June 4, 2012
Fête de la Musique
June 21 brings the Fete de la Musique back for its 31st year. This year the festival celebrates 50 years of pop, and with a full lineup of gratuit concerts, there is certainly something for every taste.
June 5: Magnificat: Polychoral music at Notre-Dame de Paris. An extraordinary opportunity to enjoy a concert in one of the world’s most famous cathedrals. This show celebrates the works of famed composers Michael Praetorius and Giovanni Gabrieli, who drastically shaped the transition from Renaissance to Baroque music in Europe.
June 6: Brooklyn synth pop duo Chairlift is playing at La Gaîté lyrique. If ethereal harmonies (and the Apple ad featuring their 2008 “Bruises”) is your thing, this is your show. Continue Reading »
Posted in Events, Parisian Living | 2 Comments »
December 17, 2011
What can I add to this week’s hundreds of tributes to the legendary proprietor of Paris’s Shakespeare and Company bookshop, George Whitman, including one by the writer, Jeanette Winterson?
Why was she impelled to remember him in print? Because, like so many others, she had stayed at Shakespeare and Company. George Whitman started a tradition of hosting writers, most famously members of the Beat generation, and the bookshop’s ‘Tumbleweed Hotel’ is still a place where literary dreamers can exchange a few hours’ work in the shop for a bed on a bench amongst the books of George’s personal open library on the first floor.
When I came to Shakespeare and Company a couple of years ago, it was a while before I actually met George. Already in his mid-90s, he spent his days in the apartment on the top floor.
He still owned the shop downstairs, now run expertly by his daughter Sylvia and her team, its ‘Tumbleweed Hotel’ principles intact.
When they arrive, Tumbleweeds are required to write a brief biography for the shop’s records. Employed by the shop to create stair murals, I decided I would do this later. Anyway I was here to draw, not write. I wasn’t a Tumbleweed.
The next time I stayed I didn’t write it either, but I did spend my time writing. I’d do it on the next visit.
Or the next…
The last time I visited the shop in October 2011 , Paris was cold. George had just suffered a stroke and was in hospital, ‘recovering well’. The writers’ room, with its tiny electric radiator, was warm. Under my window, tourists snapped continually; Tumbleweeds lunched at the little round table by the door; drunks gathered at the fountain; a busker turned up and performed Shakespeare’s most famous speeches in rotation. Later on, the drummers took over outside the cathedral.
I stopped writing to eat at the café across the road. The man at the next table was telling his teenage daughter – her first trip to Paris – about how he’d been to one of George’s famous Sunday teas and heard the bookseller relate how he had set off to walk from North to South America but had been forced to turn back in the impassible Central American jungle. He was like a child, the man said. It was like he didn’t understand why he just couldn’t go as far as he wanted to go.
But after opening Le Mistral in 1951, which became Shakespeare and Company in 1964, the traveler largely stayed put in Paris, dying peacefully last Wednesday in his apartment above the shop, two days after his 98th birthday.
I walked back from the café to the bookshop and got back to work.
I wrote. Notre Dame chimed ‘Three Blind Mice’ on the hour: the light went.
I thought about space: Kilometer Zero in front of Notre Dame; Place René Viviani next to the shop where the 2010 Shakespeare and Company Literary Festival was held – a free event into which the public could wander. That was the last time I had seen George downstairs; wearing an extravagant paisley jacket, he was carried in triumph through the shop on a sofa held shoulder-high by Tumbleweeds. Continue Reading »
Posted in Arts, Parisian Living | 4 Comments »
December 15, 2011
When I popped home to the UK in November, London was already in full festive swing with Christmas trees, festive songs and neon lights galore. Sent back with a Cadbury’s chocolate advent calendar adorned with an oversized Santa, I was ready to start the Christmas season with a bang.
Yet once back home across the pond, I realized Paris hadn’t joined in on the fun yet. I was ready to start in on my advent calendar and temperatures were plunging, but where were all those tell tale signs that our favorite mid-winter festival was fast approaching?
This set me thinking. What exactly is a Parisian Christmas? What happens in the cold windy days leading up to the big event? I set out on a mission to discover the seasonal delights that France’s most romantic city had to offer.
Although the Christmas shopping frenzy begins relatively late in Paris (thankfully, shops only step into gear at the end of November), once it gets going, it really gets going. Stores go all out with light shows and designer-crafted window displays – always tasteful, bien sur. First stop? Paris’s iconic department stores. Whilst London has toy-filled Hamleys and elegant Harrods, Paris showcases its trademark sophistication with Les Galleries Lafayette and the neighbouring Printemps, where Karl Lagerfeld’s touch marks this year’s displays: think Chanel-clad rock ‘n’ roll dolls strumming their electric guitars and 20m Christmas trees. Continue Reading »
Posted in Events, Shopping, Travel | 5 Comments »