We’re back!!!

Screen shot 2014-08-26 at 3.58.12 PMThis morning, rain poured down relentlessly on harried commuters as they head in to the crowed Metro. The dieties of weather have decided it is time we all get back to work, the non-stop drizzle putting a ruthless end to any thoughts of stretching the season out just a little bit longer. There will be no lingering weekend escapes to the seaside, stolen moments tanning along the banks of the Seine, they are dreams to be neatly packed away for the year, along side our summer dresses, shorts and espadrilles.

The entire city is back and open for business as Parisians bid misty-eyed good byes to their carefully curated tans, consoling themselves with an evening visit to the nearest café in the hopes of catching up with friends and neighbors after a 3 week hiatus from reality.

Homes have become obstacle courses of empty suitcase, abandoned sports equipment, stacks of bills; reminders that tomorrow has arrived. Traffic jams of shopping carts clog grocery store aisles, spin cycles process 20 days of dirty laundry.

Our 90 minute flight from Ajaccio has taken us from endless summer to an undeniable automn. My skin rebels as I grab a wool sweater, my dermis knowing instinctively that it is too early for heavy knits. The transition back is a shock to my sun soaked being, and yet I am thrilled. Thrilled to be home.

Invitations flow in for art openings, catalogues announce theater programs, my in-box is full of news for upcoming runs. A friend calls asking if we’re interested in the outdoor opera at Les Invalides? This being France, the next school holiday is a mere 6 weeks away, so its time to start planning our next adventure… the perfect armour for facing “la grisaille Parisienne”.

Paris Plages : Not Just a Pretty Beach

FermobETphotos & text by Karen Samimi

Every year when the City of Paris announces that it’s time for Paris Plages (Paris Beaches), I get excited and immediately write the dates down in my planner. I hardly ever leave the city or get to go to a beach or the sea. Not that I’m a beach bum or anything: I don’t even own a proper bathing suit and I don’t carry a towel or care to bury my toes in the sand. I go to Paris Plages for a quiet stroll alone or with a friend, a good read, people-watching, to have an ice cream or sip a cool cup of City of Paris bubbly water at the water bar, and to enjoy the warm weather.
Screen shot 2014-07-29 at 3.07.13 PM   Paris Plage, created by former mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë in 2002, began as a single beach located on the George Pompidou Express Road that runs along the Seine between the Pont de Sully and the Pont Neuf, on the Right Bank. The road is closed to motor traffic for a month, dozens of palm trees and several tons of sand are brought in, picnic umbrellas, tables, and lounge chairs are set up, and the fun begins!  In 2007, a second beach opened along the Canal de l’Ourcq (part of the La Villette Basin), and the project became Paris Plages in the plural.  It was so successful that it was copied by the cities of Brussels, Berlin, and Prague.
Screen shot 2014-07-29 at 3.07.22 PMScreen shot 2014-07-29 at 3.07.57 PMEvery year, new activities and sights spring up at both beaches and in front of City Hall. “Louvre at the Beach” is a small gallery of paintings and sculpture, all with a bathing theme, on the western end of the beach under the Quai du Louvre. Families can sit at tables and participate in Louvre-related activities run by smiling hostesses to learn more about art or pull up a lounge chair and relax with an art book from the gallery’s reading area. Each afternoon there are drawings to win art books, postcards, or Louvre tickets.  Last week, I was delighted to rediscover the mini red Eiffel Tower constructed entirely out of 324 Fermob bistro chairs. It was originally displayed on the Champ de Mars near the real Tower a few weeks ago to celebrate the 125th birthday of both the chairs and the Tower. I also marveled at the new “water bar” in a corner of City Hall Square complete with bartenders dispensing both flat and carbonated City of Paris water, tables and chairs to relax and have a chat, and interactive games with a water theme.
The FNAC Live Music Festival kicked off Paris Plages at City Hall Square last weekend with a series of free indoor and outdoor evening concerts by diverse popular musical groups.  Wheelchair basketball and beach volleyball courts, both with instructors, are now installed at the Square and visitors can come there to watch games or learn to play. In the evening, street shows such as jugglers, musicians, and mimes can be seen along the beach and there’s a generally festive atmosphere amid the crowds.
Screen shot 2014-07-29 at 3.08.38 PMScreen shot 2014-07-29 at 3.08.06 PMAlthough actual bathing in the Seine is not allowed, Paris Plages offers many other activities for the whole family. Children and teens can find a pool, sandbox, merry-go-round and electric boats and play games organized by the French Secours Populaire, use the tyrolean (air cable rolling), take hip-hop classes, or go to a Sunday afternoon ball.  For adults, there’s ballroom dancing, pétanque (the French bowl game you often see people playing in parks), and a Paris Rendez-Vous souvenir boutique.  For all ages, there are libraries with reading areas, mini-Velib’ and Velib’ bicycle rental, sandcastle building and photo contest, Tai Chai classes, a mini-soccer game table, kayaking, rowing, paddling, a cool mist sprinkler (my personal favorite), cafés food and ice-cream stands.
Health-and-well-being-conscious visitors can go to the blood donation center and/or find information about security, first-aid, prevention, and City of Paris drinking water at dedicated booths either on the walkway or at the water bar. All of these activities and the materials are free of charge to the public, except for food and adult Velib’ bicycle rentals.
If none of the things I’ve mentioned appeals to you or your family, a short promenade on Paris Plages affords a spectacular view of several of Paris’ most beautiful buildings and monuments: City Hall, Conciergerie, Sainte-Chapelle, Palace of Justice, Cathedral of Notre Dame, Saint-Jacques Tower, as well as the tiny Ile Saint Louis and the beautiful river Seine and its bridges. Photos taken at Paris Plages during the day or at sunset are a unique souvenir.
There’s something for everyone at Paris Plages, whether you are a tourist, resident, old or young, employed, or retired. Whatever you decide to do at the beach, here’s some advice –  don’t forget to bring your hat, sunscreen, and water bottle. It gets very hot down there, even if you’re just strolling by the palm trees or walking through a sprinkler.Sunset
Practical information:
Opening hours:
Every day from 9 to midnight, from July 19 to August 17, 2014

How to get there:
MÉTRO : stations Louvre-Rivoli (ligne 1), Pont-Neuf (line 7),
Châtelet (lines 1, 4, 7, 11, 14), Hôtel-de-Ville (lines 1, 11),
Saint-Paul (line 1), Pont-Marie et Sully-Morland (line 7).
RER : station Châtelet-les-Halles (lines A, B, D).
BUS : lines 21, 24, 27, 38, 47, 58, 67, 69, 70, 72, 75, 76, 81, 87.
lines 24, 27, 81 et 96.
BATOBUS : station Hôtel-de-Ville.
VÉLIB’: stations in front of the Tuileries tunnel,
Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville (City Hall)and behind Hôtel de Ville, rue Lobau.

MÉTRO : stations Jaurès (lines 2, 5, 7 bis), Crimée (line 7),
Laumière (line 5).
BUS : lines 54 et 48.
VÉLIB’ : station in front of Maison des Canaux.

Website: http://www.paris.fr/parisplages
Map and activities schedule: http://filer.paris.fr/quefaire/uploads/files/Plan_verso_Bassin.pdf


I understand one should never discuss religion or politics, but there was hatred exploding on the streets of Paris earlier this week and I worry that choosing to remain silent would somehow make me guilty by abstention. What is happening between Israel and Palestine today is horrible. Both sides have suffered unconscionable losses. Both have committed crimes against humanity. There is no easy answer.

But the reaction in Europe is worrying governments across the continent. It is anti-semitism hiding behind the shield of anti-zionism.

To be clear. There were Pro-Palestinian protests across the country. They were legitimate, peaceful events held in support of the Palestinian people. I am not referring to those events. I am talking about two very isolated incidents, one in Paris, the other in a nearby suburb.

They were not protests, they were riots. The government refused to let these groups hold an official demonstration because they knew it would dissolve into violence.  The people were not screaming “Down with Israel” or “Save the Palestinians”. They were shouting “Death to Jews.” This, by any stretch of any imagination is anti-semitism.

And the rioters targeted synagogues; houses of prayer where people gather to celebrate, mourn and try to find meaning in life. They were not in front of the Israeli Embassy, the only representative of the Israeli government in Paris. This, by any stretch of any imagination is anti-semitism.

As a spoiled, modern woman raised in N America, I don’t remember the era when Jews were not welcome in elite clubs in New York City. I only know that the parks in Warsaw had signs that read, “No dogs, or Jews allowed” because I have a photo of a sign taken by my father-in-law when he was a young man. Anti-semitism seems so far and removed from my life and my generation that I sometimes wondered if Israel really needs to exist as a safe haven for Jews.

Then I’d think of my sister-in-law and I’d hesitate. She is younger than I am and her family had to leave what was then the USSR because there was very limited room for Jews in the universities, and if her parents wanted their children to have a complete education, they had to immigrate. Israel is the only state that would have them, so they sacrificed decent careers at home for menial jobs in a country where they didn’t understand the language.

When Mr French and I would talk about Israel, he would grow impatient. Like many French he sees that the Palestinians were kicked out of their homeland and he was not convinced that Jews in today’s world needed a refuge. Last week, after watching the news, he kissed the top of my head, rubbed my back and whispered, “I’ll protect you.” He isn’t worried about my immediate safety, but he now acknowledges that there is a potential for danger. Which sent chills down my spine.

The French blockbuster, Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon dieu? that is filling theaters this summer, uses charming humour to address the difficult subject of racism and integration in France today. My favorite scene is when the two brothers-in-law, one Muslim, the other Jewish are introduced to their soon to be brother-in-law, who happens to be Chinese. “Hmmmm. Let me guess,” he stammers, “its really hard to tell who is Rachid and who is David. You semites all look alike.” And that’s the greatest tragedy of all, because there is an undeniable whiff of fratricide in the air as bombs are exchanged in the Middle East today. We are the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac. Two brothers. After a couple millennium you’d think we’d have out grown the sibling rivalry.

As a citizen of the world, I have come to believe that religion is a great personal comfort, but a terrifying source of conflict. I am extremely proud of my Jewish culture and heritage. I get regular calls from Parisiennes for my chicken soup recipe. I cherish the education that taught me to visit the sick, to really think about the food I put in my mouth and most of all, give my children the very best education possible. But from my perspective, the institution of religion separates and divides. It highlights what makes us different, instead of celebrating what we share. I don’t want the state of Israel to have to exist. But as long as there are people in the streets of Europe shouting, “Death to Jews,” I am glad it does.

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.

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 6.44.20 PM

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.

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.



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!

Fête de la musique

Screen shot 2014-06-23 at 6.44.14 PMSaturday was the longest day of the year, the first day of summer and the Fête de la Musique, one of the best days in Paris. We took our morning showers to the best of U2 and the like being performed by a group of local 40 somethings who had set up at the hole-in-the-wall Italian dive downstairs. After our boxing class on the Berges de la Seine, we sat back and enjoyed a bit of modern flamenco dancing, the Seine, framed bScreen shot 2014-06-23 at 6.35.20 PMy the leafy trees of the Tuileries acting as a stage set. In the afternoon we enjoyed Monacos (beer with gernadine syrup) for sun bathed apèro at a neighborhood café, listening to jazz interpretations of Beatles music. A bit later on, the Prime Minister hosted a concert at Matignon with music ranged from Hip Hop to gypsy jazz and as night fell the streets around Odeon were dotted with local amateur bands. Every genre filled the air waves creating a curious blend and not at all the cacophony one would expect. Screen shot 2014-06-23 at 6.35.38 PMMy Fête de la Musique favorites are a gentleman who stands on the rue de Seine, near the rue des Beaux Arts leading the crowd in sing-alongs of old French songs, and the Five Frogs that play French and American classic pop hits on the rue Soufflot. They are so great with a crowd that they had some rather uptight Parisiennes dancing on the tables. It was such an amazing evening that this aging Cinderella was happy to stay out well past her fairy godmother’s curfew and didn’t start heading home until sometime after 1am…

Music was in the air, hanging slightly above the stratosphere and brightening Sunday morning for a relaxed, happy Paris. At the Luxembourg Gardens, we were delighted to find that the Polish Cultural Institute is hosting free Chopin piano concerts every Sunday in June at 17h, guaranteeing a delightful hour spent under the chestnut trees. At least for some. The hour was a lot less delightful for the staff at the café that is behind the gazebo, as they were forced to confront audacious Parisiennes who thought nothing of stealing the cafés chairs to enjoy the show.

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you have to look very closely

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to see the difference…

The chairs look identical to all the other chairs in the gardens, and in some cases, it may have been an honest mistake. In either case, incompetent thieves and honest squatters alike, were oblivious to the fact that the chairs are clearly marked with logos on the back, indicating that they either belong to the café, or the French Senat. When approached by the servers, everyone’s first response was that of surprised outrage. Once they were shown the logo, a few relinquished their chairs and went on to find other solutions. But the die hard Parisiennes would have none of it. One started screaming at the server, her voice drowning out the sounds of the Polish virtuoso thousands of were there to hear. Another simply ignored the server until he would no longer be ignored. Tired of dealing with people exhibiting an over blown sense of entitlement, he simply tilted the chair forward, sliding her right out and on to her own feet. Madame grabbed her friend and they both stormed off in an outrage.

Having a coveted seat, made it into a game for those who were finally ready to leave their seats. An American gentleman took his lounge chair and carried half way across the space, offering it to much older lady. Mr French and I debated whether to hand ours off to the young mother who was sitting in the Luxembourg dirt, nursing a small child, or the much older lady who was standing a meter to our right. Age won over beauty and we strolled back through the park, the sounds waves cushioning our steps as we headed home to face the week ahead.

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