Archive for June, 2010


By A. D. McKenzie

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Shakespeare and Company
(c) Discover Paris!

Literature lovers were in for a treat recently when more than 30 famous writers descended on Paris for the fourth Shakespeare and Company Literary Festival.

The three-day event drew hundreds to the René Viviani Square – across the Seine from Notre Dame Cathedral and a few steps from the iconic Shakespeare and Company bookstore itself. Readers came to listen to authors such as Martin Amis, Petina Gappah, Philip Pullman, Jeanette Winterson, and Hanif Kureishi.

The theme this year was “Storytelling and Politics”, and the writers rose to the challenge of discussing topics that included “what the World Cup means for Africa”, “politics and violence in Pakistan” and “how to write a book in a military dictatorship.”

Novelist and film-maker Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, The Buddha of Suburbia) gave a witty presentation titled “Writing the Suburbs, Writing the City.” He told the audience that he now believed the “identity novel” is dead. He said he realized the “game was up” when he found himself on a panel in Asia with three beautiful Indian first-time novelists who all lived in New York.

Winterson (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) spoke about the effects that literature can have on people’s lives and thinking. She said she was convinced that the much talked-about demise of the book was premature – and she seemed to be right, judging from the number of people that bought books after each session.

The bi-annual festival in fact highlights the unique role that the Shakespeare and Company bookshop has played in Parisian literary life. The original store was opened in 1919 by an American ex-pat named Sylvia Beach, who welcomed writers such as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein. Her store became a meeting place for many wandering English and American scribes, as well as for readers who could buy or borrow books.

The shop was shut down in 1941 during the German occupation of France, but 10 years later a second English-language bookshop was opened on the city’s Left Bank by another American – George Whitman. This store acquired the Shakespeare and Company name when Beach died. It now houses the Sylvia Beach Memorial Library on its first floor, “where free readings and writers’ workshops take place, where visitors sit to read all day, and where young writers stay at night,” according to the shop’s own lore.

Whitman, now 96 years old, still keeps an eye on things, says the literary festival’s co-organizer Jemma Birrell. She said the theme of “Storytelling and Politics” was in keeping with his view that a bookshop is a political act because of the titles it chooses and the writers it promotes. Whitman’s daughter Sylvia launched the first festival in 2003 and currently does the day-to-day running of the store.

We wish to thank A. D. McKenzie for her contribution to the Paris Insights blog.

A Remarkable Structure that Most Tourists Will Never See –
The Bercy 2 Commercial Center

Friday, June 25th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Centre Commercial Bercy 2
(c) Discover Paris!

Looking ever so much like a spaceship that has landed to take on passengers, the Bercy 2 Commercial Center is bounded on three sides by river, freeway, and railroad track, just outside the city limits of Paris. It was constructed from 1987 to 1990 by Renzo Piano, a world-renowned architect and winner of a number of prestigious awards. The roof is composed of 27,000 panels of stainless steel mounted on laminated-wood beams. Although futuristic looking on the outside, the interior would look familiar to anyone who frequents modern shopping centers. The structure is handsome and spacious inside, and while ascending the gentle slopes of the escalators, one can see the porthole skylights and the curves of the ribcage-like supports of the roof.

Pedestrian access to the commercial center is by bus 24, which stops at the entrance.

Mr. Piano also designed the famous Centre Pompidou, built in Paris from 1971 to 1978, as well as many other spectacular buildings throughout the world.

View of Roof
(c) Discover Paris!

Paris, Past and Present: Federico Santalla at Le Lapin Agile

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Federico Santalla, Singer
(c) Discover Paris!

One of the articles in our monthly Paris Insights newsletter is called Paris, Past and Present. Here, we provide a brief report on some aspect of Paris history, culture, and contemporary life that we find particularly interesting.

In this month’s Paris, Past and Present, we feature Federico Santalla, a singer who performed at Le Lapin Agile for thirty years. One of his favorite songs that he sang there is a poem written by humorist and comedian Pierre Dac that Federico set to music. Called “Rien,” the poem is a nonsense song about the state of nothingness, which Federico performed with gestures and piano accompaniment.

Paris Insights is available by paid subscription. To subscribe, please follow this link:

Newsletter abstracts can be viewed at the following link:

Bonne lecture!

Parisians and Their Dogs: Jane and Rita

Thursday, June 17th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Jane and Rita Enjoy the Good Life
Photograph courtesy of Jane

Jane and Rita enjoy a pause-café during a morning stroll around their neighborhood. Rita, a cross between a poodle and Tibetan terrier, is an extremely affectionate dog.

I wrote about Jane and Rita, as well as other dog owners and their dogs, in the chapter entitled “La Vie Parisienne” in my book, Paris Insights – An Anthology. The book is available as both a paperback and an electronic Kindle edition on Amazon.

Berthillon’s Cacao au Whisky Sorbet

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Berthillon's Cacao au Whisky
(c) Discover Paris!

A few years ago I had the delightful surprise of discovering a sorbet called Cacao au whisky that was sold by the scoop at a café called Le Flore-en-l’Ile. Since then, I have not been able to find it by the scoop, but have found it in half-liter containers at the Berthillon ice cream shop on rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile, as well as the chocolate shop Nicolsen on rue Mouffetard. The sorbet is dense and smooth, like a gelato. To the taste, it is intensely bitter and slightly sweet, with a mild whisky flavor. On the palette, it is smooth and rich as ice cream at first, with a slight raspy texture at the finish. The product contains 25% cocoa powder, 10% whisky, and 3% cocoa butter—a wonderful treat to be consumed without moderation!

Le Bon Goût – Our Monthly Restaurant Review

Saturday, June 12th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Veronique Melloul of Bistrot Poulbot
(c) Discover Paris!

On the first of each month, we publish a restaurant review, which we call “Le Bon Goût,” for the readers of our Paris Insights newsletter. In it, we not only describe our dining experience, but also write about the chef or the proprietor, and illustrate the review with a photograph of him or her.

We have been reviewing restaurants for many years, and have met many chefs and proprietors who are passionate about the art of preparing great cuisine. By writing about them, we hope that we can communicate their passion to you, their customer.

In this month’s Le Bon Goût we review Bistrot Poulbot, a restaurant that lies on the north slope of Butte Montmartre, just down the hill from a cabaret called Le Lapin Agile. Operated by Chef Véronique Melloul, it is a great place to dine before taking in the show!

Access to the review is available to paid subscribers of our newsletter. To enter a subscription, click here.

A Visit to the Baguès Workshop

Thursday, June 10th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Bending Iron for a Hand-crafted Chandelier
(c) Discover Paris!

Members of the Paris Alumnae/i Network attended a guided visit to the Baguès workshop on Tuesday, June 8 to see how craftsmen make elegant bronze and iron chandeliers, lamp fixtures, wall sconces, and mirror frames. We observed the careful pounding, chiseling, bending, and twisting that the workers applied to lengths of iron and cast bronze to shape the metals into beautiful works of art. Some two to three years of experience are required for a worker to begin to get proficient at the craft. And because the work is so labor intensive, the products that come out of the shop are well beyond the means of the average consumer.

Among those public and private institutions wealthy enough to be able to afford to decorate their palaces with Baguès products are the Château de Versailles, the Banque de France, the Hôtel Ritz, the State Department in Washington, D.C., and the Royal Palace of Bucharest. The lamps and chandeliers are made to measure. This, the expensive materials, and the careful handiwork, account for the costliness of the finished product.

Baguès began as a family-run business in the 19th century, making lamps for churches. Today, a different family runs the enterprise. There are only about three or four companies remaining in France that perform this type of workmanship.

The showroom is located at 73, avenue Daumesnil in the 12th arrondissement.

Finished Chandelier
(c) Discover Paris!

Jacques Chirac at La Rhumerie

By A. D. McKenzie

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Jacques Chirac at La Rhumerie
Photography by A. D. McKenzie

“What’s going on inside … why do I have to walk in the street instead of on the sidewalk?”

This was the question from a pedestrian on Sunday afternoon as she tried to avoid a large crowd and a troop of police officers in front of a café on the boulevard Saint-Germain. The reason for the throng was that former French president Jacques Chirac was inside La Rhumerie café signing copies of the second volume of his autobiography.

The 77-year-old Chirac is a frequent patron of the café (known for its rum-based cocktails and its Caribbean cuisine), and manager Dominique Herenguel said she was delighted when the politician decided he would autograph his book there.

“It’s wonderful that he has chosen to give us this honor,” she said.

Chirac seemed relaxed as he chatted with admirers of all ages. At one point, a couple clamored for him to hug their baby, and he smilingly complied as the cameras rolled. He later spent time talking to a young boy who appeared thrilled by the attention.

Between autographs, Chirac paused to sip a frothy white cocktail, while his security staff tried to keep journalists and photo-hunters from getting too close in the packed cafe.

Despite all the excitement, some regular diners continued nibbling on their salt-fish fritters and drinking their exotique punch, seemingly oblivious to the hoopla.

La Rhumerie, established in 1932, is an institution in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. It is located a few steps from the landmark church and from similarly famous cafés such as Les Deux Magots. The owners try to keep its profile high with literary spectacles, art exhibitions, and other cultural events.

As Chirac signed copies of his book, he was flanked by the colorful canvases of Nathalie Lemaître, a French artist who has held annual exhibitions at La Rhumerie for the past five years. Her current show runs until July 11 – something to catch if you missed Chirac.

We wish to thank A. D. McKenzie for her contribution to the Paris Insights blog.

Tom Reeves Named Official Blogger for the 4-14 Festival in Dijon: Celebrating Franco-American Friendship, Food, Music, and Fun!

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

I am pleased to announce that I have been named the official blogger for the second annual 4-14 Festival, to be held in Dijon on July 9-11, 2010. The festival brings together American and French musicians and chefs to celebrate friendship, food, music…and fun! Last year, 15,000 people turned out for the festivities!

Twenty-five chefs from both sides of the Atlantic will work their culinary magic for the festival. This year, American chefs from New Orleans and other Louisiana towns (and one from Washington, D.C.) will be participating in the event. They include Louisiana native Dooky Chase IV of the legendary Dooky Chase restaurant. The restaurant was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but has risen from the flood waters to continue its 60+-year tradition of service. Among the French chefs, Michelin-starred Marc Meneau of the inimitable l’Esperance, and Daniel Ginsberg of the Nouvelle Cuisine de la Ville de Dijon will participate alongside nine additional Burgundian masters of cuisine.

I have been writing about food for Discover Paris! since October 2006, when I launched my “Quest for Smoke-Free Dining” review for the Paris Insights monthly newsletter. After smoking was banned in restaurants in France in January 2008, I launched “Le Bon Goût,” a monthly restaurant review for which I interview the chef. The review is found in my Paris Insights newsletter, available by paid subscription. I now publish a free weekly restaurant review for the Paris Insights Web site as well. I share my passion for coffee and chocolate by frequently posting anecdotes to my Paris Insights blog and Facebook page about the fresh-roasted coffee beans and hand-crafted chocolates that I find at the many coffee-roasting facilities and artisanal chocolate shops in the French capital.

Click here to access my blog about the 4-14 Festival. Click here to access my free weekly restaurant review.

Mra Oma & Brotherhood

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Good news for jazz fans! Mra Oma & Brotherhood will be performing at the Centre Tchèque this Friday at 8:30 p.m. The Czech center is located at 18, rue Bonaparte in the 6th arrondissement. Entry is only 5€ for some great music!