Friday
May022008

Newsletter #82: May 2008

In this newsletter: * Heather’s News * The 104th Annual Paris Fair * Dining & Nightlife News & Reviews * Movies in Paris * Marie-Antoinette at the Grand Palais * Free Museum Night on May 17 * Dining Reviews * Paris Nightlife: Free Jazz * Paris Nightlife: Champagne Bar * Nightlife News * TV Show Seeks American Artists/Writers/Musicians * Free Book Exchange * Paris Pet Bakery Now Delivers * Japanese Toilets on the Champs-Elysées * More Newsletters, Please!

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Apr302008

French Leave (to Lisbon)


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Castles and ruins in Sintra, Portugal.

I don't normally go on vacation unless it's "work" related or back to the US to see friends and family, but I haven't taken a day off work since last May, and after a few "you're really pale" comments and a prescription from my doctor to "Go on vacation somewhere warm and don't do anything" I finally escaped the wet and chilly city of Paris -- sans laptop -- for a week's break in Lisbon, Portugal, with my friend Amy (who came to escape Minneapolis weather). It was supposed to be raining the day we arrived, but we never had one drop. A bit overcast the first few days while we toured around old Lisbon, and burning hot sun the last two days when we visited Sintra, Belem, and the beach at Cascais. Lisbon is a crumbly city far past its glory days, but still beautiful with its old tiled facades, winding streets (where San Francisco style trolleys make the rounds), and refreshingly inexpensive food/drink and taxis. Getting around was super easy (and cheap) with the metro, trolley, bus and train. Highly recommended, our two hotels, the Four Seasons Ritz (expensive but worth it for the rooftop fitness center, spa, and the amazing views) and Pouso dos Anjos (the fun and funky budget option with private gardens).

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Being on vacation, I let Amy (and Rick Steves' Guide) lead the way.

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Drinking a 1975 Porto (at 11am...I love vacation!) 

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Some of the beautiful tiled facades.

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And a peacock hanging out.

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A monument to the great sea explorers of the past...in the background the April 25 Bridge (inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge and named for their Liberation Day, April 25, 1974) and the Christ statue that inspired the famous Christo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro.

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Yes, I got burnt, but it was worth it!

PS: Many Portuguese families emigrated to France during the dictatorship that ruled from 1910 until 1974, and now make up the largest community of foreign origin in France (Algerians make up the second largest). Read the interesting article about it here.

PPS: "French Leave" is actually a phrase meaning "to leave without permission or announcing one's departure". Read about it here.


Saturday
Apr122008

Daft Hands


Why?

Because Daft Punk are from Paris.

Because the talented dude who did this video goes to Carleton College (my alma mater).

Because I don't feel like writing about the Torch's harried trip across Paris this Monday.  

Because who doesn't want to dance when this song comes on?

 PS: This YouTube has had millions of hits, and the guy who made it appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show.
 

Friday
Apr112008

Wine Dating on the Tour de Montparnasse

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Olivier refills the glasses...

The latest soirée for the lonely hearts of Paris is Wine Dating, organized by the team at O-Château. It's basically a wine tasting for singles in an impressive setting, the top (56th) floor of the Tour Montparnasse. I've been in Paris since 1995 and had never bothered visiting this tourist attraction, despite the very correct observation that "at least when you're in it you won't have to look at it." It was pretty cool to see Paris from such heights without the wind (we stayed inside because it's freezing in Paris right now, but there's also an outdoor viewing platform).

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The Wine Dating room at the Tour de Montparnasse.

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Not a bad view!

People began arriving for the Wine Dating, some with friends, some on their own, all ages, many nationalities (I was at a table with three French people, a British expat and a Mexican airline pilot). We were assigned tables so that the male-female ratio was correct, and welcomed with flutes of pink Champagne.

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I was at the Claude François table.

There were three wines tasted, a white and two reds. The O-Château tastings are usually in English, but the wine dating was in French. Only a few people spoke no French at all, but there were quite a few bilingual Parisians to help out. And really, it's a wine tasting...who needs to understand the sommelier's lesson as long as the wine keeps flowing? (just kidding Olivier!)

"I've found that wine helps a lot when it comes to meeting girls," said the Olivier, O-Château's founder, when explaining how he came up with the idea. Aside from the actual drinking, each table also formed a team in the wine quiz afterwards (my table won the honor of being dead last...we may have had too many refills and not enough water...the blood is thinner at that altitude).

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Check out the sparlking Eiffel Tower in the back! Très romantique, non?

At the end of the tasting, there was a buffet of cheese and coldcuts, and most of the people were still standing around chatting amicably when I had to take my leave a half hour later. The Wine Dating takes place the first Monday of each month, the fee is €35/person, sign up directly online.  

 

 

Thursday
Apr102008

Views from the Tour de Montparnasse

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The church on the right is St-Sulpice, the Louvre is the huge building to the upper left, with the Tuileries gardens.

The Tour de Montparnasse is that ugly black skyscraper sitting all alone at the bottom of the 6th arrondissement, crowning the Gare de Montparnasse (train station). After it was built in 1969-1972, and at 210-meter (689-feet), it's the largest building in Paris. The locals were appalled by its ugliness and the way it cast a long shadow over the city, and immediately banned the new construction of all tall buildings. According to rumor, it supposedly is lined with asbestos and is being "cleaned", although I didn't see any evidence of this on my visit.

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I can see my house from here! That's Montparnasse Cemetery on the right, and the 13th arrondissement straight ahead, with the Chinatown towers.

In the mean time, it does have one redeeming factor. You can visit the 56th floor for rooftop panoramic views of the city. There's an indoor area with a gift shop and café, a, actual restaurant, and a viewing platform outside. I was actually quite impressed with the views, even on the cloudy spring afternoon.

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This is the view over the 6th, with Luxembourg gardens in the foreground and the Bois de Vincennes that dark spot in the far distance to the right. See the shadow of the Montparnasse Tower?

 

 

Wednesday
Apr092008

My Dog is Cuter than Your Dog

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I was taking a photo of this plant (don't ask why...the plant is no longer with us, R.I.P.), and Lena the ham wouldn't get out of the way. The closer to dinnertime it gets, and therefore the hungrier she gets, the cuter she becomes. I'm sure if she could caption this photo, she would write, "Look how sick that plant is! She's starving us! Send help!"