Spring break: Off to Israel!

There comes a point where the only salve for what ails us is to flee; plan a getaway, bask in the sunshine and indulge in a change of scenery. I'm off to do just that, loin de le France. I hope you'll follow along on Instagram as I discover Israel for the very first time!

Join me: @LostNCheeseland


Franco File Friday: Daisy of THATLou

The Louvre is at once spectacular and intimidating, and for art novices, the sheer size of its collection may even induce anxiety. To avoid shuffling through each corridor aimlessly, it's wise to visit armed with an itinerary, or even a guide, to create a tour according to what you'd most like to see. Thanks to one New York expat, there's now a third option. Daisy de Plume (yes, a pseudonym), art fanatic, entrepreneur and expat in Paris since 2004, launched THATLou (Treasure Hunt at the Louvre) two years ago as a way to lend new meaning to touring the museum. Riding on its success, she recently launched THATRue, an extension to the concept, which takes visitors into the streets for three distinct hunts of the Latin Quarter.

Daisy’s initial motivation to come to Paris may have been pure escapism but what has kept her here for the last decade is an insatiable passion for France, its history and its evolutions. Learn more about her below! 

Describe what you love about France in three words. 
History. Lifestyle. Chablis.

Favorite area of Paris to introduce to out-of-towners?
I have a standard walk I do with guests that circles my own Faubourg St Denis hood. We invariably hit the 9th Arrondissement Square Montholon, a dignified, park framed by Bourgeois Haussmannian numbers. There are several playgrounds for various ages nestled among the French sculpture and soaring old trees. After a bench-sit we’ll wander back via the small private-feeling lane of Cite de Trévise, which has a private garden the size of a stamp, with an adorable trickling fountain. Much like NY’s Gramercy Park, the little garden is only accessible to residents. Heading back over from the 9th to the 10th we usually traverse the cobble-stoned passage-like rue Gabriel Laumain, where the only people we pass are idle dog-walkers and other people with kids zipping along on the traffic-free lane.

Depending on my guests’ interest, sometimes we’ll stop in the wonderfully eclectic Brocante shop Atelier de Pablo (34, rue d’Hauteville), which was a pioneer of cool for the hood. The Faubourg St Denis area, in the SW corner of the “The Perfect Tenth” (as your title went for Bon Appétit) is now a bobo-magnet from architect & designers’ offices to bars, restos, cafes, and of course shops, but Atelier de Pablo opened well before the hood took off, back in 2006. Rue d’Hauteville was a Furrier’s street (and still has a few wholesale fur shops), and their upstairs was originally one huge bank vault holding furs. The ladies who own the shop, Vero et Ben, had to spend oodles to remove the steel walls in the renovation.
After that we’ll toddle up to Pan (12 rue Martel 75010) to make dinner reservations and then take a glass on the tree-lined Passage Petites-Ecuries before continuing on through various passages, my favorite being Passage Brady (lined with Indian colors, smells, spices and restos) and eventually ending at Canal St Martin. It’s a pleasant afternoon wander.

Key tip for museum-lovers on a strict timetable ?
As the grandfather of dusty old museums, the Louvre is un-skippable. One of the keys, if your schedule permits it, is to go on off hours (a Wed or Friday night, when it’s open till 9.45) and to buy your ticket in advance (at the tabac within the Louvre du Carrousel subterranean mall) to skip the line. Once inside, choose a section / period of art and concentrate on that alone. Don’t rush in and then wander aimlessly (if you don’t have a lot of time), take the map and think about what might interest you that day. It’s the same as the Met, people get overwhelmed with too many choices. Don’t be afraid to dismiss enormously important works (as they’re all enormously important works), they’ll be here when you return. If you focus your visit, you leave enriched. If you stretch yourself thin (altogether too easy to do there), you’ll leave wilted. Another tip – if you’re here for a layover you can leave your bag at the left-luggage, have your visit to the Louvre and then go out exploring the central Paris hood that the Louvre is the lynchpin to (Tuileries picnic, Palais Royal, Notre Dame, a Marais or St Germain stroll, etc). Tickets are good all day long.

But if the Louvre’s not your bag, I have two fave intimate museums: 1) the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson down in the 14th (metro Gaite). Cartier-Bresson epitomizes Paris for me and the collection has a small but impressive permanent collection in the light-filled aerie at the top (among his archives), as well as other floors of some fantastic photographers who’ve won the Cartier-Bresson award. It’s free on Wed nights from 6.30-8.30. Then the other small museum I love spending an hour or two in is the Jacquemart André, not too far from Etoile, in the 8th Arrt. It’s Paris’s equivalent of NY’s Frick Museum or London’s Wallace collection – a rich financier’s art collection within his mansion. The quality isn’t top tier (the quality at the Frick far surpasses it), but they have a great Tiepolo fresco in their plant-filled winter court, and some fun Van Dycks, Rubens and Titians, etc. On weekends they have period costumes kids can dress up in. And their tearoom is divine, perfect for feeling like a lady who lunches in a regal 19th century setting.

Most underrated place/spot in Paris?
Well, it’s clearly doing well, as there are so many branches, but I feel like I don’t see a lot of mentions of the Julhès empire. A family fromagerie that started out on Faubourg St Denis, it also has a well-reputed collection of whiskeys, wines and champagnes (with informative tastings here and there at their HQs).

Most amusing or frustrating interaction with the French?
Any foreigner who’s lived here for some time has a thick dossier of visa-war stories, both bitter and funny. For years I was an illegal alien in quest of hurdling the famous French red tape. Then for years I was legal through my office job, on a somewhat exhausting one-year-at-a-time basis, staying limber with those annual Prefecture hoop-jumping performances. At one point my titre de séjour was rejected due to using sunglasses as a headband in my ID shot. God forbid one smile or have glasses anywhere near the photo booth! I think my favorite French exchange was with a State doctor who had to examine me for a work permit. At the time I smoked like a chimney. I’d smoked in NY, but after a few years in Paris I was up to 2 packs a day, morning, noon and night. My lungs hadn’t been X-Rayed in ages, but for this medical clearance they needed them. The doctor was pleasant enough, more engaged with her mobile than my medical exam, but we both knew it was a paper-work visit really. When it got to the point where she looked at my X-Rays I asked her to look more closely, was she sure my lungs were fine? Obligingly she looked again and confirmed that yes, my lungs were spotless. “But that can’t be, je fume comme un pompier!” I said. Slightly annoyed at my persistence she snapped “well if you care so much then just quit”.

The simplicity of it all was just so logical when she blurted it out. Don’t quit because it’s bad for you, do it ‘cause it’s bothering you – we’re all going to die anyway, really. French logic, time and again when it lands in my lap, has somehow made total sense. I always saw those visa-visits as a reinforcement of my love for France, a test of “do you really want to be here?” Thanks to my Argentine husband’s Spanish passport, I have passed that French visa rite-of-passage and only have to visit the prefecture once every 10 years now.
Thanks, Daisy! For more on THATLou and THATRue, follow Daisy's blog, her Facebook page and her Twitter updates

*All photos courtesy of Daisy de Plume; portrait by Lindsey Kent of Pictours Paris. 
Lost In Cheeseland | Franco File Friday posts


My First Book! Paris à l'air libre with Vélib

If someone had told me that I would one day collaborate with the fantastic teams at Vélib, Paris's pioneering bike share program that launched in 2007, I would have laughed incredulously. Seven years later, I not only consider myself a rather avid Vélib cyclist but a part of their expanding presence.

While their first book offered detailed itineraries for discovering the city entirely by bike (more on that here), the second was meant to be a mini guide for local Parisians. The message is simple: disconnect from your digital appendages, think beyond the confines of your familiar quartier and experience the breadth of options the city has to offer, in everything from dining to nightlife and well-being. And in a surprising twist of events, I was asked to work on the new book - 'Paris a l'air libre'  - which is composed of 50 recommendations and favorite addresses

Having lived in Paris for several years before ever being able to fathom documenting my experiences online and relying entirely on my husband's sense of the city, I know that the quickest way to feel more grounded and less lost in a new place is to immerse yourself entirely. I allowed my curiosity to forge a path of understanding and lead me to an urban adventure that effectively changed my life. That is, an openness to possibility and discovery at every turn. My only hope is that this approach to navigating and getting to know this incredible city, which most expats and non-native Parisians know well as they perpetually try find their place here, will resonate with Parisians who read the book.

There are no translations planned for the foreseeable future but if you'd like to support the book in its French form (and me!), copies are now available directly from Vélib's online boutique or via Amazon. It's exciting, nerve-wracking and surreal to see my name on the cover, but here it is!

Order your copy HERE or HERE (worldwide shipping offered) and check out the official announcement on the Vélib blog!


Springtime in Paris (VIDEO)

Who hasn't entertained fantasies of frolicking through Paris as flowers appear to bloom before our eyes? In recent years, spring has largely been a wash out but we've been blessed so far with astoundingly (perhaps, unfairly?) gentle temperatures and pastel pops of color. 

Travelers have certainly taken notice. Among them is 28-year old Belgian Jeroen de Wilde who came to Paris for a weekend to celebrate his birthday with friends. Thankfully for us, he kept his video camera handy and documented his trip with moments that are both quotidien and singularly Parisian.

Can't get to Paris anytime soon? The video below might alleviate some of that wanderlust.

For those unable to view from your inbox, click HERE to view on the web. 

What spots would you hit up if you only had a weekend to explore? 


Eating, Drinking & Seeing: 5 Paris Favorites in March

Boot Café, Paris

I more than made up for an emotionally supercharged yet underwhelming February with an action-packed month of March. Here are some of the highlights: 

1// Dinner at Blue Valentine 
The ongoing expansion of accessible neo-bistro dining has left its marks on nearly every arrondissement in Paris but I find myself fortunate to live in the neighborhood that boasts the greatest concentration of them. 5 minutes in one direction takes me to Le Chateaubriand, 10 in another to Roseval and now in a stone's throw, I can be seated at Blue Valentine, the latest opening on what is arguably one of the sleepiest streets in the 11th. With young, Japanese chef Terumitsu Saïto formerly of the Mandarin Oriental at the helm of the kitchen, otherwise recognizable bistro favorites - roasted pigeon, gigot d'agneau, etc. - are elevated to a more inventive register. The chef plays up pedigreed market-fresh ingredients from top purveyors like Terroirs d'Avenir and Coq St. Honoré for a meal of both unassuming elegance and refreshing originality. The 1950's-inspired dining room features a selection of vibrant rock art by Chuck Sperry, a longtime friend of the owner, which beautifully complements the colors on the plate. I didn't love the wine list here but the cocktails were solid.  //reservations highly recommended//

2// Playing tourist with Susan Hutchinson (Fleurishing
Galerie Vero-Dodat

It had been several years since we first met in Paris so I was eagerly anticipating Susan's arrival. Her itinerary was chock-full of shop visits, bakery hops, neighborhood strolls and a slew of restaurants that opened since her last trip. We made ample use of our time together, from having dinner with friends at Semilla, breakfast at Claus, coffee at Télescope, brunch in her lovely Haven in Paris apartment rental and drinks at Verjus. Check out Susan's ongoing highlights from her trip HERE.

3// Photo shoot with Jean-Laurent Gaudy

One of the most memorable moments of the month as much for the feelings it stirred as the lasting mementoes it produced. See more about this HERE

4// Brunch chez Poulette
Friends and acquaintances regularly text me for restaurant recommendations and while I'm flattered they consider my opinions and tastes so highly, there are times when I too want to be guided. In a welcome change, a couple of friends booked our double date at seven-month old Poulette last weekend, a spot they knew well. The head chef, who is American, cooks up brunch stalwarts like eggs (every which way), breakfast sandwiches and French toast and offers a short menu of seasonal dishes for dinner with dessert cocktails that shouldn't be missed. The food was solid but I was especially charmed by the preserved turn-of-the-century porcelain tiling that gave the space instant character.

5// Coffee at Boot Café 
Boot Café, Paris Boot Café, Paris

This pint-size espresso bar in a former shoemaker shop, just around the corner from the much-loved concept store Merci, has become another regular stop on my coffee route each week. The crew brews Belleville beans and thoughtfully stocks Emperor Norton cakes and confections under glass cloches on the counter. Repeat: pint-size; space is rather limited for lingering (a few stools and small marble tables) but do swing by for a to-go cup and snack.

//Recommended Reading 
The Rise of Egotarian Cuisine (GQ) -- anyone who follows or knows the Paris food scene will nod in resounding agreement as they read this!

How was your month? 

Lost In Cheeseland Food and Restaurant posts


Love Session Part II: Our Life in Paris

Among the many purposes this blog has served, it has most recently acted as a telling reminder of decisions made and time past. That and how drastically our needs, feelings and ambitions can evolve in a relatively short amount of time.  

Just over a year ago, I shared photos from a special photo shoot we did, mostly in our apartment, with photographer Jean-Laurent Gaudy as a way to celebrate the first real home in Paris we shared and nurtured as a married duo but that we assumed we were outgrowing.

Our mission shortly after was to look for a bigger space that would help reset the clock and play host to new memories. After visiting a slew of apartments and meeting with the bank about financing, we quickly realized that upsizing would mean a sizable new loan, incurring steeper monthly fees and, as a result, modifying our lifestyle significantly; a millstone we weren't prepared to bear.

In a way, turning our backs on the apartment would have meant thoughtlessly discarding a space that has, much like the city overall, been instrumental in our journey to becoming the people we are today both individually and as a couple. So instead of hemorrhaging money for a slightly larger space in a new neighborhood, we chose to assess both our current apartment and our lives with a more speculative eye. We're staying put but overhauling the space with new storage, new paint, some new furnishings and a variety of other decorative touches that should make our home feel fresh.

But what does all that have to do with the new photos from JL, then? Inclement weather cut our session short last year and in many ways, I'm grateful it has taken time to pick up where we left off. So much has changed for us in that year. This latest shoot came at a time when we're both plumbing the depths of our connection and asking ourselves serious, heavy questions about what's next and where we're going as a couple. Our home is in that awkward stage of disarray as we purge what no longer matches our tastes and bring in new things that don't yet have a proper place. But that paints a clear picture of the transitional state we're in personally, too.

The amorous glances and tender embraces we traded belie a struggle. I'm sure the married couples reading this can attest to the perpetual effort and work that staying together requires but I've come to understand that this is what sustainable love is about; it's the hard bit,  the sentiment that demands patience, care and forgiveness. Once the butterflies have moved onto other couples ('easy' love) and the implacable realities of daily life settle in, it's love in an altered, more sophisticated form. 

So we're working on it, just like we're focusing our efforts on appreciating our space and all the things it offers us rather than what it's lacking. Lesson of the day: love, like feeling at home, is a work in progress. 

Thanks to Jean-Laurent for the spectacular photos. For more of his work, click HERE.

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