Gray Paris is Paris
In his 50s classic I love Paris, songwriter Cole
Porter endorses Paris in almost every season and weather:
I love Paris in the springtime,
I love Paris in the fall,
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
Like Porter, I am a fan of the place in high season or low, rain
or shine. And lets be frank, there are a lot of days when
there just is no shine. London has its fog, and Paris has its gris
should I say its many grays? When you start to look closely, overcast
Parisboth the city and the sky above itis a kaleidoscope
from cool blue, lavender and charcoal tints to warmer
beige and tan shades. The color scheme changes with the light, the
amount of cloud cover and the time of day. Paris landmarks such
as la Seine (the river running through the city), Haussmann
era apartment buildings, and stray seagulls from Normandy naturally
lend themselves to the gray parade.
The Impressionist Claude Monet captured an entire palette of blue-grays
in his many renderings of the Gare St. Lazare (St. Lazare
train station) in the 1870s. Puffs of steam billowing through
the station plus the moody Paris skies gave the artist a tonal field
day. Fellow painter Gustave Caillebotte tried his hand at the same
game in his work Place de lEurope: Temps de Pluie (Paris
Street: Rainy Day).*
also comply to match this somber panorama. Tante Marguerite,* a
noteworthy restaurant on a quiet street in the seventh arrondissement,
displays a chic, gray façade. Clothing shops carefully lay
out a gray-toned rainbow of cashmere sweaters when the first frost
hits. Even the Vélib (the free bikes residents use
to ride around the city) are a nice, solid gray.
If youre a sun lover as I am, its easy to write off
the gloomy couleur (color) and consider booking a TGV
ticket down to sunny Provence.* But over time, I realized that gray
Paris is Paris. Cest comme ça (its
just like that). I also found that Paris gray is the perfect backdrop
when real color shows up. Splashes of hot pink cyclamen fill window
boxes in winter on the street le Faubourg St. Honoré.
Roses explode with reds, oranges and yellows in the gardens of the
Musée Rodin (Rodin Museum) in summer.* Red banners
adorn the entrance of the Musée Jacquemart-André
(Jacquemart-André Museum) year round.* And when a man or
woman walks down the street wearing a gorgeously colored scarf,
it makes you want to run up and hug them.
Now, I dont get disappointed when la météo
(the weather report) predicts a day that is nuageux (cloudy)
or couvert (overcast). Instead, I throw an umbrella in my
sac (handbag), set off for a stroll and savor the rich, gray
tapestry that is Paris.
* Caillebottes Paris Street: Rainy Day is part of the collection
of The Art Institute of Chicago. Versions of Monets St. Lazare
train station can be found at the Musée dOrsay
in Paris and at the National Gallery in London.
* Tante Marguerite, rue de Bourgogne, 75007 Paris.
* TGV stands for train à grande vitesse (high
speed train). The TGV to Avignon and Aix-en-Provence leaves
from the Gare de Lyon several times each day. Avignon is
just two hours and 45 minutes from Paris via this technological
* Musée Rodin, 77 rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris.
* Musée Jacquemart-André,158 Boulevard Haussmann,
May 21, 2008
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