Mandarin Oriental Paris: worth the wait?

For those of us protectionistes who hate to see change in the classic landscape of Paris, the fears that the new Mandarin Oriental would be an eyesore on lovely rue St. Honoré were unfounded. After nearly three years of suspense, hidden behind a horrid construction facade that took up half of the rue, the big reveal was  by all accounts a non-event.

In fact, the exterior facade of the hotel is so inconspicuous,  almost communist in its austerity, that Petite Brigitte has missed the entrance to the hotel several times and had to turn around!

Once successfully inside, the fresh modernity consistent with the Mandarin brand comes through in the minimalist design, white flowers, and noble materials. To the left is the space age bar, where a small interior opens out into a verdant Hong Kongesque garden cocktail louge… definitely the tables of choice on a nice evening. The menu is strictly liquid for the moment though snacks will be added shortly. The bar specializes in gourmet cosmo-style cocktails as well as champagne cocktails, at prices that rival the Plaza Athenée (around EUR24 a pop), though perhaps not at the same quality or expert service of the Plaza. Petite Brigitte & co. waited 30 minutes for cocktails– a near disaster. At these prices, the clientele consists mostly of hotel clients, a few curious Parisians, and businessmen with expense accounts. While it is a more fashionable clientele than neighborhood rivals like the Park Hyatt, it cannot touch the coolness of the adjacent Hotel Costes.

To the right, the restaurant ‘Camelia’ continues in the cool, modern style, with a gastronomic menu, and although Petite Brigitte hasn’t tried it yet, the ambiance looks a little froide. The only tables really worth having are outside along the pond, as the candlelight and foliage create a romantic setting. Just hoping the service is better than at the bar!

Mandarin Oriental Paris

251 Rue Saint-Honoré

75001 Paris

01 70 98 78 88

Isami is the chic place for sushi

On the scenic banks of Ile Saint Louis, a small sushi restaurant named Isami is drawing in big names in the fashion industry. The expertly sliced sushi, and other japanese specialities, make reservations mandatory in this five table establishment.  

Petite Brigitte spotted which famous sexogenarian designer seated by the counter, arm over a stunningly chic (and young) blonde?

Don’t miss: the sashimi, the sake, and the green tea matcha ice cream

ISAMI  4 Quai d’Orléans 75004 Paris - 01 40 46 06 97

Inès de la Fressange, a Frenchwoman’s Parisienne

Check out Elaine’s NY Times review of Inès de la Fressange’s new style book on how to look French. I must admit, its the best guide I’ve seen in a long time on attaining that certain “je ne sais quoi”. English version available in Paris at W.H. Smith.

THE perfect Parisian woman is an illusion, bien sûr. But learning to pretend to be one is a serious business that dates back centuries.

It is an enterprise that continues to thrive with profitable how-to books like, “How to Become a Real Parisian,” “The Parisian Woman’s Guide to Style” and “All You Need to Be Impossibly French.” Now Inès de la Fressange, ex-runway model, former face of Chanel, Legion of Honor winner, designer, businesswoman and daughter of a marquis, offers yet another take on how to dress, shop, eat and act like a true “Parisienne.” This onetime muse of Karl Lagerfeld has spun her beauty and style tips into a confection of a best seller, “Parisian Chic: A Style Guide,” which has sold more than 100,000 copies in French and has just hit the American market.

The book might have withered and died on the shelves, except that Ms. de la Fressange combines a “je ne sais quoi” audacity with a sassy tone, and leaves readers believing that, by following her rules and experimenting with confidence, they, too, can be just like her.

via Inès de la Fressange, a Frenchwoman’s Parisienne – NYTimes.com.

Bottoms out and heels off for Lady Gaga

She battled strikes, blockades, and blizzards, and last night rewarded her loyal fans by throwing prized Armani shoes into the audience at Bercy. After a rousing and much anticipated concert, Lady Gaga brought an end to the French leg of her MonsterBall tour.

The extra days spent in Paris awaiting stage time did not go unnoticed. As we reported earlier, Gaga took time out for some traditional French cuisine at Chez André, made a pit-stop at a local Bruce Field’s store to buy some cheap pants to cover her frigid derrière, all the while holed up in a cozy suite at the Hotel Park Hyatt near Place Vendome.

La Villa: Best bar near Champs Elysées

Between shopping excursions on Ave. Montaigne and business lunches on rue Faubourg St. Honoré, Petite Brigitte is no stranger to the enigmatic neighborhood of the Champs-Elysées. It’s a quartier littered with tourists, banal shopping (except for Montaigne and “le 66“), overpriced restaurants, cheesy clubs, and yes… les marcheuses (prostitutes).

Having tired of the usual places to get some bubbly in this neigborhood–  Café Chic, l’Empire du 8ème, Pershing Hall, etc –  a recent outing to La Villa came as a welcome suprise.  Situated a short walk down from l’Arc de Triomphe, the bar/resto, open since 2009 yet still largely undiscovered by many Parisians,  boasts a hip piano bar frequented in equal parts by local residents, international businessmen, and trendsetters.

Cocktails are pricey (13-20 euros), the staff is beautiful (especially the ruggedly handsome ex-model DJ who plays between piano sets), and it is the perfect place for a fancy springtime drink on the ample sidewalk terrasse.

Don’t worry, the only marcheuses on this corner of the Champs are wearing Louboutins.

La Villa
37 Avenue de Friedland
75008 Paris
01 82 28 75 08

Blonde like Brigitte

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She was a suicide blonde– dyed by her own hand.

- Saul Bellow

In a city where everyone has perfect hair– be it messy or dutifully coiffed– there’s no taking chances with your colorist, especially as a blonde. Walking out of a salon with a Kentucky Fried Coif is ample cause for a sabbatical in the wine region for a few months; drink it off and let it grow… (and pick up a hot sommelier while you’re at it).

Thankfully, there is a blonde-obsessed Parisian coiffeur who is doing a booming business for those of the blonde persuasion. His name is Franck Vidoff, and his salon is aptly named “Blonde.” The spot looks more like an art gallery or architectural office, with its white curtains and minimalist angles, but its understated exterior harbors some serious attention-grabbing blondes within. Franck takes care of many A-listers in Parisian society/fashion/music scene, including Eugenie Niarchos and Erin Fetherston. He caters to all shades, including as Franck describes: “sun-bleached blondes… honey blondes… Hollywood blondes, Warhol blondes…” – and uses techniques that nourish hair for a silky smooth finish.

http://www.franckvidoff.com /12 rue Pres-aux-clercs / 75006 Paris / tel: 01 42 22 66 33

Summer Reading List: French Trysts

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Paris Hangover was Kirsten Lobe’s sensational first novel. So how does her second novel, French Trysts: Secrets of a Courtesan, stack up to the fabulously witty debut?

The novel tells the story of Alex Ward, a student-turned-high-class-whore operating amongst the top corporate and political figures in Paris. Rife with tales of orgies, black AMEX cards, and pink diamonds, the storyline is shockingly devoid of morality as our heroine makes her way from bed to bed, while still managing to feel intelligent and guilt-free throughout all of her promiscuity. Even PetiteBrigitte was stunned by some of the dialogue, which included graphic sex tips and mesmerizing justifications for living the life of a ‘courtesan.’ Lobe was correct in stating that this novel makes Paris Hangover “read like the Bible.”

It took me all week to figure out why I didn’t enjoy this novel as much as her first. Sure, the plot was mildly disturbing, as well as predictable. But there was something else. Finally it dawned on me: Kirsten Lobe is a powerhouse of wit and intellectual banter. Paris Hangover kept me laughing the whole way through. Her fatal mistake was throwing SO MUCH of it into one book. C’etait trop trop trop. The novel jumps from witty remark to witty remark faster than you can say “bouquet intime” (yes, that’s her name for you-know-what). This renders the remarks less witty, less plausible, and dare I say, boring? On top of this, the heroine constantly addresses her readers, which distracts from the unfolding scene and makes the plot even harder to follow, not to mention exhausting. (Her use of exclamation points and parentheses are so rampant that the heroine literally apologizes for it!!)

French Trysts is a glaring case of E.U.I., otherwise known as Editing Under the Influence. Where the editor of this book was (in bed perhaps?) is the enduring question. My best guess is that Lobe’s stunning looks, the gorgeous blond hair, the new maternal glow, so mesmerized the editor that he/she could not bear to cut even the most superfluous of text.

PetiteB still loves KLobe, and sends her best with these parting words: Keep it up, third time’s the charm!

French Trysts is available at W.H. Smith, 15 euros.

An unholy Sunday at the Bains

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Unfortunately the majority of French day spas are closed on Sundays, especially Easter Sunday. Thankfully the North Africans realize that rejuvenation should be possible 7 days a week. So off I plodded to the Marais, for my first experience in one of the best known hammams in Paris, which we shall call les BdM.

After a brief tour given by a heavyset Moroccan woman dressed in a black one-piece, I changed into my bikini and hit the hammam. Sundays are co-ed at the spa, so bathingsuits are a must (not so on other days). After 30 minutes of alternating between steam and cold showers, I was already feeling more alive.

Then, it was time for spring cleaning. I went into the utilitarian chamber off from the hammam and got “gommaged” by that same big Moroccan woman. For those not familiar with gommage, this involves an exfoliating glove and a lot of scrubbing, until you have left behind a lot of dead skin you didn’t know you had. There is nothing pretty about it, except the feel of your skin for days after. Though it wasn’t my first gommage, I am now addicted to this Moroccan technique, which is much more effective than the salt scrubs used in most spas.

After showering, I chilled out in the relaxation hallway and read a magazine. Unfortunately, my reverie was soon disturbed by two French men who kept eyeing me and eventually sat down on a chaise longue next to mine. I should have pretended not to speak French, especially since they were total guidos– sporting the white robe AND gold chain look, and with enough grease in their hair to withstand the steam. Unfortunately I was caught off guard and got caught in a conversation.
Fortunately, my masseur rescued me. Or so I thought, until I realized I had just traded one draggeur for the other. Alex (not his real name), a 30-year-old Morocaan, escorted me to the massage room and perceptively noted that I had been getting hit on by the 2 guidos. Yes, I know. Then, once completely naked and lying on the massage table, he went on explaining his relationship status and other stories of his 3 years in France. Somehow, (through no fault of my own, I swear!), the conversation drifted to body types, nudity, and eventually… sex.

Of course, the conversation was passive and subtle, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that he was propositioning me for a dirty massage. Especially when I asked him to place my cell phone (which had been next to me because I was expecting a call) on the side table, and he replied “You might have to pay me to do that, you have to pay for everything these days.” Excuse me?? To put a cell phone on a table? Relevance?

Once this possibility occured to me, my mind started racing and I had trouble relaxing. Call me naive, but in all my spa experiences, a massage had never taken this kind of turn!

Sadly, had I been of a more libertine mindset and actually found him attractive, I would not rule out such an encounter (though PetiteBrigitte would never pay!). It would have been very Samantha in Sex in the City. But in the end, I left feeling somewhat relaxed, perplexed, and very greasy. It was not the ideal happy ending. :)

I dare any of my more kinky readers to try a dirty massage with this masseur. We need confirmation that this happens at les BdM! (I’m so naive– it’s the Marais– of course it does!) Some of you will find him hot– and if you e-mail me, I will give you his real name to request!

Nouvelle Vague & new obsessions

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I’m ashamed to admit I had never really listened to Nouvelle Vague before arriving in France!

Now, I can’t get enough of them. These latin inspired tunes are soothing, sensual, and perfect for rainy days full of ………. .

 

Marc Collin and Olivier Liboux– the talented duo– released their 2nd album last year, entitled Bande a Part.Collin’s influences included: “a young Jamaican with his acoustic guitar singing Heart Of Glass in his Kingston township suburb” as well as “a young blind girl singing Fade To Grey in the corridors of the Parisian Metro, alone with her accordion, ignored by everyone.” Somehow this all comes together into a coherent and provocative compilation of songs.

With haunting reinventions of cover songs from Billy Idol to Bauhaus, and soulful voices from their female guest singers, both of Nouvelle Vague’s CDs are pure perfection. Each sound distinctly different from the other, but both have been blasted up and down the runways for many Parisian fashion weeks.

While you will love every song, my favorites are The Killing Moon, Tuxedomoon, and Guns of Brixton.

Be sure to see them live April 25 at the Grand Rex!

Tony Parker stumbles with “Balance-toi”

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This week marked the debut album for one of France’s most famous athletes, Tony Parker. The album is titled Tony Parker, and the first single, Balance-toi, has failed to impress American critics. Then again, it was only released in France.

The French might just love it.

The San Antonio Spurs player, and fiance of Eva Longoria, received poor reviews yesterday from Page Six, who have slammed the album as “unhip-hop” and “tongue-tied.” The lyrics appear to consist of cliched attempts to brag about his lavish lifestyle, with vague references to his ‘woman’ Eva, and repetitions of phrases like “Tony P., wassup!”

“What, you want to dance? No, it’s not worth it. Me, I’ll stay on the sofa, enjoying the vibe by raising my arms.”

“Check mon hip-hop/Toujour au top… Rap est mon job, Stop!/Jump et jump et jump hop!”

Even if the album bombs, you are sure to hear more about Tony and Eva in the coming months. Eva just completed a trip to France to finalize wedding plans. The couple will marry on July 7 (Tony thinks this is a lucky date: 7/7/07), at Chateau de Chantilly, just north of Paris. A beautiful chateau, this former home of the Conde family boasts English gardens, French gardens, a Temple of Venus, a ‘love island,’ and one of the finest art collections in France, apart from the Louvre. The main chateau itself is surrounded by a large moat: excellent paparazzi barrier, though with the date and location exposed so far in advance, they can expect a serious air assault.

Eva is intent on a lavish wedding to go along with her 5 carat diamond ring, and it is likely to be one of the most nouveau riche affairs of the year. Her dog Jinxie will be following her down the aisle. Rumors abound on what famous chanteurs will perform– Eva is thought to have tapped country singer Kenny Chesney (though that would be incredibly awkward at the wedding of a wannabe rapper in a French chateau). Dress will be by Monique Lhuillier.

Tony has asked longtime friend Jean Roch, owner of the boite VIP, to organize a post-wedding party. Tony P. plans on DJ-ing as well!

The couple will honeymoon on a yacht off the French riviera.

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The Chateau makes a perfect day trip– only one hour from Paris. www.chateaudechantilly.com

Update: Some of you would like more lyrics to Balance-Toi. Have fun:

All these girls that go psssssh!

Baby you can be my escort tonight

Baby I already have the woman of my life

OK, you’re having trouble following me…

But those who like me follow

Music Therapy!

Tony P. from Texas to Paris

Do you want to sleep …

Oh I beg you!

PetiteBrigitte cannot believe she is translating this for you. It is unquestionably better if you do not understand.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon: Work in Progress

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Unfortunate. Unfortunate.

With its sleek interior and busy lunch crowd, the Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the Hotel Pont Royal seemed like a sure bet for a chic dinner before a night of partying with a girlfriend. Au contraire.

We arrived at 8:30 and were seated rather awkwardly at the hotel bar, even though places were obviously available at the sushi style counters. After 15 minutes, even my francopatience (high threshold for patience acquired by prolonged living in France) had run out, and I swiftly made my way to the host. Ah oui, here are your seats.

Seated. Overlooking the kitchen and the bar from our high barstools, we admired the general ambiance, even if the crowd was sparse and older than expected. Then the real awkwardness began. Our waiter, a 20 something year old Frenchman, could not stop ogling us. Soon, another waiter from the other side of the room came over to say bonsoir. And then the kitchen staff peaked out from behind their saucepans! My friend and I looked at each other in self-conscious disbelief. Did we forget to put clothes on?

I was about to call them on their obvious inability to contain themselves, when one of the waiters exclaimed that I looked just like a famous actress (No, it wasn’t BB). This still did not excuse the behaviour, which made the entire evening uncomfortable, even after 2 large glasses of wine.

Then, an older couple from Texas was seated next to us. The restaurant has been voted one of the best places to meet people, as well as one of the best places to dine alone. Don’t believe everything you read! After we introduced ourselves to the couple, the hostess seated a single woman next to them. Nooo, it was just sad, sad, sad. The conversation was bizarre, forced, and dare I say… depressing!

The dishes were well presented and above-average, if a little small. The dessert– a fabulous concoction of chambord chocolate mousse– was amazing. But to give the evening one more bizzare twist, the waiter intervened and actually coached me on how to position the spoon in my mousse for optimal flavor! S’il vous plait!

Between the poor service, ogling waiters, odd conversation, and money-she-would-have-rather-spent-on-champagne, PetiteBrigitte has too many reasons to say non to L’Atelier!

How French Women Do it

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Cafe de Flore is a microcosm of Parisian society, and always brings out the social critic in me. Today, I found myself pondering the mystique of French women.

I was sitting on the terrace, pretending to read my fashion magazine, but really staring at the 2 tables of people in front of me. Both tables had 3 french men, but at one was seated a French woman, and at the other, an American woman. I observed, and once again my hypothesis was reaffirmed:

French women win. They win on sexiness, intellect, style, and just about every other criteria except perhaps lung capacity (though they do work the cigarette-temptress look to their advantage).

Almost as if by fate, I came across a book a few hours later, on another part of my Sunday ritual, which includes a stop in at the Village Voice on Rue Princesse. The book, entitled Fatale: How French Women Do It, is an incredible analysis of French women from the days of troubadours to maintenant.

Its author, Edith Kunz, examines every aspect of the French woman’s charm: her diet, the culture she is raised in, the ideology that shapes her, the decor of her bedroom, her role as wife and mistress, the issue of age and what she calls “the art of brilliance” which Frenchwomen use to dazzle French men. It is a fast and fascinating read, and essential to any woman who wants to understand how these frenchies become masters of their domain. Kunz even explores the disheveled hair look, or as she calls it, “seductive disarray,” (a look which I find myself adopting, more out of laziness than seduction).

Beware: This book may corrupt certain readers into taking additional lovers, becoming a mistress, or booking a vacation at a thermal spa. It will certainly inspire new perfume and lingerie purchases.

Note: click here to check out the rest of my juicy francophile entries~ :)

Eva Escoto makes beautiful music

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Eva Escoto’s soulful jazz is one of PetiteBrigitte’s favorite new musical finds. If you haven’t seen her live, mark your calendars for her upcoming show on March 21.

Her concert this past weekend at Le Baiser (Rue des Lombards, 1er) was a beautiful melange of jazz, bossanova, and pure passion. The room was packed and the audience was loving her. Her amazing vocals and talented group of musicians were so utterly captivating that I immediately wanted to sign on as her stylist/manager. She is a beautiful girl, but must escape the drab black clothes into something more divalicious: a metallic Dolce&Gabana perhaps?

Eva was born in Honduras, raised in Spain, and is now based in Paris. Raised in a family of musicians, she spent all her childhood exposed to the tradition of Latin music, but it was not until the age of 16 that she started performing her own music with a strong tendency towards the blues. Since then she has been the lead singer in different blues and jazz projects in Spain, Costa Rica, Miami (U.S.A) and Dubai (U.A. Emirates).

In January 2006 she took off to Chile to record her first solo album, which combines beats such as Lando, Bossa, Joropo…fussed with jazz, and a touch from the musical traditions of southern Spain.

Don’t miss her March 21, at L’Alimentation Generale (64 rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 75011) at 8am.

Free entry!

Paris Hangover

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For the funniest book you will EVER read on relocation to Paris, check out Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe.

The so-called “novel” is a first person account of one ex-fashionista’s move to Paris in 2002. Think Sex-in-the-City a la Rive Gauche. Ditching her sugar-daddy and swish fashion job in NYC, ‘Klein’ picks up and spontaneously moves to a small apartment on Rue de Verneuil (7). The novel/autobiography recounts the challenges and adventures of adapting to Parisian life, including the semi-abusive cheating boyfriends, the miracle of making a french girlfriend, and the spontaneous introduction to, well, a busy sex life.

Get ready to laugh hysterically, because for a first novel, Lobe hit the spot. In fact, I want her as my new best friend, since we live in the same neighborhood. I have had my eye out for her (she’s a six foot blond, former model), but no luck so far.

Paris Hangover is available at Shakespeare & Co., WH Smith, and of course, amazon.com.