(Another) Postcard from Paris

After a few days in London visiting my hygienist and sister, we caught the Eurostar for a few days in Paris, exploring mainly parts of the 10th, 18th, 20th and 11th arrondissements. As you know we love nothing better than a spot of pavement pounding in Paris. Having extensively trained in Australia, we had no problem walking over 50km (31 miles) in three and a half days. Of course, all that walking just helped us work up a healthy appetite.

Given that I handle all the logistics of any trip and choose where we eat, I allow my beloved to decide what we’ll visit. This time he’d elected to visited Atelier des Lumières again but to see the Van Gogh exhibition. You may recall, we’d previously seen the Klimt one which we’d much enjoyed. Enlarging his works allowed us to more greatly appreciate the finer details. This time we admired Van Gogh’s finely executed brush-strokes.

As we were in 11th arrondissement, it was only right we dined at one of their institutions in rue Paul Bert which is dominated by restaurants owned by two well-known French chefs: Cyril Lignac and Bertrand Auboyneau. The latter has four addresses and we chose his eponymous Bistrot Paul Bert, a tried-and-true classic French bistro serving traditional French cuisine. It more than lived up to its reputation. I also booked Lignac’s nearby Le Chardenoux for Sunday lunch.

Replete, my beloved decided we should walk off lunch around the cemetary Père Lachaise which proved unexpectedly delightful and will be the subject of a further post, not to mention popping up in subsequent Thursday’s Door posts. We made our way back to our hotel for cocktails and nibbles, weary of foot and made plans for the following day.

On Saturday we headed to Montmatre, an area my beloved has never visited and where I first ventured aged 15 and then again probably around 10 years later. We combined it with a visit to the Fêtes des Vendages purely by coincidence since it was set out all around the Sacre Cœur. This annual five-day fête celebrates the grape harvest in Paris’s only remaining and working vineyard, Clos Montmartre. The event is like one big street party, featuring local and artisan producers offering a wide range of French alcoholic beverages and gastronomic treats – lunch sorted!

Having tarried longer than anticipated in Montmartre we slowly wend our way back to our hotel wandering through nearby Batignolles (17th) and Pigalle (9th) stopping only for a restorative cuppa before enjoying cocktails back at the hotel.

On Sunday we strolled in the warm sunshine back to Cyril Lignac’s recently re-opened restaurant Le Chardenoux close by where we’d lunched on Friday. This petite bistro and classified historic monument has a gorgeous hand-painted green foliage ceiling festooned with golden chandeliers. More importantly, the food is fantastic.

After lunch we popped across the road to Lignac’s La Chocolaterie where I treated my beloved to some sublime chocolate and he bought me another cookery book. Thereafter we’d wandered (finally) through the Marais – well-trodden territory – back to our hotel.

Monday morning we decided to investigate the area around the nearby Canal Saint Martin which still has a series of locks with bridges that rise or swing, bringing road traffic to a stand still as barges make their way up to the Canal de l’Ourcq or down to the Seine.

Once an industrial hub, the area is now trendy and dynamic, with creative restaurants, fun fashion, and bars bursting with boisterous crowds. A stroll along the canal from Stalingrad to Richard Lenoir metro stations is a promise of near picture-perfect Paris, complete with picnickers, swans, pétanque players, and even the occasional accordionist.

You might be wondering why we walked so far on our trip. It took Eliud Kipchoge under two hours to run 42.2km a distance which took us just three days to walk around Paris. To be fair though, we weren’t wearing souped up running shoes, nor did we have an army of pacers or had our optimal trajectory outlined by laser. Instead, we’d wandered around according to the dictates of my beloved’s google maps app the veracity of which is doubtful. I’m not calling out Mr Google you understand just the man holding the iPhone who often confuses his left from his right. This tends to matter much when you’re trying to navigate your way around town.

I prefer paper maps and I try to memorise the major roads bisecting the various arrondissements. For example on Sunday, after lunch, my beloved was taking me to the Marais but anyone with any sense (apart from him) knows that once you stray into the 19th or even 20th that you’re most definitely going in the wrong direction! Suffice to say I ended up walking around parts of Paris I’ve never before seen or, frankly, wish to see again.

As is our habitual want, we ate lunch at Le Train Bleu before catching the four o’clock train back home. As always, it was a fun trip and I’m looking forward to our next one.

History of a Parisian foundry

I’m always fascinated by the history of the buildings we visit, particularly those which have been repurposed. On our most recent trip to Paris, both of the exhibitions were in buildings originally built for diffferent purposes.

We visited the Atelier des Lumieres, in Paris set in the former Chemin-Vert foundry in 11th arrondissement, a relatively new area for us to explore. Said foundry was established in 1835 by the Plichon brothers to supply the French navy and railway companies with high-quality cast iron parts.

In all, four generations of the Plichon family successively ran the foundry until the Great Depression in 1929. The company was dissolved in 1935; the site and buildings were sold to the Martin family, who are still the current owners. The foundry was used by a tool manufacturing company until that ceased operations in 2000.

In 2013, Bruno Monnier, the President of Culturespaces, discovered the former disused foundry. After creating the Carrières de Lumières art centre in Les Baux-de-Provence, he wanted to set up a Digital Art Centre in Paris. The Martin family, which was interested in the project, agreed to rent out the great hall and its annexes to him in 2014.

Four years later, after major renovation works, the Atelier des Lumières opened its doors to the public with its three inaugural exhibitions: “Gustav Klimt” and “Hundertwasser”and “POETIC_AI.” It’s most definitely worth a visit.

After visiting the exhibition, I took time to wander around the quarter. Sadly many of us are familiar with the area solely because of the November 2015 terrorist attack which killed 132 people and injured many more. I do know it’s the most densely populated arrondissement in Paris and its bars and restaurants provide an unrivalled convivial atmosphere, a certain “joie de vivre.”

It was here that Parisians began the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille on 14th July 1789. Today the Colonne de Juillet, the towering golden Corinthian statue commemorating the 1830 Revolution, rests on the site of the old prison at Place de la Bastille.

Place de la République, its sister square, can be found at the oppostite end of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir where crowds tend to gather for political demonstrations. After the afore-mentioned terrorist attacks, this was where Parisians came together to mourn the victims and celebrate French unity. The area is also home to a number of green squares and open places and is a pleasure to walk around despite the lack of obvious landmarks or, maybe, because of that lack!

 

 

Visit to Atelier des Lumières

Whenever we visit Paris, my beloved generally gets to choose which exhibitions and/or events we visit. This time he elected to visit a relatively new exhibition space in Paris’s 11th arrondissement – not an area we know particularly well – called Atelier des Lumières, Paris’s first digital museum of fine art.

Not quite knowing what to expect, we took the metro over to 11th in Eastern Paris and walked the length of rue Saint-Maur. We almost missed the former foundry had it not been for the long queue outside. This didn’t augur well, my beloved does not like to wait. Fortunately, the queue moved briskly and we were soon inside the large multi-sensory exhibition space operated by Culturespaces, called its “Workshop of Lights.”

The exhibition is dedicated to Gustav Klimt and a century of Viennese painting, includin works by Egon Schiele and Friederich Stowasser, better-known as Hundertwasser. There’s also a smaller studio given over to works by emerging artists.

Using state-of-the-art visuals and audio, the artists’ works are transformed as 140 video projectors expose their works onto and across 10 metre high walls over the vast 3,300 square metre surface area of the refurbished building. These fabulously colourful images provide an immersive and panoramic show to the sound track of music by Wagner, Chopin and Beethoven, among others, using an innovative motion design sound system.

It was a mesmerising digital display and we were transfixed as 360-degree views of the artworks flash across the walls. Over a period of around 30 minutes we’re taken on a journey round neoclassical Vienna. Our favourite  aspect was the exhibition’s attention to details, particularly with Klimt’s “golden” phase.

It’s difficult not to be overawed by the scale and depth of this multi-sensory exhibition. However, in my opinion, the best bit is that it makes fine art more interesting, accessible and available to younger audiences.