JR and the disappearing Louvre pyramid

French street artist JR has an installation currently at the Louvre which is surprising to say the least, and lends itself perfectly to the grey days we are having at the moment. He has made the famous glass pyramid disappear.

JR Louvre pyramid, Paris

The pyramid was designed by Chinese-American architect I M Pei and unveiled in 1989 to general criticism and controversy in Paris (as it has to be said are most of the major architectural developments in this city, starting with the Eiffel Tower)! Now instead of seeing the pyramid itself, probably the most photographed part of the structure of the Louvre, we see what has been hiding behind it, the section of the building that has been largely ignored for all these years.

JR Louvre Pyramid - Paris

Instead of snapping selfies, visitors are invited to look at their surroundings in a different way, and to spend more time deciding which is the best viewpoint for their photo to allow the pyramid to completely disappear (the sides slope, so you have to be in just the right place to ensure it looks flat). By removing the pyramid, JR takes the Louvre back to its original state, yet his digital photography work is resolutely modern, and reminds us that the pyramid itself is too.

At the Louvre until June 27th 2016.

JR’s website (in English)

 

The Orangerie Museum

The Orangerie is one of my favourite museums in Paris. I’ve often heard it described as a jewel-like museum. It’s just the right size, not too crowded, is home to a collection of beautiful works, and regularly puts on fascinating temporary exhibitions. It’s one of those museums you can go to again and again and never get tired of.

The Orangerie was built in 1852 to house the orange trees of the Tuileries gardens that surround it, with a glass facade facing south across the Seine river. It was then put to various other uses, as a concert hall, an exam room or to house soldiers on leave from the trenches during WWI, and was not modified until the 1920’s when Monet donated his water lily paintings with very specific instructions for how he wanted them displayed. It has since been modified again, adding the Post-Impressionist Walter-Guillaume collection, and was fully restored in 2006, demolishing the upper level and moving the Walter-Guillaume collection into a newly developed lower level so that the Nympheas could once again be seen how Monet intended, their aspect changing with the changes in the natural daylight that floods in from outside.

Probably the most spectacular section of the museum are the rooms dedicated to eight giant paintings of Monet’s Nympheas – each is 2m by 6m. The paintings were donated by Monet in 1922 and are shown exactly as he wanted them to be, on curved walls in two simple oval shaped rooms full of natural, diffused light that allow the works to surround you on all sides. They have actually been glued to the walls, and stayed in the museum throughout WWII and all the renovation works.

However don’t just go for the water lilies. Don’t miss the Walter-Guillaume collection downstairs, featuring works by Cezanne, Renoir, Utrillo, Matisse, Picasso and Soutine, amongst others. This newest level is also full of natural light, and the Soutine collection is said to be the best in Paris.

The museum also puts on regularly changing temporary exhibitions which are included in the ticket price, the current one is dedicated to Guillaume Apollinaire.

Make sure you buy a ticket online before you go as lines can get long.

  • Musée de l’Orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries, 75001 Paris. metro: Concorde

Open daily except Tuesdays 9:00 – 18:00

Museum website (in English)

An enchanted forest in the Louvre

Set in the heart of the Cour Carré in the Louvre, is a magical, mirrored box that allows you to step into another world. Artist Eva Jospin’s Panorama is both architecture and art. The box is encased in steel, reflecting the beautiful buildings of the Louvre that surround it.

Louvre Cour Carré Eva Jospin

Inside, a mysterious forest grotto has been sculpted entirely from cardboard. Only a few visitors are allowed in at a time, it’s quiet, fragile, detailed and incredibly beautiful.

The Panorama has been designed specially for this site and is on show until August 28th. Admission is free.

  • Musée du Louvre, 75001 Paris. metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre

The Palais Royal in spring

The Palais Royal is one of my favourite places in Paris. I’ve already blogged about it here, in fact I love it so much it was my first ever post, but I couldn’t resist a few more photos after a rainy visit today. There is something very special about this hidden park. It’s tranquil, beautiful and a world away from the crowded streets just outside. If the sun shines you can get a coffee at Café Kitsuné and sit on a bench amongst the flowers listening to the fountains. If you are dodging April showers as we did today you can wander under the arches and enjoy window shopping in the small boutiques, more of which open each time I go there.

It’s always a pleasure to pop in there and enjoy the peace and beauty of these wonderful gardens, whatever the weather.

Palais Royal

  • Palais Royal, 75001 Paris. metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre (exit at Place Colette)
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The Sainte Chapelle

The Sainte Chapelle is often overlooked by visitors to Paris. Thousands flock to Notre Dame just a few hundred metres away, some go further and wander around the beautiful Ile de la Cité, but the Sainte Chapelle, hidden away inside the grounds of the law courts, can go unnoticed.

Built in 1248 upon the orders of the King Saint-Louis, the Sainte Chapelle was to originally built to house the crown of thorns (today you can see this inside Notre Dame Cathedral). It’s a masterpiece of gothic architecture, and is probably most famous for it’s 600m2 of stained glass windows.

A huge restoration project on the windows has just been completed (April 2015) and they are spectacular. Two thirds of the glass is original. The Sainte Chapelle is small, and the effect of the light streaming in through the glass is breathtaking, filling the space with light and colour.

Next time don’t pass by! Look out for the spire as you pass the law courts on the Ile de la Cité. The lines can get long, so buy a timed entry ticket online, you don’t need long for the visit and it really is something very special.

Sainte Chapelle Paris-France

  • Sainte Chapelle, 8 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris

Open daily 09:30 – 18:00 (17:00 in winter)

Sainte Chapelle website

Sleeping beauty – La Samaritaine

Nowadays it’s easy to walk right past the Samaritaine without even noticing her. At eye level there is not much to see. But look up, and you’ll discover a beautiful mixture of art deco and art nouveau shining in the sunlight.

The Samaritaine, once the biggest department store in Paris, has been sitting quietly empty since 2005. Built in 1870, it is now owned by LVMH, and destined to be transformed into a luxury hotel. However the plans have ben held up for some time now, amidst arguments and court cases over the protection and development of the building. In the meantime, if you’re walking past, ignore the rusty shutters and derelict looking ground floor, and look upwards. You might be surprised by what you see.

  • La Samaritaine, 19 rue de la Monnaie, 75001 Paris. metro: Pont Neuf
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The prettiest squares in Paris: Place Dauphine

As the sun comes out and the trees burst into blossom, it’s time for the Parisians to head outside and enjoy relaxing in the beautiful parks and squares all across the city.

One of my favourites is the tiny, triangular Place Dauphine on the tip of the Ile de la Cité. After the Place des Vosges, the Place Dauphine was the second royal square of the city – the male heir to the French throne was known as ‘le Dauphin’ and Henri IV had this square built in 1610 in honour of his son, the future Louis XIII. Like the Place des Vosges, it is surrounded by symmetrical and identical houses, although since then many have been modified and restored. Today the lower floors house cafés and art galleries, and the square is a tranquil and beautiful place to sit and have a drink or just enjoy the views.


Simone Signoret and Yves Montand lived at number 15, Jacques Dutronc famously sang ‘Je suis le dauphin de la Place Dauphine’. Mythical as well as beautiful, the Place Dauphine is a wonderful place to stop and sit whatever the weather.

  • Place Dauphine, 75001 Paris. metro: Pont Neuf or Cité

The Bourse de Commerce

You can’t miss this building as you go past it, it’s circular with a domed roof. What you perhaps don’t know is that it’s even more striking inside, and that it’s free to pop in and have a look.

The building as we see it today was built in 1889, and used as a trading hall and wheat exchange. Today it’s still in business and used by the grains sector. Currently we aren’t allowed to go right inside, but can enter the foyer and still get wonderful views of the inside of the dome through the glass doors. The spectacular frescos represent the history of trade with the 5 continents – America, Russia and the north, Asia, Africa, and Europe, and were inaugurated in 1889.

Whilst you’re in the area, take a short walk down rue Jean Jacques Rousseau towards the Louvre, and you will find the beautiful Galerie Verdo Dodat, nowadays home to Christian Louboutin, and just opposite the delicious café Claus, a fantastic place for breakfast, brunch or lunch.

UPDATE! François Pinault will finally be installing some of his incredible art collection in the Bourse de Commerce. Japanese architect Tadao Ando is tasked with the project of renovating the interior space, and the site should be open end of 2018.

  • Bourse de Commerce, 2 rue Viarmes, 75001 Paris. metro: Chatelet Les Halles

 

The Louvre

The Louvre is one of the must-see museums in Paris, if not in the world. However it’s a daunting prospect – 403 rooms, 14.5km of corridors, 35 000 works of art on show (plus more than 400 000 more in store in the basement), huge lines outside and inside, crowds in front of the major works….

But don’t miss it. The artworks are breathtaking, the architecture awe inspiring, the pyramid delicate and beautiful. My advice? Take a guided tour, in a small group with a passionate guide. Believe me, this will totally transform your visit. A good guide will negotiate the lines, the endless corridors and the crowds for you, and bring the works of art to life. They will show you the major works housed in this amazing museum, and also introduce you to many other incredible treasures. I work with many wonderful guides, and hearing them share their knowledge of and passion for the artworks and artists is something I will never grow tired of. Even better, take a tour in the evening on a Wednesday or a Friday when the museum is open late, and enjoy the beauty of the fading light outside as the museum empties – you may even find you have some of the rooms to yourselves.

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There is much, much more to the Louvre than the Mona Lisa, and even if you only spend a couple of hours there, do make sure you see more than just her.

  • Musée du Louvre, 99 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris.  métro; Palais Royal Musée du Louvre

Open daily except Tuesdays, 9:00 – 18:00. Wednesday and Friday open until 21:45

The Louvre Museum

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Tea time at Angelina

Angelina is a Parisian institution that has been around since 1903.

A beautiful Belle Epoque tea room, Angelina was opened by a confectioner and named after his daughter in law. The decoration inside the tea room has not changed to this day. It quickly became the fashionable place to be seen. Coco Chanel was a regular, she always sat at table number 10 by the mirror and legend has it she came every day for the hot chocolate. Marcel Proust was also often to be seen here, as were many of the great French couturiers.

It is not to be missed by anybody who takes their cakes and pastries seriously.

However my favourite thing at Angelina, and one of the things that has made it most famous, is the hot chocolate, known as l’Africain. It’s so thick you almost need a spoon to drink it, it’s beautifully rich and comes with a pot of whipped cream for even more indulgence. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, as is that of it’s other iconic treat, the Mont Blanc, a ball of meringue covered in cream and chestnut purée.

Be prepared to stand in line for the tea room on busy days, however it’s well worth the wait. There is also a beautiful shop selling all of their cakes to go, as well as bottles of the famous hot chocolate. Otherwise, you can skip the line and go straight into the shop, buy a cup of the hot chocolate and take it into the Tuileries just over the road to enjoy on a chair in the sunshine.

  • Angelina, 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris

Angelina

Angelina can also be found in the Louvre, the Palace and Petit Trianon at Versailles, and the Luxembourg Gardens.

The fashion section at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs

The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is a fascinating museum, covering a huge variety of decorative arts.

When I can, I like to visit sections of a museum at a time. This time I headed straight for the fashion section. It changes yearly, and is currently dedicated to Dries Van Noten and what has inspired him in his work. Alongside other designer’s pieces, the exhibition also features clips from films, photographs and pieces of furniture and music. Pieces from his collections are shown together with iconic pieces from the museum’s collection of fashion and textiles. Inside it’s dark to preserve the clothes, and their jewel like colours and details really stand out.

Dries Van Noten – Inspirations, runs until November 2nd 2014.

  • Mode et Textile – Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 107 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris

Open Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm, late opening Thursday until 9pm

Musée des Arts Décoratifs

The Tuileries Gardens

If you’re looking for a really Parisian place to relax and enjoy the sunshine, try the Jardins des Tuileries. On a warm weekday it will be full of locals from the offices in the area, enjoying their lunch on one of the many shady benches, or stretching out on one of the chairs to catch some sun. Weekends it’s also popular, for bringing the children or enjoying a stroll.

There’s lots to do for children – trampolines, a carousel, and that typically Parisian children’s activity which I love – sailing old fashioned wooden boats on the ponds.

I like going there at all times of the year, but especially in the summer. There are plenty of chairs and it’s a wonderful place for a picnic, grab an extra chair to use as a table and you have one of the best eating spots in Paris. Sandwiched between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, there are plenty of sights within easy walking distance. So do like the Parisians do, buy a sandwich (and a couple of macaroons, why not?! Pierre Hermé is right nearby on the rue Cambon…) and head for a stroll in the Tuileries.

  • Jardins des Tuileries. 75001 Paris. Metro: Tuileries or Concorde on line 1

Galerie Vero-Dodat

The Galerie Vero-Dodat is one of the smaller of the covered passages that remain in Paris, and I think probably the most charming of them all.

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It was built in 1826 by Monsieurs Vero et Dodat, two pork butchers from neighboring streets who hoped to profit from the popularity of the nearby Palais Royal. It’s decorated in the neoclassical style, and is only 80 metres long – the impression of depth is given by the diagonal black and white floor tiles and the fact that all the shops have the same facades. It was also one of the first to be lit by gas lamps as soon as it opened, something of a novelty at the time.

Take a look at the ceiling, the non-glazed section is decorated with paintings of Hermes, the god of commerce, and Apollo, god of the arts.

You’ll also find the Paris flagship store of Christian Louboutin here, as well as several interesting fashion, art and design boutiques. Like the other passages, it feels like a small island within the city, if you have a free afternoon and enjoy a walk, get a map and visit several of them, they are all different and each very beautiful in their own way.

And if you’re feeling hungry, especially if it’s around brunch time, when you come out onto the rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, pop into Claus just opposite. You may not get a table if you haven’t reserved, but they do coffee and cakes to go (try their shop and takeaway just opened across the road), and everything is delicious!

  • Galerie Vero-Dodat, 75001 Paris. Enter by 19 rue Jean Jacques Rousseau or 2 rue du Bouloi. metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre or Louvre Rivoli

Fashion on the rue St Honoré

Running through the 1st and 8th arrondissements, the rue St Honoré is one of the mythical streets of fashion in Paris. Here you’ll find all the big names and more, and if you want to spend some serious money it’s a good place to do it! I prefer to window shop, the Hermes windows are an event every time they change, and you can also hang out in one of the most fashion forward shops in Paris – Colette at number 213.

One of the most interesting things I discovered was that Joan of Arc was injured here in 1429 whilst attempting to take the city of Paris with her army. It’s very hard to imagine nowadays, perhaps in this street more than some others. Today it’s definitely fashion that rules here.

  • rue St Honoré, 75001 Paris. metros: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre, Tuileries or Concorde

Ice cream at Pierre Hermé

We’ve been back to Pierre Hermé, it’s hard to stay away…!
As the weather is so beautiful we decided to try the ice cream – I’ve been wanting to for a while, especially as it has such a fantastic name. Miss Gla Gla: ice cream in French is ‘glace’, and ‘gla gla’ is what tiny French children (or cartoon characters!) say when they are cold.

I chose Ispahan, which was originally the macaroon flavour which contributed to making him famous: rose, litchi and raspberry.

What can I say?

P1060557Heaven…

It’s sandwiched between 2 thin layers of macaroon and needless to say is amazingly delicious. Sitting on a shady bench on the square by St Sulpice Church on a Saturday afternoon and eating this was a real treat.

Miss Gla Gla is available all summer and there are several fantastic flavours to choose from, so don’t miss out!

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Pierre Hermé

  • 72 rue Bonparte, 75006 Paris. Metro: St Sulpice
  • 4 rue Cambon, 75001 Paris. Metro: Concorde
  • 39 avenue de l’Opera, 75002 Paris. Metro: Pyramides or Opera

 

The best macaroons in Paris?

As far as I am concerned, Pierre Hermé is the king of macaroons, and believe me I have tried many…

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His shops are like tiny jewel boxes, filled with a mouth watering array of beautiful coloured gems, especially the one on the rue Bonaparte. He also makes the most beautiful and delicious cakes and chocolates, but the macaroons are what most people go for. Flavours change regularly with the seasons, so you can go often and never get bored. The thing that amazes me the most is how you can taste each flavour separately within often quite a complex mix, and yet they all harmonize together perfectly.

If you buy them in the shop on rue Cambon it’s just across from the Tuileries gardens, a perfect place to find a seat and enjoy them. If you’re at rue Bonaparte, the square outside St Sulpice church just opposite is lovely, and the café staff don’t seem to mind people having a coffee and eating them in there or on their terrace.

And this year I have discovered something even better, if you are a regular visitor to Paris, each month he brings out a new flavour in a series called ‘Les Jardins’. These are all based on fruit and flowers, and each time you buy one you get a card with it’s picture on. It’s a nice way to be encouraged to try new flavours, some strange sounding ones that I may have otherwise hesitated over turned out to be surprising discoveries!

Pierre Hermé

  • 72 rue Bonparte, 75006 Paris.  Metro: St Sulpice
  • 4 rue Cambon, 75001 Paris.  Metro: Concorde
  • 39 avenue de l’Opera, 75002 Paris.  Metro: Pyramides or Opera

Where to buy Pierre Hermé macarons

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A hidden oasis – the gardens of the Palais Royal

Just a stone’s throw away from the crowds at the Louvre, there’s a hidden paradise – tranquil gardens surrounded by chic boutiques and cafés. It feels like a well-kept secret, frequented by fashionable locals, petanque players and those like me just looking for a quiet spot to sip a coffee in the sunshine.

Exit the metro at Palais Royal onto Place Colette.

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Slip through the archway, past Daniel Buren’s columns, then head through the covered arcades…

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and you find yourself in the gardens of the Palais Royal. Former palace of the young Louis XIV and once home to Colette, these beautiful gardens are surrounded by elegant galleries: café terraces spill out into the sunshine, whilst the quiet arcades are now home to Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney and a host of other artisan boutiques.

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I love to grab a coffee and a slice of carrot cake or a cold pressed juice from one of the tiny cafés in the arcades, and find a shady bench under the clipped trees.

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Then I check out the vintage couture dresses at Didier Ludot.

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Why don’t you pop in for a stroll in the sunshine? You’ll find yourself coming back again and again.

Just don’t tell everybody…

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  • Enter through Place Colette or 8 rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris. Metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre