Patricia Laplante-Collins is the genial hostess and proprietor of Paris Soirees, a twice weekly salon-like gathering that includes a home-cooked dinner and/or cocktail hour. The intimate meetings are held in Patricia's living room and always include an interesting and inspiring guest speaker. Patricia was kind enough to invite me as a guest speaker last year to talk about my tours and read some of my blog posts. The evening was quite a success and I gained a whole new audience for my blog and tours.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was premature and born in Cleveland, Ohio where my Mother was on vacation.
Actually, four generations on both sides my family are from Atlanta (where I grew up) . An ancestor, Colonel McHenry, was one of the first African Americans in the Georgia House Of Representatives after the Civil War (the era of carpetbaggers and other scoundrels a la Gone with the Wind).We also have lot of Georgia Indian blood, but do not know the names of the tribes).
I attended middle-class Spelman College for one year, then transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, which opened my eyes to the world.
What brought you to Paris and how long have you lived here?
I was traveling and living in different places around Europe - especially Italy and Sweden, after having lived in NY and worked in advertising. I thought I had a contact in France who had started a company and I knew could help get me working papers. Although I had a fascination with Paris, always had had since being a kid growing up in Atlanta, having that contact was a decisive factor for me coming here. I also decided to enroll in the University of Paris IV, the Sorbonne, in Art History on a graduate level.
August 1st will be the 26th anniversary of my arrival in Paris to live.
How did you come up with idea for your Paris Soirees and when did you start them?
When I first came to Paris I volunteered for American organizations which held events. One day I wanted to do my own events. At first they were social issue oriented. Then they became literary cocktails in about 1994 - most notably the African American Literary Soirees .Ernest Gaines was the special guest and for the occasion, I made a creole dinner. It was a success. I continued the cocktail format though also used an art gallery, Cafe Marley (it was different then) and a web cafe art gallery and at the 7 Lezards Jazz Club.
Then in 1999 I added on dinners, in my living room, had the literary cocktail on Friday and the dinner on Sunday. Eventually I merged the two and now have African-American and all sorts of subjects. Its very eclectic. There are all kinds of subjects which draws a wide range of intelligent people.
I often do cocktails on Wednesdays and there are often subjects about self development and practical matters. But it's really social and cultural too. Sometimes subjects about being single. Looking forward to Wednesday Sept 18th when Jamie Cat Callan presents her new book French Women Don't Sleep Alone
It was really hard for me to make friends and meet nice people when I came to Paris. That's one of my motivations in organizing dinners. Just remembering how difficult it was for me. Through Paris Soirees events, I've met a tremendous number of nice people and have made many friends.
Also I love cooking and was a trainee at the Cordon Bleu and La Varenne while being a jeune fille au-pair. I find handling food therapeutic.
Tell me how they work.
It's easy to come. To reserve just email me on email@example.com or call me on the cell 33 6 43 79 35 18. Your donation gets collected during the evening. I send out notices by email so you can just return the notice also - but well before noon on Sunday. I pencil in advance reservations so you have to call the day before to confirm. I don't read emails after 12h00 noon on Sunday. Please feel free to call on Sunday anytime, if you suddenly find that you're free. Groups should email in advance.
Happy hour is 18h30 - 19h30. The Special Guest presents at 19h45 and dinner is at about 20h30 (buffet but you're served.)It's casual and fun. The evening ends at about 10h00-10h30.
Who was the most interesting speaker you ever had?
Director Bob Swaim who won the Palm D Or at the Cannes film festival for La Balance with Nathalie Baye. The film involves the life of a prostitute and Bob worked with plain clothes policemen to learn the atmosphere. His stories about his experiences were compelling.
If you could invite one person living or dead to speak at your soirees, who would it be?
Al Pacino interviewed by Larry King (I've never heard Al interviewed and I know that Larry would do a great job).
What’s the most unexpected surprise that happened at your soirees?
When author Rosine Bramley, who wrote a book called Do Women Still Need Men? had reciprocated love at first sight with an American from Florida and now spends much of her time there with him. He was one of the few men in the audience. What a surprise.
Besides your living room, what would be your ideal space to have one of your soirees in?
A trendy and homey gallery with a kitchen big enough to cook in or a river barge that I could afford in the dead center of Paris. (I once rented one for a short time but it became too expensive and was only available for a few months of the year at bad times of the evening.)
What are some of the things that Paris offers that no other city does?
It makes you feel that you are in the most special place in the world. The center of the universe, the best that Western culture has to offer.
What do you prefer about Paris?
I love people watching. I can sit all day in a cafe on a nice day and watch people go by - in a fun neighborhood of course.
If you want to reserve a spot for one of Patricia's soirees, got to her website
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook. First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte’s professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 185 euros per person (about $240)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 3 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.
I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.
I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com