Paris III: Cheers
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came. So for me it was back to Le Village in Paris for the second time. I felt like some companionship, though not just that; I also happen to think Paris is a pretty wonderful city. And there was plenty I still hadn't seen.
My faith was justified when, on my first night back in Paris I bumped into Guy, from England, who'd been at Le Village when I was previously there. This wasn't all that unlikely because, while he'd changed hostels (to the preppy Woodstock), he was still in the Montmartre area and doing pretty much what you'd expect. He was actually returning to Le Village a couple of days after this, so this gave an instant sense of backpacker community.
The story of this Paris sojourn was mainly one of meeting people - Aussies, Canadians, Finns, Czechs, Brits, Americans. Mostly great, as you generally find in a good hostel. Though the second night there I didn't actually stay in the hostel, as they were booked out. Aaron, from Sydney, and I shared a 30€ hotel room so it actually ended up cheaper, albeit with no shower.
Also saw some more stuff. I suppose top of the list was the Louvre, though that was on my second last day there. I was really a bit dubious about seeing it at all, mainly because it's huge and I'm a bit museumed-out, but given that a group from the hostel were going there was no point staying behind. And it was good, it's beautifully presented and huge, absolutely enormous. Physically impressive were the large-format French paintings - these things are bigger than a house, and would surely take years to paint. Didn't see the Mona Lisa, sue me. The Crown Jewels were pretty nice, though the crowns themselves seemed a bit patchy. The ancient sculptures, including the Venus di Milo, are fantastic. And I'm sure some of the paintings were specifically good, but they all merge into one at this distance, unfortunately. To do it properly it would takes weeks with a well trained guide, I think - the lack of specific knowledge hurt my appreciation of it.
More bite-size, and so more enjoyable, was a Cindy Sherman retrospective at the Jeu Paume, which I saw with Aussie Greg. Cindy Sherman is photographer from the US, who counts among her proteges the wonderful Vic and Clare. A lot of her works feature chameleonic self-portraits, with her playing a wide variety of characters, though by no means all follow this pattern. The exhibition itself had some photos from all of her series displayed chronologically and fairly verbose explanations of each series. This gave us neophytes a great introduction to her work, and we both really enjoyed it, despite maybe missing the point of a couple of the series a little.
Also went up with Guy to some markets out past the periphery of the city, up past Porte de Clignancourt. These are reputed to the be the largest markets in Europe and they certainly took up a large area, though much was closed as it was a Monday - a quiet day in a quiet month. At first we only found the standard touristy crap that all markets in the world have, from ugly t-shirts to smoking paraphenalia to cheap jewellery to knock-off fashion. Moving past this we got to a section each person, rather than having a stall, had a cloth spread out on the pavement with a motley collection of items on it. One lady in particular had about six things: a box of cereal, two packets of spaghetti, a couple of tins, maybe a zucchini. It looked like nothing so much as the morning's loot from a little bit of robbery. As Guy said, in this area you could have your watch stolen and it'd be back on the street in minutes.
But we worked out way round and eventually found the more interesting sections, with permanent indoor stalls filled with antiquities; from postcards, books, magazines, stamps, up to furniture and metal. A lot was closed but we saw enough to know that when all running it'd be pretty mad.
Also saw a couple of movies in VO, Superman Returns and Wolf Creek; hard to know what the predominantly French audience made of John Jarrat going nuts, but they didn't seem especially impressed. As for Superman, well, it's pretty crap. The most interesting part of that day was heading out to La Defense, the new commercial centre of Paris. The architecture here is a big contrast to the rest of the city, being seriously modern - comparable in some ways to Federation Square, though on a way bigger scale. And we almost got arrested on the way home but it was all a big misunderstanding really. French cops are quite scary though; not sure if it's the guns or the berets or the steely glint in the eyes.
I realised during this visit that Paris on a Sunday is desolate, like many European cities. It seems like a great European city should be 24/7, but I'm continually surprised by the lack of life on the Sabbath. Realised as well that the heatwave had well and truly broken; it's raining in Berlin as I type and it rained in Paris most days and nights. The beautiful terrace at Le Village was barely usable. Not sure what Europe had done with my promised summer, but moderation woulda been nice, less 40° days as well as less rain. Next time.
So then to Strasbourg which is practically Germany really, and goodbye to Paris for the last time.