Friday, 28 May 2010

Something for the Weekend (28th – 31st May)

A Belleville special this weekend. I make no excuses for that – it’s where I live and where I'll be!

If you have any other events that you think should be promoted, add them to the comments for this post or send me a mail.

Belleville artists open their studios
Over 200 artists in Belleville open up their studios to visitors the last weekend in May, probably the biggest such event in Paris. Although the art on display is of rather mixed quality, it is always interesting to wander aimlessly around the normally firmly closed buildings and courtyards.
More details on the artists as well as maps can be found here:

If you are looking for something a little more structured though, you could join the event being organised by
Paris Par Rues Méconnues. Beginning with a picnic at 12pm in the Parc de Belleville (bring your own food!), the afternoon will continue with a three-hour guided walk around the ‘best’ of the studios, where the artists will be present to talk about their work.
Saturday 29th – walk only at 2pm (
sign up here
Sunday 30th – Picnic at 12pm, walk at 2pm (
sign up here

A Burlesque revue
Two events, described as 'music-hall parisien revisitée', will be held on Saturday at the Bellevilloise, a venue that is now becoming something of a specialist in the genre. Organised by
Juliette Dragon and the Cabaret des Filles de Joie, the show will begin with striptease, French Cancan as lots of feathers and glitter, then later on become ‘la Nuit Fatale’ which will be based around ‘punk ‘n roll’ live music, James Bond Grrrls and irresistible secret agents!
La Bellevilloise, 19 Rue Boyer, 75020
Saturday 29th, 8pm

Women and the Commune
Girl power continues on Monday night when Sylvanie de Lutèce, friend of Juliette Dragon and the ‘Filles de joie’ troupe, will be holding her regular monthly Paris history lesson and discussion. This time around the subject is “Les Femmes de la Commune de Paris en 1871”.
Le Baron Samedi, 12 Rue des Goncourt, 75011
Monday 31st, 8pm

Still in Motion @ La Cartonnerie
Once again, an event that I recommended more for the environment in which it is being held (a partially converted paper factory), but if you are a fan of photography you should find plenty to keep you occupied. Somewhat bizarrely, the event this weekend is actually the pre-opening of a festival that will actually be held in London a week afterwards. Based around the theme of ‘the changing city’, the event will feature an exhibition of international photographers and focus on the pinhole camera. As well as enjoying the photos on display, visitors will also be able to try out some pinhole cameras themselves during workshops, and even enter a competition if their photos are particularly successful!
La Cartonnerie, 12, rue Deguerry (M° Parmentier/Goncourt)
Saturday 29th - Sunday 30th, 11am –7pm

Monday, 24 May 2010

Au Bon Coin

Natural time is cyclical, but time in the city is counted in layers. In London for example it is said that the Roman settlement of Londinium was situated around twenty feet beneath the levels of today's city. As we walk around a place we don't walk in our forefathers' footsteps but above them.

The Earth's crust is a book filled with the pages of time, but the archeology of the city is not so well documented. New roads are built over ancient pathways and tall buildings grow from the walls of long abandoned dwellings, but sometimes these layers of the past pop back up to the surface through happy accident.

In the Rue de l'Orillon, renovations to a building have slowly revealed the wooden shopfront of an ancient wine trader; "Au Bon Coin: Commerce de Vins". In these Belleville backstreets, once known as the Basse Courtille, such establishments were once very common. Paris historian Jacques Hillairet wrote the following about the street in his Dictionnaire historique des rues de Paris:

Emplacement du cabaret de Jean Ramponeaux, à l’enseigne du Tambour-Royal. Jean Ramponeaux vendait son vin un sou moins cher la pinte que ses confrères de la barrière, ce qui lui attira une telle affluence qu’il y avait autant de clients dehors que dedans".
(Position of Jean Ramponeaux's caberet called the Tambour-Royal. Jean Ramponeaux sold his wine one sou cheaper than his rivals at the city gateway which attracted such a crowd that there were as many people inside as outside).

As more recent layers of materials are scraped away, a previous aspect of the city reappears. Another fresh layer will probably soon be placed on top and new stories will be written, but let's hope that this physical trace of the past does not disappear forever .

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Something for the Weekend (21st - 23rd May)

Sport, food and a walk through some champs on the Champs for this weekend which is predicted to be warm and sunny!

Street Golf
Golf in France is generally a sport for the elite, but an organisation known as Le 19ème Trou aims to change this conception. This group of young sports fans have invented a concept known as Street Golf, and organise events and tournaments, including this Saturday the Paris Pro Tour Master Classic '10.

Teeing off from the Place de la Concorde at 12.30, the competition will involve 100 players from all over Europe in teams of five who will play a round of nine holes on a course which will only be revealed at the last minute.

At 8.30pm the evening, a party has been organised at the Point Ephémère in the 19th arrondissement where the trophies will be awarded, and the night will continue with sounds from DJs from around Europe.

Paris Pro Tour Master Classic'10 from Le 19ème Trou.

Free Food!
In an interesting nod to history, the ‘Fédérations des boucheries d'Ile-de-France’ are organising a giant BBQ on the Place de Hôtel de Ville this Sunday at midday. As they say themselves, ‘trois boeufs, un veau et dix agneaux Label rouge seront rôtis à la broche’ with all food being handed out free to visitors.

And what is the nod to history? Well, in the middle ages, this site is where executions took place in the city, with the victims often being burnt at the stake!

Tennis at the Piscine Molitor
The Roland Garros French Open tennis tournament begins this weekend, and to celebrate the event a well-known sports brand (the name of whom I don’t really want to publicise!) has transformed a disused swimming pool into a temporary tennis court. Until June 6th, the Piscine Molitor, alongside the Roland Garros complex, will be open for free tennis lessons or pricey drinks in the temporary bar. The event is of course simply a clever marketing exercise, but it is also a great excuse to see a wonderful piece of normally closed to the public Art Deco architecture (which is also currently plastered in tags and graffiti!).
The Club, Piscine Molitor, 2, avenue de la Porte Molitor 75016, M° Michel-Ange Auteuil.
Monday - Friday 2pm – 7pm. Weekends 11am – 8pm

The Champs Elysées becomes a champs again
For two days on Sunday and Monday, the Champs Elysées will be closed to traffic and covered with grass, flowers and trees. Over the one kilometre distance between the Arc de Triomphe and the Rond Point you will be able to wander through a landscape featuring over 11,000 trees and 150,000 plants. Perhaps its claim to be the 'plus beau avenue du monde' will finally become a reality.

Teaser Nature Capitale from Nature Capitale.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Something for the Weekend (14th – 16th May)

Although I have little time to update this blog in May, I will continue to publish my suggestions for the weekend, partly because they will help me to plan too! With a public holiday on Thursday, the weekend begins early in France this week, but there are also several very interesting events to plan for…

La Nuit des Musées
Most museums across Paris will be offering free entrance and will open until midnight this Saturday as part of the Nuit des Musées event, and whilst the majority will simply be giving access to temporary and permanent collections, there will be a number of special events organised. Two in particular have caught my eye:

  • An evening with the Wild Club. Over the last year, the Wild Club website has hosted monthly competitions for architects who can remain anonymous and who have only 24 hours to produce their designs. The competiton begins with a simple photograph, and those taking part are invited to send in dreamlike visions of how the spot could be transformed in the future or how it might look in a parallel world. Without actual construction projects to bid for, the architects are given free expression which sometimes throws up very surprising results! (Pavillion de l’Arsenal, 21 Boulevard Morland, 75004)

  • Soup tasting at the Musée de l’Assistance Publique. Has hospital food always been bad? Between 9.30 and 11.30pm on Saturday night there will be a ‘dégustation de bouillon’ with the recipe coming from the depths of the Paris hospital archives. The weather this weekend may well be chilly, so this will surely warm everyone up, but let’s hope it doesn't put visitors in one of the city's institutions! (Musée de l’Assistance Publique, 47 Quai de la Tournelle, 75005)
Click here for the full programme of events in Paris.

A Day at the Races
Discover the excitement of thoroughbred racing in France with an insider's tour of Longchamp racecourse this Sunday (16th) guided by Gina Rarick, currently the only American professional racehorse trainer in France and the first American woman granted a license here. Starting with a BYO picnic lunch at this historic racecourse, Gina will explain how racing works in France. After lunch there will be a tour of the track, the weighing room where the jockeys prepare for the races, the stabling/saddling enclosures and, if possible, a trip down to the starting gates to watch the horses jump out for a race. Dress smartly (at least a jacket and preferably a tie for men - rules are strict at Longchamp!) but also for changeable weather!

Tickets for this event cost 12 Euros, and if you are interested, please try to confirm early as those organising the event need to give Longchamp advance notice. To sign up please contact Mark Tronco at

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Time in the natural world is circular, seasons of intense activity and seasons of rest. For us humans though, time is something we count, waste and lose. I try hard to spend mine wisely, and this month I will be offering mine to friends and family who will be visiting rather than this blog. If I find a little extra time somewhere though, I will try to keep it ticking over...!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Something for the Weekend (7th – 9th May)

Love, dreams and murder this weekend in Paris, with a little touch of history thrown in for good measure. Note also that this Saturday is a public holiday commemorating the end of the 2nd World War in Europe, so expect to find certain places closed.

If you have any events or activities you think should be promoted or which you would like to promote yourself, please add them in the comments. Let me know also if you have any events in the coming weekends you would like to promote.

Paris d'Amour
Paris-based photographer Gérard Uféras spent two years recording images from 70 different marriage or civil (PACS) ceremonies in the city, with the result being this fascinating exhibition at the Hotel de Ville. Beyond the artistic quality of the photos themselves, the exhibition also takes a look at the many different cultures and nationalities of those signing up for a life together in Paris, and poses many questions about the role played by the city in their relationships.
Salon d’accueil de l’Hôtel de Ville 29 rue de Rivoli, 75004, M° Hôtel de Ville
From 6th May to 31st July, 10am – 7pm daily except Sundays and Public Holidays.
Free entry

Fête l’Europe
60 years ago this weekend, Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Affairs minister at the time, made a famous announcement that is seen as the founding moment of the European Union. “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan” was Schuman’s message that day, and how prescient that still seems with today’s crisis in the Union. Schuman’s principal idea was to put an end to years of conflict with Germany by combining the two countries’ coal and steel production, thus making future wars materially impossible.

To commemorate the event, the Salons du Quai d’Orsay, where Robert Schuman launched his declaration, will exceptionally be open to the public this weekend.
Saturday 8th Sunday 9th May
37 Quai d’Orsay, 75007, M° Invalides
10am - 6pm

"I am of a generation for whom the big city meant a centre of cultural influence or economic power; now it has become a theme park, a vast camp or an architectural aberration and utter social hotchpotch” taking inspiration from urban observer J. G. Ballard, this new exhibition at the Centre Pompidou sets out to demonstrate how large cities have been transformed in recent years and how universal expositions and amusement parks have played a role in this.

Looking also at the manifestos of the Situationists in the 1950s and 60s who called for cities to become a world of 'universal attraction', it is rather buildings themselves that have become both spectacle and entertainment, with architects such as Rem Koolhaas celebrating the fantastical and breaking down modernist constraints. However, it is corporations such as the Walt Disney Company who actually first built these places and developed the concept of 'imagineering', techniques that now apply to the development of entire cities, including Las Vegas, Dubai and Shanghai.
Until August 9th
Centre Pompidou, M° Rambuteau

Cara Black at the Red Wheelbarrow
Not technically taking place this weekend, but certainly worthy of a mention is the visit of Cara Black to Paris. She'll be reading from her 10th Aimée Leduc novel, "Murder in the Palais Royal" at the Red Wheelbarrow bookshop in the Marais next Tuesday, and will be open to as many questions as possible afterwards!
The Red Wheelbarrow
Tuesday, May 11th, 7pm
22 rue Saint Paul, 75004, M°Saint Paul

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Rebirth of the Phone Booth

A while back I wrote about the death of the phone booth in Paris, but it seems like I underestimated its durability. This picture here shows a prototype model of what could be the future face of the payphone in the city, but is it a pretty one?

The city of Paris is looking to replace its ageing fleet of phone booths, and asked Orange (France Telecom) and JCDecaux to work on potential new models. The two companies presented a prototype to the design bureau at the City of Paris, and have been allowed to install 12 test models around the city for a 6 month period (the one caught on photo here is on the Rue de Rivoli next to the St Paul Metro station).

The City of Paris website has described the design as being 'very futuristic', but I think 'very dull' would be more suitable. JCDecaux, the company behind the Velib system as well as many public toilets and most bus stops, is slowly defining the new norms of street furniture (a kind of grey/brown!), and clearly the company has only one goal - maximise advertising space. This design eliminates all trace of the traditional private box model, and is in fact little more than an advertising panel with a phone on the back.

The new prototype alongside a more traditional Wallace fountain.

What about the phone unit itself? Well, this is more revolutionary, with a 17 inch screen and full internet connectivity, meaning users can now not only make phone calls, but also profit from 10 minutes of free internet access. A GPS system has also been installed in the unit to give information on local services, such as transport, cinemas and restaurants.

Two things strike me here. I hope that 17 inch screen is made from some very heavily reinforced glass because it looks eminently breakable. However, even if it is indeed unbreakable, I'm sure it will be regularly scratched and tagged. Secondly, in such a public space, will anybody dare to use it to check their e-mails?

In an age of smart phones and ubiquitous wi-fi connections, I'm not sure that it is something that city dwellers need today, but JCDecaux will not mind about that.

Fascinating Phone Facts (courtesy of
  • 5299: the number of phone booths in Paris, which is equivilent to one phone for every 400 inhabitants.
  • 1 million: around 1 million people use public phones in Paris (7 million people throughout France).
  • 50 minutes: the average usage of a phone booth each day in Paris.
  • 60%: the percentage of payphone users who also own a mobile/cell phone.

What do you think? Do you like this design and would you use it? When did you last use a public phone?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Paris Polaroids: A Night at the Theatre

For the third in the series of Paris Polaroids guest posts, Andi Fisher reminisces about a Parisian night at the theatre.

I love movies and I love comedies. However what I love most of all is seeing film actors that I appreciate live on the stage. When I met my French husband, and while learning French, I discovered a comedic theater troupe known as 'le Splendid'. Like most people, I started with Les Bronzés series, but then watched everything that Christian Clavier, Michel Blanc, Gérard Jugnot, Thierry Lhermitte, Josiane Balasko, Marie-Anne Chazel, Bruno Moynot and Claire Magnin made.

I later saw Marie-Anne Chazel in a pièce (play) called Le Butin in 2005, but had never seen any of the other members of Splendid. One day though I was watching a taped episode of a television programme called Vivement Dimanche and saw Christian Clavier and Jean Poiret promoting their new pièce 'La Cage aux Folles' which was going to start in the Fall. I was ecstatic and had to get tickets!

Theater culture is very much alive and well in France, supported by the people and thriving through love. Every time my husband and I visit Paris we try to take in a least one play, which we consider to be one of the most wonderful gifts that Paris gives to its citizens. I am not fluent in French but I love going to watch theater none-the-less. It is thrilling to sit in an audience and know that you are about to share something very special with these people. Will everyone laugh at the same time? Will I laugh at the right moment? I gauge my grasp of the language or my understanding of context by whether my responses are the same as the others.

We got our tickets during our visit in November and went along to the show. The performance was at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin in the heart of the 'Grands Boulevards' theatre district in the 10th arrondissement. The evening was magical and the performances were outstanding. What made it even more amusing was the very next day, as I sat having a panaché at Les Deux Magots, Christian Clavier walked by speaking on his cell phone!

Now as I plan my next trip to Paris and think about what pièce I may see, I fondly remember that evening in that magical place and hope to pass another moment there. This version of the play has not yet been released on DVD so the only souvenir I have today is this photo I took of the curtain!

Andi Fisher

Andi Fisher is a francophile blogger living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her eclectic blog, is a travel-based blog that details Andi's misadventures as she eats her way through countries around the world as well as the merry musings of a feisty-foodie slash lit-chickie slash globe-trotting wannabe Frenchie!

Send your Paris Polaroid! The beauty of the Polaroid was that it captured an instant. Such pictures were celebrations of the emotion of a moment, but like memories, Polaroids faded over time. In this series I am aiming to compile a selection of these Paris instants for posterity. If you have a memory of a Paris instant you would like to share, please send it to me and I will publish it here. A photo (which I will transform into Polaroid form) would be a bonus but is not a necessity (I can find one!). If you have a site, a project, a business, or just yourself to promote, send me the link and I will add a mention to your post!
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