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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

freedom tower

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During a recent family trip to New York, I decided it was time to visit the Freedom Tower, also called the One World Observatory. I lived in New York City during the attacks of 9/11 and remember this day vividly. The landscape of my city, much like the lives of those who experienced this tragic event, would never be the same.

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The Freedom Tower is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth-tallest in the world. From high up on the 102nd floor I looked down upon this majestic city I call home, with stunning 360 degree views into what felt like infinity.

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My eyes filled with tears as I returned to ground level and walked around the memorial, the names of each victim etched into stone. Behind each name a unique story, a life cut short. I felt extreme gratitude for my own.

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The day was overcast with moments of sun shining through the clouds. As we made our way to South Street Seaport for lunch, I held images of this monumental structure in my mind, both from above and below. A tribute to those who will forever belong to this city.

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villages of the Luberon

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I had last visited the Luberon with it’s picture perfect villages during my around-the-world travels in 2007. Having such vivid memories, I was eager to return and continue to explore this region, this time with my Italian in tow. Our first stop was the village of Roussillon at the foot of the Vaucluse mountains, famous for it’s ochre cliffs and infinite shades of red and orange.

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Without a set plan in mind, we decided to explore Lacoste. Love at first sight! This picturesque old mountain village felt like stepping into a movie set. It was nearly deserted, with so many cobbled corners to explore. We managed to find a little cafe for lunch while admiring the views.

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Our next stop was the equally charming walled village of Ménerbes. Here we stopped for a coffee and chatted with fellow tourists who were also on the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur path of discovery.

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There’s only so much you can see in a day, and it was nearing time to head back to Paris. Along the way we passed the once Roman village of Gordes, with breathtaking views from the road. A must see!

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Our final stop was the Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey, which still houses a community of Cistercian monks. We stocked up on lavender in their boutique and walked the length of  this historic landscape.

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We returned to Paris with scents of lavender and honey and visions of hilltop villages. Until next time…

Coquillade Village

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Arriving to Coquillade Village feels like arriving to a majestic Tuscan villa, welcomed by cypress trees, only this 100 acre Relais & Châteaux property is located in the heart of the Luberon in Provence, with views of the Vaucluse Mountains and Mont Ventoux. It’s location was historically the site for migrating birds, including the crested lark (Couquihado in Provençal), hence the name. Surrounded by vineyards and fields of lavender, this complex of 63 rooms and suites dates back to the 11th century, with most of it augmented and restored in recent years. Very eagerly we settled into our new home, ready to take in the views and its many luxuries.

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It was hard to leave our Luxury Suite as we relaxed on the terrace, tasting the local rosé grown in their 89 acres of vineyards. I made a mental note to take a tour and arrange a tasting session during our stay. Back to the room… did I mention we had our own jacuzzi and sauna? More reason not to leave. No attention to detail or comfort was spared! While my Italian went for a run through the vines, I made sure to visit the Coquillade SPA, 1500m2 of serenity for both mind and body, created in 2015. It was hard to leave the eucalyptus hammam! But I was eager to explore the premises and discover exactly what lay within the walls of this “village”.

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What I discovered were charming Provençal villas discreetly scattered throughout the property, all revealing private rooms with terraces. There were three restaurants on the premises, Gourmet run by two Gault & Millau head chefs, Ristorante, an Italian establishment, and Bistro with a Mediterranean inspired menu. The latter of these is where we opted to dine al fresco, our backdrop a pastel colored sunset beyond the vineyards. Chef Christophe Renaud certainly left an impression, not to mention pastry Chef René Solnon with his masterful desserts. I’ve always had a weakness for sweets.

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Following a visit to nearby Roussillon (more on that later), we spent a sunny afternoon lounging by one of the two heated swimming pools. I envisioned a game of tennis or perhaps the beloved French game of pétanque, but time was limited. We eagerly visited the “BMC Cycling Center” with ambitious goals to ride to a neighboring town, I planned to test out an electric bike, but we chose instead to relax within the charm of Coquillade, followed by a driving tour. We were on holiday after all.

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It was certainly hard to bid farewell to Coquillade Village with its friendly staff and luxurious amenities. But we were in the Luberon after all and had come to explore. Where to next? Stay tuned…

 

24 hours in Avignon

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Last weekend we celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary with a trip to Provence. How better to spend such a special occasion than traveling amidst one of the most beautiful settings in France? Our adventures started in Avignon. With only 24 hours to spare, we spent as much time as possible getting lost within the town’s 4.3 kilometers of stone ramparts, viewing modern art, admiring historic landmarks and dining on Provençal specialties. So, how best to spend a day in this 14th century city of art and culture? Here are a few ideas.

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STAY in the heart of the town overlooking the main square at Hotel l’Horloge.

VISIT the impressive collection of modern and contemporary art at Collection Lambert.

VISIT the fortress and palace Palais des Papes, the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century.

DINE at creatively inspired modern bistro L’Agape off the tourist track tucked in a charming square.

DRINK a glass of rosé (or Châteauneuf-du-Pape) in the outdoor cafes overlooking the Palais des Papes.

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The following day we hit the road, first stop the small village of Fontaine de Vaucluse. After the a decadent lunch in the most charming garden, we explored the Sorgue river. France’s most powerful spring (and the world’s fifth most powerful), this river supplies the region with water, emerald green and dazzling to the eye!

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Next it was time to settle into our stunning home in the Luberon…

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