September 24, 2012
Paris (Haven in Paris)
The idea seemed too good to pass up. I’d exchange my Paris flat for a place in San Francisco for two weeks to visit family. Two whole weeks! Rent-and-hotel bill free! And we’d do it in August when no one really wants to be in Paris, anyway. I’d heard stories about fabulous swaps that didn’t end in identity or home accessories theft. With a little luck and a few well-lit interior pics, I was sure it could work for us, too. And so my search was on.
After several near-commitments that folded at the eleventh hour (“I had no idea airfare would be that expensive…” and “Off to Rome instead. Sorry!”), we swapped for a sweet little house just over the Golden Gate Bridge. It sounded perfect: Three-bedrooms with a view of Mt. Tamalpais complete with a private dock on a small saltwater lagoon.
July 31, 2012
Coffee is still good. Coffee is still cheap.
June 25, 2012
I’m still in Italy. The coffee is still fast and the Italians are still ever so sweet. I’m still in Italy, but not for long.
I will soon be leaving the country of sunshine, smiles and scooters where everything is possible and everything is doable.
I will leave behind, gelato, pesto, focaccia, 1€20 cappuccinos and laundry hanging to dry in the street. I will be welcomed by flaky butter croissants, crispy baguettes, stinky cheese and laundry hanging to dry in my apartment. I will leave the sea, sun and heat for cold, rain and smog. Paris, here I come!
May 31, 2012
Brocante finds in action (Laurence Amélie)
At My French Country Home in Normandy, we love to go antiquing. We welcome guests from all over the world, from private shoppers looking to experience real French brocantes (flea markets) and hopefully bring back a special souvenir of their holiday in France, to professionals looking for hidden gems to add a little French je-ne-sais-quoi to their boutiques.
Here is how it went for a recent client, Jeni, who came to shop for her vintage rental company in California. She was only here for 24 hours, but thanks to careful planning and her ability to make quick decisions, she managed to purchase all kinds of amazing loot!
May 24, 2012
I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Monet’s paintings. Yes, they’re pretty—that much is undeniable. He certainly cornered the market on water lilies and haystacks. But I suppose I’ve developed a sense of indifference toward his work because it’s so ubiquitous. He’s one of the first artists I learned about (in a cursory 5th grade unit on art history) and whose work I learned to recognize with ease. But then suddenly it was everywhere: mouse pads, t-shirts, calendars, and the walls of countless dorm rooms I would encounter during my high school and college years. Before I knew it, I was Monet-ed out.
But once I moved to Paris, I kept hearing about Giverny, the quaint village where Monet famously made his home from 1883 until his death in 1926. It’s here that he cultivated the celebrated garden that many of his most famous works depict. Suddenly, unexpectedly, my long dormant interest in Monet was revitalized.
May 17, 2012
Our very own Erica Berman has just landed in Genoa for her yearly stint in Liguria, her favorite region of Italy. This still relatively untouched corner of Italy is one of our favorite spots for experiencing authentic Italian living in a gorgeous, seaside setting. Until the rest of us are able to make it there ourselves, we can live vicariously through Marisa’s gorgeous photography… -Geneviève
I’ll just put it right out there: I love Liguria, and centrally situated Genoa is the perfect home base from which to delve into and savor Liguria’s many enchanting qualities and seaside cities. A maritime marvel, La Superba (the proud or the haughty, as it was once known) rivaled Venice as a powerful city-state for over 500 years. And while the splendor of its storied past as a seafaring legend is evident in the magnificent UNESCO-protected Strade Nuove and Palazzi dei Rolli, Genoa’s real charm is its present-day incarnation as a working port city.
This is a city that doesn’t bend over backwards to market itself to tourists. The result is an authentic Italian metropolis, more accustomed to the visiting Milanese than Manhattanite. As a traveler who thrives on finding and experiencing those places that aren’t (yet) teeming with fellow Americans, Genoa is a joy for me. Plus, I’m a sucker for labyrinthine medieval lanes, which Genoa has in spades.
April 23, 2012
Is there anything more romantic than a wedding in a French chateau? For part 2 of her story, Paige Frost takes us through her last-minute preparations for the big day…- Geneviève
Most brides obsess over something. Will the flowers look right? Will my dress fit after the alterations? Will the DJ play YMCA (even though I begged him not to)? Will Uncle Bill get smashed and ruin the reception?
And then there’s the mother of all bridal worries — the one none of us can control and yet endlessly fret over: the weather.
We planned our wedding at a French chateau in May knowing full well that the weather could not be counted on – not in May or any other time of year. (This is France, after all). And so, with a million and one concerns filling my bride-addled brain, I focused on rain. Will it or won’t it? And what will we do if?
Despite my obsession, there was no time to lose: A hundred plus guests were descending on Paris from locales as far flung as San Francisco and Sarajevo. Everything had to be perfect and I had to oversee it all. I’d spent my first year here planning every last detail. If I could just get everyone from Paris down to the chateau in Burgundy, surely the festivities would all come off without a hitch?
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.