a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘pierre herme’

turning european…

In the 80s, turning Japanese seemed a popular theme.  But somewhere the last decade or two, I turned European.

I don’t always get it right.  The cheek kissing is always fraught with awkwardness and I am constantly confused as to how many cheeks to kiss – and if I should be leaving lipstick marks or just air kissing.

But – as the bartender on my last night in Paris noted – and confirmed by his behaviour – one of the big attributes of Europeans is hospitality.  And I would also add – charm.  A big part of hospitality.  Without European hospitality, I would never have married a European man.  But that is a whole other story…

In a world where I increasingly worry about the loss of manners and civility, the Europeans are there trying to prove charm is still alive and well.  That sometimes you need to take time to perform a task properly, not just efficiently.  I have seen it across three countries in the very recent past.  The French are likely the most charming, performing tasks with both reserve and aplomb, but I have been impressed by all the Europeans I have encountered on my trip.

My final cultural adventures were two-fold.

First, I stood in the bitter cold waiting to buy a ticket to the Helmut Newton exhibition.  But I was at the Grand Palais so that provided some wonderful photographic opportunities and Helmut Newton is worth freezing off your fingers.  What is more gratifying was to see how packed it is!  I wasn’t quite sure what the four year olds were making of the shots of women wearing saddles but this is how they grow up to be European with a sophisticated world view and an ability to discuss art as readily as sport.

The second cultural adventure was more unique.  I wanted to mail a birthday present purchased in Paris before I left France.  How often do you walk past the Louvre to find the post office?  Seulement en Paris!  A beautiful, fascinating city that I would encourage everyone to visit.  No matter where you stay or what you do, Paris is certain to weave its magic.

One of my favourite Paris adventures was done on a budget.  To even out our restaurant spending, we decided to go to Monoprix and buy bread, cheese, some of those transcendent cold cuts, a mini bottle of champagne and some red wine.  It was a beautiful summer evening so we would indulge in all our treats on the breakfast terrace of our small hotel near the Eiffel Tower (we had a picnic on the lawn there one night as well).  We couldn’t find our corkscrew.  Things looked complicated.  But we were in Paris – so not only was a corkscrew produced, they opened our wine for us!  And then we had that “only in Paris” moment.   It was hot so the windows were open in the building opposite us.  And someone was practicing her cello.  So our dinner was accompanied by live classical music.

Leaving Paris is hard.   Having a memorable experience in Paris is a piece of cake.  Just ask my mom.  She told me she didn’t need to go to Paris.  It wasn’t on her bucket list.  Just by accident she turned 65 on the plane.  So this trip I suggested we should return for 75 as an anniversary celebration.  She said she’d make sure she had good walking shoes.  I’m a little worried that once she has the macarons at Pierre Hermé, I may not be able to convince her to leave…

Speaking of great walking shoes, I need to extend a shout out to Browns.  Just before I embarked on this adventure, I bought a pair of black patent driving moccasins.  Possibly one of the world’s most perfect travel shoes!  The Browns version are insanely comfortable.  I have  been wearing them every day as I trundle over the cobblestones.  By the time I get home, I will have already gotten my money’s worth 🙂  I would highly recommend a pair of Brown’s loafers.  Even though my friends all seem to think that I spend all my time in showstopping 4 inch heels, the real truth is that a large majority of my life is spent wearing Browns loafers – because they combine such a great mix of style, comfort and value.  And they are now on-line… check them out 🙂

http://www.brownsshoes.com/

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…


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