France News: Gaddafi, Libya, Hillary Clinton, Syria, DSK, Sarkozy & Carrefour

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:47 pm -

Sept. 1 meeting in Paris re: Libya's future. ©AP PhotoSixty world leaders met in Paris to discuss Libya

Sixty world leaders met in Paris last Friday on the 42nd anniversary of Moammar Gaddafi proclaiming himself de facto leader of Libya. Even though the whereabouts of the dictator aren’t precisely known, officials from Libya’s ruling interim council met with foreign officials and donor groups to discuss financing needs for the weeks and months ahead as Libya starts its rebuilding process.

The conference included the United Nations and nine other multinational organizations. The New York Times reported France President Sarkozy and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron convened the meeting. Both are hoping to have first rights to Libya’s oil supply.

The two men had jointly pressed for military intervention and it was their air forces that have executed many of the bombing runs that protected rebels and enabled them to seize the capital, Tripoli.

According to France24, world leaders agreed to free up billions of dollars in frozen assets to help Libya’s NTC (National Transitional Council) restore vital services.

In addition, short-term aid and longer-term loans will also be needed to help the North African state stave off a humanitarian crisis. The U.S. State Department estimates the NTC could need $500 million for humanitarian needs, $500 million for civilian fuel and power and $500 million for food and health services.

These loans would require approval from International Monetary Fund, World Bank and USAID. For this to happen, the interim government would have to receive approval from the IMF, which would require approval from its 187 members.

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy took a leading role last March being the first country to recognize the NTC. Sarkozy plans to visit Libya as soon as Gaddafi is found, and according to the Guardian UK Sarkozy hopes this will elevate France’s reputation in the Arab world and his status in the public’s opinion polls.

U.S. Sec of State Hillary Clinton, Paris, Sept. 1, 2011. Photo credit: ©ReutersClinton says al-Assad must step aside in Syria

In Paris, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world community should escalate pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by targeting Syria’s oil and gas exports and force him out of office. “The violence must stop and he needs to step aside,” Clinton told reporters in Paris after a meeting Thursday on Libya.

The United Nations cites that more than 2,200 people have been killed since the beginning of near-daily protests across the country protesting Assad’s regime since last March.

Sarkozy comes under fire

An explosive new book states that President Nicolas Sarkozy received illegal contributions for his 2007 presidential election fromLiliane BettencourtL’Oréal’s cosmetics heiress. In addition Le Monde claims the French secret service spied on the journalist by tapping his phone calls.

DSK & Anne Sinclair at NY's JFK airport on Sept. 3, 2011. Photo: ©NY TimesDominique Strauss-Kahn returns to France

Dominique Strauss-Kahn returned to Paris today after meeting with his former colleagues at the IMF last week, including its director and his replacement, Christine Lagarde. Strauss-Kahn received a standing ovation after his speech where he said that his four years at the IMF were some of the most meaningful of his career.

According to Reuters, the French Socialists are uneasy and are distancing themselves from DSK, who was a leading presidential contender before being accused of sexual assault. Stay tuned.

Carrefour SA posts losses

According to Bloomberg News, Europe’s largest retailer, Carrefour SA, posted an unexpected net loss in the first half of 2011 and abandoned its growth target for the year amid the economic slowdown.

The French retailer reported a net loss of 249 million euro ($359 million) in the first six months of the year contrasted with a 97 million euro profit in 2010.

Stay tuned for next week’s news after the rentrée.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Around the World, Paris |

More French Dining Etiquette for Foreign Guests in a French Home

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:46 pm -

Last week’s what to do and not to do when dining as a guest in a French home drew lots of responses. So welcome to Part Two with more tips and etiquette lessons.

It’s better for foreign travelers to know the unwritten rules and expectations of guests than to commit faux pas because you’re unaware of cultural differences coupled with subtle nuances.

My own faux pas

Before continuing, it’s only fair I confess the (OMG) crise I committed when I was younger. I knew how to use finger bowls and that you shouldn’t pick up and chug-a-lug the water complete with the thinly shaven lemon slice.

However, I had an embarrassing experience once at a very fancy dinner party when served what looked like a small cup with a lid, which I politely declined by saying I didn’t want an after-dinner coffee. The waiter explained what I’d nearly missed and I clearly lived to tell the anecdote.

Pot de creme au chocolat. Photo: L'Atelier Vi.

Yes, I did indeed want that pot de crème au chocolat, a thicker-than-thick chocolate dessert with a tiny dollop of crème fraîche.

The next day I bought a dozen of these adorable demitasse cups with covers to use at our next dinner party so we could (at least try to) appear more French than the French. That was more than 20 years ago and perhaps it’s time to bring them down from the top kitchen cabinet to show them off again.

Fork in left hand and not just to cut food

Watch a French person eat and you’ll see the fork is held in the left hand the entire time, not just when cutting food. It seems strange to the French (and most Europeans) that an American dining will switch the fork from the left to right hand. If you can feed yourself gracefully using a fork with your left hand, do; if not, don’t.

Personal French cutlery, circa 16th century ©David Jackson-WikiCommonsKeep your hands where we can see them

Why is it proper when dining in France to keep your hands visible or at least not in your lap?

French history and folklore offer two explanations: one version claims hands were kept out of laps so all would know that others seated at the table had no daggers poised to stab someone. Another version has something to do with same as touching wine glasses for fear of poisoning à la Catherine Médicis, who poisoned more than one victim with poison stashed in a ring. And there’s something about playing “footsie” under the table. I’ve also been told by French natives it has more to do with where those hands are and where they’ve been.

Some French don’t put their elbows on the table, others do; follow the lead of those you’re with.

Bread: tear, but don’t schmear

Tear a section of bread from a loaf, don’t slice it with a knife. And if butter is available (frequently not in a French home), please use your knife to spread butter on your bread, don’t swipe the bread against the butter to spread it.

Salad: give your knife a rest

If you’re served a salad, do not cut the leaves with the knife, it suggests your host did not properly prepare the salad. Use your fork (in your left hand, if you can) to fold the leaves into a small, bite-size portion. It’s an acquired talent, but do make the effort if you want to appear “correct.”

Finger food

Feel free to eat asparagus with your hands. There are numerous stories with sexual innuendos—but I won’t go there, use your imagination.

Soup rules

Soupspoons are used when there’s soup, and always tip the shallow soup bowl away from you when you’re finishing it. If you’re presented with a bowl that looks like a cup with handles, you may pick it up and drink the last remains and not be considered a boor.

Wine glorious wine

No matter how thirsty you may be, do not reach over and pour your own wine—wait for your host or  hostess or another delegate to refill your glass. It’s commonly said that the French are very good at drinking in moderation during long dinners; in other words, don’t overindulge if you’re attending a “proper” French dinner party. If you’re offered an apéritif before dinner, opt for champagne or white wine. If you drop a glass of red wine, you’ll end up on your hands and knees cleaning it up and apologizing.

Some Don’ts

Don’t ask your dinner partner what he or she does for a living. They’ll tell you sooner or later and if you’re French or understand the “social codes,” you’ll know when conversation turns to discussing the grandes écoles, the most prestigious schools in France.

Don’t ask questions about income or salary—that’s considered ruder than rude.

Don’t say you don’t like a particular food served to you. If you’re a vegetarian or have certain dietary restrictions, notify your host before the dinner and offer to bow out if accommodating your needs is awkward for the hostess. For example, a rack of lamb might be the star on the table and others at the table might be uncomfortable if you don’t eat. If you find an unappealing item before you, don’t say a word, eat other items, push the unwanted food around your plate and pretend you’re full.

Don’t ask for a tour of the apartment. The French consider that an invasion of their personal space and whatever you do, never ask the cost of an apartment or home.

Don’t serve cheese before dinner, should you ever entertain French guests. Cheese is served after the main course with or without salad.

Dress code

Even if your host tells you to dress casually for an informal dinner in a French person’s home, don’t take them at their word and don’t arrive wearing anything less than you’d wear to a cocktail party unless you’re dining at a country home.

Safe dinner discussion topics

You’ll never go wrong asking your hosts and their guests about recent vacations, their next vacation and what they’re currently reading. Those subjects are safe.

Last words of advice

Take the hint about when it’s time to leave and do make a polite exit. If a tray of water and juice is passed, that’s a signal that it’s been a lovely evening.

I hope this demystifies the codes and practices at a French dinner party. And if you live in France, you need to know the rules so you may break them.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

Etiquette for Foreign Guests Dining in a French Home

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:45 pm -

Kir royales. Photo: ©Drunkenmonkey

You’ve been invited to the home of a friend or colleague for dinner and are wondering what’s correct and what’s not when being entertained by the French. After all, cultural differences run deep and dark and you want to be prepared.

If you’ve read books by experts that detail etiquette Do’s and Don’ts, some said you shouldn’t ask to be excused from the table, even to go to the powder room. And at the end of the dinner, men and women were expected to go to different salons. Excellent advice . . . way back when.

You don’t want to insult your hosts, but it’s a new world. Nobody will mind if you excuse yourself once during a three-hour meal to go to the WC, but never for a phone call, that’s rude unless you have a sick child or it’s a true emergency and work doesn’t qualify. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a dinner where men and women separated after dinner. They may choose to, but that’s a whole different story.

Here are some contemporary dining practices to guide a foreign guest.

The 15-minute rule

The 15-minute rule appears to be the law of the day. Many French dependent upon public transportation and parking hassles typically ran late. If you showed up at the appointed hour, chances were fair you’d end up in the sitting room waiting for your host to appear. That’s no longer the case, perhaps because fewer people have help or dinners catered. If you’re much later than 15 minutes, you’ll probably score a dirty look or two. If you’re running substantially later, call to inform your host of your dilemma and ask them to start without you. They rarely will, especially because they expect to spend time over drinks and nibbles before sitting down at the dinner table.

Remember to request the host’s entry codes

French apartment

Remember to request the door code, apartment number and phone number. When you receive the address, you’ll undoubtedly be given a code to the front door if invited to a central Paris address. Then there may be directions to go to a specific building or to proceed through the courtyard. There may be another code and, if you’re instructed to ring a buzzer, it’s not unheard of that the name on it isn’t the one you expected. Don’t assume you’re going to wing it. Unless it’s a big party you may be left out in the cold (or the hot). Be sure to have your host’s phone number.

These instructions are important because you don’t want to make an entrance looking as if you’ve been lost. If you have a portable (cell phone), you can call. Calling for directions may not appear as sophisticated as you’d like; but on the other hand, some buildings can be mazes and you don’t want to stand outside yelling a person’s name. It’s not comme il faut—and your hosts probably won’t hear you anyway.

The emphasis in on dinner, not grazing on appetizers

Don’t expect lots of appetizers and a full bar. Some Americans are surprised about the lack of nibbles before dinner. Some nuts, olives and uninteresting looking pretzels don’t signify you’re not welcome the French simply don’t like guests to ruin their appetites pre-dinner. It’s an insult to say the French are cheap.

The same holds true for beverages. Frequently, there’s a tray of flutes waiting to be filled with Champagne to begin the evening. There may be a bottle of Port, Whiskey and orange juice. Dinner is the main event, and a full bar or cocktail service is rare.

Dinner usually consists of a first course (une entrée), the main course (le plat principal), cheese and/or salad, and then dessert. Bread is served throughout the meal and, if it’s a formal dinner, it’s placed on your napkin or directly on the tablecloth.

For those of us accustomed to bread plates, this may feel informal, but it’s proof the linens will be washed and starched before they’re used again.

A few words about wine

Understand food-wine pairings. Wine glorious wine. More than likely red and a white wine will be offered. The larger glass is for the red so the wine can breathe and the smaller glass is for the white.

If you choose not to drink for whatever reason, don’t. And, you don’t need to make excuses. If water isn’t served, request it. Period, the end. Do not turn your glass upside down, it’s considered rude.

Host gift suggestions

Photo courtesy of Hédiard.The same books that advise not to excuse yourself to go to the WC also say you shouldn’t bring wine as a gift because it implies you think the host’s wine cellar is inadequate. Unless a member of the Rothschild family has invited you to dinner, go for it. Don’t take “plonk,” but a fine wine or Champagne is always appreciated. Make sure you say it’s to be used later because the wines for that night’s dinner have already been chosen.

You may present your host a flowering plant, but do not bring cut flowers because they require more work for your host (arranging, not to mention to finding a vase), and who needs something else to juggle while entertaining? The same books advise sending flowers the day after the party, but who needs flowers if the home has more than its fair supply?

Chocolates, scented candles, a book about something you feel would interest your host, foie gras, special soaps for the guest bath or something memorable from your travels. You have more options if there are children or pets.

If you’re feeling uninspired, head to the gourmet section at the Bon Marché, Hédiard or Fauchon. It’s simply impossible that you won’t find the perfect gift. French clerks are geniuses when it comes to wrapping packages and the tiniest gift can be made to look magnificent. Don’t expect to see your gift unwrapped that evening, so be certain to include a card saying whom it’s from.

These are just a few tips. It’s always important to be polite and especially nice to be invited again.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

Choosing a Short-Term Paris Apartment Rental

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:43 pm -

Paris hotels are great for short visits and reserving a room through the BonjourParis hotel booking site makes sense for short stays. But if you’re staying for a week or more, an apartment in Paris is wonderful for so many reasons. You can make the city your own, explore the neighborhood, feel a wee bit like a native and hey, what’s wrong with saving some money by not having to eat every meal out?

When you rent an apartment, you’re signing up and on to undertake some work, which is fine if you’re prepared. Depending on whether or not you’re renting from an agency or from an individual may alter what you’ll be confronted with when you arrive at your temporary home. Make certain you know what to expect before leaving home. Even then, there may be surprises.

Choosing which apartment to rent

Some agencies (not all) are wonderful and you have a pretty good idea about what you’ll find when you open the door. They want you to tell your friends and be a repeat visitor.

If you’re renting from an individual (often through HomeAway.com or VRBO), how your request is processed will give you an indication as to whether or not the landlord (or his representative) is responsive and responsible. If the site shows comments from past guests, read them carefully with the understanding some may have been planted by friends or even by the owner.

Photos: Two rental apartments that advertise their “Eiffel Tower views”

Check the location and the advertised view

Ask for the precise address before signing on the dotted line. Use Google Earth to see precisely where the building is located and what’s located near it. If someone says the apartment is located in the St. Germain-des-Prés area, well, it’s amazing how many people stretch boundaries.

Ask to see photographs of any advertised prime views that raise the real estate value.

Ask as many questions as you want (which doesn’t mean non-stop emails). Compile a list of regarding what’s included and what’s not. People who rent their apartments seriously have a manual that anticipates the majority of your questions.

Ask them to email a copy before your arrival date so you aren’t thumbing through it in a jet-lagged state upon arrival.

Timing

Some apartments are rented from Saturday to Saturday. That makes it easier for agencies and some individuals to do “changeovers.” Tenants are generally required to vacate the premises by 10 a.m. and (hopefully) the maid comes in to clean, change the sheets and put everything in comme il faut condition. The new tenants (you) generally can take occupancy around 3 p.m.

If that’s the case and you’re arriving early that morning, how are you going to pass the time? You may be the type who gets off an overnight flight and are ready to go. Then it’s simply a question of arranging in advance with your landlord where you may leave the luggage while your apartment is being cleaned. Let’s hope there’s space; if not, you’ll need to be creative.

If you’re traveling with children or people who don’t easily travel, or if you want to rest before starting out at full gallop, you can wait out the day with a short stay at any of the many airport hotels available in every price range. You wouldn’t want to spend your entire vacation there, but they’re more than fine for a few hours. Nap for a few hours and have something to eat before you head into Paris.

Some opt to spend the morning luxuriating in a spa. If you’re a first-time visitor to Paris, consider a city tour for an overview and it isn’t the end of the world if you take a tiny snooze.

If you’re traveling with children or need to hit the sack (or get unpacked upon your arrival), it can make sense to rent the apartment starting the day before you arrive but be clear in arranging that the landlord’s rep meet and greet you on your actual day of arrival.

The apartment is yours

Know what’s included and what’s not. Many agencies (and individuals) leave only a few bare necessities, like a few rolls of toilet paper, soap, water, juice and perhaps a bottle of wine to say welcome.

If it’s an inexpensive apartment rented by an individual to generate a little income, you may find next to nothing and will have to hit the grocery store sooner rather than later. Make sure you’ve scoped out where the nearest one is located. Seriously, I once rented a house in Provence and its owners only left salt and pepper and some toilet paper. They locked everything up as if I might not replace the olive oil.

Friends of mine who frequently rent apartments have their own system. They order groceries online and have them arrive as they’re getting settled in. Yes, Paris is a city where you want to shop and choose the produce. But if you’re coming for a couple of weeks with a family, you don’t need to inspect such things as laundry detergent, bottled water, paper goods, canned goods and such staples.

If your apartment has no elevator, and many wonderful buildings don’t, you’ll be delighted to welcome the deliveryman and please tip him a couple of euros. Make sure you have the building code and precise instructions, including the telephone number in the apartment, so the groceries can be delivered.

Oh, no:  The apartment isn’t what I expected!

Yes, this happens. Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to grin and bear it or move into a hotel. Often you have very little recourse.

When selecting an apartment, be sure you take into account the square meters. Some 30 square-meter rental ads say the unit accommodates four people. Yes, it may if you’re looking for a place to simply plunk your heads or are crashing with young children or close friends. Thirty meters translates into 330 square feet and it’s not a lot of space if you’re big on privacy. The second bed is probably a futon and don’t be surprised if the kitchen and shower room are tiny: they will be.

Wait, there are no sheets

Be sure to immediately document problems with photographs of things like beds without sheets or damaged furniture. If you have email access, send an email to the landlord or call and keep a copy of the photo on your camera. There are occasions when the housekeeper hasn’t done a complete inspection. You don’t want to be blamed or charged for something that’s not your fault.

I am painting a worst-case scenario, but this is both a buyer (and seller) beware situation. You’re going to need sheets, so if your landlord doesn’t respond within a couple of hours, go to the nearest grocery or department store and buy the least expensive ones you can find unless you love them so much that you want to take them home.

Does it sound as if I’m opposed to renting apartments?

If it does, I’m sorry. Apartment rentals are the way to go if you’re someone who’s so inclined. There are people who should never stay in anything other than hotels; you know who you are. And hotels are no guarantee of perfection and don’t count on scoring the best room.

You simply need to do your homework (whether renting an apartment in Paris or anyplace) and keep in mind that a wide-angle lens can do wonders to make tiny spaces look as if they’re mansions.

If you have additional tips, please add them below.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

9-11 Ten Years Later: Paris, Provence, Loss, Sadness and Joy

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:42 pm -

Ever since September 11, 2001, most people can’t have that day come and go without remembering the devastating destruction and loss that occurred. Three thousand people lost their lives; and we lost some of our freedom. For many, it was the end of an age of innocence. It’s one of the defining acts in recent history that has impacted travel and so much more. As much as we’d like, the world will never be the same.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was sitting at my desk in Paris in the afternoon, writing away. Because of the six-hour time difference, it was morning on the East Coast of the U.S. My son would usually sign on his computer and thank goodness for AOL instant Messenger (AIM). Even though we were on different continents, I had the feeling of being able to “talk” to him if necessary. As soon as he signed on, he started typing as if in a whirlwind. Where was I? What was I doing? He told me to turn on the television so I could see what was happening.

I ran into the living room just in time to see the second tower crumbling down. This couldn’t be real. Clearly, this was a bad movie and couldn’t be real.

Please remember these were the days before most of us had high-speed Internet, much less Wi-Fi. I grabbed my laptop and moved into the living room, plugged in the rinky-dink modem and, amazingly enough, was able to snag an AOL dial-up connection.

Sitting on the sofa in total disbelief, I IMed with my son and a couple of other people on my Buddy List. Who could possibly believe what we were seeing on CNN and why was this happening? The horror and the terror were not to be believed. It would be a while before we knew the whys.

I was unable to reach my mother who lived less than two miles from the Pentagon. All of the phone lines were jammed and there was no way I could make a call from Paris to Washington, DC. The irony was my mother thought I should move home (meaning where she was) because of some mini-bombs that had recently been detonated on the Champs-Élysées.

A Buddy List friend, who lived in the area, finally contacted her only to find out she’d been sleeping. My son had gone home to his wife so he was off-line.

People frequently want to know what it feels like to be an expat. In this case, I wanted to be with family. But would that have changed anything? In essence, we were all impotent and could do nothing but wait and hope the nightmare would abate and we’d wake up and realize it had been a bad dream and shake the dust out of our eyes.

Phyllis Flick, who’d just moved to Paris to study, had rented a room down the street and didn’t have access to CNN. Even though we’d never met except through BonjourParis, she asked if she could come up to the apartment so she could see English-language television. That was fine with me. I was pleased to have the company and I think she camped on the sofa in front of the television. To be honest, the entire time was a blur.

How well I remember my neighbors knocking on my door and asking if there was anything they could do for me. We really didn’t know one another, but they knew that I was l’américaine and at times such as this, even the French don’t stand on formality.

The memory of my downstairs neighbor who worked for Microsoft will be indelibly etched in my mind. Michel appeared and insisted I come downstairs for dinner and their door was always open in the event I wanted coffee, company or a cigarette. Yes, it was politically and socially correct to smoke in La Belle France then.

I needed to get out of the apartment and just walk and try to digest the devastation of what had happened. Each time I passed a store, a cafe, a bar or any of my usual haunts, people came out and asked if they could help. Would I like a coffee, a drink, something to eat or some company? The adage that the French are aloof was shot to hell that day and for a long time to come. When world-changing crises such as this occur, we find solace from others.

My husband Victor had left for Provence a couple of days before. He so loved that house in the vines, and I was planning to join him a couple of days later. Since his U.S. office was headquartered next to the World Trade Center, he was concerned about many of his colleagues and friends. What a terrible time when he heard that one of the offices where he’d worked was no longer standing. So much sadness.

When I started writing this, I realized Victor died on September 12th, so it’s even more poignant. I came across this article in the archives of BonjourParis and thought it would be appropriate to republish.

To the many people in all of our lives who’ve been lost for myriad reasons, let’s raise a glass to them. To those who are our friends and part of our families, let’s do everything possible to nurture and cherish them.

Please know I consider BonjourParis readers family. You may come and go, but we’re a community and so many thanks to each and every one of you for being there.

September 11, 2011

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Around the World, Paris |

Two Days in Paris: 10 Must-See Famous Sites

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:39 pm -

You’re coming to Paris but have only two days to see the city. Or worse yet, you’re here for meetings and are cloistered in a conference room that could be anywhere.

What are some of the must-sees that will give you a quick overview? Here are some suggestions that (hopefully) will entice you to book a return ticket to the city so many people love.

Check into your hotel. Your room probably won’t be ready before 3:00pm unless you’re lucky and it’s low season. If you need to sleep immediately, reserve the room for the day before. Bite the bullet and pay the extra euros if you have to be fresh for meetings, especially if you’re coming from the U.S. and didn’t cross the Atlantic in the front of the plane.

If you’re in Paris for pleasure, climb aboard an Open Bus that makes a circular tour of Paris. Yes, you can get on and off to explore what appeals to you. Or, you can stay on and see it all. There are up to 50 central Paris stops along scenic avenues and glorious monuments. Buses also move through the Montmartre, Montparnasse and Bastille areas. Put on the headphones and listen to descriptions of what you’re seeing in the language of your choice.

1 – Take the Métro to the main Galeries Lafayette department store near Opéra Garnier in the Paris 8th. Leave your shopping until later and head to the rooftop café for a panoramic view of the city, including the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame and more as you revolve. While there, you can’t help but view the store’s Belle Époque architecture. It’s really something and there’s no charge for admission.

approaching Notre Dame. Photo by Serge Melki.2 – You can’t come to Paris without seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral. Admission is free unless you want to visit the bell tower. Expect to encounter a crowd and if you want to attend Sunday Mass, arrive early.

3 - Walk east along Quai de la Mégisserie, the street that parallels the Seine, past pet shops and plant stores. After one block, cross to the opposite side of the street and continue east, browse the bouquinistes (bookstalls) and “feel” Paris.

Cross the Pont Notre-Dame, the third bridge from the western tip of the island, to Île de la Cité and explore that tiny section of Paris. It’s charming and the oldest buildings in Paris were constructed here.

4 - Walk through the flower market. It’s the oldest in Paris and you’re right smack in front of the Palais de Justice and a second away from Sainte Chapelle, a tribute to gothic architecture. You’ll need to pay if you want to tour the cathedral but if you have time, its concerts are more than worth the price of admission.

5 - Take a one-hour cruise along the Seine. There are numerous companies offering them and there’s a reason. Going under all of the bridges and seeing the city’s architecture from that vantage point is more than breathtaking. Even if you’re in Paris for a brief period of time, it probably makes financial sense to buy a Paris Sightseeing Pass.

Map courtesy of ©Musee du Louvre

6 - If you plan to visit the Musée du Louvre, take the Métro to Palais Royal/Musée du Louvre. Either enter the museum from underground—directly from the Métro station—or enter from above ground at Portes des Lions or by the stairs by the Arc de Triomphe du Carousel. Whatever you do, avoid the Pyramide entrance where there is always a line of those who do not know there are many entrances without lines. The Louvre is open 9am-6pm Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (closed Tuesdays). Want to avoid waiting on queue? Go after 5pm on Wednesday or Friday when the museum is open until 9:45pm. Lunch possibility: Café Marly that’s located in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre. Dine indoors or on the terrace. The restaurant is considered chic, has good food and comme il faut service.

Walk from Louvre to Tuileries to Place de la Concorde. Photo: theworldeffect.com7 – Be sure to leave time to stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries. You can sit in the naturally reclining chairs situated around the pond at the far end of the garden. Climb the stairs to Place de la Concorde; turn north and window-shop your way past famous designers, jewelers, and silversmiths to Place de la Madeleine, where you can visit Fauchon or Hédiard, the world’s most famous upscale grocers.

8 - The Musée d’Orsay is one of my favorite Paris museums. A former train station, it now houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Impressionist art. If you need a break from viewing the eye candy, its cafeteria is more than fine and has a stellar rooftop view that looks across the Seine to Sacré Coeur.

9 -  As many times as I’ve been to the Luxembourg Garden, there’s no such thing as too many. It’s located on the Left Bank and for my money, the Saint Germain-des-Prés and the Saint Sulpice neighborhoods are two areas that shouldn’t be missed.  Not only is the architecture sublime, but if you like to shop, some of Paris’s most wonderful boutiques are located in this area. If you don’t want to spend money, wear blinders.  It’s the only way you won’t find something you’ll want to take home as a reminder of your too fast trip.

10 -  The Eiffel Tower: How can you come to Paris and not see it? But, if you have a limited time and are going for the view rather than the experience of going to the summit, head to The Museum of Architecture at the Trocadéro Métro stop. If you don’t have time to tour the museum, head to the cafeteria and buy something to eat or drink and grab a chair on the terrace. From there, you’ll be able to see the Eiffel Tower and so much more and it’s a way to beat the crowds.

The above sights are really the tip of the iceberg. It can take years to see the myriad treasures Paris has to offer.

© Paris New Media, LLC

Karen@BonjourParis.com

PHOTO CREDITS:

Notre Dame ©Serge Melki

Louvre map courtesy of Musée du Louvre

Walk from Louvre to Tuileries to Place de la Concorde courtesy of ©theworldeffect.com


Posted in Paris |

Seeing Paris Through Children’s Eyes

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:38 pm -

As is always the case, returning to Paris-Orly International Airport always provokes some culture shock and makes me aware the world isn’t flat; people are so very different. Clearing Customs invariably includes a glimpse into a fascinating, exotic and truly foreign microcosm containing people from all around the world.

Simply passing through a European international airport such as Orly or Paris-Charles de Gaulle, one can’t help but notice the differences in the way people look and behave. Such observations and interactions are among my favorite parts of international travel that come to mind as I write with news that my two granddaughters and their parents have arrived in Paris.

I’m delighted my grandchildren started world travel while young; it’s a privilege I recognize, support and encourage. During my many years of publishing BonjourParis.com, I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every comment left by an adult whose eyes were opened after discovering a whole new world upon traveling to Paris, which is hardly a “foreign” culture as seen by most vacation and business travelers who lack the time to fully immerse in any of the foreign communities represented in Paris. Many comments also include regrets about not traveling when they were younger or not learning a foreign language when they were children. The beauty of life, of course, is that it’s never too late to learn.

candy stand at Mt. Ventoux summitMy older “baby,” now eight, has been here before, but not for a very long time. Her last trips were spent mainly in Provence where she could run, go swimming and work in the vegetable garden.

And, oh yes, take a drive up Mt Ventoux, where candy trucks awaited her and anyone who wanted and needed a sugar fix. As we were neither biking nor hiking, we couldn’t rationalize the purchases of tiny, overpriced bags of candy for an energy boost, but I guess we must have bought some: those candies are indelibly etched into her mind.

This is my youngest granddaughter’s first trip to France. She’s just five. We’re staying in Paris with a couple of day trips factored into the schedule. We have an excursion scheduled to Versailles with a guide from Context Travel. But we’re pretty much going to play things by ear, since my family is the laid-back type, and don’t feel as if they need to be tourists on the go. This is family time.

Both girls said, “Gran, you live here,” which I interpret to mean that they are ready to shuttle back and forth across the Atlantic whenever they feel like it. And yes, that would be just fine with me.

petit dejeunerThey’ve been reading children’s books about Paris and already have formulated a must-see list. But the first thing they wanted to do was to have breakfast at a café because “we’re in Paris.” Even though breakfasts tend to be rip-offs (compared to going to the boulangerie for bread and croissants), who can say no to two children who’d just gotten off a transatlantic flight? Off we went to Café Vavin where I received a wave from the owner, who might have wondered what I was doing there so early in the morning. After pointing to my family, Jacques understood.

We meandered to the Luxembourg Garden, which took longer than it should have, because the children are little, were tired (as were their parents) and girls will be girls, they were busy window shopping. Which reminds me of something that I tend to forget. Children tend to be shorter than grownups. They don’t walk as fast because their legs are shorter, but they also are constantly looking up at things that we look at straight across or down to. This changes their perspective and, I’m convinced, adds a level of awe or amazement. Everything looks so… big, grand and wonderful. Of course they love Paris. They’re more than aware the architecture is dramatically different from what they see each day when they’re in D.C.

Luxembourg Gardens playground

The older girl said, “Paris feels more exciting,” and—music to my ears—asked her parents why they couldn’t all live here? I felt as if I’d done something right, and since they both qualify for U.K. passports (their mother was born in London), my mind did a fast-forward and perhaps it would make sense for them to apply to the École active Bilangue.

Recent studies have shown that people who grow up speaking or acquiring more than one language may delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. People who take assignments overseas tend to climb the job ladder higher and more quickly. This is especially true for females. This seems to be a wonderful argument to use on my son and daughter-in law, if you ask me.

And there’s always the multicultural argument, which is less personal and much more politically correct. As soon as I arrived in Orly on OpenSkies Airline, returning from my most recent trip to Washington, it was starkly apparent I was in a different world. It encompasses people who look different, wear non-Western clothes, clearly possess different religious beliefs and even smell different. How I’d love for the girls to benefit from such diversity, where you can be in various countries simply by exiting a different Paris Métro stop.

This is getting heavy. Perhaps I should awaken my family before I’ve called the movers. They’ve had their nap—and it’s time to get up and go. Since it’s so lovely, perhaps we’ll take the Métro to the Seine and go to the beach. We have so much to do and to see including placing locks on one of the two bridges in Paris that express love.

What’s better than having my son, daughter-in-law and my grandchildren share the city about which I feel so passionate?

Please do share below if you have a story about seeing Paris through the eyes of children.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

Paris in August, When Livin’ is Easy

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:38 pm -

The truth about August in Paris finally dawned on me this year. The city isn’t dead—it isn’t now and it never really was. It simply operates at a different pace and requires a little more patience to work around small neighborhood businesses that close for two weeks or more in August. It’s more akin to what Sundays used to be like in the U.S. Remember the “day of rest” before most places stayed open seven days a week? After all, more women are working now and Americans (bless them) are profit-and-loss oriented. And “blue laws” be damned—if people want to go shopping instead of to church, that’s their business. Furthermore, U.S. stores that keep their doors open round-the-clock require additional employees, and that’s good for the economy. Yes?

Picard dessert      Publicity photo courtesy Picard

It wouldn’t occur to me to go grocery shopping after about 11pm in France. I was ecstatic when the grocery store down the street from my Paris apartment extended its hours until 9 p.m., but never on Sundays. Vive la grandeur française!

When it comes to day-to-day living in Paris in August, whether you’re a resident or visitor, you simply need to make some compromises. Be prepared to walk a few extra blocks for your daily bread, but it’s not the end of the world. And okay, your favorite family-owned restaurant and some world-class Michelin-starred places might be closed tight, so use it as an excuse to try others. If things are really tough and you need a gorgeous dessert, not to fret. You can always buy one at Picard. If you can’t get to one of their many Paris stores, they’ll deliver.

Summer at Luxembourg Gardens     Photo credit: Patrice LanoyAll Paris parks are open and it’s a delight to see how people use them to their maximum. Playgrounds are full, and there are so many free events as a bonus. You can actually drive in the city and there isn’t the constant noise from cars and scooters racing from here to there. You can even rent and ride a Vélib’ without having heart failure dealing with priority to the right law that doesn’t make sense to some, but which is responsible for more accidents than you can count.

Quality of life in France is a frequent topic of conversation, especially since there are times when it’s hard to accomplish anything more than die on national holidays like May 1st (French version of Labor Day) when everything comes to a halt. People moan and groan about the French taking so much vacation. Actually, French workers today earn about 6 weeks of vacation per year and most of the younger ones parse it out with long weekends throughout the year instead of taking the entire month off as was done back in the day.

According to Paul Krugman of The New York Times, “A French worker produces about 99 percent of what an American worker produces in one hour.” That’s not too shabby.

I’ve been a French resident for more than 20 years, so it’s not surprising I’ve adopted some of the same je m’en fiche attitudes. It wasn’t an easy adjustment since I definitely qualify as a Type-A personality and have been known to complain loudly when I can’t pass go. For example, why do French security alarm companies appear to be closed during August? This causes me wonder whether or not someone would actually appear if there were a robbery.

French pharmacy signIn Paris (for that matter, all of France) there are on-call emergency medical services of all types available each and every day. You pay a premium, but who cares when there’s a crisis.

The pharmacy I generally use is closed, but the one on the next block isn’t. Paris has several pharmacies required to be on-call or open very late or even 24 hours a day. Here’s a list of Pharmacies de Garde, should you have an emergency medication need when in Paris.

Some doctors do stay open and many professionals take two or three weeks off rather than the entire month. My internist is seeing patients all month and said she expected August to be quiet. Judging by the number of people in her waiting room, it’s anything but and Nancy admitted even she was surprised how busy she’s been with regulars. She’s still planning on taking a couple of long weekends, but other than that, she’ll take a two-week vacation in September.

Paris Plages 2011.   Photo courtesy: Mairie de ParisPeople in Paris appear more relaxed and it’s a mellow time of the year. If you crave crowds and action, head to the Eiffel Tower and you’ll find it. Don’t think for a second that everyone there is a tourist. There are plenty of locals as well who don’t feel like competing for space on the beach other than a space at the Paris Plages.

Weather wise, Paris has been a joy, unlike much of the U.S. where’s it’s been so hot you don’t want to leave anyplace that isn’t air-conditioned. People have worn sweaters this year in Paris—and yes, there’s been some rain but usually at night.

Jonathan Eaves, who lives here, said, “Paris at anytime is a wonderful place, and yes, August is quieter and a small challenge for business, but not impossible.”

An “urban myth” has, over the years, developed about Paris being completely closed in August. Simply adjust your pace, and move at the pace of Paris in August! That’s first-rate advice from this local.

© Paris New Media, LLC

Karen@BonjourParis.com

PHOTO CREDITS:

Picard dessert image courtesy of Picard

Ice cream in Luxembourg Gardens photo ©Patrice Lanoy


Posted in Paris |

News from France: Economics, Google-Hachette Libre Settlement, DSK, Baguettes

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:36 pm -

The majority of this week’s news from France has to do with the economy, as the world markets ricochet, causing traders and investors to tremble.

Standard & Poor downgraded the U.S.’s triple-A credit rating to AA-plus. Now France’s AAA rating is under fire and President Sarkozy returned to Paris to preside over a small cabinet meeting on Wednesday. According to the New York Times, he instructed his budget and finance ministers to come back this week with new measures to ensure that France meets its targets of a deficit of 5.7 percent of gross domestic product this year, 4.6 percent next year and 3 percent in 2013.

Because 2012 is an election year, the French president is especially eager to improve his popularity rating which according to Bloomberg News is holding steady at 36%.

Sarkozy and Merkel will meet in Paris on Tuesday

German Chancellor Merkel.  Photo credit: AFP-France 24On August 16th, German Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy will meet in Paris to discuss economic governance of the 17-nation euro region.

In the interim, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium have banned “shorting” of banking stocks for two weeks in the wake of this past week’s market chaos, according to the London Telegraph.

Google and Hachette Libre reach online publishing agreement

Google has reached an agreement with France’s largest publishing company, Hachette Libre. The agreement will allow Google to digitize and scan books from Hachette’s library of copyrighted but out-of-print books.

DSK update

What would a week be without news of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose legal problems are by no means disappearing? Even though it appears as if the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office may drop the criminal case against the former head of the International Monetary FundKenneth Thompson, the lawyer who represents Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel maid from Guinea, who accused Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault, is proceeding with the civil case.

Thompson, the son of one of the city’s first policewomen to be assigned to be a street beat cop, was an assistant with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn. His work prosecuting and convicting a New York policeman for beating and sodomizing a Haitian immigrant was an essential part of the case. Fifteen years later, he’s at the center of another high-profile case with racial overtones. To read more, access this article by Reuters.

Dalai Lama in Toulouse

Spiritual Leader Dalai Lama arrived in Toulouse on Friday for a three-day visit.  He was greeted at the airport by Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen and spiritual directors and members of the Organizing Committee of Toulouse 2011.  He addressed  numerous  members of the press during his first private visit to France. The Dalai Lama stated the reason for his trip is to promote human values and religious harmony, adding he is satisfied over turning over his political and administrative powers to Lobsang Sangay, the newly elected leader of Tibet.

According to the Associated Press, “Now, today I’m just a spiritual person” without political responsibilities, the Dalai Lama said in Toulouse during a talk on meditation that drew thousands of Buddhist followers and others. He also addressed politics in the brief remarks shown on BFM TV. “If the Chinese government gives us meaningful autonomy, genuinely implements the rights mentioned in the constitution or … papers regarding the rights of minorities, sincerely fully implements, then it’s in our interest to remain within the People’s Republic of China.”

Dalai Lama in Toulouse. Photo credit: AP-Manuel Blondeau

Bread glorious Bread: What is happening in France? Is it progress or not?

Jean-Louis Hecht & automated baguette machine. Photo credit: Metro-AFP.

According to BonjourParis News, Paris baker Jean-Louis Hecht may have introduced the bakery of tomorrow with his new automated hot baguette vending machine available round-the-clock outside of his boulangerie in the Paris 19th.

According to TIME , 1,600 baguettes were sold in January when the machine was installed and 4,500 were sold in July. Only you can decide whether or not this is good or bad news.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Around the World, Paris |

News from France: Lagarde, Noriega, Air France, DSK, Libya

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:35 pm -

Lagarde under investigation for abuse of power charges

Christine Lagarde, the recently named head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is under the gun for possible fraudulent activities involving the misuse of public funds in 2008, when she was France’s finance minister. According to the Wall Street Journal, the French court has ordered an investigation as to whether or not the  420€ million ($602 million) payment to Bernard Tapie was unjustified.

If Mme Lagarde is found guilty, she could receive a 10-year prison sentence and be fined up to 150,000€, per France24. The IMF board refuses to comment and Christine Lagarde says she won’t resign during the investigation.

France plans to extradite Noriega in SeptemberManuel Noriega   Photo:  Reuters

RFI reports that former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega will be sent from a French prison to his native Panama to serve out prison terms for human rights violations in the 1980s. Noriega, now 77 years of age, has been in a French prison since 2010 for laundering millions of euros in French bank accounts when he was president of Panama. Noriega’s legal representatives say he will not contest the extradition because he wishes to be closer to his family in Panama, according to The Telegraph.

Air France denies Dominique Strauss-Kahn press reports

Dominique Strauss-Kahn can’t stay out of the news. Earlier this week French newspaper Le Parisien reported that lawyers of Strauss-Kahn’s accuser received an anonymous letter saying Air France issued orders that only males should work in the first class area of its jets when Strauss-Kahn travelled.

On Thursday Air France denied it issued this mandate. “Air France formally denies having given any instruction about the composition of its crews,” a spokesman told the news agency.

France will unfreeze $259 million of Libyan assetsLibyan rebel   Photo: Reuters

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said France will unfreeze $259 million of Libyan assets and allow Libya’s National Transition Council (NTC) to use the funds commited to funding humanitarian programs that meet European guidelines, according to Reuters.

The money was confiscated from Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle. France has been joined by the U.S., Britain and Germany in recognizing the NTC as the official representative of the Libyan people opposing Gaddafi’s regime.

French watchdog group investigating Apple over iPhone privacy concerns

France has launched an investigation into Apple iPhone location tracking. The Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), France’s technology watchdog, said it is investigating privacy issues. Yann Padova, head of the CNIL stated it appears that while the data was definitely collected and stored on the handset, it doesn’t appear as if it was transmitted back to Apple or its commercial partners. This will be a deciding factor in any kind of judgment against Apple, since Apple can claim that it wasn’t collecting or using this information, according to The Inquirer. If Apple is found guilty of wrongdoing the CNIL could follow suit and impose fines.

Rudolf Brazda      AP PhotoMan imprisoned in Nazi camp for being homosexual has died in France

The Daily Mail reports that Rudolf Brazda, the last known male imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp for being homosexual, died last week. Nazi Germany declared homosexuality an aberration that threatened the German race. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gay men were deported to concentration camps; few survived. Brazda was in Buchenwald from 1942-1945 and he lived in Alsace until his death last week.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Around the World, Paris |