Category Archives: Culture and History

Robert Capa Captures the Liberation of Paris

Every year on August 25, France celebrates the liberation from German occupation in 1944 at the close of WWII. This year, Paris will host a light and music show at the Hotel de Ville, in the open square outside of the city’s town hall. Following the light show, the square will transform into a massive dance floor. This will be a night of celebration!

For this year, the 70th anniversary, President Francois Hollande is expected to attend, along with other government and Military representatives.

In the early days of photojournalism, Magnum photographer Robert Capa captured scenes from the days leading up to and after the liberation. Below are a few from that collection of images. It seems foreign to look at Paris under the stress of war, but also wonderful to see the celebratory faces and crowds in the streets that are so familiar and unchanged even today.

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Paris. August 26th, 1944. Crowd on the pavement after snipers in buildings overlooking the Place de l’Hotel de Ville opened fire on the celebrations after the liberation.
PAR10046Paris. August 25th, 1944. French troops being welcomed during the liberation of the city.

PAR78747Paris. 8th arrondissement. Champs-Elysées. August 26th, 1944. Members of the French Resistance and soldiers of the French Army celebrating the liberation of the city.
PAR10049August 25th, 1944. German soldiers surrender to French Resistance fighters during the liberation of the city.

To see our apartments located near Hotel de Ville:

Two bedroom Loft at Saint Paul

Ile Saint Louis Studio

Three bedroom, Air Conditioned Quai de Montebello apartment

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Passageway to the old world of Hotel de Sully

You’ll know from our post on the secret rose garden that we love the hidden passageways and short cuts that make navigating Paris like a architectural treasure hunt. One more connecting promenade that we fall in love with over and over again is the Hotel de Sully. Although with more conspicuous entrances, passing between Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine and the Place des Vosges, it is rare that this verdant park ever feels crowded.

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A certain refuge from the busy avenue that goes from Bastille down to become rue de Rivoli, the passageway from Faubourg Saint Antoine is quite imposing and feels like maybe you’re not allowed to go through there. This is one of the main reasons I credit for the minimal foot traffic, especially from the street side. From the park side, however, what you see is light coming through the doorway under the otherwise shaded arcades that encircle the place des Vosges.

 

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You’ll see some gorgeous architectural details throughout. But do take your time to look at all the doors. They are all heavy and wooden, carved in and outfitted with giant sculpted door knockers. The picture below is the underside of a stairway next the the small bookstore between the stone courtyard and the garden.

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If ever you are looking for a beautiful backdrop for family photos, or for a quieter place to enjoy a sandwich from Paul or Miss Manon (both near the Hotel de Sully entrance on rue Faubourg Saint Antoine), you’ll find it here.

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Just as beautiful in the fall, as in the summer, the ivy wall turns all shades of fiery red and orange.

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Definitely add this to your list of must sees on your Marais walking tour. Or take a look at our nearby apartments and make this part of your daily commute.

Marais Place des Vosges apartment

Marais Vosges apartment

Marais Saint Paul Loft

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Picnic at the Movies

In one of Paris’ northern parks, la Villette, the lawn transforms on summer evenings into a picnic ground with blankets spread out facing the big white screen of the open air cinema. Each summer, La Villette selects a summer’s worth of films around a certain theme, this year being adolescence and the nostalgia of childhood.

Cinema-Plein-Air-BD-1©-Pierre-Emmanuel-RastoinLa Villette borders the canal as it makes its way towards the periphery of Paris. It is worth getting there a little early, while it is still light out and before all the best spots are taken, to walk around and enjoy how diverse Paris is once you get out of the central areas. When you’re looking for a spot to get comfortable, it’s good to know you can also rent folding chairs for 7 euros a piece.Outdoor-Cinema

Ranging from comedy to drama and romance, movies like Carrie and Lolita are lined up with more cult classics like Fame and American Graffiti, and then even more recent films like Moonrise Kingdom and 17 Filles. A great mix of old and new, French, American and other nationalities, you’re reminded that going to the movies can be a cultural experience, and in this case, a memorable Parisian experience.

Here is the full program. Descriptions are in French, but you’ll recognize most of the titles.

And if you bring a wine picnic, don’t forget your cork screw!

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How to Celebrate the 14th of July

After the USA just celebrated the Independence Day with hot dogs and fireworks, the French prepare for their own National celebration next week. Bastille day, the 14th of July, commemorates the storming of the bastille on the same day in 1789. The Bastille was a fortress that acted as a State Prison, and its destruction remains a symbol of the people rising up against the Monarchy and aristocracy. The French Revolution represented a change in government from Monarchy to Republic, and so the day has become a celebration of the political empowerment of the people.

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The highlights of the celebration are the Military Parade that marches down the Champs Elysées, a festival at the place de la Bastille, and the 35 minute fireworks display behind the Eiffel Tower.

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Preparation for the parade begins at 9:10 and last officially from 10-12, the time of arrival and departure of the President of France, Francois Hollande. If you want to catch the air show, it is scheduled to begin at 10:45.

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Paris’ Military Parade on July 14 is the largest in Europe, and each year some of the foreign troops are invited in to put on their own distinctive Military displays, like this image below of French Polynesian forces in 2011.

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The fireworks display begins at 11PM and is best seen from around the Seine, Trocadéro, and the Champs de Mars.

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To learn more about the history of the city of Paris including the revolution, stop by the Musée Carnavalet in the Marais.

Or for a non-traditional 14th, there is always Napoleon Dynamite playing on an outdoor screen at Wanderlust, 32 Quai d’Austerlitz, 13ème, 10:30PM

Joyeux 14 juillet!

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Paris, you’re so Photogenic!

One of the great things about Paris is how photogenic the city is. Early black and white photographs from the beginning of the 1900s, experimental or journalistic, for tourism, or for education, and the same for photographs from today. The world is more full of amateur photographers than ever before, and we all get to reap the benefits as we get inspired by the different perspectives, fleeting moments, and unchanging landscape that makes up the principal footprint of Paris.

Because I can’t enough of Paris, it’s been a lot of fun to begin building out my own narrative of Paris, for Paris Deluxe, covering all the angles of how we experience Paris today, and all the depth of history we can access in this amazing city.

Here’s some of what you’ll find:

Ideas of where to eat in various neighborhoods, such as the Marais.

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Great shots of the hustle and bustle of Paris that remains somehow aesthetic rather than chaotic, of course!Image

And a personal favorite, a board of French clichés we call, evidemment, “So French!”

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We’d love suggestions from you of collections that you’d like to see, or collections you would like to see expanded upon.

Come by and browse. Tell us what you think, here or on Facebook, and, along the way, find some inspiration for your Paris vacation!

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June 24, 2014 · 2:32 pm

The Wall of Love

The Pont des Arts is a common pilgrimage for those in love when visiting Paris. Couples affirm their love by attaching a lock to the chain-link walls of the bridge and throwing the key into the river Seine. But there is a lesser known celebration of love hiding in a tiny little park at the top of rue des Abbesses in Montmartre: The Wall of Love.Love-wall-in-Paris

Le Mur des Je T’aime was an idea from Frédéric Baron who wished to hear “I love you” spoken in the native languages of 80 countries on his list while traveling, but never did travel from Paris. Instead, he collected the words from neighbors, shopkeepers and embassies in as many languages as he could in a collection that would eventually, through the collaboration of calligraphist Claire Kito and Muralist Daniel Boulogne who fell in love withthe project, be shared with the public in the form of the tiled wall we know today.

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“I love you” is written in over 300 languages and is written about 1,000 times on the wall. The scattered red marks represent the “pieces of a broken heart, those of a humanity which is too often torn apart and which The Wall attempts to reunite.” A beautiful sentiment, no? It’s not just for the love between a couple, like at the Pont des Arts, but love amongst all people. That is something worth celebrating!

The wall is located in the Square Jehan Rictus, just behind the exit of the metro Abbesses in Montmartre.

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Video: Paris, city of lights

Paris has never looked better, more modern, and more exciting than in this video by Benjamin Trancart. The city of lights refers not to the twinkling sparkle of the city, but to the brilliant minds that brought a wave of ideas & thinking amongst the French philosophers. Trancart’s video shows us both of these sides of the city of lights.

 

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Paris Has a New Zoo

After closing its doors in 2008 because of deteriorating conditions for animals and visitors, Paris’ zoo in Bois de Vincennes has reopened with a new name, a new look and a new philosophy. Since it’s original construction in the 1930s, the zoo has now been completely rebuilt. The 65 meter high Grand Rocher remains the only familiar element of the landscape. Renamed the Parc Zoologique de Paris, the zoo has reestablished itself as a place for the education and research on biodiversity.

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With over 1000 animals, and 180 different species, the zoo is divided into five different bio-zones mimicking the natural landscapes of Patagonia, Sahel-Sudan, Europe, Madagascar, and the Amazon. Animals are grouped by natural habitat rather than by species, and many even cohabit within each zone.  Think much less concrete, and much more vegetation, many fewer walls, and much more open space.

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There is an interactive area for each of the five regions to educate visitors on the different parts of the world represented by the animals in the zoo. Visitors can learn about ecosystem hierarchies and environmental conditions, including those that are endangering certain species in each zone.

With 40% more green space than in the old zoo, there are upwards of 170,000 plants, and 870 plant species in the landscaping. Zoo officials worked hard to diminish the sense of captivity, using false rocks and lots of plant life to mask the barriers and functional elements of the park.

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The animals had been moved to zoos across Europe during the construction, except for a group of giraffes that remained on site. Bringing in almost all new animals post-construction, it took a year and a half to carefully adapt the animals to their new habitats in the zoo. Each animal has some element of the park designed just for them, whether it’s special trees for the birds and monkeys, or the lion, currently in his own separate habitat, with his heated rock to stretch out on for afternoon naps.

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April 12 was the official opening of the Parc Zoologique de Paris, after close to 170 million euros invested in its recreation. The zoo is open every day, and is accessible by metro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Street Artist JR at the Pantheon

One of the greatest things about Paris is how often art and culture cross your path without needing to enter a museum. The city goes to great lengths to decorate the pedestrian corridors with photography installations and sculpture, often telling a story by linking contemporary works with their historical settings. The Center of National Monuments (CMN)(http://www.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/) has coordinated one such opportunity by enlisting photographer and street artist JR to create a massive installation at the Panthéon.

Street artist JR

Street artist JR

The Panthéon, resting place of France’s most celebrated writers and thinkers, is beginning a long term restoration of it’s dome. A focal point in the skyline of the city, the dome will remain covered in white screens that wrap the scaffolding for the first phase of the restoration. Rather than renting the dome out as ad space, as you can now see on building facades throughout Paris, they are taking the opportunity to communicate their own message by reinforcing the historical and social symbolism of the building through art.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

 

JR was an obvious choice for such a project for the CMN who deliberately sought out a cultural solution more appropriate for the integrity of the building than the very commerical luxury brand ads which are currently wallpapering the scaffolding on the Place des Vosges.  JR is known for the humanitarian message of his black and white portraits which he installs in large format, covering expansive architectural surfaces around the world. He has previously decorated Paris’ pont Louis-Phillipe with his “Women Are Heroes” installation in 2009. For his installation at the Panthéon, JR continues his “Inside-Out” project (http://www.insideoutproject.net/en), which amasses portraits from the community that he uses to create a montage. Through the month of March, JR traveled around France with his photo truck, inviting people to have their portraits taken, and participate in the Panthéon piece.

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For many people who have never visited the Panthéon, this fun and participative installation will bring a new kind of visitor to the site. And so for every scaffold you see around Paris covered with an Apple or Dior add, consider visiting the Panthéon for an example of how, in Paris, culture is still given the best seat in the house.

The installation will be inaugurated on April 22, 2014.

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Quintessentially Parisian: Rattan Chairs

If there is one thing that stands out in the Parisian landscape, aside from the zinc roofs and Haussmannian facades, it is the woven patterned chairs that decorate the sidewalks around iron stand bistro tables. If you possess an inquiring mind, you might wonder how this style of chair became ubiquitous, and does the style have a name? In fact the history goes back to WWII, and the name comes from one of the two primary materials: Rattan.

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Rattan is a tropical wood that makes up the frame, while the woven fibers are called Rilsan, which is a product of castor oil, a vegetable oil used for many things from plastics to perfumes. This weaving technique was used as a defensive barrier against submarines during the Second World War, proving it up to the task of busy bistro traffic! While these chairs came into high demand because of their durability, they remain in high demand also for their aesthetic symbolism.

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You’ll notice that while some cafés are furnished with classic, subtle patterns in maroon and black, others have updated the classic with flashy colors, or bold geometric patterns. All of this is possible through the versatility of the Rilsan, which is died while in its liquid state, meaning it can take on any color and it will never fade. Thanks to the unabating demand of new bistros and cafés, the industry has been modernized aesthetically. Production methods remain unchanged, handcrafted, with the same primary materials

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These chairs can be found in establishments and even homes around the world now, but can be very hard to find. Dream of having this touch of Paris in your own home or garden?

If you’re in the US you can find them here, at TK Collections.

 

You can learn a lot about the materials and the process on the website of one of Paris’ primary producers, Drucker.

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