundred years ago – 1920

In many ways, 1920 looked far more interesting and visionary than today. During that effervescent postwar interlude, and before the stock market crash of 1929, there was a sense of fun and frivolity, at least in the upper classes. I wouldn’t characterize this past decade as “fun” at all. We’ve lost something. But what, exactly?

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3 women in street 1920

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Women Holding The Suffragist

Three women sell copies of The Suffragist in Boston, Massachusetts.

Women’s fashion of the 1920s was both a trend and social statement, a breaking-off from the rigid Victorian way of life. These young, rebellious, middle-class women, labeled ‘flappers’ by older generations, did away with the corset and donned slinky knee-length dresses, which exposed their legs and arms. The hairstyle of the decade was a chin-length bob, of with several popular variations.

Street fashion, ca. 1920s (berlin

Thoroughly Modern Millies, Berlin

I could easily wear one of these Great Gatsby outfits with the ‘cloche’ hat, knee-length relaxed dress, and stockings worn with strapped, heeled shoes. Have you noticed how much slimmer women were back then? When did we start getting fat?

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Germany

Fashion, 1920s (11)

IN PARIS, THE 1920s WERE CALLED “les années folles”, THE CRAZY YEARS.

Jazz, radio, literature, art, cinema. Josephine Baker, Coco Chanel, Cole Porter, Man Ray, Gershwin, Cocteau, Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name just a few. Conquered by a wave of creative and liberating euphoria, many Americans took advantage of the avant-garde atmosphere in Paris before returning to their country which was in the throes of prohibition and conservatism.

Not only was it an experimental decade, it was highly rebellious and innovative.

Modern art owes much to 1920s art and its authors. Some of the most significant movements, such as Dada, Surrealism, Expressionism and the fabulous Art Deco, had their genesis during this time. Such events helped to re-define and re-shape all the major creative disciplines.

INTRODUCING THE ART DECO STYLE

Originating in Europe, Art Deco was a dominant style in design and architecture of the 1920s. In the United States, New York City’s Chrysler Building typified the Art Deco style while other examples could be found in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. One of the most famous artists of the 1920s art deco period was Tamara de Lempicka, with her portraits of the bourgeoisie and the progress of the era. Characterized by rich colors, lavish ornamentation, and geometric shapes, the movement was celebrated for its pattern designs and poster art. In such examples, evident is the dominant rectilinear designs even though art deco artists often drew inspiration from nature and used curved lines as well.

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Tamara de Lempicka, The Sleeper

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a green shade and chromed Art Deco table lamp, France 1920s

The term Art Deco derived its name from the World’s fair held in Paris in 1925. It was shorter to say and write than Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.

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The exposition toured the United States the following year, and in 1927, Macy’s department store held its own Art Deco exhibition. The Chrysler Building, designed in 1928, is one of the most iconic and most ubiquitous examples. The work of architect William Van Alen, its stainless steel spire with a scalloped base make it instantly recognizable.

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What made the 1920s so exuberant? I think it was its feeling of being on the brink of something exciting. It was also in the midst of enormous productivity on all fronts. World War II and the other wars and horrors aside, that decade and future decades promised something splendid. We no longer have that feeling of being on the brink of something exciting. To the contrary. Watching the apocalyptic wildfires in Australia, for example, we can only ask, “Is this our future?”

We’ve gained A LOT in the past hundred years, but along the way we’ve also lost (and destroyed) some important things.

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a lot less kissing going on

Since my return to work on Thursday January 2nd, I’ve observed an interesting thing: there’s a lot less kissing going on in the office. I contribute this to the Me Too movement. If this is indeed a change towards something new, then I liken the trend to the demise of topless sunbathing … a quaint custom practically inexistent now.

In past years, the first few days of January were spent in a flurry of “Bonne Années!” and cheek-kissing. As I wrote in my blog post six years ago – “Being Anglo-Saxon, as I’m called here, I’ve never been a fan; I prefer a swift, no-nonsense handshake.”

Flash forward six years: when a male colleague exclaims “Bonne Année!“, the women hold back, their body language suggesting that they wish to keep a comfortable distance. The new decade is all about personal space and an increased awareness of boundaries. Believe it or not, and despite the image of France being a nation of anarchists, French society is still freighted with cultural codes, rules of behavior, and a certain pressure to conform to the traditional way of doing things. This includes the way people greet one another, an important practice here. So this ‘holding back’ and signalling that they prefer not to kiss, is new to Frenchwomen. I applaud their attempts to change and develop new behavior patterns.

As for me, I returned to work and approached one and all with a smile on my face, a greeting of “Bonne Année!“, and my hand outstretched, ready to shake. 

Here’s the blog post I wrote six years ago on January 4, 2014 –

And the paradox is that despite their reputation for being oftentimes rude or standoffish, the French are actually quite festive and sentimental. Nowhere has this been more apparent than during these past four days – it’s almost as if they’ve been waiting for January 1st to roll around so they can cry out “Bonne Année!” to one and all.

I’ve just spent these last few days exchanging New Year’s greetings with every living person that has crossed my path. If dogs could speak, we would’ve bid one another a happy and healthy New Year.

“Bonne Année!” (Happy New Year!)

“Meilleurs voeux!” (Best wishes!)

“Bonne Année, Bonne Santé…surtout la santé!” (Happy New Year, Good Health… especially health!)

It’s nice. Very nice. But I’m exhausted. I’m not used to all this Parisian exuberance. It started with neighbors in my building followed by the postman then the concièrge and then the café owner and his wife on the corner and then the streetsweepers as they stood on the corner knocking back espressos from the café and having a smoke. Even our local homeless person had something salutary to say. And that was just on my way to work. Once at the office, things really heated up.

Meilleurs voeux!” exclaimed my boss, leaping from her chair when I walked in on Monday morning. I stood in the doorway of her office. Was she going to shake my hand or kiss me? There’s always that awkward moment when you don’t know whether to stick out your hand or proffer your cheek. The best action to take is to just stand there and let them take charge. Thank goodness Parisians only kiss twice, once on each cheek, as opposed to three or four like they do in the nether regions of France.

It’s funny, this kissing thing. Being Anglo-Saxon, as I’m called here, I’ve never been a fan; I prefer a swift, no-nonsense handshake. I’ve just had a thought … maybe it’s me who’s standoffish?

out on the town, December 31st dinner

It was a cold, clear night when I left my place at 8 pm and jumped on the metro. To my surprise, the train speeded across town in record time. Why? For reasons of crowd control, they had closed six stations along the Champs-Elysées starting from Argentine all the way to Tuileries. As the driverless, automated train sailed straight through the closed stations, gathered speed and hurtled across the city, the car I was in lurched alarmingly from side to side. I felt like I was in that Sandra Bullock runaway bus movie.

Here’s the restaurant where I spent December 31st with my friend and his mother. Yes, it’s Paul Bert again, but this time its the sister restaurant up the road called 6 Paul Bert.

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This place is warm, welcoming and spotlessly clean. A few years ago, I spent December 31st sitting at this bar with a fellow Canadian blogger. In France, most restaurants serve a prix fixe menu on December 31st. This one, without wine, was 80 euros.

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The first small dish was underwhelming. The foie gras was cold and the celery purée warm. What followed was, in my opinion, the best dish of all: plump scallops in a garlic buttery herby sauce. Delicious!

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Then came the fish dish which was a crispy lotte (monkfish) tempura served with shiitake mushrooms in an interesting sauce.

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This was the main dish, a sort of beef wellington idea, except that it was duck instead of beef. Assembled with liver pate then wrapped in puff pastry and served with a porto-based sauce, it was very good but a bit on the rich side.

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The dessert was a huge disappointment. When you think of all the marvellous concoctions in the dessert repertoire that could have been offered, this was totally banal (and tasteless.) A cheese tray to follow would have been nice.

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As for the wine, we chose a Minervois from the Languedoc region. It was nicely structured and had a lovely bouquet and color, but was too young and light-bodied, I’m afraid. When I celebrated New Year’s Eve in this same place a few years ago, we drank a stellar Saint-Joseph 2012 from the Côtes-du-Rhône region.

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No one was aware that midnight had arrived until the two groups to the left of us leapt up and cried “Bonne Année!! Bonne Année!!

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Edouard, the charming manager, walked through the small restaurant and shook hands with every patron. It was fun. Here’s Edouard here standing in the middle in the blue shirt.

It was also nice to see goodwill and a burst of happiness after all the stress and inconvenience we Parisians have endured due to the transportation strikes.

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Leaving the restaurant at around 12:30 am, it was freezing cold and damp outside. We walked briskly to the metro station then separated. I jumped on the number one line which was surprisingly quiet. A half hour earlier there had been 300,000 revellers on the Champs-Elysées watching the fireworks. Where did they all go? The train sped cross-town and within twenty minutes I was at my station. I headed to the escalator, it was still shut down. Thanks, union strikers!  At 1 am I trudged up 45 steps, then walked home and went to bed.

Happy New Year.

Sunday in Paris, no heat, and English muffins

Nothing much to report other than it was 4°C earlier this morning (39°F) and there was no heat in the building, which means no hot water either. My first thought was to the young couple at the end of my corridor who recently brought home their newborn baby.

In addition to no heat, it’s endlessly gray outside. The good news, though, is that tomorrow and Tuesday are forecast to be brilliantly sunny. I will venture out with my camera tomorrow and, even though the metro lines are still closed (except for the central number one line), stride through the streets of Paris to visit my favorite places. I love it when it’s cold, dry and sunny. Let’s see, there’s the new IKEA store that recently opened on the Place de la Madeleine. There’s the English-language bookstore on the rue de Rivoli (W.H. Smith) that I want to pop into to leaf through the magazines, buy a 2020 calendar, look at the new books, and buy Patti Smith’s memoir, M Train. Years ago, I read her Just Kids and loved it. Directly across the road from W.H. Smith is the Jeu de Paume gallery in the Tuileries Gardens featuring a photo exhibition that I want to see. And, oh, I want to check out a place across town called Un Dimanche à Paris which I hear has the best hot chocolate in town.

I’m on vacation until January 2nd, so it’s important to me to be outside and moving in the sunshine as much as I can. At work, I’m stuck in a hermetic office tower 8 hours a day.

While in the 6th arrondissement, I’ll pop into the photo lab to pick up my vintage Kodachrome slides and then I’ll stride up the boulevard Raspail to the fabulous Bon Marché department store and it’s Food Hall next door. The next time you come to Paris, you must visit these two places, if you haven’t already. C’est un must !

12:30 pm, still no heat and it’s 6°C outside (42°F). However I can hear clanking sounds coming up through the pipes from the basement, so I guess the emergency heating man, called a chauffagiste, is here. Now is a good time to try out a recipe I recently found. For my entire life I’ve been buying store-bought English muffins. And then one day I thought, why not make them myself? Toasted and slathered with butter and jam for my breakfast sounds like an excellent idea. Here’s the recipe below, I’m going to make them right now.

https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-english-muffins-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchen-106360

so I trudged 40 minutes to the train station

Leaving Paris for Lille on Monday December 23rd, I took the only metro line that’s functioning (line 1) to Chatelet. Then I trudged up the boulevard de Sébastopol to the Gare du Nord train station. It took 40 minutes. I had a knapsack on my back, plus I was carrying a bag filled with gifts. I wasn’t alone, there was a procession of tourists and travellers, many rolling their suitcases along the pavement. Once I got to the train station, my train was on time … and it was half empty.

Leaving behind the gray and gloom of Paris, it was sunny and mild in Lille.

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The streets in the Old Town were bustling with Christmas shoppers.

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On the way to the shops, we passed the gothic church below and my 7-year old godson said ‘Tata, can we go inside and make a wish?’

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Later, he wrote down his wish in the visitors’ book, but I wasn’t allowed to see.

 

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French toast, and pre-Christmas pics

The idea of eating French toast in France makes me laugh. Why? Because the French don’t know what it is (and why should they?) Bread dipped in a mixture of egg, milk and cinnamon then fried in a skillet, powdered with icing sugar and doused with maple syrup? Quoi? Huh?

Now that I think about it, why do we call it French toast? In any case, that’s what I had for breakfast on this gray and gloomy December morning. Yesterday, I went to my local boulangerie and purchased two “pains au lait” (literally, milk bread, but they’re just long rolls, sort of like a brioche but unsweetened.) Its best to use slightly stale bread to make your French toast. As for maple syrup, I could drink the stuff straight from the bottle. My local supermarket, Monoprix, sells Canadian maple syrup for 5 euros only.

This was a bestselling book, but I’m undecided whether I liked it or not.

I haven’t a clue if my train to Lille tomorrow is cancelled or confirmed. Every time I go onto the SNCF website to check, all I see are ominous messages warning passengers to cancel or postpone their travel plans. Mere days before Christmas while millions are travelling cross-country to spend the holidays with friends and family, I find this deplorable. President Macron is also under fire, of course. Why would he launch his pension reform just before Christmas? He knew there’d be pushback. It’s also being said that the current pension scheme is perfectly adequate and doesn’t need reforming.

Tomorrow morning and despite the closure of a dozen metro lines, I’ll somehow get myself to the train station and wing it. In the meantime, I’m in chill mode at home (and on vacation until January 2nd.)

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candlit roomlights chez toi

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Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

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