Parisian Nightlife a Snooze

Could it be that Paris, the city of party-loving bohemians and home of the historic and famous nightlife hot spot Moulin Rouge, is turning into the European capital of boredom?

    Paris la nuit … c’est fini !
    envoyé par cap24-wizdeo. – Regardez plus de courts métrages.

According the Le Figaro, Paris is no longer a party. Compared to Madrid, London, Amsterdam and Berlin, the City of Lights’ nightlife is dimming drastically. First, there is the issue of cost – nightlife in Paris can be especially expensive! Second, Paris is known to have a tradition of picky entrance selection to its bars and night clubs. Third, transportation seems to be pretty weak. There is the Noctambus, or night bus, which has a limited route (and tends to hold a sketchy crowd of night owls) and the metro, which only runs until 2 a.m. on the weekends.

But these reasons for poor nightlife in Paris are only the tip of the iceberg.

Paris is a very old, very dense city – and residential areas are often intermixed with other offices, businesses, shops and restaurants within the same building complex. Too often, bars and discos are stuck between residential apartment buildings – and neighbors are losing their patience with the close proximity.

In the past few years, new laws have been making it harder for nightlife venues to survive – noise ordinances and a tobacco ban, more specifically. Local residents are getting fed up with the constant noise of party-ers and the lingering of smokers on sidewalks at all hours of the night. Noise complaints and fines have risen drastically and bars are suffering the repercussions – paying expensive fines, being shut down for periods at a time, and now investing in expensive soundproofing.

In order to restore and protect Parisian nightlife, a petition was started in October of 2009. This petition declares that the law of silence will turn the “City of Light” into a European capital “City of Sleep.” My personal favorite argument of the document:

Quel peut être le sens d’une Loi de Santé publique qui aboutit à empêcher les gens de danser?”

What is the sense of a public health measure that leads to a ban on dancing?

It continues to fight the reputation of une capitale morte, or a dead capital, today (See the continually updated Facebook fan page).

So is Paris really a dying city?

In defense, Anne Hidalgo argues that one cannot easily compare Paris with other European cities. For instance, Berlin is eight times larger and less dense – comparisons are not necessarily accurate nor relevant. Mao Peninou, the adjoint chargé des Temps à la Mairie de Paris, claims that Paris is the sixth most festive city in Europe, representing 230,000 employees that work in the heart of the night. He also makes the point that Parisians do not need bars or clubs to have a party spontaneously – how many youth gather together on the banks of the Seine to hang out? (From what I saw during my time studying abroad, quite a lot!)

Planning a trip to Paris? Don’t let this post discourage you! Check out how to experience Parisian nightlife on a budget at this blog.

Photo by Jaclyn

Versailles: The Manga Invasion

Photo by Jaclyn

The Château de Versailles, arguably the most beautiful castle in France, was and still remains a symbol of France at the height of its monarchical power and cultural splendor. Not only did Louis XIV move the political center of France from Paris to Versailles, but he brought some of the best architects and artists of the era (le Vaut, le Nôtre and le Brun, to name a few) to develop a palace fit for a god.

So, what would the Sun King say if he knew there were sculptures of gaudy mushrooms and dreamy blondes being displayed amongst all of his prized possessions?

Since the opening of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s exposition at Versailles on September 14, 2010, there has been a lot of outrage. Many art and high culture critics are upset about Murakami’s use of manga, a popular type of Japanese comics.

According to Le Figaro, the idea of putting contemporary art inspired by mangas alongside the historical and royal finery of Versailles is sacrilegious. Not only is it considered by many a disgrace to the historic and artistic value of its era, but also to France’s current culture and pride.

Jean-Jacques Aillagon, museum director at Versailles, defends Murakami’s exposition on French 2 television show On s’est pas couché by explaining that contemporary art rarely ceases to have a controversial first reaction. The Louvre’s glass pyramids and the Centre Pompidou were originally critiqued with indignation – Now, they are structures with universal success; that have become symbols of French culture and art around the world.

Photos by Jaclyn (1&2) and Baptiste Lafontaine (3)

Aillagon also argues that exhibiting contemporary art along with historical and “high culture” art is stimulating. The art of the old complements the art of the new.

So, what would Louis XIV have to say about Murakami’s exposition at Versailles? Would he be offended by this intrusion of popular culture? Aillagon disagrees. Versailles was intended to be a place for happiness and good living, he says. At the end of his life, Louis XIV believed his palace to be too serious. He told his architects, “Mettez de l’enfance partout” (roughly meaning, put childhood throughout).

Photo by Charles Nouÿrit

NOTE: This isn’t the first time that Versailles has held a controversial exhibition. Be sure to check out contemporary art expositions by Jeff Koons (2008) and Xavier Veilhan (2009).