Trois livres pour Noël

With just a week to go before Christmas, I have three book recommendations for you. One is a new release, one is a little older, and one is a classic. Trois livres pour Noël (twa leev-ruh poor no-ell) means “Three books for Christmas.” I hope that you enjoy them.

First up is L’Appart, by David Lebovitz. If you’ve ever thought of buying a pied-à-terre in Paris, as I have, this book will having you reconsidering that dream. Lebovitz recounts the Kafkaesque problems he ran into during the purchase and renovation of his Paris apartment. His sense of humor took a lot of knocks along the way but he seems to have emerged on the other side of his ordeal still  smiling. He punctuates each chapter with a recipe that will have your mouth-watering.

And don’t give up your dream of an apartment in France just yet. I wrote about A+B Kasha a few years ago – a company that  will provide you with a perfectly renovated apartment in Paris. Although their apartments cost about 20% more than the market price, after what Lebovitz went through, 20% seems like a complete bargain!

A92B7092-EB6B-4EA4-AB93-915DF0F0D036Next, is a An Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas, by John Baxter. This 2008 release chronicles Baxter’s quest to source the finest ingredients for his family’s Christmas dinner. The Australian married into a French family and found that his skills as a raconteur and a creative chef won him a place in their hearts. There are plenty of cultural and historical anecdotes to entertain you.



E18DE16F-2060-43C4-8E58-50908D1FC669Finally, a purely sentimental recommendation. Read a French translation of a childhood favorite. I recently finished Anne…La Maison aux pignons verts, otherwise known as Anne of Green Gables, by Canadian L. M. Montgomery. I received the English edition as a Christmas gift when I was about eight. Some stories are so good that they transcend language or time.


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La Mouette rieuse

87783014-947B-4A6F-A239-793AE88E2246When I first started spending time in Paris, I used to love to visit a bookstore in the Marais called Mona Lisait. It was famous for coffee table and art books at discount prices, dust, and creaking floors. But the Marais has gotten increasingly chic and eventually Mona Lisait shut its doors.

14E85613-681E-4847-87E2-7073ACCBC6A5This year, I noticed a chic new bookstore in the Marais and it took me quite a while to realise that I was standing in a completely transformed space that used to be Mona Lisait.

5775415F-DFE4-421A-84A6-CCB68D80684AThe new store, La Mouette rieuse  (lah moo-et ree-uz), which means “the laughing gull,” is a beautiful, light filled place with books, stationary, gift items, a café, and gallery space. No dust, no creaking floors, just beautifully displayed merchandise. I smiled the whole time I was in there. It’s a lovely place, well worth checking out the next time you’re in the Marais. I didn’t even miss Mona Lisait anymore. Well, maybe just a little bit.

La Mouette rieuse 17 bis rue Pavée, 75004

2A97EF6B-6BFE-40E8-A634-BC657C333814The Little Paris Bookshop


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La Petite Sirène

ED7B68C4-3237-4895-9A05-0070B0BC17C4A few minutes away from Hôtel Joke, the hotel that I recommended in my last post, I found a lovely little restaurant, La Petite Sirène de Copenhague. My husband has a bias in favor of restaurants with white table cloths that rarely leads us astray; he would definitely have approved of the immaculate linens here. The chef, Peter Thulstrup, has been serving excellent meals for over two decades inspired by his homeland of Denmark.

11EABF54-2718-44F8-A38B-0E053B13C407His evening three-course menu costs 41€ and it was really very good. I had the restaurant to myself when I came at 7 pm, but by the time I left, the charming restaurant was filling up with regular guests and fellow travelers. Thulstrup gave the same warm welcome to all, whether in French, English, or German. I wonder how many other languages he speaks?

DEF7A963-BEED-431A-8BF3-6170D40DDB17I love seafood and that’s the specialty of the house, so I was definitely in the right place. I had salmon terrine as the appetizer, tuna for the main course, and sorbet and strawberries in a crisp crêpe for dessert. I forgot to take a photo of the cheese course before I ate it! It was the most delicious blue cheese I’ve ever had with a prune and a little red onion.  If you’re looking for a terrific dining option in the 9th, I highly recommend La Petite Sirène.
La Petite Sirène de Copenhague, 47, rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, 75009 Paris (

photos 1 and 2 from

C32C5F5B-BE50-45F4-A569-167E2DDF4400La Petite sirène et autres contes



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Ce n’est pas une blague

C52084B9-A19D-4BB4-BBEA-9CF51A54962CThe last several weeks have been crazy busy due to the usual back-to-school frenzy and a rather gigantic kidney stone that had to be removed. One of the things that I had wanted to share with you after my trip to France was a recommendation for an inexpensive, yet very pleasant hotel in Paris.  And no, those two words don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

I usually look for small, charming hotels, independent properties that are run by their owners. This year, when I searched on TripAdvisor, I sorted the thousands of options by highest rating first. Among the hotels that cost $1,000 or more a night was one that cost a tenth of that price. Since the name was Hôtel Joke, I thought this couldn’t be serious, but all the customer reviews were glowing, so I took a chance. The hotel is located in the 9th Arrondissement, south of Sacré Cœur. I haven’t spent much time there over the years and I wanted to check out a new neighborhood before my summer job started.

F1FC8AA9-D617-46B7-95F0-A27243B30619I arrived earlier than the scheduled check-in time. After a short wait in the breakfast area (where snacks are available free of charge all day long), I was given the keys to a bright, modern room that was decorated in the hotel’s witty style. There was a fridge that was fully stocked with free water bottles and soft drinks and it was restocked every day. The bathroom had a tub and shower combo to help soak away my jet lag. My only complaint was that there was a spot of mold on the grout that should have been zapped away. A continental breakfast was included, complete with yogurt, fromage blanc, cheeses, cold cuts, fresh and dried fruit, cereal, eggs, breads, pastries, coffee, tea, juices and probably several other things I’m forgetting. Best of all, the room was really quiet and AIR CONDITIONED during a heat wave.

518C0D62-FBCF-4FF9-AA3C-C4AA05DD95B2In addition to all the in-house freebies, Hôtel Joke is one of a group of sixteen Paris hotels owned by Astotel. Guests have the right to use the refreshment area in any of the other properties. All of the 3- or 4-star hotels are on the Right Bank of the Seine. They gave me a card with all of the addresses and I did pop into one on a particularly hot day when I had run out of water. It was a nice perk.

Even though it wasn’t my usual type of hotel, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again or recommend it to others. Et ce n’est pas une blague (And that’s no joke.)

F76EF716-5BC2-41F1-B41E-4819084E0D5FParis and Around: Charming Small Hotels and Restaurants


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La rentrée

IMG_5761I’ve written about la rentrée before, that time in September when life resumes in France. People return to work and children return to school after the long summer break. New books are published, new movies appear in the cinemas, news broadcasters are shuffled: in short, it’s a fresh beginning.

We always seem to move in late summer and we got married in mid-September, so over and over again, we’ve had a fresh beginning in September. When I changed careers a dozen years ago and became a French teacher, I got to experience la rentrée each fall. Fresh pencils, fresh notebooks. Delightful.

IMG_5762I’ve started my own little rentrée ritual since moving into our new home three years ago. I go room by room, shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer, and box by box and decide if all if the accumulated stuff of our life should stay or go. (I do keep my hands off things that belong to my husband or our daughter, however.) I usually wonder at the outset if there is any need, since I went through everything just a year before, but I end up taking a car load of things to the thrift shop and throwing out as much again. Even though it’s a lot of work, it’s strangely cathartic to do all of this sorting. It made me think about my relationship with things. Here are some of my thoughts after The Great Purge 2017:

IMG_57691. Use it or lose it: After I Roy G. Bived a bunch of books in my bedside table that had been lurking in a storage box in the basement, I realized that there were twelve of them. I resolved to read one a month and that anything that was still there at the next rentrée wasn’t important enough to me to stay. So far, I’ve read one and I’m partway through the second.

In addition, I found cards and postcards that I’d picked up in museum gift shops or vacations that were waiting for a special occasion to send to someone – some from more than two decades ago that went through two moves. I’ve started sending them out to people who might need their day brightened.

IMG_57652. Rethink bulk purchases: I threw out a lot of pantry items that were past their “best before” dates. In almost every case, these were items that I had purchased at a bulk store in a multi pack. Hmm. Questionable savings. Also, do I really want to be a warehouse? I’m going to rethink whether a multipack or jumbo size makes sense for empty nesters.

IMG_57663. Have a memory box: Going through funny little cards our daughter had made or reading a letter my husband had written about some of her childhood escapades had  me laughing until my sides hurt. I called my daughter and read them to her to share the memories and she had a good laugh, too. I have a pretty box for my souvenirs and a more masculine one for my husband’s.

IMG_57674. Get rid of incomplete sets: Why was I keeping top sheets to sets where the bottom sheet had worn out? My neighborhood has boxes for fabric recycling where I can take things that aren’t fit to donate.

IMG_57685. Re-evaluate decorative items: Does the clock, or ornament, or candlestick on your shelf represent your current taste, someone else’s taste, or who you were a decade ago. Let it go!

I’m reveling in the knowledge that every nook and cranny is in order for another year. When la rentrée rolls around again, I wonder what other treasures I will unearth or what else I will find that needs to find a new home?

8A9CF46E-9334-4F3A-B02F-A99957D0DFEFAt Home with Madame Chic

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What to see in Les Baux

IMG_5757On my final day in Provence, I headed to another hill town, Les Baux. Again, I took the bus from Avignon, passing St. Remy and continuing along narrow switch-back roads until being dropped at the foot of Les Baux. The ore bauxite, used to make aluminumwas first mined in the town, which gave the mineral its name.

IMG_5758It was a medieval stronghold, crowned with a fortress. You can visit the ruins. The princes of Baux claimed to be descendants of Balthasar, the name given to one of the magi who followed the star to Bethlehem, and you will see carvings in stone that refer to the wise man. After the fall of the princes, the town was given to Monégasque royal family: one of Prince Albert’s titles is the Marquis of Baux. The town is, however, administered by France.

IMG_5759There are layers and layers of history here. Early inhabitants tunneled into the rock face to make their homes, and even an ancient chapel. For a time, during the wars of religion, Les Baux became a Protestant stronghold. The ruins of one house have the Latin inscription Post tenebras lux 1571 (After darkness, light 1571), which was a motto of Calvinists. A rather different message is conveyed by the carving of a woman’s face and a basket of flowers. This was the Middle Ages way of identifying a brothel!

IMG_5188.JPGToday, the town depends heavily on tourism for its survival. The bauxite ore has long been exhausted. Les Baux reminded me a bit of Niagara Falls, all touristy shops and restaurants. You can also buy olive oil made from local olives and wine from local grapes. In fact, I sat in the shade of one of those olive trees while I waited for the bus to take me back to Avignon along those twisty little roads.

IMG_5710Markets of Provence: Food, Antiques, Crafts, and More


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What to see in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue: Part 2

IMG_5048In my last post, I wrote about visiting the antique dealers in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on a Saturday. I returned the following day for its famous market. It was packed! A woman wedged in behind me kept muttering imprecations against touristes as she was trying to buy her groceries.

IMG_5738There are several parts to the market. First, there is the brocante or flea-market style vendors of vintage goods. These were certainly far less costly than the precious objects I saw the day before at the antique dealers. Their stalls are along the main street, right where the bus from Avignon dropped me off.

IMG_5739Then, in the main square near the church, are most of the food vendors, although I sampled some delectable local Cavaillon melon at a vendor along the river.

IMG_5740Then, on my way to get lunch, I came across the floating market. This is a feature of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on Sundays in August, and it was one of the most entertaining things I saw this summer in France. Merchants, usually in folkloric costumes, had filled their flat-bottomed boats with merchandise and punted around the river basin from client to client. There were goats, chickens, fruits and vegetables, flowers, even newspapers on offer. A beauty queen and two “security officers” added to the spectacle, and when an occasional boat tipped, it was all part of the fun.

IMG_5742.JPGWhen the show was over, I went for lunch at the same place I had discovered the day before, Jouvaud, a marvelous bakery, tea room, and gift shop. The specialties of the house are flaky pastry tarts, both sweet and savory. They are about two feet long, and they just cut a portion for each customer. The savory tart that I tried was re-heated and  heaped with eggplant, zucchini, and peppers. The fruit tarts were so good! I tried a different one each of the three times I went in the shop. My favorite was the one with several red fruits, including raspberries, strawberries, and red currants. If Jouvaud was in my town, I’d have a serious addiction.

All in all, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was my favorite place on this trip to the south of France. Lots to see, lots to do, and lots to eat.

IMG_5710Markets of France: Food, Antiques, and More



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