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How To Work Out Without Really Trying: Exercise in Paris

How to work out like a Parisian

Parisians working out – Celso Flores, Erica Berman

When I first moved to Paris, there was a billboard near my apartment that advertised a French chain of gyms. It pictured a somewhat wan man in a dress shirt, seated, calmly smiling but looking somewhat unsure of what to do with the small hand weight he was gripping. You could easily have Photoshopped an espresso in place of the weight, and it would have made just as much sense (if not more). This offers a telling glimpse into the French psyche, I thought.

In the United States, this type of ad usually depicts a healthy, young, tan, fit, teeth-gritting exerciser in the midst of an intense-but-rewarding workout, muscles flexing and sweat flying. The message: It’s hard, but we still do it. Or even, we do it because it’s hard.

This doesn’t fly in France, where the motto is more like: “If it’s hard (not to mention unflattering), why do it?” Why not just go for a drink instead? Take a load off. So apparently, the way to lure the French to your gym is to convince them that they need not sweat, exert themselves, lose their composure, or even change out of their street clothes. They simply have to show up.

Flickr- Paris Jogger Олександр
Parisian running – possibly surprised at her own body moving! Олександр

Easy as that sounds, I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of Parisians still do not show up, or even deign to work out in private. Why bother? To stay en forme, they simply walk a lot and steer clear of over-indulgence. It’s worked for centuries; why mess with a good thing? Plus there are plenty of beauty products that claim to do what physical activity would otherwise accomplish, and paired with occasional sessions on a vibrating plate, you’re good to go. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 15 Comments »

The Perfect Parisian Picnic: Our Top Spots

Paris Picnic by the Seine Ile de La CitéMark Nunez

Picnic season is in full swing in Paris, and because nearly everything (eating included) is better when done outdoors, now is the time to take advantage of the city’s myriad picnic spots. While lunch in Paris is often a serious sit-down affair, summer loosens people up, and you’ll notice everyone from schoolchildren to businessmen grabbing a sandwich and a spot on the nearest bench to mellow out for a bit.

Summer Picnic in Paris: Ile St LouisMark Nunez

And while benches and sandwiches are great, pro picnickers prefer to take it to the next level. We want real grass to sit on (I’ll make exceptions for the right cobblestones), hours to waste, an assortment of delicious things to sample, and lots of friends to come and go as they please. Oh, and lots of wine.

Many of my more memorable afternoons and evenings in Paris seem to have involved those elements. They often began somewhat spontaneously, and then suddenly, five hours had passed and we’d discussed everything from the latest exhibit at the Pompidou to the rise of bionic cats (my friends are a little weird). But this is what picnics are for—musing, lounging, making sense, not making sense, and practicing the ever-important art of doing nothing.

Summer Picnic in Paris SeineMark Nunez

Here are a few spots where picnickers of all kinds can find their bliss. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 5 Comments »

Chateau de Miserey – A Heavenly Day Trip from Paris

Sharon, HiP Paris friend and the author behind “My French Country Home”, has a lovely blog about the delights of living in the French countryside with her husband, children and… horses?? Yes, it’s true. She seems to live the dream! Here she writes about a gorgeous château not far from her home in Normandy where you are far from crowds and in the middle of nature and calm. As it is only a short train or car ride from Paris, this is the perfect summer city escape. Sharon also does private tours of her beautiful region (you can contact her through her blog) and rents  a country cottage on her charming property for short stays.

Miserey Montage

You know how sometimes you come across a place or a person that is so totally delicious you’re torn between telling everyone about it or keeping it greedily just for yourself?  Well, that’s how I feel about Monsieur and Madame de Roumilly and their beautiful château and rose garden.

Day Trips from Paris: Chateau de Miserey

If it wasn’t all uphill, I would cycle to their home, they live in a village just above our valley.  They bought this sweet doll’s house of a château many years ago and have single-handedly restored it and created gardens that people come from afar to visit.

Day Trip from Paris: Chateau de Miserey

I adore their old greenhouse with it’s unusual rounded roof and generous roses climbing all over. Continue Reading »

Posted in Tours and Classes, Travel | 2 Comments »

Colletta di Castelbianco: A Medieval Village With Internet in Liguria

Coletta MontagejpgPhotos Erica Berman (The garden of our rental & the common pool)

For some happy reason no one — except the Italians and a few others in the know — has heard of Liguria aside from well-known towns Portofino and Cinque Terre. It is for this exact reason that I have come to adore this small crescent-shaped region of Italy.

Colletta di CastelBianco

I love to be away from mass tourism and well-known places, and the ocean, hills, clement climate, amazing food and lovely people most certainly heighten the appeal of this wonderful area. For my week of vacation from studying Italian in Genoa (my favorite Italian city, also located in Liguria) I rooted up the perfect apartment in the medieval village of Colletta di CastelBianco.

Colletta window detail

Left to abandon for many years, an Italian developer picked up this empty, decaying hilltop spot and turned it into a sweet little village with 70 small apartments (about 25 of which are available for rent), a pool, a restaurant and lots of lovely outdoor space. Continue Reading »

Posted in Italy tips & suggestions, Travel | 13 Comments »

Le Brunch: Paris’ New Favorite Meal

Paris brunch-montage AlainTom Purves – claydevoutesavagecattawalker

At the risk of sounding cranky, there are two things I hate that everyone else seems to love: brunch and bowling. In my humble opinion, both are a lot more trouble than they’re worth. We’ll leave bowling for another day, but for now, brunch. It’s not the actual food I object to—it’s the scene, particularly in New York, where a 1-2 hour wait at popular spots is standard. Seriously… who wants an omelet that badly?

So the fact that Paris used to be a brunch-free zone came as somewhat of a relief to me. (Traditionally, the French eat a very simple breakfast of whatever’s lying around—coffee, a tartine… a cigarette—and then wait it out for lunch, the main event). Of late, however, the concept of “le brunch” is slowly but surely creeping its way into Parisian culture.

Initially, I was skeptical, but I’m happy to report that the French put their own unique spin on the hybridized meal. Just as it’s hard to find a true dirty martini in Paris (a tragedy), it’s still rare to come across a true American-style brunch, which is fine with me. As long as you’re not holding your breath for Bloody Marys and maple syrup-drowned pancakes, you’ll be more than satisfied.

montage-topXmattSnippy Hollow

Here are a few HIP-approved brunch spots that indulge American-style gluttony without sacrificing French-style gastronomic refinement.

Coquelicot. One of our favorite bloggers and Francophiles, Nichole Robertson, tipped us off to the great brunch at Montmartre’s rustic Coquelicot boulangerie. On the weekend, a lavish brunch—which entails a variety of pastries, a soft-boiled egg, toast with smoked salmon, fruit salad, and steaming bowls of coffee—is served all day long. 24 rue des Abbesses, 18eme (01 46 06 18 77). Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Parisian Living, Restaurant Reviews | 7 Comments »

Last-Minute Getaway to Paris: August Specials

I love Paris in August. Although it gets a little steamy at times, the city empties out of its usual crowds of Parisians as everyone jaunts off to their country homes for the traditional 4-week summer holiday. A strange calm descends over the slanted rooftops and all of a sudden, I don’t have to fight for a seat at a sunny terrace in the middle of the afternoon in St. Germain.

Rue Du Four 3-bdrm St. Germain ParisRue Du Four 3-bedroom, St. Germain – 15% off in August

What’s more, Haven in Paris is offering some pretty amazing special offers in some of our most in-demand flats this year, just in time for a last-minute break in Paris — when the city is at its most relaxed.

Elzevir Marais 1-bedroom ParisElzevir Marais 1-bedroom – 15% off in August

Keen to wander down car-free cobble stone streets? The Marais has some of Paris best shopping, food and cafés — the best of which Amy Thomas recently blogged about here.

Place des Vosges 1-bdrm ParisView from Place des Vosges 1-bedroom – 10% off in August

How about living right on the Place des Vosges — one of Paris’ oldest places and a fabulous place for strolling, napping in the sun and, of course, people-watching. Just a 10-minute walk to the Ile St Louis, Notre Dame and some delicious Berthillon gelato on the banks of the Seine. Continue Reading »

Posted in Homes, Parisian Living | 4 Comments »

Vintage French Linen – To Have And To Hold

Sharon, HiP Paris friend and the author behind “My French Country Home”, has a lovely blog about the pastoral delights of living in the French countryside with her husband, children and… horses?? Yes, it’s true. She seems to live the dream! Here is a post about vintage French linen. For those of us lucky enough to have slid between genuine vintage linen sheets on a hot summer evening, her pictures and narrative bring back blissfully cool memories!

French Country Home

I’ve already told you how much I love old French linen, well today I’m really excited because  this weekend I’ve been able to find several unusually beautiful bed sheets to put into my etsy shop.

One of my really great pleasures in life is slipping into bed between freshly pressed linen sheets.  Best of all vintage linen.  I love the weight of the linen, the soft smooth texture, the way they feel cool in the summer and warm and comforting in winter.  I never sleep better than in old French sheets.

French Country Home Linen

Today it is still possible to come across bed linen, over 100 years old, and in perfect condition.  If you are lucky it’s monogrammed, if you’re very lucky you get ladder work, lace or other embroidery too.  Sometimes there are slight signs of wear, or even a tiny and perfectly darned hole, to me this just adds to the charm.

Traditionally the most beautiful sheets were embroidered as part of a young girl’s trousseau.  The wealthier the family, the more ornate the handwork,  and the finer the weave of the metis, or cotton and linen mix.  There are few places today who produce such fine and long lasting materials. Continue Reading »

Posted in Homes, Shopping | 6 Comments »

Casual Eating in Paris’ Haut Marais

Merce & Muse Paris Eatery Marais Merce and the Muse – Julien Hausherr

Life used to be so easy. At least my lunch choices were. I’d saunter over to the Haut Marais, into le Marché des Enfants Rouges, and hit up Alain, “my” sandwich guy. It started one day when I ordered the delicious organic smoked salmon sandwich that he made on ciabatta and slowly, patiently toasted up to crunchy perfection on his crepe burner. I quickly became addicted. Then he introduced the Cornet Vegetarien, and suddenly all bets were off. Inside a savory crepe, he’d combine gobs of delicious ingredients (“tout bio!” he’d proudly point out) such as fresh greens and mushrooms, grated carrots and fennel, marinated onions, sliced avocado and chèvre, olive oil, chives, sea salt, diced parsley, lemon juice, lime zest, and, à la fin, honey—or, ”the French touch!” in Alain’s words. In my own words, the best sandwich in the city.

Merce and Muse, Tartes Kluger, Marais ParisMerce and the Muse, Tartes Kluger – Julien Hausherr

But suddenly, my choices are a lot more plentiful. Casual eateries keep popping up, making me feel a little torn about sampling the new goods versus sticking to what I know and love. But let’s be honest: a girl can’t live on sandwiches alone. And as much as I’d like to eat several lunches a day, I must make my choices wisely. So, while I still visit Alain as often as possible, I’ve also been eating up the other fresh dishes put forth in the Haut Marais these days.

CocoCook Marais ParisCococook – Julien Hausherr

Say it’s a nice, sunny day and I’m heading to Square du Temple or Square Georges Cain, craving something beyond a sandwich for lunch. I exit the back of the Marché des Enfants Rouges, on rue Charlot, to the brilliant Cococook. Open for nearly a year now, it’s the kind of fresh and simple take-out food that has been perfected in U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco: a simple spinach salad, studded with sesame seeds, for example, or quinoa with coriander chicken and butternut squash. There are healthy drinks (carrot-ginger-orange juice) and naughty desserts (chocolate caramel tarte). But maybe the best thing is that the cute and clean operation is open every day and every night and even delivers—a true rarity in this city. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Parisian Living, Restaurant Reviews | 5 Comments »

Cult of Quality: Meeting the French Standard

EBBErica Berman

If there’s one thing I learned while living in Paris, it is that mediocrity is unacceptable. It is for idiots and Americans—it is not for the French. I was once walking up my street when a particularly agitated French woman came charging out of a little cheese shop. She was perturbed in that very French way: shaking her head and quietly fuming, as if someone had just done her a grave disservice. When I got close enough to hear what she was griping about, she uttered the phrase: “C’était tout à fait médiocre.” It was completely mediocre.

She was talking about the cheese, or maybe about the shop itself­—its merchandise, its presentation. Whatever it was, it had greatly offended her, and she uttered the word “mediocre” as if it were the most vitriolic insult she could possibly conjure up. Mediocrity—the ultimate shame.

Mediocrity French Attitude Paris

The incident seemed indicative of a larger theme that reiterated itself in myriad ways while I was living in France, particularly when it comes to food. In the United States, bigger is often equated with better, and mediocrity is sort of the norm. When something exceeds mediocrity, we’re often pleasantly surprised. Conversely, the French have higher expectations and stricter standards, particularly when it comes to edibles. Quality and moderation trump quantity and excess. If it’s not good, vendors do not sell it, people do not buy it, one does not eat it… or wear it… or tolerate it. I have drawn a little chart to help illustrate relative tolerance levels. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 17 Comments »

Paris in July: Don’t Miss These Events

Luxembourg Paris July EventsLittle Brown Pen

If you happen to find yourself in Paris this month, you’ll be delighted to know that there are quite a few wonderful things to do. Richard Nahem has been kind enough to compile a list of these events to make it easy for you to plan your stay.

Voyage Dans Ma Tete

Does anyone still wear a hat? Apparently Antoine de Galbert thinks so. His astounding collection of over 400 hats, headpieces, and headdresses are from the tribes of Africa and South America. The exhibit explores the cultural and practical aspects of one of man’s oldest garments.

Till September 26, La Maison Rouge, 10 Blvd. de Bastille,12th arr. Metro: Quai de la Rapee, Bastille. Open Wednesday-Sunday 11AM-7PM, Thursday till 9PM

Paris Cinema Festival 2010

The annual Paris Cinema Festival honors Japanese cinema this year with over 100 films. Charlotte Rampling is the chairperson and special guests include Hanoi Jane Fonda and filmmakers M. Night Shyamalan and Eugene Green.

July 3-13. Screenings are 5€ each, or get a Paris CinéPass for 30€ for unlimited access.

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of the legendary singers Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, has carved out quite an acting and singing career in her own right. Her whispery voice can be heard at La Cigale and the set list includes Dylan’s Like a Woman, Jamais, and Cafe de Artistes.

July 8 & 9, 7:30PM, La Cigale, 120 Blvd. Rochechouart, 18th arr. Metro: Pigalle Continue Reading »

Posted in Events | 2 Comments »