Old and new
My weekend visit afforded me a wonderful combination of discovery and recollection. I had never visited the Bibliotheque Nationale, president Mitterand's hommage to books (and himself). It is set in a completely new neighbourhood, reminiscent of the area around Tate Modern in London, combining glass and steel offices, a new university and interesting new housing with amazing river views on the Seine.
Exploring Le Marais area, I walked past my old gym, Vit'Halles and had a vision of myself in dayglo pink lycra with permed hair panting to the sound of disco music. In my student days, I used to go daily to aerobic classes to make up for the delicacies of rue Montorgueil. Stohrer's Puits d'Amour (caramelised creme patissiere in pastry) and Houdot's cheeses were notable culprits and remain hard to resist!
A new perspective
With regards to fashion, I'd like to question the notion that Paris offers more than London to the 40+ woman. The Parisian 40+ woman tends to look good, fed on a diet of cigarettes and coffee and a steely determination to keep her weight down. She knows what fits and suits her, but tends to adopt a uniform of winter black trouser suits, cleverly accessorised and picked up by the occasional discreet flash of colour. As a student in LA, I had been shocked and outraged by an American fashionista's judgment on French women: they were boring. I still don't agree, but I now understand what she means: good taste can be a prison.
My guide through le Marais was my wonderfully patient and knowledgeable artist cousin, C.M. We alternated art gallery visits and boutique exploration. On a Saturday afternoon, the shopping streets were teeming with sight-seers and the economic recession seemed far away. From the variety of shops we saw, I'd like to highlight Erotokritos, (99 rue Vieille du Temple, 75003, telephone +33 (0)1 42 78 14 04): http://www.erotokritos.com/home
The Greek cypriot designer, Erotokritos Antoniadis is based in Paris with 2 boutiques and present in London at Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. I very much liked his knitwear, beautifully made, quirky but stylish.
Jaquelle, 3/4 sleeved sweater, €175Timeless
On the art front, there is so much to see that we barely scratched the surface. I'll just mention a couple of places. A stop at Karsten Greve's gallery, (5 rue de Belleyme, 75003), gave us the opportunity to see Lucio Fontana, Soulages and Cy Twombly's works in much more peaceful conditions than we could have experienced in a museum.
At Yvon Lambert's gallery, (108 rue Vieille du Temple, 75003, telephone +33(0) 1 42 71 09 33), I thoroughly enjoyed artist David Claerbout's video installation Sunrise, part of the exhibition Locus Solus, http://www.yvon-lambert.com/Locus+Solus-E172.html
I tend to be very critical of video installations, often an excuse for "artists" to bore their audience to death with loops of shaky camera work, a complete ignorance of film making and an insufferable dose of pretension. Not David Claerbout's film Sunrise. I agree with Shine magazine's review: it "is a masterpiece of timing, camera-work, lighting and sheer artistic ingenuity and grace. The film follows a maid about her morning tasks in a modernist villa. [...] In its final minutes this film transforms itself from a quiet, unassuming view of perfection into an assault of emotion." (http://shinemag.com/2009/07/27/david-claerbout-riverside-sunrise-and-the-american-room/)