Elysée Palace

A glimpse into the courtyard of the Elysée Palace from the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. Designed by the architect Armand-Claude Mollet, this is the official residence of the President of France. The home was finished in 1722 and remains one of the finest examples of French classical architecture. 


French Etiquette: heather is not a great hostess gift

Every time I come to France, I learn something new about the traditions of this country. This plant is called la bruyère. It's a variety of heather commonly found at the florist.

One night, my girlfriend Cécile and I took the bus to dinner. We encountered two American couples on their way to the home of a friend. One of the women was proudly carrying a pot of heather, wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow. Obviously, she had just come from the florist.

I didn't think anything of it...until they got off the bus. At that moment, Cécile turned to me, gently pointed her finger toward me - just as one would when they are about to instruct - and said, "Now, this is a flower that you never offer as a gift." Surprised, I asked, "Why not?" 

She said la bruyère is used to mark headstones in cemeteries. For that reason, you never offer it as a gift because it could be construed as ill-will. Her grandmother had passed this point of etiquette on to her when she was a little girl. 

Of course, I had to ask, "Do you think the florist knew that and didn't say anything because they're American?" Cécile replied, "I don't know...it's possible." I gave her a knowing look. As if to defend her countrymen, she smiled and added, "My grandmother was very traditional and well aware of the most obscure points of etiquette that not everyone understood." 

I replied, "Ah oui, évidemment." 



Along the Seine

After six days of rain, the sun and warmer temperatures have finally arrived in Paris. Given the good weather, I was very content to walk home along the Seine and pass through the Tuileries gardens on the way.  


Elle est belle

I snapped this photo during my walk home tonight.


Gala des Etoiles du XXIeme Siécle

Sunday evening, my girlfriend Charlie and I headed over to the Théatre des Champs-Elysées for the 15th Annual International Dance Gala. The program consisted of a series of short pieces performed by some of the very best dancers in the world, including  the American Ballet Théatre, the Ballet de l'Opera de Berlin, and the Joffrey Ballet from my home town of Chicago.

On another note, I love my little Canon PowerShot. This photo was taken from the back row of the first balcony, with no flash. 


La Biennale des Antiquaires

I arrived in Paris just in time for the closing weekend of the Biennale des Antiquaires. Since its founding in 1962, the Biennale has presented the beautiful works of art in the most sumptuous settings. This year's exhibit, held in the Grand Palais, featured nearly 150 dealers. It was the largest gathering in the past several years - a good sign for the art market and global economy. In 2010, for example, there were only 86 dealers.

The space, designed by legendary couturier Karl Lagerfeld, paid hommage to the streets of Paris. The galleries featured everything from Elizabeth Taylor's jewelry at Bulgari to Monet paintings at Richard Green.

More to come...