Vicarious Visit: October in Paris


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.


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:


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.


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


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


Nighttime street scenes:


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


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.


A random act of art:


Below, Picasso’s first atélier, in Montmarte.


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


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!)


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


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


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.

PARIS DAY 3: To the 19th and Back

DAY TROIS OF OUR PARIS SOJOURN began the way any day in Paris should begin, with coffee and croissants delivered to our room at the Hotel du Danube. We are loving everything about the place: the rooms; the location; the staff, who put up ever so kindly with our brutalizing of their beautiful language.

Below, the hotel lobby and our pretty-in-pink room

This morning we had a misguided adventure. I had fallen prey to an alluring description in a guidebook of the Canal St. Martin area, way up in the 19th arrondissement. A canal built in the 1800’s to link the snaking loops of the Seine, traversed by iron bridges, the area has been recently re-developed — unfortunately, without a great deal of charm.

We took the Metro to Stalingrad station, and walked along the canal for a mile or so, finding little remaining of the great industrial past, or any past. The modern architecture is grim, for the most part, and we soon decided that as Americans in Paris, we needed to get back to the prettier precincts, museums, and cafes, without delay. Below, a 19th century tollhouse at the start of the Canal St. Martin that is now a cafe, plus some scenes along its length.

Back in the center, my cousin Susan went off to the Marais and I headed in the direction of the Luxembourg Gardens, which I’d never seen… but not before first having an omelette aux fines herbes at Cafe de Flore, below, a legendary literary spot where I sat outside and shared a table, accidentally, with three French businessmen. They, too, were very solicitous of my attempts to communicate in their native language, as was the waiter. (Someone must have told the French to indulge Americans rather than imperiously answering back in English, as they used to do in decades past).

I was already impressed with the number of independent bookstores in the St Germain des Pres neighborhood, and truly astonished when I walked through a bustling  book fair at Place Saint Suplice, below, and realized they were all poetry books. Doesn’t seem the French publishing industry will be going all electronic any time soon.

The lovely Luxembourg Gardens, below, has a lot going on; there are chess players and tennis players, children and nannies, lovers and tourists, admirers of fountains and of roses.

We joined a throng for an early-evening glass of wine at one of scores of sidewalk cafes in the St Germain area (wouldn’t be Paris without them), then sat on uncomfortable chairs to hear the Orchestre Les Solistes Francais perform a Mozart concerto and symphony at the church of St Germain des Pres.

We dined, as did Collette, apparently, Georges Sand, and Toulouse-Lautrec, at A La Petite Chaise, below, recommended by our hotel concierge and said to be the oldest restaurant in Paris — food and wine has been served since 1680 in the building, which itself dates to 1610.

Emery & Cie

1. Dossier presse Impressions EN copie

ONE E-MAIL LIST I’LL NEVER UNSUBSCRIBE FROM is Emery & Cie, a European textile and wallpaper company whose elegant designs and sophisticated color palettes always send me into a reverie of an alternate life in which I a) could afford these stunning, hand-crafted materials, and b) have a place to put them.

8. Dossier presse Impressions EN copie

The stuff is too formal for a beach cottage — mine, at least — but I do see it, gorgeously, in a brownstone parlor, dining room, or bedroom.

7. Dossier presse Impressions EN copie

The founder of the company is Belgian-born Agnes Emery. They have showrooms in Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, and London — all of which I feel very far away from as it sit here gazing at two deer munching away in my Long Island backyard. But finding the Emery & Cie summer 2010 collection in my e-mail inbox magically transports me to Europe for just a little while.

13. Dossier presse Impressions EN copie