Thursday, March 31, 2011

Something for the weekend: Gardens Special!

Maybe it is because spring is finally upon us, but Paris has gone garden crazy. Here’s a look at some exhibitions on the theme currently running in the city, as well as some recommendations for some real outdoor exploration!

Nature et idéal : le paysage à Rome, 1600 – 1650
Until the 17th century, landscapes did not exist as a subject in painting, serving instead uniquely as a backdrop for portraits. This exhibition at the Grand Palais, featuring around 100 works from major museums and galleries worldwide, investigates the moment when painters begin featuring natural scenes in their own right, concentrating on artists based in Rome where the movement began.

Full information on the exhibition can be found here

Until June 6th

Grand Palais

Jardins romantiques français

What better place for on exhibition on French romantic gardens than the Musée de la Vie Romantique?
Featuring paitings, watercolours, drawings and plans, the exhibition covers two centuries of gardens in France from the early 18th to late 19th centuries. Although classed as French, the curious thing about these romantic gardens was that they were in fact Gallic versions of English gardens! Rejecting typical French formalism, these were open parks which although heavily landscaped were also attempting to recreate a natural environment. Picturesque and composed like paintings, these gardens featured hills and valleys, but above all water. Some of these gardens still exist today - others you will only be able to see today in the pictures of this exhibition!

Watch a video of the exhibition here

A dedicated website for the exhibition also exists (in French):

Musée de la Vie Romantique

16, rue Chaptal, 75009, M° Blanche or Saint-Georges

Until July 17th

La Ville Fertile

With cities becoming ever larger and ever more populated, it is essential today to begin thinking about how they can also become more fertile. Through a series of highly theatrical and thought provoking installations, the ‘Fertile City’ exhibition at the Cité de l’Architecture investigates real and imaginary projects around the world, including in New York, Munich, Beruit, Argentina and of course Paris.

More details here:

Until July 24th

Cité de l'architecture & du patrimoine

1 place du Tocadéro et du 11 novembre, 75016

Les Dimanches du Galop

Every Sunday for the next 8 weeks, one of three racecourses around Paris will be offering free entry for a full programme of horse races. Although this initiative is primarily geared towards families (and there are a whole host of activities for kids planned), they also offer an excellent way to escape the stress of the city in what are perhaps the biggest green spaces in Paris.

The full programme can be found here:

Gardens to visit this spring

Jill who runs the Landscape Lover's Blog has posted a couple of suggestions for the best gardens to visit around Paris this spring. Discover which ones she has chosen on her blog.

Obscura Night
Finally, if you are interested in gardens and want to investigate one in an unusual manner (which also includes garden themed food and drinks) don’t forget the Obscura ‘Night’ garden event on Saturday 9th.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

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

Band of Brothers
The Jacksons, the Wilsons, the Gallaghers... They don't always get along, but the dynamics created by family ties often make for interesting art. The impressionist painte Gustave Caillebotte is certainly well-known, but his piano-playing photographer brother Martial is less familiar to us. As this exhibition shows though, they had many of the same interests and worked on many of the same themes (music, boating, the new Haussmannian Paris), and were surely an inspiration to each other in many different ways. History does not record though whether they ever came to blows or smashed up each other's guitars.

Until July 11th
Musée Jacquemart-André
158, bd Haussmann, 75008, M° Charles de Gaulle Etoile

The Architecture of films
The Cité de l'architecture is running an interesting series of film showings each Saturday night this Spring, featuring a documentary followed by a cinema film. The sequence begins this Saturday with a documentary on the role of gardens in cities (Les Jardins font la ville), followed by Peter Greenaway's The Draughtsman's Contract (known as Meurtre dans un jardin anglais in English!)

Full details on times and prices can be found here.

A little wine tasting...
The twice-yearly Salon des vins des vignerons indépenants pitches up in Paris this weekend for its Spring visit. The procedure couldn't be simpler - pay 6 Euros at the entrance, pick up a glass (that you get to keep at the end), wander around the show and taste all of the wines that take your fancy (perhaps taking care not to swallow all of them!), and purchase the nicest ones!

Full details can be found here.

Cinema for the ears
Every two months or so Arte radio and the Point Ephemère organise a one-hour listening session in a cosy environment (cushions on the floor, low lighting) on a variety of themes. Join them this Sunday (5-6pm).

Full details can be found here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Something for the Weekend (18th – 20th March)

Books Books, Books
This weekend sees the beginning of the Salon du Livre in Paris, but for those who prefer to read in English, the bi-annual English-language booksale held by SOS Help is this Sunday. All hardbacks are 2 euros, and paperbacks are just 1 euro. What’s more, it’s all for a good cause!

Sunday, March 20th, 12 pm to 4 pm
Orrick Law Offices
31, avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie
75016 Paris

Les Maisons Closes
Sylvanie de Lutèce breaks out from her monthly Monday history sessions at the Baron Samedi to propose a weekend of investigations into the theme of the maisons closes (brothels) in Paris. On Saturday evening she'll be giving a conference on the subject (where were they, who worked there, who were the clients as well as many other anecdotes) at the Centre Barbara Goutte d'Or, and on Sunday she'll be leading a walk around the Pigalle area, of course one of the most active parts of the city for this kind of establishment!

These two events are part of the wider 'Bastringue à Chateau Rouge' festival. Click here for full details on the other events being organised.

La commune, 1871 paris capitale insurgée
2011 marks the 140th anniversary of the 'commune', the popular uprising of the inhabitants of Paris against the powers in place. As the commune was proclaimed at the Hotel de Ville, what better place to organise the exhibition that recounts the story of the movement? Including over 200 items which illustrate the dramatic events of the period (including photographs, posters, prints and contemporary press reports) the exhibition attempts to cover both sides of the story.

Until May 28th
Salon d'accueil, 29 rue de Rivoli 75004
Open daily from 10am - 7pm, except Sundays and public holidays
Admission free

Free museums
If you buy a copy of the Télérama magazine this week, you'll find inside a voucher offering free entry to a number of participating museums (across the whole of France) this weekend. For example, a number of special events are being organised at the Musée des Arts et Metiers, or you could visit the fascinating exhibition on the France cruise ship currently running at the Musée national de la Marine.

Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th March

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Ritz: an undergound experience?

At the Ritz, as is the case with most upmarket hotels, it is perfectly possible to wander in off the street and explore the interior. On this occasion I was invited, but as someone points out to me, I can come back whenever I like to use the toilet. The restaurants and bars may be much rarer experiences, but it is always free to come here and dream.

That said, is this universe something I would dream about? As an original Paris palace and a Hemmingway haunt, it should be worthy of fantasy, but there is something a little Disney-baroque about the establishment. Almost all available space is filled with glass boxes promoting goods for sale, although very few items actually have prices attached. The long glittering corridors of commerce remind you that many visitors here have more money than taste, but occasional sights – magnificent floral displays, sweeping staircases, chandeliers - still take the breath away.

We are lead upwards to the Suite Imperiale, one of the world’s most famous hotel rooms. Glasses of champagne, gold fittings, a view across the Place Vendome, imagining who has been here before us. But the dream dies again. We can stay this evening, but only if we keep our feet on the ground.

Our destination is in another direction. “This elevator only takes one down” sang Deus in their song ‘Hotellounge’, and this is where we’re going. –3 the cellars, -2 the storerooms, -1, our stop, the kitchens. We come out into the service corridors, devoid of decoration, devoid of commerce, but a magical world.

Here is the beating, throbbing heart of the hotel. This is the realm of the men and women who keep the place clean, and those who prepare breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The kitchens are magnificent, sizzling and steaming, but all is calm. They are timeless and functional, handsome and reassuring. Tiled mosaics date back to the kitchen’s origins, polished HR-branded copper sits on shelves, and silver cutlery and pristine porcelaine waits to be whisked away.

We are here as the lucky guests of the Escoffier cooking school, but also here to work – in theory at least! We put on aprons, we cut, we prepare, we even cook a little bit, but above all we eat, drink and get spoiled.

It is a tantalising taster of this world. We are regalled by stories of rich six-hour sauces, the base of all good cooking, and glimpse the mysterious corridors leading towards the century-old secrets of the house. We are given the list of classes that offer the keys to this information, and if the prices are ritzy, but then so is the quality of the school's staff, equipment and ingredients.

And I’m tempted. I may never come back to the Ritz, but if I do, it won't be to go upstairs. I’ll take the service lift down to the basement. Not to sleep, but to cook, perchance to dream…

Lessons at the Escoffier Cooking School range from the 1 hour 'Ritzy break' to a full Masters course. For more information, see

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Something for the Weekend (11th – 13th March)

Le Rubis, un an déjà…
Nearly a year ago I wrote about a new bar that had opened in my district. I liked how the owners had renovated a forgotten 1930s location and noted their frustration about not being able to host live music. Fortunately I was proved wrong, and they have been able to organise regular events, including this Saturday night when they will be celebrating their first anniversary. I wish them many more!

See you there!

Saturday 12th
Le Rubis

140 Rue Saint Maur, M° Goncourt

Ici & Demain
Ici & Demain is a new festival which enables young artists to present their work (music, dance, theatre, plastic arts) in over 20 venues in Paris. It also enables you to experience the work of tomorrow's stars for free!

This weekend, the place to be is the Point éphémère alongside the Canal Saint Martin, but the event will continue at various locations until March 24th.

Click here for the full programme.

Romantic Gardens
The Musée de la Vie romantique is the perfect location for an exhibition on the historic romantic gardens of France, especially with Spring on its way! The event focusses on the period between 1770 and 1840, and features Monceau, Méréville, Ermenonville and La Malmaison through paintings, watercolours, drawings and other works of art.

Until July 17th
Musée de la Vie romantique
Hôtel Scheffer-Renan
16 rue Chaptal - 75009 (
M° Saint-Georges, Pigalle, Blanche, Liège)
Everyday from 10am to 6pm, except Mondays and public holidays

A Ballad of Love and Death
(Pre-Raphaelite Photography in Great Britain, 1848-1875)

The aesthetic principles of the Pre-Raphaelite painters are well-known, but less is known about the photographers of the time who aspired to be recognised as artists in their own right. This fascinating exhibition shows how the two worked together and influenced each other.

Until May 29th

Musée d’Orsay
Full information can be found on the museum website.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

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

With blue skies overhead, blossoming buds in the trees and March beginning, it really does feel like Spring is arriving at last. However, this weekends recommendations are all still indoor events!

First weekend of the month
One sign that winter is coming to an end is that the final On Ice party of the season will be held at the Patinoire Pailleron this Friday evening. To round things off in style,
Born Bad Records, the team behind the concept (concerts and DJs on the centre of an ice-rink, with skaters doing their stuff around them), will be officiating.

10 Euros (skates included) Patinoire Pailleron 32 rue Pailleron 75 019

As usual on the first Sunday of each month, a number of museums will be offering free entry. A full list of participating establishments can be found here.

The Gaité...numérique
The big news of the week was the (re)opening (after the traditionally long delays) of the Gaité Lyrique theatre. Rather than restore it to its traditional role as a theatre, it has instead been transformed into a place to celebrate digital arts - in other words, a kind of geek paradise! However, some of the original features have been restored which provide a nice contrast to the flashier electronic gadgetry. The reopening begins with a number of free events, but it may be a little crowded this weekend as curious Parisians rediscover a forgotten part of their heritage.

Full details on

Arnold Newman at Les Douches La Galerie
I recently featured the Les Douches gallery on Invisible Paris, and was delighted to be invited back for the opening of the Arnold Newman exhibition this week. Entitled 'Portraits and Abstractions', the installation features both a selection of his wonderful and hugely influential portraits (Picasso, Mondrian, Stravinsky, Dali..) alongside some of his lesser known abstract pieces.

As a bonus, the excellent Bruce Wrighton exhibition is still on display in the offices!

Until April 22nd
Les Douches la Galerie, 5 rue Legouvé 75010 M° République or Jacques Bonsergent

A Cookbook Festival
The 104 is becoming an interesting multi-functional location, and with its now multiple cafés and restaurants, something of a foodie location. It is no surprise therefore to find a culinary festival, albeit one focussing on the written word. However, alongside the books, you'll also be able to meet chefs, follow demonstrations and of course try out the eating places at the art venue (warmly recommended by some!)

Le 104
104 rue d’Aubervilliers or 5 rue Curial 75019

Professionals on Thursday and Friday, general public on Saturday and Sunday