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Appreciating Bacon and Taking a Look at the Hood

I walk past the back of the Musée Picasso on rue Vieille du Temple almost daily, but it had been years since I had ventured inside. Long lines to enter the Bacon-Picasso “La vie des images” exhibit (on till May 30th), kept us from queuing up on Sunday afternoon. Living so near made it possible to try again on Monday late afternoon (and play “hooky” from duties at the desk) to “jog” over with a friend visiting from California.

I will not delve deeply into the virtues of this exhibit, except to say that one could describe Francis Bacon’s paintings as “haunting.” I I personally find them “transcendental” — as if no human hand touched paint, nor brush, nor canvas — these strange and ethereal images simply landed on the surface in a flash, meant to seduce and intrigue us. Juxtaposed with Pablo Picasso’s abstract, yet concrete forms, exposing Bacon’s fascination for both Picasso’s style and subject matter, the collection of 100 works is meticulously curated and placed strategically in eight rooms of the “Hôtel Salé,” one of the “quartier’s” most beautiful private mansions. Built between 1656 and 1659 for Pierre Aubert, Seigneur de Fontenay, the man responsible for collecting salt tax, the most stunning feature is the “escalier d’honneur” (stairwell).

As I stood inside the magnificent manor, looking out onto the rear garden and the small park just beyond, the spaces I normally see from the outside on the street, it struck me how easily we can become jaded, not to appreciate what we have closest to us.

So far, it hasn’t happened. In fact, appreciation becomes more acute with each passing day, particularly life in Le Marais, where so much is available to us in such close proximity.

Just this morning, in an interview/meeting with Olivier Ferrand, Assistant to the Mayor (of the 3rd) in Charge of Finance, Urbanism, Economic Development and Communication, Pascal Fonquernie (director of and I learned that not only was the Mairie of the 3rd arrondissement the first, but is still the only city hall in all of France to offer free WiFi connection with more than 20 computers available for public usage. You don’t have to be IN the Mairie to benefit, either! Just sit in a cafe nearby with your laptop and log on (be sure to open a browser such as Explorer in order to access it)! Note: The service is part of an experiment with Wi-Fi Meteor Networks and a full listing of 261 Hot Spots in Paris is available at

Mayor of the 3rd, Pierre Aidenbaum, is known to be a leader in the city for progressive initiatives. In the last re-election, he won almost 70% of the vote, a record high, and it was a paradox for such a rich neighborhood to vote “socialist.” He is extremely present among the people — I see him regularly on the street and in the neighboring shops and restaurants. He also boldly supports anti-racist thought and activities, evident by various Mairie-sponsored events such as the upcoming ceremony commemorating National Deportation Day April 25th, 11 a.m. at 14 rue de Bretagne, a few steps from my own door. I intend to attend — and you’re invited, of course.

M. Ferrand was very open to ideas we had to add English language articles for the Anglophone community living in the Marais on their Web site and in their magazines. The community is clearly growing, even though it is impossible to ascertain any real statistics.

To bring the community together even more, Pascal Fonquernie manages a formidable Web portal for Le Marais at On April 15th, the first email newsletter will be broadcast, with an opening article every month by “yours truly” and lots of great tips and information on visiting this historic part of Paris. (To subscribe free, visit

For those of you wanting to learn more about what’s happening in the 3rd, visit and to find the city hall Web site for any arrondissement, visit


la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
[email protected]

P.S. Be sure to scroll down for everything going on in Paris this coming week and beyond, especially the poetry readings starting Monday night thanks to the Paris Poetry Workshop III.


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