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Newsletter #105: March 2011

vintage Paris photo

In this Issue

* Spring Fashion Expos in Paris
* Don’t Shun Best Western Hotels
* Classical Music at the Carnavalet
* Dining Reviews
* Groceries Direct from Rungis
* Michelin Guide Spring Festival
* Recycled Art at 59 Rivoli
* Where to Find a Travel Buddy
* Non-EU Expats Now Have a Voice
* French Savings & Investments

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It’s hard to live in Paris and ignore the fashion world, it’s everywhere. As a refugee of the fashion world (my first real job in France was travel editor for ELLE magazine’s first website), I still like to occasionally peruse the glossy magazines and scroll through the fashion blog photos of the latest creations on the catwalk. But I was still surprised how much I learned about contemporary fashion while checking out the latest exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs: “Les Années 1990-2000, Histoire Idéale de la Mode Contemporaine Vol 2” (through May 8). I was 16 in 1990, so it was fun to see the emblematic outfits and screenings of the catwalk shows from the time period when I actually started paying attention to fashion, and how this time period really marked the transformation of fashion into an industry. And unlike the current Dior exhibition in the Bon Marché, you’ll still find, for better or worse, John Galliano’s contributions on display, as well as a touching tribute to the late Alexander McQueen.

I also recommend popping into the Fondation Pierre Bergé -YSL to see a reproduction of Yves Saint Laurent’s first Rive Gauche boutique in an exhibition titled “La Révolution de la Mode”, complete with the colorful 1960s and 1970s creations that still look fabulous. Through July 17.

If you’re a serious fashion addict, a new exposition is opening this Friday March 25th at the Musée Bourdelle dedicated to the grand dame of couture, Madame Grès, “La Couture à l’Oeuvre” (organized by the Musée Galliera, still undergoing renovations). Through July 24.

Don’t Shun the Best Western Hotels

The Musée Carnavalet, which houses the underrated History of Paris Museum, also hosts a series of classical music concerts, many of them free (particularly the 12:30pm lunch concerts on April 8, April 29, May 6, May 11, and May 13). Catch a Renaissance trio performing Shakespeare’s sonnets on April 1st at 12:30pm for €10 (reservations 06 25 04 51 16 or oghmium@compagnieoghma.com). See the official website for more concerts.  Also, if you’re looking for a fabulous venue for your next reception, the historic Carnavalet salons and gardens can be rented when the museum is closed for private parties or meetings (up to 350 people). Don’t forget to invite moi!

Dining Reviews: Old & New in the Marais

The past month has been a return to many of my favorite restaurants, such as Au Petit Fer à Cheval (I think I could eat the crispy skin off the duck confit for every meal until I die of happiness), but I did get to check out Candelaria, the new Mexican taqueria in the North Marais district, with a group of other Paris expats dying for a taste of real guacamole. Although the crowd was a tad suffocating in that tiny space, I’ll definitely be heading back soon. I was also invited to Dôme du Marais for a party to celebrate the historic restaurant’s reopening. It was nice to see the stunning dome still intact, but I hope the exclusive nightclub atmosphere of the evening (with nothing to eat but Champagne and sushi) isn’t indicative of how the restaurant is going to be run by the new management (who come from a long line of Costes-owned establishments). A suivre…

Direct from Rungis: Grocery Delivery

I saw a poster in the metro this week for Rungisland.fr (for those who don’t know, Rungis is the name of Paris’ wholesale food market located near Orly airport). I’ve tried several different grocery delivery sites, and this one looks more promising. You can purchase almost anything individually (fruits, veg, meats, fish, dairy, spices, cheese, wine, epicerie goods and even Kosher products), or select one of the pre-assembled baskets of food. I like the contents of the €53 “Marché de la Semaine 2-4 Personnes”, which of course includes a bottle of wine and camembert cheese. I’ll test it this week and let you know how it goes. As usual, the site is in French, but there are photos, and a calendar of what’s in season.

Michelin Restaurant Spring Festival

It’s time for the annual Printemps du Guide Michelin from March 21-April 21, a month of special menus, discounts, and discovery workshops in 1000 of the famous red food guide’s favorite establishments throughout France. Just pick up the Pass Découverte (available on their website and inside every 2011 Michelin Guide, the red one for France). It’s a great excuse to test out some new places, or to enjoy a specially-priced menu at the Michelin-starred establishments.

Recycled Art at 59 Rivoli

Want to show off your street cred with visitors or fellow blasé Parisians? Stop by the 59 Rivoli after-squat, the only place in central Paris where visitors are welcomed to come and see artists at work in their ateliers. Once a quite popular squat, it’s now perfectly legal and hosts 27 permanent artists and 12 resident artists (6 months) on six floors of a lovingly-graffiti’d building right on the busy Rue de Rivoli (#59, if you didn’t catch that). The décor on the façade changes with the whims of the artists. Currently there are recycled yellow tubes, plastic water bottles and fabric garlands meant to evoke a country field (you might need to squint a bit). A gallery space on the ground floor hosts artists who don’t have atelier space, and the current theme is recycled art. Do stop by, there are often events (such as the 3rd floor vernissage on the evening of March 25th) and the artists are usually happy to talk about – or sell — their work. Please do ask permission before taking any photos. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 1pm-8pm (Saturday from 11am). Say hi to Linda for me, an American artist in Paris, on the 5th floor.

Traveling Solo? Find a Travel Buddy

One of my tour clients told me about this website, TravBuddy.com, which connects travelers looking for company on the road. So, say you know you’re a young woman coming to Paris in May for six nights and want to meet with other women of a similar age group for a few meals around town, just plug in your info into the search function, et voila! My client just went out for a night of bar hopping in Paris with some Dutch friends he met through the site, but some travelers on the site are looking to share hotel costs, exchange travel tips, or even plan an entire trip together. Think of it as the opposite of virtual friends…you get to meet actual people.

The Mairie is Helping Non-EU Expats Integrate

If you are one of the 215,000 non-European residents of Paris, you may not be able to vote but you now have a voice in local politics. The Mairie de Paris has created a special assembly for the “extras”, known as the Assemblée des Citoyens Parisiens Extra-Communautaires (ACPE) with 106 members from all 20 arrondissements and a representative in the mayor’s office. If you’re interested in learning more or putting in your name to become a member, ask at your local Mairie.

French Savings & Investment Accounts

For Americans living in France who may not have looked very closely at French savings accounts, here’s a little bit of advice: get one. The interest rates are much better than anything you can find in the US right now, such as the very popular Livret A account (which is one of the few French accounts excempt from taxation for deposits up to €15,300, not counting interest). True, it plummeted from a 4% interest rate in 2009 to just 1.75% last year, but not it’s back up to 2%, which is far better than the measly 0.05% I get on my “High Yield Savings Account” I still have in the US. Many banks in France offer special intro rates on savings accounts, such as 5% return the first 3 months before going down to 2%, but know that these are usually subjected to taxation, so do the calculations. Another great way to keep more of your hard-earned investments is to get a PEA, or Plan d’Epargne en Actions, which is a bit like a Roth IRA in that you only pay 12% in social charges on any profits if you keep the money in the account for at least five years (with a ceiling of €132,000), instead of the 34.8% usually removed for social charges plus capital gains taxes. Check it out yourself (and be sure you understand all the fine print before investing your money anywhere, even in a savings account).

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