Monday
Mar102008

Closings and Survivors

Bars open and close all the time in Paris, that's just the reality of the big city. Which is probably why places like Harry's New York Bar and Closerie des Lilas do do well...they've been around long enough that tourists can revisit them on return trips to Paris. 

A few notable closings in 2008 so far:

  • the Bar Fleurs in the Marais (rue des Tournelles) which was a cool vodka and Champagne bar that also happened to be an exotic floral shop as well...I guess it confused people though. 
  • the Sept Lézards, also in the Marais (Rue des Rosiers), which is supposedly looking for a new location.
  • and sadly, I noticed yesterday that the only royalist bar in Paris (which I wrote about in my Adventure Guide years ago), Aux Templiers (35 rue de Rivoli) is now a contemporary cocktail lounge called (did they do this on purpose?): Majesty. I miss the old dusty PMU bar full of Fleur-de-Lis, images of young Louis XVII, and a statue of Jeanne d'Arc. You just don't find places like that anymore in Paris!

When I was a student back in 1995 I used to hang out a lot around the bars of Beaubourg because my best friends lived on the Rue des Lombards. A funky little bar opened that year on the Rue de Quincampoix, L'Imprévu. That's where I spent long afternoons doing my homework (well, sorta) and nursing an 8 franc café because I couldn't afford to buy more than one cocktail a week back in those days, LOL! Amazingly, this little bar is still open,  one of the few from that time period still surviving.

On Saturday night it was totally packed, so I went to "Aux 3 Escales," across the street at #12, a Taj Mahal type bar, cozy and colorful, smelling like someone was smoking a hookah pipe (or more likely burning apple incense). It was completely empty at Happy Hour (6pm), but by 8pm all of the cushioned corners were full. They serve cocktails, sangria, mint tea, etc. They used to serve food, have regular soirées and apparently downstairs there is a hammam, but I didn't see any trace of these offerings on my visit, which makes me wonder if perhaps it's under new ownership. 

One of the older Seine-side péniche bar-clubs that has also been around since my student days is the Guinguette du Pirate (on the Quai Françpis Mauriac, foot of the Bibliothèque Nationale, 13th), now called La Dame de Canton. It's actually celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, so check out their packed program.

Up in the Latin Quarter near Place de la Contrescarpe, my old student stomping grounds, Earl of the Shebeen (rue Pot de Fer) tells me he has sold the bar (it will be closed as of March 14) and may be moving back to South Africa for other opportunities. Earl and I used to work together lifetimes ago at a (now closed) Irish bar at Châtelet called the Cruiscin Lan. Before opening his own place, Earl worked at the sister bar around the corner, The Fifth (at 62 rue Mouffetard), which is still going strong after all these years -- a decade now?! -- with the international expat crowd.

On the other side of the planet, the Bar Fontainebleau at the Hôtel Meurice is now Le 228 (that being the address on the Rue de Rivoli), completely redone by Philippe Starck in late 2007 (yet it pretty much looks as cozy as it always did, which I unfortunately can't say about the Winter Garden's surrealist makeover...ugh). The bar is hosting "Nocturnes", a degustation of fine wine with sommalier Nicolas Rebut, accompanied by canapés from the hotel's star chef Yannick Alléno for €90/person. The next ones are March 13 (Champagnes), April 3 (White Burgundies) and June 5 (Rhône Valley Reds), at 7pm sharp. To sign up call 01 44 58 10 66.

 

Thursday
Mar062008

New Dining Reviews

Check out the Dining Reviews section of this guide for the latest reviews of Thai, Vietnamese, and French restaurants.

Wednesday
Mar052008

Sherlock Holmes Soirée at Experimental Cocktail Club

Last night the Experimental Cocktail Club hosted a special theme soirée: A Night in the Company of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.


Experimental%20cocktail%20club%20soiree%202.jpg
Amazingly, the crowd was almost all dressed up in Victorian clothing according to the theme (sauf moi, who had no pipe nor top hat lying around, dangit).

Experimental%20cocktail%20club%20soiree%201.jpg
The soirée was sponsored in part by Hendrick's Gin, so all of the evening's cocktails had a gin base.

Experimental%20cocktail%20club%20soiree%204.jpg
There was also punch served in little china cups, dainty little sandwiches, and freeflowing booze.

 Experimental%20cocktail%20club%20soiree%205.jpg
One of our gracious hosts, Olivier.

Experimental%20cocktail%20club%20soiree%206.jpg
 The biggest cocktail shaker I've ever seen...

Experimental%20cocktail%20club%20soiree%207.jpg
In keeping with the English theme, there was rain (!)
and an antique car from 1903.

Experimental%20cocktail%20club%20soiree%208.jpg
That's our driver on the right (the car being English...
and no, I didn't ask what kind of car).
 
Experimental%20cocktail%20club%20soiree%209.jpg
Two Americans barely fit in the back...people were tiny back in 1903!

 

Experimental%20cocktail%20club%20soiree%203.jpg

I tried the Aviation, which had juniper juice in it, and was instantly wide awake, hello! 

Stay tuned...there are more Experimental Cocktail Club soirées in different locations, including Cannes and one of the hottest bars in London... 

Tuesday
Mar042008

An Ode to Heather's Beret

So I go to this party last night, and it's cold and raining outside so I wear my hat. I have a lot of hats, but I seem to favor one more than the other: my beret.

 Experimental%20beret%208.jpg
Last night at the Experimental Cocktail Club soirée.

Such a cliché, isn't it, wearing a beret in France? I remember when I first arrived in August 1995, and a friend from home was teasing me, "So, you gonna buy a beret?" "Ha! Not!" was my reply. But then winter came, a particularly cold winter where it snowed, and with it the worst transportation strikes since May 1968. The flu was going around, and living in a big city for the first time in my life, I was a germ magnet.

 Paris%20Puces%20beret%204.jpg
At the Marché aux Puces, 2005.

So I needed a hat. Specifically one that would keep my ears warm during the long walks to school each morning, that wouldn't blow off from the wind, and preferably wouldn't squash my head too much. I tried on every hat in town, and ended up buying my black wool beret on the Rue Mouffetard in November 1995.

Avignon%20beret%202.jpg
With the puppies in Avignon, 2000.

I have lost this beret in every bar, metro car, coat check room, and friend's apartment in Paris. Somehow it always finds its way back. I've tried many other hats over the years, and either they didn't fit well, blew off my head into the Seine (happens more often than you'd think), went out of style, gave me frizzy hair, or didn't look very good after being stuffed into my purse or thrown in the washing machine. So I always end up back with my beret.

 Disney%20beret%201.jpg
In front of the Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris, 2005.

"You look so French," say some of my tour clients. Sort of embarrassing when they say that. French people actually *do* wear berets, particularly the women in Paris. Only old men in the countryside tend to wear them. Only tourists wear ones that have "Paris" embroidered on the rim.

 French%20guy%20beret%205.jpg
A Parisian demonstrating the proper way for French men to wear a beret (hand-rolled cigarette and baguette obligatoire), 2004.

So last night at this party a guy couldn't help but comment on how he found my beret totally sexy and stylish.  Actually he said the opposite, but I refuse to repeat it. I don't want my beret's feelings to be hurt, it may not come back next time I lose it! "It's 13 years old," I  said. "Practically vintage." If I didn't have actual work to do today, I could probably dig up a few photos of my beret in its early years, touring the Loire Valley, keeping me warm in Minnesota, looking worldly in Budapest...for now here just a few digital pics from the past 8 years.

Boston%20beret%203.jpg
On the "T" in Boston, 2006.

Freezing%20beret%207.jpg
When the heat died in my apartment, 2007.

naughtyparis_coverfinal.jpg
 I love my beret so much, that there's even a silhouette of a woman wearing one on the cover of Naughty Paris!

Monday
Mar032008

Can Ex-Patriots Be Trusted with the Vote?

Check out this essay by Gary Lee Kraut (published on his website, Paris Revisited). It brilliantly describes what it's like to be an expatriated patriot.

Saturday
Mar012008

Gettysburg Pennsylvania has nothing to do with Paris

But I'm going to tell you about Gettysburg Beat anyway, because it's my mom's very first website -- go Mom! -- and I've been trying to convince her to write about her town for years. She's going to be mortified to find out I put the link here. "But it's not done yet!" LOL! My website hasn't been "done" since I put it up eight years ago! ;-) 

She's a bit shy, but if any of you are going to Gettysburg for the big Civil War battle reenactments this July, tell her I sent you and you'll get the real insider's scoop and a southern welcome!