Living La Vie En Rose!

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F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American.”

I’m pretty sure he could have been talking about the American expat writer,  Sara Lieberman. Sara came to live in Paris almost on a whim, which I think is just the best way to move to Paris. The story goes (and I may get some of the details wrong because she told it to me over several glasses of wine), that after wrapping up a year in London writing for UK’s most-read Sunday glossy Fabulous, she went to Paris to visit friends, had one of those once in a lifetime nights on the town, came home, and typed into her Facebook page, “I’m moving to Paris.” When she woke the next day to many, many excited comments from friends and family, she decided it was destiny. That was over three apartments ago.

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Me and Sara only a few hours after arriving in Paris (my justification for how I look in this picture).

I got to meet Sara this past January while on a spontaneous trip to the city of light. We happen to have a good friend in common, and so when I emailed asking if we could sit down over a glass of wine and talk, she said yes. I’ve been an online fan of Sara’s bi-weekly newsletter, Overthinking It for a while, and I’ve always felt that if we met in real life, we’d be fast friends, and I was right! Her writing voice is completely authentic to who she is in person.

If you aren’t acquainted with her newsletter, which you absolutely should be (click on the link above to sign up), odds are you have read her writing in some of the best magazines and newspapers around the globe. If you’ve used Google to find information about visiting Paris concerning style, food, beauty, fashion, nightlife, pop culture or entertainment, you’ve “met” Sara. You can read some of her best pieces here.

I love Paris. It is the first city in Europe I chose to visit when I was 18, it was the city I studied abroad in, and it was where I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary. If I die without ever living there, it will be one of my regrets. So having the opportunity to speak to a fellow writer, New Yorker, and expat was a thrill. Here is a smattering of some of the soundbites from our conversation…

“In Paris, you’ll always have to ask for a menu, a glass of water, to order, and for a bill.”

“Dairy is very confusing. The cheese and the yogurt have so many complexities.”

“Paris is actually affordable, more than NYC. Utilities are low, and you can have a great three-course meal for 20 euro with tax and tip included.”

“For first-time visitors, planning is everything. You can’t just pop in anywhere and expect to get a good meal. You need to do your research. You are not going to get that amazing cup of coffee or the unforgettable steak frites at any terrace on the street. Make reservations, and know when places are open and closed.”

“Walk or take the bus and look around.”

“Take a risk. Find a new neighborhood. Stay somewhere new.”

“Paris is small, much smaller than NYC. First, cut the city into left and right. Going across banks by public transport is not easy, and requires a transfer.”

As an ex-expat, I asked Sara what she missed about living away from home.

“Bagels, pizza. I’ve had good pizza here, but it’s more of a restaurant outing and not a snack like in NYC. I miss the idea of the customer always being right. The French have not figured out customer service, and they say no a lot. Returns are always an issue. They are big into their policies, so always check them out before making a purchase.”

Sara’s blog is called Overthinking It, and I asked her why?

“I’m a bad decision maker. Part of me is super shameless, and I tend to overshare about everything, but on the same level, I’m conscious of what people think of me, and that makes me overthink.”

Her last words…

“When visiting try to plan less, let things happen more. Because sometimes the best nights are when you have no plans.”

I texted Sara throughout my stay, and she recommended some of my new favorites places like Ellsworth, a real gem. When I asked for an authentic brasserie, she suggested Bofinger, and it was exactly what I was looking for. She was so on point, I asked if she ever did bespoke, customized experiences for curious, adventurous travelers, and she said to send them her way. So if you are interested in an insider scoop through the lens of a seasoned New Yorker, consider hiring Sara. She can be reached at me@saralieberman.com. 

Merci mon ami!

Have fun. Be Bold.

 

 

 

Paris By Numbers

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Last winter I spent a week in Paris with my husband that I’d planned months in advance. Each meal was chosen with care, and we found ourselves running from one side of Paris to another like the proverbial chickens without heads, and it was cold and rainy. I vowed that the next time I returned, I would do it differently; I would use math. Since I’m a writer and not a STEM girl when I say math, I mean numbers; specifically arrondissement or “districts.” I culled together all of my favorite “eating, drinking, shopping and seeing” lists from over the years and created a Google document to use as a roadmap so that I wouldn’t miss something fabulous just around the corner (a dreaded fear). I have to say, it worked like a charm, and I will continue to build on it and take it with me when I return in May with my daughters for Mother’s Day, and their first trip to Paris.

The trip began with a semi-stalker moment. One of my favorite bloggers, Sara Lieberman, is a NYC expat living her dream in Paris and writing about it. Her newsletter, Overthinking It is fabulous and one I look forward to reading when it arrives in my inbox on a bi-weekly basis. Many of my past Google searches about all things Paris have her name on the by-line, and now I understand why – she is a FONT of knowledge. More on Sara and her many talents in next week’s blog. Sara suggested we meet for wine at La Cave du Paul Bert. I have to thank my friend Syd for the personal introduction!

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Me and Sara only a few hours after arriving in Paris (my justification for how I look in this picture).

This is a picture of the special ladies that shared my week. Kylie (on the left) was in Paris working on the branding of her frozen yogurt shops, California Bliss , which help to fund her non-profit Global Glow an incredible organization that helps young girls in 27 countries around the world (and my school in the Bronx, The Bronx Academy of Letters) to find their voice and tell their stories. And Lisa, Efrot and I were there to eat and shop and TALK. We all accomplished what we set out to do!

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We ate at L’ami Jean Bistrot Belhara Les Philosophes Cafe Charlot Bofinger Ellsworth and La Societe where we were joined by Candice Kumai, a food and wellness influencer with a HUGE following.  We had yummy margaritas at Candelaria the speakeasy in the non-descript taco shop (thank you Tori B for the great rec).

And we sang into the wee Paris hours at Aux Trois Mailletz a past favorite from Maria. We took advantage of the twice-yearly sales, where almost everything was 50% off, (see Google doc mentioned above for names) and spent our last day together combing the stalls of the Vanves Flea Market.

This buyer’s paradise has always been on my Paris To Do list, but I was never able to get there. I’m thrilled with all my purchases, especially my new coupe glassware that I’ll use to make my current cocktail, the French 75 (thank you Jacqueline) and my cool coasters, from 1924 that say Liberte*Egalite*Fraternite.

There is no place like NYC, but Paris is my happy place. Every time I leave, I can’t wait until I can return. A tout de suite!

Amusez-vous soyez audacieux!

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We Were Stuck In A Blender And Now We’re Saving Lives?

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An old friend and reader of my blog sent this to me this week saying it reminded her of me. I love that.

Wednesday morning while playing bridge my wrist buzzed with an incoming text. It said, “Do you have time for a quick trip to Paris? K has an apartment with an extra bedroom.” As much as I’d like to think I get texts like this all the time, I don’t. It made sitting at the Bridge table, defending against a 3 No Trump tricky. All I could think about was how I could say yes. As an empty nester, these are the opportunities you talk about having the ability to take. “When the kids are gone, I’ll be able to travel on a moment’s notice…” But the reality of life, at least for me, doesn’t work that way. There are always obligations and bills to pay. But this time, with the OK from Tom, I said yes. “We were playing bridge, and now we’re booking last minute tickets to Paris?”

Speaking of last-minute tickets, I knew that to justify this trip to myself and my husband, it had to make sense financially. I’m the type of person that if I collect enough frequent flyer miles or points, I book a trip immediately, so I didn’t have any in the “bank.” I did have two amazing tickets to The Ferryman on Broadway that I knew I could sell in a minute, which I did. I tasked myself with finding a flight that my new found wealth would cover, and it came very, very close. I found a non-stop, round-trip ticket to Orly from Newark on Level Airlines. Level Airlines a new-ish long-haul, low-cost airline that started in 2017. The planes are brand-new, and my round-trip flight cost $370! The ticket originally cost $270, but I draw the frugal line when it comes to a week in Paris in winter with only a carry-on. I leave Monday night. C’est tres tres bien.

I’m writing this blog entry while sitting in front of my new Nature Bright Sun Touch Plus.  My sister-in-law, who happens to be a font of wisdom and knowledge, said it is doing wonders for her January blues. It was only $39.99. I bought two; one for me and one as a gift. Thirty minutes every morning, while reading the paper or answering emails or making To Do lists is something I can easily work into my daily routine. I’ll keep you posted on results!

I’ve written in the past about my excitement when there are new additions to my neighborhood, and this week there were two. On the corner of 20th and Broadway, a massive space that has been vacant for a long time, is now a collaboration between BlueStone Lane Coffee and WeWork only this WeWork is a little different. Instead of having a membership, you can rent space by the MINUTE. And, they sell goods produced by their members. It’s an interesting concept. I don’t see myself ever paying to sit there, but now I have three choices for excellent coffee on my block.

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On Thursday, Ole and Steen, a bakery/cafe from Sweden opened their doors to hordes of bread lovers. The concept is similar in scope to Maison Kayser, but without table service. It’s all-day dining, with bread as the main ingredient. I’m not complaining. I’m a fan of good bread. Tom and I went for lunch on Saturday, and the counter service was frenetic, but the food was very good, and they have a nice amount of space to linger, both on the main floor and in the basement. I’ve read that they are baking on premise, so the freshness factor is high. I know that once they get the kinks out, it will be a go-to option for me during the day, where I won’t have to pay to sit and take my time.

Friday was the kick-off to restaurant week(s) in NYC. Last year I tried two spots, and neither were any good. Friday night I made a reservation at a place around the block I’d passed and never tried. I wanted to like it, I really did. Unfortunately, no. I’m officially giving up on restaurant week. I think it’s a misnomer. It should be called Restaurant Fail Week. If you feel differently, PLEASE tell me where you ate and what you loved.

Last night Tom and I went to see The Invisibles at The Landmark 57 Theater (one of my favorite theaters in the city). It was a docu-drama about four of the 7000 German Jews who tried to escape deportation to the camps by living in full view of the Nazis. The four stories were of teenagers, and of course, it made me think about what if that happened here, now, would our “soft” kids be able to have the prowess to hide in plain sight? I’m not sure. The bonus of seeing the movie in this theater was the free Q&A afterward with the director and one of the “stars” of the movie! One of the four survivors, Hanni, took questions from the audience. She was incredible. It was an emotional viewing in a packed audience. Thankfully the bar in the theater stays open late and their happy hour starts at 9 pm.

I’m so excited to invite my readers to the annual Bronx Letters Foundation “Food For Thought” benefit! This year our host is the food God Eric Ripert, one of the greatest chefs in the world today. We will be honoring the life of our school’s patron saint, Anthony Bourdain. Tickets are on sale now, and you can buy them here!

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Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

Paris Unplanned

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I’m laughing as I type in the title to this post because anyone who knows me knows I would never go to Paris without planning. However, I kept the scheduled activities to a minimum. Tom and I had an entire week to ourselves in Paris, and I wanted it to be as spontaneous as possible. We’d been to Paris before, both on our own, and together, which meant this time around our trip would be less about checking things off and more about going with the flow.

What was great about the trip was sleeping late, without worrying about where we had to be, as any plans I’d made always started with a lunch reservation. Some of the gastronomic highlights included the crepe complete at Breizh Cafe, the onion soup at Le Philosophes the pistachio and chocolate escargot at Du Pain et des Idees  the steak frite at Le Severo the beef bourguignon at Le 6 Paul Bert the absolute beauty of Le Grand Coeur, the carrot veloute at The Clown Bar (the pigeon pictured below, not so much), the poached egg with shaved truffles at Bistrot Belhara and the warm fuzzy feeling we had at Gaspard de la Nuit.

Of course, besides eating, shopping and drinking champagne (there was a lot of the latter), we filled our days with long walks to nowhere, which ended up including Montmartre, Luxembourg Garden, St. Germain des Pres, La Tour Eiffel, The Louis Vuitton Foundation, The Musee Rodin, Saint Chapelle, Le Marais (many times), Canal St. Martin, the Musee D’Orsay, and Conciergerie. We even had drinks at Hotel Costes with our friend Saniya, who was in town for work. I love being an ex-expat, as I find my chances of finding friends wherever I go increases ten-fold.

*One of our best nights ended with the late show of Le Crazy Horse. I loved it, but not as much as Tom. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it.

About shopping, it felt like the entire city of Paris was on sale. Every store window had a “Soldes” display. If you want to come to Paris to shop, come in January/February. In addition to returning to Tom’s favorite spot to buy his funky shirts, he’s become “famous” for at Coton Doux I discovered City Pharma (aka the French Fountain of Youth). I think I am the last person on earth to learn of its treasures as it was by FAR the most crowded of any establishment Tom and I entered all week! I left with a bag full of goodies.

I truly enjoyed our unintentional week away, but…if I had to do it all again, with a little more organization (sorry, I just can’t help myself), I would create lists by arrondissement of places of interest, so that when we went to the far reaches of Paris for dinner or lunch (which we often did), I would have an idea of what I could see or do while there. In my experience, many of the new hot places to eat are not necessarily located in the most central of locations.

One of the things I like most about traveling is the research I do leading up to a trip. Of course, I ask friends who’ve been many times which is a great resource, but I also love me some boots on the ground. For that, I go to my favorite bloggers. For Paris, I’ll always ask my friend Dina for food advice. This time around, she recommended Le 6 Paul Bert and also was a big help in making a few hard to get reservations. You can follow her at www.worldfooddina.com She’s a fellow Tokyo expat, who lived in Paris before moving to New York a few years ago. She also has excellent tips for eating in NYC and Tokyo. I also love Lindsey Tramuta who blogs at www.lostincheeseland.com and is the author of the new book The New Paris a fantastic source for all things Paris. And lastly, I love reading Sara Leiberman’s newsletter Overthinking It.

Here are some snaps of our winter week in Paris. I’m sure people questioned our decision to go in winter, but Paris is beautiful any time of year, and there is nowhere more romantic to celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Merci beaucoup to D’anna for making the week possible.

Have fun. Be bold.