April 28, 2017

Francophile Friday (n°3): Coco Chanel, La Fournette, and the New Paris

Bonjour and happy Friday! What do Coco Chanel, La Fournette, and the New Paris have in common? While they all have an obvious French connection, these three things were also a part of my quick "24 hour" Chicago getaway this past weekend. Chicago is a city that my boyfriend and I visit whenever we have an opportunity. It's amazing that in the same amount of time that you can binge watch your favorite series on Netflix, you can also step into your car and get out with the Willis Tower saluting you, Lake Michigan's breeze surrounding you in a warm embrace. Ah, Chicago! 

This particular weekend was inspired by an event I learned of via one of my regular blogs, Every Day Parisian (she's got great tips for experiencing Paris, Chicago style). Lindsey Tramuta was speaking about her new book, The New Paris, at one of my favorite Chicago bookstores (more on this charming spot ahead) on Sunday afternoon. This gave us an open afternoon, evening, and morning to do what we love: explore the city. We've done most of the tourist staples, so our favorite part is wandering and getting a taste of the unique charms in each neighborhood. 

(As we wandered, I started to notice fleur de lis. I began snapping photos, and I think this fleur de lis hunt will become a part of all future travels.)

Our first stop out of the car was a pizza lunch in Old Town. Walking from the "L" to lunch, many storefronts caught my eye, so I was eager to venture inside. Judy Maxwell Home had me at hello. This modern spin on the classic general store was filled with quirky gifts, each catching the eye more than the last. I purchased a set of finger duck feet for my niece and was about to exit when the sweetest little book caught my eye (if you ever visit this shop, explore fully before heading to the register). I picked up Coco Chanel: An Illustrated Biography and was instantly charmed. As I approached the counter (again) with excitement, the cashier raved about the owner's eye for unique products... that owner who happens to be Joan Cusack! She wasn't in, but I look forward to a possible meeting on a future visit. Just a few hours in, and the city was already revealing countless treasures. 

Sunday morning began with another Every Day Parisian suggested stop, La Fournette. My mission was to have the most Parisian coffee and croissant experience possible. Mission accomplished. Upon entering this cozy pâtisserie, we were greeted with a chorus of "Bonjours!". It was then that I realized they weren't simply saying "bonjour", but conversing in beautiful, beautiful French. You may recall from a few posts back that I had missed an opportunity to practice my French conversational skills with native speakers. I was not going to let that happen again. I loved the way deux croissants and deux petits cafés rolled off of my tongue. After savoring our buttery, flaky delights, I made one more stop to the counter to ask for Parisian travel tips. My ability to converse surprised and delighted me. I can tell my skills are improving! As if these things weren't treasures enough, we exited the shop to find a group of French fromageurs handing out delectable cheese samples. This city never ceases to amaze. 

Finalement, a trip to Read It & Eat for Lindsey Tramuta's book talk (The New Paris). A quick note about Read It & Eat, this book store is dedicated to all books food related. If you are a foodie it is a dream come true! Lindsey's talk centered around all of the new that now coexists with the classic, old Paris we conjure up in our minds. An American expat who has been living in Paris with her French husband, Lindsey's perspective was insightful. She described Paris' traditionally risk averse culture, and how recent generations have begun moving in the direction of global cultural influences and creativity. While trendy coffee shops and Japanese inspired pastries may not evoke the stereotypical Parisian scene, the new is still heavily rooted in the Parisian mindset that life is for living and loving. Even with the new, the French still value quality over quantity. They still invest in highly talented creators who are the best in their craft. The new is appearing, but the old heritage remains preserved. Lindsey's descriptions have me eager to wander the 10th and 11th arrondissements, experiencing the new with the old. I can't wait to share my experiences with you. 

As much as I loved hearing about all things Paris, I also took so much away from Lindsey's personal journey. She explained that it was never her ambition to write a book, that this "beautiful mess" evolved out of her lifelong love of French language and culture. By following her passion and launching her blog, opportunities unfolded for Lindsey that she never imagined. I left this talk more encouraged than ever. Lindsey even wrote a sweet note in my book: "Allez. Pursue that blog. Bon courage!" Pursue this passion I will. Just typing about this wonderful weekend proves that the unexpected is already revealing itself. I cannot wait to see what else might be in store. 

Warm wishes from me to you,

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