Vicarious Visit: October in Paris

IMG_0024

WHAT’S THE NEXT BEST THING to a trip to Paris? A friend’s trip to Paris, when you get to see pictures and hear about meals and fortuitous conversations and the discovery of unusual shops and forgotten streets.

These images came to me in almost real time, through the magic of texting, and some are so evocative I just had to share. (The friend in this case is my wasband, Jeff Greenberg. Commentary in italics is his.)

My sense is that Paris isn’t going the way of New York, at least not as quickly. I know there are chain stores along some of the major boulevards, but it seems that Paris still abounds with one-off shops and cafes. Not to mention perhaps the most stunning urban vistas anywhere.

IMG_0001IMG_0005

The beloved Hotel du Quai Voltaire on the Left Bank, above, very close to Musée d’Orsay (we’d stayed there before, in ’98). Small rooms, big view. Note list of famous residents on plaque to right of entry.

Below, at Café La Palette in Saint Germain des Pres:

IMG_0026

All around me, it seemed like Jean-Pierre Léaud and Bernadette Lafonte were deep in conversation. Every time I hear French in a setting like this, it sounds like they are discussing the fate of mankind, but they’re probably just talking about their laundry. 

Below, a bridal photo shoot in the rain. Do you prefer color (the original) or black and white (my doctoring)? B&W makes it look magically like Henri Cartier-Bresson.

IMG_0019IMG_0018

Wish the one below was a video so we could hear the violin…

IMG_0027

Below, a place I’ve never managed to get to, the Jardin des Plantes (botanical garden). Next time!

IMG_0009

Nighttime street scenes:

IMG_0007IMG_0008

An extraordinarily preserved 1950s neon-lit cafe on Blvd Saint Germain:

IMG_0002IMG_0004IMG_0003

Some of the oldest streets in Paris, below, are in the 4th arrondissement on the Right Bank. The Tudor style half-timbered house, listing a bit, is one of the only remaining medieval houses, from the 1500s.

IMG_0012IMG_0022

A random act of art:

IMG_0016

Below, Picasso’s first atélier, in Montmarte.

IMG_0017IMG_0011

Why does such an essentially simple scene, above, so clearly say Paris, and nowhere else?

IMG_0025IMG_0023

Place des Vosges in the Marais, above, with and without people. The architecture is flawless, completely self-contained. A beautiful day with low sun casting those Last Year at Marienbad shadows. (Another film reference!)

IMG_0006IMG_0028

Below, covetable items from the Marché aux Puces (flea market). Vintage posters priced around $300, which seems quite reasonable.

IMG_0015IMG_0014

Mustn’t forget the food… a historic patisserie, below, and sesame-encrusted fish at Au 35 on Rue Jacob.

IMG_0021IMG_0020

Dinner last night, plus parsnip soup, creme brulée and a perfect Sancerre. Lesson:  Let them pick the wine.

Yes, Paris is still there in all its Parisian-ness, and I find that very reassuring.

For more Paris, my own posts from my last visit there in 2012 can be found here.

Posted in FRANCE, PARIS, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

For Sale in Springs: A Long Island House as Old as They Come

IMG_0001

THERE ARE VERY FEW truly old houses on the East End of Long Island, but those that do remain, like Mulford Farm in East Hampton, are among the oldest in the country, dating back to the earliest English settlers in the 17th century.

So it’s possible that this little house I’ve always admired, at a bend in Three Mile Harbor Road in Springs, about 4 miles north of the Village of East Hampton, is as old as the real-estate listing says. Though “1639” strains credulity a bit. As does the whole story that goes with it, per the multiple-listing sites:

This Property Situated On 2.3 Acres Has Amazing History. Built In 1639 Part Of The House Is Made From The Wood Of A Ship And Has The Original Wood Pegs Holding It Together. The Wood Is Numbered In The Event That The Ship Was Wrecked It Could Be Put Back Together. There Is An Operating Farm Stand On The Property. This Historical Home Is Truly One Of A Kind.

Yes, the property (240 Three Mile Harbor Road) was well-known for years as the site of the Pig Pen farmstand, with a battered pink pick-up truck serving as signage. The house’s red shutters and the farmstand’s pink truck have always been a cheering sight for me when, arriving after a long drive from the city, they herald my return to Springs.

The house always reminded me of England, sitting at the bottom of a rise, surrounded by a usually very green lawn.

The farmstand never opened this season, which was a great pity — we need all the farmstands we can get — and then a For Sale sign appeared on the property.

The four-room house on 2+ acres is priced at $1.869 million, with annual taxes of $5,500. What’s odd is that it went on the market in July at $1.2. The ask was raised considerably in September.

It would be nice if whoever buys it reinstates the farmstand, and I certainly hope they don’t tear the house down.

IMG_0007IMG_0002IMG_0003IMG_0006IMG_0005

Anyway, thanks to the real estate listings, we finally get to see the interior of the house, below. Now I believe that story about the ship’s planks.

getImagegetImage-1

Posted in HAMPTONS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION, LONG ISLAND, REAL ESTATE/INVESTING | 8 Comments

Hamptons Weekend Cottage Keeps it Simple

IMG_8803

A FRIEND OF MINE has had a tendency to move often, both her family’s primary residence and weekend/vacation homes. Fortunately, she also has a talent for making any apartment or home look Domino-ready in very short order.

This two-bedroom 1930s cottage in a community of older homes near the village of Southampton, Long Island, is a long-range proposition, but it still looks essentially the same as it did one late summer evening two years ago. That’s when I saw it for the first time and took these photos, shortly after my friend and her husband moved in. (I’m finally getting around to sharing them as part of an effort to resume more frequent blog-posting),

The cottage proves a few things: that (well, as recently as two years ago, anyway) you can still find a substantially built house on a nice chunk of property — in this case, a flat, sunny acre — with vintage details, wood floors and walls — for under half a mil. And that you don’t need to over-furnish or overspend to create an interior that’s chic and functional. Sometimes simple is best.

My friends did a tad of work in the bathroom, installing a new wall-hung stainless steel sink, and virtually none in the rest of the house, even leaving the kitchen just as it was, with its basic appliances and linoleum floor.

They wired up some home-made lighting, and recycled furnishings they’d had in storage. The main seating is two twin mattresses on platforms, arranged in an L in a former sun porch. The dining table converts to a desk, or perhaps it’s a desk that converts to a dining table.

It’s all charmingly improvised and very much to my taste. There’s a renovation in the cards that will add a bathroom, a large bedroom, a screened-in porch and outdoor living areas. Meanwhile, the unassuming cottage fits the bill.

IMG_8810IMG_8812IMG_8818IMG_8807IMG_8820IMG_8821IMG_8805IMG_8806

 

Posted in HAMPTONS, HAMPTONS VOYEUR, INTERIOR DESIGN, LONG ISLAND, OLD-HOUSE MAKEOVERS | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Quaint Quebec

IMG_0017

QUEBEC CITY, on the St. Lawrence River three hours’ drive north of Montreal, is ridiculously picturesque — the oldest parts, anyway, where stone houses, some from the 17th century, form an Upper Town and a Lower Town on a steep escarpment, and much of the original city wall, below, a fortification from the days of the early European settlers, remains perfectly intact (it’s the only walled city in North America).

IMG_0015

In a two-day stay, I especially enjoyed the outstanding municipal plantings — oversized annuals that provide wowie-kazowie color in the city’s extensive park system — and wandering the streets of the residential neighborhood surrounding the lovely church of St. Jean le Baptiste, below.

IMG_0024

The vintage townhouses in Upper Old Town — a couple of choice examples, below — are mostly spiffily restored.

IMG_0016 IMG_0018

The funkier houses on hilly neighborhood streets outside the wall, like Rue Richelieu and Rue Olivier (where our Air BnB was located), below, are in varying states of repair. Their gabled or mansard rooflines, steeply pitched to shed snow, clearly reflect French influence.

IMG_0013IMG_0025IMG_0014IMG_0022

The atmospheric Rue St. Jean is lined with phenomenal Victorian storefronts still in use as grocery stores, pubs and cafés, below.

IMG_0003IMG_0012IMG_0011IMG_0002IMG_0004

What you have to close your eyes to is a fair amount of unfortunate 1970s architecture, large blocky buildings bearing corporate logos that mar the city skyline and aren’t going away any time soon.

August in Quebec City — especially Sundays in August — is jam-packed with visitors, many concentrated around the riverside landmark Chateau Frontenac, below, a 600+-room city unto itself that looks like a Disney castle, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway and opened in 1893.

IMG_0007IMG_0009IMG_0006IMG_0010

Down a steep staircase (you can also take a funicular) are the even more ancient streets and stone houses of the Lower Town, now all about souvenir shopping.

img_00201-e1502883079279.jpgIMG_0021

There’s an impressive daily farmers’ market at the old port, below.

IMG_0019

In a hectic couple of hours toward the end of our stay, we tore off to the Musée Nationale des Beaux-Arts du Quebec to catch an amusing exhibition of the work of photographer Philippe Halsman, below, famed for his LIFE magazine covers, lively celebrity portraits and long collaboration with Salvador Dalí.

IMG_0026IMG_0027IMG_0029IMG_0028

Final stop: the 15-acre Van den Hende botanical garden at nearby Laval University, below, whose extensive greenhouses yield those super-sized flowers in which Quebec seems to specialize, putting those of us with longer growing seasons to shame.

IMG_0030IMG_0032FullSizeRender

 

Posted in HISTORIC PRESERVATION, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Montreal: Mile End, Old City

IMG_0001

MONTREAL IN SUMMER means bountiful seasonal plantings — in tree pits, roadside strips, highway medians; lush baskets hanging from café awnings and balconies; flowers, grasses and vines everywhere. It also means a lively sidewalk café scene that far surpasses New York’s, and people making the most of the city’s parks, including the romantic Parc La Fontaine, above, jewel of the Plateau neighbohood.

Something to do with Montreal’s winter being long and harsh, so they revel in summer to the utmost?

Summer in Montreal also means tourists, especially in the Old City/Vieux-Port, below, where my friend Nancy and I ventured today. There really wasn’t much for us there, having little interest in visiting the cathedral, riding the ferris wheel or plunging into the shopping hordes along Rue Saint-Paul. After strolling along the waterfront promenade for a bit and admiring the high Victorian commercial architecture, we tucked into a bar with an outdoor terrace along a quiet side street and whiled away an hour looking at our phones, surrounded by baskets of flowers.

IMG_0735IMG_0744IMG_0736

Earlier in the day, we had checked out Mile End, the hipster quarter, which seems like another great neighborhood to live in, with one-off coffee shops — I’ve only seen one Starbucks in Montreal — and numerous independent bookstores. Below, Cafe Olimpico, a Mile End fixture since 1970.

IMG_0724

And then there are the BAGELS! I had to sample the bagels of which this city is so proud, from each of the arch-rivals, separated by a couple of blocks in Mile End: Fairmount Bagels and St. Viateur, both with long (but fast-moving) lines.

My vote goes to Fairmount, where I had an onion bagel so sweet and chewy it was practically cake. My rosemary bagel from St. Viateur was drier, not nearly as transcendental an experience. Sadly, neither location has sit-down facilities, just take-out, which leads to scenes like people putting cream cheese on their bagels with plastic knives while leaning on windowsills down the street.

IMG_0700IMG_0706IMG_0707IMG_0719

My brief stay in Montreal is nearly over. Can’t complain about the weather, although we got hit with a couple of downpours, in between spells of intense sunshine and muggy warmth. One caught us as we headed to dinner at L’Express, a dead ringer for a Paris brasserie, with bread just as good and convivial groups at table. I had grilled dourade and a glass of chablis. Yes, most def a taste of Paris without the transatlantic trip.

Posted in TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Montreal: Plateau, Parc, Musee

IMG_0013

ALLÔ, MONTRÉAL! I’m in this hip, sophisticated city for a few days, ensconced with a friend on a leafy block in an Air BnB apartment, below, that’s big enough for six people, taking in some of the major sights and lurching from meal to meal.

IMG_0010IMG_0005IMG_0004

A Canadian friend steered us to the charming and convenient Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, made up mostly of small late Victorian townhouses, many with balconies and exterior staircases (for reasons, we learned, having to do with taxes, not having to heat stairwells, and saving interior space).

Yesterday I weaved in and out of the area’s narrow alleys en route to my first Montreal coffee and best-ever cheese croissant at Le Moineau Masqué, enjoying the century-old domestic architecture with its quirky paint jobs and front gardens, some tidy, others desperately in need of weeding.

IMG_0008IMG_0006IMG_0028IMG_0007IMG_0009

I had to see the modest home of Leonard Cohen, one of my musical heroes, which he owned for many decades and re-visited throughout his life. It’s a three-story gray stone townhouse, below, on the small vest-pocket Parc du Portugal, where we sat and absorbed the atmosphere, looking across at the bagel place he was known to pad over to in his bedroom slippers many mornings.

IMG_0016IMG_0017

In 36 hours, we’ve shopped and window-shopped on Rue St.-Denis (Tibetan jewelry, housewares, arty made-in-Canada clothing); drove up to a viewing spot in the city’s green heart, the central mountain (Mont-Royal) that gives Montreal its name; enjoyed the sounds of French heard everywhere, though English is almost universally spoken as well; dined at bustling neighborhood eateries in Plateau (L’Gros Luxe — that’s their tuna tartare, below and Café le Cherrier) and had an elegant grown-up lunch — grilled sardines for me — at Ferreira, a landmark Portuguese restaurant downtown.

IMG_0001IMG_0003IMG_0022

Below, typical of Plateau: corner cafés with mural decoration.

IMG_0020IMG_0019

Why have a boring garage door? Two of many, below.

IMG_0014IMG_0018We revisited our youths at “Revolution,” the current exhibition on 1960s culture at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, enjoying the psychedelic art, hippie fashions and vast room given over to multiple enormous video screens showing performances from Woodstock, with cushions on the floor for lying and taking in Hendrix and the Who, towering overhead.

IMG_0023IMG_0024

And we’ve proudly mastered the arcane parking rules, which are no more or less complicated than New York’s, except, like everything, in French.

IMG_0012IMG_0002

Posted in TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hot Town, Summer in the City

IMG_0008

IT’S NOT OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER, but as soon as you start seeing ads for back to school shopping, you know it can’t be long before the Halloween decorations come out.

The knowledge that it will soon be September has always cast a pall over August. Growing up, I waited eagerly for the big fat back-to-school issue of Seventeen magazine to show up on my local newsstand August 1st. I was so bored I devoured its 600 pages of wool skirts and cable-knit sweaters immediately. Though it was still high summer, I was painfully conscious that its appearance signaled the beginning of the end.

Later this week, I’m off to Montreal and Quebec City for a few days and will be blogging my ass off while there, no doubt, so there’s that to look forward to. In the meantime, the days count down on summer in the city. With frequent forays out of town, y’know, it hasn’t been half bad.

July began with a day trip to Kykuit, below, the Rockefeller estate in Westchester County, a century-old Italianate-style ivy-covered pile, romantic on the outside, boring within. Chief joy and surprise: Nelson Rockefeller’s collection of modern art, relegated to a basement space, world-class though it is, and wonderful outdoor sculptures (like the Elie Nadelman figures below), perfectly placed.

IMG_0001IMG_0002IMG_0005IMG_0004

I abandoned Brooklyn again to ferry over to Governor’s Island, where my daughter is now working, and what a surprise. In the past couple of years, they’ve (almost) completed a park called The Hills, as close to unspoiled nature as you can get in New York City, with a skyline view at every turn.

IMG_0006IMG_0007IMG_0034

For culture, I joined a friend at the Whitney Museum in Chelsea to see Alexander Calder’s mid-century mobiles, below, so simple and yet so brilliant. The views from the outdoor terraces there are always stunning.

IMG_0016IMG_0035IMG_0019IMG_0018

Then there was a two-day road trip to Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Mass., cultivated over a period of decades, exclusively with plants native to the region. We found accommodation nearby at the oldest continuously operating lodging in the U.S., the pre-Revolutionary Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Mass., below. (It burned nearly to the ground and was painstakingly rebuilt in the 1950s, so it’s hard to say what’s original and what’s not, but the illusion is impeccable.)

IMG_0026IMG_0027IMG_0036

I tried a few new-to-me Brooklyn restaurants, including L’Antagoniste in Bed-Stuy, a tad precious and a tad pricey, and the French-Senegalese Cafe Rue Dix in Crown Heights.

IMG_0030IMG_0037

Even treading city sidewalks in summer is made pleasanter by overflowing window boxes and creatively planted tree pits.

IMG_0032IMG_0033

Follow me on Instagram, where I’m having some fun… @caramia447

IMG_0038

Posted in BROOKLYN, LONG ISLAND, MANHATTAN, NORTH FORK, ROAD TRIPS | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments