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Inside Paris – Ariel’s Favorite Paris Walks and Tours

Contemplating Van Gogh in Paris – Giovanni Giorgini

There are so many tours to choose from in Paris… Whether you want to be whisked off on your adventure by bike, boat, balloon, Segway or foot (I have yet to find a horseback tour, but I’m sure someone, somewhere is cooking one up), a tour exists to help make that dream come true.

Having that many options at your fingertips can be overwhelming. That’s why we make it our duty here at Haven in Paris to scour the city tirelessly for the very best tours to recommend to our clients. I’ve been lucky enough to meet more than my fair share and have compiled a list of four of my favorites, chosen because they are so original, in depth and because the people behind them are amazing characters themselves!

Musée D’Orsay (Manolo Blanco)

Time Travelers Tours

Sara Towle’s “Time Travelers Tour” StoryApp (downloadable to the iPhone) is one of the most original Paris tours I’ve experienced. This labor of love started out as a book geared towards children and has evolved into an fully interactive, fact-filled, historical adventure through Paris. The first tour in the series, “Beware of Madame la Guillotine”, reveals the stories behind the landmarks and personalities associated with the French Revolution. It’s perfect for adults and children alike (I had a great day out following the tour with my husband)!

You can download the Time Travelers Tour App for your iPhone here or here. Continue Reading »

Posted in Arts, Events, Tours and Classes | 3 Comments »

Cupcakes: France vs America? The Paris Cupcake Camp Showdown

Next week, Paris is hosting its second annual Cupcake Camp, with all proceeds going to the Make a Wish Foundation. To celebrate this worthy occasion, one of  the Cupcake Camp organizers Bryan Pirolli shares his thoughts on the difference between French and American cupcakes.  If you can find room after your croissants and eclairs this Sunday, we hope you’ll make an appearance in October 2nd. After all, it’s for a good cause! -Geneviève

Nessa B.

Cupcakes have slowly been invading Paris since 2008. By the time French frozen food chain (and Parisian institution) Picard started carrying them, it was pretty obvious that these trendy cakes were on the French foodie scene for good.  They are part of the same cross-cultural exchange that has resulted in the opening of legendary macaron-maker, Ladurée, in New York.

As with most things that cross the Atlantic, certain aspects of the cupcake Carrie Bradshaw enjoyed outside of Manhattan’s famed Magnolia Bakery were lost in translation…

Alisa Morov, Sensational Cupcakes; Island Girl 4 Ever

1.  French cupcakes are often served with a small fork or spoon.  Why?  Half the fun is taking a big bite and licking the icing off your fingers like you did when you were seven.  Maybe the French fancy themselves too refined to sport the inevitable icing lip-glaze, or maybe they just really like silverware.

2.  French cupcakes often have a coeur, a filling of sorts, often jam-based, that likes to escape out of the bottom as if your cupcake had a trap door.  American cupcakes, devoid of this sophisticated yet messy upgrade, must be therefore be more superficial and less spiritually concerned with what’s on the inside. Continue Reading »

Posted in Events, Food | 14 Comments »

Social Eating: Paris’ Best Private Dining Clubs, Networks & Foodie Groups

This could be your hostess (Very Swell, by Lost in Cheeseland)

Even the French say that Paris is a hard city to crack socially. This may have been true once upon a time, but with the recent wave of foodie groups and networks bringing adventurous diners together in secret and not-so-secret Parisian locations, however, there’s no reason anyone should be eating alone these days.  For every linguistic level and budget, there’s a way to meet the locals and experience authentic French cuisine.

All it takes is a few clicks:

Small, sophisticated bites at a Very Swell gathering (Lost in Cheeseland)

Super Marmite is a social site that puts the emphasis back on local cooking, literally.  Users browse the site to locate neighbors who have made extra portions of quiche lorraine or who have a few crème brulée in excess on their counters.  You can then purchase the servings (prices are indicated on the site), swing buy, say hello, and buy your homemade, locally produced French dinne

COlunching: Getting back to basics, COlunching started as a way for freelancers to escape their home offices for lunch and meet new people. Now the online network includes brunches and dinners in a number of international cities, allowing foodies and travelers to join eat and mingle in Paris, New York, and beyond.

Treats at the Super Marmite Improv Brunch (Super Marmite)

Voulez-Vous Diner: This site brings together French hosts and international travelers at – where else – the dinner table.  For 65 euros per person, guests can sign up to dine in the French home of their choice.  Simply browse the meals available and make a reservation. Continue Reading »

Posted in Events, Food, Restaurant Reviews | 11 Comments »

“Le Flirting” in France: The Art of Seduction

Dave Bloom

Soon after arriving in Paris, I was approached by an older man at a cafe. With my blond hair and toothy grin, I was clearly a foreigner and at 29, a still-prime target. He asked if he could join me. “Actually, I am engaged,” I said, a fact I was very excited about just weeks after becoming betrothed.

But zees is nuh-sing in France,” he replied with a sly grin. Nothing? I was shocked.

Thomas Mueller / Celine Willard

I had, of course, heard how forward French men could be. Tales of infidelity in France are legendary and I naively assumed I had encountered a world-class lothario. But I knew nothing then about the French art of la seduction and how what might seem like a come-on to a young American can actually be a benign and entertaining part of the game of life à la Française.

Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 18 Comments »

Bryan’s Italian Love Affair With Napoli

Paris might be our one true love, but there is always room for summer flings. As the season of summer getaways winds down and our very own Erica Berman soaks up the pasta and capuccino in Genoa, Bryan Pirolli tells us about his (short-lived) love affair with another irresistible Italian city: Napoli. – Geneviève

Shades of Italian architecture

I did a very bad thing.  I left Paris to spend some time in Naples.  There are some jealousy issues there.

Since I moved to Paris, I have never spent as much time in another European city as I have in this Italian port town. After just a week of feeling and acting like a local, I knew I was in love with Neapolitan culture. People actually stop you in the street to help you, to recommend which souvenirs to buy, or which beach to visit. Literally, pull up a chair and join the street sitters – it is Mediterranean culture at its best.

Everyday life – Italy

On my last day, I feared returning home to my first love.  The piazzas, the sun that turns your skin a leisurely brown, the gesticulating yet welcoming Italians – how could I leave this? Paris all of a sudden seemed lacking in so many Italian essentials – and not just the perfectly ricotta-filled cannoli. What’s worse, I knew Paris would be able to smell my new Italian love affair all over my clothes.

A Genovese stoop

Thankfully, as I started walking through the City of Lights again after my week of Italian bliss, the familiarity of it all made me feel at home. All of the things I usually take for granted stood out a little more –the things that, as a visitor, I didn’t have with my Italian fling. Continue Reading »

Posted in Italy tips & suggestions, Travel | 7 Comments »

Fast Coffee in Italy – Quick, Cheap and Delicious

Coffee and focaccia – Breakfast in Genoa

In Italy, coffee is delicious, quick, and to the point.

You arrive, you order, you drink, you go. Now, your day can start or your afternoon can continue.

Your barrista probably knows your name, the name of first born child, where you live and, most importantly, what kind of coffee you want and how you want it.

Small and quick, the morning coffee fix

Your coffee will be served velocemente…. you will stand at the bar, you will chat about the weather, your vacation, your work, your kids, your partner, your pet …. Continue Reading »

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

Arty Dining: Paris’ Best Museum Restaurants

Mini Palais at the Grand Palais

Art and food. Food and art. Of course the two dance deliciously together in the City of Light. But with this past year’s additions of the Gilles & Boissier-designed eateries inside the contemporary auction house Artcurial and the Mini Palais within the landmark Grand Palais, Paris’ art scenes are crossing over into prime dining destinations. Here are five top-notch spots to sample when you’re as hungry for good food as you are for fine art.

Tokyo Eat at Palais de Tokyo

Tokyo Eat and terrace (Justine Robinett)

This versatile restaurant inside the contemporary art museum is a favorite haunt of Parisian hipsters. That’s because, with its super-sized dining room, UFO-shaped lanterns and colorful mid-century furniture, it’s cool without trying too hard. The food and ambiance are also atypically refreshing. Open non-stop from noon until 1 in the morning, you might opt for a freshly squeezed carrot-ginger juice in the morning, a lunch of inventive coconut and pineapple ravioli, or a standard steak with plump frites at any hour. It’s great for solo dining as well as big crews.

13, avenue du President Wilson, 16eme, 01 47 20 00 29. Open every day except Monday, from noon until 1 a.m.

Mini-Palais at the Grand Palais

Mini Palais and the terrace at the Palais de Tokyo (Justine Robinett)

With a menu created by Michelin-starred chef Eric Frechon and overseen by executive chef Stéphane d’Aboville, dining in this elegant, lofty restaurant—designed in neutral colors like an artist’s atelier—goes way beyond your typical museum offerings. It starts with a warm brioche that’s as decadent as a southern popover, and then moves on to just about anything you’re craving. The roast chicken is generous and succulent, the cabillaud is delicately poached in ginger and lemongrass, and the burger is topped with foie gras, bien sur. Get there before autumn descends to take advantage of the magnificent outdoor terrace, with its grand imperial columns, mosaic floors and sheltered views of the Petit Palais.

3, avenue Winston Churchill (enter on the Seine side), 8eme, 01 42 56 42 42. Open daily from noon until midnight. Continue Reading »

Posted in Arts, Events, Restaurant Reviews | 9 Comments »

Antique Shopping in Paris: A Guided Tour of the Marché Aux Puces

Typical Parisian flea market (Josh Leo)

I first visited the Marche aux Puces (Les Puces de Saint-Ouen) 5 years ago. I was feeling adventurous and had a new house I dreamed of filling with amazing finds from the famous Parisian flea markets. As soon as I arrived, however, my confidence and sense of adventure plummeted. There was so much, and it was all so beautiful, I couldn’t decide where to begin. I didn’t know if bargaining was de rigueur, and I was timid about asking for prices because I assumed most of the dazzling objects that caught my eye had to be out of my price range (especially since most of them looked like they came right out of Versailles). I found some amazing light fixtures and chairs, but they weren’t going to fit into the overhead bin on my flight home, and I hadn’t the first clue about how to arrange to shipping. In the end, my eyes got their fill of gorgeous pieces but I left empty handed.

Random finds at the Marché aux Puces (Michael Tucker)

My experience, sadly, is not uncommon. The flea markets of Paris can be very intimidating and the vast maze of memorabilia is more than a little overwhelming.  My fellow HIP gal pal Andrea knows exactly what I mean; she’s suffered from the flea market frazzle too!

So this summer, when Toma Haines and Franca Giagnacovo from Antiques Diva reached out and offered to take us ladies at HIP on a shopping tour of the Puces, we jumped, of course! After all, these women are bonafide experts on all things antique – maybe they could do something to salvage our dream of decorating our American homes with authentic French finds.

Walking the Paul Bert market at Clignancourt (Dave Bloom)

Our fabulous guide Franca met us in the morning with mini bottles of bubbly and personalized tote bags to carry home the treasures we were to collect that day. She gave us a great info package with maps and a brief description of each market within the Puces so we could pinpoint exactly where to go and what we wanted to see.  Andrea and I were both on a mission to feather our nests, so we focused on furniture, house wares and art. She steered us effortlessly through the slightly rough looking streets leading to les Puces and around the sea of cheap plastic knickknacks and designer knock offs that precede the “real” flea markets. Once inside, she knew exactly which vendors had what we were looking for, and she was willing to help us haggle (a very accepted practice).  Andrea has the scoop on the amazing treasures we saw. Continue Reading »

Posted in Shopping, Tours and Classes | 13 Comments »