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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.

Up!

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.

Beat the Heat – Five of The Best Ice Creams of Paris

28 Aug

The “canicule”, the canicular days, seem to mostly be over but we still have around 27°C (about 80°F) here, which gives us a very good excuse to continue trying out the very best of Parisian ice cream creations.

Above you see the Amorino ice cream parlour opposite the Centre Pompidou, after a much-needed half hour cloudburst a few days ago.

But now the sun is back, and with the city being one of the centers, or THE center, of fashion, talking of French ice cream artists, I have to start with Pierre Hermé.

French Vogue referred to him as “the Picasso of Pastry”, but calling him “the Karl of Pastry” and in every case, “the Godfather of sweet delights” would neither go amiss. More on him and his wife, Austrian designer Barbara Rihl, in an upcoming post, but for now I can tell you that 1) should you visit Paris, try his macarons or you will miss out on your taste buds doing the Cha Cha (seriously, I thought I had tried all of the best macarons, but his are the epitome of macaron-mastery) and b) his ice cream creations equally wonderful.

On a recent trip to one of the Pierre Hermé boutiques, I tried the caramel-and-salted-butter version of his Miss Gla’Gla ice cream (above, in its chic silver packaging), ice cream sandwiches fit for kings and queens, and I also enjoyed one of his 2012 macaron creations, the “Mosäic”, a vanilla macaron with pistachio cream, flavoured with cinnamon and griottes (morello cherries). Bliss!

Pierre Hermè ice cream is also sold at Galeries Lafayette.

Back to Amorino. First, have a look at this:

Looks really nice, isn’t it? May I introduce you to one of Amorino’s (addresses here) specialities, the “Foccacina”. The Foccacina consists of two scoops of ice cream you may choose yourself (I had mascarpone with caramelized figs and Cantaloupe melon, a 2012 Amorino novelty) hugged by a delicate, freshly made warm bakers-biscuit-doughnut-like shell which tastes of Panettone.

Founded in 2002, Amorino’s ice cream truly tastes like real Italian gelato. Also, Amorino does not use artificial colourings or flavors.

What’s more, there are many different ways to enjoy your Amorino gelato: In a foccacina, as did I, on freshly-made warm Belgian waffles or in a cornetto with the ice cream shaped into a beautiful rose form.

And speaking of rose-shaped gelati, “Gelati d’Alberto” also offers them. I fell in love with them a few years ago.

Legend has it that Caterina de Medici brought Italian ice cream to Paris, when she arrived, about 500 years ago. And did you know that it is said that in 1686, Sicilian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, perfected the first ice cream machine?

Ice cream making is an ancient craft, dating back to the ancient Romans and Egyptians, serving frozen treats, but  until now, one of the loveliest ways to serve ice cream is in rose form. For Gelati d’Alberto’s ice cream, 12, rue des Lombards, find the full address and map here.

If you are looking for the most original ice cream spot: Glaces-glazed‘s Citroën food truck, find its current locations on facebook or on their blog (now you can only get their ice cream at Colette) and additional points of sale here. All the flavours are to die for – but if you live in Paris you can even get a subscription for additional members-only Glaces-glazed creations like Black Sugar Sex Magic (black chocolate, wasabi, ginger), Tunnel of Love (woodland strawberry, sansho pepper) or Kaoua (Brazilian coffee, cardamom).

And you may find French ice cream with the greatest touch of nostalgia at A la mère de famille”.

Founded in 1761 “A la mère de famille” is Heaven for everyone with a sweet tooth. Not only will you discover all sorts of French sweet delicacies, and all of these are truly fabulous, but there you will also find the very best marrons glacés (sweet syrup candied, glazed chestnuts). My suggestion: add them to cupcake dough and glaze the baked cupcakes with icing sugar frosting, sprinkle with thinly chopped marrons glacés…

Find all addresses of the A la mère de famille boutiques here.

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.

Thunderstorms over Paris

21 Aug

After many days of sweltering heat, today Paris is bracing itself for heavy thunderstorms predicted for late afternoon / evening.

Have your camera ready and you might see Paris in a light – or rather lightning – in which you have never seen it before.

Last summer, one day at sundown, I was walking along the Seine direction Pont Neuf when suddenly dark clouds started gathering astonishingly fast and the city got hit by massive thunderstorms.

While the sun was setting, countless lightning bolts flooded the city with the most unreal shades of purple, orange, pink and blue.

Everyone stopped and stared and even the Parisians themselves took out their camera phones and photographed the beautiful scenery.

I will never forget the sight when the Eiffel Tower was hit by lightning, it just took your breath away. But no worries, no one got hurt.

If you are in Paris today I will keep my fingers crossed that you may witness a similar spectacle, I promise you will never forget the beauty of it.

Have a nice day wherever you currently are

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!

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.