L’Appart by David Lebovitz: A Book Review

L'Appart by David LebovitzHave you ever dreamed of living in Paris? Of having your own little pied a terre in the City of Light? Perhaps even moving there and settling down?

If that’s you, I have some good news and bad news about L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making Paris My Home, the latest book from expat pastry chef and food blogger David Lebovitz. The subtitle says it all.

Let’s deal with the bad news first. Unless you have limitless patience to go along with your limitless bank account, you probably don’t want to follow in Lebovitz’s plaster-begrimed footsteps. As he tells it, renovating an apartment in Paris is a never-ending nightmare. Just buying the place to begin with is no picnic either.

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Going to the Theater in Paris

You don't have to brush up on your French to enjoy theater performances in Paris.

Unless your French is good, and I mean very good, theater going is probably out of the question when in Paris. I once got too cocky about my ability to understand spoken French and suffered through an intermissionless production of Brecht’s “Arturo Ui” in which I understood only the names of a few vegetables and a list of American cities.

But on a recent visit to the City of Light my theater jones started acting up, and I managed to see three shows in as many nights in which language was not a barrier. [Read more…]

Paris Movie Walks: A Book Review

…Overall, France, or rather Paris to be precise, has always served as one of the strongest filmmaking muses in terms of location shoots with hundreds of movies set – if not fully then at least partially – in the famous City of Lights that has seduced artists from every medium for centuries.

In the newly published book from The Intrepid Traveler, the journalist, film enthusiast and Parisian aficionado who’s resided in the country since 1993 – Michael Schürmann blends his passion for his adopted homeland by sharing 10 wonderfully unique, fact-filled, film fan tested self-paced tours throughout the city that’s now become best known for lights, camera, action, and A-list movie stars.

To its credit and in order not to weigh you down with too many guides, Schürmann’s “Paris Movie Walks” is filled with maps and is additionally guided with his concise, accurate and straightforward style – possibly indicative of his background as both a sportscaster and translator. Additionally it’s one that’s sprinkled with sidebars (yet most often placed at the bottom of pages) and “asides” comprised of cultural information, tips, and worthwhile historical facts.

And as the incredibly long title promises, a “guided tour” is exactly what the book delivers as throughout the 280-page work, it feels for readers as though Schürmann is walking with you a la textual GPS. To this end he tells you to turn left or right in each individual walk that you can pick and choose from which coincide with endless and awesome pop-culture cinematic citations of “if you look to your left” you’ll see where Anne Hathaway tosses her cell phone in the famous Concorde Fountain in “The Devil Wears Prada” or how to position yourself to stand in the exact place that Robert De Niro did in anticipation for the crane shot that captured the beginning of the film “Ronin,” etc.

While it’s safe to say that not all of the films made in Paris have been classics including Steve Martin’s newest interpretations of “The Pink Panther” or the third installment of “Rush Hour,” Schürmann delves way into the past for his references managing to satisfy ardent lovers of classic French film in addition to citing American efforts like “Sabrina,” “French Kiss,” and others.

At the same time, he succeeds in pleasing the students of the New Wave and beyond by leading visitors to the same places seared into celluloid in such works as “An American in Paris,” “Gigi,” “Funny Face,” “The DaVinci Code,” “The 400 Blows,” “The Bourne Identity,” “Amélie,” “Three Colors: White,” “A Man and a Woman,” “Last Tango in Paris,” “Le Divorce,” “Jules and Jim,” “Charade,” and “Frantic,” and on and on.

As often the locations included in the movies were chosen in order to present the most picturesque views of the city – to show off its landmarks or perhaps to offer visitors new glimpses at undiscovered treasure – the walks included have a logical advantage as well since they often place you in and around the iconic stops you’d intended to make all along in your itinerary.

However, Schürmann’s selections are far from predictable and he makes every attempt not to lead visitors to the city down the same routes they may have previously exhausted. In fact, he comprised the tours when he realized that friends seemed far more interested in tidbits about “French Kiss” style movie locales than traditionally historical artistic and overly publicized landmarks. And as the press release explains, the walks consist of “four through the heart of the city, four around the periphery of central Paris, and two through the working-class neighborhoods that served as settings for French film classics of the 1930s and 1940s.”

Although unfortunately the book doesn’t come with frequent flier miles, French lessons, or a first-class plane ticket – for film buffs – it’s a wonderfully unique travel guide that will easily fit into your carry-on bag. And more importantly, for those of us who don’t exactly foresee a trip to the City of Lights in our budget at this moment – writing as someone who just reviewed it, having never set foot in the country but has seen most of the films mentioned – it was a great armchair travel puzzle you could play in your head putting Gene Kelly next to Jackie Chan and Matt Damon to piece together the geography in your mind.

About The Author
Jen Johans’ P.O.V. can be found on http://www.filmintuition.com. She is a three-time national award-winning writer and self-described “walking movie encyclopedia.” She has braved the adventures of cinematic and arts criticism online for four years via Film Intuition.

First Detroit, Now Paris

Japanese bakers conquer the croissant

There’s good news for budget travelers to Japan. The Japanese, those clever people who mastered the art of turning out reliable automobiles at bargain-basement prices and almost put Detroit out of business, have now mastered the mysteries of French pastry. Pastry shops are springing up all over Japan, turning out tasty treats at prices you simply won’t find in Paris – or just about anywhere else.

In a country where a decent cup of coffee can cost anywhere from $3 to $5 a cup, you can find buttery croissants, chocolate- and cream-filled puff pastry, and mini fruit tarts for about a $1 to $1.50. And these aren’t cheap knock-offs. This stuff is really good.

One of my favorites among the new breed of pastry emporiums is Pan Brothers in Kanazawa. You’ll find it right behind the Kohrinbo Center in the Katamachi district. Here, in addition to a delicious assortment of dessert pastries, you’ll find miniature ham and cheese sandwiches baked into a “slice” of puff pastry. And you know it’s fresh because you can watch them baking it. You can put together a very satisfying lunch here for well under $10. A tiny canal runs just outside and the municipal authorities have thoughtfully provided tables and chairs to facilitate your bargain-priced picnic.

We found small scale bakeries like Pan Brothers just about everywhere we went. Quality varied, as you might expect, but the general standard was quite high. We quickly adopted a standard strategy of stocking up on pastries before every train trip, then buying tiny cans of hot coffee (about $1) from vending machines on the train platform. The result: a very satisfying (if perhaps not too healthy) breakfast for under $5.

The canned coffee, it must be said, is not the greatest, unless your taste runs to heavily flavored and creamy java. And for most Americans it takes two Japanese cans to equal one standard cup. If you like your coffee black, as I do, finding it in the vending machines can sometimes be difficult. Good coffee can be found in Japan but you’ll pay a premium price. We found the best budget coffee at McDonalds. Yes, McDonalds.