Category: Paris


Post 9/11 America is so scared of the Muslim world. Many of us have no idea about the rich and diverse history, food and culture of the vast and varied swathe of Muslim nations. France is a great place to introduce yourself. The French have their own long and complicated relationship with Arab cultures. It is a relationship influenced by Colonialism, Racism and their own fears, but the French also take a keen interest in the fascinating world that includes countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In my experience, the French are also great at tooting their own ‘inclusive‘ horn and criticizing America as an insular, ignorant group of unsophisticated, often obese, materialist workaholics. All that said, and having witnessed numerous acts of racist behavior when I lived in France, the World Arab Institute is a formidable structure, institution and statement. Continue reading »

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The lost red balloon

Have you ever see the French film The Red Balloon? It’s a classic from the 1950’s and well worth a viewing—it’s on Netflix. Anyway, it takes place in the 20th arrondissement of Ménilmontant.  Montmartre, the 18th arrondissement, an area, quartier, in Paris, near where I am staying at my friend’s apartment, reminds me so of this film. I took a walk in the hilly district, heading towards the Musee de Montmartre, I was curious about the Absinthe and Music Hall culture of this infamous area. It’s a great walking district, full of ancient staircases, (like those featured in the film) stunning views and, alas, too many tourists. I stumbled across a small urban vineyard and OF COURSE some well known Cabaret/Music Hall spots made famous by the Bohemian crowd of the 19th and 20th century including Toulouse L’Autrec. The day was humid, with bursts of sunlight, Paris living up to it’s nickname as ‘The City of Light’. I stopped for a $5 coffee at the base of the majestic Sacre Coeur having negotiated the gauntlet of Africans selling Eiffel Tower key chains and trinkets. Oddly enough for the first time in my life I actually do want to buy one for my boys who are so entranced by the structure (I couldn’t bring myself to part with the nearly $10 they were asking for a 32-inch high rendition of the tower). I descended further and was asked by an old lady to help her open her door. It must be said French doors, locks, keys, entrances are quite challenging. She was a bit disoriented, but of course I would help her with her shopping and the door. It was a classic scene, sad really, trying to stay living independently as she always has. Continue reading »

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La ville est plus belle a velo—The city is more beautiful by bike—VELIB in Paris

I studied here in college, married a French guy and lived here for a few years; I feel I know Paris pretty well—OK well that was mostly in the 20th century. Some things are so the same… the familiar smell of the metro, the dog poo on the cobblestone streets, the near ghost town in August as all Parisians high tail it to the coast or country or abroad–heck even hospitals close but not the Pigalle red light district! Cities evolve, populations morph, culture mutates.. Here are a few brief observations: Continue reading »

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It has been a while, two kids, a mortgage and voila my travel went from regular travel abroad for work and pleasure to periodic travel mostly to visit the grandparents. When a childhood friend asked me to be with her in Paris for major surgery, I went online to find my flight. There were very few direct, nonstop flights from San Francisco and I decided to go with Air France. A 10 hour flight was important, particularly given I was cutting it close, and that the last minute the surgery was moved up to accommodate the French August vacation schedule, the hospital was closing for the end of August—vive la France. Not the best time of year to travel to France but eager to be there for my friend, nearly $2000 later I was on my way…. Continue reading »

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