Paris behind the scene

Visites côtés coulisses des monuments parisiens et des adresses mythiques qui font le rayonnement de la Capitale. Rencontres avec les maisons Hermès, Guerlain, Montblanc, les studios Hartcourt...

France's most eminent theatrical institution has become the leading source of cinematic talent, but hasn't compromised its values in the slightest. Here's the programme. Unlike in film credits, no name is bigger than any other on a cast listing or marquee of the Comédie-Française. Nevertheless, actors from the Palais-Royal's legendary theatre are burning up the big screen: Guillaume Gallienne and Pierre Niney as the dynamic duo of Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint-Laurent; Denis Podalydès as Nicolas Sarkozy in The Conquest, Laurent Lafitte, Laurent Stocker, Christian Hecq, Sébastien Pouderoux, and others still. Nary a week goes by without a producer, director or casting director seeking out one of troupe's 63 actors and actresses to invite him or her to temporarily exit stage right for the film set. Some argue that the French troupe's renewed prestige coincides with the 2006 arrival of Muriel Mayette-Holtz as General Administrator. "The Comédie-Française's motto is simul et singulis," she says. "My actors work for the singulis (single, oneself), and I work for the simul, (simultaneous, ensemble). I want them to be happy. So if it doesn't jeopardise the show, there's no reason for me to deny them the chance to act in movies. Because it benefits everyone in the end." Indeed it does. First, it helps the movie world, that recruits engaging, admirable talent able to act the full gamut; next, the actors, who get to earn a bit of pocket money: "To a French person, one day of shooting is equal to a month's salary," admits Denis Podalydès. Lastly, the theatre itself enjoys the trickle-down effect, as well, always pleased to see one of its pensionnaires make it big in the moving pictures, as his or her name will appear in the credits, always followed by the prestigious distinction "de la Comédie-Française." It is a virtuous circle: in recent seasons, all - or nearly all - of the 850 shows presented annually by the French troupe have played to sold-out houses. Consequently, the film realm is taking ever-greater interest in these atypical actors that make tickets sell like hotcakes. Deemed too "brainy" in the past (1960 to 1990), the actors of the Comédie-Française are renewing ties with the prestige and charisma of their distant predecessors: a century ago, the theatre's actors were the first to appear in silent movies and on live radio shows. Back then, they were praised for the quality of their acting or diction. After having appeared last year in the credits of the films of Bertrand Tavernier (Quai d'Orsay) and Albert Dupontel (9-Month Stretch), the suffix "de la Comédie-Française" will be seen at the end of upcoming feature films from Alain Resnais (Life of Riley), Nicole Garcia (Going Away), François Ozon (The New Girlfriend), and even from Jamel Debbouze (Pourquoi j'ai [pas] mangé mon père/Why I Did[n't] Eat My Father). There's no mistaking the signs: the Comédie-Française stage is serving as the springboard for a freshened and fortified French film future. K Texte : Christophe Gautier Photo : Laurent Stocker and Laurent Lafitte in Le Système Ribadier (Where There's a Will) on the Comédie-Française stage.
Seventy years after Jean Cocteau's masterpiece, director Christophe Gans revisits Beauty and the Beast. Here's a look at the most eagerly awaited French film for 2014. It's downright sacrilegious! Christophe Gans knew very well he would be labelled a heretic. For how dare he come up with a new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast nearly 70 years after Cocteau's masterpiece and two decades after Disney's version, the first animated feature film to ever be nominated for the Oscar for Best Film? While meeting with us at his Boulogne offices, where he is putting the finishing touches on his movie, Christophe Gans immediately dispenses with the predecessors issue. Has he felt crushed by the weight of Cocteau's shadow? "Not really... I suppose some critics will cry blasphemy, but his style is so distinct, his work is so personal, that it leaves the field open to other interpretations of the tale. And, unlike Cocteau, who was took his inspiration from a 10-page version of the story, we chose to go back to the original version by Madame de Villeneuve (published in 1740) and reintroduce certain elements." The bankruptcy of Belle's father, the superficiality and selfishness of her two sisters, the castle as a vestige of a bygone era and, above all, the reasons behind the Beast's transformation (explained in one brief sentence in Cocteau's version!) take on a new dimension in this work, as evidenced by the scene in which Belle, upon discovering the Beast's abode, sees several periods overlap. Is this a nod to the multiple dimensions in Silent Hill, Gans' 2007 fantasy thriller? Perhaps, but the costumes and period are more evocative of the director's second film, Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001). "Unlike Brotherhood, which was shot on location over nearly 130 days, Beauty and the Beast only took 57 days in the Berlin studios. On the other hand, the post-production work is massive: out of the total of 1,100 shots, 1,000 call for special effects." The result? From the face of the Beast (modelled after the lion statue on Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris!) to the phantasmagorical landscapes and creatures, the film is jam-packed with effects never before seen in a French production. Sharing the screen with Belle, played by Léa Seydoux ("I first saw her in Robin Hood by Ridley Scott, who is unquestionably my favourite filmmaker", says Gans), is Vincent Cassel as the Beast, who unleashes his romantic, animalistic and, dare we say, sensual side. "There's no need to hide it: I've always been drawn to the tale's taboo, transgressive dimension," explains the director. "Belle is a child when the film opens and gradually becomes a woman... With (co-writer) Sandra Vo Anh, we wanted to slip in a few small symbols and keys to understanding certain things, but I'll say no more on that." Fear not: audiences of all ages can enjoy this sumptuous new version that both respects the original tale and gives it a thoroughly modern feel. An act of cinematic heresy that is easily forgiven. Texte : Frédéric Granier Crédit : © 2014 Eskwad - Pathé Production - TF1 Films Production - Achte/Neunte/Zwölfte/Achtzehnte Babelsberg Film GMBH - 120 Films
Every year, Notre-Dame, the Gothic art masterpiece celebrated by Victor Hugo, hosts 14 million visitors come to admire its most-conspicuous marvels. But there are exquisite hidden treasures to be found, as well. Here's a private tour.One almost expects to encounter the ghost of Esmeralda or the spirit of the Stryge, the best-known grotesque adorning the Notre-Dame gallery. Wood creaks underfoot, every sound echoes, and one takes care not to stumble in the spiral staircase leading to the spire, Notre-Dame's highest point that is closed to the public for obvious access and safety reasons. Jean-Pierre Cartier, a 30-year volunteer and guide for C.A.S.A. (an association of artistic-site host communities) carefully picks out a path, he who knows better than anyone the nooks and crannies of this grand "old lady" celebrated in the Middle Ages, construction of which took 107 years (hence the French expression that translates to "I won't wait 107 years", approximating "I won't wait forever" or "'til the cows come home"). Still, though a third of Paris' visitors pass through the cathedral, it fell into disuse in the 19th century after being desecrated during the Revolution: the great organ, also off-limits to visitors, still bears the scars of that era and the seals adorning the majestic instrument's pipes have never been recovered. It was not until the runaway success of Victor Hugo's novel (published in 1830) and unprecedented popular clamour proclaiming the need for renovation that such work was undertaken by Lassus and Viollet-le-Duc, two men who, from 1847 through 1864, would reconstruct part of the sculptural decor using ancient documents as reference. Since then, one simply cannot imagine Paris without Notre-Dame and the mysteries sheltered within. Now we head for the presbytery that sits south of the monument and houses the administrative and education offices and reception rooms. Here, Bishop Patrick Jacquin, the cathedral's rector-archpriest, coordinated last year's 850th Jubilee celebrations. The anniversary was marked by symposia, concerts, pilgrimages and exhibits and was notably the apt occasion for inaugurating eight new bells in the North Tower and new great bell in the South Tower alongside the great bourdon bell known as Emmanuel (because all the bells have names), thus recreating the edifice's late-18th century soundscape. Note: Should one choose to admire the 13 tons of steel up close, serious ear protection is strongly recommended. And though the belfry's openings still allow the tones to descend upon the masses, respect for tradition has its limits: beggars, for instance, are no longer rounded up to sound the celebrations (the French word for beggar, clochard, shares roots with the words for bell, cloche, and steeple, clocher). These days, everything is automated. Quasimodo would need special technical training.Texte : Frédéric Granier Photos : Jean-Marc Dupuis/Telekokot
Some captured the spirit of an entire era, then vanished... Some Parisian monuments of the past may have crumbled away, but their presence still echoes within the walls of their successors. LES MAGASINS REUNIS 136-138, rue de Rennes, Paris 6e The Grand Bazar on rue de Rennes opened before an enormous crowd on 26 September 1906. In 1960, a new Magasins Réunis façade was stuck onto the turn-of-the-century framework. Modified yet again years later, it is now home to the Fnac Montparnasse, which opened in 1974, the company's first store to sell books. LE PALAIS DU TROCADERO 11, place du Trocadéro-et-du-11-Novembre, Paris 16e Chaillot Hill was transformed for the 1878 World's Fair, bearing a tortured-looking palais in neo-Moorish style that received a lukewarm reception at best (critiques ranged from "a crab opening its claws" to "a fly perched on a tureen"). No-one seemed to mind when a new building, more in keeping with the day's tastes, preplaced it for the 1937 World's Fair. Crédit: © DR ; Samuel Picas ; Neurdein/Roger-Viollet LA GARE DE LA BASTILLE Place de la Bastille, Paris 12e During the week, the station, opened in September 1859, saw workers commuting from the suburbs. On Sundays, trains carrying people to open-air cafés or country outings headed for Joinville or Nogent. Rendered obsolete when the RER A train was put into service, it was closed in 1969 and, for 15 years, hosted various events (including the first Fiac). In 1984, the station was razed to make way for the Opéra Bastille. LE DINGO BAR 10, rue Delambre, Paris 14e In 1923, before the illustrious Montparnasse café called "Le Select" came to be, the Dingo Bar was a magnet for Americans in Paris. The "lost generation" quickly made it its headquarters: Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, John Dos Passos... It was here that budding writer Ernest Hemingway met a certain already famous F. Scott Fitzgerald, the start of a turbulent friendship, tinged with mutual admiration and rivalry. LE MAQUIS DE MONTMARTRE On the hill's north side lay the "maquis", home to ragmen, scrap metal merchants, fringe elements and struggling artists. Makeshift shanties mushroomed in rural surroundings near the forgotten, decrepit Château des Brouillards. The 1910-1912 creation of avenue Junot and its subdivision was the death knell for the maquis. Only a small plot remains, regularly besieged by pétanque (bowls) fans. LE CONCERT MAYOL 10, rue de l'Échiquier, Paris 10e This café chantant opened under the name Concert Parisien, but saw its heyday when Félix Mayol, the music man behind the unforgettable "Viens, poupoule", became manager in 1909. Singers and actors like Félicien Tramel, Valentin Sardou and Raimu debuted here. The cabaret closed in 1976; only the pediment over the entrance, bearing two cherubs, remains. THEN/NOW From Luna Park to Porte Maillot, from the legendary Chat Noir music hall to the wine market that once stood at the site of today's Jussieu university campus, explore other monuments of the past in Souvenirs de Paris: hauts lieux disparus published by Parigramme. Crédit: © Léon et Lévy/Roger-Viollet ; Samuel Picas ; DR
Though founded in 1852, there's nothing old-fogeyish about this legendary auction institution. Drouot breaks with tradition yet again by holding an exhibition and sale of Grendizer gadgets and Eighties toys... and we've opened up the toy chest. Will the ruthless Vega the Strong once again unleash his armies? Thirty-five years after first appearing on French television, and though the battle has ended with Commander Ding and the evil Vega forces, UFO Robot Grendizer (under the French name Goldorak) has chosen a most-unexpected new battlefield: the Drouot market. This past October, this revered public auction institution held a sale entitled 1960-1980 Génération Jouets made in Japan (1960-80: The Made-in-Japan Toy Generation) putting this giant robot in the spotlight. In the exhibit hall, manga-crazed kidults in Star Wars t-shirts rubbed shoulders with calmer curious sorts to admire the treasures put up for sale by an anonymous collector. And the collection would indeed bring out anyone's inner geek: a pristine Inspector Gadget figurine, a collection of Nintendo LCD games and, of course, Grendizers of every shape and size, from a palette of badges (going for over 100) to a vintage 60cm vessel (selling for nearly 7000!). "Every sale is a chance for us to create a kind of pop-up museum," says the exhibition's expert, Benoît Ramognino. "We're seeing thirty-somethings exclaiming, 'I had that one when I was a kid!' and leaving with a smile." "It's an opportunity to introduce those who may not be accustomed to auction houses to the Drouot institution," explains the auctioneer in charge of the event, Pierre-Dominique Antonini from Boisgirard-Antonini, one of the 74 auction entities forming the Drouot "galaxy". For contrary to what many believe, Drouot is not an auction house in and of itself: it operates like a co-operative and makes its sixteen rooms, stellar reputation and advanced technology available to its auctioneer shareholders. They also enjoy the benefits of drouotlive.com, where all auctions can now be attended virtually and bidders can vie for the 500,000 items up for sale each year, everything from basement trinkets to rare master paintings to cutting-edge graffiti. And the Génération Jouets exhibition isn't just a trendy stunt: in recent years, Drouot has opened its doors to all artistic cultures and collections. In late October, for example, the Digard auction firm held a special street-art sale showcasing Banksy graffiti, paintings by Basquiat and Keith Haring and more. The venerable institution even made the most of that event by hosting live performances by artists like Nick Walker and Miss.Tic in front of the building. Purists may shake their fists, but collectors of every ilk find cause to rejoice! K Crédit: Texte: Frédéric Granier; Photos: Stéphane Remael
They haunt the city like speculative shadows: the legends, mysteries and curiosities that darkened the destiny of the City of Light. Rumour... or reality? You can shelve wordsmiths like Marc Lévy, Stephen King and Dan Brown: the true king of bestsellers is... Eugène Sue, the great popular writer who managed to hold thousands of readers spellbound with The Mysteries of Paris. The first saga to dare to dive into the city's depths, where the underworld, whispered horrors and sordid secrets reigned. Behind the glitter of the "public" Paris can be found, in stark contrast, a nearly phantasmagorical metropolis. Since the colossal success of the book, originally published in serial form in 1842-43 in the Journal des Débats, the city has not lost any of this mysterious air, for a legend echoes down every alley, ghosts still haunt Parisian cafés and cabarets. People still tell the story of the city's 14th-century, blood-spattered pastry chef who cooked with human flesh (Charles VI was even said to be partial to his delicacies!). One may hear the tale about how Notre Dame's ironwork hides a terrible secret for, to create such metallic beauty, the blacksmith had to sell his soul to the devil... And though no one has yet seen Belphégor, the Phantom of the Louvre, others swear to having crossed an alligator in the sewers. Or a ghost at the Opéra Garnier... for great legends never die: in 1873, a young pianist, disfigured by a terrible fire, supposedly took refuge from the public eye in that building when it was under construction. He lived there until his death, composing his magnum opus, an ode to his fiancée, herself killed in the fire. His ghost still haunts the site, including the supposedly cursed box number 5. This inspired Gaston Leroux of The Phantom of the Opera fame and fascinated generations of inquisitive sorts, like Rodolphe Trouilleux, who ceaselessly criss-crosses the capital in search of clues. "It's hard to distinguish fantasy from reality in Paris, but that's what makes it so enchanting," says the historian, author of Paris macabre (published by Le Castor Astral) and Paris insolite (from Parigramme), which explains, for instance, that the mummified head of Henri IV, bought for three francs at a Montmartre junk shop in the early 20th century, could well be a huge hoax. " Chaque légende en cache une autre " But other stories are so beautiful that their truth is of little import. Like the long-told account of how, in 1900, the body of an unknown young woman was pulled out of the Seine. The morgue employee was so taken with the cadaver's beauty that he quickly made a plaster cast of her face. What does the strange smile on the girl's countenance say about life after death? Both writers (Aragon, Nabokov) and painters (Rilke) will forever be touched by the sweet adolescent Mona Lisa with closed eyes found drowned at the Quai du Louvre. "I've spent my life gathering the mysteries of Paris, but it's a never-ending undertaking, because every legend hides another legend," said Trouilleux, who just finished Paris fantastique. "Take the Place de la Concorde, traversed by thousands of tourists every day: you need only glance down to see the numbers engraved on the ground, to discover that the obelisk is actually a gigantic sundial." Another cryptic symbol? You can check for yourself... and then amble down beside the Tuileries... but at your own risk! The ghost of L'Écorcheur has haunted that place since the 17th century, covered in blood and appearing to all those facing imminent death. Marie-Antoinette, paralysed at the idea of meeting the spectre, sought help from every medium in the city to break that spell... but all the world's magic clearly has no power over the spirits of Paris. K WORTH A VISIT Learn the story of the bloody baker and the Medici's contract killer at the spooky Manoir de Paris, a chilling trip through Paris' mysteries and legends. Goose bumps guaranteed! Le Manoir de Paris : 18, rue de Paradis, Paris 10e lemanoirdeparis.fr Crédit :© Manoir H; Par Frédéric Granier; Illustrations: Arnaud Tracol/Marie Bastille
While technicians put the finishing touches on the set of The Makropoulos Affair, take a backstage look at a long-maligned site that made itself an indispensable cultural centre."An opera house on Place de la Bastille? That's a bit like putting a hippo in a bathtub..." When, in 1982, French President Mitterrand decided to build a colossal opera house between rue de Lyon and the cramped rue de Charenton, his critics were scathing, to say the least. The architecture (by Uruguayan Carlos Ott) was disparaged; the eastern Paris location, on the site of a disused railway station, was seen as sacrilege. And the building's 1989 opening failed to put the controversy to rest. And yet... nearly 25 years later, the Opéra Bastille is in unapologetically superb form. With an average seat-sales rate of 96% for its 370 performances each year, the institution proudly boasts a record-setting balance sheet. And though we've still not seen a hippopotamus, an imposing King Kong has taken up residence there. Because within this lyric lair, stagehands, set designers and technicians (over fifty different vocations, all told) are putting the finishing touches on the mechanical monkey: performances of The Makropulos Affair, Leoš Janácek's opera staged by Krzysztof Warlikowski, get underway in three days, a run that will undoubtedly be the event of the season. For this story of family rivalries against a backdrop of immortality (heroine Emilia Marty is 337 years old), the Polish playwright, former collaborator of British director Peter Brook, chose to evoke the great figures of Hollywood. A fascinating tale crisscrossed by the ghosts of Marilyn Monroe, Gloria Swanson (the fallen diva of Sunset Boulevard) and King Kong, who makes his appearance on the vast stage carrying soprano Ricarda Merbeth in his hand, like a replay of the legendary 1933 film. A tour de force that Deputy Technical Director Michel Biesse is quite proud of. "The Bastille's being built not only helped free up the Palais Garnier; it also opened the doors to a logistical revolution. With six or seven sets always stored on-site, we use advanced industrial technologies that make it possible for us to put on several different shows at once." With 160,000m² of surface area, 33 kilometres of foot-traffic passages, and 7,000m² of workshops, the Opéra Bastille is a veritable performance assembly line. While we were there, we saw wigs for Makropoulos, costumes for Strauss' tragedy Elektra and, in a second, smaller theatre, witnessed a rehearsal for Donizetti's dramatic work, Lucia di Lammermoor. "Two orchestras can take turns playing here on the same day," says Biesse, confirming that Bastille has become the nerve centre of the Paris Opera, hosting 15 or 16 opera series and three ballet series a year (the opposite of what can be done at Garnier). With nearly 900,000 spectators last season, the Opéra Bastille could set records once again. In fact, as we left, we could swear we saw King Kong puffing his chest out just a bit more... KTexte : Frédéric Granier Photo 1 : Le clou de L'Affaire Makropoulos : un King Kong mécanique, grandeur nature... Crédits : © Opéra national de Paris/C. Pelé; © Opéra national de Paris/C. Pelé - E. Bauer; © Opéra national de Paris/C. Pelé - C. Leiber - J.-P. Delagarde; © Opéra national de Paris/R. Walz - M. Bouzonic - J.-P. Delagarde
Things are really cooking in Paris! Innovative concepts, classics turned upside-down, madcap cooking classes... here's a look at the trends that are bubbling up in Paris. COACHING Next-gen teachers À L'Atelier Guy Martin, parents et enfants apprennent à cuisiner ensemble. Who hasn't gotten a gift certificate for a cooking class? Though a hugely popular present in recent years, the concept needed a facelift to keep its appeal. More personalised, more exclusive or just utterly nutty: there's a whole new crop of classes being introduced, like parent-child courses at Atelier Guy Martin (atelierguymartin.com). After fifteen years of reinventing Vietnamese cuisine, the chefs of the Paris Hanoi (parishanoi.fr) set up a lab in which they share their secrets to concocting Pho soups and spring rolls. And with My Cuisinier (mycuisinier.com), chefs come straight to your home to help you whip up a dinner or get ready for a party. "Do you like it? I made it myself!" STREETFOOD It's not "junk food" anymore Who said there's no such thing as quality snacking? The streets of Paris are now the sought-after site for the global stars of gastronomy on-the-go. BURGER After going through a crisis period (mad cow madness, anti-junk-food backlash), the burger has just made an incredible comeback. The best restaurants can't imagine a menu without one and specialised shops are springing up at dizzying speed. We recommend the delicious creations at Big Fernand (55, rue du Fbg-Poissonnière, Paris 9) and, for more patient folks (as success would have it, the lines can be long), the "Le Camion Qui Fume" food truck roaming the streets of Paris and serving up highly unusual burgers (like braised pork or burgers with Fourme d'Ambert cheese and port wine sauce). BAGEL This little round roll that came to the United States with Jewish migrants seemed to be giving France the cold shoulder. Until now. Pastrami, cheddar, cream cheese... We got a kick out of the Colts bagel at Bagel Tom (12, rue Volta, Paris 3), or the Emmental-chili version at L'Atelier du Bagel (31, rue Saint-Lazare, Paris 9), two of the best Parisian representatives of bagel cuisine. GYROS Meats of questionable origin, eateries with half-hearted hygiene... the least-loved sandwich in France has had a hard time shaking off its bad reputation. But Grillé, which opened this summer (15, rue Saint-Augustin, Paris 2) shatters such prejudices with milk-fed veal from star butcher Hugo Desnoyers, spicy horseradish and bread with an incomparable homemade wholesomeness. BENTO The Japanese-style tray meal, a compact collection of gastronomic gems, is taking over the shops in the Opéra district. We especially recommend the fried delights at Juji-Ya (46, rue Sainte-Anne, Paris 2), served with spicy tofu or Japanese potato salad (yes, really!). CROWFOODING Home-grown restaurant Take a handful of cuisine lovers looking for an authentic culinary experience. Match them with amateur chefs wanting to open their home and share their creations with others. What do you get? That's what you'll find out on the website Cookening that has discovered the magic formula for connecting foodies with those who love to feed them. A great vacation idea to experience a real meal in a typical household, or make new food-friends closer to home. cookening.com BLOG Hip critic Will François-Régis Gaudry manage to stay anonymous? Not all food critics necessarily resemble the Ego-tistical poison pen from the movie Ratatouille! With his trendy attire and devil-may-care stubble, François-Régis Gaudry tantalizes the taste buds with his Et Toque! blog, a gastronomic goldmine for new eatery news. This thirty-something opinion-maker has made himself a must with equal ease on the radio (he hosts On va déguster on France Inter every Sunday morning), TV (the Très très bon show on Paris Première) and the papers (with his Saveurs sections in L'Express). Informative, yet never pedantic... food critics of the future will follow in François' footsteps. http://blogs.lexpress.fr/styles/restaurant/ CONCEPT Organic, aesthetic and tasty, too! At the WikiBar, all food is served in little balls. Cross the Wikibar threshold and you feel like you've stepped onto a sci-fi movie set. All the food here, whether solid or liquid (ice cream, yogurt, coffee, cheese...) is served in little balls wrapped in a coating made from natural ingredients, a 100%-edible shell that perfectly preserves the food and, just as importantly, significantly reduces waste. Is this the solution to forever rid ourselvesof packaging pollution? Parisians perhaps already hold the future in their hands. Wikibar: 4, rue du Bouloi, Paris 1 (wikipearl.com). STORE Homemade is flying high In the 1990s, the advent of the 35-hour workweek led to a boom in DIY stores. Did the French suddenly change their shopping tune? Now tableware and kitchen accessories have the upper hand in the commerce world. Department stores like BHV (bhv.fr) that grasped the trend are expanding their DIY departments. And specialty chains like Alice délice (alicedelice.com) and Kitchen Bazaar (kitchenbazaar.fr) are rapidly proliferating. There you'll find everything from glasses for tear-free onion peeling to moulds for cooking heart-shaped eggs, wine pumps to collapsible bowls...an infinite inventory that will make your head spin. Proof that armchair chefs are now gourmet gearheads, arming themselves with quasi-professional utensils to cook like true toques. BOOKS Feast your eyes Perusing the pages of Parisian epicureanism. INVENTIVE Ratatouille, tartar, chocolate-covered pears... Cleverly revisited French classics from an English woman residing in Paris. La Petite Cuisine à Paris, de Rachel Khoo (Hachette Cuisine). MEATLESS New restaurants, juice bars, cooking classes... the veggie French Revolution. Paris végétarien, d'Alcyone Wemaere (Parigramme). TREASURES Rare books, original recipes, bios of the great chefs... you're sure to find something to your taste in this bookstore. Bonus: a website lets you order online from anywhere in the world. La Librairie gourmande : 92-96, rue Mont-martre, Paris 2e (librairiegourmande.fr). La Librairie gourmande : 92-96, rue Mont-martre, Paris 2e (librairiegourmande.fr ). TOP 4 Parisian baguettes REVELATION Ridha Khadher's discreet bakery tucked away in the 14th arrondissement was named Best Baguette in Paris for 2013! Au Paradis du Gourmand : 156, rue Raymond-Losserand, Paris 14e. AUTHENTIC Label Rouge, traditional flour... nothing is left to chance at Sébastien Mayerts' bakery in downtown Montmartre. Raphaëlle : 1, rue Feutrier, Paris 18e. DREAMY The Damiani have found the secret to the perfect baguette: a natural, supremely mild leaven. We recommend the poppy and sesame variations. Damiani : 125, avenue de Clichy, Paris 17e. DREAMY The Damiani have found the secret to the perfect baguette: a natural, supremely mild leaven. We recommend the poppy and sesame variations. Au Petit Versailles du Marais : 27, rue Francois-Miron, Paris 4e. PAR SERJ UNGAR Crédits: © Gaël Cotonnec ; Stockfood/Gety Images ; Hikari/Fotolia ; Cookening/© Pierre-Emmanuel rastoin ; Wikipearl/© Alice Délice ; Thinkstock/Getty Images
Discreet covered walkways lead to the amazing Rue du Nil, a lively gourmet getaway in a district that's enjoying a huge revival. Rue d'Aboukir, Rue du Caire, Rue du Nil... This area may evoke Bonaparte's Egyptian expedition, but in the Sentier, you're much more likely to notice the textile deliveries coming and going as they always have than hear to call of the muezzin. On a saturday stroll through the narrows lanes of the 2nd arrondissement, you'd expect to find all doors closed for the Sabbath (even the Chinese competitors have converted!). And yet the wheels of the sack trucks have been replaced by the wheels of pushchairs. More and more bearded bobos on their scooters clatter over the cobbles outside the fabric shops... So is the Sentier trendy now? Here's a clue: David Lynch opened his ultra-select club Le Silencio in the Rue Montmartre. But new-generation restaurateurs and retailers are also redrawing the landscape of the area, as the friendly microcosm of the Rue du Nil demonstrates. It's here, in this thoroughfare that feels like a dead end street, that chef Gregory Marchand opened his restaurant Frenchie on returning from New York in 2009. Except for a Romanian cafe and stocks of fabric behind iron shutters, the street was deserted back then. "I fell in love with this restaurant just round the corner from Montorgueil", explains the chef. Named Chef of the Year 2009 by the Guide du Fooding, it was immediately successful, and so much so that he and his wife Marie opened two extensions - the Bar à Vins and the Frenchie to Go takeaway. A little further on, you'll find Terroirs d'Avenir, a three-in-one shop that includes a greengrocer, butcher and fishmonger, founded by two old school friends who work directly with the producers and supply 45 restaurants... and, of course, Frenchie, because without Frenchie, they would never have been there. The same is true of L'Arbre à Café, opened by Hippolyte Courti in 2009, which supplies restaurateurs and confectioners like Pierre Hermé. Next stop is the next street, the Rue d'Alexandrie and the Hôtel Edgar; perfect for enjoying cocktails and ultra-fresh fish on the huge pavement terrace. If you like it so much you'd like to stay the night, there are twelve rooms, beautifully designed by members of owner Guillaume Rouget's family. Unarguably surprising, these 'Egyptian' streets are the perfect symbols of an energetic community that's great to stroll around... So surprising that it's getting increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the historic area bounded by the Rue Réaumur and its big sister of Haut Montorgueil, where the transformation began fifteen years ago. So are we witnessing the emergence of a new culinary paradigm? One convincing symbol is the amazing Librairie Gourmande in the Rue d'Aboukir, where gourmets flock to find cookery books unobtainable anywhere else. A few steps away in the adjoining pedestrian-only streets, you'll find a paradise of chic burger joints, like Blend (Rue d'Argout) which will deter even the most addicted from going back to fast food! And don't miss l'Hédoniste and La Mauvaise Réputation, two eateries close to the hearts of connoisseurs. One thing's for sure, 2013 is a year of revolution in the Sentier, making it a must-visit and a must-taste. Texte : Alfred Grantain Photos : JM Lekouac
Created in 1973, the Paris International Contemporary Art Fair has raised a few eyebrows on its road to success. Ten years ago, people were saying that it had had its day. Described as too French or too dull, the Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain (Fiac) was struggling to shine against competitors like Art Basel, the Basel Art Fair whose leadership has never been questioned, and Frieze, the fiery young London Art Fair. So what's happened? The Paris art event is back in rude health: the world's most powerful galleries insist on being here, and the most high-profile art collectors are seen in its aisles... Fiac hits forty this year, but it's so full of life you'd hardly know it! Nevertheless, this renaissance was far from a foregone conclusion. It's true that Fiac has made quite a comeback from the few gloomy halls it occupied in the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre between 1999 and 2006. It looked like the end for this event, which, throughout its history, had owed much of its fame to its prestigious location: central Paris. The first Fiac event was in 1973, when it was called the Salon International de l'Art Contemporain, and held in the former Bastille railway station. Top Parisian gallery owners, headed by Yvon Lambert, were onboard, and the visitors came in droves. By 1976, it was so popular that it relocated to one of the most famous Paris landmarks, the Grand Palais, riding high on a buoyant economy: Fiac became an all-out luxurious art party under the world's most beautiful glass roof; a chic venue where people came to buy and sell art in a very 'eighties' euphoria. But the economic crisis put an end to all that. In 1994, the Grand Palais closed for renovation, marking the beginning of a long, hard slog. The key New York and London gallery owners snubbed it and its exile to Porte de Versailles did nothing to improve matters. But in 2004, things began to change for the better. The event was taken over by Jennifer Flay, originally from New Zealand and now Paris gallery owner, assisted by leading art dealer Martin Bethenod. Both with extensive networks in the art world, this talented duo of experts brought in younger galleries, launched a design section and made the entire event more international. Gradually, Paris began to regain its belief in its art fair. By the time it returned to the magnificently renovated Grand Palais in 2006, there was no doubt: Fiac was well and truly back as a highlight of the art world. Even the subprime crisis couldn't touch it! More than 70,000 visitors attended the 2008 event and dealing was strong. Better still, Fiac and its artists now began to overflow from the Grand Palais to bring art out into the city of Paris. High-profile 'happenings' happened in the Auditorium of the Louvre. Contemporary sculpture sprang up in the Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin des Plantes, and for the first time this year, along the banks of the Seine. To say nothing of all the 'fringe fairs' (see inset below). One thing's for sure: for a few days every October, Fiac makes Paris the most vibrant art capital in the world. Fiac 2013: from 24 to 27 October at the Grand Palais ( fiac.com). PAR THOMAS JEAN- Crédit : © Emmanuel Nguyen Ngoc