UNDER PARIS SKIES – December 2011

Opera Garnier, ceiling mural by Marc Chagall 1964. 9 opera scenes are depicted around the circle.
Opera Garnier, completed 1875.
Family photo at Opera Garnier. Taken by our dear friend, Randa Haines.

December 26, 2011 saw our family at the Paris Opera Ballet for a dramatic performance of EUGENE ONEGIN, music by Tchaikovsky, choreography by John Cranko,  starring Isabelle Ciaravola and Mathieu Ganio. Well worth a trip to Paris for that, alone!

La Sainte-Chapelle, dedicated in 1248, last renovation 1857.
An ethereal setting for our concert on the last night of 2011.
Louis Napoleon rooms in the Louvre
Louis Napoleon Dining Room in the Louvre.
Musée André Jacquemart, c. 1870.

This December the FRA ANGELICO exhibit here drew large crowds. I went twice!

Art Nouveau in the 7th.
Sacre Coeur at Christmas.

What makes Paris, Paris?

Is it that François I had the good taste to buy “Mona Lisa” from Leonardo? Or is it that Napoleon’s European art looting spree brought such magnificence to the Louvre that 8.5 million of us per year make the pilgrimage to see it? Is it that French kings like François II and Henri IV who both married at Notre Dame, imbued the church with a kind of sacred and ceremonial echo that still resonates with the 13.6 million visitors each year? Is it our fascination with a cuisine that demands such impossible ideals that it spawned the perfectionist, Monsieur Vatel, Master of the Kitchens in 1671, who committed suicide by stabbing himself 8 times because the fish delivery was late for Louis XIV’s banquet?

What makes Paris, Paris? In large part the splendor of the city is the creation of the maniacal Kings of France. They nearly bankrupted their country with excessive military spending while they extended extraordinary tax privileges to the wealthy, and heavily taxed commoners into starvation.  The people staged “Occupy Paris” on and off for centuries, until at last, the last Louis’ head was seen rolling off the scaffold in 1793.  On balance, French despots did know a thing or two about spending on infrastructure. Their gift to the French economy today is a capital city with such a visual legacy and sense of its own importance that more than 30 million tourists a year are enticed to shop, to admire, to worship and to consume “freedom fries”.

What makes Paris, Paris? You could argue that this emphasis on visual delight was a trait inherited long ago from that design-crazy Celtic tribe, the Parisii, and that French Kings were just at the lucky end of a bloodline. The Celt’s beautiful jewelry and artifacts were copied and traded throughout the ancient world. Modern day Parisians understand that beauty can exist also to seduce you for a purpose: the arrangement of food tempts you to eat, a shop window draws you in to buy, the soaring windows of La Sainte Chapelle inspire you to have faith, the scope of the Louvre awakens you to embrace artistic culture. No matter what the quest, the French have an intensity and a determination always to delight the eye first.

Buy me!

Zebras sell party dresses, naturally.

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Most restaurants in Paris don’t have Michelin stars, but there are plenty that taste like they have stars.  Here’s a few of our family’s favorites over the winter holidays:

Les Ombres restaurant, on the same campus as Musée Quay Branly, in the 7th. ( http://www.lesombres-restaurant.com/carte_menu.html) It’s especially great for lunch when the view of the city and the Eiffel Tower make you never want to go home.

Le Violon d’Ingres restaurant, chef Christian Constant, in the 7th. ( http://www.maisonconstant.com/).

CAFE BREIZH, is a delicious Britanny crepe restaurant in the Marais. It’s small and crowded, but the savory buckwheat crepes taste worlds away from what’s being served up from those carts on the street. My scrumptious, buttery crepe with scallops was filled with leek confit.  The dessert crepes are  delicate white flour based with toppings like apple tarte tatin. (http://www.breizhcafe.com/).

For me, no trip to Paris is ever a 100% success without an excess of pastries from PIERRE HERME on Rue Bonaparte.  Don’t know why dear old Pierre won’t let me take photos in his shop since I am such a good customer. At least I can show you what we ate. ( http://www.pierreherme.com/)

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 SPRING restaurant was the best meal of our family holiday.  Unfortunately, we were so thrilled with it, we ate it before we had the chance to share it with you in photographs!

Ditto, for the excellent chocolatier, JEAN PAUL HEVEN, who also makes the most flavorful chocolate macaroons in the city, on 231 Rue St. Honoré.

MICHEL CLUIZEL is known for carefully sourcing his chocolate. It’s worth going up a size for this.

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Our love lock on Pont des Arts!

photography by Florence Fellman and Waldemar Kalinowski

6 thoughts on “UNDER PARIS SKIES – December 2011

  1. Florence!
    That is really awesome!
    Looks like your having a great time.
    Excellent pictures! Thanks for sharing.
    Happy New Year to you and Valdemar.

  2. What a fabulous way to document your holidays! The photographs are beautiful. Thank you!
    Happy 2012 from The Gawrons!

  3. Mi Preciosa Familia,

    I don’t know how you can hold so much beauty!! (or chocolate) Hurry home before you explode!!! And thanks for sharing . . .

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