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Posts tagged ‘murano urban resort’

le perfect mixte

For those of you not familiar with France, un sandwich mixte is just a ham and cheese sandwich.  But, like most things in Paris, “just” is not part of the vocabulary.  Having at least one proper sandwich mixte is always my goal in Paris.  The bread needs to have that perfect combination of crunch and softness.  The cheese needs to be sliced at just the right thickness with the perfect depth of flavour. And I don’t know what they do with the pigs in France but ham never tastes the same in other places.

This time it took three tries.  But when it finally arrives… on a sunny day, in an outdoor café, accompanied by a great glass of St Emilion, you say “oo la la” under your breath 🙂

I did try to squeeze a little culture in between the adventures in merchandising.  I had noted in the hotel’s tourist info that the Palais de Tokyo was reopening and doing some kind of 48 hour culturathon apparently.  The Palais de Tokyo is not for everyone but if you appreciate modern art, it is worth the trip to the 16th arrondissement.

The first time I went I was sick in Paris so only managed to drag myself there late in the afternoon.  Too late for the Musée d’Art Moderne but early enough for the young, hip open into the evening Palais de Tokyo.  Sometimes I look at really modern art and think, “OK, the artist is just making fun of us.  Or he was VERY high when he thought this was a good idea…”  But sometimes it’s provocative, inventive or just pretty.  My favourite piece this time was a little of each.  I’m not quite sure what it means but it was fascinating to look at – and very pretty.  I took a photo so you can decide for yourself.

The Musée d’Art Moderne was a bit more conventional but also included an

an installation that mostly just looked wild and crazy.  But maybe that is all art needs to be…  I would recommend a visit to both – and then a stop at the surprisingly great café right next to the métro.  If you are lucky, the sun will be shining, the light will descend on all that elaborate seventeenth century architecture and you will know there is nowhere else you could be but Paris.

And when it is time for dessert – or a snack – or breakfast 🙂  I have had them at all three times this trip.  My newest Paris obsession – macarons at Pierre Hermé.

It all started in 2003 when Sean requested macarons from Ladurée as “payment” for our free accommodation in London.  A sweet price to pay 🙂   At that stage in my life, I had some passing knowledge of a macaron but had never had one in Paris and knew nothing about Ladurée.  It wasn’t exactly knowledge one acquired in small town Manitoba.

For several years I thought Ladurée macarons were “la bombe” but then I read about some upstart called Pierre Hermé in a magazine.  And I started dissing Ladurée.  Not a very French thing to do…

It’s not that Ladurée macarons are bad.  It’s just that Pierre Hermé is that little slice of heaven on earth that is Paris at its finest.  I managed to sample almost all the flavours over my five days in Paris.  (Luckily you walk a lot in Paris.  The Paris métro is a cardio workout without having to put your gym gear on.)  The most dangerous part – and one of the reasons he has become so famous – is that the flavours are seasonable and always changing – so it becomes a classically existential totally Parisian question – can one ever try all the flavours of Pierre Hermé macarons?  Certainly not on one brief visit.

Conveniently (dangerously???) you can buy them at a number of different outlets 🙂  They even have an outlet on the shoe floor (yes, an entire floor!) at Galeries Lafayette – it’s almost a little too much pleasure to handle in such a small space 🙂

My favourite is the Infinement Vanille – vanilla taken to a level of perfection only attainable on French soil.  This trip I didn’t spend much time on food except for les sandwiches mixtes and macarons but on my final night I had a sublime meal at the Murano Urban Resort that reinforced all the stereotypes about French food and wine that I hold so dear.  Wildly it was the first time I ever had a well-done steak sent from the kitchen!  Normally you have to order it a little more ‘done’ than you would in North America and the risk is blood, not char.  Obviously, some miscommunication had occurred but I just had to show a piece to my French server and it was whisked away and returned in a perfect, slightly bloody form.  No self-respecting French person would have eaten it  🙂

I can still remember introducing my mom and my niece to the concept of crème brulée in Paris.  They were hooked from the first bite.  Paris does that to you.  Take a few bites in the right places and you will be hooked for life.  Paris will ruin you.  It will be like a youthful love affair you never quite recover from.  But never regret.  The things that change your life.  Make you a bit of a snob.  But allow you to experience life on levels you never even knew were there before some French speaking guy named Paul seduced you – and made you try his paté…  I’ve loved paté ever since…

les petits musées des rues

This heading was actually inspired by a conversation I had with my server the last night I was in Paris.  I treated myself to a drink and dinner at the Murano Urban Resort.  It’s a little pricey so I was too cheap to stay there but it was only a few blocks from my hotel and I needed a more upscale place to wear my new outfit.  And the weather was terrible so I wasn’t willing to drag myself all the way to the George V.

Both places also have memories for me as I took my 16 year old niece for a cocktail at each one on her “this is Paris” trip.  The old, regal Paris – and the new, hip Paris.  She was pretty blown away by both locales but she definitely had a crush on our friendly bartender with the dreadlocks at the Murano who was willing to even speak English!

The boys my night not so much… but they were friendly and charming.  And both food and drink superb.  I must learn to speak French better so that I can flirt with Frenchmen.  They really don’t do English the way the Nordic guys do.  But, hey, they didn’t used to even try to speak English – and they are doing better than Italian men.  Of course, Italian men can generally get you to fall for them even if you don’t understand a word they are saying 🙂

I am actually going to manage to tie together the heading, our conversation and a gorgeous Italian man named Federico!

The subject began when my appetizer arrived, beautifully presented as one comes to expect in Paris.  We both agreed it is one of the reasons it is such a pleasure to wander around Paris.  You don’t need a specific destination to be caught up in the glory of it all.

If you have any interest in shopping, you should definitely come to Paris at least once in your life.  The Parisians take the art of merchandising to a level that turns it into art.  Hence, the concept that walking the streets of Paris is like visiting lots of tiny museums of carefully curated treasures.

I hate shopping but the Parisians have won me over.  My general goal in life is to acquire goods with as little time, fuss and interaction with salespeople as possible.  I used to just feel flustered by all the attention I received in Paris.

But my goal in traveling is to leave ethnocentricity at home and try my best to embrace whatever local culture I am in.  So I have learned to say “bonjour” to all the sales assistants.  To slow down and let them “help” me.  They won’t be able to sell me something I don’t want but I can let them hope 🙂

And sometimes you meet a sales associate who is so good you just want to BUY something from him.  That would be Federico this trip.  He told me I was killing him when I told him I was a Dolce and Gabbana kind of girl in the Empori Armani store.  But he was Italian so he understood.

A devastatingly handsome Italian man who speaks English is a retail weapon of deadly proportions 🙂  Federico could sell ice to the Eskimos.  Of course, because he is Italian and selling ice in Paris, it would be tinted just the perfect shade of aquamarine and it would be wrapped in a navy icebox with silver ribbon curled with an expert hand.

But instead of ice I bought a silk skirt with a multicolour graphic pattern that screams spring 2012.  I have Federico’s card.  If I need it altered, I can ship it back to him and his expert seamstress in Paris.  He actually conned me into putting on an entire outfit – not just the skirt but a matching top, a crazy Obi-style belt – and shoes so high I could look him in the eye.  I had to admit the whole outfit was pretty inspired – but I knew I was just buying the skirt 🙂  And would have my local tailor make any alterations I needed.  But Federico turned my Paris souvenir into an entire experience rather than just a hurried purchase.

My VISA card was screaming at me to get my money’s worth out of my call to VISA pre-trip so that they wouldn’t cut it off and I would have to make an expensive long distance call to finish the purchasing process.  So I hopped on the metro and was off to likely my favourite shoe store in the entire world since Patrick Cox went out of business.  For any shoe fanatics out there, it’s Rodolphe Menudier.  I even found it without checking the website for the address!

The staff now speak English so it was more entertaining.  It took some restraint but I only bought two pairs of shoes.  One pair has faces on the toes!  I will have to take a photo and add it to the post.  Once again, really superior sales skills.  He will ship any shoes I want to Canada!

While the French definitely know how to sell, what has always astonished me is their skill at merchandising.  You must set a budget before you come shopping in France – because everything looks so good you will want it all!

I noticed it on my very first trip.  Window displays caught your attention.  Racks are not crowded with merchandise.  Sales associates actually re-fold items immediately and keep all the goods displayed at their best at all times.

And when you make a purchase, it will be wrapped with loving care, generally in a special bag, sometimes with pomp and ribbon.  Your purchase will feel special, not just something shoved into a plastic bag.

As I mentioned, I was writing this at the Murano, having my best meal in Paris, a stellar end to the trip. Thinking about the previous visit reminded me of wonderful example of French salesmanship at its finest.

I had taken my mom and my niece to Place Vendôme because everyone should see it on their first trip to Paris.  My niece was very impressed with one of the fancy shops and snapping photos of it.  I was smiling because we were just about to go into the fancy shop because I had decided she and my mom should have some French perfume to take home as a souvenir – and what better place to take them than Annick Goutal?

We got really lucky.  Our saleslady spoke a very charming English with a strong French accent.  She loved the idea of the three generations in Paris buying French perfume.  It was a long process since my mom was a lot more fussy about scent than I had realized.  But at the end of the delightful process, we came away with bottles of perfume, bags with ribbons and all sorts of free samples.  And my dad loved the way my mom smelled 🙂

If you don’t have any money to spend, you can still come to Paris.  My first visit I only window shopped.  But try and save up a few euros (the exchange rate is fantastic right now :))  And spend them in Paris.  On something French… a candle at Diptyque… perfume at Annick Goutal… or simply some macarons at Pierre Hermé…  You don’t have to spend a lot.  But the Parisians will make sure it feels like an event, not just a purchase.

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