Monthly Archives: April 2013

Colorful, happy decoration ideas

It was exactly one year ago when we first visited the apartment that we today own. Huge renovations begun in June, one day after signing the purchase contract, and continued until October. We managed to move in in October, one day before our wedding anniversary, but small works continued… Finally in January the construction company received the last payment from us which meant no more waking up at 7am on a Saturday morning to receive a plumber or an electrician! Apartment became ours, and since our return from Southeast Asia in the beginning of March we have been able to focus mainly on decoration. Next purchases should be two lamps for the living room, one lamp for the bathroom, one shelf for the kitchen and some other small items. Getting there!

During the month of April I have visited a shop called FLEUX’ twice. The very first FLEUX’ shop arrived in Paris, in the heart of Marais, eight years ago and in the beginning of this year the fourth shop was opened. Until today I have not done big purchases there (I guess I am not an impulsive shopper!) but I keep returning for a second look and to have fresh ideas. Moreover, the shop puts me in a good mood: there are funny gift items, elegant furniture, lamps, books, etc. Most of all, the colors are almost as abundant as in India, and I think this is what I like most about FLEUX’. Colors make us happy.FLEUX'  39 & 52 rue Sainte Croix de la BretonnerieBelow you see photos of objects that I noticed and found either original or interesting. Have fun!

MUGS: First two sentences of Pantone Universe‘s website are “Color is essential to your life. The colors you love are deep and vital affirmations of who you are.” I have nothing to add! (http://www.pantoneuniverse.com/)Pantone Universe

CANDLES: Perfumed candles have been extremely popular for a long time so I would have thought that all possible names have already been used. Not true. Marianne Guedin‘s candles have names that match any mood you are in: Paris Sous la Pluie, Figue Sucrée, Nombril de Vénus, Herbes des Sorciers, Orientale… Nice! (http://www.dinguedeguedin.fr/guedin/Marianne Guedin

BALCONY TABLE SET: We have an eight-meter-long balcony waiting for a table where at least two people can eat (preferably three or even four…). I like this round table, but even more so the serving table on the left where I could grow herbs (or place a wine bottle and salt & pepper while eating). I will need to return to choose the right color…. and then buy matching balcony flowers!balcony table

BOTTLE HOLDER: Talking of wine,  I don’t think I would buy this wine bottle holder for myself (my taste is more classic) but I think it is an original gift idea! It is called “Lasso” –what else?– and sells for 25€90.  (Idea: Wouldn’t the rope look more elegant if it came in different color or maybe embroidered?)original bottle holder

OTHER OBJECTS: Owls seem to be fashionable today, and why would not they be? They are beautiful, elegant birds, associated with wisdom. No wonder Athena, who was the patron goddess of Athens, chose an owl as her symbol. one more owl

CLOTHES HOOKS: The next time you need to add clothes hooks in your bathroom, bedroom or wardrobe, why not to choose a red moose or one of these owls? (OK, I come from Finland and we love animals, so please bear with me…)owl clothes hooks moose clothes hooks

SHELVES & BUREAU FURNITURE: These shelves on the right are hugely popular, photographed by many decoration magazines. Unfortunately the size is not ideal for our kitchen, so I think we will keep looking… or maybe I will return to have a third look!shelvesIf we had more space or needed more furniture, I would probably buy this bureau furniture for papers and folders. I think the greenish color on the right is very subtle (photo below).more colors! Lastly, the next time you need to buy a gift for a a friend who has “everything” (and who also possesses an apartment with a lot of space!) why not to buy this gorilla? King Kong is back!Red King Kong

FLEUX’ http://www.fleux.com/

39 & 52 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 PARIS (Metro Hôtel de Ville)

Telephone: 01-42782720, 01-42777385, 01-42745182, 01-42746554.

Open on Sundays!

First summer days, first terrace dinner

Wasn’t it only two weeks ago that I wrote Spring has arrived in Paris (at least in the Conran Shop) ? Since then, there have been several lovely days, temperature climbing up to 25C. Summer is here, or not far away anyway, and the signs are everywhere: picnics along the Seine and Canal Saint-Martin, terraces full of Parisians, sandals, shorts, skirts, sleeveless tops… picnic along Canal Saint Martin

Even birds are happier. We seem to have a new friend: a rose-colored pigeon keeps visiting our balcony. In fact (s)he doesn’t seem to be able to decide whether (s)he prefers our neighbor’s palm tree or our 1870s balcony railing! pigeon in balcony

Last night, after a vernissage at Le Grand Palais we joined the rest of Paris (what it seemed like!) and ate at one of Rue Cler’s terraces. Rue Cler, located in the 7th arrondissement (metro Ecole Militaire), is one of the loveliest pedestrian market streets in Paris. Ok, to be fair, there are many, but I am attached to this street as we lived few blocks away and used to do our Sunday morning groceries there. The choice is excellent: there is a good-quality fish shop (poissonnerie), flower shops, fruit and vegetable stalls, fromagerie, etc. Rue Cler is also rich in cafes and restaurants, and therefore makes a good destination to visit any time of the day. I will now share a small secret…

When the market closes around 14h on Sunday, the shop keepers come to Café du Marché (http://www.timeout.com/paris/en/bars-pubs/le-cafe-du-marche). It is a lot of fun watching (mostly) men entering the cafe in their work clothes and comparing stories, while adding ice cubes to pastis. There is an atmosphere and it is a real neighborhood hangout. Rue Cler and Cafe du MarcheI have been going to Café du Marché for over ten years now, and it is nice to see that the prices have not doubled like in many other places. For example, a large beer and a glass of rosé at the bar cost just over 7€ (you know that consuming at the bar is less expensive than at the table or terrace in France?). And the rose was not any rosé, but Minuty (http://www.chateauminuty.com)! Impressive. At the lunch hour you get a decent plat du jour for a reasonable price, too, and wine is available in pichet. As you see in the photo, there is a large terrace and in early spring or late autumn it comes with heating. Nothing too fancy, but cosy and simple. The photo above was taken last night but I shall return during the day to take more photos.

 

 

 

Paradise in colors: Temple Tree at Bon Ton

We were in Koh Lipe, Thailand, and our return flight back to Paris from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was only few days away. When you look at the map, you see that Koh Lipe is one of the closest Thai islands to Malaysia. If you are on your way to Kuala Lumpur, it makes a lot of sense to stop in Langkawi, one of Malaysia’s prime beach destinations. We took a speedboat from Koh Lipe to Langkawi and in just over one hour we crossed the border and were welcomed by a customs officer who drove us to a customs building and then to our hotel (these services came with the speed boat ticket). And I had thought it is easy to cross borders in Europe!

Our brief stay at Temple Tree at Bon Ton (http://www.templetree.com.my) was truly delightful. If you have been to India, you may know the Neemrana group of hotels (http://neemranahotels.com)? Every Neemrana hotel is a heritage building and rooms are decorated with local textiles, objects of art and antique furniture. Well, this is what Temple Tree is about, too. Temple Tree consists of eight villas; colorful, wooden heritage buildings that originate from different parts of Malaysia, representing different eras and aspects of Malaysian history. “Bon Ton” in the name refers to Temple Tree’s sister hotel, which is a short walk away (http://www.bontonresort.com.my).

Chinese Houserestaurantreceptionpool viewIMG_2110IMG_2124

Upon arrival, we were welcomed like royalties with excellent Australian Chardonnay and an upgrade to Colonial House, usually reserved for honeymooners. After a dip in the pool and a walk around the estate, we enjoyed a sample platter of Malay cuisine and char-grilled lamb racks. Just one word: excellent. The next evening we flew with Air Asia back to Kuala Lumpur (there is a flight almost at every hour!), very pleased with the idea to stop in Langkawi. I would recommend Temple Tree to anyone looking for an original hotel with a soul.

Black and White Houseone of many catspoolChinese House

We had nothing to complain about our stay, but some words of advice may become handy. First of all, there is no beach. Both Temple Tree and Bon Ton face a lagoon (see the photo above). It is very idyllic with birds and butterflies, and very green, but should you want the beach, you can take a short cab ride (costs about 2USD one way) to Cenang Beach. Secondly, the owner loves animals and she is a proud owner of an animal shelter. There is a dog at the reception (a very quiet one, it seemed) and many, many cats at both hotels. If these two points do not bother you, then this your pearl in the middle of otherwise rather tourist island of Langkawi.

The French dilemma: holidays in May

Since I last wrote, the spring has arrived in Paris. Just over a week ago Le Jardin des Plantes, where I do my jogging, showed no sign of spring but yesterday almost every tree had buds, and some more than that!

This sudden change in weather also means that we are approaching the famous month of May… Famous, because in France it is a month that feels like a never-ending holiday. It begins with the International Workers’ Day (encouragement is surely needed under the current economic conditions!), the religious holidays (does everyone remember their origin?) and there also is the Victory Day that takes us back to 1945. This year, May 8 falls on Wednesday and May 9 naturally on Thursday. In France this means that many people will make a bridge (faire le pont). For clarification, no, they won’t build a bridge, but they will take Friday off in order to have a loooooooong weekend (sometimes this is imposed by the employer itself!). Even if you don’t live in France, try talking to your boss about “bridge making” and you may get an extra day off!

Furthermore, since most companies ask employees to use their remaining holidays by the end of the month, the dilemma is ready: how to use them, what to do, where to go? A French dilemma! But a nice one.

So, I have been suffering from the same problematic since last week. Some ideas are above the others, but wherever I go traveling, it is important to eat well. Distance-wise, the destination should not be more than some four hours away by plane. Ideally, the weather should be warmer than in Paris… Voila, here is the current shortlist:

1. Spain Spain

Spain, one of the closest destinations to France where the weather is warmer, food delicious and wine good. I would not mind eating some fresh, grilled seafood like razor shells. Not forgetting manchego. Fly to Malaga, rent a car and drive around Andalusia to learn about Islamic heritage in Europe? Or fly to Santiago de Compostela with Vueling (http://www.vueling.com) but forget swimming in the sea in May, I think…

2. ItalyItaly

Italy is like Spain –who does not love these two countries? My dream for many years now has been to drive around the coastline of Italy, but one would need at least one month to do that, I reckon. But how about just flying to Naples and visiting the nearby islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida? Seafood and wine are delicious, too! Or –since I already know these three island– fly to Sicily, the largest Mediterranean island.

3. Turkey Istanbul& Greece

On the eastern side of the Mediterranean is Turkey, where I have been maybe ten times. More importantly, I have never been disappointed with food. How could one be: Turkish mezes are very tasty and the eggplant puree in the picture is to die for! A week in Bodrum with some island hopping to Greek islands of Kos and Rhodes? The sea should be warm enough for pleasant swimming.

4. A seaside resort in a place where it is HOT (Egypt?)

I took this photo in Seychelles some years ago and the beach looks very tempting. With some luck the Mediterranean sea temperature will be well above 20C Seychellesin May but maybe not. The only seaside destination near Europe (again, around 4 hours of flying) where you have “guaranteed hot weather” is Egypt and you can correct me if I am wrong. In Egypt, not only one has the sun and the turquoise water, but there are excellent snorkeling and diving possibilities. My primary concern is that Egypt is mainly a package-tour destination and based on my hotel-review reading, the food is often not top… Do not get me wrong; I am sure Egyptian food is good, but I just need to find the right hotel that believes in preparing traditional food instead of serving pasta buffets…

5. France

The obvious not-so-obvious choice: France. To rent a car and drive towards the South? My usual lunch stop is in Beaune in Burgundy where snails are bigger and better than anywhere else (or at least compared to most of the places I have eaten at). From Beaune the voyage wFranceould continue toward Avignon and further down south either toward Côte d’Azur or deeper into Languedoc, including stops chez les vignerons (read my previous post Wine tasting at Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants). Always an excellent idea.

Ideas to ponder, indeed. Meanwhile, should you like to share your favorite holiday spot with me, or have suggestions or comments, let me know!

Spring has arrived in Paris (at least in the Conran Shop)

It hasn’t yet felt very springlike in Paris but it seems France is not an exception. In Helsinki, the capital my home country, it snowed a few days ago, and no, snow doesn’t cover streets all year around over there! I bet many Europeans are at the moment eagerly waiting to see some more green color, flowers blossoming, birds singing… not forgetting the sun! If you have no time or money to buy a ticket to the Caribbean, I suggest you get a feeling of the approaching summer in the Conran Shop in the 7th arrondissement (http://www.conranshop.fr). They organized une soirée privée last Thursday that we could not attend (busy eating tajine instead…) so we took the opportunity to visit the shop last Sunday.

Some of my personal highlights are presented below.

I come from Finland so I adore this table, and even if I didn’t originate from Finland, I still would! Surely many of you recognize it, but if not, check it out on internet (google Tulip Table Saarinen). Eero Saarinen, the architect born in Finland, designed this table in the mid-fifties for Knoll and today, almost 60 years later, it is as modern as ever.Tulip Table Saarinen (from Finland!)FYI: Those stylish bull heads on the wall are called Trophée Taureau and sell for 135€/head.

My next stop in the Conran Shop was related to animals too: I found canned fish in super-cute packaging:

Jose Gourmet mackerel Jose Gourmet tunaJosé Gourmet (http://www.josegourmet.com) is a Portuguese brand that produces jam, wine, olive oil, vinegar, canned goods, etc. with elegant and fun design. Their canned fish selection resembles more a Japanese restaurant than a traditional tin: Sardines roe in olive oil, Chub mackerel fillets in olive oil, Trout fillets in Escabeche, Ventrusca tuna fish, etc. (but where is the famous Portuguese morue?). I absolutely love the graphic design and I wish I could draw like that! Each fish seems to have his distinct personality.

As soon as I got home I started googling their website. The words mentioned are fair trade, handmade, added value, and the raison d’être of the company seems to be how to capitalize on the Portuguese traditional products, while dressing them according to our century. Sounds inspiring, and makes me want to travel to Portugal to have the entire José Gourmet selection in front of me!

Third object that I found interesting comes from Alife Design (http://www.alifedesign.com), headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. Their concept was born out of hidden needs in everyday life and implementing something sophisticated to satisfy the needs. Today their industrial design items are found in nearly 30 countries, mainly in Europe. Alife DesignThese travel organizers (picture on the right) come in almost all the rainbow colors and help you keep your travel documents in order. In fact there is a full range of products that promise to make traveling easier: luggage belts, luggage tags, luggage identifiers; you name it. The company website shows that travel accessories are not Alife Design’s only product line, but this is what the Conran Shop had chosen to their collection.

PS The Conran Shop offers 15% discount on selected items until (including) April 15.

Go Khmer: authentic Cambodian food in Paris

You visited Cambodia, returned to Paris, and would like to revisit the famous culinary Khmer experience but have no idea where to go? Indeed, when every other restaurant asiatique in town serves all types of Asian foods, one does become suspicious. Why are the Chinese making sushis and sashimis? Why does a restaurant menu mix Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food? Cannot they just focus on one thing? I understand the region’s culinary history is intertwined, but I personally have more confidence in a restaurant that has one specialty (with maybe one exception, which is Lao Lane Xang).

Bayon is a famous Angkor temple –temple of faces, but also a restaurant located in the southern end of Rue Monge, 5th arrondissement of Paris. When Jean-Marc Tang, the owner of Bayon, had to choose a name for his restaurant, he chose Bayon in order to honor his family who used to live near the Bayon temple.  Bayon (http://www.restaurant-cambodgien.com) is a fairly new to the Parisian restaurant scene (it only opened 2 1/2 years ago) but it is already recommended by Le Fooding (http://www.lefooding.com/restaurant/restaurant-bayon-paris.html).

amok

For starters, we ordered Chom Houk A Mok (cod, bell pepper, bamboo, herbs, coconut milk) and Pler Ko (lemongrass beef salad). Amok was really tasty and served in a banana leaf. Jean-Marc explained to us that they use cod because it is difficult to get access to the fish he would use back at home, but that cod lemongrass beefserves the purpose very well as its taste is quite neutral. Our lemongrass beef salad tasted really fresh: something you would want to eat when it is really hot in Paris. Salad was particularly crispy, beef tender and there was a lot of mint. Both starters were copious and very, very good. Nothing was spicy, but Cambodian food is not traditionally very spicy compared to for example Thai food.

tamarin duck

For main course, we ordered Tear bom pong empile thom (duck in tamarind sauce, green vegetables, dried basil leaves and coriander) and Curry sach moan (chicken, potato, carrot, coconut milk curry).

We were particularly interested in tasting the tamarind duck, because it is our favorite dish at an other Asian restaurant (Lao Lane Xang). The Bayon version was slightly different and had pineapple in it. I was surprised of this addition, because in Cambodia I never had pineapple in anything I ate, but Jean-Marc assured me that pineapple is traditionally used in the Khmer cuisine.

Our second main course, the curry, was full of potatoes and carrots, as we hadchicken potato carrot curry had it in Cambodia. Jean-Marc explained that usually sweet potatoes are used in this type of a curry, but that due to its scarcity in Paris, potatoes make a good replacement (and I could not agree more!). We found this curry delicious but unfortunately could not finish it (portions are quite large and size-wise there is no big difference between starters and main courses).

We indeed had a very lovely Saturday evening. The setting is not particularly romantic (it is more cafe-like), and even the outside appearance may make you wonder where you are walking into, but what you eat inside is authentic and savory. It is always a good sign when tables are filled with locals and I now mean Cambodians! (FYI: there is a new, additional page to the menu, which specializes in dishes even more authentic, like fermented fish etc.)

Bayon Restaurant: 121 rue Monge, 75005 PARIS. Metro: Censier-Daubenton and Les Gobelins. Open daily 12h-15h & 19h-22h30. Closed on Sunday and Monday evening. Tel: 01 43 36 67 43.