Archive for August, 2010

YSL x 2 (Yves Saint Laurent, Yes, So Lovely)

Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Petit Palais

“One day, my name will be written in letters of fire on the Champs Elysees.”

How did a shy boy born in Oran, Algeria know that such a bold statement – far removed from the reality he currently lived – would someday come true? Because those were words spoken by Yves Saint Laurent, a designer known for creating magic.

YSL's Imaginary Journeys

As I’m wont to do, I left it until the last weekend to visit the stunning Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Petit Palais. When I say stunning you must know that’s no exaggeration. Why? Because I’m not big into fashion, I stood in line for an hour and a half in cold wind (autumn has arrived in Paris already), and I still declare that the exhibit was one of the best things I’ve ever waited for.

With over 300 of YSL’s 15,000 (!) creations on display – as well as videos, photographs, and insightful text – the exhibition had visitors floating amidst a world of beauty.

YSL evening wear

I had no idea how revolutionary YSL was. How he was the first designer to free women’s waists from constriction by creating trapeze dresses, the first to highlight a woman’s power and femininity by putting her in pants. At his first haute couture fashion show he created a scandal as he chose a caban and trouser outfit to begin.

“Women’s liberation is also the liberation of their seduction.” What woman wouldn’t want to slip into something that made her feel both sexy and free?

I’m not one to shop for expensive clothes. I swap old rags with friends, rummage in thrift stores. But passing one amazing outfit after another – mannequins draped in some sumptuous fabric, designs so boldly original or so instantly classic as to become standard bearers of style – definitely made me see how one could become a shopping fiend.

YSL trapeze dresses

Perhaps it was learning about his philosophy behind the work, too. With “aesthetic ghosts” as he called them ranging from Emma Bovary to Marilyn Monroe, Oscar Wilde to Anna Karenina, this was one smart man, an intelligence he cut into cloth.

In a room entitled “Imaginary Journeys,” I learned that YSL didn’t like to travel much, aside from frequent trips to Morocco. And yet somehow he traveled in his imagination to create dresses that reflected influences from across the world.

Or maybe YSL just had his own world. Yes, that’s it, too.

“I have always placed above all else the respect for this trade, which is not quite an art but requires an artist in order to exist.” The exhibition proved that an artist was truly at work.

YSL photographs

All photos taken on the sly. I was scolded several times by security guards – cameras weren’t allowed! Sorry I was not able to capture all of the creations that truly inspired me, but you get the picture!

Yves Saint Laurent official site: http://www.ysl.com/

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Macaron Madness

Macaron
I have a bold confession to make: I am not the biggest macaron fan.

I understand that I should be thrown out of France immediately for this.

All I mean to say is, in the land of so many pleasing pastries, the macaron has never been the sweet I crave. In fact (and prepare yourself for further blasphemy), I’m actually an ice cream fanatic and gelato will always win the day (I know, wrong country, though you’d be surprised how many great places you can pick up this delicious treat in Paris).

I, however, am an open-minded girl. When the delightful Amy Thomas of God, I Love Paris invited me to an “American Smackdown” where macarons from Pierre Herme and Laduree would be pitted head to head last Monday, I jumped at the chance. Maybe I had simply been eating the wrong macarons!

Amy also has an adorable cat: Milo

Amy’s flat is one of those cute, I-would-kill-for-an-apartment-like-this kind of places in the 2nd arrondissement. She does contend with a sixth floor walk-up sans elevator, which conveniently helps lower the jealousy factor in others, but only just by a tad.

It was soon clear that I was the official macaron newbie of the crowd. Most of the invited guests knew just by looking which macarons came from which house. I was thrilled to learn that among the guests we even had a top-notch pastry chef, Rachel Khoo. She definitely helped set the stage for how the tasting should go down.

The table set for battle

The amateur plays an important role, however. No prejudices, no preconceived notions. I was there to simply eat and state my peace. No previous political affiliations, so to speak.

Well, let me just say, I kind of like macarons now. Yes! Maybe splurging for the good stuff really does make a difference (I’ve been in Paris, what, four years, and I’m still struggling to absorb this into my philosophy?)

I suggest you hop on over to Amy’s blog for the full round-up of the competition results. I mean, she is officially the ‘Sweet Freak’ and quite the expert.

But I’ll give you the newbie’s opinion: you can’t go wrong with either. Each house was remarkably different. I wasn’t expecting such divergence. But when two things are both so good, it’s hard to pick a winner. Eh, they’re different. Now pass me another one, I say.

People – other than me – have strong feelings one way or the other. What do you think? Pierre Herme or Laduree? Also, wouldn’t every Monday be better if it featured a dessert dual? Delectable!

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Scattered Sunbeams

The sky before unleashing its rain, Hotel de Ville

Paris may be the world’s most beautiful city, even in the rain (some might go so far as to posit especially in the rain), but I gotta say: I want summer.

Let me paint you a portrait of a recent ‘summer’s night’ outing: dressed in long-sleeved shirt, sweater (yes, sweater), and scarf I make my way to the Hotel de Ville to hear Tricky perform as part of the FNAC Indetendances festival of music. (This was the last weekend; sorry folks).

Some people are dressed wistfully, in tanks and short skirts, willing the weather to cooperate. Most have realized that we are in a season more closely resembling fall, however, so jackets are in full display.

A menacing sky, but we will the rain to hold off for a bit. It does. Until it doesn’t. With the advent of a light sprinkle, we open our umbrellas, make the umbrellas dance. Several people jump onto the stage. (I believe this was a practical means of escaping the rain rather than anyone being overcome by the music. They conveniently exited the stage again once the rain stopped.)

A fine night, a fine night, but we are too much darting between raindrops, those of us left here in August. We try to slot ourselves in between scattered sunbeams this summer.

Rosa Bonheur at 4 PM

The day before the concert, I met up with fellow bloggers Res I(p)sa, An Alien Parisienne, and Paul of Paris Inspired at Rosa Bonheur in the beautiful Buttes Chaumont Park (my favorite park – I suggest to anyone visiting Rosa Bonheur to go near 4 PM as we did; such a relaxed pace before the crushing evening hipster crowd arrives – which is also fun, of course. Also how cute is it that Paris Karin and Paris Paul are a blogger couple?)

Rosa Bonheur at 8 PM

The weather confusion saw me in many layers, but by the time we settled in, the sun shone bright. Mid-August and I wear layers, I contemplate knee-high boots, turtlenecks. This just shouldn’t be. Even in Paris, where I forgive almost anything just to bask in her beauty, sometimes you just want a little warmth and light.

Today, Sunday, there are no breaks in the clouds, the rain falls heavy. It’s cold. A sweater and heavy socks kind of day (shall I remind you this is mid-August?)

Should be a good day to stay indoors, write, work. Should be…but I gaze longingly out the window and am distracted by how much I wish for the sun.

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On Kissing Terms

This past weekend I had a Paris breakthrough: I am now on kissing terms with the owner of my corner café.

Now before you start imagining all sorts of torrid things, let me remind you I am speaking simply of the bise (nothing like the make-out session I witnessed at the Musee d’Orsay).

Still, it’s always a minor victory when you’re finally accepted into certain bastions of French society; when you are granted entrance like an old friend.

I feel lucky to have a corner café that is always open – on Sundays, holidays, even in this ghost town of August for crissakes. As a former New Yorker used to everything being open 24/7, this tiny reminder of an everyday establishment you can rely on does my heart good.

As it is, literally, on my corner, I pass Café Lino all of the time – when I go off to do my shopping, take the metro, or head off to the market. I’m not an everyday café patron, but often enough that I’m recognizable.

My view from my writing table; a slow afternoon at Cafe Lino

Over the last few months, the owner (I think he’s the owner, at least, maybe just a proprietorial-seeming barman) has been giving me the eyes. (Not those kind of eyes, though who knows, right?) We’ve gotten to the point where we always smile and wave when I pass by.

On Saturday night as I returned from a yummy dinner of crepes, a little Brazilian concert was winding down at the café. The owner was strumming his guitar and the few clients were gathered around singing. The warm, red glow that emanates from the interior only enhanced the convivial atmosphere. Wow, I’m in France, I thought. (After four years, I still have these moments; probably always will).

I was this close to going and joining in, especially as I caught the owner’s eye. But the circle seemed a bit too cozy. Sometimes I manage the solo entry well; sometimes I do not.

So I just walked home.

The next day, I came for a tea and I was greeted like an old friend. Why didn’t you come in last night? Denis wanted to know. You doing ok? Ca va? And it was obvious we were going in for the bise, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Two air kisses on the cheek.

Break-through!

I’m sure those more social than me have already experienced this moment many times before. But me, this is my first time of crossing over to the bise with the people in a local establishment. Sure, nice small talk, even smiles. But the bise! As if I belonged here.

I better watch out or soon I will be kissing all of Paris. And we know that I do have my own issues with the bise. (This one was perfect, though. No complaints!)

Addendum: Um, the owner has asked me for my phone number, which I kindly declined to give. Awkwardness has managed to be avoided – thank goodness as I come here to write – but kind of changes the original dynamic, huh? Well, I am still proud. The waitresses are nice to me, too. Even the new one who had been scowling at me at the beginning of the summer. I’ll just wait another 2 years for them to start kissing me, too.

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Making out at the Musee D’Orsay

Musée D'Orsay
A few weeks ago, I went to the Musee d’Orsay for the first time. I know, I know; you don’t even have to say it. How in the world have I lived in Paris this long and never visited this fabulous museum?

Well, I have now, so there will be none of that.

The Musee d’Orsay is as wonderful as everyone says. The museum itself is gorgeous, a former railway station originally designed for the 1900 Exposition Universelle. And what it contains! A spectacular collection of impressionist (and post-impressionist) art with all the heavy-hitters: Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Matisse. Just to name a few, of course.

Be warned: Renovations are currently under way and the permanent collection from the (skylit) fifth floor has been moved down to the first two levels of the museum. This being Paris, though, even the renovations manage to be classy.

Practically, this also means that a fair number of the permanent pieces are out on loan. My friend Sarah was heartbroken that her favorite painting was currently at the San Francisco Museum.

But, we found plenty to feast our eyes on, as we meandered our way from one dreamy landscape to the next.

We were taken out of the artistic reverie by one pretty shocking display, however: a couple making out directly in front of the descriptive text introducing the museum’s collection.

I’m not talking a little kissing, either. (This is Paris! There is art! That could be forgiven). No, I’m talking about pushed up against the wall, hard-core, do they need a hotel room pawing. I’m no prude, but I felt so uncomfortable that I just had to leave the room (after picking my jaw up off the ground).

Now I know I’ve been encouraging a more friendly Paris lately; this is not at all what I had in mind, however.

Recovering from the incident and from taking in so much beauty, Sarah and I treated ourselves to lunch in the gorgeous restaurant. What would be become a 3-hour affair.

Now, I wouldn’t normally think to indulge in such a thing. Lunch in a museum would be overpriced, right? Not even. I had a delicious risotto for 16 euros, what you’d pay in a lot of places in Paris, and yet I felt like I was dining in a palace:

Fine dining at the Musee d'Orsay

One thing, though: it seemed we couldn’t order wine by the glass. I guess there are worse fates than being forced to spring for an entire bottle (or half-bottle) of Sancerre. (This might have accounted for why we spent 3 hours talking away – more and more animatedly, I might add).

All in all, well worth a visit. Both the museum and the restaurant. I love visiting museums at night, too. If you do, as well, the Musee d’Orsay has extended hours until 9:45 PM on Thursdays.

At that hour, who knows what frisky couples will be up to, though. Beware!

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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