Monday, October 27, 2014

Fondation Louis Vuitton - Frank Gehry's inspirational Parisian landmark

Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris

As a sailor, I imagined great sails that seem to move. They will be reflected in the surface of the pond, over which the building will sit. Since it is not possible to present artwork on glass walls, we built a building within the building for the galleries. There will then be the magical effect of a double skin, which I hope will make the building quite fascinating. -Frank Gehry

Not only is Frank Gehry's architectural masterpiece quite fascinating, the newly opened Fondation Louis Vuitton provokes an entire range of adjectives. Engaging, amusing and awe-inspiring are some of the descriptions that swirled around in my mind as I explored the building during the pre-opening on Friday.

The view of La Défense from one of the decks of the Fondation Louis Vuitton

Admittedly, aerial photos of the billowing building taken during its construction had me convinced that the structure more closely resembled an exploded mattress than a sailboat. I wasn't a fan. It was only when I saw the luminous structure from the second floor of the Eiffel Tower that I began to understand Gehry's vision. From afar, the luminous building appears to be majestically navigating its way through the tree line of the Bois de Boulogne. The modern skyscrapers of La Défense, the major business district of Paris, provide a stunning backdrop for its 12 silver, glass and aluminum sails.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

The contemporary art museum, which officially opened today, is even more captivating once you're inside. Visitors are encouraged to explore, get lost and wander from the 11 indoor galleries to the numerous outdoor terraces.

Olafur Eliasson's Grotto, a monumental installation composed of forty-three triangular columns of various widths, produces an intriguing challenge for visitors wishing to capture the experience on film. I could have happily spent a couple of hours snapping pictures of the reflecting pool and the mosaics created by the yellow glass but there were still five more floors to visit.

Olafur Eliasson's Grotto

At a reported cost of 107 million euros, construction of the private museum has taken more than six years. Taryn Simon's A Polite Fiction, which comes with a warning that certain elements may shock the young public, reveals secrets hidden in the walls of Frank Gehry's architectural masterpiece by those who built it. In 2013, the artist started interviewing various tradesman who confessed that they had left a pack of Marlboro Lights with one cigarette, a used condom or a ham and cheese sandwich behind the drywall. Their stories provide an amusing yet compelling anthropological study of some of the people involved in this exceptional adventure.

Taryn Simon's A Polite Fiction

Gazing at the Eiffel Tower perfectly framed by the building's glass sails, my niece revealed how humbled she felt by Gehry's design. A newly graduated architect, Charline said that while she is passionate about her profession, she realizes that there are very few people who have the ability to turn a flurry of sketches produced during an 11-hour flight to California into such a unique architectural experience. Yet, if any building can inspire dreams, it's Frank Gehry's Fondation Louis Vuitton.

8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi 
75116 Paris
Open every day from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Friday late-night opening until 11:00 pm.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cheers! Here's to Grégory Hazac's cocktail class at the Four Seasons Hotel George V

Ready to shake and stir at Grégory Hazac's Cocktail Class. Four Seasons Hotel George V

The Four Seasons Hotel George V is shaking up something special for its guests, a cocktail class animated by head barman Grégory Hazac. The recipe is simple. Take a Friday evening in Paris, add a talented mixologist with a big twist of charisma and fill the shaker with a group of enthusiastic cocktail aficionados. The result is a convivial way to start the weekend.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to join the group and discover some of Grégory's secrets. With a charming twinkle in his eye, the 31 year old "Artisan Barman" said that we would start with "Go Green", Le Bar's refreshing non-alcoholic best-seller. Muddling the fragrant basil leaves, Thai lemon grass and lime juice wasn't a problem, especially since all of the ingredients were conveniently within arm's reach. Manipulating the jigger with finesse was a different story. Grégory's movements were fluid and precise. Mine were hesitant and awkward. Nonetheless, I managed to redeem myself by garnishing the drink with a sprig of mint leaves and roses petals like a pro. It was only later in the evening that I noticed I had completely forgotten a key ingredient -- the sliced cucumbers!

Here's a video of Grégory in action!

During the next hour, Grégory showed us how to correctly hold a shaker, determine the exact moment to pour a drink so it isn't watered down and artistically decorate our cocktails. Popularized by Sex in the City's Carrie Bradshaw, the perfectly balanced Cosmo was my favorite. The Negroni, flavored with an assortment of bitters, appealed to all of the men.

It's another Friday night in Paris - time for me to put into practice what I learned last week. But, on second thought, maybe I'll just go to the Le Bar at the George V. After all, Grégory's the real expert!

This cocktail course is graciously offered to guests staying at the hotel dining at Le Cinq or the Bars. The next dates are November 7 and December 5. To reserve this Four Seasons George V experience, please contact the concierge at 01 49 52 71 07.

Related posts:
An exclusive Parisian experience: a floral arrangement class with Jeff Leatham at the Four Seasons George V
Market visits with Michelin-rated Chef Eric Briffard - one more reason to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel George V

My Negroni, Go Green and Cosmopolitan: the three drinks Grégory taught us to make at the Four Seasons George V.
Grégory making a Go Green, the best-selling cocktail at the George V.
The mixology classroom was located in one of the George V's elegant salons.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Context Travel: City Invented, Haussmann and the Making of Modern Paris

Avenue de l'Opéra, a product of Baron Haussmann's renovation of Paris

What makes Paris one of the most beautiful cities in the world? Is it the cobblestoned streets of Montmartre, the bridges traversing the Seine River or the city's wide boulevards lined with harmonious buildings?

If you're as intrigued by this question as I have been during the past three years, join one of Context Travel's "City Invented, Haussmann and the Making of Modern Paris" walks. For intellectually curious travelers wanting to delve deeper into a subject, the appeal of Context Travel's tours, or "walking seminars", is that they're all led by Ph.D or MA level art historians, architects, scholars or specialists.

Last week, I rendezvoused with docent Caroline Rossiter, an art historian whose thesis at the Sorbonne was on popular imagery and caricature in Revolutionary and Napoleonic Paris, and a friendly couple from Michigan. Our first stop on the three hour walk was the main courtyard of the Louvre. I.M. Pei's "some-love it, some-hate it" glass pyramid served as the perfect backdrop for Caroline's engaging discourse on urban planning and Paris' penchant for merging the new with the old. Photos and maps displayed on Caroline's iPad enabled us to envision the Louvre's successive architectural metamorphoses.

Galerie Vivienne, built in 1823, has been a registered historic monument since 1974.

From the Louvre, we meandered through the Palais Royal, the city's first shopping and entertainment complex, before making our way to the Galerie Vivienne and Passage des Panoramas covered shopping arcades. Built between 1790 and 1850, these architectural gems are visual reminders of why Baron Haussmann continues to be such a controversial figure. The "demolition artist", as Haussmann proudly referred to himself, destroyed most of the city's other arcades in the name of progress.

Palais Garnier Opera House

For those who haven't yet visited the Palais Garnier Opera House, this gilded masterpiece of Second Empire urbanism is undoubtedly the highlight of the walk. In between answering our numerous questions and pointing out architectural details, such as the thirty different types of marble used in the foyer with the grand staircase, Caroline recounted anecdotes about the building's construction and life during Napoleon III's regime.

Currently in 25 cities around the world, Context Travel's walking seminars are designed to ignite people's passions for history and culture. Baguette to Bistro: Culinary Traditions of Paris, Immigration and the Changing Face of Paris and Le Jazz Hot, An American Art Form in Paris are a few of the options available in Paris. All of the walks are limited to a maximum of six people.

Context Travel has graciously offered a discount of 5% to Out and About in Paris' readers. To book a tour at the reduced rate, simply click here for an automatic reduction or mention Out and About in the trip notes. Please note that you'll only see the automatic reduction when you're ready to check out.

Avenue de l'Opéra Morning Sunshine by Camille Pissarro

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Eiffel Tower illuminated in pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

Eiffel Tower illuminated in rosy hues with a pink ribbon projected on the first floor

For the first time in history, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated in pink. After the Grand Palais, Palais Garnier and the Conciergerie, it was the majestic "Iron Lady's" turn to shine a light on Breast Cancer Awareness.

(L-R) Pauline Delpech, Marie Gillain, Henk Van Der Mark, Anne Hidalgo, Elsa Zylberstein and Marielle Fournier attend the "Octobre Rose" Eiffel Tower illumination hosted by Estée Lauder

At approximately 8:30 pm, a hush fell over the crowd as the base of one of the world's most famous monuments turned a rosy hue last night. Within minutes, the color had spread upwards until it reached the very top. Not even the waxing moon could compete with the tower's glory.

Paris' mayor Anne Hidalgo was joined by Henk Van Der Mark, president of Estée Lauder France. The cosmetic company's Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign, "Hear our stories. Share yours.," is designed to create a global community of strength and support through digital storytelling. The 2014 BCA Campaign comes to life through the inspirational stories of brave women and men who have faced breast cancer and the loved ones who supported them throughout the experience. People around the world are invited to visit to hear these powerful stories, find strength in their common experiences, share their own stories and join the fight against breast cancer by making a donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).

During the month of October, other notable landmarks including the Empire State Building, the Colosseum in Rome, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai and The Peninsula in Hong Kong and Paris will be illuminated in pink.

Please click here to see more photos of the pink Eiffel Tower and The Peninsula Paris.

The Eiffel Tower illuminated in pink for Breast Health Awareness

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tommy Hilfiger, Dailey Method Paris and Naomi Watts team up to support Breast Health International

Naomi Watts and Tommy Hilfiger for Breast Health International: Introducing the 2015 Limited Edition Handbag

This evening, for the very first time in history, the Eiffel Tower will be illuminated in pink lights. The reason? The city of Paris wants to show its support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Likewise, when I venture out to take photos of the rosy-hued monument, I'll be toting my new Tommy Hilfiger handbag with pride. For the past eight years, Tommy Hilfiger has designed a limited-edition handbag to build awareness, raise funds and make a positive impact on the lives of women around the world who are affected by breast cancer.

The bag retails for €299, with €100 of each sale going directly to Breast Health International's (BHI) Fund for Living, an initiative established to cover costs associated with a breast cancer diagnosis but not covered by insurance, like travel costs and child care. The bag, which is available in Tommy Hilfiger stores during the month of October, is also intended to bring awareness to breast health and breast check-ups.

Kelly Dailey Vinoche (front row) leading an energizing Dailey Method class

In collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger, the Dailey Method Paris is offering free "Dailey Donate" classes at their lovely exercise studio in the 16th arrondissement. The classes, which effectively strengthen, tone and lengthen the entire body, are a great way to stay in shape and support women in France who have breast cancer. 100% of the donations go to Breast Health International. 

After participating in an invigorating Dailey Method class with Susan Schwartz, Director of International Development & Communications of Breast Health International, on Sunday evening, I had the opportunity to learn more about BHI's Fund for Living. As Susan explained, "It can be exhausting for a patient to take two buses and a subway home after treatment or difficult to arrange care for a sick child – especially while the patient herself is going through chemotherapy. Costs of taxis, babysitters, etc., are not usually covered by health insurance, but access to these resources can make the difference between missing appointments and being treated appropriately."

Susan Schwartz of Breast Health International and Naomi Watts with Tommy Hilfiger's Limited Edition handbag.

Monday, October 6, 2014

La Cristal Room Baccarat - One of the most romantic restaurants in Paris

La Cristal Room Baccarat

Imagine a room with sparkling crystal chandeliers, white linen tablecloths, exposed brick walls, intimate lighting and a playful oversized chalkboard. French designer Philippe Starck has transformed the former dining room of art patron Marie-Laure de Noailles' sumptuous townhouse into one of the most romantic restaurants in Paris.

A table for two at La Cristal Room Baccarat

La Cristal Room Baccarat, located on the first floor of the Baccarat Museum in the 16th arrondissement, is also one of my favorite places to take friends for lunch. Heidi from Switzerland and Carolyn and Kathi from Boston have all succumbed to the charm of sipping wine out of iconic Harcourt 1841 stemware, the oldest in the Baccarat archives, while savoring the culinary stylings of Michelin-starred chef Guy Martin and Adrien Manac’h.

Enticed by the Cristal Room's new autumn menu, I was pleased when Élodie agreed to take a break from her busy job at the Paris Visitors Bureau to join me for a leisurely lunch. After careful deliberation and a couple of consultations with our charming waitress, I finally decided on the smoked eel with leek foam and a quail egg for my starter. From the moment that I took my first bite, Elodie's news about the Christmas illuminations on the Champs-Elysées and the ice-skating rink on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower during the holidays was eclipsed by the exquisite combination of flavors in my mouth.

My starter: smoked eel with leek foam and a quail egg

By the time that our main courses arrived, Élodie and I had abandoned any pretext of talking about upcoming events in Paris. The "City of Light" was overshadowed by my roasted pork loin and braised cheek served with mushrooms and Bak Choy and Élodie's saddle of lamb, carrots purée with cumin, dates and lime juice. Our desserts, pear soufflé with Williamine sorbet and Black Forest cream cake with Manjari chocolate sorbet, proved to be equally enticing.

Insider's tips: After lunch, be sure to visit the Baccarat Museum. The entrance price is waived when you dine at the Cristal Room. If you ask, they'll switch the language of the film shown in the first room of the museum to English. It showcases the steps involved in making Baccarat crystal.

Before you leave, take a look at the Baccarat boutique on the ground floor. It's magnificently decorated for the holiday season.

Baccarat is celebrating its 250th anniversary with Crystal Legend, an exhibition at the Petit Palais. Masterpieces of the world’s most celebrated crystal maker will be on display in the Grandes Galeries from October 15, 2014 until January 4, 2015.

Cristal Room Baccarat
11, place des Etats-Unis
75116 Paris
Métro Boissière
Tél : 01 40 22 11 10
Open from Monday to Saturday with valet parking for lunch (12:00 to 2:00 pm) and dinner (7:30-10:00 pm).

Please click here to see all of the photos from Élodie's and my lunch at the Cristal Room Baccarat.

Pear soufflé with Williamine sorbet
With its satin walls and black crystal chandelier, the private Salon Rose is much in demand.