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Parc des Buttes Chaumont

16 Nov

Whether or not this park, tucked away quietly in the 19th arrondissement, resembles a balding mountain is irrelevant.

Relevant: wearing your woolliest jacket and leatheriest gloves so that you’re warm enough to skedaddle along the mountainside trails like the billy goat gruff you are.

The Parc des Buttes Chaumont is not as central as that park in New York but it’s also not overrun with bike-taxi drivers and ice cream vendors. Mais non. The Buttes is the real deal – right down to its artificial stalactites and caves.

After all, when you’re converting an abandoned quarry into a park, what’s wrong with throwing in a well-placed grotto?

Skip the lake that doesn’t freeze and head straight to Rosa Bonheur: one of the most underrated eating/funhavens in Paris named after one of the only painters to have officially been given permission to wear pants.

High five to Napoleon III for coming up with the whole quarry-to-park idea. And to the scruffy waitress for drizzling honey so liberally on the chèvre. And to the DJ for his god-awful-wonderful 80’s mix after dark. And to the Parisians for not caring about cutting loose on the dancefloor for once.

And especially to whoever made the rosé labels look so pretty.

Parc des Buttes Chaumont
19e Arrondissement  75019 Paris

Second image from Sprawling Places


Musée Rodin

7 Nov

Some days your knees get so cold in Paris that all you want to do is huddle next to a heater and eat salted caramels that get stuck in your teeth.

Other days, there’s free entrance to nearly all the museums in the city and you just need to layer up and get busy.

Even if you don’t have legwarmers and your coat has a button missing, you should definitely go find the Musée Rodin. You won’t regret it. (Unlike buying legwarmers.)

Do you know that the museum building is actually called Hôtel Biron? Do you know that a peruke is a wig? Do you know that a guy called Abraham Peyrenc de Moras made a killing from perukes, and that Hôtel Biron was built for him? TO BE HIS HOUSE ACTUALLY?

Just his townhouse. Whatever.

These days, the parquet in the Hôtel Biron is in need of a solid polish and the ceilings in need of a lick of Antique White USA, but this is understandable given it’s the only national museum in France that does not benefit from a public grant by the State. True story.

Three other things that are true:

1. Rodin was handy with the graphite.

2. You can walk right around nearly all the sculptures to take in every finger nail and perfect vein.

3. You should probably go easy on the salted caramels.

All images from Musée Rodin except the first one. That was me.

Henry V – New York Classical Theater

13 Jul

Really?  You don’t think this looks like theatre?

Ok, that’s fair. The River to River Festival and New York Classical Theater have raised the Shakespeare-under-the-stars bar so high up that not even the BFG can see it.

Their choose-your-own-adventuresque production of Henry V begins outside Castle Clinton, where the audience is invited to follow Harry and his subjects around Battery Park as they prepare for battle.  They even join in sailing across the ‘Channel’ to wage war on Governors Island. FRANCE, I mean, France.

It’s a quick-and-the-dead kinda production.  The cast actually RUN from scene to scene, and while there’s a noticeable absence of fake blood in the battle scenes, it’s still pretty dramatic to see a cast of 40 charging across the rolling lawns of Governors Island, sword-in-fist.

Scenes have been sacrificed and French accents butchered — but this is war, after all. It’s free, fast-paced and playing until July 24th.

Second image from nyc loves nyc.

Warm Up – MoMA PS1

12 Jul

Sure it gets hot in Ahvaz. But PS1 did its best to compete last weekend with the likes of Fourtet, Subtract, a mini sound-stage and an outdoor hall of mirrors in the afternoon sun. In the absence of any Khuzestanis I looked to the sweaty crowd-surfers for confirmation, and it’s true. It doesn’t get much hotter than this.

Now in its fourteenth year, MoMa PS1’s summer concert series, Warm Up, has established itself as one of the city’s most iconic summer parties. Well, duh. A beery, experimental music DJ party in the courtyard of a MUSEUM?

The novelty of dancing and shrieking at a place where you’re normally hush-hushed is reason itself to go — but the best part is, you’re even allowed INSIDE. What better place to take some respite from the churning dancefloor than in a cinema playing a bloodthirsty satire about Jesus? And who needs a shade tent when you have a room full of leather heads?

Outside the offerings are thematic and bountiful: mini wooden paddly pools, smooth white sun lounges, tiny sandpits and both kinds of drink: beer AND water. This is hallowed turf for art aficionados, old-time ravers, toddlers and hipsters alike. Nothing like some doof-doof and an interactive art installation to bring the city together.

It’s on until September.  And it’s so much closer than Iran.

East River Park

5 Jul

So you like Kid Cudi.  And you have an extra $60 you want to sling my way.  Thanks, friend!  I’m booking a ticket to THIS!

It’s ok, I understand your cash MAY not reach me in time.  And that’s fine.  East River Park is lovely — with or without crowd surfing and dirty beats and hot, hot rapping.

Waterfronty, green, pretty much deserted on weekday mornings — this is the best-kept secret garden in New York.  (Largely thanks to the numerous groundsmen tearing around on their John Deer four-wheelers.)

Sure, the park is girt* by construction work, and the fences and divisions seem to shift in the night, but I can’t think of a finer place to lawn-laze and sip an iced coffee.

In summary: picnic tables, sprinklers, and views of the Manhattan skyline make for a pretty sweet Sunday afternoon.  Throw 60 big ones into the mix though and you’ve got yourself park heaven.


*Definitely the first time I’ve used that in a sentence.  Who knew the Australian national anthem was such a mine of linguistic treasures?

Top image from Freewilliamsburg.

Rainbow City

22 Jun

Hells bells and tortoise shells!*  This is Rainbow City: a towering garden of blow-up happy.  By that I mean huge inflatable mushrooms smiling down from on high, super-size hot air balloons floating in the summer breeze, oh-so-tall stripey cylinders leaning towards you for a pillowy hug…

It’s kind of like super Mario on drugs.

This 40 piece installation from Miami-based artistic collaborative FriendsWithYou is currently plonked below the new section of the Highline.  The inflatable magic garden is apparently designed to awaken the inner child – which means there are quite a few lost-looking suits pawing the playground floor nervously.  (Or maybe they were just looking for the private Wall Street Journal event next door.)

When the sound loops start to verge on creepy and the kids in the jumping castle tent start to look at you like YOU’RE creepy, it’s probably time for a beer.  They’re only (ahem) $7 at the temporary outdoor bar next door, The Lot on Tap.

Collichio & Sons is the order of the day at this giant concrete summer ‘plaza.’ To be honest though, it’s probably not the place I’d rush to if I were looking for an outdoor wristband experience.  (Yes, you need one.)

For that I’d go here.

If you too are short on trans-Atlantic airtickets, Rainbow City will be floating about until July 5.

*What do you think?  Could this turn into a WIDELY-USED EXPRESSION?

I forgot my camera on this excursion, so thanks to Arrested Motion and Geoffry Gertz for letting me use their awesome pictures.

Orchard Beach

9 Jun

Rightly or wrongly (ok, wrongly) it’s been described as the Riviera of the Bronx.  Which might give one the impression that Orchard Beach is a dainty morsel of uptown beachside glamour.

Au contraire.  In biscuit talk: Orchard Beach is a rock cake.  A tooth-snapping, currant-studded, chunky little number.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s definitely a place for tooth-snappers in the beach biscuit tin.  It’s all about boy scouting.

This is not the white sandy, salad rolly, ripped surfer chesty kind of beach you might expect if you’re an Australian unaccustomed to the 6 Line.

I know what you’re thinking. All the key ingredients are here, right?

  • Semi-naked bodies
  • Water (albeit verging on fetid)
  • A smattering of flirtatious teenagers (with extra attitude)
  • Police presence

But it’s all in Orchard Beach’s secret special sauce:

  • Rowdy hot dog vendors
  • Crowds (Like musical festival crowds.  The sweaty and pushy-shovey kind.)
  • American flags strewn over brick walls
  • Boom boxes screaming hip-hop salsa beats
  • Big-lunged ladies screaming at their brood
  • Fleshy, tattooed fists crushing Budweiser cans

Told you – nothing continental about it.  But it’s probably the realest slice of New York you’ll ever get.

Feast on it.

5 Pointz

7 Jun

It’s a not-so-secret garden for the best street artists in the world.

5 Pointz – so named because it signifies the coming together of all five NYC boroughs – is ‘an outdoor exhibition space’ where street artists from around the globe come to work their magic.  (‘Outdoor exhibition space’ actually means run-down factory building walls, and bitumen, and smashed windows, and roller doors.  But whatever.)

Difference is, none of these works are necessarily created under cover of darkness, or on things that look like elephants, or with chisels and drills.  To spray or paint or tag here you not not only need a permit from the curator – Meres One himself – but you might also need to supply a sample, or even your lay out.

For a movement that has a history of running fast and loose with vandalism and crime, it’s kind of a big deal.  This is about as black-tie as it gets for street art.

You’d think there’d be more whining about 5 Pointz regimenting the street art movement, or turning it into something it’s not through that kind of formality.  Sure, some people hate on the permission wall idea.  But let’s face it – street art is commercial now, and the artists who object to this sort of thing probably don’t take it upon themselves to do that publicly.

And anyway, when old-time masters like Stay High 149 become proponents, then who cares.

5 Pointz, 45-46 Davis Street, Queens.

Ultimate Chinese Whispers

28 May

Not a queue of people.  A queue of CHINESE WHISPERERS hanging out on the temporarily shortened High Line waiting to turn words into actions and spiritual transformation through a sequence of individuals… whatever.  It was Chinese Whispers gone mental and Salman Rushdie was playing!

Being brokelyn means that I only considered the free events at the PEN Festival – but gala shmala I say. Next in line to me was two (nearly three) year old Clara, whose message: “FOCUS STAR FOCUS!” morphed into “Follow the glass stone” from the original (and slightly more poetic): “Like a shimmering star, or a flickering lamp.”

There’s a what goes around comes around message in there but I was more excited about the honking dungchens and nearly 200 books, right next door.


8 Apr

Having never had an extra-marital affair, nor green thumbs, nor gonorrhea, I can’t really put myself in Sunday Reed’s shoes.

Sunday was just an everyday gal who married a guy that gave her gonorrhea and left her infertile.  So she married someone else and they did the tree change thing and opened up their house to a load of free-loving bohemians who all subsequently had affairs with her.  Could happen to anyone.

It just so happens that the Reeds’ house is now a modern art museum called Heide.  And that Sunday’s longest-lasting affair was with Sidney Nolan (who is kind of a big deal.)  And that when she refused to leave her husband for him, Sidney got her back by marrying her husband’s SISTER.

Not to gossip, but he was also a bit of an Indian giver.  After giving them to Sunday, he asked for his Ned Kelly paintings back. Instead she gave them to the National Gallery. (Cop that boyfriend.)

But moving on.

Fortunately, Heide is a half hour drive out of Melbourne – which means one is excited about stretching one’s legs around the 16 acres of landscaped gardens as soon as one arrives.  After taking in the 30 sculptures and admiring the Yarra from its slippery banks, one may well have worked up the appetite for a snack at Shannon Bennett’s swank new Cafe on the site.  (Or for a tasty alternative, one could sample the chives growing in the kitchen garden.)

Then there’s the original homestead that you can trespass in for a fee, and the other two very swish exhibition buildings.  Here’s what’s in them: drawings by Joy Hester, Albert Tucker, Arthur Boyd and John Perceval.

Here’s what’s not in them:

Image: Bentley Smith (superciliousness)