Sexual Harassment – it doesn’t have to be this way…

I want to take a second from my usual food-related ramblings to talk about something more serious: harassment on the streets of Paris.

The wave of women posting #MeToo statuses has meant that journalists are getting the green light to publish articles which state the bleeding obvious.

The Local, for example, recently published a piece detailing the experiences of women in Paris. It’s a sad state of affairs that the only woman they could find who hadn’t experienced any kind of harassment was a 19 year old student who only moved to Paris “a few weeks ago.”

My experience is much the same. On a daily basis, I was made to feel uncomfortable, being subjected to looks, calls, whistles… all of which were supposed to be taken as compliments.

I tried to change my habits. I would wear jeans rather than a skirt. That didn’t stop the harassment.

I chose to Vélib rather than take the métro. That didn’t always work because on several occasions, a car would follow/keep pace with my bike just to check out my ass or proposition me. On another occasion, the man also took a Vélib bike himself and chased me down the street to my house.

I took a taxi a short distance to go home late at night… and that got me nothing but a black eye when the driver assaulted me.

I got cat-called and mocked by the vigileat Monoprix. They are supposed to be the ones who help and keep you safe and yet they failed desperately. Their head office subsequently received a strongly-worded letter.

Women should not be told: “you live in a big city, you should expect this.” 

Let’s hope that the next generation of boys will grow up knowing that this behaviour is unacceptable and the next generation of girls will no longer be afraid of speaking out.

In the meantime, we’re in this transitional period in which we know it’s wrong, we’ve had enough but we need to speak up and take back control of our streets.

That’s the key word: control. What’s most hurtful and traumatic in these harassment situations is your sudden lack of control. That someone else has the upper hand, that you are being objectified.

False. False. False! Legally, you CANNOT do this.

Number 1: please, take a self-defense class. I cannot recommend highly enough Ladies System Defense in Paris but there must be others too.

If you are physically attacked – like the British woman in the supermarket in the Local article – kick the fucking man in the balls. Men have never been particularly good at listening… but they do remember acute pain. Put your two hands on his left shoulder and drive your right knee up where it hurts. (The same movement can also be used on women too… if need be.) Incidentally, this technique worked wonderfully on that aforementioned taxi driver (read my piece on Medium below.)

That said, if the initial attack is verbal, you must remain verbal. If the attack is physical, you can get physical as long as your reaction is APPROPRIATE, TIMELY and ALLOWS YOU TO GET AWAY.

If you slap someone for having said something, according to French law, you are in the wrong. Please, please read this (written by the same French police officers who take time off work to teach self-defence) to know your rights.

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Number 2: Speak out or step in when you see it happening to another person. Always consider your personal safety but if you can intervene or take a photo – or better still, a video – it may well become the most valuable piece of evidence to take to the police and result in a conviction.

The points at the end of this Guardian article are worth remembering.

Number 3: If you have evidence, or you’re worried for your safety, go to the police station. I will most likely write something about the inner workings of the French justice system, of the differences between a main courante and a plainte but that’s for later.

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Finally, I want to end on a positive note.

I moved to Italy – a country with a reputation for dark-haired Lotharios calling out ciao bellissimaaaa – but I’ve been here for over a year now and I have had just two such experiences:

I’m sitting outside a café, writing the address on an envelope that I’m about to send. Suddenly, breaking my concentration, a car pulls up, with the window down and the man calls out: “hey girl, come stai?” … I give him a filthy look… He continues “how’s Alessandro?” Oh shit, I realise: this is Alessandro’s cousin, a guy I’d met once before and he’s just being friendly.

Secondly, walking along the pavement with my dog… and a guy on a bike cycles past and calls out, “ciao bello” to which I realise (because he’s used the masculine) that he is actually addressing my dog!! Yes, my dog got cat-called! He gives me a courteous nod and says “buona giornata / have a good day” before cycling on.

Ok, I’m in a small town in the north of Italy where people generally mind their own business. But street harassment does not have to be part of your daily life and nor should you accept it as such.

Co-Working Spaces in Paris

So many people have the dream of moving to Paris for a month or two. Of “upping sticks” and relocating to the city of lights, the capital of romance and the centre of cheese. It’s becoming easier and easier as our increasingly nomadic working lifestyles don’t tie us to a 9 to 5 routine in the office.

However, it’s not as easy as all that. The traditional Parisian café, as Instagram-able as it may be, is not a welcoming environment if you are planning on staying for a couple of hours.

As Kristen (of The Kale Project fame) replied:


As it happens, just two days ago, I was at ESCP Europe, the oldest business school in the world, to participate in the #MEBconf. I picked up some tips! 🙂

First of all, you should check out what is in your area using the very handy “Coworking Carte” tool. It visualises the dedicated co-working spaces all over France.

Here’s a screen shot of what is available in Paris… all 58 of them – and not one is a traditional or even craft-coffee café which has to turn tables!


If you’re only here for a short time and/or on a limited budget (aren’t we all!) you probably want a more flexible option rather then renting deskspace. So, here are my top picks for cheap co-working spaces in Paris.


There’s a reason Anticafé is at the top of this list – it is like a café but you pay according to the amount of time rather than the amount of coffee consumed. Tarif is: 4 euros per hour or 16 euros per day and this includes free wifi, unlimited coffee, tea, juice and cake. It’s very informal and friendly. Perfect if you’ve just arrived in Paris because, who knows, you might also get chatting to other like-minded people.

Three locations in Paris:

79 rue Quincampoix, 75003

10 rue du Richelieu, 75001

59 rue Nationale, 75013



A great place to meet other like-minded start-ups or freelancers.

Don’t be put off by the fact that Numa also rent out desk space and offer residential programs for start-ups, the café on the ground floor of the rue du Caire location is open to the public, it’s free and you can stay as long as you like.


Alternatively, for 20 euros a day, you can book your own space on the first floor, which gives you access to several meeting spaces, a printer and even a kitchen if you want to bring in and heat up your own food.

39 rue du Caire, 75002


Rather similarly to the Anticafé, the “Nomad” package at CoWorkShop allows you to pay by the hour (4 euros an hour or 20 euros for a day) and get unlimited tea, coffee and high-speed wifi.

29 rue des Vinaigriers, 75010



Finally, if you’re on a reeeeally tight budget, you should check out Draft in the 18th. A half-day (4 hours) will only cost you 8 euros – and that includes free tea, coffee and wifi. A day only costs 15 euros… and if you buy a 10 day carnet, it is an absolute steal at only 120 euros.

It’s a bright, light space, with plenty of tables and even a little terrasse. Also on-site, there is a wood and textiles workshop, should you happen to need a laser or 3D printer…

Plus, did I mention that you’re right next door to Bob’s Bake Shop or Les Petites Gouttes – depending on if you’ve had the kind of day which merits a bagel or a cocktail!

12 esplanade Nathalie Sarraute, 75018



Are you a co-worker in Paris? Where are your favourite places to go?

Please leave your suggestions in the Comments box below.

Café Chilango, 75011

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Picture the scene:

“So we’re opening a new spot in Paris. The hipster market is booming right now and we should make that our focus. What do we need?”

– Ethnic food served on small plates. Check.

– Beer from Deck and Donohue. Check.

– Coffee from Cafe Lomi and/or Belleville. Check.

– An offering of banana bread, carrot cake and the like. Check.

Joking aside, and although it falls slap bang in the middle of all these trends, the Café Chilango is fortunately more authentic rather than pretentious. Run by Mexican export, Olivier, you’re made to feel welcome straightaway. With its bare brick walls, bright flamboyant colours and the occasional cactus dotted around, I find it a welcome addition to the vibrant, Paris-fusion scene.

There are two main seating areas: two tables and counter by the entrance and a cosy café vibe towards the back. The bar that separates the two areas offers the aforementioned combination of beer, coffee and cake, as well as an interesting selection of mezcal and tequila. There is also a small open kitchen offering tacos and quesadillas for lunch and dinner.

Last week, I took advantage of their lunch menu: four tacos and a soft drink for 12 euros. Finished with a coffee and generous slice of mandarin orange cake, it was perfection!

Warning: this place could quickly become your local hang-out. 🙂

Essential Information

Address: 82 rue de Folie-Méricourt, 75011
Telephone: 01 47 00 78 95
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10am -1am. Sunday 11am- 6pm. Closed Monday.
Reservations: not taken. 
Suggested footwear: if you happen to live in the area, they wouldn’t bat an eyelid were you to come in your slippers!


Bob’s Bake Shop, 75018


The area between La Chapelle and Marx Dormoy, up in the north of Paris’ 18th arrondissement is a funny place. As well as being right between an Indian community (at La Chapelle) and a mini Chinese community (on rue de Torcy) it is also sandwiched between two sets of train tracks. Ten years ago, it was not a place you would have felt comfortable after dark but nowadays, just like in many other places in Paris (think Pigalle, Batignolles and Belleville) it has seen a rapid gentrification.

Nowhere is this more evident than the Halle Pajol complex on the esplanade Nathalie Serraute. It first started, in late 2013, with the bar Les Petites Gouttes. Bob’s Bake Shop opened up shortly afterwards and it is now complete with a Youth Hostel, library and awesome co-working space. The esplanade is fantastic in the summer as everyone spills out onto the terrasse to soak up the sun.

Bob’s Bake Shop plays, for me, a key part in the energy of this new quartierMarc Grossman has been living in Paris since 1999; he opened Bob’s Juice Bar in 2006 and it was an instant success. Subsequently, opening Bob’s Bake Shop in 2014 provided him with a large kitchen from which Bob’s Food Etc can make enough bagels, bialys and pies to supply all of Paris! Talk about building an empire!

Back to the Bake Shop, Marc once said “we’re not a coffee place. The focus is on bagels and we need to keep doing that right. With coffee. We’re not here to do tricks.”

Large enough to seat 30-40 people (plus ample outside seating if the weather is clement) this is a relaxing place to meet up with friends. Music playlist is US-orientated – think: Stevie Wonder, Barry White and Motown classics.

All the bagels are hand-rolled. As of February 2015, a basic bagel with cream cheese would set you back 3 euros 50; a PB&J bagel: 4 euros or the (somewhat healthier option!) avocado bagel: also 4 euros.

More substantial sandwiches (e.g. hummus and grilled carrots, kalamata feta and grilled veg, tomato relish and cheddar cost 7 euros. Smoked salmon and cream cheese for 8.)

Clearly this is a great option if you are looking for a vegetarian food in Paris which fits even a tight budget.

The Bake Shop is open from every day (seven days a week!) from 8am til 4pm. Can I just casually drop in how AMAZING this is!! Thank you, les anglo-saxons, for realising that some people need coffee before 10am!

If you’re looking for a coffee shop where you can sit, undisturbed, and work for a couple of hours, this is a local favourite. There is reliable free wi-fi, plenty of space and unlimited Belleville Brûlerie filter coffee for just 2 euros.
N.B. Just a mention: the bagels aren’t ready until around 10am – so (at least at the time of writing) you can’t pop in before work to grab a bagel for lunch. Breakfast options include granola and fromage blanc (3,50), fruit salad (2,50), or something Chia-seedy that I walked away from immediately! 😛


Essential Information

Address: 12 esplanade Nathalie Sarraute, 75018
Telephone: 09 84 46 25 26
Website: Bob’s Food Etc.Facebook
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday 8am til 4pm.
Reservations: not taken. 

Was La Belle Epoque Really So Great?

TL;DR version: Everything’s relative. If you’ve just come out of a century of foreign war and internal revolutions and you’re just about to plunge into the horrors of the First World War, of course a brief respite would be very welcome. But, no, it was certainly not as belle as those rosy glasses of yours would lead you to believe.


Today’s doodle celebrates the 150 year anniversary of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s birth. His paintings and posters of the glitz and glamour of the Moulin Rouge are iconic. You only have to take a wander up the rue Steinkerque (that steep, narrow road, full of tourist shops, which leads from Anvers métro to the foot of the Sacré-Cœur) to realise this. A great artist he was, but like many others of his generation, he was disabled from birth as a result of aristocratic in-breeding, he was an alcoholic for most of his adult years and utimately was to die of syphillis at just 36 years old. The Belle Epoque? Really?

It still astounds me how we believe blindly in a romanticised version of French history without knowing the facts. Ask a budding French fan when the Revolution was and they’ll reply “1789” without even the barest acknoledgement of the other uprisings that happened all the way through the 19th century. We have idolised French gastronomy to such a crazy extent without realising that, less than 150 years ago, amongst the beseiged Parisians, the rich were eating cats, dogs and rats. The poor had nothing.

Recent generations of francophiles entertain fantasies of the Belle Epoque, whatever that may mean. Let’s consult Wikipedia for a definiton:

Bernhardt,_Sarah_di_Giovanni_BoldiniThe Belle Époque was a period in French and Belgian history that is conventionally dated as starting in 1871 and ending when World War I began in 1914. Occurring during the era of the French Third Republic, it was a period characterized by optimism, peace at home and in Europe, new technology and scientific discoveries. The peace and prosperity in Paris allowed the arts to flourish, and many masterpieces of literature, music, theater, and visual art gained recognition.

Ok, so let’s just whizz through a timeline from 1789 and the run up to 1870.

Everyone knows about the storming of the Bastille (1789), the decapitation of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette (1793) and the eventual rise of Napoleon (1799) after almost ten years of bitter in-fighting and hot and heavy guillotine action.

Napoleon. High point: 1805 Austerlitz. Low point: 1812 Russia.

For the next fifty years, there’s a game of political tennis between the Royal House of Louis and the Napoleonic Upstarts. Look left, right, left, right… 1814. 1815. (It certainly doesn’t do the French spirit any favours when the English put in their tuppence at the Battle of Waterloo. Double fault.)

In 1830, there’s a revolution. In 1831 too. And 1832 as well. (Anyone read Les Miserables? Yes? That’s the one.) There’s another revolt in 1834, just for good measure.

In 1848, the workers from 1831 and 1834 have got their act together and with some extra support, there’s a bloody revolution. Again. King Louis abdicates and flees. Exit stage left. Enter Napoleon III.

During the 1850s, France and England (plus the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia) are allied against Russia in the Crimean War. There are heavy losses on all sides before it ends in a disappointing stalemate.

The 1860s are not too bad. Haussmann is rebuilding Paris with the stylish architecture and boulevards that will soon become emblematic. While the scale of the project is surely unnerving to the city’s inhabitants, it provides jobs. In 1869, one fifth of Paris’ working population is in construction.

1870 is disasterous. Outmanned and outgunned, the army has surrended to the invading Prussians after heavy fighting in the east of France. Napoleon III is captured and sent to exile. With no one left to defend it, this beautiful new city of Paris is under siege; a siege which will last for five months. The city is completely cut off. There’s no food. Parisian restaurants are serving horse, cat, dog, rat, even the kangaroo and two elephants from the Paris Zoo.


1871. In the absence of any real leadership, the group now known as the Paris Commune come to power. There are still foreign soldiers based in Paris; and they’ve just marched victoriously under the Arc de Triomphe to rub salt further into the wound. In the peace deal (Jan/Feb) the Prussians gain control of Alsace and Lorraine, two large industrial areas in the east of France. National pride has hit rock bottom. That’s until it reaches another level during “La Semaine Sanglante” (“The Bloody Week”) in May. Tens of thousands of people are slaughtered in what can best be called a civil war for Paris.

It’s with all this as a backdrop that the Belle Epoque is supposed to take place.

It couldn’t really have got any worse. One hundred years of international fighting and civil war, mindblowingly heavy losses, stalemates and occupation. The Battle of Austerlitz being the one notable exception.


Two of the most glorious and defining moments of the Belle Epoque are the construction of the Eiffel Tower and the opening of the Moulin Rouge – both in 1889, coinciding with the Exposition Universelle. (Just as an aside, the other two World Fairs in 1878 and 1900 were both absolute disasters!)

It is however true that this was a good period for car manufacturing and aviation. (The aviation industry advances actually came about because the Parisians had had to get inventive with hot-air balloons for any kind of communication during the siege.)

It’s also a time when lady courtesans “les cocottes” were forthcoming. Plenty of entertainment for the nouveau-riches. There was theatre, literature and art. (Art Nouveau took off, Impressionism didn’t.) There was of course lots of absinthe, but there was also abject poverty. From ~1870 until 1896, France was in economic depression.

Even momuments that history would rather let us believe were built for greatness have another story to tell. Take the Sacré-Cœur, for example. Originally it was conceived as a penance to God for the defeat to the Prussians and to expiate the crimes of the Paris Commune after what Bishop Fournier described (on the day the Third Republic was sworn in) was “a century of moral decline.”

Construction on the church started in 1875 and it was finally consecrated in 1919. Yet, given how the majority of the 19th century had been a religious seesaw between the secular republicans and Catholic loyalists, and that now finally the Communards had been quashed, this was actually a huge white fuck-off ‘we’re better than you’ symbol sitting on the top of a hill.

Not convinced? Go and visit the Sacré-Cœur for yourself and you’ll see a plaque saying:

“En présence des malheurs qui désolent la France et des malheurs plus grands peut-être qui la menacent encore.”

“In the presence of the misfortunes that afflict France and the perhaps even greater woes that still threaten us.”

Doom and gloom, much!

This Belle Epoque nonsense was simply created out of nostalgia and those rosy glasses sure are heavily tinted. Would a person at the time recognise and refer to it as glorious themselves? I suppose it depends on which way you choose to look.

There does seem to have been a wave of national pride that resurges in the 1890s and which continues until 1914. A pride in their newly rebuilt and rapidly expanding capital city. A time of prosperity after such hardship.

If you were an industrialist enjoying this new boom, you were probably entranced by the new styles of frivolous entertainment that you could now afford. If you were poor, you probably didn’t notice much change. If you were rich, you either weren’t rich anymore or you were in exile.

If you were a thinker, you were probably pre-occupied with the Dreyfus Affair. After Dreyfus was falsely convicted of treason, the ensuing fall-out was a scandal that lasted 10 years and seems to have dominated public debate. For his open letter “J’accuse” (1898) Emile Zola was hauled up in the courts and eventually exiled. The whole Affair revealed a widespread anti-semitism and huge corruption at government level. Contemporary reports also speak of a bitterness which turns into full-on xenophobism against Germany after the loss of Alsace and Lorraine.

Actually, if we look further afield, we see that France has fallen far behind its neighbours in terms of social and cultural development. Vienna was experiencing a similar, and arguably more luxuriant, intellectal high-life. In England, the Industrial Revolution and the resulting growth had started with the Reform Act in 1832 – at least 40 years before than France.

"Rolla" by Henri Gervex, 1878.
“Rolla” by Henri Gervex, 1878.

In terms of women’s rights, the Suffragettes movement started in the UK in 1903. In France at this time, les cocottes were still juggling their many lovers and dancing the can-can. Women were given the vote in 1918 in the UK, but not until 1944 in France. That’s only 70 years ago. You could have a grandmother who would remember this.

Of course, when you consider that in 1914 Europe would be plunged into WW1, you can understand how the contemporaries would come to regard this period of freedom and relative stability with considerable fondness. The “Good Old Days.” However why we, several generations on, continue to propagate this further when it was just a short-lived passage between god-awful and hell-on-earth still beats me.

Comments by pigeon or balloon in the “Reply” form below. 😉

For anyone who’s interested in learning more about this period, there’s an excellent (but even longer) piece from Hugh Schofield on the BBC.

Where To Find Oysters in Paris


This blog post comes to you today from the corner of my bed. I’ve just spent a very uncomfortable night curled up on precisely one sixth of the normally available bed space.

Three rooms of Burnt Cream HQ are being repainted this weekend, which means that everything has had to find a new home. I was sharing my bed with the coats from the hallway, cushions from the sofa and a couple of picture frames that were sticking into my lower back. I had naively thought that the other adjoining rooms would avoid the fate of suffocation by paint dust because the decorator would just close the door…. but it turns out that said door met its match because it is currently sitting in the naughty corner of the other room, wondering where its hinges went.

All this is making me work on a new dimension of French lexicon. The most useful word has been the verb écailler, which I knew before in the context of “écailler le poisson” (“to scale the fish”) but it loosely means to take off and can be applied to all manner of things. In particular, this past weekend I’ve found myself having to say “l’humidité écaillait la peinture” (“the damp was causing the paintwork to come off”) quite a lot. In its reflexive form s’écailler it means to flake or peel off. I’ve heard it being used to refer to chapped lips or dry skin, which is also pretty useful to know around this time of year…

The main reason, however, why you should know this verb is because it also means to shuck an oyster – écailler une huitre. And an écailleur is therefore somebody who opens the oysters. Yes, the French even have a word for that.

Here are my top five recommendations for eating oysters in Paris this season:

Huiterie Regis

3 rue Montfaucon, 75006

Sleek and chic, by the Saint Germain market. Only 14 covers, no reservations. Prices start around 18 euros for a dozen but can go to 60 euros for a dozen Belons. Very nice wines. Menu limited almost entirely to bivalves. Also do take away.

Le Mary Celeste

1 rue Commines, 75003

Oysters are not just for the rich and snooty, the Mary Celeste attracts a young (and largely English speaking) clientele. Perch at the bar, sup a cocktail or some Brooklyn beer and knock back the oysters. Varied menu of small dishes. Cocktails, wine and craft beer. Very on-trend right now. (Psst! Try Clamato too.)

L’Écume Saint Honore

6 rue du Marche Saint Honore, 75001

A fishmonger-come-restaurant. A little kitsch but you’ll have a memorable experience. Well positionned between the Louvre, Vendome and the chichi shopping streets. Can quickly do some damage to the wallet.

Le Baron Rouge

1 rue Theophile Roussel, 75012

Rather chaotic and crazy, but at the Baron Rouge, the wine just keeps flowing. Convivial atmosphere. Reasonably priced oysters to be eaten on the hoof. Le Baron Rouge is the most talked-about, but you’ll probably find a similar kind of wine bar with a pop-up oyster seller in most arrondissements at this time of the year. A very good neighbourhood option.

L’Ecailler du Bistrot

22 rue Paul Bert, 75011

Traditional French seafood restaurant. Old school, but in the positive sense. Great natural wine list. Treat yourself to a slap-up meal. Reserve a couple of days before to be sure of getting a table.

Alternatively, you’ll see loads of sellers popping up on the pavements of Paris during the winter months. It will typically set you back between 10 and 15 euros for a dozen so it’s a more affordable option than going to any of the above or getting a seafood platter in a traditional turn-of-the-century brasserie (such as those around Montparnasse, for example.) Pop a bottle of bone dry Sancerre or more rounded Muscadet-Sevre-et-Maine (the traditional accompaniment) in the fridge but you can also try with Champagne or any other kind of dry bubbles. I had a really good Vouvray Brut NM from the Domaine Champalou yesterday at La Derniere Goutte which would be perfect.

Oh, and don’t forget, you should also try to écailler those oysters yourself!