One thing that has always impressed me about Paris is the focus on cultural events. It seems that everyone is well-versed on the latest expositions going on in the city’s museums and other cultural events. People love to talk about what’s on, what they went to, and what’s on the list to visit. I got some insight in how this interest in the arts becomes ingrained when I started tutoring English. I took my elementary-aged student to Centre Pompidou and she started telling me about one of her favorite artists, Robert Delaunay. I was blown away by how she could remember his name and give some reasons why she liked his paintings. Part of the school curriculum incorporates the arts, and the appreciation for people who create and bring beauty into the world is certainly celebrated here.
Given this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the events Paris puts on during the year is one to celebrate the arts...all night long. Nuit Blanche takes place the first Saturday in October. The 13th annual Nuit Blanche is set for October 4, 2014 so get ready for a night of art, dance, music, theater, and more!
The location for this year’s Nuit Blanche is different from last year’s festivities on the Right Bank. For 2014, most of the action is happening on the Left Bank (with the exception of a pocket of activity over by Hôtel de Ville). Take a look at this map and QueFaire.Paris.Fr [link in French] to see what’s on the agenda.
Each year of course is different, but I’ll take you on a tour to show you some of the things I saw during Nuit Blanche 2013 to give you a taste of the night:
Last year Michael and I started out the evening with a stroll down Canal St. Martin. We experienced visual arts, auditory installments, a light show, and then popped into Point Éphémère to catch a bit of a concert.
Then we walked back by Place de la République where the square was turned into “Fog Square” with disorienting and almost eerie mist. We walked through the fog in the beginning of the evening on our way to the Canal, and on the way back it was shut off - which left some to amuse themselves by climbing the Marianne statue. Check out a cool fog photo on Paris Daily Photo and more in the Daily Mail’s article.
At this point, it was about half past midnight and we were starting to get hungry again. We just needed a little snack to give us some more energy to continue on. The night was still young! So we walked over to the Marais and headed towards Rue de Bretagne in hopes to find something open and serving food. What we did find was some sort of theatrical performance in the park, Square du Temple.
And then, we experienced a mighty dose of Nuit Blanche magic. Right in front of the Mairie du 3e (the district’s town hall) was a food truck. We quickened the pace and then found that it wasn’t just any food truck. No, it was Le Camion Qui Fume.
You may not understand the significance of this, so let me back up. Le Camion Qui Fume (The Smoking Truck) is a food truck serving up American-style burgers and fries. I had kept hearing that this food truck makes the best burgers in Paris and had yet to verify. The problem is its popularity. You can find the truck’s locations marked online and expect to find massively long lines and waits to procure one of these juicy burgers. So now you can appreciate the good fortune of stumbling upon the truck. I have to say it has been the best burger (and wonderfully, crispy fries!) I’ve had in Paris, though I can't say if part of it can be contributed to the sheer surrealness of eating it happily in Square du Temple at 1am in the morning.
Afterwards we set off to the Carreau du Temple. Michael had heard that there was an artist who presented a piece of controversial art at a past event and was displaying a new piece. Many others were curious and we waited in line for quite some time. Which was good and gave us a little time to digest our food...because when we finally entered the building, a first glance disappointed us into thinking we wasted time to see a plastic tube. But when we got a little closer, we realized this tube was filled with insects, spiders, tarantulas, and even reptiles! It was a piece that was meant to evolve as the night went on and living things ate each other.
Let’s switch up the content matter and take a look at our last stop, which was quite serene and peaceful compared to the previous one. In St. Paul church (Eglise Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis), there was an installation of spiraling blue leaves hanging from the ceiling. It was such a surreal moment be laying down in this church after 3am alongside others as we all looked up at this blue, spiraling work of art above us. And being that it was the early hours of Sunday morning, I couldn't help but think how cool it was for a church to allow this installation when it was going to have a service in just a couple of hours.
I hope this inspires you to go out and experience this unique event in Paris known as Nuit Blanche if you are around this Saturday! I know I love walking around Paris and seeing it take on a totally different vibe for one night!
Have you ever gone to Nuit Blanche or participated in another interesting cultural event? What did you think?
Nuit Blanche [link in French]
Saturday, October 4, 2014 into Sunday, October 5 from 7:00pm-7:00am