Dîner en Blanc

This year I finally made it to the annual Dîner en Blanc. This invite-only secret dinner party began 25 years ago by a man named François Pasquier. He invited a few friends to the Bois de Boulogne on an evening in June, and asked that everyone bring another friend. All the attendees wore white in order to find one another more easily. (My friend Delphine’s parents were among the first dinner guests!) The event was a grand success and each successive year friends invited friends and it grew into a 10,000+ dinner party. I’ve always loved the idea of it, even given all the preparation ahead of time. Everyone attending must provide their own food, drink, even tables and chairs, and all must be white! Considering it’s not exactly legal, the prestigious location is disclosed just before the dinner actually begins. This year the grand event took place along 6 bridges. Our designated spot was close to Pont Alexandre III, with gorgeous views of the Grand Palais and Eiffel Tower.

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IMG_2563 IMG_2575 IMG_2586It was one of those magical nights spent with friends both old and new, wrapped in warm summer air and the setting sun, surrounded by the grandeur of Paris, that remains with you forever.

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Could there have been a more perfect setting? We’ll see where next year finds us.

wine on the Seine

 What better place to sample French wines than in a boat on the Seine?

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On a recent overcast afternoon I experienced Wine Tasting in Paris, started by wine connoisseur Thierry Givone. Admittedly, I didn’t know too much about the many wine regions of Paris, other than which regions produce my favorite wines, namely Bourgogne and Bordeaux. And the Champagne region of course! This was the perfect occasion, not to mention setting, in which to educate myself.

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I was joined by friend Amy Feezer. Following a glass of bubbly we all became better acquainted.

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One glass of wine followed another, from the Loire to Bourgogne to the Côtes du Rhône. And with each glass a thorough description of the grapes, the notes, the tastes… even a lesson in the way wine should be savoured. Thierry has a particular affinity towards Bourgogne, that region being his home, but he is an expert on all regions of France and certainly has developed a nose for wine! I was pleased to taste wines I would otherwise not have thought to try, and was impressed with Thierry’s expertise and attention to detail when it came to French wines.

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After over 3 hours of tastings and conversation, with a view of the sun setting over the Seine in the distance, Amy and I left the boat a little bit tipsy and a lot more knowledgeable. Santé!

For more information: www.wine-tasting-in-paris.com and Facebook and Twitter

 

pique-niqueing & pétanque

IMG_2670 2When the sun comes out, so do the Parisians. On a recent spring-like day, moods were high and there was a lightness evident in the air. Now this is what spring is meant to feel like! My Italian and I joined a group of friends at the gardens of the Palais Royal for my favorite summer pastime, le pique-nique. It was here too that I played my first game of pétanque, the famous French sport so often played in and around Paris. Immediately I took a liking to this game of ball throwing, even winning a few times. Perhaps the champagne helped!

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It was beneath these blue skies that once again, I felt lucky to live within such immense beauty.

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On the way home, a little surprise in the form of fashion to end a well-spent day, la vie parisienne.

L’Amour (or less)

One of the great joys of living as an expat in Paris is that it has exposed me to other like-minded Americans, who equally find their creative voice and pursue their dreams, on French soil. Whether it be in the form of American-style cupcakes, sweet stories, designer pillows, or even treasure hunts in the Louvre, each of these women is following her passion. I am proud to be among them.

Most recently another friend and fellow expat has spoken, this time through film. An actress and film-maker from NYC, Jennifer Geraghty arrived to Paris no more than 2 year ago, and now, she has a few stories to tell. Namely, all about the romantic tales between expats and the French. All true stories, not all her own. Certainly enough to entice any  mademoiselle or monsieur out there who wonders about dating in the French capital! Have a look, listen, and share the love! Jennifer and her collaborator Alexis are in the midst of raising funds via kickstarter to turn these tales into a series of short stories, 12 of which are already written. To learn more, here’s their website.

To add a little incentive in the form of Kasia Dietz handbags, I’ve designed a custom hand-painted tote for those able to donate a generous sum. More info on their kickstarter page

L'Amour (or less) tote by Kasia Dietz

May these tales of LAmour (or less) come to life!

tastings with a view

Every Fall I look forward to the wine harvest in Montmartre, the Fête des Vendanges. An annual event during which I don’t mind braving the crowds surrounding the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, eager to sample the various regional wines, paired with plentiful samples of cheese and fois gras, bien sûr!

This year my friend Sarah was in town from Rome, a wine aficionado as luck would have it, and she too was eager to indulge her palate in the tastes of France.

Amidst all the tastings there was entertainment and we even ran into Lily of Context Travel, toting her custom Kasia Dietz bag, designed exclusively for Context Travel.

 Our last tasting was vin chaud, a perfect grand finale. Now it was time to enjoy the view.

nuit blanche 2011

A white night following a bright blue Indian summer day. The ideal mood and climate for Paris’ annual Nuit Blanche, the one night of the year that the city ceases to sleep. One of my favorites, allowing those brave enough, to explore museums and churches in the early morning hours. Our adventures took place in the Marais, beginnning with a video installation of The Leopard at the magestic Hotel de Ville. Incidentally, the first book my Italian ever gave me.

From there we sought the shortest lines with the most engaging exhibitions. Not an easy task. We found Moby Dick at the Museum of Hunting & Nature, complete with a backdrop of whale sounds.

Seeking a moment of respite from the growing crowds, we entered the Église Notre-Dame des Blancs-Manteaux, only to be enchanted by an array of musicians in “Des voix dans la Nuit!” From pianists performing Chopin to a chorus singing Ave Maria, to a dramatic organist... certainly the longest (and the latest) I have ever sat in a church!

By now it was nearly 1am and we made our way to the grand exhibition Purple Rain. The line was wrapped well around the block, and so we passed by, trying to catch a glimpse of this incredible purple rain… Would it have been worth the wait? Perhaps.

Not yet ready to return home, we caroused the early morning streets in search of a last hurrah. What we found was an impressive structure at the Bibliothèque.

Composed solely of cement blocks held up by their arrangement.

Finally, time to end this white night and before it bacame another bright blue day.

With a last stop in Heaven at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme.

history vs modernity

While the Italians were in town we took them to Versailles. Just in case they weren’t thoroughly impressed from day one in Paris.

As excited as they were to visit this 17th Century Château, I was equally excited to view the current Murakami exhibit, a source of controversy since its inception in mid-September. I was determined to find all 22 works by Takashi Murakami, including the 11 created specifically for the show, and to discover what all the hype was about. All this while enjoying the splendor of Versailles, which I had previously visited as a student, back in the days when art was confined to museums and galleries.

My first impression was disdain as I felt too distracted by the art to pay much attention to the grandeur of the architecture. That quickly turned to child-like curiosity, as I entered each ornately decorated room, eager to discover which brightly-coloured creatures lurked behind the corner.

It was the unique contrast in the Baroque setting and the art that held my interest.

During this tour, I wondered to myself what exactly was the motivation for France to curate such a show? Setting the precedent with Jeff Koons’ exhibit in 2008, were they attempting to position themselves as provocateurs in the art world? Or perhaps this is all a political ploy to strengthen relations between France and Japan. Whatever the reason, I was throughly entertained and enjoyed it more than not. The Italians thought it amusing but lacked my enthusiasm. The French tourists, upon over-hearing several conversations, were deeply dismayed. (Right-wingers no doubt.)

The final room held no 17th Century distractions, merely smiley flowers to lighten the mood.

For those confused about how modernity can find a home within the walls of history (myself included), Curator Laurent Le Bon offers a little clarity, “The unique experience seeks above all to spark a reflection of the contemporary nature of our monuments and indispensable need to create out own era.”

Still confused? In this video which takes you on a tour of the exhibition, Murakami explains his reasoning behind working so diligently to create his manga universe at Versailles. What I found interesting is how he defines space in France versus Japan, two very disparate cultures. “In France you have this tradition to conquer and manage space and to represent it in three dimensions. In Japan, there is this tradition to flatten out reality to take a real three dimensional space and transform it into two dimensions.”  Another interesting note, Murakami considers his work somewhat like origami which can be manipulated in various ways. I would have to agree.

The grand finale in the exhibition is the Oval Buddha in the garden. Very grand and very gold. If you have not yet experienced the controversy, the show is up until December 12, 2010. Well worth it!

Still, I am left to wonder, should modern art find a home in history?

time to celebrate!

Nearly 700 kilometers, a dozen fresh fish, 5 spectacular sunsets, 3 shades lighter in mind, (and 2 shades darker in body) and many adventures later, I am back in Paris. For those keeping track. I have a lot of thoughts to share about these recent days in Corsica, and many images which even more accurately capture the experience. Those stories soon to come!

Since my return to ‘real life in Paris’ I’ve learned a lot about the French art of celebration having recently attended a friend’s ‘blink and it’s over’ wedding at the Mairie followed by not the same friend’s baby-shower in which the greatest surprise for the mommy-to-be was a police-officer turned stripper. Little did I know how the French like to celebrate! Conservative? Never!

And now it’s time to join the festivities about to begin, commemorating the start of the French Republic. My first Bastille Day in Paris, after many spent in NYC as a Francophile. I wonder if the rumors are true about those firemen at Les Bal des Pompiers…

art on the canal

I’ve been feeling a bit homesick lately, missing the cultural activities of NYC and most of all my creative-minded accomplices to indulge in them with. Not that Paris lacks in art, music or film festivals, particularly in the summertime. I simply need to dig a little deeper to find them, and often that means translating. (In other words: intimidating)

When I found out that NYC friend and photographer Casey Kelbaugh, was bringing his Slideluck Potshow event to Paris as part of his European tour, I was thrilled! It has taken him four years to present to a French audience (we won’t get into those details) but finally he made it happen. Slideluck Potshow is a non-profit organization dedicated to building and strengthening the community through art and food. Hence the mixing of Slideshow and Potluck. Casey is one example of  a creative visionary who planted a seed (in his hometown of Seattle to be precise) by gathering friends and artists together in his backyard, and has in the last 10 years watched it blossom and grow throughout the USA and Europe. Much due to it’s success in NYC in the last 6 years. 

I felt at home within this atmosphere of familiarity with a French twist, as did over 400 others. A night of meeting and mingling with artists and art aficionados, eating a mix of foods as is the SLPS theme, and watching a carefully curated slideshow presentation of 40 chosen photographers, organized around a theme, each show accompanied by it’s own soundtrack. Well done! 

To add to the appeal, the event could not have been better located than on Canal Saint-Martin. Le Comptoir Général in the 10th arrondissement, is now my new favorite venue for all things creative. 

This all leads me to question, are the grounds of NYC more fertile than those in Paris? Can creative visionaries find a home here too? To be continued…

the sounds of summer

The summer sun has finally reached Paris. It took a while, with chilly temperatures until just last week. To celebrate the summer solstice on June 21st, Paris holds an annual event in which music fills the air. This musical celebration began in Paris 28 years ago and now takes place around the world.

I first experienced the sounds of Fête de la Musique last year on a visit to Paris, just before jetting off to the Isle of Skye for work. It remains one of favorite nights, as every corner of Paris is filled with song from 7pm until early morning. Classical orchestras, jazz bands, rock musicians, or simply a man standing on the street performing his best rendition of Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’. Quite a number of characters, as well as large scale talent find their way into this festival of music and it’s a sensation to weave in and out of the streets with tunes of one performer melting into the next. Personally, I love the ‘organized chaos’ of it all and wish it lasted longer than one night.

In the midst of the melodies as we caroused the right bank, we stopped for dinner at a little bistro, and much to my delight the jazz band featured a tap dancer, tapping to many old American favorites.

One of the most impressive and certainly most passionate performers we heard was Buika, a Spanish singer who filled the air with a unique mix of flamenco and jazz. The jardin du Palais-Royal was the perfect setting for such a diva.

As we biked from the vicinity of the Louvre, too impatient to wait two hours on line to hear the Orchestra de Paris, and much more eager to wander in the direction our ears chose to take us, we biked back to the Marais. Here was quite a scene! The streets were filled with dancing and drinking…and yes, a lot of singing. Though not sure who was part of the line-up. Trying to avoid the madness, we took a few narrower paths and came upon a small crowd of people at the door of the Bibliotheque Historique. Like three small birds, these women’s operatic voices filled the air. We were instantly mesmerized. The perfect notes upon which to end the night.

My mom once said, the greatest talent is the gift of song. Maybe in my next life.