Four Christmas gifts from Paris (but not all French!)

First of all, sorry for the cheesy card visual. Secondly, Christmas, Noà«l, or whatever we call it or celebrate at this time of year, it’s nice and all but it’s also a lot of hassle. Presents, pressure and of course the annual family feud that always rears its ugly head no matter how many times we swear to be on our best behaviour at the dinner table. In our house (in Dublin), it’s the same argument every year. My Dad, now hitting 84 and still going strong, perhaps secretly fears another potato famine, and so fervently demands an extra roasted spud even though he has five already on his massive plate, along with half the turkey. The cordon-bleu sister who cooks the entire meal, quickly becomes enraged, throws up her eyes and it all goes south from there.

But family arguments aside, it still is a nice time to hang out with family, do nothing and reflect on the year gone and all the things you should’ve done. And although presents are not important or even necessary, it can be gratifying to get that one gift you never thought of, or wanted to splurge on yourself. So regardless of the fact that Ireland has gone broke (the next Greece in terms of the economy), here’s a few inexpensive ideas for gifts that I’m giving that I found while in Paris.

Sempé who? You probably know him better by his work than by his name. He’s the cartoonist who made the New Yorker cover cartoons famous. And of course, here he is best known for Le Petite Nicolas, the comic book stories of the bold but adorable Nicolas that was recently made into a film. Now you can get the book ‘Sempré à  New York’ for 45€. It’s a book everyone who loves New York will love, especially those who cycle in the city. In fact, I just sent one to my bro in NY for his birthday. Just go to Fnac, on the last floor by the bande dessins.

Fnac, 26/30 Avenue des Ternes, 75017, Metro: Ternes, Line 2

In New York we have the cupcake. In Paris the macaron. And Pierre Hermé is the king of these world-famous delights here. Calling himself a « couture pastry chef » who designs two collections every year, Hermé creates a macaron like no other. Available in 35 or more mesmerizing flavors, Hermé’s unique combinations range from coffee to chestnut, to wild rose, fig and foie gras! Best of all, at just 1.50€ each, you can ask for a box of seven macarons and stride out the door confident that this is one gift that won’t be regifted. Flying back to the US? Fret not, these macarons last for 5 days…in fact they get better with time. Just keep them refrigerated.

Pierre Hermé, 72 rue Bonaparte or
185 rue Vaugirard

Wipe your face on an Orla Kiely

We’re known for Guinness, U2 and our lush green landscapes (it rains). But believe it or not, we also have a couple of Irish designers. Orla Kiely is one in particular who has made a big name for herself in London and Paris. She’s known for everything from women’s clothing to face cloths, umbrellas, cases, stationary, and lots more. What makes her special is her quirky combo of Japanesey prints with colors of the 60’s, all elegantly designed with clean lines. (Think Mad Men style in Tokyo.) Just be careful, you might discover once you buy the face cloth you’ll want to collect everything else. Stockists who carry OK include of course the gréà¢t Bon Marché, 38 Rue de Sèvres, Paris 75007, Simone, 1 Rue de Simone, Paris 75007, and my fav in my hood, LouLou Addict, 25, rue Keller
Paris 75011, Métro: Voltaire (Leon Blum) Line 9.

OK so I’m on an Irish kick at the moment. God love us we could do with all the help we can get right now. So here’s a new novel I highly recommend. It’s called ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue, a co-student of mine in UCD, Univ Of College Dublin. She’s not only one of Ireland’s most creative writers, she has gained worldwide acclaim for her novels. Room, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize, was inspired by Josef Fritzel’s incarceration of his daughter Elisabeth. It is like no other novel I’ve read before. The first half takes place entirely within the confines of a 12-foot-square room where a young woman has spent her last seven years with her five-year-old boy, Jack. What’s so wonderful is that the entire story is told in the voice of the five year old. Through his eyes and language, we get another picture of the world. Without giving anything away, all I will say is that it works as a study of child development, celebrates the power of language and storytelling, and is beautiful recognition that praises the strength of motherhood and parental love. It is a truly wonderful book – one you will want to pass on. And no, you probably can’t find it in Paris. I got mine in Dublin airport. But try amazon. It costs about 14€ and delivery is free. God bless the Irish…and eh the French.

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