Archive for the ‘TRIPS’ Category

LE SHOPPING: the gals rock musique boutique

On a surprise birthday  trip to Paris last weekend (surprise!) I finally made my much-anticipated pilgrimage to Montmartre girl-culture hub, Gals Rock. Open since late 2009, it stocks a handpicked range of merch, books (including must-haves by idiosyncratic euro ladies chicks on speed and virginie despentes), CDs and vinyl, carefully displayed across 6ft high shelves, face-out in the shop’s cool black backroom. This doubles as a venue for regular mini-Gals Rock showcases and a cosy-looking sofa and coffee table set up welcomes customers and invites them to hang about a bit.

Along with the hanging about a bit, I’d hoped to stock up on zines too, but sadly my GCSE French reading skills are not what they once were so I bypassed the comics and instead contented myself with a copy of the first Gals Rock CD compilation (released last year and featuring Gossip and Erase Errata) and a flyer for Ladyfest Paris.

The Gals Rock team also dj and put on regular gigsat fleche d’or (a très hip gig venue in a dirty old railway station) to promote local and touring artists. Where in London it would be tough to imagine a project as DIY and creative as this running on anything other than a temporary basis (the usual woes), GR has become a kind of permanent femmes-fest and much more of a community/scene for like-minded Parisiennes than just simply a record shop. Put it on your schedule next time you go!

Anna-Marie


observations of a wannabe parisienne

I know she probably didn’t actually say it and all that historically-accurate jazz, but Marie Antoinette’s mantra ‘let them eat cake’ inspired my most recent visit to Paris. Cos eat cake I most certainly did, and, inspired by anna-marie’s Belfast-based cake-ologue, I shall now share with you my sugary highlights from the city of light.

My first trip to Paris, ten years ago, was very different to this one. Back then I was travelling with 5 ‘budget-conscious’ Yanks (ie. they were saving all their money to buy weed in Amsterdam), so we stayed in a youth hostel, walked everywhere and ate baguettes for dinner on our bunkbeds.

The Paris of my dreams and fantasies is populated by chic Garance-alikes who skip about town in wildly improbable heels, drinking black coffee, smoking Gauloises and nibbled on macarons. The reality, of course, is rather different – especially when you’re battling the heaviest snowfall in nearly 30 years. Slush and snow-blindness do not a perfectly-posed
Sartorialist photo make.
We were staying at the Hotel du Louvre which is a proper gold-and-red-lacquer ocean liner of an establishment on the Rue de Rivoli, right opposite the Louvre. In the cosy bar, they serve the most beautiful cocktails in funny little stemless glasses, balanced in spheres filled with crushed ice. In the name of research, I sampled the espresso martini… at lunchtime, with a burger & rings l’onion – tres chic, non?

Our Rive Droit base meant we were perfectly placed for a spot of pretentious promenading up and down Rue St Honore (although I still managed to walk past Hotel Costes three times without noticing it – durr…) Similarly struggled to find Colette (yeah thanks for that crapgooglemap) but eventually located the temple to pretentiousness that is my spiritual home. I wanted to say hello to the new issue of Twin magazine (cos my article about les garconnes is in it – woo! buy it now!) but got distracted by beautiful YSL heels, Christopher Kane cosmos-scattered frocks and other dreamy things.
Avoiding the boring old Louvre, we ducked out of the blizzard into the Musee les Arts Decorative, which is the most amazing fashion-focused museum. On at the moment is a fantastic exhibition dedicated to the designers who defined the years 1990 – 2000. There were cabinets devoted to Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garcons, Maison Martin Margiela, Issey Miyake, Viktor & Rolf, Helmut Lang, Azzedine Alaia, all accompanied by audio and show footage. It was fascinating to get up close to these era-defining clothes and see that, in many cases, they’re looking a little tatty and frayed, dated and not-very-well-made! Of course that doesn’t undermine how vastly influential these designers were – and still are – but a little healthy criticism’s always necessary to prevent us from straying into emperor’s new clothes territory.



Upstairs and there was more to delight and enthrall – dresses by Gaultier, Galliano, Lagerfeld and Prada. And then one single, beautiful gown on its own by Alexander McQueen, with the video from his S/S04
collection playing behind it. I watched transfixed at the flickering images of models tottering around a ballroom, evoking the tragic dance marathons of the Depression as portrayed in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Seeing this incredible footage brought home again what a visionary McQueen was – I bet those models who trained for weeks to take part in that show still remember it as one of the highlights of their careers.

Apres musee and it was time for cake, so we crept gingerly along the icy pavements and into Angelina. A Parisian institution, it was frequented by Mademoiselle Chanel and Proust (how d’you like those madeleines, Marcel?) And we guzzled these little babies, pictured below. Vanilla cream, caramel stuff, pastry, macaroons, berries, some more whipped cream. Oh did I mention we had croque moinseurs first?


Dinners involved: oysters, steak tartare, champagne, and mystical things done with truffle dust (this was at Chateaubriand, where I had an actual emotional response to the food – something I’ve never experienced before as I’m usually too busy stuffing).

The thing I love most about the people of Paris is they don’t ever seem to feel guilty about: shopping, scoffing, smoking, shagging, posing and pouting. They do it all with an insouciant shrug, as if to say “Quoi?” Nigella has the same approach to life – see her in a taxi with a bag full of cake ingredients and you know it’s only a matter of moments before she’ll be unwrapping the cooking chocolate and guzzling it on the way home. She has the right attitude – if you’re going to treat yourself, don’t waste time or energy feeling guilty about it – what’s the point? Obviously I’m not going to implement my Parisian boa-constrictor-based gastro-strategy in real life, but I am going to try to enjoy treats with a little less guilt from now on. Non, je ne regrette rien.


i AVOKE thee! or simply CAKE.

i was in belfast for my friend mary’s 30th the other weekend and i managed to fit in TWO visits in ONE day to the quite lovely, liberally-stocked, sweet-smelling emporium which is irish craft/home/cafe/shop Avoca.

it’s kind of like a bit of cath kidston combined with oliver bonas in a big country kitchen. and although i’ve made those british comparisons, you would NEVER get anything like it here in the UK.
to irish friends the shop (which is a small chain with branches mostly in the ROI) is a bit of a yummymummy paradise and i get the feeling that its reputation is ever-so-slightly tarnished by that association. however, as someone who has worked near angel for years and has hungout around the well-rough (er not really) islington-borders for even longer, i can safely say that it’s not like any yummymummy place i’ve ever walked past before.
as a bit of a tourist and first time visitor in belfast, i was over-awed by my experience in avoca’s luscious cafe. anywhere ostensibly a bit posh or bijou in london – say URGH hampstead or ZZZ upper street is mostly all front and no back. the cafes serve rubbish coffee, measly portions, stale breads and tasteless cake. and what’s worse than spending loads of money on crap cake and crap coffee? hardly anything.
unless you go somewhere spectacularly posh and treat-like over here then it’s probably best just to stay at home and DIY. even if you do go somewhere gorgeous for afternoon tea then you’ll probably just leave hungry anyway. disappointing.
avoca represents to me that kind of ‘irish’ generosity and hospitality that’s hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it yourself. the shop shelves are overflowing with stuff that’s pretty and useful and the grocery section stocks all sorts of yummy-looking things in v shabbychic jars and bottles.
the cafe serves freshly baked scones exploding with berries and fruits and are served with proper melty butter and jam. there are salads with more than one ingredient in and huge portions of homemade cake. amazing. and of course, piles of delicious soda breads.
i couldn’t help but think as i was leaving with a suitcase stuffed full of baked goods that ireland’s a bit of a mess at the moment (obv belfast less so) and i hope that there’s still a market for a place of such bountiful goodness, but perhaps which is a difficult symbol of that optimism and hope and wealth that characterised the boom years too.
i want them to open a shop here but i bet people couldn’t cope with the portions. LAME.

PS. on getting home from my trip i realised that my boyfriend had actually bought me one of their cookbooks for my birthday – oops. amazing.

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