This month, for the fourth year in a row, the May/June issue of Departures takes on culture, which once again Deputy Editor Stephen Wallis masterminds with style and smarts. While the entire editorial staff rallied for the once-a-year “A–Z Guide,” several contributors also played important roles, beginning with Joshua Cooper Ramo, a former editor of Time Asia, now a partner at Kissinger Associates and author of the just published The Age of the Unthinkable (Little, Brown), a heady, globally informed look at what’s happening now that is pure pleasure to read from page one. From artist/photographer/blogger and Departures contributing editor Alexandra Penney comes an up-close-and-personal look (“P” is for “Penney Pinched”) at how one woman’s life has been changed forever by the “M” word, as in Madoff. But whether it’s Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and “the lyrical potential of cardboard tubes” or a nod to the 40th anniversary of that music festival at Max Yasgur’s farm near Woodstock, New York, Wallis and his culture vultures have devoured the way we live and think about art and culture now with intelligence, humor, and a belief that despite everything, our quest for books, buildings, film, theater, dance, and...most important, ideas, is in no need of a bailout.
By the time this letter is published, the chestnut trees will have bloomed in the Bois de Boulogne and dishes even more seasonal and possibly even more delicious than Périgord truffled mac-and-cheese will be on the menu at Le Bistrot de Paris (33 Rue de Lille, just behind Musée d’Orsay). But no matter the season, with the Obama administration here and Sarkozy there, what better time to celebrate. After specials on India, Russia, Latin America, and China, Departures has decided to devote this October to rediscovering france 2009. A few notes from what I discovered in Paris over six days in February.
Arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport at 7:55 a.m. on Continental flight no. 56. Checked in to the Hôtel Plaza Athénée and went right to the tiny, new gym (just inside the big, new Christian Dior spa downstairs) for the ultimate anti–jet lag remedy: 45 minutes of weights, Precor machine, and treadmill. A brisk walk from the hotel to lunch, and on the leisurely stroll back, discovered all sorts of new addresses, like 12 Rue Jean Goujon, where the elegant (and new to me) Hôtel San Régis is tucked into a cul-de-sac of Parisian exclusivity near Avenue Montaigne (the “family package”—two rooms, continental breakfast, and all taxes included—seemed reasonably priced at 675 euros).
Back to room 202 for a nap, then a wake-up call at 7:30. Shower, change, and off to art and design world dinner given by très important designer Hervé Van der Straeten and haute cobbler Bruno Frisoni, the genius behind Roger Vivier. Their pad, in the up-and-coming 12th Arrondissement, is mad—a singular mix of amazing “things,” high style (a black leather Corbu settee, for example, is reimagined in vivid green satin from Lelièvre), and cool crowd: Rodman Primack, chairman of London’s Phillips de Pury; jeweler Lorenz Bäumer, who now designs for Louis Vuitton from his atelier at 4 Place Vendôme (and who was flashing the new $45 lipstick case he specially designed for Guerlain); decorator François and wife, Betty Catroux, former muse for Yves Saint Laurent; Manhattan gallerist Liz O’Brien, who deals in midcentury decorative arts and was in town for Christie’s Yves Saint Laurent auction (FYI: Despite global economic hysteria, it tallied $483 million in sales). Dropped O’Brien off at Hôtel Saint Vincent at 5 Rue du Pré aux Clercs. “Please be careful who you tell about this place,” she said, heading into the worn, terribly genteel lobby. “It’s so special. But…it’s not for everyone.”
Dinner with editor-at-large Sophy Roberts and Paris-based contributing editor Elisabeth Franck-Dumas at Fogón, a smart Spanish place devoted to jamón ibérico and all things paella.
Breakfast with Steven Erlanger, Paris bureau chief for The New York Times…lunch with Cédric Reversade of Unique Properties & Events out of London to discuss appropriate week- and month-long French rentals for Americans.
Met with François Simon, France’s most feared food critic, who writes weekly for Le Figaro…appointment with Antoine Arnault, Louis Vuitton’s head of communications, who was lunching with Bono later in the day. Raved about Espace Culturel, the Vuitton art gallery on the top floor of the company’s Champs-Elysées flagship…visited the Baccarat museum (and its restaurant designed by Philippe Starck—sort of like the Eighth Wonder of the Design World)…drinks after midnight at the Ritz’s Bar Hemingway with contributing editor Joshua Cooper Ramo to talk about “Brave New Worlds” (see this month’s cover).
Met up at Le Meurice with Franka Holtmann, the first and so far only female GM of a “palace” hotel…quick sit-down with photographer Pascal Chevalier about a fashion portfolio on great women of France…lunch of Dover sole and Sancerre by the glass with Ed Kelly, CEO of American Express Publishing, at Chez Georges…afternoon snooze, then viewed photographer Robert Frank at the Jeu de Paume…espresso with American-in-Paris jeweler Pamela Johananoff and perfumer Kilian Hennessy.
Breakfast with fashion writer Karl Treacy…tea at the apartment of writer (and new mother) Princess Olga of Greece…dinner at Bistrot Paul Bert, which some find rude, but I loved, especially the côte de boeuf for two, bloody as all get-out.
Checked out L’Eclaireur, a Fornasetti-designed restaurant and boutique at 10 Rue Boissy d’Anglas, and Moving Design, a small, trendy firm specializing in computer graphics it calls “visual poetry”…attended unveiling of the Hermès “Mexican Windows”…quick spin through the Roger Vivier salon with Bruno Frisoni, who sent me out with a few sketches (above)…headed for a look at Hôtel Pavillon de la Reine on Place des Vosges, then Mama Shelter hotel with its lobby of groovy young designers, Euro rappers, and an American nun (located in the 20th, it may be the hippest overnight in Paris; rooms begin at 89 euros)…shower, change, and off to dinner at restaurant Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower. No further description necessary.