where we've been and where we're going

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Moments in Paris

This is my last post about Paris for this trip, as we left and traversed Western Europe for the last week and a half of the trip. In honor of this, here's a slideshow of moments in Paris. I tried to capture a bit of the feel of Paris by taking photos of moments around the city (a few of these photos are from one of our students, KW).

During the last week or so in Paris, it was outrageously hot. Not outrageously hot comparatively to either St. Louis or Atlanta, mind you, because it never got hotter than, say, ninety degrees Fahrenheit. However, the French don’t believe in air conditioning. In the states, when it’s hot, you just try to avoid going outside and sit around inside where it’s cooler. You might be hot in the transition to your car, but you have an alternative. In Paris, if it’s ninety outside, it’s ninety in your room. And if you live on the sixth floor, as I do, it might even be hotter. And it’s ninety in the restaurant. And like a thousand on the packed metro. So you cold shower three times a day, you go to museums, which might have AC, “You sit in your room in your bikini,” as my friend F says, and you spend as much time outside as possible, since it might be hot, but at least the air moves in the out of doors.

On a lazy day after an adventurous trip to a better grocery store than the one by my residence and standing in the freezer section for ten minutes longer than necessary, I took a long walk for the afternoon. With the intention of checking the Canal St. Martin off of my list of things to do, I began at the Parc la Villette, a park that is almost outside of Paris proper. (All of these photos are in the last post, by the way.) This area of Paris is not touristed, which was lovely and felt like being a part of the city. Lots of kids played in the fountains to keep cool and kicked “footballs” around. There’s a science museum and a museum of music (with a cafĂ© and ice cream), though I didn’t visit either. There’s a very overdesigned but cute garden.

It’s also at the outside edge of the Canal St. Martin. From here, you can jump on a boat that will cruise all the way down the canals to the center of Paris, leaving you at the Musee d’Orsay. Unfortunately, I missed this boat, so I just walked for a while. I probably walked three miles down the canals, observing people, listening to music, and watching the locks change the level of the water for boats to move through. There are lots of parks and people along the canals and restaurants and cafes where a person can sit and watch people. It was lovely, though I think if I were to do it again, I would either be sure to catch the boat or start closer into the city and walk out, or something like that.

The last day before leaving Paris was the premiere of a very special performance at l’Opera Bastille. The Opera commissioned the great modern artist Anselm Kiefer to do an installation/performance in honor of its 20th anniversary. Those of you in St. Louis will know Kiefer’s huge work in the art museum that has been both in the modern section and in the main hall: it looks like bookshelves with shards of glass throughout the papers and scattered all over the floor. I really love his work, and was really excited to see what he would do for the opera.

It was a work entitled Am Anfang, or the Beginning, and it emphasized that the beginning of things arises from the end of the previous, focusing on the trials of the Jewish people. It began with an enormous painting and moved to have slaves building a wall very slowly and a dancer moving slowly throughout. It was narrated entirely in French, which made it difficult to follow, but I certainly got the point. It was so beautifully staged, in very stark contrasts, and with gorgeous lighting. It was done in conjunction with a very dissident and disturbing work performed by the Orchestre de l’Opera de Paris.

At curtain call, Anselm Kiefer himself was there! I adore having moments like this, in which I’m able to be part of something special. I felt super cool, like I was rubbing elbows with the elite, even though I didn’t get any closer to him than 30 yards. I was still moved, both by the work and the experience itself.

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