Stop, Look and Listen…Paris Comes Alive Again
Paris is still Paris. I take that back. Paris is a new and improved Paris.
I wasn’t really looking forward to being back in Paris after having spent 2.5 months of the summer in Nice…in warm weather (but not too hot), blue skies (they claim 300 days a year of sunshine), a colorful palette (Provençal colors and the most gorgeous aqua sea), lots of great restaurants (with and abundance of fresh fish and seafood) and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. In fact, it’s pretty easy to get used to that…and I did, settling right in. But, it was time to head back for “La Rentrée.”
It’s a funny thing how at the end of summer, Nice quiets down while Paris gets energized. And so, my inauguration back into the City of Light began with a bang. Having arrived late Friday night by train, I took time on Saturday morning to unpack and get organized. The first thing of note, almost comical, was that so many apparatuses weren’t functioning as their batteries had died. One of the first chores was to replace them. The plants had been well taken care of by my housekeeper who arrived later that morning, and I was impressed that the geraniums were thriving beautifully. She takes care of the “babies” as tenderly as I do.
Twenty-seven years to the day, my family had arrived in Paris for a “one-year” trial, never to leave. The housekeeper of our first rental apartment continued to work for us, and believe it or not, she is still coming every Saturday morning like clockwork. It continues to surprise us both.
FIRST STOP: CAFE CHARLOT
I left her working away in the apartment to head to Café Charlot for my first lunch back in town. Like a homecoming, the waiters were as happy to see me as I was to see them. I ordered the “plat du jour” like I always do and caught up on email, while getting into an altercation with a young American woman who was talking very loudly about something so embarrassing that I can’t imagine she really wanted the whole café to hear it, but they did. I must have had a knee-jerk reaction and “shushed” her, to which she retorted under her breath, “Rude!”
“But, it’s really rude to speak so loudly,” I said, “especially about something you really don’t want all of us to hear!”
She told me “shushing” is for dogs (she had a little dog in a her lap), but not for people, so I apologized profusely for treating her like a dog, she quieted down, and we all went back to having our good time.
Not to miss a single beat, I set out after lunch to meet an old friend visiting Paris to explore the new Bourse de Commerce Pinault Collection and the new Samaritaine Department Store. Situated close in proximity, a visit to both made for a perfect inauguration back into the city—two things I had missed while spending the summer in Nice.
SECOND STOP: BOURSE DE COMMERCE PINAULT COLLECTION
The round building on rue du Louvre is one I have passed hundreds of times, but never entered. It was restored and transformed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando and recently completed, ready to take on a new “raison d’être” as home to the Pinault art collection. It was built in the 15th-century as Catherine de’ Medicis’ palace, capped with a metal and glass dome in 1812, then altered again in 1889 to become the Paris Stock Exchange.
I can’t say I was overly impressed by the art, but it doesn’t matter because the building steals the show. Even so, I couldn’t help but smile at the 52 taxidermied pigeons by artist Maurizio Cattelan perched on a ledge that circles the dome. At the center under the rotunda is a special installation by Swiss artist Urs Fischer that has debuted in France—wax sculptures that drip as their candles burn.
One of the unique features of the building is a double helix spiral staircase that will confuse you if you assume it takes you to all the floors. It doesn’t—one must access the correct staircase to get to the correct floor. It was designed when the space was once used to store corn, making it easier for the heavy sacks of corn to be carried, going up one side and down the other. Circling the round structure is what you’ll do, on every level, which I found so characteristically French in nature, for such a “polychronic” culture.
Some of the views from the building are exceptional, especially eastward of Les Halles and the Centre Pompidou just beyond. A visit is highly recommended. To plan your visit there, visit the collections website first!
THIRD STOP: LA SAMARITAINE
I can’t say I get it—the newly renovated Samaritaine department store’s theme: Born to be…whatever. Makes no sense to me, but what do I know?
I used to go to the Samaritaine as a loyal and happy customer until it closed in 2005 due to safety concerns after falling into disrepair. The Art Deco and Art Nouveau mixed architecture of the building, designed by Frantz Jourdain and inaugurated in 1869, was always magnificent, in spite of how it was effectively ignored by the previous owners. Purchased by the luxury-goods company, LVMH in partnership with luxury retailer DFS, it’s been under refurbishment ever since, to the tune of $894 million, until its recent re-opening to the public in time for its 151st anniversary. Within the new, yet old walls, is a department store, hotel, restaurant, brewery, cafés, offices, and housing.
Wow!…is what I have to say. There isn’t anything sold in the store I can afford, but that didn’t matter. In this case, unlike the Bourse, the contents on display are major works of art, even if “just” luxury goods, surrounded by a truly magnificent structure. There is one entire floor devoted to jewelry. Can you imagine? My favorite floor was of nothing but women’s shoes. And these aren’t just “shoes”—they were far more exciting as works of art than those at the Bourse! (I didn’t dare look at the prices nor try any on.)
Even so, the building wins the prize. The restoration by Japanese agency Sanaa, was brilliant in allowing the architectural design to return to the original inspiration of the architects Frantz Jourdain, and later of Henri Sauvage. The beauty of it will overwhelm you.
Don’t miss taking a leisurely stroll through all its parts, even if you don’t or can’t indulge in any of its offerings.
FOURTH STOP: MUSEE CARNAVALET
The mansions that house the Musée Carnavalet began construction in the mid 1500s for Jacques des Ligneris, President of the Paris Parliament, but it was Madame de Sévigné for whom we will best remember it, having lived in one of the buildings that make up the museum in the 17th-century. As a museum honoring the city of Paris, it opened to the public in 1880, then closed in 2016 for the renovation…until it’s reopening at the end of May of this year. The summer in Nice kept me from visiting it sooner.
The Chatillon Architects agency, associated with Snøhetta and the NC Agency carried out the major restoration work over a period of more than four years, restoring its facades, its bays, its courtyards and some of its parquet floors, “redefining the visitor’s route and adapting it to the 21st century by bringing it up to standard, creating vertical circulations and new spaces.” One new staircase, made of one massive curved ribbon of steel, is mesmerizing and complexing—how on earth it was produced and installed is a complete mystery to me. (For some great photos, visit this site)
One could spend hours enjoying every inch of the building, every work of art and every artifact. We spent more than two hours there before needing a drink break in the beautiful garden which now boasts of a café. We had a six year-old in tow who loved the experience even more than we did. She was taking notes and drawing things she saw in a small notebook all along the way. When looking down on the garden from a window, she noticed how the newly-planted shrubs were in the shape of a butterfly. I was impressed with her astute vision. (I doubt many adults would have recognized it.)
The museum is free, but you must reserve your spot in advance. Do it! And take your time to enjoy it thoroughly, along with the centuries of history of the city of Paris.
STOP AND LISTEN: PARIS UNDERGROUND NETWORK
Oliver Gee of the Earful Tower made podcasting from Paris “de rigueur,” and now there’s another podcaster to rival him. This new podcast network is a way of featuring top Paris podcasts all in one place—”Paris Underground Radio” which will host a dozen Paris and France-themed podcasts created by noted local personalities.
Launching September 19th, this is your chance to listen to over a dozen podcasts all about Paris (and France, too) on one new platform. Founder Jennifer Geraghty believed that there was a lack of podcasts aimed specifically at expats living in Paris. (Maybe she didn’t know about Oliver Gee? He does an amazing job, if you ask me.) Jennifer’s plan is to provide a wide range of shows, from events to food and wine, which are designed to appeal to Paris fans living abroad and people planning trips to the city, as well.
She’s no newbie in the podcasting world. A New Yorker living in Paris for more than 10 years, she started her first show in 2019 called “The Faux Pas-Cast.” With this venture, she’ll be curating a collection of podcasts hosted by local personalities, including business owners, tour guides, writers, chefs and more. (I will be one of them!) New episodes will be aired on “Paris Underground Radio” six days a week, with each day presenting a different theme: food and wine, culture and events, entertainment, health and wellness, fashion and lifestyle, and business and news.
A virtual launch party (free) will kick off on Thursday, September 16th at 7 p.m. (CET). The event will include a presentation of the network, Q&As with hosts and a virtual auction of a collection of Paris prize packages.
Here’s the whole line-up”
● Launch Date: The first episodes will go live on Sunday, Sep 19, 2021
● Schedule: New episodes air six days a week. Culture and Events Sundays, Business and News Mondays, Fashion and Lifestyle Tuesdays ,Entertainment Wednesdays, Mind and Body Thursdays, Food and Wine Fridays
● Length: Between 15 and 60 minutes
Monday: Business and News
● Paris Estate of Mind
Tuesday: Fashion and Lifestyle
● Paris Undressed
Thursday: Mind and Body
● The Heart of You
Listen to the Shows:
● All episodes will be available directly on their website
● You can also listen to new episodes of the shows by searching for them in any podcast app. Some of the most popular ones: Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Spreaker, iHeartRadio, Deezer, Amazon Music, and Podchaser
Alas, Paris is very much still Paris. It will certainly keep us busy as we soak up all the culture it oozes from its cobblestone pores. More to come…
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
Adrian by Alice Fonville, Six Years-Old, Newcomer to the City of Light
P.S. Don’t miss the exciting news for our next edition of Aprés-Midi…LIVE! See the notice the top of this nouvellettre.