Sunday, April 19, 2009

always having paris

on arrival in paris at cdg as you wait for the official, if ceremonial, "what's the reason for your trip" (destination is response), the tension leaves your neck and i become my funnest, best self. my french self. here life is milling and sitting, buttered baguettes and enjoying quintessential frenchisms such as the insistence on precision in enunciation and specificity before answering any question. to wit, q: where to catch un café. a: "avant de vous dire, je dois savoir si vous voulez du bon cafe ou du cafe pour "anglo-saxons"? that is, i can't possibly provide the correct response before i know whether you'd like good, italian coffee or coffee the english find acceptable. :o)

this trip was one of firsts and classics. i've been dying to check out paris' vintage/thrift scene, especially after recent, amazing finds in london (there, target covent garden for unusual and inexpensive finds) and austin (see earlier post). top of the list: thrift stores in le marais and the fleamarket in porte de clignancourt. in le marais, don't rush, have lunch. maybe an eggy omlette with a leafy green salad in a creamy dressing, a salad provencal of lightly steamed shredded red cabbage and carrots, almost charred whole-wheat baguette croutons topped with hunks of goat cheese and broiled thyme-dusted tomato halves, or an open faced, or a croque-madame broiled sandwich (jambon, fromage with bechamel topped with and an orange-yolked, crisp-edged sunny-side up egg on bread from poilane, an amazing artisinal bakery).

the stock at vintage stores in le marais is mostly 1980's, us centric, which isn't my beauty style, but it's a fun scene and the people watching is top notch. There are other wonderful clothing, footware and accessory boutiques in the 3rd and 4th arrondisement that are well-priced and importantly, unique. try maison robert for coffee, tea and related accessories, prune for boots (and they will discount if you ask), and go to the grocery store to stock up on sea salt in picturesque, cork-topped boxes of (sel du camargue, here $2, $12 in nyc). pop in and out of shops, but don't forget to stop for coffee, a beer, to grab a chocolate broiche at pain de sucre (, or a delectable, flower petal-scooped gelato (dark chocolate, cream and lampone/raspberry flavors all rock) from amorino (

for the flea/antique market at clingnancourt, take the metro. it's direct and don’t be disheartened by the outdoor "market" of horrible (and overpriced) things you can get at a cvs. forge ahead and slip through a gate off the rue de rosiers into a corridor leading to semi-private, narrow streets lined with stores and stalls. it's not really about the bargains, although there are some. it's more about it being a lovely, relaxing way to experience french culture. cool things: old keys, vintage promotional key rings, and a ready-made duchamp (pardon the pun)-- a metal bottle rack from a restaurant--sadly, too big for the plane. the vendors, by and large, are solicitous if not overly concerned about manning their stalls or selling. if you need a break, there's a lovely café with live music inside the walls or duck back out to 136, rue de rosiers, for delicious pizza at napoli (don’t be put off by the 60's kitschy décor, the food is fast, fresh and yummy).

tired of the overly-precious and commodified contemporary art-scene in nyc? refresh your belief in the power and value in letting artists do their thing at palais de tokyo and a phenomenal new venue in the 19th arrodisement, centquatre (104). you'll come away heartened by the diversity of the work. also striking is the diversity of the folks of all ages exploring, hanging out and enjoying. both venues have wonderful bookstores too and terrific areas for children. you can't but be inspired by the obvious glee of the kids digging into the area invitingly left open at centquatre. the space for kids is a bit more formal at palais de tokyo-- gazing into that cozy room will leave you longing for the carefree days of fun when artmaking and being creative was the to-do list. there's also a comparable, exhibition-related (now calder) space for children at the pompidou center.

head back to le marais after a day of contemporary art (and more sitting) at 104 or the palais de toyko for a comfort-food dinner of homemade-ish moroccan food at odeon. the service is very french (by day two you'll know what i mean), but the roasted chicken that comes with a platter of couscous and a large, steaming bowl of mildly spiced (use the side of hot pepper spice paste to turn up the volume) carrots, turnips in a tomato-y broth to ladel over the pasta.

new things i need to know: where are all the locks for the amazing antique keys at the flea markets? ok, this is not paris related, but why don't bananas have black specks or seeds in the them anymore? i miss them and if you recall, the curious george books make reference to such sticky seeds--cg liked to put them down the collar of the man in yellow hat.

paris makes me nostalgic. grab someone whose hand you can't imagine not holding and be french for a day. in paris or at home. sit a little more--makes you think, remember your blessings and feel the joy of a simple conversation or a moment of solace.

peace out, flatsie