September Newsletter Highlights
· French Cooking Classes, in English
· Navigating Paris with the Navigo Pass
· Dinner at a Wine Caviste
· Memorials and Parc du Mont Valérien in Surenses
· A Visit to the Longchamp Store
· Looking Ahead to October
This Month's Featured Apartments
Champs Elysées - du Beloy
You'll want to stay longer than a week in this studio apartment near the Arc de Triomphe. Totally refurbished just two months ago, it offers not only comfortable and chic living space, but also high speed internet and an open kitchen. (And you'd be able to walk to the caviste mentioned below in the newsletter.)
Louvre - Petit Champs
If it's location, location, location you're looking for, then you'll love this one bedroom apartment near the Louvre and the Palais Royale with its unique shops and cafés. The apartment has been recently renovated and is stylishly furnished. Large windows let in lots of light.
Champs de Mars - Bourdonnais
This apartment in the highly-prized 7th arrondisement gives you plenty of room, with two bedrooms and two baths and a gleaming white kitchen with open counter. Windows look out onto the tree-lined streets of Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower. You'll love walking over to the markets on Rue Cler, then coming home to enjoy the spacious sitting and dining areas.
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September is the time of le rentrée , when everyone's who's been away on vacation rushes back to Paris to get the kids into school and resume their work. All the shops and markets are open, and the city feels re-vitalized. The weather's usually good, and there's just the hint of fall in the air.
French Cooking Classes, in English
If you've seen the movie Julie and Julia , your mouth is already watering for a visit to Paris. Julia Child learned to cook at the Cordon Bleu, where the classes were in French and the atmosphere less than friendly. But today you can take one-day and even half-day cooking classes, conducted in English, often in home kitchens, just as Julia taught.
I suggest you take your class (or even more than one) in the first part of your stay, so you can go back to your apartment and practice what you've learned.
Many of the classes in English are taught by ex-pats, but some are also taught by English-speaking French cooks. Every one of these cooking classes has a slightly different focus, so if you're interested in cooking, you can certainly find a class to suit you.
Last month I met Paule Caillot in her large home kitchen at the edge of the Marais, where she teaches half- and full-day classes. She's a vivacious Frenchwoman and gourmet who used to work in fashion. Her welcoming kitchen overlooks a typically Parisian courtyard.
Paule's classes are hands-on, where you first shop in a local market, then prepare a typically French meal and enjoy it with a glass of wine, followed by a cheese tasting. And that's just the half-day class. Full-day classes also include a walking tour of several food specialty stores. The classes are small, often just for your own group if there are several of you, so they feel very personal. Prices range from €350 - 380 per person, depending on group size, for a long half day (9am - 3pm) and €350 - 380 per person for the full day (9am - 6pm). Walking tours only are €120 per person.
Eye Prefer Paris
Paris has a rich diversity of ethnic cultures, and Eye Prefer Paris cooking classes give you an introduction to the cooking influenced by countries like Morocco, Algeria, Vietnam and Laos. Classes are taught by Richard Nahum, formerly a catering chef in New York, and Charlotte Puckette, author of The Ethnic Paris Cookbook. Classes begin with a market visit and are conducted in Charlotte's professional kitchen in the 7th arrondisement, near the Eiffel Tower. Maximum class size is six people. Richard's an expert expat in Paris, so you'll also learn a lot about the city.
Price is €185 per person for a half-day class (9:30am - 2pm).
Cook'n with Class
If it's pastry or baking you'd like to learn, Cook'n with Class offers classes in both. You prepare six different French pastries, or bake six quintessentially French breads like croissants and brioche. They even have a class in macaroons, those luscious pastel lighter-than-air treats (you get to take home about three dozen). Pastry classes are conducted by Pino Picara, who originally studied in New York. Cook'n with Class also offers traditional French cooking classes. Mornings begin with a market visit, and evening classes include a cheese tasting. Those classes are taught by owner/chef Eric Fraudeau, who's worked in France, Canada and Mexico, and at one time in the kitchen of Alain Ducasse.
The atmosphere at Cook'n with Class is like a relaxed salon in their kitchens in Montmartre. They'll even let you invite a guest (for €35) to share the meal you've prepared. Prices: € 150 per person for morning or evening classes; €100 per person for pastry and baking classes.
Marguerite's Elegant Home Cooking
Muriel-Marguerite Foucher leads hands-on classes for up to nine people in her home kitchen on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays. She publishes the menus for each class on her website, so you can see what you'll be learning in her exposed-beamed, skylighted kitchen under the eaves. The classes are congenial and lots of fun for groups; in fact, she also arranges team-building cooking workshops and classes for special events like family gatherings or wedding showers.
Marguerite's home kitchen is in Surenses, near the Bois de Boulogne (there's more about Surenses later in this newsletter). Morning classes begin with a market visit and end with lunch and a glass of wine. In the evenings, there's a cheese tasting to go with dinner. Morning classes run from 9am - 2pm, and evenings from 6:30pm - 10:30pm. Price per person is €120.
And, Well, Le Cordon Bleu
Actually, you can take classes at Le Cordon Bleu - demonstration classes, at least. This most famous of cooking schools offers three-hour demonstration classes, conducted in French but sometimes translated into English. You won't get to put your hands on the knives or strap on an apron, but after the demonstration, you do get to share the food with the rest of your class. The list of classes is a bit hard to find on their website; start by selecting the Paris campus and look for "Short Courses." But the €45 euro cost to see the kitchens (in the 15th arrondisement, near Montparnasse) and taste the food is well worth the effort.
École de Cuisine Alain Ducasse (in French)
Alain Ducasse, famous chef of such Paris high-end restaurants as Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, now offers half-day and full-day classes at his École de Cuisine in the 16th arrondisement. If your French is really good, there's a wide variety of classes - but don't expect Ducasse to be your instructor. Classes are taught by Ducasse-trained chefs. Prices are quite reasonable: €165 for a half-day morning or evening class, or €280 for a full day.
More about Food...
If you don't want to take a cooking class, but still consider yourself a foodie, you can have a personal itinerary designed for you around your food interests. Food writer Rosa Jackson mainly teaches classes in Provence, but she will provide you with a rich list of places to visit (complete with maps) in Paris that make sure you haven't missed anything you care about. Her itineraries cost €100 for a half-day, or €195 for a whole day.
And if you'd just prefer to read about food in Paris, I recommend The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City by David Lebovitz, an accomplished pastry chef who once worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. The book just came out this past May; it chronicles Lebovitz's move to Paris and his adventures both foodie and otherwise. He's a wry, sometimes hilarious writer - and you get a bonus of some of his excellent recipes.
Navigating Paris with the Navigo Pass
My absolute favorite way to get around Paris these days is on the bus. I still use the Metro a lot, but most Metro stations don't have escalators, so you can have quite a climb, especially if you happen to be laden with shopping bags.
The buses, on the other hand, have no stairs and - best of all - they're above ground, so you get a look at the neighborhoods as you go by.
Using the buses is easier than ever now with the Paris Navigo smartcard. You buy the smartcard itself for €5 in any large Metro station. It requires a photograph, but there's usually a photo booth right there. Hold on to the Navigo, because you'll bring it back with you every time you return to Paris (and we all return, don't we?). With the Navigo, you can buy unlimited Metro, bus and RER train use for seven days, Monday to Sunday. I usually purchase Zones 1 and 2, Paris only; it costs €16.80 for a week.
When getting into Metro or on the bus, you just swipe the Navigo over the big purple circle (I don't even take it out of my handbag).
Be sure to pick up a brochure of the Metro and bus lines when you buy your card. I also use one of the many map booklets you can buy at the tabacs; just make sure the one you choose shows bus routes as well as Metro stops.
Equipped with your Navigo, you can jump on a bus for just a couple of blocks if you're tired. Or take the bus across the city for a "free" tour. Particularly popular is the #69 bus, which runs across the city from the Eiffel Tower to Pere Lachaise Cemetery (except on Sundays). The #80 slices north/south through the city from Montmartre to Montparnasse. Spending a few minutes getting familiar with the bus lines near your apartment can really save you time. The bus shelters usually have a digital display that tells you how long till the next bus, so you can decide whether to ride or walk if you're going a short way.
Dinner at a Wine Caviste
One of the things I love about staying in an apartment in Paris is exploring the neighborhood. On my last trip I stayed not too far from the Arc de Triomphe. Some friends invited me to dinner at a local caviste, a wine shop, which happens to also serve dinner.
La Bodeguita du XVIIeme is well worth the short Metro or bus trip to the 17th arrondisement. It's hidden away on a residential street at 14, rue de Rennequin. This shop specializes in organically-grown wines, and of course the walls are lined with bins of wine. And there are four tables at which proprietor Olivier Aubert serves a very convivial dinner. There's actually no kitchen here, but Olivier purchases freshly prepared meals at the nearby Poncelet market, and they're delicious. The night our group was there, both a huge steak tartare and duck confit were on the menu, plus a dinner-sized salad with lots of meats and cheeses. You'd never know that no one's cooking back there.
But the real reason to come here is to taste the wines. (In fact, there are a few barstools in the back where you can just sit and drink, if you prefer.) You can choose a bottle from the bins along the wall, or ask Olivier to recommend something for you. He decants and cools the wines right at your table. We stayed late and consumed bottle after bottle of wines both new and familiar.
Most cavistes don't serve food, but some are licensed to. I recommend you check out the cavistes in the neighborhood of your apartment. Often you'll see locals stopping in for a glass after work, sometimes spilling out onto the sidewalk for a smoke. Stop by and ask the owner to recommend something for you to take home; most speak some English.
Since there are only a few tables at La Bodeguita, you'll want to call and make a reservation at 01.47.64.33.93. No website.
14, rue de Rennequin, Metro: Pereire or Ternes
Memorials and Parc du Mont Valérien in Surenses
Most Americans are aware that there's a World War II American cemetery in Normandy, but until recently I didn't know that there's a smaller American military cemetery right outside Paris in the town of Surenses. It's situated in a beautiful setting and is well worth a visit on a fine September day.
Surenses is just a 15-minute ride on the RER train from St. Lazare station; the train ticket costs less than €5. Turn right out of the Surenses/Mont Valérien station, then left up a paved path with a green railing. Within a few blocks you climb some stone stairs and emerge onto a belvedere with a wide view across all of Paris. The view alone is worth the trip.
On a sunny day, the white of the cemetery's marble crosses and Stars of David gleam starkly against a perfect green lawn. (The grass is so inviting you'll be tempted to take your shoes off.) This cemetery was created at the end of World War I, but it also houses the remains of 24 unknown soldiers of WWII. Stretching across the rear of the lawn is a classical marble monument to those buried there and to nearly a thousand still missing from the first war.
This is a peaceful haven where you won't find hordes of tourists; in fact, when I was there recently, my friend and I were the only people visiting. We were able to ask questions and learn a lot about Surenses from the gracious staff person Gabrielle Mihascu. She then directed us behind the American cemetery to the Parc du Mont Valérien, where the Mémorial de la France Combattante, an extraordinarily moving tribute to the French Resistance fighters of WWII, is located.
The park runs up the wooded hillside of Mont Valérien, with meandering paths and enticing benches (a great place for a picnic). In 1941, the Nazis occupied this area and used a nearby chapel to hold as many as 200 people at a time - those suspected of working for the Resistance -- before executing them in the trees. When Charles de Gaulle returned to Paris after the Liberation, he signed a decree creating this memorial. It was dedicated on June 18, 1960, and every president of France since has come here on June 18 to sign the book and honor the dead.
A crypt holding the bodies of sixteen people, symbolic of all those who died, is built into a high wall at the top of the hill. Although the crypt is only open for tours on Sunday afternoons, we asked at the memorial office if we could see it, and a young woman unlocked it for us. Inside, 16 people, symbolic of all those who died in the Resistance, are buried in unmarked caskets draped with the flag of France. A 17th remains empty for now; it's being held for when the last Resistance fighter dies, whoever that will be.
Outside the crypt are a series of bas relief sculptures on the subject of war. They're heartbreaking in their fierceness and compassion. You'll want to stop and study each one.
You can find specific directions at the American Battlefield Monuments Commission website: abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/su.php.
A Visit to the Longchamp Store
I love my Longchamp Le Pliage tote. You see these fold-up water-resistant vinyl bags with the leather handles all over Paris. It seems like everyone has one. The middle-size bag weighs almost nothing and holds everything (including my wallet, laptop, umbrella, Kindle e-book reader, Paris maps, notebooks and pens, two pairs of glasses, plus any small scarf or box of chocolates I might pick up along the way). My antiques-shopping friend always brings along the larger size to carry her finds home in.
Every single time I go to Paris, I end up at what I think of as the Longchamp mothership, the store on rue St. Honoré. There it is smack in the middle of some very high-end shopping, but Longchamp bags are way more affordable than Louis Vuitton or other well-known Paris names. It's a great place to shop for gifts to take home. Every season, Longchamp brings out new fashions in handbags and totes, and Le Pliage totes are issued in new colors.
The truth is, you can buy the totes almost anywhere. All the Paris department stores carry them, as do several US stores. But I love the experience of the Longchamp store itself - the honey-colored wood fixtures, the displays of new shapes and colors, the helpful salespeople (yes, they are), even the plastic bags the store hands out for your wet umbrella.
For the true Longchamp aficionados, a new book about the famous leather retailer's 60-year history has just been published. Titled simply Longchamp, it's by French journalist Marie-Claire Aucouturier, with photographs by Philippe Garcia.
The large Longchamp store is at 404, rue St. Honoré, Metro Concorde or Madeleine. There's another at 21, rue du Vieux-Colombier, Metro St. Sulpice or Babylone.
Note: all the times and fees we've quoted in this month's newsletter were accurate when we published, but things do change, so it's always a good idea to check before you go.
Sheila Campbell, Washington, DC - sheilacampbell.com -
Calendar of Events, September, 2009
Through September 7
Elles @ Centre Pompidou (women artists in the permanent collection)
Place Georges Pompidou, Metro Rambuteau, Hotel de Ville, Chatelet
Through September 7
Philippe Parreno - "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait"
Place Georges Pompidou - Galerie Sud
Rue Saint-Martin - 4th Arrondissement
€9,00 - 12,00
Through September 13
Forty Years of Photography: recreation of a 1975 Cartier Bresson photography show
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
11, avenue du Président Wilson, Metro Alma-Marceau or Iéna
September 11 - January 11, 2010
Bruegel, Memling, Van Eyck...the Brukenthal Collection
Musée Jacquemart André
158, Blvd Haussmann, Metro Miromesnil or St. Philippe du Roule
September 13 - December 13, 2010
Veilhan Versailles (Modern art sculpture in the courtyards and gardens of Versailles)
Chateau de Versailles
Through September 15
Suzanne Valadon et Maurice Utrillo - Mother and son's art
28, place de la Madeleine, Metro Madeleine
€7,00 - 9,00
Through September 20
Palais de Tokyo
13, avenue du Président Wilson, Metro Iéna
September 9 - October 11
@rt Outsiders: Art and the Environment
Maison Européenne de la Photographie
5 - 7, rue de Fouray, Metro St. Paul or Pont Marie
Exhibitions and Other Museums
Through September 27
Musée du Quai Branly
55 Quai Branly, Metro Alma-Marceau, Bir Hakeim, École Militaire
September 22 - November 29
165 Years of Iranian Photography
Musée du Quai Branly
55 Quai Branly, Metro Alma-Marceau, Bir Hakeim, École Militaire
Through October 28
The Years of Vian's Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits
8, rue de Nesle, Metro Odéon or St.-Michel
Through November 22
Le Grand Pari(s): Ten Visions for the Future of Paris
Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine
Palais de Chaillot, 1 place du Trocadéro, Metro Trocadéro
Through December 31
Tales of the Eiffel Tower
First floor and stairs of the Eiffel Tower, Metro Trocadéro or École Militaire
€4.50 - 13.00
Music, Theater and Film
Through September 20
Classique au Vert (open-air classical music concerts)
Parc Floral, Bois de Vincennes, avenue de la Pyramide
Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings
Through October 5
Le Jardin Shakespeare's Open-Air Theatre
Bois de Boulogne - Chapiteau Alexis Gruss
Allee de la Reine Marguerite, Metro Porte Dauphine, Les Sablons, Porte Maillot, Porte d'Auteuil, Porte de Passy
Prices vary by event.
Through September 20
Barbie - Exhibition of her first 50 years
Musée de la Poupée
Impasse Berthaud, near 22, rue Beaubourg, Metro Rambuteau
€5,00 - 7,00
September 26 - 27
Festival of Paris Gardens (garden workshops and demonstrations)
Notre Dame, Parc de la Villette, Jardins des Tuileries, Jardins du Luxembourg, Jardin des Plantes
Through October 12
Jardin des Papillons - Butterfly Garden
Bois de Vincennes -Parc Floral
Route de la Pyramide, Metro Chateau de Vincennes
Through December 29
Grande Ecurie - Grand Stables of Versailles
Chateau de Versailles
Avenue Rockefeller - Versailles, France
Through January 3, 2010
Crimexpo - Interactive display of crime scene investigation
Cite des Sciences
30, avenue Corentin Celtou - 19th Arrondissement
€7,00 - 10,00; Under 7: Free
Through January 31, 2010
Madeleine Vionnet - French fashion designer of the interwar years
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
107 -111, rue de Rivoli - 1st Arrondissement
€6,50 - 8,00
A Look Ahead for October, 2009
October 1 - 3 Fetes de Vendanges Montmartre (grape harvest in the only vineyard in Paris)
October 2 - 5 Paris-Deauville Rally at the Place Vendome (exhibition of classic cars)
October 3 Nuit Blanche, when museums stay open all night
October 3 - 4 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Europe's richest horse race at the Hippodrome de Longchamp
October 3 - 4 Open Weekend at the Garde Républicaine (brass bands and horse parades)
October 7 - 11 Montmartre Harvest Festival
October 10 - 11 Parc des Princes Antiques Fair
October 14 - 16 Salon du Chocolat
October 22 - 25 International Contemporary Art Fair, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais
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The Welcome 2 France team
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