La Rentree 2017 and Paris Museums

Summer’s over in Paris. La rentrée — back to school — means new backpacks for students and new temporary museum exhibits for everyone.

Here are 3 of my favorites:

• At the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the lavish temporary expo, “Dior, Cuturier de Rêve,” celebrates the esteemed fashion house’s 70th birthday with a display of over 300 pieces, and following its designers from Christian Dior’s time through the present. Pictured above is a 1958 ensemble by Yves St Laurent. Until Jan 7.

• At the recently renovated Musée Picasso, “Picasso 1932” relates a complete year in the life of the Spanish painter, using a chronological presentation of his work and archives. The exhibition is organized in partnership with the Tate Modern in London, and contains important work, including “The Dream.” From Oct 10 to Feb 11.

• At Musée Jacquemart-André, the temporary expo “The Hansens’ Secret Garden” features 40 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works assembled by Danish art collectors Wilhelm and Henry Hansen. Paintings are by Corot, Cézanne, Matisse, Monet, and Gaugin. Get ready for a surprise — these works are relatively unknown in France. From Sept 15 to Jan 22.

Paris Via Video Part 2

Last week’s culinary video was a big hit, so here are two others that are très fun — whether you’re planning a trip to Paris, or waxing nostalgic.

Enrique Pacheco’s Le Petit Paris sails through the city with lots of close ups, beautiful light, and time lapse sequences that make you feel like you are there.

Allo Allo, from The House of Nod, gives a high energy, fresh take on the city of love and light.

Enjoy! And let us know what you think of these approaches to the city!

Paris Via Video: Alex Gabriel

Alex Gabriel is a self-trained cook living in Paris. I love his humor, and I especially like his cheese tasting video — it even recommends a couple of Vermont cheeses as alternatives to French.

And his brioche video shows you what to look for as well as how to make a good brioche.

And serious cooks won’t want to miss this one on remaking the chef’s knife.

Do you have favorite Paris videos? Share them here, s’il vous plaît!

Paris Book Review: Murder in Saint-Germain

From frequent contributor Betty Guernsey:

Cara Black in her seventeenth Aimée Leduc mystery “Murder in Saint-Germain” demonstrates yet again that she has not lost her spunk or freshness, nor her penchant for intrigue (in this case, Bosnian/Serbian).

Centered around Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the oldest church in Paris, and the ancient quarter surrounding it, Black utilizes its famed icons and storied landmarks as settings for her action: the church itself, Le Sénat, former royal palace of Marie de Medicis; l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts; the Jardin du Luxembourg; Closerie des Lilas; rue Madame; and rue Bonaparte.

Lovers of the 6ème arrondissement will feast on tidbits of its juicy history, while fans of Aimée will revel in this latest chapter in her amazingly complex life.

Are you a Cara Black fan? Let us know your favorite titles!

Paris via Film: Paris Can Wait

Un grand merci to Nancy Fulton for recommending and reviewing the film “Paris Can Wait.”

Anne (Diane Lane) is married to Michael (Alec Baldwin), a successful, preoccupied movie producer. Their daughter has recently been launched into young adulthood and Anne now faces a new stage in life. Unexpected circumstances lead to Jacques (Arnaud Viard), her husband’s business associate, offering to drive her from Cannes to Paris. As they depart in his blue Peugeot, Jacques winsomely says “Let’s pretend we don’t know where we are going or even who we are.”

And so the carefree detour in director Eleanor Coppola’s meandering daydream of a film begins.

The quirky pairing between Jacques, with his inimitable style in the art of living, and Anne’s shy luminosity and knowing ingenuity, create a humorous and romantic dynamic that keeps the viewer guessing. Who knows where shared confidences, automotive mishaps, and asymmetric attitudes toward time will take them?

Food, wine, roses, architecture, summer scenes in Arles, Lyon, and Dijon reawaken Anne’s sense of possibility. Yes, Paris waits, while so much more arrives.

Have you seen Paris Can Wait? What did you think?

Paris via Williamstown: Picasso Encounters

The temporary exhibit at the Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, MA, Picasso: Encounters, was organized with help from the Musée National Picasso–Paris.

The first work in the show, the artist’s self-portrait, on loan from the Paris museum, is a self-portrait that shows the artist as a solitary soul.

The next 35 prints and 2 paintings contradict this isolation, highlighting his collaborations — with printmakers, fellow artists, and Picasso’s famed muses, Olga Khokhlova, Françoise Gilot, and Dora Maar (Maar’s portrait is also on loan from the Paris museum).

It’s not a large show, but it contains important works and offers insights into Picasso’s creative process, including a set of color prints made from a single sheet of linoleum. And the recently renovated museum itself is worth the drive.

Until August 27

Paris via New York: A Tale of Two Pâtisseries

From frequent contributor Betty Guernsey:

Pâtisserie Claude, at 187 West 4th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in the West Village, is one of those very few, tiny places that has become almost extinct in Manhattan, vanquished due to gentrification and escalating rents. There’s nothing fancy about the place: four marble-topped tables, mismatched chairs, blaring radio, photos (including one of Claude) hanging slightly askew on the wall – but the secret of its success are its fresh-from-the-oven croissants (tender and flaky, though not necessarily buttery), brioches, quiches, éclairs – no breads here – the pride of display going to daily fresh-baked tartes (apple, pear, apricot, hazelnut).

Wonderfully old school, beloved in the neighborhood with its obvious regulars, Claude has clung to its location for years – the original owner, now retired, handed down his cherished recipes to his successor, who carries on from 8 am to 8 pm daily but for Sunday, when he closes at 7 pm.

At the other end of the spectrum, a mere hop, skip, and jump away at 137 7th Avenue South between 10th Street and Charles, is Dominique Ansel Kitchen, its lavender/white décor smacking of Parisian sophistication. Ansel, former pastry chef for Daniel Boulud, is a master of concoction, his fabulous croissants and pastries resembling mad hats designed by Schiaparelli — and his savories, works of culinary art.

Outstanding — his chilled heirloom tomato gazpacho, curvy shell-like garlic croissants, ruffly prosciutto-boursin crossantwich, and truffled crème fraîche cheesecake, all unlike any you’ve ever tasted. The menu, altered seasonally, is served from 9 am to 9 pm every day. Perhaps best of all, the Kitchen has a lovely outdoor terrace, welcoming on a warm spring day, a small but select choice of wines and beers, and for summer, their own ice cream.

Discover the Historic Covered Passages of Paris

Duck into any of Paris’s 25 covered passageways, and you’ll find history hidden in plain sight. Les passages, covered shopping arcades, are beloved 19th century landmarks.

Glass roofs were erected over narrow shopping streets in Paris as early as 1776; the oldest existing passage, Passage du Caire, in the 2nd arrondissement, dates to 1799. Most were created between 1820 and 1840.

Light and airy with glass roofs, neoclassical reliefs, and mosaic floors, the passages provided not only elegant surroundings, but shelter from weather, traffic, and dirt. Lit from within by gas lights, they became gathering places of the affluent.

The expansive nature of the second half of the 1800s did them in. Large department stores provided more merchandise in equally fancy surroundings (La Samaritaine and Le Bon Marché are good examples). And many passages were destroyed when Haussmann’s new city plan demolished neighborhoods to create broad avenues.

Pictured above is perhaps one of the most sumptuous of the remaining arcades: Passage Vivienne, behind the Palais Royal gardens. Cool in summer, warm in winter, and removed from both cars and tourist traffic, it provides visitors a chance to discover up-and-coming artisans, used bookstores, galleries, cafés, and restaurants.

As well as a chance to walk back into the past.

Un grand merci to Wikipedia for this a full list of Paris passages.

Paris via the Alps: La Bouitte

If Paris, abundant in history, rich in architecture, and bedecked with natural beauty, is the embodiment of urban luxury, I’ve found its rural equivalent: La Bouitte, a lovingly constructed hotel, restaurant, and spa in the hamlet of Saint Marcel (pop. 350), at the eastern reaches of the French Alps.

At the center of this family-owned, mountainside retreat is a gastronomic gem: a Michelin 3 star restaurant run by father and son, Maxime and René Meilleur. Their vision embraces the region’s humble Savoyard past—small alpine farms, noble cheeses, locally grown herbs and meat—while celebrating modern methods.

I tasted pear and hazelnut tea cake maison that was impeccably moist and wonderfully crumbly, and confiture de mirabelle that transported me to a fragrant plum orchard on a sunny day. I found these familiar fruit flavors exotic—delicate and concentrated, refined in ways I’d never experienced.

While the restaurant causes much of the buzz at La Bouitte, the recently expanded hotel is also a treat. Spacious, light-filled rooms feature stone fireplaces, lush fabrics based on traditional designs, beautifully restored antiques, hand-carved wooden headboards and doors, and deep porcelain bathtubs with breathtaking mountain views.

The town is a skier’s paradise in winter, and a hiker’s heaven in the other seasons. But the serenity and comfort of the hotel’s 15 rooms makes cocooning another wonderful option.

Like the rest of the property, the spa at La Bouitte looks to nature for inspiration. Treatments are made from alpine wildflowers, one of the saunas is outfitted like a marmot’s den, and the outdoor jacuzzi pays homage to a big sky.

After 3 days of hiking nearby valleys and passes, I indulged one of the spa’s signature treatments: Le Bain de Marie, a luxurious, deep tub soak infused with milk and honey. Soothing aromas filled the air as water pulsed through a dozen jets, relaxing my knotted muscles, and refreshing my skin.

As restorative as it is sophisticated, and just 5 hours from Paris by train, La Bouitte took my breath away—and then restored it.

Sunday in Paris

It’s another lovely Sunday in Paris, and visitors to the city are trying to stop time: preserving the moment with selfies near the Eiffel Tower; posing with the Mona Lisa in the Louvre; imagining life under the Louie’s as they gaze at centuries-old buildings from tour boats in the Seine.

Locals are thinking about their future. Today is the presidential election, and conversations about the merits of two relative outsiders, Marine le Pen and Emanuel Macron, emanate from park benches, neighborhood brunch spots, and spontaneous responses to posters in the streets.

It’s a crazy, delicate moment.

Early projections favor Macron, who is young and inexperienced, embraces market-driven solutions, continued support of social safety networks, and globalism.

Le Pen wants to isolate France from Europe and the rest of the world.

While none of us can predict the future, we must hope for the best — thriving economies, friendly relations between countries, safe, educational travel.

So what to do in Paris on a Sunday afternoon?

Let’s celebrate each other, and the perfection — and imperfections — of the present.