Don’t blink. There’s an upcoming flight where one of the female flight attendants isn’t

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:52 pm -

Only the very rich and famous can afford to make such a wager and carry it out with panache. In addition, the proceeds will go to charity, merci. Virgin Airlines Chairman Sir Richard Branson, will be dressed as a female flight attendant on a special flight on May 1st between London to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. To make things a wee bit kinky, if one of the 160 passengers bids $650,000, he or she will have the pleasure (?) of shaving Branson’s legs.

You may be wondering how this came about. Branson lost a bet to Malaysian airline mogul Tony Fernandes of AirAsia, a low cost airline that’s ferrying passengers throughout Asia. The two wagered that whichever of  their new Formula One racing teams finished ahead of the other, the “loser” would cross-dress in their respective female flight attendants’ uniforms. And, that means wearing high heels.

A one-way ticket aboard the flight, which will  feature a magic show and live bands will cost about $7,300.00. Proceeds of both the bidding and ticket sales will go to beneficiaries designated by Virgin Unite, Sir Richard’s non-profit foundation.

Mr Fernandes said he’ll let Branson keep his beard. But, the 60-year-old entrepreneur will be expected to wear high heels, put on some make-up and perform all of a flight attendant’s responsibilities.

Do you think people will really be monitoring how well Branson serves drinks and meals to the passengers? My bet would be no. But, it would be fun to watch and have a performance card to fill out. After all, if you can afford to pay that much for a ticket, the service should be impeccable.

Photo: The Power of Giving


Posted in Consumer Traveler |

Glimpses of Berlin — What I didn’t see, what I learned, heavy food and clubs I didn’t visit

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:50 pm -

Karen Fawcett continues her visit to Berlin. In her first post she focused on an overview of the city. Here she delves into more specifics after a recommended bird’s-eye-view of the city from the TV tower that she passed up.

Sights we saw and (mostly) didn’t see:

People who go to a place of any size, spend a day sightseeing and think they’ve seen it amaze me. That’s one reason to steer clear of tours where travelers are whisked from here to there with an agenda like “if it’s Tuesday, it must be Brussels… or maybe Berlin?” How about seeing the city? How about seeing what’s in between this city and the next?

OK, here are some suggestions for an in-depth Berlin visit. I certainly did not get to all of them! But, for more than a fleeting overview, these are sights and experiences that add another level of familiarity with Berlin.

For a 360-degree overview of the city, the Visit Berlin Tourist Office suggests you go here. It is a TV Tower 680 feet high (270 meters) where you can get an stunning overview of the city; you can see many of its tourist attractions from here, including the Reichstag (Parliament building), the Brandenburg Gate and the Main Railway Station, as well as the Olympic Stadium, the Museum Island (Museumsinsel) and the Potsdam Square (Potsdamer Platz). This makes sense.

We didn’t go. Instead, because of a recommendation, we ate at Solar, at the summit of a high-rise building. Our source assured us it’s a local hangout where we wouldn’t encounter tourists. She was right. The food was more than decent, portions were huge and could be split and the prices were moderate especially compared to Paris. As guaranteed, the view was incredible and the decibel level could blow out people’s eardrums. Décor-wise (all-black and glass), it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s the type of place you either love or hate, and you know darn well there’s a whole lot of shaking going on after midnight.

We went to Checkpoint Charlie (and yes, there’s a kind of cheesy feeling that comes from being besieged by people being able to buy a piece of the Berlin Wall) and other relics of the Soviet era. We walked through The Brandenburg Gate and studied the exteriors of Museum row.

I’m embarrassed to admit we didn’t go to the Jewish Museum. You need to dedicate three days to do it justice.

But, contrary to what you may expect, this is not a to-do-and-what-to see article. It’s more about the very superficial conclusions I came to during my stay in the German capital. If you’re looking for tourism information, the Berlin Tourist Office has a first-rate site.

My way of learning is to interview people and ask lots of (often, too many) questions. One advantage I have, is that I know I can and will return to Berlin. Perhaps, sooner than later.

I grilled Toma Haines, the Antiques Diva, a Bonjour Paris contributor, who lives in Berlin and commutes to Paris. She shared her insights and said, “I can’t emphasize strongly enough is that Berlin is a poor city. It was flattened in WWII, isolated by the Wall, and it’s never recovered. In 2004, Klaus Wowereit, the mayor, said in an interview, “Berlin ist arm, aber sexy.” (“Berlin is poor, but sexy.”)

Beginning with the 20th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall in November 2009, investors have been building non-stop, so construction is always visible. I love the quote from Jack Lang, former French minister of culture, when he talked about Berlin’s growth and how quickly it’s changing. “Paris is always Paris and Berlin is never Berlin.” Of course, Lang missed Baron Haussmann.

“Literally every week a new store opens up, a new building is being built… fueling the economy with the hope it will pay off. People, especially Americans, are investing in Berlin, but you have to think long-term to make it worth your money,” Toma said.

Some things I learned:

Even though Berlin and Paris are so close (by plane), it’s an eight-hour drive and an overnight (12 hour-long) train trip between the two capital cities.

Think BIG. Streets are wide, stores are big and the city feels quasi empty.

Don’t expect people to speak English. It’s a plus if they do if they’re of a certain age. Younger Germans will, but they’re not necessarily the ones who are manning information booths in the train or subway stations. Use transport maps, or a smart-phone application if you have one.

Many Germans steer clear of making eye contact. I hate generalizations, but that tends to be the norm if you’re passing by and through. If they know you, it’s something else.

Waiters are professional and appear to do their jobs well. But, they’re not as friendly as those in the U.S. nor as professional as waiters in France. Tips are not included. Supposedly, 5% (more or less) of the check is the norm.

Taxi drivers don’t necessarily speak English. Be sure to have the address in writing of where you’re going, plus, your return destination. If you find the “right” driver, however, you’ll learn a lot. The one we snagged when we went to the airport was full of information and was happy to share his sense of how the city and housing demographics have changed. When we thanked him, he thanked us, remarking that passengers usually treat him as if he’s invisible.

People aren’t supposed to cross the street when there’s a red light – even if there’s not a car in sight and it’s 6 a.m. Moi?

Even though graffiti is an art form, don’t toss your trash on the sidewalk including a napkin that happens to fall.

If you happen to have a car and park illegally even for a minute, even if the police don’t arrive in time to give you a $5 ticket, other drivers and passersby will reprimand you.

Berlin is a safe city as long as you use big city smarts. At the same time, some younger Berlin residents buck the establishment. Don’t be surprised if you see storefronts that have been bashed in and because it’s non-shatter glass, you might mistake it for being an art statement. It’s not. One shop owner told me it’s frequent and perpetrated by Berlin punks.

Compared to Paris, it’s cheap. If only it weren’t so expensive to check luggage on flights, it would have made dollars, cents and euros to have bought drugstore and grocery items and so much more and brought them home.

Food and More:

Berlin is the land of coffee here and coffee everywhere. The first café in Berlin was opened in 1670. Between Einstein and Starbucks, fast, good and moderately priced carryout coffee to go is available whenever you’re in the mood. And you can sit down in the shops, inside or out, no matter how cold it is. Bring on the lattes and the “white coffees” that are made with condensed milk. The majority of these places have free WiFi and are enormous compared to those in Paris.

I’m told women with curves are appreciated…it’s a bit of a culture shock after living in Paris where women are forever on a diet and are seemingly born without hips and thighs.

Come to think of it, you’ll see relatively few French women drinking beer contrasted to those in Germany. Yes, there some very good wines produced there, but nothing compared to the amount of beer. On nearly every block, you’ll see a restaurant with a cheery rosy-faced (wooden) man beckoning you in for beer and local cuisine.

If you like your food heavy and copious, you’ll be in heaven. Expect to be served bratwurst, other sausages and foods that don’t leave you craving for another meal within two hours—or maybe two days. Portions of Wiener Schnitzel are enough for two people if you aren’t into super-size-me portions. Head to Ottenthal if you want to taste the real thing perfectly prepared.

Berliners are crazy for organic and you can get organic almost anything for same price as nonorganic. Go figure…

Clubs and more:

There’s an enormous club scene in Berlin and, generally, it doesn’t get going until late (and not every night). We were advised to go to Cookies Club in Berlin, which is hot and heavy on Tuesday and Thursday nights, but were told it didn’t really get swinging until 2 or 3 a.m. and stays open until 6 a.m. Even though it was practically in the Westin, there was no way I was going to make an appearance. Although I awakened at 2 a.m., wearing a terry cloth robe to a hip hang-out isn’t comme il faut.

There’s a super jazz club, but hey, tired is tired. Badenscher Hof is by reputation a crowded hole in the wall in West Berlin that reminds you of what a night out in Berlin would have been like in the 20s. For a more modern feel, and perhaps bigger names, there’s also A-Trane.

Neighborhoods and shopping:

The reason we weren’t museuming is because we were exploring neighborhoods trying to decide why the city is so über hot and hip.

More of Berlin coming in the final saga.

Photo by http2007 Flickr Creative Common


Posted in Consumer Traveler |

FAA adds 27 additional air controllers to graveyard shift

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:49 pm -

Sleep is good. But, not when you’re on duty in an airport control tower and responsible for planes landing. After air controllers were found asleep on the job at Washington’s Reagan National Airport; Seattle’s King Field, Wa.; Lubbock, Texas; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Nv.; the federal government added a second controller at the 27 air towers that were staffed by only one person on the late night shift.

This was instituted after two jets landed without tower help at the Nation Capital’s Reagan airport.  Another plane, an air ambulance flight carrying a sick patient, was able to land without tower help.  The planes (and who knows how many others) landed safely. But, who would opt to be on them?

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood said, ”I am totally outraged by these incidents. This is unacceptable. “The American public trusts us to run a safe system.”

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt agreed with Lahood and announced an additional controller would be added on overnight shifts. ”Air traffic controllers are responsible for making sure aircraft safely reach their destinations,” Babbitt said. “We absolutely cannot and will not tolerate sleeping on the job. This type of unprofessional behavior does not meet our high safety standards.”

No kidding. But, did it ever occur to you there’d be a sole controller in a tower at a major airport? And certainly not at Washington, DC’s Reagan Airport. After all, it’s the one that members of Congress traditionally use. Maybe in some out-of-the-way airports with little traffic might not need 24/7 air traffic controllers.

Response from the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Rockerfeller (D-WV), was unusually blunt.

I just got off the phone with the FAA and told the Administrator that I am sick of this. I have the utmost respect for air traffic controllers, the vast majority of whom work hard and are outstanding professionals. But we can’t have an aviation system where some of the people responsible for safety are literally asleep at the switch. This has to stop. The agency needs to do whatever it takes to keep air traffic controllers from sleeping on the job or not treating their responsibilities with the highest level of seriousness and attention.

Chairman John Mica (R-FL) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee took a different approach. He sees the increased workers on the graveyard shift as a misdirection of resources.

“Only in the federal government would you double up on workers, averaging $161,000 per year in salary and benefits, that aren’t doing their job.”

“This increase in staffing, when there is little to no traffic, also misdirects our resources and focus away from congested air traffic control facilities.”

Mica and other Committee leaders plan a closed door meeting in Washington on Thursday with FAA leaders to discuss the recent spate of near misses, runway incursions and incidents of sleeping on the job.

The FAA said a second controller will be added to the midnight shift at Akron-Canton, Ohio; Allegheny, Pa.; Andrews Air Force Base, Md.; Burbank, Calif.; Duluth, Minn.; DuPage, Ill., Fargo, N.D.; two airports in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Ft. Worth Meacham, Texas; Grant County, Wash.; Kansas City, Mo.; Manchester, N.H.; Omaha, Neb.; Ontario, Calif.; Reno-Tahoe, Nev.; Richmond, Va.; Sacramento, Calif.; San Diego, Calif.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Terre Haute, Ind.; Teterboro, N.J.; Tucson, Ariz.; Willow Run, Mich.; Windsor Locks, Conn., and Youngstown, Ohio. A second nighttime controller was also added at an approach control facility in Omaha.

This issue of air traffic controllers leaving the tower and taking naps is not a cut and dried issue. In many cases controllers have to visit the bathroom, which may be on another floor of the tower. And some experts say that naps actually help with alertness in the towers when air traffic picks up. This is a debate we will certainly hear over the coming weeks.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

Photo: regulus-starnotes.blogspot.com


Posted in Consumer Traveler |

Retracing My Steps to Paris

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:42 pm -

May 1st was the 23rd anniversary of the day I moved to Paris for a six-month gig. For most people, it would be a dream come true. But I didn’t sign up for the life or even for the assignment. Even though I was born and raised in Washington and dated men (well, boys) who were in the Foreign Service Institute, I had no urge to pack my bags and move to exotic-sounding places.

This isn’t to imply I never left Washington. But we didn’t travel the way I’ve come to think of it today. My first husband had two weeks of vacation each year and we were into “stay vacations” with our son and a pool and tennis membership at the Washington Hilton.

So what was I doing in this foreign city where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language? Clearly, it was an act of insanity, plus a second marriage that precipitated the move. After all, who’d leave a perfectly good career (not to mention family) to careen across the Atlantic and not think someone might commit her to a mental institution? I kept asking why I was doing this and came up empty-handed. My colleagues repeatedly told me I couldn’t hop in and out of the job market. Was I committing professional suicide? And even if we’d planned on remaining in France on a long-term basis, working papers were hard to obtain and my skills didn’t translate. I had a headache and a clue—actually a dread—that it would be first of many.

Being a trailing spouse was a hard concept. Never considering myself a feminist (I simply did what I wanted to do—akin to a bull in a china shop), it didn’t add up that I wasn’t going to be in control of my present and future. Victor kept assuring me it was going to be a great adventure; we’d have so much more time together since I wouldn’t be punching a time clock and he’d be working in France where a 35-hour work week was the norm.

That assumption was the first of many misconceptions. Hello, Paris, au’voir, Victor. Off he’d go to the office in La Défense at 7:00 each morning only to arrive at our apartment on the Place des Vosges between 8:00 and 9:30 each night. The RER didn’t go to La Défense then and, even if it had, that was the year when the RATP, the subway, decided to strike.

We arrived on an Air France flight from Boston and were prepared to collect the few (and pitifully few) things we’d shipped to be waiting at the airport when we arrived. A van met us at the customs exit and off we went to the storage depot on the CDG grounds. Jet-lagged or not, I planned to make our rented apartment feel like ours with a few photos and other relics of home sweet home. Even though it was mid-week, everything was shut up and down tight as a drum.

Huh? What was wrong with this picture? No, I didn’t remember that May Day was a sacred (not entirely synonymous with holy) day in many places other than the U.S. I quickly discovered it didn’t simply mean making a fool of one’s self dancing around a May pole at the all-girls’ school I attended. Rather, it had much more to do with workers’ rights. OK, that was understandable albeit inconvenient.

That ride into the Paris is indelibly etched into my memory. Lord, did people drive like maniacs and the Seine looked nothing like the Potomac or the Charles River in Boston. The bridges were more ornate and the buildings were older than old with the patina of centuries of history, which the uncharitable called grime.

Ever practical, I wondered why everything was closed. What do you mean grocery stores don’t stay open all the time? Being in Paris, we found a restaurant. As I constantly tell Bonjour Paris readers, “You never need to go hungry in Paris unless you’re on a starvation diet.”

Fast forward: Paris and all cities in the developed world are so very different now. There are too many times when I’m in a restaurant that could be in any big city. But more important, I’m still living in Paris and really would have no reason to if it weren’t for my love of France and being in Europe. I’m lucky I’m in a position to return to Washington to see my son and his family.

My journey was accidental, allowing me to be the consummate tourist, and, having been an intermittent journalist who called up a former editor and begged him to let me write, I had the license to ask all of the “none of your business” questions.

When people ask me if I’d always dreamed of living in Paris, it’s easier to say yes, since it’s faster and more romantic to say you’ve realized a fantasy. The real answer is more mundane but more telling—that Paris became my dream. The longer I stayed in the City of Light, the more I appreciated so many of its nuances. That doesn’t mean I don’t become frustrated over things that make me see red.

I consider myself extremely lucky. The irony is that if I were going to choose a career today, it might be the Foreign Service, if I could cope with its structure and the bureaucracy. I’d do my duty and one day, I perhaps would be assigned to Paris.

I’m so pleased I was able to take the short cut and no matter where I am physically, Paris will always be my home. It’s stolen my heart and no one can take that away from me.

(c) Paris New Media, LLC

Karen@BonjourParis.com


Posted in Paris |

Restaurant Etiquette in France

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:34 pm -

Why people are baffled about where they should eat in France is understandable. But why so many readers ask how they ought to behave while dining is a mystery to me. Perhaps it’s because my mother raised me with a (now) tattered and patched 1955 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, which sits next to my computer. Manners were considered sacred then, and manners most certainly meant not using the fish knife to butter your bread. It may have been obsessive, but it gave all of us who suffered through our tutorials in decorum a sense of confidence and absolute rightness, if not outright righteousness.

I guess that’s why I’m taken by surprise when people who come to France send questions about the do’s and don’ts of “correct” dining. Are the French revered for having better table manners? Sitting up straighter in their chairs? Or what? Not changing forks and knives when eating and so on? Relax. The only people who revere the French are the French themselves. But you’ll be on their territory—and sitting right next to them—so here are some rules to keep in mind.

Reserve a table unless you’re heading to McDonalds or a neighborhood café. If you’re running late, call or you may arrive to find you’re out of luck and someone else is sitting at your table. If you can’t honor the reservation, call and cancel as early in the day as possible. It’s only polite and most good French restaurants have a waiting list. Who knows, you may be on it next time.

Do not walk into a restaurant and go to the front of the line if there are others waiting. This simply isn’t comme il faut, and more than likely, you’ll neither endear yourself to the other patrons nor receive better treatment from the Maître d’hôtel who will seat you. If you don’t like the table you’re offered, there’s a possibility you may be able to score another one, if you ask nicely, and whatever you do, do not raise your voice.

Don’t assume people don’t speak English, most especially in Paris. Chances are they do and aren’t charmed by snarky comments, asides, or wisecracks under your breath.

Waiters in good French restaurants consider themselves to be professionals and expect to be treated that way. Even though some people claim that service isn’t what it used to be, yelling, “Garçon” (boy) will get you nowhere—and, more to the point, no service.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the menu rather than winging it. For example, tête de veau is not veal. Rather, it’s calf’s head and not everyone’s cup of tea. If you have special dietary needs (or allergies), call the restaurant in advance and see if it can accommodate you. I’ve never been someplace I haven’t been able to order a vegetable plate and invariably enjoyed it.

Water: There’s a huge markup when you order bottled water. Do not feel intimidated into doing so unless it’s your choice. I’m a sucker for certain sparkling water, but when it comes to l’eau plate—the stuff that comes out of the faucet—just ask for a carafe and spend that money elsewhere. Depending on where you’re eating, ice cubes may or may not be available. In many French restaurants, you may be given two or three cubes. In restaurants that have many American clients, chances are good that you’ll be served a small bucket of ice. And it’s often a silver-plated bucket.

Wine: Again, you don’t have to drink and don’t feel guilty if you don’t. Wine consumption in France has plummeted and it’s not your responsibility to bail out the vintners. Plenty of others are happy to drink for the cause.

Elbows: Do not place them on the table. It’s considered unsanitary.

Photos: When in France, don’t take photos without asking unless you happen to be a journalist who is taking photos of the food. After all, who wants to be photographed chewing away? Pas moi, merci.

Tips: The tip is included in France. However, if the service has been above average (and you want to return to the restaurant sooner than later), you might add up to 5% if everything was perfect. Do not tip 20%. It’s not expected or necessary, and even though Americans commonly do, the French don’t. To be more realistic, the server will pocket the tip and think you’re a jerk.

Doggie bags: The French don’t, which doesn’t mean they really don’t. The English phrase doggie bag is actually used in France. Tell the waiter you have a sick mother, spouse, lover et voilà, you too can have you next day’s meal packed and ready to go. Or skip the fiction and tell the server you want un sac à emporter les restes (a bag for the leftovers).

Sharing: When I first moved to France, if someone touched another person’s plate, it was considered a cardinal sin. Thank goodness things are easing up…but don’t push your luck too far; of course, you won’t be thrown out of the restaurant if you do share.  Besides, French restaurant owners don’t give portions large enough to feed a family.

Back to table manners: The French grow up eating en famille with real meals served at a table with, all things being equal and reasonably prosperous, the whole arsenal of flatware and are convinced they always use the right implement. French waiters and waitresses grow up knowing better. So they set the table with the utensils you need first farthest from the plate with the exception of the knife. Just work from the outside in.

If you’re eating in a very fancy restaurant and are presented with a bowl filled with water after a fish course or quail course, whatever you do, don’t pick up the bowl and drink it.  It’s intended to rinse your fingers. Doing anything other than it will be definite proof you’re mal élevé.

I’d really like to cover cell phone dos and don’ts.  But, that’s another article. The French love them as do so many others.

Any more questions about etiquette in French restaurants? Don’t be shy—fire away.

(c) Paris New Media, LLC

Why people are baffled about where they should eat in France is understandable. But why so many readers ask how they ought to behave while dining is a mystery to me. Perhaps it’s because my mother raised me with a (now) tattered and patched 1955 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, which sits next to my computer. Manners were considered sacred then, and manners most certainly meant not using the fish knife to butter your bread. It may have been obsessive, but it gave all of us who suffered through our tutorials in decorum a sense of confidence and absolute rightness, if not outright righteousness.I guess that’s why I’m taken by surprise when people who come to France send questions about the do’s and don’ts of “correct” dining. Are the French revered for having better table manners? Sitting up straighter in their chairs? Or what? Not changing forks and knives when eating and so on? Relax. The only people who revere the French are the French themselves. But you’ll be on their territory—and sitting right next to them—so here are some rules to keep in mind.

Reserve a table unless you’re heading to McDonalds or a neighborhood café. If you’re running late, call or you may arrive to find you’re out of luck and someone else is sitting at your table. If you can’t honor the reservation, call and cancel as early in the day as possible. It’s only polite and most good French restaurants have a waiting list. Who knows, you may be on it next time.

Do not walk into a restaurant and go to the front of the line if there are others waiting. This simply isn’t comme il faut, and more than likely, you’ll neither endear yourself to the other patrons nor receive better treatment from the Maître d’hôtel who will seat you. If you don’t like the table you’re offered, there’s a possibility you may be able to score another one, if you ask nicely, and whatever you do, do not raise your voice.

Don’t assume people don’t speak English, most especially in Paris. Chances are they do and aren’t charmed by snarky comments, asides, or wisecracks under your breath.

Waiters in good French restaurants consider themselves to be professionals and expect to be treated that way. Even though some people claim that service isn’t what it used to be, yelling, “Garçon” (boy) will get you nowhere—and, more to the point, no service.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the menu rather than winging it. For example, tête de veau is not veal. Rather, it’s calf’s head and not everyone’s cup of tea. If you have special dietary needs (or allergies), call the restaurant in advance and see if it can accommodate you. I’ve never been someplace I haven’t been able to order a vegetable plate and invariably enjoyed it.

Water: There’s a huge markup when you order bottled water. Do not feel intimidated into doing so unless it’s your choice. I’m a sucker for certain sparkling water, but when it comes to l’eau plate—the stuff that comes out of the faucet—just ask for a carafe and spend that money elsewhere. Depending on where you’re eating, ice cubes may or may not be available. In many French restaurants, you may be given two or three cubes. In restaurants that have many American clients, chances are good that you’ll be served a small bucket of ice. And it’s often a silver-plated bucket.

Wine: Again, you don’t have to drink and don’t feel guilty if you don’t. Wine consumption in France has plummeted and it’s not your responsibility to bail out the vintners. Plenty of others are happy to drink for the cause.

Elbows: Do not place them on the table. It’s considered unsanitary.

Photos: When in France, don’t take photos without asking unless you happen to be a journalist who is taking photos of the food. After all, who wants to be photographed chewing away? Pas moi, merci.

Tips: The tip is included in France. However, if the service has been above average (and you want to return to the restaurant sooner than later), you might add up to 5% if everything was perfect. Do not tip 20%. It’s not expected or necessary, and even though Americans commonly do, the French don’t. To be more realistic, the server will pocket the tip and think you’re a jerk.

Doggie bags: The French don’t, which doesn’t mean they really don’t. The English phrase doggie bag is actually used in France. Tell the waiter you have a sick mother, spouse, lover et voilà, you too can have you next day’s meal packed and ready to go. Or skip the fiction and tell the server you want un sac à emporter les restes (a bag for the leftovers).

Sharing: When I first moved to France, if someone touched another person’s plate, it was considered a cardinal sin. Thank goodness things are easing up…but don’t push your luck too far; of course, you won’t be thrown out of the restaurant if you do share.  Besides, French restaurant owners don’t give portions large enough to feed a family.

Back to table manners: The French grow up eating en famille with real meals served at a table with, all things being equal and reasonably prosperous, the whole arsenal of flatware and are convinced they always use the right implement. French waiters and waitresses grow up knowing better. So they set the table with the utensils you need first farthest from the plate with the exception of the knife. Just work from the outside in.

If you’re eating in a very fancy restaurant and are presented with a bowl filled with water after a fish course or quail course, whatever you do, don’t pick up the bowl and drink it.  It’s intended to rinse your fingers. Doing anything other than it will be definite proof you’re mal élevé.

I’d really like to cover cell phone dos and don’ts.  But, that’s another article. The French love them as do so many others.

Any more questions about etiquette in French restaurants? Don’t be shy—fire away.

(c) Paris New Media, LLCWhy people are baffled about where they should eat in France is understandable. But why so many readers ask how they ought to behave while dining is a mystery to me. Perhaps it’s because my mother raised me with a (now) tattered and patched 1955 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, which sits next to my computer. Manners were considered sacred then, and manners most certainly meant not using the fish knife to butter your bread. It may have been obsessive, but it gave all of us who suffered through our tutorials in decorum a sense of confidence and absolute rightness, if not outright righteousness.

I guess that’s why I’m taken by surprise when people who come to France send questions about the do’s and don’ts of “correct” dining. Are the French revered for having better table manners? Sitting up straighter in their chairs? Or what? Not changing forks and knives when eating and so on? Relax. The only people who revere the French are the French themselves. But you’ll be on their territory—and sitting right next to them—so here are some rules to keep in mind.

Reserve a table unless you’re heading to McDonalds or a neighborhood café. If you’re running late, call or you may arrive to find you’re out of luck and someone else is sitting at your table. If you can’t honor the reservation, call and cancel as early in the day as possible. It’s only polite and most good French restaurants have a waiting list. Who knows, you may be on it next time.

Do not walk into a restaurant and go to the front of the line if there are others waiting. This simply isn’t comme il faut, and more than likely, you’ll neither endear yourself to the other patrons nor receive better treatment from the Maître d’hôtel who will seat you. If you don’t like the table you’re offered, there’s a possibility you may be able to score another one, if you ask nicely, and whatever you do, do not raise your voice.

Don’t assume people don’t speak English, most especially in Paris. Chances are they do and aren’t charmed by snarky comments, asides, or wisecracks under your breath.

Waiters in good French restaurants consider themselves to be professionals and expect to be treated that way. Even though some people claim that service isn’t what it used to be, yelling, “Garçon” (boy) will get you nowhere—and, more to the point, no service.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the menu rather than winging it. For example, tête de veau is not veal. Rather, it’s calf’s head and not everyone’s cup of tea. If you have special dietary needs (or allergies), call the restaurant in advance and see if it can accommodate you. I’ve never been someplace I haven’t been able to order a vegetable plate and invariably enjoyed it.

Water: There’s a huge markup when you order bottled water. Do not feel intimidated into doing so unless it’s your choice. I’m a sucker for certain sparkling water, but when it comes to l’eau plate—the stuff that comes out of the faucet—just ask for a carafe and spend that money elsewhere. Depending on where you’re eating, ice cubes may or may not be available. In many French restaurants, you may be given two or three cubes. In restaurants that have many American clients, chances are good that you’ll be served a small bucket of ice. And it’s often a silver-plated bucket.

Wine: Again, you don’t have to drink and don’t feel guilty if you don’t. Wine consumption in France has plummeted and it’s not your responsibility to bail out the vintners. Plenty of others are happy to drink for the cause.

Elbows: Do not place them on the table. It’s considered unsanitary.

Photos: When in France, don’t take photos without asking unless you happen to be a journalist who is taking photos of the food. After all, who wants to be photographed chewing away? Pas moi, merci.

Tips: The tip is included in France. However, if the service has been above average (and you want to return to the restaurant sooner than later), you might add up to 5% if everything was perfect. Do not tip 20%. It’s not expected or necessary, and even though Americans commonly do, the French don’t. To be more realistic, the server will pocket the tip and think you’re a jerk.

Doggie bags: The French don’t, which doesn’t mean they really don’t. The English phrase doggie bag is actually used in France. Tell the waiter you have a sick mother, spouse, lover et voilà, you too can have you next day’s meal packed and ready to go. Or skip the fiction and tell the server you want un sac à emporter les restes (a bag for the leftovers).

Sharing: When I first moved to France, if someone touched another person’s plate, it was considered a cardinal sin. Thank goodness things are easing up…but don’t push your luck too far; of course, you won’t be thrown out of the restaurant if you do share.  Besides, French restaurant owners don’t give portions large enough to feed a family.

Back to table manners: The French grow up eating en famille with real meals served at a table with, all things being equal and reasonably prosperous, the whole arsenal of flatware and are convinced they always use the right implement. French waiters and waitresses grow up knowing better. So they set the table with the utensils you need first farthest from the plate with the exception of the knife. Just work from the outside in.

If you’re eating in a very fancy restaurant and are presented with a bowl filled with water after a fish course or quail course, whatever you do, don’t pick up the bowl and drink it.  It’s intended to rinse your fingers. Doing anything other than it will be definite proof you’re mal élevé.

I’d really like to cover cell phone dos and don’ts.  But, that’s another article. The French love them as do so many others.

Any more questions about etiquette in French restaurants? Don’t be shy—fire away.

(c) Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

It’s Culture Shock Time

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:31 pm -

April in Paris is revered in song and dance and in practice, and this year’s weather has been incredible with practically no rain and relatively little need for umbrellas. But, I’m not there. Rather, I’m sitting at my desk in Washington, D.C., watching sheets of rain cascade down the windows.

The pack-layers-be-prepared-for-all-seasons mantra of Bonjour Paris couldn’t be more appropriate in the nation’s capital. The temperature has ranged from the mid-80s to the low 40s. There’s been flooding on the Potomac, which isn’t nearly as wide in Washington as the Seine in Paris. A group of waterfront restaurants in Georgetown had to close their terrace areas because they were flooded and who wants to wade through water for al fresco dining?

The weather gods appear to lack compassion. But, rain or shine and politics be damned, I’m in D.C. because it’s Passover, Easter, a granddaughter’s birthday and that’s what expats (who can) try to do. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do so since I moved to Paris.

As many times as I make the commute from one capital city to the other, I realize how very much more French I’ve become in my attitude towards living and life.

I’m used to the métro, but when Washington began construction of its own subway in 1969, a conscious decision was made not to have it go into Georgetown and some other parts of northwest Washington. No one anticipated that Greater Washington would become the second most congested city—in a good year, it’s only the third most—in the United States.

Another disconnect: the apartment building where I stay when I’m in Washington was constructed in the 1960s. There’s nothing beautiful about it. Baron Haussmann wouldn’t approve and would do more than wrinkle his nose. It has the same feel about it as the Tour Montparnasse. It’s better to be inside and enjoy the views than to have to look at it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very nice, but its lobby is so large that it would qualify as a ballroom if it were in France.

There’s an active committee trying to see that people get to know one another, since there are approximately 250 apartments and the tenants range from people who moved into the building when it was first constructed to substantially younger ones who work out in the (terrific) gym and swim laps in the nearly Olympic-sized pool.

As the apartments turn over, for obvious reasons, empty-nesters are downsizing and moving into the building. Many of them are gutting the apartments, so no one is surprised when construction is taking place above, below or to all sides of you. After the apartment is finished, it’s not unusual to be invited to take a full tour of the renovated digs. This is so very American. No one would ever ask to see a French person’s bedroom. It’s considered an invasion of privacy and their personal space.

All of this building’s occupants were invited to assemble in the lobby, carting their favorite beverage for a meet and greet social hour. It’s probably a good idea, but it’s an enigma to me since I’ve met only a few people in my Paris apartment building and have been in perhaps three apartments in all of the years I’ve been in residence. Yes, we did meet in the entryway to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the building, but the gathering lasted all of ten minutes before people dashed home. They’d done their duty and voilà et au’voir.

Inès de la Fressange [author of the very current bestselling Parsian Chic: A Style Guide] rented an apartment in the buidling for a couple of years before buying one across the street. Her kitchen was visible from my apartment, and I got to know her son and his caregiver from a distance. I even saw one of France’s icons sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and smoking. The thought of knocking on her door with a welcome basket was simply de trop. In Washington, not welcoming a new neighbor would be considered rude. But then, there are so few apartments in my Paris building that it changes the equation. And, there’s certainly no pool, not to mention a work-out area.

The other night a friend and I had the best dinner I’d ever had in the Washington area. Yannick Cam, who introduced nouvelle cuisine to Washington in 1979, really made our meal in all senses. The dinner was superb, but the service was a bit iffy. Not that everyone wasn’t really trying, but they lacked the professionalism that waiters in first-rate Paris restaurants have. And the wine list was an eye-opener. A moderately priced bottle of wine cost more than $80 (and there were darn few of them) and that didn’t include tax or tip. The dinner was definitely expensive, but worth every penny, most especially because it wasn’t my penny. My foodie friend was treating.

Cam has always been one of my culinary heroes. He was among the first French chefs to move here and raised the bar when it came to cooking. When he came to the table, I started chattering in French. He responded in English and told me how he no longer returns to France. Cam doesn’t like the changes that have taken place since his departure and if he wants to see a friend or colleague, he knows they’ll show up in the D.C. area sooner than later.

As his staff left, each one said, “Night, chef.” But not one shook his hand nor vice versa. When I questioned him about this, he was firm in saying we’re not in France and it’s simply not done.

So, while I’ve become French (or rather, an American who lives in France), Cam has become very American and likes it that way. He is very happy being an American—and I’m happy he’s cooking at the Bistro Provence just a couple of miles from where I stay. But it makes me wonder. I wish I were as content as he is in America when I am in the U.S. For reasons of his own Yannick Cam just turned his back on France and has no regrets. I can’t do that. I’ll spare you the “citizen of the world” business. But it is not always easy having one foot here and one foot there and a heart that’s always in France.

A fact of life, my life, and nothing worth complaining about.

(c) Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

Marketing 101 in France

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:29 pm -

call center ©vlima

Among Bonjour Paris readers, there are relatively few who see France through rose-tinted glasses more than I. Perhaps it may be the Pollyanna in me. But even I have days when I want to pack my bags and get out of Dodge.

A large hairy wart on the face of France is customer service. There is none, and the phrase, service clientèle in French, may accurately be translated as “hang up on the customer.” A sense of humor and patience help a lot, even though I am a bit short of the latter. Another solution—a very good glass of wine from my favorite wine bar, Ô Chateau.

When someone says, Ce n’est pas possible,” I break into a minor sweat. Those words  are not in my vocabulary. Everything is possible except bringing someone back from the dead—and some people would argue over that. To French companies, bringing people back from the dead is more likely than actually having your package delivered.

Why, for example, would anyone be willing to pay to buy something? Beats me, but in France, c’est normal. Case in point, I ordered four chairs from La Redoute because the online retailer has good designs, modest prices and (supposedly) delivers directly to your home.

Placing the order was no problem. The confirmation was immediate. What I didn’t notice was the chairs were to be picked up at a depot around the corner from Au Bon Marché. When I called to find out what was going on, I had to pay for the phone call. Upon arriving at La Maison Propre, which is really a vacuum cleaner and cleaning supplies store, two very unhappy women were less than gracious. They knew nothing about the order except that if I didn’t take it that day, the box containing two chairs would be returned to La Redoute the following day. I wanted all or nothing, which was beyond their comprehension.

OK, I had my cell phone with me and decided to call the store’s “customer service” department. The 08 number answered and I was told there would be a 34 centime per minute charge plus what I was paying Orange (formerly France Telecom, and the new name has made nothing better) to have this lovely discussion. So, I am paying again for the same information. This is making sense to you?

But, problem one: I was not calling from my home phone, so would I return there so the “consultant” would know she was speaking to the correct person? God protect us from scammers who wander into vaccuum cleaner stores, pretend to be the real customer—and demand to have their order actually filled. Horreurs! No, I think not, merci. By this time my voice was reaching a feverish pitch and in my less-than-eloquent French, I made my point and said there was no way I was taking those chairs unless there she could guarantee I’d receive the remainder of the order chez moi and I meant fast. Pas de problème, madame and she promised they would be delivered by the post office within 24-48 hours.

As we were wrapping up the conversation, the store’s representative suggested that because I was such a good client of the store, wouldn’t I love a Carte de Fidélité? My blood pressure rose and (expletive deleted) and… then the absurdity saved the day or at least kept me from dying of apoplexy. The company has charged me twice for phone calls, messed up my order, and generally screwed me over—and they want me to sign up for the loyalty program. You really can’t make this stuff up.

Fast forward. I immediately received an email informing me the chairs would be delivered as promised. Three days later, no chairs and no email, so I decided to call the “customer service” department again. Received the same runaround after paying to speak to someone who said that the box was at the French post office’s warehouse waiting to be picked up for Colissimo delivery and it wasn’t La Redoute’s fault. If anyone heard a scream (OK, it was in my head), I plead guilty. Of course ordering anything from them may be an implicit admission of guilt. Where is the French Kafka when we need him?

When I asked to speak to her supervisor, the phone went dead. Calling back would be akin to beating a dead horse and there was no way the store was going to give me a 5 euro rebate for my time and energy, not to mention the phone costs I’d incurred trying to make a purchase.

In the U.S., when you call customer service, you may come away with no satisfaction and you never know where the call center is located unless you ask because it’s probably outsourced to the world of cheap labor. (Hint: very few offshore operators are actually named Isaac, nor are their supervisors usually named Mickey.)

But, at least you don’t have to pay to speak to a representative. I suggested to a French friend that he could have an incredible business teaching French companies Marketing 101. He howled with laughter, said, Ce n’est pas possible,” and we had another glass of wine.

Sometimes it’s simpler that way… and we’re all making bets as to when the chairs will arrive. We’re offering long odds.

(c) Paris New Media, LLC

Karen@BonjourParis.com


Posted in Paris |

Memories of Provence in Spring

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:28 pm -

vaison-la-romaine-marche_terroir-c-jean-louis-zimmermann-flickrThis spring I’m enjoying my Paris garden rather than preparing our Provence dream house for the annual onslaught of vacationing guests who lolled around the pool as their hostess (moi) made sure their every wish was satisfied before booking and welcoming the next round of guests. Such temporary tenants helped support our blessed and beloved house in the vines. Today I watch jardiniers extraordinaires tend with pride to “my” garden just a block from my Paris apartment, gently patting the mounds of compost as if encouraging the cuttings to grow strong. It reminds me of how the plants in our Provence garden were just as often plunked instead of lovingly placed in the soil.

How I loved our roses and peonies; and how I hated deadheading them. Guests loved our spring flowering gardens, but we were rarely in Provence then and so we mostly enjoyed flowers from the local market.

Bountiful Provençal markets

I wish my husband had been less ambitious when it came to his planting escapades. He enjoyed poring over seed catalogues and talking to plant vendors at the Vaison-la-Romaine marché terroir, just as he enjoyed softly cooing in coaxing tones to each and every seedling planted. But with over 400 local vendors waiting with fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, truffles, olives, honey, arts and crafts and other locally produced Provençal goods, there were no practical reasons for gardening except as a hobby. And our garden required more work than we could manage while commuting between two French homes and working full-time jobs.

As for the potager, don’t get me wrong: I respect all gardeners, especially those with a knack for nurturing an organic garden without poisonous pesticides. Our Provence garden was so productive that it fed our guests and us as it raised feelings of dread and guilt. I tenaciously weeded when at the house; but I worked in Paris and there were travels that kept me away from Provence. I dreaded returning to the inevitable waiting weeds that magically sprouted several inches in a night after soaking Provençal rainstorms.

The garden spoils

It’s not that I didn’t love eating three types of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and haricots verts. Zucchini grew faster than imaginable. Determined to use all, I stuffed them, sautéed them, baked loaves of zucchini bread and even brewed a mean soup that fooled a lot of people who didn’t like the vegetable. Not even a hungry family of ten could have consumed it all; but I drew the line at pickling. It wasn’t as if I didn’t try to share our bounty; neighbors often ducked into doorways upon spotting me approaching with an overflowing produce basket. They had their own and then some; inevitably I felt guilt about our success at farming.

Reality challenges romantic dreams of owning two residences in France

As J.P. Morgan supposedly said, “If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it.” That quote had personal meaning when the pool man came for pre-season maintenance as we hoped he wouldn’t find an expensive leak or tell us we’d have to use (expensive) city water to top off the (expensive) pool.  We couldn’t find well water, although we learned later that our lot was in a flood plain undisclosed at the time of purchase but revealed when we listed the property for sale. We paid experts to drill in search of water and even hired a local sourcellerie who waved a wand in search of water. Alas, the wand never waved back; our hunt for water it was a no-go reminiscent of a Marcel Pagnol film.

Beautiful memories endure

Still, sitting here in my Paris garden, I recall many nostalgic moments from that period of my life. Having cited all of the negatives of owning a second home (in reality, it owned us), some of my most precious memories took place there. My son and daughter-in-law’s wedding was a milestone in so many ways. Watching my oldest granddaughter run on the grass and pick strawberries was wonderful.  She still talks about our drive up to Mont Ventoux, where she immediately discovered three candy stands. She chatters about the candy summit without mentioning the stunning mountain views that reward Tour de France cyclists and white-knuckled drivers who take on the twisting hair-pin mountain curves with rockslides and few, if any, shoulder barricades to stop your car should you swerve to avoid the fallen rocks.

Endless wine tours of the Côtes du Rhône region were a pleasure. I tried but never quite mastered the wine tasting technique of “swirl, sniff, sip, taste, spit most, swallow some” and sometimes we hired or drafted a designated driver for safe passage.

We attended many spectacular outdoor Vaison Danse programs and opera performances with 7,000 others seated before the enormous stage at Théâtre antique d’Orange, the Roman amphitheater in Orange. Some shows contained surprises, like the time when the mistral hit in the middle of a performance of Verdi’s Aïda, nearly blowing the star off the stage along with the conductor’s score.

Next season: a return to Provence

One chapter of my life has closed; there’s a time and a place for everything. My husband passed away a few years ago and I no longer have the house in Provence. While reflecting on the past in my Paris garden today, I realize I still love Provence, just not the hard work of owning a home there. So this year I’ll get my Provence fix by renting a house for a couple of weeks. After all, Provence is only a tad over two hours away via the TGV between Paris and Avignon. Once there I’ll take a rental car for a leisurely amble up to Mont Ventoux to buy candy for my granddaughters. I’ll be a guest who enjoys the fruits of another landlord’s labor and I won’t have to prune unless I feel like it. And I predict next year I’ll be even more excited about returning to Provence. But today I’m content dreaming of Provence from the comfort of my Paris garden.

(c) Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

Panoramic Paris from the Top of a Tour Bus

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:26 pm -

Paris tourist bus ©ChrisWillisMany people don’t want to look like tourists. There are even tee shirts exclaiming they’re not—which seems to defeat their purpose. This week I discovered what fun it is to be one, especially in wonderful weather.

Bonjour Paris readers are generally a pretty sophisticated group—most have been to Paris more than once. Many take special museum and walking tours, attend a multitude of cultural events, go to special exhibits and hang out in some of Paris’s incredible gardens.

We won’t even discuss how many of them eat out and frequent the city’s open markets. Based on the number of questions asking where they can buy comfortable shoes, we know our readers are walkers. And then there are the shoppers, most especially during les soldes, the twice-yearly sales, and les promotions, of which there are many.

But, this past week I broke with my usual habit of taking a bus or a subway to go to a meeting and racing back to my computer. I didn’t even take a taxi where I can insist that the driver speak to me in French, a habit developed after finding most of my French friends speaking to me only in English. Instead, I bought a ticket for a double-decker tour bus. All of the passengers looked as if they were having fun—so what’s wrong with being a tourist?

Frequently, tourists know more about a city than its residents, because people who live somewhere tend to have specific routines and can always do and see something another day. And if you live in Paris, except for work, comings and goings are usually confined to your quartier. Paris is a city of small villages and some people can be lazy.

Few residents climb on a tour bus that doesn’t take the straightest route from here to there. I swore off gazing at the Eiffel Tower (constructed for the 1889 World’s Fair as a temporary structure) with houseguests at midnight. After the thirteenth nocturnal visit, all I wanted to do was be home in my bed and not a third wheel while friends went out, ooh la la. And in those days, the Tower’s lights didn’t twinkle at the top of each hour. I could see the iron structure, the tallest in Paris, from so many vantage points I figured I didn’t need to stand at the base and get a crick in my neck staring up at it. Pas moi, merci.

But on this lovely spring day the bus was a treat. Being on the top of a bus with nothing overhead enables you to look into windows you wouldn’t normally see into and gives you an entirely different perspective—sort of the peeping Tom’s vantage point.

The world isn’t flat, and people of all shapes, sizes and colors flock to Paris. Each person on the bus was handed a set of earphones. In the old days, tour guides barked away at you in something that could have been English or German or Italian. These days, count on Chinese and Japanese—or anything else you want. The recorded guides are available in every language you’d like, well almost.

No matter how many times you’ve been to Paris, it’s hard not to have your breath taken away when you approach Invalides, Place de la Concorde, Madeleine and, sure enough, the Eiffel Tower.

I had to bail and wasn’t able to complete the tour, much less make the most of a one-day pass. There’s no question that I’m going to buy two-day passes when my family comes to Paris this summer. Then we’ll have time to stop, wander and reboard after we’ve explored certain places (and, naturally, stopped for ice cream). There are new buses every 20 minutes and—who knows?—we may stop for a picnic on the Champ du Mars and get cricks in our necks staring up at the Eiffel Tower. While I play with my granddaughters, I’m sending the remainder of the family on a Segway Tour.

(c) Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

Paris Cooking Schools: 6 Choices for 2011

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:25 pm -

L'atelier des chefs  photo courtesy of L'atelier des chefs

We frequently receive requests from readers requesting help in choosing a cooking class. Some want to cook and most appreciate wine. And, what’s wrong with that? Cooking classes are a great way for travelers to meet people. Even if you don’t all speak the same language, you definitely have something in common.

Some cooking classes are simply demonstrations in which a master chef prepares a dish or meal from start to finish as watching students take copious notes that will guide their future attempts to prepare the same dish. Others choose a more social experience where students and teachers informally work together to prepare a meal while learning. A given is that participants of both types of classes are encouraged to eat the fruits of their labor, often with a group meal served after the lesson ends. Most schools offer a glass or two of wine with the meal, which creates a social occasion.

More serious “foodies” prefer learning by cooking under the direction of experts during daylong or weeklong courses.

A few schools even offer cooking classes for children. In France, children are taught about food and nourishment from an early age. Let’s hope this generation isn’t relegated to thinking McDo’s qualifies as gourmet…

The following schools are some of the better-known options today, but they are by no means the only culinary training options. Most offer different courses depending on your interests and skill level. Some include trips to farmers markets, artisan boulangeries, pâtisseries and chocolate boutiques, for example.

L’atelier des Chefs

This began in 2004 almost like “speed cuisine” where people gathered to cook lunch or dinner before eating the three-course meal prepared by the group. Lunch classes were short so participants could return to the office before the boss complained

Although classes are presented in French, there’s usually an English speaker on hand to translate. Today classes range from 30 minutes to four hours in length. Instructors include a large team of professional chefs from respected restaurants at the Paris Ritz, Hôtel Bristol, Laserre and so on. Their “quick classes” caught on and classes are now held throughout France and in London and Dubai. They also lead informal demonstration courses at Paris department stores like BHV.

La Cuisine

This is one of the newest schools where you learn to cook while having fun with terrific people. Jane and Olivier, who own the school, share the philosophy that students should feel at home. Classes are held in their two modern kitchens near Hôtel de Ville. Students choose from a wide variety of international, organic and French-themed classes taught in English or French to a maximum of 12 students. One popular class features a trip to a Paris market, where the chef-instructor helps students select meal ingredients later prepared and enjoyed by the group back at the school. La Cuisine also caters to private groups, so if you and a group of friends want to cook ensemble, contact the school and get ready to cook a meal you’ll later enjoy together. A few of us took a chocolate dessert class and nearly went into sugar shock but it was worth the pleasure. The school is kind enough to offer BonjourParis premium members a 10% discount. Merci.

Le Cordon Bleu student   photo courtesy of le Cordon BleuLe Cordon Bleu Paris

World-renowned Le Cordon Bleu offers a variety of classes perfect for traveling food enthusiasts, including demonstrations and “hands on” classes tailored to fit your schedule and abilities. For those with the serious desire, ability, time and money to become a professional chef, Le Cordon Bleu is the world’s premier culinary arts institute. For over 100 years their students have been put through the paces and served internships at some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants. Many instructors and graduates possess Michelin stars. Students come from different counties and may have been sent by their employers to learn haute cuisine. Classes are taught in French but there are always English and Japanese translators. Children’s lessons are available; check the current catalogue for options and book early as they sell out months in advance.

Paule Caillat

Ms. Caillat is an experienced cooking instructor and culinary expert with an engaging personality that makes her a hit with students and international media. She teaches a maximum of eight students at a time in her custom-designed over-the-top kitchen of her Marais apartment. Born in France, she was educated in the U.S. She believes “the product is the star” and the French terroir inspires her course offerings. She never compromises quality and is ever on the hunt for the best ingredients to be found in Paris. Ms. Caillat offers classical cooking classes plus gourmet walking tours that show a slice of Parisian life. Sessions are technique-oriented and students who complete a full-day total cooking immersion experience speak highly of her classes.

Ritz Escoffier Cooking School

Even if you can’t afford to stay at the Ritz Paris, you may put on the Ritz at their cooking classes for amateurs and professionals. The Ritz kitchens are more than elegant (as is the hotel) and some students claim a bit of its glamour rubs off on them. If you’re taking a pastry course in its dedicated kitchen, don’t be surprised if one of the dining room’s pâtisserie chefs shows up to share techniques and baking secrets. The school has the very best professional equipment and an extensive culinary-themed library students may use. Popular “Ritz Kids” workshops for children 6-12 years of age sell out months in advance.

Cooking with Patricia Wells

Patricia Wells is more than a teacher; today she’s more akin to an institution. She’s a former International Herald Tribune restaurant critic and author of 12 popular culinary-themed books. Her classes were formerly held exclusively in Provence in Vaison-la-Romaine, but she now offers a series in her Paris cooking studio on the rue Jacob in the 6th. Patricia and Walter Wells meticulously restored an artist’s atelier and intentionally designed an ideal place to learn not only about food preparation, but also to see the culinary glory of Paris through Patricia’s eyes and sensibilities. Classes, which sell out fast, last five days and are geared to Americans who want to “share Patricia’s private food world.”

Don’t hesitate to add schools you’ve discovered in Paris; there are so many. Many are excellent, some are for people who want a quick how-to-make-a-meal, some are concentrated total immersion courses and others schools target those willing to go all out in the pursuit of becoming a professional chef.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |