Out and About in Paris
Paris is alive and well and hoppin’! Maybe the empty streets of Paris became the norm for the while, but that’s certainly not the case anymore. It feels busier than ever, or that I ever remember. Maybe that’s because everyone is OUT, rather than IN the cafés and restaurants with all the new outdoor seating, and OUT also because the weather has been beautiful—a bit cool and crisp, and gloriously sunny. Regardless, the energy is electric and the mood seems to be very, very happy all the way ’round to be OUT AND ABOUT.
There are so many great art exhibitions open that I’ve been running from one to another, but also particularly because I have had the company of the daughter of my oldest, closest friend visiting this past week, who lives in Israel. Her mother and I met our first day of kindergarten when we were four years old and have stayed close ever since. Our families are “family” and her being here gave me a good excuse to be OUT AND ABOUT.
One of the big reasons I fell so in love with Paris and moved here was specifically for the art. Even other cities of such magnitude can’t quite compare to what Paris has to offer on the cultural scene. I try not to miss any major exhibition, but that’s tough when there are so many and the weekdays simply aren’t available for such luxuries in lieu of my “day job.” Yael, my house guest, visited as many exhibitions as she could all week long, leaving a few to visit with me on my days off. We tried to program it so that those that she visited without me were those I had already checked off my list. Here they are in a nutshell—the ones you shouldn’t miss if you can help it!:
Vivian Maier, on until January 16, 2022 at the Musée du Luxembourg. This is the unknown photographic work of a Hungarian governess who emigrated to the United States, almost lost forever. It’s a great story and an even greater collection of photographic work.
Georgia O’Keeffe, on until December 6, 2021 at the Centre Pompidou. This is the first retrospective in France of one of the greatest figures of 20th-century North American artists. There is nothing not to love about this extensive collection by an equally incredible woman who changed the way we look at the desert and flowers. Many of the canvases glowed in a way that they seemed back lit…but it was just “paint” O’Keeffe style.
Musée Carnavalet, the city’s museum that reopened on May 29, 2021 after over four years of renovation. On until October 31st, you can discover the exhibition “Henri Cartier-Bresson – Revoir Paris” which revisits the links woven by the photographer with a city where he has always lived and which has nourished him artistically. I didn’t even go as far as to see the Cartier-Bresson exhibition…there is already too much to discover in the new Musée Carnavalet!`
Bourse de Commerce is the new exhibition space for the Pinault Collection. In an historic building fully restored and transformed by famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, he created a dialogue between heritage and contemporary creation, between the past and the present. You might not love the art, but you will definitely love the building.
Those are just some of the exhibitions she saw without me. Then came this week’s new discoveries:
Thierry Mugler: Couturissime (Beyond Couture) is on until April 24, 2022 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. This is the first exhibition devoted to this multi-talented and imaginative designer. Oh my! Don’t rush through it. Take your time. The costumes created and constructed by this genius need a re-visit…it’s too overwhelming to take in once!
David Hockney, A Year in Normandie is at the Orangerie, until February 14, 2022. Installed in the Pays d’Auge since the beginning of 2019, the famous British painter David Hockney has initiated a new chapter in his artistic creation. His house, his garden and the surrounding countryside have become his favorite motifs, painted on iPads, a technique he has been using for over ten years. Fun, fun, fun is what I’d call this body of work, that is reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestries, but oh so Hockney. Plus, there is the added plus of the permanent collection of the museum (Monet’s Water Lilies) and another formidable exhibition of Chaïm Soutine and Willem de Kooning, La Peinture Incarnée (painting incarnate) on until January 10, 2022. (Small note: I met David Hockney at an AIDS fundraising party event in Los Angeles in the early 1990’s and blubbered all over him, extolling my love of his work, to the point of embarrassing him miserably—he seemed to be a very shy man.)
Meanwhile, I haven’t stopped eating out, both at old favorites and a few new restaurants. Having been gone all summer to Nice and with Covid-19 getting in the way of normalcy, I hadn’t realized how much Paris has blossomed with new eateries. Of course, you can still find me almost daily at Café Charlot, and as is my habit, I celebrated my birthday quietly with a few friends at my other local “canteen,” Chez Omar (47 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris).
Laurent Queige, of the Welcome City Lab, introduced me to Les 2 au Coin, owned by his friend, Victor Pimentel. It’s the perfect little Parisian café off the beaten track with a gorgeous ambiance thanks to the tables situated in a small potted flower shop full of lush plants in perfect health. You’ll find well-balanced, flavorful meals exactly like you dream of from the French, and at reasonable prices, too. The daily menu is small but changes…it’s the kind of place you could easily become a regular to see what Victor is cooking up.
Krista Bender, of Perfectly Provence, introduced me to Elmer l’Épicerie. It’s gastronomic, thanks to Chef Simon Horwitz and a great wine selection thanks to sommelier Sébastien Perrot…the main reason Krista wanted me to try it. I was surprised by how much rue Notre Dame de Nazareth had changed in the past few years…gone from scruffy to chic in what seemed like overnight. The atmosphere of the restaurant is lovely, but I’m too much of a Plain Jane to appreciate the cuisine, especially at the price. For those who have a refined palate, Horwitz’s concoctions might make you swoon, but I just got lost in the complex ingredients to know what it was I was actually eating. Krista loved the wine, but since I’m not a drinker, that went over my head, too. (Lunch menu from 29€, evening menu from 60€.)
On another and quite contrary note, Motek, a new Israeli restaurant on rue Saint-Denis (which used to be a red light district and is changing rapidly), wowed us…and now I can’t wait to go back. Simple decor, and don’t be fooled by the bright lights and inexpensive menu. We were licking our plates…from the simple Israeli Salade, to the Aubergine au Four, to the Kaved Off chicken livers with caramelized onions, to the Chakchouka with Tuna. It was a non-stop party in our mouths and it didn’t break the bank like Elmer.
Getting out and about in Paris this past week was a special treat. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to be a tourist myself, when we’d walk the streets endlessly, visit as many exhibitions as we wanted and try out new restaurants. I saw elements of the city I hadn’t seen before—things that had changed so much in the past year and other things that seemed as if nothing had changed at all. There is a new and renewed life to the City of Light that we haven’t seen in a very long time…and it’s very exciting to be even a tiny little part of it.
Come discover it yourself.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
Adrian celebrating her birthday at Chez Omar with their Plateau de Desert