Chunnel Vision

One Irreverent Writer Tracks Two Superlative Cities at High Speed

Paris: Chinese New Year

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Trust the dragon to hog the limelight

FOR the second weekend running, Chinese Parisians welcomed in the Year of the Tiger, and in roaring style.

This week it was the turn of the 13th arrondissement. Now, I bet you thought the streets around avenue de Choisy were home to the largest of the city’s Chinese populations, didn’t you? (I did). Well, we’re wrong: many more live over in Belleville.

That said, the 13th is more visibly Asian, and very commercial, which still makes it one of the best places to head if you have a hankering for pork dumplings or a yen (yuan?) for saucy shot glasses. (By the way, if anyone knows why said shot glasses are a tradition in Chinese restaurants in Paris, but not around London’s Gerrard Street, please let us in on the secret…)

Anyway, it was a slate-grey Parisian day, but the vibe was lively. Just add firecrackers, cymbals and goodwill.  Happy New Year 4078!



Written by manda

February 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Paris, travel, Uncategorized

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Banksy’s Croydon Punk update

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For those who missed it, here’s Channel 4 News’ round-up on the Punk story…

Written by manda

February 18, 2010 at 9:38 am

Walls that talk

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I’m back. It’s been a while… Here’s a whisk around some of the street art clocked on Paris walls and buildings.

Written by manda

January 31, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Old Masters get the Rancinan treatment

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METAMORPHOSES, natures mortes et conversations opened this week for a whistle-stop show at the Palais de Tokyo, in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. If you’re a fan of David LaChapelle‘s larger-than-life still-lives (see my earlier post), don’t miss.

The event is a collaboration between French photographer, Gérard Rancinan and writer, Caroline Gaudriault.

Modern day pieta - on the runway (detail)

Pietà on the runway

Caravaggio's The Entombment of Christ

Even if you don’t know them from Adam and Eve, you won’t be slow to clock their inspiration.Rancinan’s ironic mise-en-scenes take an backward glance at the works of Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Delacroix, Matisse and others.

The references, however, are pure 21st century.

Take The Last Supper, transmogrified into The Big Supper (below, detail). (Rancinan and his team crossed  the Pond for his cast of size XXXL disciples…)

Eat up, you're at Uncle Sam's....

Meanwhile, in Las Meninas, Rancinan’s homage Velasquez, a grotesque troupe of tattooed and latex-clad handmaidens wait on a primped and lurid Marilyn. Er, eternal youth, anyone?

You’ll need to be quick to catch the exhibition. Metamorphoses is in Paris until 6 December 2009 – but is expected then to make NY and London appearances.

Below: Rancinan’s Raft (after Géricault’s masterpiece). See it being made here.

Rancinan's Raft (after Géricault)

Written by manda

November 21, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Apple’s new Paris flagship

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apple1WHAT’S not to love about the new Apple store, which opened last weekend in the Carrousel du Louvre?

If you’re a habitué of the NY or London stores, you may wonder what all the hype is about. Then again, the store’s cloud grey embrace should also make you feel at home… along with the racks of yummy pods, and an army of T-shirted staff primed to escort you with a can-do smile through every stage of your Macxperience.

Well, almost. Because, when it comes to the crunch, the Paris store hasn’t got quite got a handle on the service end of things yet.

The store assistants’ T-shirts tell me I’m going to be knocked out (“Vous allez être emballé”). But, actually, I’m not. Partly because it turns out to be quite hard to detach one of them from their self-absorbed huddles, and get them t to do some assisting. And also because, when it comes to paying for my purchase, the on-the-spot credit swipe system has developed a malfunction, so it’s back to the time-honoured French model…. you know, the one where you wait in a long and wooly queue, looking on as other johnny-come-latelys get served before you.

Just teething problems, no doubt.

Now the countdown starts for the real Paris flagship store. Almost twice the size of Apple Carrousel du Louvre, it’s due to open 2010, close to the  Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.

Written by manda

November 15, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Posted in Paris, shopping, travel

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Bhutan’s hidden treasures at the Guimet

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guimet2“WHY IS everyone going to Bhutan?” asked the New York Times, rather cheekily, in 2005.

Well, they weren’t then,  and they aren’t now. Thanks to its strictly regulated tourist industry, this small, insular kingdom wedged between China and India is probably the most alluring country you can’t afford to visit.

All the more reason to check out the  Musée Guimet’s current exhibition, In the land of the Dragon“.

It comes at a time when Bhutan itself is becoming more westernized. There are still no traffic lights in the capital, but phones and televisions – banned until 1999 – are now making inroads. It’s still the only country in the world that dares to measure its success according to GNH (Gross National Happiness)* rather than GNP – and on the whole, it scores higher than most. Yet the country is also on the cusp of change, about to take its first tentative steps into democracy.

Ravishing photos and video footage (alas, no English commentary) open the expo before revealing Bhutan’s treasure… mystical silk mandalas intended to promote meditation on the way to the calm void at the heart of Buddhism; exquisitely-wrought gold-leaf bronzes of the gods, dating back centuries.

A privileged view, indeed. These national treasures are on show in France for the first time, and even in Bhutan, guimet1they are only brought out for special temple festivals. The Bhutanese government hopes that unveiling them will allow Westerners to gain a better appreciation of the country’s peaceful Buddhist heritage. Perhaps so – and its brilliant colours and movement will haunt you, too.

* French president, Nicolas Sarkozy has also expressed his interest in Gross National Happiness.

  • Running until 10 January, 2010, In the Land of the Dragons: Sacred Arts of Bhutan is at the Musée Guimet (pictured, right) France’s  national museum of Asian Arts.

Written by manda

November 14, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Posted in culture, Paris, travel

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Jean Sarkozy … at the mercy of wolves

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timthumb.phpTHE EPAD row rumbles on. Here’s the latest from The Times.

Meanwhile, France’s Young Socialists have raised a smile with their  Become a Sarkozy adoption campaign. Yesterday, they were outside the Elysee Palace, and now the campaign has gone live on their website. Over-qualified and unemployed, they think a change of family identity could work wonders on their job prospects.

Written by manda

October 14, 2009 at 8:13 am