Waking up in Paris makes me instantly happy, there is something about this magnificent city that inspires and puts me immediately in a great mood. The first thing one does in Paris is get out of the house and get your morning croissant and Café au Lait in one of the million cafés present in every street and neighborhood; we pick Au Rocher de Cancale, which happens to be just across the street from our apartment in the bustling, pedestrian neighborhood of Montorgueil. Beside the Swiss, no one makes croissants as good as the French, it’s something with the water and butter and flour that just cannot be replicated; the Swiss counterpart: the “Gibfel”, is pretty close but still not as good. There is nothing like having your morning coffee and croissant, sitting on a sidewalk in Paris witnessing the daily hustle and bustle unfolding in front of you…it’s just magic! After breakfast it’s off to the local market and one of my favorite Boulangeries in Paris: Eric Kayser, for some baguettes and basic French must-have in the fridge: butter of Normandy, any kind of French cheese and a few bottles of French wine…et voilà!
Eric Kayser Boulangerie
Paul Boulangerie on Montorgueil
Today we are going to two amazing exhibition in two of the most iconic building in Paris: one very old and one just recently completed, the Grand Palais and the new Frank Gehry, Louis Vuitton Foundation. The Grand Palais is featuring an exhibit on Jean Paul Gaultier, the super-famous-genius French designer that exploded in the eighties with his innovative and daring new style of design that broke all rules and conceptions and opened up the door for more daring designer such as John Galliano and Rick Owens. I was just in my twenties when Gaultier rose to the top of the fashion world and, as many others, I became a huge fan and a total Galutier fashonista, I dressed head to toe in Gaultier for many years, earning the nickname: fashion victim. Looking back at photos of some of the outfits I was wearing in those days I can’t help but cringe at the depth of my dedication for this designer to the point of looking totally ridiculous in some of his outfits. That’s the eighties for you sister! So you can imagine my excitement on the way to the beautiful Grand Palais by the Seine for my pre-reserved VIP tickets to Jean Paul’s exhibit (with all the money I spent on his clothing in the past I should get a private viewing by Jean Paul Gaultier himself). As expected the exhibit is beyond fantastic with so many of his iconic work and some I never saw before; Madonna’s infamous and trend setting stage collection that he designed for her “Truth of dare” tour in 1891, to the Sex Pistols’ costumes to his Pocahontas wedding frock…just mind boggling!!!!
Jean Paul Gaultier”s exhibition at the Gran Palais
Genius at work
Madonna’s “Truth or dare’ tour costume
Pocahontas wedding frock
Silly turists unleashed
When in Paris…
Pont Alexandre III
Paris Love Locks Bridge
Notre Dame cathedral
After a nice walk and sightseeing by the Seine and over the Pont Alexander the 3rd and the usual silly tourist photos with the Eiffel Tower (see below…), It’s time for lunch and I can’t think of anything better than the legendary Les Deux Magots (www.lesdeuxmagots.fr) in the Rive Gauche, a classic Parisian Café serving up classic brasserie dishes since 1812. Only in Paris you have these iconic places that have been around for hundreds of years that give you such a sense of history, pride and tradition that is hard to find anywhere else…I just LOVE IT!!!! I have my usual Steak Tartar; a mix salad with a bottle of Rosé from Provence and Raphael salivates over a perfectly cooked Steak Frites that only the French know how to do. No rest for the wicked…it’s back to the culture train and off to the Foundation Louis Vuitton. The $143 million museum has recently been completed and opened its doors on October 2014; the building is designed by Los Angeles based, famed architect Frank Gehry, and is adjacent to the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne of the 16th arrondissement of Paris. Commissioned by Bernard Arnault, the Chairman of the fashion empire LVMH, this new addition to the must-do list in Paris is a true beacon of architecture and innovation and a shrine dedicated to promoting art and young artists…music to my soul! The collection is amazing and so diverse from Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, to Richard Prince and Andres Gursky and a video-sound installation that will take your breath away.
Les Deux Magots Brasserie in the Left Bank
Les Deux Magots Menu
Les Deux Magots place setting
Fondation Louis Vuitton by Frank Gehry
Fondation Louis Vuitton Exhibit
Frank Gehry’s masterpiece
Sensational Audio/video installation
More silly turists at the Arc de Triomphe
Lines on people outside the Louis Vuitton boutique on the Champs Elisées
I think I’ve reached my Cultural Nirvana; it’s time to go back to my lovely Parisian apartment for an afternoon tea, baguette and cheese and a glass of Beaujolais. One of my best friends in Paris, the very handsome and talented opera singer Vincent Simonet, has suggested we have dinner in this tiny little restaurant in the Passage de Panorama named Racines; I trust Vincent’s taste for he is a full-on gourmand as I am. The place has 8 tables and is located in this lovely indoor gallery lined with many little restaurants, one more damn cute than the other; it would be impossible to pick one if I didn’t already know where to go. I start with the Boudin Noir, a French specialty made with Cow’s blood (I know…yummy!!!) and then the best Entrecôte to Cochon Ibérique I have ever had in my life!!!! Pair all that with a beautiful Bourgogne a Crème tender du Chocolat Noir to finish up and it’s food coma…again!!!! The amazing thing about Paris is that you walk everywhere and having a nice walk after a meal is the best way to digest and get a little workout between really, really fattening meals. We are pretty close to Les Halles neighborhood, one of my favorites in Paris, so tonight we really go for it and after what seems like hours, we finally retire at 2am for some much needed sleep.
Passage de Panoramas
Front on Racines restaurant
What an amazing day: Gaultier, Vuitton!!! It’s incredible how fashion is and has always been such a monumental part of the cultural, social and artistic development of this city, it’s part of the DNA of these people and its evident in every aspect of French daily life. Paris is my favorite city in the world and after years of coming here, I am still in awe of it’s culture and traditions and its determination to put life’s little pleasure before possession and accumulation; they really give the old saying: “Stop and smell the roses” a whole new meaning!!!!
“Bonne nuit mes amis…a domain”. Le zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Good morning hangover! Nothing better than packing and trying to pull it together with 3 hours sleep and a hangover…oh well! After the dreaded walk of shame through the lobby, to the reception to pay my bill, we get in our rented Fiat 500 for the 3 hour drive to Monaco where we will have lunch and visit the Riva Yachts headquarter, or otherwise known as the Rolls Royce of boats. I still remember when I was a kid going to Portofino and Santa Margherita-Ligure in Italy; with my dad and my older brother every summer and spending most days cruising the Riviera on his beautiful Riva Aquarama Special, probably the most beautiful and glamorous speedboat in existence. Years later, my then step-mother Joan Collins also purchased a Riva Bravo, which she named “Sins” after completing her first mini serious for ABC named…yes you guessed it: “Sins”, which we used when vacationing in her house in south of France. So i have a special attachment to this brand and I’m exited to be visiting its headquarters in Monte Carlo.
My friend Jerome, who is married to one of the members of the Riva family, has arranged a special visit. Finding a parking spot in Monte Carlo in near to impossible, but that is why I have a Fiat 500, so you can literally park it anywhere…and so I do, between to motorcycles at the port, right in front of Riva. Walking through the famous “Tunnel’ where they keep their inventory of smaller speedboats, is truly fascinating! These boats are not called the Rolls Royce of the water for no reason, the design and handcraft work on these jewels is truly unprecedented and no one else comes close to it. Clearly, this comes at a cost…a very large cost! But hey…if you can afford it, it’s the one to buy! I can’t afford it, so no time wasted thinking about it. Outside, right by the water hanging from a crane, is the iconic Riva Aquarama Special, the same boat my dad used to have, in all its beauty!!! This legendary speedboat was introduced in 1962 and it’s classic design and style is still fabulous today as it was when it was first introduced.
Entrance to the Riva “Tunnel”
The iconic Riva Aquarama Special
Riva Aquariva getting serviced
After an hour of nostalgia and dreaming of what color I would choose should I be able to afford a Riva, it’s lunch time and I decide to go to an old Monaco classic restaurant Pulcinella (http://www.pulcinella.mc). This place has been around since 1979 and is a favorite among the Monegasques; through the years I remember having dinner here with my family, Roger Moore and then wife Luisa, with my beloved Shirley Bassey and many more. The food is ok, but the atmosphere is uniquely familiar and friendly…like having dinner at an Italian family’s home. Finally, it’s time to drive to Nice airport, drop off the little truffle (the Fiat 500 that is) and fly to Paris in time for dinner.
Ristorante Pulcinella famous logo
View of Monte Carlo from the road
This time around, I rented an apartment in Paris through Airbnb in the Montorgueil area, famous for it’s pedestrian only street lined with dozens of Brasseries, restaurants, markets and, oh yes, Boulangeries!!! After a pretty quick Uber ride form Chrales de Gaulles airport to the 10th arrondissement, we settle into our 17th century, two bedroom apartment and prepare to walk around our neighborhood for a place to dine. Rue Montorgueil is always bustling with people 24/7 and though getting an apartment in this location might be a little noisy; I absolutely love it and immediately feel the magic of the Parisian Cafe society. We decide to eat at the brasserie right across the street from my apartment: Café du Centre; a classic French Brasserie with all the usual suspect on the menu; I go for a green mixed salad to start, a Steak-Tartar aver Pommes Frites and a bottle of Rosé (between two people of course). We are sitting on the sidewalk in total bliss and just between the starter and the main course it starts poring cats and dogs like you’ve never seen before, all our food gets immediately soaked, our wine diluted and we just turned into wet chickens…absolutely FABULOUS!!!!! No one cared at all, we all just run into the small interior dinging room and practically sit on top of each other like a 10 pound sausage in a 5 pound bag and NO one cared, the staff brought out more wine for everyone and dinner continued without a hitch…just really damp.
My Parisian hood
Café du Centre
After dinner, it’s an absolute must to have a walk in the neighborhood to digest your meal and since we are 5 blocks away from there Louvre, that’s where we will do our digesting, walking down the Tuilleries with all the million of lights twinkling in the night that make this City of Lights absolutely unique and spectacular.
The Ferris Wheel on the Tuileries
The glass pyramid at the Louvre
Palais du Louvre at night
It’s been a long day and I’m ready to retire in my charming little apartment; did I mention Paris is having a heat wave? Yes, it’s about 95″ at 1am and there is no AC in my apartment…welcome to Paris! It’s ok, I’m too tired to care; I place the large fan practically over me and it’s off to La La Land in a second.
Bonne nuit Paris…je t’aime!!!!
I have decided to start something new on my blog today; in honor of the very popular “Throwback Thursday” phenomenon, I will start posting a special photo of my colorful past every Thursday as my “TBT Photo of the Week”.
A very chubby Robert Kass with Kirk Douglas, Dad’s home, Beverly Hills circa 1978
There is something very special about landing at Nice airport; it’s something about the south of France, it’s vegetation, architecture, its scents; the color of the ocean and this feeling of summer that take over me each time I’m here. After collecting our luggage we make our way to the very convenient and glamorous helicopter service to St. Tropez. There is no better way to avoid traffic and get a good idea of the shear beauty of this renowned coast all the way from Nice, through, Antibes, Cannes, Juan les Pins all the way to St. Tropez.
I’ve been coming to St. Tropez over the summer every year since I was 10 years old; I must admit I am quite jaded about this summer mecca and when I say: “What happened to St. Tropez” I’m referring to the tragic change this spectacular French resort has gone through over the last 10 years. It’s become a victim of it’s own success and today, it’s a playground for really tacky, nouveau riche (or wannabe “Riche”) wanting to flaunt their money and trophies and St. Tropez is happy to oblige with a myriad of ridiculous, commercialized gimmicks designed to take as much money as they can while dignifying and promoting such appalling behavior. Hummmm…do I sound a little negative? As I said, I’m really jaded when it comes to this place; there was a time when I thought St. Tropez was the most amazing summer resort in the world. I guess that after doing the same thing over and over for so many years, you grow tired of it and less welcoming of imminent change. Make no mistake, St. Tropez is absolutely beautiful, it’s just the summer people and the summer commerce that ruin it these days. If you have the opportunity to rent a house in one of the many little villages that pepper the coast’s hills, with a group of friends and enjoy the many local restaurants, markets, wineries and beaches, then this place is still amazing; but hanging out in town, along side the new madness…well, that’s clearly not for me anymore! Enough said…let’s move on.
Our helicopter service to St. Tropez
The very unfreindly French pilots
Arial view of the port of Cap d’Antibes
The stunning bays of St. Tropez
Once we land in St. Tropez, our driver is waiting to drive us to our hotel: Pan Dai Palais (www.pandei.com); one of the newer five start hotels in town and probably my favorite, because of it’s small and intimate size (only 10 gorgeous rooms), its exclusivity and it’s impeccable service. The Moroccan themed hotel is a converted 18-century estate that reeks of chic and it’s literally in the middle of town where everything is happening. It comes in handy when you had a few too many drinks and need to crawl back home.
The super-chic Pan Dei Palais Hotel in St. Tropez
Pan Dai Palace lobby
My beautiful Maharaja Suite
More Maharaja Suite
After settling into my room, we begin our 24 hours jammed packed visits of St. Tropez; starting with, what else, the beach! There are plenty of beaches in St. Tropez’s Pampelonne Bay and each one has a totally different crowd and purpose; my days of Nikki Beach, Voile Rouge or Bagatelle are most definitely over; the only beach I can bear these days, is Les Palmier, which is the most upscale and subdued of the whole lot, though I still like a long, boozy lunch at the iconic Club 55 (www.club55.fr/en/). After tipping the doorman $100 to get through the gate (you have to tip everyone here to get anywhere…kind of like Vegas), $200 for 2 chaise-lounge on the beach, $50 for two towels, $80 for a bottle of Evian, it’s finally time to relax and enjoy the beautiful sun and the expensive blue waters of the Pampelonne Bay, that looks more like a parking lot of mega yachts, fighting for the best position along the coast, than an ocean. After a lovely $400 lunch for two on the beach and a party at Tahiti Beach with my old friend Luigi (a staple in St. Tropez for over 30 years) spinning away and making us Tropical drinks the size of a fish bowl, it’s back to Pan Dai for a little siesta before the night marathon. $1000 afternoon and no shopping bag to show for…
Robert Kass and Raphael Tessier getting sauced on Luigi’s Tropical Punch massive drink
Tonight we are driving 35 minutes outside St. Tropez in La Croix Valmer to dine at Couleurs Jardin Restaurant, a super charming outdoor restaurant perched on the beach. The food is amazing like most of the restaurants in these parts; my Pata Negra, a Spanish pork specialty, is to dye for! Two bottles of Burgundy later, it’s time for trouble! We drive back to St. Tropez and after a walk around this beautiful port town to digest our very heavy dinner, we move to the trendy Cafe de Paris at the port, where another old friends of mine from St. Tropez, is the GM. My friend Philippe has been running trendy clubs and bars in St. Tropez for the last 30 years, from the days of Le Bal to Le Pigeonnier to Chez Maggy’s and this one is no exception. Philippe is bigger than life and probably the funniest person in France; he will not let you leave his establishments standing, in fact, he’s happy to see you leave horizontally! Thankfully, I manage to stumble out before the customary demise.
The ocean-side Couleurs Jardin Restaurant in La Croix-Valmer
The open terrace dining room at Couleurs Jardin
Heirloom tomatoes with burrata and tapenade
Mussels au Gratin
Spanish Pata Negra
The charming, restaurant lined side alleys of St. Tropez
St. Tropez’s iconic port lined with mega-yachts
The omni-present Mega Yachts in the port oif St. Tropez
The one and only Philippe holding court at Café de Paris
The famous Tarte Tropézienne at Café de Paris
The best dessert ever at Café de Paris
It’s now 2am and the perfect time to go to “THE” club in St. Tropez for the last 40 years: Les Caves des Roy at the Hotel Byblos (www.byblos.com/en/). This place is difficult to explain; it’s like a seventy’s club that never grew up but intact, shines brighter than ever; it’s a mecca for the worst kind of rich patrons one could think of and their dreadful groupies than come along with them. I will admit, I had many, many of amazing nights at Les Caves through the years, but now it’s literally painful to visit this joint. I remember many years ago when this club started a trend of interrupting the music every time someone bought a $15,000 Magnum of Dom Perignon or Crystal and the DJ announced the city from where the rich buyers came from, which in those days was not to often.
Today there are so many rich people that they literally interrupt the music every 10 minutes to announce a new city every time someone buys a mega bottle with the incredibly annoying words: “Dubai in the house” or, “Bangladesh in the house” or “Hong Kong in the house” while the waiters fight their way across the club, carrying the large bottles with sparklers in toe, to the your table, so that everyone knows you’re the ONE. Not to mention they pack this relatively small club to the hilt making it impossible to even move; I’m seeing the headlines already if ever a fire brakes out in this place: “French Toast”. The funny thing is that unequivocally, year after year, I run into so many of my friends in here from all over the world who are just having the time of their lives, just like I used to…I guess I started to early. This place is generation proof and here to stay no matter what this old goat says…Good for them!
Place des Lices on the way to the Byblos Hotel
The very exclusive and eternally jammed-packed Caves du Roy in St. Tropez
Robert Kass in St. Tropez in 1995 sporting the young fashionista look
It’s 5am and this grumpy and inebriated Suizo is ready for bed and thankfully, I can crawl back to my fabulous hotel that is just around the corner and slip into my four post Maharaja throne for whatever is left of this night before tomorrow’s imminent departure to Monte Carlo for the day and finally Paris for dinnertime. I don’t think I’ll be coming back to St. Tropez anytime soon, or at least, until I can afford a villa in the hills for me and my friends.
Bonne nuit mes petits poussins!