There are many things I've experienced lately that have left me newly inspired, with the David Hockney retrospective at Centre Pompidou being one of them. In his 80th year, the Tate have organised for the collection to go on a world tour. Saturday morning saw a short walk across the Pont Neuf and up Rue Beaubourg towards the giant 70s structure that reminds me of a wet and wild theme park experiencing a Mondrianesque identity crisis. Sorry architectural sorts of people, but this is just my opinion. Once inside, the huge and garish pipes painted (in now faded) blue and red on the outside of Centre Pompidou, are softened by twinkling neon lights leading towards the multiple salles, all of which house temporary collections. In order to reach the various galleries, one must take an escalator up a thousand stories, only to be met at the top by some of the most breathtaking views of Paris. Cleverly, (now I'll swallow my words about the design of this building) floor to ceiling windows frame vistas of the city that truly are as magical as the works on display. I will never tire of these views and they become more exciting with every visit. The Hockney retrospective is more than worth a visit, and his almost childlike, hand painted and very simple message of 'love life,' neatly scribed onto the panel leading towards the exit, was a welcome gift upon departing his thoroughly thought provoking exhibition.
Last week Harriet came to visit from London for two days and stayed for five. I first met Harriet in Australia when she was on a university exchange from Newcastle in the UK and she is one of those people who just 'fits in,' so I took advantage of her (seemingly) enthusiastic approach to my stomping around the streets of Paris going about my every day business- completing fascinating tasks like collecting a long lost parcel from DHL and convincing the woman at the front desk of the visa office that I was definitely 'a keeper.' We shopped for all of those 'much needed' items like jackets for the impending spring weather and umbrellas for the antisocial bursts of rain that last week saw under a very grey sky. Trips to the fruit and vegetable stall around the corner from home, turned into glasses of wine over impromptu dinners on la terrasse while enjoying thrilling bouts of people watching. Throughout the week, we walked and walked and walked and talked and talked and talked, enjoying a lunch of sumptuous felafel at L'As Felafel in Le Marais; a traditional and typically French dinner at Chez Fernand downstairs from my apartment, and as a finale, a Ritz Spritz at Le Ritz in Place Vendôme on Saturday night.
As with most things in life, the more I get to know this city, the more I love it (headfirst and giddy all the way) and fewer are the moments where prickling feet and sweaty palms take over- turning me into my nine year old self in too tight shoes (N.B- these moments are usually experienced in places like the supermarket or the laundromat when kind old ladies ask me questions that I know I cannot answer). I get a great deal of satisfaction out of having visitors here- not just for their company and ability to make me laugh, but also it is enormously fun to share my new found home as the city and I get to know each other a little bit better each day.
Walks through Place des Vosges never lose their appeal and running is less of a chore when done around the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, whose avenues of trees frame the magnificent Palace – a building so beautiful and best viewed from the southern most tip of the gardens, where I'm usually stopped up against a tree just 'taking in the view.' The ceiling in Galleries Lafayette has been as striking as it is bold for the many years since it was built, but every time I look up and take it in (again), it seems even more beautiful than the time before. Walking home in the afternoon sunlight along the Seine, amongst pigeons massacring breadcrumbs as joggers edge out of their way, has become a summer favourite and the old, eccentric Parisians will never cease to amaze me.
In my hours of people watching, I rejoice in the sight of the (seemingly) masses of ancient Parisians who still inhabit this city, and I feel sad for the inevitable moment to come, where they will no longer fill the seats on la terrasse of the many cafés that line the streets- Le Monde in one hand and un petit cafe in the other. There is usually a dog sprawled at their feet and I have to put my hands behind my back in every effort not to enter into an attack of patting, because more often than not, they are sweet little Cavalier King Charles Spaniels- a breed that sees me overcome with a mad dog lady types of behaviours.
On Saturday as we meandered to lunch after Hockney, we were treated to one of the more spectacular episodes of people watching when an old man dressed in a suit to rival even the best Joseph, rode his remodeled tricycle through the streets of Le Marais. His grey beard blew gently in the breeze as he moved at a pace reserved for a Clydesdale horse, all his bells, whistles and chains tinkling to the beat of the pace at which his ancient legs drove his masterpiece. He hardly flinched, but I know that deep inside he was enjoying every moment of his audience, who gathered (at pace) in the gutter eagerly edging alongside his chariot. He whistled a fine little tune and continued on his merry way.
Today I sweated in the Bouygues Telecom store, scratching my head and hitching my skirt up around my waist while taking in all the different types of mobile phones available with a pre-paid deal. In a world of wifi and WhatsApp, I hardly need a telephone, but without a French number I may as well not exist and good luck to me getting any sort of parcel delivered, or bank account opened without one. As Ravi (whose badge read: Chef de Rayon) wrapped up a deal with the woman before me in the queue, I ran dialogue through my head and began to feel 9 years old in too tight shoes. Ravi really had earned every inch of his excellent title, and he took me way off course with my prepaid spiel, suggesting that the phone that I had my eye on was for 'seniors only' (quoi?) and I mustn't even consider it. I'd be better suited to 'this one,' which he sold to me in hushed tones, as if I was the most embarrassing person he'd ever dealt with (the phone was worth a grand total of €20). In an act of further kindness, he set up my new pre 1990s telephone with a SIM card and pin code before literally ushering me out of the shop, where a queue had begun to stretch out the door and onto the street.
Seeing a collection of Hockney's works for the second time this year, watching an old woman FaceTime in sign language at lunch today, finding the old man and his chariot, all of the eccentric and ancient Parisians complete with old women slumped over coffee with loyal dogs at their feet, the pouty pedestrians, and of course my new telephone which now joins the laundry bucket as a 'long haul item,' – all come with a happiness that could turn even the greyest of skies blue.
Pictured: my street as I made my way home tonight, empty and silent on the eve of a public holiday.