Paris Picks: Coffee Shops

In the last few years, a new coffee culture has made its way to Paris. Once upon a time you could only order a mediocre café noisette (espresso with hot milk) at a bistro counter, or for a little extra, sit on a terrace nursing a scalding café crème (the French version of a latte). Thankfully for us coffee connoisseurs, things have changed and a good coffee is not so hard to find, due to expat baristas brewing top roasts. But you must know where to look. Here is a list of my favorite coffee shops all over Paris, some of which are conveniently located in my North Marais neighborhood. (Café date, anyone?) In addition to stellar coffee, most offer free WiFi.

Télescope: 5 Rue Villedo, 75001 / Monday-Friday 8:30-5 / Saturday 9:30-6:30 / Sunday Closed

Café Kitsuné:  51 Galerie Montpensier, 75001 / Monday-Friday 10-6 / Saturday-Sunday 10-6:30

Café Loustic: 40 Rue Chapon, 75003 / Monday-Friday 8:30-6 / Saturday-Sunday 10-6

Fragments: 76 Rue des Tournelles, 75003 / Monday-Friday 8-6 / Saturday-Sunday 10-6

Fondation Café: 16 Rue Dupetit-Thouars, 75003 / Monday-Friday 8-6 / Saturday-Sunday 9-6

The Broken Arm: 12 Rue Perrée, 75003 / Tuesday-Saturday 9-6 / Sunday-Monday Closed

Boot Café: 19 Rue du Pont aux Choux, 75003 / Monday-Sunday 10-6

La Caféothèque: 52 Rue de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004 / Monday-Friday 8:30-7:30 / Saturday-Sunday 10-7:30

Coutume Café: 47 Rue de Babylone, 75007 / Monday-Friday 8:30-5:30 / Saturday-Sunday 9-6

Honor Cafe: 54 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 / Monday-Friday 9-6 / Saturday 10-6 / Sunday Closed

KB Café Shop: 53 Avenue Trudaine, 75009 / Monday-Friday 7:45-6:30 / Saturday-Sunday 9-6:30

Blackburn Coffee: 52 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, 75010 / Monday-Friday 9-6 / Saturday-Sunday 10-7

Peonies Café: 81 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010 / Tuesday-Saturday 9-8 / Sunday 10-4 / Monday Closed

Ten Belles: 10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010 / Monday-Friday 8-5 / Saturday-Sunday 9-6

Folks and Sparrows: 14 Rue Saint-Sébastien, 75011 / Tuesday-Saturday 10-6 / Sunday-Monday Closed

Café Oberkampf: 3 Rue Neuve Popincourt, 75011 / Monday, Thursday-Friday 8:30-4:30 / Saturday-Sunday 9:30-4:30 / Tuesday-Wednesday Closed

Passager: 107 Avenue Ledru-Rollin, 75011 / Tuesday-Saturday 8:30-6:30 / Sunday-Monday Closed

Hardware Société: 10 Rue Lamarck, 75018 / Monday, Wednesday-Friday 9-4 / Saturday-Sunday 9:30-4:30 / Tuesday Closed

Lomi: 3 ter Rue Marcadet, 75018 / Monday-Sunday 10-7

CREAM: 50 Rue de Belleville, 75020 / Monday-Friday 8:30-5:30 / Saturday-Sunday 9:30-5:30

Courchevel 1850

Last week I discovered the most chic winter destination in France. Courchevel is a ski resort in the French Alps. Part of Les Trois Vallées, it’s the largest in the world. Courchevel alone is made of up of three levels, the highest being 1850 meters up in the mountains. This was where we were headed. Having only skied in the U.S. and Italy, I was looking forward to the adventure.

Just over three hours after leaving Paris I arrived to hotel Le Strato, set high up in the mountains. This five-star alpine hideaway revealed stunning views of the Alps, with skiers passing by on the paths just outside my window. I was in snow-capped heaven! I breathed in the fresh mountain air as I settled into my luxurious room.

This family run hotel is one-of-a-kind. Opened in 2009 by “a young lady of over 80,” it was the realization of a dream for Jeannine Boix-Vives. It’s named for the Strato skis that had contributed so much to the Rossignol brand’s fame, a company once owned by Jeannine and her family. As she so wisely states “dreaming alone will not determine your destiny.” Every detail in the 25 suites is taken into consideration, from the elegant modern decor to the unique comforts (catching up on the news from the bathtub, for one). The unrivaled spa uses Sothys products and features two saunas, a steam-room, jacuzzi, gym and indoor pool. (My signature massage was heavenly!) I was thrilled too, to take an invigorating yoga class, adding to the bliss I already felt.

Symbolic of the three generations running Le Strato, family paintings hang in the library, dining room and along the corridors, complimented by wooden sculptures and artwork collected from around the world.

What makes Le Strato even more of a haute destination is its Michelin-starred gastronomy.  Restaurant Baumanière 1850 is run by Jean-André Charial (owner of the famous Michelin 2-star restaurant l’Oustau de Baumanière in Baux-de-Provence). With executive chef Lowell Mesnier working closely with chef Glenn Viel and Jean-André Charial, the food alone is worth the trip. Having already tasted Glenn’s cuisine on my visit to Baumanière, I knew I would dine like a queen. Every evening I looked forward to the gourmet feast following a cocktail at the cozy bar, live music filling the space. Breakfast in the same regal setting was an introduction into local tastes.

Ready to discover the mountains, I headed to the ski room for my gear, booked a teacher to guide me through the slopes and headed down the hill directly from the hotel. With many blue pistes to choose from, as well as a handful of red for those more advanced, I felt completely at ease. This was paradise!

Guided by the sun, we skied the smooth snow all the way down to the village and took the chair lift back up, with views of Mont Blanc in the distance. It took a few years, but finally I was feeling that ski high unique to those dedicated to the sport. I was elated and couldn’t wait to return with my expert Italian skier!

I even encountered art in the mountains during my first ever racket walk, a healthy alternative to skiing. “Doggy John” by painter and sculptor Julien Marinetti stands 175 cm at 2238 meters high.

Before the return to Paris I took a petit pause on the terrace, filled with gratitude at having experienced this tasteful family chalet that honored one woman’s life, while providing happiness to so many others.

Gluten-Free Paris

In the last few years, Paris has gone on a health kick, adding dozens of natural grocery stores and bio cafes to its wellness roster. It’s easier than ever to find a freshly pressed juice or vegan burger. But what about those restricted to a gluten-free diet? This is where one of my friends & fellow expats comes in. I first met Chiara before moving to Paris, when we were both working in advertising. Last year our paths reconnected, and since then this soulful Italian has taught me much about the art of gluten-free eating. Chiara is the expert, after all.

To help others with similar dietary restrictions discover the ever expanding gluten-free side of Paris, Chiara started a blog, Baci di Dama Living Gluten Free. Here she writes about the best sans gluten restaurants, bakeries and cafes in the City of Lights, anything and everything gluten-free. Her photos alone will make you salivate. She even sells pasta and other gluten-free products on her site, and is perfecting her very own bread. (Italians do love their bread!) You can also find an array of recipes on her website, and prepare your own gluten-free feast. There’s no reason not to indulge in the French (or Italian) way of life! Chiara even shares the stories of those behind the gluten-free worlds of Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, Madrid, Brussels and beyond.

Did I mention that she offers custom Gluten-Free Tours? She also collaborates with Airbnb and has designed the above bag in one of my workshops. (Photos by Nicole Flack.) On a recent morning, I asked Chiara to take me along on her food tour, curious to know if these desserts she raves about really do compare with traditional gluten-filled patisseries.  We started the day at an eatery I didn’t know but quickly grew to love, Lula in the 10th. I’ve never tasted something as delicous (and healthy) as their acai bowl. (I’ve since been back several times for their fresh juices and salads.) From there we stopped by an Italian epicerie to look into their gluten-free selection, and then it was time for lunch. And dessert.

Chiara chose the newly opened Sitron in the fashionable 2nd. Not only is this a charming lunch spot where we feasted on delicious wraps, but the skilled pâtissier creates some of the most exquisite cakes I’ve ever seen, and tasted. I opted for the caramel concoction and loved every gluten-free bite! With or without gluten, life in Paris is certainly a sweet one. Where to next, Chiara? Follow her adventures via Instagram and Facebook.

Faena District

Having been to Miami over a dozen times for both work and play (namely Art Basel for the latter), I usually found myself nestled into a hotel in South Beach, along with everyone else who escaped to this sunny enclave. This time however, I explored a new area, removed from the crowds and with a charm and distinction all its own. Ten minutes north of South Beach in Mid-Beach sits the recently coined Faena district, Miami’s latest It spot. Having experienced the Faena Hotel in Buenos Aires, I could already envision the artful grandeur. Making a name for itself in late 2014 thanks to Argentian entrepreneur Alan Faena and his NY based business partner, this district includes two hotels and a performing arts theater.  I was eager to discover the historic boutique hotel Casa Claridge’s, or Casa Faena, once an apartment building built in 1926.

Upon entering you feel transported to another world, one in Spain or even Morocco. The luminous library in the hotel’s inner courtyard is well-equipped with literature and design books. I could easily have spent the afternoon here, or reading on the roof deck, but there was a beach umbrella calling my name. We quickly settled into our room, a spacious King with balcony and views to the beach, the next stop.

Little makes me happier than a shady spot in front of the sea. With so many festivals and activities going on during Miami’s high-season, we were still able to avoid the crowds and revel in what felt like a private beach. Once the sun set we headed to the laid-back Broken Shaker, a stellar bar nearby that opened in 2012, and dined at their new 27 restaurant. The next morning we were back on the beach, with just a quick walk to the Faena family’s latest addition, Hotel Faena, opened a year ago.


This modern hotel, a contrast to complement its historic predecessor, was just the place I’d like to check-in to for a few more days. Complete with gym, spa, pool and two gourmet restaurants, there was much to discover. And let’s not forget the neighboring Faena Theater, reminiscent of Old Hollywood. A destination unto itself, was there really any reason to ever leave the Faena District?

Art + Fashion

What could be better than shopping in the midst of an art exhibition? Art and fashion, two of my favorites. Today I discovered both at Le Bon Marché, Paris’s first (and most exclusive) department store founded in 1838.

Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota‘s in-store exhibition titled “Where are we going?” begins on the ground floor where the artist has spun 300,000 yards of white thread throughout a designated space. It’s both calming and perplexing as you wander through this white abyss. I was so mesmerized, I almost forgot that I had come to shop. All 10 window displays too are filled with the artist’s web, some with ancient maps.

The celestial element of this exhibition by Chiharu Shiota is visually poetic. The symbolism stayed with me long after I had left the store. It comprises 150 white boats carried on a wave and invites us to be amazed but also to question. The artist establishes an analogy between human life and travel: people set off for an unknown destination, crossing an ocean of experiences, emotions, encounters and memories. Chiharu Shiota evokes a fresh start, while keeping the itineraries open: “Life is a voyage with no destination”.

For those in Paris, this exhibition that was meant to close on February 18th, will continue until April 2nd.

 

The Velvet Hours

During these seven years living my own love story in the City of Lights, I’ve read quite a few others. One of the most romantic tales to date is the latest novel by international bestselling author Alyson Richman.

The Velvet Hours takes you into the lives of two women in very different circumstances, connected by a common thread. Inspired by the true account of an abandoned Parisian apartment, Richman composes a glamorous love story set in the period of the Belle Epoque. In colorful accounts of her life, Marthe de Florian recounts this story to granddaughter Solange. Marthe describes herself as A  woman of the demi-monde, the half-world. Caught between beauty and darkness. In some ways trapped, but in other ways completely free.

As the mysterious life of this beautiful courtesan is revealed to her, Solange tries to make sense of her own. She finds refuge in the company and stories of her grandmother as Germany invades France and Europe prepares for war. In time, she learns the secrets of her family history, and discovers her own unique path.

In lieu of Valentine’s Day, I share this book with you, written in Richman’s characteristic poetic prose. You can easily imagine yourself walking the streets of Paris, intertwined between the lives of Marthe and Solange. The Velvet Hours is certain to become a favorite of any romantic Francophile.

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