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Paris Resolutions In and Out

Part I: Resolutions

When the year starts to wind down and come to an end, and in this case it’s the end of a decade, it’s natural to reflect on all the things we thought about doing but never quite got around to. I have a long list…as there is too much to do and too little time in one’s lifetime…or so it seems.

So, when American in Paris Annie Venier invited me to come experience her private “Pilates” class, I jumped at the chance. So many friends had been talking about Pilates for years, but as exercise phobic as I am, it wasn’t hard to shrug it off and leave it for those more disciplined. Besides, I didn’t really understand what it was…except that several friends swore they were able to tighten up their sagging middles with Pilates better than anything else they had ever tried.

Pilates (pronounced pill-aa-teez) was developed over one hundred years ago by j2999eph Pilates in Germany, but it took until now to attract over 11 million devotees and 14,000 instructors in the United States alone. He called the method “contrology” to describe mind control over the muscles with which we keep our body balanced and that support the spine.

Sounds simple, but Annie’s collection of equipment is impressive, having spent a small fortune to outfit her “Le Petit Studio Bis” in Saint-Germain-des-Prés at the “Cours George Centre de Bien-Etre” on rue de Tournon. Annie herself is what every woman would want to emulate — a tall, blonde, pretty, young and clearly physically fit woman with a glowing personality. She began the practice in New York more than a decade ago as part of a total rehabilitation following a sports injury and with years of practice and hours of training, she became a certified instructor, moved to Paris and set up shop. Voila, Pilates in Paris.

Oh what fortune to have experienced Pilates for the first time under her gentle instruction. It was an uplifting experience to discover that for ‘an old broad,’ I wasn’t in such bad shape (thanks to the 70 steps to my apartment and walking everywhere in central Paris)…and that one could work out for an hour without sweating (or messing up your hair or makeup!)…and that in just one session one could feel and even SEE a difference in one’s middle-aged pudgy midriff. (Who? Moi?)

The downside is that Pilates isn’t cheap, even though well worth it. Like the difference between private French lessons and a class with 15 students, private sessions are more efficient, but costlier. She will make you a special price for a commitment of 10 sessions, which isn’t a bad idea to ‘encourage’ you to come regularly. j2999eph Pilates said, “In ten sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference and in 30, you will have a whole new body.”

If you partner with a friend, your cost is reduced by about one-third. Get a group of four friends together and you save another third and if you can organize a group of eight, you’ve hit the jackpot for a price per person that would only have bought a simple lunch (that you shouldn’t have eaten, anyway if you wanted to slim down that pudgy midriff!).

I’m all for that. Annie is proposing three group classes a week that you might want to learn about on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Meanwhile, I am interested
in making my first New Year’s resolution, by organizing a group of friends to meet at “Le Petit Studio Bis” on Friday afternoons at 5 p.m. to get our spines in line and tighten up those maddening middle muscles. (Only consider doing this with me if you can commit to 10 sessions, one time a week…otherwise, make some other resolution you can stick to!) So, if you want to join me on Friday afternoons, email me at [email protected] and we’ll make our first session January 8th.

To contact Annie for more information, email [email protected] or call and be sure to tell her I sent you.

Part II: Out of Paris

We knew it was risky, but we did it anyway — climbed into a friend’s car Sunday morning while the snow was drifting down and headed out of Paris into the suburban Ile-de-France to find the weekend “brocantes” (rummage sales). Through the Web site of, I searched and printed out a list of all the markets open that day in the region, ready for just about anything.

I’m on a hunt for one specific thing that is turning into an obsession: a small cabinet no higher than 80 centimeters that will be the primary furnishing in the bathroom of “Le Saint Tropez” on which a “vasque” will sit and within which the towels and other bathroom necessities will be housed.

Le Saint Tropez is the name affectionately given to my studio apartment with a terrace that is currently under renovation. A “vasque” is a vessel-type sink, and in this case, it’s a frosted pale aqua glass, that hopes to find its home atop such a cabinet. The cabinet needs to be something special, as it will be seen through the bathroom archway from all points in the apartment. Finding just the right thing hasn’t been easy.

There was little traffic in Paris and not much on the highways, either. While the snow had turned to slush in the city, the countryside was still white with a thick layer of flakes and it felt good to get a glimpse of how the other half lives.

After driving about one hour, we pulled into the tiny village of “Brières-les-Scellés” in the Essonne (department 91) only to discover the brocante was canceled due to inclement weather. Not to be discouraged, we started off for the next brocante not far away at “Grisy-Suisnes,” but got smart enough to call ahead and once again discovered it had been canceled, too. Not to be discouraged, we moved down on the list to a brocante along the “bord de Seine” at “Ris-Orangis.” With no special message on their phone, we assumed it was operating and arrived there not long after.

A few scraggly and soggy brocante dealers had set up an odd assortment of recyclables on tables along the border of the Seine River to a backdrop of abandoned factories. One frozen woman was cooking up Chai tea in a big pot and halved oil tanks were burning coals on which they were grilling “merguez” (spicy sausage). It was a sad sight and we discovered little of interest. We left there cold, wet and hungry with nothing but two children’s books purchased by my friend to show for the day’s excursion.

Ris-Orangis is not like central Paris with a café on every corner, but at least is home to a nice large Chinese restaurant, Mandarin De Chine, that seats well over one hundred and serves a copious and descent meal for as little as 13,50€ (37 avenue de la Libération, 91130 Ris-Orangis, After filling our bellies and contributing more to my already mushy midriff, we headed back to Paris and our warm comfy dry apartments, unaccomplished, but having had fun outside of the city…for a change.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. The Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group will meet for the last time this calendar year tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 22nd at 6:30 p.m., but will reopen on Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 at 11 a.m. It’s free the first time you come, so perhaps this should be your first New Year’s resolution!?…practice speaking French or English, make new friends, have fun! It really works. Visit for more information.


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