Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Heard at the Dinner Table Tonight

My husband, to our kids:  "Vous shakerez vos assiettes, s'il vous plaît."

Not exactly Académie française French, but a reference that's quite accessible to our kids, who've spent quite a bit of time at the Shaker Village in New Hampshire.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lovers in Paris - the Philippine Version

I was excited to learn that the Philippine re-make of the popular Korean soap opera Lovers in Paris started airing today. From the deliciously cheesy trailer, it looks like it's similar to my favorite Japanese animated soap opera from childhood, Candy Candy - Cinderella story, handsome guy, evil jealous rival, protective male friend to fight with Handsome Guy over the heroine, etc.

Mindless, cliché-riddled melodrama in Tagalog from the City of Lights - what could be more fun?  (Other than actually being in the City of Lights, that is...)

I think it's finally time to subscribe to The Filipino Channel.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I couldn't resist trying to capture this view of the Sacré-Coeur. I believe it's from the little road connecting the rue du Mont Cenis and the rue du Cardinal Guibert.

A couple of paintings I love by Utrillo - whose mother's birthday I commemorated in the last post - show a similar view. I remember these as being instrumental in getting me truly interested in the city of Paris when I was taking French in high school. Sigh and enjoy!

Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre, 1937

Sacré-Coeur in Winter

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chagall and Valadon

This ceiling painted by Marc Chagall was unveiled at the Opéra Garnier in Paris on this day 45 years ago. Happy Anniversary, Paris Opéra ceiling!


I just learned/read more about this mysterious and fascinating woman, born Marie-Clémentine Valadon, over the weekend. She was the mother of the great painter Utrillo. Born on September 23, 1865 to an unwed laundress, she was a circus acrobat until a fall from a trapeze in 1881 ended her career. After that she became a model and artist, living la vie bohème in Montmartre.

She modeled for (and in the case of at least the latter two, had affairs with) Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, and Puvis de Chavannes. She observed the techniques of painters with whom she worked and became a painter herself, with guidance and support from Degas.

In 1883 she gave birth to a boy, Maurice Valadon, who would become the painter Maurice Utrillo, taking the family name of Miguel Utrillo y Morlius, owner of the tavern Auberge du Clou. Suzanne Valadon never disclosed Maurice's true paternity, with Renoir and an amateur painter named Boissy, whom she had met at the Chat Noir café, among the possibilities, though Utrillo's widow, Lucie Valador Utrillo, claims Utrillo's real father was Puvis de Chavannes.

Suzanne Valadon is the model for Puvis de Chavannes' The Sacred Wood Dear to the Arts and Muses, Toulouse-Lautrec's Equestrienne (At the Cirque Fernando), and Renoir's famous paintings Dance at Bougival, Dance in the City, Umbrellas, and Girl Braiding Her Hair. Her portrait was painted by himby Toulouse-Lautrec, and by her son Utrillo; she did self-portraits as well. One anecdote claims it was Toulouse-Lautrec who suggested, alluding to the biblical tale of Susanna, she take the name Suzanne because she spent her time posing nude for older men.

From January to June of 1893 she had an affair with Erik Satie, whom she met when he played piano at the Auberge du Clou. In 1894 she became the first woman painter to be admitted to the Societé Nationale des Beaux Arts. She was married twice after the Satie affair, the second time to an artist twenty-one years her junior.

She fed caviar to her cats on Fridays and her "bad drawings" to a goat she kept in her studio. She tried to help her son with his alcoholism by encouraging him to paint; she was, in fact, his only art teacher. She died on April 7, 1938 and is buried at the Cimetière de Saint-Ouen. Her funeral was attended by Picasso, Braque, and Derain.

Female nude by Suzanne Valadon. I admire her nudes' lack of passivity, their realistic/unidealized body sizes and shapes, and the unapologetic attitudes they tend to exude. Her work is a refreshing departure from the artistic tradition established by the men who preceded her.

Addendum 10/2/09:  Check out an expanded version of this post on my friend K.'s blog, for her terrific series "Fine Art Friday."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Want To Be Here...

...but instead I'm here.

That's ok.  If I didn't put in some time over here, I wouldn't be able to go back there.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mireille's Magic Leek Soup

How I wish all the leeks at my local grocery store had as much "white part" as these, which I found at Whole Foods. I've never seen so much white part on a leek! The ones at Shaw's this past week were just the opposite - mostly green, with a tiny bit of white at the ends.

The minute I saw the prescription for nutritional detox via "Magic Leek Soup" in Mireille Guiliano's best-selling book
French Women Don't Get Fat, I knew I wouldn't be able to stick with it. It's comforting to know I'm not alone.

I can see how detoxifying the program would feel, and goodness knows I felt like doing a little detox after the carbs and treats I'd been having earlier this month, but a) diuretics and my job aren't a practical combination and b) it's excruciating for food-lovers to go on what is essentially a liquid diet for 48 hours. I cheated in the first few hours and snacked on grape tomatoes and hummus. More diuretic.

It did work SOME magic into my culinary week, though. Although I abandoned Mireille's detox weekend, I did try to cook and eat more mindfully than I've been doing this month. I used the leek broth as a base for reduced-fat mushroom soup, a simmering medium for whole wheat orzo, a moisturizing and flavoring agent (instead of butter) for cooked lobster ravioli, and a warm beverage (I actually like the taste). It's been like a friend in my fridge, a companion I can use to remind me to put as much thought into the meals I prepare as I can. Even small changes can make one feel a little detoxified!

[Above photo: from the pastry counter at the Monoprix near La Motte-Picquet métro]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thinking of Dance at Summer's End

Dance lessons on the quais by the Seine.  We were on someone's barge when we took these.  There's a nicer photo from shore by someone who takes better pictures, here.

I'm thinking wistfully of dance.  I'm thinking wistfully of summer, too, because fall is almost here.  Fall's my favorite season, but winter follows, unfortunately.  Pretty soon it'll be time for heavy coats...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Somewhere My Love..."

[Photo: Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris by Ikaros.]

Today would have been composer Maurice Jarre's 85th birthday (he passed away last March).

Though best known for his scores for films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Witness, and Ghost, he will always have a special place in my mind for his score for the 1977 Zeffirelli miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. My childhood and adolescence definitely wouldn't have been the same without Jarre's music. I think it helped me keep in touch with the world of the New Testament in a special way. Merci!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Trying Out Berets in Montmartre

This month's a special month for my daughter and me, and today a special day.  So I wanted to commemorate it here in my personal Paris Café.  Suffice it to say...she's growing up way too fast!

Yet Another Bank Destroys Yet Another Great Small Business

BNP-Paribas has the French courts' permission to raise Brentano's rent from 7000 to 20,000 euros per month.  The sad result?  Brentano's, Paris's American bookstore since 1895, closes its doors today.  :(

A lot of the Charing Cross Road book shops in London have met with the same sorry fate. :(

BNP-Paribas' slogan seems particularly appropriate:  "The bank for a changing world."  Changing not necessarily for the better, it seems...

Now I wonder, what will happen to The Village Voice on rue Princesse, or The Red Wheelbarrow in the Marais?  To Shakespeare & Co.?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nativitas Mariae

Catholics celebrate Mary's birthday today. I thought I'd put up this photo of Nôtre-Dame for the occasion.

Cornerstone laid: 1163
Western façade begun: c. 1200
Nave vaults almost done: 1208
Western façade completed: 1225
Western towers and North rose window completed: 1250
Remaining elements completed: 1250-1345

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Vertiginous View of the Tour Eiffel

What made this especially dizzying to me was the movement of the passing clouds overhead.

"Now to what phenomenon did I give primary concern in designing the Tower? It was wind resistance.  Well then!  I hold that the curvature of the monument's four outer edges, which is as mathematical calculation dictated it should be...will give a great impression of strength and beauty, for it will reveal to the eyes of the observer the boldness of the design as a whole." -Gustave Eiffel [see original French* below]

The tower sways two to three inches (6-7 cm) in the wind.  I think we definitely experienced a little of that the day this photo was taken.

Uh oh...I think I'm feeling queasy again...

*"Or de quelle condition ai-je eu, avant tout, à tenir compte dans la Tour? De la résistance au vent.  Eh bien! je prétends que les courbes des quatre arêtes du monument, telles que le calcul les a fournies...donneront une grande impression de force et de beauté; car elles traduiront aux yeux la hardiesse de la conception dans son ensemble..."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Craving French Chocolate, Part II

Mon Dieu...they have chocolate-scented stamps? I wonder if they're still available?!

And they also make ANTI-STRESS chocolate bars?!

Can we move to France already? :)

Update, 9/25/09: a sheet of the above stamps arrived from St. Cyr yesterday, courtesy of a family friend.

Check out Paris Breakfasts' post about learning how to make Maison du Chocolat ganache. I am SOOOOOO jealous. I just might have to sign up for one of the New York classes myself. What am I saying? Let's go to Paris and take a class THERE! :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Craving French Chocolate; or, There's a Reason I Always Gravitate to the 6th and 7th...

[Photo source.]

Stumbled upon this...

...so now I want this:

Here's an alphabetical list of where to get the best chocolate in Paris (according to this person, this person, and this person):

Bernachon and Bernard Dufoux via À l'Étoile d'Or, 30, rue Fontaine
Berthillon (ice cream) 29-31, rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Île (I can personally vouch for this one - had a combo dark and white chocolate cup from there that was to-die-for)
Christian Constant, 37, rue d'Assas (the address is almost a rebuke...)
Debauve & Gallais, 30, rue des Saints-Pères
Gérard Mulot, 76, rue de Seine
Jean-Charles Rochoux, 16, rue d'Assas
Jean-Paul Hévin, 3, rue Vavin
Joël Durand via La Grande Épicerie, 38, rue de Sevres
Josephine Vannier, 4, rue pas de la Mule
La Maison du Chocolat, 52, rue François 1er or 225, rue du Faubourg St. Honoré (though these shots are actually from the boutique at the airport)
Lenôtre, 48, ave Victor Hugo
Michel Chaudun, 149, rue de l'Université
Michel Cluizel, 201, rue St. Honoré
Patrice Chapon, 69, rue du Bac
Patrick Roger, 108, bd St. Germain
Pierre Hermé, 72, rue Bonaparte (see here too)
Pierre Marcolini, 89, rue de Seine
Richart, 258, bd St. Germain
Sadaharu Aoki, 35, rue de Vaugirard

See also ChocoParis and ChocoMap.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Note to Self: Beware the rue des Petites Écuries

Supposedly the most publicly peed-on street in Paris!  

(See a nice street view by anders_k on flickr here and another on picasaweb here.) 

(An écurie is a kind of stable / place for keeping horses, mules, donkeys, etc.)