Cool Haunting: Passage Brady

If you do yoga for long enough, India begins to flood your senses. Little by little, like rising water, you find yourself doing things à l’indienne without even realizing it: placing your hands in anjali mudra to say thank you, creating altars out of beloved objects, kicking off your shoes the minute you get home.

Today I was in Paris’s Little India with a friend. We had lunch at my favorite South Indian vegetarian restaurant near the Gare du Nord, then we biked down to the Passage Brady for some good, old fashioned threading (OMG -- Oh My Ganesh -- it’s only 7€) and grocery shopping.

While the Passage has seen better days, I love its shambolic decrepitude and the men who invite you into their restaurants like gentle carnival barkers. While I wouldn't eat in any of those establishments (seriously, go to Saravanaa Bhavan instead), Velan is a fun stop for spices, lentils, tea, dried fruit, beauty products (I like the sandalwood soap from Mysore,) and other things. It’s not quite as big as VT Cash & Carry on rue Cail, but it’s smaller footprint is easier to navigate and if you’re just picking up a few things, it’s an easy dash-in, dash-out.

Cool Haunting: The Museum of Everything

If you haven’t yet been to The Museum of Everything, make sure you check it out before it moves on to the next city in February! This exhibition of art brut, aka outsider art, is housed in an old convent on the stuffy boulevard Raspail. You can’t possibly miss the museum because the signage stands out like a loopy smile in a phalanx of aloof, sand-colored buildings.

Part of what makes the show so affecting is the way it rambles from room to room, from Henry Darger to Guo Fengyi, up and down narrow steps from one floor to the next. It feels as though you are inside one of the artists’ minds, moving from wide spaces to shadowy corners, stumbling and feeling your way toward understanding. Even if the wall text weren’t there to explain each artist’s disability or troubled background, you would still feel their pain and the weight of their struggle in the art. The art is obsessive, sometimes beautiful, sometimes troubling. The Museum of Everything really made me question art -- how we define it, how we choose to validate then display it -- and made me wonder, too, about art’s therapeutic, prophylactic and redemptive power.

I was quite moved by the art, but also very grateful for the café and gift shop’s cheery respite!

Cool Haunting: Musée Cernuschi

As a teenager I lived in the 17ème arrondissement, closer to the banlieue of Clichy than to anything resembling a Parisian cliché. Between my lycée on the hardscrabble boulevard Bessières and my dance school near the much tonier Porte Champerret, my familiarity with the 17th merely skirted its periphery. To me, Batignolles wasn’t a charming square, but the name of a stop on the 66 bus line, a bus I’d take to Opéra whenever I needed a new pair of pointe shoes. I was myopic in the way that only a fifteen year old can be, etching my life with a fine-tipped scribe and never stepping outside of the lines.
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Cool Haunting: Musée Carnavalet

A secret garden in the heart of the Marais. Even under a light rain (as it was the other day when I ducked inside) it offers a quiet respite from the frenzy of tourists and shoppers outside. I like to sit on the benches in open-eyed meditation, letting the architecture and garden’s symmetry decelerate my nervous system and breath. As the sound of cars and scooters fades, I close my eyes and focus my awareness on the crunching of pea gravel underfoot, the rustling of leaves, whispered snippets of conversation…
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Cool Haunting: Les Catacombes de Paris

I’ve been thinking a lot about Spanda lately, this idea of pulsation between complementary energies. I’ve always equated it with Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In some yoga classes -- depending on the teacher’s training -- Spanda might actually be named; more often, it isn’t but its core meaning is articulated any time a teacher asks you to find repose in a pose, inaction in action, talks about the give-and-take between ease and effort, or directs you to a delicious savasana after a vigorous yoga session. This idea of a push me-pull you energy is not exclusive to yoga, though. It lives as you in your breath (inhale and exhale,) in your interactions (the squeeze and release of a friendly hug,) and it lives outside of you, too (the clatter of the métro beneath your feet or above your head as you mind your own business on the sidewalk.) As my teacher Zhenja La Rosa says, “Life moves in waves. Everything is Spanda.”

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Free Wifi in Paris

Photo: Paris.fr

Thanks to the Mairie de Paris and the Région Ile-de-France, you can use your laptop or smartphone to surf the internet in more than 400 Parisian museums, city halls, libraries and parks. To do so, keep your eyes peeled for a purple oval that says Paris Wi-Fi -- it will be located near entrances or on announcement/message boards. All you have to do is join the Orange wifi network and follow the registration cues (these should launch automatically in your browser, however if they don’t, launch your browser after you’ve clicked Orange.) You’ll go through a few steps to set up a login and password. Once that’s squared away, félicitations! For two hours, you’ll have free access to the internet.

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Cool Haunting: l’hôtel particulier de Serge Gainsbourg

The Seventh arrondissement is very popular with North American tourists. They crowd the cafés on the rue Cler, order what a friend of mine has dubbed “The Spesh” at the Greek crêpe stand (“The Spesh,” or La Spéciale, is an egg, emmenthal, feta and tomato crêpe – messy but delicious,) and generally keep that picturesque pedestrian lane humming year round. Pre-Rick Steves, whose books essentially put the cobblestoned street on the North American radar, rue Cler was your typical-for-the-Seventh busy yet still sleepy enclave. Think government ministries, embassies, and the Assemblée Nationale and you’ll start to get a sense of the energy of the place: sober, quiet, serious.

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