Les Coups de Coeur de Libba, June 2014

Outdoor Dining in the Parks of Paris

The Auberge du Bonheur

Auberge SmallHidden behind the haute cuisine “La Pré Catelan” in the Bois de Boulogne, the Auberge du Bonheur is a delightful half-timbered hunting lodge with a huge terrace amid leafy trees that is lit at night by lanterns.

It is simple, informal, and, to me, it makes you feel as if you are playing hooky from the world. Rumor has it that this was where the chauffeurs ate when their clientele dined at the Pré Catelan; today you might spot a celebrity or a comtesse.

Carrefour de Longchamp
Bois de Boulogne
01 42 24 10 17

Chalet des Iles

Chalet SmallTo reach this charming Napoleon III pavilion on an island in the Bois de Boulogne, you will have to take a flat-bottomed boat that whisks you away to an enchanted setting overlooking the lake and surrounded by pine trees.

From the terrace or balcony of this pavilion, you will feel as if you have stepped back to the 19th Century. Let time stand still in this fairytale setting, and enjoy a delightful meal.


Le Chalet des Iles

Lac inférieur du Bois de Boulogne, 16th
01 42 88 04 69

Parc de Bagatelle & “Les Jardins de Bagatelle”

Bagatelle SmallThe Parc de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne is famed for the lush beauty of its profusion of roses that bloom in mid-June. One is awestruck by the myriad of colorful varieties that dazzle one’s senses.  To stroll through these gardens on a sunny June day is sheer heaven.

In addition, one can view the charming Chateau de Bagatelle which the Comte d’Artois, Louis XVI’s brother, had built by the classic architect Francois-Joseph BéLanger in 1777 in the record time of just sixty-three days. “Bagatelle” is derived from the Italian word for “a trifle”.

The Chateau de Bagatelle is a “maison de plaisance” where the pleasure of life is what counts. Meandering through the paths of the Chateau de Bagatelle cannot fail to delight you as much as it did for the aristocrats of the 18th Century.

Restaurant Jardins SmallNearby, in the Parc de Bagatelle, a charming restaurant that is reminiscent of a Monet painting, is the perfect stop for lunch. “Les Jardins de Bagatelle” is often the setting for a celebration lunch for a christening or anniversary, but with its multicolored umbrellas and air of festivity and insouciance, it is a lively and happy place for a pleasant lunch during an excursion to the Parc de Bagatelle.

Les Jardins de Bagatelle
Parc de Bagatelle
42 Route de Sèvres, (Pont de Neuilly)

PLEASE NOTE: It may be very difficult to find a public taxi to pick you up from these places in the interior of the Bois de Boulogne. Please assure transportation in advance through a taxi service or through your hotel.

Pavillon Montsoursis

Monsoursis SmallIn the far south of Paris in the 14th arrondissement, the Parc Montsoursis is a haven for joggers and walkers alike. Abutting the parc on the rue Garzan is the charming Pavillion Montsoursis where one can dine amid the greenery of the park on a lovely terrace, or, on a more inclement day, in a glass pavillon overlooking the park.

At lunch, one often sees Parisian mothers with perfectly mannered children whereas at night the crowd seems to be much more sophisticated. This is a favorite spot for true Parisians, and in the know visitors.

Pavillon Montsoursis
20 rue Garzan (Porte d’Orleans), 14th
01 43 13 29 00

Summer Reading

Paris, Edward Rutherford, Doubleday, 2013

rutherfordHaving heard rave reports of this epic novel set in Paris that spans the centuries through the eyes of six families from different classes of society, this will be my number one summer book, even if it is over 800 pages long!

Throughout, the places, streets, and monuments of Paris are mentioned by name which makes the history of the city of lights memorable in an anecdotal fashion as Rutherford connects these families from Montmartre to Notre Dame to the Grands Boulevards of the 19th Century.



The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France, Ina Caro, Doubleday, 1994

Road from Past SmallThis is my favorite book about France. Ina Caro leads the reader through the history of France by visiting historic places in a chronological fashion as a modern day tourist. One begins in Roman Provence with delightful descriptions of Orange, Nimes that are full of historical references. The Middle Ages comes alive in Languedoc with visits to Carcassonne and Albi.

The journey continues with the Hundred Years’ War in the Dordogne, the Renaissance in the chateaux of the Loire Valley and concludes in the Ile de France in the age of Louis XIV.  It is an ideal travel book whether you are actually visiting a specific area of France or simply daydreaming at the beach or in your armchair of future trips to France. You can dip in and out according to either century or geographical area. Ina Caro has a delightful voice and renders history clear and memorable.

How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City, Joan DeJean, Bloomsbury, 2014

Paris Book SmallJoan DeJean has written a scholarly work on the evolution of Paris as a modern city showing that much of its city planning, including both transportation and street lighting, pre-dated the 19th-century transformation of Paris by Baron Haussman. As Ms. DeJean has shown in previous books on French style and culture, the subject matter, although thoroughly researched and documented, is lively and entertaining.

In addition, the text is amply illustrated with engravings, drawings and maps, which render the material even more fascinating. Ms. DeJean is a well-known speaker at FHS chapter events and I would like to congratulate her on her latest work in her body of over 10 books on French literature, history and culture.

Summer Shopping


Noel SmallThe linens, towels, and table settings at Noël are exquisite. Every June there is a month long sale. Whether you are tempted by a set of towels decorated with colorful butterflies, or those with a more masculine bold maroon design, or a set of place mats with filigree etching, or even just an apron or a simple but gorgeous tee-shirt, head to Noël, and, with its summer sale, especially go there in June!

Noël – Linge de Maison
1 avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, Place d’Iéna, 75116 Paris



Les Coups de Coeur de Libba, May 2014

Restaurant: Philippe Excoffier

Philippe-ExcoffierIf you have not been invited to a private state dinner at the residence of the American Ambassador in Paris on the rue Faubourg St. Honoré, head directly to 18 rue de l'Exposition, Restaurant Philippe Excoffier. Excoffier was formerly Executive French Chef at the American Embassy for almost a decade after training with legendary French chefs Jacques Pic, Guy Martin, and Alain Senderans.

To glimpse a look at the splendor of the American Ambassador's residence in Paris, originally built by the Baroness de Pontalba of New Orleans, and later acquired by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and to be tantalized by gorgeous photos and inspiring recipes of Excoffier's exquisite culinary creations, buy a copy of Elegant Entertaining: Seasonal Recipes from the American Ambassador's Residence in Paris (Flammarion), written by Excoffier and Dorothy Walker Stapleton, the wife of Craig Stapleton, who served as Ambassador to France from 2005 to 2009.

Excoffier's subsequent eponymous restaurant is located on a small street off the bustling rue Saint-Dominique in the 7th arrondissement. In a narrow but comfortable space, Excoffier, who looks like a tall bespectacled Yves St Laurent, serves modern market inspired bistrôt food, from a tiny open kitchen at the back of the room, rather than the classic French cuisine of his embassy days.

There is a daily choice of four or five special entrees, main courses and desserts, which always poses difficult decisions, but yields delicious results at affordable prices. This small treat of a restaurant is not well known, but has always charmed Parisian friends whom I have taken there. Do mention French Heritage Society as he hosted our Paris Chapter for a special lunch several years ago!

Philippe Excoffier
18 rue de l'Exposition, 7ème
01 45 51 78 08

Bistrôt: Joséphine “Chez Dumonet”

Josephine-Chez-Dumonet-007Going to Joséphine Chez Dumonet is always a memorable occasion and a not to be forgotten first experience. First of all, it is a step into the past with an old fashioned tin comptoir, beveled glass partitions and sassy waiters in white aprons. However, like Chez l'ami Louis, the fabulous atmosphere and copious, albeit delicious, food come with an equally daunting price — but you can order half portions! Be warned, you must arrive very hungry for you are going to want to eat every bit of your "petit carnard", which contrary to its name is so enormous that it is served in two courses, and a celebrated boeuf bourguignon, or any of the classics that are superbly executed. Whatever you do, order the mille feuille for dessert —it is a wow of a surprise!

Joséphine “Chez Dumonet”
117 rue du Cherche-midi, 6ème
01 45 48 52 40
(No website)

Boutique of Style: Ali Baba's Cave: Siki de Somalie

Siki-de-SomalieI first met Siki twelve years ago at her jewelry and decorative objects boutique on the Palais Royal, which in those days was a place of highly distinctive small shops with niche specialties: decoration of order medals, antique porcelain, fanciful hats, toys, vintage clothing, and garden tools sold by a prince. Siki fit right in as the princess from Somalie that she is. Alas, most of those eccentric and original shops at the Palais Royal today have been replaced by luxury clothes brands.

However, Siki remains bigger than life; beautiful, glamorous, charming and infectious. Neither my husband Guy Robinson nor I could resist Siki and her breathtaking jewelry and decorative objects. There were bejeweled seashell broaches, rings with heart shaped gemstones, dangling earrings and porcelain tulipières as well as ceramic turtles. We would peer into her vitrine window with wonder only to have Siki burst through the door and welcome us with smiles and embraces.

When Siki, along with many others, departed the Palais Royal, I lost touch with her until I bumped into her at a Biennale des Antiquaires, and discovered that she had moved to the equally fashionable rue Jacob. Today, Siki's treasure trove on the rue Jacob is stocked with more decorative furniture than jewelry, although one can still find the marvelous seashell, jewel-encrusted broaches as well as bijoux de fantaisie such as dangling pendant 1950 earrings with an Egyptian motif. Everything at Siki's is original, glamorous and distinctive. Nothing is ordinary: evening bags with fantasy clasps, tusks to flank an entry-way, or embroidered table placemats from Sri Lanka in vivid tones. Pay Siki a visit — you won't be disappointed. Please tell her that you are a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Robinson!

Siki de Somalie
30 rue Jacob, 6ème
01 42 60 61 10

Wine Shop and Bar/Café aux Vins: Lavinia

LaviniaLocated near the Madeleine on the bustling boulevard de la Madeleine, Lavinia is a huge wine emporium offering wines from all over France, and those from Italy, Spain, California, Chile, South Africa, and afar, at either reasonable or stratospheric prices. It is an oenophile's heaven where one can browse, dream, or buy. However, one can also taste a daily selection of wines by the glass, or order from a variety of bottles from around the world, all served in a small but very agreeable café/restaurant located amid the rows of bottles for sale.

It is an ideal and quiet place to relax at lunch after a morning of shopping in the nearby department stores or fashionable boutiques. It is also a favorite lunch spot of business people who work in the area, as well as the solitary traveler who delights in an interesting choice of wine along with a light snack or a tasty lunch. Explore the racks of wines for sale, and then treat yourself to a taste of one of them.

3-5 boulevard de la Madeleine, 1er
01 42 97 20 20

Current Exposition: “De Watteau à Fragonard, les Fêtes galantes” – Le temps de l'insouciance
Musée Jacquemart-André (Until July 21)

de-watteau-a-fragonardFor most of us, the Musée Jacquemart-André is similar to The Frick Collection in New York City where a sumptuous private mansion with a personal art collection has been transformed into a museum. First and foremost, both remain a home, where the art is accessible on a human scale.

At the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris there is always a temporary exhibition around an artist or a thematic subject. Unlike the grand and sometimes exhausting shows at the Grand Palais or the Musée d'Orsay with room after room of art, the temporary exhibitions at the Musée Jacquemart-André are limited to six or seven rooms, where you can view a smaller exhibit in a thoroughly pleasant manner.

Today, as befitting a smaller space, there is an exhibit on the "Fête galante" of the 18th century with 60 works from Watteau to Boucher and Fragonard. These are all small paintings meant to embellish the boiseries of reception rooms or boudoirs in contrast to the large epic or allegoric paintings of the previous century.

The Fête galante genre features intimate settings or outdoor garden scenes where leisure is the theme, with noble ladies in lavish costumes often in masquerade, figures from the Commedia dell'arte, or, later, from Boucher, idealized shepherdesses in rustique costumes. This was a lighthearted period that was inspired by Madame de Pompadour and later by Madame du Barry. This exhibit is a delightful way to briefly escape the stress of today by a return to "la douceur de vivre," or the sweetness of life, of the 18th century.

Musée Jacquemart-André
58 boulevard Haussmann, 8ème
01 45 62 11 59

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About Les Coups de Coeur de Libba

Our FHS Board Member, Dena Kaye has suggested that I send to you each month some suggestions of places, restaurants, shops, or books that you might be interested in as fellow Francophiles. 

As I am so lucky to be in Paris often throughout the year, I thought that indeed it might be fun to share some recent, or time-treasured places or discoveries with you.  Our President, Denis de Kergorlay, suggested that I entitle this "Les Coups de Coeur de Libba," and so here it is! As I am neither a restaurant reviewer, an art expert, or a literary critic, I am simply going to give you a diary list of what has given me great pleasure in the City of Lights that is so bien aimée by all of us.

Happy exploring, 
Libba Stribling, Chairman, FHS

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