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A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 12: Love, Sephora, & Perfume in Paris

Finding perfume is a lot like falling in love. A scent strikes you and you just know it's one you can connect with and wear for a very long time. Buying a new perfume was on my "perhaps" Paris list. "Perhaps" because it is never a sure thing you will find the right one. Kind of like online dating. How many dates would you have to go to find someone you have chemistry and compatibility with? That's how I am with perfume. I find very few that I like; fewer that I love. And if I'm going to wear a scent, I need to love it.

I thought my search for perfume would bring me back to Sephora; the perfume and make-up mecca of Paris. In 1999 I entered Sephora for the first time. The flagship, original store was and is on the Champs-Elysees. I remember the experience as clearly as, well....any other significant first. The smell, the allure, the staff all dressed in black (what else?), and rows and rows of perfume, make-up, lotions and potions. I spent hours trying on perfumes, which you spray on tiny pieces of cardboard instead of your skin, so as to not confuse the scents. Finally, when the selection gets narrowed to a mere two, it's time for a spritz. One on each wrist. Then, you wait for the alchemy to take place. Perfumes smell differently on your body and change as they interact with your own chemistry. I love science. Especially when it's intertwined with magic.

A year or so after losing my virginity to Sephora in Paris, I discovered there was a New York City Sephora on Fifth Avenue near Rockefeller Center. That one too, was bliss. Sadly, it has since closed. But now Sephora is ubiquitous. It is even in Penny's department store. Really.

Anyway, I planned to reunite with the Champs Sephora at some point during this trip, specifically to see if I could find a new love. But love is funny. Sometimes it finds you when you least expect it. Yesterday while walking through St. Germaine, a petite table holding a single, elegant bottle suddenly called to me. Next to the bottle were those tiny pieces of cardboard. "Try me," the bottle whispered. Feeling a bit like Alice through the looking glass, I sprayed, smelled, and waited. Suddenly, a man appeared in the doorway. He spoke in French, a bit too quickly for me to catch what he said.

"Je parle Francaise, un peu," I said. He smiled. "Ah! In English, then. Give me your wrist." As he gently misted my wrist, I knew I was lost. The fragrance was intoxicating. It was all there. Light, charm, elegance, familiar yet at the same time new, a suggestion of gardenias on a summer night, slightly romantic with a hint of sexy. It was love. It was Only for Her by Hayari-Parfums.

"I'll take it," I said, without even asking the price.
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Posted by teethetrav 08:19 Archived in France Tagged paris france love nyc champs_élysées perfume rockefeller_center st._germaine hayari-parfums penny's Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 11: Paris at Night by Boat

As touristy as it may seem, a bateau down the Seine en nuit is something everyone should experience in order to fully appreciate the beauty of Paris. Paris is unquestionably one of the most spectacularly beautiful cities in the world. Paris at night is indescribable. Even in winter. From the water, at night, lit in all its glory, you can see a different Paris. Words do not do it justice.
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Before setting off on the boat, I wandered through St Germaine. I am on a mission to find the perfect Paris neighborhood. While sauntering through the lovely streets of St. Germaine, I found yet another Louis Vuitton store. As if I didn't have enough decisions to make regarding LV, a new Louis has now appeared on the scene. Poppy has arrived. She is a limited edition and is just perfect. She is, however, 500 euros more than my previous temptation; the salmon-trimmed beauty known in Paris as lichee. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. I may be able to rationalize spending more. The euro has dropped a penny a day since I've arrived. Vive la dollar.

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Stay tuned.

Posted by teethetrav 14:27 Archived in France Tagged night boat paris france ride poppy eiffel_tower seine louis_vuitton Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 10: Paris is NOT Manhattan

Manhattan is still the heart of NYC in spite of the buzz about Williamsburg, and Brooklyn in general, being the new Manhattan. Manhattan is still Manhattan; the true NY. Paris and New York have much in common. They are both sophisticated, cultured, and fashion conscious. Although Paris is similar to NYC in many ways, it has several glaring differences. I will list a few.
1. Dog poop. Really, people. Parisians love their dogs. They bring them everywhere and no one minds. Restaurants accept them, they wait patiently outside the patisserie while their owner buys a daily baguette, and they walk leashlessly through parks. Fine. I too am a dog lover. But I am not a dog poop lover, especially when I step in it. In Paris, it's hard to avoid. No one scoops the poop. You must therefore walk eyes down trying to avoid the mess.
2. Safety codes are rather lax. Third world country lax. My apartment, for example, has more extension cords than the boulanger has croissants. It also has three space heaters. Both seem to be common throughout Paris.
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The elevator fits one person. Two if you are very intimate.
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3. Police ignore scam artists. Scams are everywhere. But here I've seen police walk past scam artists and not even tell them to move on. Clearly, the police in Paris have bigger poisson to fry but I guess the broken windows philosophy doesn't hold up here at all. The most common scams are the string men who tie a string bracelet to your wrist, then demand you buy it. Or the woman on the street waving a piece a paper in your face demanding you sign a petition. If you do, she shows you that what you signed means you owe her ten euros.
4. Smoking is still a Parisian pastime. One of the last western countries to ban smoking in public buildings, bars, and restaurants, Parisians still love their ciggies. They sit outside at cafes in the cold, in the rain, bundled and lighting up.
5. But as much as I love NYC, you can't get these views of le Tour Eiffel or Sacre Couer in Manhattan. There are so many differences between NYC and Paris. Vive le difference.

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Posted by teethetrav 07:08 Archived in France Tagged paris france dogs nyc manhattan williamsburg brooklyn safety le_tour_eiffel dog_poop poop sacre_couer scams vive_le_difference Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 9: Existential Wisdom on the Metro

The newspaper Charlie Hebdo came out today for the first time since the attack and the murders at the publishing office and supermarket. The funeral for the three police officers was yesterday and police in their dress uniforms were everywhere. So were heavily armed soldiers and every kind of military and police vehicle imaginable.
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Today there were Parisians standing in lines for the newspaper before the stands opened this morning. Normally, they print 60,000 copies. Today apparently they printed millions and sold them all. There are still armed military in the streets, especially around churches, synagogues and tourist attractions like le Tour Effel.

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But the people are philosophical.

As a woman on the Metro put it, "Keep cool and calm. We don't have to understand everything. It is just our destiny. We cannot do anything about our destiny."

This is, after all, the land of the of Camus and Sartre. People here can still be heard discussing and arguing politics in cafes. They read on the Metro; books, not Kindles--when they are not dispensing wisdom and philosophy to the person seated next to them on the Metro.

Posted by teethetrav 07:49 Archived in France Tagged paris france camus existentialism sartre charlie_hebdo je-suis_charlie Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 8: French fries

I haven't eaten French fries in the US since the government (or whoever) decided they should be "healthy." Meaning fries are no longer deep fried until they are greasy and wonderful and--perish the thought of sodium--they are no longer salted. I don't understand how these are "healthy" since they are made from white potatoes and have essentially no nutritional value. So the only thing accomplished was to killed the deliciousness of a French fry. And since they're not fried, the name French fry is a misnomer . They are baked, bland, and boring.

I have tried to explain to my children what they are missing when eating today's fries. I haven't been too successful. How can you explain an old school taste experience they have never had? One of life's pleasures when I was very young was going to McDonald's and having a milkshake and fries. The greasy, salty fries were so good you never wanted to reach the bottom of the bag. The shake was so thick you had to eat it with a spoon and it always caused brain freeze. I haven't been to a McD's since...well...when did they stop deep frying their fries and start baking them?

Today, in Paris, I ordered beef and a salad and it came with French fries. I almost told them to hold the fries, since that is what I do at home. But that was way too much French for me to handle, so the fries came my way.

Somehow, the moment I saw them I just knew. They came in a miniature deep frying basket and had the deep color of crisp. I feared I was wrong, but I tasted one. Oh heavenly, deep-fried, salty deliciousness! This was the real deal. You have to love the French for clinging to their unhealthy ways. I certainly love their French fries.
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Posted by teethetrav 11:05 Archived in France Tagged paris france french_fries greasy_salty_fries Comments (1)

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