Saturday, August 15, 2009

Two days in Paris

August in Paris is a wasteland. The last days at the office before this past week’s closure was just like being a college student right before winter break: Everyone atwitter about their holidays, where they’re vacationing, the prospect of sleeping late, partying and not having any professors or exams to worry about. The air’s festive and charged, and then—boom!—everyone splits.

I, of course, was happy to visit Prague again. But it’s also been nice to “vacation” here in Paris.

I spent Thursday exploring on foot and Velib. Opal had told me about this neighborhood, Butte-aux-Cailles, a hilly spot in the 13th arrondisement that’s really cute, so I wandered out there.

The arrondisement is actually where I stayed last summer with my apartment swap, but it’s a big, varied neighborhood, and I didn’t explore this part. You can see the juxtaposition of the quaint village-y architecture against the new 20th Century monstrosities—typical for the outer arrondisements of the city.

The 13th is also where Les Frigos are, and, though this was a totally different part of the neighborhood, you could still see the renegade artistic flair around.

Which is funny, if you think about the Parisians who lived here 300 years ago, before paint in a spray can was invented.

I liked these pups, on guard outside a government building.

The next day, I saw more art, this time inside a museum: the Palais de Tokyo.

I’ve wanted to visit this museum for a while, hearing alternately that it’s the coolest, most under-appreciated museum in Paris and that it’s a dump. I guess it’s a little of both, but I had a great visit.

Not a soul in the Salle de Matisse.

Similarly, the rest of the museum was wonderfully devoid of crowds. Except the brilliant Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit. Man, that guy could take pictures! Some of the photos gave me goosebumps, but taking a picture of pictures doesn't really do them justice.

Next time I go, I want to dine on the giant terrace and gaze at the Eiffel Tower.

In between my museum visits, I did the cinema en plein air. It’s just like New York. Except it’s Paris! Tee hee.

I took a picnic dinner to the Place de Vosges for The Three Musketeers. (I wanted to pack up that little cutie in the glasses, who was almost as entertaining as the movie.)

Since I’m not taking French lessons at the moment, and I haven’t been very diligent about studying on my own, I’m trying to watch French TV and films to at least get the words inside my head, even if I don’t understand them.

I’m not sure this strategy is really working, but at least it’s fun.

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