Jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Django Reinhardt, Nina Simone or Duke Ellington have haunted many of Paris' traditional (intramural) jazz clubs with unforgettable performances, but much of the vibrancy of the present-day jazz scene in Paris can be found in the north banlieues, or suburbs. Last week marked the kickoff of the annual Banlieues Bleues Jazz Festival, a heady, eclectic program bringing together both well-known and fresh artists from around the world. Around 20 venues clustered in the northern suburbs of St. Denis, Aubervilliers, Pantin and others are hosting this year's shows, with highlights including performances from artists such as American jazz multi-instrumentalist Kahlil El'Zabar, L'intuition Vincent Curtois and Michael Ackerman, Andre Minvielle, and Charles Tolliver Music Inc. Whether you're hooked on Afro-Caribbean, New Orleans, acid or folksy jazz styles, this year's festival should hit your sweet note.
Read More and Find Tickets: Guide to Banlieues Bleues 2014 (Paris Jazz Festival)
- March Events in Paris
- April 2014 Events in Paris
- Fete de la Musique in Paris
- Nearby: The Stunning St Denis Basilica, Cathedral, and Royal Necropolis
- Around the Corner: Paris Salon du Livre (Book Fair)
- Walking Tour Review: Black History Around Luxembourg Gardens
Image: Jazz group Sweetback performing at Paris jazz festival Banlieues Blues in 2009. Mateo de la Vega/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.
To celebrate International Women's Day and Women's History Month, we're paying tribute today to a few great Parisian women of the 20th century. While March is indeed an opportune time to laud extraordinary women such as these, from writer Colette to dancer Josephine Baker (and there are, of course, countless others we could add to the list), their towering achievements should be properly recognized as contributing not only to the advancement of women, but to humanity as a whole. In my book, the fact that we still feel a need to set aside a day to recognize women's achievements, or even use terms like "woman writer", suggests that the fight for genuine equality is far from won. I'm pretty sure these great Parisians would agree.
Read More: Great Parisian Women of the 20th Century
Image: French photographer Claude Cahun/Self-portrait. Around 1929. Gelatin and silver print. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes - © RMN / Gérard Blot.
Alain Resnais, one of France's most revered and influential filmmakers and considered an important, if peripheral, member of the exuberant Nouvelle Vague film movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, died on March 1st in Paris. He was 91 years old.
He is best remembered for his 1959 film Hiroshima, Mon Amour, based on the novel and screenplay by Marguerite Duras, and charting a love affair between a French woman and a Japanese man against the haunted background of the nuclear attacks at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by US forces. Deploying an innovative combination of ultrarealistic, documentary-style techniques and brief flashbacks to create a nonlinear, surrealist narrative structure, it's widely credited as helping to spur the Nouvelle Vague movement, led by the likes of Truffaut, Godard, and Agnès Varda, and inspiring some of their own experimental narrative techniques.
But years before that movement gained international attention, Resnais made his groundbreaking 1955 documentary about Nazi concentration camps during World War II, Night and Fog-- one of the first films to treat the horrifying subject head-on during a time when euphemistic discussion of the death camps was more common. Although the film ran a brief half hour, Resnais captured audiences and critical attention with a combination of archival footage, and his own live photography, shot ten years following the liberation of the camps. As in so many of Resnais' films, the subject is memory and its haunted, ephemeral, melancholy fabric. The documentary would help to generate international attention to that dark period in European history, and keep its memory alive.
Originally from the western French region of Brittany (Bretagne), Resnais was born in 1922. He discovered the surrealism of André Bréton when he was only a teenager, and moved to Paris to work and act in local theater-- a theme that would permeate his later work. After serving in the military for a brief stint around 1945, Resnais returned to Paris and began working as a film editor, but soon started making his own shorts. He was involved in the left-bank intellectual circle of writers and philosophers that included Alain Robbe-Grillet, one of the founders of the so-called "new novel". Their interest in experimental narrative would mark his own search for a filmic brand of nontraditional storytelling and plot. Robbe-Grillet wrote the screenplay for Resnais' 1961 film, Last Year at Marienbad, which was an international success.
The filmmaker remained prolific throughout his life, although he veered away from controversial political topics in the latter stages of his career, in favor of more "slice of life" stories and reflections on the theatrical life, told mostly through highly unconventional camera and narrative techniques. In 2012, his penultimate film Vous n'avez encore rien vu (You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!), was screened as part of the official competition at the Cannes Film Festival, based partially on a 1941 play by Jean Anouilh, Eurydice.
Resnais is survived by his second wife, film director and actress Sabine Azéma. He will be sorely missed as one of Paris' great filmic lenses and storytellers of the 20th century.
Image credit: Alain Resnais in 2012. Getty Images Entertainment/Gareth Cattermole.
Just in time to summon spring to the city of light, St. Patrick's day celebrations are just around the corner in Paris, offering an authenticity you wouldn't necessarily expect thanks to a strong Irish expatriate community and a lively menu of great events. Whether you're itching to check out one of Paris' many excellent Irish pubs or hear some live traditional music from award-winning County Cork band, North Cregg, over at the Irish Cultural Center (Centre Culturel Irlandais), read our newly updated guide to splashing on the green in Paris on the 17th.
- Celebrating Saint Patrick's Day in Paris: 2014 Guide
- Paris in March: Weather Outlook and Packing Guide
- Best March Events in Paris
Image credit: Corcoran's Irish pub near the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. Joe Shlabotnik/Creative Commons.
Picture the scene: a massive, chaotic, stench-filled market plunked in the center of an unpaved, marshy, often muddy expanse, populated by crowds of buyers and merchants selling livestock, fruit and vegetables, and other goods. Starting from the twelfth century, this market, called "Les Halles" to refer to the many merchants' stalls crowding the market, stood in the smack-center of Paris; locals referred to it, appropriately, as the "guts" of Paris. It was so central, geographically and iconically, to Parisian life that the market was depicted in many works of literature, including in Zola's Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris, referring to Les Halles), and in paintings such as the one from John James Chalon, entitled "Marche Fontaine des Innocents", (1822) pictured above. But in the late 1950s, city officials finally decided that the market caused too many hygiene issues, as well as blocking major thoroughfares, and so they moved to transfer the market to Rungis, south of the city's southern border.
The move, while controversial (what change isn't with Parisians?) allowed the area to undergo a major transformation: in place of the old market, a giant shopping center, the Forum des Halles, was built, signaling a new era of modern commerce in the area. And in 1977, the now iconic Centre Georges Pompidou opened, to both enthusiasm and disdain: Renzo Piano's whimsical, and decidedly weird, facade featuring bright blue, red, and yellow tubing meant to evoke the internal 'plumbing' of the human body was not, after all, designed to please everyone. The critics, however, didn't win out: the central area now known to Parisians as "Beaubourg"-- the name refers both to the Pompidou center itself and its surrounds-- has proven a resounding success as a vibrant cultural and artistic center. People use every nook and cranny of the spaces here, and the streets are full of both locals and tourists, demonstrating its universal appeal.
This week, About.com Paris Travel Contributor Colette Davidson takes us on a whirl around Les Halles and Beaubourg, offering both some intriguing background on the area's history, and showing you what to see and do, where to eat and drink, and most importantly, where to lounge around in this fascinating district.
If you're in the midst of planning a trip to Paris but feel overwhelmed by the plethora of packages being dangled in front of you and aren't sure how to even begin, take a first step toward sanity and sign up for my carefully designed Paris trip planning e-course. For five weeks, you'll receive a new lesson bringing you through all the essential steps of planning a fabulous sojourn in Paris. Think of it as a checklist that will help you ensure you neither show up at the airport with the wrong travel documents, book a crummy hotel that's out of your budget range, or spend all your time trying to figure out how you should be spending it. While you're at it, also consider keeping informed about what's going on in the city of light, and get my weekly newsletter/thoughts from Paris in your mailbox every Friday along with your end-of-the week coffee.
Image: Alfred Sisley, Le Canal St Martin, 1870 (Musee d'Orsay)
It's a disputed theory, but some historians and linguists believe that the English term "flea market" arose as a literal translation from the French marché aux puces, itself a term coined sometime in the late 19th century to refer to the flea-infested furniture and other wares sold at the market situated just outside the northern city walls near the present day Porte de Clignancourt. Whether or not the term can be traced to the French, you're unlikely to find puces as sprawling, dizzying and fascinating as the Paris flea markets. They're fabulous for a weekend stroll, irrespective of whether you plan on bartering and buying. And getting lost? All part of the adventure and the charm.
About.com Paris Travel Contributor Nicole Smith took a whirl around the lesser-known, but calmer and arguably more charming, market at Porte de Vanves at the city's southern tip. There, she admired men playing an old board game, was bemused by Marie-Antoinette salt and pepper shakers in ceramic, and bargained like a pro to come away with an unexpected treasure...
Read More: Complete Guide to Paris Flea Markets
- Discount Shopping in Paris
- Seine-Side Booksellers (Les Bouquinistes)
- Paris on a Budget
- Guide to Temporary Paris Food Markets: Full List
- Top Permanent Paris Market Streets
Image credit: A scene from the Porte de Vanves flea market. Nicole Smith/Licensed to About.com.
Not to disparage the many wonderfully smart, knowledgeable , and, often, hilarious tour guides out there, but I have a minor confession to make: I generally get antsy on guided tours. There have been a few exceptions, but I'm an autonomous, intellectually omnivorous, semi-introverted type who likes doing things at my own pace, and deciding what to focus on when exploring a new place, often with the help of guide books (or retrospective google searches). So I was intrigued to read About.com Paris Travel Contributor Colette Davidson's new review of a tour package for visitors called the Paris ComboPass Lite, which allows travelers to put together a package of sights and attractions they think they'll find the most interesting, pick up all the tickets, and go out on their own to explore the city.
Davidson, who hopped around Paris for two days using the pass, says it's a way to reduce the stress of having to worry about long lines, ticket purchases, and all the other logistics, while also allowing the pure freedom of self-guiding (she's a fellow introvert). Of course, if you want to have some part of your day taken up by a tour, that's entirely possible-- you could, as our Contributor did, take a boat tour of the Seine, for example; one of many options in some of the packages offered by La Conciergerie. Whatever your preferred style of city-exploration, this may be one good way to go about getting to know Paris. As wonderful as it may be, we all know it can be overwhelming, after all...
The number-one complaint I hear about the Louvre Museum is that it's simply too monstrous to visit without quickly burning out (and wanting out). I myself have had the same experience, which is why it took me several years to really get to know the Louvre's collections. Luckily, I've compiled a few straightforward tips for visiting one of the world's richest treasuries of fine art to help you really enjoy and learn from what you do see, while keeping your patience and energy levels intact...
- In Pictures: Highlights of the Louvre Museum's Collections
- History of the Louvre
- Top Paris Art Museums
- Top Ten Tourist Attractions in Paris
Pictured: The recently restored Apollon Gallery at the Louvre. ©2007 Musee du Louvre/Angele Dequier
Dating to at least the mid-19th century, the famed Montmartre neighborhood cabaret nestled in an iconic pink cottage on the quiet Rue des Saules was at one point taken over by a guy named "Gilles", who painted a rabbit jumping out of a pan on its exterior; thereafter, it was referred to as "Le Lapin a Gilles" (Gilles' rabbit). Following either a mistaken transcription or a willful tweak, the storied nightlife spot's name evolved to become Au Lapin Agile-- literally, the Nimble Rabbit.
Once the haunt of struggling local artists, from Picasso to Modigliani and Toulouse-Lautrec, the cabaret has been careful to maintain its tenured position as one of the city's most traditional cabarets, offering up a program of entertainment that some will call "classic", others, outmoded and tired. If you're a fan of chanson française, and don't mind sweltering temperatures and crowded conditions (as Contributor Nicole Smith discovered), make sure to give the ol' nimble rabbit a try. As Smith also notes in her review of the Rabbit, reservations are de rigueur.
Read More: Review of Au Lapin Agile Cabaret
- Montmartre in Pictures
- Top Paris Cabarets
- Review of Moulin Rouge
- Vendanges de Montmartre (Paris Wine Harvest Festival)
Image credit: Courtney Traub/Licensed to About.com.