Atelier des Lumières

I arrived at Atelier des Lumières an hour early on Sunday. My friend, Barbara, and I had originally planned this outing to celebrate her birthday March 24th. Then life intervened. The Atelier kindly reimbursed me and, just short of, four months later, here we were: 38 rue St. Maur in the 11th. It was a glorious sunny day. People often say that Paris is grey. Certainly not these past five months.

I rode the #9 metro with my mask on. From my stop in the 16th to St. Ambroise in the 11th is approximately 40 minutes. Everyone wears masks on public transportation. We are encouraged by the 130 euro fine to be paid if we are caught unmasked. The wearing of masks seems to sober people up. There isn’t much talking, frivolity and no buskers in any of the cars. We get on, hope to find a seat which are marked so that, ideally, one would not sit next to another person, then get off.

Since I was early, I walked for awhile in the 11th. The streets are just as wide as in the 16th but the two arrondissements couldn’t look more different. In the 11th, there are no trees shading the sidewalks. Graffiti, much of it fun and artistic, grace many of the walls of buildings and store fronts. Whereas the 16th feels upscale, the 11th feels very working class. In both arrondissements, however, to support social distancing, resaurants, bistros, and cafes have taken over the parking on the streets. Some have thrown down green carpeting to simulate grass. Many have brought in small trees and plants and put them next to the tables to give the air of outside comfort. It works. It is a welcome addition to all the streets in this writer’s opinion.

Walking in the 11th arrondissement

We met at noon as planned and got ready to enter the Atelier. As with every other space in Paris, wearing a mask is obligatory to enter. Then we pass the sanitising liquid that everyone dollops on their hands before passing any of the staff. Our bags are checked, they make sure we actually have tickets, and finally our tickets are scanned and we are in. There are free lockers where we can deposit everything that might be cumbersome. Then we pass through two doors into the remarkable space. As we entered, the show was half-way through. Since it runs all day long, we knew we would see the beginning later.

The projections are accompanied by music, carefully picked from classical, modern, rock and roll, blues, whatever fits the creators’ idea of intent. Nobody speaks. At the end, everyone claps. In times other than a pandemic, the floor would be barely visible. Throngs of people, especially tourists, enter all day long and stay for hours. The lack of tourists is certainly fortunate for us as viewers but not so good for the museum, vendors and cafes that are outside on the street.

Video of Chagall projections with music

I’m sure a better writer than I could describe the awe with which one watches these astounding projections.  The paint work is so large and real that you can see the layers of oil, one on top of the other.  When projecting one of Chagall’s works, the plethora of colour that surrounded us filled me with a big inner grin, gave me reason to appreciate the minds and hearts that create these kinds of expos and helped me forget what is going on in the word. Thank goodness for videos that can give you a gllimpse of what we spent almost two hours watching!

After a boxed lunch in the park, we went to find a cup of coffee. Barbara had done me a huge favor the day before and I promised her a coffee. We sat down at a bright pink table across from the Atelier: L’Atelier de Lili. Lili turned out to be our waitress. She heard our accents and asked us where we were from. Both Barbara and I being social talkers, we had quite a conversation with Lili who is adorable, funny and entertaining. She took our photo for her collection and sent it to us.

Sara and Barbara having a birthday coffee across from Atelier des Lumières.

I told Lili that we were so happy because we were finally celebrating Barbara’s birthday–four months late. Five minutes later, out came a macaroon with a little candle in it. Lili sang Happy Birthday with all her heart.

No words needed.

I know that the serendipitous nature of the whole day felt very celebratory to Barbara. As I rode home on the metro, I was thinking how like a normal day in Paris this felt. I actually had not spent this much time out being social in Paris, only in Brittany. I felt happy, in love with Paris and all it offers. I had to literally tap my head to remind myself that there is nothing normal about any part of the world today. In the words of Charles Blow of the NYTimes, “I think I echo many Americans, and people of the world in general, when I say that I’m having a hard time fully grappling with the gravity of this moment. It is still hard to absorb that a virus has reshaped world behavior, halted or altered travel, strained the economy and completely reshaped the nature of public spaces and human interaction. It is also hard to absorb that this may not be a quickly passing phase, an inconvenience for a season, but something that the world is forced to live with for years, even assuming that a vaccine is soon found.” July 12 Op Ed.

A bientôt,

Sara

Author: sara somers

I am retired from my first profession, am from Oakland, California, living in Paris, France. I love books and movies and watching everyday life in Paris out my window. Please enjoy my musings as I grow into the author others say I am.

8 thoughts on “Atelier des Lumières”

  1. I have longed to go to this atelier ever since I heard about the Klimt showing last winter. Thank you so much for sharing your videos. It was a thrill!

  2. Salut! Another lovely post, nudging me to close my eyes for a moment and transport myself back to France. Merci! Especially this spot in Paris. My son and I were there for its inaugural show two summers ago (when you and I met, Sara). Gustave Klimt was the artist and, indeed, the experience defies description. And what a perfect day all around for you and your friend.

  3. Hi Sara, love reading every one of your writings about your sights in Paris!
    To think everyone wears masks in public, or a fine is imposed! Brilliant!
    So wish this was the same in the USA, it’s not. Every state Gov. decides what will be the rule. Then you have the Mayors that disagree and make their rules. It is a mess. It has become a very political issue.
    Our Pres. did not order masks for everyone, so many people don’t wear them.
    Many of our stores are now ordering everyone who enters the store, needs to wear a mask.
    The United States has not done a good job containing this virus.
    Our state of South Carolina is still climbing in the number of daily positive cases.
    Every state is struggling with school openings.
    It is a very sad world.
    2020 is becoming the year that wasn’t.

  4. Can’t believe it’s already 1 week ago that we were enjoying the expo at the Atelier, a tasty picnic in the park and finally a lovely coffee at Lili’s including singing with a candle topped birthday macaroon. I’ve lived in France for 33 years and have never had such an enjoyable, warm welcome at a Parisien café. The best part was sharing a fun day with a good friend doing things we like to do together and not even thinking about the fact that one month earlier none of that would have been possible because everything was closed and shuttered during confinement. Simple pleasures are suddenly so big now! Thanks for another great blog post Sara and a memorable belated birthday outing! xx 😘

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