Tea Time? Head to Mariage Freres in the Marais

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Most people naturally associate tea with England, where indulging in afternoon tea is practically a national pastime. But the tea trade also became a vital part of France’s economy and part of its aristocratic culture in the mid-17th century when entrepreneurs and explorers began to seek out and import exotic foreign goods, including teas. One of the best-known tea emporiums in France—Mariage Freres—has its roots in this global exploration. Brothers (freres, in French) Nicholas and Pierre Mariage became experts in the tea trade in the mid-1600s, and passed that knowledge on to successive generations of Mariages. Today, the family operates more than 30 tea shops and salons (including sales counters in luxury department stores) around the world, including it’s flagship emporium in Paris’s Marais district that is the perfect setting for a delicious dessert and a spot of tea. Continue Reading →

Try a Classic French Dish at La Poule au Pot

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History books often claim that the pledge to provide working-class families with a “chicken in every pot” was first uttered by U.S. president Herbert Hoover during the beginning of the Great Depression. But actually, the honors go to France’s King Henri IV, who in the 17th century pledged to create policy so that the nation’s peasants would have a “chicken in his pot every Sunday.” And from that pledge—completely unfulfilled, but the way—was born the classic dish poule au pot (chicken in the pot), a “peasant dish” that has evolved to become a staple of French cuisine. And one of the best places to get it in Paris is at the aptly named restaurant La Poule au Pot. Continue Reading →

Tracing the History of the Famous Tarte Tatin

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A quintessentially French dessert is the tarte Tatin, what many Americans believe to be an upside-down apple pie. But it’s actually a bit more than that. And its origin, although never definitively proven, is akin to how a classic American dish—chocolate chip cookies—came about: by accident. Continue Reading →

Saint Gervais, a Gorgeous Out-of-the-Way Church

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There are many huge—and hugely popular—churches in Paris that make it onto most tourists’ must-see lists: Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Saint Sulpice, etc. But the City of Light is home to more than 125 churches, and some of the most interesting and most beautiful are among the less-popular and out-of-the-way houses of worship. One of my favorites of these less-visited sites is also one of the oldest churches in Paris (it’s roots going back to the 4th century)—Saint Gervais-Saint Protais, located just east of Hotel de Ville in the 4th Arrondissement. Continue Reading →

Don’t Miss Fragonard for Fantastic French Fragrances

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Perfume is big business in France. The nation emerged as a global perfume hub during the Renaissance and by the 18th century, aromatic plants and flowers were cultivated specifically for the perfume industry, particularly in the south of France. As such, it comes as no surprise that one of France’s best-known modern perfumeries—Fragonard—was launched in Grasse, a French Riviera town known as the world capital of perfume that lies just north of Cannes. Best of all, visitors to the City of Light can tour the company’s perfume museum and buy Fragonard scents at seven Paris boutiques. Continue Reading →