Tuesday, January 25, 2011

La Vie En Rose: New Year in Europe

Wednesday, December 29, 2010: Strasbourg to Paris, France
We woke up reasonably early to check out of our hotel, the Hotel Pax, and catch the TGV to Paris. I just want to say for the record that I seriously, seriously overpacked, and carrying my bag has been a pain in the back. Literally. I’m usually pretty good about packing light, but something happened this trip and I’m regretting every extra pair of socks, not to mention the way-too-large carry-on bag that started driving me so crazy I packed it in the bottom of my real bag. If I wasn’t so damn attached to everything I brought (much of it is new), I would definitely be trashing a ton of it. So, we lugged our luggage to the train station, grabbed a brie-and-baguette sandwich, and waited for the train, which was one of the few that wasn’t late (we’re having some serious luck with the timing of transportation). Unfortunately, there was some construction on the tracks, so the ride itself lasted an hour longer than it normally would, but we still arrived in Paris in the early afternoon, just in time to check into the Hotel de la Vallee.

The hotel is… okay. Pros: it’s right in the center of everything (a five minute walk from St. Michel, a ten minute walk from the Louvre, a few steps from the 4 ligne); there’s a kebab shop right downstairs for round-the-clock crepes; and it’s cheaper than anything else we could find in the city center (99 euro for a double room with a private toilet and shower). Cons: it’s in a small red-light district on St. Denis; it smells like the kebab shop downstairs; and it’s a fifth floor walk-up to our room. In general, it requires a special type of person – someone willing to pay 99 euros to be in the middle of everything, but also willing to sleep in a brothel. We seem to fit in that slim minority, and didn’t mind the place too much, though we were glad not to spend too much time there. Right after we checked in and dropped off our bags, we headed straight to the Centre Pompidou, a contemporary arts center a few blocks from the hotel.

The Centre Pompidou consists of the museum of modern art, along with several galleries, shops, a restaurant, and a library. The main show in the museum now, elles@centrepompidou, is focused on women artists, and it takes up a full floor. I was disappointed to find out that it was a temporary show, and not just a really excellently curated museum, but the show is very good (and features some incredible portraits and works of Nancy Spero, among others), and if you don’t happen to be in France, you should check out the website. The permanent collection, upstairs from the temporary, was also quite good, as were the gallery shows. Of the shows, the Mondrian was interesting (it was a gathering of Mondrians in new and old contexts, and also featured his studio), but no where near as great as the Arman show. I’d never seen anything by Arman before, and all of it was fascinating. Each piece was a cabinet of curiosities in and of itself, and recalled all the interesting collections I’ve seen in the past. The work feels deeply conscious, but also very personal, and I loved nearly every piece. Overall, the center was definitely worth a visit if you like modern and contemporary art, and since it’s open until 10pm nearly every night, it’s a nice place to spend a low-key evening.


  1. Well, it's no Senegal, but it will have to do.

  2. ~sigh~ Sounds like so much fun, and the photos are terrific!