Archive for the 'Out and About' Category

Aeroflorale Flying Greenhouse Machine! (Do you Believe?)

A canicule across France this week with temperatures topping 100 degrees. People may be near hallucinating from the heat, but certainly I did not hallucinate this.

Aeroflore

Today, I lunched along the Canal de L’ourcq at an impossibly cute venue (possible post later) with friends from NYC passing through town. After, despite the chaleur, I decided to stroll my old ‘hood while they went in search of air conditioning.

As I approached the Villette, I saw first one, then another adolescent jump into the canal. Green, and with bits of garbage floating in it, the questionable nature of the water proved no deterrent for energetic teen boys needing to cool off.

I don’t wilt easily in heat, but I was feeling faint and knew it was time to head home. How happy I was to cut through the park and come upon a scene!

First view AerofloreYou can see for yourself the immense installation, an industrial-chic structure adorned all around with plants.

Several people in khaki uniforms were scaling and rappelling (!) from it, and naturally, a small crowd was gathered.

Qu’est-ce que c’est ce truc? I wondered who I could ask what this thing was, but I waited patiently in the sun to learn more.

One of the uniformed people was making a show with a separate contraption. Affixed to the contraption were regular party balloons, which it seemed he wanted to launch into space using the strange device. After much ta-do and several turnings of wheels…a cord snapped and instead of being launched, the balloons stayed right where they were.

actor aeroflorale

“That’s never happened before!” he said.

More adjustments were made, and finally he freed the balloons from the machine with a scissors. He held the balloons aloft then let them go. They floated into the sky. The audience applauded.

(Um, that guy simply let regular balloons fly away. Is that really a feat?)Actor Aeroflorale

What’s going on here? I have a new question now, and I scan the crowd for someone who seems most likely to have answers. I see a white-haired woman speaking to a few teenagers. She’s nodding confidently. I scoot closer to her. She looks like one of those people who makes it her business to know other people’s business. Just the kind of person I’m seeking.

“…it was in Madagascar,” she’s saying, as I slide closer to her.

“No!” says a young woman. “That’s where I’m from. That’s far away!”

“And it will fly to Iceland next,” she continues.

Two young men laugh good-naturedly. “No, Madame. That’s not possible.”

“That’s what they said. I live right across the street. I didn’t see it one night. Then the next morning, it was here! It landed!”

“No,” look at it. “It’s decor, Madame. Decoration!”

Continue reading ‘Aeroflorale Flying Greenhouse Machine! (Do you Believe?)’

Hot Diggity: Sun Therapy & L’atypique

Rue Alexandre Dumas - springA surreal Sunday scene: I’m walking down Rue Alexandre Dumas, my familiar street made new when it’s washed in spring’s bright light. I fall behind two young French girls – they couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 – on the corner near Conforama. One has an iPhone pressed to her ear, her blond tresses nearly covering the device. She’s speaking into it seriously, while her friend patiently waits.

When her serious talk is through she hangs up and becomes lighthearted again, and the two friends begin chatting and laughing. By this time, I’ve passed them, my long legs carrying me much faster than theirs.

Then, from behind me, I hear:

“I like the way you work it. No diggity, I got to bag it up, bag it up
I like the way you work it. No diggity, I got to bag it up…”

And the girls are singing along! When Dr. Dre starts rapping, they even keep pace with that, too.

A deep look of confusion has overtaken my face, then my lips spread into a huge grin, even while I’m shaking my head. How in the world do these little French girls 1) know this song twice as old as they are (1996, baby!) 2) keep up with the lyrics (do they have any idea what they’re saying?). I’m surprised and slightly disconcerted, too.

They cross the street and I lose the Blackstreet song and their voices rising to meet it. I continue on my way.

La Jardin de la Folie Titon

La Jardin de la Folie Titon

The lawn of the Jardin de la Folie Titon

We’ve been basking in a whole string of warm, sunny days. Sun therapy isn’t reliably available in Paris, but my, no better option exists if you can get it. The default belief that the sunshine won’t last (the sky here so much more accustomed to a palate of grays), promises outsized excitement with its appearance. Each day for a couple weeks now, it seems, I wake and look out the window. It’s sunny…again? I simply can’t believe the good fortune. It’s impossible to ever take for granted the sun.

Church near the jardin de la folie titon

I’ve been making daily trips to a neighborhood park – my destination when I ran into the rapping girls – and I even made a recent trip to my favorite Parisian outpost, Buttes Chaumont. Another flashback to earlier times. It had been so long since I’d seen the Sybil Temple above the lake, and laid on its sloping hills.

Chilling in Buttes Chaumont

Chilling in Buttes Chaumont

I usually stick closer to home, though; I like anywhere I can walk. Yesterday, on my way back from sunbathing, I noticed a shop, its window crowded with colorful clothes and vintage jewelry, shoes and boots. How is it possible to follow the same route over and over and still discover you’ve completely missed something right in front of you?

window of the l'atypique

“Are you open?” I peek my head into the door, already ajar. Sunday, sunny, open store? It did not compute.

Continue reading ‘Hot Diggity: Sun Therapy & L’atypique’

A Week Later: Sorrow and Sparkle

Street art, angel on its kneesIt has been exactly one week since 12 journalists, cartoonists, and police were killed in an attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The 2 following days brought more violence, ending in a dramatic dual hostage situation and 5 more people dead.

There have been countless articles, op-eds, and analysis of this wave of terror. I don’t have much to offer in the way of that. I have listened to news non-stop, read many different perspectives, mourned, thought. I am still mourning. I am still thinking.

Here I simply share some photos from the historic march on Sunday following these events. 3.7 million people are said to have assembled across France, 1.5 million in the streets of Paris alone. It was the largest march in France’s history.

Continue reading ‘A Week Later: Sorrow and Sparkle’

(Extra)Ordinary New Year

Bare winter tree created from dirt on a wall in the 11th

Bare winter tree created from dirt on a wall in the 11th

After the warmest year on record in France, a cold front has moved in. My apartment relies on individual electric heat – piddly little units to warm each room. Penny pincher that I am, I rotate: turning the one on in the living room where I work during the day; switching on the one in my room at night.

That leaves the hallway, kitchen, and bathroom to glacial conditions. This does little to motivate me to start cooking more, though it’s perpetually on my to-do list. And going to the bathroom feels like a courageous expedition. Seriously, I don’t think ice in the toilet bowl would surprise me.

(These rooms, of course, do have their own little heating units. The one winter I treated myself to a toasty apartment, my astronomic electric bill made my blood run cold in my warm body so I reverted back to piecemeal heating and bulky sweaters).

If it's going to be cold, might as well wear funky tights.

If it’s going to be cold, might as well wear funky tights.

Still, I’m not minding this winter so much. The sun shines much more frequently than I ever remember. This is the season that habitually conjures the dreaded grisaille (unending gray skies), yet here we are often with sun! I like the artificial light lamp I gifted myself for my birthday, but honestly, there’s been enough of the natural stuff that I’m not certain I needed it.

Tonight I took a brisk walk to the butcher’s. I called around 4:30 just to check they were open – one never knows during this holiday season. I reserved a roasted chicken (yes! I’ve just learned recently to reserve coveted items at the butcher and boulangerie ahead of time so they set them aside!)

I headed out the door soon after to catch the last light of the day; some stunning pink played across the baby blue sky.

When I arrived at the butcher’s 15 minutes later, there was already a small line. But I was asked immediately what I needed.

“I called and reserved a poulet roti?” I said. (Even after all these years, many of my statements still come out sounding like questions in French. Will I ever be sure?)

“Oh.” the butcher says. “There’s a problem.”

Continue reading ‘(Extra)Ordinary New Year’

Paris Street Art Tour + Happy Holidays

An iconic, long-standing work of street art by Jean Le Gac in Belleville

An iconic, long-standing work of street art by Jean Le Gac in Belleville

For the past six and a half years, I’ve lived on the border of the 11th and the 20th arrondissements. I’ve long known that these 2 districts have the highest concentration of street art in Paris.

But my specific neighborhood isn’t the hot center for seeking out these ephemeral works. For that, I need only hop on the metro a few stops. Yesterday, I did just that to join a street art tour.

Led by photographer and poet Richard Beban (and husband of my new writer friend Kaaren Kitchell; the pair produce the blog Paris Play), the tour began on rue Oberkampf.

La Maison de la Plage is an arts collective on Paris' most famous street for street art, Rue Denoyez.

La Maison de la Plage is an arts collective on Paris’ most famous free zone for street art, Rue Denoyez.

A cold December day, we spent a little too long at the outset standing in one place. It was easy to understand why, though. Richard is a font of knowledge and provided an excellent historical overview of why this particular area birthed the street art movement, backed by rich Paris history.

Once we got moving, we covered a lot of ground. Some works I’d seen before, but a great many were new to me. Of course, the very nature of street art means the landscape constantly changes. Weather, the elements, other people or the city itself covering up the works are just a few reasons works disappear from view. (A landlord can ask the city to paint over anything from ground level up to 3 meters high. Anything higher is at the landlord’s expense to cover. A reason many artists aim above the 3 meter mark).

IMG_0846

IMG_0905

What a great boon to have an expert guide for mapping a lively itinerary and offering valuable background information. I learned so much about the different artists and the context, including political roots. And we were led to some incredible surprises!

Continue reading ‘Paris Street Art Tour + Happy Holidays’

Paris to Ferguson Protest at Trocadero

Paris to Ferguson rallyAs photographers, tourists and anyone else wanting to see the Iron Lady in all her glory know, Trocadero offers Paris’ best viewing spot of the Eiffel Tower.

Trocadero is also site of the Palais de Chaillot where in December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed by the United Nations.

This confluence of the scenic and the symbolic serves as a compelling assembly point for many gatherings.

On Saturday I learned at the last minute about a peaceful protest called Paris to Ferguson organized to show solidarity with those speaking out against police brutality. I hesitated for just a second – my thoughts, my heart, have been tuned to the events happening in the United States. Does it matter to hold signs and raise voices here in the City of Light?

Continue reading ‘Paris to Ferguson Protest at Trocadero’

The Pleasures of Routine

“Be regular and orderly in your life…so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert

The rentrée used to make me jittery. Perhaps counterintuitively, August has always been my favorite month, not despite, but because of how it changes the face of the city: shops close, streets empty, Parisians flee to the countryside for month-long vacations. Left in the wake is more space, a slower pace and time to properly indulge.

EVERYTHING gets in on the rentree action, including...artificial plants?

EVERYTHING gets in on the rentree action, including…artificial plants?

When everyone comes pouring back in September, the flurry of activity after the calm of summer jolts me. The very air brims with nervous energy on overdrive. The start of school, the return to work, signups for everything under the sun from gym memberships to classes through the mairie.

This year, though, I truly joined in the spirit of the rentrée. I’ve realized that it spells renewal and opportunity. Setting new intentions. Creating a new schedule. Really, the rentrée is more important than New Year’s for making resolutions.

Continue reading ‘The Pleasures of Routine’


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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