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Posts tagged ‘Marie Antoinette’

No. 352: The Paris Plages

paris_plages-beaches.jpgThere is one more cool thing to love about Paris—the Paris Plages. Sunday was the last day of this annual beach party, and remarkably, the moody sun decided to shine for the two hours we were there.

Okay, so it is not quite the Côte d’Azur, but I think it is one fantastic idea to transform a 4-kilometer stretch of the Right Bank of the Seine into a free fanciful faux beach for one month of the year. We have spent a couple of great afternoons on this urban beach enjoying the sand, sun, and gorgeous setting. It seems a bit strange to be lying out on a comfy beach loungers staring up at the Pont Neuf and the Conciergerie contemplating the fate of Marie-Antoinette, but then, this is Paris.

Some pretty great designers must have been involved in developing this concept and the enthusiastic support of the city government doesn’t hurt. Personally, I love all the different types of seating options available. You can choose from blue loungers on a white sand beach to huge colorful bean bags nearly spilling into the river, to large sail-like sun beds made for two, and café chairs on a freshly laid lawn. There are no shortage of things to keep you occupied: ballroom dancing lessons, swimming pools and misters, trampolines and dirt biking, art studios and playgrounds for kids, free massages for adults, foosball and pétanque, and of course, beachside cafés. The street entertainers run the gamut from classical Chinese zither players to opera singers to in-your-face hip-hop troops. If you can’t figure out what to do, you can ask one of the extremely friendly “plagistes”. Or you can simply admire the professional sandcastle builders as they sculpt their masterpieces while you enjoy your speculoos glace.

Ice cream, sand, friends and sunshine equals a perfect day in Paris.

paris_plage_beach_red_eiffel_tower.jpg

look what I found! (Check out my previous post: Eiffel’s Red Café Chair Tower.)

 

 

No. 138: Brioche: Let them Eat Cake

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” or the most common English translation: “Let them eat cake,” was supposedly uttered by Marie Antoinette, wife to King Louis XVI, the last, and possibly most extravagant queen of France. The story goes that upon hearing that her people were enduring difficult times and ongoing bread shortages, she proclaimed, “Then let them eat brioche.”

qu'ils mangent de la brioche...let them eat brioche…

qu’ils mangent de la brioche…let them eat brioche…

As brioche is made from sweeter dough enhanced with butter, eggs, and sugar (limited and luxurious ingredients at the time), brioche was even more out of the reach of the peasants than bread. This declaration was said to reflect the Queen’s obliviousness to the shocking condition of her people, and in the end contributed to her losing her head by guillotine.

source: Kirsten Dunst in “Marie Antoinette,” directed by Sofia Coppola, NYT

source: Kirsten Dunst in “Marie Antoinette,” directed by Sofia Coppola, NYT

Well it turns out there is no evidence that the Queen ever uttered these words et en fait this anecdote was never cited by opponents of the monarchy at the time of the French Revolution. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, political philosopher and composer, more likely wrote it when Marie Antoinette was a young child living in Austria. But even before Rousseau’s writings, it was attributed to Queen Marie-Thérèse the wife of Louis XIV, a hundred years earlier. And way before that, Chinese scholars claim that the phrase originated with an ancient Chinese emperor who, altogether unsympathetic to the fact that his subjects had no rice to eat, said, “Why don’t they eat meat?

Regardless of who did or didn’t say this, or who, unfortunately, lost their head and who didn’t, I have recently been introduced to this slightly sweet, funny-shaped, golden, eggy morning staple, and I can confirm that when I have a choice, I would rather eat brioche than bread, at least for breakfast. And these days, une petite brioche et un petit pain à Paris are each 1€ apiece, so on rare occasions, I let myself eat both.

petite brioche et petit pain

petite brioche et petit pain

Click here for a yummy airy brioche recipe from Fine Cooking. Best served with strawberry jam, lemon curd, or caramel à la fleur de sel.

 

Vocabulaire 

caramel à la fleur de sel: salted caramel

et en fait : and in fact

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. Let them eat brioche.

une petite brioche et un petit pain à Paris… a small brioche or small roll in Paris…