Friday, April 30, 2010

JNSQ FF - The sun is an uppity B, Paris DNA and the blog world's favorite terraces

The sun is being one uppity little B. Come. Go. Hot. Cold. It treats me like a bad boyfriend, the kind I want to make out with one day, and kick in the balls when I see him caressing some other country the week after.

"MAKE UP YOUR DAMN TÊTE!!!!" I want to scream at it most of the time.

All this week it was kissing MY face, but it's going to abandon me again this weekend. (Just when I planned a picnic in Luxembourg Gardens, of course.) I'm sure that in a few days it'll come crawling back my way, making me smile and trying to get on my good side until Italy swaggers by. (What does that olivey country have that my pale skin and freckles don't, huh?!?!)

If we're being honest, I've really no right to complain. Summer came early here. It's been spoiling us all for weeks and now I'm whining about a few passing clouds? This city is breathtaking even under the cover of its gray fluff. Not like Wisco, the clouds there look more like a tinted windows than the colorful puffs I see meandering across Parisian skies, mingling with its proud monuments.

And what goes best with sun? In a word: Terraces.

Parisian terrace lounging is as ingrained into the society as their love for wine and feeling superior. It's been a cultural must for literally hundreds of years (Merci, Café de Flore!)

I'm assuming that at this point, enjoying an afternoon on a terrace is no longer a simple pleasure, but instinct. It's weaved into the Paris DNA. I suspect it began as a survival tactic. Yes, that's it. Paris will eat you alive if you don't occasionally drop by a café and pay too much for your drink and leave too little tip to be treated half as well as you would be in the Midwest.

Like any good little expat, I've adopted the tradition without hesitation. People watching from my shaded perch is one of the things I miss most when I head stateside. Sure, my native Madison has cafés, some quaint ones along State Street too! But, they will never replace Paris' wicker chairs and snooty staff.

Without further adieu, this week's JNSQ FF : "What's your favorite Paris café or restaurant with a terrace?"
ps - this week's answers were right on the effing money, top notch ladies, thank you so much! Everyone reading this... check their blogs for even more genius at work!

"My regular haunts are closer to home..." -Meg Zimbeck
There are plenty of lovely terrasses in the center of Paris, but my regular haunts are closer to home in the far-flung 19th arrondissement. In addition to being nearby, these three all have a young and interesting clientele, plenty of sun, zero car traffic, and (sometimes working) wifi. 

28° Est (photo here). The cafe itself is basically a cinder block and the interior is sad. But score a seat on the terrasse, or better yet on the roof deck over looking the Bassin, and you're golden. Don't be tempted by the food here - it's not good. Stick with the drinks.

Bar Ourcq (photo of boules in front of the bar here). Like 28° Est, Bar Ourcq is also located on the Bassin de la Villette - a beautiful spot where the Canal Saint-Martin widens out up north. The interior here is cute, with free wifi and good music, but the real attraction is along the water. Hundreds of people come here on warm evenings and weekends, buy beer in plastic cups, and take them to sit along the water's edge. The bar also loans out folding chairs and sets of boules, so you'll find tons of young people here playing in the dirt. 

Rosa Bonheur (photo here). This cafe/restaurant inside the Parc des Buttes Chaumont has attracted a lot of attention this year and for good reason. The setting couldn't be prettier, sitting under the leaves with a view out over the hills of the city's most jaw dropping beautiful park. Food on offer too, from tapas to roast chicken.

"I am fickle at heart..." - Doni Belau
I must say that my favorite terrasse at this very moment, meaning I’m open to suggestions as I am fickle at heart, is the gorgeous outdoor dining area at the Maison de l’Amerique Latine on the Boulevard St. Germain. Lunch here makes you feel like a “real lady who lunches” and their huge outdoor garden behind the exquisite Hotel Particulier which houses the cultural institution is simply divine. The food (think fancy salads, fish, etc) and the service are elegant and on a spring or summer day, this location absolutely cannot be beat. Plus after your long lunch with some rose perhaps, you can tour the galleries to see their latest art exhibit. Expect to pay to feel so terribly chic and elegant but the Maitre-d is the kind who makes you feel special even if you ride in on one of those razor scooters as my friend did!

Maison de l'Amerique Latine, 117 boulevard Saint Germain, 7th, Tél.: 01 49 54 75 10. Mo Rue du Bac or Solferino, Lunch menu 40 Euros, Dinner menus 50 Euros, 79 Euros. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Reserve ahead.

"on a nice night, it's magical..."
- Rebecca Leffler
CAFE DE LA MAIRIE - best people-watching ever
CAFE DE FLORE - best people-watching ever (ok they tie)
LA PALETTE - when I want to run into everyone I've ever met ever in life.
CAFE CHARLOT / LE PROGRES - because I love me some French hipsters.
LUXEMBOURG GARDENS chairs - because they're free.
HOTEL AMOUR - their garden terrace - go for a drink, not for the food, but on a nice night, it's magical.

"P-A-R-C M-O-N-C-E-A-U..." - Ashleigh T.
My favorite summer terrace is spelled P-A-R-C M-O-N-C-E-A-U. Why? Because I can throw a bottle of wine, some wine glasses and my ratty park blanket in a tote and be there soaking up the sun in about 5 minutes. Runners up, and only because of the distance that separates us, would be: Champs de Mars and Buttes Chaumont (Sorry Montsouris and Luxembourg, but you are just too far from home and Tuileries, you are too full of tourists!)
As for actual cafés with a terrace, as long as the sun is shining, I'm not picky!

"I’m still in 'research mode'" - Forest C.

Great topic! With the recent lovely weather, I've been asking opinions on, searching for and trying different spots for terraces. I spent about 5 or 6 straight hours at a terrace on Montmartre last Sunday. In fact, it became a bit of a game with my friend and me. We were determined to “win” by staying longer on the terrace than any other customers. When we were finally kicked out at closing – but we were the last to leave. Winners! (wow….that sounds a little sad when I type it out!)

I’m still in “research mode”, but a few that are particularly standout:

- Hotel Particulier: You have to reserve, but once there you, you’re completely removed from the hustle and bustle of hectic Paris life and hidden away in an idyllic little garden.
- Le Diapason: It’s mainly a resto, but if you can manage to get a spot at the small bar (or feel like going for the nice food) the view from the top of this Montmartre hotel is killer!
-George V & Hyatt Plaza Vendome: Both of these fancy, swanky hotels have gorgeous terraces – but be prepared to shell out some cash to enjoy them!
-Hotel de l'Abbaye: I checked this place out in winter when they have a cozy fire blazing, but I noticed they have a super sweet and totally secluded garden terrace in the back, which I’m dying to try.
-Bateau El Alamein: A little boat deck terrace that is busting with pretty plants and flowers.
-Hotel Raphael: In full disclosure, I had a rather disappointing visit to the downstairs bar at the spendy Hotel Raphael. But, you can’t deny the superb view from the rooftop terrace.
-Hotel Amour: Like Rebecca mentions, this is a pretty little garden terrace perfect for an apero!

Vive le beau temps!

"The interior courtyard is divine, daaaarlings..."
- I Heart Paris

In ascending order of disposable budget:
My balcony – I love looking out onto the blue-grey Parisien rooftops whilst the sunsets, with beer in hand.
Pause Café – one of my fave cheap eats in Paris and has a great terrace to boot.
Rosa Bonheur – great vibe at this newly re-opened guingette in the middle of the Buttes Chaumont
Hotel Amour – as Rebecca and Forest have already pointed out, lovely little courtyard that’s great for an apéro
Mama Shelter – I love the contrast of the modern terrace and the disused railtrack it overlooks. Fab cocktails.
Café Marly – have a drink en pleine air whilst overlooking I.M. Pei’s pyramide and the grounds of the Louvre – maybe the best terrace view ever. I also quite like the food here, contrary to the rest of the world.
Costes – the interior courtyard is divine, daaaarlings.

"I'm not picky!" - Sion Dayson
Terrace? Who needs a terrace when the sun is shining? Bring a bottle and a blanket and head to Buttes Chaumont Park or the canal.

If you want an *actual* terrace, I'm with Ashleigh. I'm not picky! (though if someone knows of a terrace where a non-smoker will still be able to breathe, let me know!)

"I adore the cafés along and around Canal St. Martin..." - Lindsey T.
I agree with Sion. Any terrace will do provided there is an appropriate ratio of sun to shade! I adore the cafés along and around Canal St. Martin, where there is seating outdoors, on rue Cler in the 7th which is (supposed to be) a pedestrian only street, or even my local restaurant Les Petites Indécises which has lovely seating outdoors that lines the perimeter. I see many regulars there, with their coffees, newspapers and computers in the morning, and in the evening it's an awesome spot to have a drink or eat while it's still warm. Good food, good location, nice service. I think that's the winner for me!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What does a supermodel / queen of France smell like?

A couple of weeks ago, I went to fatty-fat-fat weekend at our country house and had the pleasure of meeting some lovely people, eating WAAaaayyyyy too many calories and sampling some fabulous wines. While we were lounging in the yard drinking mojitos and chitchatting I got to talking with one of my brother-in-law's invitees who works for the same record label as Carla. He told me about how he'd met her and how she was nice for the few minutes they had exchanged awkward banter.

Now this is where things got weird. I can't tell you why but a question immediately came to mind, and it just proves how odd a person I truly am. In the same circumstance, thousands of more pertinent, interesting, thoughtful questions would be asked by a normal human being. ie: What's it like being married to a total prick & having everyone ask whether you're cheating on him? How did you feel about the controversy surrounding your last album release as first lady? (Or as I like to call it: Buy my album or taxes will CLIMB dammit!) Do you get like, free clothes & stuff, if so... can I have your cast-offs for a "charity drive"?

I listened intently as he spoke, and just as he finished, barely able to contain myself to let him complete his last sentence and make the classic "pfff" noise as he puffed on a cigarette I blurted out:

"What did she smell like??!!"

With inappropriate enthusiasm, I might add. I sounded like a child asking what Santa Clause smelled like. Must be all these Carla posts, I'm just in too deep and now the gossip is my ear candy.

So what's the answer: "Cigarettes".

Surprised? I was. I thought this queen of chic would smell like FlowerBomb (personal fave), or Orange blossoms, or some impossibly expensive nectar of angel.

Somehow it makes sense in a very Cruella kind of way and I'm imagining her clad head to toe in Dior screaming "GET THOSE PUPPPIIIIIES"...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Metro Oddities - Part III - YOU could be the next shitty violinist of the hallway between metro stops!

You know, I didn't think it was possible that there could be anything WORSE than "La Nouvelle Star", (The French Idol), at encouraging people with ZERO talent to hoist their frighteningly HORRID act upon an unsuspecting, innocent public... oh, how wrong I was.

Browsing the newspaper 20 minutes has opened my eyes. The Paris public transport has opened their yearly tryouts for metro performers. If I had to guess, I'd say the open call casting request went something like this:

"Do you play the accordian? Is your Pan Flute collecting dust?! Are you just itching to break out your bongo drums?! Do you DREAM of changing the world of the people in the metro with your ground-breakingly original 'music'?


Pull out your instruments, however haggard they may be, and come down to our office immediately! YOU could be the NEXT METRO ARTIST!!

We do not care about the following:
- If you have talent
- If you never practice or only practice while performing
- If you sing off-key
- If you are dirty and/or smell
- If you make babies cry
- If you make grown men cry
- If you sing in your native language and no one understands a freaking word you say
- If you play/sing the same song all day long every SINGLE DAY
- If you think 'melodies' are 'passé'
- If you get the occasional rotten tomato to the face

This could be your big chance to unthrone Crazy Homeless Metro Violin Lady!! Come on down today!

the RATP"

Of course some of these people do know how to play/sing... but let's be honest here... the few that don't ruin it for the rest. I for one, have had to suffer MONTHS of tortuously bad violin playing (as you should know if you read regularly... if not, read this.)

I think it's time to put a stop to this frogdition. 99% of voyagers have earbuds and are listening to something FAR better than these people... who's with me?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Uncle Sam: back just in time Ef up your spring.

Whip out your checkbooks and prepare for the frown-a-thon... it's time to pay the piper in the states.

What kind of person decides that taxes should be collected in April? Someone with a black, black soul? Someone with a spiky-shelled spring bug jammed up their ass? Someone who hates joy, and hates spreading it even more? Probably all of the above.

The IRS can't stand that Wisconsinites have begun to emerge from their frost-bitten, chapped-lipped, never ending arctic coma that lasts from October to April and they just had to find a way to rain on our teeny-weeny three-month parade of nice weather.

"What?! People are ... HAPPY?!?!" some tax demon said to himself on April 15th, 1955, "I won't allow it!! From now on, I want to see people WEEPING over their canceled vacations! SOBBING over their scraggly, unreplaced spring wardrobes! Woefully wailing over the funless summer ahead!! I am the TAX NAZI! NO SMILES FOR YOU!!! Let the streets be washed clean by their TEARS!!! MMuuuuahahaAHHAHAahaHAHAHAHa!!!!"*

*(I may be slightly exaggerating this decision making process.)

Want to know when taxes are paid in France? Monthly. Yes. A nice, little monthly a--f---. Oh, and lest you forget, there's an extra bonus a--f---ing in September just in case you weren't a--f---ed enough over the first eight months of the year. By November I'll have been done so many times by the government I should give birth to some kind of declaration of citizenship.

But at least it's not in April. At least, I can enjoy the spring without Uncle Sam face-planting me into concrete. Thank the lord for French procrastination and lack of work ethic.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

JNSQ FF - Happy Festivus of Cannes

The yearly film festivus of Cannes is looming and the buzz has officially begun! Who's going? Who are they wearing? There's quite a lot of hubub about this event, and to be honest, I generally could give a crap about the happenings until someone mentions Robert Pattinson, then I get whiplash turning my head to the TV screen. (Guilty. Very guilty of this.) In fact, before I started saving every last nickle to spend my vacations in France, I doubt I had ever heard of it. (Classic American style, I was only concerned with Oscar.)

I'm more out of the loop than Carrot Top, or maybe even Lyle Lovett. On a completely random note, If they were morphed together, babies around the world would simultaneously begin to wail in horror... feast your eyes..

Yeash...but I digress. (again.) This Friday Feature blog, coming at you on Saturday because I had to have a life yesterday (sorry), is all about movies!! At this point in the blog, I will make a shameful confession:

I've probably seen Amélie over a hundred times.

My poor college roommate. How many times did she walk in on me watching that movie? Often enough that I'm guessing she probably HATES it more than the time I made us mixed drinks with rootbeer and whiskey. (Tragically bad idea btw.)

The point of this rambling is that, that movie really (REALLY) got to me. It made me LOVE Paris. Every time I watched the ridiculously mime-like Audré Tautou walk down the scenic streets of Paris, my heart would begin to wretch and I longed to snuggle back in the bosom of my beloved France. Maybe that movie is the reason I'm here today.

I still watch it from time to time in my little Paris apartment, and the same familiar hankering sneaks up on me like a ninja... but now I can just walk outside and quench the thirst for all things Français.

This weeks question: What film(s) about Paris inspire you? How did they influence you? Why?

"I'm a bit obsessed..." - Rebecca Leffler

You're killing me with this one i could write you 100000000 words on the topic

(I'm a bit obsessed with movies, paris and movies about paris if you haven't noticed)

I'll go with

"Sabrina" as the all-time fave
"An American in Paris" bien sur
more recent "2 Days in Paris" had me howling
not to mention "Before Sunset" - LOVE it. (and Julie Delpy goes to yoga with me so I feel like we're BFF :)
Bertolucci's "The Dreamers"
Can I be TRES cliché and say Godard's "A Bout de Souffle"?
and the best Paris-based movie EVER... RATATOUILLE!!
I'm forgetting a million start with that?

by the way I WAS an Amelie fan until I met JP Jeunet the other night and he told me he hated me because I gave a bad review to his last film and totally bawled me out haha but the fact that JP Jeunet feels anything at all towards me and knows who I am makes me feel like I've made it ? :)

"Paris, je t'aime!" - Forest Collins

Happy Friday ladies!!

Long before moving to France I was a fan of French films. Even if it only started with an immatur, teenage affectation of euro-sophistication. (oh la la…I’m watching movies from the foreign section, how very très intéressant, n’est-ce pas?) But, it grew into a real appreciation for serious French cinema. Some of my first French film experiences that still stand out are: Manon des sources, Monsieur Hire, Le mari de la coiffeuse, Au revoir les enfants, La cité des enfants perdus. All excellent films.

But, for a film specifically about Paris: “Paris, Je t’aime” I know, I know….I took the easy choice! What other film is going to cover all 20 arrondissements and a variety of people (both French & foreign) from such a range of perspectives. That’s a big part of what Paris is about – the locals and expats, the different little neighborhoods and stories going on in the city.

On the flipside, I think I’m the only one who doesn’t understand the Les Bronzés films. I feel like if I don't get on board with those soon, someone might kick me out of the country.

"Les Enfants du Siècle..." - Lindsey T.
Actually, my favorite French film is Les Enfants du Siècle with Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel (yum) which is the story of the love affair between George Sand and Alfred de Musset, my favorite French poet. It's an amazingly well done film, well acted and great costumes. For me that screams French cinema. Of course there's also that film Swimming Pool but honestly, that was like a David Lynch movie, just left me confused and uncomfortable in the end.

"La Haine..." - I Heart Paris

Happy Friday, happy St George's Day, and happy birthday ladies! Ok, the latter may only be relevant to me, but I'm milking it for all it's worth.

My favourite film about France is La Haine. What a poetic and beautiful film - a greek tragedy set in the banlieue of today (well of 1995 but still the same vibe for all intents and purposes), superbly shot, acted and directed. I saw it at school and it was the first film I saw about contemporary France and I think as a result I became more intrigued by French culture. I am a sucker for films that observe Aristotle’s three unities (of action, time and place) and so not often a big fan of French films that just go off on one without any desire to follow a linear storyline, so the format of La Haine is also pretty key here for me. And Vincent Cassel, what an actor! It’s a fucking good film, I need to see it again.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What color is her nail polish and how can I make that into a scandal of world-wide proportions?

Seriously, it's beginning to feel a lot like that. As some of you (the good little girls and boys) have read in last Sunday's blog about the conspiracy to make me fat - I have been without the interwebs for a while.

In my absence, I've missed the following stories about the Elysian couple:

- Carla calls the rumors "Insignificant"
Right. So insignificant that you're asked about them in EVERY SINGLE INTERVIEW. Yep. Doesn't matter. Not one bit.

- Sarkozy asked MI5 to look into Rachida Dati
Everyone know that this happened. No sense denying it. If I had MI5 at my disposal I would have already found out:
=> Where Jimmy Hoffa was burried
=> How many licks it takes to get to to the center of a TootsiePop
=> Why Keanu Reeves keeps getting cast in movies despite his wooden performances
=> Where in the world Carmen Sandiego is
=> What you would do for a Klondike bar
=> What really killed the dinosaurs
=> Countless other trivial facts
The urge to splurge is uncontrolable.

- Carla went on the radio to announce to the ENTIRE WORLD that Rachida is still their friend
Blah blah blah blah WHO CARES!!! Bring on the CAT FIGHTS!!

- A documentary about Carla is now on sale
As if there wasn't enough information about her available right now. I wonder how she pees in restaurants? Hover or squat? I MUST FIND OUT AND TELL THE WORLD!!

- Carla's alleged lover, Benjamin Biolay, filed a law suit against France 24 accusing them of starting the rumor
He won the law suit. (yippeeeeeee) And the television station had to pay him the amount he usually drops on a pen. (3K€) Bravo. That was worth it.

- Carla was "caught" reading a newspaper called "Le Canard Enchaîné" that typically holds views that oppose her husband's politics. GHASP!! She READS!!! When did it become such a scandal to follow your own political ideas and not march in lock-step with your significant other? Ok ok, so he's the president... got it. Can first ladies have an opinion? Why do I feel like this is yet another case of "sois-belle et tais-toi" (Be pretty & shut up.)

PS - I'm a shitty journalist, couldn't even find a link to this story! The real one I mean. YOU try it, google Carla Bruni + Paris Match + Canard Enchaîné...  to work my minions!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kiss My Ash.

This is how the conversation between you & the european sky would go right about now:

You: "I'm ready to fly to Bermuda now."
Sky: "MMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, YA NO."
You: "No seriously. I bought my tickets. They're nonrefundable. Let's getta move on."
Sky: "Yeah, gonna have tell you to go EF yourself and the boat you road in on."

You: "F--- YOU Sky, I'm getting on that plane."
Sky: "I'd like to see you try you pathetic meat sack."

You: "You can't STOP ME. What are you gonna do? BLOW on me?!" (laughs)
Sky: "Actually, yes, and I'll send ash directly into the engine and making you plummet to 40K feet to your doom. Then I'll blow smoke up your a--. Literally."

You: "..... sh--."
Sky: "Like I said, kiss my ash."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Continuing plot to make me fat continues.

This weekend I was a participant in a rare and decadent event. Hubs, ten friends and I piled into our cars and braved the spring vacation traffic for the second annual, Top Chef Vieux Mais', or, as I've dubbed it, "How to supremely enjoy gaining five pounds seminar weekend". Our exploits reminded me a bit of this website.

Of course this could happen in the states, but it just seems so... French. I have some American friends who are whizkids in the kitchen (Elan, Ashleigh, you two continue to shock & awe me), but I have to say that the French really DO cook alot and this weekend seemed to prove my point. How many Americans do you know that grab their whisks and rollers and say "Let's spend 4hrs in the kitchen and drink until we're cross-eyed!!!"... not many I'm guessin', well at least.. this specimen is rare in Wisconsin.

The basic principals are:
- Eat.
- Eat.
- Eat.
- Drink.
- Smoke cigarettes.
- Psyche out the competition
- Drink.
- Eat.
- Eat.
- Eat.
- Sleep.
- Repeat.

Three meals, three teams, fierce competition, old-world-country house and radical food. Needless to say, I was pretty excited, and my ass swelled up a size with joy just thinking about it. After this weekend, I can only explain to you how I feel by quoting the motto of my friend and fellow blogger, Siri of Siriously Dilicious: "Food has replaced sex in my life, and now I can't get into my own pants."

My team mates arrived and immediately hit the kitchen, since we were up first with Saturday lunch. Having already planned our attack based on a theme (Green-White-Red), we were ready to kick (and grow) ass. We were fantastic, and even won the best entré (suck on that!)

I believe that at one point between the Boeuf Bourguingnon and the Tarte Tatin, I leaned into my wine glass, inhaling it's intoxicating, velvety goodness and whispered, "shh shhh shhh... I love your musk... I'm a mess with you ya... when this is all over, I think you & I should get an appartment together!". A rowdy, puffed-up time was had by all.

I think the main ingredients in our meals consisted of:
- Butter
- Oil
- Butter mixed with oil
- Lard
- Pure fat
and of course, your ever popular,
- whipped cream.

To help you fully understand the weekend and it's effects, I've created the following graph:

The only loser in the competition this weekend is my scale... but hey, you only live once right? Might as well live with 5 extra pounds and a giant whipped-cream-induced smile on my face.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

JNSQ FF - Before & After Paris.

Last Sunday I started a new book, Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe (highly recommend!), that I have only put down for Desperate housewives and my husband... ah, and... well, this blog. (Guilty as charged.) The main character, Klein, is sophisticated, classy, and despite her also being from my native Wisconsin, she embodies everything that I've ever thought when I see an amazingly chic Parisian walking down the street: "yep, I'll never be that." S'OK though, I'm going to the country house this weekend for my own personal top-chef contest with a bunch of fabulous people, so I'm not about to start complaining.

Point is, while reading the marvelously amusing Paris Hangover, I didn't dip a toe in the déjà vu lagoon, I stripped butt-nako, kart-wheeled to the edge, dove in head-first and paddled to the bottom of the memory pool until my fingers grazed its scratchy concrete. I vividly remembered the thought that hit me like a pie to the visage when I first arrived in the city: "OMG people... are looking at me, and not in a good way." (It wasn't even the city, really... it was the suburbs and I still felt like a style-challenged-hobo-empress.)

I've never felt so self-aware as these last (almost five) years in the city of fashionistas. I was naive enough to be caught off-guard by the stiletto-clad-divas horrified eyes, locked like tractor-beams on my jogging shoes. I learned, and from then on, their only exit was to carry me to the gym. When I go back to the states, it's like exhaling when I pull out my tank-tops, and sneakers again, allowing myself a knowing smile... no one will ever notice me, and I love it.

But apparel was just the tip of the awareness iceberg. Before the big move, I never had to think about my image. I never wondered how people saw me or what my place in society was. (Sometimes ignorance is bliss - I fully realized this when my friend Ashleigh took me to Gucci.)

I am the better for it though, and dare say I've gained in femininity, and at times, feministity. I'm pretty grateful to this urban paradise; she's a brutal but efficient teacher. Tough love, ya know, how I like'em.

Enter this week's Friday Feature question:

What are you? Hipster? Girly-Girl? Feminist? Fashion Victim? Impossible to label? Has living in Paris changed the way you view yourself as a woman? Has it made you more of a feminist? More fashion conscious? Do you think that this change would've happened naturally, or did living in Paris force it out of you?

French women = Je Ne Sais Quoi, Me = Je Ne Sais Rien - Rebecca Leffler
I try every day of my life to be French hipster. (Literally, as I down my peanut butter toasts in the morning I say "How can I be more bobo chic today?") But it's to no avail. I can put on a baggy tshirt, tight jeans and a large scarf and, instead of looking like Cléménce Poésy, I look like a street beggar who was stretched out, run over by an American Apparel truck and attacked by a large scarf. French women definitely have that cliché "je ne sais quoi." I instead have a "je ne sais rien".

That said, after five years in France, I can now de-ice a refrigerator, climb 81 steps in under 38 seconds, jump through closing metro doors without injuring myself, fill out a French tax form and describe in detail in a foreign language how many ways a toilet can malfunction - if that doesn't say "independent woman" then I don't know what does.

"I wore a shirt from a children’s clothing shop, complete with embroidered ponies and horseshoes
..."- I Heart Paris

My name is Kim and I am a fashion victim. I confess that I am capable of spending more than a month’s rent on an item of clothing and that only yesterday, I wore a shirt from a children’s clothing shop, complete with embroidered ponies and horseshoes, simply because it was designed by Stella McCartney. But, back home in London, the land of the mini-skirted beheeled cleavage-bearers, I was even worse because you can get away with what you like there. In Paris you get death stares if you look like you’ve tried to hard and so gradually I have discarded anything too wacky and / or revealing and have introduced lots of subtle pieces instead: the effortless chic of Parisian designers like Vanessa Bruno and Isabel Marant has become my inspiration. But every now and then, the latent fashion victim in me rears its ugly head and I end up wearing something like a kid’s top decorated with fricking horses.

"My style has completely evolved..." - Lindsey T.
My style has completely evolved since I've lived in Paris. I would consider myself a mix of classic and hipster, hipster being a huge stretch. I tend not to wear bright colors anymore (typical first faux pas for any expat), I only wear my running shoes when I'm going to the gym, at the gym, or running outside, and my taste in fashion has become more sophisticated. I prefer quality any day over quantity, and avoid H&M simply because within weeks of purchasing anything from them I find holes. Now that I work for a boutique and am exposed to fashion in a more regular way and new designers, it's evolved even more. I don't try to pull off the same looks as the minettes in the streets because, well, it looks silly on me. But I add a little European touch to a classic American style. It seems to work... we'll see how it changes once I can AFFORD some of the things I can only drool over.

"Paris has made me fashion paranoid!" - Margo B.
Paris has made me fashion paranoid! Je ne parle pas mode parisienne! It all began the first time I came to France when my study abroad director warned all the ladies that we'd be ravaged in the streets by the crazy frenchies if we wore shorts. As an ardent fan of the barely-cover-your-cheeks variety, I was crushed -and broke after investing in a summer's worth of capris and long skirts.

A few years later, I moved to Paris. Having become (more or less) fluent in the language, I figured I was ready, jupe=skirt, robe=dress, I had it all down. Crushed again at a grad student party when one of my friends politely informed me "Margo, Paris is like NY. Before you leave the house, you have to take one accessory off". Again, the Miami chica in me was dying on the inside. (Or was I just ahead of the times with 10 000 bracelets that is not too much for les jeunes today).

Today, it's mostly my husdand's petits commentaires that keep my guessing. They range from "you're wearing that" (as in, you know there's going to be other people there, people that can see) to "it's just a dinner" (translation: why are you so dressed up).

My only saving grace is that I figured out how to wear those little silk scarfs and I love them - as black invades my wardrobe, color lives on in the scarf box. Vive la petite carrée!

"Half of my wardrobe is black!"
- Eve J.
Before I came to France I didn't own one single item of black clothing- apart from perhaps a bra or two. In England I was constantly searching for colour. Despite trying to remain the same (I hate complying to what everyone else does) the French chic/classic/boring mentality when it comes to clothes seeps into your subconscious. After only a year and a half half of my wardrobe is black! My mum keeps watching my show from England and calling me with horror at all the black I wear... but basically there's only so many times you can say to your boyfriend 'Do you like my dress' and cope with the response 'Errrr c'est trés Anglaise.'

"The standard of casual dress really stands out..."- Forest Collins
I'm an individualistic hipster - if only in my own mind! I'm also more of a girly girl these days but I think that's just as I get older rather than something forced on me by France. The one thing that living in Paris has done is make me more fashion aware. When I go back to the US (Seattle), the standard of casual dress really stands out for me in a way I never noticed before. So, without my consciously realizing it, living in France has ensured that I'm not heading out for my cocktail nights in Birkenstocks and sweats.

"I have at one time in my life or another tried on *all*"
- Karin B.
At almost 42 years old (gaaack! How can it be?!), I have at one time in my life or another tried on *all* of these girls/women for size and fit, and each of them now represents a facet of myself. What this also means is that I have a kind of multiple personality syndrome thing going on where the different sides of me compete for "face time," a time to interact with life. As a result, it gets a little chaotic inside of myself sometimes, haha. (Outside of myself, too, as they all want to wear different clothes!) ;-)

The girly girl part of me, who has never been especially strong but who does like some time in the spotlight, is happier here in Paris, where dressing up a little more matters (as Forest points out). But the Rebel in me that has the sleeve tattoo on my entire right upper arm and eyebrow and nostril piercings gets annoyed that Parisians are so homogeneous compared to those in other European big cities where tattooed and pierced adults are more common. My Inner Hippie loves hanging out at Paris' growing number of Bio stores and restaurants and is hip to the excellent recycling program in the city; my intellectual side is pleased to be in a city of such rich intellectual and cultural heritage. On the down side, Hippie Chick hates that her Birkenstock clogs look so clunky compared most shoes women in Paris wear (so she does not get to wear them except in the house) and the Intellectual resents that her French still sucks so bad that she cannot talk to anyone except expats (or fairly fluent French speakers of English) about the intellectual thoughts she has.

My Colorado Mountain Girl? The "hike-y bike-y" chick that loves fresh air and wild natural settings? She is very bereft here in Paris, and can get in quite a funk as a result. She is hoping for a trip to the Alpine region of France or one of the neighboring countries soon! The International World Traveler in me is thrilled to death to finally be living in a foreign land again. My Inner Nerd/Geek is happy to be a part of the cyber community where she has friends on Facebook to ask her cool questions like this one. :)

I love having every type of woman inside of me, even if they don't always get along (especially with what to wear) and not everyone is totally happy here in a city like Paris. The best part being so diverse and not just one type of woman is that it keeps me from being put in a box, hemmed into a label of who and what to be. I can have and be it ALL!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dear Fellow Waiters...

*** Warning: Impressively harmless situation invokes massive freak out below. Read AYOR. ***

Dear fellow waiters,

Why can't you learn how to form a GOD DAMN LINE???

I know you know what I'm talking about, so wipe that confused/annoyed look off your faces. This is more than a problem, it's an epidemic. Everywhere I go, you Parisians are lousy with Lineitus.


It's as if you've never heard of it, and every situation is good for testing out JUST how much milling around I can stand. If one more of you weeeeeaaaasels your tiny size two ass in front of me, god as my witness, I will snap your frail frame like a twig under my foot, or at best, your asshole will be intimately familiar with the shape of my boot toe. (Round? Pointy? Let's find out!!)

Did you get there after me? YES?? THEN DON'T STAND NEXT TO ME and try to wait until someone comes up to you instead of me, and shrug it off like, "woops, didn't know lines existed!" THIS IS NOT A CONCERT, people. You have to wait your turn to see the band, or buy a loaf of bread, or get help at Sephora.. whatever it is.. EFFING WAIT!

Just try me... I WILL BOOT YOU. Oh yes, I will boot you good.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Feature: Paris & I are having a mo'.

I don't care how much of a social butterfly you may be, everyone needs alone time. In Paris, there are endless blogs about where to go and what to do... and this is no exception. Well.. almost. In stead of proposing where to go to have drinks, or dinner, or pre-dinner drinks with friends, I want to know where to go to be happily SOLITARY in the big city. (I'll get to the sustenance later on.)

When I need time all by my lonesome I tend to kick it in my pad. I've been known to venture to local cafés for coffee or something else pretty boring, but I haven't found many places to spend an afternoon reading or walking around aimlessly just to waste some time. I need to know where Paris and I can snuggle. Just the two of us. So I asked my expatriate experts to chime in on the best places in Paris to hang solo.

Thanks ladies! Readers, be good little girls & boys... check their blogs too...

"I love to just sit and people-watch..." - Rebecca Leffler
The Luxembourg Gardens! If I'm feeling motivated, I adore going for a (short but sweet) run -- one of the few places in Paris where people don't stare at you as if you have a hamburger attached to your head if you go jogging (and where you don't have to inhale 12,000 cigarettes as you pass by). I love to just sit and people-watch and listen to music, some of the best people-watching in Paris. Plus, there is a much higher Parisian:Tourist ratio than other parks of its kind (see: Tuileries). I love the Jardins de Luxe (an appropriate title for the luxurious inhabitants of the neighborhood who frequent there). Not to mention, the little children with their little boats in the pond are adorable (I still dream of a childhood playing with toy boats in the Luxembourg Gardens -- never did that in NJ, for sure :) 

 "Museums are places where one can be alone..."- Karin B.
I suppose I should say something cooler/hipper/more exciting than "my apartment," but truth be told it *is* one of my favorite places to be alone with some quiet and is where I like to write. As far as getting out and about on my own, though, I live close to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and I find it is a really good place for a walk and time to think/be by myself. I also like going to any of the museums in Paris by myself, too, as museums are places where one can be alone and focus on the art at one's own pace.

"The Promenade Plantee is perfect..." - Forest C.

Like Karin, I spend a lot of alone time at home. My apartment is sunny, quiet and pleasant, so it's a great place to enjoy alone time and catch up on reading or writing. I also like walks for more serious alone/thinking time. The Promenade Plantee is perfect for this: it's a good distance with a variety of things to see and makes a perfect 'escape' just above the city streets.

"I love going to Place des Vosges..." - Lindsey T.

Nothing I enjoy more than picking a charming little café, no matter where it is, and plunking myself down with a pad of paper, a good book or a newspaper and a cup of coffee. In the summer, I love going to Place des Vosges to lay out by the fountain with all the hippie-bobo Parisiens who flock there to picnic and play the guitar as soon as it's warm enough to go stocking-less.

"Love a good wander in a gallery or museum..." - I Heart Paris

I too love chilling in my flat, especially on the balcony when the weather is nice, also love a good wander in a gallery or museum on my lonesome, and a bit of bookage in any park/square that has a bench, so I'm pretty much in agreement with Karin, Forest and Lindsey on this one.
I'd say let's all hang out and have alone time together, but that would kind of defeat the purpose...

"Running in the streets!"  - Margo B.
Running in the streets! Of course, you're not really alone but you don't have to deal with anyone (beyond the occasional shocked look of people that still don't 'get' la joie du sport) and are free to contemplate the picturesque scenery and whatever random thoughts keep you going.

Point that bony digit somewhere else you emaciated floozy.

Sheeee's Baaaaack.

Consequently, so am I. I knew it was only a matter of time before she opened her pretentious drivel-prone claptrap about the rumors of her alleged infidelity.

What is Mme. Sarkozy babbling about now? Same ole, same ole...she's become the French Bill Clinton. But it wasn't enough to simply discredit the embarrassing accusations, no sir. Carla was out for blood.

The self-proclaimed Princess Di replacement has gone and pointed her spidery finger at a prominent French politician. But not any ole attention-monger... The Queen of personal drama herself: Rachida Dati.

Never heard of her? She's a former justice minister who became a tabloid superstar when she squeezed one out and refused to name said infant's baby-daddy. Ahh, gotta love the invasive political melarky.

Oh, and there's... that little book. That book about the rivalry between Carla and Rachida. Tears and Mascara. When I read the title, my dinner made a break for it.

This reads like a bad soap opera. Rachida get's knocked up... mum's the word on dada... enter the other woman, Carla... Baby-mama barges in, mascara streaming, and begs the President of France to be the godfather of her child...what next?

Vagivalry. That's what.

Oh C. You should've stuck to making bad pop songs.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Confirmed: The French are MUCH HAPPIER than you.

A wise man once said: "People who say they're happy make my ass twitch." (Two points if you can tell me who.)

Well, if you're not twitching yet, be prepared for your glutes to spaz until they can't spaz no more.

According to the daily paper 20 Minutes, 72% of French employees are "Happy at work".

In other words... almost three quarters of the French population... is joyful at their jobs. Yeah. You heard me. The grumpiest city in the world, is secretly happy-happy-joy-joy. (I'm not buying it either.)

I wonder what parallel universe this publication polled? Where I'm standing, the entire work force is aching for vacation. I can't get through a DAY without someone asking me, "So when's your vacation?"... but it's a ruse. I see through their innocent questions - They just want me to ask them when theirs is.

And, of course, I ask. I watch as the transparent pleasure of their impending escape-from-el-travajo invades their faces.

mmmm... yah, NOooo. Sorry, but I'm guessing that the result of this inquiry is based on 3 things:

1) France is not at war. We have healthcare and advanced human rights. Clearly, we've nothing else to report on, so the journalists have been forced to invent something that will generate a buzz.

2) 20 minutes got it's name not for the time it takes to read, but the time it takes to copy headlines from other sources without fact checking shit.

3) My colleagues are the 28 % in all their miserable glory.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ridunculous Nonsensical: Happy April Fish & Totally Made Up Scientific BS Day!

No, it's not a typo. They say "April Fish Day" here. Yeah, I know, (*eye rolls*), try and figure that one out. Instead of pranking people in imaginative ways, like covering their car with tampons painted in red nail polish, and then dousing said vehicle with actual douche (my high school days were wild & crazy eh?), the French cut out paper fish and tape them on people's backs. Because... fish has so much to do with April. Nope, I don't get it, probably never will.

It is kind of fun to see what the company websites do today though. IE: Funny Or Die has become Bieber or die... that is just PURE UNFILTERED GENIUS. Those nut-jobs have earned my eternal, unwavering respect.

BTW, today is also the Vernal Equinox! Don't know about you but I'm convinced that this is the greatest prank ever. My theory: the V.E. doesn't actually exist and is the original April Fool's gag cooked up by the king NERD of geology or biology, or some other 'ology. Consider the possibilities:

1) Nerds have too much time on their hands. If anyone was going to make up something this braintastic, it would be them, and what better time to fool the entire world with something that sounds totally plausible?
2) Who's going to make sure it checks out? Honestly, do YOU feel like timing the daylight vs night and verifying it all over the world?
3) We mustn't forget the power of an emotionally stunted/frustrated smart person. They're capable of evil we mere mortals cannot even fathom.

Somewhere some four-eyes is telling his teenage son about this, and they're having a right giggle about it

Dear Louisville Stranger...

Google Analytics is my friend. Oh, yes, I spy on you fellow readers.  I want to know where you are from, if you've already visited, how many times, what you read, what time you read it, if you like peanut butter, your favorite color, if you clean up your dog's logs during a walk, your shoe size annnnnnd, the name of your second grade teacher.

I'm watching you. (feeling creeped out yet?)

And I have noticed one of you is more loyal than the rest.
Dear Louisville Stranger... I dub you most loyal/stalkery of them all.

Thanks for reading, whoever you are.

PS - Not to go all grammar nerd on you all, but is it supposed to be "whoever" or "whomever"? I can never remember... my gut says "who"... and that I need to feed it.

PPS - Louisville, are you an ex-bush government spy, sent to monitor my blog because I supported Obama and moved to France?... just checking.
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