Versailles

"My" exhibit opened yesterday and myself, some of the staff and other stagiaires went to see the finished result. I’m pretty proud of this exhibit (despite the fact that I had very little to do with the exhibit design or mounting) because I did most of the conservation work.

Check out the rest of my pictures of the exhibit on my flickr account here.

Advertisements

Vaux le Vicompte

So a couple of weekends ago I visited Vaux le Vicompte with . It was awesome and I’m to tired to write a proper post just now but you can check out my pictures on flicker here. I will say that I was totally  distracted by all the damage that the candles in the castle were causing which totally ruined the romance of wandering through a candlelit castle in France! Once a conservator always a conservator I guess!

My First Opera

A couple of weeks ago I went to Opera Bastille for the third and final episode of Wagner’s Ring cycle. This was my very first opera, and really my first encounter with opera of any kind. I literally knew nothing about opera and now I know a teensy bit about opera!

A woman at work was giving away a ticket she couldn’t use. She called to offer it to my supervisor who declined because she had her opera singing lesson that evening, and the ticket was subsequently offered to me. I had a split second to decide and since all I know about opera is from what I’ve seen on tv where fancy people go and listening to people singing in a completely different language, I was a little intimidated. Plus I’m just naturally disinclined to exploring things alone. But hey, I’m here in Paris to experience new things right? So away I go.

I asked my supervisor if I would have to dress up for this and she gave me a look. That should have been my first clue. I looked up a couple of summaries of The Twilight of the Gods online and it looked deliciously Nordic. Medieval Norse mythology I can relate to thanks to my medieval studies degree! She did let me go early as she said I would need to go to get a good seat (second clue) which was very kind of her.

When I arrived at the opera the main stairs up to the entrance were roped off with police tape. There were a bunch of gendarmes hanging about which is a perfectly normal sight in Paris.  I did wonder: wasn’t that where people were supposed to gracefully ascend into the cultured domain of the opera with their long evening gowns and tuxedos? I wandered a bit and followed the crowd to a side entrance. There were many people clustered outside the door with signs that read “une place S.V.P” literally begging for a ticket. OK, where I come from that might be acceptable outside a hockey arena but I have never seen so many people actually begging for tickets to a cultural event. Only in Paris!

Actually acquiring the ticket was another matter. I was supposed to pick it up from somewhere and the only likely looking place was a counter labelled “invitations.” Was I invited? I mean this was the opera after all. Shouldn’t I have something more than a name in order to acquire a ticket that was clearly in demand? Eventually I got up the nerve to push my way through the crowd of people presenting what suspiciously looked like season’s passes. But I was in the right place and I easily enough acquired the ticket.

Now I turned my attention to actually getting a seat. Two massive lines snaked in both directions. I pushed my way through the crowd to try and find an end to one of them. Eventually I realized there actually was no end to either of the lines because they both just pushed up against a pillar! So helpful. I awkwardly hung about the sort of end of a line I chose at random, hoping it was the right one. I was lucky. There was a French woman who seemed very chatty, talking to those around her, and when the line started moving she seemed to know where she was going. I decided I would just follow her. Best. Decision. Ever. She was an old pro and knew the place really well. I ended up in the second row in the middle balcony with a great view.

I had some time to kill so I turned to people watching which was extremely entertaining. People were constantly shifting around in there seats, always angling for a better one. When a man in the row in front of me removed the programs he had been using to save three seats, there was an almighty scramble and you can bet the woman I followed nabbed one of those seats! A couple of men down the row from me were chowing down on baguette sandwiches and chatting away in rapid French. There was a real sense of community in my section (despite the battle for seats) and there was lively conversations about the opera going on all around me. Complete strangers would get extra copies of the programs and hand them out along the row. You can bet I forgot to grab a program before I came up so I was really glad to get one!

Eventually the opera itself began. It was, of course, performed in German but there were French subtitles displayed above the stage. I managed better than I expected following the French subtitles and my knowledge of the major plot points. I was kind of hoping for something more traditional as I wasn’t such a fan of super contemporary interpretations. My wishes went unfulfilled but I was not disappointed! The ultra contemporary set and costumes required some real thought and interpretation which I really enjoyed puzzling out. And when that failed, I just enjoyed the wackiness! There was always something to watch and look at, either the stage itself, the subtitles, or the orchestra pit, I was fully entertained.

Some highlights from this interpretation; the three Norns in little black dresses and purses, a 1970’s style suit in green complete with bellbottoms, half a canoe getting dragged around the stage, men dressed as barmaids complete with hands-on-hips bobbing and dancing (and twirling!), and a super awesome valkyrie with a really fabulous quilted dress.

This was definitely an unplanned event during my summer in Paris but has already become one of the most memorable. The entire experience was not what I expected, but in a good way! I wasn’t able to stay for the whole thing (it was 5h20m long on a Monday night) but I was definitely sad to go. What a great first opera experience!

Église St-Germain des Près

Last weekend I followed one of the guided walks from Walks Through Lost Paris. It was really interesting despite the fact that I felt like a dork sticking my nose in the book on every street corner. There are four walks all together in this book and I intend to do them all at some point. As fascinating as theses walks are, they are not the point of this post.

Continue reading “Église St-Germain des Près”

Fabric Shopping in Paris

Normal
0

There are a concentration of fabric shops at the foot of Sacré Coeur in Monmatre. I went there today.

Oh My….

Coming from a town with only two fabric shops, neither of which have a great selection, this was an experience! There are several 4 and 5 floor fabric shops (Tissues Reine, Marché St Pierre most notably) as well as smaller shops scattered around on the side streets. I actually ended up buying all my fabric at one place, Les Coupons de Saint-Pierre. Coupons is French for remnant and this shop stocked exclusively 3 metre pre-cut pieces of fabric. And the selection! For remnant store there was an amazing selection! It was all organized by fabric type but within that there was no organization. Blends kind of got tucked haphazardly around. I got:

-Printed silk, 30€ (14$ CAD/metre)
-Cotton/silk blend, 15€ (7$/metre)
-Cotton organdy, 10€ (4.5$/metre)
-Black and White checked cotton voile, 10€ (4.5$/metre)

All pieces were 3m and very good quality. Compared to the prices in the larger stores, the coupons were around 1-2€ less per metre. Next time I’ll definitely be sure to go in the morning. By the time I got there at 1pm, there were piles of fabrics that had been pulled from the neatly folded bins to dig through. Not exactly efficient!

It’s interesting how each country has their own systems for fabric stores. In Canada, you pick out a bolt and bring it to a cutting table and they write down the amount on a little slip which you then (eventually) take to the cash. In Glasgow you do that same except that the attendant then carries the fabric to the register and you have to pay right then. Personally I find this arrangement really irritating as you have to then collect all your bolts at one time and bring them all at one to cutting table. In Paris there are no cutting tables. Instead there are attendants walking around with metre sticks who measure out the fabric right on top of the racks. Now, since I bought only remnants this trip I can’t review the efficiency of this particular arrangement however I do feel that this could lead to less accurate cuttings. As well, you have to pay for your fabrics before heading to the next floor. Understandably necessary but irritating.

Eighteenth century and Regency period enthusiasts would really enjoy the fabrics available. Eighteenth century prints and brocades abound as well as many varieties of print provençal cottons and sprigged muslins. I expect I will go back and pick up some variously printed things during my time here. Probably at least one provençal cotton like this one, and eighteenth century style floral print, a sprigged muslin, and some nice cotton voile.

I must admit that I was disappointed with the silk selection in the larger stores. Now, there was plenty available however most were printed inappropriately, prohibitably expensive, or blended with synthetics. Silks besides dupioni were very much available however I had hoped to see some nice examples of painted warp silk (chaine a la branche) and was disappointed there. Still I have not seen all there is! I spent a good three hours exploring the possibilities. I’m sure I’ll be returning soon.

La Musee de la Mode

Things that are chouette about my summer internship:

  • I am conserving several of Paul Poiret’s headdresses and dresses
  • I helped with condition reports of some really scrumptious 18th century clothes and got to poke at them
  • I will get to take patterns of more scruptious 18th century clothes and  be able to fully engage in costuming glee
  • and it’s only been a week!

French vocabulary that I have adopted: chouette, slang, roughly equivalent to cool/nice