Beware of Ze French

Late Wednesday night, I was warned by an extremely inebriated Parisian to “Beware!”  So far, I’ve been very aware. I’m aware that the streets here are complicated.  I’m aware that no one here has the patience for elementary school level French.  I’m aware that pretty much everything is ridiculously overpriced and I have to stop complaining about it.  I’m aware that I love this place.

Thursday morning, we set out to find Gertrude Stein’s grave on the other side of the city.  An hour of walking in the rain later, and no cemetery to be found, (“Can you tell me where are the dead people?  No? Gertrude Stein?  Ground?  Under grass?”), we decided to explore the giant eyesore that is the Centre Pompidou, which houses the largest modern art museum in Europe.  It is also perhaps the largest modern architectural mistake in Europe.

From the outside, this cultural centerpiece looks like an enormous hamster cage: tourist scurrying through the outer tubes to reach galleries of Picasso and Otto Dix paintings.  I prefer not to feel like a rodent when I visit museums, but perhaps I just don’t understand French values.

And speaking of rodents, I sat next to a woman with two pet rats on her shoulder on the Metro that afternoon…

Inside the tubes, one could potentially have a beautiful view of the square outside the Pompidou and the Eiffel Tour in the distance, but no.  The plastic and metal and glass and overall architectural failure that are these tubes prevent anyone from enjoying the scenery on the ride up.

The main collection proves just as complicated.  A wide hall splits off into little gallery rooms, which sometimes open up to more galleries, sometimes not.  Even with my map en español, it was nearly impossible to keep track of what I’d seen and which artwork I still wanted to visit.

However, I did enjoy much of the artwork housed in this bizarre pseudo-chic museum.  My favorite piece by far was an interpretation of Manet’s Olympia in which the races were inverted so that Olympia was black and her servant was white, paralleled with the original version in a contemporary three-dimensional, life-size format.  The best part of the museum for certain was its unpredictable quality: you had no idea what each gallery would hold and what thoughts it would provoke.

After the museum, we ventured out into the rain for a quick lunch of Panini and crepes.  This is the typical street food here, and I’m enjoying its high-carb, high-fat, delicious qualities. I’ve never had so much cheese in my life.

Paris has thunderstorms!  Unbelievably loud, crashing thunderstorms that immerse the city in downpour and force you to crowd under café awnings with tall dark strangers. Omigod my life is a movie.  Actually, if my life were a movie, I would now be best friends with the woman who works at the boulangerie down the street who helped me find my way to the Maison on my first day.  Because I do not live in a Rom-Com, I cautiously avoid this shop at all costs, to avoid embarrassing myself in front of her again.

Parisian storms are the best.  I made myself cozy in a tea shop with a steaming mug of chocolate chaud and a book, and waited for the rain to pass.

June 21, the longest night of the year, is Paris’ Fete de La Musique, an all-night celebration of music that consumes the streets of Paris.  The Metro stays open all night to allow drunken Parisians to travel from neighborhood to neighborhood, enjoying the live performances.

I met a friend from New York who’s currently researching architecture in Paris at the Canal.  Yes, the hipster canal., as it will now be deemed  Because let’s be honest, when you find a Brooklyn in a foreign place, you don’t let it go.  We bought a bottle of wine and chatted on the canal as boats blasting music travelled by and celebratory Parisians DJed from their windows.  Overall, there were so many music performances that it was too difficult to listen to just one, and we decided to head down to Oberkampf, an area known for its nightlife.

On the way, we stopped at McDonald’s for some frites, which of course are just better (read: saltier) in France.  My first French fries in France.  Take note!  Also, McDonald’s in Paris is BYOB.  Or maybe it’s not and that’s just what people do.  Either way, French fast food has its redeeming qualities.