Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hello Paris ...

Waiting for our bags at Charles de Gaulle. 7:15 AM.
9.12.06 - It was very warm in Paris yesterday -- in the mid-80s, and the heat remained long after the sun set. I was a bit surprised, somehow having anticipated cooler weather for this trip.

Bumper to bumper traffic on our way to Paris
We arrived at Charles de Gaulle 7 yesterday morning, having flown overnight from New York. I didn’t sleep a wink. Groan. Our car didn’t show so we grabbed a taxi about 8:30 which is of course rush hour, so it was not a quick trip into Paris.

This is a my sixth or seventh trip to Paris. I was unimpressed the first time, several years ago, traveling alone, and on assignment, and not being fluent in French. It was November and cold and grey, Paris didn’t have a chance with this ornery lonely traveler. On my second trip I stayed with an American friend, Ann Downey, who kept a beautiful apartment on the Avenue Rapp with views of the Eiffel Tower nearby, Les Invalides and the Arc de Triomphe. Magic abounded, minds were changed. I mention this because each time Paris opens up my sensibilities (or vice versa) and I depart with wonderful memories of this beautiful beautiful city wishing I could have even a brief experience of living here.

We came to this time to attend the opening of the 23rd Biennale des Antiquaires which will be held at the Paris Grand Palais, newly refurbished and re-opened from the 15th through the 24th.

We were booked into the Astor Saint Honoré, a medium-sized hotel in the 8th on the quiet rue d’Astorg. When the Astor was built in 1907, right across the small street lived the Countess Greffuhle, one of the great social figures of Paris in the Gilded Age. Born Princess Elisabeth de Caraman-Chimay and later married to a scion of a Belgian banking family, the countess was famous for her salons where she entertained Paris society as well as many great artists of the age such as Rodin, Whistler, Marcel Proust and her cousin for whom she had a deep unrequited love, Count Robert de Montesquiou, whose portrait by John Singer Sargent is probably familiar to you even if you don’t know the subject’s name. The countess is believed to be one of the models for the character of the duchesse de Guermantes in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. She outlived her era and all of its famous characters, dying at the age of 92, in 1952 in Geneva. Her beautiful mansion on the rue d’Astorg was later razed and replaced by a large glass structure housing offices.
Above: The Neo-Classical La Madeleine, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene and designed as a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army.

Left: Looking south along the Rue Royale.
Paris street scenes.

Below, right:
Hotel Astor Saint Honoré.
Still jet-lagged, last night we went over to the Place des Vosges where British businessman and collector John Dean was holding an opening reception of his Galerie Historismus at the Hotel de Chaulness at number 9 Place des Vosges.

John Dean and Roberto Polo
If you didn’t know, the Place des Vosges is the perfect square (and model for squares built throughout Europe) was erected between 1605 and 1612 by order of Henri IV and is in an area known as the Marais (a former swampland). Cardinal Richelieu lived here in the first quarter of the 17th century. Madame de Sevigne was born here. Victor Hugo lived here in the middle of the 19th century. Today, last night, it remains a beautiful location of private residences and galleries with the inevitable restaurants and bistros with their outdoor tables.

Mr. Dean’s Galerie Historismus features 19th and early 20th century European Deecorative Arts. Its artistic advisor is Roberto Polo who believes that while there is nothing remaining undiscovered in 18th century decorative arts, there is much to be discovered in the past two centuries.

The Galerie Historismus is on the first floor (second to Americans) at number 9, reached through an ancient cobblestoned courtyard, into a vestibule with an ancient staircase leading to an enfilade of rooms which ultimately look out on the square. Amidst the elegance is a definite feeling of an ancient past that triumphs over the contemporary like a refined and wise old man or woman.

The place was very busy last night. Waiters were passing delicious canapes and flutes of champagne.

There were quite a few New Yorkers present (as there are many here in Paris for the Biennale) including Alex Gregory, Judy Taubman, Mrs. John Radziwill, Hilary and Wilbur Ross, Virginia Coleman, Hugh Bush, Wendy Moonan from the New York Times, Jean Bond Rafferty who writes for Town & Country and lives here in Paris now and Marilyn White who represents the gallery’s public relations in New York and London, Mish Tworkowski, and Paul Sargent.
Wendy Moonan and Bill Paillot
Francois Josef Graff
Madeleine Stuart and Thomas Beeton
Pierre Le Tan, Louis Bofferding, and Jean Bond Rafferty
Mr. Binoche, Sylvie Rousseau, and Christian Deydier
A quick look around Galerie Historismus
Looking out towards the Place des Vosges from the window of Galerie Historismus.
Just passing through ...
Marilyn White and Sylvia Beder
L. to r.: Exiting Galerie Historismus and walking through the arches of the Place des Vosges.
After the reception we went over to join Marilyn White for some dinner at the Hotel Costes on Faubourg St. Honore. The hotel’s restaurant fills a large inner courtyard along with adjacent dining rooms richly and sumptuously decorated by Jacques Garcia. It is considered one of the chic trendier watering holes in Paris. Soon after we took our table, International interior designers from New York, Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper took the table right next to ours along with their friend Allan Salz from Herve Aaron in New York.

After a delicious dinner washed down by champagne, which always tastes better in France than it does by the time it gets to us in New York, we walked Marilyn back to her hotel along the rue de Rivoli, beautifully lit and quiet with its shops of famous luxury brands, making our way after that a few blocks away to our hotel and finally a good night’s sleep.
Clockwise from above: Looking into the courtyard of Hotel Costes; Allan Salz with Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper; DPC, Marilyn White, and JH.
L. to r.: The entrance gallery to the Hotel Costes. Exiting the hotel/restaurant.
Looking towards La Madeleine from the Rue Royale. Midnight.