Wednesday
Mar022011

Vintage Shopping in Paris

 

Guest Post by Morgane Duquesnoy with Christopher Back

You know the kind of days, when you just want to say "who cares?" to your mirror.  Well, I first met Eva Samama on just one of those days and I thought she might be an alien.   I was feeling less than myself and she flew in like a blur, much like the butterfly on her ring.  She was so bubbly and smiling!  But alas, this exquisite brunette is not an alien, she is the owner of one my favorite vintage shops.

Just as Eva’s flashy red lips contrast with her romantic lace dresses, the dark exterior of her small boutique contrasts with the warm lights and the scent of candles inside.  Equally warm and open, she really wants to get to know you.  What’s more, she loves the vintage pieces she sells so much that you can be assured that she won't let it go if it doesn't fit you perfectly!

Today, she opens her heart and closet for us at her boutique «Le dressing d’Eva».

Have you always wanted to work in fashion?
Well... I have always been very attracted to beauty.   To be honest, I was not really good at school. I did not want to study so much. But I have been very lucky to have met some extremely kind people who helped shape my path.  I began as a receptionist, and thanks to someone I met, I worked in software. It was very interesting but too far from what I really am. There was such a lack of fantasy! So I decided to return to university to study Art History.  During my studies, I met an expert on historical lace who encouraged me to leverage my unique sense of style to become a personal shopper, my first foray into the business of Fashion.
 
When did you stop being a personal shopper?
(Laughs) When I was pregnant with twins! My husband thought I should slow down my hectic pace and he gave me the boutique.  A former cabinetmaker’s workshop; which is fitting as this is also my husband’s profession.  The retiring cabinet maker liked the idea of a vintage boutique and we shared a common bond.  We both appreciate quality.

What is this book on your desk?

Gosh, I love it! It is a book on Maripol, a French-born stylist who helped create Madonna and Grace Jone’s signature looks in the early 1980’s.  Her looks inspired a generation of young girls to wear crucifixes and dress, well – Like a Virgin…  I love her work and highly recommend the book!


What is the meaning of vintage for you?

Most importantly, it is timeless. The idea is not to follow current fashion but to select only the best quality pieces that will never be out-of-date.   Fashion is forever looking back to find inspiration in the past and it is fascinating to see how designers are inspired by pieces from the 20’s or even the 80’s.   Secondly, when you buy a vintage dress, you get a glimpse into the History of fashion and many pieces have a personal story.    It’s also a very eco-friendly practice, so important nowadays and this is such a pleasant way to do it!

What kind of clients come to you?

I am very lucky; I have always had extremely interesting clients.  I say interesting because they are a bit off-beat and free thinking yet always very human, very sensitive. They are not here just to buy, but we share a passion for beauty and often become friendly.  That is how I became the stylist for Nancy, the gorgeous singer of the French rock group 19&4. I always knew they were going to be famous, because they are really talented!  Plus, I have always been a big fan of rock and roll!
 
What leads people to buy vintage over new?
Well, quality is a nice argument! The cuts are so much better than with basic brands.  And for the same price, you can wear Yves Saint Laurent! I don't think many brands are of the quality of Yves Saint Laurent. He was a genius who understood how to make women look and feel beautiful.
Another important aspect is ecology. Vintage has an aspect of recycling which is indispensable for the environment.  We also stock clothes made by contemporary designers who use organic, natural materials and everything is made in France!

What advice would you give someone who wants to start buying vintage?
Don't be lazy! Don't hesitate to go to flea markets and expect to spend some time looking.  It can be a bit of a treasure hunt to find quality.   Also, don't make a total look ever!  It would be a catastrophe; (laughs) a small touch is so much better! Try a little summer dress to look like a 50's pin-up girl or if you’re not so daring, you can begin with accessories, a pretty bag or nice shoes...  
 
I see that you sell fur coats, what is your opinion about it?
Yes, I stock them but I would never buy new fur because I don’t want to encourage the industry.  Somehow it seems different if it has been already worn.  However, I do respect people who would never wear it, and I also have several imitation fur pieces, like this kitsch leopard print jacket!

What is the one special piece you dream of finding?
There are so many!  Right now, I am thinking of a wonderful 7O's Pucci dress, an Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo and a crocodile Birkin bag.

 

Have you sold any pieces that you wish you'd kept for yourself?
All of them! (Laughs)  This is the main difference between collecting and selling. What's more, my taste is more refined now and I realize that when I was getting started, I sold some pieces that were truly "collector" pieces I should have kept. That's why now there are some I just keep for me, like my Pierre Cardin belt!

What can a busy Mom like yourself do to look chic every day?
Gosh that's so important! For me being chic every day is a question of respect to myself, to my husband, to my children, to everyone. It is like basic hygiene and it makes your day so much nicer! That is why when I am tired, I make a greater effort! Then when people tell me "I like your dress" or "what a nice lipstick" and I just forget I was tired!

So, what piece of advice should I give…   Well, it’s very important to feel at ease in your clothes. I also think a nice lipstick is a great way to wake your complexion up. But my favorite time saver is the speed dry nail-polish, just 30 seconds and you’re ready!  I can’t imagine getting a one hour manicure   I already only take about 15 minutes every morning to get ready. Of course that’s easier if you think about the clothes you are going to wear before you go to sleep.


Le Dressing d’Eva
18 rue Jules Vallès  Paris 75011 – 01.44.93.70.81
Opening Hours : 2-7pm Tuesday - Saturday and by appointment.

 

Morgane Duquesnoy - When not writing about lifestyle and fashion for numerous publications or having fun modeling for Pierre Cardin, Morgane leads shopping walks to discover her favorite boutiques and help you discover your own Style - à la Parisienne! More...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits:
50's Inspiration:      www.mylusciouslife.com
Jane Birkin:              lua jewelry{the blog}
Morgane(Orange):   Pierre Cardin

 

Tuesday
Feb222011

How to get a taxi in Paris

Hailing a taxi in most big cities around the world is a pretty straight forward affair.  Especially in cities where there is a taxi meter.  Paris is a big city; the drivers respect the meter and the rules, even if they don’t necessarily have much respect for their passengers.  So what, you ask, could be so complicated?

Well, we're in France so things are not as they may seem.  First of all it’s not always easy to hail a taxi on the street.  It can happen occasionally, but don't count on it.  While researching this post I found a helpful article on the City of Paris website entitled “Why taxis don’t stop in Paris when hailed.”  So clearly this is a widespread frustration. 

What I learned from the City of Paris is that a taxi driver is not allowed to stop if he/she is 50m or less from a Taxi Stand; if you are standing on the sidewalk where the driver would have to stop in a bus lane to collect you; or if the taxi is already reserved and on its way to pick up a fare. (In this case the light on top is not illuminated at all)

So the best place to catch a taxi is at an official taxi stand.  Therefore you should have a sense of where these are located before leaving your hotel.  Be aware that many of the smaller stands in remote parts of town are less frequented by drivers, so it’s advisable to stick with the larger “Grandes Stations” marked on the map with a blue dot. 

For visitors, the most central taxi stand is near the Louvre at the Place Andre Malraux.  This is near the intersection of rue de Rivoli and Avenue de l’Opera.  This is marked with a blue dot and the number 2 on the map.  Another place is to the left of the big square in front of Notre Dame.  This is not an offical stand, but with the numerous taxis arriving to Notre Dame and the Hospital just in front it's a pretty safe bet you'll have a short wait.

The other way to get a taxi is to book in advance.  I consider the most professional company to be Taxis G7.  They have the largest fleet, a 24 hour booking number and also take bookings online.  But don’t worry, they have operators on duty who speak English; just ask to be transferred to someone that speaks English. 

One thing to be aware of is that in Paris, there is an unusual rule about how fares are charged when you book a taxi in advance.  The driver is allowed to turn on the meter when he/she leaves to meet you, so expect a few extra Euros on the meter when the taxi arrives.  This is most shocking when you book a taxi early in the morning for a short trip within Paris from your hotel to one of the train stations.  In this case, the driver trips the meter leaving home in the suburbs and I have seen as much 20€ or more already on the meter when I get into the car.  This can be a substantial sum when the fare is about 10€ to the station, but if your hotel or apartment isn’t close to a stand that is busy early in the morning there’s not much other choice unless you book a fixed rate taxi through our concierge service. 

Another “hidden” charge which is legal, but perhaps confusing for visitors is that the driver charges One Euro for each bag that is put into the trunk.  So expect to have that added to the fare shown on the meter.

If you do try to hail a taxi or happen to see one near a museum or other monument you are visiting, confirm first if the taxi is available or already taken.  Throughout 2011, the 16,623 taxis registered in Paris will be changing the lights on top of the car that indicate if they already have a fare or not.  It’s now simple; Green is go -- the taxi is available and Red, the taxi is "not available."  And as I mentioned before, lights completely off means it's already reserved or not in service.

One last thought, of particular interest to American visitors, is about tipping Taxi drivers in Paris.  How much to tip in Paris is a common concern.  Well, like restaurants, the taxi driver is not working for tips so it's not expected.  It's one of the few countries I've visited where the driver takes the time to count out change down to the last centime.  Nevertheless, rounding up the fare by Euro or two is not uncommon and, of course, larger tips are always appreciated if you feel that you had a helpful and/or courteous driver.

 

Click here to download a PDF of the Taxi Stand Map from www.paris.fr

 

http://www.taxisg7.com/taxis/commande-taxis

 

 

Image Credits:

Danny De Vito   Copyright: ExaggerArt.com

Taxi Photo         www.Paris.fr

Tuesday
Jan252011

A Puppy in Paris…

 Our Concierge recently had an unusual request for travel planning assistance.  To help a woman from California transport a rare breed of puppy from Toulouse to her home in San Francisco.

A reasonable request, but not so straightforward as first expected.  Turns out there is a temporary embargo on shipments of unaccompanied animals from France to the USA.  So David from our staff accompanied the dog from Paris to SFO.  

In itself, this is not such an interesting story.  However, once the dog had arrived in California, the family wanted some advice on naming their puppy.  After all, a dog from France should have a French name – mais oui, bien sûr! (but, of course)

So like many of the articles here, it illustrates the remarkable idea that in France, a country with countless social rules and customs, there are actually rules about how to name your dog.

The custom, dating back to 1885, refers to the fact that for purebred dogs to be included in the official listing recording births (called the L.O.F. – Livres des Origines Francaises) they must be have a name that corresponds to the letter of the year they were born.   The current sequence started in 1973 with the letter “I” and exludes the letters  "K", "Q", "W", "X", "Y" and “Z” which are considered too difficult.  So, every twenty years one returns to the same letter.

Apparently, this custom exists in many countries, including the US and Canada, where it is controlled by the AKC and CKC.  However, the sequence of letters differs in each country.  For example in Belgium, 2011 is a “K” year.  Despite the prevalence of the idea, in France people seem to be much more aware and I noticed long ago that when someone mentions a new puppy, this invariably leads to a discussion where people try to figure out what letter it is this year.  In fact, this very thing happened in the office when we were asked to help with a French name.

For example, the puppy we helped “emigrate” to the US was born in 2010, a year corresponding to the letter “F.”  So his birth name was Fakir.  You can understand why the family wanted to change his name.

If you have a new puppy and are looking for a French name, there are countless sites where you can get suggestions for male and female puppy names starting with the right letter.

Names starting with G for 2011:

Another site with more than 6,000 choices starting with all letters.

If you are visiting Paris, don’t be surprised to see a dog under the table at a restaurant or café.  There doesn’t seem to be any rules against it and even if there were, most rules in France were made to be broken.  I have even seen dogs snoozing under chairs on stools in three-star Michelin restaurants.  They are nearly always extremely well-behaved and only once did a small dog leave the comfort of his carry-bag to come over and beg for a treat from my plate.

One other canine anectdote is inspired by my friend J.  A dog lover with a keen interest in the differences between French and English language he has long searched for an equivalent word in French for the game “Fetch.”  The exhausting pastime for dog owners that never ceases to amuse the dogs themselves.  In French, it turns out, there is no word for this game.  It’s simply called “Throwing the ball for the dog.” 

Huh, here is yet another sign that the English language actually has a larger vocabulary than French.  I’ve heard there is a difference of as much as 250,000 words in French to 400,000 in English.  Of course, no self-respecting Frenchman (or woman) would ever agree to such a dramatic difference. 

So perhaps “Those French don’t actually have a different word for everything.”

If you would like help from the Paris Private Guides Concierge, click here.

Opening Photo: Princess Lee Radziwill with Thomas, her pug, by Henry Clarke, August 1960

 

Our Concierge recently had an unusual request for travel planning assistance.  To help a woman from California transport a rare breed of puppy from Toulouse to her home in San Francisco.

We were able to accomplish this with little trouble, but it was no simple feat.  Initially the idea was to send the dog unaccompanied on Air France, but there happens to be an embargo on such shipments from France to the USA.  So someone from our staff accompanied the dog from Paris to San Francisco. 

In itself, this is not such an interesting story.  However, once the dog had arrived in California, the family wanted some advice on naming their puppy.  After all, a dog from France should have a French name – mais oui, bien sûr! (but, of course)

So like many of the articles here, it illustrates the remarkable idea that in France, a country with countless social rules and customs, there are actually rules about how to name your dog.

The custom, dating back to 1885, refers to the fact that for purebred dogs to be included in the official listing recording births (called the L.O.F. – Livres des Origines Francaises) they must be have a name that corresponds to the letter of the year they were born.   The current sequence started in 1973 with the letter “I” and exludes the letters  "K", "Q", "W", "X", "Y" and “Z” which are considered to difficult.  So, every twenty years one returns to the same letter. 

Apparently, this custom exists in many countries, including the US and Canada, where it is controlled by the AKC and CKC.  However, the sequence of letters differs in each country.  For example in Belgium, 2011 is a “K” year.  Despite the prevalence of the idea, in France people seem to be much more aware and I noticed long ago that when someone mentions a new puppy, this invariably leads to a discussion where people try to figure out what letter it is this year.  In fact, this very thing happened in the office when we were asked to help with a French name. 

For example, the puppy we helped “emigrate” to the US was born in 2010, a year corresponding to the letter “F.”  So his birth name was Fakir.  You can understand why the family wanted to change his name.

If you have a new puppy and are looking for a French name, there are countless sites where you can get suggestions for male and female puppy names starting with the right letter.

2011: http://ecoledeschiens.com/prenoms-chiens-2011.html

Another site with more than 6,000 choices: http://www.noms-de-chiens.com/

One last dog anecdote is inspired by my friend J.  A dog lover with a keen interest in the differences between French and English language he has long searched for an equivalent word for the game “Fetch.”  The exhausting pastime for dog owners that never ceases to amuse the dogs themselves.

In French, there is no word for this game.  It’s simply called “Throwing the ball for the dog.”  Huh, yet another sign that the English language has a larger vocabulary.  I’ve heard there is a difference of as much as 250,000 words in French to 400,000 in English.  Of course, no self-respecting Frenchman (or woman) would ever agree to such a dramatic difference.  Perhaps “Those French don’t have a different word for everything.”

Wednesday
Jan052011

Top Five Posts from 2010

At the start of a new year, it's always good to reflect on the past year.

 So here is a recap of the top five articles that I wrote in 2010:

1. TALK LIKE A PARISIAN

Of course, it’s unlikely that anyone can actually “learn to speak French” in the course of planning a holiday vacation to France.  However, you can use a few commonly known words to your advantage.  You just have to use precisely the right word at just the right moment. read more...

2. HOW TO ORDER COFFEE IN PARIS

In France, things aren’t often easy.  As my good friend J always says “Those French, they’ve got a different word for everything” and this is certainly true for coffee.  So here’s a quick primer on how to get a satisfying cup of Joe just like you enjoy on your way to work back home.  read more...

3. SERVICE AND TIPPING IN PARIS RESTAURANTS

In a Paris café or most average restaurants, fast, efficient service is not a highly-prized part of the experience. So expect to have to wait more than you’re used too.  Why would that be, aren't servers supposed to well, "serve?"  read more...

4. CHICKEN OR BEEF?

It's an age old question, but perhaps you never thought it was an important link to French culture.  It was one of the first lessons I learned about the cultural differences between Americans and the French when I moved here in 2001.  read more...

5. WHO CUT THE CHEESE?

France's food culture is one of the most celebrated in the world, but the rules that surround it are not always easy to comprehend.  As an expat living in Paris I've learned the hard way that there are a myriad of French customs related to food that can surprise you when you least expect it.  read more...

Friday
Jul302010

Au Resto - Reading a French Menu

Au Resto, pronounced oh resto, means “at the restaurant.”  Despite all appearances to the contrary, most French people love short cuts, nicknames and, of course, breaking the rules.  Grammatical ones included.  However this is only acceptable if you know you know the rules you are breaking.

So this post will give you a few short cuts and hints to have a better experience eating in France. The goal is to help you figure out the menu and decide what to order.  If you’re looking for hints on tipping and getting the waiters attention, read this previous post.

French food is a vast subject and French menus can be quite puzzling to visitors.  These days, many people in the US and other English-speaking countries are accustomed to restaurants that go out of their way to provide an exhaustive list of ingredients and cooking methods in the short description of each dish. 

For example:

Chicken Provencal – A free-range bonless chicken breast, lightly marked on the grill and seasoned with Herbes de Provence.  Served with an heirloom tomato-eggplant ratatouille spiked with house-made preserved Yuzu and finished in the oven with a toasted parmesan, cracked white pepper crust and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and fresh herbs.

I just made that dish up, but you get the idea.  Well, in France the menu would most likely say, Poulet Provençal et sa ratatouille.  Nothing more.  The English translations are often not much more help, something like “Provençal Style Chicken and its Ratatouille Vegetables.”

Like so many other things here, you’re just supposed to know how this dish is made.  But for visitors this causes two levels of distress.  If you already know some French food vocabulary, that helps enormously.  But if you don’t know how to decipher the hints about the preparations you can still be lost deciding what to order. 

Once you have figured out the meat, in this case Poulet = Chicken, the first clue is to think about the origin of the word describing the chicken.  French food is often a mix of regional specialties:  Provençal = Provence, Normand = Normandy, Bourguignon = Burgundy. 

So when you see the word Provençal think of Provence.  Near the border of Italy, expect tomatoes, basil and other Mediterranean herbs, olive oil and of course garlic.  Albeit in very small doses, most French people seem to have an aversion to Garlic.

Normand.  In Normandy they are famous for milk and cream, apples and Calvados, a strong alcohol made from apples that is the regional equivelant to a Cognac or an Armagnac.  One classic is Sauté de Porc Normand - sautéed tenderloin of Pork with a cream sauce.

Bourguignon.  The dish most most commonly known outside France is Beef Bourguignon.  Slowly-cooked from fatty cuts of beef and made with lots of red wine from Burgundy.

So back to the case of our Poulet Provencale et sa Ratatouille, this is chicken dish cooked Provençal style with tomatoes, Mediterranean herbs, garlic and olive oil.  "Sa ratatouille" means the Ratatouille that goes along with it.  

No Provencal meal would be complete without this slow-cooked  preparation of Eggplant, Tomato, Onions, Garlic and herbs drizzled with Olive Oil.  You get the idea.  Sometimes the classic ingredients are changed to include Zucchini aka Courgette instead of eggplant.  In this case the menu would say “Ratatouille au Courgette.”  This is my preference since I’m not a fan of Eggplant. 

BTW, a garlicy Ratatouille aux Courgettes makes a great accompaniment for seared Beef, especially Black Pepper-marinated Flank Steak sliced thin across the grain of the meat.  This would be great with a hearty red wine from the Rhone - made primarily of Syrah.

When I was quite young and started to visit France, I didn’t speak any French and was a less adventurous eater than the one I evolved into.   We were deep in the countryside and stopped along the way at a small village restaurant.  I was travelling with a friend who knew a little French.  Quite helpful as no one in this small place spoke any English.  He helped translate the more common words and since it was a chilly night I decided to take the hearty-sounding Veal and Rice Stew called “Riz de Veau.”  When it arrived there was no sign of stew and just a few small wrinkled pieces of tender meat.  Slowly we realized that this was not Veal and Rice, but Veal thalamus glands, called Riz de Veau, commonly called Sweetbreads in English.  That’s what is referred to a Faux Ami – a False Friend.  This describes a word or words that sound like they should be one thing in English and are actually something completely different.  Needless to say, J and I were hunting for a sandwich after that meal.

This is just a start on helping you order in French, so I promise to keep posting about how to translate French menus and offer helpful tips for making the most of your visit to Paris.

Here is a menu of the primary meats found on Menus in French restaurants with English translations. I have also included some of the more common cuts:

Poulet                             Chicken

                Supreme                            Breast

                Cuisse                                  Thigh

                Aile                                       Wing

Boeuf                               Beef

                Piece de Boeuf                Roast Beef

                Onglet                             Steak cut from the back

                L’Entrecôte                     Steak cut from the ribs

                Tournados                      Similar to Filet Mignon (but usually cut thinner)

Porc                                 Pork

                Filet Mignon                    Pork Tenderloin

                Côte du                          Pork Chop

Canard                            Duck

                Cuisse                              Thigh

                Magret                              Breast

Biche                               Vennison                         

                Selle                                 Saddle

                Gigot                                 Leg

L’Agneau                           Lamb

                Gigot                                Leg

                Cote                                 Chop

                Cotelettes                        Little chops

                Selle                                 Saddle

Veau                                  Veal

Poisson                              Fish

Rouget                               Red Mullet (Often very small filets)

Thon                                  Tuna

L’Espadon                         Swordfish

Lotte                                 Sea Bass

St Pierre                            John Dory

Cabillaud or Morue            Cod

Maquereaux                      Mackerel

Sole                                   Sole

Escargot                            Snails

Grenouille                          Frog

Coquilles St Jacques          Scallops

Riz de Veau                       Sweetbreads

Lapin                                 Rabbit

Liève                                 Wild Hare

 

Photo Credits:

Chicken Provencal - Gourmet Magazine via epicurious.com

Sauté of Pork Normand - Courtesy of Plat de Jour

Ratatouille - La Petit Gourmande Blog