Sheep in the Big City // Salon de l’Agriculture

Picture this for a moment. You’re in the metro and you see some posters for an event called the Salon International de l’Agriculture (International Agricultural Show). What is your general concept of what this show entails?

If you are like me, a few things come to mind: farmers, pitchforks, plows, soil, crops, barns. Basically, a whole world of things that are very far removed from me. This is why for two years, I wrote off the advertisements as an event that wasn’t for someone like me. Certainly not for a someone who struggles to take care of the occasional house plant that has the misfortune of falling under my guardianship. I assumed it was a nice convention for farmers to put aside their road barricades (as seen in articles like this one) and meet up peacefully to discuss the hottest tractor of the year.

I’m here to do my civic duty of telling you this is NOT what the Salon is all about! Thanks to a post by Expat Edna, and then a huge food post highlighting the event by David Lebovitz, I realized last year that I had it all wrong. I needed to go check it out and -- and if you’re in Paris, you need to as well. It starts on Saturday, February 27, 2016 - so here’s a little of what you can expect.

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FIAC 2014

Paris had a lot of art to see. There’s a reason that the Musée du Louvre is just a synonymous as the Eiffel Tower in evoking images of the city of Paris. Art is important to French culture, and there’s plenty of it to go around.

One thing I appreciate about Paris is that while there are numerous art museums throughout the city that charge an entrance fee, there also is a spirit to make art accessible to everyone. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, but one is the cultural events the city sponsors. 

Autumn brings about one of those events to town, called FIAC (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain). This international art festival holds its main event in the Grand Palais (which took place this year from October 23-26). I’ve never been inside for the event because the hefty 35 euro entry fee is a bit steep for me. Luckily though, the festivities are accessible for those unable or unwilling to cough up the dough. The festival exhibits installations “hors les murs” (outside the walls) namely in the Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin des Plantes, and a few other locations throughout the city that are free for the public to see and enjoy.

Last year I absolutely loved exploring the Jardin des Tuileries and admiring all the artwork on display. This year, the festival raised a fuss when the unveiling of the installation in Place Vendome created quite the scandal. (Read more on the outrage over the green “Christmas tree” on France 24’s news article here, and why the artist got slapped in the face three times...)

Controversial art aside, this year I honestly wasn’t as impressed with the art I saw during my walks through the Jardin des Plantes and Jardin des Tuileries. But I still want to share with you some of my favorites. And even though I didn’t find the selection of art as interesting this year, I do have to credit the event for getting me out on a lovely afternoon just to enjoy Paris in autumn, and also gave me the motivation to see two beautiful sunsets.

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Coming This Weekend to Paris: Nuit Blanche 2014

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!

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A White Night?

Bon lundi!

“Nuit blanche” in French literally translates to “white night” but it figuratively means to pull an all-nighter. And “Nuit Blanche” is also the name of an annual event in Paris that occurs on the first Saturday of October. Maybe you can guess why it’s given that name. It’s an event that takes place all night, from 7pm to 7am the next morning.

Mark your calendar for this Saturday, October 4th, if you’re in town - I’ll fill you in on more about what the event entails this week. For now, I’ll leave you with this picture for a taste of what you might find during Nuit Blanche. I didn't stay awake all night for a proper Nuit Blanche last year, but I did manage to pass the 3am mark, when this photo was taken!

Any guesses to where this is? Hint: It's in one of Paris' churches...(yes, at 3am!)

This Weekend in Paris: Journées du Patrimoine (European Heritage Days)

Bon lundi!

Have you ever walked around Paris and imagined what decadent interiors lie behind the walls of the buildings? I had always wondered this about Paris’ town hall, Hôtel de Ville. Until the weekend came when I no longer had to imagine the grandeur behind the normally closed-to-public doors and got the opportunity to go inside, for free.

That same special weekend is upon us (September 20-21, 2014): Journées du Patrimoine.

For one weekend, many museums, historical buildings, and points of interest open their doors to the general public and often do so free of charge. This weekend is part of the European Heritage Days. The idea to make certain buildings and monuments accessible to the public originated in France, and now it is a weekend observed throughout Europe. This means if you are not in Paris but elsewhere in France or Europe, see if there are any happenings going on where you are. It's a wonderful weekend of getting to see places that are part of the fabric of European heritage and history, open to all.

If you are lucky enough to be in Paris, there are countless sights to choose from so consult the official website ahead of time and make a plan of attack! 

Many sights and monuments that are already normally open to the public participate and offer free entry (such as Sainte-Chapelle or the towers of Notre-Dame). My personal preference would be to visit buildings only open to the public this one weekend out of the year. And I would start with the beautiful Hôtel de Ville:

Hôtel de Ville was so magnificent inside I want to go again this year!

More to follow on this, but for some immediate inspiration check out my past posts on two sights I saw last year, Hôtel de Ville and Musée des Arts Forains. Stay tuned! 

Chartres en Lumières

Most people treat Chartres as a day trip or stop-over on the way to or from Paris. It’s star attraction, the Chartres Cathedral, can be toured in an hour (allow more time to really explore it thoroughly). There are a few other sites to see for those who want to extend their time in town. But beyond that, why did I choose to stay overnight (especially when I have housing in Paris)?

I couldn't pass up seeing the city lit up at night for Chartres en Lumières.

Between April and October, the town puts on a show at night. I first heard of this event from a post on Out and About in Paris and it stayed in the back of my mind, only to resurface when Michael mentioned he wanted to visit Chartres again. 29 historical buildings participate, and the highlight of the nightly event is the projected light show on the main facade of the Cathedral.

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Day trip from Paris: Chartres, France, Part II

10 Things to do in Chartres besides the Cathedral

Let’s be clear. If you are going to Chartres, you are making the trip to visit its incredible cathedral. It truly is something special and deserving of your time and focus while in town. It’s perfectly acceptable to treat Chartres as a stop to see the Cathedral and then move on. But should you choose to hang around longer, there is plenty more to do.

I spent the weekend (a full day and a half) in Chartres. With more than enough time to see the Cathedral, I had plenty of time to explore. Let’s follow my route around town so I can show you what else the city has to offer:

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A New View of Paris (and it's among my favorites!)

If you've visited Paris before, it's likely that you've noticed a strange-looking building in central Paris. On rue de Rivoli between the Hôtel de Ville and Châtelet metro stops stands a tower. A tower that rises up alone and unattached to another building, surrounded by a small park. It's the type of monument you remember because it raises questions and elicits intrigue. Where is the rest of the building? Or is it supposed to be a tower standing on its own? What's it purpose?

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How to Celebrate Bastille Day 2014 in Paris

July 14th is La Fête Nationale for France, an important national holiday. In English we refer to it as Bastille Day because it commemorates the storming of the Bastille (and thus the beginning of the French Revolution). If you're lucky enough to be in Paris for this holiday, you have many great options to celebrate some liberté, égalité, and fraternité!

Here's how to join in the celebrations and make the most of being in Paris on Bastille Day:

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Fête de la Musique

June 21st is one of my favorite days in Paris. Not only is it the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, but it is celebrated well in Paris. That's because June 21st each year is the Fête de la Musique. This music festival is a national celebration in France (and has spread to numerous other countries) where all musicians, professionals and amateurs alike, are encouraged to perform.

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Something Old, Something New

I love that Paris encompasses a mix of historical sights alongside new concepts. There is a timeless beauty to this city yet it isn't stagnate, but breeds inspiration to create and innovate. 

Take the Jardin des Tuileries for example. These gardens between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde were originally created by Queen Catherine de Medicis in the 1500's. Fast forward to the present where the gardens still exist (albeit different in style) and hosted part of a contemporary art fair on its historical grounds.

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