For my Fiancé’s birthday we decided we do something different and something that was new for both of us. We decided to meet up in Paris on a pre-arranged Friday evening in June; myself travelling from Amsterdam Schipol Airport via Transavia to Paris-Orly Airport and her from London St. Pancras Station via Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord and both making our way to our hotel in the 15th arrondissement of the city. The reason for this: her 22nd birthday and a long weekend in one of Europe’s great cities from the Friday 22 to Monday 25 June.
This trip wasn’t my first time in Paris however; I first visited back when I was in college with my foundation art and design course which was great; at the time we were young and intrepid art students (mostly graphic designers with a background, knowledge and love of art) so we spent a lot of time at art galleries and equally as much time drinking into the early hours, as you might expect from a group of 19–20 year old students. This trip with my college was one of the first times I had been abroad without my parents and along with visiting such an impressive city it was a special time and something that has stuck with me since.
As such, I wanted to visit again but this time with my fiancé and experience it again as a much more mature and educated person but also to be able to show someone else around as well as experience new things myself.
One of my best memories was the discovery of the French/Parisian rap group, 1995 who became the soundtrack of this first trip and subsequently this second time round.
After a successful journey from our respective homes we met up on Friday evening outside Balard Métro station, the last stop on the number 8 line and in the 15th arrondissement of the city; a somewhat early night was ensued for a 3 day extravaganza of Parisian activities.
On the first full day in sunny Paris we got the metro to Concorde, walked through the blissful Jardin du Tuileries and towards The Louvre Museum; famous for housing Leonardi da Vinci’s portrait painting of Lisa del Giocondo aka the Mona Lisa.
In such a grand museum with 72,735 square metres of room upon room containing paintings, sculptures and historical artefacts; the most interesting and inspiring part of the museum to me is its entrance; its iconic glass and steel pyramid which juts from the courtyard of the Louvre Palace.
Completed in 1989, this pyramid is one of the iconic ‘buildings’ in Paris, to many it is seen as ugly or not French but to me it is beautiful, either in the midday sunshine or the glow of the night-time.
In a similarly post-modern vein we then walked the short walk through the shops on the Rue de Rivoli to the Centre Georges Pompidou, an equally as iconic and equally as hated building in Paris with its exposed framework skeleton and brightly coloured and coded ventilation pipes it is a beacon of post-modern architecture since 1977. Inside the modern art gallery where a vast amount of artworks by some of the most renowned artists of the 20th century: Piet Mondriaan, El Lissitzky, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha etc etc. The Pompidou Centre is one of my favourite art galleries to visit along with Tate Britain in London and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; all three places have great permanent collections and are progressive and forward thinking with their curation, layout and overall look and feel.
From here we crossed the Seine and walked towards the Notre-Dame Cathedral, however not before stopping to ingest several litres of the finest Häagen-Dazs ice cream of varying sweet and sugary flavours; no healthy options allowed. The Notre-Dame is an impressive building but only in a way that is similar to that of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London or the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool.
It is impressive though to see such an old building in great condition, the level of craftsmanship is clear to see in the building’s construction and intricate carving.
Our second day, an equally as hot and sunny day, saw us leaving our hotel at a reasonable time to head to Paris’ undisputed landmark icon, the Eiffel Tower. Since my first trip a lot had changed here but a lot has stayed the same as well; the queues to go up the tower are still huge and the price is still high, you couldn’t however walk directly beneath the tower as tall walls and barriers refrained you from this; an attempt by the French to combat recent terrorism incidents in the city. One of the best views of the tower is from the Trocadéro directly opposite, fighting your way through couples taking selfies and people selling small Eiffel Towers, it’s one of the most iconic images of Paris and impossible not to be amazed by the sight of this landmark.
Nearby the Eiffel Tower are two museums which focus on modern art and contemporary art, both are situated at the Palais de Tokyo building. The Musée d’Art Moderne is home to many paintings especially by the artist couple of Robert and Sonia Delauny; founders of the Orphism art movement, an offshoot of Cubism focusing on pure abstraction, seen by many as the transition between Cubism to Abstract art. On the other side of the building is the Palais de Tokyo/Site de création contemporaine gallery which focuses on contemporary art which as exciting as it can be, can often be a let-down and can be difficult to truly understand and therefore appreciate so we skipped the gallery but the bookshop here is one of the best I’ve ever been to in Europe.
So many amazing books on art theory, art history, art practice, design, architecture, fashion and a magnitude of other creative subjects, however with minimal budget I left with a single red tote bag; sporting the logo which I have loved since first laying eyes upon it.
In an attempt to cure my Fiancés sore feet from walking and also to take a break from art galleries and museums we took the metro to the Champs-Élysées to buy foot plasters, new shoes and to do a spot of window shopping. After walking around for some time we began to feel the effect of this and needed some rest and answer the call of nature; our place to do so was the Petit Palais which is not very petit at all. Inside the building, an art museum we found a delectable outdoor garden with a lovely little restaurant. Something we wanted to do whilst in Paris was to eat either lunch or dinner Al fresco, the Petit Palais had just the amenities for this, where we enjoyed the pâtes du jour: freshly made pasta carbonara: a mutual favourite.
Following our art gallery break at an art gallery we headed to another art gallery. This was a weird one as it wasn’t a regular art gallery but a pop-up installation I had seen promoted on Instagram and only on during the weekend we were there. The installation was part of an ongoing series by American artist Joshua Vides in collaboartion with DC Shoes.
It took a while to find as we first had to find the address on google maps and look for a big wooden door where one security guard was stood, “is this thing down there” I asked putting my phone in his face, showing a dodgy Instagram screenshot.
“Oui” he replied, and we worked our way through a maze of rooms and finally down into what was basically a crypt but with UV paint highlighting the form and outlines of the space; much of Vides’ work uses this technique. A highly instagrammable place indeed and in the words of my fiancé, “only you would find something as weird but cool as this”, she’s right.
As it was getting on in the afternoon we decided to walk back towards the metro station to get back to our hotel but taking a detour to quickly check out the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and their exhibition on the fashion designer Martin Margiela; specifically his years as creative director of womenswear at the Parisian fashion brand Hermès. The Belgian designer is a graduate of the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp along with the likes of Dries van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester whom all specialise in avant-garde fashion design. An interesting exhibition featuring a wide variety of clothing pieces which combine the high-class look and feel of Hermès with Margiela’s style of deconstructed materials, over-sized and androgynous fits and use of obscure materials.
Following our return to the hotel, a quick nap and back out at dusk for our last night in the city, we ventured towards the Arc de Triomphe, another landmark of Paris despite being basically a big roundabout. We managed to go up it for free and enjoy the sunset over the city where you could see a full 360 degrees from the top of the Arc. From one side you can see the Eiffel Tower in all its glory, another side you can look straight down the street of the Champs-Élysées, another side towards the hill of the former artist hub of Montmartre and another side looks to La Défense: the skyscraper filled business district of the city; the view from the Arc de Triomphe is probably the best view of Paris.
I was determined to share the beauty of the Eiffel Tower at night though, every hour on the hour the tower lights up with flashes and sparkles of light; the iconic shape is amplified against the night sky. A great way to end a great evening; later followed by a container of nutella with crêpe on the side and a busy metro ride home with elated Colombian football fans and dejected Polish football fans following the evening’s world cup game.
Our final day was Monday and it was the day we were looking forward to the most whilst dreading the most. It was the day of my fiancé’s birthday but also the day where we had to eventually leave each other to return home our separate ways. We decided that having walked for the previous two days, we would jump on a boat and see the city from the River Seine which was lovely especially in the sun. Being on the water is always a special way to see a city be it on the canals of Amsterdam or the Thames in London. Following our boat trip we went back to the Palais de Tokyo for an interesting lunch but not before one last photo of the Eiffel Tower in all of its glory.
Getting towards the end of our trip and as the time for our trains got closer we decided to head north of the city to be around Gare du Nord train station and towards Montmartre; walking for what seemed like an age uphill to the Sacré-Cœur Catherdal and again checking out a great view of the city.
In one last attempt to enhance my skill of finding weird and random but cool places we walked down and into the area of Pigalle and to the Pigalle basketball court which was recently refreshed by Ill-Studio and Nike in a striking and colourful colour palette with bright and vibrant gradients.
The court didn’t look anything like how it did online as it has obviously been used heavily since it went semi-viral in 2017 but it’s great to see that this space can be and is used by local people.
Making our final metro journey to Gare du Nord we had one last drink together and parted ways, her going upwards towards the Eurostar back to London and I onto the awaiting Thalys train back to Amsterdam. The 3 hour journey through France, Belgium and the Netherlands travelling in first class comfort gave me time to reflect on the previous few days and think how to share this story best.
Please, enjoy these images which I liked but weren’t good enough to feature properly in this post because they aren’t landscape.