Ohlala Crêpes in Paris!: An Airbnb Experience

In 2020, I made my first chouquettes in an Airbnb Online Experience called “Bake French Pastries in Paris.” The class was hosted by Carlos Molina Borregales, cofounder of the cooking school Aten-Te Aute. I’d planned to attend an in-person class at Aten-Te Aute on my next visit to Paris. Seizing my opportunity, I recently signed up for “Ohlala Crêpes in Paris!” which was held in an artistically-decorated cooking studio in the 12th arrondissement.

Laura, our host, was patient and encouraging. This wasn’t my first time making crêpes, but it was my first attempt at galettes, which are a bit more complicated. Laura reminded the group that having fun was the primary goal of the activity. Some of us, myself not excluded, wanted our creations to come out looking photogenic. In the end, all participants enjoyed a crêpe and galette of their own making accompanied by the most delicious cider. No one went without food or photographs.

Books About French Artists

The art classes I took in middle and high schools and during my university years laid the foundation for my art education. Working in and visiting art museums helped me build upon my formally-acquired knowledge. The result: I can recognize the unique style of an artist and match their name to a work I haven’t seen before. I also enjoy drawing visual parallels between styles and identifying home museums of specific works.

I’ve been presented with several opportunities to discuss my favorite artists during recent conversations. I hadn’t given much thought to the topic before and ended up talking about Claude Monet, everybody’s favorite. I appreciate Monet’s paintings as much as anyone, but he isn’t one of my favorite artists.

Now that I think about it, I prefer the works of Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissarro, Matisse, Signac, Seurat, and Caillebotte. My knowledge of these men sits very much on the surface, and I’m searching for books that reveal a little about who they were as artists in the context of their time and place.

Works Sighted

Toulouse-Lautrec (2019) // Toulouse-Lautre (2016) // Pissarro dans les ports – Rouen, Dieppe, Le Havre (2013) // Camille Pissarro (1993)

Henri Matisse: The early years in Nice, 1916-193 (1986) // Matisse (2002) // Paul Signac, 1863-1935 (2001) // Signac collectionneur (2021)

Georges Seurat: The Drawings (2007) // Seurat (2017) // Caillebotte. Peintre des extrêmes (2021) // Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye (2015)

Taste Wines With a Certified Sommelier: An Airbnb Experience

My goal of signing up for as many wine tastings in Paris as possible is progressing. The French would say that only a drunk drinks wine without food. Well, pas de problème! There’s always at least a bit of bread present. Long before my travel arrangements to France had been finalized, I’d planned to attend an educational session at Wine Tasting in Paris in the 5th arrondissement.

I first met sommelier and founder Thierry Givone in November 2020 during his virtual Airbnb Experience, Taste French Wines with a Parisian Somm. During the in-person session, Taste Wines with a Certified Sommelier, I realized that both versions of the experience are similar in structure. In fact, the same presentation slides are used. I felt like a star student reviewing material rather than seeing it for the first time—many “aha” moments were had. The content covers French wines by region—le terroir est tout—and is accessible to beginners.

At the in-person session, each participant was given one Champagne, two white wines, and three red wines. Tasting each one in unison allowed members of the group to discuss the same wine at the same time. The varieties present at the virtual tasting differed across participants, which limited tasting-and-likability-related comments. (If you book a private virtual tasting, arrangements could be made ahead of time to make sure everyone in your party is tasting the same thing.)

The conviviality of the 12 in-person attendees was a sight to behold. Everyone, except for one, was American, and many people discovered that they shared mutual universities and geographical areas of significance. Although I didn’t share a hometown or university with anyone, my love of French wine and knowledge of the French language served me well as talking points.

The tasting room is located up a hill at 14 Rue des Boulangers. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes, Adidas Stan Smith perhaps. Don’t worry about your lack of French or knowledge of wine; just be open to having a good time. Even the woman who declared that she didn’t like wine found at least one that appealed to her.

Further Reading

Taste French Wines with a Parisian Somm: An Airbnb Online Experience

Shopping at the Louvre, Orsay, Luxembourg, and Versailles

Visiting museum shops is one of my favorite pastimes, especially when abroad. Lately, I’ve been visiting the stores in person and checking their websites after the initial visit to see if anything was overlooked. Sometimes, a follow-up trip is necessary; I’m unbothered by having to make another. My perusal of the online shops corresponding to le musée du Louvre, le musée d’Orsay, le musée du Luxembourg, and le musée des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon yielded the following results.

Works Sighted

tea towel // fan // bracelet // magnifying glass // book (Versailles revival)

book (Marie-Antoinette) // party decorations // paper cups // paper plates // Monopoly

book (James Tissot) // writing set // avocado vase // chai // hand cream

Books About French Wine

In the world of wine, I’ve decided to limit myself to France for the moment. Whenever I attend a wine tasting in Paris, I expect to spend the afternoon getting acquainted with wine from the home country. Drinking my way through various AOCs (appellations d’origine contrôlée) is a pleasurable way to learn about the soil, topography, climate, and wine-making technique of France by region. New rule: never pass up a wine tasting where France is the topic of conversation. Here are some books I’ve been considering on the subject.

Works Sighted

Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure // Histoire des vins de France // Adventures on the Wine Route // Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times

Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region // The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It // Le vin de Bourgogne // Champagne: Wine of Kings and the King of Wines

Land and Wine: The French Terroir //.Monseigneur le Vin: The Art of Drinking Wine (Like the French Do) // The New French Wine // French Wine: A History

Wine Tour de France in a Cozy Private Wine Bar: An Airbnb Experience

I booked a wine tasting last minute in the 9th Arrondissement at a bar à vin/caviste called Archibon. Wine Tour de France in a cozy private wine bar was hosted by Henri, who opened the establishment in 2016. He’d previously worked in the business sector but later decided to pursue his passion for wine full-time.

The bar is intimate. Mirrors line the walls. Stacked crates are stocked with bottles of wine. I visited on a Sunday afternoon and found Rue Rougemont quite quiet. Archibon is located at number 13.

I was the first guest to arrive. Henri and I chatted about my acquisition of the French language while we waited. I also tried — successfully, I might add — to refrain from eating the baguette, cheese, and charcuterie that had been placed at my table. Class began promptly when the other two guests arrived. One of them had studied wine, which, as I suspected, made for robust conversation.

The Airbnb experience was unique. It struck the perfect balance between formal wine class and casual tasting. Henri is skilled at making complicated information on wine production accessible. As a memoirist, I enjoyed hearing Henri tell the story of how he started his business and maintained it through 2020 and beyond. I also had the opportunity to put my senses to the test; we discussed the tasting notes of each of our six wines in great depth.

Although I took a few notes, I fully embraced the casualness of the occasion. There was plenty of room for questions, thoughts, disagreements, and personal stories. I left having connected with another sommelier in one of my favorite cities. One can never know too many people in the French wine industry. Needless to say, I plan to return.