Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bon Dimanche from Paris

We have spent a lovely few days in Barcelona and are now back in Paris, at the Hotel Pont Royal, which is the most perfect Left Bank hotel of your dreams-- small and fancy but not too fancy; some rooms with views of the Eiffel Tower. Ours has a view of the new Monoprix across the street which seems appropriate for a pair of shopping goddesses.

This morning I had planned to return to the flea market at Vanves to buy some dessert forks I didn't buy last Sunday, but the vagaries of the #95 bus and the seriousness of a $20 taxi ride seemed too much to handle. If you come to my house for dinner, be prepared to cope without proper dessert forks. Not that the ones I planned to buy were proper-- they were fish forks!

Tomorrow we are off to the factory outlets at La Vallee, the highlight of our shopping dreams. I wll also go to the supermarket out there and fill in at the Monoprix across the street...and at Le Grand Epicerie at Bon Marche, where I know I can get sirop for making Freanch marshmellows, lemon salt, etc. Bought Iberia ham for $20 for 100 grams at Barcelona iarport to find French ham from Bayonne (similar to Iberian) for $5. Meanwhile, we watch Cairo on CNN.

Friday, January 28, 2011

ritzing it up in barcelona

We have come to Barcelona to work on Born to Shop Provence Plus-- Barcelona being a short hop from France and a good way to get to Provence, since you have to drive anyway. THe weahter is cool; women are out on the streets in their fur coats and high heels. It's not thaaaat cold.

We stayed one night at the new Mandarin Oriental, a gorgeous modern hotel right on the main shopping street Passeig de Gracia, all modeled in white with wavy bathroom tiles and window screens that go up and down with a remote control.

Now we have moved around the corner to the Hotel Palace which was built by Cesar Ritz in 1913 and recently remodeled in plush Regency style with willow green velvet in the lobby and a room of beige and flocked velvet wallpaper. The TV is the mirror over the fireplace and the balcony would make Evita proud. We open the balcony doors to use it as a fridge when shopping for ham and chorizo.

Our first night in town we walked a few blocks to El Corte Ingles, the biggest department store in town and went to their supermarket in the basement. We took a rolly suitcase so we could carry bottles of olive oil back to the hotel-- hopefully they will make it to Paris with us and then on to USA. I could not find my favorite brand (with the rooster on the front) but noted that the oil is sold by the the California Central Coast I know my grape varietals, but only a few of the types of olives. I bought Picoul which i think has a full flavor and much body...or will after I have schlepped it around the world.

I had breakfast in the Winter Garden of the Palace Hotel today -- it is a true Edwardian Winter Garden and is the location of one of my dog Toffee's greatest pranks. I brought him here when he was but a puppy and noted how well behaved and quiet he was under the table, until I noted with distress that he had escpaed into the garden portion of the Winter Garden and was digging half way to China. That's what dachshunds do, I guess. It is very lonely without him here now.

On the first night at El Corte Ingles, I fell in love with some accessories from the Designual line which in times past I would have told you is a Custo wannabe. Now it's my favorite store and line here in BCN, as it is written in many store names. They have a store at the airport, so I almost can't wait to leave.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bienvenue a Paris

Arrived in Paris on almost empty Open Skies flight from Newark; hotel room not ready so off to the flea market at Vanves; felt giddy with greed...or was that jetlag? Didn't buy any of the many things I wanted; did spring for a small painting that I can n0w schlep on rest of my travels. Will take it to the next 60% off framing sale at Michael's. The vendor told me the painting was an antique since it is signed and dated 1966. I wonder what that makes me?

There was a small cultural brouhaha when I took a photo at a stunning display turned out by one of the vendors-- he toldme it was usual to ask permission to take a photo before shooting. I apologized profusely and groveled as the Ignorant American I knew myself to be. He thanked me for speaking French and showing him some respect. Travel teaches us all so much...

Eventually we got to check into our room at a brand new Paris hotel and member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Le Pavillon des Lettres (, the remake of a tiny hotel around the corner from my last apartment in Paris, so I know my way around and know all the sneaky short cuts to Monoprix. There are 26 rooms in this hotel that are said to be named for the letters of the alphabet although ours is named Urfe, which is not a letter that i know in any alphabet or in any pronounciation I can recognize. The room is postage stamp sized but incredibly chic-- the twin bed is short and narrow (which I am not) but the duvet is heavenly. The location in the 8e is truly sublime-- I know, I lived here once.

All the sales in the stores are down the street or around the corner. In fact,
Monoprix is deep in sales, so there was nothing to drool over. I did swoon for a long black gab jacket/ overcoat thingy from the new collection, meaning not on sale. I may go back and lay down my 89 euros, but again, that's no bargain and I am waiting for the last days of my trip here when I will head out to La Vallee, the outlet mall near Disneyland Paris.

I will do my grocery shopping later in the trip: probably at the Auchan hypermarket next door to the outlet far I just picked up some makeup remover, a few eyebrow pencils and a Coke. A single bottle of Coke from the corner grocery cost 2 euros or $2.80...possibly more, depending on the rate of exchange. Indeed, everything seems expensive, so I can't wait to get into some serious soldes to start saving money.

I come to Paris each January for my regular medical checkups. The vampire on the corner took my blood and about 100 euros cash; will find out how healthy I am in a few days. Most interesting part of the visit to the lab was the little shelf in the bathroom where you are told to leave your urine walking through the lobby with a warm plastic cup in hand or a feeling of chagrin. I will be saving $$$ when I get my Rx at the pharmacy. Drug prices are regulated in France and cost a small fraction of the US prices. Take that one to Congress. Of course, no one wants to go back to America to brag about a bargain on thyroid medicine, so I hope to do better in the next few days. Tomorrow my goal is to take on Lafayette Maison the housewares branch of Galeries Lafayette.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On to Paris

We chose to stay at this luxury Times Square address (new Intercontinental hotel) in order to be close to Port Authority and Holland Tunnel for getting to Newark today for the fast escape to Paris. The sun is shinning into my window here-- but it is bitterly cold in NYC and I am looking forward to leaving town and being home in Paris. It's unlikely we will roll our extra suitcases over to Port Authority to take a bus like a normal person would/should do-- we will probably splurge for a taxi or call the 777 people for the black sedan and an airport rate.

Before we leave this afternoon, I plan to make a run to a favorite fabric store Mood, on west 37th Street between 8th and 7th Avenues which should be an easy walk even if my toes freeze to the curb-- i learned about this store on a TV show and first shopped it about three years ago; there is floor after floor of yard goods of all qualities and prices-- it's a big hang out for design students and garmentos.

Yesterday we went wild with glee as we enjoyed Eataly,200 Fifth Avenue at 24th Street, the Mario Batali department store of italian food prods and cafes. I wanted to buy the trufled butter but had no way to keep it from going off so settled for black truffles in pesto sauces in a can and a few jars of gianduia crema. If i wasn't head to Europe to do my grocery shopping, I would have gone wild.

Now that I have few groceries tucked away the biggie is if I go back to Duane Reade pharmacy to buy more of that French Lierac foundation that I adore that I cannot find in France $40 a pop I hate to load up and spend down. That's New York for you -- way too many possibilities for shopping.

I feel way too old and too poor to live here again, but the thought that people do and can shop in places like Eataly reminds me that this is indeed the greatest city in the world.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Manhattan Project

We're waiting for a snow storm here in NYC, this seems to be the usual drill here this winter and I am not too worried about getting out on Saturday evening when Sarah Lahey and I depart for Paris. Meanwhile, we're snuggled into a very nice room in the new InterContinental Hotel Times Square-- wouldn't mind being snowed in here at all. The hotel is in a great location, although frankly I remember when nice girls didn't visit neighborhoods like this-- now there's a Shake Shack below and a Westin hotel across the street and most importantly a giant Duane Reade on the corner at 42nd Street. We're in the heart of the Theatre District, with Phantom playing right across the street.

Now, about that Duane Reade, it used to be a pharmacy-- which it still is-- but the chain has taken over a lot of empty real estate and expanded not only their stores but the categories of goods they sell. Many stores have fresh foods and baked goods; some will soon sell beer on tap (!) I only cared about the makeup department-- of course. Since I am headed to Paris, I am trying to go light on the debit cards now...but after a trip to Sephora and then Saks, I did my spending at Duane Reade where I discovered, among other things, a line of tini cocktail makeup (you gotta have a gimmick)...this is tini as in martini, not tini as in tiny or small. I paid $16.50 for a lipgloss (Cuba Libre-- everything has a cocktail name); this is a lot of money in my makeup budget, but it seemed like a Chanel product I know from duty free shopping, so maybe I saved $$$. this DR is open 24/7; has an MD on premises and offers three floors of shopping ops. I even found a favorite makeup base from France (Lierac) that is no longer sold in France, although I used to pay 25 europs for it and today paid $40...which is more than 25 euros. Although it saves on airfare and a time machine.

I've noticed that all the streets in this area now call themselves Times Square addresses, as if trying to cash in on the glamour. A new burger place on west 40th street says it's Times Square whereas this hotel, created from a parking lot, on west 44th is also called Times Square. Although we are very loyal to the Intercontinental brand, we picked this hotel partly because of it's location near the Port Authority. We leave for Paris from Newark Airport, which is easy to get to when you are based this far west-- or if you take a bus from the PA.

Now we're off to dinner at Bistro DB Moderne, one of Daniel Boulud's restaurants which is handily on the same street as our hotel. In between the hotel and the restaurant is the new bowling alley, BowlMor, 222 W 44th Street. We'll take a look at it as we go by but frankly, since I am still recovering from my spine injury, I don't think a game of bowls is in the cards. But this location is sublime.

In fact, there are more theatres and restaurants on west 44th street than I think any other location in Manhattan. Tomorrow night we'll dine at Osteria Al Doge, also on west 44th, a favorite Italian restaurant from the days when I lived in the tri-state area. Of course, that will be a double headed for my hips with Italian food since we're planning on lunch at Eat-ly; I will write about that tomorrow...and the bowling alley, of course.