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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!

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!!

So today’s beauty feature on La Grisette is consecrated to a mascara that keeps its promises. Yves Saint Laurent’s Faux Cils in high density black isn’t dry, doesn’t get all crumbly underneath your eyes like Dior’s DiorShow mascara, and provides length and volume like it says it does. And NO CLUMPING. Hallelujah!

I was a bit hesitant to buy it at first after having had a disappointing bout with DiorShow. I was thinking, well, luxury brand…drug store brand…is there a huge difference? I would say when it comes to YSL’s Faux Cils, there definitely is. Not only is it long lasting (and I am not even using the waterproof version) but it comes off easily when I am in a hurry to wash my face and hop into bed after a grueling day.

I know I might be sounding like a commercial right about now, but this week is dedicated to describing all the good beauty stuff I use daily after having gone through some trial and error in order to figure out what really works. This is just my honest two cents on mascaras (for this posting) and beauty products in general that are currently on the market!

My last word on mascara is Nivea. If you are scraping the barrel this month and don’t want to shell out the extra moola for the pricey Frenchie stuff, check out Nivea’s Extension Nanodefinition mascara. It provides great separation and length, and if you add another layer you can get pretty decent volume. I was using it before I took the plunge to try YSL, and I had my boss asking me what mascara I used! Definitely worth trying!!

So you have probably heard of a salon de thé, but what about a salon de café? While coffee in your regular Parisian bistro is usually rather good (in comparison to American coffee which the French have tastefully labeled jus de chaussette, or sock juice) there is a place in Paris that is specialized in the art of coffee. It’s called La Caféothèque, or also known as Soluna Café.

I went awhile ago with my friend Tenke (who is a coffee freak), and who before arriving in Paris from Geneva, had researched the best places to get an expresso. Never without her coffee high, we began a coffee crawl that led us to La Caféothèque where we decided to promptly end the crawl and indulge in the myriad of choices there.

Located on along the Seine, it can be easy to miss, as there isn’t a big sign and no tables outside. Once you step inside though, you know you have arrived as the smell of coffee greets the nostrils. Coffee is everywhere in every sense. Grinding coffee can be heard, roasting coffee can be seen etc.. With the occasional live music and a small library, La Caféothèque is a relaxing place to enjoy great coffee from the four corners of the earth.

We ended up buying a bag of coffee, a very special kind for the coffee connoisseurs, called Jacu bird coffee. The owner, a fascinating elderly man that was full of stories, let us have a free cup before purchasing it, which obvious sealed the deal. Jacu bird coffee needs some convincing… considering that the beans were predigested by the Jacu Bird before being pooped out and then picked up or “harvested” to make our coffee….

Again, a must for coffee aficionados!!

La Caféothèque

52, rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville
75004  Paris
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