Saturday, December 31, 2011

Living Buildings

Near the Pompidou Centre in Paris is another modern building. This one is a bit more natural than metal and plastic tubing though! The men's department of the local department store BHV is housed in a building with a living or green wall. As windows aren't always condusive to a shop, I think this is a brilliant way of covering a facade without leaving a blank slate.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pompidou Centre

I was prepared to hate the Pompidou Centre, I readily admit to that. However, coming across it while walking through the Marais, I was struck by the sense of scale created by the intricate pieces of its construction and thought "this really fits the neighborhood". Lets backtrack a bit. The Pompidou Centre (or Beaubourg as it is known) was opened in 1977, designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano along with Richard and Su Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini. The award winning building has been turning heads ever since.

Paris, that is central Paris, is not known for its modern architecture so the very existence of this building is surprising. The size is immense, however the scale is broken down into bits by the exposed structure and services which bring it down to a city and even human scale. Now that the colors have faded over the years (believe it or not) it blends a little easier into the charming French gray the city is known for.
Love it or hate it, the building is much beloved and locals crowd the adjacent square on weekends, many calling it "Paris's living room".

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Architectural Watercolors at home

As I wrote earlier in Paris: Day 5, I was able to meet up with architectural watercolor artists Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams in their stylish Paris apartment.

Long an admirer and collector of their work, I was looking forward to meeting them and could barely contain my excitement walking up the stairs of the 17th century building to their apartment.

The building has been skillfully restored, leaving the best of the original features while bringing it up to date.

The beautiful and large apartment is obviously the home of scholars as books are the focus as opposed to the art which I expected. Built in shelves cover many of the walls while still more books are piled on numerous other surfaces. I felt right at home as I can relate to this in my own apartment!Andrew and Bernd have done a lot of reconfiguration in the apartment during their years there, such as these columns topped with urns which seperate the living room from the entry.This final configuration wasn't exactly their original plan for the space, as evidenced by this watercolor. Originally they had planned on a more architectural solution but over time they abandoned it for a lighter touch which I think makes the space feel larger.Bookshelves continue in the alcove off the living room which contains their reading desk for the hours of research they put into their pieces.
A small den off the alcove contains the tv, computer desk and their collection of architectural etchings.

Be sure to check out their fascinating blog Noted which they update weekly. You'll always learn something new!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas at Fezziwig's Warehouse

I'Yo Ho! my boys," said Fezziwig. "No more work to-night! Christmas Eve, Dick! Christmas, Ebenezer! Let's have the shutters up!" cried old Fezziwig with a sharp clap of his hands, "before a man can say JackRobinson. . . ."
"Hilli-ho!" cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk with wonderful agility. "Clear away, my lads, and let's have lots of room here! Hilli-ho, Dick! Cheer-up, Ebenezer!"Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or couldn't have cleared away with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life forevermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ballroom as you would desire tosee on a winter's night.In came a fiddler with a music book, and went up to the lofty desk and made an orchestra of it and tuned like fifty stomach aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Misses Fezziwig, beaming and lovable. In came the six followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid with her cousin the baker. In came the cook with her brother's particular friend the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master, trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress; in they all came, any-how and every-how. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping, old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them.When this result was brought about the fiddler struck up "Sir Roger de Coverley." Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple, too, with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pairs of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance and had no notion of walking.But if they had been thrice as many, oh, four times as many, old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs. Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher and I'll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted at any given time what would become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance, advance and retire; both hands to your partner, bow and courtesy, corkscrew, thread the needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig cut so deftly that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again with a stagger.When the clock struck eleven the domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually, as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas!

Christmas at Fezziwig's Warehouse by Charles Dickens

All Photos from 2010 Holiday House by myself

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paris: Day 7

My last full day in Paris was spent seeing some new things which left me wondering why I waited so long to see them!The Musee d'Orsay was shockingly good: not just the art itself (which constituted my favorite periods) but the building, a converted train station, took my breath away.Designed for the Universal Exhibition in 1900 by the architect Victor Laloux, the train station laid vacant for decades until being converted into the art museum in 1986.A surprising added bonus to the museum are the views of the city from the 5th floor. Talk about Paris at your feet!On my way back to the apartment I dropped into the church across the street, St. Louis en I'Ile, for an impromptu organ recital (ok, practice time for the musician with me sneaking a listen!). The church which has a rather....shall we say rough exterior, has a magnificent baroque interior designed by royal architect Louis Le Vau designed in 1664. Walking out of the church, awed by the over powering music, the house across the street confronted me with my true feelings of the city and my trip: a heart shaped topiary.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bûche de Noël

A client recently presented me with a traditional Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log, for the holidays and it was so pretty (and delicious!) I had to share it with you all. The dessert is a traditional French pastry commonly shared around the holidays and decorated to look like a log ready for the fire (that is, if one decorated their logs with snow and meringue mushrooms).This dessert in particular came from the Praline bakery in Bethesda (a suburb of DC) which was founded by former pastry chefs from the White House kitchen. This version featured both chocolate and vanilla butter cream on a sort of chocolate brownie (is your mouth watering yet?). If you're in the DC area you may want to consider one of these as a hostess gift -you won't regret it!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Paris: Day 6

Day 6 in Paris started with a walk through my favorite neighborhood in the city, St. Germain.No trip to St. Germain is complete without shopping. The neighborhood is full of the most unique and fascinating shops in Paris. The most famous of these is Deyrolle of course.The taxidermy shop takes merchandising to a higher level with their clever displays. I loved this tableau of animals eating a meal together at a table mad-hatter style.
As throughout the city, the buildings are gorgeous. As space is at a premium I noticed many double and triple dormers like the one here: no attic space goes to waste!
After a morning of shopping it was across the river, past the Tuileries to the very British and charming old world Hotel Regina to meet friends for drinks.Along the way, I passed these faux-bois doors painted by Jacques Garcia himself on an elegant apartment building facing the Louvre.
The evening ended fireside at the apartment of friends before dinner at a cafe in the Marais.What else could one ask from a day spent in Paris?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Paris: Day 5

Day 5 of my Parisian adventure was again full of highlights, too many to mention really. The factor that helped day 5 stand out from the previous days (and trips) was finally relying on the Parisian metro. I was able to fit in twice the amount of site seeing and in much better spirits as I wasn't totally wet, exhausted and cold all day!I began the day by staying close to home, on the Ile St. Louis. The small island really is a self sufficient city within the larger whole and full of significant and historical hotel particuliers.Afterwards, I was able to finally visit one of these stunning mansions, the Jacquemart-Andre Museum in the 17th. I'm only slightly embaressed to admit that I've wanted to visit this stunning hotel particulier since watching the movie Gigi, where it stands in as the family home of Gaston.
The rest of the day was spent wandering through the city, stopping into numerous churches (hearing the monks sing at the St Gervais St Protais was awe-inspiring), shopping at such yummy spots as Fauchon and along the Rue St Honore.During the evening, I had the pleasure of meeting noted architectural watercolorists Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams at their stylish apartment for drinks. I was interested to learn their art really is a dual effort: Bernd (with his German precision) does the drafting while the watercolor is applied by Andrew. Of course the bulk of the effort, the research, is done jointly as evidenced partly by their enviable book collection, seen in part in the first image.If you haven't already, be sure to check out their blog NOTED, linked from my bloglist on the sidebar. Also their website,, is regularly updated. Look forward to future posts on all of these items!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Paris: Day 4

Day four started off frigidly but full of excitement: it was Versailles day! You may recall my visit nearly 2 years ago and my many many posts (and pictures!) of the chateau so I won't deluge you now but you can of course reference them through my blog search feature in the toolbar.Versailles, of course, does not change (at least not noticeably) but the seasons do. Tourist season is over and this visit was a weekday so the chateau was nearly empty - a very happy circumstance (other than the many closed areas -boo!). Another reason it was empty: the weather was positively frigid, painful to be outdoors. All the more reason to remain indoors and enjoy the beautiful views! A leisurely delicious lunch was spent at Angelina's in Versailles which included some of their famously decadent desserts. The hot chocolate IS as good as they claim and the Mont Blanc could feed a family of four for at least a week (if that family lived on sugar alone). Sinful; as was the fois gras which was probably the most delicious thing I've eaten in my entire life.Of course, no visit to Versailles is complete without a visit to the Petit Trianon, forever associated with Marie Antoinette whose bed at Versailles you see above.The Grand Trianon was also visited but it proved to be a disappointment; Not very well maintained and the interiors all date to the 19th century. However, it was interesting to see if for the history alone and great to check off my bucket list. I imagine that in more hospitable weather it is the most gorgeous garden in Versailles.On the way home, I stopped for a warming drink at L'hotel which I mentioned yesterday, the "Oscar Wilde" hotel, which was also blissfully nearly empty. Only a few colorful characters shared the lounge with me which proved for interesting people watching. I must say it is my favorite spot I have found in the city!