Tuesday, October 2, 2012

We are flâneurs...

"The flâneur is indecisive, unsure of where to go, 
embarrassed by the richness of his or her choices."
Edmund White, The Flâneur: A Stroll through
the Paradoxes of Paris
A flâneur is someone who wanders and finds mystery around every corner, hoping for a delight or two in the process. This is precisely my favorite activity in Paris, or any city for that matter. Even in my own New York, an afternoon's walk turns up new things. Turn a corner and you may find some second-hand books at a bookseller on rue Vaugirard.
Richard found this book on Casanova which was of particular
 interest because Richard, like Casanova, 
tries to eat 144 oysters a day.
Here is Richard at Boccaccio, a restaurant in Nice, getting
a start on the day's oyster quota.
One day, while lost in the Marais, we stopped
in a park and saw these students having lunch.
They're a little behind in their reading.
The essence of a certain Paris.
 Chic clothes in shop windows and the
chic Parisienne seeking them.

Beautiful, expensive shops abound in St. Germain des Près.
Here is Soeur (Sister) for young teens.
Here are some soeurs who might like to shop at Soeur.
The House of Carven.
The House of Carven was founded in the 1940s by Madame Carmen de Tommaio
who broke through the haute of haute couture with
spontaneous and fresh style adapted to a
woman's everyday life.
The brand was revived in 2009 with
Guillaume Henry at the helm.
As with most classics brought back
from near extinction, the designer tries to capture 
the essence of the brand while
infusing the clothes with
modern zeal.
I think that Monsieur Henry has
succeeded in bringing back a vibrant
Carven style. One way he's done this is with hue,
 using unexpected primary color combinations.
 Color for a dip in la piscine on Vilebrequin swimwear.
 These blue totes look so inviting.
Color, print and narrative pattern.
Looks like Café Deux Magots.
We go to Coton Doux
One of our first stops in Paris was the Coton Doux shop on rue Mazarine. Coton Doux means soft cotton and they have the most daring shirts in all of Paris.
Richard tries on une chemise. This is a mystery of the French language.
 A shirt for a man is une chemise (feminine noun)
and a shirt for a woman is un chemisier (masculine noun.).
 S'plain, svp.
At least it's a means to remember this paradox, in a perverse sort of way.
Ah, oui. He has made his purchases. Trois chemises.
Modeling one of his new shirts in the hotel's sitting room.
Terroir Parisien
I made several reservations for dinner online before going to Paris. Terroir Parisien was one of them. When you make a reservation online, the restaurant owner exhorts you to call to confirm, la veille, (the day before). I dutifully call to confirm.
 The board lists suppliers from the locale around Paris.

No white linen here. The food will speak for itself.
Terroir Parisien is a restaurant in the empire of Yannick Alleno. I read about it on Alexander Lobrano's excellent blog, Hungry for Paris. Alex gave the restaurant a B+. The concept of the restaurant is to use produce from farms in the Île de France, the area consisting of Paris and its suburbs. His wish is to revive classical cooking with local produce. I doubt if this means foraging in the Bois de Boulogne, but you never know.
 The unequivocal star of my dinner:
 pea soup from Monsieur Milly de Fôret.
The color is divine.
 An impeccable salade de printemps.
This was a perfectly nice experience, but not a great dinner. I guess I should have seen a red flag in the building in which this modern space is housed. It's in the Maison de la Mutualite (an insurance company) in the Latin Quarter. Having spent my business career in the insurance industry, this should have been reason enough for me to beat a hasty retreat lest I be sold an annuity.
But I am not being entirely fair. Most of the food was delicious. The ambience was rather crisp, and not unfriendly. Besides, we were early, arriving at the dot of 7:30, before which no self-respecting Parisian dining establishment opens. (Richard hopes to force all French restaurants to open earlier, but has not made much headway.) There were not many other diners in the room to enhance conviviality.
 A array of food wares and M. Alleno's cookbook on display.
Our dinner. Pollock with spinach, and across the table, a sauté chicken stew in a vinegary sauce. We also ordered pomme purée and haricots verts, which were fantastic. I could live on the following foods in Paris: pomme purée, crêpes sucrés, chocolat chaud and tarte aux fraises.
I buy a hat at Marie Thank You. (Marie Mercie.)
 This is the utterly charming shop of the modiste Marie Mercie.
 The shop is so pretty that you are likely to expire from girlish glee.
 A charming jeune fille de papier mâché.
The shop's front window has a Snow White theme.
 I purchased this chapeau that looks like an upside-down fleur.
It lent the perfect "Je ne sais quoi" when ordering a chic
cocktail at the Hôtel de l'Abbaye.
Oh the people we meet...
 This is Gael, un serveur at the Hôtel de l'Abbaye.
 He's from Brittany, and he was as nice as could be.
 This is Denis, the bar man. If you ask Denis to take a photo of you,
 he asks you to pronounce a French cheese name.
He has a cheese for every photo.
Un fromage pour chaque image.
This is Susan Peter from Cincinnati, Ohio. She has been coming to stay at the Hôtel de l'Abbaye for 30 years and is une cliente privilégiée. Susan traveled to Paris with her husband until last year, when he passed away. But Susan is undeterred and has returned to her favorite home away from home. She was staying for a month. Susan is fluent in French and reads French novels which she buys by the armful at a nearby bookstore. We had many lovely conversations with Susan.
Did somebody say eclairs?
I could eat these all day.
More to come, mes amis.
À bientôt.


  1. What a delightful post! Thanks for taking us along. Richard looks very dashing in his new shirt. And your hat, oh la la! Also delightful!

  2. Wonderful post as always!
    Just a few questions....
    Did you purchase a pair of the Vilebrequin swimwear shorts? Ricardo could wear those trunks next summer up in Orient! Also...did he really eat all those oysters?
    P.S. Love the fleur chapeau!