Friday, February 25, 2011

Something for the Weekend (25th – 27th February)

Between You and I
The Collège des Bernardins on the left bank, completely renovated a couple of years ago, is organising more and more challenging and stimulating events. Alongside the discussions and debates, its gothic architecture is also being put to good use. The British artist Anthony McCall has created an installation from his 'solid light films' series in the old sacristy called 'Between You and I', projecting light and video to seemingly create solid objects. It provides an excellent opportunity to visit this historic space.

Collège des Bernardins
20 rue de Poissy, 75005
Until April 16th
Monday to Saturday,
10am to 6pm, Sunday and public holidays, 2pm to 6pm

Les Mômes de Belleville - Ménilmontant
Once a month on a Sunday afternoon, a local association in Belleville/Menilmontant organises a series of walks, projections and debates on a theme related to the area. This month, the subject is childhood in Belleville/Menilmontnant, and this time around it will give you the opportunity to follow two interesting events. Firstly, at 2.30pm
Paris par Rues Méconnues will be leading a walk around the area on the theme (call ou to reserve), and secondly, at 5pm, don't miss the projection of "Le Ballon rouge", a wonderfully evocative film of the area from 1956 (described here wonderfully on Parisian fields - which also includes a link to where you can find the film on You Tube).

For more information, see

Tous cannibales

A curious exhibition at the Maison Rouge which is presenting a series of creations based around the theme of cannibalism. The title of the event – and its inspiration - comes from a Claude Lévi-Strauss quotation - "We are all cannibals. The simplest way to identify with another is still to eat them."

The goal of the exhibition is to find representations in contemporary visual art (
photography, video, installations, sculpture, drawing and painting) and how this finds echoes in a historic perspective (illustrations, illuminated texts, engravings and ritual objects).

Feeling hungry? If so, you may also be interested to know that there is a Rose Bakery unit in the centre which does a nice brunch!

La Maison Rouge

10 boulevard de la bastille
, 75012
Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 7pm (9pm on Thursdays)

Until May 15th

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spotted by Locals Paris iPhone app: the winners!

There were several interesting answers to the question 'what is your favourite spot in Paris' - too many in fact for me to choose the winners. I decided therefore to turn to Bart Van Poll, founder of the Spotted by Locals service, who chose his three favourite entries.

As Bart said when giving me his selection, "these comments make me really curious and sound very "Spotted by Locals" although I haven't visited them. I'd love to check them out!"

Here are the three winners. If you are in Paris, why not check them out yourself?

Lost in Cheeseland
The Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud is by far my favorite spot. The little square where JP Timbaud means rue des 3 Bornes is perhaps one of my favorite local hangouts - I grab a tea at Les Petites Indécises, an afternoon snack at Jeanne A (and a wedge of cheese for later) and dinner at the newly opened Le Pearl. It's got everything a charming Parisian square should have : a fountain, cobblestones and great food!

Magda O

The place I always go to when I go to Paris is a fun little bar in Montmartre called "Au Clair de Lune" which even by the name is a place you want to visit. It's great people watching, and as cliche as it is, it really is the thing to do, or watch yourself watching others. ;o) I usually order a kir, or three, as they are quite affordable, trying out my broken French on the handsome boys. The first time I went, I was taken by the love of my life and we made out for hours. I am going back to Paris to try to make it work again and I've set our meeting point to be none other than Au Clair de Lune. I have hope.

Cocopuff 1212

The Jardin du Luxembourg has something for everyone. That bee-house is my favorite spot in there -- it's very mysterious-looking, I think. Last time I was there, I loved drinking Badoit and watching the pétanque matches -- do young people (or women) not play that sport???

Thanks to everyone who took part. I'm sorry that not everyone could be a winner, but don't forget that you can purchase the application on the iPhone App Store.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Something for the Weekend (18th - 20th February)

A reduced selection of recommendations this weekend due to holidays.

One thing I am particular sad to be missing is Dean Wareham playing the songs of Galaxie 500 at the Fleche d'Or on Saturday 19th.

I will still have time though to visit the Carnets de Voyage exhibition at the Musée de la Poste. Featuring 600 drawings and 200 extracts from travel sketch books, it offers a real world tour through sketches and water colours.

Plenty of time also to take in the Cranach et son temps show at the newly renovated Musée du Luxembourg (which many people thought had closed forever) which runs until May 23rd. If you're not going to be in Paris before that, you can still experience an online version of the exhibition.

If you have any other suggestions, please add them in the comments below.

Have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Win a Spotted by Locals Paris iPhone app!

Spotted by Locals, everybody's favourite online cityguides (ok, I contribute to the Paris version..), have just made their 33 city blogs available as iPhone applications. Normally priced at €3.99 (£ 2.99, US$ 4.99), you can win a complimentary copy here.

In existence since 2008, Spotted by Locals is a network of blogs by personally selected local bloggers (“Spotters”) currently featuring 33 cities around Europe. All recommendations are written by locals who pass on tips from a personal and local perspective and keep their articles up-to-date and up-to-season.

The Paris application - like all of the other city apps - contains hundreds of recommendations, including restaurants, bars, museums, hotels or just places to relax. The beauty of the Spotted by Locals iPhone app - in comparison to most other iPhone travel apps - is that there are no surprise roaming cost bills as all information is stored in the app, meaning no internet access is required at all.

If you would like to win one of these applications, simply add a comment to this post giving your favourite Paris spot and the reason why you would add it to the Spotted by Locals cityguide. The three most original comments will win a complimentary Paris app!

Friday, February 11, 2011

What is the most romantic place in Paris?

What's romance?” asked the writer D.H. Lawrence. “Usually, a nice little tale where you have everything as you like it” he concluded. Paris for many is the city of romance, the place they have come to live out a story or just to stop for a chapter, but more often than not, that romance is not as simple as Lawrence suggests.

Romance, it seems is a place we can claim as our own, or more importantly a place we can share with a significant other. Rarely is that place a carefully chosen picture book spot, but rather somewhere we stumble into one day, by luck at a time when the sun strikes at a particular angle, or simply after we have had one beer too many. The place absorbs the electricity of our moment, and physically it will never look the same to us again.

The story lived out here may have come to an end – or never really started at all – but the romance will always remain. Romance is complicated, melancholic, painful sometimes, but it is also something that we wrap up and cherish forever. Paris is a city full of these secret corners.

I asked a selection of Paris lovers – those who love the city, and those who have loved here - to reveal their most romantic spots in the city, and the answers they gave were wonderfully rich and varied - in prose, images and sound. Explore them here then add your own in the comments!

The Rue des Thermopyles

If your idea of romance is something intimate and out-of-the-way, a little overlooked corner in which time seems to stand still, we recommend a slow stroll down the cobbled rue de Thermopyles (14th, Metro Pernety). After all, where better to spend St. Valentine’s Day than in a quartier known as Plaisance?

Much of the 14th is countryside overtaken by the city, in which former maisons de
campagne can still be found marooned in courtyards, and low buildings with eccentric rooflines evoke vanished villages. At the beginning of the 19th century, this was a little hamlet called Thermopyles, and although it was eventually absorbed by the city, it keeps its country ways.

We’ve wandered here in winter, when the leaves have fallen from the heavy vines, and
in summer, when it is a green corridor punctuated with doors and windows, many of them belonging to studios and workshops. We’ve watched old men play boules in a scrap of a park abutting a vacant lot, and spotted a remarkable number of cats sunning themselves on windowsills.

Norman Ball & Philippa Campsie,

A doorway in the 2nd arrondissement
There is a doorway in the 2nd district, nestled somewhere between Bourse and Quatre- Septembre. It has tree branches carved into the stone arches and lions worked into the metal handles. I know this because I had my eyes wide open when I was kissing a French stranger with a scratchy beard who squashed me up against its heavy oak door. This doorway also has a dirty mosaic front step with broken words scattered across in blue squares. I know this after a mixture of homesickness and five dodgy demis cut short the kissing and forced me to the floor.

I thought the scratchy-beardy
stranger would make a quick exit seeing as the groping had stopped and the tears had started. But instead he sat down with me, called me “a crazy lily” and pointed out a devil’s face on the building opposite. I can’t quite remember the name of the street because after five dodgy demis the whole of Paris looks like a maze of iron balconies and lamp-lit avenues. And I can’t remember the name of the stranger because he scrawled it along with his number on a Franprix receipt which worked its way down the ripped lining of my raincoat and deposited itself somewhere between the gutter and my bed.

But I do remember the stranger allowed me to wipe my
snot on his scarf and showed me the devil to stop me crying. And in my book, that’s about as romantic as it gets.

Mademoiselle London
(The book is "Mademoiselle London ♥ Paris (sometimes)” go to for more details and to download free Valentine cards)

The grave of Abelard and Heloise
The most romantic place in Paris for me? I'm afraid I had to ask a friend, because I am no good at these kinds of questions. He suggested the grave of Abelard and Heloise in the Père Lachaise cemetery, which sounds pretty romantic to me!

Molly Guinness,

The Quai Saint Bernard

Shane Lynam, photographer (find his work here -

The Bois de Boulogne
The Bois de Boulogne in the far west of Paris - a former Royal hunting ground, devastated by the great hurricane of 1999, a fifteen minute walk from my home and a place with a reputation for its bizarre night life. But in May, in the springtime, it becomes the countryside in the city - the trees burst into life, the flowers bloom and even the streams seem to trickle with an extra enthusiasm.

The Bois de Boulogne is a big space but there are quiet corners, which take years to find, where one can escape the constant traffic noise pollution of Paris and find a haven of peace. Many a Sunday afternoon I have spent here, sitting on a felled tree trunk, reading, listening to the birds singing to me and with all the detritus of everyday life far, far away. Listen here...

Des Coulam,

The Square du Vert Galant

Romance for me is watching the sunset from the Square du Vert Galant. From this point you can look at the Pont des Arts and all the other bridges crossing the Seine, as well as the peniches on the river. It would be the perfect romantic place if only it was not so busy!


The Musée de la Vie Romantique
My stupid and simple answer would be the artist Ary Scheffer's home, now known as the Musée de la Vie Romantique. This pleasant and quiet spot in the centre of the city was where George Sand and Frédéric Chopin would often meet, and you can still find plaster casts of Sand's arm and Chopin's right hand there today.

Peter Olson,

The Hotel Particulier Montmartre

The way I see it, romantic places fall in to two categories. There’s classic romantic, as in the places that are touted as charming, labelled “for lovers”, and are ready to reserve when you’re feeling amorous. And then there is a more ephemeral, serendipitous romance, when you happen upon the right place, at the right time, with the right person and it feels like the stars have aligned just for you.

Hotel Particulier Montmartre falls in to the former category. A small, independant hotel in a former private residence, on a mews high up in Montmartre (the romantic neighbourhood par excellence in itself) it fulfils many of the criteria required for romance. It feels intimate, secluded and secret; you have to ring the buzzer on the large iron gates to be let in, and then cross an ivy-clad courtyard to get to the cocktail bar which is open to the public by appointment only. In the warmer months you can sip your champagne (the nectar of lovers surely?) seated at the curlicued wrought iron chairs in the garden as if you were in your own luxury home, nestled high up in Montmartre with the breeze rustling through the trees that protect you from the outside world.

That’s all well and good but the real charm isn’t in the hotel itself. It’s on the way to the hotel. And this is where that poetic moment of serendipity comes in to play, creating that real romance, that authentic, fleeting, privileged instant when the world appears to perform for you. The tone is set by the climb up a flight of Montmartre steps, lit by the dim glow of the old-fashioned lamp posts.

Continue uphill, further and further away from the city below. Looking carefully, you’ll find the gates to the private mews on which the hotel is situated, making this little cobbled street even more hidden and secret. Once through these gates (and if you’re not expected at the hotel, you’ll just have to sneak through when someone is coming or going), you’ll walk up another flight of steps, past a hodgepodge of different sized and different shaped houses, with plenty of trees and plants all around. Then top of the stairs, to your left, you’ll spot the gleaming brass door bell for entry into the Hôtel Particulier. But extend your gaze directly infront of you and you’ll see the Eiffel Tower on the horizon, glittering in a dazzling burlesque display just for you, if you happen to arrive on the hour when it is lit up for 5 minutes. Just for you! On this tiny, quiet mews, with no one else around, you’ll see this icon of Paris, in the centre of the skyline, presenting herself to you. Or at another time, you might even catch a bewitching glimpse of the crescent moon kissing the top of the tower. It’s all a question of the time of day, month, year...and serenditpity. And for me, that’s true romance.

Kim Laidlaw Adrey, I Heart Paris (

The Petite Ceinture
There’s a reason Paris is considered the romance capital of the world. Cliched as it may sound, there really is something about the light, the ambiance, the je ne sais quoi. Anywhere in this city holds possibilities for magic; any place can be romantic with the right company.

That may be why the first image that p
opped into my head was the metro stop at Porte de la Villette at 5 AM, the illuminated subway map glowing in the night. Of course, I had just experienced a coup de foudre at nearby Glaz’arts, so that’s my own idiosyncratic take. I wouldn’t advise anyone to head there seeking either love or a view. It’s an industrial landscape with few streetlamps and the peripherique nearby!

So where would I say? Well, Buttes Chaumont is my favorite park, with its dramatic cliffs and waterfalls, little nooks and crannies. I like walking along the Canal de L’Ourcq, passing hipsters and old men playing petanque, picnickers enjoying wine by the water. The Promenade Plantee for an elevated stroll amongst the flowers.

But these places are all well known, if not strictly on the tourist map. Where would I really go for some private romance? (And, isn’t that what we’re after in the end?)

A spot on the Petite Ceinture then, the abandonded rail line circling the city. Parts are opening to the public. I find a spot that’s still closed.

Sion Dayson,

The tip of the Ile de la Cité underneath the Pont Neuf
Strolling through Place des Vosges, one of my favorite places in Paris, is undeniably romantic but it doesn't compare to the little spot by the Seine that holds such personal significance. The very tip of the island underneath Pont Neuf, with legs dangling over the Seine and a basketful of snacks sprawled around us, remains one of the most important places in my relationship. The summer my husband and I met, it was one of the first places he took me. With eyes aglow and the thumping heartbeats of new love, we had a beautiful picnic on a blanket overlooking the water. We usually return every summer to relive the moment.

Lindsey Tramuta,

A bench on the Butte Bergeyre

It’s a skeleton without a backbone. The remaining timber joints are scarred with the carved and painted identities of those who stopped by. It sits alone, empty cans of beer and discarded cigarettes at its feet. But this bench is the most romantic in Paris.

It’s all about location, angles and timing. This bench is a perfectly positioned gnomon on a sundial, a witness to an ordinary scene that becomes truly magical at one particular moment of the day. As evening arrives, the sun slides down the sky and bleeds into the horizon, slowly plunging behind the Montmartre hill. The waves of rooftops glint in the dying orange, and the Sacre Coeur, a building I don't even like, becomes shadowy antique splendour.


And You? What's yours...

Thanks to everyone who contributed. All photos were taken by the person mentioned in the accompanying text.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Something for the Weekend (4th – 6th February)

Elles vident leur sac
The mystery of a woman's handbag is the theme of Pierre Klein's (son of William Klein) exhibition which begins on Friday. Alongside photographs of the contents of the handbags are videos of the owners attempting to explain what they keep there and why.
A curiousity worth investigating.

Until March 4th 2011,
Salon du Panthéon,
13, rue Victor Cousin, 75005
Monday to Friday, 12pm - 6.30pm

Paris Avant/Après
Patrice de Moncan, who I spoke to on Invisible Paris, has produced a fascinating book comparing the Paris of 1860 with the Paris of today. If the book is interesting, the exhibition - featuring 50 enlargements of Charles Marville's pictures alongside 50 photos of the same spots taken by Patrice de Moncan's team - promises to be even more alluring.

Until February 24th
Académie d’Architecure

9, place des Vosges – 75004
Open every day from 11am to 7pm, M° Bastille or Saint Paul

Expo Fever
Each weekend at the enormous exhibition centre at the Porte de Versailles you'll regularly find several shows running at the same time. Sometimes this leads to strange encounters, and that may well be the case this weekend. New residents to France may be tempted by the Expat Expo which provides practical (and leisure) information for this target group. Whilst there, they may encounter some strangely dressed individuals at the always very photogenic Paris Manga show.

A sporting weekend
The Six Nations rugby tournament gets underway again this weekend with three matches, one of which is taking place in Paris. This year it is the turn of Scotland to visit the French capital, and to welcome them an association will be organising the 'Ecosse - Montmartre' festival. Tickets for the game – taking place on Saturday at 6pm at the Stade de France – may be difficult to come across, but you may well find some of the atmosphere at this event.

Full details can be found on the official website (
be warned – this site includes bagpipes!)

For those looking for a more exotic sport, try Pelotte Basque. This weekend Paris welcomes the
15eme Open de Pelotte Basque, an event that will see teams from France, Spain, Mexico, and Argentina competing for the trophy. Prepare for something spectacular - as well as being imprinted in the folklore of South West France, the sport - which can be compared to squash - is said to be one of the fastest in the world.

3rd - 5th February
Au Trinquet

8 quai Saint-Exupéry 75016
M° Porte de St Cloud

Xīn nián hǎo
The Chinese year of the rabbit has just begun and will be celebrated in style this weekend. The principal parade will take place on Sunday around the Place d'Italie in the 13th arrondissement, but other similar events are also being organised by Chinese communities in Belleville and the 3rd arrondissement.