Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Nostalgique pour Paris

News of Jean Nouvel winning the Pritzker Prize immediately made me think of the Institute du Monde Arabe and of course of Paris. It’s a pity I don’t have a better picture of the Institute’s building for it is truly stunning, a mix of gorgeous arabesque panels offsetting the harsh square shape… “one of the “grand projects” commissioned during the presidency of François Mitterrand. A showcase for art from Arab countries, it blends high technology with traditional Arab motifs. Its south-facing glass facade, for example, has automated lenses that control light to the interior while also evoking traditional Arab latticework”. And then of course there’s the Seine in the background

So, yesterday I suddenly found myself thinking of the time I spent in that building and then of the lovely cozy café at the Paris mosque, right behind the Institute, which still accounts for the best mint tea I have ever had. It was a well spent afternoon that, learning much, and then stuffing myself with over sweet baklavas and the sort. Later on in the evening, I was sorting through files and started looking at photos from Paris and it just seemed so, so long back – the first of many travels that followed. I traveled to Paris alone on my fathers first class ticket – he had won a single ticket in a golf tournament to Frankfurt and his crazy travel schedule meant he would not really be taking a vacation alone. After much pestering that I should be given the ticket and then that, no, I did not want to go to Frankfurt but to Paris, I finally had my way. It was a mad rush before I left … I got my visa in a day – at 4 in the evening. My flight was at 11 at night.

Knowing the language and all the sights, having wanted to visit for eons – it was very difficult to believe that I was actually in Paris once I was there. I was lucky I could stay in Paris for close to two weeks because my cousin was working there at the time. I stayed in her tiny, tiny apartment that seemed to be the perfect example of living in a shoe box. But it was equidistant from the Opera and the Louvre and I could walk pretty much anywhere. I remember I never did figure out how the front door lock worked and was perpetually locked out, wandering the streets before I could be let back in. And there were bakeries all around. I woke up everyday to the smell of baked bread or rather, as I was told, the baked bread spray thing the boulangers used to entice customers early in the morning. Still. Mornings there smelt great.

There was so much to see. So many, many museums – I went back to d’Orsay twice, took an afternoon nap at the Louvre’s Cour Puget (I was in line to get in at 7.30 in the morning and by afternoon was so tired from just walking within the museum, so exhausted from looking at all that there was to see…), was most amazed and amused at all the kinky people who seemed to materialize out of nowhere the moment the sun set at the Bois de Bologne, almost got mugged at Pierre Lachaise and listened to buskers at the Place des Vosges. And that’s not even mentioning gay pride and Live 8. Oh, and there was this three story high Zizou poster on Champs-Élysées because he had just announced his return to the national team. So pretty. As were all the jardins.

Having limited funds, I survived mostly on baguettes and cheese. And lots and lots of coffee. Though there was also the best couscous and the softest lamb I have ever eaten at Chez Omar. And the ridiculous sweet explosion at La Durée. Omg, the macrons. Gosh, I want to go back for so, so many reasons. There was so much I didn’t see and do and eat. Paris isn’t my favourite city in the world but it’s a very, very close second.

* I also think I take much better pictures now and I'd like to go back if only to take pictures of the city of lights.











14 comments:

km said...

Damn. I am missing Paris now.

Szerelem said...

:)

It's fucking fabulous.

Fëanor said...

Your photos then (as now) are notably good, I say. Most inviting - especially the golden one at the bottom of your post.)

The first time I went to Paris was to meet Nina. We were courting then in a courtly fashion. The next time I went to Paris was with Nina, and she dragged me to the flea markets around Clignancourt. Encountering the rich and elderly Americans buying everything in sight, we went away with fleas in our ears. Good times!

Tabula Rasa said...

what i want to know is how did paris go from becoming a macho man's name to a wimpy woman's name.

GhostOfTomJoad said...

Wow! That Institute du Monde Arabe looks fabulous!

I'll second TR...how in hell, indeed?

Yeah, I was missing in action for a while :-) and, my god, you won't believe the things my eyes have seen ;-)

km said...

TR: Soon, Helen will be a macho name. Then the balance would have been restored.

Szerelem said...

feanor: Thanks! Those flea markets are great...

tr: Eh, when was Paris ever macho??!! Though maybe the balance is being restored - look at Paris Hilton - so manly looking :P

Ghost: Ja, it's a great building. And do we get regular updates from you now??

km: hmmmm now I'm thinking of candidates who could be the macho Helen...

Roxana Ghita said...

such a lovely post! what would be your favourite city in the world, then? :-)

Szerelem said...

Thanks!

And I even linked to the beloved city - Istanbul, of course! I go into minor bouts of depression just looking at pictures of the place because I am not there and want SO MUCH to be.

Roxana Ghita said...

haha I don't know how I could miss it :-) I like Istanbul too, a lot, but I 've been there only once. fabulous. and yes, I would grow fat if I lived there, I couldn't stop eating :-)

Tabula Rasa said...

Paris (nudie pic and all - very macho.)

Szerelem said...

Muscles do not macho a man make. He was very much a wuss.

elizabeth said...

Paris never quite charmed me as much as several other cities, lovely as it is (perhaps something to do with the circumstances of my visits, who knows?) But the Institut du Monde Arabe is one of my favorite buildings anywhere. (and their bookstore is an utter disaster insofar as the health of my credit card balance is concerned....)

Twilight Fairy said...

Sigh I miss my Paris trip too.. although it was a short one - 4 days :)..