Mightier than the sword

La Dolce Vita


Like any good soldier, I pay great attention to my weapons, and being a writer, that would be my pen. I love my writing tools.

As a blogger, I depend mostly on high tech tools, like the iPad, which fits perfectly into all my bags and seems to have been made for the Parisian café culture. I love it. To a point. Because, as cool as it is, it is missing the art and the beauty of the written word. There is nothing more luxurious than having the time to sit in a Paris café, take out one’s pen and begin to right on a smooth, lovely paper. And there is really nothing like going to the mailbox and finding a long, handwritten note among the stack of bills.

The French take their pens pretty seriously. In grade school children are expected to learn proper penmanship, using a fountain pen. This is not a quirky little habit of the über rich, it is required by the public school system and It is a big deal when your child gets his/her first fountain pen at about 7 years of age. Lamy makes some really great “starter pens” (12.90€) for young students that are wooden, not terribly expensive, easy to handle and easy to replace at just about any corner stationary store as your kid looses first one, and then the other, and another, and… As the kids get older, they tend to stick with Lamy for school, graduating to the brighter, sleeker models that many adults like. I assume that they pick them up when replacing the umpteenth Lamy lost by le petit.

Beyond the school yard, its a wide, open field full of fun, fantasy pens. If you look beyond the Lamy section at any tabac or stationary store, like the one by the artist Ben (12.99€), in his signature black, with witty French sayings like, “Write between the lines.” Or trés fille fille Inès de la Fressange models (15€) with graphic flowers and a modern touch.


Being deprived all the fun fashion accessories available to us ladies, les garçons tend to get very serious about their pens (and watches, but that is another article altogether). Mr French loves shopping at Mora on the rue de Tournon in the 6th, a traditional family business where you can find the latest models, as well as an excellent selection of vintage pens from the most respected houses like Waterman, Pélikan and SJ Dupont (70€ on up…).

As for me, in 1992 I had a very nasty accident involving a leather purse and a leaky fountain pen. The ink won and I have been a strictly ball point girl ever since. I recently developed a somewhat unhealthy attachment to a Delta, Dolce Vita (195€). The pen is the perfect shade of orange to go with my collection. It comes from Italy and it is an absolute delight in hand; perfectly weighted, ideally balanced and wonderfully smooth to the touch. Now if only it could do some of my writing for me…

Party’s over

As I mentioned earlier, E’s primary gift for 18th birthday was a night at the Opera Garnier. I came up with brilliant idea last month when Mr French and I were invited to the opera house to see Orphée and Eurydice by the choreographer Pina Bausch.

The opera house was designed by Charles Garnier in the 1860’s when Haussmann was tearing up the town. At the inauguration Empress Eugenie cried, “What style is that? That’s not a style…. Its not Greek, Louis XV, or even Louis XVI.” Garnier promptly retorted, “Its Napoleon III! And you’re complaining?” While I appreciate the architecture, it is the ceiling within the opera house that really melts my butter. The chandelier is simply magnificent. All 7-8 tons of it sits as the perfect tiara to the masterpiece painted by Marc Chagall in 1964. I could stare at that painting for hours… the dancers, the Eiffel Tower and all those rich, warm tones. Above it all, invisible to our eyes, is a dance studio for rehearsals. Delicious!.

Bausch at the Garnier was transcendent, it was abundantly clear that an electric energy had enraptured the audience and the performers in the moment. After the show, there was a poignant silence before the audience came back to earth and burst into exuberant applause, including past President of France, Valéry Giscard-d’Estaign, who was sitting a few rows behind me Yes, the past President of the Republic was behind me. Wow, what more can a girl say than Wow? Following the event there was a cocktail in the Grand Foyer, with its eloquent balcony that runs along the façade of the opera house, the dancers drifted in glowing and waif-like. I didn’t need any champagne, I was drunk from the magnificence of it all.

That night, at home, E expressed her desire to see a ballet the opera some day. The timing was right, Robbins/EK was performing during her birthday. I booked the loges this time, the nostalgically romantic, red brocade lined rooms with coat racks and couches that seat an intimate group of six. The doors only open with a key, giving you the impression of stepping back in time before entering the booth, which immediately transported us to the 19th century. Stretching out our necks, to view the audience, we almost believed we’d spot some feather-trimmed, diamond-encrusted aristocracy. We were eventually brought back to the 21st century as the Robbins piece began; it was light, classical and perfect for the spring. EK was something different altogether, a bit dark, and occasionally morbid, but laugh aloud funny throughout, right in step with our birthday celebration.

Bats in the bellfry, Oh, so Phantom.

Palais Garnier

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