So my neighborhood is an absolute jewel for hip delicious new restaurants and bars, which continue to pop up in the area like mushrooms! Bragging about the amazingness of the 11th arrondissement is brazen of me, I know, given the classic wonders of Paris located in more prim and proper arrondissements… but I just can’t help myself.

Recently I taste tested one such place called Bodega Bay on rue Amelot, a hop away from the Cirque d’Hiver. I had passed by it several times, and there was always heathly Bobo crowd out front smoking and sipping drinks, but it didn’t strike me as a place that was a good eat. That all changed when m boyrfriend and I had our tastebuds so tantalized by the mere tapas that we forgot to order a main dish! Our tapas consisted of a large plate of real nachos (with real cheese, not that liquid goo a.k.a. ‘Velveeta’), fried jalapenos stuffed with cheese, a goatcheese quesadilla, and the crowning glory, large gambas with a divine “churro” sauce as we called it. The churro sauce was amazing! With its cinammon yet sweet and salty touch, it just about had us fighting over the number of gambas each of us could have to dip into it.

On the drinks side, my boyfriend went for a classic Margarita, and was a bit disappointed with the almost straight-up Tequila preparation. It was clearly lacking the true Mexican touch, but in France, well, one has to admit that is hard to find! Our suggestion would be to steer more towards the Chilean, Argentinian, and Californian wine than to hit up the cocktails, as we were pleasantly surprised by an affordable Chilean red.

For the main dishes, while we didn’t get around to ordering them, they did look delicious from a distance. Bodega Bay offers three kinds of fajitas – chicken, steak, and shrimp, all on the sizzling metal platter, which is a good sign. I’ll definitely be back to try them, and their Sopapilla dessert! To be continued…

Bodega Bay

116 rue Amelot

75011, Paris

01 43 55 83 77

http://www.bodega-bay.fr/

Metro: Filles du Calvaire, line 8 

If you have been anything like me lately and practically running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you’ll know that there is nothing more desirable than a peaceful place to escape to in order to leave the bustle and stress of Paris behind. While this place could have a variety  of names (Cote d’Azur, Biarritz…to name a few), there is one that you might not have thought of and that won’t break your bank.

It’s called Giverny. Yes, like in Claude Monet‘s Giverny. A glorious place where a serene calm reigns and a natural beauty is in abundance. Only an hour from Paris by car, and an hour and a half by train (trains leave out of Gare St. Lazare and get into Vernon – from Vernon it’s a 15 miunute bus ride), Giverny is close enough to do a day trip, and well worth a weekend stay. A small ivy covered town, its a step back into the past to a time when artists such as Claude Monet flocked to the countryside to capture pictoresque landscapes on their canvases and sip tea in a blossoming garden. Giverny, with its quaint cafes and darling bread and breakfasts allows one to slow down and take in what was the great inspiration behind some of the most stunning chef d’oeuvres of the 19th century. Lily ponds, flower gardens, orchards, row boats… Giverny has preseved it all and is a must see at any time of the year.

For museum information visit the Claude Monet Foundation’s website. The museum holds original pieces and often has great exhibitions, the current one is impressionism featuring. I highly recommend visiting Claude Monet’s house and garden, which allows you to see how he lived at the time, and to visit his unique gardens and lily pond. The walls of his house are adorned by an exquisite collection of Japanese art that Monet cherished – so also very much worth the visit. For those who love impressionism, viewing the actual lily pond is truly a spectacular sight that could keep you gazing dreamily for hours! My photos don’t do it justice!

A couple weekends ago, my friend Maggie and I road tested a rockin’ brunch place in the 7th arrondissement called Coutume. We couldn’t have been more pleased! Surprised by their reasonable prices (considering the area), the great food, and almost scientific coffee, the whole brunch experience ended up lasting a good three hours!

Coutume’s specialty is by far their coffee. Roasting the beans themselves, they have a large selection of pain-stakingly chosen coffee beans that once roasted, are used to produce their coffee beverages which are prepared in four different ways: expresso machine, siphon (very strong), conical drip, and the very rare cold drip apparatus. For coffee conoisseurs, there isn’t anything else like this in Paris, so a definite must!

However after a coffee or two, if you have the tendacy to get the jitters like Maggie and I, you might want to sit down and enjoy the 3 course 20 euro brunch. A to die for home-made muesli with apple compote and fromage blanc starts it off in addition to freezed squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. The next course can be a standard eggs and bacon with potatoes, or variations with salmon, or a breakfast burrito. Everything was just delicious and the service was unprententious and helpful, always a plus!

The ambiance, with its beaker water carafes and clipboard menus, was halfway between laboratory and trendy resto. With plants creatively growing out of sinks, bags of green coffee beans lining the back, unfinished paint on the walls, and a large roaster, one gets the taste of the craft and science involved in making good coffee while enjoying a warm luminous yet slightly industrial atmosphere.

Coutume welcomes the coffee drinker with his or her newspaper (or should we say iPad these days?), so don’t feel obligated to brunch if you just want to hang out at the coffee bar or study. We saw several people in there who were simply enjoying a great coffee while websurfing or reading! So give it a try, experiments in this “lab” are always a success!

Coutume

47 rue de Babylone

75007, Paris

http://www.coutumecafe.com/ (site in progress)

So while most tourist guides will try to convince you that Ladurée macaroons are Paris’s signature dessert, that is only because they have yet to discover the magic of the French “choux” made fresh every day in the Marais by the patisserie Popelini.

Popelini  has perfected the difficult dough and unctuous cream that make the most melt in your mouth cream puffs. Specialized in the fabrication of this pastry alone, Popelini creates cream puffs of all flavors such as pistachio, coffee, hazelnut, violet, rose, and bourbon vanilla.

It all got started when owner Lauren Koumetz decided to branch out and expand upon the classic vanilla cream puff. Mastering the complicated recipe was a task in itself, but Popelini’s pastry chef Alice Barday managed to do so and went beyond by creating exquisite cream flavors and icing.

Packaged in cute colorful boxes, Popelini’s cream puffs are truly delectable and well, très chou!

Popelini

29, rue Debelleyme,

75003, Paris

Tel: 01 44 61 31 44

Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 7:30pm

So it wouldn’t be fair to do a posting on Merci, without doing a posting on Grazie. As you might have guessed by the name, the two are indeed related, with the later being a pizzeria opened by Marie France Cohen’s* son, Julien. Located just two blocks down from Merci, I went there last weekend at the suggestion of a friend.

Grazie most definitely has a New York feel. Minimalist in its décor, Julien decided to let the old crusty character of the building speak for itself. Industrial metal beams break up the space giving intimacy to the small tables interspersed in between them while the yellowed molding on the ceiling takes you back to New York diners in the 70s. While the crowd is as bobo as you can get and trying way too hard, at least the place isn’t.

I started the evening with a delicious basil honey grapefruit cocktail that I loved, but I wasn’t so hot about the 12 euro price tag. Dinner on the other hand was much more reasonable, and truly delicious. My vegetarian pizza had a perfect crust (not too thin,
not too thick) and tasty grilled vegetables with flavorful mozzarella. Definitely a winner.  Dessert was likewise very good, however again, 10 euros for two scoops of gelati is a bit excessive.

Overall, it is definitely worth trying, and if you do, I would suggest making a reservation in advance because the place was full on a Wednesday night! Keep you posted if they come out with a Thank You anytime soon! ;)

Grazie
91 boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003, Paris  
Open everyday for lunch and dinner
 01 42 78 11 96

*Marie-France Cohen is the owner of Merci, discussed in my previous post.

Well, it took my long enough to finally find this fashion/interior deco mecca, but la Grisette found it, and boy did she ever! For someone who could live in an Anthropologie store, it was tough not having an equivalent in Paris… until Merci.

A concept store that resembles a trendy oversized loft, Merci houses what I would love to be my closet, full of Isabel Marant, Stella McCartney, YSL, and purses by Jérôme Dreyfuss.  The lower level has sections dedicated to men’s and women’s wear, including  a small jewelry section with up and coming designers, and a perfume counter. I recently got my hands on a wonderful new Annick Goutal for Merci scent called “Eau du Sud”, I love it because it’s incredibly fresh and not just a rehashed sickeningly sweet designer scent! The place is a vrai regal for the Parisian fashionista!

But then, it gets better with its upstairs level featuring amazing furniture and furnishings that range from a very organic style to a more colder modern feel.  Light fixtures, couches, tables, shelving, you name they have it, and you’ll probably want it. The only holding you (said me) back…are the prices. But that said, Merci is “charity store” in that it donates %100 of the profit to a charity that helps women and children in Madagascar, a country that suffers from intense poverty. So NO GUILT on the purchases!!

Going just go for the experience is definitely worth it, even if you don’t plan on buying anything. They have a really cozy café with all kinds of fancy teas and cocktails, which you can enjoy while getting your daily dose of people watching !



Need an apartment in Paris without the hassle of fighting the crowds? Maybe a gently used microwave or washing machine?

Little known (but quickly starting to become better known) site called Le Bon Coin is the site for you. While everyone knows about Craigslist and Kikiji (now Ebay), Le Bon Coin still has a local feel to it and some killer deals. My current intern recently found an excellent apartment for a great price, something she wasn’t able to do on Pap.fr without running against the clock to squeeze in a visit only to find that the price has gone up and that fifty other people were waiting to visit it.

Le Bon Coin can be used to search for anything, anywhere in France as it lists all the regions, including the overseas ones.

Happy Bargain Hunting!!

http://www.leboncoin.fr/

Who doesn’t have a little nostalgia for those “drive in” days? The days where you used to sit in your car and watch movies on a huge screen under the stars… Well, in Paris, it’s still possible!

While you may not be able to just drive in like in the old days, you can do even better by setting up a picnic with friends on a large grassy lawn and enjoy a selection of recent and past films with the larger Parisian community. Every year,  Paris’s Parc de la Villette celebrates cinema by hosting “Cinéma en Plein Air” – an occasion to watch FREE screenings of movies by directors such as Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almodovar, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Gus Van Sant, and many more!

Having already gone several years in a row, I never cease to marvel at the simple pleasure of watching a movie in a lively outdoor setting. My only suggestions to first timers are the following :1) make sure someone in your party arrives on the early side to stake out a spot, and 2) bring some warm clothing to wrap up in if the temperature drops during the film.

Lounge chairs are available for rent for 7 euros each, or you can rent 5 chairs for 20 euros. Films begin showing on July 19 and run through August 21 and the actual movie starts when the sun sets!

Schedule of films can be viewed here: http://www.villette.com/ressources/documents/2/2337,livret_cinemavillette2011small.pdf

Parc de la Villette

221, Avenue Jean Jaures

75019, Paris

Metros: Porte de Pantin (5), Porte de la Villette (7)

© Institut de France – Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris

Having recently seen Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” and re-lived the magical rich layers of culture that Paris possesses, I decided right then that I was going to wake up from my daily grind and end my “cultural education” hiatus. When on my way to work the following day I saw the poster for the current Caillebotte exhibit, I said to myself, “Okay, Daniella, let’s start here.”

The Caillebotte exhibit is currently on display at what was unexpectedly the most magnificent hôtel particulier I have seen. Dating back to 1875, it was the demeure of Edouard André and his wife Nélie Jacquemart. The couple was passionate about art, and thus the museum now houses one the most ravishing private collections of art in Paris. While I originally went to see the Caillebotte exhibit, I ended up spending most of my time exploring the hotel and the private collection than the exihibit itself.

@ Parisbestlodge

The Jacquemart-André museum bings to life the luxury and lifestyle of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and includes an extaordinary staircase designed by Henri Parent, the biggest rival of Charles Garnier, architect of the Opera Garnier. Wandering throught the rooms, and spending time in the courtyards or café, you forget that you are in the heart of Paris, and a five minute walk from the famous Champs-Elysées. You tend to feel a bit like Cinderella, and can just imagine a carriage pulling up and picking you up to go to the next ball.

While I do highly recommend the Caillebotte exhibit to those interested in impressionist art and its juxtaposition against photography, a new technology at the time, the museum itself is worth a visit any day of the week, special exhibit or not. It is definitely my new favorite museum in Paris!!

To get a little taste of the extravagance, here is link to the museum photo galleries: http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/fr/jacquemart/607-galerie_photos/

Musée Jacquemart-André

158, bd Haussmann

75008 Paris

Tél. : 01 45 62 11 59

http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/

Ourcq Canal

Not too long ago, I was enjoying an afterwork picnic on the banks of the Ourcq canal with some friends. As I gazed at the moss green water, I contemplated what it must have served as back in the day…perhaps a way to transport goods into the city? Where does it start?

That’s when I decided it might be worth exploring…exploring by bike. The following weekend, along with a friend, I rented a bike for a day at 20 euros (see here) and set out to ride up the Ourcq canal for as far as I could go.

The Poudrerie Forest

With no cars and a paved bike path the whole way, I rode approximately twenty kilometers to discover, to my suprise, grassy lawns, flowers, fishermen, kayakers, and a peaceful forest (Le Parc National Forestier de la Poudrerie).

Not only was I getting some serious exercise, but I really felt like I was outside of Paris on an adventure. Once we got out of a slightly industrial zone just north of the Parc de la Villette, it was just a long tree-lined rode along the glistening Ourcq canal. When we came across the Poudrerie forest, we pedaled on some trails through the forest and found ourselves the perfect picnic spot facing a large pond with a small island in it. Very picturesque!

Fishermen along the canal

While the Ourcq canal continued on without us, its source still a mystery, we vowed that the next bike ride would start off from where we started. We’ll get to the end someday!

All in all, if you want an outdoor, sporty day trip outside Paris for cheap, cycling up the Ourcq would definitely be up your alley. Just make sure you bring a picnic and som sunscreen, as there is hardly anything along the canal, and you are exposed to the elements. However, if you make it to the Poudrerie forest, there are some small snack shops, and one in particular that is inside a building that ressembles small castle.

Here is site (in French) with a good map and some background information: http://www.aufildelourcq.org/loisirs/promvelo.php

Happy cycling this summer!!

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