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Planète Parr

Loud colours, strange patterns and concise narratives are what characterize the photographs of Martin Parr (born in Bristol in 1952).  While some of his images may seem over the top, they are always astonishingly inventive and richly humorous. 

Over the last thirty years, Parr has been documenting Western society, and in particular his fellow citizens of the United Kingdom.  However, he is also interested in phenomena linked to globalization such as mass tourism, consumerism and so-called leisure.  His work is seen as a satirical look at contemporary life which unmasks the grotesque element behind banality.

As a member of the legendary Magnum agency, Parr is one of the most active and dynamic photographers at work today.  Since the 1980s he has published some thirty books and shown his photographs in countless group and solo shows.

Produced in collaboration with the Haus der Kunst in Munich, the exhibition "Planète Parr” proposes a dialogue between the artist’s photographs (his latest series, "Luxury") and his vast collection of objects. It reveals the keenness of Parr’s vision and his fascination with the everyday, and features a mixture of the personal and the collective, with works by recognised artists alongside popular art.

This is the first exhibition to feature not only his extraordinary collection of photography books and prints by British and international photographers, but also large numbers of objects and curiosities closely reflecting political and social events (Saddam Hussein watches, Osama Bin Laden toilet paper and Margaret Thatcher teapots), or the absurdity and vacuity of our consumer society (the objects sought out and collected by Parr are dominated by the biggest packet of potato chips ever sold).


Practical Info:

Exhibit runs from June 30 - September 27, 2009

Tuesday: 12:00 - 21:00
Wednesday - Friday: 12:00 - 19:00
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 - 19:00
Closed Monday

Jeu De Paume                                        Visualize with Googlemaps
1, place de la Concorde                        
Paris, 75008               

Phone: +33 1 47 03 12 50

Metro: Line 1, 8, 12 - Concorde


Ferdinando Scianna Photo Exhibit

for Dolce & Gabbana - 1987Maison Européenne de la Photographie presents a retrospective of Italian photographer Ferdinando Scianna for the first time in France. The exhibition gathers a selection of one hundred twenty photographs taken over a period of 60 years. Many of them have the subjects of numerous books such as Feste Religiose in Sicilia, Marpessa or Mondo Bambino.

Ferdinando Scianna started taking photographs in the 1960s while studying literature, philosophy and art history at the University of Palermo. It was then that he began to photograph the Sicilian people systematically. Feste Religiose in Sicilia (1965) included an essay by the Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia, and it was the first of many collaborations with famous writers.

Scianna moved to Milan in 1966. The following year he started working for the weekly magazine L'Europeo, first as a photographer, then from 1973 as a journalist. He also wrote on politics for Le Monde Diplomatique and on literature and photography for La Quinzaine Littéraire. Approached by Dolce and Gabbana while still unknown, he started with fashion photography in 1987.


 Practical Info:

Maison Européenne de la Photographie              Visualize on Google Maps
5/7 rue de Fourcy
Paris, 75004

Phone: +33 1 44 78 75 00

June 24 - October 11, 2009

Wednesday to Sunday: 11am - 7:45pm
Closed Monday, Tuesday and holidays

Metro: St Paul or Pont Marie


Pink-Nik - Not your classic Paris Picnic

Pink-Nik - Not your classic Paris picnicOne great spot for a picnic is near the Canal Saint Martin, a lesser known area of Paris that is actually a system of locks used for moving barges from the Seine to other parts of Paris and beyond.  It used to be a bit dodgy, but in the last decade has really gentrified with the price of apartments overlooking the water commanding a premium.

As much as I am a fan of the classic French picnic -- a loaf of bread, some cheese and a bottle of wine -- it lacks imagination.  It's also a bit complicated if you are just visiting since you need to find a store to buy a corkscrew and a knife to cut the cheese.  So I was delighted to hear about an enterprising young American in Paris who is offering a delicious alternative.

Pink Flamingo Pizza was founded by Jamie Young and Marie Ravel.  Jamie is from Boston and worked in restaurants from New York to Los Angeles. Marie is a French actress who according to their website found love (presumable with Jamie) and fell into the life of a running a restaurant while discovering a hidden passion within her for pizza.

And once you taste it, you'll be passionate, too.  Just as I am.  There are about a dozen or so choices along with beer and wine.  (Try the Pink Beer, a delicious Belgian beer full of flavor.)  Like most really good pizzerias, it's a bit of a dive but it's full of charm.  Besides, we were talking about how they have revolutionized the classic Paris picnic.

Here's the clever idea.  This location is about a block from the canal and there is ample space there for picnics.  So first you go to the restaurant, order at the counter and then tell them you want to have the pizza delivered.  They will give you a pink helium balloon and you make your way down to the canal to find a comfortable place with a view.

Recently I was there with a few friends.  Our picnic plans were dashed by a unexpected rainstorm so we ordered in.  The crust is classic Italian style, very thin and crispy.  I had a delicious eight-cheese combo with all sorts of stinky French specialties.  Y had the special of the night called "Brangelina" which was fresh fig, Chevre goats cheese and pistachio nuts.  D had "Le Che" with 24hr marinated Cuban pork and plantains.   R, who has an aversion to tomatoes, took "Ghandi" the surprisingly tasty combination of Sag Paneer (Indian spinach puree ), Baba Ganoush (middle eastern roasted eggplant with ground sesame tahini, lemon and garlic) and gooey melted mozzarella cheese.  They other choices I will try next time are the "Bjork" (Smoked Salmon, Lumpfish Caviar and creme fraiche) and "Basquiat" (Fresh figs, gorgonzola and cured ham from Auvergne).  For kids or the un-adventurous there is "Dante" a classic combo of fresh Roma tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh Basil.

So no matter whether you picnic or not, this is the best non-traditional pizza I have found in Paris.  One word of warning, service-wise it's a VERY casual place.  While they will bring you the pizzas piping hot, it's up to you to find utensils, condiments and napkins on your own. (They're next to the cash register.)  One fun nod to the very American way of eating pizza with your hands are the rolling pizza cutters that are mixed in with the silverware.  Of course, my Parisian friends insisted on eating pizza properly with a knife and fork. I jumped at the chance to have slices,  using the cutter and folding my slices in half to eat New York style.  Some habits die hard.

Besides the location in the Tenth Arrondissement, there is one next to a park attached to the Picasso Museum in the Third.  So if you happen to visit the museum, it's a good bet for lunch.  Especially if you are travelling with kids.  If you picnic be sure to stay in the public park next to the museum and not the museum garden itself where a pizza delivery may cause you some trouble with the guards.

Practical Info:

Pink Flamingo Pizza

Opening Hours:

Lunch Noon to 3:00pm Tue-Sat          Dinner 7:00pm to 11:30pm - Tue - Sun (Last orders at 11pm)

Near Canal Saint Martin - 67, rue Bichat 75010                   See on Google Maps

Near Picasso Museum -  105, rue Vielle de Temple 75003   See on Google Maps


Service and Tipping in Paris Restaurants

In a café or most average restaurants, fast, efficient service is not a highly-prized part of the experience. So expect to have to wait more than you’re used too.

When you’re finished eating and are ready for the bill, you MUST ask for it. Its called l’Addition, pronounced “La Di Cee yon,” otherwise you will more than likely wait forever, and get increasingly frustrated. Catching the eye of your server and making the international hand signal for signing the check is also works.

The best way to get a waiter’s attention is to say “S’il vous plait” pronounced “See Voo Play.”  It literally means “if you please” but works more like “excuse me.”  This is the one phrase that will get him or her to turn their head as they rush around a busy crowded restaurant.  Or for the more cynical of you who've been to Paris, get them to look up from whatever they are doing that has nothing to do with serving customers who are waiting.

Why is this the case?  Why are American servers so much more efficient and attentive?  Well, it comes down to the power of money as a motivator.  Servers in France are paid a salary, benefits and get paid vacations.  Tipping is not a part of their pay package.  Since they get paid the same for being slow as fast, there is no reason to make a colossal effort to take your order and bring you a cappuccino quickly and with a smile.  This is a bit of an exaggeration, but gives you a sense of why things feel different.  It's also why French tourists are generally considered the worst tippers in the world and the most delighted with the high quality of service they find with visiting the US.  If you visit Paris, I hope you meet servers that will be an exception to the general rule.

So with that in mind, here's some advice for tipping.  The waiters I know in Paris love Americans and usually fight to wait on them since we always way over tip in comparison to French custom. 

If you have a meal in a café rounding up the bill to the nearest Euro or two is customary. In most other nicer restaurants, unless the service was outstanding, or they were incredibly helpful, one or two Euros per person is fine. At a expensive restaurant, like those with Michelin stars,  5-10 Euros per person is about right. More if you really felt the service was exceptional.

French mealtimes are later too. Lunch is generally at 1pm and dinner at 9pm. If you’re worried that a seemingly great place is empty, check your watch as it’s probably early in the day. When it comes to getting reservations at short notice, this works as an advantage to Americans who generally prefer to eat earlier.

Bon Appetit!



How to find a good Boulangerie in Paris

France has one of the most pervasive food cultures in the world. So it goes without saying that it's one of the best places to find great food, especially in Paris. But it's not always so easy to find places that are truly the "best of the best." For example, in Paris there are often two or three boulangeries in the same small neighborhood. How, you wonder, do they all stay in business?

Well, quite often they specialize in different things. One may be the best at baking bread, another croissants, and finally one who specialized in elegant pastries. Although there are always exceptions.  From time to time I enter a boulangerie in a neighborhood I don't know and nothing looks appetizing. The best thing to do in this case is leave. In France, if food doesn't look good, it rarely is.

To figure out the speciality of the boulangerie in your neighborhood, there's a simple trick. You can usually tell who's who based on what time of day the lines form outside their shop. For example, if you are passing a boulangerie at the end of the day, say Six o'clock, and see a line out the door then it's likely they make the best bread in the neighborhood.  Mornings, especially weekends, then that's the place for croissants.  Desserts, well the ones that look the most carefully made, are usually the best .  After all, Paris is a place where looks do matter.

Parisians hate waiting in line, but they seem to be quite content to wait politely for good bread.  Something they would never do at the Post Office.  There you'll encounter an unruly group of people waiting who are ready to do anything to cut ahead of you in line.  Well, I'll stop there since that's probably best left as the subject of another post.