Paris

A French Book Sale and a Free Panorama of Paris

Ever wondered what it would be like to read a book at the tallest point of Paris? Each year, Tour Montparnesse holds the 2-day Paris se Livres book sale on its 56th floor. Normally a €13 ticket to access this floor and the roof terrace for the magnificent 360* panorama of Paris, Paris se Livre is a FREE event that gives you automatic access to this beautiful sight. Every readers dream!

Paris se Livre event on the 56th floor of Tour Montparnesse, June 22-23, 2012

In addition to the variety of French books on sale, a select group of authors are also present for book signings and a friendly chat about their work. Present at the 2012 event held on June 22-23 were authors such as Gilles Thomas and Xavier Ramette, writers of Inscriptions des catacombs de Paris, and Matthieu Jung with his work, Vous êtes nés à la bonne époque.

Authors Gilles Thomas, Xavier Ramette, Matthieu Jung, and others gather for a book signing at Paris se Livre.

Towering Paris at 210 meters high, Tour Montparnesse is the tallest skyscraper in the city, and it’s also the only one. The 56-level dark building sticks out like a sore thumb next to the city’s authentic  white architecture averaging 7-stories high. If searching for the best panoramic view of Paris, climb Tour Montparnesse. You’ll have the opportunity to see every significant structure of Paris without the blocked view typically caused by Tour Montparnesse!

Tour Montparnesse

And during your visit, take some time to chill out on the roof terrace with a new read from Paris se Livre and an astonishing view of the city!

The roof terrace of Tour Montparnesse

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A Promenade to the Parisian Fountain of Sparkles

Just when I think Paris is done surprising me, another marvel is discovered! I thought a sparkling water fountain was something only dreamed about, but this dream is true! In September 2010, Paris installed its very own sparkling water fountain. This wooden hut found in Jardin de Reuilly offers both natural and bubbly water! The fountain is run by 6 taps, some mixed with carbon dioxide to provide the fizz. A local treasure not known too well of by locals themselves, many simply walk by the fountain never discovering the fantastic secret that flows within the pipes!

Cute Parisian man making his weekly visit to the Sparkling Water Fountain of Jardin de Reuilly.

During my visit to the fountain, a sweet Parisian man filled up his 10+ empty Pellegrino bottles (very suiting) one by one, a weekly chore of his since the fountain’s birth. He proudly stated that it was the one and only fountain of its kind in the city, a truly unique gem of Paris.

Paris does recycling right! Refilling empty sparkling water bottles with a fresh fizz in the Jardin de Reuilly.

After filling up my own 1.5 liter, friends and I contently walked along the Promenade Plantée hiccuping sparkles along the way. Promenade Plantée is an old railroad track that was renovated into a walkway filled with unique flowers, sculptures, sights, and parks along its path in the 1990s.

The start of Promenade Plantée near the Bastille.

Beginning at Bastille and ending at the Bois de Vincennes on the east side of Paris, Promenade Plantée is another rare gem that is often left undiscovered. Walking along the promenade, one is eye level with the 7-story architecture of Paris and can at any time look down at the rush of city life along the streets below.

A flawless blend of nature and city life along the Promenade Plantée.

Along with the sparkling fountain found in Jardin de Reuilly, the highlights of the promenade include the Viaduc des Arts, a copy of Michaelangelo’s ‘Dying Slaves’ statues located along the roof of the 12th arrondissement’s Police station, and train tunnels turned into decorated caves.

Michelangelo’s ‘Dying Slaves’ located at the top of the 12th Arrondissement’s Police Station.

The beauty of nature mixed in with architecture old and new along the Promenade Plantée is awe inspiring, and it is a sight that should not be overlooked. So during your stay in Paris, take a break from the busy tourist lifestyle and slow it down with a walk over the city and a fizzy water break in Jardin de Reuilly.

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Bread Festivals and A Night at the Museums

I now understand where the saying “April showers bring May flowers” comes from…Paris! Despite the flooded and lackluster April month, May has brought sunnier days and beaucoup festivities.

It’s no secret that Paris is full of sweet surprises. It’s also no secret that my stomach acts as my brain. So it’s safe to assume that most of my discoveries are made with the use of my super sensor. On this particular day, my nose led me to La Fête du Pain.

In celebration of Sainte-Honoré, the saint of bakers, 7-day Bread Festivals are held France-wide to honor the country’s staple food. This year, from May 14-20th, such a festival was held in front of the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris.

La Fête du Pain at the Notre Dame

With the crisp sent of fresh bread invading large white tents, baking professionals came out to show off their skills and share their delicious creations. On one side of the tent, cute French kiddies sported paper hats as they rolled out the dough for their own sweet treats. On the opposite end was a rose making station. Grab a dough circle, dab on some water, and start petaling away to create an enchanted dough rose. And in the center of all the action is where the art form could be seen rising to life in bread ovens.

French kiddies baking bread

Dough Roses

Baking professionals hard at work

Freshly baked bread from the oven

From inside the bread factory to the outside stalls selling the finished products, this festival was a party for the eyes, the nose, and the taste buds!

Up Next: Trade in bar hopping with a dose of museum hopping for one spectacular Night at the Museums — Paris edition…

Continuing the cultural celebrations around France and all of Europe was the 8th annual Nuit Européen des Musées. Hundreds of museums offered free entry and alluring events from dusk-1am on Saturday, May 19, 2012. And Paris did not disappoint with its night at some of the most prestigious museums known throughout the world.

Edgy art closet at 59 Rivoli

With over 200 choices and less than 7 hours to museum hop, pre-planning was essential. The options were endless with events that suited all interests! A treasure hunt through Musée des Arts et Métiers, glow paint and games at Musée National du Sport, an American folk music concert at Musée de la Musique, planetarium shows at Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. There really was something for everyone. And free coffee tastings at Les Arts Décoratifs proved beneficial for sleepy museum hoppers with a busy night ahead!

Coffee break at Les Arts Décoratifs

These are two of the several events that happen only once a year. The beauty of living in Paris versus merely visiting are the rare opportunities to embrace local culture. The art of baking and exquisite masterpieces goes beyond what is seen in patisseries and the Louvre.

To see firsthand the work that goes into baking one fresh baguette from the early hours of the morning allows one to understand why it is said the only good bread is ‘Traditional French Bread’. To experience a night where museums come alive under the vibrant city of lights embellishes the ideals of Paris. Most importantly, such spectacles open the door to the dynamic world of French art and culture.

“I dream my painting, and I paint my dream”– Vincent van Gogh
For future travelers making a visit to Paris in the month of May, here are some helpful resources for these unique events:
Urban Pulse app– This app is  available for iPhone, iPad, and Android phones. It allows you to find events and deals all around Paris and other cities around the world. During Nuit des Européen Musées, this app allows you to find when and where all events are happening, the wait time for each, and more.
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A Wine Tasting How To

Wine–An attractive reason to venture to Paris. In my quest to spend as little as possible while in the expensive city but still enjoy the finer things in life, I discovered Caves Augé. An independent wine store in Paris since 1850, Caves Augé offers FREE wine tastings once a month throughout the spring and summer seasons.

Inside, the walls of the quaint shop are covered top to bottom with a selection of French wines. The overstocked shelves in the center of the store make it possible for only one person at a time to shimmy his or her way through the aisles of the authentic establishment.

Outside, tourist and French wine connoisseurs alike enjoy an afternoon of tasting and socializing along the sidewalk of the independent wine shop. Today, winemakers from Rhone Valley share their creations at the dégustation de vin.

The overall atmosphere is relaxed and cultured.

Locals and tourists enjoy a free wine tasting at Caves Augé.

Wine selections rest atop an aged barrel for the aesthetic appeal.

Through observation, it is clear there is a very specific approach to tasting the wine.

Option 1:

  • With a paper listing the 20+ different wines and a glass in hand, first approach a winemaker serving the featured wines resting atop an old fashioned barrel.
  • After listening to (or pretending to understand) the description of the wine in French, swirl the ounce of wine, elegantly sniff, and proceed to sip…But DO NOT swallow.
  • Give your taste buds a workout and swish the wine around in your mouth for a few seconds to savor the fine and delicate tastes it has to offer.
  •  Once you have done so, find a wooden bucket adjacent to the barrels and spit. I know what you’re thinking..how attractive. But this is the classy way of doing things.
  • Once done with your tasting, find the select wine on your paper and jot down a few comments about your experience. Example thoughts are as follows:

Attempting to sound fancy: ‘Yes, the Saint Joseph Blanc 2010 was divine, but I much prefer the Rouge. It’s much more vivid and perfectly off-dry.’

Keeping it simple: ‘This is a fine dining kind of wine; this is a romantic drink by the fireplace kind of wine; this is a good time kind of wine. ‘

Just going with it: ‘This is my 10th tasting, I can’t tell the difference anymore.’

  • After this last step, repeat the process all over again. Return to the previous barrel, ask for the second wine, and so on. Once done with the first barrel, move on to the next, mingle with the winemaker, and compare the new and undiscovered tastes.

Option 2:

This is one approach to wine tasting. The other is not quite as involved. Simply grab a glass, choose a wine, chin chin, drink drink, and voila. 1 ounce per tasting, 5-6 ounces in a normal glass of wine, 20+ options to choose from. You do the math.

“Fine Wine and Good Times”

Whichever way you choose to experience the dégustation, just have a good time. Free wine tasting, good company, Paris…doesn’t get much better than that.

“Fine Wine and Good Times”

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Garage Sales in Paris

Staring at any black and white photo of Paris, one can’t help but wonder what the city’s streets resembled in the 1920s. Though modernized to keep up with an ever-changing world, Paris continues to maintain the same mystery, romance, and distinction that has lured people from across the world for centuries.

Street Market in Paris, 1920’s

It is in all its splendor that Paris can make even the most prosaic person fall into an idyllic state of mind. So how does the city have such an affect? By sucking people into the days of antiquity with unique events such as Antiquité Brocantes (antique garage sales/flea markets) that occur randomly throughout Paris.

Rustic book collection at the Antiquité Brocante off the Bonne Nouvelle metro.

A garage sale in Paris is no ordinary garage sale. Old school cameras and records. Rustic books and stamps. Antique china and glass. Shabby chic furniture and decor. Vintage clothing and accessories. All the collectibles one can imagine can be found at these decorated markets along some of the most hidden streets of Paris.

Shabby chic furniture and vintage clothing.

However, they are tricky to find. Unless you’re living in the city and constantly walking by advertisements for upcoming brocantes, sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Large yellow banners are typically displayed around the nearby brocante leading you to the Parisian time portal.

Anticstore.com is a helpful site for anyone searching for treasures waiting to be discovered at these one-of -a-kind street markets in Paris or anywhere in France.

Or you can just pick a spot on the map and wander until you find your yellow brick road. Often that is how the rarest of gems are found.

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Revenir à Paris

As I stepped off the train upon arrival to Paris, I felt rather uneasy about my decision to return to the city that lent me a rather ‘interesting’ study abroad experience 2 summers before. However, I maintained the positive mindset that living with a French family would give me a well-rounded cultural experience more so than the 6-week ‘I’m an American tourist in Paris’ experience I’d had before. However, within the first 20 minutes of a ‘feels good to be back attitude’, I was greeted with a big F*** YOU in the form of a €25 fine for accidentally purchasing the wrong RER ticket to Versailles (F.Y.I.— La Defense is technically NOT in Paris).

As I argued with the Parisienne patrol guard who continuously threatened to call the police if I did not pay, I glared at her with pure anger wishing to return to America and blaming her and all Parisians’ for my renewed detest for the city of ‘love’.

So Paris and I did not get off on the right foot…again. But after a night of rest, a run through the park of Château de Versailles, and a less touristy stroll through Paris, the sun was shining for this Florida girl once again.

Now settled into my new home away from home with the most loving French family, I am confident this Au Pair experience will bring out the best of the French culture. After spending so much time with different families in the different regions of Italy, I’ve decided the French and Italian cultures are similar in many ways…

-Food-Everyone wants to feed you and they won’t let you stop eating until all of the food is gone!
—On that note, no one eats until 9pm which means a hungry tummy all the time. AKA food overload!
—-On another food note…I am always surrounded by bread and nutella. All I gotta say is I’m glad it’s winter time and there’s no need to go to the beach anytime soon.

-Everyone is so hospitable! If you are too hot or too cold in your room, they will go out and buy you a portable air conditioner or give you a surplus of blankets.

– ItaliEnglish/FranGlish- Learning a language is HARD! But everyone is so patient and will continuously repeat or explain words for you so you can better understand. My French fam and I have English night one night and French night the next. They usually all turn into FranGlish night tho.

– Family- Everyone really values family in both cultures. Taking the time to eat together, taking family vacations, or just a short visit from grandma and grandpa. Its all significant because it’s family time.

Overall, it has been great to be back! And in 5 months time, I hope to fully embrace the French culture and language in a way most people do not.

“We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.”

Categories: All Blog Postings, Paris | Leave a comment

Revenir à Paris

As I stepped off the train upon arrival to Paris, I felt rather uneasy about my decision to return to the city that lent me a rather ‘interesting’ study abroad experience 2 summers before. However, I maintained the positive mindset that living with a French family would give me a well-rounded cultural experience more so than the 6-week ‘I’m an American tourist in Paris’ experience I’d had before. However, within the first 20 minutes of a ‘feels good to back attitude’, I was greeted with a big F*** YOU in the form of a €25 fine for accidentally purchasing the wrong RER ticket to Versailles (F.Y.I.— La Defense is technically NOT in Paris).

As I argued with the Parisienne patrol guard who continuously threatened to call the police if I did not pay, I glared at her with pure anger wishing to return to America and blaming her and all Parisians’ for my renewed detest for the city of ‘love’.

So Paris and I did not get off on the right foot…again. But after a night of rest, a run through the park of Château de Versailles, and a less touristy stroll through Paris, the sun was shining for this Florida girl once again.

Now settled into my new home away from home with the most loving French family, I am confident this Au Pair experience will bring out the best of the French culture. After spending so much time with different families in the different regions of Italy, I’ve decided the French and Italian cultures are similar in many ways…

-Food-Everyone wants to feed you and they won’t let you stop eating until all of the food is gone!
—On that note, no one eats until 9pm which means a hungry tummy all the time. AKA food overload!
—-On another food note…I am always surrounded by bread and nutella. All I gotta say is I’m glad it’s winter time and there’s no need to go to the beach anytime soon.

-Everyone is so hospitable! If you are too hot or too cold in your room, they will go out and buy you a portable air conditioner or give you a surplus of blankets.

– ItaliEnglish/FranGlish- Learning a language is HARD! But everyone is so patient and will continuously repeat or explain words for you so you can better understand. My French fam and I have English night one night and French night the next. They usually all turn into FranGlish night tho.

– Family- Everyone really values family in both cultures. Taking the time to eat together, taking family vacations, or just a short visit from grandma and grandpa. Its all significant because it’s family time.

Overall, it has been great to be back! And in 5 months time, I hope to fully embrace the French culture and language in a way most people do not.

“We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.”

Categories: All Blog Postings, Paris | Leave a comment

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