Game of bones

Kim denis 5We all love a good drama. The fact that Game of Thrones has thrust multiple daggers into hours of our lives over the past few years is testament to that. All that blood, guts and underhandedness; we’re far too civilised for shenanigans like that in this day and age. Plus France no longer has a royal family, so we can’t expect such Joffrey-ism dominating the headlines. Hollande may have gone all Charles II on us with his actress/mistress moment, but the Republic never seems to generate quite the ‘off-with-their-heads’ gruesome fascination that the long departed monarchy managed.

Kim denis 4Rewind a few centuries though when crowns were still the headgear of the moment, and there was enough drama happening this side of the channel to make GOT look like a Catherine Cooksoon novel. The royals ran riot, and even in death there was still scandal enough to make sure that history’s passage could do little to fade their memories. Even Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were relatively recently small-fry in a huge regal pond full of centuries of gore. To delve into the deliciously dirty laundry of France’s monarchy long dissolved, there’s only one place to head (if you still have yours) – the Basilica of Saint Denis, nestled with little ceremony just outside the peripherique directly north of Paris, near to the national stadium.

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Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

Widely believed to be the first Gothic church ever built (well, a bit of it anyway – these old buildings have been remastered a great deal over the years), and named after the first bishop of Paris, the unique USP of this cathedral (if those boasts don’t impress you), is that it is the burial place of most of the kings of France from Clovis (d. 511) to Louis XVIII (d. 1824).

Kim denis 2So you’re probably imagining a neat little cemetery or collection of lovingly constructed vaults ceremonially added to over the years each time royal heads rolled, and well, you’d be wrong. Twin sibling incest kind of wrong. That would have been a fitting tribute to the reigning powers of yore, and was the original idea, but those pesky revolutionaries at the end of the 19th century had other plans and opened up the tombs, dumped all of the bodies in a mass grave and dissolved them with lime. If that isn’t a way to make an anti-monarchist statement, then I don’t know what is.

Kim denis 3The impressive effigies remained and attempts have been made over the centuries to restore the proper erm, remaining remains to their rightful spots, as well as moving other monarchs from different cemeteries to this ‘official’ resting place, but many of the regal bones and fragments unable to be identified were buried in the crypt behind a plaque bearing the names of the interred. So if it’s ancient royalty you want, you can count on the fingers of one hand those kings of France that don’t lie here.

You’d be as foolish as Louis XVI too, the day he thought he wouldn’t be recognised stopping for a pub lunch whilst trying to escape (you’re on the coins mate), if you didn’t head here this Sunday, Paris’ free museum day. Entry to the Basilica and its awesomely concentrated history will be free for the last time until November, along with other famous spots you can’t move in come summer; the Pantheon, Saint-Chapelle, Notre Dame’s towers, the Conciergerie, the Arc de Triomphe, and chateaux Vincennes and Versailles. That Game of Thrones marathon can wait.

Check out the list of free museums here.

Push the goat out

Kim ChineseNY 1So those New Year’s resolutions are a distant memory by now, eh? Let’s not begin to count how many got washed down the drain of apathy into a cesspool of honest intentions, that we’ll no doubt fish out and recycle come December. Sigh. If only we could rewind the clock and travel back to January to capture that full-strength motivation, stuff it in a jar and feed from it for the rest of the year.

Well you can! Sort of. If you’ll turn your shameful gaze towards the Chinese calendar, then today just happens to be New Year’s Eve, the most Etch-a-Sketch night of the year when we can fervently shake up the memories, sweep the mistakes of the past year under the carpet and start the new one with determined and wholesome vigour. Life hardly throws us many seconds chances, for redemption or otherwise, so grab it while you can.

Kim CineseNY2Tomorrow (19th February) sees the official start of the Chinese new year when the outgoing horse high-fives the incoming goat. Well, I say ‘goat’, it’s a wood-dwelling sheep-goat-ram thing if we’re being proper, so much of the world call this the ‘year of the sheep’ instead, before you start pointing out my error (‘goat’ got more Google results than ‘sheep’, thus being my sophisticated method of selection. That and the prospect of a zippier headline).

In the Asian world, this marks a period of extensive holiday and celebration, and ceremonial worship of all things goat-y (or sheep-y). Given I’m the sign of the ram in the western zodiac calendar (Aries), then I’m quite happy to assume this year as full of personal luck and prosperity like all of the other goats in the world. Call me greedy if you like, but if the Queen has two birthdays, then surely it’s permitted (she’s a tiger by the way, naturally). Traditionally, typical ‘goats’ are gentle, peace-loving, thoughtful and kind, but prone to munching on your smalls hanging on the washing line if you leave them alone for too long.

Kim ChineseNY 3In Paris there will be ample opportunity to participate in the festivities due to the city’s huge Franco-Chinese population, with activity being centered around the Marais, Belleville and the ‘official’ Chinatown in the 13th. The parades are the big draws, what with their lively atmosphere, traditional dancing and kick-ass dragons, but there are also food stalls, street demonstrations, martial arts and exhibitions put on by the mairie of the 13th in celebration Chinese and Asian culture to check out as well.

The bulk of the events take place this weekend (21st and 22nd, what with tonight being a school night and all), and the first parade leaves from Place de la Republique at 14h30 on Saturday, to weave through the Marais. Dragons and revellers will also fill the streets for the Belleville parade starting at 11h30 on Sunday morning, with the main procession winding through the 13th the same afternoon from 13h, accompanied by the delightful whiff of new starts and firecrackers.

Here is a list of events from the official website of the Mairie de Paris (in French).

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

PS. Apologies for the lack of photos of actual goats. They’re hard to come by in Paris.

(W)all you need is love

Sorry for the late post this week loyal readers, the ‘flu virus I’d been running from finally found me this week, and as we all know, creative juices and evil germs just don’t get on. But Granny Flat has proved herself as an excellent nursemaid, and the clouds of poor health are happily beginning to lift.

Kim wall 3When we’re poorly, all we need is a bit of loving (of the non Fifty Shades kind, steady on). So kudos for all of us who have either ended up in, or been at least once to this most romantic of cities. With Valentine’s day just a cupid’s arrow away, you can be sure that a huge proportion of the world’s most ardent lovers have descended on Paris to make sure their heart’s allegiance is declared loud and clear in the most appropriate and sentiment-saturated of settings.

Kim wall 1It used to be that attaching a padlock to one of Paris’ most charming bridges was the only acceptable way for any Casanova (or Casanov-ette for that matter) to prove his ardour (and even I was guilty of promoting the trend this time last year). But now we’ve all learned the error of our ways and seen just how the burden of so much collective sentiment can actually be hugely damaging to the city’s architecture, not to mention a massive pollutant for the famous River Seine. Joy Division proved to be an oracle for the future in addition to being a kick-ass 80s band, with their right-on assertion that ‘Love can tear us apart’. They were right on the money, in terms of ‘us’ being a bridge, anyhoo.

Kim wall 2So maybe macaroons are the order of the day. A box of chocolates perhaps. Or even stick with tradition and thrust a bunch of roses under your lover’s nose. But with street sellers walking past with blooming bouquets for sale what seems like every five minutes, that idea now seems about as romantic as the Dropkick Murphy’s attempt at a love song, ‘Kiss me I’m shitfaced’. And you’d better be five sheets to the wind if you think buying a rose for your cherie in that fashion spells top Valentine’s points.

Kim wall 7Instead take a tip from me and take a walk to a part of the city I love, Abbesses, in the arrondissement I’ve been having a love affair with ever since my first trip to Paris, the 18th, and visit a whole wall dedicated to sweet, delicious amour. You can take your sickly pink desserts and romantic mood music, I’m a writer, so nothing is more important to me than words, pure and simple. And here nestled in the small and perfectly formed Square Jehan-Rictus just near the metro, is a whole wall dedicated to the linguistic profession of undying affection.

Kim wall 5Le mur des je t’aime or ‘wall of I love yous’ contains 311 examples of the same phrase written in 250 different languages, printed on 612 squares of polished blue lava tiles, forming an extraordinary monument to love itself. It was the idea of Frédéric Baron, a wannabe traveller who wanted to travel the world to hand-collect his texts, but instead achieved his goal through his network of friends, family and foreign acquaintances.

It was artist and calligrapher Claire Kito and mural specialist Daniel Boulogne who made his dream into reality, and this year the wall celebrates its 15th birthday, the age at which most of us are taking our first forays into love as nervous teenagers and testing our fledgling hearts for the very first time. So this year, give the padlocks a wide berth, and plant a smacker on your loved one’s lips in front of this 40m² expression of love. Paris will love you back for it.

Nous sommes arrivés au futur…*

*we have arrived in the future… Kind of.

When it comes to modernity, Paris is not a city that springs immediately to mind. It’s a city held together by the woven strands of a colourful history, sodden by the streams of memories past. France as a country is similarly far from being front of the line to grasp the future, often appearing to turn away from innovation, forward thinking and swift progress (and jeez, haven’t us expats learned that lesson time and time again?). But that’s part of its slow, luxurious charm, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. If I think about it, there’s nowhere else more fitting for a Luddite like me to live.

IMG_2463But the time has come to drag myself at least, into the future. You thought this blog was perfectly formed in its current state? Well, you’d be right of course. But for me, this is really only the beginning. In honour of pARIS: small capital’s first year, my Paris-versary (it’ll be six years on the 16th February, putain!), and the birthday of my wonderful grandad today, who was born during the city’s golden literary reign of Gertrude Stein et al, we’re about to crank it up a gear.

Having resisted new technology and social media for so long, it’s actually pARIS: small capital that has steered the great ship Blog into the 21st century, with Luddite Kim clinging on for dear life in that wooden nest bit at the top of the mast. The city is crying out for more exposure, so it keeps whispering to me. There are so many details that still remain undiscovered and uncelebrated. It seems I have fallen into the role of the person to ferret them out and reveal them in all their glory. And I couldn’t be happier to do so.

IMG_2464So without further ado.. ta da da daaaa! I bring you the remaining two social media-sketeers to join the small capital trio courtesy of Twitter and Instagram. http://www.parissmallcapital.com will remain as a weekly endeavour (Wednesday is sacred post day), but via the magic of the other two platforms, I will be furnishing you with a (hopefully) delightful array of visual and lexical tidbits gathered on my meanders through this most wonderful, arresting and baffling of cities.

For those who are already connected, here’s where to marvel in the new Twitter and Instagram pages. For those who resemble me at the end of 2013, i.e. a scared little mouse when it comes to technology, come on in! The water’s lovely!* Followers, feedback, comments and large slices of praise (here’s hoping!) are eagerly welcome.

*Just don’t actually bring your computer into the pool, electricity and water spell disaster, naturally.