Monday, December 21, 2015

Orhan Pamuk's 'A Strangeness of Mind'

Thanks to one of my clients who is an avid reader with fantastic judgement about literature, I am immersed in Orhan Pamuk's new novel 'A Strangeness of Mind'.  Not to tell the story, but this is an absorbing tale of a young man who moves to Istanbul from a rural village during an era of rapid growth in Istanbul.  He and his father attempt various trades to make a meager living in an increasingly complex social and political mileu.  The protagonist is a seller of Boza, a traditional drink, and his demandingly physical work, wandering the city at night calling out his wares, evokes a changing Istanbul near the end of the 20th century.  His friendships, loves, luck and loss of luck, and struggle for a secure life, make for a fascinating read that helps one understand much about Istanbul, about 'Turkishness' and many of its seeming contradictions to non-Turks.  Highly recommended if you have some quiet time during the holidays.

Photography of note in Paris

Philippe Halsman Astonish Me! at the Jeu de Paume
One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Philippe Halsman began his career in Paris alongside contemporaries such as Dali and Man Ray.  He moved to New York in 1940 to flee the Occupation. In New York he photographed for Life Magazine (where he holds the record of 101 covers), shooting some of the greatest stars and personalities of his time. This retrospective show includes 300 exclusive images and original documents (contact sheets and prints, preliminary proofs, original photo-montages) that show not just the finished photos but the avant-garde techniques Halsman perfected to do his work. Through January 24, open Tues 11am-9pm, Wed-Sun 11am-7pm. Entry €10.  There is a free smartphone app for the exhibition.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Secret, Sexy Bar in Kadikoy

Kadikoy has a large student population and is a progressive community on the Asian side of Istanbul. There are lots of good options for an evening of dancing and drinking.  One is quite a 'secret'.

 Karga is so word-of-mouth, it doesn’t have a name on its door. Ducking through the secretive, tiny street-side door is like walking into a private network of intimate spaces. There are four stories, a garden, and several balconies. You can eatand drink with friends or find a private, dark and comfy corner. The mood is a little edgy, the playlist is energized.  Here are directions.. take the ferry to Kadikoy if you aren't already on the Asian side. 
Walk south on Bahariye Cad. and take the 1st right after (not in front of) the Opera House. Take the 2nd left, walk 1 block, and look for the Hobbit-sized, unmarked wooden door with a raven above it DJ's spin music Sept through May, live music through the summer. Tea 4 TL. Beer 7.50-13 TL. Shots 8-13 TL. Cocktails 19-23 TL. Open M-Th 11am-2am, F-Sa 11am-4am, Su 11am-2am. Closes in late winter.

A Good Bistro Choice in the Expensive 6th..

Restaurante Monsieur le Prince at #12 rue Monsieur le Prince is a welcome addition to this generally pricey quarter.  Solid bistro cooking in an attractive space, nice wines, fair prices.  If the cochon de lait is on the menu and you love this rich suckling pig dish order it!  Closed Sundays, Monday lunch.

This bistro is in the space that for many years was the beloved Chez Maitre Paul with its cuisine from the Jura region.  The new owners are adept and have created a bistro that should be on your list if you love classic bistro food with welcome up to date touches.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Consider Paris or Istanbul for the Holidays

Both Paris and Istanbul are excellent cities to explore and enjoy in the Christmas-New Years week.  In Paris the stores are beautifully decorated, their are Christmas lights galore, the markets are full of festive and delicious French food.   There are even special 'Christmas Markets'.  Other than Christmas Day and New Years Day the museums are all open and the cultural season is in full swing.  Definitely a good time to visit Paris and show our support and love for this great city!

Istanbul is another wonderful get away for the holidays.  Of course, Christmas is not front and center in Turkish culture, but the abundant riches of the museums, galleries, historic sites and the fabulous shopping (and eating) are all great reasons to celebrate.

Talk with us about planning a great trip.  We can help with guides, foodie and cultural suggestions, accommodation suggestions, you name it.  Have festive holidays!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Glorious renovation of the Rodin Museum is complete

The beloved Rodin Museum, housed in the Hotel Biron mansion, has been closed for three years. It reopens on November 12 and word is that the renovation is beautiful.  Rooms have been repainted that lovely deep grey that Rodin loved, the sculptures and paintings are lit with great care to help guests appreciate each object.

Once again, you enter the grounds through the great gates.  The outdoor grounds which are parklike and full of scale model sculptures invite meandering.  The cafe, tucked in a leafy corner, is still a very good choice for a light lunch or tea/coffee and patisserie.

The Rodin Museum has always been a favorite of many Paris visitors for its manageable size, fascinating collections, and its beauty.  Put this one on your list for your next visit to Paris.

Near Invalides and not hard to combine with the Orsay or the Eiffel Tower and things you want to do and see in the 7th.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A 400th Birthday for the Marché des Enfants Rouges!

The upper Marais is a hip, happening neighborhood.  Lot's of new things to enjoy.  And, lot's of venerable things to enjoy.  In an incredible milestone the charming, covered Marché des Infants Rouges just celebrated its 400th birthday!

The oldest covered market in Paris is in the Haut Marais (3rd district). Located where the rue de Bretagne meets rue Charlot, it is named for the former hospice des Enfant-Rouges, which closed its doors in 1777. The hospice, established for the orphans of the area by Marguerite de Navarre was named for the red color of the children's uniforms.  The efforts of nearby residents and the local council of the 3rd district presciently saved this lovely market from demolition 20 years ago. Today, with its emblematic history, its small restaurants and quality food vendors, it has gained cult status.  Today, the markets is a vibrant center for socializing, shopping, eating and enjoying wine.
A great market in the Haut Marais!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pilates in magical Andalucia next spring? And great food and wine too!

Check out my colleague Teresa Parker's spring Pilates Retreat in a secluded, luxury 'cortijo' in magical Andalucia.  Limited to 12 lucky women, this retreat will include serious Pilates sessions with a noted instructor from NYC plus hiking in the glorious mountains in southern Andalucia near seaside Malaga.  But, after all that exercise, visits to superb food artisans and winemakers, meals of delicious local cuisine from a private chef, and more will surely make this the best blend of exercise and indulgence!  

Please do tell Teresa you learned about this opportunity from Your Great Days in Paris.  She is a fantastic Spain expert and crafter of memorable private tours.  We collaborated on a tour in Catalonia for Hamilton College Alumni in 2014 and it was a great experience start to finish.  She will also be leading a walking journey along the Camino de Santiago in fall of 2016.  to view the pdf announcement for the Pilates Retreat, or, email me and I'll send it to you.  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Istanbul is as dynamic as ever!

During my recent stay in Istanbul I was fortunate to be visiting during the Istanbul Bienal and had the opportunity to see loads of contemporary art that was provocative, interesting, and quite apart from the image that seems to be prevalent of Turkey being a culture at war with itself.  Istanbul was as dynamic as ever.

I took the opportunity to explore some historic sites and neighborhoods on the Asian side during my stay in Kadikoy and also made it a point to visit several smaller museums and galleries.  One of my favorites is Salt Istanbul on Istiklal Caddessi, a four story gallery with free admission that hosts a variety of exhibitions that are always cutting-edge.  Salt Istanbul also shows films, check the schedules on line or when you visit.  Right in the heart of Beyoglu, Salt Istanbul is a fine place to visit in the midst of this energized shopping, dining and yes, drinking, hub.

Salt is just about directly across the street from the Koc University exhibition space, within the Koc University building.  This is another very worthwhile stop that offers historic/cultural exhibitions exploring Turkey's history.  Also free, always worth a visit for 20-30 minutes.  Good bookstore in the lobby area adjacent to the exhibition space as well.  And a very nice (pricey, modern Turkish restaurant on the top floor.

Good Food and Art: Two in the 7th Arrondisement

We'll be posting a short series on excellent options for dining in notable Paris museums.  To start off, two great choices in the 7th arrondissement.  The Jean Nouvel designed Quai Branly Museum is an architectural gem.  The collections highlight 'premier peoples' ranging from meso American to Australian aborigines to Cambodian, African and much more.  The museum is located very near the Eiffel Tower and one of the best views of the tower in Paris is a bonus if you dine or have a drink at Les Ombres, the lovely restaurant on the museum's rooftop.  Les Ombres features cuisines that reference the collections but with a French twist.  There is a prix fixe lunch for 32 Euros, dinner ranges from 65 to 95 E plus a la carte menus.  The terrace bar is open from 2:30 to 11 p.m. Seven days a week. Quai Branly, near the Bir Hakeim metro.  There is also a less pricey cafe at the museum, a good option for a meal but minus the fabulous views and simpler food.

Our second 7th arrondisement restaurant is actually a lovely cafe and terrace within the lush grounds of the beloved Rodin Museum.  The cafe is an oasis of quiet and greenery, serving sandwiches, salads, soups, quiches, a daily hot dish and delicious desserts along with views of Les Invalides golden dome.  Average tab is around 15 euros.  Closed Mondays.  This is a good spot for lunch with children who can play on the lawns amid the Rodin sculptures while parents relax over a meal.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Pilates in Andalucia and Walking/Eating in Crete

If you are looking for a spring get away, two of my most trusted colleagues are offering intimately scaled tours that will get you walking (or doing Pilates) as well as delving into regions rich in history and culture, and, with superb food and wine.  Consider five days of Pilates and Gourmet Touring in Andalucia or one of two week long guided walking tours (April and May) in SouthEastern Crete.
Email me for details.  Either (or both) would be absolutely wonderful experiences.

Eiffel Tower Tickets Pre-booking

The good news is that you can book entry times at the Eiffel Tower online, saving long waiting times on entry lines.
The bad news is that there are websites that will sell you tickets at a healthy, and unnecessary, mark up.  Purchase your tickets directly from Eiffel Tower site the tower a little before or around sunset is a lovely time to go to watch the lights and illuminations of the major monuments coming on.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Istanbul Biennal is On

I just returned from ten days in Istanbul, which is, as ever, an unbelievably beguiling, dynamo of a city.  One of the most interesting things I did was visit several venues of the 14th Istanbul Biennal, entitled Salt Water: A Theory of Thought and Forms.  This Biennal is quite different than others, there are exhibitions in 30 very different spaces and places on the European and the Asian side. Running through November 1, this is a series of opportunities to engage with contemporary Turkish artists that is so worth the time.  The Istanbul Modern is (sort of) ground zero, but there are also significant exhibitions in places like the lovely Pera Museum and group exhibitions in Arter, the Italian High School and the Galata Greek Primary School. Google the Biennal and see what is on and where...  The curator of this biennal is Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Istanbul Off the Beaten Path

In early October I plan to spend a week in Istanbul.  Not so remarkable.  What is unusual for me is that I plan to stay on the Asian side, in Kadikoy, and visit several neighborhoods and sites that I've wanted to visit for years.  I plan to explore the lovely village of Kuguncuk, known for its old wooden houses and heritage of diverse cultures.  Ditto, to visit the Beyerbeli Palace, a lovely Ottoman palace chock full of history and in an enviably beautiful position on the shores of the Bosphorus.  I will explore the Moda quarter in Kadikoy, known for its Bosphorus-side tea gardens and ice cream shops. I hear there is an excellent wine bar in Kadikoy with delicious Turkish vintages.  (Yes, there are numerous wonderful wines in Turkey, many made from tongue-twisting grape varietals.) And the Kadikoy market area which I've long loved will be my local.... can't wait.  I will post information on my finds, which are sure to be numerous.

Visit Unique Sites During Les Journées du Patrimone Weekend

The weekend of September 19 and 20 will be the dates of the annual European Days of Patrimony.
This extraordinary weekend (celebrated all over France and in other European Countries) is a time of free museum admissions and even better--- opening of historic sites or public buildings not generally open to the public.  There are hundreds of sites to choose from.  Here are three that might be of special interest:

In the 5th and 6th arrondissements:  The Palais du Luxembourg (home to the French Senate and once a palace of a Medeci) and the Sorbonne.  Beautiful historic buildings...

In the 14th éme the Reservoir de Montsouris, a subterranean warren of tunnels, arches and water courses is open.  And only open on this special weekend.  Just adjacent to the lovely Parc Montsouris, this underground reservoir truly gives you the best 'off the beaten path' bragging rights.  Plus is is beautiful.

Google the Journées du Patrimoine website for a full list of all the special openings and free admissions.  This is a very popular event so do expect some long lines.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Consider the Canal St. Martin

The Canal St. Martin is a waterway built in the late 19th century to make a more direct route for barges around Paris.  Now the traffic to this quarter is emphatically human, as residents and visitors enjoy this once-gritty, now hip neighborhood just a bit beyond the Marais and Place de la Republique.

The Canal has long been a lovely spot to stroll the sunny quais and criss-cross the wrought iron foot bridges.  There are still barges plying its locks, always fun to watch as the canal rises and falls to permit navigation by these large boats. There are sightseeing cruises too... Canauxarama is one company that offers narrated tours up the Canal to the Bassin de L'Ourcq. 

The dining and shopping gets better and better in this quarter.  Check out the perennially popular Chez Prune cafe on the banks of the Canal, or, have a well-curated glass of wine at the tiny Verre Volé  on  rue Lancry.  Excellent craft coffee can be found at the charming 10 Belles coffee café.  An Artzart on Quai Valmy is always a good source for affordable posters and artworks.  For more, talk with us about crafting a great day in Paris around the Canal St. Martin. Nearest metros: Republique or Juares.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Walking through history in Crete

Love to walk in stunningly beautiful places?  My colleagues in Southeastern Crete who know and love this magical island are  offering three guided walking tours in 2016.

Dates:April  15-22, May 5-12 and  october23-30. The  walks average4-5 hours a day and are fine for walkers with a moderate level of fitness. In spring you will be treated to abundant wildflowers in the gorges and on the hillsides. I fall, the season turns to the olive harvest and to making raki. Seven nights accommodations, all meals ( dinners with good local wine) guides and other special services. A great deal at 1495euros per person.  Modest single supplement available.  Contact me with questions.

Crete, particularly this unspoiled south eastern corner is a paradise of mountains and sea.  I haven't finalized my spring 2016 foodie/cultural tour with these terrific colleagues but let me know if that interests you.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A bit of paradise in the Pays Basque discounted

If you happen to be in the Pays Basque (French) consider a stay at the beautiful Auberge Ostapé high in the foothills of the Pyrennees in hills above the hamlet of Bidarray.  This gorgeous property is a member of the Relais de Silence network and you do indeed enjoy unobstructed views of the beautiful Basque countryside.  Accommodations are in individual buildings that were built to look like those gorgeous Basque timbered farmhouses.  Cuisine is stellar.  The hotel is offering a 10% discount through August 4th on rooms for up to three nights.  This is a lovely place at full price but the discount sweetens the deal!  Book directly with the hotel and cite the speciale de l'éte  (summer special).

Talk with us about planning a wonderful trip in the Spanish and French Pays Basque anytime.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Check out these artisans in Istanbul's Beyoglu quarter

The hillsides that wind down from Istiklal Caddessi towards Tophane are increasingly home to wonderful one of a kind boutiques and to small hotels.  They can be steep, so put on your walking shoes!

Kumbaraci Street is where you will find several artisans of interest. As you start down Kumbaraci from Istiklal (this is near the Tunel end of Istiklal, not the Taksim end) you might want to have lunch at Lokanta Yeni.   Delicious food in a 'modern' lokanta serving traditional Turkish food with a contemporary spin.  Story di Toy is a have of fanciful toys made by repurposing discarded or worn items.  Seyda Hacizade is the artist-owner.  61 B Sekar-Ekrem cd.  Elif Dogan studied Murano glass making in Italy and is now happily pursuing her passion for making beautiful glass jewelry in her shop at 31/1 Kumbaraci. Woodworker Ismail Hiz has been on the street for years making his well-priced, attractive wares.  21/A Kumbaraci.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Anish Kapoor At The Chateau de Versailles

Now here is a 'mission statement  of note.  Contemporary British artist Anish Kapoor, renowned for his stunning modern installation art, has collaborated with the Chateau de Versailles to install several pieces on the grounds of the Chateau.  Kapoor shares a birth date with Andre LeNotre the great designer of Versailles classic park and gardens.  Kapoor set out not just to place objects around the grounds but to "upset the balance, create chaos and have a modern day dialogue with Andre LeNotre.

Versailles has partnered with noted contemporary artists like Jeff Koons in previous summers.  This Kapoor installation is one that is well worth the trip from Paris on its own merits... then you have that magnificent chateau to explore too.  Through November 1, 2015.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Candles and Fireworks At Vaux le Vicomte Summer Saturdays

Vaux le Vicomte is one of the most beautiful chateaux in France.  Easily accessible from Paris by car or by train and shuttle, this gorgeous early Chateau and extensive gardens are worth a visit any time of the year.  During the summer and through October 2, on Saturdays, a special event is held that illumines the chateau's interior with hundreds of candles, and, lights up the night sky with fireworks.

The gourmet restaurant at the chateau, Les Charmilles, will serve dinner (reserve) these Saturday evenings when the chateau is open late.  This will be a fantastic experience.... put it on your calendar if you are in France this summer and early fall.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Le Bustronome, A move-able feast

During my April visit to Paris I had the chance to check out Le Bustronome, a new 'voyage gourmand'.  This is a clever concept that delivers!  The Bustronome is a large two level bus with panoramic windows on the upper level, a level which has been designed as a comfortable, sleek restaurant on wheels.  The 2.5 hour tour offered by Bustronome is a slow glide through the beautiful buildings, squares and sites of central Paris accompanied by a multi-course lunch or dinner with wine. It was fun and the food was very good. 

The dinner tour departs from 2 Avenue Kleber at 7:45.  This location is just off Etoile and the Arc de Triomphe.  The friendly and efficient servers present you with a glass of Champagne and off you go.  The courses appear on a good pace permitting you to be enjoying a coffee just as the bus arrives at the Eiffel Tower at 9:55 in time for the 10:00 light show on the tower. The dinner menu the night that I took the tour included six courses of food I would call very high gourmet-bistro quality (the menus are online).  The Champagne is followed by a glass of nice quality Chablis and then a good red.  Still or sparkling water is included. The food was served in attractive china and was plated nicely.

All in all, I was surprised by how enjoyable this evening was.  Seeing central Paris by night, including the Eiffel Tower sparkling with its thousands of lights, was fun and the food was delicious. This is an experience worth checking out. Google Le Bustronome and see if a lunch (slightly less elaborate food and less expensive) or dinner tour fits within your plans for Paris. Singles, couples or small groups can book this experience.

Notable Art Shows in Paris this Spring

As usual there is an abundance of great choice for art in Paris this spring season.  The Orsay is hosting a Bonnard Show, the Grand Palais has a major Velasquez show (the Painter's Painter) and the Pinacotheque has a very interesting show focused on Klimt and the Vienna Secession movement. 

Paris Magnum, the very popular show of images from noted Magnum photographers at the Hotel de Ville (free and well worth a visit) has been extended until April 28.  This show begins with images of Paris at the time of liberation and moves through the subsequent decades until the 1960's.  The images of Paris after WWII are particularly interesting and moving... one forgets the impoverishment and deprivation the citizens experienced as the city and the economy slowly strengthened. 

Of course, this is just a taste of all the art scene in Paris offers.. but a good start!