I’m Eeeeeeating, On a Jet Plane…

NCE-FCO

I first flew to Paris on TWA flight 800, which some of you will remember had been thoughtfully renumbered sometime after it went into the sea off Long Island. I was traveling on Famous Designer‘s dime to Semaine du Cuir – the leather and suede exhibition where I was to meet vendors I’d known only via phone and fax (hi, I’m old), and hopefully pick up some new sources.

Before I left, I asked the designers for direction in choosing samples to bring back from the show. I will never forget their responses:

  • “I’m thinking…sherbet.”
  • “Bring me back beautiful things.”
  • “I love horsey leathers.”
  • “I want the Marc Jacobs jacket that’s at Barney’s.”

Fashion people aren’t like you and me.

But I digress. Continue reading

Cal Had Fun In Toulouse!

Cal is a huge Watchmen fan – from way back. So, you can see how the last month of my life has been nothing but all Watchmen, all the time: Trailers, sneak peeks and, being the awesome girlfriend I am, a full reading of a scanned copy of all 12 issues.

So, when it came time for the opening of the movie, he was very excited to see it. But, it was not playing at the “VOST” (Version original, sub-titled) theater here in Montpellier. Thus, the Great Movie Search 2009 began.
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Picture Post: Ladies Lunch in the South of France

A couple of weeks ago, Sheila, Fi and I decided to throw caution, obligations and their kids to the wind and have lunch together on a Tuesday afternoon.  We had a delightful meal at a tiny restaurant called La Grange, just behind the Palais du Justice. It was a quirky little place run by a husband and wife, with her cooking and him hosting. Every time he brought a plate out, he would say, “La fameuse…” and name the dish.  I loved every moment of it.

La Grange
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Love Letter To A Basil Plant

Dear Basil Plant,

After many months of fruitless searching and unsatisfying meals, I have found you and brought you into my home, where I promise to care for you and treat you with the respect and admiration you so rightly deserve.

We have much in common, Basil Plant. Like you, I find myself much more at home in Italy than in France. Like you, I feel a special kinship with the delights of Italian cuisine. And, like you, I make the most out of even the simplest of meals using only the freshest ingredients.
Continue reading

Beijing Olympics: “Tastes Like Chicken”

I love languages, and I love food. When the two come together – especially with hilarious results – the world needs to know about it. Thus, this Reuter’s article is the subject of my post today.

It seems someone has brought to Beijing‘s attention that within just a few weeks, the masses will descend on their fair city – and they’re going to want to eat something. More specifically, something they can understand. Thus, the government has made available to all restaurants, an English translation service for a wide variety of popular dishes.

And now, for your culinary and linguistic pleasure, tonight’s specials, old and new:

Husband and wife’s lung slice
Beef and ox tripe in chili sauce

Bean curd made by a pock-marked woman
Mapo tofu

Chicken without sexual life
Steamed pullet

Bon apetit!

(Yes, those are the real translations.  No one is that creative at 8.30 in the morning.)

Palace of Cold: Gelato in Rome

The oldest and largest ice-cream parlour in Italy is situated in Rome, at number 65 to 67 of Via Principe Eugenio.The Fassi business dates back to 1880, when it appears as commercial premises authorized to sellice and serve beer. Founder of the four-generation ice-cream making dynasty was Giacomo, who opened a small parlour in Rome at Via delle Quattro Fontane, near Piazza Barberini.

Learn About Your Destination: Marbella, Spain

Hello, chickadees.  Mr. Apricot has informed me that while we’re flying into Malaga, Spain, we’re actually staying in Marbella.  I don’t know a lot about the Costa del Sol, so I decided to show you how Miss Expatria does her research when discovering a new vacation destination!

I know little about this area of Spain other than where it is in the world, so I’m starting from scratch.  First, of course, is Wikipedia.  (What did we do before Wikipedia?  I shudder to think.)  From the Marbella entry, I find out some tantalizing treats of information only a bitchy jet-setter like me could love:

In 1974 the Prince Fahd arrived at the city after having broken the bank of the Casino of Monte Carlo. Until his death in 2005 he was a frequent and profitable guest of Marbella…

Yummy! I wonder if Marbella, then, is like some sort of glamorous Disneyworld:

“You’ve just broken the bank at Monte Carlo.  What are you going to do now?”

“I’M GOING TO MARBELLAAAAAAA!”

Also of note was the 1987 kidnapping of the daughter of a Korean princess and a “local billionaire.”  Intrigue!  Love it.  But I did in fact read the whole article, and now I have a clearer picture of Marbella.

My next stop is the Marbella entry in Wikitravel.  Although Wikitravel can be inconsistent – just as many articles are written by local hotel managers as by experienced travelers and/or enthusiastic natives – it’s still worth a shot.  From this page, I can tell there are photo opps in town and that the city seems to be well connected to everything else around it.

I have my bearings; let’s get down to bidness.

I check out our digs at the Marriott.  Nice!  It’s a little geared toward American families and seems to be stuck in the early 90s, but I am looking forward to the pool, at least one American meal (sorry, but I’m an expat) and full-power air conditioning.

I’m a big fan of getting to my destination in the easiest way possible; exploring can come later. I  check to see if the hotel has shuttle service; they do not.  I’m not a kabillionaire, so I’ll be schlepping to Marbella on public transport and then taking a taxi to the actual resort, which seems to be 15 km from the bus station.  OK, not bad.  I’ll make a note to learn the proper Spanish phrases for this leg of my trip, and put a card in my bag with the name and address of the resort to give to the taxi driver.

FOOD is obviously the next thing on my list of priorities.  Here, I must admit, I have an edge – one of my favorite bloggers, who seems to be as big a food freak as I am, lives in Marbella.  I will scour her Marbella-tagged posts until I come up with some gems.  And I don’t have to go too far – YES PLEASE, OK, now I’m just going to faint – so I will be sure to write these down in my little travel book.

Which brings me to my little travel book.  It’s a notebook I keep in my bag all the time, that I use for many purposes – anything from an idea for a blog post to a reminder to write a client to shopping lists – but when I travel, everything goes in the book:

  • Phrases I’ll need to know
  • Flight information
  • Any other travel info – bus company name, train times, number of stops, etc.
  • Restaurant info – names, addresses, phone numbers, websites, must-have dishes
  • Sights info – any particular statue, church, museum or landmark I don’t want to miss, with address, opening/closing times, closed days (VERY IMPORTANT), cost
  • Phone numbers that would normally be in my cell

The thing I am most excited by is the possibility of seeing the coast of, and/or going to, AFRICA.  As in, like, AFRICA.  The continent.  AFRICA.  I can’t even stand it!  It just seems so… foreign and exotic.  AFRICA!  Wow.

My Secret Restaurants in Rome

Oh my GOD it has been so long since Miss Expatria has updated her informative, witty blog! Shame on her.

But to be honest, I was busy having fun OOPS I MEAN DOING FIELD RESEARCH for my dedicated readers.

Since I’ve started this blog I have given you some of my best-kept secrets and favorite tips for traveling and eating well. But, I must confess: I’ve been holding back.

There was a place I didn’t tell you about, because I love it too much and want it all to myself. Also, I like surprising guests with it when they come over to see me. It’s in San Lorenzo, and it’s ugly as sin. But holy crap, the food that comes out of that kitchen is divine. But its name and exact location will not be revealed here! You’ll simply have to come over for yourself and have me take you there.

The other night, Mr. and Ms. Pants and I were sitting at the roof bar at the Hotel Mediterraneo in Rome, nursing some Prosecco (OMG THERE’S A FESTIVAL OF PROSECCO? See link OMG) and watching the sun set behind St. Peter’s big ol’ dome. It was their last night in town, and we were deciding what to do for dinner.

We had already eaten at all of their favorite places – this was Mr. Pants’ third time here and Ms. Pants’ second, and much of our time was spent fitting in all the meals they had been dreaming about in the year since their last visit.

However, we passed another place near my neighborhood that was not open yet for dinner, but the smell was unbelievable. We asked Leo – bilingual, bicultural artist extraordinaire and cherished member of the Gay Mafia – if the place was decent.

He paused for a few moments, then said, “Well, it’s OK. Yes, you could eat there. It’s very Roman food. It’s not bad.”

Not a rousing endorsement from someone who took us just a few nights prior to Primo in Pigneto, where we fainted 700 times due to the fabulousness. (Fried sardines, most tenderest octopus, a semi-freddo that brought me to my knees. They have a Gambero Rosso rating, and now I know why.) But we were tired from schlepping all day and wanted to eat close to home, so we gave it a shot.

It is yet another ugly place. Bad lighting, paper tablecloths, long tables. But charming and obviously much loved, with pictures of neighborhood foodies and bad paintings and inside-joke art on the walls. We sat at the only table not reserved; a good sign.

The owner came over and sat down at our table with us. He does this with everyone, and over the course of the night we saw tables fill up but with one seat at each left empty so he could come back for more food orders, chatting, or yelling at people. He knew it was our first time, so he and I quickly negotiated small portions of different pastas for a starter; he said he would come back to list the meats available for the second course. He then stood up, yelled to the kitchen, then came around the table and sat on the other side of me so that he could talk to a guy who was eating alone at the other end of our long table.

Two wooden trays came out, each heaped with identical pairs of different pastas. We dig in and swoon. Rigatoni with a meat sauce – you know the kind, it’s been cooking for a day and a half and it’s practically orange – and homemade fresh tagliatelle with some kind of walnut mushroom yumminess piled on top.

DONE! Meat course, please. Another lengthy conference, but by now Mr. and Ms. Pants were paying serious attention due to the incredible pasta we had just eaten. They wanted to make sure we got aaaaalllllll the good stuff.

The owner ran down the list of meats available, and my jaw dropped (then closed, as I immediately started a drooling Pavlovian response). Ox tail, bull’s balls, tripe, sweetbreads, fried or grilled lamb, steak, on and on he went until I cried “ZIO!” (joking – I don’t think they cry the equivalent of “Uncle!” here) and we settled on tripe for me, homemade grilled sausages for Mr. Pants and fried lamb for Ms. Pants. We also got grilled radicchio, puntarelle (no idea what this is in English, but it’s awesome) and a crispy grilled artichoke.

Rapture. Plates kept coming out, and we kept eating. Everything was simple and done to perfection. We ate like men condemned and finished off the liter of wine, then sat back and looked at each other as if to confirm what had just happened. All we could do was laugh remembering what Leo had said – “Oh, it’s alright, you could maybe go there.”

But you know it wasn’t over. Oh-ho, no.

Out came a bottle of Romanello homemade dessert wine, plunked on the table after the waitress made fun of us for not being able to down what was already in our glasses in one gulp; and biscotti, and a tiramisu that was absolutely shameful. I asked if Ms. Pants could take the biscotti that remained in the basket home with her for the flight the next day, and not only did the waitress say yes – out came another basket and extra napkins to wrap them in.

We stumbled out of the restaurant like three drunks on a bender, practically reeling from gastronmic ecstasy and giggling at what had just happened to us in there. The owner was outside having a smoke, and ciao’d and kissed us all and made us promise to come back. I said to keep the water on, and he laughed.

What? Oh, um, well, no. I won’t tell you where it is. You’ll just have to come over and have me take you there.

Hangovers Around the World

In honor of my hungover friends today. Enjoy!

“Holy…where am I?”

If you’ve ever woken up and said that, most likely your next thought is the realization that you’ve got a hangover.

Now, usually the best way to cure a hangover is to avoid it – drink lots of water before, during and after your party time – but you don’t want to hear that right now, do you? Your liver just declared a jihad against you, and something crawled into your mouth and died there. You need relief.

The key is: GREASE. But it must be said that I have a different hangover cure depending on where I wake up – and by that I mean what country. When I’ve woken up and said, “Holy…where am I?” the answer is usually given to me in a language other than my own.

To avoid further confusing your gin-soaked minds, I’m going to give you my cures in pictures – these are my own, except for New York and Barcelona; the cheery location pictures were taken the day before while strolling around, and the food pictures taken the following morning in a haze of alcohol withdrawal and loathing.

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PARIS = CROQUE MADAME; NUTELLA CREPES.

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ROME = POLENTA, HOT PEPPERS.

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LONDON = BACON SARNIES; SCONES.

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NEW YORK = BACON EGG AND CHEE.
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VENICE = CICCHETTI; HAIR OF THE DOG.

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BARCELONA = PIG SANDWICH; HAIR OF THE DOG.

Feel free to print this out for your next vacation; then you can just hold your head and point to the picture, and a waiter will bring you what your body needs to get back on track and catch that flight back home.

Non-Italian Food in Florence

Ben and Martha are American expats living in Italy.

Now, normally that wouldn’t send me into fits of camaraderie, but there’s a twist: Martha’s from my hometown, a small enough place for it to be quite a coincidence. But wait, it gets better! Not only does her family own my favorite cheesesteak shop in the whole world; I BABYSAT HER COUSIN’S KID when I was in high school.

How did I discover this unlikely bond between my fellow expats, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. I was researching Italy stats for a client when I came across Ben’s blog – an exhaustive collection of information about Italy. After I had found what I needed, I noticed they had arrived on this side of the pond via the Queen Mary II. So glamorous and old school! I read their story, which features a picture of a Voltaco’s hoagie on the fricking Queen Mary, and fell off my chair. Emails were exchanged. A friendship was born!

Ben asked me to write a guest post about Italy for his blog, because he was having trouble getting a 21st-century Internet connection at their home. I haven’t written it yet, and here’s why: Every time I think of a great topic to write about, I check his blog to see that he’s already written about it! The man is a walking encyclopedia of life in Italy.

Now, Martha has alerted me to yet another gastronomic treat in Florence – Asian fusion. Although the restaurant’s website is hilariously unhelpful, Martha gave us the skinny:

Found this one, Buddakan at Largo Bargellini 7/8 near Santa Croce. The interior is very nicely done and food presentation was outstanding. The dishes were not authentic preparations, but the menu never says they are. All of them were very tasty and we will go back.

We started with spring rolls and calamari toast which was two spring roll wrappers with thin slices of calamari sandwiched in between and the fried. [Ed.: OMG YES PLEASE.] Ben had a seafood risotto which wasn’t really a risotto but was full of seafood. I had a duck curry and Ben had a shrimp curry.

It was all good. We never made it into the church.

I love when a meal is so outstanding it changes your itinerary. Thanks, Martha!

Where to Eat in Florence – Another Reader Weighs In

OK, OK, OK – I get it. Florence is awesome.

This is the overwhelming response to my recent post, in which I had to recruit an honorary member of the Gay Mafia to school my readers on the joys of Florence – in particular, the cuisine – to stave off the legions of readers asking for information about this (apparently) charming city.

Who knew this would garner even more chastising emails? Jeez, people; I get it: FLORENCE IS AWESOME.

I’d like to add to the previously given Florentine advice with one of the few printable responses to that post – and you gotta take this one seriously, as it was submitted by a family friend with the following surname: Maccaroni. I mean, come on. You know she’s got the good information. Anyway, here it is:

We highly recommend a place called Il Latini on the Via del Palchetti. Being our first time in Florence, we were novices when it came to finding good places to eat. It was recommended to us by the bartender in our hotel. It was rather crowded and it took a while to get a table, but they served wine and cheese while we waited outside [Ed.: Yes please! Also, check out that site – they’ve posted recipes!] – food was fab, the wait staff were very funny and extremely capable – we chose the fixed menu (they frown on using the menus) – they kept bringing food, food and more food – one of the most delicious meals we ever had. Maybe you can pass this along to your readers – or check it out yourself!

I’ll be in Rome again in April – oh, how your Miss Expatria suffers to bring her readers the best! – and this time, I believe a mini trip to Florence is in order to sample these choice gastronomic tidbits. I’ll be sure to issue a full report upon waking from what will no doubt be a heavenly food coma.

If anyone else has excellent Florence advice – WITHOUT THE YELLING AT ME FOR HATING FLORENCE PLEASE – feel free to send them in. I’ll post them, lest we further disrespect this lovely town on the Arno.

Florence, Italy: A Kindred Soul Tells All

In which an honorary member of the Gay Mafia (West Coast, represent) reveals what I am unable to about Florence, a city he adores and I really just can’t seem to get into. However, after reading this I might have to give it another try!

When I was doing my research for places to stay in Florence, I came across two websites run by the same people: Sleeping in Florence and Florence Apartment Rentals. We rented the Medici Apartment on via della Pergola. Their prices were really good, my questions were answered promptly and the friendly service was fantastic. The property manager’s name is Gabriella and she never let us down, including helping us find a dentist when one of our group needed one. Later, I discovered that the Frommer’s Guide also mentions her specifically.

In Florence, there is a huge flea market that is not to be missed. Seriously, it’s worth building a trip around it. The Mercato delle Pulci on Piazza dei Ciompi, has all sorts of great stuff. Books, jewelry, cameras, art, antiques, furniture, wood and metal artifacts, everything you could imagine all sprawled out over several streets.

A nice half-day trip is to take the bus to Fiesole, in the hills north of the city. You can take bus #7 and it’s only 1 Euro each way. The views over the valley are stunning, the town is quiet and cool, and there’s a great museum with an ancient Roman amphitheater. We bought some meat and cheese at the Coop grocery store in town and had a nice picnic in the piazza.

For gelato, we loved Corona’s Café, between the Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Republica (via dei Calzaiuoli). [Ed.: Google maps spells the name of this street without the u, which is incorrect.] It’s easy to get to, and while we ate a lot of gelato in a lot of different cafes, this is the one we kept coming back to. They also have great espresso and cappuccino. I tried gelato at Vivoli, which you read about in all the guidebooks; it was good, but I thought it was really overpriced.

When you’re out shopping at the San Lorenzo Market (I keep dreaming about that place!), go into the Mercato Centrale food market and try Pork’s Café. The food was inexpensive, simple, fresh and really good. You eat at long tables seated with other diners and the family running it is really friendly. We had some great house wine there, too, and we bought a bottle to bring home. And the last time we went, we got a wink from mamma!

I also highly recommend checking out the grocery stores. They’ve got lots of cool stuff, usually for pretty good prices. You can pick up things for a snack or picnic, buy water cheaper than almost anywhere else, and you can find some pretty cool presents for people at home (jams, sauces, packages of pasta, dried soups, etc.). It’s also a little adventure to try and figure out what everything is. Be sure either to bring your own bag for your purchases, or you’ll need to buy a bag from the checker.

We had dinner a couple of times at Le Giubbe Rosse on the south side of Piazza della Repubblica. The food was reasonably priced and tasted pretty good. Huge pizzas and great wine. We bought some to bring home. We also had great cappuccino at a little cafe called “Paolo e Francesca” on one of the little streets near Piazza della Signoria, but I neglected to write down the address. Our last night in town we ate a pizza place called Yellow Bar on via del Proconsolo and while it looked a little American, the pizzas were enormous and wonderful.

One of the most interesting places we found by accident. We came around a corner and there was a big crowd of Italians ordering sandwiches from the tiny doorway of a building. We learned early on if there was a line of Italians waiting for something, it was worth it, and your best bet is to get in line and find out what everyone is waiting for. The entire shop was about the size of a closet, seriously; you shouted your order to one guy and picked up your food from the other. Most people had a glass of wine as well, and there was a little rack on the wall of the building where you put your glasses while you were eating. I had an awesome pork sandwich and some red wine. The place is called i Fratellini and it’s located on via dei Cimatori, very near the Piazza del Duomo.

In the evenings, there was always a gypsy band playing in Piazza della Republica, and some of our best memories are of those nights. Lots of people out walking with a gelato, some dancing in the piazza. Just a lovely place for live music.

Florence is a walking city, so you rarely need to use public transportation. We only rented a taxi once, and that was because we weren’t sure how to find the apartment. The buses are on time and really cheap, and we probably could have used them more but it was more fun to walk all over the place. Bring some good shoes.

Our favorite museum was the Bargello; we practically had the place to ourselves. There were hundreds of marble and bronze sculptures and it turned out to be a highlight of the trip. So many things to see – and no crowds!

I’m sure I’m leaving a bunch of stuff out, but we saw lots and lots of beautiful things. It surpassed my expectations.

Where to Eat in Paris, Part 2 of 2: Not-So-French Food

French food is amazing. As you dip into yet another runny wheel of baked camembert goodness, reaching for the honey to drizzle over it and then spreading it all on a fresh baguette, you marvel at how these people can still be alive, let alone smoke like chimneys, drink like sailors and eat massive amounts of cream-covered cheese on top of ham, grilled and served on a plate with sausage garnish.

Oh yes, I said sausage garnish – down here in Montpel, tartiflette is all the rage in winter. It is comprised of wine-soaked potatoes sprinkled with lardons, covered with cheese and then baked – and comes with a charming side dish of SAUSAGE. Oh! The Humanity.

Sure, salads are a popular side dish, and frequently a main course – but have you ever actually ordered one? The lettuce, although fresh and crisp, serves merely as a bed on which rest the most outlandishly decadent treats – sliced duck, lightly fried eggs, lardons, cheese, 150 crevettes, a side of smoked salmon, or any number of items that pass for an acceptable salad topping. I’ve actually eaten a salad containing ALL those things. Burp.

Sometimes, even the foodiest of foodies needs a break. So, without further ado, let us see what else the City of Lights has to offer the wayward tourist who’s tired of popping Tums all day long.

SUSHI. It’s the perfect antidote to heavy creams and cheeses, and as I said in an earlier post, sushi in Paris is constantly a joy – fresh and not ridiculously expensive.

ITALIAN. The French have a bizarre idea of what Italian food should taste like (no, carbonara is not alfredo with a raw egg on top, but thanks anyway), so I’m not gong to recommend any old place. There’s a chain of Italian restaurants called Fuxia – yes, Fuxia; no, I don’t know why – that has the best I’ve found. A map detailing all their locations can be found here.

AMERICAN. Step away from the McDonald’s! Breakfast in America should be your only stop for when you’re craving a burger or a breakfast that doesn’t consist of pastry. BIA is also great for when you want to just order something without getting exhausted by the hand gestures and mispronunciations – it’s like stepping back into America for an hour, in the best possible sense.

KEBAB. I’m not sure how to explain the popularity of kebab here in France. It’s a kind of fast food; it’s cheap and quick, and you can eat it while walking; it’s a drinker’s salvation in the middle of the night. It’s equivalent of a slice in New York. And kebab places are everywhere. You’ll find them most in student areas and neighborhoods that offer a lot of ethnic foods, like the 5th arr. Kebabs are absolutely delicious and a welcome change for your palette.

INDIAN. I have yet to find a good Indian place, but I’ll admit I haven’t searched that hard. If anyone knows of one, please let me know!

Where to Eat in Paris, Part 1 of 2: French Food

Finally! Right?? Let’s get down to bidness.

First, the basics of dining in Paris – according to me:

1. Menus vary wildly – and not just the food offered on them. You’re as likely to get a laminated, expertly translated menu as you are a piece of slate with the day’s dishes written in incomprehensible chicken scratch. My advice would be to take some time and learn basic food words, especially of the food you love/want to try the most.

2. Unless you’re a huge wine snob, if the place offers it order a carafe of wine. It’s cheaper and it tastes delicious.

3. You’re in a major city, but you’re still in France – try to eat lunch between 12 and 2, and dinner from 8 (no earlier!) and 10.

4. It’s all about the arrondissement. Get a hold of a map that shows the borders of each quarter, so you know where you are at all times. It’s more important than you’d think. Also, when you’re doing your research online or when you pick up a business card from someplace, check the postal code – it will start with 750, and the remaining two digits are the arrondissement.

5. Crepes. They’re everywhere, and they’re addictive. You can either order them from a stand outside many cafes, and they wrap it up for you for handy eating as you walk; or you can sit in a cafe and they’ll bring them to you on a plate sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. Nutella is the default favorite closely followed by butter and sugar or lemon and sugar. Crepes can also be savory, with ham and cheese – but you really haven’t lived until you have tried a Nutella crepe, piping hot and runny and oh-so-good.

6. Entree – this means appetizer or first course in French, not main dish.

Le Marché (luh-mar-shay), at the Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine, 75004. This place offers nonstop service, so it’s a good place to keep in mind for arriving in Paris at a weird time or if you’re suffering from jet lag hunger. We split a lovely salad loaded with shaved Parmesan, and a charcuterie plate featuring delectable duck sausage from their dishes of the day. This entire square has restaurants, each one as adorable as the next.

Berthillon (bair-teal-yon), on the Ile Saint Louis in the middle of the Seine (also 75004, but if you can’t find an island in the middle of the Seine, go home). This is the island that Notre Dame is NOT on. Berthillon is an ice cream shop. You will see many places on Ile Saint Louis that offer Berthillon ice cream, but the link above is the actual place where they make it. The flavors of the day are posted to the left behind the counter; the price list is on your right behind the door as you walk in. I had two scoops – white chocolate and pistachio – divine. MK declined, as she had just finished a Nutella crepe. Love her.

Au Sauvignon (ahw-sov-eeng-yon), 80 rue des Sts-Pères, 75007. Lots of locals, bad lighting, and a wall full of private jokes, drawings and photographs. We had a wheel of cheese soaked in calvados and two sandwiches – one with prosciutto, one with something else amazing, both on delicious dark bread – which they cut into tiny, bite-sized sammies. This is primarily a wine bar, so no ordering carafes here – get a bottle of whatever tickles your fancy from their amazing list. This is more of a nibbly place than a full meal place, but we were definitely satisfied and a homemade apricot tart at the end sealed the deal.

When we got up to leave, MK noticed her scarf was missing. The bar staff sawwe were searching for something and when I told them what it was, they were apoplectic with grief. They promised that everyone we had sat with that evening was local – I was treated to a description of each one’s profession, marital status, and a bit of gossip – and we were assured that someone would come in over the next day or so realizing they had picked it up by mistake. I assured them we were not upset (“c’est pas grave!”) and that we would definitely be back, if only for more of that calvados-soaked cheese.

As we left the bar, picking our way past two rowdy tables of locals smoking outside, the owner came running out, scarf in hand. It was behind the last table!, he exclaimed, and when he gave me the scarf, I swung it above my head to the applause and cat calls of everyone.

This delightful story is brought to you in order to let you know a little known fact – Au Sauvignon is open on Sundays, which the owner insisted on telling me for fear he would be stuck with MK’s scarf forever.

The cafe at the Musée d’Orsay. MK and I headed straight for the Impressionist section, which, no pun intended, was impressive as hell. Room after room, everywhere you look is one masterpiece after another. Fully sated by the art, we headed for food. There is the swank restaurant – stylish, but overpriced. Go up to the top level for the good stuff at great prices in a stunning setting.

Within this cafe are two levels – one in a big, open room with waiter service, and a balcony overlooking this room that is cafeteria style. I highly recommend the lower of these two levels. MK had a spinach and chèvre quiche, and I had a ham and cheese tartine. The wait staff is very kind and very efficient, and speak about 16 languages between them.

The restaurants around the Place du Marché Saint-Honoré, 75001. We ate at one that I forget the name, Rouge something. This square is filled with great places, very cool crowds, and every menu we saw we loved.

La Tartine, 75004. Like a diner, but French style. The review I linked to is dead-on. We sat next to a fabulous couple – older, French, clothes to die for – and we ate baked camembert with honey and a tartine of duck and chèvre. Their entire menu was amazing, inexpensive, and available all day. Excellent lunch place.

Stay tuned!  Tomorrow, I recommend some non-French places in Paris – for when you simply cannot have anymore cheese.

Weekend in Paris: Executive Summary

The legendary Girls’ Weekend in Paris went swimmingly!

Some stats:

Combined miles traveled: 8,330

Meals eaten: 8
YUM

Dishes cooked, served, taken away and cleaned by someone else: 19

Scarves lost: 1

Scarves found, swung above head as entire bar cheered: 1

Nutella crepes consumed with great gusto by MK: 4
YUM ALSO

Topics discussed: 5,621

Miles walked: approx. 147
BOURNE!

Bottles of wine drunk, paid for: 3

Bottles of wine drunk, stolen from next table: .5
DRINK

Carafes of wine drunk: 3

Glasses of champagne drunk: 2
CHAMPAGNE

American diner breakfasts savored by me: 1
DINER

Times my French was corrected: 0

Celebrities in Us, People magazines that were unknown to either MK or myself: 23

Times hotel clerk swiped MK’s card, to no avail, because he wouldn’t listen to me: 442

Amount of money currently in my bank account: 0
PAREE

Regrets: 0

The Slow Movement: You Move Too Fast

I’ve been on a kick recently where I make notes on topics I’d like to write about during the week, and then on Sunday I write them all, so I simply have to go online every day and post one.

However, yesterday Cal and I got off to a very lazy start and kind of eased off; we got a lot of movie watching and Internet surfing done, but none of my pieces got written.

And now I’m coming up on several deadlines, so it isn’t going to happen today, either. But! I shall not disappoint Miss Expatria’s fans! One of my topics for this week – and a favorite of mine for a while – is the slow movement. From the world’s informer, Wikipedia:

“The Slow Movement first began when a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Piazza di Spagna, Rome sparked the creation of the Slow Food organization, as well as developing into a subculture in various other areas, Slow Travel, Slow Shopping, and Slow Design, just to name a few.”

I love this idea. I love seeing it in action, as I have in several places here in Europe – some intentional, some having never changed because “slow living” has always just been called “living.”

So, for your perusal, take a Slow Monday to check out the following links on slow living – and then try to put some of it into action!

“Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.”

“The World Institute of Slowness was created entirely as a medium for those that wish to communicate with others together learning the slow way of life.”

This article talks about Italy’s well over 40 Slow Cities. Inspired by the Slow Food movement, Cittaslow‘s page on Wikipedia lists slow cities in several EU countries.

Slow Food USA! Go get ’em!

“In the tradition of such trailblazing books as No Logo and The Tipping Point, In Praise of Slow heralds a growing international movement of people dedicated to slowing down the pace of our contemporary times and enjoying a richer, fuller life as a result.” (There seems to be another version here, so check out both, I guess. No matter which version you choose, any book that starts with the sentence, “On a sun-bleached afternoon in the summer of 1985, my teenage tour of Europe grinds to a halt in a square on the outskirts of Rome” can’t be all bad.)

“Slow Cities must comply with a 54-point Charter that outlines the goals of the movement,” says this interesting article.

You can live the slow life, no matter where you are. Start today – pick up the freshest foods you can find, turn off the computer and the news and the TV, and make yourself a slow meal tonight with someone you love!

Craving Bagels: A Love Story

Bleeding Espresso is a blog I have come across, and I love love love reading it. Sognatrice is her name, Italy is her game, and she writes with a passion for that country that gives me goosebumps – like this recent one about Calabrianfolk music.

It was this post that took my breath away, as it reminded me so much of my own post on the same subject. And here I am, thinking I’m all by myself in this life!

However, it was her bagel recipe that ensured her a spot in my heart. You see, bagels are pretty much non-existent here, and when you do find them, they tend to be very expensive and not really like you want them to be. But, as she says, sometimes you really crave something to smear cream cheese on – especially in Italy, where one can find the worlds only real cream cheese.

Visiting friends from New York have known to not cross my threshold unless bearing at least six Ess-a-Bagels. I have taught my gay mafia about the joys of these plump little balls of doughy love, and they now crave them too. I am the devil.

My first experience with bagels on this side of the pond was in a coffee shop in London whose name I forget. I grabbed one before flying home to Montpel. It cost me more in sterling than my phone bill that month, but it was worth every chewy, doughy bite.

Next was The Bagel Shop in Barcelona. These are heavenly, and come with a variety of toppings. I eat a bagel every single morning I am in Barcelona, without fail. YUM.

Viola, the only girl I know in Italy and my former roommate, has a carrot cake obsession that has taken her to New York twice, and keeps her ever vigilant for this tasty treat. She breathlessly called me one day to report that not only had she found carrot cake – she had found bagels. In Rome. At the cleverly named Jospehine’s Bakery, in the fittingly named Piazza del Paradiso. Their bagels are teensy tinsy, hellatiously expensive, and absolutely perfect.

Then – like manna from heaven – came the news that our very own chichi patisserie here in Montpel – Louis, it’s called – was carrying bagels. I immediately ran over, and sure enough – there they were, a gleaming fresh stack of bagel sandwiches. I breathlessly asked if I could buy a half dozen of the bagels plain, not in sandwich form.

The girl looked at me like I had half a dozen heads. Then came the answer I have come to hear all too often in this ridiculous country: “C’est pas possible.” This is not possible.

I said I could come back in the morning, before they made them into sandwiches. “C’est pas possible.”

I suppose I could buy a sandwich, scrape the shit off it and rebuild it with my own treats. But it’s just not the same.

Sunday In The Garden With Expats

**This is an entry from way back, summer of 2006, I believe. I’m on a deadline with a client, so you’re getting archive treats!

Brunch at Auntie Lu’s English Restaurant – most of their tables were outside, accommodating a group of 12 women celebrating their friend’s impending trip around the world by taking her out to a different ethnic cuisine every day/night. Lu gave them an English Culture Quiz and the winner got a bottle of wine!

So there was a lot of room inside the restaurant, and I looked up from the Times Culture section to see Cal, Gwennie, and Lu dancing. I think Lu might have had a spatula in her hand. Merlin the dog was also frolicking around. Anna, Louis and Natalia came in to pick up the pub’s lunches for takeaway. Shelton ate a hangover brunch outside, then moved over to the outside lounge area so that Jeremy and Paulette could have their hangover brunch. It felt like the first scene in a play, set in the place where everyone comes in and you get a bit of each character’s persona by hearing what they did the night before., and seeing them interact. I was a blissful, quiet observer and I left fully satisfied.

Later that day we went to Fiona’s for a huge pork feast. Her youngest, Flo, chose to pick this day to feel unloved and so she was dramatically flung onto the couch wrapped in blankets and weeping amongst the kittens and cats. Rose and various other teenage girls were slinking around, looking conspiratorial. Fiona’s two-room cook’s kitchen was a mine field of mess and splatters and bowls and pots piled high in Dr. Seuss-like fashion. It is obvious she loves to cook. The younger kids jumped with abandon into the pool or crawled up into the cherry tree to feast. Margot was on a platform built into another tree, cooing at a kitten she had brought up there for company.

The terrace was taken over by the grown-ups. Two enormous wooden tables and a motley assortment of benches, wicker sofas, and Adirondack chairs were dragged from every corner of the property to accommodate the stream of people coming in all bearing wine and beer. Mismatched, beautiful plates were brought out in huge heavy stacks and 25 of us feasted on roasted pork, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, and an assortment of salads.

Dessert was an ENORMOUS Pavlova, and huge piles of mismatched and elegant bowls were brought out, and everyone had at least seconds if not thirds.

Various unnamed people hijacked the kids’ stereo and we sang cheesy ’80s pop songs at the top of our lungs and corrected each other’s misheard lyrics and screamed laughing. One of the kiddies brought back fresh eggs from the chicken coop and we marveled at their warmth and there was an egg toss that ended badly for Cal and Jeremy.

Wine and stories were traded back and forth. Eva sang and played guitar, and I sang, and Dave played some great oldies on the guitar for us to scream to, and then we settled back into laughter and more stories.

Cal left early with Andy, and I shared a taxi back around midnight with Lu, Mu, Sam and Janet. It was raucous and when we got out, Sunday night in Montpel welcomed us back to its silent streets, little bits of songs and lost logic and we bade goodbye in the street and we all made it upstairs and into the correct apartments.

I think that rereading my journal from Rome has taught me that it’s up to me to seek and capture a magical life, which this weekend was the determined and successful start of. If New York is my first great love, and Rome is my one true love, Montpel is the one who you accept a date with on a whim, and you can’t get a taxi to the restaurant, then it’s closed and you go to another place and wind up getting some kind of food poisoning, and you lose your cell phone, and the kiss goodnight is clumsy, and you wrote his number down wrong, but you wake up the next morning and realize you had a really great time and he’s a really good guy.