Jazz Is Alive And Well In Paris

Paris and jazz have long enjoyed a love affair.  The city remains a top destination for local and American artists and boasts a lineup of clubs and nightly acts that often rival New York City.  If you love music, seeing a live jazz show in Paris is a must.

But first some history.

Did she get your attention?  That is Josephine Baker.  Dancer and jazz/pop singer, she grew up poor under the yoke of discrimination in America.  When she traveled to Paris she became a featured singer at ‘Le Ball Negre’ (more on that later) and her career took off from there.  The Ball Negre was a cultural icon frequented by the cutting edge of Paris society in the 1920’s frequented by everyone from Picasso to Hemingway to F.Scott Fitzgerald.  You can read more about it here https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bal_Nègre


With her stunning looks, eclectic personality and arresting voice (think Piaf meets Billy Holiday meets the personality of Cheavalier) she quickly became the toast of the town.  Indeed, she was said to have received over 1,500 marriage proposals in her life as she became a cultural icon in France.  For more information on her life go to her official website http://www.cmgww.com/stars/baker/about/biography.html

And no accounting of this period, however brief, would be proper without a mention of Gypsy Jazz and the great Roma guitarist Django Reinhardt who dominated the Paris scene at that time with his syncopated hyper fast picking.


From World War I on, Paris was a refuge for countless American jazz artists who enjoyed the open bohemian spirit of the city.  Jazz artists who took up residence there in the included Sidney Bechet, Bud Powell, Dexter Gordon and Miles Davis to name a few. And with the embrace of jazz by the French the feelings were mutual.

Today Jazz remains alive and well in Paris.  You can hear it in small clubs throughout the city, on the radios of taxis and on the streets emanating from restaurants and bars. This recently renovated venue exemplifies this love.  The aforementioned Bal Negre was located on Rue Blomet, a 15 minute walk from the Yellow Flat vacation apartment.  It reopened on March 21 after lying in neglect and disrepair for years.  This must have been a labor of love, just look at what it looked like.


The development was also the subject of controversy. The owner wanted to keep the original name, but in doing so, drew vocal protests of racism from the local community. It is an interesting question to ponder, when is an homage to a club and the use of a historical name inherently or explicitly a racist statement? Le Bal Negre was the name of the club with incredible historic significance.  In any case, the controversy resolved, the club is open and the music is alive at Le Bal Blomet.

Many well-known clubs abound in the city.  One place to start is New Morning where I enjoyed a recent show by vocalist extraordinaire Kurt Eling and his band.  This large scale club presents a wide variety of music from around the world, so be sure to view listings in advance.

new morning 2

A tour of traditional and historically significant clubs always starts with the Duc De Lombard.  The granddaddy of Paris jazz venues leans to swing and cabaret and draws top talent, playing there now is Michael Fienstein.  Also located in the same part of the 1st district near Les Halles are Le Baiser Sale which has excellent open mike evenings and Caveau De La Huchette across the bridge in St Germain for more swing.

Paris has countless local clubs with home-grown talent.  These include Sunset Sunside and L’Improvsit. You can always get an up to date calendar by visiting http://www.parisjazzclub.net/.

If you want to see Gypsy Jazz then a trip out to Saint Ouen for a Sunday afternoon to La Chope Des Puces.  Its located at the flea market so you can combine the two sites in one day.  Pay attention to the area and watch yourself when walking.  Pickpockets abound. Other venues include the supper cub L’Atelier Charonne and Bouquet Du Nord, located near the Gare Du Nord.

And should you wish to feel a bit of Paris without leaving home, it is home to one the worlds great jazz stations TSF.  Listen at: http://tsfjazz.radio.net

So be sure to get your bop on when visiting Paris.  A little effort will be rewarded with a great time out.

The Yellow Flat is a one bedroom vacation rental apartment located a short walk from the Eiffel Tower.  Bright, warm and secure, it is our home away from home when we visit Paris and the perfect short term rental for you, your family and friends.  Returning guests always receive a 10% discount on their stay.

To learn more about the yellow flat, visit www.yellowflat.com or contact us at jkragen@prodigy.net

Walking Rue Saint-Dominque Again.

Many years ago I wrote about enjoying the Rue Saint-Dominque, one of our favorite walking streets in Paris.  I believe that it has always been underrated with most tourists preferring to hang out just blocks away on Rue Cler for what is often a very ‘faux french’ experience.  Rue Saint Dominique is much more reflective of the neighborhood character of the 7th (for a little history you can Wiki here). Frankly it is much more fun and the food is better.

We recreated that walk on a recent afternoon. In doing so we found that a lot has changed.  First things first, if you need it here is a link to a map of this great street.

Starting at Invalides (i.e. in the direction of the 6th away from the Eiffel Tower)  you begin the walk west.  The view should look about like this, and be careful the traffic is one-way coming right at you.


A luxurious way to start this walk is to stop for lunch at the sublime David Toutain.  After all, who enjoys a walk on an empty stomach?  Turn right at Rue Surcouf and it will be on your right a few doors up at number 29. We ate there several months and loved it, you can read more about our lunch in our blog.  But just to tease you here is one of the courses.  If you are planning ahead be sure to get a reservation well in advance.


Your next stop is Gateuax Thomieux located the middle of the next block on your left at 58.  It’s part of the Thomiuex group that operate an upscale brasserie and hotel further up the block.  The pastries were beautiful and we enjoyed several later that evening including a kooglehopf that my Austrian grandma would be proud of.


One of the hidden joys of this street are the number of narrow pedestrian only streets and alleys that branch of like these:


Walk them in either direction for a glimpse of life in the 7th as it as been for years full of small shops and tradespeople.


These side streets are full of great restaurants ranging from the Basque meat temple Chez L’Ami Jean at 27 Rue Malar to the modern Basque interpretations of Chef Sebatian Grave at Pottoka at 4 Due De L’Exposition as well as the hunting lodge ambiance of La Billebaurd (at 29). The area is also home to Catherine Reed’s combination cooking school and intimate kitchen at 11 Rue Amelie.  If you have time to take one of her cooking classes do it.

Another newcomer to the block is a branch of the Lille bakery Aux Merveilluex De Fred (94) with their too light to be imagined meringues.


While stores and restaurants will come and go and despite the very upscale being the upscale shopping destination that it will always be, the street retains a small town village like flavor.


Oh, and that chocolatier, Lemoine (74) is a branch of a famous shop in Bordeaux.  Stop in for their famous Canele, created by the wife of King Louis XII.

And yes don’t worry, there is still plenty of high-end fashion.


We stopped at Cafe Constant (139) for lunch. Seated upstairs squeezed in with a crowd of local business people, Japanese tourists and families, we felt right at home.  The food was solid, wonderfully unspectacular and completely satisfying.

We finished the last few blocks and looked out at the Eiffel Tower before walking home across the Champs De Mars to the Yellow Flat.  It was a perfectly understated Paris afternoon.

eif posing 2The Yellow Flat is a one bedroom vacation rental apartment located a short walk from the Eiffel Tower.  Bright, warm and secure, it is our home away from home when we vista Paris and the perfect short term rental for you, your family and friends.  Returning guests always receive a 10% discount on their stay.

To learn more about the yellow flat, visit www.yellowflat.com or contact us at jkragen@prodigy.net

It Is Time To Bring Trust Back To Vacation Rentals. It Is Time For Scertified.





I have always loved the world of vacation rental apartments.  They represent a healthy holistic alternative to hotels, a chance to experience life as locals do, to enjoy neighborhoods you might not otherwise see and to relax as if you were at home while on vacation.

In 2006 I rented out our Yellow Flat, a simple and wonderful 1-bedroom apartment in Paris, for the first time.  We had a mortgage to pay and I had rented similar apartments in the past before I purchased one. Why not give it a try?

It worked.  We enjoyed many years of warm and happy relations with our guests.  By focusing on the quality of professional service and real personal interaction, we guaranteed that the experience they had when renting our apartment was a good one. As I look back I am grateful to those who rented our apartment and shared our vision.

But times changed in the vacation apartment rental market and not for the better. Over the past few years, I witnessed a slow death of professionalism and caring in apartment owners accompanied by a steep decline in the quality of apartments available to rent.  The reason?  Too many vacation rental apartments on the market, too many websites and too few controls.

Let me illustrate this by sharing a recent experience with you:

On a trip to Paris, our Yellow Flat was booked, so I rented an apartment through Airbnb. Now in the spirit of fairness I did not pick the most expensive flat in our part of Paris. Instead, I went for a reasonably priced flat of similar size located just a few blocks away. What could possibly go wrong?

When I arrived at the building entrance, the door code that I had been given did not work. It went downhill from there. It took me over an hour to get into the flat which was a disaster. In the coming days I exchanged 30+ text messages with the host of this apartment on a variety of subjects that started with botched arrival and continued with no internet service (which was not and could not be fixed), screaming babies, broken coffee makers, trash cans filled with garbage, a complete lack of linens, and on and on.

It is not that the host was a bad person. He was trying to help as best he could. But he was clueless as to how to be a good host. I ended up spending my vacation trying to fix problems that could not be solved.

The vacation rental market has become focused on price and quantity, and unfortunately, not on value and quality. This is the harsh truth that host companies hide behind as they advertise cute images of happy renters eagerly sharing breakfast together in a cozy kitchen.

These websites do not screen their hosts, nor do they disclose what is behind the apartment front door. There are quite simply no standards.  What you do have are subjective guest reviews and worse, there is no way of telling whether a review is real or fake.

More importantly, there is no one to talk to. No help line, no 800 number and not even a way to send a message or to communicate except with the owner him or herself, and if he or she is not there or is incompetent, you are basically screwed (if you’ll pardon my French).

Yes, you on your own.   A cog in a system that creates experiences like this one.  Look at these poor people. They are lost, it’s late, and they are tired after a long trip.

This should not happen.

It is time for a change. Time to bring trust back into the vacation rental world.  And trust does not just happen; it is achieved by hard work and attention to detail. It is built by people with passion, enthusiasm and great care. That is why I spent the last two years creating our new vacation rental business: Scertified. To ensure that your vacation apartment rental is safe, secure and satisfying.

Here is how we do it:

We inspect every apartment that we offer. If an apartment does not meet our standards we will not offer it. Period. Our inspections are rigorous. We use a combination of web-based technology, on-site and virtual inspections, along with the plain old-fashioned instinct of our experts’ decades of experience to Scertify each and every one. We assess everything that we can get our hands on!  We cull through local statistics, evaluate interior noise levels, examine the neighborhood, review accessibility and look at every other factor that we know matter to our guests.

We are transparent. We will always highlight the pros, cons and idiosyncrasies of each rental so that you can make an informed choice and be assured of a perfect Scertified stay.

We are on your side. We are here to help you 24/7 from booking, to questions before departure; from the moment you arrive, throughout your stay, and after departure. If there is a problem, we will fix it for you.

We choose only the best apartments in top vacation spots. We have selected Scertified apartments in top vacation destinations including New York, Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona, Lisbon, Los Angeles and San Diego as well as many others for you to choose from. All of our apartments are professionally managed locally by our partner agencies in each destination.

Our goal is simple: To change your choice of travel accommodation from a gamble to a guarantee.   When you are ready to experience a better way to choose your next vacation rental, don’t just stay, stay Scertified.

Thanks for letting me bend your ear and if you would like to reach me, drop me a line at jules@scertified.com.


Jules Kragen,

Founder Scertified, Inc.



Scertified vacation rentals are now available at www.Scertified.com or by calling +1 860 222 0001 or +44 (0)20 8123 0009









Winter In Europe Is Not Necessarily That Cold.

Christmas in Europe is different.

For those of us that are sometimes overwhelmed by the Christmas holidays, Europe is a refuge.  The holidays are understated, there is less in your face materialism and perhaps it is closer to the way it was in the past before the world carried it away into the search for bigger, better and more. As this photo of a local restaurant at Ecole Militaire in the 7th in Paris shows, the decorations are different too.  Much more subtle, restrained, refined.


You have to look to find the christmas trees.  Imagine those in the US.

Chestnuts are everywhere both in the markets and roasting in carts on the streets.


And they are delicious.

The weather is cooling quickly and its starting to feel like the holidays.

This is also a very good time to travel.

Air fares are ridiculously cheap, I flew round trip from San Francisco to London for under $600 and then on to Paris for under $60 each way.  And here is the best thing of all, this is how aircraft are looking right now, at least mid-week.


Its pretty comfy even on transatlantic flights.  Plenty of room in coach for your stuff and to sleep.  Both ways.


When was the last time you saw a check in line like this?  It is pretty nice.


Does this have you thinking of a last-minute trip to Paris?  Contact us now.

A neighborhood story.

Urban living is sometimes seen as cold and indifferent.  And that is because it often is.  The neighborhood that the Yellow Flat is located in is typically Parisian, baker, butcher and until recently an old man who spent his days in a stairwell next to the grocery store smiling, smoking and panhandling.  But this time when I returned to Paris the space where he sat was empty and instead I saw this:


A small makeshift memorial and flowers where he had sat and held court every day.  As you can see from the poster he had died.  A mass was held in his memory at the local church.


And these words in his memory.  Even in Paris, in this most busy urban area, the world stopped for a moment to pay respects to him.


And the Euro? Wow.

I can’t remember the last time that the Euro was at 1.06 to the dollar making travel to Europe a great value.  Take a look at this meal for two that we enjoyed at the Bistro Balhara or Rue Duvivier about 10 minutes walk from the Yellow Flat:

Start with a fricassee of crispy snails (yes I did it) and wild mushrooms.


Follow with perfectly prepared wild caught that morning scallops.


Finish with a soufflé finished with Calvados and flambeed at the table.


Including a bottle of delicious Gamay from the Loire, this lovely dinner cost us a grand total of 110 euro, 116 dollars.  Perfect neighborhood cure for a cold Paris night.  And next time I am going for the 6 course tasting menu at 52 euro each.


The Bistro Balhara is located at 23 Rue Duvivier, Paris 75007.  www.bistrotbelhara.com

We hope to see you soon in Paris at our Yellow Flat.

In Paris, Long Leisurely Lunches Are Sublime. We Enjoy the Artistry of David Toutain.


Cod with foraged greens and morels

Why do I believe that lunch is the best way to enjoy a gourmet, i.e. michelin starred, meal in Paris?   Consider this.

  • It is easier to get a reservation.
  • You are awake.
  • For those of us that don’t eat as much the courses tend to be smaller.
  • It is a steal.  That’s right, compared to dinner, a steal.

On each trip to France we try to eat at least one outstanding meal and this one featured a visit to David Toutain.  His one star Michelin restaurant, opened in 2014, is located at the border of the 7th and 6th districts.  The chef, who trained under Allain Passard and worked at great restaurants such as L’Arpege, brings the food of his youth, spent in the lush farms of Normandy to your table.  And for our palates this means something that we are now used to but can be lacking in Paris: an ingredient driven tasting menu. The ingredients, fresh and often foraged, are the stars of his show.  Throw in some minimalist sensibility, a fine sense of design and a coastal emphasis and you have a winner.

On arrival around 12:00 we were seated upstairs.  Florence immediately caught the slight, we were steered away from the every day local lunch crowd. Put the tourists out of sight.  I didn’t care, in fact to me it felt like a private dining experience for the two of us tucked away from the noise in the library.



I am not going to give a detailed review of every plate that we enjoyed. I will let the pictures talk and note that the meal was incredibly balanced, thoughtfully plated, beautifully designed and innovative.  Service was professional if a bit stiff.

Afterwards think about this meal and what you would pay for it including a 1/2 bottle of Saumur red for me and two glasses of Sancerre for Flo.

The menu at lunch offers three tasting options, we chose the least expensive (55 euro) and the middle one (80 euro) and they took it from there.  What followed was a show of flavor, texture and color.

Amuse?  Beet carpaccio


The most amazing brioche nest.


The menu started.

Black sesame soup with seaweed roll and juniper.


Cod without the morels for Flo (don’t worry we shared them).  Even the darn foam was delicious.




And a savory egg custard in shell.



Lamb two ways.


Haddock.  Two kinds of carrots.  Eggplant.


Even the crackers impressed.


Desserts.  Many.

Coconut mousse.


Mixed fruits and ice cream over vanilla cream.


Espressos were needed.


But they were not done with us. Look carefully at the bowl, those are tea smoke infused macarons. You see them, the light grey circles.


Two and a half hours later we walked into the 7th and back to the Yellow Flat via Rue Saint Dominque laughing.  The sun was shining and the Eiffel Tower gleamed.   Paris was perfect.

Oh yes, the cost for two including the morel supplement was $216.  That is with tax and tip.

Worth every centime.


Reservations were relatively easy by email, staff was very responsive.

Address 29 rue Surcouf, 75007 Paris

Phone +33145501110

Email reservations@davidtoutain.com

Website: http://www.davidtoutain.com

Le Bon Marche’ Paris. A Stunning Food Hall In A Historic Department Store In A Great Neighborhood.

The area around Metro Sevres Babylone in the 6th arrondissement  does not always come up on the radar of a trip to Paris.  That is a pity.  It is home to good food, a great hotel which has been under renovation for who knows how long (over 2 years actually) and one of the finest if not the finest food hall in Paris located in the historic department store Le Bon Marche.  You can plan a walk, a visit to a wine bar after your walk or lunch at a number of good restaurants. Or just go shopping.




On exiting the metro station you will see a non descript park, more of a square.  From there walk onto to the intersection of Rue de Sevres and  Boulevard Raspail.  Looking across the street, you will see the Hotel Lutetia.  This famous landmark has been under construction since 2014 and should reopen this year. Now looking the other way down Rue de Sevres, you will see a monument to the world of shopping, Le Bon Marche. Well you won’t exactly see all of it because it too is being renovated.




Le Bon Marche is the world’s first modern department store. It was founded over 100 years ago in 1857 and it too is being completely remodeled to highlight its beautiful stately architecture.  The interior is simply stunning.




But we weren’t there for the architecture.  As I have often written, eating in Paris is about a lot more than the restaurants.   European produce is exceptional in quality and look.  It is a cornucopia of this part of the world,  French salads and chicories, Spanish asparagus and squash, Belgian endive.  And rather than trying to list them, just all look at their beauty and the way they are presented.  We can all learn.  Lighting please American grocery stores?












This food hall has everything you might need to cook a very very good meal including a full service butcher and fish monger.  Or do what we did.  We stayed at the Yellow Flat and enjoyed a simple dinner featuring artisan quality Italian pasta and pesto with shaved parmesan, steamed asparagus with Normandy butter and a salad composed of butter lettuce and chicories.    For Flo a cold Sancerre for me a dry Chinon.  Dessert two pastries from their bakery, a coffee eclair and a strawberry tart.  Why go out?

And all of this from a true temple of food.

If you need a little refreshment or lunch after shopping try these local establishments:

For lunch an old favorite, L’Epi Dupin, Address: 11 Rue Dupin, 75006 Paris, France. Phone:+33 1 42 22 64 56.  Very tourist friendly without sacrificing food quality.

For a glass of wine Le Sauvignon.  You can order light food there as well,  80, Rue des Saints-Pères – 75006.  Just past the Lutetia.  Phone An honest simple establishment.

To reach Le Bon Marche from the Yellow Flat take the line 10 direction Gare D’Austerlitz.  Its just 4 stops.

Bon Appetit.

Jules and Flo.

10 Things We Love About Our Yellow Flat.

It’s rather amazing but it has been ten years since we finished renovating our Yellow Flat Paris and began sharing it with our guests.  Along they way we have gotten to know a wonderful community of people who enjoyed our pied a terre as much as we did.  So to celebrate the 10th anniversary Florence and I took a moment to think about what makes this place so special and why we enjoy it so much every time we visit Paris.

Number 1. Something new! Our comfortable queen sized bed. We sleep well after a day of enjoying a day in the city.  Good reading lights too.


2.  Our living room couch.  We love the wonderful late afternoon light on the corner seat of the couch reading or just relaxing and taking it in.   It makes a great second bed for our extra guests.


3.  The third thing that the we love about the Yellow Flat is our remodeled kitchen, efficient as hell and fully stocked. And our new espresso machine.

New Kitchen

4.  Our shower. It has so much hot water and great pressure. Perfect for relaxing after  a day of touring or walking.


5.  The two-minute walk to the Champ De Mars park to look at the Eiffel Tower. We never get tired of looking at.  It is spectacular at any time of the day.

eif deserted in august

Or night.

eiffel tower night lights 2

6.  Walking to Poilane bakery for their amazing breads and morning pastries. Yes those are some amazing apple ‘chansons’ that make a perfect breakfast.

poilane 2

7.   Two glasses of rose’ on the terrace enjoying the afternoon sun.  No comment needed.

balcony w

8.   The views of the Parisian skyline from our floor to ceiling sliding glass windows in the living room and bedroom.


9.   Buying a salad at the Grenelle Marche bringing it home and enjoying it with a plate of artisan cheeses and a fresh baguette. And perhaps a lightly chilled Chinon or Bourgogne Aligote to go with it?


10. The 10th reason to love the Yellow Flat is that we are celebrating our 10th anniversary. So please take 10% off of any booking of a week’s stay during July or August 2016. Just mention our 10th anniversary celebration when you book. And enjoy this shot from 2006 when we were finishing construction.


As well as that wood paneling from the old kitchen.  It seems so dated in style.


As a further thank you to everyone who has stayed with us over the years I am happy to send you an 8 by 10 print of any photo that has appeared in this blog  Just tell us your story on our Facebook page and mention the photo you have in mind.  Or ask me to pick one.  Like this one for example.  I think its pretty cool.

eif troc tourist

All the best.

Jules and Florence