Greek Week
03 July 2012
  • Misc

Greek Week

Attic Black-Figure Dinos painted by the Gorgon Painter, at the Louvre
Detail of the Attic Black-Figure Dinos painted by the Gorgon Painter, at the Louvre, taken from

With a handful of new Treasure Hunt themes up my sleeve , it’s especially rewarding when I come across one piece of art which applies to a number of different themes. It feels resourceful somehow, and certainly efficient. I can’t very well write up many of these treasures or I’d be giving a bunch of THATMuse-hints away — efficiently losing my resources. But one or two doesn’t seem to do much harm. And anyway, there are always some bonus question referring back to the blog which rewards anyone for reading my trivial Louvre-filled trivia. Greek pots are rich in THATMuse folklore.

However, the Campana Galérie has been closed since January. Most people probably haven’t noticed as Greek pots are the epitome of a dusty old museum, empty apart from the stray, white-haired patrons stooping over one vitrine for hours, themselves gathering dust. Before THATMuse and before our cherub, STORSH, was born, el Argentino and I would balance the age-average, and join the few geriatrics inspecting Greek pots. We’d happily prowl the halls of the Campana Galérie (which runs along the Seine, facing the Académie Française, overlooking the Pont des Arts) for hours at a stretch.

Storsh on his first visit to the Louvre
STORSH on his first visit to the Louvre, at one month. For a while we called him Mr Pelike Pot-Belly, because his belly was the shape of this pot – a Pelike is photographed herewith

The sign closing these rooms off said that they’d re-open in March, then in May, another sign arose stating June. Finally this past week, el Argentino brushed the dust off his shoulders and wrote the head of the Greek and Roman dept at the Louvre an email saying what’s up, yo? We were just in Greece and even the Archaeological Museum in Athens – a capital doomed with imminent catastrophe – had enough personnel to show their pots off.

Much to our surprise the curator wrote back within 5 minutes putting a dozen people in copy. He said it wasn’t a matter of personnel, but that they were cleaning the glass cases; that the rooms would be open at the end of the summer. Perhaps he put all those people in copy because he himself had been trying to get the Galerie opened earlier, and wanted to show his colleagues that a member of the Louvre was getting feisty about it. Or perhaps he was just being French (my French colleagues love pressing ‘reply all’ on mass mails just for some inanity).

Storsh - a few weeks old
Gratuitous snap of STORSH, a few weeks old – back when we called him Mr Pelike Pot-Belly

So for whatever reason we have been deprived of our fat-bellied Pelike pots, or Volute Kraters with delightfully scandalous red- or black-figure paintings of prancing athletes, privates dangling out for everyone to see. And THATMuse has suffered as well, since the Greeks were so varied in their stories and myths that just about any of the themes I’ve covered could have at least one Greek pot in it.

But there is a room 74, on the 1st floor of Sully, near the Campana Galerie which has some Greek pots and there are of course a few small rooms of early Etruscan stuff downstairs, below the Daru stairwell (where Nike of Samothrace is — another Greek delight which will be returned to later this week). And most importantly – why this whole post came about – I’ll linger on an Attic Black-Figured Dinos, by the one and only Gorgon Painter. With Perseus escaping a Gorgon (as the photo at top details — perfecto for a Beauty and the Bestiary THATLou, don’t you think?), there are oodles of themes this fine Dinos touch.

Daru Stairwell, Louvre
Daru Stairwell, Louvre, photo taken from


Please feel free to leave suggestions for THATMuse themes, or to let me know your favourite existing theme.
Wild Things
05 July 2012
  • THATLou – Beauty & Bestiary theme,
  • Misc

Wild Things

Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are
When you think of the Wild Things of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are you might as well think of Gorgons. As any American who grew up since it was published in 1963 will remember Max was sent to bed without his supper because he roared his terrible roar and gnashed his terrible teeth and screamed his terrible scream too wildly. A forest grows in his room and he’s transported by sea to where the Wild Things live, but Max cows them easily, and becomes the King of All Wild Things by staring them down, unblinking as he holds their yellow eyes steady. Perhaps because Sendak had a soft side, or perhaps because children’s book publishers wouldn’t have permitted it, but Max doesn’t behead The Wild Things as Perseus did their predecessor, nor does he make the Wild Things as terrifying as Gorgons. He couldn’t have.

The very word Gorgon means Dreadful or Terrible in Greek.  They were popular in Greek mythology – if you looked them in the eye you’d turn to stone. Perseus famously outsmarted the most famous of the Gorgons, Medusa, by looking at her in the reflection of his shield, and then beheading her serpent-haired head. Sadly for her, Medusa was not immortal as her two Gorgon sisters Stheno and Euryale were.  They were said to be the daughters of the sea God Phorcys and his sister-wife Ceto (a sea monster).

Red Figured Cup by Douris
Red-figured cup by Douris, 480-470 BC, Cerveteri, Etruria now in the Vatican Museum. The python is regurgitating Jason (gross, eh?!?), the Golden Fleece hangs from a branch while Athena looks on with her aegis bearing the Gorgon and helmet with winged lioness,

Often they were depicted as having fangs and skin of a serpent, and hair made of poisonous snakes.  Sometimes they had wings of gold, brazen claws, tusks of a boar.  Lionesses and sphinxes are often associated with them, and generally they were used in architecture to protect the building – for instance temples protecting the oldest of oracles (the oldest stone pediment in Greece, dated from 600 BC, is from the Temple of Artemis at Corfu and what is in the primary location, smack dab in the middle of the pediment? A Dreadful Gorgon of course).

Disk Fibula Gorgoneion Bronze with repoussé decoration
Disk Fibula Gorgoneion Bronze with repoussé decoration, Boeotian production under Corinthian influence, second half of the 6th century BC. From Asia Minor, at the Louvre

So why do I linger on Gorgons? Perhaps because, apart from protecting temples and installed protectively in architecture, Gorgons frequently appear in Greek pottery….  Greek Pots could very well figure in a good Food and Wine THATMuse. Likewise Gorgons would be prime suspects for a Bestiary THATLou, which remains unscheduled as such but is bound to pop up sooner or later. For instance this Gorgon Pot found in the Sully wing would be a great cross-purpose pot for both the Food+Wine THATLou as well as a Bestiary hunt, no?

Gorgon Painter Dinos
Gorgon Painter Dinos, taken from Google Images

What makes it so special is that it is one of the first pots to have a continuous narration (where one piece of art depicts the story at different stages) of Perseus’s story, where he’s running from Medusa’s Gorgon sisters (as seen below). The pot scene is so famous that history named the painter the Gorgon Painter, though he of course did many other pots in the 6th century BC.

Gorgon Painter Dinos Detail
Gorgon Painter Dinos, 580 BC, taken from Wikipedia

More on all these topics – Gorgons, Food+ Wine THATLou, Bestiary, Greek Pots – soon. For now I’ll leave you with a hyperlink to Maurice Sendak’s obituary in the NY Times from this past May.
01 August 2012
  • Misc


I don’t know whether you guys can tell, but I started this blog exclusively for its namesake, THATMuse. When I was setting up the company everyone said the same thing – that blogging, Twitter and Facebook were indispensable. Up until last spring I was a virgin to all three — allergic to the idea of not corresponding by post or speaking in person, etc — so my learning curve has been steep. I have to say, though, I’ve grown to thoroughly enjoy blogging about pieces in the Louvre, and museums, art and treasure hunting in general. I don’t think of myself as a blogger, but simply that it’s a tool within my business. However, this is no excuse for not participating in a community which has generously welcomed me, given me tips and supported me with likes, comments, and blogging love — all of which has been an unexpected pleasure.

Monkeys trying to blog

So that I’ve left this Awards post as long as I have is both inconsiderate and unforgiveable (since April, I think). I owe huge thanks to both Marissa of Medieval Musings and Rasha of Leanova Designs for having nominated me for the Versatile Blogger’s Award and the Genuine Blogger’s Award, respectively. From what I can tell with the blogging awards no one ever actually wins them, it’s simply a means of spreading the blogging love, and referring your own interests on to the next blogger.

Versatile Blogger Award
I am adding a stipulation at the end to the rules, however, as I received them they are:
1.    To thank the person who gave you the award
2.    Include the link to their blog
3.    Share 7 things about yourself
4.    Nominate 15 other blogs you think are worthy of the award
5.    Contact the 15 and inform them of the nomination

Genuine Blogger Award
Marissa is reading medieval history at St Andrew’s in Scotland and is on a wonderful mission to get the general public interested in the Middle Ages. She has a gift at synergising the modern with the old and writes up her medieval subjects beautifully.

With a background as an architect, Chicago-based Rasha is a graphic designer and a mother of three. She also has a fantastic jewelry collection which she’s designed and from seeing her tweets is fluent in French.

Seven things about myself:

1) I don’t know how to drive

2) I haven’t smoked since Storsh was born but frequently have the most wonderful, heavenly dreams of taking a drag in a myriad of places or situations

3) I am a creature of habit and my favourite spring/summer restaurant near my office has closed leaving me to feel homeless. It was an overpriced Italian place with fresh veggies, delicious pasta and a gorgeous courtyard with a running fountain.

4) The sound of fountains remind me of Rome, no matter where I am.

5) I inherited 28 African Violets from my grandmother, some of which were older than I was, and kept them thriving for 4 years despite moving between NY and Brooklyn and back again. They’re still thriving, and dispersed among my friends in both NY and Brooklyn.

6) My mother worked at the MoMA when she moved to NY and once sent out 4000 embossed (or engraved?) invitations to an opening with the wrong date on it. She didn’t get fired.

7) My father was a commodities broker with a seat at the NYSE (the post used to be inherited!) interested in gold and mining, but when asked by snotty ladies at posh parties what he did he’d say he was a Gold Digger and move in a step closer as he raised his whisp of a Chinese brow

"We've been tlaking and we all think it's time you updated your blog"
And now to pass on the blogger love, unfortunately I can’t reach 15, as I just don’t have enough time to read as much as I would like with my job, Storsh and THATLou. Here are some favourites, though:

Love in the City of Lights – Thoughtful musings on the charmed life of Kasia Dietz and her Italian. A fellow transplant from NY, Kasia moved to Paris for her Love and has wowed the town ever since with her gorgeous hand-painted bags.

The Kale Project – Kristen Beddard Heimann is on the impressive (and daunting) crusade of introducing Kale to the French. She’s done a superb job of already furnishing the farmers with (certified) seeds, and is now pulling forces between restaurateurs and chefs in preparation for the first harvest this autumn! She has my full support.

Expat Edna – an inherent globetrotter, Edna Zhou has a wonderful travel blog with posts from Australia to Bulgaria, Shanghai to Paris, and of course Singapore where she lived and where her expat fiance still is. Currently she’s a press agent for the Olympics in London, but will be back to blogging imminently.

52 Martinis – About to launch a 52 Martinis App to Paris, Forest Collins does a fantastic job analysing Martinis and their lounges across Paris each Wednesday with her 52 Martinis members. 52 Martinis is a concept. Her writing is no non-sense, clear, and eloquent.

Savoir Fair Paris – Despite her 10+ years in Paris, Sasha Levenson-Wahl only recently started her Paris Up Close and Personal blog, which provides fresh tips on the city, from travelling with children to logistics about moving here. It accompanies her successful concierge company by the same name.

Paris Breakfasts – Carol Gillott’s enthusiasm and appreciation for Paris is a joy to look at through her posts of photos on all things French. The blog accompanies her beautiful watercolours, again, of all things Parisian. A former James Beard photographer Carol’s focus is often food, more specifically macaroons.

Perfectly Paris – Gail Boisclair has both humour and good cheer in her wonderful blog about Paris, often focusing her eye on excellent photos of Paris from the turn of the century and posting them on Pinterest or FB. Gail has more than 30 apartments for short term rentals in Montmartre, which has time and again won the Conde Nast award.

Lost in Cheeseland – Recently I’ve been very much enjoying Lindsey Tramuta’s Franco File Friday series, started in March 2011, which covers Parisian personalities with insightful questions. I understand that she, too, has a full time job and company making Lola’s Cookies.

Santu Online – As Somesh Mahanty, a recent graduate in India, put it whenever he’s near the weather’s always warm and sunny. I am nearly twice Somesh’s age, and on paper we probably have very little in common, but this wordpress world has brought us together somehow, and I very much enjoy visiting with his life and watching his writing develop. He was my very first reader / like-r / commenter and for that and for his (indeed) sunny disposition I shall always be appreciative!

To Blog or not to blog/ that is the question
As all of you above have been a part of the blogging community far longer than I, you may very well have already received one or both of these awards. In case not, there’s one important point / rule on these lovely honourable mentions I’d like to add:

Under no circumstances are you to feel obliged to pass these awards on. They are not meant to play on your blogging karma, time or guilt conscience. My including you herewith is simply because I enjoy each of your contributions. I’m sure whomever created them would not want to impose obligation.
The Art Newspaper
11 September 2012
  • Museum Musings,
  • Misc

The Art Newspaper

President Obama presents the 2009 National Humanities Medal to Philippe De Montebello
President Obama presents the 2009 National Humanities Medal to Philippe De Montebello in Washington, taken from

I haven’t been very good on the blog front in the past few weeks, struggling to keep up on all my fronts. So as I task myself with returning to some semblance of regular posting I have a bit of distance.  What is it I’d like to get out of blogging here? At one point last spring I had an entry or two on new Islamic wings in Mulling about the Met, The Victoria and Albert and the Louvre’s Cour Visconti (still dubbed to open this Sept – we’ll see!), but overall this blog has addressed either specific works of art at the Louvre (which may just help THATLou participants in their bonus questions) or has reviewed wonderfully memorable treasure hunts and the fun that the hunters have brought to the game. This is the core of the blog which I shall certainly continue, but I’d like to keep an overall dialogue alive, too, where we touch on museums on the whole and the art world at large and perhaps touch on one or two museum personalities here and there. So to start with an overview, what’s better than museum stats lists – the biggest, the oldest, the most popular?

The Art Newspaper is a marvelous source for the general public interested in Art. It’s a monthly published by the Italian publishing house Umberto Allemandi and is about the art world (you’d never guess it from the name, eh?). Though it’s catered principally to art professionals, it’s not a dry trade magazine.  I find it accessible and enjoyable to the layman (me) within the art world, however I also trust it as a source, because it has my old crush, Philippe de Montebello’s stamp of approval.

Philippe de Montebello in 1978
Philippe de Montebello in 1978, photo by Paul Hosefros published in the NY Times on 9 Jan 2008

The former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY was the first museum president I ever formed an opinion of (that baritone voice, that fine accent, ah, what starry-eyed teen wouldn’t swoon? – ok, ok, I was a dork. But I wasn’t allowed to watch TV, I had to have some sort of entertainment). After 31 years at the Met de Montebello resigned in 2008 (here’s an adieu from Michael Kimmelman in the NY Times, with the excellent title “The Legacy of a Pragmatic Custodian of Human Civilisation“) to go down a few blocks to NYU and create a course which he described as “the history of collecting, connoisseur-ship and evolution of museums including the central issue of how the museum’s mission can be defined in today’s world”. Oh what I wouldn’t give to take that course, and at my old alma mater no less – but babies and jobs and 6000 miles keep me from it heart-breakingly.

In any case, with regard to The Art Newspaper de Montebello said it “stresses accuracy embracing an editorial policy that consistently reveals a high degree of seriousness and sense of responsibility.” (13 April 2006 issue of The Art Newspaper).  Its subjects range from art market discussions to art book reviews and Op-Eds, from curator interviews and features to new wing openings, down to conservation techniques and new discoveries. One list it produces, which all general newspapers like the BBC pick up each year, is the most visited stats.

This week I shall post the top fifteen museum attendance list from The Art Newspaper with an aim to use it as a loose TOC, to touch on those most popular museums, and perhaps cover links between them.

And, yes, I couldn’t help but put the photo of yet another crush at the top of the page – how great is that, a photo of Obama with de Montebello?
British Museum THATMuse!
25 August 2015
  • Museum Musings,
  • Misc,
  • THATBrit (British Museum)

British Museum THATMuse!

Norman Foster Great Hall in the British Museum
The sky’s the limit! Looking up at the British Museum’s Norman Foster Great Hall Big News!

THATLou is expanding to London museums in 2016, starting with the British Museum, under the name THATMuse, which stands for “Treasure Hunt at the Museum”

For our soft launch, the British Museum is hosting THATMuse focusing on Fun & Games in Museums. We’re honored that the BM is featuring “The Art of Play: A Treasure Hunt Challenge” as part of their Friday night BM/PMs series, from 6:15-8:15 pm on Friday 11 September 2015. Registration is through the British Museum website, for 5£.

This soft-launch of THATMuse is open to the general public, come one, come all to scout out Fun & Games at the venerable British Museum! As with all of our public hunts, you’re welcomed to sign up without a partner (& will be placed in a team of 4) or as a team through the above link.

RULES are straight-forward: to find as many pieces of treasure within the given amount of time, photographing your team in front of each treasure as proof that you’ve found it (& stuck together as a team!). We’ll tally scores over a drink in the BM’s Clore Education Center before the prize giving ceremony!

TOOLS are few: a keen sense of curiosity, freshly charged batteries and comfy shoes!

In anticipation I’ll be posting photos of the British Museum and its surrounding Bloomsbury neighborhood on our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as possibly dropping some THATMuse hints, so feel free to connect on any of the platforms.

British Museum Ceiling
Apparently there are 3,320 panes of glass in this glorious ceiling, as I learned in Yannick Pucci’s (of London Unravelled) BM Highlights tour!

Our handle is:


on all social media where I post silliness such as the photos in this post, including this one of me trying to steal a kiss from Storsh on his favorite BM Lion
Daisy and Storsh at the British Museum Lion
Announcing All Things Gaul!
09 July 2016
  • THATLou – All Things Gaul,
  • Misc

Announcing All Things Gaul!

This year’s version of All Things Gaul (our public THATLou celebrating France’s national day, le 14 juillet) includes the recently opened  Arts et Deco departments in the Pavillon de l’Horloge. I’ve specifically made it so that all of the treasures in this section of the Sully wing are facing the loveliest courtyard I know of, the Cour Carrée. And just in case hunters are too consumed in fine French faience and tapestries from Gobelin to notice this exquisite view, I’ve stuck in a bonus question requesting a tourist-shot of it as it is sublime. As with all our themes, this hunt has to have a chief piece. And it’s that piece that I’ll showcase on the blog before our hunt. If there’s a King of the hunt (It does give me a chuckle to have a royal for the very theme that’s celebrating Bastille Day), perhaps I should nominate a Queen of the Hunt, too?  A lynch pin to other pieces of treasure, who can provide some juicy fodder for bonus questions about Paris, the Louvre, and well, All Things Gaul… Besides, of course, the hints I’ve been dropping here!

But this public hunt is also particularly close to me. It’s the first time I’ll be “presenting” (so French) the enormously capable lady who will be taking the helm of all of our French operations. My family and I have chosen the very smartest time to move to London (when they don’t want us!) to finally expand our treasure hunting wings to the British Museum (with the creation of THATBrit, to fall under the unifying umbrella of THATMuse! Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty says we have 2 years before the UK leaves the EU, we’ll see if we can do it in that time…).

And with this move, it means that I am leaving my baby, this luddique (“playful” in French, but also you see that root of ludicrous, no?) museum romp of a company, to Miss Annie Renn. Annie has been a THATLou Rep on and off since May 2015 and in this most recent stretch these past few months has weathered the changes of the Louvre wonderfully (they’ve changed their maps, somehow forgetting to include room numbers! The guards are furious). So after Miss Renn returns home to England to get married at the beginning of September, she (with hubby in tow, bien sur!) shall return to Paris to take the helm of THATLou, THATd’Or and THATRue.  Here’s a host-hunting shot of Annie describing the rules to Henry, an adoring hunter who picked up bonus points impersonating Michelangelo’s Dying Slave in contrapposto, thanks to Annie’s instructions.
Annie describing the THATLou rules to a little boy
THATRue Review
  • Misc,
  • THATRue (Paris Street Hunts)

THATRue Review

Group shot in front of Le Senat by Lindsey Kent, of Pictours Paris

The THATRue launch was an overall blast and the best 2-year THATLou Birthday Bash I could’ve hoped for. All of our adrenaline was pumped and spirits were bubbling by the time we regrouped for a drink near St Michel. While our blogging cohorts were swapping silliness from the hunt co-hosts Kasia Dietz, of Kasia Dietz Bags, Forest Collins, of The Chamber, and I were feverishly grading their hunts and tallying social media points.

Co-hosts Forest Collins and Kasia Dietz

Unfortunately, apart from naming participating Social Media big wigs, I didn’t get to write much about it prior to the event. Before listing hilarious team names, hunters and scores (and posting tons of photos), I’ll include some background that I should’ve made time for before THAT’s big expansion. And as I’m so behind, the day’s event has already been written about in these lovely places:

The Huffington Post

Paris Weekender

Patricia Parisienne

Love in the City of Lights

Danielle Abroad

photo credit, The Chamber


At the end of last year my husband and I worked feverishly, going á l’attaque on the labyrinthine streets of the Latin Quarter. We had a tall order in the form of getting 110 HS students (here from Aurora, Illinois to give a concert at La Madeleine) from Jardin du Luxembourg to Fontaine St Michel within one and a half hours. I’d known that sooner or later we’d need to expand THAT to the streets, from frequent requests by tourists participating in either THATLou or THATd’Or, but when that commission came through it got us well, off of the couch and onto the Rues of the Left Bank!

Philippe Auguste’s old walls of Paris, photo by Melanie Vaz of Gateaux Mama

With so many kids, and within such a small, rich swath of land (to walk it direct is under 2 KM or about 20 minutes) it was tricky to avoid having them overlap. We solved this by tripling our work, essentially, building three distinct hunts: one which wound its way over (and through) St Sulpice, another central hunt passing Cluny and La Sorbonne, and the third, longest one snaking its way around the Pantheon and past remnants of Philippe-Auguste’s medieval walls of Paris (at another junction from the above photo).

GeeParee22’s photo as Geni and Carina were joining us

I’m an only child, and this (sometimes unfortunate) fact is supremely evident in pretty much everything I do or have done (from the sports I chose in school – squash, skiing, ballet – to the mentality of games I prefer – chess and backgammon, opposed to charades, bridge or Pictionary, etc). The irony that I’ve built a whole company around the principle of collaborative effort and team-building is not lost on me. And the fact that el Argentino (my beloved) and I were capable of working so intensely together, and with such great results (those kids from Aurora hugged each other and us when they won their dinky Eiffel tower keychain prizes, they were so happy it tickled me pink) still amazes me.

photo by Abby Gordon of Paris Weekender, of Abigail and Alex of Set in Paris — posing as Romulus + the Wolf

Originally I was calling it THATLat, but clever Kasia pointed out that the Latin Quarter probably wasn’t going to be the only Street hunt we made. And so THATRue was born — which to an Anglo ear rhymes with THATLou (this very fact is incomprehensible to any Frenchman, who typically dismisses any lack of distinction between an OU and a U or UE as severely incompetent).

Photo credit: The Chamber

For the launch we used two of the three hunts (St Sulpice and Cluny), each hunt requesting some Social Media silliness requiring teams to interact with French culture, from singing Serge Gainsbourg to reciting – and personifying – Rimbaud’s poem Le Bateau Ivre (Drunken Boat), the whole poem of which is written on rue Ferou.  Frustratingly I can’t figure out how to upload videos onto this blog – had hoped to be able to post all of the really adorable Drunken Boat personifications, but alas, hunters’ dignity will remain intact thanks entirely to my computer ineptitude!

Winning Team 3 Musketeerettes: Elodie Berta, Danielle Alvarez, Faye Bullock, photo by The Chamber

The CLUNY Hunt

Winners of the enormously handsome Kasia Dietz hand-designed THATRue bag

(Scored out of 350)

Amici Miei (who in terms of points should have won, but were disqualified as they were cohosts. Nonetheless an enormous congratulations to their impressive 320 points, done in 1 hour and 30 minutes)

Kasia Dietz, Her Italian, and Erica Berman of HiP (Haven in Paris) Paris Wine Nymphs (the Winners of the Cluny Hunt, with 290 points in 1 hour and 24 minutes)

–        Abby Gordon of Paris Weekender, and Abigail de Bruyne & Alex of the Movie tours Set in Paris
The Drunk Unicorns (A close 2nd Place, with 290 points in 1 hour and 37 minutes)

–        Amy Feezor of M-Dashing, Aurelien Michaud of Urba Media, and Carina Okula of Carina Okula Photography Loonies Clunies (280 points in 1 hour and twenty two minutes

–        Geni of GeeParee22, Jacalyn of Après New York, Jennifer of Jennyphoria
WinePats (270 points in 1 hour and 17 minutes)

–        Thierry Givone who gives great Wine Tasting in Paris on a peniche, Tricia Rosas of Patricia Parisienne, Victoria Pickering of VictoriaInParis.

Forest photographing our feverish grading


Winners of 3 months trial membership to The Chamber and a lovely Gin n Tonic gift bag with stylish satchel

(Scored out of 300)

Danielle Alvarez of Danielle AbroadElodie Berta of the Paris Tourist Board, Faye Bullock, of Farfelue Gauche Girls (2nd Place St Sulpice Winners with 270 points in 1 hour and 14 minutes)

–        Lauren Lou Bate of Folies du Bonheur, Lilian Lau of Lil & Destinations, Lindsey Kent of Pictours Paris 3 Muskateers (270 points in 1 hour and 17 mins, identical score and time as next team – bizarre!)

–        Noelie Viallet a Parisian journalist, Samantha Tucker and Sasha Romary, of Savoir Faire Paris and Paris Up Close and Personal Sorta Blondes (270 points in 1 hour and 17 mins, identical to the last team)

–        Mary Fox of Fox in Paris, Natasha Barr of Girls’ Guide to Paris, and Nichole Robertson of Obvious State Where is Mary Kay? (The only team who was at the disadvantage of having only two hunters)

–        Lisa Michaud of Ella Coquine and Lou Binns of LouLou in Paris La Bon Bourbonbons (Co-Hosting team, these clever things won the Social Media Prize by more than double others)

–        Forest Collins of The Chamber52 Martinis, Melanie Vaz of Gateaux Mama, Thibault Devillers of The Chamber

Grand Palais Finale
01 February 2013
  • Misc

Grand Palais Finale

This is the third of a three-part series about the Grand Palais. Written and photographed by Daisy de Plume.

FROM BEES TO FOOD (and back to design)

The most recent addition to the Grand Palais is its fashionista restaurant, the Mini Palais. Opened in the fall of 2010, it has clean minimalist lines, and like its larger counterpart (the unsurpassable Nave of the Grand Palais), is fully flooded in light despite the grey of Paris winter skies. The outstanding setting is between the Nave and the Colonnade — between the Palace’s metal structure and its stone façade. Warmer seasons afford a fittingly magnificent setting on the balcony, with views of the Alexandre III Bridge.

Upon entering the restaurant, one passes massive bronze doors of the Alexandre III Rotunda. They don’t fail to impress, nor do the delicately restored mosaics lining the floor. Redesigned by architects Gilles & Boissier, their aim was to resemble an artist’s workshop, whilst revealing the mammoth metal structures painted in the Grand Palais’s trademark mignonette green.

Eric Frechon, the restaurant’s consultant chef who holds three Michelin stars, has come up with an innovative menu including Clafoutis aux Cepes de Correze, Escargots dans leur Tomate cerise gratins au beurre d’Amande and Pluma de Cochon au Tandoori, Confit d’Oignon, Pommes Paille. Open from noon to midnight (2 AM on weekends), the Mini-Palais continues to cause a stir across Paris.

Reservations (01 42 56 42 42) are strongly suggested, unless you’re stopping in for a scrumptious dessert between lunch and dinner. Entrance: Avenue Winston-Churchill, Pont Alexandre-III 75008 (entrance via the Alexandre III Rotunda). Metro: Champs-Elysees Clemenceau / valet parking service is also provided. 

As promised in the first of this 3-part series, here is a list of WOW Factor Facts taken from the

The Grand Palais was built in just 3 years, from 1897 to 1900
  • Workforce on the construction site in 1900 at its peak: 1,500
  • The flag flown over the building measures 4 x 6 m
  • Facade perimeter: 1 km
  • Total metal weight for the entire Grand Palais: 8,500 metric tons
  • Weight of steel in the Nave: 6,000 metric tons
  • Weight of the “mignonette green” paint inside the Nave: 60 metric tons
  • Total stone weight: 200,000 metric tons
  • Working area: 72,000 m2
  • Nave floor space: 13 500 m2
  • Nave length: 200 m
  • Height: 45 m under the dome
This is the second of a three-part series about the Grand Palais, a loose tip of the hat to Walter Benjamin. All photos in this series are taken by Daisy de Plume.

The Grand Palais is divided into three distinct areas: The Nave (which has currently been taken over by French artist Daniel Buren – the show’s running till 21 June 2012), the Galeries Nationales (“Animal Beauty” is the exhibition including works from Breughel to Jeff Koons, da Vinci to Matisse. This show is running till 16 July 2012 – 11 euro admission) and the Palais de la Découverte (Science Museum – Hair and Science is their current exhibition, till 26 August 2012 – 7 euro admission). A separate gallery, known as the “Southeast Gallery” has the first Helmut Newton retrospective in France since he died in 2004.

All of these tenants – and their exhibits – deserve articles unto themselves, of course. However, I haven’t exhausted the Grand Palais tenant list yet, which is what I aim to cover herewith. Some GP occupants don’t fit into the sparkling cultural cosmos of Paris in quite the same way. 

For instance, who’s above and below? As is commonly the case in France, we have some unlikely bedmates. In the basement the police HQ of the 8th Arrondissement has what must be a sprawling spread. And then if we toddle all the way up to the roof (oh, say 45 meters / 147 feet up) the most unlikely guests pay the most delicious rent: Two queen bees have their hives up there, in the pure air above the Champs-Elysees. I run treasure hunts at the Louvre for an occupation, but I have to say these bees are far more interesting that the short-term renters like Breughel and Matisse, Koons and Newton.

In May 2009 a local beekeeper, Nicolas Géant, set up shop on both the roofs of the Grand Palais and Garnier’s Opera House, adding to a surprising Parisian reputation as an urban jungle. Floral honey, which is made from pollen and nectar taken from a 3-km perimeter – read the Champs-Elysees’ many small flowers, lime trees, chestnuts and lavendars, the tree-lined Seine, perhaps a jaunt over to Invalide – is aptly labeled “Grand Palais Honey”.

Since then, beehives have been set up on the roof of the ultra-modern Opera Bastille and in the Luxembourg Gardens, among other Parisian landmarks. “In Paris, each beehive produces a minimum of 50 to 60 kilograms (110 to 130 pounds) of honey per harvest, and the death rate of the colonies is 3 to 5 percent,” said Henri Clement, president of the National Union of French Beekeepers, “But in the countryside (where flowers have more pesticides), one beehive only gives you 10 to 20 kilograms (about 20 to 40 pounds) of honey, and the death rate is 30 to 40 percent. It is a sign of alarm.


I’ve posted other of these snaps on Pinterest (my name there, surprisingly, is THATlou). 
Le Grand Palais
01 February 2013
  • Misc

Le Grand Palais

This is the first part of a three-part series about the Grand Palais, in a loose tribute to Walter Benjamin.

With an iron, steel and glass barrel-vaulted roof running almost 240 meters (755 feet) long, Paris’s Grand Palais was the last of the large transparent structures inspired by London’s Crystal Palace. Necessary for large gatherings of people before the age of electricity fully took off, every major city seemed to have a Crystal Palace, caused of course by a Universal Exhibition to boost city coffers. New York built its Crystal Palace in 1853 where Bryant Park now sits (ironically the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue is the former site of the city’s reservoir – not enough water to put out the Crystal Palace’s 1856 fire, I guess). Hailed as a masterpiece, NY’s Crystal Palace had a dome 100 feet (30 meters) in diameter (and hosted the largest crocodile ever caught). 50 years of engineering strides allowed for a dome twice that size capping the Grand Palais (70 meters in diameter). To give a more tangible comparison of this spatially vast behemoth, Vanderbilt Hall’s ceiling in NY’s Grand Central Station is a dwarfing 40 feet (12 meters); The Grand Palais’s ceiling height is more than 100 feet taller – soaring up to 45 meters (147 feet). I’ll leave a laundry list of colossal figures in the 3rd part of this 3-part series, but suffice it to say: finally Swift’s adjective ‘Brobdingnag’ is applicable! 

The main space was originally connected to the other parts of the palace along an east-west axis by a grand staircase in a style combining Classical and Art Nouveau, but the interior layout has since been somewhat modified. The architectural competition was fierce and controversial, and ultimately resulted in the contract being awarded to a group of four architects, Henri Deglane, Albert LouvetAlbert Thomas and Charles Girault, each with a separate area of responsibility. The builders tried to compensate for a drop in the water table and a shift to the ground by supporting posts down to firmer soil. These measures, however, were only partially successful.  Additional problems due to the construction of the building itself revealed themselves over the past century. Differential rates of expansion and contraction between cast iron and steel members, for example, allowed for water to enter, leading to corrosion and further weakening. When finally one of the glass ceiling panels fell in 1993, the main space had to be closed for restoration work (just a small sign, I guess). Renovation work continued for 14 years, finally the Grand Palais was reopened in 2007. 

I’ve posted other of these snaps on Pinterest (my name there, surprisingly, is THATlou).
Consulate Comparisons- Process
01 February 2013
  • Misc

Consulate Comparisons- Process

STORSH at the Spanish Consulate (the mess behind him will feature later in the series)

This is the 2nd of a 4-part series comparing the US and Spanish Consulates in Paris. In February 2011, when STORSH was 5 weeks old, El Argentino (half Spanish), S and I went to both consulates to apply for his two citizenship / passports. It was an eventful day. 

9 February 2011

This week STORSH became a citizen to both the US & Spain! In one day the three of us covered both the US and Spanish consulates, metro-ing it to Place de la Concorde, then walking for some fresh air (read: a refill of patience) up to the Spanish consulate in the 17th, and then pooped and fulfilled metro-ing it home. Comparing both consulates was hilarious. The next three posts will compare the extreme differences of Process, Security and Culture.


The US requires 3 applications, all of which need to be sent back to DC physically because the State Department’s computer system is down — worldwide! They ‘hope’ we’ll receive the passport by the end of March. I had to bring a (much resented) 22 euro Chronopost envelope for their error. My taxes don’t cover their IT mishaps apparently… One of the three applications required me to list each & every time I had been physically present in the States with exact dates. An impossible task, but one which I attempted with a few additional sheets of paper… Only to be asked for proof (ooouf!) since it was fishy that I’d had spent so much time abroad as a kid…

The Spanish (one application, computer network functioning) will have STORSH’s passport to us in less than a week (paying for the postage). However, they’re hardly stellar either… They had a numbered ticket system you’d find in any bureaucratic office, but it didn’t work as one would guess: After we got our number a gruff old Spaniard came out in person & called “next” (instead of the number)… El Argentino asked how we were supposed to know who “next” was & the crotchety old, smoked-filled bureaucrat said “Figure it out, son”… Like, “Really, Argentines are so stupid.” 

Some fresh air between the US and Spanish Consulates
Consulate Comparisons
01 February 2013
  • Misc

Consulate Comparisons

Getting a French-born expat baby’s passports

STORSH at 5 weeks old, on the metro to Place de la Concorde – US Consulate

In order for my mother to open a joint bank account in the States under both her name and her grandson’s name she needed a bunch of forms and certifications. My 16-month old son, STORSH, was born in Paris (The St Felicite Clinic, in the 15h Arrt to be exact), yet he has an American passport. We thought this would be sufficient for the banks in the States, apart from the usual request of my notarized signature (they only accept US Embassy notaries… I guess Yank banks think the Frogs don’t understand stamps and red tape) on his behalf. Well, apparently not: I need to get him a Social Security number, which I neglected to do at the start when we were getting his passports.

STORSH's US Passport
STORSH’s US Passport – the envelope figures later ın the series

This whole saga has made me revisit one fine day in February 2011, for which this “Consulate Comparisons” series is devoted: getting a typical French-born expat babe’s passports. Before launching into the Consulate comparisons, a bit of background – the nickname STORSH is an acronym. And my husband is from Buenos Aires, thus his moniker “El Argentino”. However, he’s half Spanish, thus our consulate comparison between the Americans and the Spanish.

STORSH is eligible for neither a French nor Argentine passport until he is 18 and requests it / them himself (although there are certain conditions – the French, for instance, require that apart from having been born here he needs to have lived here for 11 consecutive years before asking for his French citizenship). One more point of background – for any American readers – my mother wanted to set up a joint bank account for him to avoid the gift tax. The IRS taxes any gift over 10K. Useful to know for anyone buying a flat in Paris with generous family in the States, or the like. 

Ok, enough explanation. You are now clear on what prompted the this upcoming week’s postings comparing the American and Spanish consulates in France… Today is the (very commercial) Mother’s day in the States. My mother poo-poohs it as commercial, but none of this would have come about without her (having me was among her less productive gifts to the world). I shall return to writing about the Louvre and THATLou in early June. For now, a brief respite.

US Embassy of France, avenue Gabriel 75008 Paris (the gendarmerie car is one of many constants), image from NY Daily News
Consulate Comparisons- Security
01 February 2013
  • Misc

Consulate Comparisons- Security

This is the 3rd of a 4-part series comparing the US and Spanish Consulates in Paris. In February 2011, when STORSH was 5 weeks old, El Argentino (half Spanish), S and I went to both consulates to apply for his two citizenship / passports. It was an eventful day.

The US, of course, has an absurd 4-step security system, requiring one to cross the street twice. They email you a few days before your appointment, asking you to allow at least 20 minutes to get through security (and then being a bit threatening about missing your appointment if you’re late). I guess this makes sense, since they inevitably make you wait once you’ve spent your 20 minutes to get in. Their time is more important than yours. Plus you do have the swat cars of Gendarmerie vans lined along avenue Gabriel — a street that you have to cross twice in order to enter the consulate. Once past them you have the Consulate guards to check out your passport and appointment print out. And then you have the line to wait in to actually get to the guard house. As in any airport, prior to entering the guardhouse, you are asked to bin any liquids or foods. Then once you’re inside the guardhouse — an entirely separate building from the consulate — and your bag and coat have gone through the metal detector they   confiscate your maycup, phones, cameras and any other electronics. These are put in a locker and you’re given a key. Only then can you go to the actual consulate (The Patriot Act apparently dictated that any and all French architecture must be eliminated and that the consulate must have the stagnant air of any O’Hare Airport security room).  Such security I suppose implies how very important we are?

US Consulate, from across avenue Gabriel. One isn’t allowed to walk on that side of the road, unless they have an appointment there. Photo from Wikipedia Krokodyl

Spanish Consulate security – yes that’s Bd Malesherbes that you see through the glass

This, opposed to the Spanish Consulate in the 17th, where there wasn’t really anyreal security system. In fact the distance between Boulevard Malesherbes and the inner courtyard was perhaps 7 meters, as seen in the photo from the inner sanctum. There’s a metal detector that beeps indiscriminately, but the 16 year-old guard – who patted both of us on the arm in warm welcome, as though we were his personal guests – didn’t bother to look through anyone’s bags. That said there is a very clever fence (photographed below) that they’ve built in their courtyard, just on the opposite side of a fire escape. Phones, videos, cameras, liquid – probably guns, dynamite, bombs – are permissible. 

Please note the fence protecting the Spanish Consulate is right next to a fire escape (probably the only one in Paris). Clever stuff

The next post will conclude this Consulate Comparison Series, covering the different Cultures.
Consulate Comparisons- Culture
01 February 2013
  • Misc

Consulate Comparisons- Culture

Take a look at that desk in the distance

This is the last of a 4-part series comparing the US and Spanish Consulates in Paris. In February 2011, when STORSH was 5 weeks old, El Argentino (half Spanish), S and I went to both consulates to apply for his two citizenship / passports. It was an eventful day. 

The American lady who made us swear to “the whole truth & nothing but the truth” (El Argentino guffawed at that – you guys are so Law and Order, he said) that our three applications were truthful was very nice & chatty. She was probably 50, but had one of those 5-year old Marilyn Monroe voices. When I asked her who, besides Senator Chuck Schumer, I should complain to about non-resident citizens having trouble investing money or opening bank accounts at home she started in with a whole slew of her own stories about such difficulties and how we’re really persecuted for living abroad if we don’t keep up our credit history, etc. (yes, she worked for the State Dept)… She suggested I get official mail sent to my mother’s and set up a checking account that has Mum’s address, because otherwise I’ll just be wiped clean from the system by living abroad. It only took a few years to really just disappear. She said plenty of Americans who end up living abroad for 20 or 30 years just give up their nationality, because it becomes so nettlesome. She was sunny with all of this advice on how to get around the American Government persecution, but I didn’t think if I pointed out the irony of our little chat she would have thought it amusing. Or gotten it.  When pressed for my original request, she finally thought of someone at the Consulate I can write before starting a letter-writing campaign to my senator. Then she gave STORSH his first American flag with a bright smile!

From the messy desks that were piled with papers and stacks of civil code books, you’d think the Spanish bureaucrats had been there all their lives. My favourite, the gruff, smoke-filled oldie, let me video tape (I wanted to test whether they knew I had my phone – they did and they just didn’t care) him speaking roughly to one of his prisoners (some poor schmuck who barely spoke Spanish, needing a visa). Oddly enough the Spanish passport only allows two first names, though requires my last name after our family surname. Even if the first name is hyphenated that counts as two, not one. This perplexed both me and El Argentino, as we know plenty of Jose-Marias and the lot. Our own official, who sat next to Senior Grumpy, looked like the Wicked Witch of the West, tall skinny and evil, with a nervous laugh. She wasn’t going to let us choose Sebastian’s middle name (we wanted to skip the American Thaddeus for the Spanish Ruy in that passport), so when we raised a ruckus she deferred to Senior Grumpy for his opinion. He looked at me (familiar with my iPhone video camera, as he’d looked straight into it) and said in that unsmiling, Machine-Gun Spanish, “What the mother wants, the mother gets.” My heart melted, of course.

One more comparison for the road, before concluding this series:


5 for US (NOT including that much-resented 22 euro envelope!) vs €16 for the Spanish to make their passports (which they generously sent to us for FREE)… 

citizen of the world on his metro ride home

Before returning to writing about the Louvre, and covering various THATLous, next week we’re going to have a brief foray into Iron and Glass in 19th Century Paris (a loose tribute to Walter Benjamin). 

That said, you’re more than welcomed to sign up for the 3 June Treasure Hunt at the Louvre by clicking on the logo to the right. It will run from 14h30 – 17h. Drink included, it’s the price of a movie and drink.

Rosecrans Baldwin
01 February 2013
  • Misc

Rosecrans Baldwin

Rosecrans Baldwin cover, published by FSG 24 April 2012

This is not a book review. It’s neither the appropriate time nor place to post a book review of Rosecrans Baldwin’s Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down. But I just had to stop by for a moment to mention how rib-painfully funny Mr. Baldwin is. 

I dare anyone to read just the first two pages and not to get hooked. I have rarely disturbed El Argentino or my fellow metro travellers as much as I did when chortling — walloping gulps of laughs — spittles of unnoticed drool flying from my lips as I read his observations and interactions. Tears streaming down my cheeks, completely unembarrassed, because I was entirely unaware of myself, because I was with this astute, self-deprecating, edgy Rosecrans.

I’m not one for expat literature (though David Sedaris can be funny, of course), but I can’t leave this Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down un-noted.

Thank you Gully Wells for having sent me during our dreary, cold winter — Farrar, Straus & Giroux has made a very wise publication choice. Here’s a Slate review of it.

PS/ El Argentino, who takes little notice of what I read or write, is fascinated with the name Rosecrans. I keep hearing him muttering to himself: Is Rosecrans related to the northern Civil War General?
THATLou: Power+Money
01 February 2013
  • Misc

THATLou: Power+Money

Just a quick round up of the notable companies involved in the Paris Entrepreneur’s THATLou. Though its purpose is as a networking event, we can’t overlook the theme these fine capitalists will be scouting for — Power + Money in the halls of the Louvre! This past week THATLou has focused on Roman Empire power, but there’s a panoply of international power both at the Louvre and in these pages which may just nose its way to the surface in this scheming hunt. Stay tuned for the winners. 

NYSE Trader’s floor, 1963 photo by Thomas O’Halloran

THATLou Parisian Entrepreneur Night

Shiraly is a one-stop website for design professionals to promote their products and services, identify new sources and events, and get inspired by things that help make the world a more interesting place to live in.

Inspiring articles and op-eds range from Lalique’s crystal door, to Delanoe’s recycling in Paris, a brief history of the Paris metro, to thoughts on Balmain’s reinvention, Fauchon and let’s not forget the waterworks show at Le Grand Rex. Though Shiraly is geared toward interior designers and architects, artists and artisans, its “Inspiration” page is read by a far greater audience on both sides of the pond. 


Savoir Faire Paris is your ultimate English-speaking personal assistant in Paris. Organizing everything from meetings, events, and service calls to travel, apartment management, and the ‘business of living’, Savoir Faire is dedicated to saving you valuable time. Providing superior customized service to individuals, families and businesses alike, Savoir Faire caters to your tastes and needs, allowing you to experience a more personalized Paris. Send us your “to-do” list and then consider it done! Savoir Faire exists to simplify and enhance the lives of its clients.


Flavors of Paris — We provide highly personal, carefully vetted walking tours of some of Paris’ most charming, pleasurable and downright ‘local’ foodshops that are neither pretentious nor ‘gourmet’. Our English language walking tours introduce you to a sampling of neighbourhood food shops, with all the tastings included. We also offer tours customized to your specific interests. 


is a one-stop website for english speaking tourists, residents and property hunters. Browse the comprehensive Paris guide, check out the events calender, search for Paris companies on our business directory, look for Paris accommodation and restaurants, and keep up to date with the latest Paris news and featured articles. 


French Mystique Bike Tours is a company that specializes in doing day-long bike tours exploring the countryside near Paris. Our tours are focused on showing you off the beaten path places and are full of charming villages, beautiful country scenery and magnificent châteaux. While we also cover some well known destinations, the emphasis is on showing you a side of France not seen by most tourists. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Kasia Dietz is a designer who creates wearable art in the form of totes, handbags, clutches and other limited edition accessories. Select collections are hand-printed. Kasia Dietz also designs custom bags to order. All products are made {with love} in Paris and available internationally.

Adam Smith etching, 1787. Taken from Harvard’s Visual Information Access System (lest the invisible hand attack me, the site is:

… Because Individual Ambition Does Benefit Society, 
no matter what the French Mercantilists thought…
Is Raising Kids Scientific?
01 February 2013
  • Misc

Is Raising Kids Scientific?

I went to the American Library to hear Pamela Druckerman speak on her recently published book Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.  The WSJ’s review headline was “French Parents are Superior”, causing a flurry of publicity that officially replaces Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother as the latest all-the-rage parenting book in the States. Druckerman, a former WSJ journalist (thus perhaps the publicity-catching review — to position her book as polemic certainly helps sales!), has been raising her 6-year old and a set of 3-year old twins in Paris.

I have no intention of reading her book. STORSH, my one year old, would reap no benefit from my profound resentment at wasting my time on a parenting book; I’ve found them to give parents far too much credit. However, because a good friend in NY sent me the WSJ link and then in the course of two days I heard a plethora of references to Druckerman, my curiosity was peaked. I was relieved that at points her talk was more publicity-prone, with twinges of a sociological argument, more than any of the parenting pontification that I expected. Throughout it she kept referring to what research proved, even saying at one point that it was “aligned with science”. Is raising kids scientific? Her whole premise is that the French set strict boundaries for their children, but that within the parameters the kids can do whatever the hell they want. Is this scientific?

And is there really a ‘right way’ or a ‘wrong way’ to raise kids? Surely you don’t want some snot-nosed little brat with candy in their lap watching television in dirty pajamas in the middle of the day, but that’s basic common sense. We don’t have to consult experts or books to know that. But on a more mature, interesting level – because though I adore STORSH his age bracket isn’t the most scintillating – one instills in their child what one values. My wishes for him are simple: I’d like to see him develop into a well-mannered, well-read and widely travelled little guy who’s self-sufficient and engaged in society, whichever society he chooses to make home. But to reach this, all we as parents can do is lead by example. We’re simply guideposts.  As Druckerman told us anecdotes of how horribly the NY press treated her last week my mind wandered… If I want him habitually engaged in society, then we’ll have to be GOTV (get out the vote) volunteers during election time or pitch in at a community garden (although the only one I know of in Paris is a tiny patch at Marché des Enfants Rouges, so I guess we’ll have to make soup at St Eustache for the homeless). I was roused from my musings for the Q&A session.

The library crowd tends to be well educated and older. Last night’s reading, attended by probably a bit over a hundred people, had its share of 30 year old mothers mixed into the usual white-headed audience. The questions were slightly pissy, slightly aggressive and her tone was at times defensive, others dismissive as she cut people off. One of the questions pointed out that her talk was all about the public’s reaction to her book, opposed to about the book itself. This comment got a lot of nodding heads. Another question was by a mother of 3 (who’d been here for years) who asked if she didn’t think it was dangerous to idealise the French method to raising children. Druckerman dodged this, even when it was reiterated verbatim.  I don’t think there was one person in the crowd who had read the book (certainly everyone who had questions said they hadn’t), and none of left knowing more about why French parents were deemed wiser.

However, with more questions more of her experience researching the book came through, which at one point was amusing. Since most well-educated French women go back to work pretty soon after having a baby, and aren’t put under pressure to breast feed for long stretches, they tend to send their babies to the crèche, the state-run daycare — sometimes as early as 2.5 months. Druckerman said her American friends were horrified she let anything state run near her child, that it was like being told she sent her kids packaged up to the Post Office. I had similar reactions when I told friends in New York that STORSH was in the crèche at 9 months, but I think it’s a marvelous system. It socializes him. Plus he only gets Spanish from his father, el Argentino, and English from me, so it gives him a jumpstart to be around French. Druckerman pointed out, too, that the crèche provided her kids with 4 course meals of food she wouldn’t have even considered offering. When she told one of the French mothers about this American allergy to all things State, the mother said, “but I like La Poste.”

I like La Poste, too. Their soundtrack is nearly as catchy as SNCF’s. As for bringing up Bébé – be it in the States or France – there’s one thing I do know:  there’s nothing scientific about it.
photo by Johann Guetta, of Jet Set Productions

This blog wouldn’t exist were it not for the encouragement of Kasia Dietz.  We were walking back from Gare du Nord, having seen off our friend Saad Iqbal. Saad had dropped by to see us for a long weekend to say hello before he toddled back out into the world, off to pick up his beautiful Columbian fiancee in London so they could have their multi-city weddings. I was telling Kasia about my treasure hunt endeavour when she suggested I start a blog about it. Doing what you love shines through, she said simply. She has that knack for making success seem seamless. Having moved here just three years ago to follow her now-husband, Kasia reinvented herself entirely. Leaving a successful career in advertising behind in NY, she came here without a word of French under her belt, started her blog (, started Kasia Dietz Handbags (which within a year of starting the company were being sold at most haute of all department stores, Bon Marche), and boom within such a short span of time has been a super success, and super source of inspiration to those lucky enough to be near her.

So when Kasia started her bag-painting workshops at the Sugarplum Cake cafe last December I was among the first to sign up. After hearing great tales of the full pack of cigarettes her non-smoking lungs inhale when she goes to her material supplier’s in the Sentier, I wanted to see what she did. Not to mention to take a stab at making a THATLou logo — I don’t have a creative bone in my body, but I also don’t have a platform in which to try exercising my non-creative bones, so here was the perfect solution. What better place to do some logo-brainstorming than hyped-up on a delicious sugar high? You don’t just get the joy of creating your own wearable art at the Kasia Dietz workshop, you also reap the benefits of her carefully chosen workshop venue, the Sugarplum Cake cafe, (an adorable pastry shop in the 5th Arrt)?

Below are snaps from both that first bag-painting session, where the THATLou logo was born (which Marfa artist and high school friend Sam Schonzeit made into the proper logo. For a while we were calling it ‘clean, fat and green’ for the roundness of the Lou vowels), as well as the fruits of my most recent attempt to imprint my Louvre stamp on the Met, in the THATMet bag.

photo by Opal Taylor, Kasia's Brooklyn bag is among my faves

photo by Johann Guetta from Jet Set Productions, Stephanie (of La Belle in France) to the left, Kasia standing

photo by Opal Taylor, Kasia serving Sugarplum Cake's delicious carrot cake

Where will the "Nat" for a THATNat (NG in London) go for the next round?

None of this, not the bags, nor the logos, nor the blog would have come about without one clever New Yorker, Kasia Dietz. Thank you, my darling!