Sunday, October 19, 2014

Five *non traditional* events happening in Paris this month


During the travel preparation workshops I instruct in the Seattle area, people often ask: "When is the best time to go to Paris?" My answer: "Go anytime. There is always something happening in Paris."

How true. Paris is never boring. October is typically a busy month, with a plethora of trade shows, many open to the general public, (Paris Motor Show, Chocolate Trade Fair) and cultural events (Montmartre Harvest Celebration, Autumn Festival, to name just a few.) You can find all of these listed on the excellent website of the Paris Tourist Office. But this week, I heard of 5 very untraditional events, and they caught my attention.

1. Burger King is opening its French flagship restaurant in the 14th arrondissement.

I have already discussed the Parisians' fascination for hamburgers, food trucks, and every trend under the sun that is dubbed "C'est très Brooklyn" (just like in Brooklyn.) There is big money to be made out of Parisian Bobos (Bourgeois-Bohêmes,) local hipsters, Brooklynites wannabes, and some international visitors. 

Burger King, the fast-food giant, recently returned to the French market. Every day, long lines of worshippers wait outside the restaurant located inside the St-Lazare train station, inaugurated last Christmas with much fanfare. Granted many Parisian restaurants offer real hamburgers, but not everyone is willing to spend 15 Euros ($20) on a burger.


And so, this weekend, Burger King is opening its largest, most-modern restaurant near Métro Alésia, on the Left Bank. It is interesting the American fast-food giant chose a location named after a major military defeat that marked the end of Gallic resistance against Julius Caesar in 52 BC. Vercingetorix would roll in his grave!

An iconic Morris Column tries to ignore its loud neighbor

2. Is lingering at your table a thing of the past in some Parisian eateries?

This week, a debate erupted online between the owner of HolyBelly, a "branché" (trendy) restaurant (trendy restaurants in Paris often have creative anglo-saxon names with menus peppered with anglo-saxon expressions,) and one of their customers. Even if HolyBelly usually gets rave reviews for its fresh, organic food, and coffee (provided by the popular Belleville Brûlerie,) visitors have complained about limited seating space, no-reservation policy (resulting in long lines, especially on weekends,) and steep prices.

Inside the Belly...

And so this week, a customer sent an email to HolyBelly's management to share her experience: The food was great, but she and her friend did not appreciate being rushed by their waiter (after sitting at their table for barely an hour,) when they ordered two more drinks after a full breakfast. At that point, the waiter brought the check and suggested they take their hot teas "to-go," since there was a long line outside, and the restaurant needed their table. Do you see where I am going with this? 

The restaurant co-owner, a well-traveled Frenchman, later decided to publish the customer's email on HolyBelly's website, and wrote what felt like a drawn-out reply. You have to read it yourself, as well as the comments left by Internet users. People quickly took sides: Some spoke in favor of the friendly, entrepreneurial, owner, Nico, and his vision for his business; others sided with the disappointed customer, who only wanted what most of us expect (and get) in Paris: A chance to linger at the table, enjoying good food, a good drink, and good conversation. 

Outside the Belly...

This incident is worth mentioning here, since rushed service seems to be a growing trend in packed, new Parisian eateries, where seating is often limited and outdoor space non-existent. I, for one, love French restaurants and cafés for their slow pace, with minimal interruptions by the waiter. And the check should only show up on the table when I ask for it, at the end of the meal. I mean, if I want overly friendly yet rushed service, I can only go to the Original Pancake House or Red Robin, d'accord

What about you?

3. Another D.A.B. just opened in downtown Paris.


D.A.B. = Distributeur Automatique de Baguettes. A machine that sells - brace yourself - fresh baguettes. It is called Pani Vending, and the award-winning inventor, Jean-Louis Hecht, a baker, is getting a lot of press. The machine has even been adopted by fellow bakers who use it to supplement their daily production!

Monsieur Hecht and Pani Vending

Apparently, Pani Vending makes excellent bread. Baguettes are partially pre-cooked, and when customers insert 1 Euro in the machine, baking is completed in a few minutes. Out comes a fresh, fragrant, crispy baguette... around the clock. Perfect for late-night cravings. 

If you are staying in Paris' 15th arrondissement, look up the new Pani Vending, rue Paul Barruel. Bizarre? It seems French baguettes inspire creativity...


4. A short-lived event took place in Paris this week.

Paris has always welcomed - and inspired - artists, and over her 2,000 years of existence, the French capital has seen it all, or so we thought. Parisians have often rebelled against art work or new landmarks they did not appreciate. The Eiffel Tower itself was so controversial and enraged so many, it was supposed to be dismantled after the 1889 World Fair. This week, an American artist, Paul McCarthy, got more publicity than he had bargained for when displaying his latest creation in the middle of the venerable Place Vendôme as a guest of the Paris Art Fair. I am guessing Mr. McCarthy does not mind publicity, good or bad, and he is a lot more famous today than he was 72 hours ago, thanks to a 70-foot high, green inflatable structure he named his "[Chrismas] Tree." 

McCarthy's Christmas Tree

Within hours of the installation, a crazy rumor started spreading around Paris, Twitter, and then the rest of the world: A controversial American artist had set up a giant Christmas Tree *butt plug* in the middle of Paris. Even worse: Said artist had openly acknowledged that his art piece was rooted in a joke about a sex toy, even if it was inspired by a Christmas tree. Most passersby looked puzzled at best, or plain horrified as the giant *tree* was unveiled on Thursday. A Parisian man was so upset he slapped the artist before running away! On Twitter, a French conservative group declared: "Place Vendôme disfigured. Paris humiliated." The news was quickly relayed by the international press, and their readers had a field day taking cheap, but often humorous shots at "prudish" Parisians. Things took a turn for the worse when vandals took things in their own hands on Friday evening; cut the *Tree* straps and power supply. By Friday morning, the *Tree* looked like this...

The toppled *Tree*

On Saturday afternoon, the *Tree* was taken away, never to return to la Place Vendôme. Since then, French authorities have extended their deepest apologies and their full support to a [visibly shaken] McCarthy.  The new Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, made an impassioned plea for "artistic freedom." 

Fact: Many Parisians - who had previously condemned the *Tree* - now condemn the act of vandalism, as they should. Give them a few more days, and they will say they miss the *Tree.* If Mr. McCarthy plays his cards well, the mayor of Paris will soon beg him to set up another *Tree* by the Eiffel Tower, the most protected Parisian landmark. 

Fact: Even if French conservative groups are widely blamed for this, no one has officially claimed responsibility. For all we know, the *Tree* could have been toppled by a group of inebriated students who got pissed because the neighboring Hemingway bar has been closed for over two years during the Ritz Hotel renovation. 

Fact: Many Parisians are now breathing a huge sigh of relief. Nobody wants to see a Christmas tree (real or imagined) on the way to work as early as October. Without the pompous green eyesore, la Place Vendôme is back to its former glory (well, not quite, since the Ritz Hotel is still a mess; and the Vendôme Column, once erected by Napoleon, is wrapped in [not so] creative scaffolding, as illustrated in the photo above.) 

As for Mr McCarthy, (many English internet users hilariously kept referring to him as "Sir Paul," thinking the *Tree* was the work of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney!) he will get over his Parisian episode, and will let his creative juices flow somewhere else... 

A McCarthy classic: "The Complex Pile" - Hong Kong, 2013

Parisians have strong opinions and volatile tempers. Mc Carthy should be grateful they did not take him to the Bastille (main reason: Parisians once got mad and destroyed the Bastille, and we all know how that ended.) Overall, looking at the bright side, he fared better than Robespierre, who, not unlike Mr McCarthy, always provoked strong feelings among his contemporaries. It seems *Parisian prudes* have gotten softer lately.

Robespierre meets his fate in 1793

Ending on a cheerful note...

5. This year, you can celebrate Halloween at the best amusement park in Paris.

Why go to Disneyland? Don't you fear déjà-vu?

Cinderella Castle, Mickey Mouse, giant pumpkings... Same old, same old.

Instead, head north to the Parc Asterix for the special, "Peur sur le Parc" (Fear at the park) event. I happen to know fierce Gauls like Asterix and Obelix fear only one thing: That the sky may fall upon their heads. I am curious to see what they have prepared for visitors. I am guessing it won't be pretty. But as long as you stay away from Christmas *trees,* you should be fine. 

A bientôt !

Crazy Gauls! 
(credit: Uderzo) 


  1. Et bien ne va t on pas désormais AUSSI voir les français comme inepte et fermé à l'art, après l'incident causé par l'oeuvre de McCarthy ? De l'eau au moulin du french bashing encore...alors que je suis convaincue que d'autres personnes, dans d'autres pays, auraient aussi sans doute réagi fortement. Pour ma part, je n'ai pas vu la chose,je n'ai donc pas d'opinion quant à son appeal sur moi. En revanche, en photo, bof, pas touché par son intérêt artistique. Mais de là à baffer le créateur et à démolir le truc, non c'est trop. Il y a aussi de forts chouettes expo actuellement à Paris, enfin je dis ça, je sais qu'il ne faut pas dire que les parisiens sont capables de penser hein..
    Honestly I am not sure that writing about the incident regarding the project crated by Mr McCarthy and what happened recently to it, will benefit in a positive way to the current strong french bashing. Because you know, of course french are illiterate and closed to art, it is so well known isnt't it? I am not sure there will not have been another strong reaction elsewhere in the world about this "tree"? I have not seen it but from the pictures felt no appeal to it. True I do regret the smacking of Mr McCarthy do not support the sacking of his creation. And to finish my writing, may I mention that there actually are quite a lot of interesting and very good shows and art exposition currently in Paris (as it seems of course that Paris IS France, you know this small crazy ridiculous old Europe situated country...). Sorry but sometimes I have to rant, especially on THIS blog(sorry but sometimes I think you are just making too much of your american attitude as if you were ashamed of being french, which you are not of course, we are what we are, for best or worst).

    1. Dear eveange66. You need to take a deep breath and keep smiling. It helps a lot in life. This blog is not famous for French bashing, quite the opposite in fact. Paris is not France, as I very well know since I was born in the beautiful southwest. You should go back and read some of the stories I have written about Nice, and more recently, Toulouse. Bien à vous.

    2. I think that you are one of the best examples of France-not Paris not Toulouse nor Nice or Lyon-but of FRANCE-- with grace, style and intellect and actually I should have put the intellect/sense of humor are such a perfectly wonderful example of the balance of two countries in their diversity as well as their similarities you blend the two seamlessly and I for one MARVEL at the way/manner you have accomplished a very DIFFICULT task and make it look easy-a true sign of art and grace. On this site, the love and admiration and pride and joy which you feel and show for your beloved mother land is SO EVIDENT it is beyond me how someone cannot see it in black and white or feel it through your words-

    3. Merci g. I needed a little bit of TLC this morning. There is a reason you are one of my oldest and most faithful readers and friends. Have a great week! :-)

    4. A vous aussi mon amie-and I mean EVERY WORD!!!

    5. To eveange66:
      I don't think you have been reading French Girl's blog for very long or you would know that she absolutely LOVES France. She lives here in the U.S. now and is explaining the French way to us from her very knowledgeable point of view being that she understands both the French and the American point of view.
      It seems like you don't really understand what's going on here. Maybe it's getting lost in your translation.

    6. Eh bien merci beaucoup, Sheila! Tongue-in-cheek humor, can, indeed, get lost in translation :-) I am a lucky French Girl: I have wonderful readers! Bonne semaine.

  2. This was a GREAT always-I was reading about said "Christmas tree" yesterday in the New York papers and is there any question as to what the tree really was... considering his illustrious work in Hong Kong-- Oh La La-unbelievable-and on no Burger King-- fast paced dining WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TOO!! Have a wonderful week and as always many many thanks for your very unique and interesting presentation!

    1. Merci beaucoup, g. Glad you enjoying my coverage of the French... uh... Parisian news. I thought the *Tree* story was awesome. It certainly caused quite a stir. Yet, in this era of "fast-paced-everything," and with the media's 30-second attention span, I have no doubt nobody will be mentioning it again a month from now (that is probably a good thing.) Have a wonderful week on the East Coast.

  3. I had to laugh through this one. McCarthy's work is new to me, but can't say I'm a fan. I don't understand why such things are considered art. ;-)
    Burger King in Paris????? Just returned from a delightful two weeks in France, most of which was spent in Paris. It makes me sad to see the number of Starbucks that are now spreading, even though I'm definitely a Starbucks fan here at home.
    Thanks for sharing the news. '-)

    1. Bonjour Sarah. Welcome back chez French Girl in Seattle! So you went to France, lucky lady! I will visit your blog today in the hope you may have shared some of your adventures there. As for Starbucks, McDo, Burger King and the likes, eh... I guess there is room (and an audience) for everyone in a big cosmopolitan city like Paris. One can always choose not to visit them (I draw the line at having a Burger King or a Starbucks on the Eiffel Tower, though.) :-)

  4. Events happening this month in Paris:
    5-day SIAL professional event
    FIAC at the Grand Palais - huge galerie expo
    Hokosai is at Grand Palais
    Baccarat exhibit just opened at Petit Palais
    Huge Niki de St.Phalle retrospective at Grand Palais
    Huge Sonia Delaunay retrospective at Musee d"Art Moderne
    Women artists are being feted in Paris this month in a big way.
    Picasso museum reopens the 22nd
    Frank Gehry new Louis Vuiton art museum in Jardin d'Aclimation opens today

    FYI: Holybelly is one of many small new entrepreneurial efforts created by young French people trying to change things in Paris.i.e. no reservations, organic, relatively inexpensive.

    1. Bonjour Carol. Long time no talk to (even I still visit Paris Breakfasts on a regular basis.) Thank you for completing the long list of events I started at the beginning of this post - You helped me prove my point: There is a lot going on in Paris in October. I know you visit many of those events yourself now that you are une Parisienne and report back on your blog.

      This story, however, is tongue-in-cheek (I admit it,) and meant to highlight *non-traditional* things happening in Paris right now. Paris is changing, it is a fact: I lived there for 10 years and notice it when I go back every summer.

      As for young Nico, the HolyBelly co-owner, he has quite the following. I enjoyed my organic meal at his restaurant in July, and spent some time observing the staff and clientele. I must admit I agree with the lady who complained about HolyBelly online this week. I do not care for long lines; no reservation policy; or being rushed out of my seat because "other people are waiting." I know many French people don't either -- I realize Nico and his friends want "to change things," (the intro he wrote on the blog would be deserving of an entire blogpost,) but I don't see the point of fixing things that aren't broken. Being able to linger at your table is one of them. Have a great week in Paris, Carol. I know I will get to visit many popular events, as always, thanks to your blog this Fall!

  5. Franchement, cet arbre vert, ce n'était pas très beau, mais cela ne valait pas la peine d'en faire tout un fromage. Ce qui est très beau, par contre, c'est la Fondation Louis Vuitton,
    Certains resto parisiens font deux "services" et prennent des réservations soit à 8 H soit à 9 H...comme cela on est tout de suite prévenu qu'il ne faudra pas s'éterniser.

    1. D'accord pour *l'Arbre Vert* mais c'est fascinant, en même temps, de voir l'efficacité des Social Media... et, comme je l'avais prédit dans un autre commentaire, la rapidité avec laquelle tout le monde a tourné la page. La gloire peut-être si éphémère de nos jours. Quant aux restaurants avec deux services, je n'y vois pas d'inconvénient, dès lors qu'on est prévenu. Bon weekend!

  6. For me, Veronique, it's very sad to see Burger King, McDos etc invading France. Frankly, I gave the French much more credit than that, perhaps it's mostly tourists supporting these horrid places To answer your question re what we think, I never eat "junk" food, no fast food, am extremely careful to eat healthy, and I do not go to places that are loud, or rushed. Also, eating meat is the #1 most unhealthy thing for the the soil erosion, the forests that are mowed down to raise more cattle, etc, and all the associated drugs, sprays, pesticides etc that wind up in water supplies and in the ocean.

    Also, there are something like 80M animals raised for meat production a year vs 7B humans. If we ate the grains and drank the water that goes to these production animals there would be no hunger, thirst.

    "You are what you eat"...I don't understand why people wish to shove dead animals who were poisoned and miserable in their short lives into their own mouths... it defies and defiles so much IMHO.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Suzanne. I can tell you feel really strongly about this topic. Thank you for sharing some information, and your opinion with French Girl in Seattle. Hope all is well with you in beautiful California. A bientôt.


Bonjour! I love hearing from you, my readers. To quote a fellow blogger, my friend Owen, "Comments are the icing on blogcake... Comments are the UFO in the twilight sky bearing news from other planets... Comments are raspberry vinegar in salad dressing... Comments are the cool balm of after-sun moisturizing lotion... Comments are the moment the band comes back out onstage to play an encore... Comments are the gleam in the eye across the room in a smoky bar... Comments are the rainbow after the rainstorm..." Merci for your comments! French Girl in Seattle