Atelier des Lumières- This HAS to be on your Top Ten List for Paris

The Atelier des Lumières https://www.atelier-lumieres.com/en/events opened in April of 2018 in a former smelting plant/iron foundry from the 19th Century in the 11th arrondisement. It is a “digital art center” with 120 video-projectors to create an immersive art experience. As described by SortirAParis https://www.sortiraparis.com, back in 2018, it is a “breathtaking visual and sound show.”The first exhibition featured the art of Klimt, and the current exhibition features Van Gogh and Japanese painting and is there till the end of 2019.

I have tried to explain what this is to various friends, and I am at a loss for the right words. Imagine yourself surrounded by rough, concrete walls of various shapes and textures, with a ceiling twenty feet above you, and when the show starts, everything is covered with enormous art– sometimes it’s just pieces of paintings, or sometimes it is entire paintings, or sometimes it is flowing pieces of paintings (like ships that sail through waves). And while this is going on, imagine incredible music flowing and pounding all around you– sometimes classical, sometimes jazz, sometimes contemporary.

Wander the various rooms and spaces to experience it from different perspectives.

My pitiful pictures don’t begin to capture it, so I urge you to click here https://www.atelier-lumieres.com/en/dreamed-japan  to see the moving collage of the Japanese art. Go to the website at the top of this post to buy tickets (they are NOT sold on site– all tickets must be bought online ahead of time). It is a timed entry, so you need to get there within 15 or 20 minutes of your time.

No one is checking when you leave….

Enjoy!

 

 

Chantilly– And I’m not talking about the whipped cream.

So you’re planning a trip to Paris and while you’re there, you want to see a castle, a “chateau.” But even thinking about trying to brave the crowds at Versailles makes your stomach churn. Is there somewhere else you can go that’s easily accessible by public transportation from Paris? And not too far away?

The answer is a resounding YES. The answer is Chantilly. It’s about 50 kilometers, or 30 miles, from central Paris. The easy way to get there is to take the TER which takes 20-25 minutes (2 stops). The TER is a local train run by SNCF, the national train company. Tickets can be bought easily on a couple of different apps- Trainline or Omio. Once you arrive at the Chantilly-Gouvieux station, you can catch a local bus to get to the chateau (or there are often taxis at the train station as well).

There were two chateaus that were part of the estate- the first and smaller (Petit Chateau) was built around 1560. The second, larger chateau was virtually destroyed in the French Revolution and rebuilt in the 19th Century for Henri D’Orleans, the Duke of Aumale.

It now houses, among other things, the Musée Condé, which houses the second largest collection of antique paintings in France after the Louvre. The Duke required that the paintings remain in exactly the same order and arrangement as when he lived there (so they are in an order that reflects his taste, rather than chronologically). Tickets are 17 euros and if you time your visit to include the tour of the private apartments, it’s well worth the extra 5 euros.

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http://www.domainedechantilly.com/en/accueil/chateau/ is the website (there is a French and an English option- look for the button on the top right side of the screen to toggle between them).

There are also a variety of additional things to see in Chantilly as well as special events at the Chateau itself. One website I found that has a good summary of other things on offer is Culture Trip  https://theculturetrip.com/europe/france/articles/the-10-best-things-to-do-in-chantilly-france/

Enjoy!

Musee Maillol- A hidden gem on the Left Bank

You’ve been to the Louvre. You’ve been to the D’Orsay. You love them, I get it. But there are SO many smaller, lesser known museums, that offer the chance to discover something new. One that Peter and I recently discovered is the Musee Maillol. www.museemaillol.com. Do you know it? It’s a 10-minute walk from the Musee D’Orsay, and an 11-minute walk from the Luxembourg Gardens. The building itself is magnificent, and the history is fascinating. In 1739, a group of nuns endowed the land to the city of Paris for a fountain to be constructed, the Fontaine des Quatres-Saisons. This fountain was built between 1739 and 1745 as a monument to the beautiful city of Paris, and, in 1862, was declared an historic monument.

This is now one of the exterior walls of the museum. In the next few decades, the nuns built a variety of small buildings around it as part of their convent. The various buildings were then sold off during the Revolution and divided into various residential units. In the 19th century, it was home for a variety of creative people, like Alfred du Musset (poet, dramatist, novelist) and Paul Jacques Aime Baudry (painter), and in the 1950’s the Prevert Brothers opened a cabaret there. A colorful past, to be sure! In 1955, Dina Vierny, who was a model and muse for Aristide Maillol, the sculptor, bought one of the residential apartments and over the next thirty years acquired the rest of the property (how did she do that? I have no idea!), with the goal of opening a museum to house Maillol’s works. In January, 1995, she succeeded and the building was opened as the Musee Maillol. (This is the courtyard that is now the Cafe Prevert)

It houses not only a selection of Maillol’s sculptures, but also the museum brings in a variety of amazing temporary exhibits.

This temporary exhibit was, in fact, a prime reason we went in June. It was a collection of Emil Buhrle. Emil Buhrle was a German-Born Swiss Industrialist who assembled his collection between 1936 and 1956. This was the first time the collection had been shown in Paris, and contains works from the 2nd half of the 19th century through the early part of the 20th century. The collection was embroiled in some controversy because thirteen pieces were acquired during World War II and subsequently were discovered to have been looted from their rightful owners. Emil Buhrle went to those families and returned those paintings, and then asked if he could purchase them back (many of which he did). An honorable thing to do. This made the collection that much more poignant for me.

In 2021, the collection will be housed permanently in Zurich at Kunstenhaus https://www.kunsthaus.ch

After an engrossing hour of perusing, we left to find a place to eat, and found an adorable cafe nearby offering delicious steak frites– The Cafe Le Flores.

I will continue to explore Paris for small, lesser-known museums to share with you!! Enjoy!

A New Novel is Well on the Way!

First, I have to apologize that I have been silent for several months. I’ve been working very hard on Book #3 and I admit, I let myself get distracted from regular posts here, but I will make up for lost time with several about our most recent trip to Paris. BUT FIRST a quick update here on my book progress.

The Writer’s Digest Conference in New York was terrific. This was my second time attending (I went in 2017) and the various sessions and speakers are always informative and helpful. There are sessions on writing itself, as well as on author platform, on marketing yourself, and on the various publishing options.

I did the “Pitch Slam” this year which lets you meet agents (only 3 minutes per agent) and give them your “elevator pitch” (90 seconds) on your book idea. Ideally, your book is finished, or nearly finished, when you meet with them. I am excited to report that one agent asked for my entire manuscript!

Now comes the hard part– getting through the final edits and making sure it is as polished and professional as it can be before I send it to her. WISH ME LUCK!

Here was the pitch, by the way:

WORKING TITLE: By the Time You Read This

Jane has fled, Boston, leaving behind a successful career, a grown daughter, but also an abusive husband who has made life there impossible. Renting a friend’s apartment in Paris, she’s given herself three months to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

To distract herself from her swirling thoughts, Jane signs up for a one-day cooking class that reawakens her love for cooking and introduces her to two new friends, Flora and Veronique.

Jane’s journey to find herself, and to get over the fear that has become her everyday reality, is made easier by the support and advice of these women, and also by another very special person who teaches her how to trust in love again.

 

Netsuke, anyone?

Do you know what a netsuke is? According to Google, it’s: “a carved button-like ornament, especially of ivory or wood, formerly worn in Japan to suspend articles from the sash of a kimono.”

I got interested in them because I’m reading “The Hare with Amber Eyes” by Edmund de Waal whose family, the Ephrussi family, were an extremely wealthy and influential family in the 1800’s and 1900’s. The family owned a collection of 264 netsuke which Edmund inherited from his great uncle, and it led him on a journey of discovery of his family’s history and its connection to this amazing collection.

Edmund’s ancestor, Viktor Ephrussi, was born in Odessa, but moved to Vienna, where he made his fortune in wheat exports from his native Russia. This led to the formation of the Ephrussi Bank which had branches in London and Paris as well as Vienna. The family had enormous residences in Vienna and Paris, and Charles Ephrussi, who lived in Paris, supported several of the Impressionist painters of that time. The late 1800’s was a time when Japan was just opening its borders to foreigners, and Japan and Europe were each strongly affected by the exposure to the other’s culture. (See an earlier blog post in January of 2013 of an exhibit we visited in Paris comparing Van Gogh’s work with Hiroshige’s block prints.)

By pure chance, there is currently an exhibition that talks about that same period of time at the Musée Guimet (Museum for Asian Art) called: Meiji, Splendeurs du Japon impérial (1868-1912) that runs from October 17th to January 14th of 2019.

 http://www.guimet.fr/event/meiji-1868-1912/

 It is a gorgeous building that originally opened in 1889 funded by an industrialist of the time, Emile Etienne Guimet. The paintings in the exhibit offer a fascinating glimpse of Tokyo at that time:  

The museum is also filled with beautiful art from China, India, and Korea, as well as work from Nepal and Afghanistan. It’s well worth a visit!

Finally, another bit of pure chance is that TODAY, on Amazon.com, the Kindle version of the Edmund De Waal book is just $2.99. Absolutely worth reading, in my opinion!

No, You Can’t Get Everything on the Internet

In today’s world, it feels like you can literally buy anything you want with a quick click of your mouse. When I was a kid, I remember how special it was when one of my parents’ friends would come back from a trip to Europe and bring milk chocolate that tasted better than anything we could buy here in the U.S.

But now you can just go online and click, and it’s delivered in a day or two. Right?

Not necessarily.

I’ve discovered a couple of things in my recent trips to Paris that, unfortunately, I can’t get here, which means I either need to buy in bulk next time, or get back to France soon!
1) Ricore au Lait

Ricore is an instant coffee drink that you mix with milk or water. It is a blend of 40% coffee, 60% chicory. It is smooth and creamy tasting, and has almost no caffeine, so I find it to be a perfect hot beverage at 4:00 in the afternoon. I’ve been a fan for a long time, but only recently discovered the variation pictured here: that is, Ricore with the milk already mixed in, so all you need is boiling water. This makes it possible to have almost anywhere without the hassle of having fresh milk on hand.

So when I ran out, I of course just went online to buy more, but it’s not available– at least not in this version. All I could find was regular Ricore (which is better than nothing, for sure, but I’ve now been spoiled).

2) Ariake Bouillon

If you’ve never had Ariake Bouillion, (bullion in English) you do not know what you are missing. There are several varieties and I can tell you, they are delicious. The chicken bullion actually tastes like chicken stock from a roasted bird, not something that tastes vaguely of poultry. The vegetable bullion actually tastes like the vegetables it contains (carrots, celery). I’ve used up all of my chicken and vegetable versions, so now I have this one– shellfish, to try (not as many recipes come to mind as for the other ones, but I’ll figure it out). So I went on the trusty Internet to buy more and it turns out it’s not available in the US. I even tried fooling it and went to Amazon.fr, and it was available there, but it said it was “not deliverable to the US.”

3) Aesop Hand Soap- Good news! You CAN get this one!

My girlfriends and I were at a restaurant in Paris, and the restroom had this hand soap in it, which smells heavenly, and also includes finely milled Pumice which exfoliates while you are cleaning your hands, leaving your hands smooth as silk. As I was fretting about how I was going to bring this home, I found out that it is available on line and also, luckily for me, there is a physical store close by in Georgetown. So here is a product you CAN get in the US! The one negative is that if you do not happen to live near a physical store, you won’t be able to smell the products (amazing), try them out, or ask one of their very helpful salespeople which product is best for your skin. They are expensive, but I think they are worth the splurge.

Anybody going to Paris soon with extra room in their bag?

Le Bon Marché, c’est extraordinaire!!!

If you are a shopper, especially if you are a shopper for all things food related, you NEED to visit this store. It’s located on the Left Bank, in the 7th arrondisement at the intersection of the Rue de Sèvres and Rue du Bac. The original store was founded in 1838 to sell lace, ribbons, buttons, and various other small sundries, and had twelve employees. By 1879, it had just under 1,800 employees in its first building, which was constructed from 1869 to 1872. The building was enlarged several times (one of the architects/engineers was Gustave Eiffel’s engineering firm) and in 1911-1913, a second building was constructed, in the Art Deco style. This second building was requisitioned in World War I as a military hospital, was later destroyed by fire (1915), but then rebuilt in 1924. Both buildings were completely renovated in 2012 by the current owners.

An interesting societal aspect of the creation of this “grand magasin” (literally “large store) is that it marked the appearance of the “middle class” who would then become its primary clientele. Le Bon Marché was very innovative for its time, its owner using various new and different marketing ploys, including: a reading room for husbands while their wives shopped; entertainment for children; and sending catalogs to its customers.

Also interesting was the fact that by 1880, over half of its employees were women, and those that were unmarried were allowed to live in dormitories on the upper floors.[2]

The store has not only a huge variety of prepackaged options (mustards, teas, oils, spices):

but also large selections of fresh produce, fresh seafood, and even small eating areas with small menus of available prepared items.

I have always assumed that most of its business came from tourists, but I was there on Sunday and there were lots of Parisians doing their shopping as well. It is a business model that is greatly benefiting from today’s renewed love and interest in food and cooking in general.

https://www.24sevres.com/en-fr/

Enjoy!

A simple prune

I am struck by the everyday occurrences in Paris that can give such pleasure. I was at the Popincourt open air market which is on Richard Lenoir, and there is a vendor of dried fruits, olives, and herbs that I love.

http://equipement.paris.fr/marche-popincourt-5479

This time, after giving me my favorite “soleil” mix (for cocktail hour– nuts and various sweet bits that is highly addictive with a glass of wine), he asked, as they always do, “Et avec ceci?” (“And with that?” The question is to see what else you would like to buy). My normal answer would be “C’est tout, merci.“- “That’s all, thanks”), but this time, I hesitated and he then pointed to a container of prunes.  He said they were delicious and some of the best you can get in France. Seemed like a big claim.

Don’t get me wrong. I like prunes. I just don’t eat them very often. I’ve always liked them, but it’s not something I think of buying at home. But I thought to myself, “Why not? They look plumper and juicier than any prunes I’ve had at home.” So I said okay to 200 grams (about a dozen).

WOW. These prunes have NOTHING in common with those at home. True to the way they looked, they were juicy and really delicious. It was like having a really good plum, but in the middle of winter!

Now he had me intrigued, and he knew it. I’ve decided I will now ask each time for a new recommendation. I can’t wait till Friday!

Parc Rives De Seine- the newest park in Paris

Paris has, in recent years, been trying to reduce private car traffic in the city and thereby reduce pollution. Two specific transportation decisions have been 1) creating special bus/taxi lanes (to encourage usage of public transportation), and 2) the establishment of Velib (shared bicycles) stands throughout Paris. In addition, Paris has made the decision to physically close some streets entirely and repurpose them. Three years ago, Paris converted the road that ran along the Seine along the Left Bank into a park and it has been highly successful. It is estimated that there have been over four million visitors to that park.

On April 2, 2017, Paris opened the Right Bank equivalent park.

As you can see, it’s a wide open area for people  to stroll, sit, and relax. I didn’t even know it existed, but instead discovered it looking down off of one of the bridges.

There are sets of swings for kids, and also this clever area for small children to run around:

There are pop-up restaurants for light fare and drinks (look how clever they were using old crates):

With the sun shining and 80 degrees, it’s the perfect place to be lazy on a Sunday!

For more information, here’s a helpful website: https://en.parisinfo.com/discovering-paris/sustainable-tourism-in-paris/the-new-parc-rives-de-seine

Enjoy!

Frederic Bazille– have you heard of him?

Frederic Bazille was from an upper middle class family and was pursuing medical studies. His “hobby” was painting, and he went, in 1862, to Paris to the studio of a painter, Charles Gleyre, where he met Claude Monet, Pierre Renoir and Alfred Sisley. With them (and others like Edouard Manet), he created paintings that were inspired by daily life, but challenged the artistic method “norms” of the day. The work they did was the start of the Impressionist movement.

IMG_6564 IMG_6567 IMG_6569

I was fortunate to have found, and attend, an exhibit at the Musee D’Orsay in February on his work, and now it is in Washington, DC at the National Gallery of Art.  https://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/exhibitions/2017/frederic-bazille-and-the-birth-of-impressionism.html.

One fun aspect of this exhibit is that it has several still life paintings that are hung side by side by different artists. This proximity offers us a chance to compare the artists’ differing techniques and each’s vision of the objects themselves.

If you are wondering  why you have not seen his paintings in previous Impressionist exhibits, I think it’s because there are not very many paintings by him. Unfortunately, just prior to his 29th birthday, Bazille was killed in the Franco-Prussian War. Who knows what additional treasures he would have produced?