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Romanian singer/actress Rona Hartner at the Bologna Caffé
Spring rendezvous
Georgina Oliver
Here comes that “Paris in the spring” feeling! Meaning? Birds chirping, first thing in the morning. Romantic rendezvous at sidewalk cafés. Brighter, sexier clothing. Lighter, cooler sneakers. And, a bunch of exciting “happenings”: shows, boutique openings, CD releases…

“Rendez-vous” CD
Hot on the heels of the success of her global “Arabesque” concert tour, Paris-based UK singer/actress Jane Birkin is promoting a new CD titled “Rendez-vous,” now available on both sides of the Channel. Its tracklist? A string of whimsical duets (in French and English), with international artists ranging from Mickey 3D to Brian Ferry. Birkin sings “The Simple Story” with Canadian-born chanteuse Feist, whose first album, “Let it Die,” is touted as the revelation of the season — a breath of fresh “folk,” with an urban twist.

TV/radio celebrity Laurent Ruquier’s Gallic adaptation of Broadway musical “Chicago” has been such a huge hit that it’s now scheduled to run until “at least June,” with Canadian actor Anthony Kavanagh (previously in the Montreal version) taking over from Stéphane Rousseau, in the role of shady “star’n’gangsta” lawyer Billy (the character played by Richard Gere, in the movie remake), for six weeks from May 18. Billed as “corruption, adultery and murder,” this jazzy extravaganza is “all the rage” with audiences raised on prime time newsreels filled with racy political scandals. However, as Ruquier puts it: “Showbiz justice isn’t new at all! As a matter of fact, it goes back a long way!” (Tue-Sat 8:30pm, Sun 3:30pm, Casino de Paris, 16 rue de Clichy, 9e, M° Place de Clichy, boxoffice: 08 926 98 926/83 622)
Paris Center
Speaking of Chicago… This month, the University of Chicago inaugurates a Paris Center, housed in a spanking-new 5 500-square-foot building on rue Thomas Mann, two blocks away from the “Très Grande Bibliothèque” national library. Its Director, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Robert Morrissey, considers that it’s vital for “Chicagoan” students coming here to study French civilization, to “understand the New Europe, in all its dimensions… especially in the present context.” (Program info:

Fledgling Designers
Also in the 13th arrondissement, the Italie2 mall, on Place d’Italie, is the venue of the “Festival des Jeunes Créateurs de Mode,” an annual young fashion designers’ contest. Emceed by jet-setting jeweler Pascal Morabito, its fourth edition has unearthed heaps of head-turners, including “hairy-legged” tights by Ematome (aka Emmanuelle Passaquett.) ( 10-22)
Komplex Concept
Silver candelabra and ornate mirrors add a zest of Gatsby-esque flamboyance to Komplex, a pristine white locale launched by Stéfanie Renoma and her partner Antonin, to showcase their NI=SEARCH label and other cutting-edge clothes. A glass staircase leads to a mini boudoir where shocking pink and black lingerie rubs shoulders with sassy swimwear. Among this slick concept store’s perks? Luminous objects by Thierry Dreyfus. Sound installations by “neofusion” — electro soundsmiths who’ve brought out an innovative “home-clubbin” CD + DVD set. Plus, afternoon “rendezvous”… Relaxology, with Alexia (Fri). “Reiki” sessions, with Sophie (Tue & Thur). And, Kim’s tarot readings (Mon to Fri). (118 rue de Longchamp, 16e, M° Rue de la Pompe, tel: 01 44 05 38 34)

Movie Fests
As the Cannes film festival (May 12-23) reaches its crescendo… Bercy Village — the trendy neighborhood built on the site of the 12th arrondissement’s former wineries — will be treating movie-loving families to three days of free cinematic “RDVs” (short for “rendez-vous”). On May 20, 22 and 23 — the Didier Riey Trio gives a series of street concerts based on silver screen favorites (from “Hello Dolly!” to “Amélie Poulain”), and a “tente des Petits Débrouillards” (tent for “smart tykes” aged 5-6) provides interactive animation workshops. From May 4 to August 31, also catch “La Chine au Cinéma,” an expo spotlighting 50 movie stills with a “Chinese connection” — from “Shanghai Express” to “In the Mood for Love.” (M° Cour St-Emilion, line 14)
For more seasoned screen buffs… At the Forum des Images (Porte St-Eustache, M° Les Halles), “Le Festival des très courts” — a fest shown simultaneously in 25 cities, throughout France and beyond — focuses on “X-tra short” films, including digital and video experiments. (May 7-9)

Viva Rona!
In the mood for a garden-fresh Italian salad, but… you can’t shoot off to the Riviera, just now? Then, head for the Bologna Caffé (85 rue de la Verrerie, 4e, M° Hôtel-de-Ville, tel: 01 42 72 30 11), a distinctly “under-hyped” deli/resto, within steps of the Pompidou Center, that’s as “hyper-clean” as its suave decor. Among its fans — Romanian-rooted Parisian singer/actress/painter... Rona Hartner, spotted there, positively “blooming” at the prospect of her May 29 gig at the Sentier des Halles. (9pm, 50 rue d’Aboukir, 2e, M° Sentier, reservations: 01 45 40 31 31)

Riviera Appeal

For a VIP version of that “pasta and pesto fix,” fast-forward to the Findi ristorante/caffé/gourmet counter (24 av George V, 8e, tel: 01 47 20 14 78). Born to a dynasty of restaurateurs, Jean-Philippe Blanc, who “loved eating in Italy as a child,” has turned “Regional rendez-vous” into a house specialty, proposing a culinary itinerary named “La route de Findi,” as well as free “La route du vin italien” wine tastings, hosted by oenologist Federico Quercia on the first Tuesday of each month. (May-June stopover — Tuscany)
More “Dolce Vita” vibes at… The Lotti. This palazzo-esque hotel opposite the Tuileries gardens has just unveiled 44 extra rooms, along with six high-tech business meeting and reception spaces. From June, a patio-buffet will be accessible to “outsiders” wishing to pop in for breakfast, crostini or antipasti and Martini. (7 rue de Castiglione, 1er, tel: 01 47 03 43 90)

Hot Hotel
Another four-star “rendez-vous” is the “Paris Tour Eiffel” Novotel
(formerly, Hôtel Nikko). This 764-room pied-à-terre overlooking the Seine boasts three major assets “all under the same roof”: a penthouse swimming pool with gym, the Benkai (one of this city’s most noted Japanese tables) — and, Café Lenôtre. Like its Pavillon Elysées and Cannes counterparts, this restaurant/patisserie proffers crisp and imaginative cuisine — everyday, from 6am to 11pm. (61 quai de Grenelle, 15e, tel: 01 40 58 20 75)

Bachelors’ Fiesta
“Last but not least wild”… On May 14, at 7:30pm, Paris’ bachelors and Bridget Jones-like “singletons” will be in the starting block for a “Soirée des Célibataires,” at the Hippodrome de Paris-Vincennes racecourse. Pop music and prizes galore, in a fairground ambience! And, each drink you buy gets you a free cocktail. (Complimentary invitations from www.cheval-franç


“Chicago” poster

“Festival des Jeunes Créateurs de Mode” promo

Film fest ad

Findi’s Jean-Philippe Blanc