Fashionable After All These Years

January 28th, 2015

cardinPierre Cardin, one of the most prolific fashion designers of the 20th century and the first designer to mass market his name and products, is still going strong at age 92. His latest project is a fashion museum in a former factory in the Marais.

Last week at the museum I time traveled to the swinging ’60s to the land of plastic mini-dresses and 3D clothes, when Cardin was at his prime.

After a brief stint working for Dior in the late 1940s, Cardin struck out on his own in the 1950s, creating tasteful ensembles in line with the time period. He helped revolutionize fashion in the ’60s and ’70s with his futuristic clothes including mini-dresses with geometric shapes and bright colors and using plastic and metal on the clothes. He was also one of the first designers to simultaneously design men’s clothes.

The museum features 130 mannequins on three floors spanning five decades of fashion. There is also a room with belts, shoes, hats, and other accessories. Other Cardin products are displayed throughout the museum including his line of furniture.


7-Day Slosh

January 26th, 2015

PCWParis Cocktail Week has just kicked off so I went out and got it all warmed up for you.

In addition to specials in 35 bars across the city, PCW’s programme includes other goodies like special tastings, master classes, food fun and even a couple of PopUps in The Chamber.

I started Saturday at the swanky Bristol for an inspired martini and Boutary Caviar presentation and pairing. Maxime and Charles guided us through history with a tasting that took us from modern day martinis and caviar to the 19th century. We learned about the parallels between the two including ebbs and flows in popularity, murky origins of their names, flavor profiles and rituals. While this was a one-day only event, you can still stop into the Bristol bar for their PCW special, the Xmas Carol.

Next stop: Copper Bay to test out their PCW special, the Lizzy Sour and catch up with the trio behind the bar (Elfi, Aurélie and Julien). Copper Bay’s menu includes The Beast, which is a fat-washed Bourbon made with grease (!) from the newly opened BBQ joint of the same name.


The Monsieur of Notre Dame

January 20th, 2015

Viollet-le-Duc-metro-posterEugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc renovated the crumbling walls and put his imprint on about 100 French monuments, including Vézelay, Pierrefonds, Notre-Dame de Paris, Carcassonne, Saint-Sernin. The poster for an exhibition on him at Cité de l’Architecture & du Patrimoine resembles a Pierre-Jules Hetzel edition of a Jules Verne novel. Cité gives no reason for the choice of cover but my guess is that like Jules Verne, Viollet-le-Duc was seen as a visionary with an active imagination; someone who saw the future.

The exhibit has two objectives: An opportunity for the public to see for the first time a considerable quantity of newly acquired graphic drawings and writing and relate to the public the various facets of this temperamental artist. This retrospective exhibit (English and French explanations and labels) celebrates the two hundredth anniversary of his birth.

v le dThe themes of the exhibition include: man of his times; Romanticism and voyages through France; his voyage throughout Italy; working on Sainte-Chapelle in Paris; architecture and the living organism (study of building, nature and human structure); restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris; its décor, furnishings and decorative arts; understanding the Middle Ages through medieval architect thoughts to understand the French identity and its reason for being; Viollet-le-Duc’s desire to write and teach and pass on his knowledge; and (PHEW!) his museum and legacy for comparative sculpture. I can highly recommend the Beaux Arts magazine’s special edition at the museum shop for 7,90 euros on the exhibit and Viollet-le-Duc.


An Odd Coincidence

January 15th, 2015

appertStreet names in Paris are one way to discover the history of France. With over 5,000 streets, avenues, boulevards, cul-de-sacs and dead-ends, the street often has a simply phrased history beneath the name. An example is rue Nicolas Appert in the eleventh arrondissement. Nicolas Appert (1749 and 1841) was a French confectioner who made pastries and candies. He invented the method for conserving food in a tin can.

Direct Matin is one of the free metro newspapers in France. It has a section called “Pourquoi…” (“Why…”). This section is my favorite for tidbits of Paris and French history. The question on January 7 was about Nicolas Appert’s invention: “Why can you keep canned food for such a long time?” I recognized the inventor’s name, Nicolas Appert.

In one of life’s coincidences, on January 7, Parisians were picking up their morning Direct Matin newspaper and maybe some bought the newly published satirical edition of Charlie Hebdo. Employees of Charlie Hebdo went to work January 7 on rue Nicolas Appert.


Multi-Media Arc de Triomphe

January 13th, 2015

new years eve on he champs elyseesThe Paris Mayor’s Office brought in the new year with a spectacular display of “video-morphing” on the Arc-de-Triomphe. The spectacle lasted 20 minutes and ended with fireworks from the top. Wherever you were on December 31, you can relive a slice of the moment virtually on their Daily Motion (think: French YouTube) channel.

Visit the Mairie de Paris’ website for more virtual moments, with New Year 2015 page for photos along Champs Elysées and stills from the video. You will be awestruck by the masses that clogged the boulevard and the fun the mayor’s office had “morphing” the Arc.


New Year Price Hikes

January 12th, 2015

postage stamp vintage french- Metro tickets went from €1.70 to €1.80 and a carnet of 10 rose from €13.70 to €14.10 (however any tickets purchased before January 1st are still valid). Monthly Navigo passes are up 4.3% to €70.
- Airport RER/bus tickets rose on the Orlyval (€9.30 euros), the Orlybus (€7.70), and Roissybus (€11).
- The minimum taxi fare is now €7, no matter what it says on the meter.

- Regional train tickets (RER, TER, TGV) went up 2.1%.

- Parking in the 1st-11th arrondissements has gone from €2.50 to €4/hour for street parking (€2.40/hour in the 12th-20th arrondissements). It has been extended to 8pm and now includes Saturdays and August. And if you are a resident you now have to pay €45 for your annual street parking permit plus €1.50/day.

- Postage stamps just went up a record 7% (wish I had bought a bunch last month!) so now a regular French stamp is €0.76, a Timbre Vert is €0.68, and to mail a letter internationally beyond Europe (ie US or Australia) will now cost a whopping €1.20 (it was €0.95 before…some of you may not get your new year’s cards). On the plus side, packages are up just 1%, and they have simplified the shipping rates, so now there are just 30 whereas before there were 200 (yes, 200; that’s not a typo) and now offer more pre-paid envelopes and boxes for small packages.

Oh, Kei!

January 11th, 2015

keikobayashiDining in Paris has gotten more exciting this year with the addition of Kei to the roster of divine Parisian restaurants. As a student of Ducasse, Piège and Moret, Kei Kobayashi is known for bringing together the finesse of Asian cuisine and the strong tastes of local French dishes – this, obviously just reeled me in more.

With a purposefully plain exterior: you would never think to stop in when walking by Kei. Once having entered the unimaginative and immaculately white dining room, it becomes hard to imagine that you would be served beautifully plated and colorful dishes.

For an appetizer, we start with a granita (sorbet) that smoothly caresses our palette, a mini black olive loaf to die for, and a bread and butter combo sporting the Kei name: OK, I’m starting to understand…

Except, no…It’s unbelievable. In this next spectacularly plated dish resembling Eden’s Garden with its delicate feminine touches, Joël Thiebaut’s vegetables are presented solely with their natural beauty – delicately sliced with sublime precision alongside a cube of beech tree wood smoked salmon, lemon mousse and arugula emulsion.


Multi-Platform Terror

January 10th, 2015

The website for a university in Paris has been hacked by Islamic militants. Here’s what a student friend of mine found when she went to her school’s website today.
hacked school site

Shorten Your Wait at St.-Chapelle

January 9th, 2015

paris sainte-chapelleMany visitors want to go to Sainte Chapelle, the only chapel in Paris that you have to pay to enter (because it’s no longer used for religious services, as it’s inside the Palais de Justice (Supreme Court) walls. Lines are long because of the security measures to enter, so don’t end up having to queue TWICE because you also need to get into the ticket line once inside. There are three options to avoid this: buy any museum pass in advance (they all work here); buy your ticket online in advance that is good any day for a year (you’ll need to print it out); or go to the Conciergerie first and buy a €12.50 “jumélé” joint ticket for both that is – as a bonus – good for two consecutive days starting the day of purchase. The Conciergerie is also part of the Palais de Justice (the former royal palace before it moved into the Louvre), used as a banquet hall and then a prison, most famously during the French Revolution (Marie Antoinette spent the last months of her life here before the guillotine). I recommend the third option, as there is rarely (but not never) a line to get into the Conciergerie (and security check is a LOT faster).



The Man Who Made the Cow Laugh

January 8th, 2015

laughing cowFor years, Benjamin Rabier (1864–1939), the illustrator who created the jovial red cow, was an inspector at Les Halles, the central Paris markets, where he could observe animals up close. But he also drew and painted, creating a menagerie of creatures with distinct personalities, which appeared in books, journals, and children’s papers, in series that were precursors of today’s cartoon strips. His output was vast.

A Gallica newsletter article on him contains more than a dozen links to his illustrations. Among them, I found unexpected uses for snakes.