On June 16, 2016 I became French. Getting French citizenship was the “easy” part, staying in France was the real challenge. The most exciting part is that I never have to go to the Prefecture [above] to renew my paperwork as a foreigner again, otherwise what was known as “my least favorite day of the year”.
I was reading expat expert Jean Jaquet‘s latest newsletter, and there was a section about living in France by starting a small business. In his words: “Clearly, one needs cold blood and iron nerves to choose this solution, as it makes impossible to comply with the requirements of the prefecture, but it can be done.” I can confirm, this is a true statement. Living in France as an expat is ripe with catch-22s. Rules have changed since I went through the gauntlet, and I’ll openly admit if I knew what I knew now, I probably wouldn’t be here. The first years after grad school my seasoned professors would see me, and say “Anne, how are you still here!?!” with genuine awe. Most of my friends have managed to stay, stayed by getting sponsored by a company (only an option for higher level positions), or getting PACSed (civil marriage) or married—both which involve their own rounds of paperwork.
I never moved to France with rose colored glasses, I knew there would be hurdles, but knowing that I stayed here on my own, by starting my own business (a path I never imagined for myself, but can’t imagine any other way), it’s even more rewarding knowing not only did I become French, I did it the extra hard way.
(Read my French Bureaucracy, Explained post for a better appreciation of the challenges and limitations of living in France. Skip to the bottom of the post for naturalisation/citizenship specifics.)
Jump to the bottom for more citizenship specifics!
Nine years ago today I started this blog on 14 Juillet—Bastille Day. Four weeks ago today I became French.
It was a day like any other. I waited in line to get in the doors, then waited in another line once inside, then waited for the ceremony to start. But on this day, Meg was with me, and I was officially becoming French. I technically have been French since April, according to letter with a xeroxed stamp making it official, but refused to believe it until the ceremony where I received my official documents and got to sing the Marseillaise. That day individuals from 32 different countries became French.
In honor of the occasion I wore two of my favorite French designers. The dress by Papier Tigre is only available in Tokyo, and the pin by Macon & Lesquoy was a collaboration between Macon & Lesquoy and Papier Tigre. Two hearts for my two countries, which conveniently are the same colors seemed quite fitting for the day.
Later that night Meg surprised me with a cliché French celebration with my friends in Paris at the Amélie cafe (Les 2 Moulins). It was easy to spot the group as we were all wearing stripes and berets, which was extra entertaining for my friends who are actually French. Fun fact: besides being my favorite movie, Amélie happened to come out in 2001, the same year I studied abroad in Paris for the first time. It was the perfect setting to catch up with friends and celebrate my newfound Frenchness! And to top it off, at the end of the night two random tourists who didn’t speak English came up to me and asked if they could take a picture with me in front of the Amélie poster—because I looked like her! It was awesome, and we all had a good laugh.
What’s changed since then? I now have two passports, two birth certificates, I’ll be able to vote in the next election, I have full working rights (on my prior status I had the right to work in France, but was not allowed to hold a salaried position/contract), I’ll be able to work/live anywhere in the EU, and I’ll save a bajillion hours of my life every year because I no longer have to renew my paperwork every year.
A huge thank you to Meg (aka De Quelle Planete Es-Tu?) for being such an amazing friend and support, and for the amazing documentation of the day! If there’s one thing true about bureaucracy, it’s that it brings people together. I never could have navigated this alone.
Ironically, I’m not sure that I’d be where I am today if it weren’t for my blog. Stay tuned for the long version of how I became French… UPDATE: Here’s how I became French.
Ask any American if they know who Julia Child is and their eyes will light up; ask anyone in Europe and you’ll get a blank stare. For me, having the chance to work on a project in Julia Child’s home in Provence was a dream come true. She’s one of those everyday people (albeit extremely tall) who found stardom in being herself and having a passion for food. She didn’t begin cooking until she was in her 30s, and didn’t become famous until her 50s with the hit PBS TV show, The French Chef. Her goal was to make cooking accessible to everyone (TV dinners were all the rage when she emerged), as well as acting as an ambassador of sorts for French cuisine. She was a perfectionist in someways, testing recipes over and over for Mastering the Art of French Cooking (co-authored with Simone Beck), but perfectly imperfect in others. One of my favorite TV episodes ever was when Julia and Martha Stewart made a French tower of chou pastries; Martha’s looked impeccable, and Julia’s looked like a child could have made it, but it didn’t matter to Julia with her wonderful sense of humor and distinctive voice. She truly knew how to embrace who she was.
As fame found Julia later in life, she was recognized everywhere she went. The modest home she and Paul had in Provence became a refuge for them. The home was referred to as La Pitchoune, or La Peetch for short. Translation: the little one. It’s located about 45 minutes north of Nice.
The kitchen built by Paul was a replica of her official test kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, complete with tall counter tops. However, the big difference is that there was a more relaxed atmosphere in the south of France. In Cambridge she kept an ongoing list of every ingredient on hand, but in Provence cooking was more about quality time with friends.
Paul was a graphic designer and also created the peg board system for Julia to store her kitchenwares, and more importantly, to know where to put them away.
Everything was labeled so it was easy to find. (The labels are original).
Everything had its place.
Paul created a slit in the kitchen counter to store Julia’s knives.
The kitchen wouldn’t be complete without fresh, local ingredients.
When the Childs weren’t at La Pitchoune friends would often stay at the house. Julia created “The Black Book” which had everything from plumbing instructions to driving directions. One could argue that at times the information as a bit too detailed.
The dining/living room. Furniture has changed over the years. The bedrooms (not pictured) are most noteworthy for how short the beds look.
The home today still contains photos of Julia. The photo on the mantle is of her and Paul.
My Life in France is the biography about Julia Child, which was published in 2006, after she passed away. Much of it covers the time she and Paul spent in Paris. It’s a must read for any francofile.
Weather in Provence makes for many meals on the terrace.
While in Provence, I was able to spend time with Luke Barr, who wrote Provence, 1970 which made my entire experience at La Pitchoune that much more surreal. Luke’s great aunt was M.F.K. Fisher, a prominent American food writer, and using her diary and old letters, the book recreates the winter of 1970 when several key figures in American cooking, including M.F.K, Julia Child, and James Beard connected in Provence. It’s wild to read it and know that he re-created reality through archives—it truly feels like he was there, and you’ve traveled back in time together, and inside their minds.
La Pitchoune is located in La Plascassier, France not far from Grasse (famous for perfumes) and Valbonne. Part of my job was to location scout to find places that would be Julia-worthy for shopping for food when hosting a dinner party. The 2016 Julia would have been best friends with everyone in Valbonne is what I decided. I spent two weekends there and already was starting to feel like a regular.
My first visit to Patisserie Lenoir was magical. I walked inside to see Jean-Jacques Lenoir himself behind the counter and chatting with the locals (foreigners, but clearly regulars). Frodo the yellow lab would stroll in and out, while his owner François clearly preferred to speak English, showing off his time spent in Canada. Everyone who walked into the shop seemed to know Jean-Jacques and had their own inside jokes. I soaked it all in as I sat inside starring at the impressive (and beautiful) array of pastries in front of me, sipping my tea and eating a slice of quiche. I couldn’t help but think to myself: Julia would have loved this. Address: 14 Boulevard Carnot, Valbonne.
While looking for a boulangerie where we could film, a woman followed me out of one boulangerie (having overheard my conversation) and told me “I think you want to go to the other boulangerie. It’s much more local, just through the arches.” Had I not known I was looking for a boulangerie, I never would have found the white tent with a small stairway down into the large kitchen. Rémy wakes up at 2:30 every morning to start baking (he took over after his grandfather stepped down). He bakes between 250 and 500 of the local “Valbonnais” loaves in the few meter long oven. They sell so fast there’s a good chance you can get one straight out of the oven too! It was totally normal to see people with five loaves in their hands as they walked around town. Le Fournil d’Eugene: 19 Rue de la Fontaine, Valbonne.
After living in Paris for so many years, one of the most striking things about visiting the south of France is how nice people are. The same went for M. Gilbert, the butcher at Boucherie Rondelli. Everyone has personality, and in his case, a butcher with tattoos! Address: Résidence Vallis Bona 55 Route de Grasse, Valbonne.
Every Friday morning in Valbonne there’s a market in the center of town, and it’s the big shopping day for everyone. But every day of the week there’s incredible produce at Dumanois Primeurs. It’s not often you see such care put into every display. Even their green beans were arranged into rows. And like most places in town, they close early on Sundays. Address: Résidence Vallis Bona 55 Route de Grasse, Valbonne.
With a shop named 365 Fromages, it’s not hard to guess they sell a lot of cheese. But out of all the options, I went straight for the butter. Make sure you look at the signs on the shop window too, as they’re quite amusing. Address: 22 Rue Eugène Giraud, Valbonne.
In order to host a dinner party in true Julia fashion, one needs wine—lots of it. Galerie Bouteille was a hole in the wall shop, run by Fabien was able to help me pick out the perfect bottles of red, white, rosé and bubbly for the occasion. Prices were very reasonable, and the wine I bought was by independent winemakers in the region. I also love that he was sitting outside at a table set up in front of the shop having apéro with friends when I first visited. Address: 13 rue Eugene Giraud Valbonne.
Dinner at Le Bistrot du Sommelier was recommended by Fabien at the wine store and it didn’t disappoint. Prices are very reasonable, especially given all the food is made with fresh local ingredients. Address: 21 rue Eugene Giraud, Valbonne.
Unlike most French cities I’ve visited, the center of Valbonne is arranged in a perfect grid. It was absolutely magical during the golden hour with the sun setting.
A few minute drive outside of Valbonne, there’s olive oil factory Moulin d’Opio. There are guided tours and tastings, but there’s also a free self-guided tour if timing doesn’t work out. The gift shop is full of all things olive, including giant historic presses. Address: 2 route de Chateauneuf, Opio.
The amazing view from the Airbnb villa I woke up in in Provence. The visit to La Pitchoune was part of their Night At series, where you can win unexpected stays in magical places. I worked behind the scenes as a location scout and production assistant. Two fabulous sisters Melanie and Katherine (small world alert, turns out we went to the same high school!) won the prize to spend an actual #NightAt La Pitchoune (which is an Airbnb listing where anyone can stay, hosted by Makenna Johnston). Katherine wrote this awesome post for Epicurious, where she’s an editor, and they both did a Facebook video (filmed by yours truly—on an iPhone), to share their experience. While we were there three Tastemade tastemakers (Erwann Heussaff, Molly Yee and Danielle Noce) had 45 minutes to cook up 3 dishes in the kitchen—VERY impressive given that it’s not a particularly large kitchen, and that it was streamed live. Tastemade filmed another video too, which has yet to be released, but I’ll be sure to share it, as it even involved a drone shot. Until then, bon appètit!
It’s no secret that I love swimming and pools. Hey, my sign is pisces afterall. I actually get more questions about pool advice than travel advice these days (see my Paris pool advice here and here). Originally I’d tweet my stories, and then when I set out to visit all 39 public pools in Paris I decided they needed to be documented in a visual way (never mind that taking photos at pools in Paris is forbidden), so I started Instagramming my adventures with #parispiscine, and then #PAVswim with all my pool explorations.
It’s amazing how posting something that you love, as simple as swimming pools can help foster friendships. When Lisa Congdon announced that she was writing (and illustrating) a book about swimming I was thrilled for her. You can imagine how excited I was when I was drying my hair at the pool after a swim one day, checked my email and Lisa asked me to be part of the book! I called up Meg, and we had a mini photoshoot in the middle of winter of me in my swimsuit, which is the photo Lisa used to illustrate me. Lisa also called on me for research for the Paris spread of the book, which was a huge honor (my name even made it onto the acknowledgements page!). At the time the book didn’t have a name other than #theswimmingbook on @lisacongdon‘s Instagram, but as of today The Joy of Swimming has been released into the world.
The most inspiring part of the book is that it’s all about everyday people with a passion for the water. It covers the history, puts in tidbits about swimming you never considered, and on top of it all, Lisa illustrated the entire thing! It’s seriously the perfect gift for any swimmers in your life. In fact, I think I sold Lisa’s first copy in Paris when a woman sitting next to me was curious about what I was reading. It was actually a really funny story, and I wrote about it in my latest issue of “Underwater” my TinyLetter newsletter about swimming pools and bureaucracy (seriously, the stories are endless!).
P.S. I recently released a Telescope Cards “Paris Piscine” deck with my 25 favorite pools.
Static images by Lisa Congdon.
Nothing beats personal recommendations from friends when you’re traveling. Blogs are awesome, but sometimes can get a little overwhelming with so many ideas, and all the information is scattered in too many places. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have much time to plan. Besides, it’s refreshing to disconnect when you’re traveling (if you haven’t already gone through your phone battery taking pictures putting you on mandatory disconnect). What’s even better is when those recommendations can become a souvenir from your travels as well.
About a year ago, when I was in London, I first met up with Basil Safwat, who is one of the founders of Telescope Cards. We instantly connected on the ways we travel, and what’s missing in travel guides, lamenting the fact that there are too many minimalist layouts with pretty pictures, which don’t feel particularly personal, or practical. Then he told me about his latest project. Like most things in print, it wasn’t until I held a deck in my hand did I realize the awesomeness of Telescope Cards. Telescope Cards were born out of an exchange between Basil and James Croft where “consulting the [custom] map [with personal tips] was like asking a friend where to go next.” The bite sized deck that fits in the palm of your hand (or in your pocket) holds 25 place cards, and two extra information cards. The design is smart, with small notches cut out of each card, which are held together by a small rubber band. The best part: anyone can create their own deck!
These awesome handheld souvenirs can be shipped anywhere in the world, and shipping is integrated into the price so no surprises at the last step. The decks are printed on demand by a family-run printer in the UK. I loved the sample decks I got to see [below]. Decks are perfect for a wedding favor (where all the cards were recommendations from the couple, with a story how it’s meaningful to them, with the bonus of helping people find great places in the new destination), great to promote other projects/locations/companies (a special gift from a business for their employees or clients), and how awesome would this be for a conference gift, or student orientation. FYI, the business option lets you go more custom than a standard deck, and is for larger orders (and better deal).
The fun thing when you meet the founder of a company, you get to do cool projects yourself and become part of the feedback process of refining how some cards may work better (ie. adding metro stops!). I was able to create two super custom decks. Paris Top 25 includes maps for my favorite places in Paris, with a mini description for each. Paris Piscine celebrates my 25 favorite swimming pools in Paris (I’ve visited them all!), but instead of having maps, there’s a photo of each pool. And yes, you can buy my decks too if you so desire.
For anyone making their own deck, there are even starter decks if you don’t feel like starting from scratch. Of course you could take all your favorite blog travel research and create your own. The possibilities are really endless!
The way it works is you type in the name of the place for each card on their website, where there’s room for a few lines of text to personalize your card. The platform auto-generates the address, and accompanying map, as well as finding the closest metro stop, as well as noting the distance to other nearby locations featured in your deck. Long story short: it’s super simple and user friendly! The main thing to be aware of is that decks cannot be created using places from different cities (unless they’re surrounding cities of course), and expect maps on your cards for now. Once you place your order, you’ll receive a PDF version of your deck to proof before it goes to the printer. Once it’s OKed, they’ll dispatch your order within 3 days. It’s hard to know which is more exciting—touching your deck for the first time, or giving one to a friend!
It’s no secret that I juggle a lot of projects and wear many hats. Just check out this interview with me on Khoollect, British chef Rachel Khoo‘s (of The Little Paris Kitchen fame) new project that searches for inspiration in unlikely places.
Lately I’ve been traveling a lot. I was in London for a Cultural Tourism Workshop held in London City Hall (top floor of the glass building—amazing!) where I met facilitator of the day @MarDixon (follow her on Twitter if you want to know what’s happening in the museum/cultural sphere), along side Cultural Policy representatives from Airbnb, the founder of the Museum of Walking (look it up, it’s rad!), the team behind Creative Tourist (co-hosts of the event), and many others in this collaborative realm of cultural tourism that I never knew existed. It was the first participant driven “unconference” style event I’d been to, and it was really refreshing. #LDNculturaltourism was the hashtag of the day, and Mar posted a nice recap on her blog (and on Storify too).
That evening I took a class at General Assembly‘s cool Second Home London campus [above]. GA has a few branches around the world, and it’s a great way to build new skills. I took How to Get Your First 5,000 Users with Howard Kingston, which was awesome and really got me in the mindset for the launch of Studio/Practice (you know, the project that’s only 3.5+ years in the works, and counting). Theme of that day: it’s amazing how much you can accomplish in 2-3 minutes!
The following week I headed to Amsterdam for Design Thinking Facilitation Training at DesignThinkers Academy. I knew I was going to like it, but I loved every second. We got thrown into it and each had a chance to facilitate a session and get instant feedback from the group. I learned a lot about my role as a participant as well. One of my goals for this year is to offer more workshops. I’d love to work with companies so their employees can benefit from learning new skills and ways of thinking. I was already armed with social media and graphic design expertise, but I’m excited that I’ve added design thinking to my repertoire.
While in Amsterdam I also met Robin Cox, the founder of the very cool travel site/community Citinerary which goes deeper into the local fabric, exploring how cities work and function through local city enthusiasts and cultural exchanges (it is not about hot spots or trends). Watch his Creative Mornings talk for interesting insights into travel and how the project came to be. (I’m a big fan of the concept of value-driven creativity; he also compares most mainstream tourism trips to one-night stands!). If you’re visiting Amsterdam (and a handful of other cities), Citinerary offers a great and affordable way to meet a local; you even get a map! Speaking of Citinerary, there are less than 10 days left in their A City Made by People Kickstarter campaign. The magazine looks amazing and it’s interesting to see the next iteration of the project move into print as another form of online meets offline travel, with a human perspective, where people are the focus. You can support the project here. (Even if you can’t donate, spreading the word is a huge help! (Image above by Citinerary, although we did have coffee at Toki on the very table where the photo was taken).
So that’s what’s been inspiring me lately. Along the way I also re-designed and refined my website anneditmeyer.com, which has been a rewarding journey and a constant work in progress [top image: homepage]. You also can get a sneak peek of some projects I haven’t announced on my blog yet.
Long story short, while I may be quieter on my blog these days, there are lots of ideas broiling in the background and travel is at the center of it all. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to get more up to date trends, resources and inspiration, and believe it or not, I’m hooked on Snapchat too as a fun, refreshingly raw way to travel. I also have ongoing #PAVlondon and #PAVamsterdam mini guides on Instagram. Stay tuned as I have a ton of blog posts planned—now to find the time…
As time flies, I find that I increasingly have more friends traveling to Paris with kids, so I thought it was high time to put together a post with my favorite resources. Don’t worry, everything applies to kids of all ages. Yes, that means you!
The New Voyager: Paris – a city map for cool kids (or big kids like me).
City Walks for Kids: Paris from Chronicle Books.
Sign up for a THATlou scavenger hunt of the Louvre, d’Orsay or more.
My Vayable tours are family friendly!
Cheap things to do:
Ride the metro (particularly line 1 – trains come from left to right, so wait on the far right so you can get a front-row seat in a driverless metro car). Pick up a free mini metro map at a metro kiosk for kids to help discover the route. Maps are always fun! Older kids can draw their own.
Ride the public bus so you’re above ground and can see everything. (Bus 69 goes by many major sites). The bus is also much easier than the metro with a stroller. [Uses same tickets as the metro.]
Get a sense of the city from the river on a Seine River tour. (Vedettes de Paris / Bateaux Mouches leave from Ile de la City (Pont Neuf) and also by Trocadero [Eiffel Tower] and Pont d’Alma – typically every hour or more frequently).
Go to the park (actually stay by a park too). They’re all over the city, and you can expect to run into a lot of other kids after school. The playground at the Luxembourg Gardens is one of the best (it’s also the only one where you have to pay for the play area; adults have to pay too), and lots of cool stuff to climb, and there’s a zipline for older kids. Luxembourg and Tuileries Gardens are the most likely to have sail boats for the ponds. Trampolines are at Tuileries Gardens (1st arr). Giant plein air sculptures at Parc de la Villette (19th arr).
Run around the black and white Daniel Buren columns in Palais Royal gardens (1st arr). (Parents, you can get a coffee at Kitsuné.)
Visit the passage ways of Paris.
Carousel ride in one of the parks (Eiffel Tower usually has one on both sides of the tower, but the animal one in Jardin des Plantes may be the most memorable!).
Visit the colorful moving fountain next to Centre Pompidou.
Bring a sketchbook and draw your favorite works [in any museum]. Favorite museums for kids: Arts & Métiers, Natural History: Museum d’Evolution and Musée de l’Anatomie.
Look for animals on doors and buildings. They’re everywhere.
Have a joust fight with baguettes in front of the Eiffel Tower. (I did this with high schoolers on a tour, but it really works for any age).
Pretend to be a statue.
Watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle – every hour on the hour for 5 minutes when it’s dark. (Warning: in summer that can be as late as 11pm!)
Where to eat:
Try to find restaurants that are “en continuation” which means that they serve food all day, rather than closing after lunch. Typical cafés and brasseries will serve food all day. Note, that it’s not very common to see kids (even high schoolers) out at restaurants. Always try to go on the early end (noon for lunch, and 7-7:30pm for dinner to avoid crowds; typical dinner starts at 8pm).
Go to a creperie! (Breizh Cafe is the most famous; there are a lot on Rue Saint André in the 6th arr to make things easier, and each has a theme–personally I like the one where you feel like you’re in a ship!).
Market streets: Rue Montorgeuil (2nd arrondissement), Rue Cler (7th arrondissement – Eiffel Tower area)
Pack a picnic!
Falafel on Rue des Rosiers in the Marais. (There are several on the street, don’t feel pressured to visit the one with the longest line that has made it into every guidebook).
l’Ebouillant – great for lunch, and has an outdoor terrace when it’s nice out (between Notre Dame and the Marais)
HiP Paris: Kid-friendly dining
Time Out family friendly restaurants
Not much is new about Shakespeare & Company bookstore, with its rickety floors and uneven ceilings, this place is a monument in its own right. It’s a place with quite a bit of history, however, there are three small additions I thought worthy to write about.
First, this fall a dream came true to open a Shakespeare & Company Café on the corner next to the shop. This was always a goal of Shakespeare’s founder George Whitman, but only came to fruition after his death. Food and coffee is by Bob’s Food Etc. (try Bob’s Juice Bar, Bob’s Kitchen and Bob’s Bakeshop) which has some of the best and healthiest food around, in addition making some of the yummiest bagels I’ve ever had. The only downside is that it’s hard to grab a table in the small Paris establish. The outdoor tables are great when it’s not raining (don’t be fooled by the empty ones in the photo below!).
Second, there are readings and events several times a week at the bookshop. Recently I stopped by for a reading by Ethan Hawke, who was in town to promote his new book Rules for a Knight. For anyone who has seen Before Sunset this was like a dream come true, as the movie opens with him doing a reading at Shakespeare & Co. (note: see Before Sunrise first if you haven’t – nine years pass between the films; these also happen to be two of my favorite movies). The event was way too popular for me to get inside, but I did manage to get a pretty good photo through the window. I’d actually heard him do a reading at UVA years ago, but this was next level given the setting. You can listen to the podcast of the event with Ethan Hawke on their website.
Finally, Shakespeare & Company is the latest Parisian shop to sell my Herb Lester Paris Small Shops map! And [currently] you can’t miss it on the check-out desk. It’s such a dream to have my map sold here, and as it’s all about supporting local small shops (check out #ParisSmallShops on Instagram), so there couldn’t be a better fit. (And in the spirit of supporting small shops, stop by and say hello to Stephane at Librairie Galerie Louis Rozen in the 5th, who sells a wide range of the fabulous Herb Lester maps of various cities, as well as some very cool retro inspired posters and books!).
There are so many great bookstores in Paris, and some of that is due to the restrictions that the French government has put on Amazon. From my experience French are voracious readers, and I love passing so many book shops around the city. Every morning on the metro I do a little tally to see if more people are reading print or looking at their phones; believe it or not books and print often win out!
The other perk of Shakespeare & Co. is that they stamp your book to prove you bought it there. It’s almost as good as a signing, and makes for a wonderful souvenir! They’ll also give you a cool bookmark, and they have great tote bags (see above) for sale.
Shakespeare & Company [bookstore + cafe]
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 ParisMetro: St. Michel
Bookshop open daily from 10am to 11pm
Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, Travel Posters, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable! Don’t miss my new Paris Posters Tumblr!
Even if you can’t make it to Paris before the end of the month, I wanted to share images of Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei‘s latest (temporary) installation, Er Xi at Le Bon Marché department store in Paris. I knew it would be beautiful, but I didn’t expect the sense of joy and childlike wonder that came over me as I started to look up at the world above me. Er Xi means “Child’s Play” as the 22 mystical animals come to life overhead.
If you speak French, Le Bon Marché offers guided visits on Thursday afternoons (reservations required). Don’t miss the windows outside as well (not pictured here, because I missed them). The installation is up until February 20th. Ai Weiwei has a fascinating background, spending his childhood in exile. I would have loved to have seen his installation on Alcatraz, which was more colorful.
Le Bon Marché
24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris
Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, Travel Posters, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable! Don’t miss my new Paris Posters Tumblr!
It’s easy to take travel for granted these days with the ease of trains, planes and automobiles. Despite relatively easy access to all modes of transportation and the existence of low-cost carriers, much of the glamour and mystique has disappeared as we wait in security lines, or sit traffic jams. At times it can be hard to imagine what travel used to be like, and that is really wasn’t something everyone could afford to do. The current Louis Vuitton show Volez, Voguez, Voyagez at the Grand Palais is a fascinating look back in time through travel and craftsmanship. With trunks and travel bags at the core of the Vuitton business, it is easy to see the ways styles emerged alongside new modes of travel.
The exhibition introduction reads “The House of Louis Vuitton is based on the principles of French style, recognizing the beauty of an object in its function and mobility.” Louis Vuitton founded his company in 1854 as a skilled box maker. He worked to perfect the design of the flat trunk, which would become the iconic piece of LV, and a precursor to modern luggage. Louis Vuitton and later his son George, and grandson Gaston-Louis sought to perfect details through the use of materials, keeping the trunks light and ergonomically designed, with interior compartments and padding, designing tumblr locks (including the use of a single lock that can be used on multiple pieces), and creating canvas patterns to make their works stand apart.
The traditions of craftsmanship continue to this day in the Louis Vuitton ateliers in Asnières-sur-Seine, just north of Paris, for one of a kind and special order pieces. One of the most special details to see which has carried on throughout time is the use of hand painted monograms. Of particular interest was Louis Vuitton’s own bleu, blanc et rouge “V” on his own luggage.
Over time, the luggage took on different forms, from needing a vertical trunk to use as a dresser on a trans-Atlantic ship and a “steamer bag” to be carried on-board (a precursor to the handbag), metal trucks for colonial expeditions, trapezoidal bags to fit into the trunk of an automobile, a more malleable, lighter bag for air travel, or a thin trunk for easy under seat access during train travel. Elements of each of these iterations of travel can be see in the Louis Vuitton bags of today.
Each room of the exhibition takes you through this experience back in time including sketches in Vuitton’s notebooks, patent sketches, order forms, and publicity of the time. The final room has artisans working as they do today, which is ironically not that different than how it all first started.
Volez, Voguez, Voyagez is on at the Grand Palais until February 21st. Besides being free, the exhibition also has a fantastic accompanying app (download it even if you can’t go in person). The exhibition is visually rich, but I enjoyed the extras in the audio guide, which can also be found in the app. You’ll travel like you never thought possible through the vision of Louis Vuitton. Even if I can’t afford my own custom Louis Vuitton trunk any time soon, I still have an incredible appreciation of all the work that goes into making one.
With photography less common than it is today, stickers from hotels were a way to document where one had visited. The designs are beautiful, and much of the Vuitton collection is on display in the train room.
Le Grand Palais is located at 3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower, 75008 Paris. The closest metro is Champs-Elysées Clemenceau.
Read more about the exhibition on QZ.