Living in the Western suburbs of Paris as we do, we’ve started to become familiar with the Bois de Boulogne. There’s a magnificent new art museum there, Fondation Louis Vuitton, designed by contemporary architect Frank Gehry, with a thought provoking permanent collection, and acoustically pristine performance hall where chamber musicians put on regular performances. The surrounding grounds are the environs of Le Bois with its hiking and running trails, gardens and glens, and mini parcs within Le Parc. One Sunday we rode our bikes from home, downhill, and arrived near Longchamp, the famous horse racing track, within 15 minutes. From there we biked the roads and trails including a car free loop on the road around the track. Very pleasant.
Le Bois is also a convenient way around traffic in Boulogne or the 16th, and we, or our taxi drivers, have used Avenue Longchamp several times as a means to get back to our home. It’s on one of those drives, early on a Saturday evening that we noticed young girls, sitting alone or in groups, dressed like typical teenagers, none of them much older than our oldest daughter, Hana, on the benches that line the drive. We had seen a couple others like this earlier, waiting, illogically, along the inner peripherique near the 18th on the way home from La Villette one day. It finally dawned on us that this was le bois le soir, and these girls were looking for some business.
Paris being the “city of light,” it’s fitting that we have these lightbulb moments, “oh, that’s what that is”. We have also had the luck and joy of some recent moments of light, more literally speaking, that I’ll share with you now.
Last Sunday the city carried out the long planned “Paris sans voiture” event where cars (except for very few taxis and buses) were banned from the center of the city for about 7 hours. Tim and I wandered the streets that day – literally in the middle of the streets – from St. Paul in le Marais, down a silent Rue Rivoli, across the serene Ile de la Cite, down the carefree quays on the left bank of the Seine, through the middle of Place Concorde, and finally into a crush of bicycles down the Champs Elysees. The organizers of the day’s event must have been thrilled at what a beautiful day it turned out to be – as were we – but also at the amazing turnout, and relative calm that came over the city – with everyone walking, smiling, enjoying the quiet and the afternoon light.
Last night Paris and surrounding areas celebrated la Nuit Blanche, literally “white night,” but meaning “sleepless” night. There were performances and art installations from 7pm till 6am in several areas of the city. Adults and children alike were invited to stay up and walk les Parcours and Tangents and enjoy the open museums, galleries, restaurants, and late Metro rides. We were leaving the 12th grade cocktail party for Hana’s class near 11pm and decided it to venture out – we decided to take to the streets in Versailles, some 15 minutes from our house, where there were a dozen open venues celebrating as part of la Nuit Blanche and Versailles’ own Nuit des Creation. We got inside several of the 18th century buildings including the municipal library and architecture schools dating back to the 1750’s and interacted with a couple of very different but delightful light based installations designed for this event.
We finished our evening at 1am dancing to silly music as our images were captured, warped and projected in the courtyard of the old Biblioteque, and the light danced along with us.
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