The art of the matter

IMG_3084Guys, breathe a sigh of relief. We’ve pretty much done it. You can raise your head from out of the beige blanket that was winter, and start to look towards the shining spring light of March, just a whisker of days away. Now although this winter was a great deal kinder than most, it still doesn’t stop me from finding myself desperately needing a showering of colour in the dying embers of a dingy February. Thank God it’s the year’s shortest month.

IMG_3079Paris hasn’t been nice enough to supply me with a giant ball pit in which to flap amidst the colours, so I’ve had to search out my own place of rainbows. And readers, thanks to my inexhaustible adventure feet, I’ve uncovered an absolute gem, buried in the heart of the vibrant 20th arrondissement.

Most visitors to Belleville make a beeline for the mountains of steaming Chinese dumplings, weird and wonderful Asian traiteurs or eclectic cafés. But let yourself wander slightly further up the hill from the bustling hub at the Belleville metro (lines 2 and 4) and your wanderlust will be richly and creatively rewarded by the tiny paved Rue Dénoyez.

IMG_3082Beautifully contrasted to the traditionally muted Haussmannian avenues in more well known parts of the city, here your eyes will be delighted by some of the best street art Paris can muster in an ever-changing palette of colours and design. Forget the crazy tangled eyesore (IMO) that is the Pompidou centre, this is modern art at its graffittied best.

Historically the local artists have been afforded free reign to colour the street happy as they so desired, though last year the party-pooping Mairie put the brakes on the creativity and took away their right to artistic freedom in favour of building a new crèche and social housing. A passionate attempt to save the colourful status quo unfortunately couldn’t defeat the rigid administrative powers that make the rules.

IMG_1980Just as the vibrant colours of the spring flowers must eventually fade, so it seems that sadly, so must the bright tones of Bellville’s modern art. Of course there’s plenty around the city still to spy, including hundreds of offerings from Paris’ most famous street artist Invader, but it’s still a crying shame to see one of the most vibrant streets around white-washed in a predictable wave of French bureaucracy. Make sure you steer yourselves in that direction before the creative delights disappear forever.

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.