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Welcome to Mai in Paris!

Happy May Day!

The first of May in France is two holidays for the price of one, first and foremost it is Labor day / International workers day. Labor day is a public holiday in France and one that requires all workers to be given a paid day off. Because of this, one can expect that a lot of places will be closed Labor day, including many tourist attractions. The exception of course, are professions that cannot be interrupted, like public transport (although it is likely that service will be reduced), hospital workers...and florists?

That brings us to another tradtion celebrated on May 1st which is the Fete du Muguet! It is customary to give those you love a bouquet of the Lily-of-the-Valley-Flower on this day, as a gesture of friendship and good luck!

You will find 14,000 florists in France boasting these dainty flowers in preparation for May 1st.

The history behind it? It is said the muguet flower had been given to King Charles IX as a lucky charm and he was pleased with it that he decided to offer them each year to the ladies of the court.

We hope you are joining us in Paris this Spring. If you cannot make it here in person, be sure to join us on Instagram!

You'll see this month we are talking about our favorite pastimes, including enjoying picnics! Speaking of, Wine lovers - if you want to have a perfectly French picnic at home, you'll want our 6 bottle small French Producer Tour de France Wine selection! It's back! We only managed to get a few cases and they will go quickly! See them here and read more below.

Allons-y les amis!

We are getting into it this month!

We Better Talk Butter

This month we are spreading the word about one of the lifelines of French culture… le beurre!

Why is it so cherished? What makes it so delicious? What should you be on the look out on your next trip?  You butter be ready because we are getting into it in this months newsletter!

Firstly, one cannot speak about French butter without getting into the very classification of le beurre francais, which is, that butter cannot be called butter in France without being at least 82% fat content, anything below 82% just won’t do, pas de tout (not at all)!

Butter is composed of fat, milk solids, and water, that 2 percent extra fat means there is less water in it, making it a more flavorful, creamier and more easily spreadable delight. Now one could say that attributes to its’ notoriety, more fat means more flavor, and we can’t deny higher fat plays a huge part, but its not the only difference!

French butter is cultured meaning that the cream from the milk is left to ferment, which results to a slightly more sour, distinctive buttery flavor.

If you were to ask the butter experts, they would say the secret to good butter comes down to the milk that is used, with a whopping 22 liters of whole milk used to make 1 kg of butter… the milk surely plays an important role.

Did you know that the color of the butter changes with the seasons? As no dyes are added to the butter, milk from cows that have been grazing through spring/summer, will be a deeper yellow tone from the carotene ingested from long days of grazing on fresh herbs and flowers. During the winter months the butter will be a paler color as the cows will be mostly fed silage.

Looking for the best butter boutique? We have you covered, head over to our blog for more buttery goodness!

Think that the French butter obsession is a new phenomenon? Butter was in such high demand by the 19th century that Napoleon III offered a high financial prize to anyone who could come up with a cheaper alternative. The French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès won the award with his new spread made from beef fat and flavored with milk, he named this new spread “oleomargarine,” which was later just shortened to just margarine!

It is picnic weather!

Where To Picnic In Paris!

It is that time of year again, where Parisians flock to the nearest park, garden, or large body of water - with a baguette in one hand and their favorite snacks in another for an afternoon pique-nique!

The word pique-nique is said to derive from the French verb piquer (‘to peck’ or ‘to pick’) and the 13th century noun, nique, meaning ‘something of little value’. What we can be sure of is that the art of picnicking was popularized in the 18th century where it became a favorite pastime to the French aristocracy. Their picnics were, as one can imagine – an elaborate affair, one that mimicked the simple pleasures of peasent life, which was indeed was not very similar at all!

All that changed after the French revolution, when ordinary people were allowed to gather in the country’s royal parks. That is when picnicking really took off and became an affair welcomed into everyday life!

Fast forward to today, the picnic is a staple in French society and one that Parisians do particularly well. Which of course comes as no surprise as we have already established the French are well versed in "the art of doing nothing".

This month we put together a list of our favorite Paris parks, so that you too can pique-nique comme un parisien (picnic like a Parisian) ! Don't forget that the Seine below us is a perfect option !

We will start of with a clear favorite - Champ de Mars is one of the most visited spots on our list, for tourists and locals alike and it is clear to see why! This long stretch of grass at the foot of the Eiffel Tower makes for an especially scenic spot to nibble your afternoon away!

Le Jardin du Luxembourg is another picnic approved location, and a great place to park yourselves after a morning of strolling the left bank. This park was originally owned by the duke of Luxembourg, hence the name, but was bought by Marie de Medici, Henry IV’s widow, in 1612, who had longed to replicate her childhood home and so commissioned landscape artists and builders to get to work to turn her dream into reality. And that is exactly what they did, centuries later you can see their impeccable attention to detail lives on!

A little off the beaten path but a very much-loved picnicking spot is the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, with 61 acres of lush greenery, and an abundance of activites ranging from caves to waterfalls, to roman ruins and a suspension bridge (built by none other than Gustave Eiffel, who was a famous bridge builder long before he brought us his famous tower) - this park can be a half day adventure in and of itself! Constructed by the engineer Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand, during Napoleon III’s rule, Alphand who had already worked on several of Paris’ notable parks like the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes, brought his know how into this project in 1864 - the Parc de Buttes Chaumont was opened to the public just three years later.

Speaking of the Bois, the Bois de Boulogne use to be the king of France’s hunting grounds, sitting just on the outskirts of Paris’ 16th arrondissement in the west, you are sure to find something for everybody! Whether it be laying in grass or renting a boat to paddle around the lake, there are plenty of ways to spend your afternoon grazing away.

On the other side of Paris you have Bois de Vincennes Paris’ largest green lung, at a whopping 2,459 acres. This park sits on the edge of the 12th arrondissement in the east and is home to a wide variety of birds, from ducks to peacocks! Nearby you will also find the Château de Vincennes, this former royal residence was used between the 14th and 16th century and has the 

Last on our list is La Coulée Vert, although not a park in the traditional sense, Le coulée vert is a planted walkway built on the tracks of the old Vincennes railway line that use to run through eastern Paris. It is now entierly pedestrianized and offers a serene elevated stroll, you will find plenty of benches to set yourselves up for an afternoon snack! 

Looking for more spots? We have you covered! Follow us over to our blog post for more beautiful picnic spots and even a handy map! 

A cloudless sky at Luxembourg gardens!

Top Tips from Paris

Look out for "Brasserie" for all day dining:

The hot topic we have planned for this month is of course food related. The dining experience in Paris can be surprising for some, we are here to shed some light on dining in Paris and what you can expect!

L'heure du diner (dinner time) typically doesn't begin in Paris till at least 8pm, that being said most restaurants will start service at around 7 or 7:30. If you are looking to eat earlier than that, your best bet would be to look out for "brasseries" or "service continu" on their awning! 

Bread may arrive to your table, but unless it is breakfast time, it won't be accompanied by our beloved butter. That is because in France, bread is meant to accompany your main course, and is not considered an appetizer in and of itself.

When arriving at at café or brasseries there is no need to wait for the waiter to seat you, you are encouraged to choose a table and the waiter will come and find you. 

Unless you are in a high end restaurant, it is perfectly normal to walk up to the counter to pay your bill, and often the faster option! 

We have said it before and we will say it again, tap water is potable and free in Paris! Just ask your waiter for a "une carafe d'eau"!

On these warmer days you might see parisians sipping on violently green or bright fuchsia drinks, and may be wondering what kind of poisonous concoction they have been served. The French are fans of adding different sirops (syrups) to their drinks, the green color is often Mint, and the pink is Grenadine. Grenadine translates to pomegranate, but the syrup itself is commonly a mix of red fruit. A glass of water flavored with syrup, especially sirop de menthe or sirop de grenadine, is a popular beverage to order at French cafes, especially for kids. Should you dare try it yourslef, here are a few delicious options! 

Une Grenadine - Spqrkling Water & grenadine syrup
Un Diabolo Menthe (A mint devil) - Lemonade* and mint syrup
Perroquet (Parrot) - Mint syrup mixed with Pastis

*remember 'Limonade' here is more like a 7UP, a Citron Pressé is the drink made of lemons called Lemonade....just to confuse things!


Au Marché en Mai

The fountain at the center of Marché Monge

May brings with it many things we adore, being in the middle of the spring season means we are spoilt for choice with overflowing market stalls brimming with brightly colored produce. Towards the end of this month a vibrant new arrival should be making its way into the stalls, and into our picnic baskets – les cerises!

These heart shaped fruits have been a much-loved French staple for a very long time!

Rue de la Cerisaie located in the lower marais pays tribute to king Charles V’s cherry orchard that was there during the 14th century. Nowadays Cherries are no longer grown in Paris, but there are several well known areas in France that certainly do! 

The cherry season is a short and sweet one, usually only lasting from the end of May to mid-July.

The most common sweet cherry to be eaten in France is the Burlat cherry, it is also the first to appear at market stalls. They are known to be large, dark red and very juicy! Miam! (yum)

Though Burlat may be the first to arrive, the largest producer of cherries in France, is in Monts de Venasque - located in the north of Provence in the region of Vaucluse - producing over 2000 tons of cherries per year! This area houses the largest concentration of cherry trees in France and is named the Red Diamond of Provence. It is no wonder that the Monts de Venasque cherry is the first top – of – the – range cherry brand born in 1978.

Back up to the Montmorency region, at just over 15km from the center of Paris - cherry cultivation began in the 17th century, grown in orchards at the edge of forests and have since been exported to many different countries around the world. The Montmorency cherry is known for being sour and is most often made into jams.

Each year in June is the cherry festival with street parades, activities for children and free tastings based around this famous fruit!

We are looking forward to cherry season!

Culinary Conversation

A little May vocabulary for you - with our modest attempt to help you pronouce them!

Les Cerises (Sur - eez) - Cherries

Les Fleurs (Flurs) - Flowers

La Fête de Mère (Fet De Mer) - Mothers day

Le Muguet (Moo-gay) - Lily-of-the-valley

Un Porte-Bonheur (Port-Bonhur) - A Good Luck Charm

Joyeux Premier Mai (Joyeu Premier Meh) - Happy May Day

Fête du Travail (Fet Du Travaee) - Happy Labor Day

Les Fleurs Fleurissent (flurs fleurees) - The Flowers Are Blooming

Our favourite baguette stop - Au Petit Versailles du Marais

Le Scoop: Gossip & Goodies

Brocante lovers, one of our FAVORITE Brocantes of the year is back May 13th through 15th! The Brocante of rue de Bretagne! We love them all, but this one is a real winner. Follow their Instagram page here.

La Tour Saint Jacques opens at the beginning of June! Beautiful 360 degree views of Paris, from the center of Paris. It just opened last year for visitors, and they are continuting on! Two visits in English per week - but if you miss those, be sure to go for the views! Find out more here.

Les Belles Plantes at the Jardin Des Plantes has reopened, this brasserie caponied under the verdent setting of the park itself, it makes for a beautiful spot to stop and smell the roses! They are open from 10:00 - 18:00 during the week, and until 19:00 during the weekend, serving everything from coffee to dinner!

Esteemed Chef Alain Ducasse just opened a plant based burger stand at Place de la Bastille! Burgal offers plant based burgers with unique condiments, eggplant caviar, spicy vegan mayo to name a few! All ingredients are sourced from France so you will be happy to know that you are eating locally! 

Meilleur Ouvrier de France Yann Brys has opened a new bakery in Paris, and lucky for us, it just on our doorstep! Head over to the Tourbillon at 90 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île 75004 for some of his droolworthy cake creations!

Terrace season is our favorite season here in Paris!

Tour de France - for your French Picnics!

You may remember last year that we worked with Small French Wine Producers to box up a fabulous Tour de France Wine selection and send them directly to you! We have a tiny supply - only 20 cases! Grab them before they go and you'll have them ready for your perfectly French picniques this summer!

In the pack you will find three whites and three reds. Come and check out the Producers behind the wine here. And if you ready to have them sent to their new home, click here !

What's coming up?

Pivoine season is well underway!

Some upcoming events that we sure are looking forward to!

A few May festivities you won't want to miss:

On Saturday May 14, 2022, from 5 p.m the Nuit des Musées European museum night is back for its' 18th edition, allowing visitors through their doors after hours, for unique exhibitions, concerts, games and performances! Keep an eye on your favorite museum, castle or monument to see what they have in store! Over 250 museums are participating so you are sure to find something for everyone!

JAM CAPSULE is presenting five, 50 minute experiences covering different art forms, from dance to music to cinema, as a way to explore culture through immersive audio and visual exhibitions. The exhibition just started this week and is taking place at Paris Expo - Porte de Versailles! 

Atelier des Lumières is at it again and this time they are taking us to outerspace! They have teamed up with the National Center for Space Studies for their renewed exhibition: Destination Cosmos. Join them for a starry nighttime experience until May 7th! 

The castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte, is hosting “Vatel, behind the scenes of the party”, a live re-enactment of the 17th century butler, Francois Vatel, inviting you into his kitchen as he prepares a reception for Louis XIV. On during the weekend and public holidays until November!


See you next month - à bientôt les amis!

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La Cusine Paris, 80 Quai de l'Hôtel de ville,
75004 Paris, France
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