Thursday, August 21, 2014

Paris Favorites

A final round-up of my Paris trip -- these notes are in no particular order; I am literally going through a pile of business cards, notes, brochures, and other paper ephemera stacked on my desk and writing as I pick each one up.  Sorry for the delay, but I've been working on a terrific (but time consuming) project on cooking classes in Italy for the wonderful Dream of Italy newsletter -- look for part one in the next issue! 

*Atelier Brancusi: located on the plaza in front of the Pompidou Center, to me this is even better than the entire Pompidou museum.  Sculptor Constantin Brancusi was born in Romania but came to Paris in 1904, and he occupied a studio in the Impasse Ronsin near Montparnasse in the 15th arrondissement, first at number 8 (from 1916) and then at number 11 (from 1928).  Before his death, in 1957, he bequeathed his studio and its entire contents to the French State on the condition that it reconstruct his studio exactly as it was on the day of his death. Architect Renzo Piano's reconstruction is not intended to replicate the studio in every tiny detail, but rather, to quote from the brochure, "to communicate the  unity that Brancusi created between his sculptures inside that studio space."  I hadn't been here in a long time, and remarkably, admission is still free, but I would gladly paid an entrance fee.   And I was one of only about fifteen visitors.  I didn't take any photos and it appears that those I saw online are copyrighted, so I can't share any here; but if you haven't been, add this to your list!

*Vina Villa: I stopped into this tiny wine store at 85 rue Monge every other day, first because I saw a poster inside for Corsican wine (Corsica is one of my most favorite places on earth so I am always on the lookout for anything Corsican-related) and second because the owner is friendly and chatty.  He has a small selection of chilled whites (handy when your hotel room doesn't have a mini fridge) and he has a few corkscrews (handy when you forget yours; unfortunately I couldn't figure out how to use the one I bought until my trip was almost over).

Cards with sections of Paris from the Plan de Turgot from 1730 (like the one above, featuring the

Île de la Cité) can be found at Melodies Graphiques [10 rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 4th].  This is a lovely shop with a selection of papers, stationery, bound blank books, bookmarks, journals, cards, etc.  Very much worth a detour.    

*La Maison Ivre: readers of my Paris book may recall this shop in the 6th at 38 rue Jacob, lovingly presided over by Sylvine Nobécourt.  Fans of Rimbaud will recognize the pun on his poem "Le Bateau Ivre" (The Drunken Boat), which will also indicate that Sylvine has a wonderful sense of humor.  On this visit I stocked up on torchons (tea towels) imprinted with the store's name, and I bought a few birthday gifts for a friend: lavender wands made by a woman in Provence who is one of the few people making them at all anymore, and a sturdy Maison Ivre tote bag.  Somehow, I managed to walk out without buying any of the poterie artisanale -- there are a few pieces made in Corsica! -- but at least I left with the best gift of all: having a conversation with Sylvine.

This was mostly a budget trip, and the two hotels I stayed at were great budget choices that I highly recommend: Hôtel Maxim Latin Quarter [28 rue Censier, 5th] and the Grand Hôtel du Loiret [8 rue des Mauvais Garçons, 4th]. The staff at each was extremely helpful, friendly, and efficient, and both locations were very convenient.

Les Arènes du Lutèce [47-59 rue Monge] remains one of my most favorite places.  Positively nothing has been altered here since I last visited (not that I'm expecting anything to change), and it is a true pleasure to buy provisions for lunch in the rue Mouffetard, bring them back here, sit on one of stone steps, and watch Parisian schoolchildren on their lunch recess (and adults playing boules, reading books, and just enjoying the sunshine). 

Latitude Sud [48 boulevard Saint-Michel, 5th] is a good shop to buy items like T-shirts, tote bags, and cosmetic cases with La Vie est Belle imprinted across the front and keychains with an airplane, a globe, and a suitcase.

Willi's Wine Bar, now in its 34th year, [13 rue des Petits-Champs, 1st] feels like an old friend.  I still love sitting at the bar and chatting with the bartenders, and I always have a very good meal here (and the wine-by-the-glass selections are great).

La Tuile à Loup [35 rue Daubenton, 5th] has renovated its shop so there is more room for its innovative, high quality ceramics.

In addition to my Plan de Paris, my best companions were:

 (since I now see these are a little hard to read, the one to the left is Paris for Pleasure Seekers and the one below is It's Nice to Be Alone in Paris -- how perfect for me on this trip!  Both are fold-out booklets published by Herb Lester in London, a neat company that every traveler should know about.)

Bercy Village [at the Cour Saint-Emilion Métro station, 12th] is today a restored area with shops and restaurants, but my friend Lorraine and I went there (for the first time) because we were interested in the history of the area: the Cour Saint-Emilion Métro station is named after the Bordeaux wine because it was built at the old Bercy railroad station where wine from the south of France arrived in Paris.  Up until 1960, the original wine warehouses -- dating from the 19th century -- formed the largest center of wine and spirits trade in the world.  The reason is because the area at the time was not technically within the city limits, and therefore not required to pay taxes.  Bercy is a really pleasant place to walk around, and the white stone warehouses are beautiful -- and they are listed as an historic monument.

The chocolates by Patrick Roger [6 locations in Paris] are off-the-charts, but I hadn't visited a boutique until this trip.  Last year a good friend brought me back the most extraordinary box of chocolate eggs -- and when I use the word 'extraordinary' it's no exaggeration -- and I made a note to make certain I stopped by the next time I was in Paris.  Wow.  I bought an assortment of delights for the train ride to Nice as well as some cocoa powder to bring home.  It's probably a good thing there isn't an outpost in New York...yet.  !

I'm off to Banff National Park in Canada - more in September!