Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What a difference a day makes

Some pretty spring flowers

I suppose I was still savoring my trip to the park because I had this brillian idea of dragging my little family over to a brocante in Vincennes not too far from the Chateau Vincennes which is in, you guessed it, the Bois de Vincennes. The idea was to hit the brocante and then visit the Chateau. But heaven had other ideas for us so the Chateau will have to be another visit. 

When we arrived, I immediately spied a stand selling what seemed to be miniature lamps. Now I don’t know what it is but lately I’ve had a fascination for old lamps.  This particular stand had old oil lamps dating back from the 50s but in teeny tiny sizes; some of them even fit in the palm of my hand.  I was completely fascinated.  There were old bronze ones (very Aladdin-like),  delicate handpainted porcelain ones and even glass ones.  As we had just arrived I told myself that I better go around first before making a purchase. Alas! It was not to be as it was then that the rain began. After enjoying such beautiful weather, the universe decided to rain on my parade.  Even for a die-hard brocante fan, going around while its pouring cats and dogs makes it virtually impossible.  Stall- holders started putting big plastic sheets over their wares while some just gave up and packed up. It was extremely frustrating.

Mini Lamps 

And yet more lamps

But just as we were about to leave ourselves, I spied one last stalwart stall still open.  In the spirit of never giving up, I hurried over and to my surprise managed to find two things to take back with us.  I found myself two vintage frames! Now I realize this might not send everyone into paroxysms of delight but they were exactly what I was looking for. You see, I was trying to think of creative ways to hang and display jewelry when it occurred to me that an old frame would be a good way to do it.  After all, jewelry can be as pretty as a picture.  

Vintage frames

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A day at the park

Along the shores one can rent a little row boat
This week, we were blessed with unusually good weather. At this time of the year, its normally rainy with uncertain temperatures. As if to make up for the more than snowy winter we had, this week was spring at its finest--clear blue skies, hardly a breeze and all the sunshine we could possibly ask for. To not take advantage of such bounty was criminal so we took ourselves off out of our usual route and headed towards the Bois de Vincennes, one of the green spots around the city.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Discovering something new

By now friends know how much I love hunting for finds at brocantes and flea markets. However, I took a bit of a break over the weekend because I came across something called a vide-dressing. Vide dressing literally means "empty your closet" and I've observed that recently, more and more vide dressings were being held in town. What this basically means is that a group of like minded fashionistas get together and empty their closets of their unwanted but still in good condition clothes/ accessories and sell it to others for much cheaper prices.  I'm sure it started out among groups of friends but has now involved into highly organized events that more than hold their own against the traditional brocantes and vide-greniers.  These days they've even included young designers in the line up of vendors.

As there was one held very close to where we live, I thought it couldn't hurt to check things out. As expected the focus was mostly on clothes and shoes.  But I have to say that the organizers had made sure to take only people with nice items to sell.  While there weren't that many sellers, they did have quality merchandise to sell. To be sure most of the items were used but several stands carried unworn items. 

To be sure the crowd was mostly girls and I have to say that this kind of sale is a good way of getting rid of one's unwanted clothes but what I found to be the most interesting to look at were the displays put on by young designers.   It is here that the vide dressing becomes more than just a place where you empty your closet of unwanted items and instead becomes a place to find clever and talented artists who otherwise have no other way to display their wares. As one pointed out to me, there is always the internet but nothing beats seeing the actual object for sale and being able to try them on. That's certainly true.

One stand carried different hair bands decorated in various fabrics and prints.  Normally, its not my style but it was certainly fun trying them out!

Another stand carried hankerchiefs, little bags and jewelry made out of very pretty liberty prints.

By far, the best one was the stand carrying crocheted jewelry. This one was really special and it stood out from all the rest.  The necklaces were striking in the bold use of colors and dramatic looking thanks to their heft. What was most impressive however, was the fact that the artist makes the thread herself. Not for her the normal crochet thread one finds in the market, she painstakingly weaves the thread before creating the actual jewelry.  The result is something extremely original and beautiful!

I'm not about to give up my usual forays into the brocantes but just this one time, I was glad to have skipped it and to have discovered something different but nice.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A stroll along Montorgueil

The view from my window

Dear friends, it’s been a crazy week here, what with all the things I’ve had to do for my little project hence the long silence on the blog. It doesn’t help that the news has been so grim with the disaster in Japan and now the bombings in Libya. It has made me feel like what I’m doing in the scale of things is frivolous and too lighthearted by far.  It has made writing difficult, to say the least.

Today, I look out the window and the sun is shining brightly. It is officially spring in my corner of the world. The sky is this wonderful blue that I haven’t seen in awhile. All this reminds me that part of the purpose of this blog is to share all the little beautiful moments that can be so fleeting. Yes, Hobbes had a point when he said that life is nasty, brutish and short, but it can also be light filled and full of beauty, humor and grace.  We have but only to look closely.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chocolate and Macarons on the brain

I realize I've just written about hot chocolate but I made such a wonderful chocolate related discovery last week that I just have to write about it.  The name Benoit Chocolats isn't exactly the sort that inspires the imagination so I'd passed by the store many many times without going in.  Sure, they had a beautifully arranged window but so does every other chocolate place in town. What finally prompted me to go in was ironically enough, their macarons. You see, we'd started a sort of inquiry into the matter of finding the best macarons in Paris. A difficult task I realize but well, someone has to do it right?  We'd already tried about 4 macaron places without yet finding a definitive answer to our question  when I realized that this place, Benoit Chocolats, in fact had macarons. So in the spirit of fairness, I had to buy some to taste.

I don't know why it took so long for me to step in the store. Their macarons and chocolates are amazing. Both are still made by hand and by their own traditional recipe. They carry only the traditional flavors namely caramel, vanilla, pistacchio, lemon, cassis, rose, coffee and caramel, but each flavor is wonderfully distinct without being overwhelming. They are also freshly made each time so you run no risk of buying a stale batch. Unfortunately we ate all the macarons before I could take a photo so I can't share it with you.

And their chocolates have that wonderful handmade artisanal flavor. Nothing industrial about their production. In fact, they are one of the few chocolate makers that still make their own caramel and ganache that they then put in their chocolates.  For their efforts, they've received the distinction of being one of the 12 best chocolate makers in Paris.  Their winning chocolate is this to die for citron and coriander flavored chocolate. Its just heavenly. I don't know how they managed to blend the three flavors so seamlessly and harmoniously  that each is recognizable yet not one of them overwhelms the other.  These are seriously addictive!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Under the bridge

This post on last weekend's brocante is late but I just have to share it because it was in a very pretty location. It was held just under the Pont Alexandre III along one of the quais of the Seine.  And as it was a sunny and crisp day, it made for a nice little outing.   The bridge was built in the 19th century and named after Tsar Alexander III.  It connects the Grand Palais on the right bank to the Invalides on the left bank. Many consider this to be the most beautiful of Paris' bridges. It is adorned by beautiful statues of cherubs and nymphs and the celebrated winged Pegasus which you can see from the photo above. 

As for the brocante itself, it was not a very large one as you can see from this photo. But there were a number of interesting stands..

Someone's collection of old lamps and clocks...

A collection of miniatures...

And after all this time of visiting brocantes, I've never seen anyone with as big a collection of stuffed animals,bones and old scientific instruments as this stand....

I was a bit freaked to see the stuffed alligator, sitting up on the shelf...

Just before leaving, I spied this old fashioned camera, the kind you used to put a cloth over to take the photos..

And it came with the last set of photos taken by it...I'm extremely curious about these folks in this photo...

As for my find of the week, it was of the consumable kind...up at the bridge, there was a man roasting chestnuts the old fashioned way. I love roasted chestnuts and I couldn't resist treating myself to a bag. It was deliciously piping hot. A delicious way to end our little jaunt along the Seine.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A chocolate break

We had a hankering for some hot chocolate the last week and luckily for us we are spoiled for choice when it comes to chocolate.  This time, instead of going to our usual place, we headed over to a new chocolate place over at the sixth arrondissement called Un Dimanche a Paris. If only for its poetic name, its worth a look. Pierre Cluizel (who comes from a chocolate making family) is the brains behind what he calls a “concept store for chocolate”.  His concept store includes a salon du the, restaurant, lounge, atelier and a boutique.  It is a beautiful place, well-lit and luminous thanks to its big windows.   It is also sophisticatedly decorated with an inviting lounge above the restaurant.  And the chocolate boutique looks almost like a museum store, with the house specialty arranged artistically. 

This is how the hot chocolate was served complete with its own wooden whisk

With such an aesthetically pleasing presentation, we wondered whether the  chocolat chaud  a’l ancienne would live up to its surroundings. And I’m pleased to say that it is quite wonderful. As concocted, it is thick, almost viscous, with a robust taste of chocolate and just the tiniest hint of cinnamon.   This is the kind of hot chocolate you need time to savor and so we lingered at the table. We  also thoroughly enjoyed the little cake a’l orange we ordered which went wonderfully with the chocolate. If one is not concerned with weight, you could also order the hot chocolate gourmand which means that it comes with 4 tiny pastries created in house. I was content with my orange cake but I think the next time I need a treat, I’m going to go for the version gourmand!

The salon du the that doubles as a restaurant
Some special orange covered chocolates

How enticing are these different chocolate squares?

A look at the lounge area

Practical details:
Un Dimanche a Paris
4-6-8 Cour du Commerce Saint Andre