High-gear sensuality is everywhere in this traffic-clogged city. In your face. On the boulevards. All over the metro. Pecks and butts. Breasts and Bardot lips
brazenly solicit the consumer's attention. Not just in ads for cars and brassieres, but even at your local pharmacie where alluring thighs and stomachs urge customers to combat cellulite or constipation.
Now, with the fashion for belly-button flaunting T-shirts and miniskirts as skimpy as swimwear, all that urban exuberance appears to have lept straight out of the billboards, onto the street. Yet, there's more to this town than meets the eye. Wherever you turn, somebody's come up with a project that gives the senses new meaning. Sight. Sound. Smell...
Last month, the City Hall hosted a two-day public awareness expo. Using a cane or wheelchair, participants were expected to follow a "parcours d'éveil sensoriel" or sensory itinerary replicating the obstacles handicapped Parisians encounter in everyday life.
At the Pompidou Center an educational workshop/display highlights the Eiffel Tower's power of attraction." Emceed by kinetic artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, its based on a kaleidoscope of paintings, prints and photographs depicting the celebrated metallic monument from Robert Delaunay to Brassaï as well as interactive devices ranging from computer games to rivets and girders. (Galerie des Enfants, Level 0, infoline: 01 44 78 49 13)
In the hip Bastille area, the loft-like Liliane & Michel Durand-Dessert gallery presents Ger Van Elk. Tent installations, downstairs. Plus, flatscreen videos framed like "pictures hanging on a wall," upstairs. In particular, a slow motion "Famous Hollywood Kissing" sequence. (To May 31, 28 rue de Lappe, 11e, tel: 01 48 06 92 23)
The planet's hottest avenue? Following their turn of the millennium revamp, the Champs-Elysées are attracting some 300 000 visitors per day. The key to that renaissance? An irresistible cocktail of entertainment "blockbusters" and commercial temptations. Movie theaters. The Virgin megastore. The Séphora perfume and cosmetics emporium. The Queen Club, with its Wednesday DJ nights (admission 15E Open Bar 11pm to 3am, except for bubbly'n'beer)... Strolling down from the place de l'Etoile, on the lefthand side, you'll light upon Montblanc's sleek new store. In addition to the firm's famed fountain pens, it showcases stunning eyewear. Then, nip into the Maison du Danemark for an "object lesson." Here, until May 31, pioneering furniture designer Nanna Ditzel's modular multicolored molded foam-rubber elements convey a sense of space, showing city-dwellers how to give a room extra height, essentially by thinking "cubic meters" instead of "square meters." Your next pit stop is Peugeot Avenue. Until June 22, this automotive concept showroom is "under the influence of" Sir Terence Conran, given carte blanche to conjure up a temporary "French inspiration and British design" space.
On Saturday, trendy Parisiennes hit the Champs, on a weekly shopping spree. They make a beeline for boutiques like Morgan at number 92 which stocks styles popular with streetwise "Lolitas," and fêtes Mother's Day this year with a 32E "Glam Mum" tank top "plus pearly pendant" offer (May 5-25). Next door, is Galerie Noémie a makeup chain with a difference. Behind it, a young painter named Noémie Rocher who's conceived her products like an artist's palette, complete with tubes and brushes
In June, she'll be showing her abstract "Scarifications" canvases, alongside works by Pascal Morabito and Daniel Rocher, at the adjoining Galerie Espace Mer.
Opposite, at 34 rue Marbeuf there's always something "cooking" at the Man Ray club/restaurant that's backed by various Hollywood celebs including Johnny Depp. Their daily 6-8pm free entry "After-work" DJ sessions are mixed by Emmanuel S who's just compiled a Barbara Bui Café CD. This spring's culinary treat? An array of chic "cross-cultural" sushi concocted by Chinese-born, Tokyo-trained chef Jean Paul Luu.
At 49 rue Pierre Charon (tel: 01 58 36 58 00), with its signature Andrée Putman decor and magic mural garden
the Pershing hall "boutik hôtel" is to serve a lavish yet laid-back noon to 5pm Sunday "patio brunch," featuring jazzy/latino/down tempo"lives" deejayed by Cyril K. (from May 11)
Smells like May! A flurry of fledgling fragrances have entered the market. This spring, sultry scents with a modern edge are "in." Morgan has brought out a His & Hers "First Perfume." Gucci has struck gold with its spicy androgynous Eau de Parfum for women, while the Trussardi jeans label is banking on "Skin," a sensual "fusion" juice. With its "ultra-violet" packaging
Dinner by Bobo is intriguing in more senses than one. This exotically fruity elixir for bourgeois neo-boho Mata Haris is to be applied drop by drop, with a pipette. In another vein, Lanvin has perfected a suave green-hued revival of its "Vetyver" men's classic.
Need an informed "nose" to whisk you through that heady universe? Back in 1976, perfume consultant Monique Schlienger spearheaded Cinquième Sens or Fifth Sense, a trailblazing bureau/training school which has produced a bilingual French/English MAC/PC encyclopedic CDROM. Called "A Century of Perfumes," it can be regularly updated on the Internet, and comes with a kit of small bottles each containing a key olfactory "note." Woody, floral, aromatic
(18 rue de Monttessuy, 7e, tel: 01 47 53 79 16)
Musée du Fumeur
If a smoker's museum strikes you as, well
too whiffy! A "place of disrepute," almost! Hold your horses. Freshly opened, the Musée du Fumeur is a curatorial gem. A quirky collection of books, prints, drawings, memorabilia and potted plants documents the history of tobacco, cigars, pipes and hemp, while its unpricy epicurian restaurant/tearoom, overlooking a leafy courtyard, is a discovery in itself! (Tue-Sat 11:30am to 7:30pm, Sun noon to 7:30pm, 7 rue Pache, 11e, tel: 01 46 59 05 51)