Paris in Miami

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I don’t live in Paris. Not yet, anyway. So when I fly across the Atlantic several times a year to visit, I become one with the city. I revel in the sounds, smells and tastes of Paris. I sit in its jardins and stroll the rues. I become the ultimate flâneuse, a term coined by Charles Baudelaire, meaning “a person who walks the city in order to experience it.” I do this to memorize each and every detail so that they can be recalled during those days when I’m away from my beautiful, beloved Paris. This reluctant parting is, however, made easier knowing that I’m fortunate enough to live in a city that embraces the French culture. Miami may be a tropical paradise with roots more firmly positioned in Latin America than in France but there are plenty of Parisian pockets to be found here. My first such encounter happened a decade ago when I began taking French classes at the Alliance Française de Miami. There was no English spoken once I passed through the doors. Posters of the latest French films adorned the walls. I felt the same tingle of excitement that I always felt upon arriving in Paris—a little bit lost in translation but eager to explore and learn. The Alliance Française offered more than French classes, of course. There were movie screenings and a library full of books and videos. On Bastille Day, we partied and shouted “Vive la revolution, vive la France!” Coconut Grove, a leafy Miami neighborhood, is a place that provides an illusion of being in France—although the experience is far more Côte d’Azur than Paris. Green Street, a very popular café owned by transplanted Frenchman Sylvano, offers sidewalk dining with a European-influenced menu. Across the Street is George’s in the Grove, a restaurant owned by Georges Farge.  For 14 years, Georges owned another Grove eatery, Le Bouchon du Grove, but decided to sell that restaurant and return to France with his family. He returned two years ago and opened the eponymous restaurant. The unapologetically boisterous George (a Zidane fanatic) is the ultimate host and dining room trouvère, offering free glasses of champagne to each and every guest as they pour over a menu with plenty of crème fraîche, Gruyère and confit to satisfy even the most discerning French gourmand. George’s former restaurant, Le Bouchon du Grove, is still one of the most popular eateries in the Grove. And it doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination to feel as if you’re suddenly in France when you step through the doors. From the tables that are tightly cramped together to the menu to the just-off-the-boat French waiters, this is as authentic as it gets. Moulin du Grove, a longtime Grove mainstay recently closed its doors but a new bistro opened down the street, Le P’tit Paris. In fact, the entire Coconut Grove neighborhood could be mistaken as a very far-off Paris suburb. People eat at sidewalk bistros and stroll through narrow streets to shop charming little boutiques.  Dogs happily join their owners in these escapades, welcomed by waiters and shopkeepers with their own little bowls of water. I recently won free airline tickets to Paris. But for reasons too long (and boring) to go into here, I didn’t use them. While many thought me mad for passing on such a unique opportunity, I took solace in the knowledge that, unlike a long distance lover, Paris wouldn’t leave me if I wasn’t willing to go to the ends of the earth to spend a few days with it.  I would, after all, be there for several weeks in November. In the meantime, I knew I could get a quick Paris fix by getting in my car, sliding in the new Carla Bruni CD (Comme si de rien n’était) and driving over to the newly opened, Au Pied de Cochon, the fabulous Parisian restaurant that just opened its doors in Miami. I could listen to the waiters speak French with each other and imagine, if just for a moment, that I’m at the Au Pied de Cochon in Paris. That’s the thing about Paris. Even if you’re not there, it’s still inside you.  Linda Donahue is the founder and editor in chief of ParisienSalon.com (http://www.parisiensalon.com). While this writer and photographer currently lives in Miami, her heart belongs only to Paris.
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