Steve McQueen driving his Jaguar
© William Claxton
Here's to a brand-new year!
by Georgina Oliver

Starting over. Turning a fresh leaf... That's what New Year’s about. As it happens, that’s how changing century felt. Yet, at 2002’s onset — as the champagne corks pop — Parisian revelers will be proposing a toast to second chances, echoing the Lennon lyrics “All we’re saying is give peace a chance.”

New Ambassadors
A double changing of the guard, on rue du Faubourg St-Honoré... For this city’s Anglo-Americans, New Year 2002 heralds two newly-appointed ambassadors. Presently at the helm of London’s Foreign Office, former British Ambassador Sir Michael Jay will be amicably recalled by “Tout-Paris” – along with Lady Sylvia, a brilliant hostess and a keen promoter of “Brit Art.” Herself now Director General of the UK’s Food and Drink Federation, Sylvia Jay had a culinary claim to fame – miniature fish’n’chips served to the embassy’s bowtied guests, on silver platters... Sir Michael’s successor? Sir John Eaton Holmes whose previous diplomatic assignments have included New York, Moscow, India and North Africa. Sir John’s official biography ends on a personal note – “In 1976, he married Penelope Morris. John and Penny have three daughters: Sarah, Lucy and Emilie (who was born in Paris).”
On the day John Holmes presented his credentials to President Chirac, his American counterpart, Howard H. Leach had lunch with members of the Anglo-American Press Association, at La Maison France-Amériques, on avenue Franklin Roosevelt. Convinced that “The United States wants less war, not more war," Ambassador Leach placed the accent on multifaceted “problem-solving.”

Avantime Car
Following news of its cross-shareholdings with Nissan, Renault is revving up for a hyper-innovative era. Riding on the crest of successes like the Laguna, an “upper-mid” sedan with executive-class navigation systems, “electronic stability” and “real-time” tyre pressure monitoring — that also comes in a “keyless,” smart card-operated version... the French carmaker is out to explore untrodden territory. The crème de la crème Vel Satis is billed as its latest “Ambassador,” while the Avantime — a Renault-Matra coupé — treats affluent “nonconformists” to “a whole new experience”: Cinerama-style landscapes, streaming past its total vista “pillar-free” side windows...

Baby Piper
New twists on traditional luxuries are in vogue. Sipped at with a straw... the mini bottles of champagne ubiquitous at brand-sponsored DJ soirées, since the turn of the millennium, are sold in packs at major supermarkets. Piper-Heidsieck’s red-labeled “teeny tot” is the Baby Piper. Sayonara! to Piper’s newborn, “kimono”-clad 20cl brut, available in Japan from early December.

Movida Santa
How to transport chilled “bubbly” in a car, in style? That’s easy... In a bright red portable refrigerator on sale at “the department store where everything’s to be found”... Facing the Seine’s oldest bridge — the Pont-Neuf — La Samaritaine has asked newfangled, Spanish “Movida” designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada to be its honorary “Santa Claus,” conceiving its theme windows, billboards and “Christmas tree” packaging.

Temporary Restos
Ephemeral events are “hot”... Cooked up to promote Italian sparkling water Ferrarelle, a glamorous ephemeral resto proposes three contemporary cuisine options at the Hôtel de Bondeville (4 rue des Haudriettes, 3e, reservations: 01 53 70 72 71), till December 15. First, “La Play Room.” Unabashedly regressive. No tables as such, just round, plastic cushions... On the menu? Purées and “smoothie desserts,” served with straws and teaspoons. Second, “La Cuisine.” A camp trattoria, concocted by Sigolène Préboist and Catherine Lévy of Tsé & Tsé Associés. The diet, here? Organic “Antipasti, pasta e tutti fruti.” Third, “La Salle à manger,” a surrealistic gastronomic mise-en-scène devised by Bertrand Burgalat (the musician behind the trendy Tricatel label), along with Olivier Kuntzel and Florence Deygas.
Paris’ most “bang-on” high-tech emporium? Bang & Olufsen’s futuristic outlet at the Maison du Danemark (142 av des Champs-Elysées). A showcase for the Danish manufacturer’s state-of-the-art products, this “extra-terrestial” sales environment — featuring special audiovisual effects orchestrated by “electro-maestro” Jean-Michel Jarre — is to be updated, on a yearly basis.

Watch Launch
Part of luxury goods group LVMH, TAG Heuer is relaunching its “Monaco” watch via an exhibition of hitherto unpublished portraits of Steve McQueen, taken by celebrated American photographer William Claxton (To Dec 29, Galerie Dutko, 13 rue Bonaparte, 6e, tel: 01 43 26 96 13). During filming of “Le Mans,” the legendary Hollywood actor reportedly fell for this classic timepiece.

Designer Circuit
Court-Circuit organizes weekend “art marts” plugging young fashion and deco talent. On view at La Villette’s Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (10am to 9pm, Dec 1&2, Espace Condorcet, Niveau 0, 20F, kids free), 120 participants including SENSIboot, artisans who make wacky leather footwear to order. Fabrice Poutrieux explains “Our customers are clubbers, or circus people... You select a style, then choose your own colors and textures.” (13 rue du Milieu, 09210 Saint Ybars, tel: 06 10 37 28 45).

Museum Buzz
With a state-run “young and experimental” arts, style and multimedia center scheduled to open at the end of January in the Palais de Tokyo, next door to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, on avenue du Président Wilson... alternative museography is “in the air.” So, don’t miss a unique opportunity to attend a “pros-only” trade expo focusing on “cultural gifts and museum objects,” at the Palais des Congrès from January10 to 12! (“Museum Expressions” will send free invitations to the first 100 “Internautes” to “sign up” on its website:

Last Francs
You’ve heard that it’s pointless to hang on to your last francs. From 2002, they’ll be “history,” old currency... we’ll be in “Euroland”! Nonetheless, as of January 15, a trio of prominent French charities is organizing “La collecte des derniers francs.” In aid of L’Association des Paralysés de France, Le comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Développement and the Ligue contre le Cancer, you’ll be asked to slip your “Last Francs” into bright collection boxes on display in various public places.

Steve McQueen's favorite watch
© Tag Heuer Classics

Avantime parked by Bilbao's Guggenheim museum
courtesy of Renault

A funky, flower-shaped pouf by the Agatha Ruiz de la Prada
courtesy of La Samaritaine

A fun mini fridge for the car
courtesy of La Samaritaine

"Kimono" Baby Piper
courtesy of Piper Heidsieck

SENSIBoots "Maximo
courtesy of Sensiboot

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada's La Samaritaine Christmas
courtesy of La Samaritaine