If you only had a day in Paris, how would you spend it? Skipping stones along the Canal Saint-Martin like Amélie Poulain or ambling the cobblestone streets of the Marais? The magic of this city lives within its hundreds of urban hamlets and vibrant neighborhoods. It's there in the innumerable opportunities for inspiration and self-discovery and beating wildly in its mercurial brand of charm. It's that ineffable feeling and collection of moments that 29 million visitors came seeking last year and millions more dream about experiencing for themselves every day.
But to reach it, whether in person of from afar, you must cut through the din of prescriptive travel guides and editorialized stories. The Paris Journal, a new digital, multimedia book from Nichole and Evan Robertson (of the Obvious State creative studio), offers exactly that; an uninterrupted visual journey of one Paris neighborhood, from morning to night.
Volume One, released today for download on iPad, will bring you on an immersive tour through the hillside neighborhood of Montmartre through over 120 fine art photographs and 14 videos. It's armchair travel without the unwanted commentary; a rich escape when you need it most.
Even before the success of Nichole's book Paris in Color, an Amazon bestseller (#1 at the time of publishing this post), the couple wanted to find a way to share the details they love most about Paris without needing to rely on text to narrate the story. In opting for an app versus an e-book, their interactive vision came to life naturally and, in turn, allowed them to offer an experience that is crafted wholly for the viewer.
Download the app, sit back, and visit Montmartre. The result is absolutely stunning.
For more information on The Paris Journal, visit Obvious State.
I've already sung the praises of Colorova Pâtisserie (which, since it opened last August, has been one of two of my major motivations to go to the left bank), but at the time I hadn't fully discovered their noontime talents.
Friday is typically the only day I'm able to squeeze in a lunch date or meeting and while I try to vary my outings, I'm a fierce creature of habit. I find myself drawn to a handful of favorites - Verjus for sandwiches, Clasico Argentino for empanadas, Al Taglio for pizza, and Nanashi for Bento. All are within the 10-12€ range, all relatively quick. But when I want to linger over a more complete meal and want to be sure I am served something different than the last visit, I book a table at Colorova.
Lunch follows the standard starter + main/main + dessert or you can opt for all three, which I guarantee you'll have trouble resisting. The meal will set you back between 18-24€ (without wine) but when the first dish arrives plentifully adorned with the season's freshest and most colorful ingredients and you experience that beautiful jolt of flavor, you'll ask yourself why you've wasted your precious time with anything else.
Put down the tasteless potatoes, forgo the flaccid green beans that often constitute a side dish and go where the chef understands the value in playing with and shaping seasonal produce. It's rare that a meal meets all the right textural notes, especially at lunch, and even more unusual at this price point. And for me, that's worth the return trip every time.
47 rue de l'Abbé Grégoire
Métro: Saint-Placide (line 4)
Closed Monday, brunch menu Sat/Sunday
Reservations strongly recommended
My Colorova highlight for Afar Magazine
Felicia of Love.Life.Eat discovers Colorova
I've said it countless times but one of the most enriching outcomes to living in Paris has been connecting with some truly inspiring and industrious creatives. Two of them - Jordan (blogger queen of DIY) and Paul Ferney (painter) - lived within a stone's throw from the Eiffel Tower with their two little tots up until a year ago. While they've since settled back into San Francisco, Paris and their former neighborhood are never far from mind.
The pair have just released (in time for Mother's Day!) a new collection of prints based on the series of 40 small oil paintings Paul produced of Paris storefronts and restaurants last year. Paris devotees, you'll want to adorn your walls with a few of these! To browse and purchase, click over to Paul Ferney's print shop.
Spot an instant favorite?
There's a lot of ground to cover when your best friend comes to town after a four and half year absence. So I went straight for my no-fail favorites when mapping out our weekend. As all good trips to Paris require, we walked, we ate, we caffeinated, we shopped (mostly for food) and we exhausted ourselves - before hitting repeat and doing it all over again the following day. Here are a few of the stops on our very relaxed itinerary:
[click titles for maps and/or related articles]
[click titles for maps and/or related articles]
Dinner (not shown):
20 rue Saint-Victor, 75005
Métro: Maubert-Mutualité (line 10)
See a few of my springtime in Paris highlights in this AFAR collection!
Roiling social debates, pettifogging politics, surging unemployment and a grim outlook on.... well, everything. Ask the French how they are doing and one of the points above may factor squarely into their response. "La crise", as locals generally refer to the global economic crisis, still looms large and at times has the power to cloak the uplifting things around us.
Carin Olsson, a recent transplant from Sweden, offers a daily reminder of the talent and beauty right on our doorstep through her blog Paris in Four Months. Though she's well aware of the gloomier side to life in Paris, she chooses to focus on its assets - food, culture and architecture - and in doing so, makes longtime residents fall in love with their home city all over again. Having left family and friends behind to pursue the proverbial French life at such a young age, as I did, she shares a bit of what she's learned so far and what she loves most about her adopted home.
Something you've discovered about yourself by living here?
That I have absolutely no self control whatsoever!. There are so many new restaurants to try out, deliciously looking patisseries you have to pass by and so many gorgeous sweets in this city. No matter how hard I try I always end up walking away with a little bag containing a tarte aux framboises or something similar... I’ve tried to come up with several different “rules” to keep my sweet cravings under control but so far without success.
More seriously though, I've discovered that I love to be alone. Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with friends and having all these amazing people around me but I also value the time I have with just myself tremendously. There's nothing better than to pick up my camera and being able to go for a walk around the city with just myself as my company. Now, this has become something that I can’t live without, or well, something I don’t want to live without at least. During these moments by myself (and with my camera) I get the chance to relax, think about the things I see around me and to gather all my thoughts.
My must-do for any first timer in Paris is (perhaps a little bit boring, but trust me it will pay off in the end) your research! Believe it or not but everything isn’t amazing in Paris and you really get the most out of your experience here if you just read up on a few things before coming. There are so many restaurants, experiences and places in this city that are worth every single penny but there are just as many (if not more so) that aren’t. But I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you’re probably quite familiar with Lindsey’s blog already and have a few amazing places on your mental list that you need to go to due to her reviews!
As for the must-eat… Call me boring but I’ve found a few places here in Paris that I consider to be my favourites and once I find them I don’t mind returning over and over again since I know I’m guaranteed a fantastic meal. For any first time visitor I would suggest going to either LesCocottes or Café Constant for lunch or dinner. What I love about these places is that it doesn’t cost you a fortune, the food is amazing (which can be quite hard to find in Paris if you don’t know where you’re going) and the relaxed yet lively ambiance. Go to Café Constant for a more classic, but absolutely delicious, take on French cuisine and to Les Cocottes for a more modern feeling.
I haven’t been living in Paris for too long so I’m still trying to get comfortable in my closest neighbourhoods and areas, but I also want to discover more of Paris of course. Right now I adore strolling through the area around Odéon, continue around the Luxembourg garden, to Place Saint Sulpice and continue down towards Montparnasse (with a stop at Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki of course). I love to find small, and new to me, streets that look so unbelievably picture-perfect that it’s simply impossible not to grab on to my camera.
I also love to stroll from the Champ de Mars toward Rue du Bac and explore all those little streets in between. There are so many cute stores, cafés and boulangeries that just reminds me of why I love this city as much as I do.
Most amusing or frustrating interaction with the French?
From what I’ve understood so far it’s not always the easiest thing to be a vegetarian in a city like Paris, right? I’m not a vegetarian but I’ve had a couple of friends here that are. One day we decided to go for an unplanned lunch in the Marias neighbourhood and ended up at a simple but cosy little restaurant. When my friend kindly asked the waiter if they had any vegetarian options on the menu the waiter pointed to a dish that read poulet. My friend looked confused and asked the waiter if he had understood the menu correctly: “But that’s chicken, no?”, the waiter looked at him and nodded his head. “I don’t eat meat” my friend tried to explain to the waiter. The waiter then looked like he had connected the two dots and said “Ah, sorry! We have fish of course!”. I couldn’t help but laugh!
Explore Paris with Carin by following along on her blog, Facebook, or Instagram!
(All photos courtesy of Carin Olsson)
(All photos courtesy of Carin Olsson)
If the clutch of my friends permanently leaving Europe over the next couple of months had any reservations about doing so, spring has certainly sent her blessings. Up until ten days ago, signs of the floral season were masked by the persistent flurry, the daily downpour and temperatures that barely climbed above 40°F. You can tell that most of Europe has been dangerously sun-deprived when even a passing mention of open-toe weather sends us all into fits of euphoria.
But for my friends in Amsterdam, that bliss is too fleeting. The winters too long, too bitter. Negotiating cultural differences too wearying. Not even those bi-annual weekends in Paris were enough of a draw for them to stay put. Their expat chapter was ending. Time to pack up and decamp to California where weather and opportunity seem to operate in tandem.
So off we went to a city we first discovered five years ago (with tourist goggles and mini guide books) to spend a weekend with a couple as food obsessed as we are. Save for my coffee inquiry - what's the Amsterdam equivalent to Télescope? - we didn't plan a thing. We improvised, relied on their sharp recommendations and let whim guide us. With crisp blue skies and cooperating weather gods, luck was unquestionably on our side. "It's never like this", our friends reminded us when we began our stream of oohs and aahs. But as sedate as the city feels, even in the most densely packed areas on the grimmest of days, it vibrates with life. We ate, we drank, we cycled and we parted even more charmed by Holland's largest city than the first time.
|| A few Amsterdam favorites ||
Cycling the canals
Cyclists command the streets here which means if you're not getting around by bike, you're missing part of the experience. An ineffable sense of peace washed over me as we rode along the canals, cruised by houseboats lined in serried ranks and passed couples ambling along and ducking into art galleries and vintage shops. It was spectacular riding as the late afternoon sun cast its light across the cobblestone and then again just after dusk when the stars emerge and the twinkle lights along the canals switch on. The rare moments when I was able to fully let go of my preoccupations was on that bike. It's an amazing the amount of a good a long bike ride can do for the psyche.
We rented bikes from de Stadsfiets, 10€/day. Click here for a few other options.
Two for Joy
An artisanal coffee shop (French press, filter or syphon) with excellent little sandwiches and cakes. A spacious nook in the back with armchairs and couches makes it suitable for work but I recommend snatching the spot in the front by the window which gets devastatingly good light.
Restaurant De Kas
A repurposed old greenhouse formerly owned by Amsterdam's municipal nursery houses what is likely the city's top restaurant. The menu is carte blanche, changes daily and composed largely of ingredients harvested on-site or in a large field just outside of the city. It wasn't just the exquisite dining room that bolstered the experience but each, exacting element of the evening from service to flavor and comfortable seating. Next time, I'm booking a spot in the kitchen (as should you but plan far in advance).
Small World Catering
The affable Australian owner of this tiny sandwich shop and deli is part of what keeps locals coming round for sandwiches, salads, fresh juices and superior coffee at all times of the day. On our late afternoon visit, approaching customers didn't bristle at the long line or wait time. One bite into my sandy and I understood the fanfare. Snag a spot on one of the benches or cushions outside or take your goods to the canal.
Critics are on the fence about the full menu at this café-restaurant overlooking the Amstel river but it's a terrific spot to work or read over coffee during the day and socialize with wine, beer and small plates in the evening. Prime people-watching guaranteed on the spacious terrace.
Brown bread and aged gouda. Enough said.
We picked up ours at the Albert Cuypmarkt, the city's largest open-air market.
What are your Amsterdam highlights?
[Click here for more Amsterdam photos]