The view from the tiny attic apartment in the 19th arrondissement was picturesque. A sea of assorted little chimney pots in lines intersecting the ridge lines of wave after wave of roofs, all embellished with tiny dormer windows or petite balconies. The attic was chosen because there was lift access to the seventh floor (not to be assumed in these old apartments) and the price – although still more expensive than anywhere in Spain so far -and it was only a half hour ride in the Metro to get to the art museums district.
Unlike in Spain, no-one hangs washing outside windows, nor are balconies enclosed. Prices are high. A jacket in Valencia costs 50% more in its Paris branch. Coffee costs twice as much. A small glass of wine in a brasserie (standing up), cost the same as a bottle of decent Rioja from a Spanish supermercado.
Small restaurants close around nine pm – the time they start to open in Spain. My rusty high school French covered the basics – which I would pepper with Spanish or Italian words. Fortunately most people I met had a basic level of English and were happy to use it, so that was helpful.
Four galleries in four days was a marathon – but what a way to melt the senses! ‘Warm up’ day was at the Museo D’Orsay – Impressionists mostly. Of particular interest was a collection of early 20th Century furniture – very much in the style of Gaudi – organic functional forms for chairs, tables, cabinetry and wall panels in beautiful timbers.
This was followed by a marathon of a day at the Louvre – I had forgotten just how massive it is – did the obligatory pass-by of the Mona Lisa and some other works by Da Vinci, but was especially pleased to come across three works by Caravaggio (currently my favourite artist). Napoleon Bonaparte’s apartment was extraordinarily opulent. The best way to enjoy the Louvre has to be with a year’s membership so you can select a gallery to enjoy every week or so.
The Musee de L’Orangerie provided calm relief – two huge oval shaped rooms contain panoramas by Monet, especially created to be enjoyed ‘in the round’. It is not a huge collection, and is therefore able to be enjoyed at leisure. The Museo D’Lorange is located at one end of the Champs-Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe is at the other end, a two km walk which takes you along some of the most expensive real estate in the world past dozens of high-end stores.
To bring the marathon to the last lap, the 21st Century, a visit to the Pompidou Centre was necessary. It is a singularly ugly, industrial style building, where all of the essential services (ducts, lift wells and delivery cages, piping) are exposed on the exterior of the building. Most of the services are painted in various primary colours, in sore need of maintenance, or left with a raw finish. The building was controversial when it was built, and is discordant with the surrounding elegant structures. The collection focusses on late 20th Century art (1950s onwards), some very political, a lot very obscure, some bizarre, from around the world.