September 3, 2015
When I moved to Paris six years ago, one of the greatest things that happened to me was meeting Melissa Unger. A fellow New Yorker, Melissa also had French blood and California cool. She was gregarious, generous, genuine, and a little bit wild. She had confidence and grace in equal measure, and very clear convictions along with the ability to articulate them. As our friendship developed over the years, I was witness—more recently, from 3000 miles away, back in New York—to her mining her beliefs to create something pretty amazing, especially for Paris, where the cynics run free.
It started in 2011, when Melissa launched Seymour Projects, a not-for-profit organization committed to helping individuals cultivate self-expression by encouraging them to balance technological stimuli with internal exploration. As of January of this year, it evolved into a physical space called SEYMOUR+. Making good on its founding philosophy, SEYMOUR+ gives the general public a physical place to disconnect from technology and other external distractions in order to reconnect with their imagination and intuition—a spa for the mind, if you will. It’s a concept that is wholly unique and yet totally natural. Here, Melissa shares her journey to opening the most innovative space in Paris.
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Posted in Arts, Parisian Living | No Comments »
January 24, 2013
Dining in Paris is the stuff dreams are made of: elaborate dishes made with top notch ingredients, artfully presented by passionate chefs.
Unless, of course, you happen into one of the infinite restos where instead of having a mind-blowing meal, you’re served mediocrity along with impressive attitude. In fact, doesn’t it taste like those vegetables on your plate came straight from a bag?
Of course every town has its dining hits and misses. But for so long, it was unfavorably risky to gamble on your average neighborhood bistro in Paris. But finally the tides have turned. We seem to have arrived at a place where you don’t have to break the bank to have a fantastic meal that gets your heart and stomach juices pumping. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 12 Comments »
November 26, 2012
Melissa Unger, the fabulous American expat behind Seymour, the thought-provoking creative initiative, is one of our very favorite Parisians. Amy Thomas sat down with Melissa to chat about Paris, creativity, and why so many artists gravitate to the city of light. If you’re in Paris this week, be sure to stop by her Mindsurf event at the Galerie Christian Berst on Wednesday. More info here. -Genevieve
There’s the love for words and ideas. The unapologetic devotion to sensuality. And, of course, the majestic architecture and light. But still, the question remains: what is it about Paris that beckons creative types? Melissa Unger, attuned to the city’s soul, enmeshed with its artists, and driving more and more of its creative energy through her initiative, Seymour, shares her thoughts.
Why is Paris a beacon for so many artists, writers, musicians and other creative types?
There are so many possible answers to this question but I’d say it’s largely because Paris is one of the few major metropolitan centers that provides a much needed respite from the “race.” It’s a place to catch one’s breath long enough to properly look outward (and inward), interpret and express. In a world where doing and achieving seem to have overtaken all else, Paris remains a city devoted to ideas, discussion and the pleasures linked to the senses, rather than to material things. “Philosopher” is still a recognized and accepted job description here. Continue Reading »
Posted in Parisian Living | 2 Comments »
October 25, 2012
Beer, frites, comics. Blah, blah, blah. No disrespect to lovers of ambers and ales, salty, fried foods, or Tintin, but there’s so much more to Brussels, capital of Belgium—capital of all of Europe—than these perennially touted attractions. Here are three lesser-celebrated reasons to hop on a train and make the 80-minute trip from Paris.
Chocolate boutique in Brussels (flavijus)
At first glance, the architecture in Brussels is incongruous—ugly, even. But in that odd stew of styles are treasures from many eras. Continue Reading »
Posted in Travel | 5 Comments »
September 17, 2012
Paris is for lovers. Unless you’re single. Like I was for the nearly two years I lived there. It was always a jab to my heart, like a deliberate and personally directed taunt, to see couples canoodling in dark café corners, pressed intimately together along the quais of the Seine, or just shopping at an outdoor market on a Sunday afternoon. Oh lovers, how very nice for you.
Then a year after I left Paris, I returned. With a man. And indeed it was a different experience. But as happy and, oui, sometimes smug, as I felt during that week of amour, I also realized that the old adage is true: the grass is always greener.
Every moment I basked in my City of Loooove romance was rudely followed by the memory of something I was missing from my solo days. It made me realize: no relationship is perfect. Continue Reading »
Posted in Parisian Living | 8 Comments »
July 19, 2012
There are many different reasons people fall in love with Paris: the art and culture; the beauty and history; the fashion and femme fatales. Moi? I can think of no bigger, better, more divine seductress than the chocolate.
Cocoa is the food of the gods, and the French unabashedly worship at its altar. For nearly four centuries, they’ve been evolving the humble brown cacao seed into something decadent, transporting and otherworldly. You can get chocolate in liquid, molten or frozen form. Sculpted into a stiletto—or a squirrel.
As a single-origin bar (tablette) or a decadent box (un ballotin) of many splendored flavors. In fact, in Paris you can toss a truffle in nearly any direction and hit a chocolatier. But don’t leave it to fate. Get yourself to any of these 11 chocolatiers for an unforgettable Parisian experience.
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Posted in Food | 13 Comments »
May 29, 2012
Today we’re all about the Paris book love. Amy Thomas interviews bestselling author Eloisa James on her latest book, Paris in Love, a memoir of a year spent in Paris enjoying the good life. For a chance to win a copy of the book, leave us a note in the comments below! We’ll pick one lucky reader at random on May 31. ** Update: the contest is now closed. Thank you for commenting! **
’Tis the season for books about Paris. There are new non-fiction titles (Dreaming in French, French Kids Eat Everything), photography tomes (Paris in Color), cookbooks (La Petite Cuisine à Paris) and a slew of memoirs including Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, A Family in Paris and the one I just devoured on my recent trip to the City of Light: Paris in Love by Eloisa James.
Having lived in Paris for nearly two years and written my own memoir, I’ve been giddily burning through these titles, alternately living vicariously, laughing out loud in empathy, and tearing up at the memories. Eloisa’s memoir was no different. A mélange of personal thoughts, family anecdotes, historic and cultural references, practical facts and general observations, delivered in a fun, self-deprecating voice, in short spurts of prose lifted largely from her Facebook and Twitter accounts, it’s hard not to fall for the lovely writer, her Italian husband, her two moody teens or her chubby Chihuahua, Milo.
Partly what makes Eloisa so irresistible is her lack of pretense. A writing professor and best-selling author of romance novels (don’t miss the giveaway below!) who underwent a mastectomy to treat breast cancer, she sold her home, took a sabbatical from work and moved her family to the ninth arrondissement. During her year devoted to enjoying life’s everyday pleasures, she becomes hyperaware of seductive details everywhere, from the “dreamy dark pink” of a tote bag to Sacré-Coeur’s basilica covered by rows of “creamy scallops” to Paris mornings that are “moody, cool and empty.” It’s a book that reminds you of the best things about Paris: the kindness of strangers, those poignant feelings of magic and melancholy, and that food can fix things. Now back in the States, Eloisa took the time to respond to some questions, just for HiP.
Of all the places in the world you could have taken a sabbatical, why did you choose Paris?
I have always loved Paris. Growing up on a farm in Minnesota, I had a black-and-white etching of the city on my wall, and I lived in Paris during my junior year abroad. After being treated for cancer, when I realized that I wanted to run away from my normal life, Paris was an easy choice: I love the chocolate, the light on the Seine, the time — or rather, the lovely way that Parisians savor their days rather than dashing through them. Continue Reading »
Posted in Parisian Living | 164 Comments »
April 10, 2012
Being vegetarian anywhere requires extra effort and planning when it comes to dining out. Being a vegetarian in a place that eats pigeon, adores offal, and extols a head to tail philosophy (that is, Paris) requires Napoleonic strategizing.
At least it used to. In recent years, the dining scene in the City of Light has been opening up to alternative styles and menus, making it easier than ever to go veg (although you can still expect the occasional eye-roll from a waiter who simply doesn’t understand les végétariens). But whether you chalk it up to Anglo and ethnic infiltration, acceptance of new ingredients and spices, or simple ennui with traditional French cooking, it’s a great time to embrace your inner green goddess and take this meat-eating city by storm. Here are four delicious strategies to help.
Merce and the Muse (Julien Hausherr)
Strategy 1: Eat a big lunch
When Rose Carrarini (who’s British) and her French husband Jean-Charles opened Rose Bakery in 2002, their focus on fresh market salads—think: grilled tofu and tomatoes, and artichokes mixed with millet and chickpeas—was shockingly different from the staple of steak frites that many Parisians ate for lunch. Ten years and two additional outposts later, it’s hard to imagine Paris without Rose’s organic market salads, fresh quiches and famous carrot and pound cakes.
Similarly, when Marc Grossman opened Bob’s Juice Bar in 2006, the smoothies and bagel sandwiches the native New Yorker served up were wildly novel. Since then Grossman has not only spawned another café, Bob’s Kitchen, which serves additional goodies like pancakes and muesli, but a whole wave of casual cantines have followed suit. Hypercool concept stores Merci and Colette both have veg-friendly subterranean eateries; take-out lunch spots like Lemoni and Cojean always offer beautiful soups, sandwiches and salads; and lovely little cafes and bakeries such as SuperNature, Merce and the Muse, Tartes Kluger and Bread and Roses all offer outstanding veg fare.
Strategy 2: Eat ethnic
Another way to sate yourself without a bite of bifteck is by taking advantage of Paris’ ethnic restaurants. In the first arrondissement, Rue Saint-Anne is an oasis of Japanese dining options including hearty udon soups (try Kunitoraya or Higuma) and “okonomiyaki,” Japanese pancakes made of flour, grated yam, water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage. Or you can get stuffed on Indian lentils and curries (Saravanna Bhavan, Krishna Bhavan) and Moroccan couscous and tagines (Chez Omar). Decent pizza (Pizza Chic, La Briciola), and Italian (Caffe dei Cioppi, Olio Pane Vino) abounds and, with last year’s arrival of Candelaria, Mexican is firmly on the ethnic eating map of Paris. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 11 Comments »
March 13, 2012
When I moved to Paris in the spring of 2009, I was as ravenous to explore the city’s food scene as I was to find a home and community of friends. One way I found I could meet people, learn a bit about local culture and customs, and eat some delicious food all at the same time was by taking the occasional cooking class. Which is how I met Rachel Khoo, author of La Petite Cuisine (Penguin, UK) and host of Little Paris Kitchen on the BBC, both debuting this spring.
It was a bright and sunny August afternoon that I found myself attending the modern Electrolux-sponsored kitchen inside the Palais de Tokyo. There were 12 of us students and I could tell the pretty Brit with red lips, a retro sundress and kitchen confidence had something going on. That something—I learned while whipping eggs for our plum clafoutis as she filleted our Provençal sardines—was pastry training from Le Cordon Bleu and a burgeoning career as a “food creative.”
Over the next few months I experienced Rachel’s creative food endeavors: a muesli-tasting party while she developed recipes for her first cookbook, Barres à Céreales, Muesli et Granola Maison (Marabout, 2010). A pie-making class at La Cocotte. An 80s-themed dinner party, complete with Pac-Man shaped foie gras. And, most exciting of all, I was invited to be there for the grand opening of her Parisian restaurant—a wee party of two at La Petite Cuisine à Paris.
Rachel’s itty-bitty restaurant was one of the most coveted reservations in town throughout the spring and summer of 2011. As soon as word got out about her cooking—described by Rachel herself as “an English girl’s perspective on French food”—everyone wanted a taste. My lunch made it easy to understand why. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food | 4 Comments »
December 19, 2011
Paris is one of the most dangerous cities to go gift-shopping. I mean, when you’re looking for the perfect piece of the City of Light to share with your family and friends, how can you resist the soaps at Fragonard, the pottery and notebooks at Astier de Villatte, the cool kid CDs at Colette or the boites of macarons and chocolates all over town—for yourself?
It’s easy to be greedy around such lovely loot. For better or worse, the price tags keep some of the madness in check. But there’s another way to work around this fair city that’s très cher: Monoprix.
Seriously! If you think about the delicacies and delights we all savor in Paris, you can find some real steals right at your neighborhood grocer. Take, for example, the pajama aisle. They may not be as raffiné as what you’d find at Le Bon Marché, but the options are pretty darn cute, nonetheless. (Don’t forget the matching slippers.)
For the men in your life, grab some jars of mustard and tins of sardines. They’re compact, come in infinite varieties, and pack a delicious punch per centime. Or, in the “personal goods” section, you can find lovely big blocks of olive oil soap, which are great “man gifts.” Continue Reading »
Posted in Shopping | 5 Comments »