What’s Happening in Paris Friday, Feb 21 2014 

As a good friend of mine in Paris put it this past week, “we are in one of those doldrum periods for art exhibitions.” Many of the big fall art shows have just closed, and Paris is pausing to take a breath before a host of new exhibitions open for the spring and summer of 2014. If you’re traveling to the French capital anytime soon, you won’t want to miss these great cultural events. Be sure to click on the museum name for more details on each exhibition.

Current Art Exhibitions

Musée du LouvreRestoration of the iconic Greek statue “The Winged Victory of Samothrace” continues at the Louvre Museum. The 2nd-century B.C. sculpture and its monumental staircase will be re-opening this summer. A must-see. Click here to see a video of the restoration project in progress.

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Image courtesy of the Musée du Louvre

Musée d’Orsay“Vincent Van Gogh / Antonin Artaud, The Man Suicided by Society.” 5, Quai Anatole France, 75007 Paris. Twentieth century writer Antonin Artaud was asked to write a piece on Van Gogh to coincide with a 1947 art exhibition in Paris of his works. Artaud’s provocative thesis delineated how “Van Gogh’s exceptional lucidity made lesser minds uncomfortable.” And according to Artaud, it was these lesser minds that drove Van Gogh to suicide. From March 11 until July 6.

Grand Palais - “I, Augustus, Emperor of Rome.” 3, avenue du Général Eisenhower 75008 Paris. To commemorate the 2000th anniversary of Augustus’ death, the Grand Palais is hosting a fascinating exhibition on his life and Roman times during his reign. A selection of  statues, reliefs, frescoes, furniture, silver as well as the reconstruction of a villa from the slopes of Mount Vesuvius round out this historical exhibition. From March 19 to July 13.

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Poster courtesy of the RMN Grand Palais

Musée Jacquemart-André“Watteau to Fragonard, les Fêtes Galantes.” 158 Boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris, France.  The jewel-like Jacquemart-André Museum welcomes a fabulous new exhibition of 18th-century French painting focusing on love scenes in lush pastoral settings. A sumptuous ode to a bygone era. From March 14 to July 21.

Musée Marmottan - “The Impressionists in Private: One Hundred Masterpieces from Private Collections.” 2 Rue Louis Boilly, 75016 Paris. This exquisite exhibition at the Marmottan Museum brings together 100 Impressionist works borrowed from private owners. You’ll want to make a point to see these pieces that have never been on view publicly until now. Until July 6.

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Poster courtesy of the Musée Marmottan

Musée Rodin“Mapplethorpe-Rodin.” 79, rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris. This intriguing exhibition compares and contrasts the sculpture of Auguste Rodin with the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe. Similarities in themes and subjects abound. From April 8 until September 21.

Palais Galliera - “Coming into Fashion, a Century of Photography at Condé Nast.” 10, Avenue Pierre-1er-de-Serbie, 75116 Paris. The fashion museum of Paris is putting on this wonderful exhibition featuring 100 years of fashion photography. From March 1 to May 25. Then beginning in summer, the Palais Galliera is hosting “Fashion in the 50’s,” a superb show noting the ‘New look’ created by Christian Dior in 1947 and the fashion revolution that followed. From July 3 to November 15.

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Poster courtesy of the Palais Galliera

Musée du Luxembourg“Joséphine.” 19, rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris. This special exhibition features art and objects relating to the Empress Joséphine, first wife of Napoleon, at the bicentennial of her death. From March 12 until June 29.

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Poster courtesy of the Musée du Luxembourg 

Centre Pompidou“Henri Cartier-Bresson.” 19, rue Beaubourg, 75004 Paris. Lovers of photography will enjoy this retrospective devoted to the superbly talented twentieth-century French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Until June 9.

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Poster courtesy of the Centre Pompidou

Musée d’Histoire Naturelle “Night.” Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, 36 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 75005 Paris. This year, Paris’s Natural History Museum has put together an amazing interdisciplinary exhibit on the nocturnal world. Visitors will be fascinated by informative and interactive displays around four themes: The Night Sky, Night in Nature, Sleep at Night, and Night Myths and Monsters. Until November 3.

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Poster courtesy of the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle

French Champagne for All Occasions Thursday, Feb 13 2014 

If you are ever invited to a dinner party in France, what you won’t get is a tour of the home. Whether your French hosts’ abode is un appartement en ville (an apartment in town), une maison à la campagne (a house in the country), or une villa au bord de la mer (a house by the sea), you are likely to see only the living room and dining room. No gathering in the kitchen as the meal is being prepared, nor any guided visits of the rest of the house as is often de rigueur (the thing to do) in America. In France, ça ne se fait pas (it just isn’t done).

What you are very likely to experience, at the beginning of the most casual of French meals or at a more formal affair, is a glass of Champagne. The French have figured out that you don’t need a wedding or anniversary or boat baptism to drink the most famous wine in the world. Opening a bottle of Champagne creates a special occasion all its own, transforming an ordinary moment into a festive and memorable event.

Of course, a little bubbly goes beyond the dinner party. When I am in Paris, a must on my social calendar is the refined and intimate Champagne bar at the Hôtel Trocadéro Dokhan’s in the 16th arrondissement. Mood is everything in this cozy space entirely paneled in 18th century gilded boiseries (wood paneling). Tall candles illuminate every table. After a full day of work or visiting friends or taking in art shows or seeking out the latest and greatest in la Capitale (Paris), there is nothing I like better than to sink into one of the deep armchairs and contemplate the special Champagne offerings of the week. Or I let myself be tempted by the regular Champagne menu. As the first Champagne bar in Paris and arguably still the best, Le Dokhan’s Bar pours over 70 varieties of fine Champagne at any given time.

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The ambiance doesn’t stop there. The knowledgeable sommeliers can tell you anything and everything about how Champagne is made. They also can share fascinating details about about the various offerings from the small Champagne houses which are rarely seen in the U.S. And after you have chosen your glass or flight of Champagne, the sommelier then emerges from behind the bar with a dazzling tray of crystal glasses–tulips, coupes, flutes, and goblets of various sizes and shapes. You get to choose your bubbly AND the type of glass you will drink it in. Only in France!

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On a recent visit to Le Dokhan’s, I chose the featured millésime (vintage) Champagne in a violet crystal flute. My good friend Laura decided on the brut Champagne in a tulip. We sipped our sparkling apéritifs while enjoying the warm and salty gougères (gourmet cheese puffs) that are a specialty of the house. It was an instant fête (party).

Here are a few more festive photos of past Champagne moments at Le Dokhan’s…

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If you happen to be in Paris for Valentine’s Day tomorrow, you won’t want to miss the special romantic evening at Le Dokhan’s Bar starting at 6:30pm. For the very first time, they will be offering a duo tasting of the incredible Billecart Salmon Rosé and the rare Amour de Deutz Champagnes. And they will be welcoming Cathy Kelly for some live jazz. The Champagne and jazz evening is 53 euros per person. As always, advance reservations are recommended at Le Dokhan’s.

As you might imagine, Champagne is plentiful in Paris, and it’s easy to opt for a Champagne moment at this special bar or at any café or restaurant. But sometimes those Champagne occasions find you.

One chilly January night in Paris, an American friend and I were walking to dinner at a restaurant in the 7th arrondissement. As we approached la Tour Eiffel, it was bathed in a golden glow courtesy of the 335 spotlights that come on each day at sunset. We took a flurry of photos of the Iron Lady at marvelous angles.

 

Then it just so happened that I paused directly under the center of the Eiffel Tower as the clock struck 8pm. And voilà, the Tower exploded in a vertical shower of twinkling white lights…and so much did those little white lights feel like sparkling bubbles, I suddenly had the sensation of standing inside a glass of Champagne. It was a mystical experience worthy of Dom Perignon.

After that night, for me, the Eiffel Tower lost its “been there, done that” overtouristed patina. It has even re-earned a place on my Paris favorites list. Now all I have to do is tote a bottle of bubbly one evening to that cherished spot and raise a real glass when the sparling lights Champagne moment comes around again.

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NB: LE Champagne is the sparkling wine made in LA Champagne, the province northeast of Paris. Any sparkling wine made outside this region, whether in France or elsewhere in the world, cannot technically be called Champagne. Vintners will sometimes put la méthode champenoise (the Champagne method) on their wine labels to indicate that their sparkling wine made in the same fashion as true Champagne.

A version of this article was first published on May 14, 2008

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

You can find a variety of French Champagnes at your local U.S. wine shops and grocery stores. If you want a French bubbly for Valentine’s Day but without the Champagne prices, you might try a nice sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne or Crémant de Loire. Both Burgundy and the Loire valley produce lovely sparkling wines that are often available in the U.S. - at half the price of typical Champagnes.

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Whatever your choice of sparkling wine, be sure and have a nice toast together French style – make eye contact and wish everyone “Santé” (to your health) or “Tchin-Tchin” (pronounced ‘chin-chin,’ it’s an onomatopoeia intended to mimic the clinking sound glasses make when they touch). In other words, “Cheers!”