Artful Paris

 

An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris. -Friedrich Nietzsche

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Art was the theme of my most recent visit to Paris.  I found myself experiencing the city off the beaten path of the well-trod tourist trails.  I enjoyed art exhibits, explored innovative architecture, and practiced photography, all of which enabled me to see the city through a new lens.

Day One:

I met up with a photographer/ cinematographer/ documentary screenwriter who is a friend of a friend. We planned to spend the day photographing the city and experimenting with my camera.  And so, I found myself in unexpected places, finding extraordinary sights along ordinary paths.

I began by milling around the Palais Royal Metro station.  The ornate exit decorated by Jean-Michel Othonie with grey zinc and colorful Murano glass balls made a wonderful subject.

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Next, I stopped in the middle of a busy street to capture this view of Sacre Couer perfectly framed in the distance.

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I saw the Louvre and I.M. Pei’s iconic glass sculpture through a reflection on a glass door…

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…and then turned around to take a shot by a different geometric angle.

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I lay on my back in a narrow hall of the Galerie Vivienne taking artful pictures of stairwells that resemble snail shells.

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I ended on the rooftop of Printemps just before sunset.  The clothes within this iconic department store contain price tags, but it is the view on top that is priceless. What a wonderful secret.  Next time you are in Paris, ride the escalators to the top floor, purchase a glass of wine from the cafe, sit on a bench outside, and soak in the views of Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, tree-lined boulevards, and gilded domes of the city from a birds-eye perspective.

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Day Two:

Jeff and I ventured across the Left Bank to the Musee d’Orsay to see the latest Impressionist exhibit.  The building was originally a railway station and has been recently restored to its resplendent glory.

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The featured exhibit focused on Prostitution as presented by the Impressionists in the 19th century.  Prostitution was just as rampant among the high-brow society of the refined ballet and opera as it was among the low-brow artists and degenerates in bars of Montmartre and the chorus halls of the Moulin Rouge. My how times have changed when you consider that revealing ankles beneath a skirt or drinking a cocktail in public would have most certainly signaled a woman of ill repute.  These images were once considered titillating!

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Next was a stroll down the Rue du Bac, located just behind the museum.  This wonderful street near St. Germaine boasts unique retail shops.  The best of which is Chatelles, a bespoke shoe store that lets you customize your shoes on site, adding colorful tassels to the various slippers.  According to local folklore, the store began as a love story when the owner made a pair of shoes for his beloved with a Victor Hugo quote embossed inside the sole:  “Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus long temps.” Translation: “I cannot live far away from you any longer.”

It just so happens this is a line my favorite poem, Demain, dès l’aube, that I memorized in 7th grade French class.  Let’s just say it was love at first sight and a fateful match made in shoe heaven!

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Next we visited the magnificent Palais Garnier, the home of Paris opera and ballet.  The opulence of the interiors were breathtaking.  High society would fraternize during the intervals beneath ceilings painted by Chagall and in grand hallways rivaling any palace. But don’t let the gradeur fool you, as Jeff and I learned, prostitution would have denigrated these lovely settings during the 1800s.

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Day Three:

The newly opened Louis Vuitton Foundation in the Bois de Bologne is worth a visit.  The remarkable Frank Gehry structure is an inventive glass building that takes the form of a boat with sails inflated by the wind.

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Staircase waterfalls, neon light and mirror grottos, and innovative architecture rival the contemporary exhibits within.

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The Baccarat store may not be a typical tourist attraction, but it warrants a visit.  Founded in 1764, Baccarat is the world’s most famous crystal manufacturer that has, over the ages, become a symbol of superb French craftsmanship.  The showroom on the Place des’Etats-Unis, features beautiful displays of the crystal that is truly as artistic as it is practical.  On the second floor is a museum featuring spectacular chandeliers showcased amidst gilded and frescoed opulence.

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     *****

Keeping with the theme of art and beauty, we stayed at the lovely Plaza Athénée, near the Eiffel Tower on the Avenue Montaigne.  The newly renovated hotel has the most beautiful facade brightened by red geraniums blooming outside of terraced windows.

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And waking up to this view is the icing on the proverbial cake.

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Paris is always a good idea. 

-Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina

 

 

 

 

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