I can't believe it's been so long since I posted; it must be spring fever. So much has been happening, and all of it in the shining sun.
Last week we headed out to the Musée d'Orsay to see an exhibit called Crime et Châtiment (Crime and Punishment), curated jointly by an art historian and the politician responsible for the abolition of the death penalty in France. A mix of artists' work depicting famous and less famous crimes, 19th century luridly colored broadsheets detailing the hot crime of the day, architectural drawings of prisons, and even a real guillotine, it raises lots of questions about how we see crime, criminals, and justice over the years.
One of the constants, unfortunately, was the depiction of women as both criminals and victims. How all these folks loved the stories and pictures of women killed, raped, dismembered, burned. And when they weren't victimized for the delectation of the masses they were criminalized as witches and baby killers, not to mention the classics like Lady Macbeth, Charlotte Corday, the biblical Judith and others. How much fear men always seem to have had of women!
The exhibition is defintely worth seeing; some of the art is in fact wonderful and I came away with a new interest in Gustave Moreau, an artist I had always resisted but whose work I want to see more of. Luckily there's a Gustave Moreau museum handy in Paris.
We've taken to hopping on buses with no plans, just picking a direction and seeing where it takes us. This is a leap of faith for a control freak like me, but it usually works out and last week it took us to the absolutely lovely Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, a hilly haven in the northeast of the city. Constructed by Baron Haussman from an old quarry, it has a lake, waterfalls, lawns, and this pretty folly known as the Belvedere of Sybil on a height overlooking the lake and reached by a suspension bridge from the opposite hill.
The park was full of kids, parents, runners, sun-worshippers and wedding parties and we regretted not having taken a picnic until we came across a cafeteria called Rosa Bonheur. I had heard of it as a late night music/food site, but what a great lunch they supply. All pre-prepared, much of their offerings are simply jars or cans of food, but what food! Tarama of sea urchin, greek yogurt tzatziki, Jabugo ham, several different kinds of patés from different regions of France, all accompanied by a paper bag of sliced baguettes. Yum! We took the leftovers home and served them to guests the next day.
A big event closer to home was the opening of the Ralph Lauren store on Blvd. St-Germain. Okay, I know this seems weird, but it's been hiding behind plywood and scaffolding for months and is the biggest Ralph Lauren store in Europe, so when a friend called, we went. Coincidentally we had recently met the RL creative director for Germany when she was here to see the final touches being applied and she had told us it was not to be missed.
The five story hôtel particulier has been restored to pristine beauty. If you've seen the Madison Avenue flagship store, this is the French version. It's absolutely American in its merchandising style, but the building is glorious. And the event was such fun, attracting hoards of chic French folks wandering from room to room, floor to floor, for all the world like a cocktail party without drinks. It was a people watching extravaganza. When the Danny Meyer-managed restaurant opens next week it will be impossible to get a table. In the meantime, the terrace looks like this.
Less chi-chi but with real food was an opening at the design store Sentou in the Marais, celebrating a partnership with the Japanese book company Plames, although we didn't get any food there either as the photo shoot wasn't yet finished and the food not yet available. We wandered down the street for a margarita and chips at La Perla, a Mexican-style bar where we were at least twice as old as anyone else in the place.
Paris makes us feel young.