Viewing: Paris

Paris shopping: Merci & Bonton

Do you sometimes get the feeling that you’re the last person on earth to do something or go somewhere? I had that feeling for the longest time about Santorini—as if everyone I know had been there except for me (and Marlon).  More recently, I’ve felt that about watching Frozen. 

This is also the feeling I’ve had about the iconic, supercool Paris lifestyle store Merci. As I write this post, I’m picturing readers out there who will scan the title, sigh and close my blog. “Not another Merci post, yawn.” Forgive me, supercool people! After this post, I will join your jaded ranks. For now, allow me to be a wide-eyed first-timer.

On my last afternoon in Paris, I met Judith for lunch and a stroll around the Marais, but mostly to pop my Merci cherry.

Merci Paris typography suitcases

After lunch at the Merci Cinema Cafe, we elbowed past tour groups of worshipful, black-clad, carefully Eurodressed Japanese tourists—no belt bags and safari vests here—to explore three floors of supercoolness for every aspect of life. I tried to take pictures of everything (not supercool, I know) because it’s just that kind of store: it makes you believe that acquiring these artfully curated and displayed goods will make you a supercool version of yourself.

Merci Paris home section

The basement is stocked with smaller design items for the home and kitchen, and is also wire cage lamp heaven.

Merci Paris cage wire lamps

I had such a hard time finding our bedroom cage lamps online. Apparently they’ve been hiding en masse at Merci all this time.

Merci Paris lightbulbs

Call me weird, but if I had to move back home to the Philippines tomorrow, I would find a way to hoard light bulbs. Yes, light bulbs. If I never have to see another fluorescent bulb in my life, I will be fairly happy. Merci has a great selection.

Merci Paris valises star print

So, valises are apparently a thing. “They’re all the rage in Paris!” Which is the kind of thing your most annoying aunt would say.

Merci Paris valises Liberty

I loved browsing the living and dining furniture on the third floor… it just made me dream.

Merci Paris living room furniture

And it made me realize I can achieve this nonchalantly distressed, thousand-Euro effect by letting Rogue attack an armchair for a few years. “They do this in Paris,” I’ll tell visitors with a casual wave of my hand.

Merci Paris antique armchair

Post-Merci, we walked a few doors down to Bonton, a truly gorgeous (and yes, supercool) children’s store.

Bonton Paris entrance

I told you valises are a thing!

Bonton Paris spring valises

I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous colors, natural fabrics and classic yet unfussy aesthetic. But with price tags ranging from €44 for a pair of cotton bloomers to over €90 for a baby cardigan, this newly blossomed love is destined to remain a long-distance affair. Thank goodness for the bazar (read: small and cheap, but still cute and fun things) in the basement.

Bonton Paris children's clothes spring

I wish I’d known in advance that Bonton also has a coiffeur. I would’ve booked an appointment for Tala and totally become that hateful mother who can’t shut up about her daughter’s first haircut in Paris.

Bonton Paris children's coiffeur

We capped our window-shop-walk with macarons at Pierre Herme, which has officially dethroned Laduree as my favorite Paris macaron. I mean, just look at them!

Pierre Herme macarons Paris

With unusual flavor combinations such as green tea and bourbon, white truffle and hazelnut, and pistachio, cinnamon and cherry, they taste even better than they look.

Macarons Pierre Herme Paris

 

I enjoyed my window-shop-walk around the Marais, and now feel a thousand times cooler… I hope you do too!

Paris museums: Modern art at Centre Georges Pompidou

Once you’ve ticked the obligatory tourist boxes, Paris really begins to open up. Though it’s within walking distance of the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay, the Centre Georges Pompidou seems to get only a fraction of the crowds that besiege its neighboring museum heavyweights.

None of those for me this time around. I decided to dedicate an entire afternoon to the Centre Pompidou’s high-tech urban architecture and vast collection of modern and contemporary art.

Paris Centre Georges Pompidou

The most striking thing about the building, obviously, is the glass-encased escalator that snakes up and across the facade. Architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers designed the building so that all facilities for public movement and technical equipment would be funneled (their word was “centrifuged”) outside, leaving the inside floors completely free and usable.

Paris Centre Georges Pompidou with stroller

Because I had Tala with me in a stroller, I didn’t get to ride the famous escalators. Boo. But that’s okay. What wasn’t okay was wrestling with the effects of a nasty oyster, leaving me in a less than ideal mindset to, ehem, digest all that modern and contemporary (and, let’s face it, hard to understand) art.

So there I was with a baby, dashing to the bathroom every half hour, soaked in a cold sweat and feeling pukey. But never underestimate the power of art to penetrate even the worst of oyster-induced agonies. Here are few of my favorite works from the museum’s collection, and—I’ll save the best for last—the most spectacularly unmissable thing about the Centre Pompidou.

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Paris with a baby: Walk everywhere!

After visiting Paris several times, I’ve settled into a pace and style of travel that allows me to truly savor the delights of this enchanting city. Fortunately, it also happens to be a great way to experience Paris with a baby—maybe even the best way, but I might be biased here.

My entire “Paris with a baby” philosophy can be summed up in these words: Don’t plan too much. Walk everywhere. Let yourself be surprised.

Paris walking baby along the Seine River

By far, the best day we had in Paris as a family was an entire Sunday with only two things on our agenda: brunch with friends and a picture at Trocadero. A stroller is not something any parent wants to be folding, unfolding and schlepping around the Escher-esque labyrinth of stairs that is the Paris metro. So, to fill in the rest of our day, we simply walked everywhere.

Paris taking baby for a walk

We allowed ourselves a generous two hours to wander from our hotel in the 2nd arrondissement to brunch in the 17th, then another two hours to stroll home along the banks of the Seine from Trocadero. And it was simply perfect: relaxed and refreshing, with flashes of the Paris that exists beyond the tourist snapshots and postcard views.

Want to see just how much we enjoyed Paris on foot in just one day? Take a look.

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Paris eats: Le Dome Cafe’s seafood platter

More than romance and lights, Paris to me means fantastic restaurants and superb food. After living in a city with rather limited dining out options, I salivated over the idea of being able to waltz into practically any cafe or brasserie and feast on more than just the regular complement of sandwiches and soups.

We decided to splurge on our first evening out in Paris with dinner at Le Dome Cafe in Montparnasse.

Le Dome Cafe Paris Montparnasse

Le Dome Cafe is the quintessential Paris brasserie at its turn-of-the-century, glamorous best.

Le Dome Cafe Paris Montparnasse outside seating

All sumptuous reds and gleaming brass, Le Dome is a throwback to turn-of-the-century Paris, where leading intellectuals, artists and authors of the day would gather here for food and conversation. 

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Paris eats: Du Pain et des Idées

It isn’t every day I can savor breakfast from one of the best bakeries in Paris—if not the best. So, one crisp and sunny morning, I trekked across Paris on foot, baby and husband in tow, to worship at baker Christophe Vasseur’s temple of bread and ideas…

Du Pain et des Idees Paris boulangerie

the aptly named Du Pain et des Idées.

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Paris, then and now

Am I getting older, or is it just getting harder to recover from travel? We came back from Paris on Wednesday and I’m still more than a little dazed. Tala brought a raging diaper rash back with her, the house is a mess and I’m paying for my oyster-greediness with a mild case of food poisoning, but of course you don’t want to hear about that. You want to hear about Paris!

Trocadero Paris Eiffel Tower with fiance family and baby

I’m thankful for the chance to keep returning to this vast, complex, beautiful city. Each visit is always mix of well-loved favorites and first-time experiences. Yet each time, I keep discovering things that I haven’t yet done and still want to do, and I just want to keep coming back for more.

I’m incredibly thankful to have returned to Paris with both Marlon and Tala. In 2006, Marlon proposed to me in Paris; seven years later, we’re back not as fiancees, but as a family. We tried to recreate this picture at Trocadero as best we could, marveling at how little and how much things have changed since then. Funny and amazing, how life works out.

I’ll be back next week to write about Paris in more detail: food, shopping, sights, and our favorite experiences together as a family. Till then, have a wonderful weekend!

A Paris Valentine

Well, this is unexpected. After years of (mostly) turning a blind eye to Valentine’s Day, we’re changing it up a bit. Not only do we have plans for tonight—a cocktail workshop at Amsterdam’s historic House of Bols—but in a serendipitous twist, we’ll also be celebrating Valentine’s weekend in the most romantic city on earth.

Oui, Paris!

Paris is always a good idea

A work trip to Paris fell into Marlon’s lap came along at just the right time. After agonizing over budgets and schedules and other boring, adult, parent-like things, Marlon threw caution to the wind and offered me the weekend in Paris as a Valentine present. How could I turn down such a present? Besides, as Audrey Hepburn famously said, “Paris is always a good idea!”

I’ll be back next week to report on Valentine cocktails and Parisian pleasures. In the meantime, happy Valentine’s Day and have a love-ly weekend!

Happy weekend!

What’s better than a little pick-me-up? Thirty-five of them.

Laduree macarons box of 35

Marlon was in Paris for a meeting yesterday—yes, people do that here—and, on his way home, spotted a Laduree right beside his boarding gate at Charles de Gaulle. To cheer me up about missing The Hive this weekend, he bought me a box of 35, officially the biggest box of macarons I’ve ever seen (he usually gets me the box of 24). A great start to a weekend, wouldn’t you say?

For extra cheering-up power, we decided to bring out the big guns: we’re hiring a babysitter for our first date night since Tala was born. I’m so looking forward to an entire evening with non-nursing clothes, The Great Gatsby, and extra-large margaritas at our favorite Mexican restaurant!

What are you looking forward to this weekend? Hope you have a good one!

Garden state

Last month’s visit to Versailles was actually the second time I’ve been there. The first time was exactly 10 years ago (eeep!) with the Glee Club. We had some bonus miles from our bus company, so the group decided to use it on a day trip to Versailles.

However, it was a Monday and the palace was closed. We only got to see the gardens, which were free. We would have been extremely bummed if not for the fact that the Versailles gardens are, like, jumongous. Never underestimate the fun-generating ability of a bunch of Pinoys with cameras.

The gardens of Versailles then… and now.

How’s this for another before and after shot?

Nobody is allowed to comment on how I looked like I was stretched in post. I’m not exactly happy about this decade-long, er, expansion project. You are however allowed to comment that 10 years later, I am at least dressed better than my neneng self. By the way, this outfit is part of the two-part guest post I did for Plus Size Fasyon Mudra.

In the summer, Versailles charges a €7 admission fee for its gardens. In exchange for this little sum, you get the perfect soundtrack for a French frolic. Music from several appropriate historic periods is piped in amidst the tall green hedges, serene fountains and assorted Greek bronze figures.

Not all of us were happy about having to pay for something that was free on our last visit. On the bright side, the music was well-chosen, discreet and did a lot to enhance the ambience and stimulate the imagination.

Not only did I keep expecting to happen upon Marie Antoinette amidst a flock of poodles, the music  made me feel like I should be laughing a coquettish, lady-in-waiting kind of laugh and playing hide-and-seek in a powdered wig and taffeta ballgown. Makes me wish I hadn’t left the talcum powder and the whalebone corset in my other handbag.

Paris bites

My hands-down best meal in Paris was a real treat: a quintessentially French home-cooked meal. 
On the night before the Glee Club left Paris, singer and voice teacher Florence invited Ma’am Malou to dinner at her house. Ma’am Malou, not wanting to go by herself, took myself, Mimi and the Glee Club’s soprano pint-sized powerhouse Stef with her.
We met up outside the metro station in a… shall we say, less than savory neighborhood. While we clutched our purses tighter and waited nervously for Stef, who was late, to emerge from the metro, Florence’s colleague Stefan assured us that the house we were going to have dinner in was very different from the neighborhood. “It’s very pretty,” he promised. 

And indeed it was. Behind a small wooden gate on a nondescript street lay a secret garden, shared among three families, including Florence and her teenage daughter Manon. All three families are great friends and share this wonderful space. When the lady of the house locked the gate behind us, she effectively shut out all the sounds of the city. It felt as if we weren’t even in Paris anymore. They even have a cherry tree!

Then there was the food. 

After starting us off with baguettes, olives in brine and saucisson (sausage) with almonds to nibble on, Florence presented us with two homemade quiches hot from the oven. One had goat’s cheese, while the other was made with spinach and mushrooms.

Salads are my favorite thing (in a long list of favorite things) to have in France. They just do them so well over there! Our hostess served the quiches with a simple salad of crisp, fresh greens with a balsamic vinaigrette. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a French meal without cheese. My new discovery was the Saint-Maure, the crinkled log-like cheese on the right. It has a straw stuck down the middle for the cheese to breathe. I guess that’s what makes it so deliciously creamy. I liked it so much, I bought my own Saint-Maure to bring home to Amsterdam.

To end the meal on a sweet note, Florence baked not one, but two pies for dessert: a rich chocolate tart and this beautifully light and crisp apple tart.

French women really have this knack for knocking out amazing food with effortless chic, and elevating home-cooked meals into an art form. I’ve got to hand it to them… and only wish that I could be capable of the same!

Speaking of sweet endings, my last few hours in Paris were spent in a most worthwhile way: in pursuit of my favorite pastry, the tarte citron. Marj, a former colleague of mine from GMA now living in Paris, had blogged about a tarte citron that I absolutely had to have. So we met up at the Place des Vosges and headed together to Le Loir, a quirky little cafe in the Marais…

… where I met the tarte citron that defeated me. I’ve never, ever given up halfway through a lemon tart, but this insolent tart wielded a knockout weapon known as meringue.

Di ko kinaya! Sa Ingles: I yield! 
I’m pretty sure there are worse ways to leave Paris, than with lingering memories of a home-cooked meal under a cherry tree, and with the sour-sweetness of lemon and meringue still melting on my tongue. Sarap!