Buy a Piece of Paris History

parisparkchair.jpgAs I've said before, I don't really do cafés. I mean, I like them and all, but I don't have a favorite where I spend my afternoons with  café crème scribbling in a notebook. But I do have a favorite garden, the Jardins du Palais Royal, and one of my quintessential Parisian indulgences, when I have a rare free moment, is to recline in one of the garden's metal lounge chairs on a sunny day, feet up on the edge of the fountain. All of the Paris parks have these chairs, some that are reclined, some with arms, some just simple chairs that you can move around to get the preferred sunny or shady spot. But Palais Royal's gardens are surrounded by arcaded shopping galleries, not streets full of noisy, smelly traffic. Pure bliss.

And the window shopping isn't bad. I particularly am fond of the Prince Jardinier boutique, so was disturbed to see they are temporarily closed after a fire. The online boutique is still open, though, and wouldn't you know it, they are selling authentic Paris park chairs, rescued by the Prince Jardinier from "retirement" in the local dump, and given a good scrub and paint job.

No, they are not cheap; the reclining chair, my preferred, is €495. But where else can you get an authentic piece of Parisian history for so little? Until I can afford one of the little apartments above the shopping arcades with a view of the gardens, then a chair will do just fine...


How do you know if your Parisian hotel or apartment is in a good neighborhood?

Today I got an email that touches on a subject I've been asked about often, so I thought I'd share the response with all of you:

"Heather, My husband and I are taking a 7 day trip to Paris in September. We want to rent an apartment, but I am have no idea what area to rent in. Everything looks nice online, but you don't know if it's in the worst area of town. I know that you would be able to help."

The apartment agencies listed in the Paris Accommodation section normally only list apartments in the central, safe, tourist-friendly neighborhoods like the Islands (1st, 4th arrondissements), the Louvre/Palais Royal (1st), the Marais (3rd,4th), the Latin Quarter (5th), St-Germain-des-Prés (6th), Invalides/Eiffel Tower (7th), Opéra/Grands Boulevards (9th) and Montmartre (18th). There are less interesting, less central, less pretty areas of Paris, but as far as "bad" areas of town, you wouldn't see any reputable agencies renting out apartments in those areas, such as between the train tracks on the east end of the 18th arrondissement (I would not put my mother in a hotel anywhere east of Montmartre). There are some areas of the 9th that are not pretty, seedy sex shops around Pigalle, and some around the rue St-Denis in the 2nd. I wouldn't stay in any of the outer edges of the north or east Paris, but I don't think there are any areas on the Left Bank or the 8th or 16th that I would say are "dangerous", just some areas that are not very interesting or are too far from public transportation.

This is becoming a long answer, because sometimes it really depends on the exact street, how close it is to the metro and shops, etc, and it's more important to be cautious when you're renting direct from an owner on a site like Craig's List or from FUSAC. But as I said, you pretty much can't go wrong with anything in the first 8 arrondissements, and legitimate apartment rental agencies wouldn't even list apartments outside safe areas, so don't stress too much!



A Daffodil Garden at Le Panthéon

affiche-jardin-pantheon-2008.jpgThere may be intermittant snowing and raining, sun and wind, and absolutely freezing, but that's how you know Spring has arrived! Well, that and the daffodils. From March 21-23 (yes, that means tomorrow, Easter Sunday, is the last day), the square outside the Panthéon (5th) has been transformed into a daffodil garden (over 50,000 flowers) to benefit the Institut Curie's cancer research foundation: Un Jardin pour la Vie. You can buy the daffodils for €2 (€1 goes to the foundation). There will also be entertainment for children, live concerts, theatre performances, face painting, and free tours of the Musée Curie (around the corner at 1 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 5th).

If you can't make it, or are huddling around your heater in this weather rather than going outside, then you can also support the cause by stopping by any Truffaut garden shop until the 30th of March, where you can buy your daffodils in a bouquet or as bulbs (50% of the proceeds go to the foundation).


Heather's Interview on Moleskinecity.com

There's something so clichéd about the American writer in Paris scribbling in a Moleskine journal on a café terrace. But I buy them anyway. I like the little elastic band that keeps the notebook closed. I like the paper, which is smooth and heavy enough that I can write on both sides without my runny fountain pen bleeding through. I'm especially fond of the pocket-sized Reporter Notebook version (there are many now) that opens vertically like a journalist's pad, with simple horizontal lines. I hate writing on graph paper, blank pages, and those multi-lined notebooks that school kids use to practice their handwriting. I can't remember the last time I actually sat in a café writing in my notebooks. I usually only go to cafés to meet with friends, and there are usually more interesting things to watch anyway. The Metro, though, is another story. Nothing interesting to look at, nothing at all (aside from the occasional bad or silly billboard advertisement). So it's the perfect time to spend scribbling away. Not that I'm working on that novel. I tend to make notes to myself, draft articles, write down things I saw while walking around town to report back here, or just write about what's bothering me (a sort of therapy journaling, I suppose).

In any case, I now have a huge box of used Moleskine's (and other non-branded versions...Moleskine as a brand didn't actually exist until 1995) in my storage cellar. The very first one was in fact purchased in 1995 just before I left for my Christmas/New Year break in Budapest. I used it as a travel journal. I used a purple pen that fit in a loop on the notebook. The elastic was green. I made a lot of ugly skeches in it after I slipped on the ice and broke my camera. Today you can actually buy Moleskine city notebooks, a sort of mix of a travel guide and a notebook. The Paris guide has maps of the city and Metro, tabs for making sections where you note your essential addresses, etc. I think they're a great idea. I probably won't use them myself; habits are sometimes hard to break. But you might like them. Their website has an interesting multilingual blog covering several European cities. The Paris blog features an interview with moi today. Enjoy, have a surf around. Funnily enough, they don't actually push their notebooks here at all. For that you'll have to go to www.moleskine.com (where you'll also find info about how to participate in their creative challenge to benefit lettera27, a nonprofit literacy organization dedicated to support the right to education and access to knowledge around the world. 


Israel Honored in Paris this Week

French and Israeli flags over the Opera Garnier

If you happened to notice the Israeli flags all over Paris this week, it's because Israel is the honored guest of the annual Salon du Livre (Book Fair), featuring the latest Israeli authors and their works. Arab publishers at the fair have called for a boycott, which has caused quite a stir in the publishing community.

President Sarkozy gave President Shimon Peres the guided tour of his posh pad on the Champs-Elysées (maybe Carla made cookies), and a tour of the city, including a stop at the Pantheon to honor the memorial to those who helped save Jews from deportation during WWII.

Articles on Franco-Israeli relations here and here.


Tecktonik dancing in Paris

Someone emailed me today asking about tecktonik dancing in Paris. Personally, it doesn't look very different to what we were doing at techno clubs in the States when I was in highschool (early 90s), but apparently the French think they've invented something original and now it's everywhere. A favored location is on the Esplanade of the Palais de Chaillot (Trocadéro), which makes for great videos with the Eiffel Tower in the back:

If you want to check out the original tecktonik club, head to the southern 'burbs to a place called Metropolis where they have the weekly Tecktonik Killer soirées (Saturdays).