02/21/2011 01:58 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Best/Worst Brands of the Week Feb 14-21: The Valentine "Tongue and All" Edition

As I was walking the august streets of Paris on Valentine's eve, my best friend M was complaining via phone about the horrible line in Whole Foods Tribeca. She said it was filled with suits buying roses for their wives (wives Tribeca, girlfriend East Village, mistresses Flushing).

In Paris, instead of having one holiday dedicated to love each year, it's just romance all the time. Romance lives in between the cobblestones, the flying buttresses of Notre Dame, and in the center of a Ladurée macaroon. In fact, people make out there non-stop. It's awesome - with tongue and everything.

There was no better place to steal some of that love than from the Relais Christine, a renovated 13th-century monastery in the 6eme Arrondissement. Each room in the hotel maintains a different design theme, ranging from Toile de Jouy to the contemporary. When was the last time you leaned against an upholstered wall or worked out in a monastery?

We left the hotel to do what you are supposed to do in Paris, feast your eyes on the superior architecture and let it take you into the past. After a full day of Y and I cycling through Paris and up to Montmartre (the highest point in Paris), we were beyond hungry: I was angry hungry. We descended towards the 5eme and went to Kokonor, a Tibetan restaurant recommended to us by the lovely hotel concierge of Hotel Le Petit Paris.

We didn't have reservations, however, so they stuck us in the dungeon downstairs (where they put you if you don't have rezzies). No matter, we were going to get Seafood Marmite and a Filet of Sole, each a cup of butter tea and eat like monks. Po cha, butter tea, is a delicacy and if you want to know what it tastes like imagine a liquefied baked potato with butter, salt, and a hint of Worcester sauce. I mean a hint. It was yummy, but not 40 cups a day yummy which monks in Tibet drink.

I'll take "Magic Potion" over butter tea any day. Have you ever been to a club that had it's very own branded high energy drink? Or a huge tiger with a disco ball in its mouth as the main centerpiece? Or a guy walking around in his bathrobe, and another wearing diapers carrying a baby doll? Well, that night Y and I went to Cirque Bonheur on Rue Marbeuf in the 8eme. From the moment I walked in, I became part of the happiness circus. There were fire eaters on stage, makeup artists transforming guests into night creatures. The club experience doesn't get better than in Paris where in the wee hours, you step outside of Cirque-the plasticity of it all-and into centuries past. Your eyes adjust to the early morning silhouettes of classical architecture, and you are in awe of this beauty, wondering if it is all a dream.

Later that morning watching television at the Relais Christine, I saw Mubarak unseated and the people of Egypt reclaiming their first love, freedom. One of things I wondered most about was the lack of a single political voice for peace, like perhaps Ghandi or Martin Luther King. Of course there were opposition leaders, like Wael Ghonim of Google who started an advocacy campaign back in June of 2010, but it seems amazing that even in the absence of a primary man/woman of peace, millions rallied with minimal violence despite Mubarak's thugs. Read their tweets of freedom here.
Like Jimi Hendrix said, "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."

Upon my return home, back to my first love, New York, I arrived to find that my big new divan, which I customized at Economy Foam and Futon, had been delivered. It holds seven people you love and still more room for pillows. I just moved into a new apartment and could not deal with the eight-week delivery time for a couch, so I picked out a fabric, ordered a huge piece of foam and voilà I had an amazing stylish couch ordered and delivered in just four days. Hope you'll make it to the housewarming...

If you would like to nominate a brand, please send an email description to discover [at] 321worldwide [dot] com accompanied with samples (if relevant) to:

Alona Elkayam
c/o 321 Takeoff
419 Lafayette Street
NY NY 10003

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