Oops: The Mice Have Nibbled the Register Page

By Patricia Tennison



Something squirrely has messed with the Register page for Paris Cafe Writing. Or maybe it's the mice ...

If you filled out the Register page for one of the May, June, or November 2018 sessions, it’s possible that I didn’t receive the registration.  And I need to know how many glasses of champagne to line up for the welcome dinners!

When the page functions properly, you hit Submit and receive an automatic “Thanks for Registering” email, followed in a day or two by a personal email from me.

If you received neither, you will have to go back to www.ParisCafeWriting.com, click on Register, and again fill out and submit the form. Send me a quick email or phone call for confirmation.

I am sorry about this. My tech support is working on it. If you have any questions, write to me at info@ParisCafeWriting.com or call me at 773-525-2002.

(The mice in the photo are a test-batch I made this week for holiday cooking with my 3-year-old granddaughter. I got the recipe from a Chicago Tribune cookie contest. Below is the recipe—and a few tips from me. )

Happy Holidays!


Patricia Tennison

Director, Paris Cafe Writing




Chicago Tribune staff Contact Reporter


November 11, 2015.

Cute counts, as these Mexican mice cookies prove. They took second place in the Tribune's Holiday Cookie Contest in 2000. Their creator, Caryn Lerner, said she adapted cookies made from a Mexican wedding cake dough because her nieces and nephews wouldn't eat them. They changed their minds when the cookies reappeared in the shape of mice with mini-chocolate bits as eyes, almond slivers for ears and curly Chow mein noodle tails.

The recipe is excerpted from "Holiday Cookies," a collection of more than 100 recipes of winning cookies from 25 years of the Tribune's annual Holiday Cookie Contest. We are featuring a cookie per week, leading up to the Dec. 2 announcement of this year's contest winners, to mark the second printing of the book, which was published in 2014 by the Tribune with Surrey Books. The book is available for $17 at www.chicagotribune.com/holidaycookiesbook.


Prep: 1 hour Bake: 27 minutes per batch

Makes: About 3 dozen

Caryn Lerner took second-place in the Tribune's Holiday Cookie Contest in 2000.

2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar plus more for dusting

2 cups flour

1 cup finely ground pecans

1/4 teaspoon salt

Chow mein noodles, mini-chocolate chips, sliced almonds

1 Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar; beat until combined. Mix in flour, pecans and salt.

2 Shape dough into 1-inch ovals, tapering one end. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake, 15 minutes. Remove from oven; insert noodle at tail end and 2 almonds about 1/3 of the way from pointed end for ears. Return to oven; bake until slightly browned, about 12 minutes.

3 Remove from oven; immediately place two chocolate chips in front of ears for eyes. (Chocolate will melt slightly and stick to cookie.) Dust mice bodies with confectioners' sugar. Cool on wire rack.

Nutrition information per mouse: 100 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 14 mg cholesterol, 7 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 70 mg sodium, 0 g fiber


EXTRA MICE COOKIE TIPS From Patricia Tennison of Paris Cafe Writing

December 2017

1 Set the butter on the counter several hours or overnight to soften. Do not microwave or otherwise melt as it will affect the texture of the cookies.

2 When shaping the dough, taper well. The bodies don’t have to be perfectly smooth as they will smooth out while baking.

3 Before baking, have the decorations ready on separate plates:

(A) Select tails for interesting curls; one side needs to be straight to stay well inserted; very long ones tend to get hit and broken.

(B) Sort the sliced nuts to match pairs by size, shape, and color.

(C) Use tweezers to ready chocolate chips tip-side-up; use tweezers to place these “eyes” on cookies. (The chips will melt in your hands and/or smudge if you try to move them.)

4 Test your oven for timing. The first bake I do for only 14 (not 15) minutes. Otherwise, they are a little too crusty-firm for insertions.

5 Sprinkle the final confectioners' sugar after the cookies have cooled, maybe 10 minutes; otherwise, the sugar is absorbed and disappears.


Easiest chores for a 3-year-old helper:

Pick the tails

Level the sugar, flour, salt

Smell the vanilla

Early part of hand mixing

Shape the dough into balls

Insert tails? Cookie tin will be hot!

Tap a strainer of confectioners' sugar for that final touch






Paris – Memories and Cafe Writing

Paris – Memories and Cafe Writing

Editor’s note: We lead this newsletter with a post from Kathy Thomas, author of the Purposeful Travel blog, who attended Paris Cafe Writing in June.

It was a clear, sunny June day in Paris. A soft breeze from the east ruffled tree branches on the boulevard. As I drove through the city, I could feel the tinge of excitement and nostalgia fluttering inside me. I was returning to the city I had fallen in love with 40 years ago, but not as the young novice traveler of my youth. I now have five continents and 30+ countries under my belt and I worried that the thrill of Paris would be lost this time around.

I arranged to attend a weeklong workshop aptly named Paris Café Writing, run by Patty Tennison, who divides her time between Paris and Chicago. We spent our mornings with coffee and croissants, learning and writing in various cafes in the heart of Le Marais. Le Marais as you may know is a wonderful Paris neighborhood located in the 3rd and 4th arrondisements.

It’s tree shaded streets are lined with shops, cafes, and old apartment buildings, adorned with frilly Juliet balconies. Most of our afternoons were free, so I used that time to revisit the sites of my long ago sojourn in Paris.

A quick note here about getting around in Paris (I turned in my rental car once I arrived in the city). Before I left home, I downloaded the free Paris transit app, RATP. Once in Paris, this app synced with my Google Maps App to create an extraordinary tool for easily navigating the city. I would enter a destination in the app and Google would tell me several ways to go: walking, driving, bus, train, metro. The app is so specific that it is nearly impossible to make a mistake or get lost. Within 4 hours of my arrival in the city, I was hopping buses and metros with confidence. On the rare occasion that public transit is not convenient (toting luggage, accessibility issues), your Lyft and Uber apps from home work just fine in Paris.

Back to the workshop. Patty Tennison has taught at the graduate level and she has taught beginners. Her versatility enables her to easily adapt to her participants. She limits the workshops to eight writers, but due to last minute cancellations, our group was reduced to an intimate class of four. It was a unique, friendly, and open group representing the UK, Illinois, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. In addition to the morning workshops, Patty and her husband, Joe Prendergast, guided us on an informative walking tour of Le Marais, hosted a wine and cheese tasting at their apartment, arranged meals at wonderful restaurants, and a jazz night for our entertainment. We were encouraged to practice our French whenever possible, but English is perfectly fine too.

As part of the program, Patty conducted private one on one sessions with each writer. We had previously submitted a piece we were working on and Patty used the one on one to provide feedback and answer questions with each of us. My session with Patty on its own was worth the trip to Paris. I was really struggling with a subject and the brainstorming with Patty gave me a new perspective that will hopefully turn into the beginning of a book.

Because I frequently travel solo, adding in a volunteer purpose, or a learning activity, positions me to form new friendships with like minded people. We become part of the communities in which we are helping or learning. France was no exception and I hope to travel with or visit each and every writer with whom I had this wonderful experience.

To read more about Kathy Thomas’s experiences at Paris Cafe Writing and some of her work, click here.

Paris Is the Next Event for This Scholarship Winner


Candace Smith of Chicago is the 2017 Paris Café Writing scholarship winner.


Paris Is the Next Event for This Scholarship Winner

By Patricia Tennison


Once again we have a new scholarship winner! Candace Nzingha Smith, a student at National Louis University in Chicago, where I teach, will be joining us in Paris for a June 2017 session of Paris Café Writing.

“I called my younger sister in Dallas and we had a screaming contest for a bit. Then I called my best friend in Galveston and we had a screaming contest, too!” the winner said.

Candace, 36, and her five siblings were raised in Chicago by her maternal grandmother. “I was like a parent, and when my grandmother died I took care of my siblings,” she said.

“At 15 I left home and went to work.” While in high school in Chicago she worked at McDonald’s. In college in New Orleans and then L A. she worked full-time at Hertz Car Rental, plus helped at an events company. With that experience under her belt, she and some friends then started a fashion show and events business in L.A.

Candace Smith hears her name as the winner is announced.

France, though, seemed always on her mind. She looked into a writing residency program in France in 2014, but the cost was too high. Instead, she packed a bag and took off for Europe on her own, including exploring Paris for just one day.

Now she is studying for her master’s degree in written communication at NLU, where the scholarship committee was impressed with her writing.

“I knew at 11 that I wanted to be a writer, but I had to put it off. Still, I haven’t been able to escape it. I want to teach, to build up confidence as a writer, and produce work including children’s books and poetry,” she said.

An interesting fact about Candace: “I don’t watch television. It’s too time-consuming. Other people usually purchase them for me as gifts so they’ll have a TV to watch when they visit me. The funny thing is—the last thing we end up doing is watching television.”

She’s talented, she’s hard working—and she’s going to Paris.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

But first, I’d like to sincerely thank those who contributed to the scholarship fund. It costs about $4,000 to send a student on a full scholarship abroad, a goal we want to achieve each year. I established this scholarship at National Louis University—one of only two travel scholarships at this urban university—and each year I donate the first $1,350. Your contributions do the rest.

The contributions go through the university, so they are tax deductible. To donate, click DONATE. The university will send you an email receipt for your taxes. Thank you so much.

*     *     *     *     *      *     *     *

Janice Canty, last year’s scholarship winner, published the following essay and poem in Mosaic, a literary magazine published by the Master of Science in Written Communication Program at National Louis University.

Paris—The City of Lights, The City of Love

by Janice Canty

After travelling since 3 p.m. the day before, I arrived in Paris around 8 a.m. (1 a.m. Chicago time). As the taxicab drove down the narrow streets to the hotel, the graffiti on the buildings alarmed me. I discovered later this was Parisians’ artistic expression of Street Art.

I received another shock when the driver pulled up in front of a building that was my hotel, and I thought there must be some mistake. Where was the big hotel entrance, the Holiday Inn lobby? I reluctantly checked in and went up the petite elevator; “petite” is synonymous for “tiny” in Paris, you know. Anyway, I opened the door to my “petite” room and wondered where was the rest of it? Overcome by jetlag, I crashed on the bed and slept for a few hours to get ready for the welcome dinner.

However, let’s go back to how I got here.

Ever since I was a little girl, or at least ever since my high school years—you can guess how long that has been—I’ve dreamed of going to Paris. Fast-forward to the National Louis University Master of Science in Written Communication Program—I was selected in Spring 2015 as the first recipient of the 2016 Paris Café Writing Scholarship. At first I questioned this blessing, “Why was I selected?” There were many more qualified and deserving classmates. Then finally, I said to myself, “Why not me?” It was beyond my wildest dreams. My family didn’t believe it and my friends were excited for me.

Then it happened. In November 2015, terrorists attacked Paris, killing 130 people and wounding several hundred others. I was inundated with the inevitable question from family and friends, “Are you still going?” I tried to stay positive. After all, this was a trip to Paris—not just any trip. I decided to wait and see. I decided if anything else happens that would be the deciding factor.

Then it happened again. Terrorists bombed an Egyptian flight out of Paris. Fear and doubt crept over me again. This time I saw it as a sign that I wasn’t supposed to go. I called up one of my closest friends, who is a strong Christian, and asked her to have lunch with me to sort out my thoughts and to get an objective opinion. We met for lunch and she asked, “So, are you still going?” Then without my answering, she said, “I think you should go.” She said anything could happen to each of us at any time. Only God knows when it’s our time. I was surprised that she said this because it was pretty much the conclusion I had reached. Life is not a guarantee. We must live it in faith. We cannot allow fear to paralyze us. With that assurance, I went to the library and took out three French language lesson books.

Here I am in Paris at last! Exhausted, I dressed for the welcome dinner. By now, I was homesick too and wanted to get on the first plane back to America. I went down to the lobby and there was a fellow member of the Paris Café Writing group. She was friendly and right away I began to feel at ease. Then in walked Patty, effervescent as ever. Paris suits her. Bonjour! And kisses on the cheek—both cheeks in Paris, you know. She was with her husband Joe. Ahh Joe, wonderful Joe. I can’t say enough about Joe.

We arrived at the Le Cellar, and there we were treated royally by Christian. The dinner, the meal, the ambiance was none that I had ever experienced. It was lively, the wine flowing like Coca Cola—we were in Paris, you know. And Christian, Patty and Joe’s friend and the owner of this quaint restaurant, served up this delectable meal and entertained us the entire time. I had the most succulent dish of salade gesiers, chicken gizzards. Never had I tasted anything so delightful. I even had escargot for the first time. I just closed my eyes as I swallowed the first one, and didn’t think about what I was eating. I devoured the whole plate. By the time I arrived back at the hotel, I had forgotten all about being homesick and was grinning from ear to ear. I was in Paris.

The next day we met Patty at a café and had scrumptious croissants—ooh la la—with butter and jam. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a croissant in Paris. Patty took us on a tour; I was able to see Paris in a way that most tourists never have the opportunity to experience. I saw Paris through the eyes of the locals. After a few days, I was strolling down the narrow streets by myself, riding the bus and subways. I would stop at the boulangerie, Paris’s version of Panera Bread. I shopped at the supermarkets, the cheese shops, and the wine stores. The markets in Paris are specialized, you know.

What made the trip really special is the afternoon Patty invited us to their petit appartement. It was so quaint and Joe, as always, was the gracious host. We had samplings of lavish assortments of cheeses and breads. My favorite cheese has always been Brie; however,
I discovered I much prefer Camembert.

During my stay in Paris, as the scholarship winner, I felt at times Patty and Joe showered me with too much attention. Never did I feel alone. The trip was extremely educational. Patty’s writing workshops were imaginative and creative. One day she had the group write an essay about our experience in Paris. At the time, I was also taking an online poetry class and my first poem, “Salute to Fear,” written below, evolved out of this awesome experience.

Salute to Fear

by Janice Canty

Fear of the unknown; the unknown is fear.

Graffiti buildings or Street Art it’s called
Narrow streets like Chicago alleys
Stone-faced cigarette smokers

Fear of the unknown

Rooms so tiny, so petite
A strange beautiful language
Petite sidewalks for petite women

The unknown is fear

Motorcycles racing, racing
Horns blasting, blasting
Sirens screeching, screeching

Fear of the unknown

Armed guards uniformed in black
Green Berets patrolling the streets
Monuments gated and closed

The unknown is fear


Immersed in the city’s culture
Strolling down the cobblestone walkways
People watching at cafés

Ooh la la the fashion
The marvelous French architecture
Ahh the croissants, the chocolate éclairs

People so lively still
Wandering about without fear
In face of terrorist threats looming

Paris is still blooming.

The unknown is known.


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Get Creative with Gifts from Paris

Get Creative With Gifts from Paris

By Patricia Tennison


Sure, you’ve had a great time in Paris and then the guilt sinks in: What do I bring home as gifts? They’ve got to be small enough to jam into your suitcase, and inexpensive enough so you can afford to fly back to Paris yourself. But the gifts still need to be creative, things you can’t easily buy back home.

I’ve been through this, and offer 10 fun ideas:

Bring your dog home a treat from Paris: a rabbit dinner.
Bring your dog home a treat from Paris: a rabbit dinner.

Rabbit dinners for dogs

Go to the pet food aisle in a grocery store, and look for a little aluminum packet of terrine au lapin & aux legumes (rabbit terrine with vegetables). How … French. I love the product description: une solution quand on n’a pas le temps de chasser le lapin (one solution when you don’t have time to chase the rabbit). Yes, there are also lapin dinners for cats. Price: about 50 cents.





Pack a cassoulet dinner to bring back from Paris.
Pack a cassoulet dinner to bring back from Paris.

Cassoulet TV dinner

Still in the grocery store, find the aisle with pre-fixed, shelf-stable, microwaveable meals. We’re not looking for gourmet quality, just a quintessential French dish—cassoulet, for example—that someone in the States can warm up in 3 minutes, serve with a better quality glass of wine, and laugh as they think of you. (You might suggest doctoring up the white bean stew with a twist of black pepper.) Price: about $4.





Pâté de sanglier (pâté of boar)
Pâté de sanglier (pâté of boar), representing Corsica.

Pâtés by Reflets de France

While the cassoulet TV dinner is a bit of a blague (joke), this brand of prepared food is not. Mega-Michelin-star chef Joël Robuchon tests and endorses the products by Reflets de France, a line created in 1996 for the Carrefour chain of grocery stores. The quality is very good and designed to highlight various food regions of France. Look for the distinctive, tan-colored paper label on jars of pâté au foie de canard (a pâté with 20 percent duck liver) representing the Aquitaine region, or perhaps a jar of pâté de sanglier (pâté of boar), representing Corsica. Price: about $8 to $10.

Salers, a semi-hard cheese from Auvergne, is an excellent gift from Paris.
Salers, a semi-hard cheese from Auvergne, is an excellent gift from Paris.

Salers cheese

Bringing home cheese is not a new idea, and you’ll find numerous French cheeses on sale at the airport. However, the cheeses meant for export at the airport are pasteurized, which eliminates many of the bacteria that make French cheese taste so good. Head to a fromagerie (cheese store)—not a grocery store—that will shrink-wrap your cheese for an extra euro and buy a cheese that is cru (raw). Pick one that your friends might not see as often in the States, such as Salers, a semi-hard cheese from cows that summer in the mountain pastures of Auvergne. A lovely image, a lovely cheese. Be sure to store it in your checked luggage where it will be kept cool. Price for a nice chunk: $6.

A gift idea: a couple pounds of Poilânebread.
A gift idea: a couple pounds of Poilâne bread.

Poilâne bread

You can grab a baguette from a boulangerie (bakery) on the way to the airport. But even better, find a shop that sells Poilâne bread, a brand with a slightly sour-dough taste and firm mouth feel that many foodies adore. A whole round loaf with the famous “P” etched on the top would make an impressive gift. It’s hard to find in the States. The larger loaf also stays fresher longer, so you could buy it the day before you leave. Stash it on board in your overhead space. Price: about $10.

Look for consignment finds at La Jolie Garde-Robe in Paris.
Look for consignment finds at La Jolie Garde-Robe in Paris.

Consignment store purse

I love shopping at a friperie (second-hand store) for clothing accessories. Because you can never be sure what the store might have that day—or even if it’s open that day—your gift ideas must be flexible. My favorite find one year was a used Nina Ricci purse that I gave to my sister Ninnie, largely because I liked the Nina/Ninnie name similarity. Fine. It’s particularly fun to search for a high-fashion name like Nina Ricci or Pierre Cardin because you pay a fraction of the original price yet have priceless fun imagining the backstory of the previous owner. One of my go-to spots is La Jolie Garde-Robe in the Marais at 15 rue Commines, 75003. As usual, the place got practically cleaned out in March by the crowds in Paris for Fashion Week, but my husband, Joe, still managed to shoot photos of a few purses. Price: $60 and up.

Not sexy and not French—find another piece of underwear.
Not sexy and not French—find another piece of underwear.

Monoprix slips

 Backstory on the photo: So I asked Joe to do me a favor: Go to the department store chain Monoprix and take a photo of a sexy French slip, pronounced “sleep,” which is the French word for a lady’s panty. Maybe red, maybe leopard, you know. One year I packed a half dozen into my suitcase, then threw them on a bed back home so that my sisters could laugh and pick their favorites.

The lingerie set in this photo is red (good) but those cover-everything slips are not sexy—and they are made by Playtex, an American brand. I can’t send Joe back; he’s really a nice guy. And anyway, he won’t go back:

This was the sexiest thing I could find at Monoprix! I couldn’t find anything on the ground floor, so I had to go up to the ladies’ department. I had to wait three times to go through the racks because people kept passing by me. I am no way secure enough with my manhood to rummage through women’s lingerie at Monoprix!

Okay. Okay. Price: $10 to $50.

A Corolle brand doll—with its vanilla scent—makes a lovely gift from Paris.
A Corolle brand doll—with its vanilla scent—makes a lovely gift from Paris.

Corolle dolls

 When I was looking for a baby doll to bring home to my two-year-old granddaughter, my French friends all suggested the same brand: Corolle. The 12-inch doll I selected has eyes that open and close, a soft body, flexible plastic legs and arms with a thumb that fits neatly into the baby’s mouth. The Corolle brand has a lovely oh-so-French kicker: the baby dolls smells like vanilla! You’ll find Corolle dolls in better department stores or specialty boutiques. The 12-inch doll is about $28.

Get your book stamped at Shakespeare and Company, Paris.
Get your book stamped at Shakespeare and Company, Paris.

Stamped book from Shakespeare and Company

 For a friend who likes to read, head to the famous English-language bookstore Shakespeare and Co. in the Latin Quarter, 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005. Yes, you could buy the same volume of James Joyce or Ernest Hemingway in the States, but if you buy it at Shakespeare—and remember at the cashier register to ask; I’ve made that mistake!—they will stamp the book with a sketch of Shakespeare and the words “Shakespeare and Company Kilometer Zero Paris.” Very cool. No extra fee.

Chat lunatique

There is no photo with this idea. Joe is still seeing red over the sexy French slip ordeal, and sometimes in a marriage it is best to just … step … back.

For this fun gift, go to a hardware store or the sous sol (basement) of the BHV department store, 52 Rue de Rivoli, 75004 and wander the section of small signs for doors. There are many in French equivalents of Welcome to Our Home, but my favorite find has been chat lunatique, roughly translated: wacko cat—perhaps one that chases rabbits. Price: about $10 to $15.


Jan Powers and Patricia Tennison represent Paris Cafe Writing at the AWP convention in D.C.
Jan Powers and Patricia Tennison represent Paris Cafe Writing at the AWP convention in D.C.

Who Won the Umbrella?

I sooo wish I could have talked to everyone who stopped by our Paris Cafe Writing table at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs convention in D.C.

Instead, I had to flip over my name tag to the show the word “laryngitis.” An extrovert with laryngitis. Sounds like a writing prompt.

I have recuperated, thank-you-very-much, and can now announce the winner of the lovely French umbrella. She is Sarah Davis, a faculty member at Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C.

“Thank you! I’ve never won anything, so this is a treat,” Sarah said.






Top Photo: Consignment purses and jewelry from La Jolie Garde-Robe, 15 rue Commines, 75003, Paris. Gift idea photos by Joseph Prendergast.

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Copyright 2017 Paris Cafe Writing—All Rights Reserved




Best laid plans in January = A trip to Paris in June

Paris Cafe Writing group June 2016


 Best laid plans in January = A trip to Paris for June

By Patricia Tennison

Paris Cafe Writing participant June 2016
A Paris Cafe Writing toast before dinner in June 2016 at La Coupole.

Replace the old winter boots. Start a new file for tax receipts. Remember to write dates with 2017… 2017… 2017.

January stuff hits you like a nasty cold front from Canada,* but you can hit back: mark your calendar for Paris in June.

*(Aww. We love you folks from up north. Each Paris Cafe Writing session typically has travelers from England or India or Bulgaria or Canada—but it is cold up there in Canada!)

Registration is open for both of the one-week sessions of Paris Cafe Writing in June. We will be writing and dining and enjoying a night of jazz.

Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne

While with us in Paris this summer, you’ll also be able to catch a special exhibit of portraits by Cézanne at the Musée d’Orsay. And depending on when you arrive or how many days you tack on, the French Open, aka Roland Garros, runs May 22 to June 11; Fête de la Musique fills the city with free concerts and street performers on June 21; and the summer sales start June 28 and run for six weeks.

Save $100

If you sign up by Feb. 15, you save $100. This winter can also be a good time to nab a decent airfare, and to reserve at the best value hotels, which tend to be the first ones to fill.

There’s lots more information here: www.ParisCafeWriting.com

Send tips

Do you have a favorite way to save money while traveling and visiting Paris? Jot me a note to info@ParisCafeWriting.com and I’ll try to include it with your first name and last initial in an upcoming newsletter.


Photo on top: Paris Cafe Writing group in June 2016 waits for the jazz to start at Duc des Lombards.

To email or to unsubscribe: info@www.pariscafewriting.com

Copyright 2017 Paris Cafe Writing—All rights Reserved

Somber in Paris after U.S. Election


By Patricia Tennison

I admit that I expected this posting would have a different ending. I would write with a glass of wine and a chunk of cheese by my side, recording the elated mood in my neighborhood here in Paris as we all watched the television results of the American election.

Now I sit with a cheap sandwich—something to yank and tear on—and a cup of strong coffee. The world here is sobering up.

Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, started with hope. With levity. The mayor’s office in the 3rd Arrondissement of Paris offered an all-night affair—with food and cocktails and “Dallas” reruns that the French adore—to watch the American presidential election results.

This neighborhood is part of Le Marais, home to many of the city’s artists, Jews, homosexuals, and jeans-clad liberals. There is no question that they prefer Hillary (pronounced without the “h,” as the French are wont to do) over Donald—although you never hear the name Donald spoken alone. It’s “illary Cleenton” vs. “Trump.”

The festooned mayor’s office of the 3rd Arrondissement in Paris
Le Carreau du Temple

In late afternoon I walked to take some photos. American flags and balloons were being set up in front of the stately mairie (mayor’s office). In the adjacent Le Carreau du Temple, a refurbished 19th-century covered market now used for public sports and cultural events, workers were fussing with tables, a bar, and large television screens.

It was early and cool outside, but the choice outdoor seats in the cafes surrounding the mairie and Le Carreau were filling up.

A short line outside the mayor’s office
Patricia Tennison votes in mock U.S. presidential election in Paris
Patricia Tennison votes in mock U.S. presidential election in Paris

At 7:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. in New York) there was a short line outside the mairie. I heard only French voices as I made my way upstairs to the standing-room-only live panel discussion, en francais, of the American election process.

You could even vote! There was a mock ballot box and a stack of ballots with just two names: Clinton or Trump. No one was watching, so I couldn’t resist: I voted twice. For the same person. It felt in the spirit of the evening.

It was too early for the activities at Le Carreau so I went to dinner with a friend, Jude Logan of Los Angeles, who is one of the returnees for my Paris Cafe Writing session that starts Sunday. We picked an Italian restaurant behind Le Carreau and chose a little round table upstairs where it was warm.

The only annoyance was the amount of noise from a group of eight at a nearby table. Surprising, really. There are customs in Paris and this rude noise is just … not done. We brushed it off because the night was young and hopeful. And the group surprised us by eventually settling down.

Hundreds "font la queue" for La Nuit Américaine outside Le Carreau du Temple
Hundreds “font la queue” for La Nuit Américaine outside Le Carreau du Temple
The first in the line were already inside watching American television election coverage

At 9:15 p.m. we left Le Soprano restaurant and noted a group on the other side of the sidewalk outside Le Carreau.

“Smokers,” I said. And we turned to circle the building in the other direction.

Alors, when we reached the main entrance, a thick crowd blocked the door, which was not opening to let in more people. Hundreds font la queue (stood in line), mostly young, mostly French-speaking. The line went down the block, around the corner, down the other side of the block, around the corner, and ended at that group that I thought were the smokers. They were, instead, the end of the queue.

Inside Le Carreau I could see the early arrivals upstairs, sipping drinks while watching CNN on a giant screen. They weren’t going to leave soon to make room for hundreds outside. This line was never going to move, and it was cold. I walked home to my apartment and set the alarm for 4 a.m. (10 p.m. in New York).

Viewers in Paris watch as Clinton is temporarily ahead of Trump.

At 4:30 a.m., the 5-minute walk back to Le Carreau was depressing. There was no one on the streets, just a few pigeons fighting in the rain over a chunk of wet bread.

There were no lines outside Le Carreau, only a group of smokers.

“Trump is going to f… our arses,” one said in a British accent.

“I’m running out of countries to flee to,” another said.

I had listened to a few minutes of CNN before I had left the apartment, so I had an idea about the incoming results. By 5:04 a.m. (11:04 p.m. in New York) Clinton was ahead 190 to 171 in electoral votes. Everyone knew, however, that she was irreversibly behind.

Somber youths sit before a torn and turned cardboard image of Donald Trump.

The thin crowd was now dispersed into mostly English voices watching CNN upstairs, and French voices around a French broadcast on the main floor.

A cheer let out from upstairs and the downstairs group looked around. It was another state for Clinton but one with few electoral votes. Nothing was going to change.

Someone had torn the head off a cardboard image of Trump and turned it around.

Meanwhile, two young French women opened the door to join 50 people scattered in seats in the dark auditorium. They didn’t know which film was next but this was where the city had already shown First Date, the biographical Hollywood film about President Barack and Michelle Obama, and the award-winning The Butler.

Watching as the final U.S. election results became clear
Watching as the final U.S. election results became clear

Finally, there was resignation. Long, tired faces and resignation.

Most were quiet. There were no cheers. One American woman sobbed:
“My family. My children. My grandchildren!”

We all know the ending: Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States.

He surprised us once. May he surprise again by evolving into a sober statesman who lets us hold our heads high at home and around the world.

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Up Pariscope: A weekly guide to movies in Paris

Pariscope magazines

 Up “Pariscope”: A weekly guide to movies in Paris

By Patricia Tennison

Pariscope magazine
Pariscope magazine

(Note from author: Alas, months after this newsletter was published, Pariscope stopped publication. Continue reading, though, for a slice of Paris history.)

When I arrive in Paris, the first thing I do is dash to the nearby kiosk and buy a copy of Pariscope.

It’s a paper magazine guide, small enough to stuff into a purse, filled with what’s going on that week in Paris: theater, museums, music, expositions—and especially movies.

I can thumb through the magazine while I sit at a cafe. If my feet are tired from museum walking or if it’s starting to rain, I can pick a movie for before or after dinner.

Yes, thumbing through paper rather than swiping a smart phone is a bit old-fashioned, but I like it. It’s a lovely habit. Anyway, Pariscope dropped its website years ago. There is a free Pariscope app but I find it too slow.

On any given week there are about 300 movies showing in Paris. Many are American movies in the original English (easy!) or dubbed into French. Some are French movies, never dubbed. Some are non-French foreign movies with French subtitles, and these are a fun challenge for those who at least read French fairly well.

To add to the complication, a theater might show a particular movie that week only, say, Monday and Friday, on the other side of Paris. You need to have a plan—and need to know how to read a guide like Pariscope. I will show you, step by step.

Is it in English?

Sorry, no. The small paper guide, which has been printed weekly in France since the 1960s, used to have one page in the back written in English. That English page has disappeared, so now the magazine is entirely in French. However, if you speak English you already understand these French words: restaurant, café, théâtre, musique, cinéma, film. Below, I have translated some useful French words and abbreviations that you will find in the magazine.

When and where do you buy it?

Buy Pariscope at a sidewalk kiosk. (While there, buy a paper newspaper, too. Support the industry that supported Hemingway!) The weekly magazine comes out on Wednesdays, the day movie schedules change in Paris. It’s best to buy it by Wednesday or Thursday. If you wait until Saturday, the kiosk might be out.

It costs 70 centimes; to be kind, use exact change or at least a euro coin—not a 20 euro bill. When the week is over, slip the magazine into your suitcase. It makes a fine souvenir.

How to find an American movie, step-by-step

1. Thumb through to find the cinéma section. The first half-dozen pages include featured films and films nouveaux (new films), and you will need to know a few codes.


signification des codes


The films are organized by these labels:
• FN: films nouveaux (new films)
• AF: autres films (other recently released films)
• RE: reprises (revivals; older films)
• FE: festivals (a group of films by theme, such as director or actor)
• AV: avant-premières (sneak previews)






2. To see how the local French critiques rank the latest movies, look for the l’avis des critiques chart.

l'avis des critiques








3. To see the most popular films in France for the previous 12 months, check out box office.










4. Thumb through the listings and find a movie you want to see. Let’s select Mad Max: Fury Road. (Big, blow-up action films are not my usual genre, but the special effects and production in this one are awesome.)


Mad Max: Fury Road listing in Pariscope
Mad Max listing in Pariscope

The information on top is easy to decipher: It’s a 2015 movie, two hours, science fiction, American–Australian, in color, with the named director and stars.

The bottom bold-faced section lists all the movie theaters where Mad Max is showing that week. (Impressive listing!)

**If you want to watch the film in its original language (here, English), look for the letters v.o. (version originale). If you want to watch the film dubbed into French, look for v.f. (version française).

The bold-faced section lists the salles (movie rooms) by arrondissement. For example, listing #1 is at the Les Halles theater, which is in the 1st arrondissement. However, there are many more than one theater in each of the 20 arrondissements, so the salles numbers go up to about 83.

Let’s pick salle #41 where Mad Max is in the original English, and thumb to the next section: Salles de Paris.



  • 5.

In the Salles de Paris section we find #41, which is in the 8th arrondissement.

Mad Max at the George V theater

Again, the information at the top is easy: This is the UGC George V theater, address 144 and 146 avenue des Champs-Elysées; closest metro stops are Etoile or George V.

The prices for one full-priced ticket (Pl) is 11.80 or 11 euros. The rest of the top information is mostly a variety of prices, which will not apply to you as an adult short-term visitor.

Thumb down to our movie, Mad Max. It’s in the original (English) version and shows every day that week at 11 a.m., 2:15 p.m., 4:50 p.m., 7:25 p.m., and 9:55 p.m.

You are all set to go to the movie!





How to find a foreign movie, step-by-step

For a bigger challenge, let’s try a smaller film in a foreign language.

1. Thumb back through the autres films listings and let’s pick Un pigeon perche sur une branche philosophait sur l’existence, a black comedy in Swedish.

"Un Pigeon" listing in Pariscope
Un Pigeon listing in Pariscope


The top part tells us that this 2014 film is 1:40 hours, a dramatic comedy, in Swedish, in color, with the stated director and actors. Also, it won the highest prize at the 2014 Venice Film Festival. Bon!

**The language choices in boldface all state v.o. (version originale). This also means that there will be subtitles in French. You would be watching the original film in Swedish with French subtitles.

Let’s pick salle #50.





2. In the Salles de Paris section we find #50, which is in the 11th arrondissement.

"Un Pigeon" show in the Bastille
Un Pigeon show in the Bastille

The information at the top tells us that this is the La Bastille theater at 5 rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine and the nearest metro is Bastille. A full-priced ticket costs 8.50 or 7.80 euros.

Further down we see that the Un pigeon movie plays in salle 2—but not every day.
It plays at 11:30 a.m. daily, except Thursday and Tuesday; at 1:30 p.m. daily; at 9:45 p.m. daily, except Thursday, Sunday, and Monday; and at 10 p.m. daily, except Thursday and Sunday.







Note: If you want to watch a contemporary or classic French movie in the original French with English subtitles, check out Lost in Frenchlation. The group screens about one film a month at various cinemas, with a cocktail hour just before. For more information go to www.lostinfrenchlation.com.

More useful vocabulary

Days of the week:
lundi (lun): Monday
mardi (mar): Tuesday
mercredi (mer): Wednesday
jeudi (jeu): Thursday
vendredi (ven): Friday
samedi (sam): Saturday
dimanche (dim): Sunday
tlj (tous les jours): every day

salles climatisées: air conditioned rooms
séance: starting time

That’s all folks!

Ah, one more tip: The films start after 10 minutes of French commercials—which can also be a lot of fun.


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Copyright 2016 Paris Cafe Writing—All Rights Reserved

We Stay Strong in Paris—and Yet

Memorial flowers and notes amass at Place de la Republique after the Nov. 13 attacks.

We Stay Strong in Paris—and Yet

Nov. 19, 2015

By Patricia Tennison


A flower blooms in the window box of my apartment in the Marais.
A flower blooms in the window box of my apartment in the Marais.

Next time, I will tell you where to tap dance in Paris. Another time, we’ll talk about movies and theater and food.

Right now, we are walking in the aftermath of the ISIS attacks of Nov. 13.

Some scenes

The homeless couple who camp across the street in a sheltered doorway have disappeared. Sometimes they do this anyway, but now I wonder.


I wonder about a gentle friend, Nabil, who walks in his slightly darker skin. He has the age, the look that people would fear.


Yes, we are back at the outdoor cafes here in Paris, defiantly sipping coffee on the terraces. And yet …


And yet, I have started to walk on the driver’s side of the street. I figure it this way: One guy will be driving, the other guy with the AK-47 will be sitting in the passenger’s seat. So I don’t want to be on the passenger’s side. This new habit should be a great relief to my family and friends.


I splurged and had lunch for the first time at Michelin-ranked restaurant Suan Thai in the 4th arrondissement. A pretty flower on each plate. A man wearing a tie. A woman of a certain age who entered in an impeccable, two-piece white suit.

“Ça va," the waitress said, a familiar “how goes” that one says to a regular customer.

“Ça va?” the woman replied. “Je ne suis pas morte.” I am not dead.


The particular whine of the emergency vehicles is an audible passport stamp that I am again in Paris. But now, when I hear one go by, I wait for the second. No second one? Good.


I have started to shop for a cashmere scarf. This will take me days, as I decide which exact shade is best. It’s a miserable, lengthy chore because when I buy an item to store in my small closet, I intend that it will last me a lifetime.


Peace? Yes, I am for peace—right after we catch those guys.

Place de la Republique, strewn with memorial flowers and candles.


Gendarmes are out in force near Place de la Republique
Gendarmes are out in force near Place de la Republique.


Across from the Bataclan, a group of protesters hold white roses and a sign that identifies them as the Iranian resistance, in unity with France.
Across from the Bataclan, a group of protesters hold white roses and a sign that identifies them as the Iranian Resistance, in unity with France.


A handwritten note to a massacre victim, across from the Bataclan theater in Paris.


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Paris Stays Strong After Nov. 13

Parisian Streets

Paris Stays Strong After Nov. 13

By Patricia Tennison

It’s quiet here at 9 a.m. in Paris, but it’s always quiet on a Sunday morning. A few patrons are inside at the corner cafe sipping coffee at the counter, others read outside, smoking. The boulangerie is open. I bought a baguette, and then as I passed the butcher shop, on a whim, a freshly roasted chicken.Parisian Streets

Friday, Nov. 13 was a night off for the 10 Americans who were finishing a week with me here for Paris Cafe Writing. When the explosions and shootings started at 9:20 p.m. that night, a few of them were at the Lido cabaret on the Champs-Élysées, cellphones off and unaware until their cab driver picked them up. He wove them around barricaded streets and ultimately the wrong way up one-way streets to their hotel in our Marais neighborhood. Another couple, communications off, had settled into their rented apartment to continue a writing assignment.

I went tap dancing. When the tap class let out about 8:30 p.m., I stood on rue Keller in the 11th arrondissement. I love to decide at the last moment which way I will turn. If I turned right and looked for a cafe that way, I would have been on rue Charonne, where a few of us on Thursday night went to hear some jazz manouche, down the street from La Belle Equipe, where at 9:36 p.m. Friday gunmen in a black vehicle would kill 19 people sitting on the terrace. I turned left.

I was sleeping when my daughter called me from Colorado to see whether I was okay. It was only then that I heard about the horrific attacks here in Paris. She knew that the Bataclan theater, where at 9:40 p.m. at least 89 people were killed, was just a six-minute walk from our apartment.

On Saturday morning, I changed several plans for the group. Instead of meeting to write in a broad, corner cafe—which, it turned out, was shuttered—we packed into my small apartment, filling the couch, all the chairs, the bed. There was a comfort in the closeness as we processed what had happened.

I cancelled our trip to see the Cirque d’ Hiver, the winter circus, in its stunning Napoleon-era monument building in the 11th. I cancelled our final dinner at the famous Bofinger, “the most beautiful brasserie” in Paris.

We returned to our favorite, non-touristy little restaurant, Le Cellar on rue Crussol, and filled the dining space in the vaulted cellar. Joe wrote me from China that he would pop for the Champagne. But first, one of the women rose and read a prayer of peace.

Staying strong in Paris.


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Paris Street Art: More Than Graffiti

Street art by Philippe Girard with his signature life saver rings, Belleville

Paris Street Art: More Than Graffiti

By Patricia Tennison

Street art by Philippe Girard with his signature life saver rings, Belleville

It’s exciting to live in an era when you can watch an art movement evolve. Watch it as you pass a building marred with clumsy aerosol spray and two feet later spot another application that makes you pause ...

“Now this—this is good.”

And you become an amateur art critic, a follower of street art.

Early graffiti is associated with New York City, where gangs in the ’70s would mark their territories with bold swatches of spray paint. It was against the law, of course, so it was done quietly and quickly.

Just one decade later—but still under the cloak of darkness—painters left their marks in more sophisticated designs around the world. In Europe, Berlin, London, and Paris became strong centers of what is now deemed street art.

Why try to get into a small gallery where a few hundred people might see your work, when you can make a splash on a public wall where thousands walk or ride by?

Ballerina street art, Belleville


The vocabulary

The art evolved from “tags,” usually a signature done in one color, to “throw-ups,” still a signature but with perhaps rounded, shaded letters in more than one color. Finally, we have “pieces,” elaborately planned works done with stencils, collage, mosaic, or even yarn.

The best of the street artists are not just accepted, they are high-profile celebrities. Works by the anonymous Brit, Banksy, have sold at auction for six figures. His film on street artists, "Exit Through the Gift Shop," was nominated for a 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. (It’s pretty funny. See the link below.)

Some of the artists now get paid. A few years ago, the French railroad company, SNCF, hired street artists to decorate part of the Paris Gare du Nord railroad station. More recently, after city officials removed the love locks that were stressing the walls of the Pont des Arts over the Seine, they hired a street artist to paint a temporary pink installation along the walls until the final, clear covering is erected.

Shop entrance cover, rue des Pavillons, Belleville

Store owners in Paris sometimes take a proactive stance by hiring street artists to do their thing on the otherwise ugly steel covers rolled down over the entrance at night.

And municipal officials keep a short list of accepted street artists in Paris whose works are protected, not whitewashed.

Yet the rules of street art are still that of the Wild West. One artist puts up a work, and another paints over a corner of it. The works are painted, repainted, marred, scarred. It’s all part of the accepted code among the artists.

Where to find it

So how do you find the best of the street art in Paris?

For one, this summer in Paris we stopped at an exposition Sur Les Murs at the Galerie du Crédit Municipal de Paris. It displayed 50 works of urban art made in the last 50 years in Paris by artists including Miss. Tic, Space Invader, and two of my favorites, Mosko & Associés and Jérôme Mesnager. That exposition ended in June, but check a publication such as Pariscope to find others.

We also took a guided tour through Paris Walks. (See link below.) I highly recommend any of their tours, especially this one called Street Art Walk that takes you through the Belleville area in the 20th arrondissement.

And finally—just look up.

In addition to Belleville, the Paris areas ripe with street art include Montmartre (18th), Oberkampf (11th), Butte aux Cailles (13th), Canal de l’Ourcq (19th), and in a southeast suburb, Vitry-sur-Seine.

For officially sanctioned walls—where what you see one day won’t be there next week—head to the vibrant rue Dénoyez in Belleville and to Le M.U.R., 107 rue Oberkampf at St. Maur in the 11th. At Le M.U.R., the artists are paid to fill the former billboard.

Joseph Prendergast does a lot of looking up, and this summer took the photos below of street art around Paris.


• A two-minute video showing of works by Mosko & Associés (the wild animals) and Jérôme Mesnager (the faceless, white figures): www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1e3OYG0j1E

• A four-minute video with (irritating) thumping music showing works by Mimi the Clown, Fred le Chevalier, and Shepard Fairey: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjB1SlrA3R4

• Another thumping four minutes, this time showing Nemo, Space Invader, and Philippe Girard: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkon2m47orM

• For excellent Paris tours in English from Paris Walks: www.paris-walks.com

• To see the trailer and other info on the movie "Exit Through the Gift Shop": www.imdb.com/title/tt1587707/?ref_=tttr_tr_tt

The Street Art Photos, all by Joseph Prendergast.

In the 11th arrondissement:

Black & white face by street artist Shepard Fairey, near rue St. Maur
Street art at Le M.U.R., 107 rue Oberkampf at St. Maur
Four women (still being painted) by artist Miss Van, at Le M.U.R., 107 rue Oberkampf at St. Maur
Ghosts street art, Passage Saint-Sebastien
Girl with yellow fan, street art near Place de la Republique
Upside-down creature, street art near rue St. Maur

Above, from the top:

Black & white face by artist Shepard Fairey (who is in the "Exit Through the Gift Shop" movie), near rue St. Maur; girl with hands up, artist unknown, at Le M.U.R., 107 rue Oberkampf at St. Maur; four women (still being painted, nice photography work, Joe!) by artist Miss Van, at Le M.U.R., 107 rue Oberkampf at St. Maur.

Ghosts, artist unknown, Passage Saint-Sebastien; woman with yellow fan, artist unknown, near Republique; upside-down creature, artist unknown, near rue St. Maur.

In the 18th arrondissement:

Rita Hayworth street art above the “je t’aime” wall at the Square Jehan-Rictus

Above, Rita Hayworth, artist unknown, placed above the “je t’aime” wall at the Square Jehan-Rictus, where the phrase “I love you” is written in many languages.

In Belleville, 19th and 20th arrondissements:

Man running around the corner by street artist Jérôme Mesnager
Hanging orange man by street artist Philippe Girard
Male clown by street artist Mimi the Clown
Giraffe by street artist Mosko & Associés
Vividly decorated free wall at rue Dénoyez, Paris
Man with fish, street art, Paris.
Woman and swan, street art, Paris
Figure emerging from wall, street art, Paris
decorated pillars at the pavilion at the top of the Parc de Belleville by artist Julien Malland, a.k.a. Seth Globepainter

Above, from the top:
Man running around the corner by artist Jérôme Mesnager; hanging orange man by artist Philippe Girard; male clown by artist Mimi the Clown; giraffe by artist Mosko & Associés.

Vividly decorated free wall at rue Dénoyez; man with fish, artist unknown; woman and swan, artist unknown; figure emerging from wall, artist unknown; decorated pillars at the pavilion at the top of the Parc de Belleville by artist Julien Malland, a.k.a. Seth Globepainter.

Top of article:

Center by artist Philippe Girard with his signature life savers; left, ballerina, artist unknown; right, shop entrance cover, rue des Pavillons, artist unknown; all in Belleville.

Note: “Artist unknown” means that I don’t happen to know the name of the artist. I’m sure there are many who do know!

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