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Friday
Feb062015

Paris โ€“ 1st arrondissement 

There's a small park near my house in San Mateo where people walk their dogs. It's pleasant and fine, but it's nothing like the area around the Louvre. I can't imagine being able to walk your dog here each morning.

The inside of the world famous museum is unfortunately nowhere near as peaceful these days. I like my iPhone a lot. It's a wonderful, helpful tool in many ways (even last night I was able to use the flashlight to read while my wife slept quietly next to me), but I enjoy taking a vacation from it now and again. No one in Paris seems to be overtaken by technology the way folks in the Bay Area have been. I've only once seen someone next to me in a restaurant texting while having their meal. Everyone stares straight ahead as they walk, no one is looking down while they drive, and the cafes are full of teenagers holding cigarettes instead. The Louvre, however, is the absolute worst place in the world to visit if you're looking to get away from smart phones. In fact, in 2015 it's basically a live-version infomercial about the potential perils of the tablet and it's terrible, dreadful effect on the civility of the human race. 

Seeing the Mona Lisa in person is already an underwhelming experience, but watching the throngs of tourists jockey and posture to take a picture in front of it while flashing a peace sign is unreal. It's comical at first, but after a few minutes you have to leave the room. There's a guard sitting in a chair next to the painting, facing the crowd, forced to watch the sordid soirée go down. Those workers must be so jaded in their view of humanity at this point. Almost as funny as getting to see the iconic image is watching the people who also are going solely to see the Mona Lisa slow down and act like they care about the rest of the artwork; as if to separate themselves from the other soulless pack. The whole experience is a serious show if you're a people watcher like me. While my wife and I were silently looking at the collection of jewelery in the Galerie d'Apollon, a woman armed with her smart phone burst into the room, cut directly in front of me, snapped two quick picks of the bling, and then left as quickly as she came in. I whispered to my wife, "If you don't even want to look at it, then why take a picture?" It's crazy. C'est la vie?

-David Driscoll

Friday
Feb062015

Paris โ€“ 7th arrondissement 

While this isn't my first time in Paris, I can't say I'm very familiar with the city or the character of its many numbered neighborhoods. That's why I'm here for two whole weeks. I want to walk around, take my time, avoid any sort of structured planning, and just run into things. We're in the 7th arrondissement and, while I wasn't immediately taken by the surroundings, in just two short days I've come to really enjoy the many amenities within a few blocks of our hotel. There's a real community feel in these parts.

There are secrets behind secrets. Doors that are closed one hour, but open the next. Timing is everything.

And yet time is an elastic quantity in France. Les heures d'ouverture are really just hazy ideas of what may or may not actually be the case. For example, we were up early this morning, unable to sleep, so we braved the dark, cold streets to get coffee at our local café; open at 7 AM according to the sign posted on its window. At 7:34 there were still no lights on, and no one in the place. When I walked back into our hotel lobby in defeat, the concierge rebuffed my dismissal, sternly saying all the cafés nearby should be open by now; yet most were just coming to life by the time eight o'clock rolled around. 

After a brief walk through the freezing, empty streets of the 7th, we found the spot. Everyone was jammed up at the counter getting their espresso before work. We were strangers in the midst of a daily ritual.

The classic Parisian brasserie is a wonderful thing if you're intimidated by French restaurant dining. It's casual. There are many drinks to be had. No one is pressuring you into eating more than you're comfortable with. The food can be ordered à la carte. 

That's where you'll find me currently in the 7th arrondissement. Eating, drinking, stumbling over my French in a relaxed, laid-back Parisian manner. While other Americans are counting the stars in their Michelin guide, crossing venerable institutions off their lists of must-try-before-you die, I'm happy to just visit with the waiter at the corner café. 

I ordered the sausage tonight. He paused and said, "Are you sure? The French like it, but I don't think you will. It smells very badly." You've gotta respect the honesty. I can see some Bay Area sophisticate (the same one who thought he could handle the habañero chile in Mexico) shooting down that warning, responding with something like, "I spent a year in Gascony and my best friend is from Bordeaux, so I think I get it." That's not me though. I'm not trying to win any culture awards.

I went with the beef stew. 

-David Driscoll

Friday
Feb062015

Paris โ€“ 4th arrondissement 

Any trip to Paris should immediately begin with L'As du Fallafel in the Jewish Quarter of the 4th arrondissement. The rest of your first day should be a preparation against adult-onset jet lag. 

One thing about Paris that people always love to tell you, but I personally have never, ever, ever, ever experienced, is the classic line: Parisians are rude to Americans. I don't think Parisians are inherently rude to anyone. They're just not interested in acting like you're cool or special because you're an American in Paris on vacation. Therefore, when you walk in all wide-eyed, tell them your little American joke, and try to say something clever in French, they roll their eyes and walk the other way. But, hell, I do that to other Americans in America!

Parisians are very interested in America, from what I've seen. Everywhere you go there are American-style 1950s rock and roll diners. We went to a café just to get a cup of coffee and found ourselves in the middle of Buddy Holly hour. Just about every boutique is pumping out Coltraine or Sinatra. There are cheeseburgers everywhere; even at the classic bistros, not just the tourist traps. We finished our first day by drinking cocktails in a New York-inspired bar. If there's any one thing staring you dead in the face about Paris, it's that they love American things.

Maybe a better way to put that old adage is this: Parisians won't validate your ego when you're fishing for attention. Americans love to make their presence known in just about any situation, but that doesn't fly over here no matter where you're from. Focus on yourself, mind your own business, be polite, start by saying Bon Jour, at least try to start the conversation in French, and you should be just fine. I had nothing but friendly conversations with cab drivers, waiters, bartenders, and shop owners all day long.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Feb042015

K&L/Bar Agricole Rum Extravaganza w/Ed Hamilton

On Tuesday, February 24th, we'll be teaming back up with San Francisco's Bar Agricole for another mega patio party. This time, rather than brandy, we'll be focusing on the house specialty: RUM! And we won't be alone! Legendary rum figurehead Ed Hamilton will be on hand (lord of the Ministry of Rum) to pour some of his latest private-label selections. We'll have a few upcoming K&L exclusive specialties on hand as well. It's going to be off the chain! Not only will you get to taste a lot of different rums from a lot of different places, Thad and Eric will be there behind the bar, mixing up endless rum cocktail delights. And don't forget the food! There will be food to nourish all that rum in your belly. What more do you need? We'll be operating from 6 to 9 PM, and tickets are $50. No paper tickets, as we'll just add your name to the guest list. Reserve your spot by clicking on the link below. See you there!

K&L & Bar Agricole Rum Extravaganza, February 24th from 6 to 9 PM, $50

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Feb032015

Paris When It Freezes

I'm back again with more booze-related movie-watching! What was on tap this week? Some Technicolor gold. If you've got an Amazon Prime account then you can currently stream the Audrey Hepburn classic Paris When It Sizzles free of charge. Seeing that I'm heading to Paris tomorrow (in the dead of winter), I was definitely in the mood to watch some Paris-related cinema last night and feed my current excitement. This is a vacation voyage, not a business trip for for K&L, so I won't have David OG with me to translate everything. My wife and I will be at the mercy of my weak French language skills, so I had to start getting my act together in preparation. Je vais manger et boire en Paris avec ma épouse. Nous voulons acheter un bouteille du vin et marcher aux les rues. Or something like that. I still need some practice.

In any case, I'd never seen Paris When It Sizzles until last night, surprisingly enough. I'm a pretty big fan of Audrey Hepburn, but for some reason I'd never gotten around to this one. It's kind of a gigantic mess, but if you like to drink and you like to do so while watching glamorous actors from the 1960s chug down their own booze, then this is one romantic piece of cinema you won't want to miss. William Holden literally drinks a bottle of Smirnoff by himself within the first twenty minutes, gulping down a Bloody Mary every thirty seconds while readying a Hollywood script for his paying producer. By the time Audrey shows up to transcribe everything it's a total boozefest. They start ordering room service, drinking martinis, bottles of wine, followed by brandy and more vodka. At one point Audrey screams, "I see what you're trying to do! You want to get me drunk!" I was thinking, "Honey, with your frame and the amount of hooch you just sucked down, there's no way you're not drunk already!"

In any case, I don't know if I'd sit down to watch Paris When It Sizzles sober, but when you're mixing cocktails, dreaming of vacation, and readying your suitcase with visions of Paris in February, it's just the thing you want on in the background. There's a ton of boozing going on in this film. It's one giant drunken mess, but it's a fun mess. They hang out in a luxurious sweet, mix cocktails, and just flirt about while creating a Parisian love story in the process. The booze takes center stage, however.

So I'm off! I won't be answering emails or phone calls for the next two weeks, but the blog will be active the entire time. I've got more interviews that I'll be posting each Monday, along with photos and notes from the road. Make sure you call the store or email David OG if you need help with an order. Otherwise, I'll say au revoir and see you all back in the store later this month.

-David Driscoll