Category Archives: places to see

Paris october 2008 : opening of the 104, a major cultural event

Last Saturday, October 12, after two years of work and suspense, a great new artistic center, the Centquatre, was finally opened to public.

Part of the event is that it is located in a somewhat derelicted area in Paris 19ème arrondissement. It is named after its address : 104 rue d’Aubervilliers.

Built in 1873, this beautiful glass and iron structure was closed since 1997 after being Paris Municipal Funeral Service headquarters for a century.

Now it’s dedicated to all forms of living art, and its opening was a great success. During the afternoon, it got so crowded that a huge file had to wait in the street to come in.

Actually, the place is made of two glass halls, and has another entrance on rue Curial # 5.

On the rue Curial side, you can look at a large picture showing “the chaos” during the renovation made by the architects of Novembre workshop

Now, on two levels and 39000 m2, there are 18 artists workshops, two rooms of 200 and 400 hundred seats, besides the glass halls.

There are organized children activities, and on the opening day, many plaid with a scale model.

Among the many works in progress on that day, some will be going on:

Nicolas Simarik offers you to recycle your old keys, or to make a double of the one you carry with you. Then you get in exchange another key, the key of the centquatre . This key opens one of the boxes along the wall, composing an After Calendar, where you’ll find a surprise : an invitation to discover some unusual place in Paris.

Key gathering goes on up to December 31, Wednesday to Sunday from 12 to 20.

On both sides of the halls are long narrow English courtyards, transformed into evoluting gardens by Coloco, a group of three landscape architects. People of the neighborhood have been collecting local plants which now grow in these courts.

Convex mirrors on the wall give distorted reflects of the place.

Composer Gerard Pesson has created for the occasion Pompes/Circonstances, several musical pieces which will played on each new moon.

On Saturday 12, a musical action was performed by  Spat Sonore

They will be part of the first performance of Pompes/Circonstances, on October 28 at 19.

And next performances will take place on each new moon evening up 2010.

There is also restaurant and a bookshop, where of course you can find Pompes Funèbres by Jean Genet.

Le Centquatre is opened everyday, Tuesday to Saturday from 11 to 23, Sunday and Monday from 11 to 20. All information, program, history of the place – also available in english version – on www.104.fr .

104 rue d’Aubervilliers and 5 rue Curial, 75019 Paris. Metro Riquet. Entrance is free, but concerts, exhibitions and some events are 5 or 7 € . Information and reservation at 33(0)153 35 50 00 Monday to Friday  14 to 18, or on www.104.fr. You can also buy tickets on the spot.

Walk among glittering crystals in Paris Parc de Bagatelle

Bagatelle is a beautiful ancient romantic garden, created in queen Marie-Antoinette’s time, and located in Bois de Boulogne. It is famous for its gorgeous roses, but this fall, all great French historical crystal trademarks have joined their talents to change Bagatelle into crystal gardens

On a beautiful day, it’s a lovely destination, but forget it if it’s grey.

Ever lasting water lilies glitter in the sun.

Palm trees are heavy with shimmering glass fruits,

or blue flowers,

and fountains look frozen.

Walk in the Trianon to look at more traditional crystal works, like this chandelier.

Outside, crystal swans float along with their shiny transparent reflection,

but it takes more to to disturb living swans.

All these dreamy pictures were taken by my friend Anne Marie Dumas.

Jardins de Cristal à Bagatelle, every day 10 to 18 up to November 8, entrance €3.

Bagatelle garden is route de Sèvres, Bois de Boulogne. Metro Pont de Neuilly + bus 43 up to Neuilly-Parc de Bagatelle (end of the line). But you can also take bus 43 from Gare du Nord, or Gare Saint Lazare and ride all the way by bus. It might take a little longer, but it’s a nice trip through Paris.

Enjoy the beach in Paris : Paris Plage

Paris Plage has been going on since 2002 : every summer, Paris river banks are covered with sand, parasols and desk chairs.

If you go for water sports, you’ll find some activities for adults and for children as well around Bassin de la Villette : on Quai de Loire, adults can take a small boat or ride on a pedal boat (from noon to 8 PM), and 10 years old children can go sailing (9 AM to 11.30 and 13.30 to 17). Over 12 can also row (from 9AM to 11.30 and 17 to 20)

And if you feel hungry, why not have a pic nic on the water front?

Care for a dance ? Go to the other bank, to 45 quai de Seine, Balapaname is open everyday 17 to 20.30, up to 22 on week ends.(Metro Stalingrad)

If you want to play golf, go to Paris town hall

In front of it, you’ll find a nine holes mini golf. Metro Hôtel de Ville.

And nearby, at Pont-Marie, children over 7 can take a bath. But to take a swim on the Seine, go to Josephine Baker outdoor swimming pool.

photo Marc Vernhille

It’s just below the Great Library, on quai François Mauriac, Metro Quai de la Gare ou Bibliothèque François Mitterrrand. All informations on : www.paris.fr/portail/Sport/Portal.lut?page_id=6085

And if you care for music, up to August 17, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 5 PM up to Midnight, Indétendance offers free concerts on Pont Sully. (Metro Sully-Morland). For program, go to :http://www.fnaclive.com/blogs/lefestivalfnac -

And if you’de rather just rest  a while, please do.

Paris Plage is running up to August 21, more information on : www.paris.fr/portail/ete/Portal.lut -


Paris Parc de la Villette : a place to visit this summer, for art, outdoor films and concerts

This summer, there are a lot of good reasons to go north up to Parc de la Villette, the largest of Paris gardens, offering a wide range of cultural and leisure activities.

The art event takes place in the beautiful glass Grande Halle :

Up to August 17, come in and discover a giant installation by Yayoï Kusama, who has been working on dots for forty years.

This artist, who was closed to Pop Art and Andy Warhol in the sixties, takes this pattern both light and seriously, declaring “My life is a dot lost among other dots”.

Tuesday to Sunday 14 to 22, free entrance.

And it goes with a workshop on dots for kids (from 2 years old). July Sunday 20, Wednesday 23 and Saturday 26 at 16.30. It’s one hour long, with a drink at the end, and costs € 7.  But you have to make a reservation, dialing 33(0)1 40 03 75 75.

Up to August 17,  you also have the opportunity to watch a film (in original version) sitting on a lawn, at Prairie du Triangle, Tuesday to Sunday at nightfall. Price € 2  . For € 5 you can book a deck chair and a blanket. Program on : www.cinema.arbo.com/index.php3?p=tous_films -

World musics every Sunday up to August 24 at Folie Belvédere : it’s scènes d’été (Summer Stages), July 20 and 27, August 3,10,17 and 24, one concert at 17.30 and one at 19.30. Free. Program and information on 33(0)1 40 03 75 75.

For all information on these events and detailed programs go to : www.villette.com/

Parc de la Villette, 211 avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris, Metro Porte de Pantin or Porte de la Villette

Paris Bastille Antiques : treasures and oddments along the waterfront

There are a lot of flea markets, antiques shows and secondhand goods sales in Paris streets, in this time of he year, almost every week-end. One of the most nice and interesting “salon” takes place twice a year – in May and November – for 10 days on place de la Bastille and along the banks of Canal Saint-Martin.

Part of it takes place under a large tent, with one entry on boulevard de la Bastille in front of the opera, and the other one on boulevard Bourdon. It is the smartest, and the hottest (on sunny days) part of it.

There you can find most valuable goods, furniture, paintings, carpets, books, glass works…

oriental antiques…

ancient plates and African art…

and jewels to die for.

But it can be really hot in here, so step out in the open air.

a lot of smaller stands offer you all kind of secondhand and sometimes rare goods, in a warm atmosphere.

like this welcoming Bedouin camp offering beautiful kilims.

And it is really nice walking along the outside alleys overlooking canal Saint-Martin.

You can go from one side to the other by the footbridge over the Arsenal harbor, and you may feel the breeze.

It is more casual too. You may find wonders, and if you are interested in something, debate price with the stand owner, and if you wish some time to make a decision, ask for an invitation (or two) to come back.

Some stands specialize in a single kind of thing

like ancient linen

frames and paintings

or posters (mind the apparent disorder and the setting of this kitsch nativity and the carnal embrace on Slogan poster. )

Most have an appealing setting

or show an elaborate ” bric-a-brac”

in a surrealistic spirit.

Even if you don’t feel like buying anything, take a walk in there on a sunny day, you’ll have a great time.

“Antiquités Brocante” place de la Bastille, Metro Bastille, up to May 18, open everyday 11 to 19, entrance 8 euros. Next session : November 6 to November 16, same schedule.

And if you wish more information on when and where you can find this kind of event, go to : http://www.pointsdechine.com/

A highly controversial photo exhibition at Paris Historical Library

Usually, I would have categorized a post about Paris Historical Library as another chapter of “Paris Grand Siècle”, for it is located in one of the fine Renaissance style hotels of Paris Marais.

It was built in the last years of sixteenth century for Diane de France, a legitimated daughter of King Henry II, and bought in the mid seventeenth century by a sir de Lamoignon who was the president of the first Paris parliament.

Many of the “classic period” famous writers, like Racine, Madame de Sévigné, Boileau, or Malesherbes used to visit the place, which quite naturally became the Historical Library. Besides the interest of its catalog, the reading room has the most beautiful Renaissance painted ceiling.

If you go down the street, you get to the modern building where the book shop and exhibition room are located.

This is the place where opened on March 20 the exhibition of photos by André Zucc, first called “Parisians during the Occupation”.

The main point of his exhibition was to show the only color pictures taken by a French photographer during the German Occupation in Paris on world war 2. We are used to black and white pictures of this period, and these are really striking. The contest came first from the press, who pointed out that at least this needed some explanation, and then the guy in charge of culture at Paris town hall got mad about it, said it was outrageous and wanted to close it (maybe he was that mad mostly because he should have known better and earlier about it – historical library is part of Paris municipal libraries).

Finally, the title was changed into “some Parisians under the occupation” , Paris town hall edited a foreword in several languages given to visitors at the exhibition’ entrance and hired an historian to write commentaries about some of the pictures – maybe the Historical Library staff cold have thought of it in the first place.

André Zucca : place de la Concorde.

So what was the big deal? André Zucca, who was a quite well known photographer was hired during the Occupation by a newspaper called Signal, which was the organ of Nazi propaganda in Paris, to take pictures of German officials, and Paris social and political events – involving Vichy government and collaborationist spheres. These published pictures were black and white. But thanks to Signal, Zucca got some color film, which only Germans could afford, to achieve his private work (he took over a 1000 color photos). He certainly was not a Nazi militant, we was just taking advantage of the situation, without questioning it – and no doubt that he knew for whom and what he was working for, and he did not bother.

The color film needed a lot of light, so most of the displayed pictures show Paris streets under a bright spring sun, just as it was when I came and took the street pictures you see on this post. And of course, life looks more cheerful under the sun. Even this refugee moving out with his children after a bombing does not look that miserable.

So there is no set up, it was really sunny and Belleville street was crowded, these pictures point that a photographer’s eye is not objective, it chooses his subject and and shows his point of view : Paris as a lively and cheerful town, where people went on enjoying their life, not bothering about German occupation, just the way Zucca felt.

His color pictures have a strong impact, because these images make the war years closer to ours than black and white photos, and in the same time, they look a little like fiction – because the first German colored films had the same color and light effect. And sometimes, in spite of the carefree mood of the photographer, some harshness shows up -as the text on Nazi posters, and the so bright yellow stars pinned on the chest of people passing by in a Marais street.

This is a poster which has been removed from today’s Paris street, but all this fuzz has made a great deal for this exhibition, which is a big success, and is really worth visiting. The bookshop ran out of catalogs, but they will be soon reprinted – around May 10 – and for 35 euros, it is really an exceptional document.

Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris, hôtel de Lamoignon, 24 rue Pavée, métro Saint-Paul, open Monday to Friday 13 to 18, Saturday 9.30 to 18, closed on Sunday. Information on 33(0)1 44 59 29 40

Exhibition : “Des Parisiens sous l’occupation – photos en couleur d’André Zucca”, bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris 22 rue Mahler 75004 Paris Metro Saint-Paul, up to July 1, open everyday 11 to 19, entrance 4 euros.

Places to see around Paris Beaubourg

There are several nice passages to discover in the streets around Beaubourg.

For example, take a few steps north on rue Saint-Martin, at #157, you’ll see one entrance to Passage Molière.

It’s a charming quiet paved alley, where you will find “the house of poetry” in the Molière Theater, and a few shops.

and it will lead you to rue Quincampoix # 82

Crossing boulevard de Sébastopol, you’ll find at rue de Palestro corner the main entrance of passage du Bourg l’Abbé.

It is one of the most genuine of Paris covered galleries.

Though the pipe’s factory at the entrance is now an insurance company office, at #18 the woodwork shop still exists.

And on the other side of the gallery, you’ll find another passage entrance:

On the opposite side of rue Saint-Denis opens passage du Grand-Cerf

With it’s three floors, and apartments doors, it is the tallest Paris covered gallery.

Under it’s beautiful glass roof, you’ll find mostly design shops. It leads you out on rue Dussoubs

There, rather than looking at your map, just look in front of you :

This strange and quiet place next to the crowded Montorgueil shopping area is called place Goldoni, and on the wall inlaid with soccer balls, two white pannels with strange “poetics” tales written on it.

This one says : “It’s been told that the vibrations created by balls thrown against this wall might wake up the roots of some small trees that have been sleeping for centuries. It might be just a coincidence, but when they reach the prints made by the balls which made them come back to life, most of these trees are fully grown. But on the contrary, some look for other landmarks to have a reason to grow up a little more.

The other talks in the same way of bugs grubs asleep in the wall, awaken by the children’ voices, and going out, they make tiny holes forming letters echoing to the children’s screams and songs.

Just an unexpected pause.

Passage Molière : 157 rue Saint-Martin/ 82 rue Quincampoix 75002 Paris metro Rambuteau. Information and programs for Théâtre Molière – Maison de la Poésie on : http://www.theatreonline.com/guide/detail_theatre.asp?i_Theatre=436

Passage du Bourg l’Abbé : 3 rue de Palestro/120 rue Saint-Denis 75002 Paris Metro Etienne Marcel, more information on : http://www.passagesetgaleries.org/texts/passages/2fiches_passages/fiches/bourg_labbe.html

Passage du grand cerf : 145 rue Saint-Denis/10 rue Dussoubs 75002 Paris Metro Etienne Marcel, all about it on : http://www.passagedugrandcerf.com/