First item on the list today was the Pompidou Center. It was still quite early, and the hawkers that so famously hawk in the square outside were still setting up. We already had pre-booked tickets to the exhibition we were going to see, so we walked straight in.
The Pomidou Center is a modern art museum that was conceived by President Pompidou in 1969, and completed in 1978 by two architects, an Italian and an Englishman. It’s structure is basically a giant transparent box, with all the usual mechanical systems [water, electricity, elevators, ventilation] placed on the outside. The idea was to leave the interior completely empty and uncluttered, which is probably ideal for showcasing modern art. These systems were encased in giant tubes, each of which used to be painted a different colour to show which system it held, but after protests from the people who lived in the buildings around it, the pipes were [and still are] slowly painted white. Like mostly any kind of new building in Paris, it caused a bit of an uproar, being so colourful and different and, well, not old.
We were there to see an exhibition of the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer who was apparently considered to be the father of photojournalism. Early on he was involved with the Surrealists in a big way, and then he went on to do more political stuff, during WWII and some stuff in Mexico [political upheavals] and Africa[humanist photographs and so on]. There were only a few photographs/films of the photographer himself, and I liked how he looked when we took photos- it was very spontaneous, very quick and instinctive- he’d dart in and out, snap a picture within a breath of a second, then go back to standing, his eyes darting around. He passed away in 2004, which was actually ten years ago, believe it or not. I’d never heard of him before we went- it’s always nice to just have these occasions of diving into the life and work of an artist.
After that we went and had a picnic lunch by a rather familiar looking fountain- ones with sculptures from my old friend Tinguely! The sculptor/artist whose museum Gabriella and I went to see in Basel. It was a very atmospheric area to eat lunch in- there was a man busking by doing very very good yoga poses [like, made of rubber much???] and a wannabe John Lennon teenage boy with longish hair and a guitar who sat and played Hey Jude before the yoga guy yelled at him in English to play something else. And there was someone doing chalk drawings and so on.
After that we split up- Ruth and Richard going to find a museum, and me to find an op-shop that I’d seen. I found it eventually, and was instantly drawn into clothing heaven. Tiny and old and cramped with the most beautiful clothes and shoes stuffed everywhere there was space- and cheap, too! [Compared to everywhere else, that is]. After half an hour I stumbled out with [miraculously!] only two items of clothing. A beautiful floral skirt, and a beautiful, genuine 80’s floral dress. I know my mum probably still has her clothes from the 80’s somewhere, so it’s not that long ago, but still…
After that we walked to the Garden of Luxembourg, right in the center of the luxury district of Paris. It’s quite a family parks, with playgrounds and concerts and a pond for sailing boats and things. We sat in an outdoor cafe that once featured in a painting by Renoir, and had crepes and coffee with ridiculous amounts of chantilly [whipped cream [which I’m never eating again]]. Then we strolled past kids with boats and watched an outdoor concert by a children [possibly teenagers] group from England! They’d been touring around, and this was their last show. It was very sweet, they were all wearing very colourful t-shirts and there was quite a crowd watching.
After that we just walked through the gardens, watched a game of boules [I loved the little racks with hangers for the people to put their jackets on while they played], and then eventually made our way [possibly via the Metro] to the Arc d’Triomphe! We got off a stop before, so we [okay, mostly just me] could take pictures of it from the Champ d’Elysees. On our way to the Arc we walked past a jewelers, a high street brand clothing shop, and a McDonalds. I felt cheated. [There was a luxury fur shop, though.]
We wanted to climb up the Arc when it was around sunset, so we waited for a bit. We actually saw a tourist try to cross the roundabout [it’s forbidden and dangerous and really forbidden and really really dangerous!] but luckily nobody was hurt.
It was unfortunately too cloudy for a proper sunset, but we headed on up. When we reached the top [there was a lot of information on the lower levels about restoration and history and there was a gift shop, so you know, it took a while] it was dark, and then the Eiffel Tower started sparkling. It only went for five minutes, which was quite long enough. There was a crust of people all around the edge because the other half was covered in scaffolding for some restoration work, but we managed to get a good possy to look around at the shimmering streams of light that stretched out in front of us [the avenues, built by Haussmann on Napoleon’s orders, in the effort to modernize/re-structure Paris in the early 1800’s.] Despite the dark, we actually saw quite a way.
It was quite late by the time we climbed down and found our way to a restaurant in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris. This was actually the best restaurant of our entire time in Paris, I think. I had a vegetarian curry and there was a woman witting next to us drawing the most amazing things in a little notebook. And then when a regular [elderly lady with a fur coat and small dog] came in, the waiter automatically bought her a cup of tea.
And then it was home and Twitter and then into bed. [Which is a slightly more honest version of – I went home and then fell straight asleep.]