Before I start this post I have a confession to make: I don’t know how to cook.
Do you find it shocking? Not really. For someone who was born into a family where the men love to cook and even do it better than the women, my lacking in cooking skills is quite understandable. In fact, I am quite lucky to be surrounded with men who know how to cook, do it well and actually love doing it. Most of the guys I’ve dated belong to that category. The truth need to be told that I might be creative in other rooms in my apartment, but I am not creative in the kitchen.
Therefore, I was quite excited to take part in a real authentic French cooking class while visiting Paris early June. Cook’n with Classis the name of this fine school, located in 21, rue Custine in Montmartre. I am a true believer that Once in Paris, act and cook like Parisians do, I have joined a Morning Market class, which took place in one of Montmartre’s outdoors markets, in order to shop for the meal’s ingredients first and then learn how to cook them. We met with the wonderful super nice chef, Constance, who was extremely patient and answered every question we asked. She took us to various vendors in which we could find top quality products such as cheese, bread, fruit and meat. The local merchants were actually quite familiar with the school’s activity and were willing to answer our questions. Constance explained us on how to choose cheese, what is considered a good cheese and how to match its kind with other ingredients of the meal, for example. After that we walked to the school, where aprons, chopping boards and chef’s knives were waiting for us, ready to be used. We learned how to cook from scratch a starter, main course and even a dessert. It was all very inspiring! In the room next door, there was a baking class in progress and I could only hoped I had extra time in Paris so I could attend this class too. I have counted at least three people who got inside the school just to inhale the warm sweet smell of the buttery brioche.
Since it was a rainy day in Paris, especially quite unusual for June, Constance suggested we cook something with Spring seasoned vegetables such as potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms in a chicken stock. We also cooked meat with potatoes and pears (perfect for the weather) and the highlight (at least for me) was the fruit tart with roasted apples and caramel salted butter. And in case you missed something or want to try it at home, or maybe try something that was taught in a different class, I highly recommend to check the recipes section on line.
At the end of the hands-on cooking session, we sat down around the dining table (we could also invite a guest for lunch) and enjoyed the four-course meal. Everything was accompanied with various kinds of cheese we bought previously and wine. together with a fine selection of cheeses from the market and some great wine. The school has a quite busy schedule, diverse classes and an international staff of chefs, all speak English very fluent.
I don’t remember when was the last time I was almost four to five hours straight in the kitchen, but I was so intrigued and interested in the French ways of cooking that I didn’t even noticed the time.
It was one of my best experiences in Paris. In fact, I was quite surprised by myself as I usually lose track or anything. This cooking class was something quite a complimentary to all my Parisian experiences this visit.
I was watching quite a lot of French movies recently. Was it because a conversation I had with one of my friends, as we were both evaluating the pros and cons of the French or was it due to the the fact that French movies are quite realistic and don’t necessarily have clear cut endings. One of the movies I watched the other day on my laptop was Paris. (I highly recommend to watch this trailer to understand what I am talking about)
The movie is about a young guy who is waiting for a heart transplant which may or may not save his life, and since he has nothing else to do but wait, he started looking at the people around him from the balcony of his Paris apartment. While I was sitting in my New Yorkish apartment watching this movie, I kept pausing on the scene where the guy was looking at other people’s apartments from his window. It fascinated me, maybe because whereever I travel, I keep wondering how does it feel for the people who REALLY live in that place. How do their lives look like.
So when I stayed in a real Parisian apartment in my last visit to Paris, I could swear I was seeing almost the same view the guy from the movie saw from his window, or even a better view…
What is it in these apartments’ views that makes us so curious about the lives of others?
For three days and three nights in a row, I woke up and fell asleep to these views from the kitchen’s window and the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur views from the bedroom’s windows.
If I didn’t have work to do or meetings to attend, I would stay all day at the apartment, watching the breathtaking views from the windows, or just staring outside. However, I set my camera for that, and took some pictures at different times of the day and night.
Merci beaucoup PerfectlyParis for allowing me to see Paris from a different angle this time!
Having the feeling of ‘Feels like home in Paris‘, living in a street that has the same name of a wine. Drinking my morning coffee on a typical French rooftop. Le Marais as the back yard, North of Le Marais as the hood. Getting off the Republique metro station or walking to Temple. Walking in a Parisian rain with no umbrella. Two chocolate mouse as a breakfast. Cute street names as Square Clignancourt, Rue Daru, or metro stop Poissionniere, just for the heck of saying it. Photography walk with local photographers, Birthday dinner with friends in a local place. Chocolate cake all for myself, Bon Anniversaire, Joyeux Anniversaire and a Happy Birthday song in French. Le Baron club. Miss “Queen Misterio” mask, original Photography prints rolled in two tubes. A 5-wine and cheese courses in one evening, Lunch in Collette. Having a private tour with Fred Le Chevalier the Street artist. Waking up to the view of the Sacre Coeur every morning and going to sleep with the same sight. Sundown around 10 in the evening, Sunrise even before 6. New friends, old friends, a friend’s photography exhibit at Village Royal. Buying cheese at Le Marche des Enfants Rouges, getting bread at Du Pain et des Idees and having lunch on a bench in Canal St. Martin with Anne Ditmeyer of Pret a Voyager. Teaching my sister the art of the dyptich, running into a private party in the middle of the day. Counting baguettes on a Sunday. Jam and Cheese in one spoon. Pink Ballerina shoes at Les Petites Parisiennes, Meeting Lindsey of Lost in Cheeseland. Merci Merci. H&M, Mama Shelter Hotel. Poiray rare perfume, Godiva Chocolate as a starter. My favorite cheese gorgonzola mascarpone. Running up in the streets of Montmartre, running down toward Pigalle or Jules Joffrin. Cooking class and a morning Parisian market. The smell of chocolate croissants in the morning. Recognizing some streets, finding my way around and having my sister with me on my Birthday…Priceless!
“If you fail the first time, consider yourself normal. if you fail a second time, consider yourself special for you have what it takes to succeed. If you fail a third time, consider yourself extraordinary, for many people would have already given up”
Montmartre, Paris April 2011
I couldn’t think of a better timing to post these words, as I am currently spending my last few days in the Montmartre in Paris. This picture was taken over a year ago on a weekend afternoon when the area was packed with people, mostly tourists and yet, the images and the words are still so relevant.
I was visiting Paris for few days last April and my friend took me to this area as he knew I would love the view. But not only did I LOVED the view, but also this amazing Street performer, Iya Traore, who is known as the soccer player of the Montmartre and is doing these courageous acrobatic moves while standing on a ledge, overlooking Paris. His performance was quite extreme and I was amazed by his energy and fearlessness. And yesterday, while I was running my morning run all the way to the Sacre -Coeur just to overlook the city and do my stretches, this guy’s presence was missing. And all I could think of was how far can someone go and how extraordinary he could be if he follows his courage.
You set the dates, you purchased flight tickets, maybe you also saved some frequent flyer milages, just in case. You wrote your ‘to do’ lists, your ‘where to eat’ and ‘what to buy’ lists and you told the whole World that you are going to Paris. Paris, in spite of all the cliches, is still the most romantic city in the world. If this is your first time in The City of Lights than this post is not for you (yet) and I suggest you bookmark it and read it for your next time. If this is your second or third time in Paris, then this short Design Scene Guide is for you. This following post is dedicated to those who like design and love to spice up their lives with some style. For those who want to know the City of Light a little bit different. You will not find here the Tour Eiffel, Louvre, Champs Elysees or Montmartre, but you will get a glimpse to some of the stylish stores and places in Paris. This post is for the ‘Advanced Users’ of Paris with a touch of style.
Mama Shelter Hotel, designed and owned by Philippe Starck, is located in the 20th arrondissement. If I didn’t have the exact address, I could easily confuse the facade of the hotel with the cultural center and public library next door. But maybe this is the whole idea of the hotel, which wants to give its guests a homey feeling and a sense of security, or at least a feel of being close to Mama. This is also the reason for the logo of the hotel (mama hen legs) and why the concierge and the staff of the reception are wearing aprons with portraits of Mamas. The hotel was opened three and a half years ago (September 5th, 2008) by the Trigano family who also owns Club Med. The Trigano family has hired Philippe Starck to design the hotel and its concept and later on he became one of the owners himself. The vision was to create a hotel that combines an urban concept with a homey atmosphere, a hotel where the guests come to relax, hence the less central location. There are 172 designed rooms in the hotel, all designed in an urban look with an unfinished grey concrete wall. The highlight of the design is the plastic masks that serve as reading lamps next to the beds. The masks were purchased by Starck as there was no budget left for ‘real’ reading lamps. With time, the masks became very popular among the guests who tend to take pictures of themselves wearing these masks. There are two bars and a Pizza bar by the well known chef Alain Sendernes, an outdoor terrace that serves Brunch and a BBQ on the roof in the summer. The design of the main bar space is eclectic and combines long common tables and colored stripped sofas with the portraits of the mothers.
In the lobby of the hotel you can find a small gift shop to buy some unconventional souvenirs from Paris. The hotel is a great solution for those who already know Paris and want to have a different experience.
Mama Shelter, 109 rue de Bagnolet.
Directions: Get off Alexander Dumas station (line 2) or Gambetta station (line 3)
If you are in the neighborhood, visit Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, which is the largest cemetery of Paris, established in 1804 and look for Oscar Wilde, Honore de Balzac, Frédéric Chopin, Camille Pissarro and other well known graves. As the cemetery is located on the high hills of Paris, you can catch a great view of the city, which is highly recommended especially during dusk hours.
Walking on Blvd Beaumarchais, you can find some real Parisian gems. One of them is Merci, a well known chic, ethnical concept store, hidden at the back of a courtyard in number 111 of the Boulevard. At the entrance to the store, there is an old red mini car, which is now serves as the trade mark of the store. It is a three levels store, divided into sections. At the entrance level there is a small cafe with a book store, men clothes collection, perfumes and some little items of decorations, based on a concept the store has in mind. In my latest visit to Merci, the concept was clothes hangers and the entrance level was filled with different kinds of those. In the lower level there is a restaurant with sittings over looking a small flowery patio, selling kitchenware and greenhouse items, and on the second floor you can find women clothing, accessories, vintage and designed furnitures and home accessories. Occasionally, you can find Ives San Lauren’s and Stella McCartney’s items as well as local designers. All the profits of the store go to charity. I highly recommend to dedicate some time and explore every corner of this well designed loft and have a bite of their delicious tart of the day while looking at the greenery outdoors.
Merci, 111 Blvd Beaumarchais.
Directions: Get off Saint Sebastien Froissart station (line .8) and walk on the blvd.
A few steps away from Merci, you can find its kids version at the colorful concept store Bon Ton, which sells kids clothes, shoes and toys. The brand has more stores in the city but this one is a three level high, filled with Kids accessories, decors, clothes and toys with little fitting rooms, playing space and photo booth. Everything is so colorful and every detail is carefully planned. Even the friendly sales women wear colorful clothes that match some of the items. It is definitely friendly store both for kids and their parents.
Bon Ton, 5 Blvd des Filles du Calvarie
Directions: Get off at Filles du Calvarie station (line .8)
Talking about kids, Petit Pan is a wonder of its own. This brand also has a few stores in Paris (in fact, in other locations all over Europe) but the one I’ve visited was at tiny store in the heart of the Latin Quarter at rue du Bac. The brand Petit Pan is known by its colorful fabrics and the little toys and decorations made of paper and bamboo. You can find paper lamps in the shape of fish, flowers, dragons and other animals. Beside the cute and colorful clothes for babies and infants, the store holds lively pillows, little blankets, ribbons and a large variety of rolled fabrics with so many interesting and adorable prints which are hard to choose from. Petit Pan is a great alternative if you are looking for a special gift for a baby or the parents. Everything is so cute and tiny that it will be so easy to carry in your suitcase.
Petit Pan, 95 rue du Bac
Directions: Get off at rue du Bac station (line 12)
One of my favorite streets in Paris is the fashion-chici rue Saint-Honoré. There is a great combination of high-end fashion stores, well dressed and good looking people, well designed cafes and bistros and other unique concept stores, such as Colette (which deserves a post of its own) and Astier de Villatte. Astier de Villatte is well known for its light weight white porcelain plates and dishes, all shown in a big wooden closet at the entrance hall of the store, alongside home perfumes, candles and other colored decorative dishes. It serves as a pilgrimage for porcelain dishes lovers. The store itself is simple and its decoration but the cracking wooden floor gives a sense of an old haunted vintage place.
Astier de Vilatte, 173 rue Saint-Honoré
Directions: Get off Madeleine station (line.8) and walk toward rue Saint-Honoré
Paris is filled with magnificently designed concept stores, and sometimes even in a simple store I visited, I could find something very unique. There is an endless number of boutique hotels, restaurants, bistros, cafes and well designed stores in the City of Light, but the most satisfying thing is to find those you like on your own.