Highlights of the Bright Light in the City of Light
As much as I complain about the constant gray temperament and ambiance of Paris, I am eating my words. The sun came out this past week and through the weekend…and so did every human being in the city, shedding their rain gear for sun dresses and sandals. One person has already sent a text message this morning complaining of a sun poisoning rash and looking for a solution. This is highly unusual, but if it were me, I would be rejoicing instead of itching!
It was the perfect weekend to have old friend, Barb Westfield, visiting so as to behave like a tourist and take IN all that is OUT. Days like this are when Paris is at its finest. We take advantage because we know the clouds are just beyond the horizon destined to ‘rain on our parade’ and send us all flying indoors once again.
For those who haven’t yet seen the new Canopée des Halles, add this to your MUST SEE list. There are sure to be the ‘nay-sayers’ — there always are more critics than we have hairs on our head, like those who still don’t like the Pyramide du Louvre or the Centre Pompidou, but don’t listen to them.
What was a hell-hole in the center of the city where no one wanted to go, La Canopée is a new destination and a real place to JUST BE. On top of that, the new merchants and restaurants which occupy the main part of the structure are contemporary, fresh and very international. Shopping there is a blast (yes, I came home with way too much, but all at a bargain). The garden is still under construction, but the writing is on the wall that the district will once again be the real heart of the city. (Hence, now is the time to invest in property in and around Les Halles!)
Learn all about it, download the “Dossier de Press” PDF (in French).
The Centre Pompidou is just a short walk away and the Paul Klee “l’Ironie `a l’Oeuvre” exhibit is worth a visit. Avoid the long lines (without giving up the sunny days) by going in the evening — except for Tuesdays when the museum is closed, it’s open until 10 p.m. so between 6 and 8 p.m. is the best time to see any of the collections. If you have no choice and end up there only to be faced with a long security line, one secret entrance is the elevator to the left of the main entrance that is for diners at “Georges.” You must look and act like a bona fide diner, and with confidence tell the attendee you have reservations at Georges. He will allow you access without question. Once in, head DOWN the escalator to the lobby to get your tickets, but you will have outsmarted those in the queue.
Don’t expect to leave the Klee exhibit exhilarated. With 230 of his works to help one fully understand his angst and desperation, one cannot help but feel as fearful or anxiety-ridden as Klee. His world of demons could put a gray haze over your sunny day, so “caveat emptor” — ‘buyer beware.’
The Carreau du Temple let the sun shine IN on the 7th edition of Klin d’Oeil fair of crafts, food, music and fashion. Young French artists filled the wide open space with their whimsical creations. Entry was free, the atmosphere congenial and the creations were playful. It is a specialty of the French culture to revel in these small ideas and appreciate their value.
On days like these, the water’s edge can be the perfect spot to picnic or let the service come to you. On the Quai d’Orsay along the River Seine are a line-up of ‘floating’ restaurants (restaurants on barges) loving the warm, sunny weather as are their diners. Among them are “Rosa Bonheur sur Seine,” “Flow,” “Bistrot Alexandre III” and “Faust.” Take the stairs down on either side of the Pont Alexandre III to find your finest repose. We certainly did, while watching the weekend bikers roll along and the boats float by.
With weather like this, the Bastille Market was busier than ever and the fresh produce even more colorfully beautiful. The largest of all Paris markets and perhaps in all of France, it boasts of more than 125 stands including 38 produce vendors, 10 seafood stands and 12 specializing in regional products. Everything exists there, including the head of a baby pig, all roasted and ready for eating (ugh). I opted out and instead came home with wild mushrooms for a delicious late-night omelet.
Le Jardin du Luxembourg could be the city’s most beautiful garden. Everyone in the city of Paris flocked there Sunday afternoon — or so it seemed. Under construction along the edge of the Palais du Luxembourg, where the Senate is housed, is what looks like a kind of moat. One can only guess that the need for security has prompted such an undertaking.
The Palais and garden are more than 400 years old, created by Marie de Medici as her own with 23 hectares of lawns, tree-lined promenades, ponds and fountains. The Fontaine de Medicis is one of my very favorite spots to sit in the cool shade and take in the green garden. It was there I spent much of the afternoon talking with friends and watching two baby ducks on the pond search endlessly for their parents who were on the lawn a good distance away.
All of Paris was there, doing something or much of nothing. Some were playing “boules,” a kind of lawn bowling, others were playing chess, tennis, picnicking, reading, sunning their bodies and virtually ‘hanging out.’ One group of friends were playing a game using numbered wooden pins that I later discovered to be a Finnish game called “Mölkky” that’s only as old as 1996, but is a version of a centuries-old game with Karelian roots.
The garden has something for everyone, including a home for bees at the eastern side near the rue de Fleuris entrance. An apiary sits quietly in the shade, having enjoyed this home since 1856 and feeding upon the fruit trees in the garden. By coincidence, my visiting friend was expounding on the virtues of honey made by Parisian bees, only to discover the hives. As it turns out, Paris has it’s advantages as a pesticide-free zone, the warmth of the city environment and a diversity of pollens (more than 250 in the city) to produce some of the finest honey around. As a result, hives have popped up like wild flowers on balconies, in parks and on the rooftops of some famous buildings, including the Michelin-starred restaurant, La Tour d’Argent and the Westin Hotel on rue de Rivoli.
This past week I passed a tiny shop on rue de Sevigné that exclusively sold honey and thought, “how on earth can a shop that only sells honey survive in this economic environment?” Now, I get it…but the truth is, it’s not likely to survive for long. The bees, however, will survive for centuries!
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(with Barb Westfield of Chicago and Ansouis)
P.S. Tomorrow is May’s Parler Paris Après Midi with writer, editor, teacher Janet Hulstrand speaking on “Off the Beaten Track in France: L’Aube en Champagne.” Details on our Après Midi page. Don’t miss it!