Thursday, September 21, 2017

What's New at Josephine's House

Last weekend, Tom and I visited Le Beau Chêne during the Journées du Patrimoine - the annual weekend when the public can visit government buildings and other sites that are not generally accessible. Josephine Baker called this beautiful villa home from 1929-1947.

The property was first opened for the Journées du Patrimoine in September 2013 and I enjoyed a private visit in April 2014. Things have changed since then!

Several trees have been cleared so that the villa is more easily visible from the street.

Le Beau Chêne viewed from avenue Georges Clémenceau
© Discover Paris!

Many of the windows have been replaced. The basement now houses a meeting room, as does the rebuilt gazebo.

Gazebo in 2014
© Discover Paris!

Rebuilt gazebo
© Discover Paris!

Though still in a state of severe disrepair, the dovecote is being used to grow tomatoes.

Tomatoes in the dovecote
© Discover Paris!

Tomatoes in the dovecote (close-up)
© Discover Paris!

Most importantly, and to the dismay of many who had hoped the property would remain intact, the lot has been divided to accommodate two additional residences. They will be built in the area where Josephine once had two greenhouses and a large chicken coup.

Photo display: Josephine in front of her chicken coop
© Discover Paris!

Photo display: Josephine and a duckling in front of
her large greenhouse
© Discover Paris!

Large greenhouse in 2014
© Discover Paris!

One of the homes is largely finished.

New house at Le Beau Chêne
© Discover Paris!

The lot was split to finance the refurbishing of the main house. Many things are still in need of repair, including the roof and the awning above the front porch.

Front porch awning
© Discover Paris!

To date, Le Beau Chêne is not classified as a National Heritage Site. The property remains inaccessible to the general public except during the Journées du Patrimoine.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Elliott Barnes at AD Intérieurs 2017

Elliott Barnes returns to AD Intérieurs this year with an ambitious installation that marries 17th-century artistry with 21st-century savoir faire.

Called "Le Salon d'un Collectionneur de Monnaie" in honor of the famous French sculptor and engraver, Jean Varin, and the coins and medals that he produced, Barnes' installation is found just after a whimsical, yet elegant installation of chandeliers by Mathieu Lustrerie at Le Monnaie de Paris.

AD Interiéurs 2017 at La Monnaie de Paris
© Discover Paris!

Varin was named contrôleur et graveur général des monnaies de France (controller and engraver of French currencies) in 1647. He popularized the use of the coin press, replacing the manual production of coins by hammering. Barnes was inspired by Varin's innovations to pay homage to Varin and to create several avant-garde works of his own.

In the passageway between the chandelier installation and "Le Salon" sits a console that evokes the coin press that Varin championed.

Console
© Discover Paris!

Entering the salon, my first impressions related to geometry—an elliptical room, a round floor covering, round disks suspended between sleek columns, and various curves and waves. Then I noted colors—the white, silver, gray, and smoke of the canape, chairs, walls, sconce, and columns; the earth tones of the rug, table base, trunk-like posts, and light fixture frame...

Le Salon d'un Collectionneur de Monnaie
© Discover Paris!

© Discover Paris!

© Discover Paris!

Finally, upon approaching the various elements of the installation, I noted textures and temperatures—smooth, cold marble;

© Discover Paris!

warmer and ever-so-slightly corrugated rounds of pressed leather;

© Discover Paris!

even warmer fabrics of various weaves;

© Discover Paris!

the parched earth appearance of a green ceramic vase...

© Discover Paris!

Vegetal leather (leather tanned with vegetal components instead of heavy metals) is the "star" of Barnes' installation. It is his reference to the leather apron Varin wore when he worked. The uninitiated will find it difficult to spot most of the pieces made of this material and will be astonished upon discovering the items that are made from it!

The bench pictured below is a great example. It is composed almost entirely of pleated leather. The only element not made of leather is the tension rods that keep the folds intact.

© Discover Paris!

© Discover Paris!

In case you're wondering, YES, you can sit on it!

Have a look at these shelves:

© Discover Paris!

And the base of this table:

© Discover Paris!

And the frame of this "tattood" mirror:

© Discover Paris!

ALL are made of vegetal leather!

The wall panels, which were custom designed for the room using a pattern that dates from 1740, are made from Cordoba embossed metallic leather:

© Discover Paris!

Even the artwork is made of leather - this framed oeuvre by award-winning artist Samuel Levi Jones is composed of deconstructed encyclopedia covers:

Scarlet
2004 Samuel Levi Jones
© Discover Paris!

And this watercolor by Daniela Busarello, commissioned for Elliott Barnes Interiors in 2017, is painted on leather:

Cosmographie E1
2017 Daniela Busarello
© Discover Paris!

AD Intérieurs 2017 will be open until September 20. Barnes will be on site from 2 PM to 4 PM on September 16, 17, and 19 to present his exquisite work. If you're in Paris, be sure to get over to La Monnaie de Paris to see it!

Monnaie de Paris
11, quai de Conti
75006 Paris
www.monnaiedeparis.fr
Hours: 11 AM - 7 PM
Entry fee: 10€

To learn more about Elliott Barnes and his designs, visit http://ebinteriors.com/.

Elliott Barnes
© Discover Paris!

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Ô Petit Club Africain

The restaurant Ô Petit Club Africain offers African cuisine and ambiance in the western Paris suburb of Puteaux.

Ô Petit Club Africain – façade
© Discover Paris!

Chef Raoul Dufy has regaled customers here for the past five years. Born in Senegal, he learned to love cooking in his mother’s kitchen and studied the culinary arts at the Ecole Ferrandi in Paris. After working in several prestigious kitchens in France, he opened Ô Petit Club Africain in 2012.

On the day Tom and I lunched there, we were the first customers to arrive for lunch. We got our pick of the tables and settled upon a place on the spacious, bright, and well-ventilated terrace at the rear of the restaurant. Original art works and crafts enlivened the space and music from Africa played over the sound system.

Terrace table, crafts, and original art work
© Discover Paris!

A bottle of bissap-flavored rhum arrangé, complete with what must have been hundreds of rum-steeped hibiscus flower petals, beckoned to be sampled.

Bissap rhum arrangé
© Discover Paris!

Our server informed me that the restaurant had several other flavored rums to choose from, but I stuck with my original selection and ordered the bissap variety as an apéritif. It was more potent than I expected and because I’ve been conditioned by drinking bissap juice, it was not as sweet as I thought it would be. I will try another variety next time.

Tom ordered an apéritif-sized portion of pastels and received three tender, piping hot fish and parsley fritters in a tangy red sauce. He forewent an alcoholic beverage and ordered a glass of jus de bouille (baobob juice) instead. He described this cloudy, camel-colored drink as being slightly grainy and having a faint banana flavor.

Pastels
© Discover Paris!

Jus de bouille
© Discover Paris!

The menu consists of four entrées, three salads, eight main dishes, six desserts, and a whopping fourteen (14) selections of artisanal ice creams and three sorbets. The ice creams are made locally by Nicolas Poilevey. Non-alcoholic beverages included natural juices of tamarind, bissap, ginger, and the bouille mentioned above.

I did not order an entrée for fear of being too full upon leaving the restaurant.

For my main course, I selected Poulet DG, a traditional Cameroonian chicken-and-vegetable stew served with plantains. I received a plate piled high with a tender chicken leg topped with sliced carrots, red and yellow bell peppers, sliced spring onions, and steamed plantains. The chicken thigh and drumstick had been separated; they sat in a light and lovely reddish sauce. The plantains provided a touch of sweetness and contrast in texture next to the vegetables and chicken. The overall portion was generous and the flavors melded perfectly!

Poulet DG
© Discover Paris!

Tom ordered capitaine braisé, which consisted of an entire fish braised with herbs and spices and topped with chopped red onions, diced red bell peppers and zucchini, and steamed plantains, all served on a wood plank. Flavored with citrus, the fish was succulent and tender. He consumed every morsel of this delightful dish!

Braised capitaine
© Discover Paris!

To accompany our meals, I ordered jus de bissap (hibiscus juice) and Tom stuck with his jus de bouille. Given the heat of the day and the fact that we planned to take a long walk after lunch, we did not regret this decision. We both found our selections to be tasty and refreshing.

Time for dessert!

We scrutinized the selections for several minutes before placing our orders. Tom opted for three scoops of ice cream – tarot (a tropical root vegetable), cumbawa (makrut lime), and sesame noir (black sesame). We were surprised at the size of the scoops he received – they were almost twice as large as the scoops we’re used to receiving in French restaurants. Of the three flavors, both of us preferred the black sesame.

tarot, cumbawa, and sesame noir ice creams
© Discover Paris!

I ordered one of the suggested prepared desserts – a ginger cake served with crème anglaise flavored with lime zest. A single round cake roughly three inches in diameter and one inch thick was served warm in a bowl. The crème anglaise coated the cake like a thin frosting. Resembling carrot cake, it was moist, tender, and bursting with ginger flavor. I was quite pleased with my choice!

Ginger cake with crème anglaise
© Discover Paris!

The pace of the service was a tad slow but the young women who served us were friendly and kind.

About the time we were finishing dessert, Chef Dufy appeared on the terrace to greet his customers and to inquire about their satisfaction with their meals. Tom and I took the opportunity to ask him to pose for a photograph and he graciously did so.

Chef Raoul Duly
© Discover Paris!

We had an excellent first experience at Ô Petit Club Africain and will happily return!

Ô Petit Club Africain
14, bd. Richard Wallace
92800 Puteaux
Telephone: 01.45.06.76.22
Internet: http://opetitclub.fr/

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Black Women in French Rugby

By Tatiana Balabanis

Rugby dates to the 19th century and though this sport is unconventional in its literal “backwards” nature, for centuries it has brought people together from different backgrounds. As a European alternative to the contact sport of American football, it attracts crowds and spectators at all levels.

France is part of the Six Nations Rugby league, along with England, Italy, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. It had the opportunity to send a women’s team and a men’s team to the 2016 Rio Olympics, where 7s Rugby (played with 7 people on each side) was introduced for the first time in Olympic history.

A few notable French female players of color have made an impact on the rugby world as well as on the communities from which they come.

The first is Julie Annery. Julie has played on France’s 7s team for Six Nations since 2016. Before then, she played for her hometown team, AC Bobigny 93 Rugby.

Julie Annery
RATP.fr press photo

At the early age of 22, Julie has already begun to leave her mark. This year, for its 10th anniversary, Julie was named the godmother of RATP’s “Les Mercredis du Rugby,” an annual program sponsored by the state-owned public transportation operator that promotes “better living together” via rugby. Over 400 students are recruited for this program each year. They are taught the “pedagogical values of discipline-respect, teamwork, and sharing.”

In an interview with French radio station Outre-Mer 1ère, Julie spoke about her experience with rugby and how it is the perfect choice of sport to embody these proposed values. She also mentioned how in all her time playing rugby, she has never been faced with racism within the sport. Nor has she felt that being a woman has caused her more difficulty in the rugby world.

The next notable player is Rose Thomas. Rose was the only woman of color to compete for France on the Women’s Olympic 7s Rugby team last summer in Rio. She is a French-African rugby player of Central African descent.

In a spotlight video on the Olympic Channel, Rose talks about how Central African culture was very much part of her growing up. She shares that her mother speaks to her in Sango, the official language of the Central African Republic, and that she always responds in French. She laughs about how when she visits the Central African Republic with her mother, they see her as “the little white girl” who is fully immersed in European culture and simply a visitor to her mother’s home country.

Rose Thomas
Olympic Channel video

In regard to racism, Rose echoes the sentiments Julie Annery expressed, saying that she has never been faced with racism in her years as a rugby player. She also insightfully adds how racism is the fear of difference and how rugby helps foster integration because of the loyalty and camaraderie you feel towards someone when you are out on the field fighting for the people next to you.

Julie Annery and Rose Thomas outline the values of rugby in a way that I identify very strongly with in my experience with playing rugby. I have never felt an ounce of racism within my rugby team and am proud to say that Stanford Women’s Rugby is one of the most diverse and supportive communities of strong women of which I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part.

I’ve joined some pick-up rugby games while here in Paris and these groups of people have always been more than welcoming. Rugby truly is a sport that brings people together.

Tatiana Balabanis at Les Invalides, Paris
© Wells International Foundation

Having played this sport for over two years, I can attest that rugby builds not only physical strength, but also mental strength. It gives you the power to fight the adversities you’ll face both on and off the field.

Julie and Rose are exemplary role models of strength and discipline for young women of color throughout France and worldwide, both within the rugby sphere and outside of it.

Tatiana Balabanis is a rising junior at Stanford University. She is currently serving as a summer intern for the Wells International Foundation.

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