Today’s word, exaucer (ex-oh-say) means “to grant” someone’s wishes or prayers. If I had a fairy godmother, I’d ask her for an apartment in Paris. I’d probably want to be in the 6th Arrondissement, near the Jardin du Luxembourg, my summer home. It has everything – museums, shopping, restaurants. Or would it be in the Marais? Maybe it would – two of my favorite museums (the Carnavalet and Cognaq Jay), dozens of great boutiques, and two of my favorite places to eat (L’As du falafel for a quick bite, and Breizh for crêpes). Maybe I’ll need two fairy godmothers – one for an apartment in each neighborhood.
I love the word gazouiller (gaz-oo-ee-ay). This mellifluous word means “to chirp” or “to cheep,” when it refers to birds, “to babble,” when it refers to babies, and “to gurgle,” when it refers to a brook or stream. This is a photo I took this spring at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. You can almost hear the water gazouille, n’est-ce pas?
Later this month, on October 27, the Fondation Louis Vuitton will open its doors in the Bois de Boulogne. Architect Frank Gehry was commissioned by LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault to create an appropriate setting for the Foundation’s extensive art collection. The building, sheathed in glass, resembles a ship in full sail, moored in a reflecting pond. This is the perfect image, considering that Paris’ coat of arms features a ship, honoring the maritime heritage of those who first sailed down the Seine and founded what would become the most beautiful city in the world.
Gehry refers to the glass shell as la Verrière (lah vare-e-air), which refers to a glass roof or wall. Inside, there are, indeed, solid walls on which to display all of the art. I’m not a huge fan of contemporary art, but when I’m next in Paris I’ll be heading to the Jardin d’Acclimatation to check out what are reputed to be spectacular views of the Paris skyline, if nothing else.
Fondation Louis Vuitton, 8 Av. du Mahatma Gandhi, Paris 75116
Best-selling author Mireille Guiliano came out with a new book based on the French Women Don’t Get Fat formula ten months ago. This time, it was French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style and Attitude. I’ve been nibbling away at it for ages now due to the rather “intense” year I’ve been having.
Based on a combination of traditional French lore and Guiliano’s observations based on her Franco-American life, the book is full of sensible, and sometimes surprising, advice. Apparently, many French women schedule their haircuts to coincide with the full moon, swearing that their cuts turn out better. Another rather original beauty tip was to try a fish pedicure in Saint-Rémy de Provence. The fish nibble off your dead skin. Sounds ticklish!
I loved her simple advice about how to eat a balanced diet – count your colors. Aim to have three different colors during each meal and five different colors over the course of the day. That’s so much simpler than counting grams of this and ounces of that, and it seems to make eminently good sense.
I also really like the saying she shared, “Doucement le matin, pas trop vite l’après-midi, lentement le soir” (doosemehn luh matahn, pah troe veet lahpreh-meedee, lehn-te-mehn luh swar), which means “Gently in the morning, not too quickly in the afternoon, slowly in the evening.” In my hectic world, Giuliana’s call to calm and balance is truly welcome.
It’s the weekend and if you’re looking for a movie to watch, I’ve got a couple of suggestions for you. I saw both of them over a month ago, but it’s been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to blog about either one. I’m glad they’re still playing!
The first is The Hundred-Foot Journey. Helen Mirren stars as Madame Mallory, the uptight owner of a Michelin-starred restaurant. When the Kadam family moves to a charming little French town from India, they open a traditional Indian restaurant right across the road from the very correct Madame Mallory. Madame Mallory claims to be able to tell all that she needs to know about a chef from the way he or she prepares an omelet. Helen Mirren does a fairly decent French accent, and her elegant, understated clothes are so beautiful.
The second recommendation is Magic in the Moonlight. Colin Firth essentially gets to reprise his role as Mr. Darcy in this Woody Allen film. Firth plays an arrogant magician who has been brought to the south of France to unmask a swindler, played by Emma Stone. If you’ve read or watched Pride and Prejudice, you can predict every movement of the plot, down to a super-awkward marriage proposal, but it’s good fun.
Today’s expression, faire tout un cinéma pour (fair toot uhn sin-ay-mah poor) means “to make a real fuss to do something.” I hope you won’t have to faire tout un cinéma to get to see one of these films this weekend. Enjoy!
Just before heading back home, I got to tick something important off my bucket-list – the newly restored 18th-Century Decorative Arts Galleries at the Louvre. The galleries have been closed since 2005 during the multi-million dollar renovation, which was overseen by interior designer and French decorative-arts connoisseur Jacques Garcia. The collections have been installed as a series of period rooms and themed galleries that cover the reign of Louis XIV and the Regency, the height of the Rococo style, and the return to classicism and the reign of Louis XVI.
Some rooms represent fairly intact interiors, while others bring together stylistically coherent groupings of furniture and objects within a recreated decorative setting. One of the aspects that I liked the best were all of the multimedia installations where visitors can listen to information about the history of where items came from, the people who owned them, and how they were used.
A lot of the work was carried out due to the financial support of the American Friends of the Louvre. The word for this sort of patron is un mécénat (uhn may-sen-ah). The donations of these sponsors are absolutely essential to preserving France’s national artistic heritage. The restored galleries at the Louvre are stunning and well worth a visit.
For the trip I took to Quebec City in June, I stayed at the Auberge Place d’Armes (24 rue Sainte-Anne). As I was traveling with my parents for a special occasion, I wanted a suite that would accommodate the three of us in a little style and I wanted us to be right in the center of everything. The Auberge Place d’Armes fit the bill quite well.
First, there was the location. The hotel is just a few steps from the Château de Frontenac in the heart of the Old City. Everything was close – the boardwalk along the Dufferin Terrace, the artists on the rue du Trésor, and the funicular down to Petit Champlain. There is no parking at the hotel, but valet service is available if you don’t want to park your car at one of the garages in town yourself.
Then there was the question of style. The Auberge Place d’Armes is a boutique hotel composed of a 17th and 18th century home that were modernized and united. There is plenty of exposed brick and stone; each room is decorated in a unique manner with eclectic furnishings, but the amenities are fully modern. There is no elevator, but they will take your luggage to and from your room at check-in and check-out.
At first we weren’t sure how we would stay out of each other’s way. Our suite had a Queen-sized bed and a Murphy bed that pulled down from the wall, but we were rather cheek-by-jowl with our beds nearly touching. I’d gotten used to suites where the second bed had a little more privacy. Also, the Murphy bed was so heavy that I left it down for the whole time that we were there rather than struggling with it, which ate up a lot of real estate. Another aspect of the suite that surprised us at first was the shower. It was separated from the living room by a glass wall, but a heavy velvet curtain gave us complete privacy. I would suggest that the suites would be more suited to parents with a young child, rather than three adults.
One of the aspects we liked best about the Auberge was the breakfast in the restaurant downstairs, Le Pain Béni. Breakfast was included and we had our choice of anything on the menu, including juice and coffee. We enjoyed everything we tried – from classics like scrambled eggs and bacon to the breakfast pizza. Our waitress (we had the same lovely young woman every day, but one) was sweet and attentive and took impeccable care of my parents. We also ate dinner there one night, but we found the meal a little pretentious in its presentation and lacking in a distinctive flavor.
Une auberge (oon owebersj) mean “an inn.” Historically, une auberge was located in the countryside and provided shelter for horses, a good meal, and a comfortable bed. At the Auberge Place d’Armes the horses have been replaced by valet parking, but the sense of fine hospitality is unchanged. If you are going to Quebec and want a break from the same-old same-old chain hotels, I highly recommend the Auberge Place d’Armes to you.