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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
And 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)
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!
The crew and I spent two days shooting beneath a mix of clouds and sunshine, and what fun it was!
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 St-Ouen, 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?
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?
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?
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.
At the window sits the oldest of the 12 cats, all rescued and chosen for their mellow personalities.
The cats lay sleeping in the cat beds or upon the lounge chairs, kept company by client filled tables.
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?
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!
Le Café des Chats is located at 16 rue Michel Le Comte, Paris 3eme, open daily from 12-10pm.
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.
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.
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.
Stop in and have a bite to eat. But do tell them you are from the neighborhood.
40, rue Chapon 75003
It seems that every day another hotspot is opening up in the Marais. New bars and restaurants around every corner. What about those that remain? Does anyone frequent the old haunts?
Le Bougnat is a restaurant I walked by almost every day, and often I wondered what when on in there (and who ate there), discreetly positioned on rue de Saintonge just steps away from trendy rue de Bretagne. One night my Italian and I decided to find out.
Much to our surprise the place was bustling, it was Friday night after all. There were young and old, mingling at the bar, filling up both small dining rooms… In their jovial manner, I could tell many of them were regulars.
Seated next to an elderly French couple, we quickly found out they were regulars. They advised us on what to order, all of the dishes being traditionally French. Somehow through the dinner our tables were pushed together and the next 3 hours were spent in conversation. If felt much like being in a small village far away from Paris. How friendly and hospitable everyone was!
After dinner we had a digestif with our new friends. Learning that this brasserie had been in Paris for many decades and was quite a hotspot (and still is) to those who knew the Marais before the term bobo was even invented. May it remain there for decades to come!
Le Bougnat is located at 28 rue de Saintonge and is open only on Friday and Saturday.
On my many past visits to Paris, it wasn’t the scholarly air of the Latin Quarter or the history of Montparnasse that captured my heart, or even the chic appeal of Saint-Germain, though I appreciated and admired these districts to no end. It was undoubtedly the cobbled streets and charm of the Marais, untouched by Baron Haussmann, that always felt like home. And so it became.
Now, over three years since I call the Marais my home, or NoMa (North Marais) as I refer to it, I have officially become a local. How do I know this? It’s as clear as the words on a page. I’m honored to be featured in the latest Lonely Planet Paris, my most revered and respected of guide books. Traveling all over the world with these books tucked safely in my bag, little did I ever think I’d be included within their pages. As a local handbag designer no doubt. (Also mentioned on pg 315) This is so terribly exciting!
In more good news, the Marais will continue to be called home for much time to come. My Italian and I have recently embarked on a new project, (also called searching for real estate in Paris), and after viewing over 50 apartments within 6 months and beginning to lose faith, we finally found our nest! And in NoMa of all places, exactly where we wanted to remain. More news on project nest in the weeks ahead… These days there is much to celebrate!
I’ve never been a great fan of winter, finding short days with a lack of sunlight hard to bear for so many long months. Not to mention the bitter cold. But when it snows in Paris, the landscape is nothing but magical. This is the winter that I love. Time seems to stand still as a blanket of calm covers the city. This past week Paris turned from gray to white, and at it’s onset I convinced my Italian to venture into the snowy stillness of our neighborhood, le Marais.
The following morning I awoke to find a brighter shade of white.
All the way to Place des Victoires, Henry XIV braved the snow, appearing even more regal.
This weekend I went hunting. This time not for treasures at the Louvre but for antiques. Specifically a danish modern shelf unit to fit a television. (Yes, after over 2 years television-less we are ready. Mostly as a tool to aid in French of course, and the occasional Anglo film.) The marché aux Puces had made it’s biannual appearance on Rue de Bretagne and I gave in to temptation. How could I not, as it was just a few blocks away. So the adventures in the history of ‘other people’s treasures’ began.
In the end, did I find what I was looking for? No. But I did find what I wasn’t looking for. Hard to resist, especially when it’s a foreign treasure. I did return home content, but will be sure to peruse the next antiques market when it returns in May. Or perhaps find another before then…
If you are on your own French treasure hunt, here’s a list of antique markets in and around Paris.
One of my favorite shops, which also happens to be in the Northern Marais where I call home, is Ofr., a boutique, bookstore and gallery. Genius! While you are perusing the impressive collection of art and design books, you can stumble into the back gallery and live an art experience. If you are new to Paris, owner Alexandre Thumerelle will guide you, literally, with his very own Guide Paris.
Here too, amidst the fine art photography filled walls, you can find my hand-printed rive gauche and rive droite bags. A perfect setting for wearable art! And perfect bags to fill with books!
During my last visit I entered the creative vision of artist Jeremy Everett. What exactly did I find?
The American Heritage Dictionary. Unlike I have ever seen it.
Stay tuned for the 15 year Ofr. party on May 20th! And check here for more art events.