About julesparis2013

Originally from Toronto, Canada, I moved to Paris about 20 years ago.

the brand new Giacometti Institute in Paris

The world’s first museum dedicated to the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti opened to the public on June 21st. The private Art Nouveau and Art Deco mansion located in Paris’s 14th arrondissement provides a permanent home for the collection of the artist’s work ranging from 350 sculptures, 90 paintings and 5,000 drawings, lithographies and etchings. Archives, including his correspondence and photographs, are also on display.

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Giacometti is best known for his elongated, withered representations of the human form, including his 1960 sculpture Walking Man which in 2010 broke the record at auction at $104.3 million. After experimenting with Cubism and Surrealism, Giacometti broke from Surrealism and began his radical revision of the representational tradition in sculpture. Giacometti’s severe figures explored the psyche and the charged space occupied by a single person. Linked to Jean-Paul Sartre and existentialism, they are seen as metaphors for the postwar experience of doubt and alienation.

The Montparnasse district (14th arrondissement) is where Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) lived and worked for forty years. The new institute presents a reconstruction of the artist’s studio. The intimacy of the place will be recreated through a system of glazing, lighting and bleachers allowing visitors to immerse themselves in what was the creative setting of the artist.

http://www.fondation-giacometti.fr/en/institute

summer destination, Atlantic Coast of France

I stopped going to the Côte d’Azur (the French Riviera) about a decade and a half ago. Too crowded, too expensive, too built-up. But throughout the 1990s I went regularly, stealing away on the night train that departed from the Gare d’Austerlitz. My destination was always Nice (I adored that city), but I explored other towns strung like pearls along the coast: Cannes, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, Cap Ferrat, and Menton near the Italian border. There was something romantic, dangerous and thrilling about those night trains. You never knew who you were going to meet in the corridors at midnight; you never knew with whom you were going to share your sleeping compartment (six bunks, called couchettes, to a compartment; you had to climb up a little ladder to get to the top bunk.) It seems funny now, the idea of sleeping with complete strangers in a stuffy train compartment. Towards the late 1990s the train company had the good idea to create “women’s only compartments” which locked from the inside.

But the Riviera lost its allure for me in the 2000s. The place had become over-run with tourists and both crime and prices increased drastically. Modernization attempts killed the sleepy charm that had once lured me there. So I switched coasts and discovered Arcachon, Cap Ferret (not to be confused with Cap Ferrat), La Rochelle and the Ile de Ré, all sparkling summer destinations on France’s western side. For visitors to France I still recommend the Côte d’Azur, but not in July and August. As for those night trains, sadly they’ve been phased out.

La Rochelle or Arcachon are good starting points, both little gems and both leading to beautiful islands: the Ile de Ré from La Rochelle and Cap Ferret from Arcachon. There’s also the Dune du Pyla that’s worth visiting, a massive sand dune and famous tourist destination that receives a million visitors per year.

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At the foot of the dune, numerous campsites are nestled in the pine forests. It should be known that French campsites are far from rustic. No canoeing, setting up tents and fighting off black flies and racoons like I used to do in Canada. No roasting weenies and marshmallows over a campfire while sitting on a log singing Kumbaya. The French like their comfort; they also like rules, confined spaces and organized group activities. A decade ago, when the kids were little, we spent one July at a campsite located at the foot of the Dune du Pyla. It’s called Les Flots Bleus. We were assigned a mobile home on a patch of earth measuring roughly 20 square meters.

It was fun (and funny) to watch the French in a different habitat. No matter where they find themselves, they adhere to strict meal times. Lunchtime is lunchtime and at noon sharp you could smell the beginning of meals being cooked inside the mobile homes or on barbecues outside. Tables were set, wine bottles were uncorked and simple lettuce salads with home-made vinaigrette were prepared. Camembert was unwrapped and meat was grilled. People strode by carrying baguettes, purchased at the on-site and all-important boulangerie. I admire the French for their food and meal discipline. Living in France taught me how to eat properly. The number one rule? No snacking between meals!

In the afternoon, groups formed to play pétanque under the trees while the kids headed to the pool, the beach or the giant dune. To see my past posts on Arcachon and Cap Ferret, go up to the top right hand corner of this blog and type Arcachon into the Search box. Here’s a video of another Atlantic island I’ve yet to explore:

 

more weekend and new PNL album

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The above photos were taken in the Old Town of Lille. There was a new installation art exhibition that I wanted to see. So we went with Soso’s sister, but not without having lunch first on the terrace. It was hot.

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Back at the house, Soso’s 17-year-old brother was listening to the new PNL album. In the first sixteen hours of its release, the clip was viewed three million times on YouTube. French teenage boys and young adults idolize PNL; they wear the same clothes and haircut as the two brothers who form PNL, Tarik et Nabil Andrieu.

A new genre of rap music

In October 2016 I blogged this about them –

PNL, which stands for Peace and Lové, is two brothers, Tarik (29) and Nabil (27), who were born and raised in a tough housing estate in Corbeil-Essonnes, just south of Paris, an area notorious for crime.

Basically abandoned by their parents and growing up in the projects, Tarik and Nabil were part of an increasingly marginalized demographic. Their Algerian mother was largely absent, while their father, a Corsican pied-noir (a European who lived in Algeria under French colonial rule) is described in their songs as a gangster. Their lyrics are often peppered with Arabic. As for the rest of their biography, it’s a bit hazy although we do know that the younger brother spent time in prison for drug dealing.

Highly politicized, their earlier work was an angry diatribe of life in the projects. Today, extremely wealthy and the housing projects behind them, they have mellowed (but not entirely.) Here’s the clip from their new album, A L’Ammoniaque, just released.

 

heatwave, soccer World Cup weekend

This morning on the streets of Lille I was asked three times for money by three different men. They asked politely. I gave the first man a handful of centimes, all that I had left after buying my godson a bouncy ball. He said he was from Bulgaria. I had to say no to the other two men because I had no change left. My six-year-old godson, who was with me, witnessed all this. Later, when we had returned to the apartment and were playing with the bouncy ball in one of the back bedrooms, his 17 year old brother came in with a friend. “Tata Juliet,” he said, “Would you happen to have five or ten euros?”

I burst out laughing. “You’re the fourth male who has asked me for money this morning. What’s going on? Are the words “ask me for a handout” written on my forehead?”

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the old town of Lille

Today, Sunday, was a heatwave all over France, 35 degrees Celsius (95F). We headed out this morning to the Musée des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts Museum) in the center of town. The interior spaces were lovely and cool, a perfect place for lingering. In France, all national museums offer free admittance on the first Sunday of every month.

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We lingered over a glass of chilled apple juice at the bar. Then Soso lingered over a movie while I browsed in the adjoining gift shop. Then we went out into the searing heat and headed over to our favorite park and the Gare Saint Sauveur for lunch.

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Yesterday (Saturday) was hot but tempered by a cool breeze. Two important events were taking place in towns and cities all over the country: the giant June sales, and the World Cup soccer match. You can imagine which event preoccupied my thoughts: the giant June sales, of course.

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But as I meandered the streets of the Old Town popping in and out of shops, the sound of cheering crowds spilling out of bars caught my attention. Big TV screens had been installed, inside and out, and large crowds had gathered. It was 5:30 pm and the exuberance of the fans was contagious.

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“Who’s playing?” I asked a group of fans. Ten heads looked at me as if I were stark raving mad, an alien from another planet. “France vs. Argentina,” was the reply. I hung around, took some photos, watched the match for ten minutes on the big screen then left. I wanted to get to Zara Home before it closed. 50% off on all items. I bought a gorgeous wool and mohair throw blanket, a Portuguese cotton bathroom rug, and some porcelain doorknobs for my new white Ikea wardrobe.

Oh, France won the soccer match 4 to 3.

More to come, but I must dash because Giant with Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson (1956) is coming on the TV in 5 minutes.

la danse orientale

Last night I went to a fabulous party. The friend of my friend was celebrating her 50th birthday. She’s French-Moroccan and lives with her French husband, Eric, in a house in the suburbs of Paris. White canopy tents had been erected in the garden, torches had been lit and long buffet tables groaned with platters of Moroccan food: tagines, couscous, pastilla, chicken and salads. For dessert we ate syrupy little cakes perfumed with orange flower water, stuffed dates, and orange and almond cake. All washed down with hot sweet mint tea. Towards midnight, fires were lit in metal drums and Bedouin carpets spread out on the grass. A professional Moroccan dancer performed while musicians played and guests ululated; the atmosphere was electric. I got home at 4 am. This morning my clothes still smelled of wood smoke from the fires.

Belly dancing is called la danse orientale in France. This complex and highly stylized dance is not easy to learn. Years ago I took lessons but I was hopeless at it. One of the best belly dancers is Sadie Marquardt. You’ll never guess where she’s from: Wisconsin, USA!! If you’re not familiar with this dance, here’s Sadie here, the queen of danse orientale. The music and the dancer we watched last night were similar to these videos.