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Paris Unpredictably Portrayed

Paris can be so unpredictable. The weather of late can’t seem to decide whether it’s Summer or not. One minute it’s cool, one minute it’s hot, one minute it’s raining buckets and the next minute it’s sunny. It’s a far cry from the sweltering heat we had last year this time, but still, we’re having Summer withdrawal pains and yearning for days at the beach.

Guess that’s why I was so anxious to head to Paris Plage on Sunday. I put on my sundress, made a plan with a friend to meet on the quai at Place du Châtelet to then walk down to the “plage.” It had always opened on a Sunday before, so even though the opening date was June 21st, I didn’t think for two seconds that meant Wednesday. But when we arrived and looked down from the “pont,” just the frames for the umbrellas were there, the grass had been laid, the blue flags were flying and the wood platform base for the sand was in process of installation. What a shock! And what a fool!

Actually, we found the “bone structure” fascinating…how three kilometers of the road along the Seine will be miraculously transformed into a beach front right in the heart of Paris!
Well…count on me being there on Wednesday for opening day and reporting back shortly after.

On Saturday, in between the torrential rains and bright sun, I headed to the Luxembourg Gardens with two new members of the Parler Parlor French-English conversation group — Patricia Westheimer, a journalist for Expats living in Portugal (look for “Patricia’s Column” at and Holly Hickling, daughter of International Living’s top-notch copywriter, Thom Hickling, who is here interning this Summer at Bill Bonner’s Agora, Inc. Paris office. We managed to lunch between showers in the garden while a group of young Anglophone girls sang English songs and performed something theatrical on the bandstand nearby. The chestnut trees are at their thickest now, the flowered urns are overflowing, the palm trees that spend the winters in the nursery planted in big green wooden boxes are placed strategically around the garden and the flowers are blooming in coordinated colors of pinks, violets, oranges and yellows. Sitting under the trees looking out across the gardens can make one feel as if you’re part of an impressionist painting and every photo I take there is picture-perfect. It’s my number one favorite garden in Paris.

At the Musée du Luxembourg, in the building wing at the west of the palace, the exhibit “Moi! Autoportraits du XXème Siècle” (Self-Portraits of the 20th-Century) is still on, but only until July 25th. I’m so sorry that I hadn’t run to see it sooner — it was unpredictably the most exciting exhibit I’ve seen this year. There are more than 150 works, both by well known and “rediscovered” artists, in an astonishing diversity of styles, media and imagination. It was surprising to discover that the famous poster of Uncle Sam pointing his finger and saying “I Want You For U.S. Army” by James Montgomery Flagg from 1917 is actually a self-portrait of Flagg! My favorite, in spite of all those that defy the traditional portrait, was Dégas’ 1900 small and simple painting, three touches of red paint in key points on his face, his eyes dull and dark, but arresting. There is a faint image of a woman just behind him — possibly one of his models. I couldn’t take my eyes off his.

If you can’t get to see “Moi!” before it closes this coming weekend, you can visit to see many of the images online! And if you’re traveling to Italy later this year, the exhibition will be in Florence at the Palazzo Strozzi from September 1st to January 9, 2005.

I’ve had occasion to paint a self-portrait or two, thanks to American portrait artist Kathy Burke who gives workshops from her beautiful Marais atelier from time to time. It’s an exercise in not only how you see yourself, but how your creative and technical talents can translate the message and often the results are as surprisingly unpredictable as both Paris’ weather and the exhibit was.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. We’re thick in the final planning stages of our two upcoming conferences and tour to Provence-Languedoc-Roussillon. Visit /frenchproperty/conference/index.html to learn more about both and how you can register.


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