Friday, May 26, 2017

Paris Windows, Whimsy and Wonder

 Finally, my photos are rolling in and out of their cyber-tunnels as they should be, and now the problem will be sorting through them all and deciding which to share. All as we're getting ready to take the train out of the city tomorrow.  We've had a lovely, busy enough three days walking off our jet lag -- I haven't been getting as much sleep as I need, and my knee has been crankier than I'd like, but we've still managed to see two enjoyable exhibitions in a couple of manageably scaled museums  (the Balenciaga, as I mentioned earlier, in the Musée Bourdelle, and Alicia Kolpowitz's gorgeous collection of paintings and sculpture, exhibited in the sumptuous Musée Jacquemart-Andre.
 As always, though, I find just as much stimulation in the city's shop windows, even though we've confined ourselves to three arrondissements, for the most part, with a tiptoe into an adjoining one or two. Within a kilometre or so from our hotel, for example. . . .
 These whimsical windows in a millinery shop in St. Germain -- which I couldn't help but think of the next day when we saw that Balenciaga hat I showed you the other day.
 I mean, who doesn't want a sweet little bird nesting on one's head?

Not so sure where this giant millinery ant wants to nest, but while I wouldn't want him at my picnic. . . .

 he's rather impressive, no?
If you're curious about the prices on that list you can glimpse underneath Mr. Ant's nether parts, they range from 350 to 600 or 800 Euros, if I remember correctly. Better just too look then, if your budget's anything like mine. Window-shopping's free, after all!

 It might be free, but I suspect that window-dressing provides employment for many artists and artisans, and it seems to me to feed a marvellous cycle of art's inspiration and realisation that permeates Paris at so many levels.

The earthy levels of our aardvark, for example (and I suppose that Ant, a few doors away, might be twitching antennae nervously and scurrying back to its hill, away from hungry anteaters).

Sometimes, it's the transformation of the most ordinary materials into surprising shapes and possibilities that delights me. Corrugated cardboard, for example, abracadabra'd with scissors and glue. . .

 Okay, yes, I might have been distracted from the cardboard sculpture by these tempting espadrilles. . .

and perhaps even made a note of the price list  . . .
 and a reminder of the shop I'd seen them in (Cotélac, and don't you love that whimsical graphic, which they've printed on a fabulous white top? Resisted, so far. Window-shopping's free, remember?)
 A few blocks away, the windows of the Bon Marché also use strong graphics and simple materials to wonderful effect. Truth be told, I'm a bit leery of this commercial recourse to endangered species, these supposedly consciousness-raising campaigns used in service of a consumerism that might itself be indicted in that endangerment.

 But when I get down from the soapbox, I nonetheless enjoy the whimsy, although I suspect it does little for the gorillas....
 As I say, I have oodles more Paris photos to share with you, and a few anecdotes as well, but we have to get out into a sultry Paris evening and figure out some dinner, get ourselves to a bridge for a 10 p.m. twinkling of Mme. Eiffel's lights, and then stuff everything back into our cases for a day on the train tomorrow.

So I'll leave you with one last window dressed with unconventional materials -- in this case, computer cables in a variety of colours, cleverly complementing a Vitrine full of luxury goods (the cynic in me pipes up about the sustainability of our cabled world and whether that might have anything to do with our vanishing gorillas a few windows away, but she shrugs a realistic/resigned shrug and chooses to be consoled with beauty or ingenuity or mere distraction, perhaps -- And perhaps raised consciousness, tickled by art, can make meaningful change. And what did cynicism ever do for her anyway?)

All that inner muttering aside, I must say I'm quite pleased with this image, the early morning City reflected in the glass . . . .

I'll leave you with that, shall I, and totter off for a Kir somewhere in the day's waning sunshine. When next I write to you, I'll be in a different city. I suspect there will be wonderful windows there as well. À bientôt!

And I'm sorry I'm not finding time to respond to your lovely comments, but I've decided I'm going to enjoy reading them -- and please, please do keep them coming! -- but not feel guilty if I don't answer. Time with Pater is the priority for now, quite honestly, as much as we both appreciate your huge contribution to this blog. I hope (indeed, knowing your generosity, I'm quite sure) you'll understand if I take this break from my normal efforts to answer each and every response individually.


  1. I hope you do take a break! And we will enjoy your photos. These windows are little works of art - love the wit in them.

  2. I loved the shop windows (especially the corrugated cardboard sculptures), but I also enjoyed your "cynical" comments as I share most of your doubts.
    The pretty espadrilles remind me that within the last month I bought three pairs of sneakers with colourful patterns you wouldn't expect on an old teacher's feet. All three of them were second hand which is my personal way of attempting to reconcile attacks of consumerism with sustainability. But I might give in to a top with the lady riding the leopard (instead of a tiger)...

  3. I really enjoy the 6th for window shopping. I love the hats!

  4. Oh! Oh! Oh! I love these photos. These windows. These reflections -- yours and the city's. Thank you so much.

  5. Take a break! You're extremely generous. Loving all your writing and photo's . Thank you, thank you! Yay for window shopping!

  6. First time commenter here, I thought it was time to say hello and thank you for your wonderful writing. I have just returned home to Scotland after a beautiful four days in sunny Paris with my husband. Thank you so much for your very timely recommendation to see the Balenciaga exhibition at the Antoine Bourdelle museum. We have visited Paris many times before and this time decided to explore quieter galleries and museums, mostly places we had never been before. I realised when I read your last blog that the Musee Bourdelle was less than a ten minute walk from our hotel and we went there on Thursday afternoon - definitely worth a visit! Enjoy the rest of your trip and of course you should take a break from your usual practice of writing beautifully crafted responses. Wilma D

    1. Wilma, I know I'm very late responding, but I hope you see this -- I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and that you added your first comment here -- Welcome! -- and I'm delighted that my prompt got you to the Bourdelle for the Balenciaga!

  7. What lovely windows. Making me sad I won't get to Paris this summer.

    Côtélac has the best prints! (Except when they occasionally veer off into sketchy neo-colonial primitivism, as they did last year.)

    1. Ouch, wincing in sympathy -- I've seen a few companies do this and wonder what they're thinking. or not!
      Hope you don't have to wait too long before you get to Paris again.

  8. My favorite part of any trip is the time I spend wandering an unfamiliar area. "Treasures" are usually found around unexpected corners. I feel quite motivated to plan my upcoming trip!

  9. Hello Frances - I am reading your blog all out of sequence and jumped to this post as was feeling a bit nostalgic for my old life working for a French company, which although not a perfect job by any means, did have the odd work travel perk. I am pretty sure I have some similar pictures taken one evening when I was staying in central Paris ahead of an early meeting.
    I loved the window art and I just assumed it was more evidence of Parisienne elan than artists - but I was listening to a podcast recently and from that learned that artists in France are very well looked after in terms of support from the government and how the can claim benefits, tax breaks etc- allowing them to focus on art over taking rubbish jobs to make ends meet.
    This would make it easier for small shopkeepers to commission artists to create their window displays - or maybe they just take their marketing and selling more seriously than in UK and in Paris at least there are still some examples of individuality in retail- I would like to think so.
    Very interesting for the window shopper and and effective as it has made us both stop and examine the window - even if we cant always stretch to the purchase.
    My own photos are much in need of cataloguing - I have so many and on devices and clouds - its a daunting task to embark upon, but I will try and find my own Paris observations .
    I am enjoying reading of your latest travels mostly via Instagram prompts.
    In other real life news I met up with Linda ( Occasional Scotland) yesterday and we had a good catch up- and spoke again about how we hope to meet you some time ( IRL ) - Edinburgh maybe needs to be added to your next itinerary

    1. Thanks, Margaret, for this info about French government support for artists. It's what I've suspected, based on the art evident in so many windows. And I agree with you that it's arrested this window shopper more than once, to the point of at least totting up the numbers before walking away with a sad sigh ;-)
      I do keep Edinburgh in mind for a future visit, and I think it will happen before too long. . . Last visit there was a day trip in 1984, with two Littles, my husband, and an aunt who (I realise with some surprise) was about my age).


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