Paris: Voyages Extraordinaires

La Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde will keep on turning until February 15, 2015 (Photographs by Theadora Brack)

La Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde will keep on turning until February 15, 2015 (Photo by T. Brack)

Gloria Swanson was a shopper (Madame Sans-Gêne, Paris, 1924)

Gloria Swanson Shopped Around (Madame Sans-Gêne, Paris, 1924)

By Theadora Brack

Trekking to Paris in February 2015? This post is for you. I’ve got three tips up my zigzag sweater sleeve. So grab a pencil and the Dubonnet, while I crank up the ice machine and Érik Satie. Now, Voyager! It’s high time to sail thou forth, to squeak and shine.

1. Big Winter Sales

Got passion for fashion? Cuckoo for a steal? I hear you, loud and sincere, my moon glow. The “Soldes d’hiver 2015” (big winter sales) launched on Wednesday, January 7, and will continue through Tuesday, February 10.

Repeating myself: Prices start to drop and keep on dropping, so it’s a judgment call whether to pounce early and get the best selection, or wait it out a little and get the best deals. Again, to be perfectly honest, I do both.

Also, avoid the masses at the grand magasins by shopping during the weekday mornings. However, if browsing cheek by jowl with the Longchamp-toting crowd is your scene, well then, go with the flow. Giddy-up, I say!

Tip: Planning to shop at Galeries Lafayette? If so, do ask for one of their “Exceptional 10% Discount” cards. Present your passport at the information desk, located on the ground floor store near the rue Mogador entrance, and then get to bargain tag popping. (Printemps has a new V.I.P program. I’ll keep you posted.)

“Each woman must dress according to her personality.” —Sonia Delaunay’s confections, Paris, 1925

2. Need inspiration?

Gather ’round and jump on my train because I’ve got the cure, see. Prior to your shopping jaunt, I highly recommend spending some time with the late, great Sonia Delaunay, the undisputed queen of Orphism.

Curated by Anne Montfort and Cécile Godefroy, “Sonia Delaunay: Les Couleurs de l’Abstraction” will run though February 22, 2015 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Dear mod squad of Downton Abbey flapper-wannabes: The well-rounded retrospective features 400 works: paintings, posters, prints, murals, rugs, and furniture, along with photographs, fashion show clips, fabric swatches and bolts of printed cloth, too. Here you’ll also find Sonia’s Atelier Simultané confections: frocks, beachwear, pajamas, scarves, hats, and shoes. Keep your eyes peeled for the coat she created for Gloria Swanson in 1924. It’s still close-up worthy, Monsieur DeMille! I have seen the glory.

(Cinema Buffs: Sonia’s garb was pricey, though apparently Gloria Swanson had the cash to splash. According to Stephen Michael Shearer’s book “Gloria Swanson: The Ultimate Star,” while she was in Paris filming “Madame Sans-Gêne” in 1924, Gloria also spent $6,000 on perfume, $50,000 on gowns, $10,000 on lingerie, $9,600 on stockings, $5,000 on bags, and $500,000 on bling—and that was back when you could buy a brand new car for under $600. The Marquise was no budget traveler!)

Sonia Delaunay, Paris, 1925 (Photograph by Germaine Krull)

Dancing with the stars

Sonia also designed costumes for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and for Tristan Tzara. Like a jazz musician, our Lady Dada improvised with color fragments, creating trippy rhythm and movement. With keen Kaleidoscope-like vision, again and again she captured the surreal, heady sensation of experiencing the high rise of planes, trains, and automobiles, along with the electric bright lights in her ch-changing big city.

Sonia wrote: “I liked electricity at night, during our walks. We entered the era of light, arm in arm. Halos were making colors and shadows turn and vibrate around us, as if unidentified objects were falling from the sky, friendly and crazy.”

3. La Grande Roue

Come forth! Come forth! After traveling back to the Cubo-Future with Sonia Delaunay, I suggest hotfooting it on over to The Big Wheel at Place de la Concorde.

Recently, whilst stepping out down the Champs Élysée, I spotted La Grande Roue, calling out to me like a siren. Facing my fear of heights, right then and there on the cobblestoned spot I decided to take a spin.

Time was on my side. At precisely one hair before l’heure bleue, I channeled my inner-Jules Verne, and made the leap aboard the swaying chariot.

Sonia Delaunay's Beachwear, 1928

Strike a pose: Sonia Delaunay’s Beachwear, 1928

It was worth every centime.

Riding solo, my little eye spotted the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Palais, and Les Invalides, along with Sacré Coeur, the Église Saint-Augustin de Paris, and Catherine de’ Medici’s Tuileries—all bathed in a saturated golden hue.

Feeling very much like a queen in my cat-bird seat, I even stood-up, briefly, for an existential “selfie.” Yes, I proved, I was still there! It was scary, but royally fun—I assure you.

Tears of joy reigned. Through the smudged, rose-colored glass, I fell in love with Paris all over again. Heck, I even reclaimed my mojo.

As Henry Miller once wrote: “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”

Or pinching from Jules Gabriel Verne, “Yes! But the earth is very large, and life is very short!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Now let’s take a few spins around La Grande Roue, shall we?

Carpe Diem! Et Bonne Année!

(In the mood for another Paris jaunt? If so, hobnob it on over to our chum Virginia over at Bel’ Occhio for Paris: Voyages Extraordinaires Part Two!)

“I have lived in my art.” —Sonia Delaunay (Modèles deviant voiture simultanée, Paris, 1925)

Sonia Delaunay, Dubonnet, 1914


Sonia and Robert Delaunay were the queen and king of Orphism (ROBERT’S RYTHME N° 1, MUSÉE D’ART MODERNE, 1938)

Feeling its groovitational pull: La Grande Roue (All photographs below by T. Brack)

Ready for liftoff: La Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde

My Catbird Seat: La Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde

Squint! View of Sacré Coeur from La Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde

View of the Tuileries and Rue de Rivoli from La Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde

Blue Skies: View of Paris through the smudged, rose-colored glass

View of Saint-Augustins from La Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde

At the tiptop: View of the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Palais, and the Luxor Obelisk

View of the Luxor Obelisk, the Fountaine des Mers, the Grand Palais, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Champ-Élysée

View of the Luxor Obelisk, the Fountaine des Mers, the Grand Palais, and the Arc de Triomphe

It’s a long way down: La Grande Roue

 La Grande Roue spins until February 15, 2015. Trekking to Paris? Don't miss it!

La Grande Roue spins until February 15, 2015. Trekking to Paris? Don’t miss it.

La Grande Roue de Paris, Rue de Suffren, Exposition Universelle 1900, Paris


57 thoughts on “Paris: Voyages Extraordinaires

    • YES. Sonia Delaunay was the queen of the Zigzag! She was also the first living female artist to get a retrospective at the Louvre.

      After seeing the exhibition, I stopped by one of my favorite shops. Immediately upon making my entrance, I was drawn to a fantastical cape with zigzags—in black, white, and red. Without hesitation, I bought it. (After the Big Sales launched, I purchased a second one. I’m a big believer in back-up garb!)

      Bonne Année!
      (And thanks for your thoughtful words, Elizabeth.)


    • That’s what SHE said! She being Gloria Swanson. According to Stephen Michael Shearer’s book “Gloria Swanson: The Ultimate Star,” the Marquise also spent $25,000 on furs. However, she only spent $5,000 on bags. As a pocketbook fanatic, I’m shocked!

      Happy New Year, Violet!
      (And thanks for your kind words.)


    • Well, thank you! The sunset spin in my little private catbird seat was totally worth the fee. It was scary at times, I will admit. Especially when the big wheel temporarily stopped while I was at the tiptop. Ah, but the view was a “wonderful, wonderful, wonderful” (as Henry Miller would say).

      Happy 2015!


    • Merci! It was great fun creating the post. La Grande Roue de Paris was built about a year before the 1900 Exposition Universelle. It was located on rue de Suffren. For years, it was the tallest Ferris Wheel in the world. Sadly, it was demolished around 1920. (One more tip for road: It’s featured in a few of Robert Delaunay’s paintings. Along with the Eiffel Tower, La Grande Roue de Paris was one of his muses.)

      Happy New Year!
      (I’ve missed seeing your photographs!)


  1. First, Theadora I’m so sorry for all your city is going through. I lived through 911 and know there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said. I love this post. It makes you forget! I wish I could come to Paris now and just shop! Interesting about Gloria Swanson. I only think of her as Norma Desmond. I’ll have to read more about her and also Sonia Delaunay — love her patterns — especially the matching car and dress. Looking at the photo makes me wish I could travel back in time.


    • Thanks for your sweet words, Julia. (La Grande Roue was the perfect place for quiet reflection on our mad, mad world.)

      YES. Gloria Swanson has always been a beauty. Sadly, the 1924 Photoplay report does not include her shoe budget. However, Sonia’s shoes made a cameo at the MAM exhibition. Gorgeous. In black, green, blue, and beige. Little stunners!

      I also dig the matching car and dress. According to my research, the car is a Citroën Type B12. It had just been launched at the 1925 Paris Motor Show. Checkout Sonia’s driving hats. They were also on display at MAM. Oh, I’d love to have one or three—along with a patchwork coat.

      Here’s to timeless garb!

      (Happy New Year!)

      Liked by 1 person

    • What a fabulous event, Kim! Thanks for giving us the link. Are you attending? Have your found or created your Belle Epoch- or 1920s flapper-inspired ensemble? If so, I’m already looking forward to your report and photographs.

      Bonne Année!


      • Yes, working on outfits for both eras – I am the host of the events for Le Bal des Coutisans, as president of this association. Bon dimanche!


      • It’s a great idea, Kim. Again, I’m looking forward to your reports. The publicity artwork is fantastic! (I especially loved the Roaring Twenties poster.)

        Enjoy the week,


    • Well, thank you! During my research, I found a fabulous photograph of Sonia and her cat. Perhaps I’ll dig it up again, and attach it to the end of the post. You’d love it.

      And speaking of cat lovers: Here’s another Jules Gabriel Verne quote: “I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.”

      Happy New Year!


  2. Lovely post Theodora! This exhibition comes to London this Spring and I can’t wait. As a fashion/tex student I borrowed this book so many times from the college library that I knew it off by heart! Thankfully I now have my own copy. Great photos of your spin around your beautiful city. X


    • YES. “Sonia Delaunay: Les Couleurs de l’Abstraction” will be at the Tate Modern in London from April 15 through August 9 2015. Exciting!
      You will love the exhibition. And do pack a sketchbook. I spent practically the entire day with Sonia! (Do you have any Sonia Delaunay book recommendations? From cover to cover, the slim image-packed exhibition catalogues are beauties.)

      Here’s how her friend Guillaume Apollinaire described her confections, “So much variety cannot escape notice. It transforms fantasy into elegance.”

      I completely agree.

      Happy 2015!


    • Ah, such lovely words, Alexander! Yes! It was a fun post to create: the research, along with the spins around La Grande Roue. The glass was quite dirty, so I tried without luck to get a few shots in between the panels. I highly recommend the voyage.

      Are you a fan of Ferris Wheels? I also love the Riesenrad in Vienna, featured in Carol Reed’s film “The Third Man” with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten. While up in Grande Roue, I was pining for some zither music!

      Have a great weekend (And Happy New Year!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Theadora! Happy New Year to you too.
        Photography is not only about quality of pictures. First of all it is about photographer’s vision of surrounding World. That is what I like in your pictures.
        I like Ferris Wheels and any time I have an opportunity to see the World from the above I do it.

        Have a lovely weekend!


  3. Photographie somptueuse, chère Theadora: avec mes meilleurs voeux d’inspiration et prospérité pour 2015!


  4. this post is FANTASTIC! I want to immediately hop on a plane and walk the paris streets immediately! life is too short to not live full out in living color! thank you, dear one. xo


    • Well, thanks for your FANTASTIC words, Janet! I agree. We all should live in living color or in dramatic black and white (perfect for shindigs and dinner parties)!

      Happy New Year!


  5. Your photos are stunning! You chose a beautiful time of day to capture the “City of Light.” I love Ferris Wheels and seem to forget my fear of heights through the fabulous views.


    • As always, thanks Anny! Do you have a favorite Ferris Wheel in the world?

      (I spotted La Grande Roue about 30 minutes before sunset. I was still marching down the Champs. After making the decision to ride to the top of the city, I started running. Running! In my boots! I was on a mission! Luckily the sun was on my side. (My feet were sore for days.)

      Happy New Year!


  6. exquisite post, as usually… Sonia Delaunay & Gloria Swanson – 2 femmes géniales!!! Thanx, lovely young lady! I’m really proud of you! ❤


    • Merci, Mélanie! I agree. You can’t go wrong with a post featuring Sonia Delaunay and Gloria Swanson.

      Clipping from Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond character in Billy Wilder’s 1950 “Sunset Boulevard” flick, “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”

      Bonne Année!


  7. She reached deep into the armoire cupboard and began to pull our her Longchamp bags Elegant brown, leather trimmed cases. Each bag a little larger than the one before. Like babushka dolls they fitted one into the other. The smallest held the necessities – a silver compact, Chanel lipstick and eye make-up and Theadora’ shopping itinerary. The rest would travel empty. She was returning to Paris. To walk proudly, fearlessly the silver streets. Fill her eyes with the ecstasy that is Paris. Fill her soul with the courage and strength that is Paris. Lastly she would fill her Longchamp bags with the plunders of Paris. Slipping into her ruby red travel slippers she tucked the key to her “little house in Paris” into her purse. CARPE DIEM – Et Bonne Annee! And she was gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonne Année, Virginia! Oh, I love this passage. Beautiful! Perfect timing. Perfect timing. Yes, now is the time to return to Paris, and walk proudly and fearlessly up and down the silver cobblestone rues. Nesting Longchamp bags. Favorite color, please? Brown?

      And yes, lipstick IS a necessity. I agree. And so does France. In 1962 France ruled that lipstick was an essential item! (Confession: I even wear it while writing. Perfume, too.)

      How is your little house in Paris? I spotted your dreamy December post.

      “She hurried along the quiet street to her little house.  Past the bright lights of a neighboring bistro.  Past the little market on the corner. A few snow flakes drifted down and caught in her hair like diamonds.” (-Virginia, Bel’ Occhio, December 2014)

      Again, Happy New Year,

      Liked by 1 person

    • Frances, you will love the Sonia Delaunay exhibition. I’m still seeing zigzags in my sleep. The catalogues are gorgeous and affordable.

      Have you taken a spin around La Grande Roue? I’d love to see your “Tangerine Drawings” of Paris from the top of the wheel.

      Enjoy the week!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Happy New Year about 2 months too late, T. The photo you posted the day of the attacks in your city moved me beyond words…as both of mine [NY, Madrid] have gone through the same, I know. We’ll leave it at that….and a big e-hug.

    I am absolutely smitten with Sonia! That zig-zag toga is particularly hard to resist…oh the places it could be worn! Your bird’s eye snap-shots from la Concorde are a revelation…your website always makes me wish I were in Paris at this very minute. Your advice almost makes me wish I enjoyed shopping…maybe I would in France.


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