Saturday, May 4, 2013

Made in France

May 1st, "May Day", is a big holiday here in France. This year, the day dawned grey and cold and threatening. So instead of joining the thousands of people who march from Bastille to Nation in solidarity with labor, we showed our solidarity by going out to the Porte de Versailles to the 109th annual Foire de Paris, to admire the end result of all that labor.

These posters have been lining the metro walls for some time, with different faces showing different reactions to the main theme of the fair: "Générosité, Curiosité, Innovation".  Over 620,000 people are expected to attend over the next ten days, to experience in one place "all the products and services that enhance your daily life." And most of which can proudly claim to be:

"Made in France".

A long line snaked its way to the entrance of the multi-pavilioned complex that makes up this huge exhibition space. This is where Matthew comes every year to gaze at cars at the RetroMobile show. Today, we'd be gazing at a different kind of French ingenuity.
Along the way to the first pavilion, we passed this exotic mermaid someone had painted on the sidewalk. We hoped it was waterproof as the skies were threatening!

As we entered the "Furnishings and Home Decoration pavilion" we realized we were stepping into a very French world of style: acres of space showcasing the very latest in taste and fashion, from these high-end very expensive glittering rooms... some astonishingly impractical dead-white leather couches, pouffes and pillows... some equally white leather couches with added bizarre sections of bright turquoise and sober gray suede leather.

In an adjacent section were room after room of incredibly garish paintings and prints, this one seeming to extoll all the worst attributes of the USA!

We fairly shuddered at the sight of this "faux" Eugène Boudin painting, especially after just seeing the real thing in a wonderful show at the Jacquemart-André Museum!

Luckily, before we got too despondent at all this terrible taste, we came to one of the things we love best about France: very clever design (think Citroën cars!). Here's a nice set of bookshelves...

...but, wait a minute, what's that behind these shelves...

...yes, a full-sized bed!

...ready for nicely ironed French sheets and a warm duvet!

And if you have kids who like bunk beds, you can slide them up and down the side railings to create more space in a small bedroom during the day.

 Moving into the next pavilion, housing all things "kitchen", we were greeted by this friendly mascot, although we could not figure out what he/she was promoting.

 The American influence was very evident here, every kitchen a big open plan space where you cook and you eat. Our new next door neighbors in our building had the same idea in their flat. They took down walls and created a huge living/dining/cooking space.

But if you're not sure what you want, the Foire de Paris is just the place to come and consult with experts, who will be happy to draw up designs for you.

All the kitchens on display were of the most modern design -- except for this woodsy setting, which would fit right into my house in Inverness!

What I loved most of all were all the eye-popping colors that would brighten up any space, whether a stove...

...or the ever-cheerful line of products from the trusty folks at Bodum.

 Moving right along, we found ourselves in the Appliances Section, which was like the Shopping Network on steroids!

 With just a couple of twists of this gadget, the entire inner part of the pineapple came out...sliced in perfect, even slices!

What Matthew's late Uncle Ben would have called "a pip of a rig"!

 I think this fellow must have sold almost all his boxes of "Le Coupe Ananas", because wherever we went, we saw people carrying one, two, sometimes three boxes!

 But that was nothing compared to the array of other miracles we came across, like this sewing machine that is embroidering, all by itself...

...or this tiny robot vacuum cleaner that sucked up shiny copper centime coins...

...or this fancy steam iron with wires and controls that make your shirts and trousers look like they've just come back from the cleaners!

 The sales pitches were pretty intense, but this young woman finally gave up trying to persuade Matthew to try the all-new "cigarette électronique"!

"Mais, Madame, je suis Americain, nous ne fumons pas" he explained.

 By the time we reached the booth selling massage chairs, I was ready to sink right into one and take a nap! But they were already occupied by would-be customers, trying out all the controls (and looking a bit like those scenes from "Wall-E" where the humans are in the space ships orbiting earth!).

 In a playful dig at French innovation, we came across a big Japanese booth in one pavilion, slyly demonstrating their own sense of style. No, this is not an anti-germ face mask. It is a mask with an opening for the lips so you can apply your lipstick without fear of smudging in a fast moving subway, or bullet train!

And this clever helmet allows your braids to swing free and clear as you ride along!

 By the time we saw this, I was ready to ride along home myself, perhaps on one of these new folding electric bikes, today's version of the old, trusty "VéloSoleX" from years gone by.

Foire de Paris is a bit like going to a State Fair in America, a lot of fun, but way too much to see in one day. There was much to laugh at, but also much to admire in the inventiveness and style of French design. You really can't take it all in. I haven't even mentioned the musical side-shows, the acres of food stands from around the world and the wines and gastronomical products. I did see some of these because, in fact, I went back the next day. Amongst all the tasteful (and tasteless) furnshings on display in the Home Decoration section, we actually had spotted an armoire for our bedroom. And at the discounted prices they were offering during the fair, it was worth the return trip!

Back home, my little posy of Muguet du Bois (Lily of the Valley) was another nice reminder of May Day traditions. It is a symbol of spring, friendship and good luck, especially if the sprig (le brin) has thirteen bellflowers.

À bientôt!

1 comment:

  1. Well they certainly do things in style so many things to see dread to think what the cost of some of them must have been!!!!!!