Diary, Experience, Learning

Being multi-city

Concept, collaboration, multi-cultural, global localization.

The pervasive mission over the last month has been to find what’s French or Parisian. What can I only do or get here? Think like a local. We’ve certainly enjoyed the quintessential C’s: cafes, croissants, Chanel and cigarettes. But the richer experiences, and life in this city of Paris, have been imbued with flavors and culture from around the world: Nanashi‘s bento boxes, Candalaria‘s tostadas, Isabel Marant’s Indian silk, Mary Celeste‘s Brooklyn design, the cactus of French Trotters.

Local takes on a new dimension, bearing an awareness of a surrounding world. While there’s certain pride and carriage of the region, it doesn’t seem as urgent or imperative.

Coming back to Indy, my quest it deepened to be cross-disciplinary, collaborative, and multi-city. How do we build and develop character beyond the local lens? Is there pride and place beyond Indy? How do we think of ourselves as part of a larger fabric and less possessive about talent and acclaim?

Cafe, Experience

Ease & Patina

We’re finally feeling the ease of the city. We’ve become regulars at the corner cafés and crêperies and enjoy the glimmer of recognition and conversation.

Rue des Saules in Montmartre

Rue des Saules in Montmartre

I half expect to see that they are all actors and props on a stage. So often, you enjoy a city like Paris in the contracted and fleeting moments of several days. After a month, will you see the strings and frames, the costume and makeup?

But we’ve come to enjoy and discover the genuine. First impressions of surprise and delight warm into familiarity, recognition and knowing. Patina replaces shininess.

Cafe, Work / Life

Space and Place

I’m ready to go home. I’ve seen it, done it, ate it, tried it. Well, not quite everything. But I’ve hit a threshold – be that sickness for home, or the onset of the ordinary.

Le thé mélange du loir at Le Loir dans la Théière.

Le thé mélange du loir at Le Loir dans la Théière.

Perhaps its the combination of a cold, a poor night’s sleep, the persistent chilly weather, the advent of the third leg of our journey with a new set of guests and new set of rules, but all I can think is of home and the known. My body drags through the street, as Ben deciphers the pharmacie to find a decongestant, then whisks me away to my favorite spot, Le Loir dans la Théière, for tea, chocolat chaud, and a pastry (or two). My spirits are lifting, but when we arrive home to dive into our work day, the internet is down and then the nearby café’s wifi is inaccessible. My worst dreads officially came true. The magic of Paris has dissipated – I just want to be home.

I share this for posterity–as grand as our trip has been and will be, there are inescapable dull and dreary moments. And there will be things we’ll want to change and improve for the next time. I think though, we’re just in the lull. Our trip to Paris is long enough that it’s not a vacation, but short enough that we can’t establish permanence. There’s a tug-o-war to keep up with the urgency to see and try things because the opportunity is limited, to turn our attention to work, and to pause to rest.

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Cafe, Experience, Fashion, Play

Parisian Vetiver

We explored the concept stores of Paris. Part boutique and cafe, they offer products for home, beauty, fashion, music and more.  Shopping becomes an experience that blurs past departments to displays that are matched by mood rather than object. Colette, Merci, 0fr, and Broken Arm are just a few that we’ve enjoyed.

Cafe creme in Merci's library.

Cafe creme in Merci’s library.

We had lunch in Merci’s used book cafe, surrounded by library shelves and little tables & nooks to sit and munch. We enjoyed œuf à la coque and chocolat tartines, along with frothy cafe cremes. Clumsily breaking through the shell of the egg, we reached the sunny center, dredging the fingers of bread in butter and yolk. With full bellies, we went on to explore the three levels of the store, I with a mission to buy something that captured the Parisian spirit. Once I spied the rack of Isabel Marant Étoilé, my heart was  set on a piece from the quintessential designer of effortless chic and cool femme style. I came away with an embroidered silk sheath , spun of kohl and gold, with a low slung tie that hung on my hips hearkening the 20s. It matched the mood of my new scent, Byredo’s Bal d’Afrique, “a warm and romantic vetiver” inspired by Paris in the late 20s and its infatuation with the avant-garde and vibrant expression of the African culture. I imagine my own euphoria in Paris – spun in a cloud of cloves and mojitos, drinking in the city and its exuberance of light and culture.

Diary, Experience, Learning

Unlocking the City Cipher

Staying in Paris. For a month. And I don’t speak (much) French. Everyone asks, “How will you live, navigate, communicate?” Well, first, set aside that you speak English and the chances are relatively high that your fellow Parisians understand more of your language than you do…

Rue de Renard

So, what’s left when you strip away verbal communication? Your instincts and senses are heightened. Even if you can’t understand words, you can understand tone and see motion. You depend on signage, iconography, street names, and maps to navigate. You follow the masses out of the metro, learning along the way that sortie means “exit.” No need to talk to anyone as long as you’re an adequate orienteer. When shopping, you look at pictures on the packages, and continue to build your vocabulary. You know what an apple looks like, and see that in Paris it’s a pomme; bread is pain; cheese is fromage; wine is vin, and so on. When ordering at the restaurant, however rudimentary, hand motions to eat & drink and pointing at items on the menu work universally (and thank goodness for your grocery store vocab lesson, so you have a slight clue what you’re ordering).

Then you do the laundry, which turns out to be a little trickier. First off, there’s a single machine, so you expect that it will just wash and you’ll need to hang things to dry. Much to your surprise, your clothes emerge piping hot and dry! Wait – was that your favorite sweater in there? Mon dieu! And so by trial and error you adjust the knobs. The symbol that you though indicated drying, turns out to be for the spin cycle. Another sweater lost. So you try again (and locate the user manual online – in French, nonetheless) and discover that sechage means “drying” and are now able to dry clothes at your discretion. Continue reading

Fashion, Pattern, Work / Life

Monstres de Mode

Character design by Craig Green

Character design by Craig Green

After stumbling upon a good tip in Unlock Paris, we popped into La Gaîté Lyrique today to check out their new fashion exhibit, ARRRGH! Monstres de Mode. A showcase of the “strange, unusual, extraordinary, bizarre, eccentric, slaves to every new paradox, supernatural, disgusting, dirty, wonderful or ridiculous.” We were inspired by so many things: the clothes, the space, the learning center.

“ARRRRGH!” the cry of surprise, fear and worry and also of inner concern, that urges to escape but fails to do so.

La Gaîté Lyrique is a cultural center in the 3rd arrondissement, celebrating the inter-disciplinary, digital culture (film-making, animation, theatre, dance, circus, music, visual arts, design, architecture, web, games, fashion, etc) and exploring the new dimension being created by art and technology. Their learning center is free to the public, and drop-dead gorgeous. Sleek, modern booths encase video screens and gaming consoles. Walls are lined with wired work stations. Common tables splay across the center, surrounded by a fort of magazines, books and media. All in the spirit of knowledge sharing. Exhibits, performances, workshops and programs spring forth from the cultural center creating a relationship that is “inspired by internet culture, is generous and spontaneous: interaction, participation, games and networking…“.  Continue reading