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Taking-In Paris in Bits and Pieces

Every now and then a special friend descends who needs my undivided attention — and that’s a perfect excuse to behave like a tourist in the City of Light. These are the rare opportunities when a ‘working girl’ like me can take off in the middle of the work week to do nothing but ‘play.’

‘Playing’ in Paris can mean lots of different things, but for my friend and me, it means taking in some culture — normally art and photography exhibits, as well as some seriously good dining. There is always much to choose from to take-in in just two days, so we try to choose carefully and plan well.

Once, someone asked what would be the best things to do in Paris in just two days. My answer: “Stay home. There is too much to do in Paris to only be here two days.” In this case, this friend comes regularly and therefore Paris can be taken-in in bits and pieces so that after so many years, much of Paris is taken-in.

At the top of the list was to see the newly-opened exhibit at the Pinacothèque de Paris — “Au temps de Klimt, la Sécession à Vienne.” If you like Klimt’s work you may be disappointed, only because while there are over 180 works, only a small portion are by Gustave Klimt. The others are of a variety of Viennese artists of the same period (from the end of the 19th century, beginning of the Viennese Secession, until the first years of Expressionism), many of which are quite fabulous in their own rights, but aren’t Klimt! Sadly, we were dying for more.

Mid afternoon on a Thursday, the museum was wall-to-wall with visitors. My friend found it surprising and asked, “Do these people work?”

Jokingly, I replied, “No. They are on unemployment or retirement! That’s how they can fill the museums.” (Unemployment in France rose to 10.4% in third quarter of 2014, with youth unemployment as high at 25.20% reported in December of 2014. They retire at the age of 65, quite happily, unlike us Americans who work until our last dying breath…happily!)

Dining out that evening was a big surprise. We took our chances on a one-star Michelin restaurant I knew nothing about…and I mean nothing. Using “La Fourchette,” it was a somewhat ‘affordable’ (about €100 per person) restaurant with the highest rating by the diners (9.5 out of 10) within walking distance of my apartment. That’s all I knew, and the name: Qui Plume la Lune — Jacky Ribault.

The decor is definitely romantic, which, believe it or not, is not so easy to find in Paris. We were seated at a small table against a solid stone wall surrounded by fixtures and decorative items made of natural materials — a sort of fusion of Japanese and French. It felt like a a Flintstones’ cave in France with a traditional Japanese twist. In a few words: elegant and comfortable, yet decidedly different…just like the cuisine.

Dinner was €85 for four courses + cheese or dessert (we were served two desserts) + too many “amuse bouches” (hors d’oeuvres) to count and finally a small plate of a few sweet tidbits. There is no menu to choose from — the waiter asks to what you are allergic or don’t like and then the chef prepares what he wants for you.

Not knowing anything about it made it all the more interesting as we had no expectations and could therefore have no disappointments. There wasn’t a single one, except to say that out of all of the dishes, only one was NOT made with a kind of “mousse.”

This is not necessarily negative — as one dish was more beautiful than the next and seriously ‘yummier’ than the next, too. We found ourselves awed by each presentation and then “mmming” out loud, licking our lips, our spoons and wanting to lick the dishes clean. By the end of the meal, we were stuffed to the gills — too sated to barely rise and stroll home.

The next day we managed to take-in two exhibitions, one after the other, in spite of the inclement weather — rain, rain, rain and rain. “Paris Magnum” at the Hôtel de Ville was as bustling as the Klimt on a Friday afternoon. It’s free and it’s fabulous! Photographers of the Magnum Agency, such as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marc Riboud, Raymond Depardon, Martin Parr, Abbas, Patrick Zachmann, Harry Gruyaert, Josef Koudelka…and more, documented “the metamorphosis of the capital for 80 years.” Don’t miss it — it’s on till April 25th.

With tickets in hand, the Musée Picasso was next, and of course, it was every bit as busy as the others. You don’t have to be a fan of Picasso to enjoy the museum. Funny, the more I see of his work, the less I like it, but there are a few pieces out of the hundreds on display worth a second look and his own private collection of other artists’ works is impressive. The museum itself is also worth a visit, now that it’s reopened after five years of renovation.

My special friend left Paris with less than 48 hours under his belt and then my niece arrived from New York, just in time to take-in the Chinese New Year parade on rue du Temple…in the rain…of course. It’s a parade that I try not to miss if possible — mostly because of the fun display of Chinese dragons and colorful costumes. This year it launched from Place de la République instead of the Parvis de l’Hôtel de Ville as in previous years.

It’s the Year of the Goat, with events taking place all over the city over the next few days. There are four major districts where the Chinese settled in Paris — the 13th near Porte de Choisy is best known as the Paris Chinatown, second is an area in Belleville, another small one near the Marx Darmoy Métro, but the Temple and Arts-et-Metiers area in the 3rd arrondissement has the highest proportion of Asians. Mayor of the 3rd, Pierre Aidenbaum, was among the leaders in the parade on Saturday.

To honor the day, we lunched first at Chez Shen on rue au Maire before heading over to the parade. Be prepared for the atmosphere to be totally chaotic and noisy (the waitresses simply yell out at one another without reserve) and too cheap to be believed (about €10 to €12 per person). This little L-shaped corner where rues au Maire and Volta meet, is where you can get authentic Chinese cooking and there are several good Chinese markets. It’s here where you can purchase frozen “langues de canard” (duck tongues) and just about anything else with which to make your totally authentic Chinese dinner.

It was enough to take-in in a few short days. As you read this, I will have already arrived in Nice for another two short event-filled days about which you’ll hear more in Wednesday’s Nouvellettre®.

A la prochaine,

Adrian Leeds

The Adrian Leeds Group

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P.P.S. I just signed this petition — will you join me?

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Paris France: Amend the Paris short-term rental laws and make them fair for all.

To: Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Paris France

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