Paris by Thierry Marx

A morning discovering favorite local haunts of one of Paris’ star chefs and bakers? Mais oui! Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of doing exactly that, with two star Michelin chef Thierry Marx. Our day began at his new bakery and cafe in the 8th arrondissement, La Boulangerie. After tasting a few of Marx’ many sweet specialties, I had a tour of the kitchen where I met the crew and watched them at work, learning a few tricks along the way.

IMG_1011 (1)

IMG_7320 (1)

I then hopped into my vintage Citroën 2CV and my beret clad driver navigated his way to our next stop Cafés Verlet, where Marx often drinks (and buys) his coffee. It was there where I tasted various intoxicating brews, both hot and cold, and learned exactly how specialized this family business, originating in the 20th century, really is. It was in 1965 that grandson Pierre Verlet began roasting coffees from all over the world. I even caught a glimpse of his son’s roasting method in their nearby coffee mill.

La Maison Verlet 2 La Maison Verlet

The next stop was a hidden gallery in Saint-Germain, another of Marx’ favorite haunts. Pause for a little visual stimulation. The last discovery before lunch was gastronomic bouquiniste Alain Suchet, his bookstand on display along the banks of the Seine. It is here where Thierry Marx acquires vintage cookbooks to add to his collection. With so many to choose from, I could have spent all afternoon browsing!

IMG_1081

For lunch I dined haute couture style at the Mandarin Oriental’s Sur Measure. It is here at Thierry Marx’ two Michelin star restaurant, where he “blends the technical and emotional aspects of cooking with sight, sound and taste.” What an experience, from the amuse bouche to the dessert. Emotional to say the least!

Sur Mesure

To find out more about Thierry Marx’ favorite spots to shop, dine and explore in the French capital, pick up a copy of Paris Marx Saveurs Capitale (in French). If you’re planning a trip to Paris, you can experience ‘Paris by Marx’ with a stay at the Mandarin Oriental. Find out more in my feature in France Today.

Insider’s Guide to Monterosso

IMG_9342

I first encountered Monterosso during my around-the-world journey in October of 2007. On a whim, I took the train from Santa Margherita and immediately became enamored with this soulful village set upon the Mediterranean. I spent five blissful days swimming in the sea; exploring the old town and tasting its culinary specialities; hiking from Riomaggiore to Vernazza, awed by the views. As I wrote in my travel blog, “I had discovered paradise.” As chance would have it, the handsome Italian I serendipitously met on the streets of Soho, NY in 2009, comes from this very land. Monterosso has since become a place I know and love well, through its people, culture and traditions. It was the scene of our wedding in 2011 and every summer we live ‘la dolce vita’. I feel grateful to call this part of the Italian Riviera my home, and to share it with those dear to me. As a Monterosso insider, I’m often asked where to dine, sleep, etc. Hence, I’ve decided to put together this Insider’s Guide to Monterosso.

TRAIN TRAVEL. Arriving to Monterosso al Mare from Pisa or Genoa takes about 1.5 hours via Trenitalia. From Milan allow for 3 hours. I would not recommend driving as aside from taxis and delivery vehicles, the village is car-free, and parking is sparse. Stepping out of the train you are in Fegina, the newer part of the village. Exiting the tunnel on the left will bring you to Monterosso, the old town, and what I consider the most charming.

WHEN TO VISIT. The Cinque Terre is composed of five vibrant villages, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso, built upon cliffs and once upon a time accessible only by sea or train. The region didn’t become a major international tourist destination until the 1990’s, thanks in part to Rick Steves who fell in love with the five lands, making his home in Vernazza. Now these villages, some with populations as small as 250, are bustling with tourists during the summer season, mainly due to day tripping visitors and those arriving to La Spezia by cruise ship. My advice is to visit during the quieter yet equally sunny months of April, May, September or October. The season is long and it’s always best to book accommodations in advance, especially for the summer months.

IMG_9957

WHERE TO SLEEP. There are numerous hotels and B&B’s in both Fegina and Monterosso. Here are my recommendations in the old town, all family run and filled with charm, rooms ranging in price from 100€-200€/night.

La Casa di Andrea: Five tastefully decorated double rooms with a garden and views of the village. Well worth the many steps up!

Bellambra: Four comfortable double rooms and one family apartment located in the heart of the old town, overlooking the main street.

Il Timone: Three cozy double rooms classically decorated, with sea views from the breakfast terrace. 100+ steps up from the village.

Il Maestrale: Several double rooms including a superior duplex room, all with views to the street below. Beautifully restored building from the 18th Century.

Hotel La Colonnina: Many double rooms including family rooms, some with terraces and views of the village. (Ask for a renovated room.) Lovely rooftop terrace with sea views.

IMG_9137

WHERE TO DRINK. The aperitivo is an integral part of life in Italy. Just before dinner, it’s a time to meet friends and engage in the life of the village. You’ll always be served a small snack to complement the drink.

Enoteca Eliseo: Follow the classical music to find this upscale wine bar in the heart of the village. With a wide selection of wines to choose from, including a Cinque Terre selection. I suggest the Lemon Spritz, a concoction they created in recent years. (Closed Tuesdays)

Eldorado: Want to mingle with the locals? Head to this pre-dinner or late night hotspot for one of their many cocktails or my latest favorite, the Saint-Germain Spritz.

Bar Alga: Before sunset, make your way to this beachside bar for a fresh Pina Colada served in a pineapple.

La Tortuga: For a seaside aperitivo head to La Tortuga on the cliff between Monterosso and Fegina. Lorenzo will greet you with a smile. Warning: you may cancel your dinner plans.

Bar Eden: Located right on the beach in Fegina, the sea views don’t get much better. If you’re not in the mood for a cocktail, ask for an affogato al caffe, a coffee with ice cream.

Hotel Porto Roca: For the best aperitivo views of Monterosso from above, climb the path leading to Vernazza and you’ll arrive to this 4-star hotel with an outdoor terrace.

IMG_9955

WHERE TO DINE. With so many restaurants serving similar dishes that look equally appetizing, it’s hard to know where to dine. I can’t say that I’ve tried them all, but I do have my favorites that continue to top the list, year after year. During the busy season reservations are a must!

Ristorante Ciak: Opened in 1974, the owner and chef Ciak will usually be found in the open kitchen wearing his signature sailors uniform. Ample space to dine both inside and out. Make sure to try his famous seafood risotto! (Closed Wednesdays +39 018 781 7014)

Il Casello: Situated seaside, this picturesque dining spot for both lunch and dinner serves local specialties including trofie al pesto and fresh anchovies. The owner Bacco will be happy to suggest a dish and might even share the recipe with you. (+39 333 492 7629)

L’Ancora della Tortuga: Located inside a cliff on the path between Monterosso and Fegina, this restaurant is one not to miss. During the summer months you can dine al fresco, away from the crowds of the village. Ask for their divine seafood antipasto misto, you’ll thank me! (Closed Mondays +39 187 800 065)

Ristorante Miky: This elegant family run restaurant opened in 1980, was once a pizzeria, and has since evolved into the destination for ‘haute cuisine’ dining in Fegina. The presentation alone will impress you, not to mention the cooking. I’m a great fan of the constantly changing antipasti and grilled calamari, or try the tuna, or the seafood risotto. Honestly, you can’t go wrong. (+39 0187 817608)

La Cantina di Miky: If you’re looking for something more casual in Fegina, the Miky family more recently opened another restaurant with both seaside seats and a spacious cantina. Their dishes are a creative take on the classics, with a wide selection of local wines to choose from. If you run into the owner’s wife Christine, she’ll be happy to advise you. (+39 018 780 2525)

IMG_9939

LOCAL SPECIALTIES. All twenty regions of Italy boast local products and dishes. Which ones are the Cinque Terre known for? Here are the must try specialties in Monterosso. I tried to keep it short, as you could easily spend all day eating!

Focaccia: The best can be found at Il Massimo de la Focaccia in Fegina.

Anchovies: Fried, stuffed, salted, with lemon, in pasta… try them in all their preparations.

Farinata: Head to Il Frantoio in Monterosso’s old town to try this chick pea delicacy.

Pan Frito con Formaggio: Fried bread with cheese? Yes please! Also found at Il Frantoio.

Pesto: One of Liguria’s  healthiest specialities, a must try is the pasta dish ‘trofie al pesto’.

Rice Cakes: A perfect option for lunch. Go to Midi Bar in Monterosso for a taste.

Sciacchetrà: A delicious local sweet wine. Read all about how it’s made here.

Cannoli: The Northern Italian version of heaven, the best can be found at Pasticceria Laura.

IMG_9475

BEST OF. I couldn’t put together a list of favorites without including my ‘best of’, could I?

Focaccia: Il Massimo de la Focaccia has ‘right out of the oven’ focaccia in many varieties. Perfect for lunch.

Pizza: Il Fornaio is a focacceria in Fegina that recently added pizza to its menu, made with all natural local ingredients.

Gelato: Midi Bar in the old town makes its own artisanal flavors, while Slurp in Fegina will awaken your taste buds with flavors including lemon and fig. Why not have two?

Pastries: Pasticceria Laura is THE spot for anything sweet. Must tries are the aforementioned cannoli and the torta Monterossina. Freshly baked by Laura herself every morning.

Cappuccino: It’s hard to find a bad cappuccino in Italy. Midi Bar and Bar Eden are two of my favorites.

Souvenirs: You can certainly take home jars of pesto and a lemon or two, but what about ceramic anchovies? These and other pottery, all handmade in Monterosso, can be found at Fabric d’Arte‘s two locations in the old town. I already have quite a collection!

Of course you’ll want to explore the rest of Cinque Terre too. You can take a train, boat or hike to the neighboring villages. Definitely worth a visit! If you’re already familiar with the five lands, I suggest a train to the less touristic and charming villages of Camogli or Sestri Levante. By boat you can visit historic Portovenere or Portofino. More information on day trips and hikes can be found here.

In case you need help planning your trip, my friends at Bella Vita Travels will be happy to assist. Buon viaggio and enjoy my home in Italy!

PARIS PICKS : Italian eats part I

Massara

The French love pizza. All Italian food in fact. And you’ll easily find Italian restaurants and pizzerias all over the city. But how good is la pizza in Paris? Depends on if you’ve been to the BEST pizzeria in the city where pizza originated, Naples, Italy. (Luckily I have, twice even. Here’s my guide for those planning a trip.) L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele certainly takes the cake, or should I say pie, when it comes to simple and absolutely delicious pizza. Started in 1870 and passed on through five generations, their secret is “using natural ingredients and an old, traditional, time-tested method of leavening the pizza dough.” In case you can’t make it to Naples, there are a few places I’d recommend that almost make you feel like you’re in Italy. Keep in mind that I’m a tough critic, married to an Italian after all. And since I’m currently in Italy indulging in my share of pizza, where you can follow me on instagram, twitter and snapchat, I thought the timing was fitting. Here they are in no particular order, all scattered around the right bank. Reason enough to venture to my side of Paris.

Recommended by trusted Italians, we quickly grew to love Ciacco, located on a quiet street in the evolving 10th. With simple decor and staff who remember us upon entering, it almost feels like dining with family. Many great traditional pizza options and they also do take away.

Ciacco // 9 rue Rene Boulanger 75010 // Tues-Sat 12-2:30, 7:30-11 // 01 42 06 38 07

With a spacious outdoor terrace and two floors of seating, la Massara is at once inviting and intimate. Run by a friendly Italian staff, you have plenty of pizza options to choose from, some with buffalo mozzarella and an assortment of white pizzas. They also have another location in Nice.

la Massara // 70 rue de Turbigo 75003 // Daily 12-2:30, 7:15-11 // 01 42 74 13 94

For expertly mixed cocktails and hearty pizza in a variety of tastes (including one with lardo, read all about my discovery of this delicacy here) head to Grazie where you’ll be welcomed with a “buona serra.” This trendy spot near the Marais is perfect for a girls (or boys) night, just be sure to reserve and arrive early to claim the coveted window seats.

Grazie // 91 Boulevard Beaumarchais 75003 // Mon-Fri 12:30–2:307:30–11, Sat/Sun 12:30-11:30 // 01 42 78 11 96

One of the latest Italian restaurants to open it’s doors is Ober Mamma. This trendy hotspot serves a traditional Milanese aperitivo with every cocktail order, perfect for the often lengthy wait. They don’t take reservations so be sure to arrive early and enjoy the convivial atmosphere. Rumor has it that one of the pizza makers comes from da Michele.

Ober Mamma // 107 boulevard Richard Lenoir 75011 // Daily 12:15-2:15/3:30, 6/7-1AM // 01 43 41 32 15

Ober Mamma

For pizza that doesn’t try to be Italian but is worthy in its own right, head to Pink Flamingo, now with four locations in Paris, in the 3rd, 10th, 12th and 18th. (Also with outposts in Valencia, Spain and Amsterdam.) You’ll find flavors including fig and chevre and a daily pizza du jour. They also do take away and delivery.

I’ll be sure to include any other worthy pizza that I discover during my eating adventures in Paris. And if you have any favorites, please let me know! Coming soon will be favorite Italian restaurants, we still have a few to try… until then buon appetito!

bon voyage

IMG_8475 (1)

Perhaps it’s because I grew up traveling that I don’t think much about getting on a plane and visiting another country. Actually, I thrive on it. There’s nothing like discovering a foreign land and getting to know its people, cuisine and customs. The ways in which travel can expand your mind are innumerous! Lately, with so much turmoil in the world, and heartache in my very own beloved countries of France and the United States, fewer people are crossing continents. I understand the uncertainty of being a “stranger in a strange land” and the potential threats we are faced with, but I choose not to live by this fear. Having experienced 9/11 in New York City and more recently the attacks in Paris, I realize how fragile life can be. I’ve also come to realize that it must be lived fully, with caution, but without fear. “Carpe Diem” as the saying goes. In the end, it’s a choice we make. I will continue walking these beautiful streets of Paris in peace, meeting friends for an evening apéro, shopping at our local markets, conducting my workshops and fashion tours… and getting on a train or plane as often as possible. And I hope you too will continue to travel and expand your horizons. If you have any doubts, I’m happy to convince you otherwise.

As you plan your next trip, here’s an informative article about safe travel from Bella Vita Travels. Bon voyage!

summer in the city

For those of us staying in Paris or visiting the City of Lights in August, the month when most Parisians leave town and head to their preferred holiday destinations, where to go to get away from the crowds and relax beneath the late summer sun? Thankfully, I’ve discovered a few favorite spots that I’m happy to share with you.

IMG_8643

The annual Paris Plages along the banks of the Seine is back for its 14th year, with plenty of spots in which to lounge, and with some of the most impressive views in all of Paris. Sand at your feet and rosé in hand, not a bad way to relax. You can also take a dance or tai-chi class or play pétanque. From the Louvre to Pont de Sully, this year it lasts even longer, ending September 4th. 

IMG_8626

One of my favorite discoveries has been the Jardin à l’heure d’été (summer garden) at the Swedish Institute in the Marais. By simply borrowing a book, you sit on the ample lawn all day, lounging in the sun. There’s a cafe for snacks and smoothies, Swedish of course. With activities for kids, there are plenty of toddlers running around. Entrance is at 10 rue Elzévir. Open Wednesdays to Sundays from 12:30 to 7:30 until August 25th.

perchoir3

If sipping cocktails on a rooftop is your idea of a night well spent, then I’ll meet you at Le Perchoir in the Marais. “Hidden” on the rooftop of department store BHV, this urban escape is the hotspot of the summer, if you don’t mind waiting on line to experience the sunset vista. There are a few locations including the new Le Perchoir de l’est, in the east of Paris. Entrance on 37 rue de la Verrerie. Open from Tuesday to Saturday 8.15pm to 2am, and Wednesdays 9.15pm to 2am well into September.

IMG_8727

A new addition to Paris’ rooftop scene is the recently installed terrace at Galeries Lafayette, where the Cube Bar greets you with a spacious lounge, down tempo tunes and breathtaking views. With an assortment of champagne cocktails and Mediterranean appetizers, it’s the perfect spot to take a shopping break and take in the city. Located on the 7th floor at 40 Boulevard Haussmann, from 10am to 8pm until August 20th.

IMG_8729

For those in Paris, enjoy your summer in the city!

The Dream Life of Michael Pereira

_DSC7528Last year, along the expat path in Paris, I met one of the most positive and inspiring people I’ve come to call my friend. Right away I was attracted to his unique, vibrant energy and was intrigued to hear his story. And could some of his positivity rub off on me, please? (Often it does.) His name is Michael Pereira, though I choose to call him ‘Miracle Michael’, for reasons you’ll soon understand. He is truly living his dream in Paris, dancing and singing his way to the top, having created his own stage on which to perform. What’s more, Michael has close ties to spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson who I’m a great fan of. (We both recently heard her speak in Paris.) But this tale is about Michael.

How did I come to live my dream in Paris?  It’s a long story….well, not really.   I was once a real New Yorker.  You know one of “those” New Yorkers.  I would even go a step further…I was a Manhattanite.  Yes, one of those snobs that thought living in Brooklyn was akin to living in Minnesota or if someone asked me to go see them in Queens I would say, “Do I need my passport?”  I was going to live in Manhattan forever.  However 8 Years ago I had the opportunity to visit Paris and the city enraptured me.  From that point on, I visited Paris every year at least once a year.  During one of these visits as I was packing to return to my beloved Manhattan and I heard this little whisper that said, “Don’t go.”  I was baffled by this voice.  I let it go and returned to the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.  Shortly after returning from that trip, I started becoming obsessed with Paris.  Searching the Internet everyday for what was going on there…apartments…festivals…new restaurants and so on.   I kept returning to Paris and every time I was there I would have this same feeling/voice saying “Stay, don’t go back to NYC.”

That whisper you keep hearing is the universe trying to get your attention. – Oprah Winfrey

I have a secret to tell, I am a meditator.  So one day in my meditation, I asked what does this thought mean “don’t go?”  What I received or heard or felt (however you want to say it) was this, “There in something in Paris that you must learn and you can only learn it there.”  Pardonez-moi?  I was puzzled but I didn’t question it.  After this, I became more obsessed with this city and was determined to live there for at least 6 months.  At that time, it was not a possibility however 2 years ago the world presented me the opportunity to live in Paris for 3 months.  I leap at the chance and was as happy as a pig in mud.  I arrived to Paris and I was living in a Chateauneuf-du-Pape dream filled with baguettes, croissants, and macaroons.  After being in Paris for as little less than a month, I made the crazy decision to stay.

_DSC3619

When you learn, teach.  When you get, give – Maya Angelou

My next thought was  “what will I do for work?”  I know! I would teach dance.  I was a Broadway dancer and had already taught all over the USA.  So I thought, this is a no-brainer.  I will start a class and it will be packed.  I was fortunate to already have set up some classes at 2 of Paris’ most famous dance studios.  I was sure that they would be sold-out.  Aaaah American arrogance.  On the day of my 1st class at the Centre de Danse du Marais I had the grand total of zero students.  LE OUCH!  I brushed it off and decided that it was a gift from the universe as it was my birthday and now I could go meet a new friend for a drink.  The next day came and I had 1 student, the next 0, the next 1, then 2, then for the rest of the month it would vary from 2 to 6 students.  I was disappointed but not discouraged.  I had met an American Expat and she said that she would recommend me as an English teacher at a high level school in Paris and that would help make money too.  Ok, so I thought, “”I will survive.”  I had been surviving in NYC, so now I will do the same in Paris.  No big deal.

But I did have my moments of fear.  “What happens if I fail?”  “What will happen if I can’t pay my rent?”  Oh la la!  I am lucky to have a strong support system lead by my Godmom.  She said, “If you are happy you will have no choice that to succeed.”  I trust her, so I decided “Ok Michael, onward.”  I started teaching English and I continued to teach dance where I could.  At first as a substitute when other teachers couldn’t teach and then Studio Harmonic would offer me a week here or there during vacation times.  Little by little, my classes started filling up.  10 people, 15 people.  WOW!  I was thrilled.   Then one day, I had this crazy idea that I should start a ½ day workshop on a Sunday.  I would offer a taste of American style musical theatre training.  The director of the studio wasn’t into it as they had never done anything like this but she said let’s try.  Well, it sold out in one week.  Et voila, that was the real start of Broadway In Paris.

_DSC7255

Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. – A Course in Miracles

You know, I never thought in a million years that I would be living a dream life but here I am.  I believe something powerful happens to a person when failure isn’t an option.  I had to succeed.  I had to pay my rent.   I never wanted to be a teacher.  I wanted to be a star.  A big fat Broadway star with my name above the title.  Now, that never happened, I had some very rough times in NYC.  I had some really wonderful and glamorous times too but a lot of rough ones.  New York, I tell people, is like a wild animal.  You tame it and ride it or it will throw you off itself and eat you alive.  Weirdly enough, I was loosing strength and scared that NYC might bite me.  I digress; I started teaching in the States to help pay the bills when I wasn’t performing.  But little by little, I started loving it.  I loved sharing the knowledge that I acquired.  I was always a seeker of knowledge and still am.  In the performing arts I want to sing better, have deeper emotions, dance faster and bigger, etc.  So along the way, I learned from some of the best.  I also applied this desire for knowledge to life spiritually and emotionally.  I started combining these to things and saw that it was working.

If a train doesn’t stop at your station, then it’s not your train. – Marianne Williamson

When I started teaching in Paris, I just continued doing what I did in the states.  Being me.  Helping my students fulfill their potential.  Seeing them in their greatest light.  Infusing every situation with love.  Uplifting people.  Teaching them a different way of looking at things.  Creating a safe space.  I am a deeply spiritual guy and I firmly believe that miracles occur naturally as expressions of love.  So I try to fill everything I do with love.  It seems to be working miracles for me.  I am so grateful that this City of Light decided open it’s arms to me and shine its light on me.

Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others. – Marianne Williamson

At this time, I am really excited to start my expanding my teaching to more and different classes at Studio Harmonic, including Broadway Jazz, Tap and Ballet expanding my private voice studio and song interpretation workshops, continuing my teaching in the Studio International’s musical theatre program and my jazz concerts.  I have also been invited to teach workshops outside of Paris and I have a few other surprises up my sleeve.  Plus, coming my jazz concerts.  I really love doing those.  I take Broadway songs and do them in a jazz style.

I am ready for more miracles in the City of Light.

_DSC7545

Thank you for sharing your story, Michael. You can find his inspiring words on his blog, Michael’s Year of Miracles, and learn more about his dancing classes on his website Broadway In Paris. I’ll need to dust off my tap dancing shoes one day and join the fun… He also sings Broadway show tunes at local Paris venues including Club Rayé.

Be sure to follow Broadway in Paris on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and also follow the adventures of Michael himself on Twitter and Instagram. He’s certain to inspire a miracle or two in your own life.

 

1 2 3 4 84