May 31, 2012

A walk under coloured circles

Monumenta was the theme today. My friends and I were wondering WHAT exactly Monumenta was? 

MONUMENTA is an ambitious artistic encounter unmatched anywhere in the world, organized by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. Each year MONUMENTA invites an internationally renowned contemporary artist to appropriate the 13,500 m² of the Grand Palais Nave with an artwork specially created for the event.

This year the artist Daniel Buren took up the challenge of filling the Grand Palais. I didn't really bother to grasp the concept but just let the colours and light flow over me. What hit me first was the heat. We walked in from a rather frisky morning breeze into a soothing, calm static heat. I love heat! Therefore I happily strolled under the big rings of coloured plastic in search of some good shots.

I wonder how Mr.Buren managed to colour the cupola with a chequerboard pattern of filters, placed at the highest point in the space, on the skylight itself, more than 35 metres in the air?

We entered a “forest” of vertical black and white posts formed by the legs supporting the coloured circles.

The coloured circles really came into effect when the sun started shining through the roof. The kids would love this. Meanwhile I am shooting my photos listening to the loudspeakers say blue, green, orange, yellow, white, black in fourty (!) different languages. No, I don't understand 40 different languages, I just read it somewhere.

I'm off looking for some more good shots! Keep in mind I am NO photographer.

View from the top. Might this be is the best point of view for seeing the exhibition?

This picture below - I have decided - is my best shot for today

May 25, 2012

How to decipher Notre Dame de Paris

Taxi drivers tell me that their most requested destination is Notre Dame de Paris. The cathedral will be celebrating its 850th anniversary this December. What better reasons to take a closer look myself?

It was the first place both my mother AND my mother-in-law wanted to visit when they came to stay. My mum still remembers watching the Queen on telly visiting the cathedral decades ago.

The façade of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris is an icon known throughout the world. Our guide told us first off that we needed to be looking in 3D. Up, down and beyond - certainly not at her - while she shared the secrets hidden in plain sight in the facade's architecture, their sculptures and stained glass windows.

She enlightend us about gothic style, the rose windows and the pointed arches leading our eyes up by optical illusion. We learnt about heavenly elements contrasting with material shapes in form of circles and squares. We went from portal to cathedra (the bishop's throne).

For a whole 90 minutes our wonderfully passionate New Yorker (married to a francais) guide enchanted us with explanations about The Holy Trinity, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the promise of the past leading to the fullfillment of the future. She told us about the Angels, the Apostels, Isaac & Abraham, Adam & Eve, David & Goliath, the Saints of Paris and even Queen Sheeba. She revealed repesentations of the Liberal Arts, the zodiac, devils, dragons and hidden snakes. At this point we hadn't even entered into cathedral yet.

Now, should your children ever say visiting a cathedral is boring - think again kids! There is a whole load of action to be found in the facade of Notre Dame de Paris, you just need the right person to unveil it.

May 23, 2012

Parisian Macaron tour à la carte

It all started with the Figaroscope's top ten chocolate macaron list which four friends drooled over a few weeks ago before they decided to put France's speciality to the test themselves.

Therefore, Ms Organized came up with a list of her own that made me giggle and impressed Ms Communication to no end. Ms Task-Oriented could not wait to start and get through the list within the morning.

We met at Café Carette which was full of chic French business people (not one single tourist in sight at 9am!) and I promptly got told off for taking fotos. The waitress couldn't resist a smile when we ordered two macarons each along with our coffee. Why two? Well, being slightly over-ambitious, we had decided to try a chocolate and a second flavour in each store.

We headed down Champs Elysée to hit world-renowned LaDurée. I will reveal that LaDurée is way over-rated but it's presentation, decoration, packaging and branding are extraordinary. How DID they get the entire world to remember their French name as well as the product itself? A charming salesman asked if we'd like fraise coquelicot (strawberry poopy) or fraise guimauve (strawberry marshmallow), chocolat ganache or chocolat classic. Doesn't he want to ask if I prefer pink cherry with white polka dots?

Striding down the Champs Elysée to Lenôtre we got diverted by two hansome young Abercrombie boys with whom we had our picture taken. No, I will NOT publish it! We (the girls), in return, distracted an enchanting chef at Lenôtre who promptly burnt his madeleines during the patisserie class he was giving.

We were - again - slightly sidetracked by Maille's window display of violet&blueberry flavoured mustard in pink jars which of course we had to taste! I know, I know the combination sounds terrible but hey, we're in France!

The only positive point Fauchon got in our books was for their fuchsia coloured box, tables and chairs. The macarons tasted stale. I will say no more.

By now we had gone from tasting two macarons each to sharing one between the four of us - I actually hate admitting to this fact. We therefore decided to stop for lunch at the Cinema du Pantheon which following to a review is a Parisian utopia: hidden beneath an art house cinema, a sophisticated café frequented only by beautiful, intellectual people… Delicious snacks, light meals and glasses of pouilly-fuissé. 

After four glasses of Sancerre we were ready to hit the macarons from Hugo et Victor, Pierre Hermé and Aoki which we had bought before lunch. We spread them out on our table much to the waiter's surprise and continued our dégustation.

In conclusion, my absolute personal favourite of all macarons came from Aoki. Not only are their flavours extremly delicate, the packaging and the presentation is refined in a way only the Japanese know how to craft.

Following closely were the macarons by Lenôtre and Carette. Ms Communication tends to agree with me while Ms Organized and Ms Task-Oriented concluded that Pierre Hermé was their favourite macaron source followed by Carette.

We did not manage to get through all ten macaron shops in one day but we found a definite consensus that Carette (as runner-up) was appreciated by all of us including Figaro's critic. And you'll never guess what my hubby bought me as a surprise today! Yum!!!

May 20, 2012

May 15, 2012

A trip long overdue: the Monet Garden

Ever since I was a student in Minnnnesota, I have dreamt of visiting Claude Monet's garden in Giverny. At College, the (long) break between first and second semester was called Interim. Students were encouraged to use this time for internships or independent study projects. These credits came in very handy as an International student simply because you got to go home for 6 weeks over the festive season.

At the time I submitted my project. It was to be about Claude Monet's garden in Giverny. I figured hopping over to France after visiting my mum for Christmas in the Swiss Alps (where she was living at the time) would be a piece of cake. Turns out, the 921 km were too much of a stretch compared to the fantastic slopes I had wating for me in front of my doorstep. I skied for six weeks! I eventually submitted my paper on Switzerland's fourth National language: Romantsch (easy).

This was in 1987. Twenty five years down the lane I finally made it to the Impressionist's Garden thanks to my friends from Michigan who invited me to join their tour today.

And what a splendid day it was. We were chauffered to Vernon where we hopped on a bike and pedalled the last 5km into Giverny. It felt like we had been set back 150 years in time.

We stopped off at Claude Monet's grave at the Église Sainte-Radegonde de Giverny before we reached the large family house set inside the 8,100 m2 estate where the family (Claude had 8 children!) worked and built up the gardens and Monet's fortunes began to change for the better. The famous Water Lilies were all painted on his property at Giverny. We learnt that he actually created his very own species of Water Lilies. The mind boggles!

 He wrote daily instructions to his gardener, precise designs and layouts for plantings, and invoices for his floral purchases and his collection of botany books. As Monet's wealth grew, his garden evolved. He remained its architect, even after he hired seven gardeners.

Words cannot describe the magnificent colours, fragrances and sounds of our delightful stroll through the garden of past times where Monet's presence was definately still perceivable. Just don't wait twenty five years until you decide to experience this pleasure for yourself.

A big Thank You goes out to my American friends for taking me along on their adventure. Needless to say my Giverny experience will always remain linked to America's Midwest in my heart and mind!

May 13, 2012

Mothers are the place that we call Home

Mothers are the place that we call home.
On them we rest our heads and close our eyes.
There's no one else who grants the same soft peace,
Happiness, contentment, sweet release,
Erasing nighttime tears with lullabies,
Restoring the bright sun that makes us bloom.

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