March 21, 2012
Sunny, sweet success! After carefully planning a Côte d’Azur getaway in 2010 and being thwarted by an angry Eyjafjallajökull, I finally managed to reach Nice on a fresh attempt nearly a year and a half later. And oh là là, was it ever worth the wait.
I’d been to the French Riviera before — Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Villefranche, Monte Carlo — but not to Nice and never for long enough to really dig in, explore, and feel at home. So this was my glorious two-week opportunity and I intended to make the most of it from a home base in the charming, tangled streets of the colorful Old Town (known locally as Vieille Ville or Vieux Nice).
Nice is nice. Really nice. Really.
Old Nice was just as lovely as all the pictures and write-ups lead you to believe, only more so. The painterly churches and architecture of all kinds, featuring shuttered windows and trompe-l’oeil surprises are more than mere eye candy — it’s guilt-free dessert for the soul! Which is pretty handy given all the ice cream, gelato, and tempting local treats on hand around every corner. And as corners go, one street was sweeter or more brilliant than the next. But after 12 days I whittled down my favorite flavors to a short stretch near the top of the Old Town where a seemingly single building melted effortlessly from lemon yellow into burnt orange, then a rusty red, and finally a pale peach with celadon shutters, door, and matching mailbox. Truly a Technicolor work of art, Vieux Nice.
When I wasn’t snacking on socca, salted caramel crêpes, Niçoise salads, Fenocchio ice cream, or the most amazing variety of vegetables and other delights seasoned to perfection à la Provençale, I was trekking up to the top of Castle Hill (Colline du Château), tucking into the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC), shopping for local art and other items you can only find in Nice, or soaking up the sun and people-watching à la plage. And beyond that, I was taking the most enchanting day trips to nearby towns, both inland and along the coast.
February 16, 2012
Here at HiP, we’re always up for a good expat adventure tale, particularly one in which desserts play a starring role. In her new book, Paris, My Sweet, food writer (and regular HiP Paris contributor!) Amy Thomas regales us with stories from her two-year stint in Paris, where she wrote advertising copy for Louis Vuitton by day and scoured the city for sweets in her spare time.
All in all, it sounds like a pretty ideal existence, but like all expats in Paris, Amy faced a typical series of ups and downs. It’s no surprise that she fell hard for the city upon arrival; and it’s also no surprise that, once the initial Parisian shine wore off, Amy ultimately came to see the city’s not-quite-so-sweet side. It’s at this point that the story really starts to ring true for those of us who have been expats in Paris: you’re simultaneously charmed and alienated, comforted and challenged, energized and exhausted.
As Amy weathered the highs and lows of expat life, she also covered serious ground in the dessert department, hitting all of Paris’ confectionary hotspots and sampling the city’s most decadent delights. This book is not only an account of her time in Paris, but also a goldmine of bonnes addresses (in both Paris and New York) for dessert lovers. This woman knows her way around a pâtisserie, and serious sugar-high seekers would do well to heed Amy’s recommendations.
Paris, My Sweet is a guidebook of sorts, but it’s also just a fun and decadent read—I devoured it in less than 48 hours, pausing only to scrounge up some chocolate now and again. In addition to making me hungry, Amy’s writing transported me back to Paris, a trip I am ever-eager to make, if only vicariously.
February 13, 2012
After half a day in the airport, a canceled flight and a sleepless passage over the ocean, I expected my children to nap away our first day in the City of Lights. But the magic of Paris revived us and it was 11 p.m., admiring the fire dancers at Le Sacre Coeur when my son said, “Mom, can I get an ‘I love Paris’ t-shirt? ‘Cause I really love Paris.”
A dream destination for every traveler, Paris is rarely considered a haven for families. I’d like to challenge that assumption. The first concern is usually cost. While not cheap, Parisian retreats are about the same price as a trip to Disney World. Most people think Disney World is a reasonable goal, but why visit Epcot when you can indulge in the real locale?
Deals on flights are everywhere; all museums in France are free for those 18 and under; public transportation is inexpensive and most importantly, an apartment rental saves a fortune over hotel accommodations.
Ahem, this is the moment I need to make a disclaimer that Haven in Paris isn’t compensating me in any way. I begged them to let me write about our incredible experience with HIP.
My family spent a marvelous week in HIP’s gorgeous Champs Elysées; everything from the darling girl who met us at the apartment to the plush bedding, was perfect. We gazed at the Arc de Triomphe from our window and the Metro stop was literally right outside the front door. The location made transportation easy and delightful. Adults might find subways tedious, but for kids riding the Metro is part of the adventure. My boys loved navigating the family throughout the city and the 5-day Visite pass is a steal.
February 10, 2012
“I’ve just been offered a job in Paris,” my boyfriend of one year announced. “I won’t even consider it if you’re going to rule out coming with me…”
Huh? Definitely an invitation, not quite a proposal. So what’s a young, gainfully employed, woman-in-love to do?
Quit her job, pack her bags and move to Paris, of course!
Fast forward six months. Newly engaged and living in the Marais, we spend weekends scouring flea markets for second-hand furniture and sipping cheap red wine on our sixth-floor terrace. It’s great. But with Greg off at work and a scant hour of French per week on my calendar, it quickly becomes clear: I need a project.
I decide to get serious about planning our wedding.
Le chateau: I spot the photo in the back of a French bridal magazine; Chateau des Conde, in the village of Vallery about 90 minutes south of Paris. We call ahead and arrange to visit. The village is French country perfection: a sleepy town center with a church, boulangerie, one restaurant, a bar/tabac and a post office. Summer vines climb stone walls and window boxes spill with blooms. We haven’t even laid eyes on the chateau yet but I’m already falling hard.
Chateau owner, architect Patrice Vansteenberghe, welcomes us with champagne that we sip as we tour the grounds. The chateau dates back to the 12th century, boasts 22 rooms to host our future guests and a reception salon designed by the architect responsible for the Cour Carree at the Louvre. By the time we see the room where Lenny Kravitz and Vanessa Paradis holed up for a month scribbling lyrics, we’re more than ready to let love rule (and hand over the hefty deposit). After several more glasses of champagne, dinner with Patrice’s chic weekend guests, and an impromptu overnight in the Kravitz suite, visions of a wedding bash are dancing in my head.
January 30, 2012
You’re about to realize your dream: living in Paris for a month. You found an apartment, booked your flight, and learned how to ask for les toilettes.
You imagine strolling through the city, taking in the sights, hanging out at cafés, and being…Parisian. Of course, part of the fun of travel is making new friends. As much as we love French hospitality, local Parisians and expats aren’t always hanging out in cafés looking for tourists to befriend. If your plan was to strike up conversation with the local artists over espresso at your neighborhood bistrot, you might want to think up a slightly more elaborate back-up plan. Just in case.
Plus, maybe your idea of Paris includes escaping the tourist traps and discovering truly local haunts – great live music at an otherwise unassuming dive bar, or a fantastic meal at your neighborhood restaurant. With a dash of creativity, there are plenty of original ways to meet people and experience a little of the true Paris. Here are a few ideas:
December 15, 2011
When I popped home to the UK in November, London was already in full festive swing with Christmas trees, festive songs and neon lights galore. Sent back with a Cadbury’s chocolate advent calendar adorned with an oversized Santa, I was ready to start the Christmas season with a bang.
Yet once back home across the pond, I realized Paris hadn’t joined in on the fun yet. I was ready to start in on my advent calendar and temperatures were plunging, but where were all those tell tale signs that our favorite mid-winter festival was fast approaching?
This set me thinking. What exactly is a Parisian Christmas? What happens in the cold windy days leading up to the big event? I set out on a mission to discover the seasonal delights that France’s most romantic city had to offer.
Although the Christmas shopping frenzy begins relatively late in Paris (thankfully, shops only step into gear at the end of November), once it gets going, it really gets going. Stores go all out with light shows and designer-crafted window displays – always tasteful, bien sur. First stop? Paris’s iconic department stores. Whilst London has toy-filled Hamleys and elegant Harrods, Paris showcases its trademark sophistication with Les Galleries Lafayette and the neighbouring Printemps, where Karl Lagerfeld’s touch marks this year’s displays: think Chanel-clad rock ‘n’ roll dolls strumming their electric guitars and 20m Christmas trees.
December 9, 2011
Amy Thomas loves London, and so do we. In fact, we adore it so much we just launched our very first London vacation apartment, a gorgeous 2-bedroom rental in the heart of Chelsea. If you’d like to do London in more than a day, and enjoy afternoon tea or cocktails in your very own central London flat, let us help you plan your trip. Thanks Amy for this wonderfully ambitious London itinerary.
The daily menu at Lantana
From Gare du Nord to St Pancras in just over two hours? Do you really need another reason to hop on the 8:13 Eurostar and spend the day in London? Vite, mes amis! Allez à Londres!
Where the delicious flat whites at Lantana are made
The key to tackling the jolly old British capital in just a day is to focus on a select few neighborhoods—and fuel up on caffeine immediately after arriving. Both can be accomplished at Lantana in Fitzrovia, a relatively quick walk west of the San Pancras train station. The toasted banana bread with blueberry butter is divine and a “flat white,” more delicious than the best café crème, will put a spring in your step all day.
Gorgeous furniture by Designer’s Guild
Once caf’ed up, head to nearby Marylebone, where the shopping is as spectacular as the architecture. A stroll down Marylebone High Street will reveal everything from colorful home accessories at Designers Guild and Emma Bridgewater to beauty supplies at Space NK and Boots.
November 21, 2011
Our Penthievre Apartment near the Champs-Elysées
The winter months are absolutely wonderful in Paris. The lines are shorter at our favorite museums and sights, and the restaurants put their best foot forward for the locals - steak frites never tasted so good!
Since we’d rather be in Paris in December, January and February, we’re offering you an amazing opportunity on Friday, November 25, 2011.
The dining room in our Penthievre apartment
Instead of spending Black Friday* braving the crowds for lackluster deals, you can spend that day with Haven in Paris. On November 25 only, we’ll be offering amazing discounts on stays in December, January and February, including 20% off all 1-week, low season visits. Now that’s a deal to write home about… from your perfect pied-a-terre in the city of light!
The master bedroom in our Penthievre apartment
Contact us now to begin planning your Paris visit, and we look forward to finalizing all the details on November 25th.
November 18, 2011
You’d think that as a travel photographer who’s endlessly enamored of Paris, finding infinite inspiration for things to shoot in the City of Light would be proverbial cake. Well, you’d be wrong. At least where this Francophile photog is concerned!
My problem with Paris (and what a wonderful challenge to have) is that after so many visits, what was once a mysterious new wonderland to discover and dissect through the lens is now a favorite, intimately familiar old haunt. So when I found myself “stuck” in Paris for two weeks last spring per that little volcanic kerfuffle in Iceland instead of down south in new-to-me Nice, I was actually un peu perturbed.
After settling into the reality that I’d be in Paris awhile — and potentially a really long while if that blasted Eyjafjallajökull didn’t pipe down already, I finally began to relax and reflect on how best to start a fresh relationship with this city I had captured through my lens so many times before. In the end, I don’t know what I was so worried about! With a few simple adjustments to my habitual Paris routines, seeing the city anew was easy.
Even though you’re not in Venice, go ahead and get lost.
Armed with my trusty copy of Michelin’s Paris par Arrondissement, I wandered sans worry. One of the most important things I learned was to take the time to explore and absorb at a leisurely clip – day or night. Rather than defaulting to the subway, the bus became my primary mode of public transportation. Better to survey large, unfamiliar chunks of the city that way, and scout new nooks and crannies to tackle à pied. Similarly, if I did ride the metro, I used it to reach pockets of Paris that I’d never seen or strolled before. It was fantastique.
Get up early, or stay out late.
As on any trip, I set my alarm to rise and shine before the sun and the city. I love doing this and particularly in a place like Paris, both for the dreamy photo opps and for the priceless experience of watching timeless cityscapes come to life. Plus it’s just about the only way you’re going to score some private time with landmarks like La Tour Eiffel. Unless you’re willing to stay out way after dark, which isn’t really my thing, but man — talk about interesting photo opportunities.
October 12, 2011
Navigating the real estate scene in France can be tricky — even more so when you are unfamiliar with the labyrinthine bureaucracy and unusual quirks the French can be known for. Adrian Leeds, who specializes in helping Americans negotiate the market to secure their dream pied-à-terres in France, just recently ventured into the market in Nice. She shares a few anecdotes from her colorful experiences here. -Geneviève
The beach in Nice: Marisa Williams
Years ago I set my eye on the goal of purchasing a “pied-à-terre” in Nice for a long list of reasons:
1. Nice is nice. Let’s face it, it’s the Riviera, the Côte d’Azur, the land of the rich and famous with the blue Mediterranean Sea, balmy weather, palm trees and Italian flavor. What could be so bad?
2. Property in Nice and its environs is increasing in value on a steady basis. With an international airport and an active port, the blue coast is France’s second hotspot after Paris. This makes Nice, and just about all of the coast, an excellent real estate investment.
Nice - Marisa Williams
3. R and R…the moment one lands at Nice’s contemporary and easy airport, and you head toward Nice down the Promenade des Anglais under the swaying palms with the sea at your side, the stress just melts away. Traveling to Nice from Paris is fast and inexpensive, making weekend getaways about as easy as it gets — a perfect antidote to the cold, gray, rainy winters in Paris.
4. Rental potential of vacation apartments, particularly for the North American market, is ripe for business. While the British and Italians are well served by their own compatriots, Americans have been overlooked. Americans want and expect a higher standard of luxury and service than their European counterparts know how to provide. From a business perspective, Nice was looking awfully nice.