Paris, day 5: Food, museum exhibits, and LOTS of women’s shoes

February 28, 2020 • 11:30 am

Unfortunately, the weather in Paris portends lots of rain, probably until I fly back home on Tuesday. But it’s easy to find interesting things to do inside—and that doesn’t include eating.

This morning we discovered that there were several exhibitions at the Palais de la Porte Dorée, including a new exhibition on the famous woman’s shoe designer Christian Louboutin as well as a new section on immigration to France (this is part of the Museum’s permanent exhibit, Cité nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration). Besides that, there’s a permanent aquarium in the Palais, but we didn’t have time to see that.

The Palais de la Porte Dorée, located by park Bois de Vincennes, was built to be part of the Paris Colonial Exposition of 1931 (I have an old poster for that exhibit), in which the French showed off the lands and cultures they had conquered. As you might imagine, it largely displayed the perceived benefits of colonialism, which you’ll see in the Palais’s murals below.

The building is mostly Art Deco in design, although it was built when that style was on the wane. Here’s the building and some colonialist sculptures on the facade:

Inside is a central exhibition room lined with murals from the Colonial Exposition, mostly showing the Exposition’s theme: the great benefits that the white French brought to their Asian and African subjects. It all looks very anachronistic now.

One of the benefits displayed is SCIENCE:

. . . and its handmaiden medicine:

The unearthing and removal of artifacts:

I’m not sure what this panel represents; you tell me.

On to the Louboutin exhibit, which had more women’s shoes than Murphy has pigs.  It began just two days ago. We saw only about 80% of the exhibit; there are literally hundreds of shoes, most of them weird.

Christian Louboutin was born in Paris in 1963, and, after traveling to Egypt and India, returned to Paris in 1981 with only one aspiration: to design high heels for women. After working for a number of other designers, he started his own house, and now he is perhaps the most famous heel designer in the world. His high-end shoes cost thousands of dollars, and are worn by socialites, actresses, and very rich and famous women. When you see the bottom of a woman’s high-heeled shoe and it is lacquered red, well, that is Louboutin’s trademark, though it’s now been copied by other shoemakers.

Much of the work on display was stuff that seems almost unwearable, or wearable by those who want their shoes to make a big splash, but Louboutin also makes tamer stuff for “regular” wear. The “tamer” stuff was not much on display.

Here’s Louboutin himself starring in a one-minute video about the exhibit (there’s another short video showing more of the shoes here):


So voilà: les talons hauts de Louboutin. Nothing normal here!

First, a “no high heels” sign at the exhibit’s entrance. This is funny because in the Palais itself high heels were always forbidden because they could destroy the mosaic and wooden floors. And so they’re forbidden here as well. I think about 90% or more of the viewers were women. I was one of the few men, but I found the exhibit fascinating—perhaps because I like cowboy boots):

Prepare yourself . . . . we’ll start gently. These shoes are made from mackerel skin, and flaunt a fish tail:


Sneaker-like high heels:

With a pouf:

A tamer pair:

Yes, shoes made from sardine cans. Louboutin is nothing if not creative, but oy, would your feet smell!

. . . and from Guinness cans:

“Sea, sex, and sun” shoes.

Gold metallic shoes with stained-glass heels:

A not-too-bizarre pair that might look good at a fancy soirée:

Film shoes, with real film. Just the ticket to wear to the movies!

The high heel here is fake: it’s just a braided cord dangling down. I’m not sure how a woman would actually wear these:

How about this lovely number in gold lamé and fur?

Or perhaps a Chinese-inspired design?

From across the Pacific, a “mola” pattern inspired by the fabrics of the Kuna people of Panama:

Back to Asian style. To me this seems Tibetan:

One of Louboutin’s more famous designs: “love” heels. I like these ones.

Bizarre “pants shoes” in which the shoes are integral to pants:

Furry heels:

And for the dominatrix manqué:

Or, even more spiky:

And this is the weirdest pair of all: “en pointe” heels! You’d have to be a ballerina to wear these, and I truly don’t know how you could walk in these:

The Metropolitan Museum has a pair and a description.

Christian Louboutin (French, born 1963. Pumps, 2007 French,
leather; Height: 10 in. (25.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Christian Louboutin, 2012 (2012.121a, b)

They even show a woman wearing them:

The parts of one of his shoes. Like a good cowboy boot, they are made of several layers.

A shoe wheel:

We almost missed the “fetish” section (you had to be 16 to enter), which was too dark to photograph, but had weird shoes like high heels welded together heel to heel, or side by side. One can only imagine. . . .

Here are some boots from the fetish section with bloodlike markings:

There was a gallery of photos of famous women wearing Louboutin shoes, usually with the Master nearby. Here are three:

There were a few other shoes on tap, like this pair of parrot shoes by Roger Vivier, who claims to have invented the stiletto heel in 1954. Louboutin was an apprentice in Vivier’s shop:

And here’s a pair of Mae West‘s shoes, with big platforms to increase her height. I’m not sure whether the commentary is from Louboutin, Vivier, or someone else:

The immigration exhibit was large and dark, and hard to photograph. But we also had only a few minutes to see it because we took so long at the Louboutin exhibit. The new exhibit was clearly pro-immigration, and it was heartening to see the school groups of young African-French students being guided through the exhibit, seemingly to show them that yes, they did belong in France.

Here’s one of the original Josiah Wedgwood and Sons anti-slavery medallions showing a slave in shackles, with the motto “Am I not a man and a brother?” Wedgwood (1730-1795) was of course the grandfather of Emma Wedgwood, who married Charles Darwin. And, like Josiah, Charles Darwin was an abolitionist. These medallions are famous; this one was made n 1797.

And a post-exhibit selfie:

Then it was time for lunch, so we hustled to the 7th arrondissement to a place I hadn’t been, Au Petit Tonneau. It was a small, homey, and friendly place, which turned out to have excellent food.

The interior:

Amuse bouche: charcuterie, cornichons, and radishes:

Entrées: pleurottes (oyster mushrooms) and oeufs en meurette: poached eggs in a red wine sauce with bacon bits, shallots and garlic croutons.  (Photos are a bit blurry because the shutter speed was slow in the dark bistro.)

Les plats: Blanquette de veau, a very traditional veal stew in cream sauce, served over rice (on the side here):

Roasted pigeon on a bed of cabbage with lardons. It was cooked two ways: the legs baked in an oven; the breasts roasted rare (both pronounced “excellent”).

And the desserts: crème caramel and tarte Tatin with crème fraîche. Again, both excellent. This bistro is a great find if you’re near the Ècole Militaire.


And a classic view on the way out. Noms and shoes today!




19 thoughts on “Paris, day 5: Food, museum exhibits, and LOTS of women’s shoes

  1. Is it? Could it? It is! That is the PCC(e) looking Andy Worholish. I hope this doesn’t get me kicked out. I am getting drunk just looking at all that food.

  2. Aren’t pants with integrated boots called “waders”?

    I also am flying back from Europe on Tuesday, form Prague via Frankfurt. My trip has not, yet, been so scenic, but I have hopes for the weekend.

      1. Yes indeed. Just imagining myself in your pictures: enjoying starched white tablecloths, silver service, beautiful wine glasses about to be filled with wonderful local wines, padded chairs, and of course the food and sauces, immediately relaxes me and lowers my blood pressure. Preceded and followed by hours of strolling through the city…seems the perfect, flight of fancy vacation.

      2. And even if you were to eat the way you eat in Paris, I’m sure one could say you are eating a honest, healthy diet.
        (No processed food with added sugars -corn syrup!-, salt and D*g knows what else)

    1. Unless you have familial hypercholestrolaemia, the cholesterol in your blood has little to do with the cholesterol you eat. Cholesterol is metabolised, and about 95% of the cholesterol in your blood is synthesised in your liver.

  3. “Film shoes, with real film. Just the ticket to wear to the movies!”

    Not nitrate film I hope! Otherwise the next trip to the movies could be one’s last.

  4. “I’m not sure what this panel represents; you tell me.” You probably missed the cartouche, it reads “paix” (peace). The picture shows all the beneficial effects of peace, including abundance, harmony and love. But what about the sailing ship on the background? Does it mean that peace makes voyages safer and easier? Or does it mean that peace was brought to the world by white colonizers?

    1. In view of the rest of these marvelous bas-reliefs and paintings, I’d guess the latter.
      And before you call me ‘woke’, I think that despite the cruelty, the spread of religion and other warts, ‘Western’ ideas, the Enlightenment, ‘civilisation’ actually did reduce violence in the long run. The ‘savages’ were no ‘noble savages’ indeed, but pretty, how shall I say,… savage?

      1. I won’t call you either “woke” or “white supremacist”, I know this kinds of things are complex and somewhat contradictory. In my previous comment I was completely avoiding this insidious subject, and just trying to understand the picture.

  5. I won’t call you either “woke” or “white supremacist”, I know this kinds of things are complex and somewhat contradictory. In my previous comment I was completely avoiding this insidious subject, and just trying to understand the picture.
    (for Jerry: sorry, I just posted the same comment with a misspelled nickname)

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