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At first, as you step into the cluttered, vast space, nothing is recognizable to the uninitiated eye. Little by little, you begin to make out intimidatingly large machines and collections of tools beyond comprehension. As you learn to see the order in disorder, things come into sharp focus : tangible sculptures and beautiful objects created from pure craft, ingenuity, and talent.
Ah, almost summer ! As the days here in Paris finally begin stretching out easily to ten p.m., on the sunniest early evenings, people everywhere are lounging on outdoor café patios or terrasses. In my ‘hood, we’re catching up on local
gossip news, and just watching people go by as they leave the Père Lachaise cemetery. But some of us are taking advantage of what used to be called l’heure verte, or the green hour.
Do you know someone who can drown a fish ? You might – without even knowing it. This expression – noyer le poisson – took me a long time to understand. I actually had to experience working within what should be a very precise system to learn exactly what it means to drown a fish.
At the crossroads of four different arrondissements, Belleville is known among Parisians as a miniature Chinatown and for its rowdy bars. But who knew that the area’s history was so rich in entertainment ? Even before it was a part of Paris, Belleville was already the city’s most talked-about party district, beginning with the construction of a wall in 1785.
Get out your wicker basket and gingham blanket : it’s picnic season ! Pâté, hard-boiled eggs, ham, and fruit salad or a full-fledged fruit tart – whatever you can dream up to put in your basket is perfect, but don’t forget the corkscrew and a bottle of rosé. And of course, the condiments. The most important one is a jar of small French pickles or cornichons.
Who hasn’t ever dreamed of living in a penthouse apartment ? For the views alone, a flat on the top floor of a city building is tempting, even if the price is far less so. Penthouses are also known for their luxury appliances and frequently large outdoor terraces. But whoever invented the penthouse clearly never visited Paris, where life at the top takes on a whole different meaning.
Do you remember Tiki ? That slightly frightening carved-wood divinity from the 1960s ? Recently, I went to the quai Branly museum to see the exhibit Tiki Pop : America imagines its own Polynesian paradise, which is all about the American obsession for South Pacific culture from the 1940s to the 60s. I do personally own a muumuu dress, and I have a vague memory of tiki mugs and tiki torches. And the hut-like architecture styles displayed in the exhibit looked familiar to me once there. But how could I have known who Don the Beachcomber was before I was even born ?
Has this ever happened to you ? You’re in the metro or subway, and you see a couple on the platform, innocently holding hands. But when the train arrives, everyone gets in, and the doors slide shut, these two lovers are all over each other. You become a hapless witness to their slobbery kissing, the couple acting as if there were no one else around them. Or does this only happen in the Paris metro ?