The Haunting Allure of Europe’s Abandoned Places

The powerful stories of many European buildings can be seen in the cracks and dust left behind in these abandoned wonders scattered across the continent. After centuries of strength and poise, these buildings can still be found intact and full of empty, fascinating mystery. Although most of the following buildings are rarely on the list of ‘must-sees’ for world travelers, they might actually be worth the trip to indulge in some good, old-fashion history.

I found it especially interesting to know that I’m not alone when it comes to curiosity about abandoned places. In fact, many bloggers dedicate entire blogs to abandoned buildings and sites around the world. I’ve linked to several of them, as well as broader blogs that touch on the topic every once in a while. Bloggers from all over the world seem to have an interest in these historical findings and the stories that got these sites to their present state. Here’s a look at some of the many run-down sites and buildings that once stood extraordinarily tall.

 Beelitz Heilstatten:

This complex started as a military hospital during WWII and was continually used by Russians until its abandonment in the 1990s. For more photos and info, click here.

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Photo by Sara at FindingBerlin.com

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Photo by Sara at FindingBerlin.com

2

Photo by Sara at FindingBerlin.com

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Photo by Sara at FindingBerlin.com


Castle of Mesen:

Dating way back to the 1500s, this small town Castle was rebuilt and remodeled until the middle of the 20th century. For more photos and info on the Castle of Mesen, click here.

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Photo by Niek Beck

photo at abandoned-places.com

photo at abandoned-places.com

Photo at abandoned-places.com

photo at abandoned-places.com

9The Medieval Village of Craco, Italy:

Over time, this village lost residents due to the plague, French occupation and civil unrest. It’s final abandonment took place in the early 1990s when locals fled to America to escape the poor agricultural conditions. For more photos and info on Craco, Italy, visit this blog.

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

 

Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture:

This Paris railway came long before the Paris Metro. The main source for Paris transportation in the 19th century fell to it’s decline in the mid 1900s. For more photos and info on this railway, visit this blog.

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

 

Hafodunos Hall:

This deserted mansion in Wales was built in the 1860s for the wealthy, Sandbach family. Since the house sold in the 1930s, it has been used as a girls’ school and then an old peoples home until it was shut down in 1993. To learn more about Hafodunos Hall, visit this blog.

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogs

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

 

These are just a few of the many buildings and towns across the European continent that once prevailed and are now deemed useless. I find it incredible how intact many buildings still are. I can’t imagine letting a spectacular castle waste away to nothing. It will be interesting to see if any abandoned wonders one day make a comeback and are remodeled to flourish on their old grounds that remain filled with memories and stories of time passed.

To read about abandonment of full European towns, check out this blog.

One man band

The Art of Busking

 
People do it in the street. People do it alone. People do it together.

Some use one instrument. Some use many. Some even combine all of their instruments into one mega instrument.

Performers go by many names. Street performer. Troubadour. Minstrel. Traveling musician. Busker.


 

One man band

One man band

Busking is something that has gained popularity recently, but that doesn’t mean it’s something new. Street performance has been around for a long, long time (I’m talking back to ancient Rome old). However, street performance did not gain the name busking until 1857.

Paris, France, a city known for its music, is one of the best places in the world to busk (it ranks number 4 in the world according to this list).

And if you’ve got some kind of talent and want to busk in Paris there many helpful websites out there.

This is an 8-step guide to help you get started. This blog gives helpful tips such as places to do try your hand at busking, such as the metro–but warns not during rush hours. It also gives motivation to just go out and try your hand at busking.

If you’re interested in becoming a busker but not quite ready to get started, or you’re like me and do not have the talent to busk, there are resources for you too.

Check out this blog which uses a narrative to discuss busking. It is written in a way to help aspiring buskers pick the venue that is right for their performance. As someone who has never (and probably will never) busk, it was an interesting read because I was able to experience what it is like to be a busker, without having to actually perform.


Musicians in the Latin Quarter of Paris.

If you are interested in experiencing street performances, but do not have the ability to visit cities where they perform, there are now alternative ways to see buskers from around the world due to technology.

World Street Music is a site I particularly enjoyed using to discover buskers and watch performances. As the name suggests it has a variety of performances from around the world! You can search by country, type of instrument, or anything related to street performances.

Today busking is not just on the street. Technology has made it an art form that can be enjoyed anywhere.

 Look for my next blog post where I’ll focus on the busking band Les Trois Coups.

 

Europeans and Trains: A Love Affair

High Speed Train

 

Europeans are all about traveling by trains. If the sheer number of train tracks criss-crossing the continent isn’t enough proof, all one has to do is look at hashtags for any of the major European train lines. Take #Eurostar for example:

 

 

 

That is a lot of train love… and it isn’t just a fling.

Eurostar Patrons are feelin' the love at one of the many Eurostar stations. Photo courtesy of @ppparis.

Eurostar Patrons are feelin’ the love at one of the many Eurostar stations

Contrary to popular belief, trains were not solely popularized by their role in the Harry Potter series. Locomotives choo-chooed into the scene roughly 171 years before Harry met Ron on that fateful September day. The first mechanized railways appeared in England in the 1820s, and kick-started the industrial revolution across the world.

 

While the metropolitan rail system was being developed rapidly in London, continental Europe began to expand their rail services, starting in Belgium. For many countries, the development of the railways was a tool used to improve their economic and social systems. The French hoped that their rail system would bring about social modernization in some of the more rural areas. Germany’s aims were to strengthen the nation as well as promote industrialization.

 

Although the industrial revolution has come and gone, trains continue to rule the tracks. With the advent of high-speed trains, one minute you can be French kissing a stranger under the Eiffel Tower, and ogling Prince Harry at a polo match only two hours later. All this, without ever having to leave the ground. In fact, 81% of travelers prefer to ride the rails rather than take to the air when going from Paris to London. Millions of Europeans take advantage of this and journey billions of kilometers every year. France alone carries 54.72 billion passenger miles per year.

 

By choosing to take the train, passengers can choose when and where they want to depart from, similar to air travel. Although unlike air travel, passengers do not have to deal with as many rigid restrictions and can enjoy amenities like sleeping cabins and dining areas. Yet neither planes nor trains have developed an effective system for ejecting crying babies from the vehicle, a problem that consistently plagues both types of transportation.

 

There are a lot of miles of high speed rails in Europe... and the number is only growing.

The number of high-speed rails zooming across Europe continues to grow faster and faster, just like the trains that ride them.

Despite the fact that the last time many Americans rode a train it was in the mall, 10 or 20 Christmases ago, the United States is actually ranked first in the world in railroad miles. In the United States, trains are most commonly used for cargo transport, rather than human moving.

 

The widespread nature of the US  just doesn’t operate the same way that it does in condensed Europe. Its not surprising that most people would rather take a two-hour train ride from Paris to London than bear the 37-hour journey from Minneapolis to Seattle. Having cities closer together and numerous high-speed trains that connect them make travel seem a little less daunting and a lot more doable.

 

 

Throughout the years and numerous technological innovations, trains have stood the test of time. They have successfully connected a continent and its people, and will continue to do so, with over 11,000 miles of high-speed rails in the works. Trains have made it clear that they are to stay in Europe, and not only because the tracks are made of steel and are very difficult to erode, but because the continental pastime is one that Europeans can’t, and have no desire to shake.

 

France surrenders to Neo-Classicism

French architectural firm Atelier Zündel Cristea (AZC), has proposed formal plans to build an inflatable trampoline bridge across the Seine River in Paris. AZC claims, “the bridge in Paris, allows us to locate an architectural reflection within the same realm of contemporary urban enjoyment.” And despite protests that the audacious modern design would be a blemish on classically-styled Paris, AZC’s bridge won an award in a 2012 design competition hosted by the progressive ArchTriumph competition series. The bridge is obviously unsafe and completely gaudy, but to award such bold new style is to evoke the essence of the revolutionary Frenchman.

Paris trampoline bridge – full-time lifeguards needed

To quote the chief argument against the audacious bridge proposal: A writer for BuzzPatrol says, “One wonders where the on-call paramedic will be located, because as anyone who has used a trampoline regularly will know, there is going to be lots of bloody noses, busted elbows, twisted ankles and sore brainpans!” (via Newsy.com)

In support of the trampoline bridge, designer AZC says: “The sides of each [of three] section[s] flip up to keep people from falling over… the design is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than building a new bridge.(via Newsy.com)

But to the French, there’s a bigger issue than public safety at stake. French citizens who support the classically-styled projection of their culture claim that allowing the construction of such modern-style architecture is offensive to the visage, or “face,” of France. Meanwhile, artists who are progressive and modern in their style continue to encroach upon the refined classicism of Paris. A closer look at the proposed architecture reveals that even some of the new designs are indeed respectful of the classic style’s definitions, parameters, and values.

Oh! The French cultural identity! Viva la France!!

For a perspective crash-course, classicism is defined by worldly ideas originating from antiquity which “primarily express and set standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate”, that is “formal balance, clarity, manliness, and vigor in art”. Yes, manliness. Today, arts and sciences are still considered “Classical,” while modern movements overlap, which still see themselves as “aligned with light, space, sparseness of texture, and formal coherence.” (Wikipedia, Classicism).

Refer to a related case, where the French have gone ham on matters of cultural identity: The French have formed prominent committees to investigate, regulate, define, and refine language and art as representations of their distinguished culture. They’re all about refinement in enrichment. The Académie française (French Academy), which is part of the French government, arose in 1635 during the height of classicism. The French Academy still wields the same authority today as it did upon its inception. Its members are known as “immortals.” As a statement, an ex officio member of the Academy is The French Association for Standardization. Also notably, the French Academy has a Law Commission permanently assigned to the Academy of Sciences.

Contextually, it is important to credit Cardinal Richelieu with all of this, under French King Louis XIV, a.k.a. the Sun King. Louis XIV was the epitome of the absolute ruler, Hobbes’s Leviathan, and a great patron of the art. His most famous achievement was the building of the grand Versailles Palace, and, according to french philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), is responsible for the French Revolution. Big time.

So, by the 1970s the French Academy was tasked with ensuring that terminology within France, such as is found on labeling, in advertising, and in broadcasting, was Academy-approved French terminology. No new slang. But a complete overhaul of French language law in the 1990s brought about the creation of Paris’s General Commission of Terminology and Neologisms as a prominent new major player on the cultural enrichment scene. The Commission is tasked, in every department and profession in France, with the responsibility for keeping current the new day’s words, that is to say, “to establish an inventory of cases where it is desirable to complete the French vocabulary, taking into account the needs expressed.” So it’s the old Academy dueling with the new Commission. It’s a big job to “ensure harmonization and relevance” of your cultural legacy.

There was a big fuss when the modern technological term “cloud computing“ arrived on the Commission’s agenda in October 2009.

Sacré bleu! Revolution is as French as baguettes and Louis Vuitton.  The French take pride in their people’s repertoire for fighting for a cause. The defiant spirit exists in today’s neo-classic artists. Revolution is in keeping with French heritage. Although pride likely doesn’t stem from how many wars France has won, the people pride themselves on acknowledging, defining, understanding, and appreciating the human person and their existence. This notion has been popular since Pascal’s provocative Pensees in the 1600s. Since then, existentialism has been an undeniably pervasive quality of modern French culture. As culture is dynamic, to describe the surge in audaciously modern proposals by architects in Paris today, one might allude to the spirit of the cultural Renaissance, or “rebirth.”

I’m saying, “Hey, Frenchies,” if language is making slow progress, go big through architecture. And they had best get to it! After all, one mustn’t forget how the French were slighted during the London 2012 Olympics, when The International Olympic Committee defended the sparse use of French, even though it was the official language of the Games.  Ouch.  What else is new?

Returning commentary to the realm of architecture, recall there was a fit when the glass pyramid was added to the Louvre museum in Paris. The striking contrast of architectural styles speaks volumes, in itself, about the depth of the controversy surrounding it. Opponents claim it is too modern while proponents explain its classic virtue.

1989 Controversial modern pyramid addition to classical Louvre Museum, Paris

The same arguments were made surrounding the construction of the Eiffel Tower in 1887. It is difficult to accurately gauge the existing support for the emergence of such audacious modern-classical architecture in a classically-dominated France, although news media coverage of new defiant art and architecture proposals has increased considerably in recent years.

A recent example of efforts to preserve French influential progressive architecture comes from an American Atlantic Cities article, “France should Honor Le Corbusier like we honor Frank Lloyd Wright” (Oct 11, 2012. Atlantic Cities).

Frank Lloyd Wright vis-à-vis Le Corbusier architecture

 

Le Corbusier’s work should be in (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) UNESCO’s World Heritage status so its influence on modern art and architecture is preserved.

It’s that little bit of… “Je ne sais quoi?” the French selectively imbibe and exude which we are attracted to. The concern of the citizens in maintaining quality control over their established cultural benchmarks is as admirable a characteristic as the importance today placed on continuing to introduce new French ideas to the gauntlet today. It’s all about enrichment. The people will fight to ensure it. This influence is reflected on to architecture as an outlet of cultural expression in which the people have a vote, and is also the source of controversy surrounding progressive neo-classic artists. I love to see bold designs defining a new era in France while strict classicists squirm at the sight and toil over antiquated perspectives.

Louvre Islamic Art Exhibit: Perfect Timing?

The Mona Lisa recently got some new company at the Louvre in Paris. In September the Islamic Art wing of the world-famous museum opened in a time when racial tension in France is high.

The aim of the wing is to “showcase the radiant face of a civilization,” according to museum director Henri Loyrette. It also aims to heighten a cross-cultural understanding at a time when tensions are high in France, especially after a French weekly publication published lewd caricatures of the prophet Mohammed.

The wing, which cost about 130 million euro and took ten years to complete, is the museum’s largest development since the completion of I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid 20 years ago, according to an article from CBS News. The exhibit  features works from 632 A.D. all the way up to 1800.

Before this new addition, Islamic art was only displayed in the museum sporadically, according to an article from Al-Ahram Weekly. In the new gallery “the pieces have been inserted into a chronological and thematic display.” The article criticizes this organization because although its size and permanence is significant, the gallery does not give visitors proper context for the pieces.

Obviously the gallery has a high cultural significance because of its showcasing of Islamic art, but the political significance was emphasized when French president Francois Hollande paid a visit to the exhibit before its opening last month. Hollande was joined by the presidents of Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.

Hollande called the gallery a “political gesture in the service of respect for peace,” according to the CBS News article. “The best weapons for fighting fanaticism that claims to be coming from Islam are found in Islam itself,” he said. “What more beautiful message than that demonstrated here by these works?”

I agree with the president. I think the gallery is an excellent way to educate Europe about the rich Islamic culture, and I think it’s great that the French president is supportive of the new wing. France has the largest Muslim population in Europe and tensions are high recently after the burqa bill and the cartoons in the French newspaper. This exhibition could serve as a way to unite the western world with the Muslim world through creating tolerance and an understanding of Muslim culture.

The Al-Ahram article points out that the Louvre is a perfect venue for a large Islamic art display because of its fame and prestige. The article states that the Louvre will attract a long list of donors and a lot of attention from the public. I agree with this statement. Visitors will come for the pyramid and the Mona Lisa, stick around for the new exhibition and will hopefully leave with a greater understanding and respect for a culture that has faced quite a bit of adversity in France and throughout other parts of the western world.

Puttin’ Off The Ritz

The Ritz, 1948, photo courtesy of Getty Images

Est-que vous irez bientôt à Paris? Book a room. Not at the Ritz.

Pourquoi? Beginning in early summer 2012, the famed luxury hotel located on Paris’ Place Vendome will be closing its doors. It will undergo a 27-month renovation to become, well, ritzier.

Recently, the hotel that has been both a historical landmark and a watering hole for the glamorous faces of the world has been showing signs of age, just like its blue blood patrons. Originally built in 1898, its last facelift was in 1979, and it’s showing. Last May, the French Tourism Ministry excluded the Ritz from its annual list of “palaces” – five-star hotels of exceeding character – for the first time ever. In the past, it was not only taken for granted that the Ritz would be on this list, but the hotel was thought to define it. The list is important not only for reputation but for attracting clientele as well. Quelle horreur!

Modern day celebrities such as George Clooney as well as old-school figures such as Marcel Proust have walked the halls. Coco Chanel once lived there, and F. Scott Fitzgerald titled his novella “A Diamond as Big as the Ritz” after it. It houses some of the top cultural destinations in the world – the Hemingway Bar, the restaurant L’Espadon.

The Hemingway Bar, photo courtesy of RitzParis.com

But history can only account for so many frayed napkins and scratches on the marble floors. Newer, more modern luxury hotels are becoming the new living quarters of the rich and famous while the Ritz is falling into the tired trap of being une attraction touristique. While the recession hardly applies to the hotel’s elite clientele, and thus they have pas de probleme paying the hefty bills, the competition in Paris’ hospitality market is surging. New hotels are being built, old hotels are being rebuilt – the Ritz needs to ensure that the rich and famous keep paying their bills rather than others’.

The renovation itself is being kept hush-hush. There are rumors of bathtubs that will fill in 10 seconds, the Vendome Bar will be re-roofed with glass and new suites will have terraces overlooking the garden. But the rest? Personne n’en est certain. What we do know is that it has to compete with the 10,000 square-foot spa of the newly opened Mandarin Oriental, the Louis Vuitton store in the soon-to-open Cheval Blanc, and the art gallery and cinema housed in the newly renovated Le Royal Monceau (all Parisian hotels). Oh mon dieu!

A lavish suite inside the Ritz, photo courtesy of Forbes.com

And the curtains aren’t the only things that need replacing. The Ritz currently has 500 employees. All but 30 will be laid off. C’est necessaire, but it’s not going to help France’s unemployment rate of 10%. Quel dommage!

C’est triste that the Ritz is no longer the place it once was. C’est triste that it will be closed for so long. C’est triste that it will be more difficult to track down George Clooney during his Parisian escapades. But when it re-opens its doors, it’s sure to be more glamorous than ever, meilleur que jamais. Just think of it this way: in order to remain the definition of hotel fashion, the Ritz is briefly going behind closed doors and puttin’ on the Ritz.

Yo Kanye, I’m Really Happy for You and Imma Let You Finish But…

For years, Kanye West has been the center of attention for his explosive language, offensive gestures and his sometimes pervasive yet amazing musical talent. Last week, however, West was recognized not for his musical genius or his arrogance (that most of the time is warranted) but for the premiere of his clothing line during Paris Fashion Week.

Since blowing up in the late 00’s, West has become one of the most sought after style icons in the music community. From Louis Vutton to Marc Jacobs, West has been featured not only as a spokesman for numerous fashion houses around the globe but is synonymously known has the pretty boy of the rap industry– turning both cultural stereotypes and gender roles upside down. Quite honestly, West is the Prince of our time (yes I said it) if for no other reason than his ability to generate fans not strictly on the basis of his musical talent (which he clearly possesses) but also,  because he’s so ridiculously stylish and daring.

So after years of being the self proclaimed “flyest rapper alive” and launching several small projects (Air Yeezys with Nike, retail line Past Tell and small projects with major designers like Louis Viutton ) Kanye West decided to leap off of his spaceship and launch his very own major line. And with the support of several industry big wigs, he successfully graced Paris Fashion Week–one of the biggest fashion shows in the entire world that some designers will never see–his first year out of the gate.

(Drum roll please) Welcome DW Kanye West.

*Perhaps the acronyms are for his late mother, Dr. Donda West

But does being stylish automatically mean you can design an entire line?

For those who don’t know, designers do not get to show EVERYTHING that they design during these events. The process of elimination when deciding what “looks” to showcase during fashion week is detrimental. They must first assess what looks will be the most trendy and fit into the shows theme. They then spend months evaluating the fluidity of the pieces with one another and those lucky few make it to the runway. Not only are these planned seasons in advance (right now, designers are working on   Fall/Winter 2012), but they are not ‘mock ups’–these outfits and looks must be complete and functional. This averages somewhere between 20-30 looks and they MUST BE POLISHED. This is what buyers, editors, advertisers and most important retail consumers base their purchasing decisions off of.

That being said, Kanye West may have come up a little short. Mainly because the expectations were SO high for him, Paris was expecting more. And because West has deemed himself an international trendsetting extrordinaire, perhaps they should have been.

Haute or Hot Mess?

Wests’ looks were seasonally appropriate and mildly eccentric, showing off what I assume he most admires about the female form. In some ways,  they lacked follow through and appeared poorly tailored.  Plus, even though most designers aren’t afraid to put a few “haute” looks on the runway, the kind you make visually appealing but would never expect anyone to wear, most garments are usually…wearable. Throughout his pairings, there were hints of some his favorite companies and fashion houses–most notably, American Apparel and Marc Jacobs–with nearly nude cuts and metallic fabric.

Here’s a little footage from the show

Many of the harsher criticisms a buzz in both the US and Paris blogosphere noted that West was a beginner and that his looks resembled an amueter, premature attempt at high fashion (not quoting any one source particularly). My response to that is….well he IS a newbie. Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s rumored that he worked with graduate students from  Central Saint Martins in London, which may also be a contributing factor to the rather amateur feeling of the line.Whatever the case, he was given HEAVY media attention (as usual) and left a rather large impact on the fashion community. His biggest supporters were among some of the biggest, best selling names in the industry, including the Olsen Twins who won their first CDFA award earlier this year for their luxury label, The Rowe. Others included DSquared2’s Dean and Dan Caten and Adidas loyalist, Jeremy Scott.

I just wonder if anyone will buy it….

Check out these blogs for more coverage of PFW (#ParisFashionWeek):

http://www.meltyfashion.fr/fashion-week-2011-kanye-west-le-defile-printemps-actu80469.html

http://cocoperez.com/?s=kanye&x=0&y=0

http://www.ballerstatus.com/2011/09/21/kanye-wests-clothing-line-being-produced-by-students-in-london/

http://www.elle.fr/People/Tapis-rouge/Tapis-rouge-Fashion-week/Les-celebrites-au-premier-rang-de-la-Fashion-Week-de-Paris/People-tapis-rouge-defiles-fashion-week-paris-jared-leto-kanye-west

Paris, all dressed up

John Galliano showed his Fall/Winter collection at Paris Fashion Week in March, photo from Style.com

Oscar Wilde once said, “A fashion is merely a form of ugliness so unbearable that we are compelled to alter it every six months.” Well, many would agree to disagree with Mr. Wilde about the attractiveness of high fashion (it’s art, okay?). But, he’s correct in the second part of his thesis. Every six months, without fail, the fashion world rears its pampered little head and announces the next season’s looks and trends. Let me put it this way: FASHION WEEK.

Let’s backtrack for a second. New York Fashion Week already happened (8-15 September). It was glamorous. It was exciting. Marc Jacobs is still a genius. London Fashion Week (16-21 September) is, as usual, sprinkled with some big names – Preen, Vivienne Westwood – but is a bit tamer, acting as a sort of half-time break for all the editors and stylists still trying to recover from all the Soho after-parties. Milan Fashion Week comes next (21-27 September), picking back up the pace, but in a much more regal, traditional style. And then comes la mère of them all: Paris Fashion Week, Mode A Paris. Lanvin and Chanel and Hermès, oh my!

Paris Fashion Week – perhaps the most anticipated week in the fashion world – showcases many of the world’s top designers and longest-standing fashion houses. It is known for mixing all of the young creativity and party hopping of New York Fashion Week with the established elegance of Milan’s. The settings are magnificent – Valentino in le jardin des Tuileries, Dior in the Musée Rodin – and the clothes are notorious for matching the scenery in their splendor.

Keep in mind that the collections shown are for Spring/Summer 2012. Sounds a bit early, non? But by the time the hot-off-the-runway clothes make their way into ads into magazines onto newsstands and into stores, the April flowers will be a-bloomin’. It’s just like film previews that are shown months in advance; they get you all excited and then make you wait half a year for the film to come to a theater near you.

But nonetheless, it will be a week of wonders, as always. Les rues de Paris will be flooded with even more models, editors, photographers and fashionistas (some of whom will cover the event via their rad fashion blogs), and the City of Lights will be brighter than ever with around-the-clock events. Last Paris Fashion Week, Karl Lagerfeld (designer for Chanel) turned the Grand Palais into a nighttime street-scene, complete with a glistening-sidewalk runway and stars twinkling up above. Think planetarium of couture. So start resting up now, mes chères, because this week is known for its grand surprises and you won’t want to miss any of it. Even if their are hindrances to your jetset abilities, you can always livestream the shows online. Brace yourself – it’s the grand finale of the Spring/Summer fashion weeks, and it will undoubtedly the most spectacular of them all.

Chanel’s show in the Grand Palais

Pitchfork takes on Paris

Mes chères hipsters français,

Save up your money and start hydrating now – Pitchfork Music Festival is coming to Paris. The über-indie gathering of flannel-wearing artists will be transplanting itself from its usual stomping grounds in Chicago to Sarkozy’s backyard (not literally) 28-29 October, and it’s sure to be a musical playground for all the cool kids in town.

The festival, created by the music-blog powerhouse Pitchfork, has a reputation for its lineups de la mode and ticket prices cheap enough that you can still afford your cigarettes (€79,90 is much lower than the average fest). Even though the complete artist roster has not yet been announced, headliners already include Bon Iver, Cut Copy, Wild Beasts, Aphex Twin, Jens Lekman and Pantha du Prince. Chills down your spine? Yup, me too.

Alright, you can go back to being apathetic now.

Pitchfork, who teamed with French music agency SUPER! to put on the festival, secured La Grande Hall de la Villette for the two days. So, being that it’s inside, you will not have to worry about the weather as you shimmy into the wee hours of the morning with 5,000 of your closest friends who will be there too.

And while this may be Pitchfork’s first time taking on a major European event solo, they’ve had some practice; they teamed with the UK’s All Tomorrow’s Parties this year and Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival last. They know how it’s done, they won’t let you down. Already, they’ve promised a club night with DJs playing until 5 a.m. – sure to be spinning only samples that no one knows – and a special guest on Saturday.

The rest of the artists will be announced in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, mark your calendars and learn your lyrics. For those of us on the other side of the Atlantic, we will be raging with jealousy sending our most positive vibes your way.

Cut Copy Pitchfork Music Festival, Chicago, 2011

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

European soccer fans riot in Paris

Soccer has never been considered a major sport in the United States.  The soccer scene in Europe, however, is a cultural phenomenon, one where people go out to bars and pubs and socialize with friends, family or coworkers, all while watching the game. European soccer fans sing, dance and stand for the entire match, expending energy at an incredible rate. Meanwhile, American soccer fans prefer to be spectators while relaxing in a “sedentary” state.

Portugal fans begin to riot before their match against Spain in the World Cup in the streets of Paris.

Portugal fans begin to riot before their match against Spain in the World Cup in the streets of Paris.

The joy experienced from being part of a heaving mass of humanity at a soccer match cannot compare with the peace gained sitting for hours on end. My friends and I visited Paris during the 2010 World Cup.  Little did we know that we would have a strong cultural experience by ending up in the middle of a soccer riot. After Portugal tied Brazil in the final round of the group play stage, it was determined that Portugal’s next match in the round of 16 would be against the eventual World Cup champion, Spain.

On our first night, my friends and I took a walk towards the Arc de Triomphe, a monument to Napoleon and his victories. We walked past the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and eventually found ourselves on Avenue des Champs-Élysées, walking towards the giant monument in front of us. After a few minutes of walking, some Portugal fans ran past us, carrying the Portuguese flag around their back. They were running towards a massive mob of other Portuguese fans, all celebrating that their team advanced out of group play.

The pictures that I took this night show how crazy these soccer fans can be when national pride is on the line.

Portugese and Spanish soccer fans rioting in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Portugal and Spain soccer fans rioting in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Next thing we knew, we were caught right in the middle of these crazy soccer fans dancing around, singing and yelling words that I had no clue what they were or what they meant. On the other side of the street, the Spain fans were doing the same thing: jumping, dancing and celebrating the fact that their team had advanced. After a few minutes, the celebration turned ugly. First, fans ran up to cars driving on the street and wave their respective flag in the cars window, until someone got offended when the other country’s fans went up to the same car as them. Meanwhile, some buses packed with tourists were driving by. At first, it started innocent, with the fans waving their flags at the buses and pounding on the sides. However, with traffic picking up, and the fans getting more rowdy, they attempted to tip over the buses onto the other side’s fans. Luckily, the buses were able to drive away in time to avoid being tipped over.

Portugal fans attempt to tip over a bus driving towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Portugal fans attempt to tip over a bus driving towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

After getting in the way of cars, tipping buses, burning each others flags and a couple of brawls, the riot police came to keep the fans separated. My friends and I, since we’re all journalism majors, had been taking pictures this entire time, and continued to do so when the riot police came, so we could show proof to our friends and family back home that we really did get caught up in a soccer riot while in Europe. One of the police officers caught my friend taking a picture of him, and came over to make my friend delete the picture. After the police got there, the fans started to settle down, but it was an experience that truly showed how crazy some European soccer fans can be.

Riot police block Portugese fans from running in the street and tipping over cars and buses.

Riot police block Portugal fans from running in the street and tipping over cars and buses.

Just a side note: Spain defeated Portugal 1-0.

Riots from crazy sports fans have happened before, with fans lighting stuff on fire, destroying houses and cars, but experiencing a riot first hand is far more frightening than just watching videos.

Some Americans also enjoyed the game in Europe, but not as much as the Europeans. Fifa set up a Fan Fest, and aired the World Cup games in six cities in the world, including Paris and Rome. In the United States, fans took motivation from the fan fest and their peers across the Atlantic and followed the team as the tournament progressed, but still not to the same degree as in Europe.

It’s Tecktonik!!!

Believe it or not, the term tecktonik is a registered trademark. But, you definitely don’t need anyone’s approval to practice it.

After originating in the Netherlands and moving to the streets of Paris in the early 2000’s, tecktonik dance has spread – and is continuing to gain popularity – through the veins of the Internet,  into the bodies and out through the fingertips of young men and women around the world.

The pop-underground movement of Tecktonik (a.k.a. TCK) – or electro – dance is “based on a blend of techno, rave and hip-hop styles – (late ’80s vogue, ’90s waving and b-boying, and ’70s disco).” And with this kind of dance, it’s all about the arms; in this video, I almost expect one or two to fall off.

Once you’ve mastered the movements, created your own or you just want to look the part, all that’s needed is a pair of skinny jeans, a tight neon-colored shirt and an arm band or two…funky hair cut and color is optional.

In 2007, L’Agence France Presse wrote a story on this “homespun urban dance phenomenon,” which the organization called “the talk of this year’s Paris Techno Parade.” The AFP spoke with the artistic director of the Metropolis – a series of clubs on the outskirts of Paris where TCK originated – who said the craze started when he founded dance nights called Tecktonik Killer. For seven years, it was here where young adults “rocked out” to the harder sounds of Northern Europe and the softer sounds of its Southern counterpart, until the tecktonik movement truly broke into the City of Light.

“Little by little, the clubbers who came invented a choreography,” he added, explaining how Tecktonik dancing came to be born.

And thanks to the Internet, you can learn too! Click here before continuing to read…

…if you did click there, I bet there was a 9/10 chance you just attempted those step-by-step arm and hand movements yourself. Yet another reason why this dance gained popularity via the Internet – you can learn it in the privacy of your own room with no one to critique you except the mirror. If you’re in Paris and are feeling some confidence, head out to Le Centre Pompidou where street dancers frequent.

Practice makes perfect, and if cartoons can do it, so can you! Just make sure you dance in a safe location…

Pipi Problem in France

You will find many wonderful things in the streets of Paris or any major French city. There are outdoor markets, cozy cafés, and bicycles or mopeds zooming by. However, many people have discovered something extra splattered on the streets that diminishes charm from these romantic rues. Despite the 400-plus public restrooms and numerous other options available in Paris, Frenchmen still choose to unzip illegally. Making urine sauvage, or “wild urine”, is a risk that can cost around $650 for one violation.  In a recent post titled Euro-pee’in, Jon Cecero discussed some clever Dutch solutions for the public urination problem. Public urination is an issue everywhere but the French peeing problem has reason to be emphasized.

3 Frenchmen stop to relieve themselves on the Autoroute (captured by Google Street View)

Three Frenchmen unzip on the side of the Autoroute in France (captured by Google Street Views) Smile! You're on candid camera!

Public urination in France is more than just a problem. It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s convenient. It’s a true test of friendship for partners in crime. Urinating in the street has been added to the Ô Chateau-Parisian Wine Tasting blog, “Stuff Parisian People Like“.

In 2007, the Mayor of Paris was, quite literally, pissed off at the situation and its stench. The Brigade des Incivilités, or “bad behavior brigade” has been sent to fight the war on public urination in Paris. The number of fines they distributed for public urination have drastically increased over the past 3 years. In addition to the brigade, the new mur anti-pipi, “anti-pee wall” has potty trained some violators. This is a horizontally jagged metal wall that ejects the urine back onto the peeing offender. The problem: the offender may continue to urinate publicly, but will avoid the trick walls. A French blogger suggests the new Axix. This Mexican invention will not end public urination but will help preserve buildings and contain the unwanted. What will it take to end the war on public urination? Where else is this a problem and what is being done?

French Cuisine: With a Side of Protest

Georges Restaurant in the Pompidou Centre is a work of art. Encased in glass and steel, the restaurant is popular for its view of Paris. Look around and you will see that the food as well as the furniture is modern. On top of that furniture sit illegal immigrants. But they aren’t there to eat, they’re present for protesting purposes.

In less reported news, Georges has become a setting for protests by immigrants from Senegal and Asia who work at the eatery and are fighting to get recognized in order to obtain France’s version of the green card, the “une Carte de Séjour.” They sit there all day, in the restaurant and outside of it, quietly hoping to get the attention of the French government. They have been doing so since October 23, and have no plans to cease their demonstrations until they are recognized as French citizens.

Senegal protestors sitting in Georges as part of their demonstration, one that has been going on since Oct. 23rd. Photo taken by Adam Sage of Timesonline.com

Senegal protestors sitting in Georges as part of their demonstration, one that has been going on since Oct. 23rd. Photo taken by Adam Sage of Timesonline.com

“French cuisine is famous throughout the world,” says Mamadou, a 36-year-old man from Senegal and assistant chef for Georges who was interviewed by the UK’s Times Online news. “But without the Africans, the Sri Lankans and the Asians, there would be no one to cook it. It just wouldn’t exist.”

Georges isn’t the only restaurant facing the wrath of their foreign employees. There have been sit-ins all over France, not including the many other protests and hunger strikes staged over the past few years, that have taken place at popular eateries where illegal immigrants are employed. The site claims that there are 4,700 illegal immigrants floating around the country, and many say they pay taxes and do the things that French men and women born in the country do, but know they do not have the same rights. “I’ve been in France for nine years and I’ve worked all the time. I pay my taxes and social security just like any Frenchman,” says Dramane, a 38-year-old man from Mali involved in the demonstrations. “But every time I go out, it’s with fear in my stomach, because I could be arrested.”

The response is slow at the moment. The restaurant continues its daily tasks while trying to ignore the demonstrators, as do the customers who walk in, glance at the demonstrators, and go on about their business. The immigrants are benefiting though. Through the protests, protestors have made connections with a network of other immigrants that can relate to their struggles; something these men and women had a hard time finding before. It is unclear who has replaced the demonstrators in the kitchen at Georges.  And not every immigrant who has a hand in making French cuisine is protesting, but  those who are demonstrating at Georges are hopeful that their presence will slowly but surely have an impact on their status in the country.

The interior of the illustrious Georges Restaurant in the Pompidou centre in Paris. Photo courtesy of Jakob/MacFarlane of Flickr

The interior of the illustrious Georges Restaurant in the Pompidou centre in Paris. Photo courtesy of Jakob/MacFarlane of Flickr

Obviously, this story is reminiscent of many of the issues that Americans hear about daily regarding illegal immigrants from nearby Latin American countries. Many of the immigrants whom Americans complain about do the work that most feel they are above: janitorial work, working in hotels, landscaping work, etc. The same can be said in France, but the question arises from the above story about the protest in Georges: Would French cuisine, a major symbol of French culture, be as huge as it is (including the much lauded kabob) without the hands of illegal immigrants making it? Who really knows who is in those high class, five-star restaurant’s kitchens slaving over France’s world famous food? Whatever your response, it is interesting to see that problems with illegal immigration aren’t just a huge deal in America, but in France as well. Will these individuals stay parked in Georges for months, waiting to be recognized or arrested? Or will their demands continue to be ignored like the hopes for citizenship of many illegal immigrants here in the States? Only time will tell…

There have been many protests of this kind.  To see one done in 2008 by illegal immigrants and the response  it received, check out the video below: