Aurevoir, Paris

7 Apr

I’m off to London for a month and sadly won’t be updating the blog due to very limited internet access.

A bientôt…

French Touch

24 Mar

Want the lowdown on French Touch? No, it’s not a seduction technique.

French Touch is a type of house music pioneered in the 90s by artists like Daft Punk, Cassius, Etienne de Crecy and Air.

I won’t bore you with the details (apparently ‘most tracks in this vein feature steady 4/4 beats with a tempo range of 110–130 beats per minute.’ Thanks, Wikipedia.) It’s basically house music with notes of electro and disco thrown in, performed by French artists.

HISTORY
The term was actually coined by an Englishman. Journalist Martin James used it in his 1996 review of the first Super Discount EP by Etienne de Crecy. The term took off in the French media and became a recognisable musical genre by the late 90s.

PLAYLIST
Who can forget Daft Punk‘s catchy rhythms? The most well-recognised French Touch duo (Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo) met at school in Versailles, and are famous for their club anthems and eccentric get-ups. Who knew posh boys – or indeed anyone – could party like this pre-Gaga?

Air (Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin) are a personal favourite. Their work on film soundtracks is particularly interesting, namely on Sophia Coppola’s “Virgin Suicides” in 1999 and their psychedelic 2011 soundtrack for the restored version of George Melies’s iconic “Voyage dans la Lune.” This is one of their best-loved songs:

AND NOW…
The term has been much used and abused, and can now be applied to almost any electronic French group or DJ. Bob Sinclair and Justice are good examples of how French Touch has evolved.

Justice have achieved international success since 2007 with their electro pop tunes like “D.A.N.C.E”. Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay’s latest album has more of a rock feel, but could still be described as French Touch. In my opinion, any label that gets French music recognised internationally can’t hurt!

Where to eat in Paris

19 Mar

You’ve booked your trip to Paris and got your sightseeing plan all mapped out. Eiffel tower, check. Louvre, check. But as evening falls, you wonder – where should I eat?

The city boasts thousands of restaurants so choosing a good one can be a tricky task. Websites and Paris guides present a ‘definitive’ list of which restaurants you should be eating in, such as the Guardian’s one here.

However, they usually won’t have tried and tested them and the prices are out of the average person’s range.

So here’s my selection of some of my favourite restaurants you won’t find in the guide books. They may not be Michelin starred or incredibly quirky, but they do fit my key criteria of being very tasty and very reasonable.

Mediterranean cuisine
Le 7eme Sud
159 rue de Grenelle 75007, metro: Ecole Militaire

7eme sud restaurnt

7eme Sud: Mediterranean treats

This has long been my favourite restaurant in Paris and is responsible for introducing me to the joys of spicy pasta as a child. My current addiction is fuelled by the need to recreate their exact arrabiata dish.

Tagines, greek salads and pasta dishes; the menu features the best of Mediterranean cuisine and has something for everyone. I’ve sampled many of their mains over the years and keep coming back for more. The tiramisu is also to die for.

The cosy decor and relaxed atmosphere make it the perfect place to spend an evening catching up over a glass of wine.

Asian cuisine
Baan Thai
15 Rue de la Ferronnerie 75001, metro: Chatelet

spring rolls

Unlimited spring rolls - nom nom

I only recently discovered this restaurant and was very pleasantly surprised. You can’t go wrong with their traditional and delicious all-you-can-eat buffet for 20 euros.

The food is excellent; a choice of seven different mains and all the spring rolls and soup you can possibly digest. Heaven. I sampled everything, topping it off with a banana cake fresh from the oven – before rolling home.

Plus, it’s reportedly the tastiest Thai eatery in Paris according to my Thai friend.

French cuisine
Le Petit Lyon
24 rue Vintimille 75009, metro: Blanche

confit de canard

Classic confit de canard

Good French food is almost guaranteed in Paris. But Le Petit Lyon has made it onto my list because of how authentic the bistrot is.

With a menu featuring pigs trotters, tripe and snails, this is the place for those seeking a true taste of France. Or if the thought makes you feel queasy, they also make a succulent steak au poivre with home cut chips or a confit de canard with herby potatoes. The chips and pepper sauce were so good, I physically licked my plate clean.

Tucked away in a quiet street in the Pigalle area, it’s surprisingly a tourist-free zone. The checkered table cloths and old men philosophising over a galleon of wine in the corner will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

The Kooples: kooky couple ads

15 Mar

The hot fashion name on everyone’s lips this season is The Kooples.

The Parisian brand’s popular ad campaign features real-life couples dressed in its trademark classic tailoring with a grungey edge.

couple kooples ad french fashion

A couple wearing the Kooples: clever ad campaign

I’m sure you’ve seen the ads – The Kooples has recently expanded to the UK. The idea is that people in long-term relationships often borrow each other’s clothes; think androgynous separates you can mix and match for an edgy look.

Minimal and chic with a rocker vibe best sums up the clothes. If you haven’t yet ventured into one of London‘s flagship stores, do so now. It’s pricey, but quality.

It comes as no real surprise that the clothing line’s founders are the three Elisha brothers, also behind the very chic Comptoir des Cotonniers – famous for featuring mother and daughter pairs in their ads.

But what of the ads? For Spring 2012, they’ve brought in a host of famous faces. Pete Doherty sums up the overall look very nicely.

But my favourite is Fréderic Beigbeder. This is quite the coup (in my humble opinion.)

frederic beigbeder kooples lara pub

The Kooples 2012 ad featuring Beigbeder

The famous French critic, author and personality is best known for his self-deprecating sense of humour. That and being caught snorting coke on a car bonnet at 3am. He has no shame, but is generally loved for his larger than life persona.

The poster features the 47-year-old posing with his lovely 21-year-old (ahem…) girlfriend, Lara, next to the words: “Fréderic et Lara en couple pour 3 ans. Au moins.”

The joke is completely lost in the ad translations I’ve seen across the pond. The Kooples is riding on the success of Beigbeder’s directorial debut, “L’amour dure trois ans.” The January box office hit is based upon his own bestselling novel of the same name. It’s very funny, you should read it.

film beigbeder l'amour dure trois ans

L'amour dure trois ans


The pessimistic premise of the book/film is that love doesn’t last more than three years. Beigbeder is completely convinced by this depressing mantra… but is of course proved wrong. The slogan is therefore a joke.

It made me chuckle, anyway. Perhaps you have to be French.

Take a tour of famous Paris film locations

10 Mar

Paris’s iconic landmarks and cobbled streets make the perfect film backdrop. With over 900 film shoots taking place in the capital every year, it’s a director’s dream.

From well-known sights to hidden gems, film buffs can easily retrace the steps of their favourite movie characters. Get your walking shoes on and take a trip around some of the city’s most famous film locations with our guided tour.

Here are our top five must-see places:

Le pont Bir-Hakeim
from Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’
(metro: Bir-Hakeim)

The Bir-Hakeim bridge inception

The Bir-Hakeim bridge

Begin your day with a walk across the Seine on the Pont Bir-Hakeim. This double-decker bridge saw Ellen Page and Leonardo Dicaprio bend the laws of physics in one of ‘Inception”s eerie dream sequences. You might not be able to move the bridge with your mind, but you will get a good view of Paris. For the romantics amongst you, it’s also where Marlon Brando meets Maria Schneider in ‘Last Tango in Paris.’

Montmartre – Café des Deux Moulins
from Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ‘Amélie Poulain’
15 rue Lepic (metro: Blanche)

CAFE des deux moulins amelie poulain

Amélie's Café des Deux Moulins

Next stop: the winding streets of Montmartre for a bite to eat in Amélie Poulain’s legendary café. The décor may have changed, but the authentic French atmosphere and service have remained the same. Fans of the film will delight in this tourist haven – and don’t forget to sample her trademark crême brulée for dessert.

L’Avenue des Champs Elysées
From Stanley Donan’s ‘Funny Face’
(metro: Charles de Gaulle)

Now it’s time to conquer Paris’s most famous sights. Look no further than the musical number ‘Bonjour, Paris!’ from ‘Funny Face.’ Make like Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire: march down the Champs Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe down to la Place de la Concorde, through the Tuileries then down by the banks of the Seine. Extra points if you can name all the sights in this clip:

L’Hôtel du Nord
From Marcel Carné’s ‘Hôtel du Nord’
102 quai de Jemmapes (metro: République)

hotel du nord marcel carne

L'Hôtel du Nord

Relive the 1938 French classic in the Hôtel du Nord‘s restaurant. The ideal venue for a candlelit evening meal, the iconic hotel has retained all its glamour and charm. Relax on the terrace with some traditional French food after a hard day’s exploring. Nestled along the Canal Saint-Martin’s banks, the area is also perfect for an evening stroll.

L’Eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont
From Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’
(metro: Cardinal Lemoine)

saint etienne du mont midnight in paris

Saint-Etienne-du-Mont

Finish your tour as the clock strikes twelve, sitting on the steps of the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church. Owen Wilson combed the whole of Paris in Woody Allen’s ode to the city, yet this church is one of the lesser known sights from the film. Home to the tombs of Racine and Pascal, you too can bask in the nocturnal joie de vivre celebrated in ‘Midnight in Paris.’

Want more walks? The Mairie de Paris has put together walking tour suggestions for cinephiles to relive their favourite movies, from ‘Hugo Cabret’ to ‘La Mome.’

Life’s a cabaret for Christian Louboutin

9 Mar

Louboutin + Crazy Horse = shoe heaven

Iconic shoe designer Christian Louboutin has teamed up with Parisian hotspot the Crazy Horse for their new show “Feu.”

The club:

crazy horse club paris

Crazy Horse logo

The cabaret is famed for its leggy dancers performing raunchy routines in barely-there costumes. Yet the legendary nightspot (which charges 125 euros per head with a ‘generous’ half bottle of champers thrown in) is no strip club. Celebrated for its glamour, futuristic light shows as well as collaborations with well-known choreographers ensure it stays firmly in the performance art category.

The club has been going since 1951. Having been lucky enough to step inside its gilded walls and film the dancers for its previous show “Desirs”, I can reveal ‘le Crazy’ is well worth a visit.

crazy horse dancers

Glamour and seduction: Crazy Horse dancers

crazy horse dancers lights

Striking the balance between stripping and art

The show:

Louboutin has created four unique tableaux for “Feu”, which take inspiration from everything from art installations to hip-hop. The main focus is – of course – the legs and the feet. The shoe king was involved in everything from the routines to the set design, not forgetting the shoes.

Each ‘act’ has its own shoe concept – from strappy silver ‘half shoes’ to black curved spiked pairs, they’re sure to steal the limelight from the dancers and give a whole new meaning to the term ‘stripper shoes!’ “Feu” opened on March 4.

The shoes:

red soled louboutin shoe

The much-coveted black Louboutins

Louboutin’s trademark red soles are beloved by celebrities and fashionistas the world over. But the hefty price tag means most girls can only dream of owning a pair. To satisfy the public’s collective lust, London’s Design Museum is hosting the first UK Christian Louboutin retrospective starting May 1st.

Not only can you drool over 20 years’ worth of shoes and inspiration, but you’ll be able to follow the construction process from start to finish. Shoe-tastic.

The perfect macaroon

4 Mar

Mmmm macaroons. This French delicacy is the creme of the crop when it comes to teatime snacks. The British may have finger sandwiches and scones, but the French do macaroons to perfection.

A mountain of macaroons

A macaroon is an almond biscuit sandwiched together with ganache or fruit preserves. They come in a rainbow assortment of colours and flavours, from chocolate to rose via lemon and almond.

These bite-sized treats are available at every good patisserie, but for the official stamp of quality look no further than Ladurée. In 1862, Ernest Louis Laduree opened the original bakery at 16 rue Royale in Paris. Upon his wife’s advice, it was soon transformed into the venue par excellence for socialites to gossip over a cup of tea.

laduree patisserie france

The Ladurée logo

Pierre Lafontaine, Ernest’s heir, whisked up the first macaroon and the rest is history. Ladurée now has branches all over Europe and has evolved into France’s top bakery/tearoom/shop/restaurant/chocolatier.

Ladurée macaroons are so amazing because they are: A-beautiful, B- luxurious and C-delicious.

A box of macaroons makes the perfect souvenir gift from your trip to Paris – handy, since you can even pick them up from CDG airport.

If you’re not heading to Paris any time soon, here’s how to recreate the mini treats in your own home courtesy of the Daily Mail Online. Follow head chef Philippe Andrieu’s recipe for a chic tea party.

laduree macaroons

Too good to eat

INGREDIENTS

480g icing sugar
280g ground almonds
7 egg whites
A few drops of flavoured food colouring such as strawberry

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Mix the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor until you have a fine powder. Sift to remove any lumps.
3. Beat the egg whites, adding the food colouring as you go. Quickly and carefully add the almond-sugar mixture.
4. With a wooden spoon, mix from the centre of the bowl outwards, turning the container as you go. You want to achieve a smooth, lightly coloured mixture.
5. Using a piping bag with a centimetre-wide nozzle, pipe three centimetre-wide macaroons onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
6. Cook for eight to nine minutes, leaving the door of the oven slightly ajar.
7. Remove the macaroons from the oven. Pour a little water between the baking tray and the greaseproof paper – this makes the macaroons easier to lift off when they have cooled.
8. Sandwich the macaroons using marmalade, raspberry jam or whipped cream to serve.

TIP: Leave the finished macaroons for 24 hours in the fridge. This allows the flavours and texture to develop and intensify

VOILA!

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