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Art Foundations: Discovering Paris’ Lesser-Known Artistic Gems

Baccarat House (Hotels Paris Rive Gauche)

Most visitors to Paris don’t know what they’re missing by not knowing the word fondation. I know I didn’t when I moved from New York. When I heard about the Yves Saint Laurent or Henri Cartier-Bresson fondations, for example, I just assumed they were boring non-profits or something. Silly girl.

Fondations are Paris’ little artistic gems. Often housed in magnificent old hotels particuliers or modern spaces designed by world-renowned architects, these “foundations” are like miniature museums, dedicated to preserving the memory and achievements of influential movers and shakers. Here are some not to be missed.

Fondation Cartier

Fondation Cartier (Tim Brown Architects’)

By far my favorite is the Fondation Cartier. The modern, airy Jean Nouvel-designed building invites the lush cedar and fig trees surrounding the building inside, and the surrounding wild gardens make for a perfect pit-stop after taking in the art. And then there’s the art. Seeing as it’s the hoighty-toighty French jeweler’s fondation, the work is nothing short of sterling. Exhibitions are really well curated, ranging from Japanese megastar Beat Takashi Kitano’s kitschy-controversial paintings to the wildly popular 2009 graffiti art exhibition to William Eggleston photographs.

261 Blvd Raspail (14th arr.). 01 42 18 56 50. Open every day, except Monday, from 11am-8pm; Tuesdays until 10pm.

Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent

Exhibit at Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves St. Laurent (Virginie Arnoux, Tulio Borges)

Yves Saint Laurent is a god to the French, to fashionistas and to feminists. So it only makes sense that there’s a fondation devoted to the iconic fashion designer in one of the city’s chichi-est arrondissements. Don your finest and dive deep into four decades’ worth of original sketches, accessories, haute couture and ready-to-wear. While many of the rotating exhibitions are devoted to YSL, not all of them are. Past standouts include shows by painter David Hockney, interior designer Jean-Michem Frank and American socialite Nan Kempner.

5 Avenue Marceau (16th arr). 01 44 31 64 00. Open Tuesday – Sunday from 11am to 6pm. Continue Reading »

Posted in Arts, Design, Events | 8 Comments »

Vivant: Organic Wines and Simple, Fresh Flavors in Paris’ 10th Arrondissement

Slightly off the beaten track in an up and coming part of Paris’ 10th Arrondissement, Vivant was a delightful find for a fresh, simple dinner in a super cool ambiance with lovely service. Phyllis expertly sums up the restaurant in her review below. – Erica

Phyllis Flick

It was no surprise that Pierre Jancou’s latest restaurant would be beautiful—his last two spots, Racines in the Passage des Panoramas and La Crémerie on the rue Quatre Vents in the 6th —are both stunning. Even so, I was still struck upon entering by Jancou’s knack for uncovering hidden gems.  This one, located on the Rue des Petites Ecuries in the 10th, was an exotic bird shop in a previous life, hints of which appear in the motif of the bright green Art Nouveau tiles which cover the walls from floor to ceiling.  It may be a new restaurant, but you wouldn’t know from the decor. With its faded charm and cool ambiance, it blends perfectly with this part of the up-and-coming 10th arrondissement.

Phyllis Flick/Erica Berman

Like its predecessors, Vivant serves meticulously sourced products and only natural wines.  On the night of my recent visit there was a small blackboard menu and between three of us we were able to try nearly everything on offer.  We started with a creamy Burrata from the Cooperative Latte Cisternino with tiny capers from the island of Pantelleria off of Sicily; delicate slices of fragrant Parma ham that were slightly salty and sweet; and seared Dupérier foie gras over shaved baby artichokes and a handful of greens—all delicious.  Mains included cochon de lait (suckling pig) with hearty mashed potatoes, Challans Duck and line caught merlu (hake) from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, both expertly cooked and served with an assortment of vegetables that included fava beans, carrots, celery-rave, and spinach.

Fois Gras and Artichokes – Phyllis Flick

The wines on offer are 100 % natural — or “living”, as Jancou calls the wines he likes to serve.  So what does that mean exactly? Continue Reading »

Posted in Restaurant Reviews | 7 Comments »

La Bellevilloise: Music, Art, Food and a Huge Terrace in Paris’ Trendy Menilmontant

La Bellevilloise – Terrace (Jerome Seillier)

A typical Parisian night out can mean any number of things. Some people like the club scene, while others prefer a quiet drink along the Seine. Some can knock back shots at the bar, and others look for a cultural infusions via acoustic guitar sets or art gallery openings. To accomplish all of these things in one night would, at the very least, tax your Navigo pass as you zig zag across town. Most likely, it would drive you crazy.

However, Hip Paris readers, I recently visited a place that is so all-encompassing, so varied in its vibe, décor and mission, that you and any number of your difficult-to-please friends can enjoy yourself, no matter what you’re looking for that night — or even that moment.

Entrance to La Halle Aux Oliviers (Kygp)

La Bellevilloise is an expansive, multi-tiered space in the hills of Belleville that, with seeming ease, incorporates every type of good time to be had under one roof. It is a jack-of-all-trades, where bar meets restaurant meets dance floor meets performance space meets brunch spot. Walking into each different area of the space brings a new experience, and I was drawn from doorway to doorway in a pleasant yet mildly schizophrenic frenzy of entertainment.

Kygp

Le Forum

Entering from the street into the Forum drops you into a cavern-like club, dark and inviting. It’s like an Art Deco museum with a pulse. It’s a casual setting, and the various, mostly acoustic sets trade places up on the center stage for a packed room. Multiple floors of seating on both sides of the room allow patrons to watch the staff move with symphonic rhythm through the space, delivering tapas (the salmon wraps caught my eye more than once) and strong mojitos out from behind the imposing bar. The mood, despite the low lighting, is vibrant, cheery and unpretentious. On my last visit, I saw trenchcoats mixing with Nikes and flannels and fitted caps bumping hips with mom jeans…

 

La Terrasse (Jason Whittaker)

La Terrassee

After the cavernous Forum, emerging onto the Terrace, with its relaxed atmosphere among the Belleville rooftops, is a breath of fresh air. Gorgeous evening light is the setting for another bar, a partially covered deck, abundant greenery and wheelbarrow tables. Reminiscent of a Brooklyn beer garden, this space offers a reprieve from the energy and intensity of the other rooms. The rumblings of upright bass from the Forum are just a whisper out here. Everything about this cozy balcony says: take your time, have a drink. So I did. Continue Reading »

Posted in Arts, Events, Food, Restaurant Reviews | 3 Comments »

Fighting the Pounds: The Perils of Jogging in Paris

Jogging along a Paris bridge (Kevin Bongart)

As a very keen runner, I realized that Paris – with its pavement café culture and lax attitude towards dogs’ toilet habits – might not be the ideal place to train. However, little did I know the numerous obstacles I would have to overcome each time I pulled on my trainers and switched on my iPod.

The tourists: map-reading, awestruck or, worse still, love-struck, they tend to look at the sky, the ground, into each other’s eyes or up at elegant Haussmannian buildings. However, they are rather less aware of what’s going right next to them (i.e. me charging past) and happily straddle the pavement two or three abreast.

The cars: do not expect them to stop willingly. Ever. The art of a good Parisian runner is judging if, with a little acceleration, you can whiz by before the lights change and the engines rev back into action.  For a Brit accustomed to polite codes of roadway courtesy and to giving cheery waves as cars patiently wait, I admit that this was initially quite a shock.

Dodging city life, jogging along the Seine (D’Alk)

The bikes: Equally unwilling (or unable) to stop, but doubly dangerous as often manned by:

A) Unsteady, inexperienced Parisians whose idea of physical exercise is a gentle Sunday stroll to the boulangerie for fresh croissants.

B) Tourists.  Having read the above, imagine the chaos when they haul themselves on to a heavy, unwieldy and highly unsexy Vélib (hire-and-drop bikes dotted at strategic points around the city). Don’t be misled by quaint wicker baskets and slim steel frames that adorn postcards and appear in films like Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain!

Philippe Charles

The beggars: Do they really think I carry around loose change in my skin-tight running trousers? Apparently so.

The dogs: They rule supreme in Paris. I’ve even heard that there are more dogs than children in the city. I digress. I have learned to steer clear of all canine specimen after various incidents involving barking, biting (well, some very close calls) and being tripped up by leashes as unconcerned owners look on nonchalantly as if to say, “Bon, if you will insist on donning that ridiculous running outfit and puffing around in a rather ungainly manner, you can’t expect to not get caught in a couple sticky situations…” Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 14 Comments »

Kid-Friendly Paris: Le Jardin du Luxembourg

Little Girl in Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens (Ktylerconk)

I’ve always thought of Paris as the ultimate adult playground. But Paris for the under-four-foot set? I wasn’t so sure.

That’s why discovering kid-friendly Paris (yes, it exists!) has been such a happy surprise. When the kids tire of museums and medieval churches (dubiously labeled “kid-friendly” by many a travel guide) put the Luxemburg Gardens on your family game plan. Even if much of the grass is interdit, there’s more than enough here to tire out your little travelers leaving papa et maman to enjoy an evening à deux.

Ktylerconk

Continue Reading »

Posted in Green, Parisian Living | 6 Comments »

Petit Usagi: Bento Box Dining on Paris’ Canal Saint Martin

Although fabulous French food abounds in Paris, too many steak tartares and croque monsieurs can leave you yearning for something different. To rescue you from the Paris-Brasserie slump is this little gem of a japanese spot right on the canal, Petit Usagi. We can’t wait to grab one of these bento boxes and linger over dinner on the canal! -Geneviève

Situated on the ground floor of the new boutique Citizen Hotel, Petit Usagi is the tiny new outpost of the Northern Marais eatery, Usagi. Run by Shinsuke Kawahara, the lunch-crowd favorite serves a selection of healthy and simple Japanese options overlooking the trendy Canal Saint Martin.

The bijou yet airy and light-filled space is decorated with lots of blonde wood, cheerful touches of sunny yellow and cobalt blue, and an abundance of mini Japanese lanterns with a bunny motif (usagi means rabbit in Japanese).

Petit Usagi’s speciality is the bento box — which is essentially the Japanese version of a lunch box — providing you with protein, veggies and some kind of grain in one cute little airline-like platter. Continue Reading »

Posted in Restaurant Reviews | 5 Comments »

A Paris Classic: Harry’s New York Bar

In La Ville-Lumière, where the wine can be cheaper than the water, there are times when we forget that there is something other to drink than the humble grape: I refer you to the classic cocktail. Paris is full to the brim of kitsch cocktail bars popular with les bobos, über-cool joints where the process of whipping together a cocktail has more oomph than the finale of the Cirque du Soleil. But sometimes nothing beats going back to basics. And where better to enjoy the perfect Bloody Mary than under the very roof where it, along with other classic favorites, were invented and have been drunk for 100 years.

Harry’s New York Bar is the oldest cocktail bar in Europe, and first opened minus the ‘Harry’s’ prefix in 1911. It’s since become the darling of Parisians and expats alike, celebrated for its extensive cocktail list, beautifully prepared drinks and excellent service. It sits just five minutes walk from the hustle and bustle of Opéra and, in tribute to their loyal expat clientele, a sign outside reads ‘Sank roo doe noo’ – a phonetic transcription of the bar’s address to help lost and thirsty compatriots find there way there.

A warm greeting from the sweetly smiling hostess and a push through the swinging saloon doors, and I feel like I’ve tumbled into New York in the days before prohibition, when the men wore top hats and women feathers and fur. There’s not such stylish attire now, alas – more button down shirts and loosened ties, but the décor and atmosphere still shimmer of debonair early 20th Century days: smartly adorned bar staff, beautiful dark reddish oak panelling, walls plastered with triangular American state flags and rows upon rows of glittering bottles of all shapes and sizes — alcohols, mixers and syrups, all ready to be whipped up into a perfect cocktail creation. Even the old style hot dog stand on the bar counter pays tribute.

I’d missed lunch, which is the only time they serve anything other than New York style hot dogs; so instead, I sipped mojitos – I’m still une bobo at heart – in the piano bar downstairs and listened blissfully to the jazz pianist work his magic on an upright piano into the small hours. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living, Restaurant Reviews | 8 Comments »

My Green Getaway: Eco Friendly Vacation in Bio-Friendly Brittany

Eco House Tremeoc Brittany

Summer is here and the crowds are starting to flee Paris for the coast. As I tend to do things in reverse and will be staying in Paris this July to enjoy all of the amazing summer festivals and events, I hit Brittany for a two-week jaunt in May, just before the summer throngs descended upon its lovely shores.

Canal Nantes – Brest

After searching long and hard, mere days before our departure, for last minute lodging that would be not only earth-friendly and green, but appealing and available, I stumbled upon two different eco-homes in Brittany that were, amazingly, available for our dates. Note to self: Planning in advance can be helpful, but if you are willing to chance it, great places that are still available are often ready to discount in the spring. Plus the weather is fabulous and the beaches are empty!

Ground House – Mellionec, Brittany

Our first week was spent in the Ground House , located in the center of Brittany’s rolling green farmland in the town of Mellionnec, one hour from the ocean. This completely self-sustaining eco home, built into the earth on one side and full of huge windows overlooking the garden on the other, was just the thing we were looking for. Built by its English owners and featured on the famous UK show ‘Grand Designs, this passive solar house was built with salvaged materials and features an organic garden, a compost heap, dry/composting toilets, and solar heated rainwater for hot water.

Canal Nantes Brest / Farm Centre Bretagne

Not well known, the center of Brittany (Centre Bretagne) offers an abundance of hiking, walking and biking options. Additionally, we were pleased to discover that the area immediately surrounding the Ground House is a serious haven for bio (the French word for organic) fans, with an organic grocery store, a couple of organic restaurants, local artisans, organic shops, and markets where local farmers sell their produce, meat and dairy directly. Continue Reading »

Posted in Green, Homes, Travel | 7 Comments »

L’Ourcine: Paris Bistrot Dining in the 13th

One of the things I love most about life in Paris is the leisurely bistro dejeuner – that delicious two-hour affair complete with three courses and wine, bien sur.

When I moved back to Paris this spring, I couldn’t wait to try some of the new bistros that had opened in the years I’d been away. I’d heard plenty about the haute cuisine-meets-neighborhood resto concept and was anxious to indulge.

My search led me to l’Ourcine – an out of the way spot near les Gobelins – for the decadent lunch I’d been dreaming about.

With its unpretentious vibe, market-inspired menu and excellent rapport qualité-prix, l’Ourcine has earned a devoted foodie following. For 34 euro (26 for mid-week lunch formule) the three-course menu offers creative riffs on classics like onglet de veau, pigeon roti au foie gras, “open” ravioli in a creamy morel mushroom sauce and famously, les quenelles au chocolat.

But no matter what you order from chef Sylvain Daniere’s ever-changing chalkboard menu, the locals swear: it’s all good. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 7 Comments »

Pass the cheese! Paris’ Best Outdoor Picnic Spots Part 2

Riverside picnicking by the Seine (Malias)

Summer is at last upon us, and with it comes the opportunity to partake in the favorite past time of many Parisians: Le Pique-nique. The possibilities for picnics in Paris are endless -from benches and bridges, to parks and promenades- so when the weather is warm, there are few better ways to wile away the long summer evenings than by gathering some people, bread and wine and picnicking like it’s the last supper. Here are a few places to enjoy the perfect picnic…

Picnicking staples: le vin, le pain, le paté! (Kari Geltemeyer)

The medieval gardens at the Museum of the Middle Ages
The institution of the picnic dates back to medieval Europe, when outdoor feasts were served before hunting, so what better place to have a picnic than where it all began? The medieval-inspired gardens beside the Musée National du Moyen Age, right in the heart of the Latin quarter, offer a tranquil haven from the bustling Boulevard Saint Germain. Split into three sections, the names of the gardens sound like something straight out of King Arthur. Past the ‘carpet of a thousand flowers’ and through the ‘sunken lane’ you come to a courtyard headed by a silver reed fountain. Within lie a quartet of square gardens with period-inspired themes: a medicinal garden, a celestial garden, a vegetable patch and a garden of love. When it comes time to unpack your basket, head beyond the courtyard to the shady glades of the ‘unicorn forest.’ Hidden behind a woven wicker fence, medieval plants like hazel, elder, holly and medlar reign supreme here. Through the ‘forest’ you can even glimpse the ruins of the only remaining Roman baths in Paris.
Musée du Moyen Age. 1 rue de Cluny, Metro: Cluny la Sorbonne (line 10)

Gardens of Cluny museum – Erica Berman

Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Parisian Living | 7 Comments »