Sur le pont d’Avignon

IMG_5016Sur le pont d’Avignon / On y danse, on y danse / Sur le pont d’Avignon / On y danse tous en rond. (Loosely translated as  “On the bridge of Avignon, we’re all dancing, we’re all dancing. On the brudge of Avignon, we’re all dancing round and round.”)

This is one of the first French songs I ever learned, maybe from school, maybe from television. And from it, I decided to visit this small, ancient city in Provence, to use it as a base to visit other towns in the region. In this post, I’ll give you some recommendations for Avignon, and then I’ll tell you about the other places I visited.

IMG_5342Hotel d’Europe 12 place Crillon – This is probably the swankiest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. It is centrally located, just inside the city walls and near the major tourist attractions. My room was unusually large for a European hotel with an elegant, marble-clad bath.There were pretty antiques, a shady courtyard, and good service. Since it was HOT when I visited, I was glad of the air conditioning, but I also sppreciated other little luxuries, like high quality linens and Hermès toiletries.

IMG_5286La Cour d’honneur 58 rue Joseph Vernet – I tried a few different restaurants in town, but I came back to this one four times. They had a great prix fixe menu of appetizer or main course or main course and dessert for 26€. I liked each thing I ordered, but the shrimp and scallops were particularly good.

La Brasserie du théâtre 36 cours Jean Jaurès – Breakfast at my hotel was very expensive (22€ or US$26), so most days I got a light breakfast of coffee, croissant and juice at a pleasant restaurant near the train and bus stations for under 6€. There were plenty of options, and service was quick and cheerful.

PEM Avignon 5 avenue Monclar – The bus station, or gare routière, is right next to the train station, just outside the city walls. For most places I wanted to visit, the buses offered more frequent routes at tiny prices (2€ to 7€). The drivers even made suggestions about better ways to make connections or made sure that I got off at the right stop. It was also a much better way to see the endlessly changing scenery of Provence.

Next up, what to see in Avignon.




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Chefs d’œuvre du Bridgestone Museum of Art

IMG_5321Well, my time in Paris is drawing to a close. I managed to see almost all of the shows that I had wanted to check out this month. The last one on my list was Tokyo-Paris. Masterpieces from the Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation Collection. This exhibit with such a long name is in the little musée de l’Orangerie in the Tuileries garden, near the Louvre, until August 21, 2017.

img_5326.jpgI hadn’t realized that the founder of the Bridgestone tire company was a Japanese man, Shojiro Ishibashi, whose last name literally means “bridge” and “stone” when translated into English. He used his fortune to purchase art, eventually amassing a collection of 2,600 works.

img_5322.jpgAt first, he collected Japanese artists who painted in the Impressionist style, then French Impressionists, then other European contemporary artists. He built a museum in the heart of Tokyo in order to share his collection with others. While the museum in being renovated, part of the collection is bringing delight to visitors to the musée de l’Orangerie. I was particularly impressed by some lovely Caillebottes, Monets, and Renoirs that I had never seen before. It’s worth checking out if you will be in town.


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IMG_5259.JPGToday I had the pleasure of seeing the sublime (soo-bleem)  Dior exhibit at the musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The retrospective marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of one of the most influential couture houses of the 20th century and it will continue until January 7, 2018. It opened on July 5 and two weeks later, the lines to get in are still crazy long. If you are going to check it out, it would be well worth your while to buy a billet coupe file on-line that allows you express access for the same fee as buying your ticket at the door. That probably saved me at least a one hour wait to get in. There were so many people inside that I wished that I had been able to come just as the exhibit opened to avoid some of the crush.

IMG_5255The exhibit spreads across both halves of the museum and it covers two floors, so once you do get in, you will have plenty to enjoy. It starts with photos and documents chronicling the couturier’s childhood, then moves to the avant-garde art gallery that he ran with a partner that did not achieve lasting commercial success, before moving to his explosion into the world of couture.

img_5265.jpgThe “chromatic” rooms displayed dresses, hats, purses and other accessories in a wave of color, starting with white and then moving through all of the colors of the Dior rainbow before terminating with the color that he felt was the most elegant of all – black. I was most fascinated with the miniature dresses made by the Dior seamstresses from the original designs.

IMG_5253Another room featured Versailles inspired dresses, designed by John Galliano, one of the successors of Christian Dior, who died after only ten years at the helm of his couture house.

IMG_5266Then there was a room whose ceiling was entirely covered with paper leaves and flowers that cascaded all around flower-inspired dresses, celebrating Dior’s great affinity for flowers.

IMG_5263In the second half of the exhibit, there were soaring displays of gowns stacked ever higher all the way to the vaulted ceiling. This was the best fashion exhibit I have seen since the 2010 Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Petit Palais. I do hope you’ll be able to visit it for yourself.

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Hors du commun

IMG_4898Have you ever heard of Dalida? She was a larger-than-life beauty queen, turned singer, originally from Egypt. I use “Laissez-moi danser” and “Je suis malade” in class and my students are usually rather overwhelmed by all that she was.  Recently, her brother donated many of her old stage costumes to the Palais Galliera and the exhibit is on now through August 13, 2017. Whether in ready-to-wear or haute couture, Dalida dazzled her way through the New Look in the 50s to disco in the 80s. In addition to the extravagant gowns she wore to perform, you can also see her glamorous day wear. The French equivalent of “larger-than-life” is hors du commun, (or due com-mun), and that phrase fits Dalida as perfectly as one of her slinky dresses.
IMG_4899Very Best of Dalida



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IMG_4872There’s a lot of overlap in the exhibits on in Paris this summer. I recently wrote about the photo exhibit about gardens at the Jardin du Luxembourg. The Grand Palais, just off the Champs Élysées, has an exhibit simply entitled Jardins (shjar-dahn)  featuring art works inspired by gardens. Six centuries of gardens, spanning the Renaissance to modern times, including works by Fragonard, Monet, Cézanne, Klimt, Picasso, and Matisse. Just as a real garden appeals to all senses, this exhibit will have many different types of works, in addition to paintings, including sculptures, photography, and displays of sounds and scents. This exhibit is on now and will continue until July 24, 2017.

IMG_4873Private Gardens of Paris

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Jardins extraordinaires

IMG_4870When I think of France, I often think, not of monuments, but of gardens. After all, I live about thirty seconds from the Jardin du Luxembourg in the summer. Some days are so busy that’s as far as I get to go. Each year, there is an exhibit of world-class photos on the fence that surrounds the garden. On now, through July 24, 2017, you can admire the free, open-air exhibit entitled “Jardins extraordinaires” (shjar-dahn ex-tra-or-deen-air) that showcases gardens that have received the designation of being a “Remarkable Garden” by the Ministry of Culture and Communication. Some are contemporary photographs by Jean-Baptiste Leroux while others are historical pictures just of the Jardin du Luxembourg. It’ll make a beautiful walk in the park even lovelier.

IMG_4871Gardens in France


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Le vêtement était sa religion

IMG_4867.PNGWhat would Paris be without an exhibit dedicated to fashion? This one is quite unusual; the fashion museum, the Palais Galliera, is presenting Balenciaga: L’Oeuvre au noir at the Musée Bourdelle. The Bourdelle is the former studio of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and I visited it one other time for an exhibit of the fashions of Mme Grés. The juxtaposition of the gowns and sculptures was extremely dramatic. I’m looking forward to seeing the fashions of Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in this setting — black clothing highlighted against the white plaster sculptures.

IMG_4868Balenciaga was inspired by the black robes of religious orders. In speaking of Balenciaga, Christian Dior said, “Le vêtement était sa religion” (luh vet-mehn et-ay sah ray-li-jhe-ohn), which means “Clothing was his religion.” I’ve seen a Balenciaga exhibit before and I can only imagine how beautiful the clothes will look in this spare and beautiful setting with its beautiful light, almost like a cathedral. The exhibit is on until July 16, 2017.



IMG_4869Balenciaga’s Craft: Outside In

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