Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Our favourite bar (great for stumbling home)

We've already mentioned the great restaurant Derrière which is just two streets down from the apartment. It's also in the same building as a really cool bar called Andy Wahloo. I've been going there fow a few years now, long before the apartment ever happened, especially as they have a great leafy terrace on the interior courtyard...

The place belongs to the same guys that founded Momo's in London, and the interior is a mix of trash-art luxury and Arab influences. It's unusual to find somewhere in Paris with a ceiling this high, and the décor makes full use of it.

The bar takes up all of the far wall, and opposite - between two tables - is a full DJ set-up because several times per month the bar becomes a semi-club around 10pm (perhaps you'd like to join their Facebook group to be kept updated?)

Best of all, Andy Wahloo have a WICKED happy hour from 6-8pm with Heineken at 3€ and lethal cocktails at 5€. I actually stopped going there for a while after realising that two cocktails made me incapable of getting a sentence together any more. Also, one of the waiters used to go out of his way to make me repeat the name of my favourite cocktail, loudly, several times (it's a Screaming Orgasm, that's why).

They also do light food if you're feeling peckish.

Andy Wahloo is at 69 rue des Gravilliers and they're open every day except Sundays and Mondays. It'll take you thirty seconds to get there from the apartment, perhaps a little more to get back, depending on how many Screaming Orgasms you've had.

Check out the rest of our photos here if you like. And of course, Andy Wahloo is on our Google Map of everything cool in the area at tinyurl.com/nearthegreatapartment.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Paris mistreated by Hollywood

Hollywood has always had this love-hate relationship with our dear city. On one hand it's really super pretty, on the other it's damn annoyingly pretty. Yet I don't remember any other year when so many movies have been so keen to smash the whole place up.

I've put together clips from three new movies below. Watch, then read, and watch it again afterwards.

Let's take the movies in reverse order.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs looks like quite a hoot. I like the graphic style, and the two trailers I've see have made me laugh. Their Eiffel Tower sandwich is very dainty, I must say.

Before that, there's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I'm guessing it's not a very good film. Their attack of Paris has a first shot of fireballs flying past the Eiffel Tower, which has been relocated half way across town to fit into the frame, and then a second shot of the fireballs flying past the Tower again and immediately hitting a not-very-Parisian-looking building. Double gold star for defying the laws of physics guys.

But the main part of the medley below is dedicated to G.I. Joe - The Rise of the Cobra. There is so much wrong with this clip - and undoubtedly the film - that I have to list the problems.

1. Speeding car going along the banks of the Seine, with the Eiffel Tower in the distance, once again moved across the city to fit into shot, signalling to teenagers ever so subtly that THIS IS HAPPENING IN PARIS.
2. In the car, French actor Saïd Taghmaoui is obviously just there to get funding from Europe, and practically unintelligible. It took me five listens to realise he's saying "We're only 2 kilometres away".
3. Black dude with a ridiculous, ridiculous mockney accent.
4. Asian dude (obviously evil) cannot act for toffee, as shown by his evil gopher delivery of "He never gives up".
5. The action is now suddelny taking place on a looks-more-like-Berlin street with a forest at the end of it (saves painting in the whole city). Where did the Seine go?
6. NERD ALERT. In HD you can see that the destination on the front of the tram actually says "Attaque de l'ouest" (attack coming from the West).
7. Car breaks through barrier before tram. What? This is not a level crossing! There are no barriers for trams in Paris. Can you imagine how many there would have to be?
8. Tram hits very end tip of car. Instead of spinning it round, the car launches into the air like a rocket, with smoke and everything!
9. Car catapults over tram, crash lands on two cars and continues skidding down the street. No explosion. No flames. Next shot: said car is now back sitting upside down on those two other cars again, not moving, then suddenly there's a big explosion and the car starts rolling down the street in flames.

10. Those two guys in sort of protective suit things running after the car. If one of them can manage to jump over the tram, why does the other one have to smash through it? Duh.
11. Finale, with green goo instantaneously eating through the Eiffel Tower, making it crumble and crash into the Seine. Just plain mean.

Check it out again below or click here to see it in HD.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Bastille Day 2009

A little late, but here's what we did for Bastille this year.

Celebrations tend to be spread over two days (13th & 14th July), so on the 13th we went to see one of the traditional firemen's balls in the evening, which included the rather surreal sight of the Paris firemen's gymnastic team wandering about in the crowd...

Could someone explain what the purpose of a firemen's gymnastic team is please?

Anyway, on the evening of the 14th we had a picnic on the banks of the Seine (plus, Paris Plage has now started so really should go down there)...

...and a massive firework show at the Eiffel Tower to celebrate its 120th anniversary! Here's my little film...

I love Paris in the summer (and of course it's not half bad at any other time of year). Perhaps you'll be tempted to come and see yourself? ;-)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Three toilet tales

How's that for a gruesome title? Nevertheless, it just so happens that I have three stories to tell you, all with a toilet theme. It'll be fun, I promise.

Toilet story 1 - Our sweet chubby toilet

When we first bought the apartment it looked pretty rough: the first room was a kitchen and bathroom with a shower, an electric hob and a sink. That was it. It was grim and there was no toilet (the toilet was on the landing). Having a toilet in your apartment is kinda important nowadays, so we had one installed, but it's a little special.

It so happens that our side of the building doesn't have the evacuation pipe necessary for a normal toilet - as is the case in a lot of Parisian buildings that have been divided into apartments. Consequently, we needed a 'sanibroyeur'.

To put it succinctly, a 'sanibroyeur' is a special toilet that chops everything up so it can be flushed down a standard-size pipe. Because of this, apart from toilet paper and the stuff that comes out of you, nothing else can be put down it, as this little sticker on the lid tries to explain.

No plastic, no bottle tops (I think that's what it's supposed to be), no cotton buds, no tampons, no sticking plasters, and definitely no razor blades or condoms. Putting any of those down the toilet will make it explode, or something like that. Pleeeease don't make our toilet explode!

Anyway, when I give the tour of the apartment to explain how everything works, I always dread the part in the bathroom. I show people the light that switches on automatically, the mirror that you can store your toiletries in, and then... the toilet. "It's a mechanical toilet," I say, "so no solid objects down it". This always get a sort of tilted-head puzzled look from people, like they're thinking "Erm, I'm not sure what you mean, but no way am I asking for more details, OK?" I agree: from now, everyone can just read this blog post and look at the sticker. Phew!

Toilet story 2 - Paris' new 21st century public toilets

I recently did an article for the Paris News Blog about the really smart (and free!) public toilets that the Paris council is currently installing to replace the grimy ones from the 80s that no-one ever used unless there was really absolutely no alternative. Paris toilets have a pretty poor reputation, but these new ones are pretty swish and we recommend you try them out! You can read the article here.

Toilet story 3 -
Parisians love dumping their old toilets in the street

Delightful, I know. I used to follow a blog called "Paris 2ème", written by a guy from Luxembourg who was studying architecture here. He's since moved on to New York, but his blog was very amusing, and it documented - amongst other things - his fascination for the way that Parisians seem to quite blithely dump their rubbish in the streets sometimes, including such incongruous items as their old toilet! His blog had a whole section devoted to it! Read it here and laugh/wince!

slightly stolen photo: © PARIS2e

That's it! We're not obsessed with toilets, I swear. Just thought it would make an amusing article. Quick, look at this and we shall never mention it again.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Bob's Kitchen

Our street is kinda quiet and sleepy, but rue des Gravilliers, 30 seconds away, is a hive of cool places to eat and drink (such as Derrière, the rather wonderful apartment-cum restaurant that we mentioned here).

Now there's another cool eating emporium to add to the list: Bob's Kitchen. Bob is actually called Mark Grossman. He has a juice bar in the 10th arrondissement (here, near the canal) that very quickly became one of the hippest places in town to have lunch, brunch or a smoothie (which the French tend to pronounce smooooosssy. Makes me laugh every time).

He's also a cheery bloke and minor star after having two books published with his delicious muffin recipes (subtitled "different and authentic") and smooooosssy recipes (truthfully but verbosely subtitled "fruit and vegetables cocktails by an American in Paris"). Up until now, the main problem has been the size of Bob's Juice Bar: tiny. So I was really pleased to read the other day that Bob/Mark had opened a new place next to the Great Apartment called Bob's Kitchen. Yay! And one morning last week I went down there to take some photos of it! Double yay!

The place has the same minimalist and kooky vibe as his juice bar. Lots of wood, lots of white, plus enough space for an electric guitar, a piano and Woody Allen-style jazz tinkling in the background.

The menu is short and simple with several varieties and two sizes of juice/smoothie/milkshake available with or without spirulina or maca supplements, soups, salads, stews, vegetable rolls...

And of course Bob wouldn't be Bob without his famous desserts, both healthy and yummy: apple pie, porridge with fruit and muesli, organic yoghurt, pancakes (for the brunch on Sundays), cookies, muffins... Yum! (Check out the menu here). And if you like what you eat, you can even buy the book!

There are lots of other little details that make Bob's Kitchen a relaxing place for lunch (they're not open in the evening). We suggest you try it out.

You can check out all our photos of Bob's Kitchen here: tinyurl.com/bobskitchen.

Bob's Kitchen is at 74 rue des Gravilliers, this far away...

They're open every day from 8am - 3pm (Saturdays & Sundays 10am - 5pm).

They're also on our wonderful map of everything near the apartment that you can peruse by typing www.tinyurl.com/nearthegreatapartment or is.gd/wwff.

And if you become a hardcore fan, perhaps you'd like to join the Bob's Juice Bar Facebook group here?

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Flowers thriving

There's been a bit of a heatwave in Paris recently, and after having not visited the apartment for a week, I was worried that all my flowers would look microwaved. Not so.

The main window box is looking fine, thriving even...

But the biggest surprise was the geraniums at the bathroom window. I always thought that geraniums were plants for grannies, but you have to admit that they can resist flooding and chronic underwatering, both of which I seem to subject them to.

You get a hint of greenery even when the window's closed...

...but once it's opened, you can really see how they're flourishing. A surprising success story!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Music to your ears

You may not know that we are music nuts. Not music lovers, music nuts. We are nuts about music.

I used to work in music (retail, and then a couple of labels) and DJed for fun for quite a while. Over a period of about 10 years, both of us bought tons of CDs (often at nasty import prices) and trawled round the key shops on the day they got their deliveries to make sure we could get our hands on the rare produce. I still have 10 boxes of vinyl I don't quite know what to do with, and thousands - yes, thousands - of CDs. Nuts.

As we wanted the apartment to be more like a home than a room, music was always going to be part of the equation. As well as the selection of CDs we've left at your disposal, there are some special CD-Rs in a red binder that deserve your attention.

The CD above is one of the most overlooked albums of the last ten years. International Pony was a three-person German group (DJ Koze is still very much around, the others have more or less disappeared). They made one great album and one average one before dying off completely. We Love Music is a masterpiece that starts off very calm and lures you in before going all bananas towards the end. The CD we've provided for your listening pleasure is an extended version of the album with some b-sides and remixes added to the end. And it's all brilliant.

Of course, we're not interested in just providing copies of stuff. We like to personalise things a bit more. Like the two CDs above: the one of the left is loads of great house and garage from the 90s that I've gleaned from various blogs (heard of Frankie Knuckles? David Morales? Steve "Silk" Hurley? If so, you might like this). It also includes several re-edits of tracks that I've done myself, so it's packed with exclusive versions. And not only that: it's an mp3 CD, so there 6 bloomin' hours of music on it! Some of it's divas, some of it dubs. I feel it dates from a time when music wasn't so darn boom boom boom all the time.

The CD on the right is a compilation of DJ Yoda's cut 'n' paste albums. DJ Yoda is a brilliant, hilarious hip-hop DJ who doesn't take himself seriously, and his cut 'n' paste efforts have everything and the kitchen sink thrown into them. If you think you don't like hip-hop, you should listen to these.

The RAVE! CD on the right is for when you just want some pounding, acid techno vibes. Of course we would never condone drug use, but if I ever took drugs this is definitely the CD I would listen to. Loud. Several times.

There's a completely mad, unreleased James Holden remix of Britney Spears on there that you shouldn't miss (I kid you not). James Holden mixed one of the best/most surprising house/techno compilations of the last few years recently. You should buy it (very cheap here, for example).

And on the left we start getting into the 5.1 zone. You know the apartment's kitted out for surround sound right? Well, I've found this site that make surround sound recordings available for download. Not strictly legal per se, but many of the albums are old quadrophonic vinyl mixes that don't exist any more. Take these two albums by Joni Mitchell for example. Beautiful stuff, and even more wonderful when you're sat on the sofa and the music's coming at you from all sides. What a shame fruity cigarettes are forbidden at the apartment eh?

These are another couple of surround sound CDs that might get you all gloopy. I love a bit of Beck in surround sound, so the CD on the right is a mix of Sea Change and Guero. Surprising, if you've never heard them in surround sound. Sea Change is especially good for chilling out.

As for Herb Alpert and Enoch Light (whom I'd previously never heard of), they'll deal you out some kitsch easy listening if you're in the mood for something completely bonkers. You will laugh, believe me.

And if all that it too 'out there' for you, too 'different', then we even have stuff for the old fogey in you too. How about some classic Roxy Music in surround sound (supposedly one of the best surround mixes ever made)? Or some cracking David Bowie in surround sound? Or the lush trip-hop of Groove Armada in surround sound? Go on, treat yourself...

There's more coming of course. Any suggestions? We're always ready to listen to something new.* And if you're interested, I have my own music blog here: www.themixesandthedubs.com (mostly house and garage from the 90s). Otherwise I suggest the hype machine (a music blog aggregator) or last.fm for discovering new stuff.

And by the way, we may have a few CD-Rs in the apartment, but believe me, whenever we come across something we love, we buy it. Make sure you do the same.

*Current faves: DM Stith, Grizzly Bear, Ohbijou... Check 'em out.