Advent -5

Works like a charm….

In her book on Parisienne chic, Inès de la Fressange notes the Parisienne’s passion for good-luck charm bracelets, and who am I to argue with Inès? I actually noticed this habit when I first moved to Paris ten years ago, when every other Mom I saw at the café across the street from the girls’ school had her wrist tied up in a collection of multi-coloured strings. It immediately went on my ‘I want’ list and has stayed there every year since then. After all, a girl can never have too much good luck.

Of course, the penultimate parisien charm bracelet is a set of Dinh Van handcuffs (600€), which I absolutely adore for the slightly twisted message they send out with absolute simplicity. And it is one of the few bracelets I wouldn’t mind seeing being worn by a man.

Since my charm bracelets are usually gifts from my charming girls, the budget is considerably more modest. I have received Brazilian friendship bracelets that they knotted themselves from a selection of embroidery threads (10€) bought at La Droguerie’s stand at Le Bon Marché. As they’ve gotten older, they started giving me engraved charm bracelets (24€) from Mitabaya. Personalized with their names or little sweet nothings, and in a variety of shapes and materials, I wear these bracelets daily, even to the most formal of occasions. Not only do I love wearing these bracelets, but I love coming up with thoughtful or particularly personal messages and giving them as gifts to friends and mentors.

These charms are all lovely and I’d be happy to wear any one of them for any occasion, but we all have more traditional people on our gift list. People who may turn their nose up at a simple charm on a string. For those giftees La Perle de Lune has a an entire collection of gold charms on gold chains (245€) that are accompanied by a series of candy toned jewels you simply want to devour.

Apriati, means gift in Greek and the jeweler on the rue du Four makes some exquisitely elegant pieces (60€) with simple charms that a delight to give. The artist works with hammered gold and had more intricate pieces that are built on several string, include diamonds and are even built up into cuff. If you visit the shop, everything is displayed in glass encased, pop out drawers you can open and explore, like a kid in a (very expensive) candy shop, making the shopping almost as much fun as the gift giving.







Advent -4


Yes, the Yoga Yenta has inspired me. And I get it, yoga is not for everyone, but what I really mean is to give the gift of health and well being. You could offer a book of 10 classes to studio like Trini Yoga (180€) or a membership to your local gym. How about an annual Velib’ subscription (19€) or a calendar (cost of 1 sheet of paper) with pre-set running/biking/exercise dates you can enjoy together?

I’m trying to keep the gift ideas off the grid, but with my passion for running (which I really hate, but seem to be addicted to) and my love of dance, and yes, my devotion to yoga, it is tempting to throw up a bunch of links. I mean there are entire stores dedicated to fantastic sports equipment (did I mention my Yoga Yenta?) that your favorite jock would adore.

But lets just say your giftee is a yogi…a mala bracelet (10€) is a thoughtful gift and yogis are often happy wearing several at once. Or there are the necklaces with the rudraksha beads (45€) that yogis have cherished for centuries.

I don’t know why, but I have always longed for a singing bowl. I can picture myself passing it as I walk through my living room and brushing it for a bit of hum as I head to my desk to start my day. I found Himalayan Bowls with antique bowls (130$) available and I’m hoping Santa thinks of me.

I think I’ve mentioned the Yoga Yenta once or twice. She is my friend, and I love her, but the woman is relentlessly determined to have you downward dogging, sun saluting and practicing your oms. She is so determined that she has come up with a plan.

…the first 10 FindingNoon fans who come in to her shop will receive a card for a FREE class at TRINI YOGA.

Simply stop on by YogaConcept in the Marais before December 24th and tell her you read FindingNoon and she’ll have you in shivasana before you can say OMmmmmmmmmm……………

YogaConcept / 123 rue de Turenne / (M) République / open everyday until Dec 22

Trini / 26 rue d’Enghien, 10e

Advent -3


The title pretty much says it all. Last year I was particularly stuck on what to get Mr French, so I went online and purchased tickets for a night at the Royal Opera at Versailles (70€). I think his heart sank when he first saw the package; just a teeny tiny envelope. But then he looked inside and saw two tickets for a night at the Opera, and knowing how much I love opera (I’d rather sit through a 2 hour long lecture on Quantum Physics, where nobody dies!!!) he was incredibly touched.

Every time we go to a show Mr French invariable comments, “That was fantastic, we really should do that more often.” And we mean to, but life, and kids and the French vacation schedule get in the way. So I thought I’d do a bit more, and fatten up that envelope. I went on a spree and found tickets to hear Biréli Lagrène, his favorite gypsy guitarist, and, I simply couldn’t resist tickets for a Broadway musical during our NYC stay. In the end I found 6 different performances I knew he’d love, filling up the first 6 months of the calendar year.

Not everyone speaks French fluently, so musical events are the way to go for most people coming to town. The opera is a start, but not for everyone (ahem) and fortunately, countless places play all kinds of music every night of the week. If live music is not your thing, there is always dance, or even the Bartabas horse show. All fantastic performances, French not required.

Some of my favorite (affordable) resources are /

Billet Reduc for discount tickets to small concert halls and church performances. They feature shows that go beyond the ordinary, like the Russian Army Choir (33€)

TickeTac is particularly helpful, as you can select by genre, venue and/or date and (my personal favorite) the reduction you’d like! They have such a fantastic line up of shows that I was just inspired to buy 2 seats at Sara Barras Flamenco (58€) for this holiday season.

FNAC Spectacle for special shows I know about well in advance. I just learned that Lilly Wood and the Prick (33€) are coming to the Olympia this June. I have no idea who Lilly is, but since she plays with a prick, I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy the show.

Of course, not everyone is in Paris, but no matter where in the world you may find yourself, there is sure to be something on stage, for the show must go on…







Advent -2

After photography, there is graffiti…A few years ago I was on the look out for a very unique, incredibly personal gift idea for Mr French when I came across a post by AnnetteC on Our Paris Forum. Annette, who has a sweet little flat in the 5th that she rents to tourists (there is a gift idea… a flat in Paris), had recently created an utterly memorable terribly romantique gift for her hubby, a bit of street art. I LOVED the idea and wrote if she minded if I did a little copycat. She didn’t mind and I started purring….

While strolling the streets of Paris, Annette had become curious about the street art of the artist Gregos. Gregos creates faces that look like someone is walking through a wall on to the city’s streets. There are three moulds of the face, but each face is individually painted and Gregos welcomes collaborations by other artists. Artists like me, or YOU!!!

For 30€ you can order a plaster of Paris (I know, ironic, hunh?) face from Gregos‘ website. You then paint the face with an idea, theme or inspiration especially for your giftee. Once painted the face is ready to be gifted or have Gregos stick it on a Paris street. He’ll even tell you how you can put it on the streets of YOUR (or the giftee’s) hometown!!!

Not only did Mr French love his mask, but I absolutely loved the expression on his face as we strolled by the Luxembourg Gardens and he noticed a very cool face coming out of the wall, then realized it was dedicated to him. It was another week or so before he understood that I had not just commissioned the face, but that I was actually the artist behind the art. And every time we we’re in the neighborhood, he wants to stroll by, just to check out his face.

The faces truly are art, which makes them collectables, which means they may be stolen. For Mr French I purchased two, had one put up on a wall in his beloved 5th arrondisement and kept the other one for our balcony at home. Which turned out to be a good thing, because after three years, his face was stolen sometime this summer!

Not an artist? Gregos is and you can buy one of his painted faces (135€) on his website. With the Gregos face, you’re supporting the arts, while giving the gift of art, a gift you’re sure will not be one of three identical gifts. If you’re looking for something fun and funky that doesn’t cost more than a tongue and cheek, this is the gift you’ve been looking for…

Advent -1

My mom was raised by nuns, so you’d think I’d know what Advent was. I don’t, I have no idea and pathetically my curiousity has never been great enough to inspire a google. However, being a chocolate lover, I know EXACTLY what an Advent calendar is and I’ve always wished that I could have my own. Especially today as I stood at the check out line of the Grande Epicerie du Bon Marche, where Mom after Mom purchased handfuls of treat-filled calendars for their brood at home. Well, today, I made it happen, I got my Advent calendar. It is 100% chocolate-free, but I love it even more than chocolate because I can share it with you… Instead of chocolates, you get 100% fat-free, absolutely healthy, gift ideas for the holidays.

GIFT IDEA #1 / Paris Photos

Much to my dismay, friends and family are always clamouring for photos of myself and my kids. I don’t get it, and it makes me feel rather vain, but the fact is that many people love collecting photos of friends and family. This year was particularly special, so I decided to calm the roar and hired the Paris photographer par excellence, Lindsey Kent of Pictours Paris to create Paris moments we could share.

As a once-upon-a-time photographer myself, I am pretty picky. I found Lindsey’s work to be excellent. We had rather unusual requests and Lindsey came up with photos that we’re as quirky and original as we had wanted, while remaining pretty pictures that the Grandpa was happy to receive. You can judge for yourselves…

When I mentioned my Advent calendar idea to Lindsey, she was thrilled. So thrilled that she is offering 15% off of a 1.5 or 2.5 hour photo session in Paris before February 15th. Just mention FindingNoon and remember to Smile!!!!

If this all sounds like an ad, it is not and I assure you, I paid for my photoshoot with Lindsey. I am just a very enthusiastic client who likes sharing a good thing!

Even more of a good thing includes some of the gifts we’ve come up with since the shoot. These are things you could with any photos of places you’ve loved.      M decided to have a custom case (30$) made for her iPhone at, while E was talking about making a calendar (20$) at the Apple Store and I am considering getting one of them printed on canvas to have as art. While skimming the web I’ve found throw cotton pillows (20$) from and I’m now thinking of creating my own Paris tote. Whatever you do with your Paris photos, smiles are contagious.



Announcements, announcements, Announnnnnncements!!!

For the month of December I will be introducing an Advent Calendar. Which is hysterical, a Jewish girl from California living in sin with a Frenchman in a Parisian convent (Les Soeurs Auxiliaries) comes up with an Advent Calendar to suggest non-commercial (mostly) Pari-related gifts you can offer friends and family in Paris, or anywhere in the world. Ironic and a mouthful, all in one.

Advent (I know this because I googled it) begins tomorrow, the 2nd of December, but when I started sharing this utterly fantastic, completely altruistic idea with friends, family and the blog-o-sphere, I got a lot of really great ideas, and one of those ideas simply could not wait, because TODAY IS WORLD AIDS Day and Doni Belau of The Girls Guide to Paris has a very special charity for children with AIDS.


Sponsored by Vanessa Williams, Ubuntu Africa is there to provide health care, social support, nutrition, education and fun for children living with AIDS. To feel great this holiday season and help kids who worry about more than Santa, visit the Ubuntu crowdrise site and start the holiday season by doing good.

You’re on (not so) Candid Camera!

I have this weird obsession with Fotomatons. Weird because the photos that come out of those booths tend to add a decade and rather large jowls to one’s photo. Hardly flattering. The photo booth photos are where I notice my neck wrinkles and the fact that my nose is six shades redder than the rest of my face. You go in the booth, throw away some money into the machine as your palms get all sweaty, your heart starts pounding and your mind goes in to a panic about which pose to strike. Unflattering, wasteful and stressful. Where’s the joy? Not really really sure but I think its nostalgia for dreampt of childhood moments I never really had.

When I say geeky, here is an example of just how far its gone…. last month I could be found at the Fotomaton in the Bon Marché department store, having my photo taken with a Marjane Satrapi illustration of Catherine Deneuve for the department store’s 160th birthday celebrations. A few days later I was fighting through crowds of fashionistas to get into the Fotomaton at the Roger Vivier cocktail, just a few shoulders away from Inès de la Fressange and finally I was selecting between images of snow leopards or penguins for a sheet of four photos with M and my 7 year old niece at the San Francisco Zoo.

This week I got particularly excited when I passed by the windows of the Bonton boutique on the rue de Varenne in the 7th because they’ve got ginormous star shaped sunglasses and 1970’s afro wigs to wear in their Fotomaton.

Below is a list of the vintage Fotomatons in Paris. But, keeping true to my inner geek, I’ve created a Google MAP, as well. Smile for the birdie!!!

Boutique Citadium
50-56 rue Caumartin 75009,
Métro Havre-Caumartin
Ouvert du lundi au samedi de 10h à 20h

Boutique Bonton
5 Bd des Filles du Calvaire 75003
Métro Filles du Calvaire -OR-
82 rue de Grenelle 75007
Métro rue du Bac
Ouvert du lundi au samedi de 10h à 19h

La Maison Rouge
10 Boulevard de la Bastille, 75012 Paris
Métro Bastille et Quai de la Rapée
Ouvert du mercredi au dimanche de 11h à 19h, nocturne le jeudi jusqu’à 21 h

Le Forum des Images
Forum des Halles Métro Les Halles
De 12h30 à 23h30 du mardi au vendredi et de 14h00 à 23h30 le week-end

Boutique Prairies de Paris
23 rue Debelleyme 75003 Paris
Métro Filles du Calvaire
Ouvert du mardi au samedi de 11h à 19h

Le 104 (art space)
104 rue d’Aubervilliers et 5 rue Curial, 75019
Métro Riquet, Stalingrad, Crimée
Ouvert tous les jours de 11h à 20h

Le Palais de Tokyo
13 avenue du Président Wilson 75016,
Métro: Iéna
Ouvert de midi à minuit tous les jours sauf le lundi

 A larger version of Fotomatons in Paris map


Happy happy birthday

Satrapi window at Bon Marche

I have a thing for the Bon Marché. Sounds shallow and frivolous, but lets face it, I grew up listening to Madonna, so I seem to have “Material Girl”. But my crush on this store goes much deeper than that. It begins with Emile Zola and his novel “Au Bonheur des Dames” which chronicles the life and times of the shop girl Denise. It is a romance, but it is also a testament to the times and freedom that industrialization brought women, for better and some times for worse.

Boucicault, the force of nature behind the world’s first department store, was a marketing genius, coming up with ideas to get people into his shop that are still being used today, like the regularly held art exhibits at the Bon Marche. His wife a socialist before socialism, carefully looking after the well-being of their employees. They made a difference in society that is still felt today.

The Bon Marché is 160 years old this year and to celebrate they are throwing a party that seems to have leapt from the pages of Zola’s novel. Some of the most famous brands in the luxury world have created special limited editions to celebrate, all proudly displayed in a pop-up shop designed by the graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi. Satrapi’s illustrations also fly above the large open space, in the form of montgolfieres, bi-planes and Jules Vernes-like contraptions. Inside most of villages there is merchandise for sale. Fabulous designs to celebrate the Bon Marche’s 160th with inspired limited editions. Everything from iPhone covers to handbags, Baccarat crystal to Repetto ballet slippers.

In one area there is a documentary by Loïc Prigent, as he follows the city’s icon, Catherine Deneuve to all of her favorite Left Bank haunts. One of those haunts is Gerard Depardieu’s fish shop, Moby Dick, and its the film I saw them working on earlier in the year. I checked, and nope, I didn’t make it into the background, but it was very fun to see what had made the final cut!!!

Satrapi is the artistic force behind the film Perspolis. Her lines are bold and brilliant, the perfectly modern foil as her art continues outside, featuring more scenes of Catherine at places like her fish monger’s, the Café Fleurus and the Place Saint Sulpice in a specatcle that draws people in, and would make Boucicault proud.

200% more rain

Tropical dreams

A recent email ended with my sign-off, “Enjoy the grey skies”.

The exchange ended with the query, “By the way, how does one enjoy the grey skies?”

Blue skies guaranteed

To be honest, I haven’t the faintest clue. The recent weather, full of rain and lacking light, seems to have the entire city in a slump. If you’re a visitor, you just buck up, put on a happy face and hit out to see the sights; museums, restaurants, cafés are all waterproof. Not as easy for denizens, whose sights tend to be the local Carrefour, or the inside of the same office you see all day, every day. But I do try…

I remind myself that the sky is blue in Syria. Suddenly, dull, grey Paris is sounding fantastic. When I asked a handful of locals how they cope. I expected a dozen different answers. I got one; they concentrate on their vacation plans. I can’t believe I had to ask.

You can even surf in the rain...

At this very minute the government is proposing more school holidays for students who already enjoy almost two weeks of vacation every six weeks. How is that for an economic austerity plan? More holidays for everyone! This news would be absolutely tragic for working families, but most employees get a minimum of 6 weeks paid holidays with a 35 hour work week so nobody is complaining. Except the financial markets, and maybe Germany.

Vacations are so important in France that large companies offer their employees Chéques Vacances. Chéque Vacances are gift certificates that can be used to pay for hotels, vacation rentals, surf clubs, golf resorts, theme parks and even highway tolls, a really generous way for companies to subsidize their employee’s vacations.

Summer vacation is taken so seriously in France, that along with the Fall campaign to help Children’s hospitals, it is one of the top charitable organizations in a country that doesn’t really do much fundraising. There are “Send a kid to camp” drives, “take a kid on vacation with you” opportunities and Ferrero chocolate sponsors “Kinder Village” summer camp. Even the City of Paris subsidizes some kids’ summer plans, because in France vacations are not a luxury.

Getting us through the grey....

And where are the French going this summer? Many stay in France, visiting family, heading to their vacation homes or going to exactly the same spot they stayed at last summer, and the summer before that and all the summers in the last 20 years. Unfortunately for us, the weather reports don’t look good, and we may all end up chasing the grey, instead of chasing the grey away.



Friday@Flore (not)

Your regularly scheduled programming has been interrupted for La Fête de la Musique…. tune in tomorrow for a delayed viewing of Friday@Flore.

Fête de la Musique begins early, very early, for some. Around noon in the Luxembourg Gardens scheduled concerts had already began. But, I’m a working girl, so I only made it out the door around dinner time.

Heading home from a meeting, I saw café after café counting on police indulgence for the evening, having installed additional tables that sprawled well,beyond their legal limits. The places were already over flowing with Parisians absolutely thrilled to be enjoying a rare moment of blue skies. Especially after a tremendous thunder storm that had shaken windows throughout the city earlier in the day.

The entire city was ready to party. The first band I ran into was fantastic, playing original tunes that made you want to dance. 100 metres further along was a very young boy playing violin. I crossed the street to take a photo, expecting to hear a squeeky repetition of scales. Instead, I heard an impressively polished performance of some basic Mozart tunes. Wow.

Then it was off to the Grand Palais, where they were throwing a Bal Blanc to celebrate the end of Daniel Buren’s installation of Monumenta. Lots of youth trying to wear mostly white. It was infinitely less elegant than the Dîner Blanc, but just as fun, and a great way to really appreciate Buren’s piece, which was all about color and light. I was loving the scene and the intense beat of the techno music made my insides smile. I wanted to dance. Instead I lay down on the floor to photograph this original couple with the Buren couple in the background.

It was a great scene, only it felt almost criminal to be inside on this glorious evening so I headed back out to the Odeon area, where I know the performers and exactly where to head for British rock, 80’s cover songs or an old fashioned oompah band.

I have a particular soft spot for the man who stands on the rue de Seine, near the corner of the rue des Beaux Arts playing traditional French songs over a sound system as he distributes the lyrics and leads the crowd in a sing along. He once had an average day job, but thanks to his success at the Fête de la Musique, he now offers his services for corporate events, cruises and private parties, making a career of his passion. Proof positive that La Fête la Musique can change your life.

My favorite discovery of the evening, these guys played original music for at least six hours; They were amazing!!!





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