Paris Postcard: Minipalais

Today’s weekly Postcard shows the beautiful Minipalais or, to be more precise, the grandiose terrace of this restaurant which is located in a wing of the Grand Palais. With views of the Petit Palais across the street, and sheltered by the imperial columns above, surely this must be one of Paris’ most beautiful museum restaurants. Unfortunately, I did not eat there and only passed it on my way to see a Helmut Newton exhibition in the Grand Palais, but I think this is such a beautiful place that it needs to go onto the “next time in Paris” to-do list…..

You can visit their website here.

No pedals

Daniel is probably too big for his JD Bug, and he has a “big-boy” bike in the garage, but he still LOVES it. It is actually incredible to watch how he balances himself on it and how much speed he generates. Only problem is that it is a bit hard on the shoes, but we’ve learned our lesson. We now have a dedicated pair… J

Doubleshot in Braamfontein

Braamfontein must surely be one of the coolest areas in Johannesburg at the moment, so much so that its ultra-cool lofts feature in decorating magazines and even in this Volkswagen ad. Juta street sits right at the heart of the action, and at the heart of Juta street is Doubleshot. It looks fantastic from outside. The great window seats looking out into the street seems the perfect place to do a bit of people watching while waiting for your coffee to be roasted.

The shop is a collaboration between a South African tea blender and the owner of a tea and coffee farm in Malawi. You will indeed find the Malawian products in the shop, but Doubleshot also stocks a variety of coffees and teas from around the world. They also pride themselves on their baristas’ fantastic reputation and latte art skills. If you look closely at the pic below of the cappuccino you will see a little heart right at the top of the cup. I was impressed. And even more so when I tasted my coffee. Great coffee, great location.

You can visit their website here or like their Facebook page.

Paris Postcard: The wider angle....

Remember the Paris Postcard I showed you last week (see here)? I asked you to take a guess at what the story in the picture is. Well, here is the wider angle. It looks to me as if the crew is taking a smoke break during a fashion shoot or movie scene. Whatever it is, the girl (unfortunately) seems to be less "La Vie en Rose" and more "Working Girl"...

When in Paris: The Tuileries Garden

The Tuileries Garden was created in 1564 by Catherine de Medici as the gardens for the Tuileries Palace. It was first opened to the public in 1667, and became a public park after the French Revolution. Today it is the place where Parisians and tourists alike come to meet, promenade and relax. What better way to recharge the batteries than spending a bit of time on the iconic green chairs, staring into space and smiling at the Eiffel in the distance. Wish I was there…..

(PS. To see another view of the beautiful gardens, click here.)

When in Paris: Puces de St-Quen

Situated at the northern edge of the 18e arrondissement is the Les Puces de St-Quen market (St-Quen flea market). Please don’t think, when reading the words ‘flea market’, that this is just another market selling leather jackets and rip-off DVD’s. This market has the highest concentration of antique dealers and second-hand furniture dealers in the world! There are a dozen separate markets in the complex covering over two thousand shops. Some are in more upmarket show rooms, but most are in maze-like alleys, making wandering and getting lost between all the stalls part of the fun.

I fell in love with the store below! It is called Bachelier Antiquités and they stock all the rustic French kitchen and cellar accessories you heart could possibly desire. I loved the giant dark green Provençal vinegar bottles, the antique mortar and pestles, the battered madeleine moulds, the ancient chopping boards and of course the copper pots in all shapes and sizes. Magnifique! 

You can visit the Bachelier Antiquités website here.

When in Paris: Repetto

The first time I walked into the small little shop on a side street near the l’Opéra Garnier, I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Even on the sidewalk outside, I was already mesmerised by the beautiful window display with elaborate ballerina costumes suspended from the ceiling. But inside, I saw something special. In front of me were four beautiful ballerinas, who probably came straight from their lessons, because they were still in their leotards and tights. They were trying on new pink satin ballet slippers with the shop assistant measuring their feet to make sure they find the perfect pair. I was captivated.

Rose Repetto was the mother of Roland Petit, a famous French dancer and choreographer. When he was still a young dancer in 1947, he often came home from rehearsals with bloody feet, so his mom began to sew ballet slippers for her son. His shoes were such a hit with his friends, including Rudolf Nureyev, that they all starting wearing them. And even today, Repetto still supplies made-to-measure pointes to the ballet dancers of the Paris Opéra.

The part of the story that I really like is about Brigitte Bardot. She was a classically trained ballet dancer and a devoted fan of Repetto pointe shoes. When she appeared in the 1956 movie And God Created Woman, she asked Rose Repetto to create a pair for her to use in the movie. The ballet flats and Bridgette Bardot both became overnight sensations! If you walk into Repetto today, you will see that they have enough variations of colours, styles and materials to suite anyone’s style. Thanks to Bridgette we now have a chic alternative to those killer high heels!!

You can visit their website here or like their Facebook page (both in French).

When in Paris: Angelina

As I said before (see here), this week I am sending you on a holiday to Paris while I’ll spend some quality time in my own office. Later this week I will show you a beautiful park, take you with me to a French ballet shoe shop and a bit of antiquing. However, let’s start with some hot chocolate!

Along Rue de Rivoli’s columned promenade, you will find Angelina, probably the most famous salon de thé (tearoom) in Paris. Founded in 1903 by an Austrian confectioner, Antoine Rumpelmayer, the tearoom’s interior, with beautiful frescoes, gilded mirrors and marble-top tables, remains unaltered to this day.

The reasons to visit are many. They serve breakfast, lunch and in between those the most beautiful confectionery. They are famous for a cake called the Mont Blanc. But, the reason Mademoiselle Chanel came on a daily basis (as an aside, her regular table was #10) is their Chocolat l’Africain. Arguably one of the best hot chocolates you’ll ever taste got its name from the Cote d’Ivoire, a former French protectorate, from where the cocoa beans originated. (My long-suffering dietician should stop reading right now!) The thick dark chocolate is then served in a pot with a side of fresh whipped cream so that you can mix the two. The concoction is extremely rich, but its velvety flavour and texture are the perfect decadent indulgence if you find yourself in Paris on a cold morning….

You can visit their website here.

Paris Postcard: A lover's tiff?

The picture below was taken at the Paris le Grand Hotel, and I loved it because there just has to be a story here…

Now you may remark at this point that this looks a lot like a weekly Paris postcard, and I previously promised these on Fridays only. Well, the coming week is reserved for something special. I’m sending you on a Parisian holiday, so to speak.

I’m doing this because life around here is going to be very anti-holiday this week. I have several deadlines, looming – gasp, actual work! – and besides, my husband is off on a work trip, so I’m doing double domestic duty.

Start guessing at the conclusion of the story in today’s picture in the meantime. Like in a good old fashioned soap opera, the answer will be revealed in next week’s postcard…

Paris Postcard: Graffiti

Today's postcard was taken somewhere in the 6th arrondissement.... 

4 U 2 Play

In the middle of Braamfontein, just off De Korte Street, is a very funky courtyard called The Grove. A building was demolished to create this public space as part of a redevelopment program of Braamfontein buildings and surrounding public spaces.

It was in this little square that we saw an electric piano on a purple carpet with a big pink balloon attached to it. Behind the piano was a very cute girl playing her heart out and doing a bit of an impromptu little concert for the passers-by. It turns out that as part of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festival, eight pianos were placed in different public spaces all around Johannesburg. Anyone with a momentary flash of inspiration, regardless of skill or talent, could just sit down and play a tune in public.

Luckily for everyone around me, I never got to do my rendition of Ballade for Adeline :-)!

You can read more about the festival here.

Umuzi Photo Club

While walking in the Braamfontein area over the weekend I noticed posters on the walls of buildings promoting campaigns to “stay in school” and “be an activist”. Afterward I looked up on the internet to see what it is all about. Umuzi Photo Club is a youth development organisation that works with young people in under-resourced communities. According to their website their object is “to create socially informative multimedia, which inspires engaged citizenry, youth activism, and change”. They also provide practical opportunities for its youth photographers to earn an income and become independent professionals.

If you want to read more about them, visit their website or like their Facebook page.

Johannesburg Fashion District

An area that takes up 26 city blocks around Mooi Street and Kerk Street, east of the High Court in the Johannesburg CBD, is historically known as the Fashion District. It was once a vital and thriving part of downtown Johannesburg but it has fallen on the same fate as most of the CBD, with the money and fashionable people all moving away. But in recent years, together with other renewal projects in downtown Jo’burg, a few of the buildings were renovated as part of an initiative to inject new life into the historical district. If you visit today you will find a variety of fashion related businesses, including training centres, studio hubs that provide facilities for emerging designers to start their own businesses and haberdasheries. There are repair shops for sewing machines and new state-of-the-art industrial machines for sale.

I came expecting to see the same urban gentrification that you see at Juta street (see here) in Braamfontein or Arts on Main (see here and here), but truth be told this area hasn’t quite made it yet. Thinking about it afterwards, it is almost a question of momentum – an area starts picking up when a critical mass of the buildings, or blocks, in an area undergo a change. And right now, the renewed part of town around the fashion district is still competing with too many things that do not care for ‘fashion’ or the people that are interested in it. It is a shame because especially Fashion Kapitol, a modern retail space with a lovely public square in Pritchard street, has real potential to form the nucleus of something great – much like the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein (see here), or 44 Stanley in Millpark (see here).

We ended up having coffee at The Fashion Shack, a store-and-café combination inside the Fashion Kapitol precinct with a real sense of humour. I liked the big colourful mural that captures SA life and their playful take on coffee tables. One was a truck tire, another and old bathtub covered with a glass top, complete with little goldfish and plastic ducks inside. 

Across the street, we also visited the Fashion District Wholesalers at 109 Pritchard Street. The shop is the largest haberdashery shop in the country. Next door at Studio 109, I was blown away by their range of traditional Shweshwe designs. They actually claim that they stock all the Shweshwe designs currently in print! 

I am sure that areas like Arts on Main were also started by someone putting down the first funky and renewed space in what at the time seems like an unlikely place. I hope that the area I saw on Saturday is the first such space for the fashion district. 

Click below for more details:
Fashion District website
Fashion Kapitol Facebook page
Fashion Shack Facebook page