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The Center of the Holiday Universe: Paris

Galeries Lafayette illuminated for the holidays
Galeries Lafayette illuminated for the holidays

What a week; what a weekend! Paris, in spite of its dreadful weather, is the center of the universe…at least our universe!

LET’S START WITH JOSEPHINE BAKER

Taping of House Hunters International at Breakfast in America ended on the dot at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, just in time for owners, Craig Carlson and Julien Chameroy, and I to hop into a taxi and head to the Casino de Paris for the Joséphine en Rose Champagne Gala.

The House Hunters International crew at Breakfast in America with owners Craig Carlson and Julien Chameroy

The event, a celebration in honor of Josephine Baker’s induction into the Panthéon was open invitation sponsored by La Maison Noire Américaine, The Brian Scott Bagley Company, Little Africa, Treize au Jardin, the White House Catering Company and the Casino de Paris.

Program cover for Joséphine en Rose at the Casino de Paris

Baker was the first Black woman and one of the very few foreign-born figures honored with a plaque at the monument, recognized alongside other French national icons such as Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Simone Veil. Baker, an entertainer, amazing mother, civil rights activist, French Resistance spy, and global icon whose life has inspired generations around the world, was formally inducted into the Panthéon just hours before the Gala, an honor traditionally bestowed on the greatest French achievers in Arts, Letters, and Science.

The crowd at Joséphine en Rose at the Casino de Paris

Joséphine en Rose at the Casino de Paris

The gala drew a local crowd of the American community in Paris, of all colors, shapes and sizes. I was pleased to see lots of people I hadn’t seen in many years, making it feel somewhat like a kind of high school reunion. A rich tapestry of local and international community members, artists, entertainers, scholars, authors, journalists and more convened to honor and embody Baker’s dream of “diversity, equity, and inclusion: a concept she understood before it was a thing,” according to Maison Noire Américaine, founder and executive director, Robin Bates.

While the performances were taking place, the din from the loge was tough to ignore. Baker’s own family (the Rainbow Tribe) were seated up there without a care for what was going on, on the stage. Singers, poets, musicians, historians…all played a role that evening in telling us the life story of this amazing American who captured the hearts of the French at a time when she was shunned by her own American community for being mixed race.

Performers at Joséphine en Rose

Performers at Joséphine en Rose

William Jordan, President of the Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO), and a retired Foreign Service Officer living in Paris, has taken up the cause to restoring her U.S. nationality, lost when she took French citizenship. Baker had not so much renounced her U.S. citizenship, but lost it because she married a Frenchman and neither the U.S. nor France favored dual nationality at the time…and certainly not for women.

His op ed, “Justice for Josephine Baker Means Restoring Her U.S. nationality,” was first published in The Hill on December 1st. His argument opens like this:

“Yesterday, France accorded its highest honor to a mixed-race American who achieved fame and acceptance there even as her own country treated her with scorn, racism and hostility. This American lost her birth citizenship, most likely due to sexist French and U.S. laws that denied women dual nationality, but never her attachment to the United States or her hope that it might someday redeem the promise of full civil rights for all its citizens. It is not too late for Congress to right this wrong with a measure of equal symbolism and restore her nationality.”

Read the rest on thehill.com.

Jordan has created a special email address at AARO for matters related to Josephine Baker: [email protected]. AARO will be mentioning it in their impending News & Views for people who want to say something about restoring her nationality and/or lend support to any campaign. Read the Op Ed and be sure to take advantage of this email address to express your own opinion.

APRIL IN PARIS, IN DECEMBER

April Pett, of April in Paris Tours, invited Lisa Anselmo and me to take her tour of ILLUMINATIONS in Paris…or at least on part of it.

April Pett, April in Paris Tours

April Pett, April in Paris Tours

The description on her website is this:

Experience the true meaning of the City of Light this holiday season!

It is time to celebrate the end of year festivities as Paris lights up like no other place in the world! Get into the holiday spirit with this magical evening tour around the City of Light. Visit elaborate window displays and Christmas markets, sip on “vin chaud” and experience Paris as a true winter wonderland on this special 4-hour tour.

Finally, relax and enjoy breathtaking views on a Seine River Cruise – the perfect way to end the evening as Paris’ most famous monuments and bridges illuminate the winter sky.

We skipped the ride on the Seine, but that’s all we missed. Starting off at Printemps and finishing at the Marché de Noël des Tuileries 2021. I felt like a kid, or a tourist, or both, not even remembering the last time I ventured into the department stores. This is make-or-break time of the year for retailers, so the “Grands Magazins de Paris” make a huge effort to entice holiday shoppers.

Illuminations at Galeries Lafayette and the department stores

Illuminations at Galeries Lafayette and the department stores

In the City of Light, the illuminations for Christmas are outstanding and we agree that if you’re here soaking up the ambiance, then this tour is a must. We began by perusing the display windows at Printemps, which we decided were a whole lot prettier and more fun than Galeries Lafayette’s, but nothing quite beat’s GL’s Christmas tree under the dome.

The display windows at Printemps

The display windows at Printemps

Illuminations at GL didn’t start until 1912, but oh how it’s blossomed over the years, turning the entire neighborhood into a brightly illuminated winter wonderland. This year’s theme is “1, 2, 3 Christmas!” But, Santa is really the main mascot. He’s all over the store in a variety of looks…from the very traditional to the very outlandish. You will not want to miss the many personas this legendary character takes on.

GALERIES-LAFAYETTE 1,2,3...Noël!

Hip Santa at Galeries Lafayette

Hip Santa at Galeries Lafayette

If you go up, up, up to the rooftop terrace on the 8th floor, you’ll have a breathtaking view of the capital, from the Eiffel Tower to the Montmartre district and the beauty of the city’s rooftops. Now’s the perfect moment to experience the Christmas lights. It’s open till 8 p.m.

View from the Rooftop Terrace of Galeries Lafayette

View from the Rooftop Terrace of Galeries Lafayette

From the departments stores, satisfied we had seen the best of it, we walked along the beautiful and elegant rue de la Paix to the even more beautiful and elegant Place Vendome, then beyond to the Marché de Noël des Tuileries. Open til Sunday, January 2, 2022 with an ice rink, Santa Claus and many gift ideas and tasting sessions. Having moved in 2018 from the avenue des Champs-Elysées to the heart of the splendid Tuileries garden, the beautiful alleys of stands are safe from the road, in a green setting.

Santa at the Christmas Market

Santa at the Christmas Market

I’m not much for “chatchke” shopping at Christmas markets, nor was I about to sit on Santa’s knee (particularly this one who was busting out of his costume), but the look on the little girl’s face as she jumped up and down mile high on the trampoline made our visit there completely worthwhile.

Youngster on the trampoline at the Christmas Market...having the time of her life!

Youngster on the trampoline at the Christmas Market…having the time of her life!

For this tour and a whole lot more, contact April in Paris Tours…and be sure to tell April I sent you!

IKEA IDEA

Martine di Mattéo and I set out early Friday morning to IKEA with the idea to shop for the basics for two of our Fractional Ownership properties. It’s virtually one-stop shopping for the accessories that every home needs, such as kitchen utensils, and housewares of every sort. We arrived at the opening hour of 10 a.m. and hit the ground running.

Martine took one cart for one of the apartments (La Lanterne du Marais) and I took another cart for the other apartment (Les Balcons Saint-Paul) knowing that keeping the items apart was a crucial part of the assignment. With a three-page list in hand, we started at the beginning and wound our way through the store loading up the carts until it was impossible to fit another item. We added a third cart to our mission, and between the two of us we tried to wield them all without running into other people or things. It was pretty comical, but we were productive. While we were there, I took advantage of the opportunity to stock up on zip-lock bags, one of IKEA’s best offerings (if you don’t already know this).

Adrian at Ikea with one of the overflowing carts

Adrian at IKEA with one of the overflowing carts

Exiting the store with all the carts in tow, the rain was coming down, making it less than fun to unload them into Martine’s car, to the point of having no more room for us as passengers. We took the opportunity to leave it all, head back inside for lunch of Swedish meatballs and go back to the store for a few items we had missed on the list. By the time we came back out, the rain had subsided, but the car was no less full.

With some clever rearranging, we managed to wedge my marketing cart between the seats, barely clear of the gear shift, and on my lap was perched a large blue IKEA bag filled to the brim with stuff. Martine successfully arrived at the RER station in Noisy-le-Grand to drop me off, carefully untangle the marketing cart from between the seats, load it with the stuff I was taking home for myself and say so-long as we giggled all over ourselves. Poor Martine was then headed home to unload the car all by herself, taking care not to mix-up what had been purchased for each of the apartments.

Adrian with Martine in her car after the trip to Ikea

Adrian with Martine in her car after the trip to IKEA

FILM FESTIVAL FUN THANKS TO DIANE PERNET AND THE ASVOFF

I got home just in time to get dressed and ready for the ASVOFF Film Festival where I was to present the film “Steven Arnold: Heavenly Bodies.” Fashion icon Diane Pernet, the world’s first fashion blogger and founder of the world’s first film festival dedicated to fashion, style, and beauty, “A Shaded View on Fashion Film” (ASVOFF) held it’s 13th edition of the festival from this past week here in Paris. I was very honored to be asked to present the film, as I not only had a very small interview in the film, but I was very close to the artist, Steven Arnold, until his death (AIDS) just one month before we moved to Paris from Los Angeles in 1994.

The ASVOFF Film Festival at 35-37 rue des Francs-Bourgeois

The ASVOFF Film Festival at 35-37 rue des Francs-Bourgeois

Photo of the screen for the showing of The Documentary Film, "Steven ARnold: Heavenly Bodies"

Giving the opening presentation almost brought me to tears, reliving my profound relationship with the artist, whose work I collected by the truckload, today adorning both bedrooms of my Paris apartment. As I watched the film, now for the fourth time, I was overwhelmed by emotion. When it was over, several people came up to me to express their own teary-eyed moments, even without ever having known Steven Arnold.

Adrian with Steven Arnold and his photos, circa 1992

Adrian with Steven Arnold and his photos, circa 1992

I knew only one person at the festival, but met quite a lot of very interesting people—movers and shakers in the world of fashion in Paris. There was also quite a lot of great fashion happening right there in that very room at the recently refurbished Hôtel Particulier at 35-37 rue des Francs-Bourgeois. One designer I met, who was moved by the film, was Eric Rasaina from Cambodia. In our conversation, I told him about my daughter who had spent time in Cambodia volunteering at orphanages about 10 years ago. When I told Erica about having met him, she recognized him immediately as someone she had met there and of whom had taken tons of photos!

What a small, small world indeed! It seems that Paris is the center of the universe…at least of OUR universe.

A la prochaine…

Adrian, by Steven Arnold, 1991Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Adrian, by Steven Arnold, 1991

P.S. Speaking of HHI episodes…you’ll be able to watch a re-airing of our most recent episode, A Lifelong Dream of Paris, December 22. Details of the episode and air dates and times are on our website.

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