Accidental Paris Street Art and Graffiti Walking Tour

One of the things I love about Paris is that you can step out your door in the morning and walk pretty much anywhere without a particular plan and anywhere you go is going to be beautiful. Or charming. Or shop-tastic. Or old. Or really, really old.

So one morning, from my base near Square du Temple, I headed in the general direction of the narrow, meandering streets of Medieval and Renaissance-era Marais. Along the way my architecture walking tour turned into a graffiti and street art walking tour.

I really wanted to sign up for the Underground Paris graffiti walking tour (they also offer a stencil art workshop, kinda cool) but the timing just didn't work out. Paris street art has exploded since I was last there. Locals told me that the city has become much more relaxed about what was once considered trespassing and destruction of property and now see it as a legit art form.

This could be true or not true, but someone told me that if the police see someone spray-painting or pasting or otherwise hanging anything, they wait around a bit to see if it looks good, looking the other way if it is and putting a stop to it if it's not.

There is a thin blue line between art and vandalism, I guess.

I was going to do this whole thing with exact locations of each picture and information about every artist in the photos below but, ah--yeah, right. First of all, aside from the biggies, it's very hard to find information about these folks who, when you think about it, have good reason to stay anonymous. And second of all, as it is this post took me about a week to research and write. So there's some info below, but mostly pictures.

I started at the corner of Rue du Temple and Rue de Bretagne, then right on Rue de Turenne, wandered tiny side streets in that area till I came to the (closed) Picasso Museum on Rue de Thorigny. After that I'm not sure but there were some stores and I bought some things and a cafe where I ate some things. At one point I passed the National Archives and somehow ended up at the Centre Pompidou. Then I backtracked and, through pure blind luck, found Rue du Temple again and made my way back to the starting point at Square Du Temple.

Here's a map.

OK, this one I actually know a little about. This is "Characters" by Bonom, November 2009. He "came out" as Vincent Glowinski in this 2013 article--great interview.

This woman, by Sobre, was all over the place. It looks like straight up stencil spray paint and it is, except it is done on paper then stuck to the wall with wheat paste.

Storm Trooper!

I can't figure out who does these storm trooper stencils. Maybe it's more than one person but in different styles? You can buy storm trooper stencils on eBay and Etsy. Seems like cheating to me.

GZUP, painted and pasted octopuses in a variety of flavors. Love his Facebook bio, which says he considers himself a vandal, not a street artist.

Signed Dana Lessi? caption says "pourquoi vivre quand on" as far as I can tell. Why live when [something]? Why live on? There's more text under it I can't read.

Lot going on here, around the corner from the Picasso Musem on Rue Elzevir! (If you're keeping track, we're at point 6 on the map.) Even the street sign and do not enter sign are tagged.

You can see our beer-drinking girlfriend is peeling. I read somewhere that people try to take them off in one piece, as they can be worth a lot of money. Doesn't quite seem in the spirit of things.

The rhino is by Bowti Cat; you can see some similar ones on her Google+ page

The square thing is pasted on; looks like a drawing in ball point pen and reminded me of something you'd see in an eighth-grade boy's school notebook. 

And the ubiquitous trompe l'oeil security camera. Meta.

Dance party at a pop-up shop in an alley--more on shopping (lots and lots of shopping) in another post.

Here's where I stumbled back onto Rue du Temple. Top to bottom GZUP, Space Invader, really cute gray skirt with white flowers on it.

Kraken! And that's the extent of what I turned up in a way-too-long Google search session. 

So bottom line I got to see my graffiti, but I would still like to take the tour. There are so many different names and styles. It would be nice to know a little more about it all. 

Further reading/viewing:
Very nice photo essay on Paris street art and information from Underground Paris tour guide Demian Smith here

Vandalog blog--graffiti and street art pics from around the world. 

Foder's "Medieval Paris: A Walking Tour of the Marais" here.

The perils of dressing in Paris--what do real French women wear?

When I went to Ireland, I wore jeans (that by the end of the trip were baggy AND dirty), thick earth tone sweaters, a blue fleece, a tan raincoat, another tweedy brown coat, a brown scarf and the ugliest pair of brown leather walking shoes you've ever seen in your life. Sometimes I wore them all at once. And then, to top it off, I bought a wool hat ... with sheep on it.

And never once did I worry what people would think of how I looked. Nor did I get dirty looks, pick-pocketed, kidnapped or even murdered.

Go figure.

This is what I consider a matching outfit. 

Good thing it wasn't hunting season. 

The full Irish ensemble. I'm pretty sure no Parisian woman would be caught dead in it.

Packing for Paris is a slightly different endeavor. First of all, if you Google "What do women wear in Paris?" or "Paris street fashion," you'll get the impression that all the women there wear haute couture even for a trip to the post office--one blog said that wearing casual clothes to Le Post is a sign of disrespect.

Another theme: If you wear white sneakers you will instantly be spotted as a tourist and targeted by pickpockets or possibly kidnapped and/or murdered by a fake taxi cab driver. ("It has happened!" one site warns.) Other dangerous clothing items include hoodies and matching sweatpants, shorts, bright colored nylon windbreakers, and "the comfortable clothes that suburban American women live-in (sic)."

(Here I am conflicted. That's pretty insulting. But then again stand in line at a U.S. post office and, well, you can kinda see where they're coming from. But then again, again--would the woman I saw yesterday, who was wearing short short cutoff jean shorts, flip flops and a wife beater with her bra straps hanging out, really wear that if she went to Paris?  Then again, again and yet again we've all seen that one dude who shows up to a wedding in jorts.)

Some more wisdom from the blogs: 

"The average Parisian is usually flawlessly put together."

(No pressure there.)

"If you don't wear black high heeled shoes and a scarf (or sweater) around your neck, you'll be spotted as an American from a mile away."

"Scarves are ubiquitous in Paris - Parisian women know they are a quick and easy way to pull an outfit together."

"Don't make yourself an easy mark for pickpockets - leave the white tennis shoes at home."

One poster admits that the "no jeans" rule is no longer true but warns this does not apply to American mom/ Obama jeans: No high waists and no pleats, S'il vous plaît.

I wore the same outfit, more or less, that I wore last time. I brought the same simple black dress with different tops, pinks and oranges, to go with it. Black flats, black leggings, a black trench coat, a black messenger bag. A small silk scarf when I felt like it. I did bring one pair of jeans--neither high fashion nor high-wasted and pleated, but yeah, I kinda looked like a tourist in them.

I did NOT intend to go to a museum the one day I broke down and wore them--I just happened to pass the musée Carnavalet and popped in. And yeah, I did get a VERY dirty look from an older woman sitting watch over the French Revolution exhibit. 

Anyway, I'm glad I did bring jeans, not only because I got really sick of that dress by the end of the week but because all of the scary warnings and the quotes above are complete bullshit. Or at least partial bullshit. Not every woman wears a scarf--see how many you do not see in the pics below. I did see stretch pants/leggings (no sweats, though), jeans and sneakers on women I am 99% sure were locals.

White sneaks and stretch pants, but as my friend Noelle said, the bag makes up for it.

I did a lot of people watching and, honestly, although most French women do look fabulous whatever they wear, I also think they more or less wear whatever the hell they want. And it was not so easy to spot the tourists. Take the picture below ... tourists or locals? 

I walked behind these four for a couple blocks, so I know the answer. What do you think?

So fuck yeah, this woman is a local. Don't let those sporty sneaks throw you off. The rings, the bag, the flowy top and the messenger bag. And, guess what? NO SCARF. She's in Marais, though, an area that's packed with the "bourgeois bohemian," or "Bobos." Basically it means they have enough money to dress as though they don't have any. 


Très Bobo.

Not even a little Bobo.
This woman is the "perfectly put together" archetype but a) she's in the shopping mecca near the famous Printemps department store and b) I did not see a lot of this even outside of Marais. 

Biggest Paris trend spring 2014: Black and white in stripes and polka dots. Also long sheer black skirts with leggings, a long top to cover the bum or another short skirt under. Gladiator sandals, too, but I think those are from a couple seasons ago. I'm assuming Parisian women don't just throw their entire wardrobe away and start fresh every single year. 

OK, those red high heels, dark skinny jeans and trench coat are pretty effing French, too. (Also near Printemps, as are the ones below.)

Rando cutie patootie.

Back to Marais. She has the scarf, the gladiator sandals and the black and white color scheme going on ... but what's with that giant backpack? Tourist or local? Status: Undetermined.

Status: Probably local. Black and white top, skinny jeans, non-sporty sneaks and a big bag. Another point for no scarf if she is local. 

Status: Definitely local (they came into the cafe). Definitely adorable. 

Status: My guess is the girl on the left is a local entertaining the girl on the right, a tourist/visitor. No tourist would wear boots like that to Paris, even is she was trying to blend. Just a sense on the other one. 

Status: Definitely local--You could just tell she was on her way to work even though the only hint is the flats and maybe the bag. Proving my point that Paris women are not all fembots in uniform.  

Status: Undertermined, but I saw this look a lot. Converse low- or high-tops with leggings, although I never saw anyone wearing it with a baggy tee-shirt.  

So, ready for the answer to the first picture?

At first I thought all four were locals, but the two on the right were Brits (the short skirts are a dead Brit giveaway, I've heard). They are trying so hard to blend with the black clothes and flats and the single pop of color in the bag (girl on the right) and the pink shirt. But that hat! I never saw one French woman wearing a hat.

They'll be lucky if they only get pick-pocketed.

A little tour of Paris' Haut Marais - Temple neighborhood

I went to Paris earlier this month and stayed in the awesome, central, walkable, funky, trendy, fun Haut (upper) Marais in the 3rd arrondissement. I rented an apartment right near the Temple Metro.

FYI, it is not pronounced TEM-pul, as an American would say (and as this American said many times until someone took pity and corrected me). It is more like Tahmp or Tuhmp with the "p" all but silent. Kinda like Champs as in Champs-Élysées. Before I learned the right way to say it, people had no idea what I was saying when I asked for directions. 
Even a bus driver. 
Who was parked on the corner of Rue du Temple. 

Temple Metro Station, a stone's throw from the apartment I rented.

View from my Airbnb apt. to the courtyard

So, first of all, the neighborhood has a decidedly local feel and is not very touristy. 
Oh, there are a few people walking around with giant cameras and fanny packs, but you'll see many more distinctly Parisian folks, like these two. 
I voted for them in the "cutest couple ever" contest. 

By the way ... That coat! It is my new goal in life to find and acquire that red coat. 

You can tell a local because you'll see him walking down the street with a baguette tucked under his arm as if totally unaware how utterly adorable his everyday life is.

You can also tell the locals by the fact that they ride their bike in heels.

And their motor-bikes, too.

And manage to look supremely casual and utterly fabulous at the same time. 

Haut Marais is that perfect mix of safe and cool. 
 Leaning toward not-very-gritty at all, I guess. 

Lots of street art in Marais--I will do another post on street art and graffiti later.
But these few were in a small alley, Passage Sainte Elisabeth, just up the block from where I stayed, on the route to my favorite cafe. 

I wasn't able to find much about "Ride in Peace" (RIP) except his Facebook page, which has a lot of pics but no background. 
The obvious interpretation is that bikes and cars should share the road in peace.
And, you know, the car drivers should not kill the bicyclists. 

Nice photos and brief essay (in French) here and here

Google translate seems to struggle with French to English, but on the upside, the results are often poetic: 

This kind of gargoyle ironworker and ferraillante makes us cautious. 
This may be the cars to which they should twist the neck and body 
to hang high on the walls 
instead of letting them move in the streets.

These awesome installations are all over the city. Dude is busy. 
Sometimes easy to miss as they do indeed hang high on the walls. 

Another one from the same alley by BeauSoir.

This appeared overnight while I was there; was kinda cool to see it "born."

It's signed Pax Leopard, self-described as a collective of visual artists, street artists and musicians. Some good pics on Instagram, including a photo of this very one, dated June 17, that says it is his or her "first big one." (Their site has no info; only a video that induces epileptic fits, apparently.)

The Temple neighborhood has wonderful little food markets, bakeries, etc., including the covered food market Le Marche des Enfants Rouges (why the children are red, I have no idea), cafes, etc.  

La Favorite de Sam ended up being my go-to for morning cafe creme and a snack. (The others in the neighborhood make it too milky.) And they were kind about my crappy French. 
Also had a lovely poulet fermier (farmer's chicken) for dinner there one night. 

 I ate very light meals while I was there (the above picture the exception that proves the rule) pretty much just one main meal a day. It's interesting how simply I eat when I don't have access to massive supermarkets and cupboards full of junk. 
I mostly stuck to the four food groups: fruit, bread, cheese, chocolate. 

Square Du Temple, a park across the street from my Airbnb rental, is a small oasis: 

I'm not super into architecture, but I can tell a pretty building when I see one! 

Carreau du Temple, which used to be a covered market but is now a cultural center/mixed use building. If there is shopping there, as it says online and in the guide books, I never found it. The cast iron, brick and glass structure is the former site of the enclosure of the Knights Templar & the prison where the Royal family were held during the French Revolution.
Yes, I Googled. I'm a Googler. 

I went on this trip alone so very few pics of me. For some reason, I forgot about the concept of "selfies," perhaps because I am so very old. 
So on the last day, in the half hour before I had to leave for the airport, I ran around the apartment, the building and the neighborhood taking some pics of myself and my bed-head hair with my tablet. 

Hardly anyone stared at me. 

At least not that I cared about.

Rue du Temple
Rue Perrée
Carreau du Temple (are you pronouncing it right?)

Square Du Temple (how about now?)

Pretty courtyard entrance to the apartment building.
I got stuck in the elevator once, BTW. That was fun. (No seriously, it kinda was.) 

Looking (AKA leaning dangerously) out the window of the apartment.

And one more for the road. The apartment was terrific, for real and for certain, 
but Amélie does NOT live here!

Just sayin'. 

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