The stay-cation

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 6.43.47 PMThe texto exchange went something like this.

(me) It’s 45° here in Paris this afternoon

(MrFrench)45°? Don’t you think you’re exaggerating a bit?

Yes, you’re right. The thermostat at the pharmacy is now reading 47°

Oh merde. Maybe I should stay here in Beijing…

I guess if you’re in Paris it’s worth coming home.

It was settled, Mr French would be coming home from his meetings in Beijing Saturday morning at 5am. And while I love Paris when she sizzles, Mr French was going to be exhausted and needing to exercise, which didn’t seem like a great plan with the mercury over 110° fahrenheit and rising.

We needed to escape somewhere close to home, yet worlds away; the Molitor immediately sprang to mind.

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 6.44.06 PM  Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 6.44.33 PMBuilt as a public swimming pool for the 16th arrondissement in the 1930′s, the Molitor could be the poster child for great design, where esthetics join function to form the perfect pair. In fact, it is not “a” swimming pool, but 2 pools, a 44 metre long outdoor pool, with a  33 metre long winter pool under a glass ceiling.

In the 40′s the bikini was introduced to the world in front of the bright blue changing room doors and by the 50′s it had become the ‘IN’ place to be. Sand was brought pool side as stars like Brigitte Bardot or Françoise Sagan would come by for a day next to the refreshing blue waters.

And then the place was abandoned, becoming the ideal canvas for a group of talented street artists, the home of underground rave parties and generally, a cool place to hang. A few years ago investors stepped in to renovate the site, promising to return the pools to their former glory.

The promise was kept and the space opened to much controversy just a few months ago. Yes, there is scandal, because the public pools are now part of a 5 star luxury hotel, with a roof top restaurant, Jean Nouvel designed Clarins spa and an unmistakeable whiff of attitude.

It now costs 180€ for a day at the pool, virtually killing the whole idea of the space being accessible to the public, although it will be free to public schools twice a week as soon as everyone is back in class. A room is “only” 230€ for the night, which is not cheap but considerably less than any other 5 star in Paris, or a last minute trip to Deauville.

I had thought the price of the rooms were so reasonable because the hotel is virtually in the Bois de Boulogne and fairly remote for your average tourist. Now that I have stayed there I think the relatively affordable price is because you’re getting a pretty average hotel, and I’d now love to know who they had to bribe for their 4th and 5th stars. I hate complaining when we’re away. We’re out to have a good time and complaining takes away from that, but I am not an idiot, I have a critical mind and I know when things are not as they should be. At the Molitor, I felt that we got what we paid for and I loved our weekend away, in fact, I suspect that we’ll be back. Maybe even next week. That said, the service was non-existent, and the quality of everything from the sheets to the furnishings, just a step up from IKEA. I could not shake the feeling that everything is set up to keep the hotel as cost effective as possible, the comfort of the guests a very small part of the equation.

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peeking through a changing room door…

All of that washed away as I dove into the delicious pool. The water was perfect and I got in 40 minutes of laps both days. The food at the restaurant is fresh, light and well prepared and they were even able to make a real iced tea for me. The changing rooms above the winter pool have been decorated by local celebrities, creating a voyeuristic art experience that was remarkably fun and I even tested the spa, which was luxurious (and way better designed than the rooms).

We read, we munched, we rested and Mr French came home Sunday afternoon ready to face a rather grueling week ahead.

A French adventure

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Many francophiles share a classic dream or fond memory driving into the French countryside, using rural roads where there is nothing but picturesque villages with the occasional old man in worker’s blues shuffling by, smoking a hand rolled cigarette. In the fantasy you stumble upon a restaurant that no one has ever heard, full of locals enjoying haute cuisine for the price of a pizza.

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 1.34.14 PM Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 1.33.43 PM Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 1.33.24 PM Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 1.33.11 PM Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 1.32.58 PM Wednesday, we had access to a car, so I headed out with E to the explore today’s reality of that dream, destination; Yerres, a small riverside town south of Paris. We headed through the bustling Chinatown district of the 13th to avoid the highway. Piles of exotic herbs spilled over the stands of an impromptu market, perfuming the air as crowds of jay walkers became a serious menace.

Crossing the Periphérique, the ring road, our eyes met apartment blocks in every stage of a building’s life cycle; from construction zones to demolition sites. We were no longer in Paris. Locals crowded the large bus stops wearing African wax cloth, inner city street clothes, head scarves. The new face of France is young, dynamic and wearing lots of color.

Soon, we were near MacVal, a contemporary art museum with one of my favorite works of art, an interactive video by an artist named Gupta. There was a rail yard with an intriguingly picturesque set of abandoned rail cars. We stayed along these suburban roads, following the Yerres river to a stark parking lot and spilled out of the car, to find ourselves facing a large, white wall.

Propriété Caillebotte was carefully stenciled on the wall in a sedate grey. We had come to see the Impressionist artist’s works which are temporarily on display in the home that had once belonged to his family. I had not done much research before heading out on this adventure, so I was delighted to discover that there was much more to the show than just 40+ paintings. The home is part of a large park with lots to offer, including the gourmet restaurant that is part of the francophile dream.

The art collection was in the family’s old farm house. A lot of the pieces were on loan from private collections, or museums in the US. In France, Caillebotte had been considered something of a dilettante and had never been able to create much of a following.

My very favorite piece, Les Raboteurs, was not part of the show, nor was his most iconic painting, Jour de Pluie. This meant we really spent time appreciating and enjoying a variety of his work. It was a bried, yet lovely moment with art.

The show ends this Sunday, but even more spectacular are the grounds themselves, so it is still worth the trip, and I was assured that there will be more show in the future. There is an expansive lawn framed by pristine flower beds and picnics are allowed!  There are rental boats for rowing along the Yerres and an impressive collection of massive trees, many of them planted in honor of locals on their birth days. There is the gourmet restaurant, Le Chalet du Parc, with an elegant outdoor terrace at the farm house, or the more modest cafeteria in the old Orangerie. The most popular attraction is the large kitchen garden that is maintained by local volunteers. Everything in the garden looked picture perfect, including the work shed full of wheelbarrows. On weekends visitors can peek into the historic glacière where they kept ice before electricity made freezers and option. The place was alive with happy energy. The family’s home can be visited, and a chapel is currently being restored. Entrance on to the grounds is free, so it is full of locals enjoying the outdoors.

The park is available by RER, and there is even a program to stay with the locals for those wanting to turn their visit in to a real adventure. Click here for all the details.










Monday was Bastille Day and we spent the day running errands before Mr French jetted off on yet another business trip. By evening I was alone and in no mood to face the crowds around the Champs de Mars, so I slipped on my walking shows and headed to the Flore to watch the world go by of a glass of champagne with peach liqueur. I learned something that evening. The 14 juillet turns entire quartiers into atmospheric ghost towns. I had the entire neighborhood to myself. It was eerie and magical and utterly divine.

INspiration Thursday

Screen shot 2014-07-17 at 11.56.02 AMLast Thursday I took Sylvia’s suggestion to visit the Zadkine Museum on the well-known rue d’Assas in the 6th district, in the heart of the Latin Quarter.  I hadn’t heard or read much about it so I didn’t really know what to expect. From the brochures I had briefly skimmed through months ago, I knew that some of Zadkine’s works had elongated faces and bodies, similar to his friend Modigliani’s paintings. I was looking forward to learning more.

Screen shot 2014-07-17 at 11.51.05 AMScreen shot 2014-07-17 at 11.56.19 AMOssip Zadkine moved from Smolensk, Russia to Paris in the autumn of 1909 at the age of 19, after a short stay in England. Working for awhile out of a studio in the La Ruche artists’ community in the 15th district, he moved to the house at Rue d’Assas in 1928, where he lived and worked until his death in 1967.  He spent a few years in the United States after World War II and became an art teacher upon his return to Paris in 1945. The sculptor’s wife Valentine Prax, an artist herself, donated the property, which became the museum, to the City of Paris in 1982.

The house/museum is barely visible from the street, and is located right next to the Panthéon-Assas University Paris II. Visitors enter a courtyard and walk through a peaceful garden, to the entrance area, which doubles as a sales desk/bookstore.  A soft-spoken reception lady handed me a visitor’s guide, only available in French that day. There was a guided tour in Room 1, so I bypassed them and began my visit in the garden, which was a good way to get an overview of important works dating from 1930 to 1965.

Zadkine worked with wood, marble, terra cotta, granite, bronze, cement, and plaster, and was influenced by different styles: Primitivism, Cubism, Greek and Roman classical, and African art. He also produced many drawings and engravings.

What struck me most was how sparsely populated this museum is, and for a simple reason: it houses only a mere selection of the artists’ work, the rest having been moved in 1988 to a second museum in the village of Arques, where the artist spent his summers. Each of the six small, airy rooms and the separate garden workshop building tastefully displays between two and seven sculptures, and there are another ten in the garden placed among sycamore trees or on a small lawn. So, the visitor has plenty of time and space to appreciate them, without feeling crowded or bothered by other visitors taking “selfies” with the works (there were none that day).

Screen shot 2014-07-17 at 11.50.54 AMI found the larger-than-life sculptures particularly interesting :  “Torso of the Destroyed City” in bronze visible in the garden, “Rebecca” or “Big Water Carrier” crafted in plaster displayed in Room 2, and “Prometheus” sculpted in elm, housed in the garden workshop. Visitors can actually walk all the way around each of these works to admire the detail.

After my visit I took a quiet stroll in the Luxembourg Gardens, only a few steps down the road, bringing my Inspiration Thursday afternoon to a lovely conclusion.

Practical information:

Musée Zadkine
100 bis, rue d’Assas 75006 Paris
Métro : Notre-Dame des Champs (ligne 12), Vavin (ligne 4)
RER B : Port-Royal
Bus : 38, 82, 83, 91
Vélib’ : 90 rue d’Assas, 13 rue Michelet
Autolib’ : 15 rue Joseph Bara, 6 rue Michelet
Tél : 01 55 42 77 20

Open every day except Monday and public holidays.
The permanent collection is free of charge to the public except during temporary exhibitions.
Group tours may be organized by contacting the Bourdelle Museum at  01 49 54 73 73.

Ivory Tower

Screen shot 2014-07-11 at 10.53.00 AMWhen we moved to Paris, most of the city’s monuments had been scrubbed clean, and reguilded for the millenial celebrations of 2000. Stones the color of chimney ash brightened the skyline, locals would gasp as the glistening gold-leaf of the Opera Garnier. The city had on her very best dress and she was ready to party. And the party hasn’t stopped, with the Palais de Tokyo re-inventing itself as the largest contemporary art space in Europe, the Galliera fashion museum getting a new do, and the Pantheon currently getting a make-over.

One of the longest, most mysterious renovations, was at the Tour St Jacques in the very center of Paris. The tower stood there, all sooty and grey for decades, then disappeared under a white robe for years. And years, and years. The sheath was there to protect passers by, who were at risk of being squashed by large bits of stone that had starting falling off the 52 metre high structure. It became so dangerous the surrounding park had to be closed to the public.

Screen shot 2014-07-11 at 10.51.55 AM Screen shot 2014-07-11 at 10.51.12 AM Last year the repairs were complete, the tower was unveiled and visits were possible. Possible but very difficult to arrange, as it is only open during the summer and the very narrow, spiral staircase of 300 steps, can only take a handful of visitors, who must be accompanied, at a time. With a zinc roof, it is also a natural lightening rod, making visits during (the rather frequent) rain showers so risky, the tours get cancelled.

Last Friday, the tower re-opened for the season, and you can bet I was there, not caring too much (well, maybe just a little…) that I was going to be missing the first 20 minutes of the World Cup France – Germany quarter finals.

The tours are organized by Des Mots et Des Arts. The guides are young art historians, with a contagious enthusiasm for history and the tower. I arrived a bit early and waited in the small garden around the tower, the fragrance in the air reminding me of home. More specifically, the parks near the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco and I was bemused by the number of young people with backwards baseball caps and skateboards learning how to roll their own.

Screen shot 2014-07-11 at 10.51.33 AMThe Tour Saint Jacques is a Flamboyant Gothic bell tower, a modern 16th century addition to a 15th century church, St Jacques de la Boucherie. Boucherie is French for butchery and the church was surrounded by butcher shops and other businesses, including the public writing studio of Nicholas Flamel, who is buried below. For the last 600 or so years, it has been the starting place for the pilgrimage to St Jacques de la Compostelle. Following the French RScreen shot 2014-07-11 at 10.53.19 AMevolution the government owed a lot of money to a local businessman, so they gave him the church and he took it apart, selling the stones off to the highest bidders. Since then, the tower has inspired artists, scientists and intellectuals. Dumas wrote a story set in the park, and it is believed that Blaise Pascal used the site for his experiments with atmospheric pressure.

After learning more about the history of the site you get to go up those 300 steps. But not all at once. There are two landings to explore. One a tiny warehouse for gargoyles, the other an old weather station with spectacular stained glass decor. Going up, the walls are blackened for the soot of lanterns of 18th and 19th century visitors who left some intriguing graffiti along the way.

The views from above are spectacular, with every important monument in sight. Alot of the people on our tour were Parisians, who spent their time above trying to find their homes and locate personal landmarks, reveling in the wonder of having Paris at our feet.

A giant merci to Karen from Inspiration Thursdays for letting me know the tower was open, joining me on the visit and for her fantastic photos!


Behind closed doors

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 12.35.27 PMThe Palais de la Justice on the the Ile de la Cîté is visited by ten of thousands every year, as tourists line up to see the spectacular windows in the Sainte Chapelle. The very attentive may notice that there is a much smaller, more efficient line just to the left of the crowd. This is the line for those who have business to do at the Paris courthouse. Unless you’re a very curious lawyer, the only reason anyone would visit the courthouse is because they’re having a legal issue, which most sane people try to avoid. My first visit was several years ago, for my divorce, and although an entire film of that afternoon is available for viewing in my memory, it was not a moment I call up very often. In retrospect, its kinda cool that I got to have my divorce in a court house that has been around since the 10th century. Not that I’d recommend the experience to anyone, but since I had to do it, at least in Paris, I got do it with a bit of gravitas under my feet.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 12.33.16 PM Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 12.33.35 PM Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the courthouse for a happy occasion, as someone very near and dear got called up to the Paris bar. A much better way to discover this historic landmark and celebrate the law. As in the UK, and Canada, French lawyers still come to court in robes. The ceremony is held in an ornate 18th century room, decorated with antique wood carvings, gold leafed details and Gobelin tapestries. It is the Premiere Chambre de la Cour d’appel, which is the French equivalent of the Supreme Court.

A handful of new judges and a class of fledgling lawyers are sternly sworn in for their new duties as friends and family crowd around the SRO space. A fireman guards access to the mezzanine, counting how many spectators go up, to ensure the safety of all.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 12.38.37 PMAfter the ceremony there is a lecture in the legal library upstairs. Last week they spoke about Sarkozy, the wire tapped phone calls to his lawyer and the repercussions on attorney – client privilege. It was an incredibly pertinent talk given by a clearly impassioned speaker, perhaps the most inspiring graduation speech I’ve ever sat through. At the end of his talk, the speaker almost literally flew out of the room, his assistant waiting by the door to grab his glamorous red, ermine trimmed robe, hand him his expensive Italian suit jacket and a briefcase so that he didn’t miss a single of his great strides on the way to perform justice.

Names were called, handshakes exchanged, and then, they too, were out the door. A new class of lawyers running off to work.



The show of the year

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 11.20.54 AMThe year being 1900!

There are currently 2-3 hour long lines outside the Petit Palais, as devouted art fans, history buffs, and fashionistas wait anxiously to see Paris 1900, an exhibition featuring the year Paris hosted the Universal Exhibition and the world entered a new century.

The show is as bright and exuberant as the era it embodies. Video, architecture and objects blend to create a new world, as visitors leave the 21st century for an hour or so, and discover a time when the air was alive with electricity.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 11.21.10 AM  The first room celebrates the fair and the technology of the time, featuring films by the Lumière brothers themselves, Guimet’s Art Nouveau metro entrance and memorabilia from the Bon Marché.

Then you pass through a tunnel running with black and white film rolling on the walls, images of the crowd at the Exposition; gentlemen in dark suits, ladies with a flounce. There is a room dedicated to the decorative arts featuring work by Mucha, Lalique, Gallé and Marjorelle, another of fine art with Monet, Vuillard, and Renoir. I was particularly smitten with the photography collection.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 11.21.44 AMUntil I reached the fashion room with illustrations of a Parisenne’s day, fans and gowns, which had me completely under its spell as I read about the Trottins. These were the young girls who would deliver hats to the haute couture clients and they were considered to be the epitome of good fashion and elegant taste, inspiring a journalist to write, “What differentiates the Parisienne from other women is a discreet elegance in every aspect of her social life; sobriety, taste, innate distinction, and the indefinable something only she possesses, that blend of bearing and modernity we call chic.”

There was an inspirational erotic room featuring the infamous bordellos that hosted the elite of the époque. The homes were called Maisons Closes and one had an intriguing chair designed by an English prince. The design has the potential for so much naughty fun I am tempted to ask the ébéniste next door to build one for our bedroom.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 11.21.28 AMFurther on, a space dedicated to the performing arts had a small theater playing the first sci-fi film ever made, Voyage to the Moon.

Te Petit Palais tiself was built for the 1900 Universal Exposition, so it felt like we were extending the show as we strolled out to the mosaic lined courtyard and lingered over our Parisian espressos in the sunshine of their petit English garden.

The show runs until August 17, and I highly recommend getting tickets in advance!

Strawberries and cream

Screen shot 2014-07-03 at 10.51.59 AMLast weekend Mr French and I ran away to London for what the British call a Dirty Weekend, which ended up being the perfect name for our trip. We were going for a cocktail of business with pleasure, as his presence had been requested for a match at Wimbledon.

Wimbledon! Even for a tennis newbie like myself, the name is simply mythic. Even before my google search I knew that Wimbledon means grass courts and white tennis outfits. What I found out doing more research was that it also means strawberries and cream, which seems to be a very important tradition at the matches. A sporting event with sugar and fat? I was very, very excited about the trip. Actually, since I am usually excited to travel, I was over the moon for this adventure.

Screen shot 2014-07-03 at 11.33.49 AMGetting to Wimbledon couldn’t be easier. The town is a terminus, so its a direct trip on the District Line to Wimbledon, then you step out on to a enthusiastically decorated platform and follow the crowds. Formally clad “Honorary Stewards” guide you along the way while helmet topped Bobbies direct traffic. Ticket holders are directed to one sidewalk, non-ticket holders to the other. There are taxi that can be shared and I suppose we could have hired a driver, but why sit in traffic when one can be walking with the fans!

And there are lots of non-ticket holders because at Wimbledon they have the Queue, which is a long line of people waiting for Premium tickets that the tennis association does not sell in advance, reserving them for ardent fans who are willing to stand for hours for same day seats. When we arrived at the tube station they were announcing a 5 hour wait, with rain predicted later in the day. This didn’t seem to deter anyone!

Being a business event, we were in our most corporate casual, which meant I was trotting by the Queue, past several parking lots, up a hill and along the entire stadium in three inch heels. I was very pleased Screen shot 2014-07-03 at 11.35.10 AMwhen we arrived and were greeted by a polished waitress offering us a Pimm’s. I had first heard of a Pimm’s a week ago while reading a piece of British chick lit. In the novel, the heroine, a simple girl from the wrong side of the tracks (or in the case of this book, castle) had been invited to a society wedding and had gotten dangerously drunk because she hadn’t realized it was a cocktail, not a soda. Pimm’s is a gin inspired drink that is served with soda on ice, with a fresh fruit and herb garnish. It was a delicious welcome to the match.

We mingled in the marquee, meeting business people from across Europe before sitting down to a traditional British buffet, which included lamb with mint sauce and roast beef with horseradish and a curry. It was delightfully foreign, yet reassuringly familiar. And I needed the reassurance because I had no idea what to say to a team of complete strangers wearing suits for a tennis match. I jumped in, mentioning a recent article I’d read (not mentioning that it had been in a fashion trade paper!) about the blossoming African market. Were they seeing the same interest in their industry? What regions looked the most promising? What did they see as the greatest obstacles? Suddenly I was relaxed, enjoying myself, and learning a thing or two.

Screen shot 2014-07-03 at 10.53.20 AMFinally, it was game time! We headed out on to the grounds where there is a center court, another large stadium and a dozen open courts with nothing more than a few park benched around them. The benches were swarmed with fans, sitting, leaning, climbing to see the games, as rackets arched into the air and the yellow streaks of balls cluttered our peripheral vision. Tennis was happening all around us!

The stadium itself is beautiful, which you don’t expect from a sporting venue. It has been painted green, frosted with ivy and iced with baskets of flowing purple flowers. Inside, the roof was open, allowing a halo of sunlight to focus on the French Alize Cornet and the Canadian (Québecoise!) Eugénie Bouchard.

Screen shot 2014-07-03 at 10.52.49 AMWhen the French player lost, our English hosts cheered us with an invitation to return to the marquee for a consolation afternoon tea, and at last, strawberries and cream.

We had just started watching the English Murray trounce the S African Anderson when the heavens opened and it started to pour. The timing was perfect, as we had the opportunity to see the famous closing roof in action before grabbing our, uh, wait! We hadn’t brought along our coats. Or our umbrellas. So we ran out into the pouring rain, in a hurry to get back into London to catch the last Eurostar of the evening.

Fortunately, our hosts were used to foreign guest unfamiliar with local weather habits. They pushed an umbrella into our hand as we headed down the road, so that only my calves were covered in mud as we boarded our train home for Paris, the perfect souvenir of our  Dirty Weekend!

Looking for suggestions…

Screen shot 2014-07-01 at 11.49.02 AMMr French is turning xx!!! I know, a big deal, right? And I really should plan something special to celebrate, which is much easier said than done when considering a man who seems to have experienced just about everything. His birthday is in August, so the clock is ticking… the pressure is on… and I am very bust these days trying to come up with a couple of wonderful ideas. A romantic evening for the two of us, as well as a day trip, or over-nighter with our kids in tow.

Screen shot 2014-07-01 at 11.57.55 AMDo you have any ideas?? I considered a suite at the Shangri-Là, with an outdoor terasse over looking the Eiffel Tower, but the budget for just one night, well, I simply can’t. Then I planned to get a few taggers to come graffiti on the interior (not visible to neighbors) part of our balcony but they don’t want artistic direction and I don’t think Mr French would want n’importe quoi out his window each day! Au secours! I need ideas, readers!

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The current front runner would be a totally unique cruise with Bateau Mon Paris. They manage one of only 2 Venetian Water taxis that run along the Seine and this week I contacted them for a test run, and brought E along for the ride. We were transported by the adventure; an undeniably Venetian frame encompassing the Parisian cityscape. Which lead to an existential culinary debate; champagne or prosecco?

It was an incredible sensation, being down so close to the water line, surfing the waves of the imposing Bateaux Mouches, and feeling so very, very tiny compared to the grandeur all around. We spied private moments, caught lovers in the act, watched cargo being loaded and savoured a fleeting moment of river life. The sunlight cast a golden glow in the comforting evening air, the colors of Monet’s palette alive on the waves of the Seine.

So I have a part of the puzzle, 1.5 hours on the Seine. They have other boats, party-like pontoons that I could choose instead, something to share with our kids, which gives me options to work it all in with your ideas. Party planners! Celebrants! Let me know what you think would be the ideal xx birthday celebration in or around Paris!!!


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photos by Evan Grace

Going to the fair

Screen shot 2014-06-26 at 5.41.09 PMEvery year the Mairie of the 6th arrondissement throws a fair in front of the St Sulpice Church. And because French can be confusing like that, it is not at all a fair with merry-go-rounds and ferris wheels. It is a actually a series of Marchés, and because the French are consistent in their confusion, the markets at all what anyone would think of when hearing the word “market”. They are more like conventions, but instead of being held inside windowless centers that suck the very soul out of even the most devout Trekies, they are held under the sun, a fountain sparkling in the midst of it all.

Screen shot 2014-06-26 at 5.40.47 PMScreen shot 2014-06-26 at 5.41.21 PM And the fair features unlikely subjects, like the Maths Market, the Pottery Market, the Poetry Market and the wildly popular Antiques Market. The markets follow one another from week to week, arriving on Monday and moving out on Sunday, their replacement ready to move in to the white canvas stands that cover the square.

For math, experts from across the country come together to play chess, sell their geometric games, build mathematical structures and tricking young children into loving math, through play. At the poetry market their are small publishers selling intricately bound editions of a single poem, poets sharing their art, and again, more temptation for the young and young at heart to play, only this time with words.

Screen shot 2014-06-26 at 5.41.51 PMAnd then comes la brocante… the Antiques Market. The prices at the market match the real estate, with very few bargains to be had, but it is still fun to look, and get inspiration.  The brocante sponsors a mini-theater troupe (not at all related to the Guignols pictured above) with a tiny stage, because the common thread to all these markets is having something for the children. There is a decent pop-up restaurant and it wouldn’t be France if there wasn’t wine.

The Antiques Market continues until Sunday. If you’re sorry to have missed save the date for the neighborhood garage the Mairie is sponsoring at the Place St Sulpice next September. Since not many of us have garages in Paris, the sales are called Vide Greniers… Attic Emptiers!

What is art?

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 6.10.06 PMIt is one of those BIG life questions, that no one has really answered. Mr French and I spend so much time exploring art that the question comes up often, especially as our tastes tend to be wildly different. Is it art? design? or just a really bad joke? Sometimes it can be hard to tell and my mind races to the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 6.11.59 PMThe question has been surfing the airwaves lately, questioning the legitimacy of street artist JR. The artist’s work is currently decorating the top of the Pantheon, while it under goes renovation with a monumental  installation inside the memorium, until Oct 5. This isn’t the first time JR has graced the city with his astonishing photographic work.

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 6.11.29 PMSeveral years ago he covered the quais and bridges on the Ile de la Cité with 10 metre long images of women’s eyes. The effect was moving, even before learning that they were the eyes of women who had witnessed great  tragedy; war, famine, assassination.

Last year he photographed anonymous Parisians for large banners that were unfurled the façades of the Bibliothèque National, covering more than 10 stories of the monstrous, soviet inspired buildings.

For the Pantheon, JR again features anonymous Parisians who waited in line for several hours to have their photos taken, knowing they may be selected for a Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 6.10.27 PMtremendous project. They are of every race, religion, color, and style with a fashion sense that runs from the prosaic to the goofy. JR has lined them up and laid them out, like a human tower of babel. They are tiered in size, starting out larger than life and rising to the size of a miniature poodle. Working in black and white has given the work an aesthetic harmony. The images are printed out on large plastic tiles, then laid out like an oriental carpet, covering the cross-shaped floor, where visitors are invited to walk. The effect is astonishing. You are walking on art. You are walking on people. And the people are gorgeous, in a wonderful, very real way.

I won’t claim to have defined art for the world, but as I walked through the show I decided that for me, art is something that moves people. I may like it, I may hate it, or I may be anywhere in between, but it evokes a sensation somewhere inside and for me, JR’s installation at the Pantheon is a tremendous work of art.

All photos by Karen Samimi




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