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)

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Fashion at the Pierre Cardin Museum

Tucked away in a courtyard on the edge of the Marais is a fascinating and beautiful collection of clothes and furniture designed by Pierre Cardin. Set over 3 floors , this incredible collection traces his career from 1953 to the present day, and is a must see for anybody who is interested in fashion and design.

The collection is arranged chronologically, the 1950’s to 1970’s on the ground floor and the 1980’s and 1990’s downstairs, with the upstairs section showing evening and party wear and a room  dedicated to accessories – hats, sunglasses, jewellery, gloves and shoes. I particularly loved the futuristic pieces from his pret-a- porter collections of the 1960’s and 70’s with their the clean lines and bright colours.

The first couturier to show a pret-a-porter collection inspired by haute couture, Pierre Cardin caused a scandal with his collection in 1959 which made designer clothes available in a department store for the first time. He continued to experiment over the next 60 years, and as you follow his career and work through the museum it’s hard not to be taken aback by the imagination, creativity and craftsmanship on show.

I discovered that in the 1970’s he also designed and made furniture, and some of his beautiful pieces are also on show here.

I loved this museum and its amazing collection. The life and work of Pierre Cardin is fascinating, and the glimpse into his world that you get here certainly makes me want to see more.

  • Musée Pierre Cardin, 5 rue Saint Merri, 75004 Paris. metro: Rambuteau or Hotel de Ville

Open Wed/Thurs/Fri 11:00 – 18:00, Saturday & Sunday 13:00 – 18:00

Pierre Cardin Website (in English)

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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)

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Atelier Brancusi

The Pompidou Centre is one of the iconic building in Paris – love it or hate it, you certainly can’t miss it. However it’s easy to miss the much more discreet building just next to it. Designed by Renzo Piano, the Atelier Brancusi is almost invisible, yet this fascinating space is another of those tiny hidden museums that is well worth a visit.

Atelier Brancusi, Paris

Constantin Brancusi came to Paris from Romania in 1904, and from 1915 worked in a studio in the 15th arrondissement. Considered one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, he was one of the pioneers of  the modernist movement, arriving Paris at a moment when the art world here was effervescent with new ideas. His friends included the leading figures of the artistic and intellectual scene in Paris at the time: Picasso, Modigliani, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Guillaume Apollinaire and Ezra Pound.

In these studios he produced most of his work, and many of these works he arranged in the studio space, often in groups.  The studio and the arrangement of the sculptures in relation to the space and to the other works surrounding them became integral to each sculpture. So much so that he often refused to sell them, if he did he would replace them with plaster casts.

In 1956 he bequeathed his studio and its entire contents to the French state, on condition that it would be reconstructed exactly as it was on the day of his death. Renzo Piano designed the current space, where we can see not only his sculptures, but tools, sketches, furniture and his library. Here we can view his work as he wished it to be viewed, and comprehend it as he wished it to be understood.

Another of his most famous works, Le Baiser, can be seen in Montparnasse Cemetery, which is also where he is buried.

  • Atelier Brancusi, Piazza in front of the Centre Pompidou (rue Rambuteau side)

Open daily 2-6pm, except Tuesdays and May 1.  Free entrance.

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La Maison du Pastel

At the back of a small courtyard in the Marais there is a tiny shop, open one afternoon a week for 4 hours, selling the finest handmade artist’s pastels. La Maison du Pastel opened its doors for a few small group visits this weekend for the Journées du Patrimoine, and I was lucky enough to be able to get myself a place on the list.

Maison du Pastel - Paris

La Maison du Pastel is home to the Pastels Roché, owned and run by the Roché family since 1865, (although it was started in 1720, five years after the death of Louis XIV, making it the oldest pastel house in the world). We were welcomed by Isabelle Roché who took over the family business from cousins 15 years ago, and who has put all her passion and energy into bringing the declining business back to life.

Suppliers of exceptional quality pastels to artists such as Degas, Whistler, Redon and Vuillard, Pastels Roché were producing over 1600 different shades by the 1930s (other quality pastel makers – and there are fewer then 20 of them in the world – produce between 500 and 600). In 1937 they won a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition. During World War II the business was almost completely destroyed, it was revived by the Roché family and run through the 1960s and 70s with some success, thanks to artists such as Sam Szafran, until it eventually started to decline in the 1980s.

The pastels are still made in the original atelier in the countryside 60km outside of Paris, all are handmade from start to finish – from mixing the pigments to rolling each individual pastel. The exact ingredients used are secret, and the results are beautiful, intense shades with an incredible depth of colour, beloved by artists the world over. Isabelle has brought the palette of shades back to just over 1000, the business had almost disappeared when she took over in 2000, and she and her American assistant Margaret continue to develop not only the business but also the amazing range of colours, still producing everything themselves.

Spending an hour listening to the fascinating history of the Pastels Roché, witnessing the passion, hand work and perseverance that has gone into creating and maintaining this very special family business, and watching box after box of beautiful and luminous jewel-like colours being opened on the counter before us, was a joy and a privilege. Artist or not, a visit to this tiny shop is a very special moment.

  • La Maison du Pastel, 20 rue Rambuteau, 75003 Paris.  métro: Rambuteau

Open Thursday 14:00 – 18:00 or by appointment

La Maison du Pastel (website in English)

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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The Picasso Museum

I have just re-discovered one of the most incredible museums in the city. The Picasso Museum re-opened a few months ago after 5 years of renovations. Set in the historic district of the Marais, housed in a spectacular ‘hotel particular’  or town mansion – the Hotel Salé, built in 1660 – the new Picasso Museum completely took my breath away. Visiting this museum is a delight – each room producing more and more treasures, each work set in a magnificent, light and airy space. The collection is comprehensive and is arranged in thematic and chronological order, enabling the visitor to follow and better understand the development of Picasso’s art. Despite the amazing collection of works, the museum is not overwhelming, it still feels small and intimate. I haven’t felt so excited by a museum in a long time, and can’t wait to go back and take friends and family with me.

As with all the museums in Paris, watch out for the huge lines! Buy a timed entry ticket on the internet, or be prepared to wait (although the lines are well managed and move pretty fast). If you’re hungry afterwards there is a pretty café on the roof, otherwise pop round the corner to one of my favourites, the Swedish Institute Café, and then enjoy a stroll around the beautiful Marais afterwards.

  • Musée Picasso, Hotel Salé, 5 rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris. metro: St Paul

Open Tuesday – Friday 11.30 – 18:00. Saturday and Sunday 09:30 – 18:00

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Lunch in the Marais: the Swedish Institute café

The Marais is a beautiful part of the city to spend a day. One of the few areas that was not destroyed and rebuilt under Haussmann’s redesign of the city in the mid-19th century, it still retains the charm and history of the narrow streets of old Paris.

There are plenty of wonderful places to eat. I recently discovered one that is perfect for a sandwich and a cake, and is also extremely good value – something that can’t be said for many places in the area. The Café Suedois is housed in the Swedish Institute, and boasts a tiny café sitting in a beautiful cobblestone courtyard typical of the ‘hotel particuliers’, or grand old mansions of the Marais. The sandwiches are open faced Swedish style, which makes a very welcome change from a baguette now and again, the cakes and typical Swedish baked goods are homemade and delicious. Throw in some free wifi, and I could happily spend hours here.

The Swedish Institute also hosts many art shows and concerts, as well as offering Swedish lessons. Check out their website for upcoming events (it’s only in French or Swedish though I’m afraid!).

  • Le Café Suédois (in thé Institut Suédois), 11 rue Payenne, 75003 Paris. metro: St Paul or Chemin Vert

Open Tues-Sun, midday to 6PM

Rose Bakery

Much as I love French pastries, sometimes it’s really nice to have a taste of home. Rose Bakery has managed the seemingly impossible and seduced the Parisians with their British cakes, lunches and brunches. It was the carrot cake that initially made them popular, and people keep coming back for the fresh, organic, homemade food and juices. All the ingredients are sourced locally and change with the seasons, or even daily depending on what is delivered. The kitchenware is handmade and comes from a cooperative in Norfolk. The food is simple, fresh and delicious.

Part café, part grocery shop, you can eat in or take away. Weekend brunches and lunch times are especially popular, go early if you want to be sure to find a table. The atmosphere is relaxed and laid back and the decor minimalist.

There are now 3 Rose Bakeries in Paris, the original one here on rue des Martyrs, one in the Marais and one inside the Bon Marché department store. They are also a great place to pick up English teabags, Marigold bouillon (which I have not managed to find anywhere else in Paris) and some great recipe books.

  • 46 rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris. metro: St Georges
  • 30 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris. metro: Filles du Calvaire
  • le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sevres, 75007 Paris. metro Sevres Babylone

Pain Poilane

Pain Poilane is reputed amongst many to be the best bread in Paris. A family run bakery established in 1932 in St Germain des Près, the bread is made the traditional way, using stone milled flour, water, sea salt from Brittany and yeast. Cooked in a wood fired oven, the big 2kg loaves are instantly recognizable, both in their texture and flavour.

Around 1000 loaves a day are exported to the US, Japan and the Middle East (I even heard a story about an American who loved it so much he placed an order to have a loaf couriered to him and then to his children in the US each week for life). You will often find it used for sandwiches in brasseries around the city, and you can buy a quarter or half a loaf if 2kg seems like too much!

  • 8 rue du Cherche Midi, 76006 Paris.  métro: Sevres Babylone or St Sulpice, closed Sunday
  • 49 Boulevard de Grenelle, 75015 Paris.  métro: Dupleix, closed Monday
  • 38 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris. métro: Filles du Calvaire or St Sebastien Froissart, closed Monday

The Prettiest Squares in Paris: Place des Vosges

The oldest and one of the most beautiful squares in Paris, the Places des Vosges is spectacular at any time of year. I like it in the winter, the bare trees mean that you get a wonderful view of the magnificent 17th century red brick buildings that line the square. Built under Henry IV between 1605 and 1612, it was one of the first squares to be planned and built in a symmetrical and harmonious style  – only the pavilions of the King and Queen facing each other across the park are taller than the other buildings. The buildings all look identical, their width equals their height and the roofs are half the height of the facade – although if you look closer you will see that the windows and wrought iron balconies are often different.

The arcades are full of cafés, restaurants and art galleries, and the apartments above are some of the most expensive real estate in Paris. Victor Hugo lived at number 6, his house is now a small museum. Located in the Marais, the square has been a fashionable place to stroll, relax and have parties since the 17th century, and today it is a wonderful place to explore or have a picnic – there are plenty of benches and in the summer months the grass is full of people picnicking and enjoying the sunshine. If you are in the Marais, don’t miss it, bring a picnic or a beautiful eclair from the nearby Eclair de Genie and enjoy relaxing in the spectacular surroundings.

  • Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris  metro: St Paul

Paris old & new – the rue des Jardins

Living in Paris is like living inside history, if that makes sense. The museums are not just full of collections to be looked at, they live and evolve, involving us as spectators and visitors. The ancient parts of the city co-exist with the modern, often they are alongside or on top of one another, so it’s hard to make the distinction unless you look closely – we can be so surrounded by history and beauty that it can be easy not to even notice it.

This basketball court in the Marais is a great example. Look closely and you’ll see that the old fortified city walls of King Philippe Auguste run alongside it. The players are bouncing their ball off a wall that dates back to the 13th century, despite the fact that it’s the longest remaining piece of the old city wall and is classified as a historic monument. Houses have also been built using the wall and we can see one of two remaining towers.

You will find this everywhere in Paris, old, less old, and modern all jumbled in together. It’s part of the charm of this beautiful city, history is alive and present in our everyday lives.

  • rue des Jardins, 75004 Paris. métro Pont Marie or St Paul

Eclairs in the Marais

Who can resist an eclair in Paris? Or anywhere else for that matter. I certainly can’t…

As we know, when it comes to food, the French take things to a different level, and eclairs of course are no exception. If you find yourself in the Marais, make a detour to the rue Pavée and a tiny shop called l’Eclair de Génie. You won’t regret it.

eclair-de-genie-paris-marais

The eclairs are absolutely beautiful, they look almost too good to eat. There is a wide array of delicious flavours and they change regularly so you can go back often and always find new ones.

I’ve been twice recently, the first time I chose raspberry, this time lemon and yuzu. Both were delicious! Get one and take it to the nearby Place des Vosges to enjoy on a bench. That way you get a double treat – eat an amazing French pastry in one of the most beautiful squares in the city.

  • l’Eclair de Génie, 14 rue Pavée, 75004 Paris.   metro: St Paul

Eclair de Genie website

Gardens made for sharing

The other day I stumbled across a wonderful garden in the middle of the Marais.

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Peering through a gate I could see an amazing profusion of fruit trees, vegetables, flowers and herbs all growing in a fairly tiny space. I was lucky that one of the gardeners happened to be in there, and he invited me in. And so I discovered that there are ‘Jardins partagés’ or shared gardens dotted all across Paris. Lovingly cared for by people living locally who share the space, the work and the produce as a community, this one also provides a place where they meet, organize picnics and parties and sometimes art exhibitions – they have even produced a book.

 

In a city where people mainly live in apartments, it is wonderful to find these tiny pieces of countryside hiding amongst the buildings. If one of the gardeners is in there you are free to go in, wander around and learn about the community that tends the garden, as well of course as enjoying a few moments of country life in the middle of the city.

  • Le Potager des Oiseaux, 2-4 rue des Oiseaux, 75003 Paris  Metro: Filles du Calvaire

Le Marché des Enfants Rouges

Created in 1615 under Louis XIII, the Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest market in Paris. It was named after the orphans from the nearby orphanage – dressed in red as a sign of charity, and was set up to feed the new neighbourhood of the Marais.

Today it is a small but vibrant and diverse covered market. Saved by locals in 2000 who petitioned vigorously to have it reopened, it now houses various stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meats, bread and flowers, but also an eclectic range of eateries, always busy at lunchtime and a wonderful place to grab some lunch and sit on the terraces amongst the market stalls. I went on a Sunday, and had a choice of Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, Moroccan, farmers burgers, brunch, traditional French bistro fare, crepes or charcuterie and cheese plates from a wine bar. The atmosphere is lively and local, the setting picturesque (the market is now a listed historic monument) and the food delicious.

The market is located in the top end of the Marais, or ‘Haut Marais’, now even more fashionable and still less known to tourists than the lower end. A visit and lunch in the market followed by a stroll down through the lively southern end of the Marais is a great way to spend a day.

Open daily 8:30 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 19:30. Sunday 8:30 – 14:00. Closed Mondays.

  • Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39 rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris. Métro: Arts et Metiers