I finally saw Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers’ Centre Pompidou – it’s always a fan-girl moment when I get to walk into a masterpiece that we studied in university. I saw a lot of other historic architecture, too, but the Pompidou was a major highlight. I would have loved to also see Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton, but it kept raining, and I had read at the Louis Vuitton store on Champs Elysee that you have to approach Gehry’s futuristic ‘ship’ from the gardens. Maybe Paris and I have a ‘next time’.
What I really want to write about Paris, however, is…
This line, spoken by Fanny Ardant’s character in the 1995 version of the movie Sabrina, has always spoken to me:
“Illusions are dangerous people. They have no flaws. I came here from Provence, alone and uneducated. For eight months — no, more than that: a year, I sat in a cafe, I drank my coffee and wrote nonsense in a journal. And then somehow it was not nonsense. I went for long walks and met myself in Paris.”
And so, as I restlessly wriggled in my aisle seat on the flight to Paris last month, I recited those words and thought of pretending to be that character, hoping to meet a renewed version of myself in Paris.
The moment I stepped out of Charles de Gaulle airport, however, a very different line from a very different movie (the animated Anastasia) washed over me:
“Forget where you’re from, you’re in France, children come! I’ll show you that French joie de vivre! Paris holds the key to your heart, and all of Paris plays a part.”
And so, while Paris had never been on the top of my to-do list, I walked into it with a fresh sense of adventure. And I overdosed on museums. And I walked a lot, a lot. And I learned to make croissants. And I walked some more. And I did meet a different me, a stronger me, while walking in Paris.
To be chronological about photos, I’m using my instagram posts as reference:
My friend’s apartment was a 15-minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe, so after freshening up after landing, I was off to explore the Arc and Champs Elysee immediately.
On my first full day, it was a pilgrimage to the Louvre…to see furniture, from Louis XV and XVI pieces to Napoleon’s rooms transplanted from Versailles. Yes, I did not make a beeline to see the Mona Lisa 🙂
To end the day, a visit to Shakespeare & Company.
The next day, I went to see the Pompidou (squee!).
After the Pompidou, we took a river boat tour on the Seine.
The day after Pompidou, we went to Versailles.
I had to rent Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola the next day, because of the Versailles commentary about the rooms – I wanted to see how faithful the film sets were to the real thing!
It was raining the day after Versailles, so it was perfect to be inside Musee D’Orsay the entire day.
Of course, I spent more time at the furniture exhibits.
Because I bought the Musee D’Orsay and L’Orangerie ticket duo, and the following day was again raining, I made my way to L’Orangerie, carefully stomping around the Tuileries gardens.
The day after my L’Orangerie adventure, I went to see the interior design feast that is Palais Garner, also known as the Paris Opera.
We had a late lunch at Bouillon Chartier, where I had the most amazing duck confit.
The following day, I had a croissant-making class scheduled in the afternoon. The sun was out, so we went to see the Eiffel Tower in the morning – how can you not, on your first trip to the City of Lights, visit the most-lit tower in the city?
Our instructor was a charming English chef named Frances Madeleine, who laughingly narrated that her parents unwittingly named her to run away from home to be a pastry chef in France. She also showed us how utterly French a croissant is because its shape begins as the Eiffel Tower.
On my last full day, it was again raining, but I had the most amazing coffee date with an old university friend who happened to fly into Paris that day. We hadn’t seen each other since graduation!
(Before seeing her, went to see the Palais Royal)
And that was Paris.