Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers' party

Fathers' Day translates into French as "la Fête des Pères" (Father's Party). In honor of the 'party' that takes place on the other side of the Atlantic today, I thought I'd share a few photos from my father's recent visit.

Dad being who he is, the sight that was first on his Must See list was...the sewers. Yup. You can bring a water treatment engineer to Paris but you can't keep him out of the sludge. When he wasn't busy recreating Jean Valjean's trek through the smelly underground network (minus Marius' limp form, of course) he spent most of his time sampling the city's wines and restaurants (a passion that apparently runs in the family). However, sewers and eating don't make for the best tourist shots, and luckily for you readers, since this was dad's first time in Paris we also spent plenty of time touring the typical tourist sights:

...the Arc de Triomphe...
...the Eiffel Tower...
...and the gilded Château de Versailles:
We had wonderfully warm spring weather while he was here, which provided optimal conditions for a picnic in the gardens (albeit rather squinty photos):
which were in full spring bloom:
Happy Père Party to mon father and all the other amazing papas out there!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mobile moments: signage and advertising

In a follow-up to yesterday's graffiti-inspired post, today's post will be dedicated to...signs!

Paris is preparing to instate an automobile-share system (similar to Vélib, the freeride bike program, but hopefully better funded and maintained ! ). Parisians willing to pay a monthly or yearly membership fee will have access to small electric cars that they can drive at will around the city. The cars themselves haven't yet appeared, but the parking spaces dedicated to them are starting to show up, and I *love* the logo:
Canal+, the French TV station that shows movies, has started a fun Métro ad campaign for their current feature films. I really enjoyed this poster for the new Alice in Wonderland (or, as they jokingly refer to it, Alice in Burtonland), which sums up my opinions of the movie: a visually captivating but confused version of a classic that ultimately loses itself as it blurs into Burton-dom (evoked here with Edward Scissorhands).
This board game store in the intellectual Sorbonne quartier has a deliciously punny name: Descartes (which evokes both the philosopher and "des cartes"--card games!)
(On a related note, I give you a horribly punny Franglais joke:
Q:Why should you never take a French philosopher to a brothel?
A: Because it's a bad idea to put Descartes ('da cart') before the whores.

Get it? Get it?)

Aaaannnyway, next up is a deliciously sensual theater poster:
This sign is either warning against electric shock, or against angering Zeus:
A poster advertising a medication for a peculiar malady that is seemingly unique to the French:
'heavy legs'
A bizarre but artistic ad for a store that is somewhere between Pier Imports and Home Depot (I think the writing said something along the lines of "got improvement projects on the brain?")
This area isn't friendly to skaters and boarders:
An old poster for an 'anti-colonialism' weekend at a jazz club. I just liked the image of the colonial hat-as-potty:
A public flower pot in the Arab district of Belleville, appropriating an iconic Parisian street sign to mark the "Tunis of Belleville," with the Arab hamza, or hand of Fatima on the adjacent panel:
This is the place for all of your depressed furnishing needs:
This Indian restaurant is for those gentleman whose tastes aren't so much bosom-oriented:
And for those who prefer king size nuts...
Hypno cat says "you are feeling sleeeeepy. You will feed me tuuuuunnnaaa..."
Meanwhile, Orangina's flavors keep getting more and more bizarre. What exactly does Geisha taste like?

Here's a library for Harry Potter's studious heroine Hermione (overlooking the extra "i" and the fact that yes, 'librarie' might actually mean bookstore in French):
And finally, a pigeon perching on a sign at Republique:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mobile moments: graffiti edition

Any longtime followers of my blog will know that I'm a big fan of both street art and of taking photos with my cellphone. Without further ado, I present to you the marriage of these two loves: mobile moments-graffiti edition.

To start things off, here's a lovely piece from rue Dénoyez, the graffiti-adorned street in the 20e that I wrote about the other day. I have no interpretation to offer you for this, other than to say that it reminds me both of Blu's work (although not stop-motion animated, alas) and a character from Pan's Labyrinth:
As Mario grew older, he started to value other prizes over mushrooms and fire ball flowers (if only Princess Peach had put out...):
A signature piece by Misstic, the artist who has adorned the Buttes aux Cailles quartier near where I live, whose works almost all consist of stencil-style lettering accompanying a sensual drawing of a woman (loose translation: you make me dream to help me fall asleep):
Sarko as the Joker:
Another Buttes aux Cailles piece, artist unknown:
On a column in the Bastille metro station:
Written next to the keypad on an ATM ("down with capitalism!")
A lone ballet dancer near Gare de Lyon:
A Nike-inspired tribute to The Big Lebowski near St. Germain-des-Près
A dog, lovers and some birds-and-the-bees on a condemned-looking dilapidated building near Bercy that seems to be in the process of being reclaimed (one side now sports a small independent art gallery and a hipster café):
I upped the contrast on this one so you could see the text--in real life it didn't have quite the same scary 'REDRUM' effect ("The Bastards' Republic was born from the blood of the Communards"):
An unexpected piece of intellectualism amongst the peeling, scarred layers of a forgotten metro ad board ("palimpseste," a text written over an older text, or using the same, cleaned parchement):
An artistic cut-through over behind the Pantheon:
A wall-sized work in the 3e:
A fun junk monster sculpture in Montparnasse (that reminds me of that junk yard lady from Labyrinth):
A feminist got ahold of this H&M ad ("Here we see a woman submissive to the feminine ideal we impose on her"), although if you're looking for an example of a sexualized female form in an add, you could do much worse than a woman in fairly asexual business-casual attire:
And fun drain cover in Montmartre:
And to finish up, a form of urban art that is new to me but that has apparently been a 'thing' for a while now: yarn-bombing (on a street light one Ile de la Cité). I love it! What a cosy-looking light!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mobile Moments: Celebrity Sightings!

So I was on my way to tutoring today (in the rather ritzy district around the Arc de Triomphe) when I ran into a few paparazzi and a small group of fans waiting around outside a hotel. As it turns out, Jennifer Lopez is in Paris to promote her new album, and a after about a 2 minute wait I was able to snag a cellphone photos of my first up-close encounter with a celebrity.

The first photo got an odd fisheye effect going from the motion of my hand and the many people encroaching on J-Lo's personal space:
The second shows how close I really was:

I could have been even closer, but since she was already being rushed along by some pretty serious-looking security guards I decided to let the more dedicated fans (who brought flowers in exchange for autographs and pictures with the "bomba latina") move in. One strung-out guy with a CD looked as though he had been waiting for quite some time. To her credit, though, J-Lo was a real sweetie and made a few moments for her fans even as she was quickly ushered, with her entourage, into a limo and off to her next event.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rue Dénoyez

Yesterday was the 9th annual festival of Rue Dénoyez, a bohemian, celebration-of-graffiti pedestrian street just down from métro Belleville, in the heart of the gritty and diverse 20th arrondissement. A longtime admirer of this street, I was nonetheless surprised to hear that its quartier had a day dedicated to it, and I was pleased that we chanced along at the right moment. To celebrate, we had $4.50 mojitos at one of the pop-culture découpage tables on the outdoor terrasse at Bar aux Folies. The awning sheltered us from the light rain and afforded a great view of the dynamic street...

...and of the free reggae concert (not pictured is the transsexual gyrating enthusiastically in his afro, hoop earrings and miniskirt).
All in all a great corner of alternative Paris, worthy of celebration.

Everyone who should be here is here

Now that I'm counting down the days until my imminent departure I've been trying to live my Parisian existence to the fullest (and I've got the extra pounds in macarons, pastries and café crème to prove it). However, this being a three-day weekend in France (for Pentecost of course--although avidly atheist, the French will never give up their Catholic holidays), and me being a fidèle, tourist-snubbing Parisian, I just had to escape the city.

And that is how this morning we found ourselves all dolled up in a train packed full of well-dressed people, headed towards Chantilly. A small town just north of Paris, Chantilly is known for two things: its crème Chantilly (whipped cream--it claims to be the birthplace of this foamy delicacy), and its horses. While I won't pretend that I didn't indulge in the first regional specialty, it was the latter--more specifically, the annual Prix de Diane Longines horse race--that was the draw on this particular day. The energy in the standing-room only train on the way there was almost palpable, with men perspiring in their pinstriped summer suits and women jousting with ornate hats, battling for head space.

The town's love of horses was evident from the moment we stepped off the train and saw a street sign:
We arrived a few hours before the first race, which gave us a good amount of time to grab some lunch (we turned down the pre-packed picnic-complete-with-champagne-in-a-collector-hatbox kits for a more humble and affordable ham sandwhich) and check out the scenery. Feeling snazzy, we strolled the 'red carpet' to admire the many designer horse sculptures that had been custom made for the event, watched a free concert by a Regina Spektor-esque French artist and splurged on a rather extravagant ice cream smothered in the town's trademark cream.

By far my favorite activity of the day was hat-watching. As a fan of My Fair Lady, I already knew about the tradition of wearing ridiculous headwear to horse races, but nothing could have prepared me for the scope and variety (and age range! it started at about age 4 for the children of posh parents).

Some of the more ridiculous hats of the day:
Men were not entirely excluded, either, although their options showed much less imagination. Here's a shot of the rich old man viewing box, which guarded to protect them and their brandy from the common riff-raff. I wondered if they had a top hats only dress-code:
A few younger women, rocking the black and white look:
Finally, it was time to make our way over to the track to figure out how odds and betting worked. Here's me on the track before the first race, rocking my own (slightly less fancy) hat:And when all the bets were laid and the spectators in place, they were off! Here's a shot from the first race--see the horses?
To my dismay, my tactic of picking horses by fun name (Invincible Viking! Andromeda!) or by the look of their jockey's jersey turned out to be a poor strategy, and I lost every single one of the 2 euro bets I placed. Tom managed to win twice--once on a horse to "place" and once on a horse to "win," meaning that our collective gains outweighed our collective losses by about 8 euros--enough for a glass of wine each in a bar on our way home.