New York from afar

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love New York. It’s the city I called home for many years, and still do. And it’s where I became who I am. When I return now, after living in Paris for 5 years (hard to believe!), I often find the city chaotic and cold, from the inside. It lacks the charm and class of Paris, in which you can walk the streets and lose yourself in it’s beauty. Certainly the energy and dynamism of New York makes up for anything it lacks. The skyline of NYC is unlike any in the world. And now, with the Freedom Tower standing tall, the city truly stands alone.

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When I arrived to NYC I was invited on a Circle Line tour with fellow travel bloggers.

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I very happily felt like a tourist and enjoyed the views as night fell upon the city that never sleeps.

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It was upon this vessel that I met Kirsten, a travel photographer & Stephen, who runs walking tours.

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And is was here, with lady liberty aglow, that my love for this urban jungle was felt most deeply.

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Once a New Yorker, always, whether near or far.

adventures down south

In mid-August my Italian and I decided to do like the Parisians, leave Paris to the tourists, and venture south. I had heard a lot about the unpretentious charm of France’s Cap Ferret, and was eager to discover it for myself. It has been likened to Montauk, the most unspoilt part of the Hamptons, where I grew up. Our first stop was lunch in a rainy but elegant Bordeaux. I know little of this city, this being my second visit, but look forward to becoming better acquainted in the future.

IMG_5619Rather than head directly to this trendy enclave, we stopped in Arcachon for a few days. Just enough time to meet with friends and climb the highest sand dunes in all of Europe.

IMG_5737The Dune du Pilat measures 107 meters high and I felt rather accomplished reaching the top!

IMG_5697We spent the afternoon climbing, jumping, running… and sitting beneath the late summer sun.

IMG_5968Our next stop was Cap Ferret. We settled in with a plate of oysters, local wine, and a view.

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The dominant mode of transport is by bike. And that is how we explored this little French paradise.

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I could immediately understand why it was compared to Montauk with it’s chic yet relaxed vibe.

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After many great meals including at the highly revered Chez Hortense, it was time to bid adieu.

IMG_6006Via boat and train we made our way back to Paris filled with sounds and tastes of the sea.

high tea for two

One reason I love when my mom comes to Paris to visit is that I get to spoil her. I spend months in preparation, planning all sorts of events, exhibitions, eating experiences, etc. This year I thought I’d surprise her with a mother/daughter high tea. Where better than at the Four Seasons George V?

IMG_1501Upon entering this ethereal setting, we were taken with Jeff Leatham’s stunning floral compositions.

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My mom and I were in our element, both of us favoring sweet over savory.

IMG_1454We began our indulgent afternoon with one of Lucien Gautier’s fruitful masterpieces.

IMG_1462Is there anything better than French pastries with champagne to compliment?

IMG_1480How happy I was to spend such a memorable afternoon with my mom, and in such sweet splendor!

 

Auvers-sur-Oise

This past spring when my mom came to visit, I thought about where to bring her. Last year we had explored Chantilly, and while it would have been a lovely time of year to visit Giverny, I opted to be more creative and we ventured to Auvers-sur-Oise. This commune, only about 27 kilometers northwest of Paris, was once home to the Impressionists. More specifically, Paul Cézanne, Charles-François Daubigny, Camille Pissarro, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and, Vincent van Gogh.

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IMG_1742This was a trip into Van Gogh’s life. It was incredible to be amidst the church that he once painted.

IMG_1744It is here that he rests alongside his brother Theo, who passed away only 6 months after Vincent.

IMG_1750The next stop was Château d’Auvers where we discovered a most insightful interactive journey into the lives of the Impressionists. A unique experience! Not to mention the breathtaking gardens…

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As the sun was setting we walked the length of the estate, reflecting on years long gone.

IMG_1820It was time to bid farewell to Auvers-sur-Oise. Like the artists before us, we headed back to Paris.

rive droite to rive gauche

Even before I moved to Paris I was always drawn to the rive droite, the right bank. That to me, is home. Everyone has a side, don’t they? When Habitat Parisien proposed that I experience life on the left bank (and in one of their gorgeous apartments with a stunning view) I didn’t think twice. Maybe this would turn me into a rive gauche girl?

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My apartment was situated in Saint Germain, close to Pont Neuf. I climbed up to the terrace just as the sun was setting… What a view! Sacre Coeur in the distance, beneath a sky unlike any other.

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I quickly made myself at home on rue Dauphine and contemplated never leaving this perfect perch.

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Is there anything more magical than the Paris sky at twilight?

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The next few days I spent evenings on my terrace, watching the sky change it’s hues, rosé in hand.

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So how was life on the left bank? It certainly gave me a new appreciation of Paris as I explored a lesser known neighborhood and often felt much like a tourist. My affinity for the rive gauche grew, but deep down I’m still a rive droite girl.

folks and sparrows

In the last few years, the coffee scene in Paris has really changed, or might I say improved. No longer a need to rely on muddy watered down coffee at corner bistros for that caffeine fix. Trendy little cafes and eateries are opening up all around Paris, serving up some of the best café cremes around. The latest such spot to hit the North Marais is Folks and Sparrows. I was curious to experience this newcomer, along with Mardi, friend and fellow coffee drinker.

FOLKS-BOUTIQUE2I arrived a little early and took interest in the design and details of the space. A carefully curated gourmet épicerie and lunch spot. Curious, I began speaking with the owner, a Brad Pitt look-alike. It turns out Franck lived in Brooklyn for 10 years, well versed in NY’s food culture as a manager at a trendy restaurant. Now it was time to open his own spot, lucky for us, back on his home turf.

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We spoke about New York and Paris (of course), and how the café and restaurant culture in Paris has evolved over the years, due to the French traveling more and returning home with their creative visions. Inspired by the American dream, perhaps? Yes, anything is possible.

Folks2And how was the coffee? Both Mardi and I agreed that it was delicious! Some of the best I’ve had in Paris. And in such a cozy yet uniquely chic space. Well done, Franck! I’ll soon be back for lunch.

Folks and Sparrows: 14 rue Saint Sebastien (open 10-7 daily, closed Mondays)

lost at sea

For the last 10 days I’ve been hiding out in Cinque Terre with friends and family. Did I realize that when I met my Italian, this enchanting land would become my home? No, but I am lucky that it is. Though I am most familiar with Monterosso, I love to explore the other villages whenever possible. On an overcast day, we decided to venture by train to Vernazza, considered by many the most spectacular. It will soon be 3 years since the flood, and the village looked more colorful than ever.

IMG_4394This time we walked the many steps up to Castello Doria and the views were breathtaking!

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IMG_4312After happily discovering a local shop to sell my bags, and an aperitif with a view at Gianni Franzi’s new terrace, we headed home to Monterosso. For more photos of our days in Italy, click here.

Peninsula paradise

In 1908, at the height of the Belle Époque, one of Paris’s most luxurious hotels opened at 19 Avenue Kléber in the 16ème arrond. Hotel Magestic was among the most elegant addresses in Paris and certainly a place to see and be seen! In the decades to follow, this late 19th century Haussmanian building lost it’s luster as it’s hotel doors closed and instead it housed various organizations.

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It was in 2008 that Katara Hospitality group decided to restore the building and create in it’s grand space the Peninsula Paris. I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview of this, the first Peninsula Hotel in all of Europe, and the 10th in the world.

Kleber EntranceI arrived to a red carpet, jazz musicians and champagne flowing! Following a presentation on the building’s history and the meticulous attention to detail in the restoration and modernization process, we met the highly skilled chefs & pâtissiers in charge of the hotel’s six dining options. Executive Chef Jean-Edern Hurstel’s “farm to table” philosophy is certain to please many a palate.

L'Oiseau Blanc Terrace copyPerhaps my favorite of the restaurants is L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird) situated on the rooftop. Is it here where I met the Marchand brothers, the hotel’s fromagiers, and tasted an exquisite goat’s cheese with a hint of rose. Following this dairy decadence I was served a dessert that I cannot even begin to describe, a creation by award-winning Chef Pâtissier Julien Alvarez. With a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower, I could envision the many lavish evenings that were soon to come to life in this new found paradise.

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As I toured the hotel, I took note of the many historic details. Some of France’s finest artisans were hand-picked to restore this grand structure to it’s former glory. Needless to say, what resulted in the 6 years of restoration is the ultimate in French craftsmanship.

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On August 1st the Peninsula Paris will welcome it’s first guests, in regal style. And in the days to follow I will certainly be one of them, at the least sipping a cocktail on a familiar terrace.

The King and I

When I was ten, my mom took me to see the Broadway musical Annie. That was the beginning. From Phantom of the Opera in NYC to Les Miserables in London… any chance I could get, I would lose myself in a magical, musical setting. Theatre, opera and ballet quickly followed. When I learned that The King and I was on in Paris (and in English) at the Théâtre du Châtelet, I didn’t think twice. This famed production by Rodgers and Hammerstein is based on the 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon, taking place in Siam in the early 1860s. A love story ensues.

king 053king 079 king 111 king 214 king 240 king 363 king 382 king 417 king 426 With powerful performances by Susan Graham and Lambert Wilson, and breathtaking set designs and costumes, not to mention the musical score and choreography, I was completely enchanted! Following a standing ovation, we left the theatre smiling and filled with melody. Encore!

Dîner en Blanc

This year I finally made it to the annual Dîner en Blanc. This invite-only secret dinner party began 25 years ago by a man named François Pasquier. He invited a few friends to the Bois de Boulogne on an evening in June, and asked that everyone bring another friend. All the attendees wore white in order to find one another more easily. (My friend Delphine’s parents were among the first dinner guests!) The event was a grand success and each successive year friends invited friends and it grew into a 10,000+ dinner party. I’ve always loved the idea of it, even given all the preparation ahead of time. Everyone attending must provide their own food, drink, even tables and chairs, and all must be white! Considering it’s not exactly legal, the prestigious location is disclosed just before the dinner actually begins. This year the grand event took place along 6 bridges. Our designated spot was close to Pont Alexandre III, with gorgeous views of the Grand Palais and Eiffel Tower.

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IMG_2563 IMG_2575 IMG_2586It was one of those magical nights spent with friends both old and new, wrapped in warm summer air and the setting sun, surrounded by the grandeur of Paris, that remains with you forever.

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Could there have been a more perfect setting? We’ll see where next year finds us.