Nicole Garton

Posted on November 1, 2011 by Susie Hollands Nicole Garton

Nicole Garton created the Ingénue Interview series appearing in the Huffington Post, contributed an anecdotal guide to early 20th Century Paris to Schnock: la revue des Vieux de 27 à 87 ans, No. 1 and translated the 5th issue of la revue “J’aime beaucoup ce que vous faites”, debuting at the 2011 Lyon Biennale

1. What initially inspired you to move here or visit?

I moved to Paris in order to immerse myself in its rich history, its cultural splendor, and its artisanal approach to life.

2. Earliest Paris memory?

Before moving to Paris, I had joined a friend and her family for a week’s visit over New Year’s. I remember emerging from the George V metro station alone with my suitcase, rising up the escalator onto the Champs Elysees, and taking in my first breath of fresh, French air. The grey dusk light gave way to the glowing pinks, reds, and incandescent whites of the Christmas decorations lining the boulevard, and I paused to marvel at it all, hardly believing I was really there.

3. Best neighbourhood you’ve ever lived in?

That remains to be seen, as so far I’ve lived in the 17th, across from Parc Monceau; in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near the Jardin d’Acclimatation; and very soon I’ll be moving to the Haut Marais – all lovely places to live! I appreciate the proximity to the beauty and recreational aspects of the parks, as well as the safe, quiet evening atmospheres of both the 17th and Neuilly, but I tend to spend most of my waking hours further afield, in the cinemas of St-Germain, the galleries of the Marais, and the cafés of Montmartre.

4. What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in Paris?

I have to mention two meals, one for its pure decadence and the other for its uniquely Parisian charm. For New Year’s Eve my best friend, her parents and I had a reservation for a very swanky rooftop restaurant with a view of the Eiffel Tower. There was a strange mix-up that resulted in our leaving the restaurant without dining and returning to the George V, where we were staying. As the hotel had played a part in the mix-up, they graciously offered us a reservation for that evening at Le Cinq, the hotel’s 3-star restaurant. What followed was about 9 courses of gastronomic heaven, complete with champagne, roses, gold leaf and a break between courses 7 and 8 to enjoy the firework display from the rooftop honeymoon suite. It was outrageously luxurious, utterly delicious, and the closest I’ve ever felt to being Queen.

The other occasion involved a barbecue that my artist friend hosted at the apartment she shares with her boyfriend. They have a cool set-up just off Boulevard Beaumarchais in which their apartment spills out onto a patio in the interior courtyard. I had no idea what to expect going to a Parisian barbecue, as little of what I’d experienced so far suggested it would be anything like an American one. Unsure of whether or not beer would be an appropriate addition, I decided to bring a bottle of champagne, figuring it could do no harm. By instinct or chance, champagne turned out to be the way to go, and in fact, I was not the only guest to have bought some. What I was not wholly prepared for was the appearance of an actual barbecue, on which my friend’s boyfriend began to grill steak and vegetables. When it came time to eat, he passed around alternating plates of meat and veggies, with guests taking individual morsels with their fingers and washing them down with champagne! No plates, no cutlery, just friends chatting and eating communally under the midnight moon. It was quite the mix of hi and low-brow, and in the end, no less delicious a meal than at Le Cinq.

5. Sexiest moment you’ve had in Paris?

An evening stroll on the arm of a certain gentleman through the streets of St-Germain.

6. What do you hate most about living in Paris?

Paying €20 for contact solution!

7. Who’s your favourite Parisian — be they living or dead, real or fictional?

Raymond, the charming lady-killer father in Françoise Sagan’s 1954 novel Bonjour Tristesse. His joviality, youthfulness, and unconventional lifestyle recall the enduring spirit of the Parisian avant-garde, disguised as handsome, bourgeois frivolity.

8. Favourite cinema?

I love the Action Christine cinema in the 6th for its fantastic classic film screenings, which appear in weekly dedications to a particular director’s œuvre or a theme that spans diverse genres. For contemporary arthouse releases, nothing tops La Pagode in the 7th with its gorgeous Salle Japonaise, a converted Belle Epoque ballroom.

9. Right bank or left bank? And why?

I’ve often pondered this question, and it seems to me that the clear-cut division between the Right and Left Banks, as the domains of royalty and bohemian intellectualism respectively, no longer persists. I think the balance is now more divided between the tony western half and the more experimental eastern half. This generalization applies to the art scene, as well: the west is home to the consumers of art, while its creators typically hang out in the east. In these loose geographic terms, I identify more with the east. Perhaps if I were born in Paris, I would have a better grasp of the two banks’ subtleties.

10. Favourite Caviste?

For his knowledge, enthusiasm and tasting events, I adore Nicolas Julhès. His eponymous cave and fromagerie are in the 10th. There is also a great, well-priced wine bar in the 1st, just steps from the Louvre-Rivoli metro station, called le Garde Robe that stocks an excellent selection of natural wines.  I also must mention the fun-loving Olivier Magny, who created the hilarious Wine Rendez-Vous video tutorials and keeps a blog, Stuff Parisians Like. His wine bar, Ô-Château, just opened in the 1st.

11. Where do you go to escape the city?

Actually, to escape I usually go to the American Library in the 7th or the movies (hello, V.O.!) or I take a long walk in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I do love the countryside, though, and have been lucky to have been a guest at friends’ country homes. There are endless lanes for bike-riding, plenty of space for breakfasting alfresco, and no neighbors to bother with nostalgic campfire songs.

12. Where are the best looking girls or boys in Paris and why?

All the terraces of Paris at the hour of the apéro. French people have the most beautiful skin and it dazzles in the early evening night. Also, I fall in love every time I share the Metro with a young man in a well-cut suit on his commute home from work.

13. Where do you get your news?

I read the news daily on various newspaper websites, but I keep up with Paris happenings through Twitter and two great cultural resources: Go Go Paris and the Art for Breakfast newsletter from the Royal Monceau’s art concierge.

14. Favourite museum?

Gosh, I’ve been to so many great exhibitions, it would be impossible to pick a favorite museum. So, here is my pick based on its precious, ephemeral collection, as well as its relative obscurity: Le Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits on Boulvevard St-Germain in the 7th.

15. Favourite shop?

I’m a fan of mixed-use spaces, so I would have to say la Belle Hortense, a tiny bookstore/bar in the Marais that is open until 2am. I found an English copy of À rebors there.

16. Who’s the most stylish Paris personality?

Strangely, the first people that come to mind all live or have lived in Paris, and yet none of them were even born in France…So, as I would like to credit the home-grown, I’ll say: all Parisian women over the age of 60. I have never met a one who was not a striking vision of chic!

17. What is your favourite film that is set in Paris?

The Red Balloon.

18. What about Paris most inspires you?

Its profound tolerance for whimsy.

19. What makes someone a Parisian?

A dedication to imperturbability, and by extension, an unabashed assertiveness when faced with the prospect of love.

20. What’s your favourite French word? (Swear words allowed!)