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The Year of the Water Snake 2013 – Chinese New Year in Paris

17 Feb

Nian beasts and the red lanterns and drums used to scare them away

Whereas our own New Year’s Celebrations have long passed, the Chinese New Year Celebrations are in full swing and the year of the Water Snake has just begun.

Paris’ “Chinatown” is the largest one in Europe and there are New Year Festivities taking place in the 3rd, 11th and 13th arrondissement, the ones in the 13th offering the biggest parade to visitors, find its route and the Métro stations (Place d’Italie, Porte d’Ivry…) here.

The Dragons are awake

The dragon in the 13th will open its eyes at 1:00 pm for the  New Year’s Parade on Sunday, February 17, 2013, and start dancing down the streets followed by his fellow dragon friends, chasing their mythic pearl. I am always amazed on how realistic its movements look, fluttering through the air, twirling around, it definitely looks like a real being.

Colorful embroidered costumesWhat at first appears to be  a furrier, stumpier version of the dragons are in fact no dragons, but the Nian. The Nian was said to be a cruel monster, living under the sea or in the mountains. Every year for the Spring festivities / Chinese New Year it would appear and chase people because, unfortunately, his favorite dish was humans. The Nian’s terrible reign didn’t last forever though. A wise monk came up with the idea to turn the tables on the monster the next time it appeared, fighting it by lighting fireworks and firecrackers and beating empty bowls, plates and gongs, making an awful noise and frightening the beast.


The Nian tried to flee, but wherever it went it was greeted with more noise, the people often wearing red, as this color scared the Nian even more. According to some of the legends, the Nian was eventually killed, according to others it never dared returning to the village ever again and peace was restored.

The red lanterns you see hanging everywhere during the Chinese New Year’s week and the firecrackers used still date back to these ancient stories and shall forever bar the Nian from doing harm again.

Crunch Bob

The acrylic Nians you spot during our modern parades don’t really scare us anymore, but don’t forget what they stand for and root for the right team, the Nians are the baddies, the Dragons will bring you luck.

More of my pictures from previous years' Chinese New Year celebrations and this year's poster

The Chinese New Year Celebrations and the colorful costumes and traditional rites bring color and fun to the still cold and harsh Winter days, still, two things you should consider in order for you to have a great time:

1)   There will be many, MANY people, as you see in the pictures below, if you’re a woman you’re lucky, wear heels, you’ll have a much better view. And if you don’t like huge crowds and overflowing streets, don’t go, really, it’s madness

2)   Authenticity. Over the past years, the amount of advertising has risen drastically, almost everything is endorsed by anything, and even many of the lanterns and balloons are branded (phone companies, airlines…), it just clashes with the ancient traditions and kind of gnaws on its ceremoniousness.

Gold Proc p

A happy Chinese New Year to you all! After the turbulent Year of the Dragon, Chinese astrologists expect the Year of the Water Snake to be a calmer and luckier year. Now that sounds great, let’s cross our fingers.

Did I mention the huge crowd of people..?

The Original Django

30 Jan

Django orig

If you liked Tarantino’s Django Unchained and now want to see Sergio Corbucci’s original Django, head over to Le Nouveau Latina cinema, 20, rue du Temple and enjoy.

Yes, signor Nero knows that the D is silent…

Language: Italian, French subtitles

Métro: Rambuteau or Hôtel de Ville.

Cinéma en plein air 2012

22 Aug

No thunderstorms yesterday, the weather forecast apparently has not been that accurate. But the temperatures have dropped to a far more pleasant level and today the sky over Paris is blue, blue, blue.

Ideal for a movie night outdoors. Just as every year, the 2012 version of the “Cinéma en plein air”, titled “Métamorphoses”, at the Parc de la Villette will entertain you with a best-of of recent film as well as beloved, sometimes rare, classics and international highlights.

Good to know: the films are all shown in their original language version with French subtitles.

Before it ends on August 26, the Cinéma en plein air will screen quite a few more jewels of film history.

Today: Being John Malkovich by Spike Jonze, USA 1999

Thursday, August 23: L’Esquive by Abdellatif Kechiche, France 2003

Friday, August 24: L’Invasion des profanateurs de sépulture (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) by Don Siegel, USA 1956

I have never watched the movie in this black-and-white version (as in the movie poster above), I only know the recent version and the amazing makes-your-teeth-chatter version with Donald Sutherland. Hope I will get a chance to see it!

Saturday, August 25: Superman by Richard Donner, USA 1978

Sunday, August 26: Hair by Miloš Forman, USA 1979

The screening of the movies starts at nightfall, entry is free.

Additional information:

Find the PDF-version of the Cinéma en plein air programme here (in French).

Métro: Porte de Pantin (Grande Halle) : Ligne 5 – Bobigny – Place d’Italie

Porte de la Villette : Ligne 7 – Villejuif-Louis Aragon / La Courneuve

Parc de la Villette, full address and map here.

La Mer à Paris – Paris Plages at the Bassin de la Villette

13 Aug

I am njoying a warm evening in Switzerland before returning to Paris tomorrow.

One of the highlights that I am looking forward to is visiting Paris Plages again; two beaches right in the city of Paris.

Held from July 20 to August 19, 2012, and already in its 11th year, Paris Plages is well-known and loved by many. I recommend to skip the Pont Neuf Plage though and head right to Paris Plage at La Villette Bassin.

This is by far the more charming Plage, it is less crowded, has a more relaxed feel to it and an especially large area dedicated to children’s entertainment. Still it is spacious enough for adults sans children to enjoy calm and relaxing beach-time without too much of a hullabaloo.

It is the perfect gathering place for people of all ages for trying out new activities, for socializing, eating, drinking and simply for having fun.

Villette Plage for grown-ups

Restaurants, shuttle boats, ballroom dance classes (mostly attended by the not-so-young- anymore-but-young-at-hearts) where people of every age stop by, admiring the, mostly, graceful dancers. Just look at people’s faces in the picture below; if you want to see happy and loved-up couples, you will find them there.

There will also be a performance of Molière’s “Le malade imaginaire” on water on  August 15 – 17. For the more nautically-inclined there is the Nautical Centre at the Quai de la Loire where you can also book boat rides, there are pedal boats (big favourite for many, me included), typical French Petanque games, table football – and to start your day in a serene mood, you may attend one of the Tai-chi classes held every morning from 10 am to 12 pm (also at Paris Plage Pont Neuf).

I’ve taken the “aerial view” picture from atop the canal’s highest bridge, from which you have a great view over the whole Plage.

Villette Plage for children

Slides, Zip Wires, beach games, water zorbs, a pirate ship, science workshops in collaboration with la Cité de la Science, a mini-golf course and more.

Find detailed information about both Paris Plages here (in English and French) and details about the canal and the different events around it here (in French only).

Wishing you a great Summer holiday in Paris!

Natacha Birds – One of a Kind Souvenirs

9 Aug

Yes, this is a post mostly for women… so girls, read on…

We have all received, at one time or another, souvenirs, that where so, uhm, “special”, that until this day they are displayed in an exquisite place at the very back of some cupboard.

Bring-alongs somewhat have the right to be kitschy and over the top, but if you are looking for something really individual for a dear friend of yours, look no further than Natacha Birds’ illustrations. If you like a whimsical, yet clean style, combined with the usefulness of bags, totes, baby onesies and more,  you have found your souvenir.

You don’t even need to travel to Paris, Natacha has an online-shop here (or click on any of the illustrations in this article).

And, to be honest, I will order my bag right now, not as a souvenir, but just for me… Hey, I have to see how it turns out, in case I want to give more bags as a Christmas present to girlfriends 😉

Natacha Birds, self-portrait

It’s just very hard to decide on what type of girl/fille you are. We women are normally very versatile, after all.

Do you love gardening? You’re a “fille à jardiner”

You love butterflies? You’re a “fille à papillons”

Knitting is your passion? Bonjour “fille à tricot”

Or are you maybe a “fille à macarons”?

If you need more inspiration, check out her website or the examples below.

Natacha Birds illustrations

Ordering your bag is really easy, just submit your photo, tell Natacha what kind of “fille” you are and what you would have represented in the picture, choose your hair colour and length… et voilà, your very own design will be created.

Apart from treating yourself to a nice gift, I could also imagine a baby onesie and matching tote to be a unique and cute gift for a friend’s baby shower. And did I mention, I love the stickers.

But well, I haven’t decided what kind of fille I am, apart from a fille who likes to blog. Stay tuned though, since I will put a picture on the blog once I’ve decided and received my design.

Rock en Seine

9 Aug

Official Rock en Seine Poster

Rock en Seine – is there a better reason for Parisians to head back to Paris after a long holiday?

Join them for this star-studded music festival held at the beautiful Domaine de Saint-Cloud, a former nature preserve and today a vast park with French Château (of course…), Rock en Seine will entertain the crowds for three days, August 24 – 26, 2012.

The 3-day passes are already sold out, but single-day passes are still available here.

The Black Keys, Placebo, Green Day, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and The Dandy Warhols will heat up the Summer days and nights even more, supported by the bands responsible for some of the most catchy tunes in the last months: Mark Sheeran, Foster the People, Miike Snow, Yeti Lane and the ethereal, yet deep sound of cult Icelanders Sigur Rós.

Some of our (not really insider anymore) voice crushes are also performing: dEus, Owlle, the Black Seeds (check out “Frostbite”), Bass Drum of Death (name reminds me of Death Cab for Cutie, but they’re definitely good festival material), Kimbra and her magical voice,  and of course Granville, solid, easy-going Summer music.

And, since we’re talking French Robot Mixeurs here, I have to mention: The Bots! Nice name – fun sound.

Find detailed instructions on how to get to the festival / map here.

Now let’s hope for good weather to round up the festival season.

Ps. Did you notice the great retro-style illustrations on the Rock en Seine web page? They’re by graphic designer Thomas Baas and I think they deserve to be highlighted, check out his Portfolio here.

Degas, Ballet and a Trip to Paris

19 Nov

Little street in the Marais

In honor of famous French impressionist painter Degas, grand master in depicting human motion, the Royal Academy of Arts in London is presenting ‘Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement’. The exhibition will be open until December 11, 2011.

Santa Baby, we’ve been awful good girls, but we probably don’t need you this year: There are two competitions with fantastic prizes, related to the exhibition.

The Royal academy has teamed up with UK-based company French Sole. The company’s founder and designer Jane Winkworth has created a unique collection of ballet flats based on Degas’s color palette and works, especially his ‘Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” sculpture. Cute detail: The Little Dancer is also featured on the shoe’s mirrored silver sole. Love them? Enter the Royal Academy’s competition.

Reading a blog about the City of Love and Fashion is fun, but visiting is even better. TimeOut London celebrates the Degas exhibition with another exciting competition. Unfortunately this second competition is open to UK-residents only. So if you’re from the UK you may become the lucky winner of a weekend trip for two to Paris. The package includes flights and two nights at four star hotel The Regina opposite the Louvre and the Jardins des Tuileries, plus two-day Museum Passes.

Soon you may be enjoying Paris in winter or getting admiring glances at your beautiful jewel encrusted new shoes. Good luck!