Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cannes is more than a Festival

La Croisette
The 65th International Cannes film festival is coming to an end (May 17-27).  For ten days in May,  the world cinema industry directs its attention on this little town on the French Riviera. Since it was founded in 1947,  Cannes's festival has developed into the most important film market in the world. Film distributors, producers, directors, actors, writers, critics, publicists from around the world meet to discover the newest feature films and documentaries. Cannes is synonymous with glamour and star power.  Tomorrow, it will culminate in a closing ceremony to be attended by a glamourous audience of stars and celebrities where prizes will be awarded by a prestigious jury including the Palme d'Or for "Best Picture"  for Feature Film and for Short Film, along with prizes for Best Actor and Actress, Best Screenplay and Best director.

Forville Market
But  Cannes (Kahn) is more than just a festival.  When all the glitz and glam leave, Cannes remains a pleasant resort on the French Riviera.  It is situated along a protected bay "rade de Cannes" .  Its palm fringed waterfront promenade "la Croisette" is the town main attraction.  Lined with luxurious "Belle Epoch" palace hotels,  sand beaches, sunny cafe terraces, restaurants and luxury boutiques, this is the place to gawk and be "seen".  Blessed with mild weather, year  around , Cannes is fun to explore .  Its picturesque old town "Le Suquet" offers  an array of atmospheric restaurants and art galleries; luxury shopping is to be had along the  Croisette and its adjacent rue d'Antibes; and for local flavor visit the colorful  Forville market.  In addition, Cannes can be used as a base to discover the other resort towns along the Mediterranean Sea--Nice, Antibes and Monte Carlo and in season, even St. Tropez is only a ferry ride away.  To escape the glamour of the Riviera, head to the Lerins islands- Ste Marguerite and Ste. Honorat- two tranquil and traffic-free  pine and eucalyptus scented refuges just a short boat ride from Cannes.  Similarly, the hilly backcountry  with picturesque villages like artsy St. Paul de Vence, Mougins and Biot are only just a short drive away and fun to explore. Beware of the summer crowd in July and August.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

La Nuit des Musees-- Night at the Museum

Saturday May 19, 4000 cultural institutions in 40 countries across Europe are participating in the 8th annual European Night at the Museums.  From 6 pm until past midnight, museums and cultural institutions will stay open in an "orgiastic" celebrations of art and culture.  Entry to permanent museum collections are free as well as access to many stage concerts, performances, and special exhibits.  Paris alone offer 179 museum/cultural offerings on this night ranging from classical, modern and contemporary art, archeology, decorative arts, science, technology, Jewish Heritage, military history, numismatic, and more.  Making a choice can be tough.  Here is a selection of special exhibits:

  • Musee du Luxembourg - Exhibit Cima da Conegliano- Renaissance Venetian master (April 15-July 15)

  • Orsay Museum- Degas and the Nude (March 13 to July 1)
  • Galleries Nationales du Grand Palais

  1. -- Helmut Newton Exhibit- more than 200 photographs of late Vogue photo journalist are on display till July 30.
  2. -- Monumenta 2012 - French artist Daniel Buren has dressed up the large space of the Grand Palais in gigantic kaleidoscope of colors. (on display from May 10-June 4)

  •  Musee Carnavalet-- Eugene Atget-- A photo exhibit of old Paris in the early 20th century (April 25- July 29)  
  • Musee d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaisme (Jewish Museum) - Jews and Orientalism or the depiction by 19th century painters like Delacroix, Chasseriau, Gustave Moreau and others of Jews living in the Orient. (March 7-July 8)

Degas and the Nude- Orsay Museum

Helmut Newton- Grand Palais
Eugene Atget- Musee Carnavale
Cima de Conegliano
Musee du Luxembourg

Jews and Orientalism-
Musee d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaism

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Greening of Paris

Paris Tourist Office-
Photo: Marc Bertrand
Since his election as mayor of Paris in 2001,  Bertrand Delanoe has set out to make Paris a greener city. Although Paris can pride itself to have an extensive and efficient metro and bus network, the City of Light is  said to have some of the worst traffic jams in Europe and horrendous air quality. To alleviate congestion and diminish the level of air pollution the city of Paris has instituted a number of innovative programs. First in 2007,  the bike share rental program "Velib" was introduced . Parisians and visitors alike have access to more than 20,000 bikes located at 1800 velib parking stations around the city spaced 300 meters from each other. Parisians can buy a yearly or monthly subscription; short term usage options useful for visitors are also available for 1.70 euros for 1 day ticket or 8 euros for seven consecutive days. The first 30 minutes of each usage are free and trips longer than 30 minutes incur small additional usage charges. Since its inception, the velib has experienced much success and has been copied by other French cities as well as other European capitals.  A similar program is coming soon to New York city.
Autolib-Mairie de Paris

Spurred by Velib's success , the city of Paris introduced this past autumn a car sharing program, Autolib.  It consists of 3,000 blue bubble-shaped, battery- powered cars stationed at 1,000 self-service hire points across the city and its suburbs. A driver needs to first subscribe to the program by providing proof of identity (identification card or valid passport), valid driver's license, and a credit card to use as guarantee. The driver can pick one of three rental options-- a yearly subscription, a 7 day usage plan or a just a day discovery pass.  After these initial formalities, the driver is issued a badge and is able to pick a car in a predetermined location. After usage, the car is returned to a convenient Autolib location. Driver pay for the time used, in half-hours units.  One year premium subscription costs 144 euros, 7 day usage : 15 euros and 24 hour Discovery pass: 10 euros.   For Parisians who have given up owning a car in Paris due to awful traffic congestion, the lack of parking spaces and the high insurance costs, Autolib can be an economical and convenient mode of transportation around town.  Its proponents hope that a wide usage of the auto-sharing program will help reduce pollution and cut traffic.

Thirdly, an old public transport system -- the tramway line--has reappeared in Paris in 2006.  The T3 line runs along the boulevards that encircle Paris and which are named after Napoleon's Marshals (Marechaux) linking the 15th, 14th and 13th arrondissements. Extensions are planned linking Porte de Charenton (12th) and eventually Porte de la Chapelle (18th).  These modern street cars run noiselessly and are pollution free and actually carry 100,000 passengers a day.

Tramway-Paris Tourist Office
Photograph: Marc Bertrand