Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Love Paris In The Winter, When It Drizzles...

There are so many things I’m going miss about Paris.

Here are some that immediately come to mind and some more of my favourite images of the city (neither in any particular order) :

The No 72 Bus – surely one of the world’s most picturesque transport routes. I will certainly miss my Tuesday night bus-ride along the Seine, with the Eiffel Tower illuminated and occasionally an orange moon in the sky alongside.

Tonight I was early enough to be treated to the sparkling light-show that lights up the tour every hour, from Pont Alexandre III.

An unplanned but fitting closing night performance.

Bread (Come to think about it, a lot of the things I’ll miss involve food!) These people have forgotten more about how to make bread than most other cultures have ever known.

Late European summer nights – love the happy sounds rebounding around the courtyard. And even though the coming winter and all its paraphernalia feels so familiar to me as well, this is one happy camper who is delighted not to be hanging around for another European winter (ever again, if she can possibly avoid it)!

Authentic pains au chocolat and decadent croissant beurre (as if a croissant needs more butter)! The real deal.

Scarves and collars – honestly, finally the pressure will be off and I can go back to being a slob. Parisians are just born knowing how to tilt a beret at a jaunty angle, casually knot a flowing winter scarf and sport a turned up collar to make James Dean envious. There’s no point even trying to emulate their style DNA – they can spot an imposter from a hundred metres.

Cheese – if you can milk it, you can make cheese from it and sell it in specialist fromageries and may it ever be thus!

Pedal Power – I’ll certainly miss the bikes and it may well be some long time before I stop automatically photographing every one I see.

On my way home this evening, I actually saw a guy pedaling home in a leisurely fashion, with a kitchen sink strapped on to the back of his bike.

And, who needs bike-paths or even roads for that matter? Every kind of vehicle can be ridden on every kind of surface, who cares if it’s a footpath? There’s a funny kind of transport anarchy that is amusing, once you know what to look out for when you’re ambling along the street window shopping.

This is hardly a very long-thought-out or exhaustive list and I’m sure I’ll have time to reflect upon and add to this list once I’ve made it onto the plane tomorrow and drawn a deep breath.

* * * * * * * * *

Finally, a fond, final au revoir today to our dear Andre.
You would have loved it here and savoured every minute, I’m sure.
We will always miss you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Love to Louvre

The days are flying by now as my time in Paris comes to an end. There’s been little time to blog in between finishing off pieces of work in the studio, catching those last few museums I haven’t managed to visit or seeing some of the exhibitions which are coming around now as the year gets properly into gear, shopping for souvenirs, making sure I visit all my favourite restaurants, cafés patisseries one last time – and I haven’t even begun to think about packing!

Visited the Louvre today for the last time this visit to spend some more time in my favourite gallery The Gallerie Sept Metres, where some of the Louvre’s impressive collection of the 13th – 15th century Italian painters are displayed and where I have promised myself I would come back and do some more research, after my last visit.

Just love the stampede for La Jaconde the minute the museums doors are open – it amuses me every time. Looks like there are some impressive renovations for the Islamic Art collections in train - will look forward to seeing them on another visit.

At the end of last week, I finally succeeded in getting to see the Basquiat retrospective at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which was definitely worth getting up early to avoid the queues for. It was a busy show - with crowds and with the amount of work on view.

I like Basquiat’s work – hype notwithstanding - particularly some of the earlier paintings. He had a great instinct for colour and a knack for a catchy motif, probably honed during his street/ subway art days. Predictably, I liked the works on paper best, as I thought they somehow felt the least self-conscious and that they had the least to prove.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Turning the World Upside Down

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect day to visit Anish Kapoor’s 'Turning the World Upside Down' installation in Kensington Gardens on Wednesday – a freezing cold day for London, but crisp and blue-skied.

The images – like the sculptures – say it all really!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rue de Rivoli

Spent quite a bit more time on Rue de Rivoli today than I had originally planned. I thought I would try to see the Basquiat Exhibition at the Musée de Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris – had a rather disappointing visit to lots of empty and closed galleries last week while they were installing the show, which is such a shame as I had such great memories of previous visits to their not inconsiderable collection (including the always haunting Boltanski installation, amongst many other works worth seeing).

However, I dawdled getting there and the queue was round the block by the time I arrived and it wasn’t much of a day for standing in the cold and rain. So I found myself walking back along the Rue de Rivoli, which I usually avoid if I can possibly can, as it is full of tourists on their way to and from and all around the Louvre.

Later I found myself on the very same street, on the very same bus route stuck in an almighty Paris-style traffic jam – the sort that I’ve heard about but haven’t experienced until today. When we eventually crawled through the Place de la Concorde, I alighted to find that the Pont Alexandre III closed and a seriously impressive display of police vans lining the quayside in front of the prefecture, blue lights ablaze, sirens wailing through the night. None of the Parisians at my class was the slightest bit bothered.

Needless to say, there has been another day of manifs against the pension reforms in Paris today – notably, many of the high schools were closed and there were police guarding the lycée opposite the Cité. Although I am delighted to see people out on the streets expressing themselves so vociferously and I am fascinated to see how this will play out for Sarkozy, selfishly, I have my fingers crossed that the cross-channel trains will be working tomorrow for my final trip to London and I’ll be keeping a close eye on the the international flight situation for my home-bound departure next week….

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Un Froid de Canard

Seems like after only a couple of days autumn, winter has already arrived in Paris today – it was really woolly hat and glove weather in the city today!

Went to see an interesting exhibition at the Irish Cultural Centre over in the Quartier Latin, by Irish sculptor Maud Cotter. I thought the individual pieces were really interesting, though the beauty of the individual elements were a bit lost for me in the business of the installation.

I was also - more pleasantly - surprised to see that the centre was open on Sunday, given that most of Paris is closed. But I was delighted to find that the popular student area behind the Sorbonne was full of life (I took this photo a few weeks back on a much warmer, sunnier day) – there was a flea market in progress, Middle Eastern and African restaurants andboulangeries were bustling and the streets were full of people, despite the icy winds.

Luckily, such a cold afternoon also warrants an afternoon visit to the cosy local Salon de Thé and a delicious slice of their fabulous Tarte Tatin and a pot of their special bergamot tea. Were we really lazing in the sunshine in the park eating icecream just a week ago?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vive La Résistance!

The big news in France this week is, of course, the nationwide strikes which have been going on since Tuesday, as part of an ongoing protest against President Sarkozy’s pension and various other unpopular fiscal reforms, including the extension of the retirement age for French workers.

Today's manfestations were held down the road at Bastille – that well-known site of civil unrest in Paris – though my only contact with the mass discontent was encountering a group of fresh-faced high-school students, setting out en masse in good voice and high-spirits from outside the G20 supermarket, as I did my Saturday grocery shopping.

The British Press – a little too gleefully, if you ask me – have been proclaiming that Charles de Gaulle airport has only enough fuel to last a few more days, due to strikes at oil refineries and a blockade of the fuel pipelines.

Great news for someone like me who has a little bit of traveling to do in the next 10 days or so – what fun!

Anyway, in solidarity with all the demonstrators out there – exercising their Gallic birthright, with their usual savoir faire – I’ve decided to dedicate today’s post to the subject of crowds and featuring some of the crowd scenes I’ve edited out of my the blog pages to date.

In the big city – as on a Paris Protest - you can rest assured that you are never alone!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Les Bohèmians - La Butte Montmartre Part II

The last few weeks of the residency are also upon me and there’s still so much to see and so many things to organise. Today was a cold and overcast day in Paris today - a cold wind and low misty cloud shrouding Notre Dame in the distance – a great day for staying in and working in the studio.

Found lots of street art in Montmartre on last Friday’s visit – particularly liked this series of famous faces by the artist PITR. He’s amazingly prolific - I’ve seen his work frequently in various quartiers of Paris and obviously other tourists have actually caught him in action around town.


He depicts all kinds of personalities – politicians, musicians and artists – but this corner was devoted to a philosophical theme featuring Artaud, Foucault and Sartre.

But had less success tracking down the owner of this handsome visage in the Marais from a couple of weeks ago. Anyone got any ideas?