Paris in Bloom

Spring has made its way to Paris! And with it comes the charm of discovering cobbled paths that lead to secret gardens, where you can sit for hours and lose yourself with a good book, or better yet, a good friend.

A favorite of these spots can be found in the Marais, of course. Where exactly? 60 Rue des Francs Bourgeois.

The Archives Nationales is the heart of Parisian history since 1808. Within two regal buildings, Hôtel de Soubise and the Hôtel de Rohan, all the pre-French Revolution archives are stored. Upon entering, you discover an enchanting space hidden within a bustling city.

Pass through the small entrance on the north side of the courtyard, and the scenery quickly changes from architectural marvels to verdant landscapes. A maze-like path weaves through fountains and rock formations. The four gardens you encounter were designed by French landscape architect Louis Benech, also known for the Tuileries Gardens. Have a seat on one of the benches surrounded by the scent of roses, and enjoy this clandestine Parisian paradise.

If you’re looking for more ways to the spend the perfect afternoon in Paris, here are a few tips in my recent collaboration with Eurostar. Though I warn you, you may never want to leave!

morning with Picasso

I first visited Picasso in Paris ten years ago, stopping to admire the 17th-century mansion known as the Hôtel Salé, on one of my many walks around the Marais. I remember thinking what a shame that so much of his personal work was in storage, as there was scant wall space to display the artwork. Little did I know I would end up living just a stone’s throw from this artist’s legacy, but with only the garden open for viewing. As anyone who is a fan of Picasso’s work knows, the Musée Picasso has been closed for the last 5 years (3 years longer than expected), undergoing extensive renovations.

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On Friday morning, October 24th, one day shy of Picasso’s birthday and the official opening, I was invited inside the newly renovated museum, now three times the size and much more impressive.

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I walked around the five floors in awe of the renewed space which now boasts over 400 of Picasso’s paintings, drawings and sculptures, as well as works from his personal collection.

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Musée Picasso plans to host one major exhibit each year. Next year, in collaboration with New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, it will be a show revolving around Picasso’s sculpture. Until then, I plan to spend many a Paris morning with Picasso.

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)

Discover another Paris

Little did I know how much I would grow to love my neighborhood of the North Marais. I’ve witnessed it’s evolution over the last four years, from low-key neighborhood bordering the historic Marais, to trendy hotspot frequented by Parisians and expats alike. When KLM and iFly Magazine approached me to host their segment on Paris, naturally I was honored, and it was the Haute Marais that I was eager to share with their millions of viewers. After all, they were looking for little secrets of Paris, as can only be shared by a local, and the North Marais holds many!

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The crew and I spent two days shooting beneath a mix of clouds and sunshine, and what fun it was!

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By the end of the filming, I felt even more like a Paris local, and proudly so. I introduced viewers to some of my favorite spots in the North Marais, we explored the largest antique market in the world, Marché aux Puces StOuen, stopped to admire the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson at his Fondation… and of course enjoyed a rendezvous with my Italian. It wouldn’t be Paris without a little romance, would it?

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I’m very excited to share this video with you, dear readers. Et voilà, Discover another Paris! You may also find my Paris tour on your next cross-continental flight with KLM… Or perhaps a travel show?

 

cat café

As much as I would love to adopt a cat, considering how much we travel, I would feel sad leaving the furry feline on it’s own for extended periods. When I discovered a cat café just opened in my Marais neighborhood, I was elated, and needless to say, curious. Are French cats as friendly as those in America? And how exactly does this concept work?

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The first cat café, where you can drink or dine surrounded by friendly felines, started in Taiwan in 1998, and soon after gained popularity in Japan, where there are now over 150. Vienna, Budapest and London have also followed suit. Le Café des Chats is the first such café to open in Paris, and so far it’s creating quite a buzz amidst cat fans. So busy that reservations need to be made, even for tea.

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At the window sits the oldest of the 12 cats, all rescued and chosen for their mellow personalities.

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The cats lay sleeping in the cat beds or upon the lounge chairs, kept company by client filled tables.

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I thought it might be strange to drink or eat in a room filled with cats, but these felines create a natural environment. It feels much like visiting the next door neighbor, the crazy cat lady. I found myself distracted, as all I wanted to do was find the cats and play with them. Let sleeping cats lie?

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I was happy to learn is that all the cats are very well cared for in their new café home. I suspect this will become a regular spot for me and fellow feline loving friends. And they serve brunch!

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Le Café des Chats is located at 16 rue Michel Le Comte, Paris 3eme, open daily from 12-10pm.

stylish eats

One of the reasons I love living in the North Marais, what I call NoMa, is that it’s constantly evolving. Reminiscent of my life in NY’s Lower East Side, new cafes and bars are appearing almost overnight, mixed in with the various ethnic eats. One such neighborhood locale, discreetly hidden in the 3eme, which has quickly become my favorite, is Loustic, “smart ass” as the Breton’s would say.

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What first caught my eye is the decor, given my affinity towards geometric prints and color. With walls covered in Hermès wallpaper, custom tables and cushioned seating, a stylish addition to the neighborhood. Another of the creative endeavors of interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon.

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It is not simply the interior decor that keeps me returning to this local haven. Nor is it the humour and wit of owner Channa Galhenage, though certainly that helps. The food offerings are both sweet and savory, selectively catered by Emperor Norton, and almost daily Kristen of The Kale Project is in house preparing her kale delicacies. And the coffee, without question one of the best in Paris.

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Stop in and have a bite to eat. But do tell them you are from the neighborhood.

40, rue Chapon 75003

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