French Favorites

Paris is a feast for the senses. Voilà mes préférés: J'aime...


…voir (to see):

…entendre (to hear):

  • La Vie en Rose and other lovely (albeit a cliché) French standards played by street musicians

  • Little children speaking French

  • The "ding dang dong" of bells chiming in church towers around the city

  • Carousel music at the manèges near the Eiffel Tower and the Hôtel de Ville

  • The Seine lapping against the sides of the river boats

  • "Bonjour Madame!" and "Enchanté!"

…sentir (to smell):

…goûter (to taste):

  • Warm crème brûlée

  • Café au lait for breakfast and un petit café (espresso) after a meal

  • Croissants and pain au chocolat

  • Galettes with gruyère

  • Sandwiches on crunchy baguettes

  • Soupe à l'oignon gratinée

  • Un croque monsieur

  • Lovely petits choux at Odette

  • Moules frites (mussels with crisp, salty fries)

  • Chocolat africain chez Angelina

  • Lavender ice cream

  • Wine: a bold Bordeaux, a bright rosé, a crisp Champagne, a kir royal

…toucher (to feel):

  • A crusty baguette that leaves crumbs all over

  • Silk Hermès scarves

  • A happy puppy in a park (or a restaurant!) that begs for a pat on the head

  • Rich lotions and creams from French pharmacies (La Roche-Posay, Vichy, Avène, Roger & Gallete)

  • The warmth from the flame of a candle I lit for Mom and Dad at Notre Dame

  • Cobblestones worn smooth by centuries of footsteps

What are your French favorites?

French Friday: Shakespeare & Company

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." - Ernest Hemingway

Melinda at Shakespeare & Company, 1994

Author's Note: One of my first blog posts featured the iconic Paris bookshop, Shakespeare & Company. Since the Paris in July series encourages bloggers to review their favorite books about Paris, here are my reflections on the book I purchased at Shakespeare & Company twenty years ago. As a student in Paris, I spent countless hours at the Shakespeare & Company bookshop on the Left Bank. I loved browsing through endless stacks of books, marveling at the lovely chaos. Before returning home, I purchased a copy of A Moveable Feast at Shakespeare & Company,  just to receive the "Kilometer Zero" stamp on the title page.  As a graduate student studying literature, it seemed the perfect souvenir of my own time in Paris: Hemingway's memoir of strolling through the same narrow streets of the Latin Quarter, of visiting some of the same cafés, and of Shakespeare & Company.

A hopeless romantic, I ignored the fact that this shop isn't the original Shakespeare & Company. It isn't Sylvia Beach's legendary lending library, frequented by Lost Generation writers including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and of course, Ernest Hemingway. The original shop, that famously published James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922, was located at 12 rue de l'Odéon. It closed in 1940 during the Nazi occupation of Paris, and although in 1944, Hemingway personally "liberated" his favorite haunts including the Ritz Hotel and Shakespeare & Company, the bookstore never reopened.

I don't know if Hemingway ever stepped foot inside this shop at 37 rue de la Bûcherie. Opened in 1951 and originally called Le Mistral, it didn't become Shakespeare & Company until 1964, three years after Hemingway's death. Yet I still imagine those ex-patriot writers as I wander through that musty maze of old books, sleepy cats, aspiring poets and novelists.  Perhaps in my romantic musings, I overlooked the true importance of this current establishment.

Le Mistral became Shakespeare & Company when Sylvia Beach passed away willing both the iconic name and most of her private book collection to George Whitman. For over fifty years, he and his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, continued Ms. Beach's mission to support aspiring writers. The Whitmans have offered meals and lodging to over 40,000 travelers, including Henry Miller, Richard Wright, Anaïs Nin, and the Beat poets. In return, they have asked lodgers to work two hours in the bookshop and to read one book each day. Canadian journalist, Jeremy Mercer, pays tribute to the bookshop in his memoir, Time Was Soft There: "Hard time goes slowly and painfully and leaves a man bitter....Time at Shakespeare and Company was as soft as anything I'd ever felt." I visited Shakespeare & Company again last April. After lighting a candle in Notre Dame cathedral and deliberately stepping on Point Zéro to ensure my return to Paris, I crossed the Pont Saint-Michel to the rue de la Bûcherie. It was a lovely afternoon, fresh and bright with the clichéd but precise allure of Paris in the springtime, so I didn't go inside.  Instead, I browsed through the books on the sidewalk, washed my hands in the Wallace fountain, and had lunch at the café next door. As I sipped my wine, I thought about how lucky I am have been in Paris as a young woman and to have returned so many times. Hemingway was right; it does stay with you for the rest of your life! 


It's Bastille Day, La Fête Nationale en France, and the French flag is flying proudly...

...all over Paris...

...and throughout France, from the north to the south:

Ferry from Portsmouth to Caen

Le Mont-St.-Michel

Le Château de Chambord



But France isn't the only place to celebrate!

Today, I enjoyed a Bastille Day treat at Le Rêve in Wauwatosa.

It's so hard to choose!

Choix d'aujourd'hui: Une tarte au chocolat et du café

July 14, 2014 Photo (195/365): "Au Café"

{Photos in France taken in 2011 and 2013}

French Friday: le 14 juillet

This weekend, celebrations begin for le 14 juillet, Bastille Day, the French Fête Nationale. France will be draped in bleu, blanc, and rouge as citizens enjoy parties, picnics, parades, and fireworks. As much as I would love to be celebrating in Paris, I can indulge my francophilia right here in Wisconsin. I can celebrate Bastille Day at Le Rendez-Vous, our new French restaurant here in Okauchee Lake or head downtown to enjoy Milwaukee's Bastille Days. The annual festival features live music, an international marketplace, art exhibits, chef demos, wine tasting, mini French language lessons, French and Cajun cuisine, and even a 43-foot Eiffel Tower with an hourly light shows after dark. Those craving more French fare may wish to dine at one of the area's lovely French restaurants: Chez Jacques, Trocadero, Coquette CaféLe Rêve (photos and reviews herehere, and here), or my favorite, Lake Park Bistro (always a tradition on my birthday and our anniversary; see my reviews and photos here, here, herehere, and here). While downtown, why not visit the Kandinsky exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum? Together with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the museum is featuring a remarkable collection of over one hundred works, representing every period of the Russian-born French artist’s career from 1900-1944.

Not in Paris or Milwaukee? Here are a few stay-at-home ideas to celebrate French culture. Vive la fête! 

* Enjoy a movie:

*Read a book:

*Have a picnic (French Recipes to Celebrate Bastille Day) - My suggestions:

Bon appétit & Joyeuse Fête Nationale!

French Friday: America in Paris

It's the 4th of July and all over the USA we are celebrating America's birthday with picnics, parades, and fireworks. In honor of Independence Day, today's French Friday highlights the special relationship that has existed between these two great republics for over two hundred years. In fact, the United States of America was officially recognized as an independent nation on September 3, 1783 at the Hôtel d'York, 56 rue Jacob, where our founding fathers signed the Treaty of Paris. Americans in Paris can see tributes to their own country all over the French capital. There are streets dedicated to American statesmen: Franklin, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Jefferson, as well as an Avenue de New York. There are plaques in the neighborhoods of Montparnasse, Saint-Germain, and Montmartre commemorating venues where American expat writers and artists including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Sylvia Beach, and Gertrude Stein lived, worked, and played.

Perhaps the most enduring symbol of Franco-American friendship, the Statue of Liberty, is visible throughout Paris. The original bronze model of the statue, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartoldi, stands in the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens on the Left Bank. Another replica of the statue perches on the point of the Île aux Cygnes in the river Seine, near the Pont de Grenelle. Given to the city in 1889 as a gift for the centennial of the French Revolution, this Lady Liberty, whose table bears two dates: IV juillet 1776 and XIV juillet 1789, faces southwest toward its big sister in New York. There is also a life-sized copy of the Flame of Liberty above the entrance to the Pont de l'Alma tunnel where Princess Diana's car crashed in 1997. Since then the flame often serves as an unofficial memorial where fans and mourners leave flowers, photographs, and letters.

Although, the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays and I will be celebrating my American heritage with all my heart today, I am eager to return to Paris. After all, one of history's most famous Americans in Paris, Josephine Baker, may have said it best, "J'ai deux amours: mon pays et Paris." (I have two loves: my country and Paris!)

Paris in July

I'm participating in Paris in July!

Paris in July is a month-long blogging event for anyone who loves anything about Paris and France. Bloggers will write about books, food, travel, perfume, films, music, markets, poetry, history and almost anything else – it’s like a virtual trip to Paris. Who could resist that? The event is co-hosted by bloggers, Karen, Tamara, Vicki, Bellezza, Adria, and Nichole.  To find out more about Paris in July (or to participate!), read the kick off post here.

Look for my Paris in July posts every French Friday this month.