American Coffee, French Toast, Parlor Pizza — All Under One Roof
At the invitation of freelance journalist, Linda Hervieux, Friday evening, under gloriously warm and sunny skies, we followed along with a group of media people along the Canal Saint-Martin to visit the installation-in-progress of L’Arbri de Rien (Shelter from Nothing).
Linda joked that perhaps this wasn’t an exhibition I (in my role as property investor and consultant) should be writing about — as it is a Web-based documentary that addresses the inadequate housing problem in France and how 3.6 million people live in precarious housing conditions.
It’s no joke, however, and the reason that the politicians are scrambling for answers — if not always so effective or reasonable. Meanwhile, the 45-minute Web documentary reveals 15 portraits of individuals or families living in extreme situations and their portraits are posted on walls surrounding the Canal Saint-Martin for all to see. The group of journalists started at the corner of rue Dieu and quai de Valmy (10th) then walked along the canal on the western side until reaching Point Ephémère at 200 quai de Valmy.
The Canal Saint-Martin is a haven for picnicking Parisians that tourists don’t often visit. Now’s here’s your chance to enjoy the scenery of the canal along with taking to heart an important subject.
At dinner with Liz Alderman, a journalist with the New York Times/International Herald Tribune who writes about European economics, finance and business from here in Paris, we talked about another subject of personal interest — Starbucks. I’ve never liked the coffee and objected to their descent on the Paris cafe scene when they opened their first branch in 2004 here on avenue de l’Opéra — it seemed like an invasion of Americanism best left on the other side of the big pond.
Liz had just completed an article titled “In Europe, Starbucks Adjusts to a Cafe Culture” and reported that “After eight years spent setting up 63 French Starbucks stores, the company has never turned a profit in France.”
It’s not too dissimilar from when Disney first opened their amusement park outside Paris and made a long list of cultural “faux pas” — assuming the French would take to American culture, when in fact, it was just the opposite — Disney had to adapt to the French culture to be successful.
And so it is with Starbucks, although there are more and more popping up in all the usual and not-so-usual places. I stop in only if I want a ‘cup to go’ or one of their “Frappuccino® Blended Beverages” that the French cafés don’t make. Otherwise, you’ll find me happily at Café Charlot with a “café crème” or “espresso” Paris-style.
Café Charlot, with it’s decor that looks more like a French bistrot in New York than one in Paris, that pretty much ‘owns’ rue de Bretagne by virtue of it’s position in the sun and great food, has just opened a sister restaurant in another hot spot right at Métro Saint-Paul. At the corner where Café Le Dome held court for years (4, rue de Rivoli at the corner of rue Malher) in spite of its bad food and outdated decor, “La Favorite” has just opened for business with a slightly different menu, but with all the same atmosphere and great cuisine as Charlot.
Sunday brunch is not the same — more like an American diner’s breakfast menu, perhaps to compete with “Breakfast in America” just next door, but nonetheless, it’s a winner. Be sure to order the “Pain Perdu, Crème Anglaise, Banane ou Fruits Rouge” — you’ll never know what pleasure hit you! The eggs are bio — “Omelette de La Favorite” is also worth a special trip. WiFi is free and the pleasant and friendly service is just the same. I’ll take La Favorite or Café Charlot over Starbucks any day!
Saturday we celebrated 14 years at Parler Parlor — the French-English Conversation Group that Marie-Elisabeth Crochard Fasanella Fitère (a past Regional Director of Berlitz France) and I concocted the day we met. Still meeting three times a week, we’ve met thousands of people from more than 50 nations who come to practice speaking French or English.
If it weren’t for the group, I’d speak no French at all, thanks to an aversion I have toward being in a classroom! It’s not a substitute for French or English lessons, however — but is a perfect way to practice speaking and making friends, plus it’s really been fun and interesting all these years.
After an hour and a half of conversation, we served up pizza and home-made chocolate cake “à la Elisabeth,” after blowing out the traditional 14 candles with one to grown on. Roger Foreman, one of our newer members, gallantly interjected his own toast to the success of the group and how after trying so many others, found this one to rank highest (in his opinion). I almost cried, but instead cracked up at all the jokes flying around the room among members of both long and short standing.
Photos from the day are posted on the site at Adrianleeds.com.
Please note that Parler Parlor will be closed Saturday for Easter weekend! But don’t hesitate to try it and bring your friends — it’s free the first time you come. Visit Parler Parlor for more information.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
(Adrian with Marie-Elisabeth at Parler Parlor)
P.S. Be sure to plan on coming to “Parler Paris Après Midi” Tuesday, April 10th when Kristin Shannon and Antonio Meza of PSI Communications teaches us how to “Make friends with your multiple minds!” It’s free and it’s fun! Visit Parler Paris Après Midi for more information.