Paris Plages, La Villette (19th arr.) – July 24, 2010
It’s still here in Paris, but in weird ways. Today (it was Tuesday when I started this…), for example, is cloudy with a high of 21°C/70°F. Not really summer-like temps and atmosphere. I’d love to feel a sunshiny 28°C/82°F with humidity below 70%. Maybe a slight breeze. Warm enough to wear a sleeveless top, but pleasant enough that going outside does not feel like going into a sauna and/or steam bath.
Yeah — for those kinds of summertime conditions, Europe is not a good place, I guess, unless it is maybe on Corsica or the Côte d’Azur. Maybe I need to think about moving to somewhere more equatorial someday.
Still, there is a lot of fun going on now that the kiddies have been out of school for a couple of weeks and people are in chillaxin’ vacances mode.
Paris Plages is one of those Paris events that is a sure sign summer is here.
Paul (now “Paris Paul” of Paris Inspired – I am still pimping his blog here on mine, with great results! Y’all keep visiting him. He’s a witty guy) and I went this past weekend to check out all the activities along the Bassin de la Villette here in the 19th arrondissement. It was a happening scene.
Full of sandboxes, lounge chairs, umbrellas, food and newsstands, water and other activities for the kiddies, the Paris Plages (“paree plahzh” for those of you non-Francophones out there) attempts to recreate a seaside resort for those Parisians who cannot escape the city for the real thing, like Paul and me.
Since the theme for this post is summertime sunshine and glee, I have to share this photo.
Wheeeeeee! That’s glee, if I ever saw it! Well, kind of. Her expression is a little skeptical, heh heh! In this one, her visage is a little more gleeful.
A few kids were having a great time in these misting machines. (More photos here.)
Besides the groovy inflatable water rides
there were paddle boats
Pétanque aka boules
and general enjoyment/relaxation.
If you are in Paris and want to take part, there is this location in the 19th as well as on the quais between Pont Neuf and Pont de Sully (on the Right Bank, part of which I saw from afar this past Sunday), and on the parvis in front of the Hôtel de Ville (Paris’ town hall). For more information, see the links below.
Visiting the Paris Plages is totally free, but the food at the stands costs (bien sûr), and for some activities, like the inflatable rides pictured, the waiting lists are scheduled in quickly.
- The “official” site (FR and EN) – Paris-Plages.fr
- ParisInfo.com – Paris Plages
- About.com – Paris Travel – Paris Plages
- Paris.fr (FR) – Paris Plages
- Hôtels Paris Rive Gauche – Paris Plages
Also related to the Paris Plages are the Navettes Fluviales — the Water Shuttles, which go up and down the Canal l’Ourcq (rhymes with “Ork,” the planet Mork was from, except said more nasally, and with a strong “oo” and the funny gutteral “R” that is impossible for English speakers to make).
The shuttle serves the Bassin de la Villette, the Parc de la Villette, Pantin, Bobigny, Noisy-le-Sec/Bondy, and Aulnay-sous-Bois. It’s on every weekend until August 29 and only costs 1€ to go on Saturday, 2 € on Sunday, and it’s free for children under 10 years. These cruises run from the Villette Paris Plages site and back*, and focus on key sites of the Ourcq Canal.
(*People have to disembark at the terminus and then catch the following shuttle for the return trip. Information translated from the Paris Plages official site FAQ page.)
More information (schedules, maps, and other specifics) is at the Tourisme93 website (Navettes). It’s in French, but I’m kind of assuming that if you are *that* interested in going to the site, you probably know a little French, or, if not, that you are savvy like me and use Google Chrome, which offers to translate pages for you at the click of a button. 🙂
The Rosa Bonheur
Bonheur can mean happiness as well as sunshine — an overall state of well-being. Sounds like “glee” to me! The Rosa Bonheur is a trendy guingette located in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, on which I have blogged and photographed more than sufficiently, but ohhhhkaaaay, here is another photo collage of which I am proud.
It’s the replica of the Temple of Sybil in the park, one which is fashioned after the original structure in Tivoli, Italy (allegedly, according to Wikipedia).
Another view, taken this summer:
My first summer in Paris (2008) is when the Rosa Bonheur guingette/restaurant opened (August 1, to be exact). I remember passing by and even taking some photos of the place before it got really well-known. It took me two years to finally go in, but I did earlier this month with Leesa, Dawn, and Aurelia, whom I met for the first time there in the café.
First of all, a language and history lesson about a “Guingette.”
Guinguettes were popular drinking establishments located in the suburbs of Paris and other cities in France. Ginguettes would also serve as restaurants and, often, as dance venues. The origin of the term comes from guinguet, indicating a sour white light local wine. (Wikipedia)
Further down in the notes of that Wiki article, it says:
The 1750 Dictionnaire de la langue français, defined Guinguette as a “Small cabaret in the suburbs and the surrounds of Paris, where craftsmen drink in the summer and on Sundays and on Festival days. This term is new. It comes apparently from what are sold in these cabarets: a malicious light local green wine, that is called ginguet, such as found around Paris.” The 1930 Le Larousse du XXe siècle defines it as “Cabaret of the suburbs, where people drink, eat and dance on feast days.”
One of the most famous of Renoir’s paintings takes place at a riverside guingette:
(Picture links back to its original source.)
Second of all, a lesson about Rosa Bonheur.
(Picture links back to its original source.)
Rosa was a Realist painter in the 19th Century known for her eclectic lifestyle.
Due to a tendency in 1980s-1990s academic criticism to locate Bonheur as a proto-Feminist and as a pivotal figure for Queer theory, she is perhaps most famous today because she was known for wearing men’s clothing and living with women. Her work and artistic talent has now become somewhat secondary in importance to her manner of dress, her choice of companions and her penchant for smoking cigarettes. (Wikipedia)
She was a lesbian, and had two women companions in her lifetime. The first was her childhood friend Nathalie Micus, with whom she lived for over 40 years; the second was the woman who wrote Rosa’s “autobiography,” Anna Klumpke (information also from the Wiki article).
A brief internet look at her works confirms that she was a Realist, and she painted lots of rural and farm scenes, cows in particular.
(Picture links back to its original source – the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For more works, see the Artcyclopedia.com page on Rosa Bonheur.)
What’s the connection here?
Well, a while back, I read a piece on the guingette and restaurant Rosa Bonheur (which, unfortunately, I now cannot locate), and it said that it is, in part, a lesbian team who restored and opened the place. The official restaurant website clearly endorses LGBT activities, and our gay neighbors across the way said it is quite the queer-friendly hangout — not that this really means anything. I’m just looking for the possible connections between the artist and the guingette in the park (and if you read French, you can check out what the Rosa Bonheur has to say about Rosa Bonheur, too: l’artiste). It is not, by any means, a strictly gay bar or anything like that — it is a very pleasant café and spot to relax at the top of the park, closest to Métro Botzaris on line 7 bis, and one which welcomes all people: straight, gay, adults, kids, and, apparently, mice.
Since I am still watching what I eat in terms of grains, sugar, dairy and other things, I only had a Pastis the first time I visited, and a Perrier the second, so this is not a restaurant review, per se. I’ll link in some others who have done that.
I just wanted to share some of the Paris I have seen and gotten to know, and I found this place to be a delightful one: relaxed, unpretentious, and really groovy. I don’t know about how many of you ever watched the series “Northern Exposure” back in the day, but I like to think of this place as being run by the founding mothers of Cicely, Alaska: Cicely and Roslyn, who “brought culture, peace, and open mindedness to the small community.”
It is a lovely spot, very pastoral, very refreshing, and a place of much bonheur.
- The Rosa Bonheur Homepage (the English summary version is here)
- The Rosa Bonheur MySpace and Facebook pages (FR)
- New York Times In Transit Review: Rosa Bonheur
- Paris Notebook: Rosa Bonheur, Rosa Bonheur Part Deux
- John Talbott’s Paris: Rosa Bonheur, Rosa Bonheur: The Restaurant
- Paris By Mouth: Rosa Bonheur
- Panda à Paris: A Rendez-vous with Remy (from Ratatouille) at Rosa Bonheur (great photos at this link)
- Les Bons Bons de Raisons: Clarence in Paris – Rosa Bonheur
- and, the outstanding post on the Parc des Buttes Chaumont at Hôtels Paris Rive Gauche
So there’s your report on some things to do in Paris over the coming month of August. (AUGUST? Al-freakin’-ready? Wow.)
Not Quite Finished
While the above is the bulk of the post for this week, I have a couple more things I have been itching to share.
The first is the Paris Files blog by David Turecamo.
Back in the day (circa 2005-2007), something my eldest son and I used to enjoy as a Sunday morning ritual was watching CBS News Sunday Morning.
(Picture source and more about the show CBS Sunday Morning here.)
I know. It seems like a show for grandmas and grandpas, but it was a relaxing and informative way to wake up on a Sunday with my kiddo, who has been addicted to knowing about current events and news programming from the age of about eight. Sam (my eldest) and I used to call the show our “church service,” for what we learned about the world on the show felt as good as any sermon we’d ever heard. It was a Sunday morning fellowship between my son and me.
There was one feature that I watched with interest and that was the “Our Man in Paris” videographer. Back when Paul and my best friend Janet were all online reading one another’s blogs in our early days of reconnecting (more on that story here), I loved the pieces “Our Man in Paris” presented with insight and humor.
A couple of weeks ago, I was on cookbook author and part-time Paris resident Dorie Greenspan’s site, when I came across her post on David Turecamo’s Eiffel Tower Video. This is what I read:
… David, my friend, my neighbor in Paris and the guy best known to CBS Sunday Morning viewers as “Our Man in Paris,” has done something wonderful — again: He’s collected some of his clips on a new site, Paris Files.
I said to myself, “NO WAY!” and rushed over to the site.
Back in 2006, I had seen a couple of David’s pieces on CBS Sunday Morning, and tried to find links to his segments on CBS.com to send to Paul. I searched high and low and could not find anything to email to Paul. I remember feeling disappointment as I was so excited to learn more about the city in which Paul lived, and I wanted to share what I’d learned with him.
Lo and behold, six years later, not only are some of the segments I’d admired on David Turecamo’s blog, but I myself am in Paris, something I *never* would have dreamed at the time.
Sometimes if you wait long enough, you get what you want.
Graffiti along the rue de Crimée, 75019
Second, I wanted to let you all know while I have been out and about a lot the past month (as the 1,048 photos on my July 2010 Flickr set attest), I also have been doing quite a lot of TV-watching. For example, before heading out to this year’s Le bal des Pompiers in the 20th arrondissement on La Fête Nationale (check out one of my first posts on this blog to read about last year’s bal as well as Paul’s humorous account of this year’s at his blog), I watched hours of back-to-back episodes of “Breaking Bad.” Recommended by a co-worker of Paul’s, we both got hooked by gorging on all three seasons this past month. (Kind of appropriate given the show’s premise and theme, haha. That show is like meth!) I’ve been a huge fan of Bryan Cranston since his days as the dad in “Malcolm in the Middle,” and I am even more impressed with his turn as a high-school-science-teacher turned meth-making cook.
Then there were all the episodes of the inaugural season of “Parenthood,” with former “Gilmore Girls” mom, Lauren Graham (the biggest reason I wanted to see the show. I warmed to it as I continued to watch. Lauren Graham is as witty as ever). And there is “True Blood” as it has gotten rolling with its third season this summer.
And then there was “Glee.”
I kept seeing all my friends’ Facebook posts and tweets about this show over the past year, and knew I was missing out on something fun. So Paul located the premiere season for me, and his kids and I watched non-stop. Well, not totally. The longest we watched in one sitting was five episodes in a row one Saturday, but pretty much over three weekends the kids were with us, we got caught up to speed (22 episodes) with all that is “Glee.” It is safe to call me a “Gleek.”
Now I am getting into “Dexter,” which has been around for a while, but is new to me. Thanks to my uncle for giving me the “heads up” on that one.
I love being able to watch these programs, thanks to the internet. It helps the expat life to go a little more smoothly.
What are some of the shows you are hooked on?
One of my photos of the Firefighter’s Ball in the 20th arr. on July 14, 2010
Third, this past weekend, I had the extreme pleasure of seeing one of my oldest friends, Heather, with whom I was an exchange student in England in 1984 and with whom I hung around for most of 1985 until she went off to Colorado State in the fall (I still had one more year of high school left after she graduated). We helped one another with reverse culture-shock via listening to cassette tapes from Tears for Fears (hers) and Nik Kershaw (mine) in her mom’s Chevette (I think that’s what Heather said her mom’s car was), driving around metro Denver. Heather made the return to Colorado from life in England bearable.
She’s spent the past six years in Belgium with her husband, who is in the military. She now has two daughters, ages nine and six, and is moving back Stateside this coming week. They hope to be back in Belgium soon, but will be spending the near future in the D.C. area.
I can’t tell you how cool it was to reconnect with someone from my past like this, and here in Paris, too. It helped me to remember who I am and where I come from, and felt very “full circle” to me. It’s also thanks to Facebook that our reunion happened. For all the criticism that Facebook has faced with regards to its security and so on, I have loved the way it’s put me in touch with some long-lost people from my past. Ones that I *want* to be in touch with again. 🙂 Thank you, Facebook.
Don’t we look cute, though? I get all happy and mushy just looking at this photo of us. I feel glee, but something a little more powerful, too, when I think of this chance to see Heather. It’s more like deep gratitude.
I still have some Ghetto Gardening and View Out My Window updates for you all, and Paul and I just went to the Cimitière Montparnasse and St. Germain this past weekend (as well as an adventure in Barbès which was a little nervewracking — see Paul’s posts Trailer Park Paris and Barbès – Rochechouart: Photography in a War Zone), but I am just under the 3,000 word mark here, and this post is feeling very replete. The photos are up on Flickr already if you want to have a look, but I’ll have yet to see what stories emerge from it all.
I hope that you are all wrapping up July nicely. I know a lot of people here in the Paris area are leaving for their vacations soon. How about you?
If you are not doing anything, Paul has issued an invite to anyone still in town from August 7-22 — check out his post and contact him there if you are interested.
That’s it for now, kids. Stay cool, have fun, and be gleeful, eh?
Over and out.
(an alien parisienne)
Paris Plage in the 19th arrondissement looks cooler than the one downtown, I’ll try to visit before I go on vacation!