Paris offers so much to a visitor, it’s hard to choose what to see and do, especially in a short time. Here’s four tips that may help make an evening in the City of Lights all the more memorable.
Spanning many fields including art, photography, creative writing, botany and philosophy, a multi-dimensional exhibition at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art entitled ‘Nous Les Arbres’ focuses on the often overlooked but crucially important role trees play in Life.
As concern rises over the future of the world’s largest forest, the Amazon, this exhibition, which continues until January 5 and is organised along two floors with additional creative outdoor installations, is very timely.
Here you can enjoy varied artistic styles, ranging from hundreds of drawings by Cesare Leonardi and Franca Stagi, Italian architects and designers, of diverse tree specimens, with and without foliage, to French artist, Fabrice Hyber’s depiction of trees he planted in his valley in the Vendee.
This excellent exhibition also features photography including work by Sebastian Mejia from Peru who focuses on the theme of human-tree relationships in urban areas. A video and sound installation by writer and director, Paz Encina from Paraguay plunges viewers into the heart of the Gran Chaco forest, celebrating the tree “as a place of refuge.”
Leading scientists such as Francis Halle and Stefano Mancuso explain how in so many ways trees are more intelligent than humans, having developed better memory capacity and communication systems. Reflecting the innovative nature of the exhibition, Mancuso, a plant neurologist, has co-created with artist Thijs Biersteker an installation entitled ‘Symbiosia,’ blending art and science. Sensors on a horse chestnut and a Turkey oak reveal the trees’ reaction to the environment and pollution in real time, root communication and plant memory. Sculpture is also an aspect of the exhibition with a wall ensemble by Brazilian Afonso Tostes of body parts (ex-voto) carved from wood, a religious tradition of his native folk art. The parts are displayed in churches in gratitude for ‘miracles.’
Don’t forget to wander outside to immerse yourself in images projected on to trees growing around the art gallery accompanied by soothing music.
Based on the 1990 hit movie of the same name starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, ‘Ghost,’ in musical format, has reached the French capital.
Following the same storyline as the original film, this romantic fantasy featuring main characters, Molly and Sam in New York, captures many emotions, at times hilarious, at others deeply sad (tip: bring a few extra tissues). Almost three hours long, this production at the Théâtre Mogador is true value for money featuring a very talented cast.
I was particularly intrigued to see how the producers would deal with ghostly effects and –avoiding a spoiler – I was not disappointed. Aside from Dutch born and trained Moniek Boersma as Molly, Grégory Benchenafi as Sam and Canadian born Philippe Touzel as the nasty Carl, you will also particularly enjoy stand-up comedian Claudia Tagbo, in her musical theater début, playing with panache the reluctant psychic Oda Mae, immortalized in the original movie by Whoopi Goldberg.
Sets and costumes by Mark Bailey and lighting by Nick Richings enhance the drama and there are some excellent choreography dances that enliven the stage.
I must make an admission here which could lead me to be somewhat biased. The theme song ‘Unchained Melody’ was a hit when my mother conceived me. Regardless, the famous pottery-sex scene is still a winner.
An exotic and intimate dimly-lit interior greets one upon entering the spacious Lili Restaurant at the Peninsula Hotel.
Aside from a tall ceiling featuring decorative mouldings of cherubs and a traditional Chinese painting hanging on the wall with a lucky proverb inscribed on it, there’s giant model of the dome of the Temple of Three Mountains Theater in Shanghai in the center of the room. The three mountains in question being Mount Du, Mount Ming and Mount Jing.
Named after a fictional Chinese opera singer in the 1920s, this restaurant offers Cantonese gastronomy in a lavish setting.
Start off your evening with a couple of choice cocktails. We opted for ‘True French Martini’ comprising blanche Armagnac, dolin blanc vermouth, orange saffron bitter and grapefruit, served in a silver teapot, and ‘Confiture du Vieux Garcon’ (amusingly translated as ‘middle-aged man left on the shelf’) featuring Armagnac, umeshu, carpano antica vernouth, Chinese five-spices bitter, French black truffle bitter and cherry brandy.
Originally from Hong Kong, Chef Dicky prepares a comprehensive menu, ranging from a ‘fish tank’ of appetisers such as crab, blue lobster and razor clams, soups including hot and sour and wonton, barbecued meats and a wide range of poultry, vegetarian and other meat dishes, including deep-fried frog legs coated with home-made chili sauce.
We opted for a tasting menu. Assorted steamed dumplings, one with prawn, one with mushroom and vegetables and one with lobster and caviar, followed by duck presented whole, sliced in front of us, with thin, crispy savory skin set aside from the tender breast. Our main meal was the rest of the duck shredded off the bone with pan sautéed bean sprouts and peppers, and rice. Chilli prawns came as an accompaniment. All finished off with a refreshing dessert of mango and grapefruit.
The restaurant benefits from the hotel’s impressive wine cellar, containing more than 450 vintages, mainly but not exclusively, French. Others include Italian, Portuguese and north American. So proud is he of the collection, head sommelier Nicolas Charriere from near Sancerre in the Loire Valley, informed my companion and I that it included a 1908 Countess de Lalande Bordeaux Pauillac, selling for 25,000 euro. A 1982 version goes for 3,500 euro. We passed on the offer. When asked, Nicolas also told us that the oldest wine he has ever drank was a Madeira from – believe it or not – 1792.
Service, from waitress Oceane (28) from Alsace, working here for one year, was both friendly and efficient.
Paris prides itself on risqué performances and there are few more dazzling than ‘Totally Crazy’ at Crazy Horse, a popular venue since 1951 after being established by Alain Bernardin.
A talented all-female dancing troupe combine intricate choreography with mischievously humorous sketches that keep one thrilled for a full ninety minutes. Sitting at comfortable, semi-circular private booths, guests are served drinks including, of course, cold bubbly, or enjoy a full dinner. Organisers say the show is a concentrate of the best of over 65 years of acts that have featured at the venue.
Twenty different dance routines, featuring captivating costumes, range from the titillating ‘Striptease’ to the more light-hearted ‘Good Girl’ and ‘Lolita,’ performed by dancers from ten countries including France, Italy, Canada, Ukraine, England, Spain, Russia and the United States. Technology plays a key part in the on-stage entertainment with lasers creating impressive imagery and stunning, almost surreal, visual effects.
Under the artistic direction of Andrée Deissenberg, and directed by Stéphane Jarny of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ fame, acts have been developed by Philippe Decouflé, Dita Von Teese and Ali Mahdavi and Stéphane Lucas. Christian Louboutin’s ‘Vooodoo’ evokes an African mood while ‘Reine des Cœurs’ by Chantal Thomass is outright playful. Belgian singers, George Bangable and Lolly Wish, maintain an upbeat, pulsating mood between acts. You should emerge from this cabaret highly energised and rarin’ to go.