This past weekend I traveled back to Paris – alone.The first time I went to Paris I went with my ex boyfriend.It was great to experience the city with someone as well as have someone who spoke French on my side.When we went, it was a holiday weekend so many things were closed.I really wanted to go back to not only see some of the things I didn’t get to see the first time around, but to have fresh memories of Paris that weren’t tainted by thoughts of my last relationship. So without a crutch (my French speaking companion), I headed back to Paris.Prior to leaving, people asked me if I practiced any French.My answer was no.I am very much aware of the French stereotypes and I refused to cater to them.I have started re-learning my Arabic and have been immersed in my postcolonial readings on the subaltern, double-consciousness, and structuralism. Thus, I really didn’t have time or the interest to learn any French phrases that I would no doubt butcher anyway.
I took the two plus hour train ride from London to Paris on the Euro star rail.If you book early enough you can get a fantastic price.Otherwise, you can end up paying hundreds of dollars/pounds.Upon arrival, I headed towards Montmartre: home of the Moulin Rouge, Dali Museum, and the Sacre de Couer.Rather than taking on the giant hill and risking my feet hurting early on in the trip, I took a cute train tour around Montmartre which passed by some great gardens, cabarets, shops, and stopped at the foot of the Sacre de Coeur.
The view from the top of the hill was one of the most marvelous views I have ever seen.The only views I have seen as spectacular are some of the views I have seen from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.You could see the Paris cityscape for miles and the Eiffel tower loomed in the distance.Although it was a cloudy day, there was something about seeing the city in this way that just made me freeze and stare off into the distance.It was truly a reflective time. After walking through the mix of peddlers, armed guards, and tons of tourists, I headed to the Dali museum.Dali is one of my favorite artists. My most favorite piece by him is the Persistence of Memory.What I love about Dali the most, as well as Frida Kahlo is that they bent reality and used a lot of symbolism, but they didn’t bend reality to the point where it was unrecognizable.I tend to dream a lot and so I have become deeply attached to works by these two artists who use dream sequences a lot in their work. Many people prefer the large art houses, but I prefer the small galleries and although this museum didn’t contain the most famous Dali paintings, it was a wonderful space that I would visit again and suggest to friends. It contained some of his story-book sketches and many sculptures I had never seen before – many of which focused on the theme of time.
After the museum, I headed to a square for lunch.The square was filled with artisans either selling their work or offering to draw caricatures of tourists. I ate in an outdoor café under a heated lamp.It was a bit chilly and rainy, but there is nothing like eating outside in this manner. I will admit, I won’t do it at home, but in Paris it’s a must.I enjoyed my simple lunch of a monsieur croquette and a large glass of wine. When the waiter brought the glass of wine out, I didn’t know how I was going to finish it. It took me a while to finish it, but as I did, I just watched the pigeons, the tourists, I wrote, and I thought about the French movies I had seen – particularly the Eric Rohmer movies.While the movies were not based in Paris, they made me long for this city.I am growing to like London to a certain extent, but for the most part – the language and culture is a bit similar.Paris, on the other hand, is a completely different “other” to me and completely fascinating. I was completely paralyzed with sleep after the massive glass of wine and the early start to my day so I headed back to the hotel and took a nice long nap.
Once I woke from my slumber, I had intended to treat myself to dinner on the Champs de Elysee, but I decided to stay in my area. I was fortunate enough to have picked a hotel in a great part of town close to Opera that offered a lot of shopping and great nightlife. I walked for hours up and down the main street and dipping off onto side streets taking pictures at all the lights and historic buildings.As I passed through certain streets, I could see the Sacre de Coeur peering in the distance. I couldn’t stop staring at it. I had never seen anything quite like it.From the distance, it just looked as if this great building was floating from the heavens. After indecisively finding a place to eat, I headed back to the hotel and watched BBC until I fell asleep. BBC was the only channel in English other than MTV and MTV wasn’t always in English.At one point I got excited to see South Park on and Family Guy, but it was dubbed in French (and was really bad).They didn’t have the same voices and the whole appeal of South Park – other than the sick humor – is Cartman’s whinny voice.
Day II: Museums, the Fall, and Concert
I woke up early as intended, but the sun failed to appear and so I failed to get out of bed. “I’m on vacation”, I thought. “I don’t have to stick to the plans that I spent hours scrutinizing over.”Eventually I pealed myself out of bed and started on my journey. I found a restaurant to have a cup of tea and a croissant.The waiter asked me if I spoke English or American.It was a strange question, but I knew that he was trying to place me and couldn’t just from looking at me or hearing me speak. When I was posed with the question of where I am from, I had a tough time answering.I am from the U.S. technically, but my home is now London.I had to say that to myself over and over again. “My Home is Now London.”
After realizing how close everything was that I planned, I managed to get my AM plans done in my agenda book.I started at the Fragonard Perfume Museum.The guide wasn’t available and so I opted to take the tour myself.Almost all of the captions were in French so I really didn’t know what was going on. I really wanted to learn about the history of perfume and was really intrigued by perfume after seeing a bit of the movie Perfume several years ago. I browsed through the tiny museum in less than 20 minutes.The most interesting aspects were the ancient bottle designs and labels.There was definitely a lot of detail that went into the bottles and labels.This same detail can be seen in the architecture of the buildings.While we have emerged into the modern age and architecture has taken on new heights (glass buildings, man-made islands, etc), there is nothing like ancient structures. Today’s perfume bottles leave much to be desired.Although the museum was free, I did some monetary damage as I treated myself to some perfume and shower gel. Normally I buy gifts for others, but I insisted on treating myself this time.They say that London is expensive – well I can tell you that London has nothing on Paris with regards to being expensive.My money didn’t seem to go far. My breakfast (croissant and tea) was a whopping 6 Euros and change.
After the perfume museum, I headed to the Orange Museum not too far from the Louvre and the Place Vendome.I chose this museum because it was small and not the Louvre.As of now, I refuse to enter the Louvre.I know it’s the biggest in the world and supposedly the greatest, but I can’t handle the size for one and Mona Lisa just isn’t interesting to me in the least bit.As I wrote in a previous piece (about the Barnes Foundation), when art is akin to a shopping experience it is no longer enjoyable to me. I view art in order to be captivated and inspired. It’s hard to do that with hundreds of people bumping into you or you are seeing the same recycled pieces which had been shuffled from museum to museum. . I’m not an art expert nor did I study art, so all views are just opinions of what I find aesthetically pleasing or not. So anyway, the Orange Museum boasts of having some great impressionist and post-impressionist works by Cezanne, Rousseau, Picasso, and Modigliani to name a few. I left the museum feeling pretty much uninspired although most of the works were paintings I had not previously seen.There were no card players, nude bathers, or men with guitars – which I’m tired of seeing.However, very little created a lasting impression in my mind other than Henri Rousseau’s L’Enfant a la Poupee (A Child with a Doll.) I do enjoy a lot of Rousseau’s other works.This painting, which I don’t recall ever seeing before, was a bit comedic – although I’m not sure it is supposed to be.The child appears to be floating – a spatial characteristic that Rousseau often uses in his work (I read that on-line just now) and the child’s body is distorted.This child doesn’t look like a child at all.Also the child looks like a boy, but is dressed in girl’s clothing.I later learned on my bike tour that many families used to dress their boys in this manner. No doubt the main attraction to the museum was the Water Lilies by Claude Monet.The upstairs gallery had two rooms of Water Lilies sprawled across the four walls.As classical music was playing in the background, the guards urged the tourists to be quiet – which I thought was strange -and so I quietly and quickly took a stroll around the rooms.I felt as if I was in an aquarium.It was a lovely scene although I didn’t get inspired by the lilies.The size was massive and comparable to the La Dance murals by Matisse in the Barnes Foundation and in the City Museum of Modern Art.
After the museum, I took a short walk to the Place Vendome where I waited for my bike tour.The place Vendome held some of the most luxurious stores such as Dior, Mikimoto, and Chaumet Jewelers.I just peered into the windows. I was told that in order to enter many of the stores you had to be buzzed in by security and if you looked like you could afford the items you would be buzzed in. Otherwise, you will be left standing outside.
I hadn’t ridden a bike in ages.I was somewhat terrified of the massive bikes (they were electric – made it somewhat easier to pedal). I began my 4 hour journey through some hidden streets of Paris and landmarks that most people would not go to. I darted through traffic and felt a rush knowing that I could be splattered across the road by the busses or cars at any moment.I had to dodge some other tourists and pedestrians as they just didn’t seem to move out of the way for passing bikes. Although it was raining, the weather was mild and made for an extremely pleasant bike ride. I will be honest, although I learned a lot, I wish my guide would have spoke less and we could have just rode, looked in awe, and snapped pictures.The tour started in the daytime and broke at night and I must say – Paris and London at night are spectacular.About 3 hours and 50 minutes into the tour, the inevitable happened – I fell off the bike.I took a nasty spill and I busted my knee. I quickly got up and decided not to dwell on it. My strategy for healing was to keep moving as if nothing happened. I find that when you are still, your body stiffens up.Although I was in pain and no doubt bleeding, I ignored it.I had to finish my bike tour AND I had a concert to prepare for later that night. I had no choice but to keep it moving.
After the bike tour, I walked briskly to my hotel, showered, washed the blood away from my knee, and headed back down the street to see Ayo and Friends perform.My leg wasn’t bothering me too much, but my feet were aching. I found it almost impossible to stand, but I managed to get through a good portion of the concert.Ayo is absolutely amazing and her music is beautiful.She sounds great live and packed out the house.Most people didn’t seem to know a majority of her songs, but they seemed to groove to her. It was odd to be in a place where people weren’t singing a long – but the place was packed from wall-to-wall.I’m sure it was an amazing experience for her to look out in the crowd and see so many people calling her name and clapping to her music.Between the guitar changes, reggae sets, and her singing Put a Ring on it, she bought out Saul Williams who will be appearing on her next album.I’m not usually a fan of spoken word, but it was nice to see him on this international stage.The concert began to drag on a bit and my feet were hurting so I left before it ended, but felt like I got my money’s worth (oh that reminds me – she sang Shake Your Money Maker as well and it was so cute). So my second and last night in Paris had come to an end.On my final day in town I woke up in just enough time to check out and catch the train back home to London.I miss you already Paris, but my pockets have said that I must wait a while before I return!