Villages in Paris – the Square des Peupliers & rue Dieulafoy

I love the hidden corners of Paris that you can stumble upon and suddenly find yourself transported somewhere else, often to a small French town or village. The Sqaure des Peupliers is one of those places, a few narrow cobbled streets full of birdsong and the scent of flowers. Located in the 13th arrondissement, this tiny triangle of provincial France is a lovely detour in the spring and summer. Built in 1926 on the site of old quarries and the river bed of the Bievre, long since disappeared, grand building projects were not possible, and so a charming quarter of modest sized houses was built.

Nowadays, living in one of these houses is pretty much an impossible dream for most of us, but a stroll through the alleyways is available to everyone and is always a pleasure!

Whilst you are there, you can also see the nearby rue Dieulafoy, This street is very different to others in Paris. It’s lined with tall houses, each painted a different pastel colour, and each almost identical, with strange shaped slate roofs. The architect Henry Trésal designed the 44 identical houses in 1921. At the time they were aimed at middle class buyers, and were equipped with a modern bathroom and an obligatory 2.50m space between the house and the pavement, allowing today for some very pretty gardens. Many of the houses have been modified over the years, but you can still see the unity of the architecture in the street.

If you’re visiting the Butte Aux Cailles it’s well worth taking a few extra minutes to explore these two charming streets.

Square des Peupliers,  & rue Dieulafoy, 75013 Paris. metro: Tolbiac

link to map

 

Image

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

Image

Modernist architects and modern artists in the Villa Seurat

Built between 1924 and 1926, the Villa Seurat is a group of remarkable artist’s homes and studios, eight of them built by the Modernist architect André Lurçat. 1920’s Paris – and more particularly Montparnasse – was home to an extraordinary community of artists and writers of all nationalities. They frequent the salons of Gertrude Stein, gather at Shakespeare and Company – located in Odeon at the time and run by Sylvia Beach – and drink and dance at the infamous cafés of Montparnasse – La Coupole, le Dome, la Closerie des Lilas, and the cantine and academy of Marie Vassilieff, the Villa Vassilieff. Today, a walk down this small cul-de-sac is a treat for any fans of modernist architecture, and delving into its enthralling history, and that of its residents (Soutine, Henry Miller – who wrote Tropic of Cancer here, Anais Nin, Dali, Chana Orloff, Jean Lurçat to name but a few) is to take a step into the heart of  Paris during ‘Les Années Folles’.

I visited today and was lucky to be able to have a guided visit inside No 7 bis, the atelier of sculptor Chana Orloff, today lived in and lovingly restored by her grandchildren. This house and studio was designed by her friend Auguste Perret in 1926. The double height workshop and showroom allowed for her monumental sculptures. It was destroyed under the Nazi occupation during WWII (she was Jewish) but she bought it back in 1945. I found the story of her life and work extremely compelling, along with those of her friends and contemporaries – Modigliani, Soutine, Zadkine and Chagall, amongst many others. The studio is open by appointment, or on special open weekends such as this one. (it was part of the programme during Paris Face Cachée 2017).

Even if you are not able to go inside any of the studios, a short stroll down the Villa Seurat is a must for lovers of modernist art and architecture alike.

For a full list of architects and residents of the Villa Seurat check the wikipedia page.

  • Villa Seurat, 75014 Paris.  metro: Alesia

The Villa Vassilieff – Montparnasse

The Villa Vassilieff is a tiny piece of old Montparnasse, the Montparnasse of artist’s studios, low houses and small cobbled alleyways, before it was all torn down in the 1970’s to build the ultra-ugly Montparnasse Tower and the surrounding and equally ugly shopping centre and offices.

From 1910 onwards, penniless artists and writers came to live in Montparnasse from all over the world, deserting Montmartre and enjoying the creative and bohemian atmosphere, the cheap rents in artist’s communes  such as La Ruche, and the bars and cafés that served as both intellectual meeting places and became essential lifelines to the artists living in poverty with no heating and no kitchens.

The Villa Vassilieff was one of these communes, once the studio and academy of artist Marie Vassilieff, who then transformed it during WW1 into a canteen, ‘La Cantine des Artistes’. She fed artists and writers, who at the time could scarcely afford to feed themsleves, a hearty meal and a glass of wine for a couple of centimes – Picasso, Modigliani, Soutine, Matisse, Zadkine, Chagall, Braque, Max Jacob, Léger and Apollinaire, among others. During the war cafés were obliged by law to close early, but as Marie’s canteen was registered as a private club, it did not have to apply this rule, and became the meeting place for the local artistic community, filled each night with music and dancing.

In 1929 Marie moved her studio, and the Villa was occupied by architects, other artists and then a museum. It was almost demolished in 1992, saved by photographer Robert Doisneau and actress Juliette Binoche. In February 2016 it reopened after renovations as a residence and exhobition space for artists. Sponsors provide grants allowing 4 international artists to live and work there each year, and workshops and seminars are held regularly along with changning exhibitions, aimed at connecting past and present Montparnasse.

Take a step back in time into the Montparnasse of ‘Les Années folles’. In the Villa Vassilieff the office blocks and traffic outside are forgotten and you get a rare glimpse into a Paris of the past where it’s quite possible the spirits of some of the greatest artistic and literary figures still live on, as new life and creativity is breathed into the studios once again.

  • Villa Vassilieff, 21 avenue du Maine, 75014 Paris. metro: Montparnasse Bienvenue

Villa Vassilieff website (in English)

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

Image

La Ruche – legendary artists in the 15th arrondissement

La Ruche is an amazing hidden treasure, not only beautiful but steeped in incredible history.

It literally translates as ‘the beehive’, and is a group of artists’ studios in the 15th arrondissement – in fact it is one of the most important artistic centres of the 20th century – set in a beautiful semi-wild garden and locked behind huge wrought iron gates. It was called as such first because of its octagonal shape (like a large beehive) with the studios set into it like a honeycomb, and also to evoke the feverish work of the artists who lived and worked there.

In 1900 Alfred Boucher, a wealthy artist from a humble background, bought 5000m2 of land in the Vaugirard area in the south of the city, an unfashionable and cheap part of town in those days. At the end of the Universal Exhibition of 1900, he also bought the Wines of Bordeaux Pavilion from the exhibition, a temporary building with a metallic structure designed by Gustave Eiffel, and had it rebuilt on this land. The gates were from the Women’s Pavilion and the two caryatides flanking the main doors from the Indonesian Pavilion. His aim was to set up a group of artists’ studios, providing living, working and exhibition space to artists in need of help and patronage, as he had once been.

The studios were small, with no electricity and one tap shared between all of them, but rents were low, or even non-existant for the most impoverished. Artists came from all over Europe, staying anything from a few months to a lifetime (the oldest resident today is apparently over 90 and was born there to artist parents) and included Chagall, Soutine, Zadkine, Modigliani, Apollinaire, Brancusi, Blaise Cendrars and Diego Rivera, amongst many others.

La Ruche fell into decline during WWII and was almost demolished in the late 1960s, but it was saved by another group of artists in the early 70s and later renovated by the Seydoux Foundation (who apparently had initially planned to finance the renovations of the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre, after it completely burned down they decided to renovate and restore La Ruche in it’s place).

Today is is home to 70 artists who either live or work there, or both, 23 of them in the central ‘beehive’ building. The studios are slightly larger than they were originally, and the surrounding buildings also form part of the community, all set in idyllic gardens. It’s not open to the public, I went as part of a guided visit which I booked in advance, but they do run occasionally and if you speak French it’s really worth doing. It’s a magical place, both for its charm and beauty, its incredible history and that of the artists who have passed through its doors, and for the continuing creative activity today.

  • La Ruche, 2 Passage de Dantzig, 75015 Paris. metro: Convention

Website (in French)

Image

Villages in Paris – La Butte Aux Cailles

The Butte aux Cailles is one of the most picturesque parts of Paris. Once a village on the outskirts of the city, with the river Bievre (now filled in) running through it and surrounded by windmills, it housed workers employed in the industries that grew up around the river – mainly tanners and laundries. It’s located in the 13th arrondissement in the south of the city, and a walk around the pretty streets can feel like taking a stroll though a small country town.

The area really feels special in the city. It’s located at the top of a small hill, and does not have a supermarket or any chain stores. The streets are narrow and often cobbled, the area was spared the modernisation under Haussmann that changed so much of the rest of the city, and you’ll find individual houses up here with their own gardens, something extremely rare in Paris. In the spring the wisteria and blossoms fill the streets with colour and the air with perfume. Several artists now have their studios here, and the once modest area is now seeing real estate prices rise faster than almost any other part of the city.

A walk around the Butte aux Cailles is a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon. There are plenty of cafés and small restaurants, lots of street art, and one of the oldest and most beautiful swimming pools in Paris, the Piscine de la Butte aux Cailles– built in 1924 it has both and indoor and outdoor pools.

Butte aux Cailles, Paris, swimming pool

 

Take a look at the drinking water fountain on Place Paul Verlaine, the small square in front of the swimming pool. It dispenses mineral water from an artesian well and you can often see locals filling up their bottles from it. The swimming pool also uses this water – the original Bains Douches built in 1908 used hot water also from the springs and the outdoor pools are still filled with this warm water.

Take the metro to Glacière or Corvisart and walk up the hill. The main heart of the area is the rue de la Butte aux Cailles, this street is picturesque during the day and a lively and fun place to have a drink or dinner in the evenings. Whatever the weather or the time of day, the Butte aux Cailles is one of the most charming areas in Paris.

  • Metro Glacière or Corvisart. 75013 Paris.

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

 

A day with Le Corbusier in Paris

With a little planning and a metro pass, fans of Le Corbusier can spend a full day in Paris visiting some of his most iconic works. Some are open for visits, others not, but all the ones listed below are easily visible and can be seen in one day – two if you want to head out to the suburbs and add the iconic Villa Savoye to your list. (Make sure you do the visits on a Saturday if you want to go inside his studio-apartment).

Start your day on the western side of Paris, in the 16th arrondissement at the Maison la Roche. Designed and built between 1923 and 1925 to show a collector’s extensive collection of modern art, it was one of his first experimental houses and demonstrates what Le Corbusier later identified as his ‘Five Points of a New Architecture’ – a building elevated on stilts, with a roof garden, horizontal strip windows, an open plan layout and free design of the facade – all made possible by his use of new materials such as concrete. The Maison la Roche is a wonderful example of one of Le Corbusier’s first purist villas.

After the Maison la Roche, it’s a short metro ride or walk to the Immeuble Molitor, including his own studio-apartment. Completed in 1934, it was where Le Corbusier lived and worked until his death in 1965. Here we can see how he expanded on his Five Points, and continued to work on the use of space and light. The Immeuble Molitor was the first residential building to be built with a facade made entirely of glass, and uses three different types of glass to obtain different effects with light. Like in the Maison la Roche, the furniture is sparse and leaves the architecture itself to take centre stage. (Note, as of March 2016 you need to make a reservation to visit, contact reservation@fondationlecorbusier.fr)

If you have time, whilst you are in this area I recommend strolling over to the Villa Cook, another of Le Corbusier’s purist villas, built in 1926 for an American journalist. It also develops all of the principals that later became his Five Points (the open section of the ground floor has since been filled in). Even though it’s not open for visits it’s well worth the trip, as it’s sandwiched between two other spectacular modernist villas, the Villa Collinet (1926) by Robert Mallet Stevens and the Villa Dublin (1929) by Raymond Fischer.

Have a break for lunch, and then take the metro across town to the eastern side of Paris.

Start with the Maison-Atelier Ozenfant, situated on the end of a beautiful cobbled street that borders the Parc Montsouris in the 14th arrondissement. Built in 1923 as a house and studio for his friend the purist painter Amédée Ozenfant it was one of Le Corbusier’s first purist villas, and began to set out his ideas for his Five Points.

Le Corbusier-Maison Atelier d'Ozenfant-Paris

Head up through the beautiful Parc Montsouris, and into the Cité Universitaire – the international halls of residence for the Paris universities. First stop is the Pavillion Suisse, designed and built between 1930 and 1933. A metallic structure built on stilts, it develops Le Corbusier’s theory of a ‘machine for living’. The rooms are set on the top 3 corridors and the ground floor communal areas are decorated with murals and furniture by Le Corbusier – you can visit the ground floor for 2€.

A few hundred metres away is the Maison du Bresil, built in 1953. The project was begun by Brazilian architect Lucio Costa who called on his friend Le Corbusier, already experienced with the Pavillon Suisse, to help him. Le Corbusier changed the concept to such an extent that Costa abandoned the project to him. One again the building is elevated on columns, leaving an open space underneath for people to circulate and to provide the communal areas (these can also be visited for 1€).

Then it’s time to walk down the Boulevard to the Maison Planeix. Also built for an artist, it has the same basic structure as the Maison Ozenfant, the apartment section is beneath the artist’s studio. The Maison Planeix differs from the Villa La Roche, as it is an urban house built between 2 others, rather than occupying its own space. The facade is aligned with the other facades on the street. Built for painter and sculptor, Antonin Planeix, it adheres to four of the five points. The pilotis on the ground floor are sacrificed to make space for 2 workshops and a garage, which Planeix wanted to be included so he could rent them out. The pure geometric forms of the Maison Planeix also demonstrate Le Corbusier’s interest in cubist houses.

Le Corbusier-Maison Planeix-ParisAnother 15 minutes walk and you arrive at the Cité de Refuge (1933) built as a collective housing project for the Salvation Army. It also has a facade made completely of glass, and was one of the first buildings to be air conditioned, although it did not work perfectly at the time. It has recently undergone extensive renovations and some interior modifications, and can be visited by appointment.

If you have one more half day to spare, take the train to Poissy and don’t miss a visit to the Villa Savoye. This spectacular and iconic building,  built in 1928, is the culmination of Le Corbusier’s Five Points begun at the Villa Ozenfant in 1922, and showcases the completed idea of the ‘architectural promenade’, introduced in the Maison La Roche in 1925.

Villa Savoye-Le Corbusier-ParisAM: Take the metro to Jasmin. The Villa la Roche is at 10 Square du Docteur Blanche in the 16th arrondissement. Then take line 9 to Michel Ange Molitor (2 stops, can also be walked!) The Immeuble Molitor is at 24 rue Nungesser et Colis. Then walk to the Maison Cook, 6 rue Denfert Rochereau.

PM: Take the metro to Glacière (you can get over from the 16th easily with only 1 line change), the Maison Ozenfant is at 63 avenue Reille. Then walk up through the Parc Montsouris to the Cité Universitaire to see the Pavillon Suisse and Maison de Bresil (they are very close to each other, there’s a plan at the entry gates). After that it’s 10 minutes walk down to the Maison Planeix at 26 Boulevard Massena, then another 15-20 minutes to the Cité du Refuge, 12 rue Cantagrel.

 

The Paris Catacombs

Did you know that almost 200 miles of tunnels run the length and breadth of the city of Paris? Quarried since the Roman times to excavate the limestone used to build the city, the  digging only stopped in the late 18th century when the buildings above began to collapse into sink holes.

Paris Catacombs

Shored up and made safe by the city of Paris Mines Inspectors and engineers, from 1786 the Catacombs then became the final resting place of over 6 million Parisians. At that time the city’s cemeteries were located in the very centre of Paris, the shallow mass graves were overflowing and spreading decay and disease. It was decided to dig up the bodies, burn off the flesh and remove the bones to the catacombs – processions led by priests made their way through the city and the bones were blessed on arrival. The quarrymen of the catacombs now had a new task, stacking the millions of bones underground.

Today you can visit a small section of the catacombs, but beware! Not of the ghosts – although apparently there are several – but of the long lines. Here again I’d suggest taking a tour, not only do you get to skip the line and learn a lot more about this fascinating piece of Parisian history than you would if you went alone, but since January 2016 you also get to visit parts of the Catacombs that individual visitors don’t, the amazing sculptures by a quarryman called Decure (he sculpted the prison in Port Mahon where he had previously been held prisoner for years by the English), the quarrymen’s foot bath and the altar where the bones were blessed.

Decure worked on the sculptures in secret for 5 years before being crushed when a tunnel collapsed on top of him.

The Catacombs – indeed the whole network of tunnels running under the city – were also used during World War II by the French Resistance fighters, although the Nazis also used sections of them too. Nowadays they are also home to parties, film showings, you can go for a swim there, or walk for miles under the city. However it’s not only illegal but extremely dangerous, lose yourself in the tunnels (only the section open to visitors is lit) and who knows when you may be found? On my visit yesterday I learned that the last person to get lost in there was found 11 years later….

  • Paris Catacombs, Place Denfert Rochereau, 75014 Paris. metro: Denfert Rochereau

Open daily (except Mondays) 10:00 – 20:00

Image

Mallet Stevens at the Musée Mendjisky

For fans of Robert Mallet Stevens, I can highly recommend a visit to the Musée Mendjisky in the 15th arrondissement. The museum opened in 2014 in the former workshop of the master glass maker Louis Barillet, designed and built by Mallet Stevens in 1932. Later the studios of Maurice Mendjisky and his son Serge, it’s now a museum dedicated to the ‘Ecoles de Paris’, 2 generations of artists who made Paris the artistic capital of the world from 1900 – 1960.

Mallet Stevens designed the atelier as both a work space and a home for his friend Barillet. They knew each other well, and in 1929 when Mallet Stevens formed the Union of Modern Artists, Barillet was a member, as were Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé. The atelier has 4 floors which can be used as workshops or exhibition space, the most impressive being the main studio – with a double height ceiling and mezzanine level it’s flooded with light from a window that takes up almost all of the facade.

 

The beautiful stained glass windows both exterior and interior were designed by Barillet (he also worked with Mallet Stevens on the glass in the rue Mallet Stevens in the 16th arrondissement), as are the floor mosaics. The members of the Union of Modern Artists believed in a ‘total art’, where spaces would incorporate all disciplines.

Downstairs there is a permanent exhibition of the works of Maurice and Serge Mendjisky, and the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions and performances. It also has a small but excellent bookshop for those interested in life and art in Paris in the 20th century.

  • Musée Mendjisky, 15 Square Vergennes, 75015 Paris. metro: Vaugirard

NOTE! The Musée Mendjisky will close its doors on December 31 2016, due to lack of visitors. The future of the building is still uncertain.

Website (in French)

Image

Renzo Piano at the Fondation Jerome Seydoux

Walk past on a grey day and you could almost not notice it. Perhaps you might look up and see the facade sculpted by Rodin while he was still a student. Take a step back, and suddenly you notice it, a glass creature discreetly peeping up over the rooftops. The old cinema, Le Rodin, has taken on a new form and a new life in the hands of Renzo Piano.

Fondation Pathé-Paris-Renzo Piano

This beautiful building, opened in late 2014, is now home to all of the non-film archives of Pathé, and also has a small cinema where they project silent films which students from the Conservatoire accompany live on the piano. You can visit the lobby, gardens and any temporary exhibitions, or buy a ticket for a film showing, but if you want to see the entire building you need to book a guided tour (Saturdays at 12:00 and in French).

Fondation Jerome Seydoux-Renzo Piano-Paris

The guided tour allows you to visit the incredible office space housed in the top of the building, and also gives you a much better understanding of the project – the origins and complexities of the enclosed site that led to the organic form of the building, and the visions and work of both Renzo Piano and Jerome Seydoux (the current President of Pathé). Renzo Piano saw a magic lantern, rising above the Parisian rooftops. His architect partners speak of a ‘creature’ – it made me think of the giant worm in Murakami’s Super Frog Saves Tokyo, although a much more benevolent version!

On the first floor there is currently fascinating exhibition of cameras and projectors, along with some of the original posters from the archives.

Even if the full guided tour is not for you, do look up, and then go in and enjoy this incredible building.

Open Tues – Fri 13:00-19:00 and Saturdays 11:30-19:00

To book a place on a guided tour email: accueil@fondationpathe.com

Website (in French)

Image

Montparnasse cemetery

Although visiting a cemetery may seem a slightly morbid thing to do, in Paris – like so many things – they become an art form. There are several dotted around the city, and they are also places to pay homage to the country’s famous writers, artists, actors and singers amongst many others, and sometimes even a home to contemporary art.

My favourite is Pere Lachaise, but the Cimitière Montparnasse is also well worth a detour. It is the final resting place of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Baudelaire and Serge Gainsbourg – whose tomb is strewn with metro tickets in reference to the song that made him famous. You will also find sculptures by Niki de Sainte Phalle (main picture is her sculpture ‘Oiseau pour Jean Jacques’) on the graves of two of her friends, and a beautiful sculpture by Brancusi hidden away in a far corner.

You can pick up a map at the entrance to the cemetery, and enjoy a quiet wander around amongst the flowers and the sculptures.

  • Cimitière de Montparnasse, 3 Boulevard Edgar Quinet, 75014 Paris.  metro Edgar Quinet or Raspail

Open daily 9:00 – 17:30

Photo souvenirs

It’s been a while since I’ve seen once of the old fashioned photo booths. I really love them, you take your chance and get 4 shots, no retouching or editing. No chance to redo them if the top of your head is chopped off (or worse you haven’t sat down yet as we did last time). I have come across two in Paris recently, both working, and for only 2€ it’s a really nice way to get some wonderful souvenir photos.

One is in the Palais de Tokyo, the other one in the Cité de la Mode.

  • Palais de Tokyo, 13 avenue du President Wilson, 75016 Paris.   metro: Iena
  • Cité de la mode et du design, 34 Quai d’Austerlitz, 75013 Paris  metro: Gare d’Austerlitz

 

Japan meets Paris – Sadaharu Aoki

Imagine a tiny shop, filled with jewel coloured cakes, each more beautiful than the last. Then imagine the best of French patisserie, infused with Japanese flavours – green tea, yuzu, wasabi or sesame. To me it’s a match made in heaven.

Sadaharu Aoki has been living and working in Paris for the past 20 years. He has 3 shops (the one at Port Royal is also a tea room) and a stand at Lafayette Gourmet, as well as supplying many of the couture houses during fashion week.

I’m a die hard fan of Pierre Hermé macaroons, but I have to admit that Sadaharu Aoki’s are amazingly delicious too. I love the flavours he uses, particularly the wasabi, earl grey and thé matcha. Slightly firmer than Pierre Hermé’s, the flavours are intense and beautiful.

Drop into one of his shops if you get a chance, they are a visual feast and a wonderful treat for your taste buds!

  • Sadaharu Aoki, 35 rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris / 56 Bd de Port Royal, 75005 Paris     25 rue Pérignon, 75015 Paris / Lafayette Gourmet, Bd Haussmann, 75009 Paris

Where to find Sadaharu Aoki in Paris

Sunday mornings at the Porte de Vanves flea market

On Sunday mornings, from 7am until lunchtime, the Porte de Vanves, on the outer edge of the 14th arrondissement, hosts an amazing array of stalls selling antiques, vintage clothes, vinyl records and all kinds of treasures.

P1050849

Smaller and friendlier than the big flea market at the Porte de Clignancourt, and with a much better chance of finding a bargain, this is a great place to spend a sunny morning. The things I particularly loved were the embroidered dowry sheets, lace nightshirts and lots of vintage designer clothes, especially from the 60’s to 80’s (I would have loved to snap up a Lanvin cape and a faux fur Dior bomber jacket but both were unfortunately a bit over my budget!), kitchenware of all sorts (lots of funky 70’s stuff), bundles of silver cutlery tied up with ribbons, buttons, silk threads, vintage beads and sequins, a fantastic stall with paper bags and tiny boxes from an old pharmacy – all with beautiful graphics on – posters and original fashion illustrations, and best of all, dolls eyes with long eyelashes that blinked!

The market is under a row of shady trees, there’s a traditional coffee and ‘frites’ stand and even a piano player to serenade you. The stallholders generally speak good English and there’s lots of friendly banter.

Situated along the Avenue Georges Lafenestre, take the metro or the tram to Porte de Vanves and it’s a short walk.

  • Avenue Georges Lafenestre, 75014 Paris.  Metro: Porte de Vanves.