Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sundays with Richard and Polly

1. Prologue

A new Paris tradition has been born. Hard to tell what the baby is going to look like at this early stage, but consider this the birth announcement: Sundays with Richard and Polly is off and running.

If the blog-gods are willing and the crick don't rise, one Sunday per month Richard of Eye Prefer Paris and I will head to a destination in Paris, then without consulting each other will each describe our own version of the afternoon. And we'll post it at a synchronized hour a few days later. Which, in this case, is now.

When planning our Sunday folly, Richard mentioned that his boyfriend Vincent might videotape our outings. "Wow," I mused to Richard. "You know, maybe we can be like Shana Alexander and Jim Kilpatrick in Point/Counterpoint-- or the Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin version."

"Oh, that Saturday Night Live skit when he says 'Jane, you ignorant slut'?" asked Richard. "I loved that!"

"Fine," I said. "Just don't call me ignorant."

2. The outing.

This time Richard chose the cultural venue: the Pierre Paulin exhibit "Le Design au pouvoir" at the Galerie des Gobelins, which recently re-opened after being closed for thirty years. First, I was glad to get out of my usual trajectory and spend the afternoon in relatively unfamiliar Parisian territory. The 13e arrondissement has some great sights, plus wide-open boulevards and broad sidewalks for strolling. Second, I'm far too young to have seen Les Gobelins thirty years ago. Right?

Without going into a long history, this quartier is where France's official furniture was made, tapestries for chateaux were woven -- and where subsequent ruling heads of state have stored the furniture when it didn't suit their needs of state -- or taste. The nearby Mobilier National warehouse, a rather barren-looking fortress, is where all the out-of-vogue or unneeded state furniture is stored.

Entering the Gobelins Galerie, however, is like stepping back in time, until you reach the ultra-modern decor inside the massive stone edifice. And if you ignore the parked cars in the ancient and aristocratic courtyard. That's a statue of Colbert in the center.

Having left my reading specs at home, I was unable to read the signage for any of the displays. But I didn't mind; I simply meandered around the exhibit hall. The light patterns, shapes, shadows and reflections were mesmerizing.

Sunshine streaming through traces of history.

In the main gallery space the mirrored ceilings and display areas gave an out-of-body experience when looking down at the floor. I could see the top of Vincent's head (he was standing next to me) when I peered over the reflecting floor of one exhibit and gazed down at what appeared to be a display on the floor below. "Have you ever seen the movie Ghosts?" I whispered to him. It was that much out of body.

The furniture on exhibit was mostly exquisite chairs and cleverly designed furniture; including a desk that had belonged to François Mitterand, and other enticing designs created for the Republique française.

One of the last furniture pieces in the exhibit was my favorite: a curvy lounging chair, similar to the one pictured below in yellow, though the exhibited chair was a luscious beige.. The shape and texture were so -- inviting.

I wanted to run my hand along it -- but of course this exhibit 100% no-touching-allowed. Stifling a fit of giggles, I realized why it seemed so familiar. It looked just like the Tantra Chair I had just seen and read about in a very witty issue of Apartment Therapy. Hmm... was this tantric design created for some government official, I wondered?

Enough about recliners. As we left the gallery, I spied a tapestry that I coveted. I usually play the "what would I want in my house?" game with any art exhibit. The greens in this tapestry won that prize. It simply moved me, and made me all the more anxious for discovering our next stop, the very green Parc René le Gall around the corner.

Wedged into a mish-mash of modern and old residential architecture, the park was an unexpected delight that kept unfurling beyond each bend in the path. At the end, I was taken aback by the sheer lushness of the vegetation.

All this, in a densely populated arrondissement of Paris. It made me realize how much more there is to discover. Every day.

3. Next stop, next month

Who knows? In Sundays with Richard and Polly we'll aim for uncharted territory -- or maybe territory so familiar that you think you know it well. The goal, in my view, is to show that everyone's view of Paris is a deeply personal revelation. You can wander the streets of Paris a thousand days and still not see the same thing. Enjoy the trip -- avec Richard et Polly! Now I can't wait to go read Richard's post !


Unknown said...

What a perfect pairing! You both have such an incredible knowledge of Paris.

I credit Richard with explaining to me that Pierre Hermé did not make scarves.

Going Like Sixty said...

I love this idea! And I love your post. Off to check Richards.

Evelyn said...

What a fun idea! I loved reading both posts. You each brought a slightly different perspective to the day. I agee with need to include a picture of the two of you exploring Paris for us.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

We were already having such fun on Sunday outings, so now it's fun with a purpose! We're cooking up more schemes, so stay tuned.

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