Paris: Cheapo day in the Marais; Free photo exhibit, cheap lunch, vintage shopping

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The free "Rire Medecin" exhibit at the Hotel de Ville. Photo courtesy Le Rire Medecin
The free "Rire Medecin" exhibit at the Hotel de Ville. Photo courtesy Le Rire Medecin

By Theadora Brack—

This week, I decided to get on the horn with the charismatic Caroline Simonds, founder of Le Rire Medecin, a troupe of hospital clowns that are currently the focus of a free photo exhibit at the Hotel de Ville.

“Let’s make a Cheapo day of it in Paris,” I told her. Wasting no time, she created a Big Top-worthy tour through the Marais for us. She also threw in a few shopping tips. Grab a pencil and a red rubber nose, too!

"Nez rouge, toi-meme" is on display at the Hotel de Ville through February 18, 2012

Free Exhibit: Hôtel de Ville
Open: Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
4th arrondissement (Metro: Hotel de Ville)

Let’s kick off our whirlwind day tour with Caroline in the City at the Hôtel de Ville, where currently there’s a month-long exhibit celebrating Le Rire Medecin’s 20th anniversary. “Nez Rouge, Toi Meme!” features 80 action shots of her clown troupe taken by the brilliant photographer Jacques Grison. (The title refers to the clowns’ red noses.)

The show remains on display through Saturday, February 18, 2012. Cheapos, if you’re in Paris, don’t miss it. It’s vibrant, exuberant and quite moving. And it’s also free!

(If you’re visiting after this date, you should still stop by the Hotel de Ville to see what free exhibit is on display.)

Send in the clowns

Created by Caroline (aka, Dr. Giraffe) in 1991, “Le Rire Medecin” (The Laugh Doctor) now includes 88 professionally trained clowns. Based in Paris, they work with hospitals all over France. Talented in music, magic, and faux farts (wildly popular!), along with play, juggling, and improvisation comedy, they consult with hospital personnel before transporting sick children and their families to a fantasy world, tailoring each experience to each kid’s needs.

The exhibit features Jacques Grison's photos of hospital clowns. Photo: Jacques Grison

As Caroline says, “We give them tools for their hospital voyage.”

There’s also a book

Yes, there’s a book and a mini-photo catalog by Bernard Mathieu and Jacques Grison. According to Caroline, “It is GA-lorious, packed with 200 pages of photos! All proceeds go to our cause.” Looking for a Saint-Valentine’s Day souvenir? This could be it! You can pick one up at the show.

Lunch: Sancho
7 Rue François Miron, 4th arrondissement (Metro: Saint-Paul)

Feeling hungry or parched after the seeing the exhibit? Caroline has a few suggestions up her sleeve, so lean in close.

“For the moment, I have a fetish for real home-made, locally sourced Japanese contemporary cuisine. The Donburi Lunch (three courses) at the Sancho is great deal at about €16. Located near the Hôtel de Ville, I go at least once a week. Last week, I ate there three times! It’s my comfort food place. The hostess is 300 per cent smiles!”

Caroline also highly recommends the smoked turkey or pastrami sandwiches at Florence Finkelstein at nearby 24 rue des Ecouffes, and La Caféothèque at 52 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville. “It’s the best coffee in the world, and the baristas make you feel at home. It’s really one of the coziest hide-outs I have!” Enough said.

Fine and funky vintage digs at FREE'P'STAR. Photo: Theadora Brack

Vintage Shopping: FREE’P’STAR
61 rue de la Verrerie, 4th arrondissement ? (Métro: Hôtel de Ville)

Now, after fortifying our body and soul, it’s time to shop! Caroline is both a Cheapo at heart and a fashionista! FREE’P’STAR is one of her top “friperies” (second-hand clothing shops) for vintage garb. Flaunting a psychedelic, trippy vibe, the boutique is decked out in neon signs, funky lighting fixtures, and original photography and paintings. Look out for the shrine dedicated to photographer Brassaï!

Here are a few of Caroline’s recent scores: “I happen to love hand-knit sweaters, especially ones that reek of a grandmother’s love. The other day, I got a fabulous turquoise one for €10. It would have cost at least €200 anywhere else. I also found an oversized, gray-striped mohair sweater for my daughter, Lailah, which can be worn as an overcoat. Again, it cost just €10!”

Cheapos, you’ll find two more FREE’P’STAR locations nearby at 61 rue de la Verrerie and at 20 rue de Rivoli. Finding treasures while saving precious time just got easier!

Caroline Simonds and Patrick Loughran. Photo: Le Rire Medecin

Tip for the road

For the love of Chanel, have you been looking for the perfect shade of classic French red lipstick while in Paris? When it comes to bright red lips, clowns are in the know—but off stage, beauty tips are no clowning matter. So as I bid farewell to Caroline, I asked her to drop the names of her favorite classic French lipstick shades and brands. So gather around and crank up the printers!

“Red Lizard” by Nars, and “Viva Glam” by MAC topped her list. There’s a MAC store in the Marais at 13 rue des Francs-bourgeois, and you’ll find a Sephora down the street at 75 rue de Rivoli. Caroline also fancies “Mademoiselle” by Deborah-Milano for Rouge Baiser. It’s super-affordable and can be scored at Monoprix.

Happy 20th anniversary to Caroline and the rest of Le Rire Medecin troupe! Cheapos, they also have a Facebook page, so help them spread the good word!

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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