Paris, Eat Like a Local

Most Parisians have either a light breakfast of a croissant or tartine with butter and jam along with coffee or no breakfast at all. In fact, omelets are ordered at lunchtime or even for a light dinner. In recent years, a spate of new cafés in Paris, where we live, have opened serving American-style breakfast and weekend brunch catering to Parisian hipsters and Millennials. Here are some of our top picks.

Breakfast in America: When American expat Craig Carlson moved to Paris, one of the things he missed most about the U.S. was his American breakfast. Not able to survive on just croissants first thing in the morning, he decided the only way to fill his hearty breakfast craving was to open his own American-style diner in 2003.

Fast forward to 2017: Breakfast in America is a runaway success with three locations — the Latin Quarter, the Marais and the Grand Boulevards area — with waits of up to 45 minutes on the weekend. Pancakes with toppings of bacon, blueberries, chocolate chips and bananas, French toast, breakfast burrito, cheese, western, mushroom and Swiss omelets and New York City bagel and lox are just some of the enticing dishes. Besides serving breakfast all day, Breakfast in America also offers a full hamburger menu, including chicken, veggie and fish burgers, along with Bacon Cheese, Chili con Carne and classic beef burgers.

The interiors of the restaurants have the feel of American diners with red vinyl booths and bar stools, toasters on the tables and plastic ketchup and mustard dispensers.

Craig Carlson wrote a bestselling book in 2016, “Pancakes in Paris,” about the trials and tribulations he went through to open his first Breakfast in America, which can be found at 17 rue des Ecoles, 75005. B.I.A. 2 is at 4 rue Mahler, 75004, and B.I.A. 3 at 41 rue des Jeuneurs, 75002.

Holybelly: Opened in 2013 in the trendy Canal Saint Martin area, Holybelly has become a neighborhood institution in a short period of time. The owners of Holybelly, expats Sarah Mouchot and Nico Alary, have a simple philosophy about their café, which has paid off handsomely, judging by the crowds: Good food, good coffee and good service in a consistent fashion.

Known for their all day breakfast menu, the menu changes monthly, supporting seasonal availability of ingredients. On a recent visit there, some of the specialties included black rice porridge, pancakes topped with eggs served with homemade butter and maple syrup, and artisanal bread from the renowned boulangerie, Du Pain et Des Idées. Eggs any style are served with house made home fries, baked beans or sausage.

A cup of java – always fresh – is supreme at Holybelly and serious coffee aficionados can sip classic drip, espresso, latte and other varieties. They work with an array of different roasters, so on any given day, patrons can talk to their barista to find out what’s brewing.

Menus are in English and the staff also speaks English, a plus for visitors who don’t speak French. Holybelly recently relocated a few doors down to 5 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 75010.

Ladurée offers a more formal setting for breakfast and weekend brunches in Paris.

Ladurée: A more formal setting for breakfast is Ladurée, the famed macaron house at 18 Rue Royale, 75008. The original Ladurée bakery was opened in 1862 by Louis Ernest Ladurée. His wife came up with the idea of a daytime salon for women to meet freely, since women were not allowed to go out in public unescorted during the early 1900s. The first tearoom of Paris was born in 1930 with Italian-style hand-painted ceiling frescoes, plush carpeting and velvet chairs. Ladurée’s grandson, Pierre Desfontaines, invented a new style macaron, by taking two macaron shells and putting a ganache filling inside, thus inventing the super popular modern day delicacy.

Today the elegant tearoom serves a full breakfast, including eggs with caviar and soft-boiled eggs with Scottish smoked salmon, avocado and toast. On the weekends, Laduree offers a brunch of a breadbasket with homemade butter and jams, French toast, granola and yogurt, fried eggs, a selection of cheeses and fruit salad with two macarons.

Afternoon High Tea 

Tea-loving Millennials who want to splurge a bit during an afternoon of shopping or sightseeing in Paris can drop by Le Meurice hotel between 3:30 and 6 p.m. That’s when high tea (50 euros or about $60 per person) is served at the hotel, which recently unveiled a redesign by Philippe Starck.

Alain Ducasse is the hotel’s current chef and his pastry chef Cédric Grolet has created an impressive array of pastry and savory bits at teatime. The menu reflects a traditional English high tea with scones, jam and clotted cream, small pastries and finger sandwiches (with fillings such as olives and artichokes, beets with goat cheese and beef gravlax). The presentation, however, is very French and the delicacies are served on an oblong cart with a chrome frame and black glass tiers. Besides traditional and exotic teas and coffee, hot chocolate from Ducasse’s bean to bar chocolate boutique is served.

Paris: Always in Fashion

One of the greatest couturiers and fashion designers of the 20th century, Christian Dior, is having a grand fete for the 70th anniversary of the eponymous fashion house. The massive show taking over the entire 30,000-square-foot exhibition space of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs is the first to show the entire 70-year history of the brand and all of the subsequent designers after Dior.

In 1947, Dior opened his own couture house in Paris and his first collection was coined “The New Look” by Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow, which expressed a whole new feminine look like none before, with cinched waists, soft shoulders and accentuated bust line. Dior became the toast of the town and raised Paris back to center of the fashion world.

After Dior passed away in 1957, the house ushered in a series of six designers: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and today’s director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. The exhibition traces the evolution of the brand with each impending designer giving their own signature to the house while retaining its roots. The lines can be long, so advise clients to purchase tickets online or otherwise in advance.

National Museum of the History of Immigration

(Recently published in National Post)

After the terrorist attacks of November 2015, attendance dropped at most Paris museums. A fall in tourists, combined with locals’ avoidance of large and crowded spaces, reduced the number of visitors to the Louvre, the Chateau de Versailles and the Musee d’Orsay.

Not so, however, to the National Museum of the History of Immigration.

After the violence, perpetrated partly by descendants of North African immigrants to France and Belgium, visitors came to the museum to learn about the circumstances of immigration from North Africa, according to Benjamin Stora, the museum’s director and a leading historian who specializes in Algeria. “People came to see what had happened in this history,” he said. “What was this complicated history? So our visits didn’t fall.”

France has never thought of itself as a nation of immigrants. The French model has stressed the assimilation of new arrivals over American-style multiculturalism. The museum seeks to present a version of French history that highlights immigrants’ contributions to the country from the 19th century, when it received Germans, Italians and Belgians, to postwar migration from France’s former colonies.

The museum is organized thematically — with sections on immigration status and documents, stereotypes and immigrants in the French labor movement, to name a few — and displays historic photos and documents next to objects and contemporary works of art inspired by the same themes.

National Museum of the History of Immigration in Paris
Visitors survey one of the exhibits at Paris’s National Museum of the History of Immigration, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Jean-Jacques Castaing / Palais de la Porte Doree

One display highlights the 500,000 people who flooded across the border from Spain in the weeks after Gen. Francisco Franco’s rise to power. It juxtaposes exiles’ photos with identity documents and pages of a graphic novel on life near the border in the detention camps that were created to house them.

A contemporary sculpture by itinerant Cameroonian artist Barthélémy Toguo, “Residence Permit,” includes four giant, wooden stamps in roughly the shape of African drums. Another, called “Dream Machine,” is by artist Kader Attia. Attia grew up, like many children of immigrants in France, in large social housing projects in the suburbs — the banlieues — of French cities. In his piece, a vending machine sells items representing the tension for second-generation immigrants between the desires to integrate into French consumer culture and to retain cultural identity. On offer: halal Botox and condoms, and a self-help book on how to lose your banlieue accent.

This year marks the museum’s 10th anniversary. It opened to relatively little fanfare, without the usual presidential ribbon-cutting. The new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was focused on pushing through campaign promises to limit immigration.

Its home, the Palais de la Porte Doree, was built at the eastern edge of the city for the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition. Originally intended as a permanent museum to the French colonies, it still houses a tropical aquarium in the basement.

The art deco building’s most striking feature is the “stone tapestry” covering the exterior. The enormous frieze depicting the contributions of the French colonies to France took two years to create. Inside, elaborate murals in the main room on the ground floor depict France’s contributions to its colonies. Much of this iconography, particularly inside, has become profoundly dated, a relatively unmediated window into the thinking around racial hierarchies at the time of construction. For those reasons, this central hall was closed to the public for many years.

“Making it visible to people, one hopes, provokes a certain discussion,” observed University of Sydney historian Robert Aldrich, who has written a book about monuments to colonialism throughout France. “In a way,” he mused during a visit to the building, “closing it off is hiding the past.”

Apart from the main exhibition, the museum also hosts temporary exhibits and special events. (A recent one focused on the current refugee crisis.) It also welcomes between 30,000 and 40,000 students a year. Stora considers them an important part of the audience.

He tries to feature popular themes in each special exhibition to get more visitors in the doors. Last year, the “Fashion Mix” show highlighted immigrants who made it in French couture, including Elsa Schiaparelli and Karl Lagerfeld. An exhibition on Italian immigration from 1850 to 1960 runs through September.

While the museum acknowledges famous immigrants to France, its collections focus more on less prominent arrivals. This is most striking in the donation gallery, which curates items given to the museum by immigrants and their descendants. These include treasured mementos brought from home and artifacts of life in France — such as an Algerian tea pot passed from mother to daughter and boots worn by an Italian immigrant during his French military service during the First World War.

Helene Orain, director of the Palais de la Porte Doree, is particularly fond of this part of the museum.

“The object has a story but it’s also the story of the person,” she explained. “Behind the objects, the dates, the events, there are people who are flesh and blood. They had hopes. They sometimes had huge obstacles.”

Another area devoted to the history of the building also displays items — a plastic water jug, a prayer rug — left behind by undocumented workers who occupied the museum in 2010 to protest immigration policies.

While open only a decade, Stora said, the museum has seen a momentous shift in attitudes about immigration. When planning was underway, “people were still saying in certain circles that immigration was an opportunity for France,” in both economic and cultural terms. The political debate was about whom to admit to further those goals — limiting family reunification in favour of skilled immigration, for example.

In this moment, he said, his museum has an important educational role to play: “To prepare the generations to come,” he said, “to explain where we come from, the origins of the nation.”


– The art deco palace houses the National Museum of Immigration and the Tropical Aquarium in the basement. Open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Ticket sales end at 4:45 p.m. on weekdays and 6:15 p.m. on the weekends. Regular admission costs about US$5 and about US$7 during temporary exhibitions.

Ways to see Eiffel Tower

(Recently posted on CNN)
(CNN) — Picture Paris and you conjure images of the Eiffel Tower soaring above the city.
It was only supposed to be a temporary structure, but the wrought-iron icon has become as much part of the fabric as the River Seine.
Designed as the red-painted centerpiece of the 1889 Exposition Universelle, celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution, the tower was meant to be dismantled after 20 years — much to the relief of Parisian artists and intellectuals who protested the “monstrous” blight on the elegant city skyline.
Luckily for us, the edifice proved indispensable for scientific experiments (like early radio transmissions) and the edifice — all 10,000 tons of it — has stood the test of time.
Today “La Dame de Fer” (the Iron Lady) looms large in imaginations across France and around the world.
And the lore surrounding it borders on mythology. Did you know that con man Victor Lustig once “sold” the landmark to a scrap-metal dealer? Not once, but twice?
And that Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower, kept a private office at the top, welcoming guests like Thomas Edison? (The inventor arrived bearing gifts: a gramophone, what else?)
Often imitated but never duplicated, the Eiffel Tower has inspired numerous copycats.
There are mini versions all over the globe — from Prague to Shenzhen, not to mention Sin City. But there’s only one original, and you can’t come to Paris without going to the top. A visit is de rigeur.
Here’s how to make the most of it.
The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks.

Planning your visit

The Eiffel Tower is open every day of the year, from 9 a.m. to midnight in summer (mid-June to early September) and from 9:30 a.m. until 11:45 p.m. the rest of the year.
If you’re the spontaneous type and don’t want to plan ahead, keep in mind that it’s best to avoid weekends and the period between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Another option for sportifs is to walk up the stairs (count them, 704 steps to level two), as the line is always shorter. (Price is seven euros — around $8 — for adults.) This is a great workout, and also provides perspective on the tower’s construction with interesting information boards along the way — not to mention the bird’s-eye views.
Note: You can’t climb all the way to the summit. You must buy another ticket for the elevator from the second to the third floor.
Pregnant women get automatic cut-the-line access, but if you’re not expecting, the best way to get coupe-file priority is to order tickets online. These pre-ordered tickets indicate an exact time slot, and you must arrive within 30 minutes of that time. (Prices to access the top are 17 euros for adults and 14.50 euros for youths between 12-24 years.)
Avoid third-party resellers, who often mark up the price heftily. Even if you have a ticket in hand, check the official website and Twitter account for up-to-the-minute information regarding weather and security. In some rare instances, the Eiffel Tower’s opening can be delayed, in which case, if you purchased tickets through the official website, you will receive an email suggesting an alternative time for the visit. Otherwise, tickets can be refunded.
Arrival by metro at Trocadéro (lines 6, 9) affords the opportunity to gape at the Iron Lady from a privileged vantage point above the Seine. This is also a top spot for watching the Bastille Day fireworks and the dazzling show when the Eiffel Tower sparkles on the hour. From here, it’s a 15-minute walk across the Pont d’Iéna.
Alternatively, the Bir-Hakeim metro station (line 6) is a 10-minute walk along the Quai Branly, and the École Militaire metro station (line 8) is 15 minutes away. The Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel stop on the RER C line is the closest, but note that RATP (the Paris transit authority) is undertaking construction projects on the line through August 2017.
The Eiffel Tower stands on the south bank of the River Seine which cuts through Paris.

Did you know?

The Eiffel Tower isn’t immune to rumors — some true (oui! a zipline was set up during the French Open this year), and others false (non! a wall is not set to go up around the landmark, though a new glass partition will be erected in the gardens to improve the visitor experience and to enhance security).
The best way to get the inside scoop, and hear insightful anecdotes, is with a private guide. Offered by Cultival, this “behind-the-scenes” tour provides access to areas usually closed to the public, like the original machinery room and the “bunker” under the Champ de Mars. The guide will also point out interesting features not usually visible to visitors, such as the new wind turbines, camouflaged with the same paint color as the Eiffel Tower.
Other fun new novelties include the transparent glass floor on the first level — not for the faint of heart — where an ice skating rink is set up in winter. And if you’re visiting in March, you might catch a glimpse of a unique race called “la Verticale de la Tour Eiffel” in which runners sprint to the top of the tower (all 1665 steps).
The first level features a glass floor and turns into an ice rink in winter.

Photography tips

The Eiffel Tower steals the show on Instagram as one of the most photographed attractions in the world. Popular spots for snapping pics of the Eiffel Tower include the Trocadéro and the Champ de Mars.
But photographer Mary Quincy, who has more than 122,000 followers on Instagram, keeps a tally of lesser known spots to snap the Eiffel Tower. “From the Avenue de Camoens, it’s a nice perspective to take photos — especially if you want personal portraits with the Eiffel Tower in the background and no one else around,” she says.
Her other tip is the Square Rapp, which “offers an original view of the Eiffel Tower between two buildings.”
The Normandy-born photographer also suggests the Rue Saint-Dominique, when you’re walking from Invalides to the Champ de Mars; the top of the Sacré-Cœur basilica; and the top of the Arc de Triomphe because of its relative proximity to the Eiffel Tower and the impressive panoramas.
The view from the observation deck at the top of the Montparnasse Tower is also sublime. (Price 17 euros for adults).
Some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower can be seen from the top of the Montparnasse Tower.

Where to eat nearby

If you can’t splurge at Le Jules Verne, Alain Ducasse’s magnificent Michelin-starred restaurant perched on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, there are a few nearby eateries that aren’t tourist traps.
Inside the newly renovated Musée de l’Homme (Museum of Mankind) on the Trocadéro, the Café de l’Homme has one of the city’s finest terraces where you can indulge in the Eiffel Tower views paired with creative French cuisine showcasing seasonal products (like heirloom tomatoes and summer truffles).
The Eiffel Tower views are also dynamite from Les Ombres, the rooftop restaurant on top of the nearby Quai Branly museum, and the seasonal Krug Terrace at the Shangri-La Hotel.
Philippe Excoffier, head chef at the American Embassy for 11 years, runs an eponymous bistro that’s just a 10-minute walk away from the Eiffel Tower. You’ll notice a devoted crowd of regulars tucking into the prix-fixe lunch.
A note to diners: In Paris, it’s always best to call/email ahead for reservations. If you didn’t get a chance to do that, the famous Rue Cler market street is also a stone’s throw away, and you can pick up picnic items at the specialty food stores lining this pedestrianized thoroughfare.