December 4, 2012
Oh, Paris, you fooled me again. When I’m away – whether in Boston, L.A. or San Francisco – la vie en rose beckons, making other cities look shabby by comparison. So much so that I forget real life here: the constant manifestations that block your streets, the crottes de chien that decorate your sidewalks, the surly fonctionnaires that populate your public services.
Montmartre after the rain - Magnus D
And most of all, I forget about your weather.
I’m not alone. Movies, songs and countless works of art have celebrated the romance of Parisian weather. In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, the signature appeal of the protagonist’s dream girl seemed to be her love of getting soaked by la pluie.
November 28, 2012
On a recent Culturefish “Must Do” walking tour around the center of Paris, our guide Pierre enthusiastically described a major turning point of Parisian culture. During the Age of Enlightenment, the city was a hotbed of thinkers and politicians who were getting hyped up on a new drug being served around town: coffee!
The famous Café Procope, Paris’ first café, was serving this new, caffeinated beverage to the likes of Voltaire – rumored to have consumed 40 cups of coffee a day – among a star-studded cast of other enlightened historical figures, including Benjamin Franklin, Rousseau, Diderot, and Robespierre.
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.
November 20, 2012
This summer, I was rudely awakened by a girl on the Paris Metro wearing American flag knee-highs and a stars & stripes bandana. My stomach turned; I knew something was terribly wrong. I had completely forgotten it was the 4th of July.
When the leaves start to fall in Paris, my heart turns to the U.S.. Although Pere Noel is already camping out on the shelves of the supermarche, this time of year always makes me miss the States a little bit more. After completely forgetting our most patriotic of American holidays, I promised myself to make a concerted effort to maintain my own personal traditions despite the preoccupations of my new life in France. Thanksgiving appeared as the perfect cultural bridge between my two homes.
I have been itching to push all of our tables together and host a Thanksgiving dinner of my own. Although a party of two is just fine for Christmas, Thanksgiving requires a big bird and a full house. Rattling off my guest list to my French husband, I realized that after several years of long-distance dating, we have never spent a real Thanksgiving together.
November 16, 2012
During my recent visit to the U.S., my sister told everyone that I live in Paris just to marvel at their reactions.
“Just stick a dagger in my heart, why don’t you,” came the response from a cosmetics salesman. “I’d give anything to live in Paris…” It garnered me bonus points in San Francisco’s chic boutiques and even scored us a table at an impossible-to-book restaurant. “My sister’s just in from Paris… hoping you might have something for us at eight?” Pas de problème.
Every expat who lives here knows the feeling. Why? Because Paris is the culmination of our romantic dreams, the city upon which we project our fantasies of a life well lived. We’re the lucky ones who’ve somehow pulled it off. But how?
November 9, 2012
In the town where I grew up, there was a small, mostly underwhelming children’s science museum. The best part of it by far was its taxidermy Bengal tiger, which was positioned—perhaps strategically—just around a sharp turn in a hallway.
If you turned the corner unaware, it would inevitably scare the bejeezus out of you. And even if you knew it was there (as I did), rounding that corner was still a heart-pounding, adrenal experience. What if the tiger is alive this time?
November 5, 2012
Having grown up on CVS and Walgreens, the French pharmacy was a revelation to me. Anyone who has ever been lured by the glowing green cross knows that pharmacies in France shill more than medicine and bath staples. They’re cosmetic wonderlands that offer some of the most ingenious—not to mention luxurious—products around.
For a long time, a trip to France meant loading up on these goods and then painstakingly rationing them in between visits, but of late, they’ve begun to invade new markets. In New York, at least, you can now find brands like La Roche-Posay, Vichy, Klorane and Avène right in Duane Reade. Duane Reade!
October 31, 2012
Since an early age, my mother tortured me by resisting my pleas for pre-packaged princess costumes in favor of handmade couture confections. Much of growing older is recognizing the tremendous sacrifices my parents have made to help me realize my dreams. One year in particular, no effort was spared to transform me into Catwoman for a few short hours. My mom locked herself away for the evening, applying decorative puffy paint stitches to my impeccable Catwoman costume until she sent me off to school the next morning, exhausted but not forgetting my parcel of orange Rice Krispie treats. Hereditarily, I have adopted the same do-or-die approach to the holidays. The festivities cannot begin without at least one all-nighter, a tearful breakdown, and a nail-biting countdown. Luckily, in France, holidays lack the high stakes of their commercial counterparts stateside. I can finally take a deep breath. But despite the tedious door codes which prohibit competitive trick-or-treating, Halloween is slowly infiltrating French culture…
October 29, 2012
There’s a reason why Paris is known as La Ville-Lumière, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night, as many people might think when they first hear Paris’ favorite nickname. Forget the architecture, the food, the culture and the fashion. The light alone would have us coming back for more…
In the morning, the early sunshine kisses the city and in the evening, Paris bathes in the warm setting sun. It’s truly breathtaking and it’s definitely worth making it out of bed in time for that extra-early morning coffee…
October 12, 2012
After several weeks in sunny California, Paris can feel like a bit of a shock. Everyone knows that Californians are preternaturally, well, sunny. Parisians? Not so much. But are Parisians as rude as their well-worn reputation? Although I hate to admit it, I’m tempted to say oui.
But here’s what I’ve learned: rudeness is in the eye of the beholder. After all, one woman’s nasty remark is another’s conversational norm. And while many Parisians might be described as rude, they are also — and often maddeningly — scrupulously polite. So what gives?