Halloween and Jack-O’-Lanterns in Paris? This Expat Says, Yes!

Halloween and Jack-O'-Lanterns in Paris? Bellanda ®

Halloween and Jack-O’-Lanterns in Paris?
Bellanda ®

On a trip to the United States, my dear sweet French man was asked, “Do you have chicken in France?”  I nearly fell on the floor in shock that he was asked that, but a couple of years ago I suddenly felt like that person asking about chicken. Do they have Halloween carving pumpkins here in Paris, and if so where can I get my hands on one?

I have been a fan of Halloween ever since I was a little child. I never missed the chance to dress up for the occasion even as an adult… that is until I moved to France in 2001. “What? Dress up?” After seeing more shaking heads and laughter than I could handle coming from those around me, I began to imagine that they were thinking something to the effect of, silly American. Needless to say, I haven’t dressed up since.

That said, when my children were three and four years old I couldn’t help but think, I’ll be darned if I am going to let my half American children miss out on Halloween. My expat backbone stood up proudly. Who cares? Even if the people we knew didn’t celebrate Halloween, I was going to do so with my children.  I had no idea where to buy costumes and where to find pumpkins, so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I called my Mom and had her ship me over two costumes and abandoned real pumpkins for coloring pages of pumpkins. My kids were going to wear costumes even if they were the only ones doing so.

Although my dear man thought I was crazy, we took the children to the Paris zoo for the day, and yes they were the only ones wearing costumes. I looked at their smiles and the costumes they wore so proudly and thought, you show them! Yes, I know… my kids will probably sue me one day.

How did it turn out? Well, people looked, or should I say stared.  I was pleased that most looked on with smiles. There were a few sneering people, but I decided it best to actually look them in the eyes, give them a huge smile, and turn to laugh and play along with our little angels. Each year, Mom sent over costumes… and with each year, more and more of our children’s little French friends starting celebrating with us.

I discovered a few years after the zoo episode that I was just another clueless expat, fumbling my way around Halloween thinking no one really celebrated. I was so wrong! Some do celebrate… but they do so conservatively in comparison to the United States. There is also a controversy about Halloween being disrespectful to the dead that has even made some villages actually stop all Halloween activities in public places.

Over time, I’ve found costume stores all over Paris that sell and rent costumes and accessories, but only recently did I find the best  way to buy pumpkins!  I’ll save you the pain of searching by giving you one of the locations that has become our go to place for this, as well as for many other things. We found a farm about 40 minutes from Paris (depending on where you live within the city).  It has a pumpkin patch! http://www.cueilletteduplessis.com/index.php  I know, it is far for some, but as you will see… well worth the visit.

La Cueillette Plessis in Lumigny D20 - Route de Lumigny 77540 Lumigny Photos: Bellanda ®

La Cueillette Plessis in Lumigny
D20 – Route de Lumigny
77540 Lumigny
Photos: Bellanda ®

Look at all of those Jack-O'-Lanterns! Photo: Bellanda ®

Look at all of those Jack-O’-Lanterns!
Photo: Bellanda ®

La Cueillette Plessis in Lumigny takes Halloween seriously! Photos: Bellanda ®

La Cueillette Plessis in Lumigny takes Halloween seriously!
Photos: Bellanda ®

La Cueillette Plessis in Lumigny even gives out Pumpkin Recipes! Photos: Bellanda ®

La Cueillette Plessis in Lumigny even gives out Pumpkin Recipes!
Photos: Bellanda ®

Take your pick… or better yet, let your little ones run around screaming with delight as they pick out their own pumpkins! Maybe we’ve lived in Paris too long, but we were pleasantly surprised by the prices. Two or more pumpkins were priced at 2.65 euros each, less than two pumpkins were priced at 3.70 euros each. Although I haven’t included a photo, there were many pumpkins on the ground to make it easier for children to make their selection.

La Cueillette Plessis in Lumigny   Photos: Bellanda ®

La Cueillette Plessis in Lumigny
Photos: Bellanda ®

Grab one of the many wheelbarrows at your disposal and start loading it up!

La Cueillette Plessis Photos: Bellanda ®

La Cueillette Plessis
Photos: Bellanda ®

Meet our very own Jack… soon to be Jack-O’-Lantern! The children selected a model image given to them by the farm, and I got to work drawing.

Meet Jack... soon to be Jack-O'-Lantern! Photos: Bellanda ®

Meet Jack… soon to be Jack-O’-Lantern!
Photos: Bellanda ®

Let the little ones get their hands dirty with you… that is if they don’t go off screaming like our little princess.  😉 When all is said and done… this is our third Jack-O’-Lantern in the City of Light. We are thrilled to add the light of our Pumpkin’s candle to this beautiful city we call home.

Get your hands dirty. Bellanda ®

Get your hands dirty.
Bellanda ®

Our Jack-O'-Lantern's light now shines proudly in the city of light. Photo: Bellanda ®

Our Jack-O’-Lantern’s light now shines proudly in the city of light.
Photo: Bellanda ®

Update:

If you are in Paris and would like to celebrate, people don’t usually stock up on candy and many would probably look at you strangely if you rang their doorbell on a Trick-or-treating outing.  There are, however, a couple of interesting places that will be having Halloween Parties and Events this year:

Disneyland Paris

Park Asterix

Le Manoir de Paris

Stade de France

L’Hippodrome d’Auteuil

Hard Rock Café Paris

Monster High Halloween Party with Bateaux Parisiens

(For a French link of event details) http://www.sortiraparis.com/loisirs/guides/43816-halloween-a-paris-2013-pour-les-enfants-et-les-grands 

This year, I will actually be sporting a glitter covered cat mask.  A very happy Halloween to you all! 

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Paris Coffee: Myth, Reality and La Caféothèque

Paris Coffee Myth and Reality - Plus a Coffee Paradise in Paris

Paris Coffee: Myth and Reality –  A Coffee Paradise in Paris… But Where?

In an earlier blog post entitled, Coffee… Coffee… Coffee…https://bellandainparis.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/coffee-coffee-coffee ), I wrote about my love affair with coffee and how it began as the result of a rather unusual twist of fate in Paris, 1990.  Since that time, my tastes have refined and an increased desire to learn more about the substance that has become a rather intricate part of my everyday life has developed.  I am far from a coffee expert, but have been making it my mission to learn.

I started noticing the slightest and most subtle differences in a simple cup of espresso. As with fine wine, I learned that each coffee has traits, flavors, and aromas that identify and define it. There is even something called a Grand Cru. Who knew? Okay, maybe you did, but like I was saying, I was a total novice. The more I learned and I drank coffee, the more frustrated I became. No matter how much coffee I drank, I couldn’t find an espresso with substance here in Paris. I mean really, how hard could it be to find a decent espresso in a city that is famous for its gourmet food? I was dismayed that even in some of the finest restaurants in Paris, I was left with regret after ordering an espresso at the end of a dinner that could easily have been rated as one of the best meals of my life.

Maybe it’s the romantic in me that created some kind of myth that Paris and coffee go hand in hand.  In the movies and in everyday life, it is very typical for the French to grab a coffee with a client, colleague or a friend. Due to the large population of coffee drinkers here in Paris, I imagined that they would be sipping good, if not amazing coffee in those Paris cafés. I played along, drinking sometimes the undrinkable to be sociable, and not to appear impolite.  Then, I reached a point when I had truly had enough. I decided to begin a search to find THE perfect espresso/coffee in Paris.  I started changing coffee and cafés like people change socks.  I made up excuses as to why I needed to meet at coffee locations in which I had never been.  Each time, my hopes of finding a delicious coffee were met with disappointment…  Talk about busting my romantic Paris myth!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury back in the day that enables us to do a quick search on the internet to find what we need with the flick of a finger. Being an expat certainly didn’t help much either. I had no idea where to even begin looking and literally had no one that I could ask. I know that Paris might not be as large as New York, but at least I knew where to go when I was there.  Here, in this beautiful city, it was hit and miss with a whole lot of burnt and bitter coffee misses.

As luck would have it, years later, in the age of Twitter and Facebook, I met a real Parisian who brought me to a place in Paris that changed my notion of finding the one perfect coffee. I realized that I was going about this entirely the wrong way!  The truth is that there can be many a perfect coffee… one only needs to find a place that takes coffee seriously. After giving this a lot of thought, I decided to save my fellow coffee drinkers the trouble that my very own taste buds had been inflicted by letting you in on what I consider to be a coffee paradise in Paris.  For me, this place is La Caféothèque… Even the name is appropriate! http://www.lacafeotheque.com

Caféothèque Photograph by Bellanda ®

La Caféothèque
52, rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville 75004 Paris
Photograph by Bellanda ®

As soon as I walked through the door, a large coffee roaster greeted  me, as if to say, you’ve found the right place.

Coffee Bean Roaster La Caféothèque Photograph by Bellanda ®

Coffee Bean Roaster
La Caféothèque
Photograph by Bellanda ®

The odor of freshly ground coffee nearly made my head spin with joy.  Yes, this was indeed going to be an experience! I couldn’t wait to order my espresso, so when the waiter arrived, I quickly said, “Bonjour! Un espresso, s’il vous plaît.”  He looked at me with a gentle smile, and kindly showed me a menu.  I looked at the menu, only to discover that this menu was dedicated to their coffee selection.  My surprised expression must have given away the fact that I was going to need a little time to decide.  The server smiled again, and asked if I would like a little explanation of the menu.  I felt like a giddy little school girl.  Had I just found THE place to drink real coffee?  It sure looked like I had, so I made myself a promise that if I couldn’t find a decent coffee here, I was going back to drinking tea.

La Caféothèque
52, rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville 75004 Paris
Photograph by Bellanda ®

I listened intently as this kind server pointed out that each coffee was classified by country and by the grower’s plantation.  There was a description of each coffee’s essence and hints of flavor.  I was amazed to see such a vast array of small coffee growers from around the world:  Guatemala, Brazil, Peru, Ethiopia, Panama, Dominican Republic, Malawi, and Cameroon, among others.  This is the first time I had seen such a detailed traceability of origin, with such a humane approach to coffee selection. I ordered my coffee and then sat back to soak in the decoration of this café. La Caféothèque is not your typical Paris Café, but that is just one of the things that makes this place special.

La Caféothèque 52, rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville 75004  Paris Photograph by Bellanda ®

La Caféothèque ~ Original Room
52, rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville 75004 Paris
Photograph by Bellanda ®

Suddenly, I heard the sound of coffee being ground.  I looked over to the counter to find my server grinding the beans to be used for my espresso.  I tried hard to contain myself from screaming, Yes! Finally!  This was going to be my very first freshly ground espresso since I left New York! The aroma reached me before that of my coffee, and I couldn’t help but think how stupid I must look sitting there by myself with a big silly grin.

The espresso was served with a piece of chocolate, a glass of water and a smile.  Wait, where am I again?  Oh right, Paris! Service and a smile… Wow! This is something I truly appreciated, especially since I had stopped asking for water when I got several dirty looks for having given the other waiters more work in a couple of other Paris cafés.

I sat there and just stared at my espresso for a moment. It looked so rich, almost creamy but with no milk.  Finally, a coffee with substance! I took little sips and moved the espresso around my mouth. From that moment on, I was sold. Whenever possible, La Caféothèque has become my meeting place. It has since grown in size and in what it offers clients, but fear not.  I was pleased that they remained faithful to that small café spirit. Instead of making one huge room, they added two completely new smaller rooms.  In addition, they hold art expositions with coffee themes, concerts, and coffee classes.

La Caféothèque ~ Room 2 52, rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville 75004 Paris Photograph by Bellanda ®

La Caféothèque ~ Room 2
52, rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville 75004 Paris
Photograph by Bellanda ®

Garden Room ~ La Caféothèque Photograph by Bellanda ®

Tropical Room ~ La Caféothèque
Photograph by Bellanda ®

As many of you know, I’m normally an espresso kinda gal. However, this is not to be missed… It is as beautiful as it tastes.

Coffee Art at Caféothèque... It is as delicious as it is good. Photograph by Bellanda ®

Coffee Art at Caféothèque… It is as delicious as it tastes.
Photograph by Bellanda ®

La Caféothèque serves their coffee drinks in many forms, but I have yet to be disappointed by the coffee of the day. Each coffee brings me closer to a better understanding of what I love and enjoy.

To get the most out of your experience, I recommend a morning visit during the week to avoid the crowds… Perhaps you will even see me there. Oh, and you might want to get some of that coffee ground up to go… I always do!

Freshly Ground Coffee from La Caféothèque Bellanda ®

Freshly Ground Coffee from La Caféothèque
Bellanda ®

Is it possible to find a truly wonderful espresso or coffee in Paris? Definitely, it just took me a while to do so. Do you have a favorite café of your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and other cafés in Paris or anywhere else in the world.

Quiet Moment In Paris…

Paris has its quiet moments...  All rights reserved. Bellanda ®

Paris has its quiet moments…
Bellanda ®

Sometimes we get so caught up in the details of life that we forget to step back & truly see.

Soak in the calm and beauty of Paris…

Then, take it inside of you and bring it wherever you go.

Best wishes to you.

Bellanda