Header image by Natalie Rapoport. Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia. Barcelona.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

16th Arrondissement

The highlight attractions are frequented and besieged by tourists as if their main purpose is to deliver the instant image, to remind the visitors put a check mark in a guide book: what can you do if you have 1,2,3 days in Paris...
Then comes the question: what would you like to do if you have….as much or  as little time in Paris?
This time I’ve decided definitely to avoid long lines, navigate away from crowds, take it slooooowly, waaaaalk, enjoy and take the lunch time seriously.
That means keep in mind an itinerary as a mere suggestion. With pausing, shooting, stopping and taking ice cream breaks it’s only an outline, a slight gesture towards a certain direction. Let’s say 16-e arrondissement.

The Art Nouveau treasures by Hector Guimard are mainly scattered throughout this elite residential neighborhood that’s what I wanted mostly to see but couldn’t help  to admire all this grandeur and leafy perspectives proudly stretched out. Wrought iron balconies, excessive ornamenting, rotondes and coupoles, Art Nouveau fluid lines and Art Deco geometry, elaborate gates and fences, creamy cakes over the roof tops and beautiful edifices. Architecturally delicious if only sometimes too sweet.
So Guimard series are coming in next posts and this is just a pretext, a glimpse to surroundings.
One of many interesting things I love about Paris is that all arrondissments are very distinctive in character. The 16-th is very aristocratic and displays probably the most expensive and sought after property dated mostly fin de siècle.

What a beautiful triangle formed by Avenue Mozart and Avenue de La Fontaine. Far from high season frenzy, quiet, with very mild traffic, lush green with the parade of  well maintained elegant buildings, hidden gems and gated villas for wealthy. Seems like a natural habitat for haute couture clientele.
In fact there were very few pedestrians at all and occasional residents looked at me and where I was aiming camera with curiosity. Of course, they used to surroundings to the point of not noticing.
This part of the city between Trocadero and Bois de Boulogne is often referred as Parisian Upper East Side: straight-laced, uptight, buttoned up – polished and impeccable. But not as imperial as Avenue Foch.
No big stores just  a few exquisite boutiques (closed for August), beauty salons, traditional  patisseries, few cafes,  wonderful Marmottan museum underrated and overlooked by tourists, parks and hidden green corners.

Sparkling golden plates on buzz panels at ornate entrances inform you of businesses inside: lawyers and gynecologists the most common tandems, the buttons of latter are shined better. Therapists and physicians are ranked below. The ratio of doctors and lawyers is amazing.

My son was very excited about these toys on wheels and mastered a collection of these cute puppy cars.

And just  as I promised to my small team not to miss lunch and remembering that one won’t get any  after 2-3pm we stopped at the corner of Avenue  Mozart and Rue de l’Assomption at Bo Zinc. A very nice place as you can see. 

The meal was delicious and portions generous. Prices were very reasonable and the staff welcoming which was a bonus. The waitress wasn’t tired of tourists and even smiled back and service was fast and friendly. Not to mention a delicious dessert. Definitely would recommend it as a lunch stop if you happen to be in a neighborhood.

The happy and adorable residents of the 16th arrondissement.

See you soon my friends.

*All images Copyright Natalie Rapoport

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sweet Dreams

If only there were Olympics for patisseries I know who could lead the French team to the unrivaled victory. It would be most certainly the talented author of the Paris Patisseries blog Adam Wayda who is obsessed with Art of pastry to a cosmic, unimaginable and immeasurable degree.
Cafe Pouchkine, 64 Blvd Haussmann 
His descriptive volumes are literally a sweet homage to the chef-d’oevres of pastry artistry, odes, sheer poetry  devoted to beautiful creations of the very best pastry chefs  and their heavenly delicious gems.
This guy is a genius in lieu of the sublime taste description with the tiniest undertones, imaging and  presentation. He knows the art of pastry inside out from A to Z and soon enough became a celebrity himself.  His love and devotion to pastry is highly contagious so beware my friends.

The way he describes and photograph a layered delicacy is enough to feel the taste and is soooo tempting! You don’t even need to fight the extra calories and beat yourself mea culpa over. It’s simply “I’ll have what HE has…”
His top 12 patisseries are crème de la crème. We couldn’t  try all of them of course, the sweet luxury is pricy and waist unfriendly mind you,  but a few. The temptation doubled as these elite pastry shops are serving numerous ice cream and sorbet flavors and even one scoop in this July heat was a life saving indulgence.

And the champion is Café Pouchkine: the greatest, the grandest, excelled in Art  of Pastry,
the most spectacular one. How to say Haute Couture in Pastry world?
Others may be very talented even virtuoso soloists in the colorful pastry orchestra of Paris, but Pouchkine is the Maestro.
Unfortunately they don’t allow pictures inside café, only outside through the window thus the quality laisser a desirer. Anyway I can't come even close to the fine imagery of Paris Patisseries, so for any references regarding sweet marvels please visit this blog.

I hardly had time to snap shot of what we’ve got for our little picnic in Parc Monceau as the  trophies started to disappear oh too fast.  I could have been left without degustation if I delayed a bit longer with the camera.

If you are visiting Paris and decide to splurge a bit on pastry Paris Patisseries is your best guide but whatever you decide don’t miss Café Puchkine in Au Printemps or you won’t forgive yourself...It's beyond the most daring imagination.

* All images copyright by Natalie Rapoport

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Paris reflections

Bonjour my dear blogging friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I missed you. I guess I have an excuse  being away overseas. We’ve just returned from two weeks vacation in France and I have more than 2500 images to choose from, to share the best and exciting moments with you.
Plenty you might say, but 10 days of wondering Paris streets I simply couldn’t help it…
And as our apartment happened to be an unfortunate misadventure we tried to spend as less time inside as possible, thus the big catch of the day(s).

What a journey it was! At last I’ve got to places I always wanted and never got around like Art Nouveau marvels by Guimard on Avenue Mozart and Rue de La Fontaine. I savored architectural details grand or barely noticed but always appreciated by my wondering and wandering eyes.
We spent a leisurely boating evening on the serene lake in Bois de Boulogne.
We visited finally the Musee Marmottan with wonderful Berthe Morisot special exhibition, Atget exhibition in Carnavalet, precious Netter collection of Modigliani, Soutine and the Legends of Montparnasse in Pinacotheque gallery on Place de  la Madeleine.

The first step is always the hardest. It’s a tough decision where to start.  Maybe reflections?  A journey through the looking glass…
 I found myself drawn to these shiny, whimsical, often distorted street reflections, constantly moving and changing the scene which tripled  window  shopping fun and added another dimension to reality. Actually it was a bit of a challenge to position myself so not to become a part of image.

Some of them were  magnificent like this huge curvatious window in a newly opened Opera Garnier Restaurant.  Phantasmagoric space in red and white by a very talented architect Odile Decq. The reflection became the part of a decorating idea.
A gorgeous addition to Palais Garnier.

Grand  Palais reflecting Petit Palais.
Some reflected just the opposite side of the street with typical Hausmann building or the square jammed with  traffic.

While my husband and junior enjoyed the slow stroll in Tuillerie I spent some time in nearby Jewelry department of Musee d’Arts Decoratife with amazing  collection of Lalique and his contemporaries.
We browsed bookstores and had a delicious little picnic in beautiful Parc Monceau.
At last  we allowed ourselves to splurge a bit  in the few finest patisseries exquisitely selected by  Paris Patisserie blogger, immensely talented and utterly pastry obsessed writer.
I followed many of your helpful advices regarding hidden gems for which I’m very grateful.

We took a day trip to carefully restored Rouen where I’d be happy to take  you later, and to Chateau de Fontainebleau so overlooked by tourists.
We ended up  with 3 days in a beautiful city of Strasbourg even climbed the magnificent Cathedral, and spent a wonderful day in the sweet and tiny  town of Colmar. If eye candy means something that was literally it.
Everything will come to you in time.

Paris end of July-August always feels so deserted by locals and succumbed to hordes of  tourist nomads. Each time I’m trying to find those Charlottes Gainsbourgs quintessential parisiennes and can’t. Beautiful Clarins girls  don’t fluttered around comme les silphides either.

Where are all those mysterious parisiennes we all try so hard to imitate?  Slim, confident with clear complexion, epitomes of style and elegance?
Am I always in wrong places even away from beaten paths? There are billions of wise, witty and funny advices on blogosphere how to look and be stylish and even behave like parisienne. Beautiful (propped and styled images) feed our loving and willing imagination but for some reason I start to think it’s all just a playful, amusing myth.
This time we had to use metro a lot, sometimes at rush hour.  And parisiennes didn’t look any different  by the end of a hot and humid day than New Yorkers or Torontonians. They spoke French though fluently or texted and disappeared in music waves of earphones as anywhere else. Dressed accurately but otherwise unremarkable, no hint of a chic. They look …well… normal, a bit tired, never smile back.
I have to admit, the older ladies are completely different, surrounded by the aura of parisiennesness, even if her Hermes scarf has seen better times,  happy to engage in conversation, tolerant to my accent and efforts.
The most funniest thing happened when once I was probably mistaken for a local as I’ve seen a lady from a tourist group pointed at me to a friend commenting and swiftly took a picture. Sad and funny.
What actually did I hope to see? I’m no expert in night life scene, maybe that’s when parisiennes emerge?
But wait a moment, there were a few split seconds, when the girls stop the scouters and take off their helmets and shake their head to fluff the hair, a tiny gesture so simple, sexy and natural. Only Parisian girls can do it that way…But I’m not riding a scouter and still hoped to catch a glimpse of Charlotte Rampling  crossing the street with umbrella…Have you seen one?

 Saint Germain des Pres.

Hermes  window with beautiful  reflection.
Shakespeare and Company.

Thank you very much for coming and see you soon.

* All images copyright by Natalie Rapoport