Let’s Be Frank

October 11th, 2014

gehry2We might as well just rename October “Frank Gehry Month” in Paris: not only is the legendary architect’s spectacular, vessel-like building for the Fondation Louis Vuitton opening on the 27th this month, but the first major retrospective in Europe dedicated to the his career is also opening this week at the Pompidou Centre.

The exhibition spans the Pritzker prize winner’s work the world over, with 67 maquettes on display, from his debut in 1960s gehry1California right up to his iconic international projects today – including his most recent project, the afforementioned LVMH project – via the Guggenheim Bilbao, LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, New York’s IAC building and more. From room to room we see how Gehry has revolutionised architecture’s aesthetics, its social and cultural role and its relationship to the city, not only via the models on display but also through over 200 sketches – which are a long way away from tightly plotted blueprints – and Sydney Pollack’s 2006 film, “Sketches by Frank Gehry.” A must-see for fans of Gehry’s distinctive work.

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Paris in Motion – Part 5

October 10th, 2014

paris in motion 5
Another armchair trip to the City of Light. This has become quite a popular video genre!

What the King Heard

October 9th, 2014

festival marin maraisEvery year the Festival Marin Marais, first held in 2006, celebrates the birthday of the musician and composer Marin Marais, who played in the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, for 40 years.

This year 18 Baroque concerts will be performed now throught November 9 at 3 different venues for a one-time price of 10 euros. The musicians work for donations and the venues are the church Temple du Foyer de l’Ame (near Place de la Bastille), in the Lycée Henri IV chapel in St. Germain, and the intimate cellar of 38Riv’.

The first time you attend this unusual event, you fill out a registration sheet and pay the 10 euros. The registrar will give you a membership card. Show this card at each concert. The printed program costs 3 euros, and covers each concert date, the music, the musician biographies, history of the music. (It’s in French.)

At the beginning of the fest late last month, we listened to the Ensemble Marin Marais. Instruments used in the Renaissance and Baroque periods (1600-1700s) and might include a viola de gamba (decorative head), harpsichord, varieties of flutes, theorbo, violoncello, violin, lute, and cittern (cistre).

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Les Hoops

October 8th, 2014

Basketball2The world’s oldest surviving basketball court can be found in the basement of a building in the city’s 9th arrondissement. But how did Paris come to be one of the earliest homes of a sport invented in America? To find the answer, we need to push open the doors of a YMCA hostel on the rue Trévise.

The recent Journées du Patrimoine (heritage days) event gave me the opportunity to discover a little-known location – and a Paris claim to fame  that few people are aware of. Yes, the oldest (surviving) basketball court in the world really is in Paris, but it is just one part of a unique building in the city.

harlem globetrotters in franceAt the origin of this building – and of the sport of basketball – is the YMCA, an international christian organisation that originated in the UK. From its origins, the organisation placed an emphasis on the development of three elements; a healthy “body, mind, and spirit.” This trio is still represented today by the triangle in the organisation’s logo.

Following these principles, any YMCA construction would necessarilly place an importance on facilities for sport and exercise, and their first Paris building would be no exception. In this building, which dates from 1892, the entire basement level is given over to such facilities. 

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18th Century Indoor Malls

October 7th, 2014

galerievivienne parisblogIf you don’t know about the passages, you must learn. I don’t mean to sound professorial, but I made the same mistake—coming to Paris for an embarrassingly long time before I finally made the discovery. The passages are old-fashioned shopping malls from the late 1700s and early 1800s that provided cover from rain, mud and horses for the chic shopping ladies of yesteryear. Let’s not even discuss the city’s open sewers during that era—you can understand why someone had the bright idea to build a passage. They come in all different shapes and sizes, so one will surely strike your fancy. All have skylights, and most have some serious interest for architecture buffs; many have unique shops and all are uniquely Parisian.
Not too long ago I took a tour of the passages with a tour guide—a lovely older lady who made up in kindness for a somewhat thin veneer of knowledge (I won’t offend her by outing her here). We toured the most famous passage, Vivienne, in the 2nd Arrondissement, plus Passage Colbert, Panoramas, Choiseul, Jouffroy, Brady and Verdeau, among others. There is something special about these secret little passageways. Walking into each one feels like you are unwrapping a different gift.
Vivienne is probably my favorite, with its spectacular mosaic tiles and great shopping. Here you’ll find a charming modern art gallery, Martine Moisan, which gives lessons on Saturdays; a fabulous florist, Emilio Robba; a killer tea salon, A Priori Thé; and a bookshop of rare finds. There’s even a bistro (Bistro Vivienne), plus a fine wine shop, Legrand Filles and Fils.

>read the complete article by Doni Belau

Bon Marche Hearts Japan!

October 6th, 2014

sacai window bon marche parisLe Bon Marche has dedicated an extensive portion of the store to the art, culture, food and fashion of Japan. Photos and videos from architect Tadao Ando’s Benesse Art Site Naoshima are featured, as well as a unique capsule collection designed by Chitose Abé for the house of Sacai with asymmetrical pieces made exclusively for Le Bon Marche. Also on the roster is traditional Japanese beauty treatments, with gold leaf beauty by Makanai, products from Kotoshina and nail art by UKA. A master class and tastings offer the art of Japanese cuisine, with an Otega tea bar and special menu by chef Taku Sekine.

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No Chain Stores Allowed

October 5th, 2014

rue du pont louis philippeIn the 4th arrondissement, in the lower Marais between rue de Rivoli and the Seine, you will find a street called la rue du Pont Louis-Philippe. This small street is only about 200 meters long, but it offers some of Paris’s finest shopping.

You probably won’t recognize any of the names of the shops on this street. That’s because by city ordinance, chain stores are not allowed here. La rue du Pont-Louis-Philippe houses only independent artisan shops. You will find an extraordinary variety for such a small stretch: clothes shops, jewelry shops, a chocolatier, and designers of furniture, musical instruments, stationery and other paper art, religious art….

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The Future, Viewed from the Past

October 4th, 2014

It seems that humans cannot resist dabbling in predicting the future. We have an innate need to ignore Yogi Berra’s clear warning, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” So what did the year 2000 look like from a vantage point 100 years earlier? Let’s look at a few examples from a series of cigarette cards designed to be given away at the International Exposition of 1900 in Paris.

housekeeper of the futureOur parlor maid has a wonderful-looking machine to clean her wooden parquet floor. The machine looks a bit awkward, but has a traditional scrub brush and bar of soap. Indeed, it seems to be electrically powered, but the cord leads only to the wand the maid is holding.

As for the rest of the room, it seems very much of the late 1800s: a large potted plant; the ever-respectable but economical upright piano; heavy curtains and a blind at the window; a statue on a plinth; and two paintings on the walls. Did year 2000 ever look more like the year 1900? At least the maid does not seem to have a strenuous job. Let’s look at some other workers.

mailman of the futureRapid everyday delivery by postmen who had conquered the air meant one no longer had to depend on those unreliable telegraph delivery boys. All has been arranged. Just lean out from your balcony and grab the letters as he flies by.

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Set in the City of Light

October 3rd, 2014

deer hunting in paris bookRecently awarded the 2014 Travel Book of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers, Deer HUnting in Paris follows a Korean-American preacher’s daughter from Paris, France to Paris, Maine where our liberal, long-standing vegetarian author falls in love with a conservative carnivore and learns to cook everything from moose liver to deer heart. “Julia Child prepping roadkill,” one reviewer summarized.

As someone who leans toward the secular end of the spectrum, steers clear of firearms, and has always been confounded by hunting’s appeal, the book’s subtitle – “A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat” – announced I would be entering very foreign territory. The fact that I laughed out loud on the first page (and that the funny one-liners kept coming) reassured me that I’d be in good hands for the journey. Deer Hunting in Paris is surely the most unique book I’ve ever found filed in the French travel section!

>enter to win a copy of this new novel

The Greening of Paris

October 2nd, 2014

tree growth in ParisMany sick old trees around Paris were cut down over the summer, their trunks dug up and fresh soil laid down to prepare for the fall plantings. Fences such as this keep people out of the dirt. But in the mean time, with all of the rain and sunshine we had in August they sprouted a ton of weeds, wild flowers and stinging nettles (which actually make a nice tea if you know how to harvest them without getting stung). Despite some whining to the contrary, Paris is getting greener every year, with new gardens opening all of the time. The Jardin des Rosiers just opened this summer on the street of the same name, with a small grassy area for kids, a community garden and even a restored section of the 13th-century city wall. Paris also just planted the Forêt Linéaire, its first “forest” of 3000 trees (and over 12,000 plants) in a green belt along the northeastern edge of the city between Porte de la Villette et la Porte de la Chapelle.

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