February Potpourri: Spectacular Domains, Dali, Dirty Dancing, and More

Jardin au Musée Rodin
Garden of Le Musée Rodin, © Agence photographique du musée Rodin – Jérome Manoukian

Below you’ll find a few cultural tidbits from France that I came across in February. I also review a bande dessinée, which I read last month, by one of my favorite political cartoonists, Patrick Chappatte. In many cases, I provide a link that you can follow to the original source for further details. The photo on the right is from the garden at Le Musée Rodin in the heart of Paris, which was closed to the public for a few days due to slippery sidewalks. Living in Michigan with ice covering most paths for much of winter, it’s hard to imagine imposing such a restriction. However, I’m not criticizing. Paris’ loss was the rest of the world’s gain. To compensate for the closure, the museum placed several such beautiful photos online.

Underground Urban Farming

You may have heard about the catacombs under Paris that house the bones of more than 6 million human skeletons. Or, the archeological crypte that lies beneath the plaza in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Now there’s a living marvel flourishing beneath the streets of Paris, an underground farm, called La Caverne.

In 2017, a startup called Cycloponics, established the farm in an abandoned parking garage beneath a public housing high rise. There they produce between 100 and 200 kilograms (220 to 440 pounds) of mushrooms per day. They also grow endive (the third most popular vegetable in France) and micro-greens.

The benefits go well beyond providing fresh local produce to city dwellers. The company employs residents of the working class neighborhood in which it is located. They also sell their produce at reduced rates to residents living in the 300 apartments above their farm. They offer free tours to schools and local organizations. Finally, they serve as an incubator for other small businesses that want to try their hand at urban farming.

French YouTuber Dissects 20th-Century Pop Culture

A friend recently posted a video of a French YouTuber, named Marjorie LeNoan, who focuses on 20th-century pop culture. Many of the subjects she takes on have their origins in the U.S. She’s a charming and entertaining host but she only speaks French and there are no subtitles. I find her much easier to understand, however, than some of the French YouTubers I’ve come across. So if you know French, you should give her a try. She’s both funny and informative. Here’s a dynamite clip analyzing the film Dirty Dancing.

Visit Les Grands Châteaux of France from your Couch

The Alliance Française has been hosting a series of online Zoom gatherings that take you on tours of various châteaux in France. The tours are given in English. I noticed these in early February but didn’t find time to attend. Luckily, there are still two left for the month of March. For further details, go here.

This Thursday, March 4th, they’ll be visiting the spectacular Château de Chantilly. You don’t have to be a member of the Alliance Française to register.

Domaine de Chantilly, © Jean-Louis Aubert
Domaine de Chantilly, © Jean-Louis Aubert

A Bit of Paris Touring North America

The awe-inspiring Atelier des Lumières, a spectacular art exhibition in Paris, is making the rounds to a handful of cities in North America. The exhibit space features 500,000 cubic feet of animated projections of Vincent Van Gogh’s work. It’s currently in Chicago and is already sold out for February, March, and April. Ticket sales, however, extend into the month of September when the Coronavirus pandemic will hopefully be under control. You can find further details at this site. Below is a preview.

Meanwhile in Paris, the celebrated Atelier has completely revamped for a new show featuring the work of Salvador Dali. You’ll find a stunning video along with still-shots of the multi-story, illuminated panels here.

Atelier des Lumières, Paris
Atelier des Lumières, Paris, © Culturespaces / Nuit de Chine

Journalism through Cartooning

Cover of Au Cœur de la Vague
Cover of Au Cœur de la Vague, by Patrick Chappatte

In February, I enjoyed reading a recent graphic novel by the political cartoonist, Patrick Chappatte. Chappatte, who is Swiss, used to be a regular contributor to the New York Times until they made the unpopular decision to eliminate all editorial cartoons. Anyway, Chappatte’s book, Au Cœur de la Vague, is an absorbing and informative timeline of the coronavirus pandemic, from January through August of 2020.

In journalistic fashion, Chappette follows major international events, the gradual rise of coronavirus cases, and the triumphs and failures of governments, scientists, and non-profits working to combat the spread of the disease. The book is filled with excellent reporting as Chappatte tracks the movements of about two dozen people, from a doctor working in the highest scientific rungs of epidemiological research to an orderly cleaning the floors in a Geneva hospital.

An overview of the pandemic, which we’re all sick of living through, might sound like a complete turn-off. However, the personal stories in the book are well-chosen and as usual, Chappatte’s humor turns even tragic and tense situations into something we can laugh about. The book is available for Kindle for less than $5.00. Mon avis: 5 sur 5 étoiles.

Cartoon by Patrick Chappatte
Cartoon by Patrick Chappatte, from Au Cœur de la Vague

Au Final

UK Coronavirus, by Mric
Invasion of the UK coronavirus variant in France. “We’re in for another 100 years!!” By Mric for Urtikan.net

About Carol A. Seidl

Serial software entrepreneur, writer, French to English translator, mother, and lover of: books, travel, history, cultures, art, cooking, fitness, nature.

17 Comments

  1. At first, I thought that the immersive art exhibit Atelier des Lumières sounded so phenomenal, I was going to try and get to Chicago just to experience it. Then I remembered that I have a family wedding there in September! I am literally going to look into tickets this evening. I haven’t been this excited for an exhibit since a Chihuly Garden and Glass show many years ago. It completely captures my imagination. Thanks for the information Carol.

  2. An underground garden that isn’t marijuana? Seems like a waste to me…

  3. Thanks so much, I love your potpourris, I lean so much from them! I had no idea about La Caverne. Though I’m currently reading a book where they talk about all types of similar ideas for the future of buildings. The giveaway is over, but this is the book I’m talking about: https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/01/22/spotlight-and-giveaway-the-future-of-buildings/

  4. Another 100 years war? Well the Brits have beaten us up again with 20 millions vaccinated. TBH? Lately I am ashamed of my country.

  5. Six million skeletons? I knew of the catacombs, but had no idea there were so many “inhabitants”. They must have been accumulating for centuries, and not much fewer now than Paris’s living population. The catacombs must be so huge that, if some of the space could be de-boned, France could become the world leader in shroom production.

    Seriously, it’s a great idea for providing fresh food to urban residents.

    Thanks again for another interesting round-up of items from France.

    • Six million is indeed a crazy number. I was a bit skeptical but the official sources seem to be sticking with it. Not all of the bones under Paris are in the neatly arranged catacombs that tourists visit, however.

  6. Your posts make me feel I must learn French! I watched the entire video of LeNoan, understanding perhaps 12 words but enjoying it nevertheless. I loved Dirty Dancing, so the snippets were a delightful throwback. And she’s delightful too.

    The underground gardens sound terrific—one of those ideas that touch so many worthwhile bases simultaneously.

    From what I’ve seen in the newspapers, the Van Gogh exhibit is sold out in most American cities. Perhaps they’ll extend it, as the interest is so high.

    And Dali and Pink Floyd—now there’s a mind-blowing pairing! We saw a Dali exhibit in Quebec a few years back—quiet, but still incredible.

    Thanks for compiling all these treats, Carol. Most enjoyable!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the video Annie and yes you should learn French. The Chicago Van Gogh exhibit still has tickets available for the summer months. I hadn’t noticed that the Paris exhibit features Pink Floyd. Thanks for pointing it out.

      There’s a small Dali museum near the Sacre Cœur Cathedral in Paris. I much prefer these small exhibit spaces to the grand museums like the Louvre. This one is excellent if you’re ever in Paris.

  7. I’m really enjoying the broad mix of things I learn about in your posts! Especially now, when getting out to do and see new things is constrained, hearing about unexpected things and unknown places is so refreshing. Looking at photos at Le Museé Rodin reminded me of seeing the Stanford Rodin Garden, and the Rodins at the S.F. Legion of Honor. And Cyclophonics – what a brilliant idea! I hope it inspires other urban/farm spaces. It inspired me to look up endive recipes I like your mix of new ideas and dives into history, and French comics too! Thanks for all of it.

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