Paris flea market

La Vie Est Belle…Paris in Instagrams

photo

It’s been 15 years almost to the day since I was last in Paris, undoubtably my favorite city in the world. I can’t say if it is the beauty of the Haussmann designed neighborhoods, the variety of world-class and intimate museums, the incredible shopping, in particular the antiques, or simply the butter and the croissants. It just doesn’t matter. Even when gray and rainy, life is beautiful in Paris. While my husband had long been in agreement with me, my girls had only fantasized about Paris and I was looking forward to sharing it with them. I wanted to be sure to do Paris right, because it can be done wrong – endless lines, endless tramping through museums coupled with bad cafe food. The key to doing Paris well with kids (and by default other cities too) is to break things down into small pieces, small tastes and acknowledge that only what is directly interesting in that moment needs to be experienced. Find the sublime, because it is out there.

Obviously museums are the baguette and butter of a trip to Paris. Some of the greatest hits should not be missed including Monet’s masterpiece Les Nymphéas at Musee de l’Orangerie, Winged Victory at the Louvre, and for my girls, Degas’ Blue Dancers at the Musée d’Orsay. But we arrived at l’Orangerie at opening to view the space empty and only went to the Louvre during the relatively uncrowded evening hours – it is open until 9:45 Wednesday and Friday – which made all the difference. Beyond the biggies are some magical places – the Musée Rodin Museum, Le Petit Palais, The Musée Jacquemart-André to name a few – but those are the ones that appeal to me. There are endless choices, but but be sure to pick only a few.

orangerie louvre dorsay museums

Ironically enough, at the moment I was uploading what I though was a very funny selfie of us crammed in at the Mona Lisa (with the actually much more interesting The Wedding Feast at Cana directly behind us), The New York Times was publishing its own version of the photo as a companion to their article “The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum” which makes a strong case for doing just what we did.

view at the louvre nytimes

My small but very exciting moment was seeing Jaques-Louis David’s unfinished portrait of Madame Récamier (although I was probably supposed to be looking at the gargantuan The Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame across the room). You all know I am a sucker for a daybed of any type, but I’ve never been lucky enough to have one named for me. And in one of those moments of synchronicity that could only happen at the Louvre (or perhaps the Met), we stumbled across her actual chaise made by Jacob Frères.

Madame_Récamier_by_Jacques-Louis_David and her recamier by Jacob Freres in the Louvre

As the ballet obsession continues unabated in our house, a trip to the Palais Garnier was called for. Alas, there were no performances to be had during our visit, but the tour of the opulent and over the top Beaux-Arts theater did not disappoint. To make the space more digestible we focussed on the ornate ceilings.

opera palais garnier ceilings

Autumn had not quite yet come to Paris, but after a couple of months in the desert we were bewitched by the green and eager to be outside. We did a bike tour, a boat ride and played HintHunt, which has nothing at all to do with Paris, but trust me, if you are traveling with bigger kids its is one of the most enjoyable hours they will have.

tuilleries green

We had numerous memorable meals and one particularly magical night at Chez Julien just over the Ile St. Louis bridge on the right bank. My husband and I had eaten there 20 years ago and never forgot the prettiest Belle Époque interior. There happened to be a small wedding party – just 4 people – there that night and the candlelight and mirrors combined with her dress and headpiece made us feel as if we were in a Degas painting.

chez julien and degas

Where’s the shopping, you may be asking yourself? I did, of course, mention antiques. But that needs a Paris puces post of it own, later this week.

On another note, I forgot to announce the winner of Frederick Harris’s book Ukiyo-e: The Art of the Japanese Print, although I did notify the winners in Singapore and Israel. One of the most enjoyable things about the giveaway was seeing the truly global span of my readership. 

Daybed Deal…Travels of a French Iron Campaign Bed

french campaign bed

Since we were recently talking about daybeds I’d love to share one of my own family flea market stories. Years ago, my husband and I started the tradition of visiting Paris for his birthday very early on in our marriage. February was low season and you could always pick up a super cheap air ticket from New York. My motivation for going was yes, to celebrate his birthday, but really to head out to one of my absolute favorite places in the world – Les Puces de Saint-Ouen – the huge multi-shop market at Porte de Clignancourt commonly referred to as The Paris Flea Market. There really is no place to rival it in the world, and although it has become more expensive these days, there are still always treasures to be found. Definitely a bucket list destination for any antiques scavenger.

While I had bought small items in the past, I had never bought furniture there (something that has since changed dramatically) before that visit. Nor had my husband ever been with me – actually, he hadn’t been my husband prior. For some reason he knew that I loved campaign furniture, in particular the small folding iron beds of the mid 19th century and he spied a beautiful one in a cute stall. Our bed wasn’t particularly special, one of probably thousands of Napoleon III era iron beds that were made for officers to be able to live in comfort while on military campaigns. We asked the price and began negotiations. Now remember, we were newly married and fairly poor, so price was a big issue. Perhaps he wanted to show off his newly minted lawyerly skills, but he ended up negotiating for hours (or it least it seemed that way). In the end he got an amazing deal (and has never bargained for me since), but we almost had a last-minute snafu as the shipping agent was an expensive issue. So he actually managed to talk the dealer into packing it in a bicycle shipping box (oh the joys of collapsible traveling furniture) and inexpensively freighting it straight to JFK where we could just pick it up. As we left the stall, the dealer told me that I had “caught a good one!”

I don’t know if he had a premonition in that moment of two daughters or what, but the bed ended up being ideal for small spaces – New York and Tokyo bedrooms fitting that description. Personally, I’ve always imagined that when my daughter outgrew the bed (which so far she is not willing to give up), that I could use it for myself as a place to lounge, read, nap and dream. Since we bought our beach house, I’ve fantasized about having it outside on the porch, all comfy and inviting, like this…

porch with iron bed

…or this.

Kurgan iron daybed wicker porch CL0312pc Max Kim-Bee

Just imagine the joys of pillow options!

Myra Hoefer HB0606

But now that moving to Doha is on my horizon, I am thinking it might be a perfect piece for our garden there. It never rains, so the rust issue is avoided and hopefully we will have some sort of covered patio that we can hang out on.

iron daybed outside via little emma english rose

iton daybed outside via little emma english home

Amelia Handegan iron daybed on porch

Our shipment is going to be a tight fit in the container, so it’s a good thing that the bed frame folds up flat. I wonder if this bed will end up traversing the globe? Paris-New York-Tokyo-Doha and maybe back to New York some day…

Tokyo Jinja

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