Une Empreinte

img_4147On a stroll around our temporary neighborhood in the Haut Marais, we came upon a gorgeous store named Empreintes (5 rue de Picardie). This light-flooded concept store is filled with the work of hundreds of different artisans: potters, jewelers, wood-turners, fibre artists, glass blowers and so on. A card by each artist’s display explained a little bit about their work as well as a map showing where they live in France. Prices ranged from about 20€ to 10,000 €, so there is something gorgeous for every taste and budget.

img_4073In addition, there is an appropriately hipster café on the second floor, run by Season, the very popular café a few streets away (1 rue Charles-François Dupuy).

img_4148Une empreinte (oon ahm-prent) can be variously translated as a finger print, mark, or imprint. It can be literal, such as the mark left by an animal in the woods, or figurative, such as the impact a special person makes on your life. Empreintes certainly made an impact on me. I can’t wait to go back there and snag something special or just hang out with a coffee and feel French and artsy.

img_4149The Little Black Book of Paris, 2017 Edition

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Friday Finds 5

Here were some of our favorite discoveries on our recent trip to Paris. Many of our new finds were in the neighborhood of the Haut (Upper) Marais. I’ve spent lots of time in the Bas (Lower) Marais, but only just passed through the Third Arrondissement before. Our apartment was off the Square du Temple and we loved it. It was so quiet that it was impossible to believe it was a block away from busy République, but the area was full of interesting shops, cafés, and restaurants. I highly recommend it to you.

  1. Gigi Crêpes de comptoir (4 rue de la Corderie) – This is a fabulous little crêperie – easily the equal of Breizh or Josselin. We particularly liked the mini-crêpe options: nine bite-sized crêpes in three different flavors in either savory or sweet flavors – like French tapas. We used the mini-crêpes to hone in on the flavors we liked best and then ordered their full-sized versions. Our favorite savory crêpe was the Chèvre cendré with carmelized onions, apple, and spinach. The dessert crêpe that wowed us was their version of a crêpe Suzette with chocolate whipped cream. So good!
  2. Charme d’Orient Spa (18 blvd du Temple) – Our daughter treated me to a facial at this Moroccan-inspired spa as my Christmas present. The treatment left my skin supremely moisturized and it was done without the hard-sell for products that often seems to come with a spa treatment.
  3. Tammy & Benjamin (33 rue de Poitou) – I loved the reasonably priced, made-in-France purses and wallets at this gorgeous little shop. Most of their bags are a more structured shape, sort of Kelly bags for Millenials. Their round bag in red leather called to me. I wish I needed a new purse!
  4. Marché Noir (18 rue Perrée) – This vintage clothing shop has a carefully curated selection of accessories and statement pieces, many from Togo. I picked up a really pretty Italian scarf for 5€. There is also a wing of the store dedicated to striking pottery. I particularly liked their pitchers in two sizes and several colors.
  5. Cirque le Roux – The Elephant in the Room (Bobino theater, 14-20, rue de la Gaîté) – This show was 80% acrobatics, 20% film noir, and 100% fun. I did lots of oohing and ahhing as the performers sailed through the air. You can see a clip of it here. If you’re in Paris, it’s on until January 14. It’s been traveling to other cities, so if you may have a chance to see this, or another of their shows, I highly recommend it. As there was almost no dialogue, you don’t need to speak French to have a wonderful time.
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Une Citation digne d’être citée

img_4130Well, my vacation in Paris is drawing to a close. We had a wonderful time. The weather  cooperated – not too cold and mostly dry. The skies were almost solidly gray, which did make it much more difficult than normal to adjust to the time zone.  Our daughter was able to join us for the second half of our trip, always a bonus. There was only one day when I was mysteriously unwell, but that soon passed. Paris in the off-season is definitely calmer. We saw a different museum exhibit almost every day – including Christmas!

img_4132I had wanted to see the Oscar Wilde exhibit at the Petit Palais as I am a big fan of his writing. I grew up listening to a beautiful recording of “The Happy Prince,” and The Portrait of Dorian Gray has always fascinated me. The exhibit itself was a little text heavy (rather inevitable for a show about a major writer), but it interspersed art from his days as a critic and clips of some of the movie adaptations of his works.

img_4131As we moved through each phase of his life from one room to the next, my attention was grabbed by all of the quotations painted on the walls. Few writers can claim as many quotable and notable quotes as Oscar Wilde. Probably the best way to translate “a quotable quote” is une citation digne d’être citée (oon see-tah-see-ohn dee-njuh det-ruh see-tay). I jotted down the quotes from the exhibit for you:

Lorsque les dieux veulent nous punir, ils exaucent nos prières.
When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.

Vivre est la chose la plus rare au monde. La plupart des gens se contentent d’exister.
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist.

J’adore le théâtre. Il est tellement plus vrai que la vie.
I love acting. It is so much more real than life.

Le public fait preuve d’une tolérance étonnante. Il pardonne tout, sauf le génie.
The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.

Il n’existe pas de livre moral ou immoral. Un livre est bien écrit ou mal écrit; un point, c’est tout.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.

Quand on est amoureux, on commence par se tromper soi-même et on finit par tromper les autres.
When one is in love, one begins by deceiving oneself and one ends by deceiving others.

Rien ne nous distingue plus aujourd’hui de l’Amérique à l’exception du langage, bien entendu.
We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.

S’aimer soi-même, c’est se lancer dans une belle histoire d’amour qui durera toute la vie.
To love one self us the beginning of a lifelong romance.

Tout art est parfaitement inutile.
All art is quite useless.

Dire des choses belles et fausses est le véritable but de l’art.
The telling of beautiful untrue things is the proper aim of art.

La moderation est une chose fatale. Rien ne réussit mieux que l’excès.
Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothings succeeds like excess.

On ne doit jamais faire ses débuts par un scandale: il faut réserver cela pour l’intérêt de ses vieux jours.
One should never make one’s début with a scandal. One should reserve that to give an interest to one’s old age.

img_4133The exhibit did not, however, include my favorite Wilde quotations-said to be his dying words in a shabby Parisian hotel – Ou c’est ce papier peint qui disparaît, ou c’est moi. “Either this wallpaper goes or I do.” If you are, or will be, in Paris, the exhibit continues until January 15, 2017.

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Une pochade

img_4009We went to the Henri Fantin-Latour exhibit at the musée du Luxembourg today. Not only did we thoroughly enjoy his paintings, but I learned a new word. Early in his career, Fantin-Latour practiced his craft with numerous self-portraits. In the notes next to the paintings, they refered to one portrait as une pochade. When my husband asked me what that meant, I was stumped. Wordreference.com to the rescue!  Une pochade is a sketch, or hastily executed painting. It can also be applied to writing. I loved his flower paintings, particularly the one in the blue vase. My husband preferred the lady in the blue dress, Fantin-Latour’s sister-in-law. If you’ll be in Paris by February 12, this is a beautiful exhibit.

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Friday Finds 4

  1. I Was Vermeer: The Forger Who Swindled the Nazis, by Frank Wynne – This is a fascinating account of swindler and art forger Han van Meegeren and it raises larger questions about the authenticity of much of the art hanging on gallery and museum walls around the world. An embittered van Meegeren took to forging Vermeer and other artists when his own art was ignored by the serious art world. He and his wife relocated from the Netherlands to the south of France where Van Meegeren set up a studio and an elaborate lab so that he could fool the art experts. He was talented, prolific, and a prodigious liar. It’s quite the tale – as much about psychology as art.
  2. www.thrillist.com – Our fabulous daughter is joining us on our trip to Paris and she told me about this website. Type in the name of the city you’re visiting, and a series of targeted articles appears. Best spots for brunch? Check. Best cafés? Check. Best chocolatier? Check. Your itinerary just got a lot easier to put together. Since some of my favorite spots are on their lists, I trust the recommendations.
  3. To Catch a Thief – Watch this 1955 classic for the amazing scenery along France’s Côte d’Azur and for the soignée wardrobes of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The acting and special effects don’t hold up so well, however!
  4. My French County Box – If you need a last-minute gift for your favorite francophile (or yourself), blogger and author Sharon Santoni has the perfect solution. Santoni will ship you a box of French goodies quarterly or just one for a special occasion. The price is not exactly cheap ($195 for a single box or $700 for one every three months), but shipping, customs duty, and taxes are included. As Santoni says, “Each box includes : 4 principal gifts and 4 smaller indulgences, plus a limited edition watercolor print in a French theme for you to collect throughout the year. Each box is curated along a seasonal theme, smells fantastic and introduces you to our favorite French creators and iconic brands.”

I’ll be in Paris for the next ten says where I’ll be able to curate my own box of goodies for this francophile. I will not likely post again until after Christmas, but you can follow our adventures on Instagram @onequalitythefinest. Joyeux Noël!

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Friday Finds 3

  1. Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes, by Elizabeth Bard – This is the follow-up to Bard’s best-selling memoir Lunch in Paris and I liked it even more than the first book. Bard talks with raw honesty about the strain her book caused in her relationship with her mother-in-law who felt that Bard had disclosed too much that was private. She lays bare her feelings of inadequacy as a parent of a young son who clearly prefers his daddy. But the book is really about finding her place in France, but in Provence instead of in Paris. Bard and her husband move to the Cereste in the south of France where they decide to break with their prior careers in order to open an artisanal ice cream shop, Scaramouche. I’m not a big ice cream person, but Bard’s description of how they sourced the best local ingredients and experimented to create the most luscious combinations made me want to try a scoop of everything. If you’d rather eat ice cream than read about it, Scaramouche has now opened a second shop in Paris (22 rue la Vieuville, in the 18th). It’s closed for the winter, but I definitely want to check it out this summer.
  2. Chef’s Table: France – This Netflix Original series explores the stories of four very different Michelin starred chefs. Each chef is completely different in the style of cuisine and back story, but each clearly infuses each dish with love as well as skill. It’s an enchanting short series – and I’m not even a foodie!
  3. TripFiction – I’ve always loved to prepare for a trip by reading about my destination beforehand, whether it be a travelog, history, memoir, or historical fiction. And when I come home, reading about places I have discovered helps prolong the pleasure of the trip. I just discovered Trip Fiction, a website dedicated to this proposition. Search your destination and tailored recommendations pop up that you can purchase through the site. I checked their recommendations for France, and they are goodies. Even if your travels are only of the armchair variety, you will find plenty to enjoy here. Bon voyage! 
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Une décoration de Noël

img_3970Since we’re going to spend Christmas in Paris, I decided not to decorate our home for the holidays. I love my collection of ornaments; putting them out is fine, but putting them away afterward is (yawn) a real bore. Still, seeing all sorts of Christmas finery is one if pleasures of the holiday. So this weekend, we visited Castle Hill, a historical mansion in Ipswich, Massachusetts that does Christmas in a big way.

img_3971We were wowed from the moment we glimpsed the huge house at the top of the hill. Castle Hill, a 59 room mansion,  was built in 1928 by the Crane family, of indoor plumbing fame and fortune. (My paternal grandmother was named Crane. Do you think they’ll let me move in as a long lost heir?) The Cranes used it as a summer home for just a few weeks each year.

img_3972While the house is truly splendid, we thought the commanding view down to the sea and salt marshes would have made even Louis XIV jealous. In fact, the dramatic setting reminded me of Vaux le Vicomte, a château that made Louis XIV so jealous that he took it for himself.

img_3973Inside, the house was decorated with a Twelve Days of Christmas theme. Our favorite two rooms were the richly paneled library, inspired by Seven Pipers Piping, and the apricot guest room, decorated with Five Golden Rings. But room after room was a genuine delight. Local florists demonstrated their talents with lush bouquets.

img_3974Une décoration de Noël (oon day-kor-a-see-ohn duh no-ell) means “a Christmas decoration.” If have a chance to admire the holiday décor at Castle Hill, I think you’ll be just as delighted as we were. We hope to come back in June to see the rose garden in full bloom. It’s perfect – decorations I don’t have to put away and gardens I don’t have to weed. Check out their calendar for a full listing of special events.

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