An A-Z of Paris in autumn

A seasonal cornucopia of things to do in the French capital

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Autumn A-Z

© Jean-Yves Palfray

'I love Paris in the winter, when it drizzles,' crooned Ella Fitzgerald. 'I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles.' The First Lady of Jazz may have had a taste for the French capital in all seasons, but anyone truly acquainted with the city knows that autumn is when it comes into its own. Parisians, who abandon their city en masse during its long hot August, have always had a special relationship with September's la rentrée. In theory, it's the 'back to school' season of pressed uniforms and new pencils, but it also represents a wider reinvigoration of intellectual and artistic life – leaves might be falling, but the city blooms into a fantastic array of cultural events that continues for months. Our A-Z selection of the best things to be doing in Paris this season gives you 26 more reasons to enjoy the city in autumn...

The autumn alphabet

A

A is for • Asterix

Exhibition • Astérix à la BnF This homage to the moustachioed Gaul at the Bibliothèque Nationale is based around 120 original boards donated by Albert Uderzo (illustrator and the only author in charge of the series since the death of writer René Goscinny in 1977). The exhibition looks at the creation of the story, analyses the reasons for its enormous success, explains the work of the Goscinny-Uderzo duo, and evaluates the legancy of the cheery magic potion drinkers around the world. It's a wonderful opportunity to rediscover one of the most iconic strips in the history of comics, and to revisit the masterful humour and unparalleled energy of Asterix...

B

B is for • Bookshops

Shopping • English language bookstores In the last few years there have been some sad casualties on the English bookshop scene in Paris, with much-loved outlets Tea and Tattered Pages, Village Voice and Red Wheelbarrow all closing their doors. But the city that nurtured Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Orwell and Beckett remains a major hub and an inspiration for English writers and readers, and there are still glossy emporiums, delightful second-hand treasure troves and plenty of mixed-language outlets to explore. They're also great places to find out about literary readings and events (particularly Shakespeare & Company)...

C

C is for • Choreography

Stage • 'In a world full of butterflies, it takes balls to be a caterpillar... some thoughts on falling' When experimental South African choreographer Robyn Orlin creates a show, the title is never simple. Her new piece 'In a world full of butterflies, it takes balls to be a caterpillar... some thoughts on falling' draws together themes as varied as painting, the 9/11 attacks, mythology, dance, racism and cinema. Always out of the ordinary, Orlyn surprises with her originality and her extraordinary ability to mix genres. Opera, fine art and dance all feed her need to explore and understand in order to tell stories better...

D

D is for • Desserts

Restaurants • The 10 best desserts in Paris The nights are drawing in, the jumpers are going on, and a comforting pudding suddenly seems like just the ticket. But this is Paris – don’t drown your seasonal sorrows in family-sized jar of Nutella. How much more cheering to try a Grand Marnier soufflé at Pantruche, or the Rose Bakery’s superlative carrot cake? The desserts at these 10 restaurants were selected by our critics to give a picture of what the best in Paris can offer, from the classic Paris Brest to the buttery pastry of a millefeuille or the intense hit of a seriously good profiterole. Get ready to store up for winter…

E

E is for • Étrange Festival

Film • Étrange film festival Now in its 19th year, the Étrange film festival returns to the Forim des Images this September for another round of strange and fantastic cinema. It offers the chance to see some unusual avant-premières, starting with Quentin Dupieux’s ‘Wrong Cops’ (with Marylin Manson and Eric Judor) and Ben Weathley’s civil war film ‘English Revolution – A Field in England’. Two offbeat themed evenings are included in the programme, a ‘Bad Girls Night’, the other on the films that John Waters made with cult Baltimore drag queen Divine. Altogether, 80 feature films make up the programme, each title more evocative than the last...

F

F is for • Food Trucks

Eating and drinking • Food trucks Where better to show off your hip new autumn/winter fashions than standing in line at a food truck, the Parisian fast food craze that just keeps getting bigger. Street food is chic food, it seems, as the citywide fleet of vendors on wheels –which started out with the Camion Qui Fume and its brilliant burgers back in 2011 – expands to cover all manner of different cuisines. Today you can find pizza, dim sum, tex-mex and, of course, gourmet ice cream whizzing about the city and gathering crowds of fans in squares and at kerbsides everywhere…

G

G is for • Gigs

Nightlife • Live music La rentrée season in Paris is all about shaking off a summer’s worth of holiday sloth and getting excited afresh about culture in the city. Line-ups may have been thin in August, but from September there’s a stonking selection of bands to choose from. Check out Ty Segall’s new project Fuzz, rock along to The Pixies or Babyshambles, dance to cheery turntable crew C2C, or shell out for Arctic Monkeys, Nick Cave, The National and many more iconic acts on their European tours. And if you just want to hear local musicians jamming without having to organise tickets, check out our selection of the best bars with live music here...

H

H is for • Haunted Paris

Things to do • Hallowe’en See the famously pretty and romantic city of Paris differently at Hallowe’en, and remember that some horrific history and troubling tales have played out along its streets as well as love stories. There’s a range of ideas here to get you in the mood for a fright – from the skull-filled catacombs to a medical museum or a visit to the city sewers. There’s also a great selection of tried and tested walking routes that will show you famous relics, ancient graveyards and some key sites from the bloodiest moments of the French Revolution. Make sure you take a list of bars with you as well for when in need of a stiff drink…

I

I is for • Independent cinemas

Film • Independent cinemas In a country whose cinematic history is a matter of national pride, it’s no surprise that the streets of Paris host an unusually good and determinedly long-lasting selection of independent and offbeat art house cinemas and cultural centres. Just this year, a swanky redevelopment of the Egyptian art deco Louxor cinema in the north of Paris re-opened to much excitement. These venues are sure to be screening classic retrospectives, world cinema and underground movies – just check the subtitles situation before you go…

J

J is for • Jazz

Nightlife • Jazz From traditional to avant garde, and from hot new talent to big visiting names – Paris is one of the best cities in the world for listening to live jazz. Found in the vaulted stone cellars of the ancient city centre, Parisian jazz clubs are mythical places that have hosted many of the 20th century's biggest names in music. In Paris, the jazz movement began with the scandalous singer Joséphine Baker, who brought jazz to the cabaret bars of Pigalle during Paris's Années Folles during the 1920s and 30s. Here's our guide to the best venues, upcoming gigs and more...

K

K is for • Kahlo

Exhibiton • Frida Kahlo / Diego Rivera: L'Art en Fusion In an exhibition all set to dominate the Autumn art season for 2013, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera will be side by side on the walls of the Musée de l’Orangerie – a reunion as rare as it is exciting. The mythical couple are brought back together through a remarkable series of canvases, notably those coming from the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico. Between Frida’s disturbingly modern, radically feminine self-portraits and Rivera’s epic paintings of the Mexican revolution, the exhibition zigzags between the modes of expression of these inseparable lovers...

L

L is for • Lesbian love story

Film • ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ is a minutely detailed, searingly erotic three-hour study of first lesbian love. Its writer-director, the French-Tunisian Abdellatif Kechiche, had a setback with his last film, 2010’s ‘Black Venus’. An imposing biopic of the nineteenth-century South African slave-turned-freakshow-act Saartjie Baartman it proved too harrowing a vision for British or American distributors. Most directors would retreat into safer territory after an experience like that, but most directors aren’t Kechiche. ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ is the most brazenly singular return the ‘Couscous’ director could have made...

M

M is for • Marker retrospective

Exhibition • ‘Planète Marker’ ‘Planète Marker’ is the Pompidou's well-timed homage to the formidable filmmaker Chris Marker, who died last year. Marker was above all things a wonderful inventor of forms: be it the audacious photographic narration of ‘La Jetée’, his portraits of Kurosawa (‘A.K’), Tarkovski (‘Une Journée d’Andreï Arsenevitch’) and Medvedkine (‘Le Tombeau d’Alexandre’) or his filmed poems like the fabulous ‘Sans Soleil’. Engaged and independent, Chris Marker was also a thinker: on society, on man, on cinema. This show collects his multiple works together for the first time (films, installations, videos, photos)...

N

N is for • Nuit Blanche

Arts festival • Nuit Blanche During the Nuit Blanche festival, held every year from 7pm 'til 7am on the first Saturday in October, the city blossoms into a fantastic harvest of art, music and theatrical events. It's an unmissable time to visit, or for resident expats to shake off their post-summer sloth and get out and enjoy the city like true Parisians. The decade-old Nuit Blanche is a free dusk 'til dawn carnival of arts and culture inspired by St Petersburg's 'White Nights', where music and the arts keep the population entertained throughout the long summer evenings when the sun never sets...

O

O is for • Othello

Stage • Othello (Bye bye) Shakespeare’s riveting tale of jealously and betrayal places Othello at the mercy of treacherous Iago, who convinces him that his new wife is being unfaithful. Far from a comedy of errors, the dark piece ends in blood-soaked tragedy. Shakespeare purists beware, though – while the play is staged in English with French subtitles, the Bard’s original poetry has been reimagined by bonkers Dutch theatre group Dood Paard, who want the pay to have more contemporary resonance. The actors will perform on a stage of wooden planks – a nod to the original Globe theatre – but the set is not stable. More like a giant chess set...

P

P is for • Pasolini Roma

Exhibition • Pasolini Roma Critic, painter, writer, linguist, playwright, director: Pier Paolo Pasolini was an essential figure of Italian – and European – art in the second half of the 20th century in many domains. Between revolution, philosophy and the whiff of scandal, at the same time political and poetic, Pasolini personified artistic engagement in a challenging and human way right up until his brutal death on a beach in Ostia in 1975. The screening of some of his films (from 'Accatone' to 'Theorem' and 'Salo') by the Cinémathèque is a riveting opportunity to learn more – they accompany an exhibition on Pasolini's Rome...

Q

Q is for • Queen (and more)

Nightlife • Gay clubbing With most gay bars closing around 2am, even Paris's gay-friendly Marais can seem to lack a little je ne sais quoi. But fear not, late night options abound from the Bastille to the Champs-Elysées, so if you're looking for friendly dancing or more intimate encounters, there's a club or soirée for everyone. Searching a mix of Paris's many ethnicities in the old Red Light District? Got that. A thumping club full of pretty people? Got that, too. A nudist party without much light to care if they're pretty? Obviously. In general, prepare to shell out a cover charge and queue up to enter, but once inside, these parties are guaranteed all-nighters...

R

R is for • Rainy days with the kids

Thing to do • Kids Visiting Paris with your brood, or an expat with weekends and evenings to fill? Excited about the possibilities of parks full of leaf piles, only to be thwarted by endless drizzle and cries of ‘I’m bored’? Never fear – these kid-friendly indoor activities should make it worth donning hats and raincoats to make it to the nearest Metro station. They’re not just museums, either, promise. Try the damp-footed tykes out on sharks in an aquarium, a covered boat trip, send them off to a cookery class or if all else fails, hit the toyshops. The sun will come out eventually...

S

S is for • Secret restaurants

Eating out • Secret restaurants Jaded palates, step this way. As well as often surprising flavours, these hidden culinary experiences are also fresh ways to try food in Paris. After all, when was the last time a waitress served you vodka from a glass Kalashnikov? Or you took a seat at a table in a butcher’s? Or you had to walk up and down a street three times to find the right unmarked door to an Armenian canteen? We’re pretty sure you’ll find something new on this list of secret Paris restaurants, and that you’ll enjoy your dinner when you get there. Bon autumnal appétit to you...

T

T is for • Theatre

Theatre festival • Festival d'Automne Apart from its exceptional length (four and a half months), the Festival d'Automne also has enormous means at its disposal (with sponsorship from the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint-Laurent, Arte, Société Générale) and an exceptionally high quality lineup. As well as name-checking theatre's big players (Maguy Marin, Robert Wilson, Trisha Brown, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Christoph Marthaler) and venues (the Théâtre de la Ville, the Musée du Quai Branly, the Centre Pompidou), the festival also lays great emphasis on less famous names...

U

U is for • Underwear

Exhibition • La mécanique des dessous – Une histoire indiscrète de la silhouette Throughout history, desperate to obey the dictates of fashion even in its most grotesque manifestations, men and women (particularly the most well-off) have mangled their bodies as if they were malleable materials, putting their image before their health. Be it inflating derrières with iron cages or padding out calves when it was seen as a sign of male virility, the human silhouette has been crushed, flattened and neutralised as the era demanded. Always, behind the game of appearances, the weight of social markers...

V

V is for • Village de Cirque

Street theatre • Village de Cirque Eight companies, three shows and nearly forty performances make the Porte Dorée a very busy place to be in October. Every year for nearly 10 years, the 2R2C street circus cooperative has performed for Parisians on the grass and in their big top at Reuilly. Shows are cheap, plus there are  free concerts and jugglers and performers everywhere – even a bar serving brunch...

W

W is for • Wine

Food and drink festival • Fête des vendanges de Montmartre A little-known treasure in the 18th arrondissement is the tiny private vineyard of a monastery, perched high on the hill of Montmartre. Every year, the neighbourhood come together – markets, restaurants, libraries, bookshops, cinemas, theatres and even schools – to celebrate the distinctive vintage that its grapes produce. Between Wednesday and Sunday, there are classes, lectures, shows and small exhibitions, with the main event, a parade, on Saturday afternoon. Local musicians, folkloric societies and artists all take part, but also many wine and dining societies...

X

X is for • X-rated

Exhibiton • Masculin/Masculin This autumn, men will be sporting their birthday suits at the Musée d’Orsay: naked, nude, stripped, as nature intended. The male body in all its forms is shown off in an exhibition that focuses on one of the major themes of Western art (though rarely explored from this angle). Paintings, sculptures, drawings and photos from the 19th century to the present day dissect the diverse representations of the ‘male object’: sometimes a symbol of virility, sometimes an emblem of classical beauty. And sometimes, simply, reduced to the bald status of a pin-up...

Y

Y is for • Yam'Tcha

Restaurant • Yam’Tcha Yam’Tcha is indisputably one of our favourite restaurants in Paris, and even more so since its recent renovation, which has made the space lighter and brighter. An intimate dining room decorated with tasteful Asian accents, a calm atmosphere, a friendly welcome and highly experienced chefs all add up to a practically perfect place to eat. Adeline Grattard, co-owner with her husband Chiwah (the tea guru), is in her element here. Drawing on her long experience in Asia, she creates exotic dishes full of subtle textures and flavours which are, at times, astonishing (scallops with peppers and black soya), even disconcerting...

Z

Z is for • Zyriab at IMA

Terrace café • Le Zyriab by Noura A beautiful terrace on the roof of the Institut du Monde Arabe, which is remarkably quiet outside of lunch and dinner times. Le Zyriab by Noura isn’t just a high class Lebanese restaurant, it’s also a daytime café open to all. Elegant outdoor tables topped with parasols offer a sublime view over the Seine and the Ile Saint-Louis, with the Notre-Dame cathedral in the background. The staff are very friendly, happy to let you spend an afternoon reading on the cushion-strewn banquettes....


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