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paris part ii

this post is about a week behind, but I still needed to post it, just to finish off the trip.

A few months ago I went to Paris with my Nanna and had such a great time that when I was planning my trip, I decided to spend almost a week in the French capital to finish off my trip. However, instead of living the high life in numerous galleries, museums, tourist attractions, I had the most amazing time doing close enough to pleasantly sweet fuck all.

On the Saturday night I got there, after I sorted out some groceries, I met my two room mates - American gals who were enjoying some travel after finishing college: Steph and amber. Steph was well keen to hit Paris, so she and I sourced a cool club and went dancing until 3am at Fleche D'Or the club that was open until 6am and free! it was fantastic – played a great mix of brit-pop/indie stuff, dropped with French techno, perfect for dancing on the stage, which is exactly what we were doing. Bloc Party and Outkast have never sounded so damned good. Didn’t get home until after 4am (the night buses are good, but take forever) and was not looking forward to having to be out of the room by the regulatory 11am.

With absolutely no money to my name, I set about on my mission to enjoy Paris for free (which sounds a hell of a lot like the mission of half the American male population too). I spent a quiet Sunday in the lobbies and bookshops some really cool places, largely enjoying the great architecture (new and old) of Paris. I went to the pantheon and drew the amazing neo-classical architecture and inside frescos, then I went to the Institute du Monde Arabe, an amazing building, built on the basis of Islamic tile patterns. Each panel is made up of a series of smaller square panels. Each of the circles is made up of an aperture, which opens right up or closes right down, depending on how much light you want to let into the building, which is fantastic! After that I walked along the banks seine checking out the Tino Rossi Modern Sculpture Park. That night, the American girls and I went looking for a place to go out, but thanks to some hinky guide book suggestions, ended up around the Moulin Rouge, which is the red light district. Rather than clubbing, we ended up checking out the sex shops, brothels and erotic museum of the area, avoiding the crowds of Irishmen drowning their sorrows after a loss in the rugby to Argentina.

The rest of my time in Paris was spent just hangin’ out and chillin’ out. Some of this may have had something to do with having used up having 30 euros to last 4 days. This also had to do with a much cooler reason, which was the fact that one of my awesome friends, Jem, was in Paris with his girl. They were staying in an apartment in the 11th, on their way to a few months in the Netherlands and we just relaxed and hung out with each other, just owning Paris..

On the Monday we wandered around the Bastille and the11th Arrondissement, catching up and wandering about. We stumbled into the coolest café on Oberkampf, where the guy who made us our espressos was obviously a performer and who gave us the most charming performance we’d ever been given – he reminded us of Dominique Pinon from Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen/City of the Lost Children and Amelie fame. It was a surprise but an absolute joy – easily the highlight of our trip. After that, we went to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the one that Val Kilmer Jim Morrison happens to be buried in, but rather than search for him like the rest of the people there were doing, we sought out the monuments to Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde, which were surreal and lovely at the same time. For me it was all part of the process I had been going through since the beginning of my trip to the northern hemisphere, which was the realization that people from history were real people, who not only created amazing things but lived and died too. You know, like proper humans, rather than just a name on a book, and in some ways it actually made their greatness greater.

I didn’t go to the Eiffel Tower this time, but on Tuesday night we did walk down L’Avenue de Champs Elysees and head to the Arc de Triomphe. All of us were rather rubbish on our French history, getting quite confused between out Napoleons, French Revolutions 1-3 and the other wars, but we spent a long time there, absorbing (I believe) the true symbol of what it means to be French and certainly Parisian. It’s this political and democratic pride that inspires me in Paris and something that Jem, Sophia and I all wanted to learn more about.

On Wednesday, following on from the heights of triumph, we disappeared into the depths of carnage by going to the Catacombes, where we spent a large amount of time avoiding American tourists and trying to piece together French signs and historical dates. It was absolutely mind-blowing and we felt strangely defensive of the dead. There were a few stupid idiot French juveniles there, taking pics with flash (despite the clear signage) and singing Thriller. Usually I’d be laughing, but something about thousands of bones from years of revolution, disease and war takes the edge of it.

Later that evening I went to the Centre Georges Pompidou and saw the fantastic collection of modern and contemporary there. Initially I headed up to the top floors of the centre to not only see the temporary (but uninteresting to me) exhibition, but also to check out the most amazing view of Paris. The sweeping view from the Eiffel tower to La Defense and everything in between. The great thing about this view, as opposed to the one from Sacre Coeur or the tower is that it was relatively low, so you could see all the big sights, but also appreciate the maze of rooftops and side streets of Paris. In fact it was living proof the building ordinance laws, which restrict the height of city buildings inside the ring road, are bang on. Paris is a beautiful city and while they may be in an economic slump and a political vacuum, the French can be proud of the place.

While I could have spent loads more time in the Pompidou, I concentrated on the Modern art that I really, really wanted to see and a few of the Contemporary pieces. Given that I had seen a whole bunch of contemporary art, i didn't feel too bad about missing out on half the permanent collection.

I absolutely loved seeing a whole room of Matisse paintings, a whole room of Malevich works, including his metropolis sculptures, two rooms of Phillip Starck design works, large Yves Klein and Marcel Duchamp works, some Rothkos (although the paintings in the Tate Modern are way better) and the Jean Tinguely kinetic work. I also really loved hanging out in the the Joseph Beuys' felt roll room, although quite puzzled why him and Cy Twombly were lumped together again, as they are in the Tate Modern - the link seems tenuous, but i guess that happens sometimes.

Time to return to London to begin the trip back to Australia via a ferry ride to Dover, I caught the train from Gare Nord to Calais – a beautiful trip that zipped through the flat and foggy plains of northern France farming land. Unfortunately, I was already having a bad day and when I got off the train at Calais Feymuth instead of Calais Ville and was >< this close to missing my train, I lost it. I burst into tears in the middle of the station and cried like I’ve never cried in public before. If I wasn’t so upset I would have been completely embarrassed, but the people on the station just let me cry, thankfully minding their own business and a wonderful station worker helped me find my way to the ferry terminal, god bless him. I made the ferry with about 2 minutes to spare and enjoyed the really lovely trip back to the island, chattering with a couple of Australians who ended up knowing a whole bunch of the same people I knew (you know, small world and all that). I got back to London, feeling strangely familiar, yet filled with the buzz of being away and having experienced so much that was unfamiliar.

Despite what may or may not have come across on my blog (well, Paul Colman thought I was having a shit time from the constant ‘disappointment’ I seemed to express here), I had an amazing time in Europe. I have to spend a little more time digesting it and I’m dying to post a random post about some of the things I learned, highlights and random tidbits from my trip. I’ll even try to scan in some of the sketches I did of the art and architecture I saw.

But for now, it's back to bed.

PS i've made the pics small 'cos they sometimes look better that way. they still look pretty rubbish, but be patient, i'll get the camera fixed as soon as i can.

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