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Balenciaga at the Musée Bourdelle

The Musée Bourdelle is currently hosting a beautiful exhibition curated by the Palais Galleria. The spectacular monumental sculptures of Bourdelle are juxtaposed with the fine details of Balenciaga haute couture, all the more striking as all the dresses and hats featured are black, inviting us to look more closely at the depth and the details, as we do with the sculptures.

I have been planning on visiting the Musée Bourdelle for a while, and this gave me the perfect excuse. The museum is set in the sculptor’s 19th century studio and appartments in Montparnasse, and was extended in 1992 by architect Christian de Portzamparc. The studio and museum is set around a sculpture garden and a leafy and peaceful courtyard which existed already when Antoine Bourdelle lived and worked there.

Antoine Bourdelle worked with Rodin, setting up a free sculpture school in Montparnasse in 1900. He later broke away from Rodin, and found fame from 1910 onwards. The museum is home to a wonderful range of his work, from huge bronze and marble figures to smaller works in plaster, as well as photographs and drawings.

Alongsidehis work, in the light of the artist’s studio, the Balenciaga dresses appear as sculptures themselves. The different tonalities of black on velvet, satin, wool and feathers suddenly become apparent, and the setting allows us to examine the creativity and work of both artists in ways that we may not have done otherwise.

The exhibition L’Oeuvre Noir runs until July 16, but even after it ends I would highly recommend a visit to this wonderful museum.

  • Musée Bourdelle. 18 rue Antoine Bourdelle, 75015 Paris. metro: Montparnasse or Falguière

Open daily 10:00 – 18:00 except Mondays

Website (in English)

link to map

Hermes hors les murs

Last weekend, and all through this week, the master craftsmen and women from Hermes have left their workshops and taken up residence at the Carreau du Temple in the Marais to showcase their skills, passion and exquisite craftsmanship. Ten different metiers are carefuly demonstrated and explained – I particularly enjoyed watching a bag being hand stitched, gloves being cut out and the edges of the famous scarves being handrolled. You can gather right around the workbenches and chat to the artisans about their work, the studies that took them there, day to day life in the Hermes ateliers, and the techniques that they are demonstrating.

There is also a creative workshop if you want to join in, a bookshop, an organic café, and a wide programme of presentations and discussion forums thoughout the week. It’s a rare chance to see first hand and up close the incredible craftsmanship that goes into making these beautiful pieces of work.

Until 26 Nov 2016. Entry is free.

  • Le Carreau du Temple, 4 rue Eugene Spuller, 75003 Paris.  metro: Temple

Website (in English)

White Nights in Paris

On the first Saturday in October Paris stays up all night in honour of Nuit Blanche, a contemporary art festival now in its 15th year. Each year an artistic director is nominated by the City of Paris:  this year it’s Jean de Loisy, President of the contemproary art museum the Palais de Tokyo, who invited 40 artists to present their works throughout the city.

The 2016 Nuit Blanche follows a love story, based on a 15th century Italian novel ‘Poliphilo’s strife of love in a dream’. Rewritten by Yannick Haenel especially for Nuit Blanche, as we read the story we follow Poliphilo in pursuit of his love, the nymph Polia, through a dreamlike landscape. The main artworks providing the backdrop for the story are situated along the Seine river stretching from the west to the east of the city, but there is also an ‘Off’ festival scattered throughout the whole city.

Information booklets and maps are available, as is an app (also available in English), to ensure that you don’t get lost or miss anything, and copies of the modern version of the story. You can easily walk or cycle between the different installations, plenty of people are out enjoying the art and the atmosphere, and it’s a different and fascinating way to spend a night in Paris.

Nuit Blanche facebook page.

 

A Russian church hidden in the 15th arrondissement

Behind a very ordinary looking door on the rue Lecourbe is a tiny corner of the Russian countryside, a beautiful wooden church built of red cedar, with a profusion of flowers growing outside and two trees growing inside! The Russian Orthodox church of Saint Seraphin de Sarov was founded in 1933, built with donations – often very modest – from white Russians fleeing their country in the 1920’s, many of whom settled in the 15th arrondissement and worked in the nearby Renault and Citroen factories. The area offered affordable housing, proximity to work, and a sizeable Russian community settled there. The first chapel was built out of old sheds, with two of the trees on the plot remaining in the nave.

The current church was built in 1974, and still houses the two trees inside (only one is still living, the other is just the lower half of the trunk). It’s a world apart from the busy shopping street outside, a peaceful haven lit dimly by candles and chandeliers and fragrant with incense.

I visited the church a couple of weeks ago when it opened as part of the Journées du Patrimoine, it also sometimes opens for the Fete des Jardins. If you have a chance to visit make sure you do, it’s a magical and enchanting place, a little piece of history nestling in the city, entirely hidden and unknown to most of the passers by.

  • Eglise St Seraphin de Sarov, 91 rue Lecourbe, 75015 Paris. metro: Sevres Lecourbe or Volontaires

Website

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The Tour de France on the Champs Elysées

If you’re in Paris for the end of the Tour de France, even if you’re not a cycling fan, the arrival on the Champs Elysées is a French sporting tradition that is not to be missed. This incredible race takes place over 3 weeks each summer and has done since 1903 (except for during the two world wars). It criss-crosses the country, taking in some spectacular scenery along the way, including incredible, gruelling mountain stages in both the Alps and the Pyrenées, and the route is lined with over 12 million spectators each year.

It’s a mythical and magnificent race, and it ends on the Champs Elysées. It’s the perfect place to watch it, they lap 8 times up and down the avenue and around the Arc de Triomphe, so you have plenty of chances to spot the yellow jersey. This year I was lucky enough to get invited to watch it from the terrace on the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and as a big fan of the Tour it was a huge treat.

Even if you’re not in Paris, if you happen to be in France in July, check the website and see if it’s coming to a place near you.

Tour de France website (in English)

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Open days – les Beaux-Arts de Paris

Les Beaux Arts is the most prestigious art school in Paris, and among the very best in the world. Every year in early July, at the end of the academic year, they open their doors to the public to show the work of their students and allow a rare visit to their spectacular site.

The school is set in the heart of St Germain des Près, facing the Louvre on the other side of the river. It covers 2 hectares (almost 5 acres) and the vast complex of buildings date from the 17th – 20th centuries – the school was originaly founded by Louis XIV. Students study here for 5 years, taught by contemporary artists and surrounded by an incredible collection of over 450 000 artworks, a huge library and four centuries of artistic excellence.

We were thrilled by the chance to see not only the beautiful buildings steeped in the history of art, but also the creativity and passion of today’s students, and their varied and fascinating work. The Beaux-Arts do not open their doors to the public very often, but when they do, a glimpse into their world is something not to be missed.

  • Ecole des Beaux Arts, 14 rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris. metro: St Germain des Près

Website (in English)

Fete de la musique

If you’re in Paris, or anywhere in France, on 21st June, make sure you go out into the streets from mid-afternoon onwards. There is music on every street corner, in the parks and squares, spilling out of the bars and cafés, and it goes on all night. At this time of year the weather is usually balmy, the Parisians are also delighted to be out in the sunshine, and you can spend the evening, and most of the night (the metro exceptionally runs all night) wandering the streets and enjoying music of every kind.

 

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Open days – the gardens at Matignon

The Hotel Matignon is the residence and place of work of the French Prime Minister, and has been since 1935. It is a beautiful early 18th century mansion, set in a large park in the 7th arrondissement, at 3 hectares (7.5 acres) it is the largest private garden in the city.

Normally you can’t visit, but this weekend parks and gardens all across France open to the public for the Rendez-vous aux Jardins, and Matignon exceptionally opens the doors of its magnificent park.

The mansion once belonged to the Grimaldi family, princes of Monaco, and was then home to the Duchess of Galleria and later the Comte de Paris. The 18th century gardens are mainly laid out in the French formal style, but in the 19th century a more romantic section was also added, as was a spectacular double allée of 111 pleached limes.  Later an entertaining area was designed in front of the house. One of the gardeners described to us how the lawn was imagined to look like an ocean, with white flowers planted across it here and there in ribbons to ressemble the froth on the waves, and how banqueting tables would be laid under the trees, with carpets spread across the lawn to dance on.

Nowadays it’s perhaps a little less glamorous, especially as the government tries to cut back on their spending, but it’s still an incredible and beautiful garden, and such an expanse of lush greenery is something quite unexpected in the heart of a city.

  • Hotel Matignon, 57 rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris. Entrance to the gardens at 36 rue de Babylone. metro: rue du Bac or Varenne

Rendez-vous aux jardins continues tomorrow. Check their website (in English) for details of gardens participating.

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)

 

Open days – artists’ studios in Belleville

Last weekend over 120 artists’ studios and galleries around Belleville, showing work by 250 artists, opened their doors to the public. I really love these open days – not only do they give you a chance to discover the work of the artists, to meet the artists themselves and talk to them about their work, but they also open up hidden courtyards and passages, and encourage you to explore the city in a different way.

Belleville is a fascinating part of Paris, a cultural melting pot which still holds on to the village atmosphere of its past. Now home to a vibrant and diverse community of artists, you can wander the streets with the map provided and push open the doors into a sometimes hidden world.

The atmosphere at these open days is always festive and joyful, the artists are welcoming and you constantly bump into people strolling the streets armed with the map as you are. There is often music and always plenty of places to eat, and on a sunny day it’s a wonderful way to explore a part of the city that is full of creative energy.

The open days in Belleville are held once a year on the last weekend in May (this year they have been extended across 2 weekends), and this is the biggest of the open days held around the city. If you are here at other times of the year there are the open days in Abbesses in November, around Père Lachaise in late April, and several others throughout the year. All the open days are free.

metros: Belleville, Pyrénées or Jourdain, 75020 Paris

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

Iris in Paris

I often marvel at the way the ordinary in Paris can be made into something special. Today I stopped in at the Bon Marché department store to pick up a couple of things, and found myself in an amazing Iris Apfel exhibition. I love Iris Apfel – her style, sense of humor and attitude to life. Here she has imagined 10 occasions that she might take part in during a visit to Paris – fashion week, a visit to the flea markets, a dinner party, a cocktail evening or a night at the opera. She has put together an outfit for each from her own collection, she is seen wearing each one in an interview where she talks about fashion and her memories of visits to Paris. Each outfit has been loaned for the exhibition and is on display.

In the windows outside, the outfits have been recreated by illustrator Eric Giriat, who has placed her at the occasions she describes: in the front row at fashion week, at the opera or in the park. Inside you can buy items from a capsule collection of accessories she put together, including her trademark glasses and a wonderful silk scarf, also drawn by Giriat and depicting the Eiffel Tower wearing her other trademark, a string of bracelets.

Iris in Paris runs until April 16.

  • Le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sevres, 75007 Paris. metro: Severs Babylone

Open Mon-Sat 10:00 – 20:00

Les Grands Voisins

In the 14th arrondissement, the Hopital Saint Vincent de Paul has been closed since 2011. In a few years this old maternity hospital – parts of which date back to the 17th century – will become a vast eco-quarter. In the meantime, three associations have transformed it into a shared space where people live, create, work and form a community that supports itself and each other.

Les Grands Voisins provides a home for those in need, a space for artists and artisans to create and work, a meeting space for associations and clubs to provide classes, cultural activities and much more.  It relies on its residents to take care of it and of each other – old hospital furniture is reused and recycled, plants and bees thrive in the gardens and the space is open to the public to come and participate, meet the residents, and join the community effort. It’s a different way of living in the heart of the city.

During a visit you can find all kinds of treasures – amongst them a second hand shop selling everything from books to vintage crockery, a potter making beautiful, delicate bowls, teapots and lights, and a wonderful plant nursery and concept store that also runs workshops – Mama Petula

The lingerie – the old laundry – is now a café and meeting place, also hosting debates and concerts. A board on the wall lists the activities for the week: yoga, qi gong, community barbecues, workshops and more. The atmosphere is friendly, joyful and convivial, it’s a breath of fresh air in a city where such community spirit and generosity can sometimes seem hard to find.

600 people live at Les Grands Voisins, 300 work there in over 70 associations, workshops and companies. Eighty students still study at the midwifery school. This weekend they participated in the 48 Hours of Urban Agriculture that was taking place across the city. There is always something going on and visitors are welcome. Take some time to stop in and support this impressive community before the hospital is torn down and disappears.

  • Les Grands Voisins, Hôpital Saint Vincent de Paul, 82 avenue Denfert Rochereau, 75014. metro: Denfert Rochereau

Open Wed-Sat 10:00 – 23:00. Sun 10:00 – 21:00

Les Grands Voisins Facebook page

 

Ai Weiwei at the Bon Marché

Le Bon Marché department store on the left bank is currently home to Ai Weiwei’s first work ever created for a retail space, allowing him as he put it ‘to encounter a new audience’. Er Xi – Child’s Play – begins outside in the department store windows, showing a prelude to the works inside. Depicting fantastical creatures alongside a contemporary storyline, many refer back to recurring themes in his own previous works as well as paying homage to Paris through both his father’s work when he lived in Paris in the 1920’s and 30’s as a young poet (‘Paris, tu es absurde’) and references to Marcel Duchamp.

The delicate and ethereal creatures floating in the main atrium above the cosmetics department were inspired by the 2000 year old Chinese traditional children’s stories Shan Hai Jing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) which Ai Weiwei laments have been lost to recent generations due to the censorship laws imposed in the PRC. Made by master Chinese kite makers from bamboo and white silk paper, the works were constructed using traditional methods and took a year to complete. Several are left in bamboo skeleton form, without paper, so we can better appreciate the intricate craftsmanship.

A 20 metro long dragon, broken into four parts, fills the gallery space. Here you can also watch a short film of Ai Weiwei explaining how the exhibition came about, and how he feels about Paris.

Don’t miss the ‘selfie wall’ upstairs, reminding us of Ai Weiwei’s prolific use of social media. When asked about exhibiting in a store as opposed to a museum or gallery space, Weiwei says “People experience the art as they go about their day and something unconsciously happens”.

Er Xi is at the Bon Marché until 20 February

  • Le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sevres, 75007 Paris.  metro: Sevres Babylone
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Open days – Artists studios from Anvers to Abbesses

This weekend it was the turn of 120 artists living and working in the 9th and 18th arrondissements – between approximately Anvers and Abbesses – to open their workshops, galleries, shops and sometimes even their homes to the public. Organised by the artists association ‘d’Anvers aux Abbesses’ it takes place each year on the 3rd weekend of November, and this year celebrates it’s 20th anniversary.

It’s a wonderful way to spend a day – you get to explore areas that you may not otherwise visit, to step into hidden courtyards, down tiny stairways into workshops, or go up the stairs into apartments and studios, all filled with amazing works of contemporary art. More than that, it’s a chance to meet the artists, to talk to them about their work, buy works if you wish and show them your support.

The association organizing the weekend provides a free, easy to follow map with a list of all the artists and their mediums. You can wander around and visit as many or as few as you like, in any order. The area around Montmartre is also full of lively cafés and restaurants and there are plenty of places to stop and relax between visits. On a beautiful crisp, sunny day like today, Paris is at her creative and beautiful best.

Anvers aux Abbesses artists association website (in French)

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Yves Saint Laurent at the Salon du Vintage

It’s the Autumn edition of the Salon du Vintage this weekend at the Carreau du Temple in the Marais. Not only do we have the chance to peruse and buy from an incredible range of vintage clothes stands, but there is also a wonderful collection of the iconic ‘Sahariennes’ by Yves St Laurent on show.

First presented in 1968, the Saharienne became one of the emblematic pieces in the Yves Saint Laurent collections, and was remodeled many times over the years. The beautiful pieces on show here range from 1969 to 1980 and are from the collection of Olivier Chatenet.

As well as this amazing collection, there is huge range of vintage clothes stands to suit all budgets. If you are looking for quality vintage clothes or some iconic designer pieces, this is the place to come. There’s also an exhibition of designer chairs from 1960 – 1990, mid-century modern furniture, vinyl records and handmade jewellery.

The Salon du Vintage is open again tomorrow 18 October, and is held several times a year, usually in the Marais. Check out their website for upcoming editions and locations.

  • Salon du Vintage, Carreau du Temple, 4 rue Eugene Spuller, 75003 Paris

Salon du Vintage website (in French)

Hermes pop up exhibition

Flaner is a French verb that is difficult to translate, perhaps because it’s a typically French pastime. It means to wander, to walk with no particular destination in mind, to sit on a café terrace and watch the world go by… It’s something that Parisians excel at, and Paris is the perfect place to practice it.

On the riverside in front of the Musée d’Orsay, Hemés have installed a pop up exhibition curated by the designer Hubert le Gall, ‘Dans l’oeil du Flaneur’, dedicated to this particular French art form. It take you on a walk through an imaginary and  magical Paris, where street lamps hang upside down, a café is home to strange objects left behind by their owners (and has a nightclub for dogs underneath it!), graffiti artists carry their spray cans in huge Birkin bags and you can peep through windows into houses where the objects seem to have taken on a life of their own.

Showcasing articles from their current collections and the Hermes archives, it’s a delightful trip into a whimsical Paris.

  • Dans l’Oeil du Flaneur, Port de Solferino, Berges de Seine, 75007 Paris.  Metro: Musée d’Orsay or Assemblée Nationale

Open 11:00 – 19:00 (22:00 Thursdays). Entry is free, but book online to avoid standing in line. Exhibition ends 5 October.

Website (in French)

Paris Plages

Every summer, from mid-July to mid-August, 3.5km of the busy road running along the Seine in the centre of the city is closed off and transformed into a beach, complete with golden sand, palm trees, deck chairs and petanque players. Introduced by the socialist Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe in 2002, Parisians who were not leaving the city to go on summer holidays discovered the joy of going to the beach in the heart of their city, and since then it has become a Parisian institution and also been the inspiration for many other towns and cities around Europe.

There are plenty of deck chairs and parasols, food trucks and ice cream stalls, dancing and ‘baby foot’, children’s clubs and petanque balls on loan. The atmosphere is relaxed and laid back. On a sunny afternoon it’s a great place for a stroll along the riverside, or take a book and find a deckchair in the shade.

As well as the beach running along the Voie Goerges Pompidou, Paris Plages can be found alongside the canal in the Bassin de la Villette in north east Paris. There are also beach volleyball courts in front of the Hotel de Ville.

  • Voie Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris. métro: Pont Neuf/Hotel de Ville/Chatelet/Cité
  • Bassin de la Villette, 75019 Paris. metro: Stalingrad

Paris Plages (map)

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Championship tennis at Roland Garros

Every year in May, right after the Cannes film festival, the French Open Tennis Championships are held at Roland Garros in the west of Paris. The tournament lasts two weeks, usually benefits from perfect weather, and it’s possible to spend a wonderful day there watching some great tennis without breaking the bank.

You have to buy your tickets online, they have your name on and you need to bring id. We got tickets for 30€ and had access to all courts from court 2 outwards for the whole of Saturday. All the big name players are there, the atmosphere is great, especially when a French player is involved, and there are 20 courts so plenty going on. Arrive early (around 10am) if you want to get into the courts first thing without standing in line.

Roland Garros official website

  • Stade Roland Garros, 2 avenue Gordon Bennett, 76016 Paris

The Fashion Museum at the Palais Galliera

The beautiful Palais Galliera is home to the Fashion Museum of Paris. Their collection is outstanding, but due to the fragile nature of the pieces they are stored in the dark to protect them, and only temporary exhibitions are shown in the museum. This however allows them to focus on one theme, one period or one designer – currently there is a wonderful exhibition of clothes by Jeanne Lanvin which Alber Elbaz, the current artistic director of Lanvin, has collaborated closely on.

Check out their excellent website for current and upcoming exhibitions. The museum is closed between exhibitions. I can highly recommend the current Lanvin exhibition, the pieces are incredibly beautiful, and the chance to see such workmanship up close is a real treat. Photos of course are not allowed inside in order to preserve the delicate clothes.

  • Palais Galliera, 10 avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, 75016 Paris. métro: Iena

Palais Galliera

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Open Days – Artists studios around Pere Lachaise

Several times a year it’s possible to visit working artist’s studios in the city. Different ‘quartiers’ or associations will organize open days when a group of artists open their studios and show their work – maps are provided and it’s easy to walk between them all This weekend it’s the turn of the artists working around the south side of the 20th arrondissement, in a fascinating part of eastern Paris. Not only is it a chance to discover, meet and talk to the artists, as well as buy their work, it also gives you the opportunity to explore areas of the city that you may not otherwise find yourself in, and generally if there are groups are artists working there I find they are areas well worth exploring. The area around the southern side of Pere Lachaise cemetery has tiny lanes which almost transport you into the countryside, studios both old and new tucked away in courtyards and gardens, vintage shops, organic shops and a diverse range of cafés and restaurants, both modern and traditional, all hidden behind modern apartment buildings.

The area around the rue des Vignoles is home to around 15 tiny alleyways dating from the 19th century, originally built to house local workers. We loved impasse Poule, 60 metres long and only 2 metres wide! We spent a lovely afternoon wandering around the studios, and stopping for mint tea and cakes in between visits. 40 artists opened their studios, and do so twice a year. Next week it’s the artists around Belleville who are holding open days, and I’ll be heading up there to see their work and explore another fascinating and often overlooked part of the city.

  • Area between metros Alexandre Dumas and Maraichers, 75020 Paris

Open days – Pere Lachaise

Olafur Eliasson at the Fondation Louis Vuitton

In 2003 I saw Olafur Eliasson’s installation The Weather Project in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in London. It was, and still is, one of the most incredible art installations I have seen.

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So when I read that Eliasson has the first major exhibition at the newly opened Fondation Louis Vuitton, I went as soon as I could. Open since 17 December, and running until 16 February 2015, Contact did not disappoint. I left feeling completely enchanted, as if I had just spent some time in another dimension. Set in a series of darkened rooms, each space transported and delighted us.

Buy a timed entry ticket online on the website of the Fondation, you go straight past the lines and it gives you access to all the permanent exhibition space too.
One thing is sure, I’ll be going back to see Contact again before it ends.

  • Olafur Eliasson – Contact – Fondation Louis Vuitton, 8 avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, 75116 Paris

Take the metro to Les Sablons and it’s about a 10 minute walk (it’s signposted). Otherwise take the electric shuttle bus from Charles de Gaulle Etoile, on the corner of Avenue Friedland, for 1€

Fondation Louis Vuitton

 

Fondation Louis Vuitton-Paris-Art

The 10 best things to do in Paris over the winter holidays

Here are a few of my favorite things to do in Paris over the winter holiday season:

  • Go ice skating. Ice rinks pop up all over the city. How about skating on the Eiffel Tower? For the price of your ticket you get free access, skates included, to the 190m2 ice rink installed on the first floor, 57 metres above ground. A pop up café serves hot chocolate or hot wine for skaters, or those who just prefer to watch. Open until the end of January. Note that the Eiffel Tower is open on Christmas day!
  • Go and check out the window displays in the big department stores. The Parisians take their children every year. My favourite ones are at the Bon Marché on the left bank.
  • Drop into the Galeries Lafayette and take a look at their amazing Christmas tree in the dome.
  • Take a walk up the Champs Elysées after dark and enjoy the magical Christmas lights, then climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for wonderful views across the city, including a bird’s eye view of the Eiffel Tower lit up (remember she sparkles on the hour every hour for 5 minutes).
  • After a stroll in the Tuileries Gardens head to Angelina on the rue de Rivoli and enjoy a cup of delicious hot chocolate, the best in the city.
  • Visit a church and see a traditional nativity scene. Households all over France prepare their own, using traditional ‘santons’ or clay figurines made in Provence in the South of France.  You can collect an entire village full of colourful, traditional Provencal figures, we buy one or two new ones every year to add to ours. If you want to take some home and start your own collection, there is a small shop called Georges Thuillier on Place St Sulpice that sells them, otherwise look out for them at the Christmas markets. The most famous ones are made by Carbonel, Fouque or Escoffier.
  • Take a ride on one of the city’s traditional carrousels. Many are installed all around the city for the Christmas period and they are free throughout the holiday period. Try the Hotel de Ville (by the ice rink), the Tuileries or Montmartre. Many more pop up across the city, so keep your eyes open or check out this map.
  • Go to one of the big department stores food halls, I suggest the Grand Epicerie at the Bon Marché or Lafayette Gourmet across from the Galeries Lafayette. The French take Christmas and New year eating very seriously. It’s a chance to indulge in all sorts of delicacies, and the food is always both delicious and incredibly beautiful. Look out for the Bûches de Noel, or Yule logs.
  • Religious or not, go to midnight mass at Notre Dame on 24th December, the service is beautiful and it’s a very special way to see the cathedral.
  • Walk around the city. On a clear day Paris is amazingly beautiful in the winter, and less crowded than the summer months. Wrap up warm, take a map and just stroll around the streets. There are plenty of cafés to drop into when you need a rest or warming up, the major museums are open (except for 25 Dec and 1 Jan) and although the days are shorter, the Christmas lights across the city more than make up for it.

 

 

 

 

Vintage couture fashion – the salon du vintage

Like the Puces du Design, the Salon du Vintage is held twice a year in Paris, and its locations vary, although the two I have been to this year have both been in the Marais. This weekend it was held in the magnificent Carreau du Temple, a covered market hall built in 1860 in the haut Marais that has recently been completely restored.

The theme of this edition was British fashion from the 1950’s to the 1990s, and there was an exhibition of iconic designer dresses, curated by a lovely friend of mine Tara from Oh la la! Vintage – featuring Ossie Clarke, Mary Quant, Biba, Vivienne Westwood and many more. All the dresses in the exhibition were for sale, a chance to buy something really rare and special.

There’s fashion here for all budgets, including the most beautiful designer pieces from all the big names. If you love vintage fashion, and want to pick up an amazing collector item as an addition to your wardrobe, something individual, or just browse for ideas, this is the place to do it. There’s also a DJ (Boy George played the Saturday night set) and dancing, as well as a hair salon and café.

Check out their website for locations of upcoming editions.

Salon du Vintage

 

 

Les Puces du Design – The Parisian designer flea market

This past weekend was the ‘Puces du Design’, the flea market dedicated to furniture from the 1950’s to 2000.

Now in it’s 15th year, this street market brings together around 100 gallerists and dealers showcasing, and of course selling, all the iconic names in furniture and lighting design – all original vintage and in pristine condition. It’s a design lovers paradise…

The Puces du Design is held twice a year in October and May, locations around the city vary. Check out their website for information about past and upcoming editions.

Les Puces du Design