Month: June 2023

Huile Prodigieuse by Nuxe

Skincare products from the brand Nuxe are manufactured in Fougères, France. I found this out from a police officer while walking on Rue du Rocher. I’d just crossed the bridge where the street meets Rue de Madrid when he leaned out of the police car window. “Sahn Jahme,” he exclaimed. I’d bought two shirts from Saint James, and the navy shopping bag caught his eye.

He asked me if I’d ever visited the commune in Normandie of the same name. I told him that I hadn’t. He proudly informed me that his hometown of Fougères in Bretagne was better in comparison. The manufacturing of iconic products from Nuxe was one of the reasons he gave to support his argument. He asked me if I knew of Nuxe. “Oui !” I exclaimed—our hour-long conversation took place in French; he didn’t speak English.

“Fougères !” he’d say periodically in a resolute tone. My point of reference to the brand Nuxe was the popular Huile Prodigieuse I’d recently purchased. If the officer’s description of Fougères was anything like the multipurpose oil bottled there, I concluded that it was worth seeing.

Huile Prodigieuse is a dry oil, which means that it absorbs quickly into the skin and doesn’t leave behind an oily film. I’ve come to associate it with the act of beginning the day, specifically beginning the day in Paris. I’d pined over this product for at least a year before buying my first bottle from my pharmacy in the 17ème. Its scent is multidimensional; I’d describe it as a complex, subdued floral. The official description: orange blossom, magnolia, and vanilla.

This product has turned getting ready into a sensory ritual. I use Huile Prodigieuse daily but reach for the shimmering Huile Prodigieuse Or after a succession of cloudy days.

Work Sighted

Huile Prodigieuse; Huile Prodigieuse Or

A Day in Champagne With My Vintage Tour Company

I didn’t know my dream was to be driven around Champagne, but it has come true at last. My husband and I ventured out of Paris by train to Reims. We met our guides, Maëva and Léa of My Vintage Tour Company, a short distance from the cathedral that has seen the crowning of countless French kings. After introductions, the four of us piled into Jeannette, a sky-blue, vintage Renault 4L. The pearly gates of Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, and other famous houses dotted the route to the highway ramp. Within 20 minutes, we were among the vine-covered plots of la campagne.

Jeannette creaked as she rounded corners and switched gears. We stopped on top of a hill in Sacy to observe the vines up close and the Château de Sacy in the distance. Maëva, who established the tour company with her brother Romain in 2018, shared her extensive knowledge of the tedious Champagne-making process. Even vine growing is regimented.

At our next stop, an open field in Chamery, Maëva taught my husband how to open a bottle of Champagne with a saber, which he executed like a somm. Steps for sabrage success: (1) Remove the foil and turn the bottle so that the vertical seam is facing upward at a 45-degree angle; (2) Place the saber on the shoulder of the bottle; (3) Swipe the saber upward so that it comes into contact with the base of the rim (at the top of the neck). This motion requires swiftness and commitment, not a sharp blade. In this case, the saber was of the Laguiole variety, and the Champagne was Jean-Jacques Hyest Réserve Brut, which paired perfectly with Fossier rose biscuits.

Then, on to Rilly-la-Montagne to visit Champagne Michel Fagot, where we had the opportunity to see rows and rows of bottles in riddling racks, bottles piled high on palettes, outdated production equipment, a giant grape press, and Olivier Fagot, head of the estate. It was here, in the tasting room of chez Fagot, that we discovered our favorite Champagne to date, the 1999 vintage. If it’s in stock on a future visit, we’ll interpret that as a sign and purchase a bottle then.

After spending four hours with Maëva, Léa, and trusty Jeannette, the time came for us to part ways where we’d been retrieved in beautiful Reims. I would have welcomed more time in Champagne with our guides, but Paris called us home. Our introductory visit to Champagne exceeded expectations. My Vintage Tour Company offers a harvest tour and another that’s tailor-made. I see them in our future.

Mingle at the Market—Taste Paris: An Airbnb Experience

My tour of le marché d’Aligre and le marché couvert Beauvau with Natasha B. began with the humble chouquette. The attendees, all American, gathered in a circle on the pavement and selected a choux pastry from a white paper bag. If you see someone eating whilst standing, they aren’t French. This didn’t seem to bother anyone even after they had been informed.

As we walked towards the markets, Natasha gave us a brief introduction to French food and culture, which are one and the same. The window of Au Fin Gourmet served as a teaching aid. We stared at award-winning terrines and rillettes made of various meats, cuts of pork, and wheels of cheese through the window. The French believe in quality, a foreign concept for les Américains.

On our walk through the outdoor marché d’Aligre, Natasha pointed out serval gems from around the country. Ail rose de Lautrec from Occitanie, oignon de Roscoff from Bretagne, lemon from Nice, leeks, and asparagus. We tasted wild garlic from a market stall, fruits de mer from la poissonnerie Paris Pêche, and charcuterie from a pig who had a girlfriend and liked listening to Elvis.

Then we made ourselves comfortable in a narrow space between two vendors in le marché couvert Beauvau. Butter, cheese, bread, charcuterie, jambon beurre, and wine started coming. Seconds and thirds were had by all, standing up, eating French food in the most un-French way possible.

On to Aux Merveilleux de Fred for my first meringue. I never liked the way meringues looked; they reminded me of marshmallows. But it is necessary to try toutes les choses when on a food tour in France. Needless to say, I now like meringues, or at least ones from Fred. I left the shop with a perfectly-pronounced bonne soirée instead of the more-appropriate bonne journée. I didn’t have a care in the world by this point.

We arrive at Le Baron Rouge, one of Natasha’s favorite places in Paris. Reasonably-priced wine in barrels. Handwritten menus on chalkboards over a long bar. We squeezed our chairs around a round table. Our gracious host retrieves glasses and wine to fill them. Pastries—they could have been eclairs—are circulated. Natasha opens the white box she acquired from an undisclosed vendor to reveal a photogenic raspberry tart. The conversation sets in, mainly about higher education. The youngest attendee is shopping for colleges stateside. I hope she studies abroad in France.

Explore, speakeasy and hidden bars with fun entrances: An Airbnb Experience

When I have an opportunity to go out on the town, I take it because they are few and far between. I blame age and the adult responsibility of sticking to a schedule. “Early to bed and early to rise makes a [wo]man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” (Benjamin Franklin). I’d intended to schedule all of my solo activities during the day so that I’d make it home by nightfall. But when I saw a Parisian speakeasy tour on Airbnb, I couldn’t resist. It began at 7:30 PM and lasted at least till 10:00, way past what my bedtime is supposed to be.

“Explore, speakeasy and hidden bars with fun entrances,” recently renamed “Explore greatest bars – speakeasy & hidden gems edition,” was an experience to remember. I didn’t mind that all of the guests hailed from my home country. The concept of a speakeasy is challenging for non-Americans to comprehend, but because everyone was familiar with the prohibition period of U.S. history, we dispensed with the lesson. After the introductions, we got right to it. A mother-father-daughter trio from Florida, a grandmom-grandson duo from California, our host Ines, and moi.

Mobster Bar was our first stop. Entrance to the establishment was granted after answering a question via the telephone outside. I got a good look at the art deco interior as we were led to a room in the back. I raised a pressing question before ordering. Would we be permitted to pay for our drinks individually? The bartender was happy to bill us for our own alcohol consumption on the way out the door. I don’t remember exactly what I ordered, but I kept all my drinks that night mainly in the lime/mezcal/mojito family—a green Caribbean oasis comes to mind.

The second stop of the night was La Mezcaleria, aka the Oaxaca of Paris (my own coining). Accessed through the kitchen of a restaurant in the boutique hotel 1K, the interior was colorful. The wall-to-wall streamers, tapestries, and prints of the pillows on the low-profile lounge seating gave the space a warm tone. I imagined how the cocktail bar would have looked during the daytime with natural light streaming through the windows in the ceiling.

In contrast, our third stop, Candelaria, was reminiscent of a wine cellar. Accessed through a discreet door at the back of a taqueria, the pulse of the bar was the most vibrant of all three. For this reason, it may have been my favorite. Our host left us here. The trio from Florida had departed after we left La Mezcaleria, so it was up to O., his grandmom, and I to rally to the end, which we did. Our conversation clicked, and we could have talked even longer had it not been for the time. They walked me to République. O. claimed the role of navigator; thank goodness! Line 3 was a straight shot, and I felt safe in transit. As comrades do, we made sure that both parties were home before going to bed. The night was most memorable, and I wish I could repeat it.