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Paris: Exploring Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Donning faux fur, let’s channel our inner-La Salle and explore Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (Photo by T. Brack)

First Stop: Marrons grilles! My Treat! (Votre Amie Marie France, January 1948, Magazine, T. Brack’s archives)

First Stop: Marrons grilles! My Treat! (Votre Amie Marie France, January 1948, Magazine, T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora “La Salle” Brack

Ernest Hemingway once said, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus, you remember them as they actually are.”

But that goes double for traveling by foot, especially at my favorite sacred stomping ground, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont—the hilliest, and perhaps most weirdly “scenic” park in Paris.

This week, I’d like to take you along for the excursion, so grab my hand. Let’s take a restorative, explorative stroll, shall we? Donning head-to-toe faux fur, get ready to channel your inner-surrealist.

It’s time to rumble!

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Designed in 1867 by Emperor Napoleon III, engineer Jean-Charles Alphand, and horticulturist Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps, this floral showstopper with its mountain-village vibe opened with razzle-dazzle during the launch of the Paris Universal Exposition.

This park has everything: As we make our way along its narrow winding paths, prepare to be bug-eyed at sights ranging from caverns complete with waterfalls and faux stalactites, to a lake fashioned from a former gypsum quarry surrounding a craggy island topped with a neo-Roman temple, reached by a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel himself.

Île de la Belvédère and Temple de la Sibylle, inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Italy (Photo by T. Brack)

Île de la Belvédère and Temple de la Sibylle, inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Italy (Photo by T. Brack)

Take me back, back, back

As we roll along listening to the waterfalls and cooing rendezvouses, keep watch for the spirits of surrealists André Breton and Louis Aragon. They were known to have fancied Butte-Chaumont’s poetic, dreamlike vibe above all other Parisian parks. They loved reveling in its artificial ruins after dark, with the ghostly Sacré Coeur looming in full view.

“A mirage! An oasis in the city!” they wrote. Still true today, here is where I often find transformative peace.

And that’s what you want in a trippy expedition: A new way of seeing things!

Tip: On sunny days, bring a picnic—no finer spots for dejeuner sur l’herbe can be found in the city. When the weather outside is frightful, get punchy indoors with the 202-year-old puppet Guignol and his rowdy entourage at the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont’s Théâtre Guignol Anatole. Before moving to this park in 1867, the same theater worked the crowds into laughing frenzies over on the Champs Élysées.

Happy Holidays!

“A mirage! An oasis in the city!” they wrote

Keep your peepers peeled for the spirits of the surrealists! (Photo by T. Brack)

Don’t jump! Le Pont de Briques (a.k.a., Suicide Bridge) A mesh netting now keeps daredevils and jumpers safely at bay (Photo by T. Brack)

Don’t jump! Le Pont de Briques (a.k.a., Suicide Bridge) A mesh netting now keeps daredevils and jumpers safely at bay (Photo by T. Brack)

Reflecting on Pont Suspendu designed by Gustave Eiffel! Yes, it is a small world! (Photo by T. Brack)

Reflecting on Pont Suspendu designed by Gustave Eiffel! Yes, it is a small world! (Photo by T. Brack)

Gotcha: The petite cascade with crafty handcrafted cement handrail (Photo by T. Brack)

Gotcha: The petite cascade with crafty handcrafted cement handrail (Photo by T. Brack)

Another shot of the petite cascade because, because one is never, ever enough (Photo by T. Brack)

Another shot of the petite cascade because, because one is never, ever enough (Photo by T. Brack)

Blurry shot of waterfalls under construction! (Shaky camera work because of spirit spotting!)

Soft shot of waterfalls in the grotto while under reconstruction! (Shaky camera work because of spirit spotting!)

Go tell it on the mountain: Now, let's trek it up to the Île de la Belvédère and Temple de la Sibylle (Photo by T. Brack

Go tell it on the mountain: Now, let’s trek it up to the Île de la Belvédère and Temple de la Sibylle (Photo by T. Brack)

Bonjour! Another spirited fashion plate spotted on the path of glory (T. Brack’s archives)

Bonjour! Another spirited fashion plate spotted on the path of glory (T. Brack’s archives)

Keep on moving! A rain shower is approaching! (Photo by T. Brack)

Keep on moving! A rain shower is approaching! (Photo by T. Brack)

Following suit, headed to the Temple de la Sibylle (Photo by T. Brack)

Hold on to the cement railing! Headed to the Temple de la Sibylle (Photo by T. Brack)

Detail shot: Gabriel Davioud's crafty handcrafted handrail made of concrete (Photo by T. Brack)

Detail shot: Gabriel Davioud’s crafty handcrafted handrail made of concrete (Photo by T. Brack)

We made it! However, love wasn't always in the air up here at the Temple de la Sibylle, former site of gallows (Photo by T. Brack)

We made it! However, love wasn’t always in the air up here at the Temple de la Sibylle, former site of the city gallows (Photo by T. Brack)

Now, let's take a self-portrait break at one of the many "faux bois" styled rain shelters! (Photo by T. Brack)

Now, let’s take a self-portrait break at one of the many “faux bois” styled rain shelters! (Photo by T. Brack)

Before leaving the park, let's get punchy with the 202-year-old puppet Guignol and his rowdy entourage at Théâtre Guignol Anatole (Photo by T. Brack)

Before leaving the park, let’s get punchy with the 202-year-old puppet Guignol and his rowdy entourage at Théâtre Guignol Anatole (Photo by T. Brack)

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Paris Tips: Soaring with Dalida in Montmartre

Let's meet at Place du Tertre in Montmartre, and then pay homage to pop star Dalida (Photo by T. Brack)

Let’s meet at Place du Tertre in Montmartre, and then pay homage to pop star Dalida (Photo by T. Brack)

(If you are an Instagram devotee, please leave a link below.)

By Theadora “Dancing Queen” Brack

Whenever my mood is in need of a reboot or an overhaul, I hoof it on over to Dalida. Because energy flows where obsession goes, my tête-à-tête with the high-spirited pop idol extraordinaire does the trick each and every time—especially during the fall season. With the trees boasting 24-karat autumnal hues, the blues completely vanish.

This week, I’ll take you along with me on this restorative glide. ’Tis the season!

Dalida and the trees boasting 24-karat magic in the Cimetière de Montmartre, sculpture by pinup artist Alain Aslan (Photo by T. Brack)

Dalida and the trees boasting 24-karat magic in the Cimetière de Montmartre, sculpture by pinup artist Alain Aslan (Photo by T. Brack)

(more…)

Paris: Unboxing Victorine’s Fashion Haul

Let's Rendezvous with Victorine at Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris (The Railway, Édouard Manet, 1873, National Gallery of Art)

Let’s Rendezvous with Victorine at Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris (The Railway, Édouard Manet, 1873, National Gallery of Art)

Hello guys! I’m Victorine-Louise Meurent: Artist. Model. Musician. Singer. Tutor. Paris Lifestyle Blogger. Welcome back to my back-to-the-future sartorial site, dear fellow time trekkers.

This week, I’d like to share my recent clothing haul from Zara at the Passage du Havre, kitty corner from the Gare Saint-Lazare. Actually, there are now four Zara shops in the Opéra ’hood, ideal for shop-hopping. Some call it crazy luck. I call it heaven. Seriously, this is how this busy “V to the L-O” gets it done during the big summer sales.

Built in 1845, the Passage du Havre was given a supreme makeover during the 1990s (Photo by T. Brack)

Built in 1845, the Passage du Havre was given a supreme makeover during the 1990s (Photo by T. Brack)

(more…)

Paris: Hotfooting to the Moulin Rouge

Celebrating World Theater Day, let’s hoof it on over to the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre (GIF Image: Theadora Brack)

Celebrating World Theater Day, let’s hoof it on over to the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre (Image: Theadora Brack)

By Theadora “Twinkle Toes” Brack

Embracing restorative #summertimegoals, let’s revel in some retro merrymaking, shall we? For the occasion, we’ll hoof on over to the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre. Up my sleeve, I’ve got some new postcards, illustrations, and scrapbook clippings, along with a swell cinema-related tale about the venerable dance hall.

But first, let’s also salute the recent World Theatre Day! Created in 1961, writer Jean Cocteau wrote the International Theatre Institute’s first message: “Nations, thanks to these World Theatre Days, will at last become aware of each other’s treasures, and will work together in the high enterprise of peace.”

I completely agree. It’s what the world still needs.

Now, let’s do an old school prance back in time. Step by step, I’m with you. (more…)

Paris Roars: Latest Fashion Rage

Latest Paris Fashion Trend: Cats wear custom-made hats, Abbesses-Montmartre (Photo by T. Brack)

Latest Paris Fashion Trend: Cats wear custom-made hats, Abbesses-Montmartre (Photo by T. Brack)

This just in, from the streets of Paris.

Cats have ousted dogs in the affections of French women.

Whereas, in the past it was considered fashionable for your typical Parisienne to promenade the boulevards with a little dog sporting a neat, tight-fitting coat, today this same Parisienne is often out with her cat of priceless value.

But cats do not wear coats. They wear specifically-fitted and made hats.

Below the Sacré Coeur, up at Montmartre, there lives a hatter. In his shop window, he has an exhibition of the tiniest hats ever seen in France. (more…)

Paris: Let’s Drop in on Galeries Lafayette

View of the Opera and the Eiffel Tower from Galeries Lafayette's rooftop (Photo by Wendy Brack-Fritz)

View of the Opera and the Eiffel Tower from Galeries Lafayette’s rooftop (Photo by Wendy Brack-Fritz)

By Theadora Brack

Paris is no longer Paris? Au contraire! The City of Light is still a special place, a very human place, and a place for the whole world to cherish. And as this world turns, I think yes, the city changes a little—but then again, it always has. After all, that’s what made it what it is today.

So in celebration of international friendships and robust innovation, let’s ride the escalators up to the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette. Located on Boulevard Haussmann, here my inner-lion never, ever fails to roar after a soda pop and some tête-à-tête action with WWI pilot, Jules Védrines.

Grab your goggles and tweed knickerbockers, and follow me. I’ve got a story to tell. (more…)

Paris: Meet the Pusses at the Puces

Lend me your whiskers and pointy ears! (Photo by T. Brack)

Lend me your whiskers and pointy ears! (Photo by T. Brack)

Flying sky high on a lark (Elle magazine, 1954, T. Brack’s collection)

Flying sky high on a lark (Elle magazine, 1954, T. Brack’s collection)

By Theadora Brack

Lend me your whiskers and pointy ears.

Flying sky high on a lark, I knock. Grab a perch because I’ve got a feathered tale to tell. A great ball of yarn to re-wind, so to squeak! Ever since watching Walt Disney’s “The Aristocats” movie at the age of nine on the family television set, I’ve been obsessed with France and les chats domestiques. There. Full fur confession.

Set in Paris, the cartoon flick was a life changer. Not only did I yearn to be the rhinestone-laden, Parisian glamour puss (a.k.a., “Duchess”), but I also fancied running away with her swashbuckling, orange tabby beau, the flamboyant prince of the boulevard, “Abraham de Lacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley—O’Malley, the alley cat.”

Oh, c’est très jolie, monsieur Thomas!” I’d purr again and again at my reflection in the mirror, channeling my inner-Duchess.

And now, I see cats. I see cats in Paris. All the time! Where? Where? They’re everywhere! Heck, once, during a winter tempest, I rescued a teeny, tiny tortoiseshell cat found trembling on the wet cobblestones outside the Grand Hotel de Clermont, just a fur ball’s throw from where Édith Piaf made one of her legendary busking debuts in Pigalle. Kitty was coming home with me. (more…)

Paris: Calling All Instagram Buffs

L'acteur grec by Baron Charles-Arthur Bourgeois, 1868, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris (Photo by Theadora Brack)

L’acteur grec by Baron Charles-Arthur Bourgeois, 1868, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Allo! C'est Moi! (Elle Magazine, 1955, T. Brack's archives)

Allo! C’est Moi! (Elle Magazine, 1955, T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

Juggling social media platforms like a smooth operator (if I squint), I’ve recently added Instagram to my grapevine repertoire.

That’s right. During the month of November, I created a short stack of photographs of Paris—a baker’s dozen, to be exact! Pirouetting straight to the point: I am hooked. So stay tuned for more images.

In the meantime, if you are a fellow Instagram fan or fanatic, please leave a link to your Instagram portfolio below.

Always keeping my peepers peeled for inspiration, I’d love to pay a visit.

As Henry Miller once penned, “The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

I completely agree.

In advance, thanks for sharing your own indescribably magnificent world, too—through your art!

So carpe the diem, folks! Keep on snapping! (more…)

Paris: A Saintly Tour de Force

A Saintly Tour de Force: Let’s go rustle up some spirits in another dimension (Image: T. Brack's archives)

A Saintly Tour de Force: Let’s go rustle up some spirits in another dimension (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

(Elle Magazine, 1952, T. Brack's collection)

(Elle Magazine, 1952, T. Brack’s collection)

By Theadora Brack

Paging all saints and old souls: Snuggle tight because it is time to crack open my pleather-bound volume of spirited adventures in Paris for another retelling. ’Tis the season! For tricks, I’ve added new photographs and one divine tale, too. I’ve also got the wine and a tongue-twisting tarte aux pommes—all à la Julia Child ode.

Now, let’s go raise some spirits.

1. Saint Vincent de Paul

Whenever my mood needs a boost, I make a beeline to the Chapel of the Lazarists, tucked behind the Bon Marché department store on rue de Sèvres. It does the trick each and every time. Never looking more beautiful, here Saint Vincent de Paul hovers over the altar. Sprightly, lightly tiptoe up the tight flight of stairs in the back of the sanctuary for a closer view of the reposed gent and patron saint of horses.

Keeping it real

Ordained as a priest in 1600, Saint Vincent not only championed the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, but he also encouraged them to work together on charity missions financed by public subscriptions (much like today’s Kickstarter funding schemes). Fully embracing crowdsourcing on the streets, the ahead-of-the-curve saint fundraised for prisons, orphanages, and hospitals. Nobody got left behind. (more…)

Paris Beauty Tips: The Fresh Air Edition

Never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned Air Bath, Aristide Maillol's l’Air, Tuileries (Photograph by T. Brack)

Never underestimate the power of an Air Bath, Aristide Maillol’s l’Air, Tuileries (Photograph by T. Brack)

I’m not the only believer in the benefits of a bain d'air (Elle, 1951, T. Brack's archives)

I’m not the only believer in the benefits of a bain d’air (Elle, 1951, T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Never, ever underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned “air bath”— whether it’s in the middle of the day or all alone in the moonlight.

As my fit-as-a-fiddle grandmother Emmae used to sing, “After an air bath, this little Brack birdie is back on track. Hear me soar!”

I couldn’t agree more. And I’m not the only big time believer in the benefits of a bain d’air.

Because bathers are gonna bathe

Apparently, francophile Benjamin Franklin also possessed a mad penchant for launching each day all au natural. Nestled naked in a chair by an open window sat the bigwig polymath—winter, spring, summer, and fall.

“You know the cold bath has long been in vogue here as a tonic; but the shock of the cold water has always appeared to me, generally speaking, as too violent: and I have found it much more agreeable to my constitution, to bathe in another element, I mean cold air,” Franklin wrote to a Parisian friend in 1768.

“With this view I rise early almost every morning, and sit in my chamber, without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing. This practice is not in the least painful, but on the contrary, agreeable!”

A royal treatment

Royal S. Copeland, M.D. would have certainly put his stamp of approval on Franklin’s daily pet ritual. In fact, he did.

In 1933, the Commissioner of Health of New York City shared a few D.I.Y. tips in his column: “Include air baths in the health campaign! Keep it up year ’round! Air baths improve the texture and tone of the skin . . . The baths should be taken in a moderately cool, well-ventilated room. For the first bath, only half the body should be exposed. As the body becomes accustomed to the cool air, more clothes can be discarded!” (more…)

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