Saturday, December 1, 2012

New York, New York (Part 2) - Where we discuss friends, old and new; the power of music and French pastries...

Special celebrations call for special drinks, like le Kir Royal...

A friend commented there was no French twist to last week's story about New York City. My stories ALWAYS have a French twist, she said... Zut. (Rats.) We need to fix this quickly, I say. 

Cheer up, friend: Plenty of French twists in this story...

Plenty of friends, too. Friends, old and new, are what makes a trip special. 

This New York visit was no exception.

One thing I have learned over the last two years: Friendships born out of blogging are a treat, a gift that keeps giving. Whether we travel near home, or around the world, some of us bloggers will happily grab an opportunity to let go of our cameras and laptops for a few hours, to get out there and meet fellow writers and photographers; wonderful people who take a few hours (or a few days) out of a busy schedule to show us "their city." I treasure these encounters; what they teach me about a place; and the resulting friendships. 2012 has been a good year in that respect. Here's to making new connections on the road in 2013...

On my first day in New York, I had a lunch date. A special rendez-vous, with a special lady, M-T. Through her blog, The French Touch and her consulting business, M-T provides fashion and lifestyle tips to women who want to define their own style... with a French twist! As soon as I met her, I realized that the lady knows a thing or two about style. In fact, she knows a thing or two about French culture, the Opera, good food, good wine, and the power of a good laugh. 

M-T was born in the United States (just a few East Coast Falls ago,) but her parents and relatives are French, and she speaks both languages fluently. We kept switching back and forth, since her charming American husband Dan joined us that day.  They drove almost two hours from South New Jersey to meet me, and they suggested a popular French brasserie (owned by legendary chef Alain Ducasse,) Benoît. As soon as I stepped in, I felt as if I were in Paris...

For the next three hours, conversation [and French wine] flowed... The food, (typical bistro fare,) was perfectly executed, from les escargots, to le poulet rôti, les moules-frites, and for dessert, a magnificent mille-feuille (it was big enough to share...) 

Le Millefeuille's traditional "glaçage" (icing) was drawn onto the plate,
instead of on top of the pastry... Oh, la, la!

Talking to M-T felt like talking to an old friend. Her warm personality, and her bonne humeur (cheerfulness) made for a special time in the big city. It was after 4:00pm when M-T and Dan walked me back to my hotel. I was sad to say goodbye, bien sûr, but I know we will see each other again... After all, we both live on this side of the pond, and we won't let a small detail like opposite coasts keep us apart too long, n'est-ce-pas M-T?

A big city like New York can feel anonymous, especially when one travels alone. After my successful encounter with M-T, I was on a roll. I had planned to meet other special ladies on this trip. 

My readers may remember the story I wrote about the great artist Josephine Baker. The post remains one of the most popular entries on this blog. Josephine Baker raised a large, international family in a beautiful château in the Dordogne valley, les Milandes. Over twenty five years ago, in New York city, one of her sons, Jean-Claude, opened a restaurant honoring his mother's memory. I had to reserve a table chez Joséphine and hoped to meet him. Unfortunately, Jean-Claude was away for a few days (even successful restaurateurs need des vacances...) On Sunday night, a cab took me to the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood where my table was waiting. The restaurant felt cozy and intimate; "l'ambiance" was romantic; the decor old Hollywood and glamorous. I loved the live piano player! Josephine was everywhere around me, on the walls; smiling at visitors from old posters and vintage photos; all the way to the bathroom where paper hand towels were embossed with her effigy. Do you collect small souvenirs from your travels, too? I confess to snatching one of the towels and brought it home with me... 

I was alone that night, and I had time to observe... and dream. If I closed my eyes, I could picture "La Bakaire" making a grand entrance; blowing a kiss to her son as he stood in front of the bar; acknowledging restaurant patrons, actors from popular Broadway shows; sashaying towards her table, the best in the house, of course, in one of her inimitable sequined dresses; and finally, sitting down, surrounded by admirers and friends; the center of attention, always; ready to order the first Coupe (*) of the night... 

Mind you, not all my New York friends were as glamorous as Josephine... 

Some were dignified, calm, and patient. Others were rambunctious. Like Josephine, they knew life can be messy, but it deserves to be lived fully. Here's to you, my furry New York friends. From Central Park to Greenwich Village; from stores to urban dog parks; you made me smile as I paused and rested my feet, along the way.

Hanging out at the park with "Mom and Dad." - Joey the Pit
Chillin' at Washington Square Park
Shopping at Chelsea Market
Waiting... Waiting... in TriBeCa

Yes, big cities can feel anonymous. It is natural to search for des repères; familiar sights; points of reference. Oh, yes, I have been here before. I recognize this street. There used to be a bakery here... a French bakery as I recall... French? Oui. 

To my delight, France is everywhere in New York. All day long, I passed French people on the street. Some were tourists. Couples visiting "la Grande Pomme," young families pushing an umbrella stroller; groups of teenagers, enjoying a few hours of freedom before meeting their parents or chaperones back at the hotel... It was good to see that New York still ranks high on my countrymen's list of favorite cities. I also met local French people. New Yorkers by choice. Thanks to them, their restaurants, bakeries, boutiques, I felt so much closer to France, indulging daily in specialties from the Old Country. 

French restaurants at every street corner (well, almost...) 

The French boulangerie... New York style...
Crêpe au Nutella... How bad can that be?
Enjoying a cappuccino and a mille-feuille in a beautiful setting...
Washington Square Park
(my friends at Mille-Feuille bakery use authentic boulangerie paper bags to deliver the goods...)

The Salted caramel éclair chez Dominique Ansel bakery was simply extraordinaire! 

But I digress (never underestimate the power of a mille-feuille; baba au rhum or éclair au café...)

I need to mention one last friend I met in New York city. Truthfully, she inspired the whole trip; for what French Girl could resist one evening at the legendary Carnegie Hall with a beautiful and talented French performer? 

French Girl and Patricia meet at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
(photo credit: unknown)

I have always admired Patricia Kaas, une artiste complète, who can do it all. A working class girl from la Lorraine, in Eastern France, she has been a familiar voice - and face - in France and in Europe since the mid-1980s. Even though I have watched her many times on TV; or on the big screen where she has made a few noteworthy appearances, I had never had the privilege of catching "Mademoiselle Kaas," in her favorite environment, on a stage, performing for a live audience... until New York.

This was a special show, in more ways than one. Patricia Kaas has recently embarked on a worldwide tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of iconic French singer Edith Piaf (1915-1963) If the name sounds familiar but you can't quite place Edith Piaf, the following might help refresh your memory...

Edith Piaf - "the Little Black Sparrow "- 
A short woman. A black dress. A microphone. And that BIG voice:
Edith Piaf brings the house down at Carnegie Hall, 1957

And for those of you who need a "crash course" on all things Piaf:

Interpreting Edith Piaf's songs on stage is a challenge for any performer. Her iconic La Vie en Rose, for example, has been covered by many French or international artists, more or less successfully. Patricia Kaas, who has often been compared to Piaf (both singers share humble beginnings; powerful voices; and a unique stage presence,) must have been a nervous wreck before she stepped on the Carnegie Hall stage on November 20. If she wasn't, I was for her! The house was packed... French expats; American francophiles; and, to my amazement, hundreds of Russian spectators. I had vaguely heard Patricia is a huge star in Russia, where she has toured extensively over the last 25 years... There was the proof! (Who knew there were so many Russians living in New York city too?!) 

There I was, a French Girl in Seattle, only seven rows from the stage, surrounded by a colorful crowd of middle-aged Russian people, all dressed to the nines. "Surely, I thought, this is what Edith meant. This is La Vie en Rose..." 

The two-hour show did not disappoint. Patricia sang; danced; acted. She did not imitate Edith Piaf. She chose many songs that were not as well known, and made them her own. Kaas change Piaf. Kaas sings Piaf. And indeed, she did just that. 

Mademoiselle Kaas loved the standing ovation after the performance. And in true diva style, she bowed and smiled flirtatiously when audience members presented her with flowers. But the Piaf tribute at the end of the show was moving, and a classy touch. 

Like Edith, so many years ago, Patricia, the girl from Forbach, in Eastern France, stood tall and proud on the big stage. 

As I crossed busy 7th Avenue to return to my hotel and pack my bags, still humming "... Entourés par la foule, qui nous traîne, nous entraîne..." (**) I knew this had been a most excellent adventure, indeed. I flew back the next day and made it just in time to celebrate a West Coast Thanksgiving with Les Boys and dear friends. 

A bientôt, New York.

(*) Coupe =  a glass of Champagne
(**) "La Foule," (the Crowd) Edith Piaf 

A bientôt, M-T and Dan!

Kaas - Piaf: Encore

Kaas sings Piaf. Promotional video teaser

Patricia Kaas  (Royal Albert Hall, London, November 5, 2012) 

Finally, la grande Edith Piaf... 

She had one heck of a life, la Môme Piaf (her nickname, because she was small, like a bird - "piaf," in French slang - and she sang her way out of Paris' slums as a child  or "môme"... ) She died in October 1963, at age 47 but sang until she was too sick to stand. She always said life was not worth living without singing..

Edith Piaf - "la Foule" (The Crowd)  - Experience the power of "the Voice!" 

Edith Piaf "Non, je ne regrette rien," Holland, 1962. 

I love the shy smile before the singing starts. Then, after she instructs the musicians "pas trop lent, hein?" (not too slow...,) She jumps in, and belts it out. No regrets, even at the end of her tumultuous life. No regrets. Rest in peace, Madame Piaf. 

To end on a cheerful note...

Edith Piaf and Theo Sarapo, her last lover and husband. They sing about love "A quoi ça sert, l'amour?" (What is love for?) Theo Sarapo was good to Edith and stood by her side until the end, as she helped him build a singing and acting career. He died a few years after Edith in a car accident. They are buried together at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. 

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  1. Dearest Véronique,
    You had a 'grande' time in New Amsterdam! Looks like you inflated yourself with culture and energy for making it into the new year for quite some months. It is super for being able to meet with writer friends. You made me home sick to our Tom Pouce (mille feuille) again! That shows only how much French my Province was in its culture. Happy for you and now chillin' cooling down for winter. Enjoy the Advent season, leading up to Christmas.

    1. Merci, Mariette. I looked up the Dutch pastry named TomPouce, and I have had to say it looks suspiciously like its cousin the French mille-feuille. I guess I know what dessert I will be ordering next time I fly through Amsterdam (a favorite city of mine :-) The Advent season is looking good so far, with the exception of the dreadful weather, part of the Seattle folklore I am afraid...

  2. Any post that starts out with a Kir Royale is certain to be une merveille! Patricia Kaas sings Piaf??? What a dream! It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I'm always trying to find bits of France here in San Diego. You have inspired me to look a little deeper. French Girl you are the BEST!!!!!

    1. I agree with you, Connie. Kir Royal is a favorite drink of mine. So pretty, so festive, and so delicious, of course :-) Let me know what you find out if you find bits of France in San Diego. I would like to return one of these days, and will likely be looking for them too...

  3. Curieusement, la France parait plus belle vue de l'etranger que de l'interieur.La faute aux medias, peut-être, ou alors ailleurs on ne montre et garde que le meilleur.ça fait plaisir de voir que notre culture est appréciée à l'etranger, et sous toutes ses formes , y compris les plus novatrices(ah, ce mille-feuilles et son glaçage latéral!)
    Les univers de Piaf et Kaas vont bien ensemble. Elle aussi (P.Kaas) semble etre maintenant plus appreciée ailleurs qu'ici, où on ne l'entend plus beaucoup.
    Un bel hommage, multiple, J. Baker avait deux amours;il semble que toi aussi! :o)
    A bientôt! bises!

    1. Ah, la grande voyageuse est de retour. Alors, on a aimé Amsterdam apparemment? Je me souviens que nous en avions parlé en juin dernier... Oui, tu as raison, la France paraît plus "glamour," plus romantique, quand on habite au loin, et c'est très bien comme ça. De quoi parlerait French Girl in Seattle sur son blog, sinon? :-) La France peut d'ailleurs remercier ses expatriés pour sa réputation internationale. Comme je l'ai souvent remarqué aux Etats-Unis, les Français de l'étranger sont souvent très entreprenants, créatifs, et intéressants à rencontrer. Heureusement qu'ils sont là pour défendre les couleurs de la vieille France, avec leurs produits et leur savoir-faire. Quant à Patricia Kaas, les Français la boudent? Tant pis pour eux. Cette fille a du talent, et elle est si à l'aise sur scène qu'elle se fera un plaisir de continuer à parcourir le monde où elle reçoit un accueil chaleureux. J'ai été bluffée par sa réputation en Russie. C'est presque une icône là-bas, d'après une dame russe rencontrée au Carnegie Hall... Bises.

  4. New York with a French touch - I can understand why you felt closer to La Belle France - the wonderful brasserie and what an amazing mille-feuille (how original with the glaçage on the side.)We like to visit Le Pain Quotidien in London (where there are several) and they are even in Dubai too! My Dad was a fan of Edith Piaf - another reason why I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Merci, Véronique.

    1. Bonjour miss b. Your dad had excellent taste. Edith Piaf is probably France's only international star. There have been a few other artists who have crossed borders successfully (like Patricia Kaas,) but none like her.

      On another note, I will have a great time experiencing London "with a French touch" when I return and will make sure to look for le Pain Quotidien. Somehow, a croissant has always been more appealing to me with my morning coffee than bacon and beans :-)

      Thank you for stopping by!

  5. A delicious post in so many ways. Wonderful food and drink! Adorable pooches, and an exquisite songstress! I'm glad you had such a fabulous time, Veronique. So many wonderful memories and friends you made. :)

    1. Merci beaucoup Mary. You might say this was a successful trip, indeed. I got to cross out most of the fun things off my pre-departure list, and there were some surprises along the way as well... A trip can't go bad if you catch up with a friend or two (furry or otherwise...)

  6. So many wonderful things to comment on! I am a huge fan of Edith Piaf and the movie, although a sad, was excellent.

    Your trip looked like it was wonderful! The photos you took are fabulous and it looks like you really took everything in. Yummy food, great sites, and wonderful time spent with a special friend.

    Thanks for sharing!


    1. You're welcome Leslie. Another Edith Piaf fan. I know there are many more out there! I don't know what it is about Edith. I fell under her spell all over again as I was researching video clips online for this story...

  7. Dear Veronique

    You packed so much into your sojourn in NYC. One can sense the excitement and joy in your writing.

    I am looking forward to returning and listening to Edith and Patricia

    Thanks for this joyful and uplifting post. Have a wonderful weekend


    1. A Joyful and uplifting post. Thank you for the kind words, Helen. This was a joyful trip indeed, with many joyful moments. Isn't that what all trips should be? Come back and listen to the music. You won't be disappointed!

  8. My husband loves PK..we have some CDs:-)
    She was also on a French QC show this past year and was formidable:-)
    What a great trip you had..never knew NYC had so many French venues:-)
    I was sure you were meeting Carol..I was wrong..
    I am car lagged..I will return:-)

    1. Bonjour Nana. Your husband has great taste. I have ordered a new P. Kaas CD for Christmas myself. I hope le Père Noël receives my letter in time! :-) Thank you for stopping by...

  9. What a trip this must have been!! Finally I get to hear about Miss Kaas. It sounded like a dream. So cool you got to hang with some fellow bloggers. If you ever make it to the 4 corners - we would have to meet up as well. Have a nice week! xx

    1. Hello Sandy. Thank you for being by my side as I was waiting to get inside the Carnegie Hall on November 20. It was fun to "speak" to you Live thanks to Facebook that night. :-) And yes, if I ever make it to the 4 corners (great name, by the way,) I would love to meet up with you! That's - almost - a date! A bientôt...

  10. Hi French Girl in Seattle, For ages it seems I have 'known' you through comments you make at other blogs I follow. Today on a whim I thought I'd finally visit your blog - what a delightful way to start my day! Loved the tale and especially the part about your blogosphere friends. I've felt much the same way. Perhaps one of these days we will meet at this 'new blogosphere travel friend' of yours lives in Kirkland, just across that little pond called Lake Washington when not out exploring the world.

    1. Bonjour Jackie and bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle. So happy you decided to stop by and leave a comment! I can't believe you live in Kirkland. We are neighbors! I, too, live on this side of the Lake. Why don't we plan to hook up after the Holidays-- if we both survive the busy season? A bientôt! PS: I will start Following your blog so I know what you are up to...

    2. I've become your newest follower! And what great news that we are neighbors - I see a blog post in the making about meeting In Provence via our friend Heather. . .and yes, yes, would love to get together after Christmas.

  11. What a fun trip you had in NYC Veronique! It was nice to meet fellow bloggers on your trip. I would love to visit that restaurant Benoit too. I have never heard of Patricia Kaas. I like her soulful voice and her very stylish fashion! I would love to watch her concert one day.

    1. Bonjour Pamela. Thank you for stopping by chez moi. Until you can see Patricia on stage (it took me years but I finally made it, yeah, Moi :-) I suggest you go to and watch her videos. She is an amazing performer and has a unique voice and personality. Let me know what you think!

  12. New York, vu sous cet angle, j'aime beaucoup!

  13. OMG, Ma chère Véronique, what a glorious post! I felt as if I were (re)living the journey with you. And what a great idea to start off with our two kirs royales. Although, I must say that I look much better as a basic black backdrop for the two glasses than in the full-length photo with my disheveled, wind-blown hair. (Note to Self: In future, avoid overhead lighting which casts unattractive shadows on the face.)

    That said, however, my husband looks très distingué holding the little bag containing the remnants of our fabulous poulet rôti from Benoit, which Victor and I polished off for lunch the very next day. Victor gave it two paws up.

    The moment we met, I knew I had found a dear old friend. You were kind enough to mention my sense of style, and, indeed, I do know a little something about the perfect fit. After spending an afternoon in your delightful company, I do believe I can say that we are a perfect fit.

    A la prochaine………….

    1. Chère M-T, I wish we'd had a TAD less fun during lunch and we had remembered to take a couple of photos of "les convives" around our lively table... I agree the lighting on that last shot was not ideal, but you and Dan look good either way, standing right by "New York." No matter, however, as memories of a wonderful afternoon à table remain...

      Thank you again for meeting me in the big city that day. It made the trip all the more special. Hugs to you and Dan (and Victor, the poulet rôti-eating cat) :-)

      On reste en contact? Bises.

    2. Bien sûr que l'on restera en contact. Cela va sans dire. La prochaine on prendra des photos des convives autour d'une bonne table. C'est promis.

      Gros bisous et à très bientôt j'espère! Peut-être au mois de mars? Un petit thé au Plaza pour fêter ton anniversaire? Hmmmm?

    3. Tentant... extremement tentant... :-)

  14. Your trip to N.Y. sounds wonderful on many fronts. This fabulous post made me feel as I was there much to see and so much of France present in "the Big Apple" of which I was unaware. Mademoiselle Kaas is a superb singer, as was the legendary Edith Piaf. The film La Vie en Rose is a powerful portrayal of Edith's life - I was "blown away" by the strong performances and cinematography. A favorite in my ever expanding French DVD collection. Bonne semaine.

    1. Bonjour Elizabeth. I, too, enjoyed the Marion Cotillard movie. This was a performance extraordinaire from another favorite French lady of mine... Hope life is running a bit more smoothly for you these days and the "bad contractor" is leaving you alone.

  15. Très chère Véronique,
    So many things to say..
    1) Your photos are fabulous as usual
    2) I feel jealous about the good time you had with MT and Dan. Good for all of you!
    3) These pastries are to die for. I almost ate my computer screen when I saw your pic of the mille feuilles (not sure a computer screen is that good though ...)
    4) You are so lucky to have seen Patricia Kaas's show
    5) Whoever doesn't know what a kir royal is should try right away (BTW do you know this other version of the kir with pinot wine from Burgundy and "liqueur de cassis". Great too)
    Your post was delightful as ALWAYS.
    Big bisous,
    Anne (Playing with Scarves)

    1. Ha. Ha. Merci, Anne. So glad you did not attempt to lick the computer screen. You might have scared your poor children and husband, who are used to living with an elegant French lady :-) Yes, it was lovely to meet M-T and Dan in New York. We were saying the three of us should try and hook up somewhere in the United States. Wouldn't that be fun? I foresee Kir Royal flowing that day... (I have always liked it better than the traditional kir with Pinot.) Merci pour la visite et a bientot...

  16. Thank you for following my blog, I bumped in yours by accident and I like the way you write and the interesting tours you make. New York is one of my favourites too and I like the way you vitited it by neighbourhood, after the touristic things we once did the same, you see so much more.
    Greetings from Marianne

    1. Bienvenue Marianne, and thank you for being a faithful Follower of French GIrl in Seattle. As I have said before, you do live in a beautiful European city, lucky lady; one I would not mind returning to so I can, once again, walk all the beautiful neighborhoods...

  17. What a fun trip you had, Veronique! And so many French twists, too. I've been to Benoit in Paris, but not to the one in NYC. Next trip! Love seeing all of the furry Manhattan residents, too! XO

    1. Bonjour Jeanne. Yes, I heard the original Benoit was in Paris, but I have never been... How funny :-) Maybe on my next trip, now that I have sampled their wonderful mille-feuille...

  18. You've had unforgettable trip Veronique.
    I smiled when I've read about you surrounded by Russians on the concert and how surprised you've been. It could be me beside you if only...
    Russian-French cultural ties are centuries old. Since late XVIII Russian nobility was fluent in French and very well aware of all innovations in architecture, literature, social changes etc. etc. etc.
    Fast forward: French music, cinema, literature, drama and theatre were very popular in USSR then since early 60s.
    I was only 5 when I worn out to the core the vinyl of Piaf, listening million times. I believe that's when my secret Francophilia started.
    And yes Kaas, like before her Aznavour and Mathieu, Joe Dassin, Adamo, Becaud, Hardy and many others were very popular and well known if only on vinyls or CDs. Quite often more and longer remembered than in France.
    The same thing happened on Aznavour's concert here in Toronto a few years ago. There were more Russians and French in audience than English speakers. I guess we all came to meet with our jeunesse.
    Thank you very much Veronique for this post and videos.

    1. Thank you for providing the "Russian perspective," Natalie. I doubt many people outside of France still remember Mathieu, Joe Dassin or Adamo... Russians have excellent taste, that is obvious! :-) The funny thing was that at Carnegie Hall, they spoke Russian the whole evening, but as soon as the singing started, they knew all the words... in French. So cool. Thank you for stopping by.

  19. Although I lived many years on the eastern coast of Canada until my very early 20's I never had the urge to visit New York. With a lust for food developing over the years as an "older" woman I would love to visit.

    1. Absolutely! Thank you for visiting; for leaving a comment; and for becoming an official "Follower" of French Girl in Seattle!

  20. Oh my gosh, what fab time I've had enjoying your last two posts.. I can see clearly how much you love NYC also. So nice to see Edith Piaf singing, she really is/was a legend. Thanks so much Veronique, looking forward to next post.

  21. I love the images on your blog :) What a delightful post. Thanks for stopping by. The toy my son wants is called Beywheelz but there are two kinds hence the confusion :) Happy Holidays! Anu


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