Paris for the Holidays

The best way to explore Paris neighborhoods is à pied. But with winter breezes blowing off the Seine, you’ll want to step indoors from time to time.

Here are 5 memorable ways to warm up over the holidays.

• Nothing warms a cold body like liquid chocolate, and Angelina is known around the globe for spicy chocolat à l’Africaine, served in a pitcher with an accompanying bowl of whipped cream. There are several locations in Paris, but my favorite is the elegant shop on rue de Rivoli.

• On Ile St Louis, La Charlotte de l’Isle is a tiny tea salon serving tea and hot chocolate. Their chocolat chaud à l’ancienne is made by melting bars of bittersweet chocolate into hot foamed milk.

• Just up the street, Clair de Rêve will delight the whole family. Marionettes that you can name – Pinochio, Puss‘n Boots – and others that you can’t float at the ends of their strings. Wind-up toys, carrousels, and storybook characters are made here, and adult collectors, aware of the quality construction, are loyal customers.

• The high-ceilinged, well-lit color-filled rooms at the recently renovated Musée Picasso will make you forget the thin winter light outside. Femmes à Leur Toilette, a large, gorgeous mural of wallpaper cutouts and gouache on canvas is a treat to behold. Nearby is Picasso’s sumptuous pastel portrait, Olga Pensive; the artist’s personal collection includes Cézanne’s brilliant Château Noir.

• Ply your inner artist with luminous color at scarf store Diwali. The selection is amazing: wool, silk, cashmere, and blends, in an array of shapes, sizes, hues, patterns and prints. Friendly staff are quick to show new and flattering ways to layer, drape, loop, knot, and tie scarves. Trendy teens and their more sophisticated moms will all find something here.

Do you have a favorite place to step in out of the winter cold in Paris? We’d love to hear from you.

Renovated Picasso Museum a Success

The newly reopened Musée Picasso took 5 years renovate, but it was worth the wait. The minimalist exhibition spaces are triple the size of the former space, and easier to navigate than the old cubist arrangement of rooms.

And while there is still only room for a fraction of the collection to be displayed, the selection of works and their organization highlight the breadth and the originality of Picasso’s work.

High-ceilinged, well-lit rooms, laid out chronologically, represent key periods in Picasso’s career. Works include large preparatory paintings for Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon; the early modern collage Still Life with Chair Caning; important Cubist paintings Man with Guitar and Man with Mandolin; and exceptional assemblages, decoupages and constructions from the artist’s Cubist period.

The first floor held some of my favorite works in close proximity: Femmes à Leur Toilette, a large, gorgeous mural of wallpaper cutouts and gouache on canvas; Violon, made from sheet iron and wire; and the sumptuous pastel portrait, Olga Pensive.

Connecting the lower floors are the building’s stunning Baroque double stair and stuccoed hallways.

Short flights of wooden stairs lead to the top floor, where low-ceilinged, wooden-beamed galleries display Picasso’s collection: Cézanne’s brilliant Chateau Noir, landscapes and portraits by Corot, a Chardin still life, and stunning works by Miro, Modligiani, Matisse and Renoir.

From bottom to top, the museum is a treat.

Paris Museum Update

louvre_titianChange is in the air as Paris museums open new expos – and a few favorites close for renovation.

New shows:
LouvreTitian, Tintoretto, and Veronese – Rivals in Renaissance. The presence of these great artists in Venice 1540-1590 stimulated new ideas and techniques. Gorgeous only begins to describe the works. Sept 17-Jan 10, 2010.

Grand PalaisRenoir in the 20th Century. One hundred paintings, drawings and sculptures shed light on this crucial yet little-known period during Renoir’s career – and explore his influence on Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard and Maillol. Sept 23-Jan 4, 2010.

Musée de la Musique – After two years of renovation, the museum is open, and better than ever. They have completely revised the presentation of the permanent collection; added a new area dedicated to the 20th century; doubled the space for world music; added more sound samples to accompany displays, mostly recorded on instruments from the collections.

Musée RodinMatisse & Rodin. The expo compares the sculptural and graphic works of the two artists, who met when Matisse was 30 years old and Rodin 60. This is the first show to focus on Matisse’s sculpture since 1975. Oct 23-Feb 28, 2010.

Musée du LuxembourgLouis Comfort Tiffany: Colors and Light. 160 works reveal Tiffany’s contribution to the glass industry and to decorative arts in general.  Visitors will regale in vases, lamps, jewels, drawings, watercolors and photographs, and four stained glass windows that were specially dismounted, studied, restored and transported from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – a technical and logistical feat. Sept 16-Jan 17, 2010.

Musée Picasso will be closed for renovations until 2012.

The Catacombs, recently vandalized, have been closed until further notice.