Have you been to Pompidou Center? The locals call it Beaubourg because of its location on Rue Beaubourg. It’s the most outrageous looking building in Paris, right in the heart of the Right Bank at the Rambuteau metro stop. It was built in the 1970’s when George Pompidou was President and is considered “Brutalist architecture, or Post Modern Architecture.” It’s basically a pretty ugly building, with all of its heating and cooling ducts and pipes on the outside of the building, all brightly colored. Don’t let any of that discourage you from visiting it, though, for a couple of reasons. First, it is the home of a Modern Art Museum that I’m told is the largest modern art museum in Europe and really has some great art all the time, as well as interesting special exhibits. Secondly, it has a KILLER view from the top level. There is a restaurant up there called “Le Georges” which is actually pretty snooty, and expensive, so instead of eating there, just go up there around 6:00 PM (remember the French don’t eat dinner till after 8:30 or 9:00) and have a drink. The escalator to the restaurant is right off of the plaza and is different from the regular museum entrance, so you have to look for it. It IS expensive- a glass of champagne will run you 15 euros or so, but from there, you can see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and lots of Paris. If you time it right, you can also see the sunset and watch the Eiffel Tower light up. If you’re there during the day, the plaza just in front of the building, in good weather, has jugglers and/or singers looking to make a few bucks and I highly recommend Creperie Beaubourg at 2 Rue Brisemiche, right nearby. It is a Breton creperie, and the crepes are delicious. Order a “menu” and you get a glass of hard cider, a savory crepe (egg and ham, for instance) and a sweet crepe (butter and sugar). I think when we were there it was 9 euros for all 3 and well worth it! Enjoy!!
When Peter and I were in Paris in October, we went to several exhibits, two of which were in small museums that are well worth a visit. The first is the Musee Jacquemart-Andre, at 158 Boulevard Haussmann in the 8th arrondisement. You can get there by metro, line #9. This museum was built as a private home at the end of the 19th century and still feels like a home as you walk through- not that it resembles any home you or I live in! There are both “state apartments” and “informal apartments” that you can wander through, giving a great feel for life as an aristocrat of the time, and that’s before you even go to whatever the current exhibit is. The exhibit we saw (which is there till January 21st) is a celebration of two Venetian artists, Canaletto and Guardi. It is an exhibit that will give you fond memories of Venice if you’ve been and will make you want to go if you haven’t. The one thing to be aware of in this museum is that the rooms for the exhibit are relatively small, so try to go at the end of the day when the crowds are smaller. www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com
The second museum is the Pinacotheque de Paris, which is right in the Place Madeleine, also in the 8th arrondisement. There is an INCREDIBLE exhibit there through March 17th comparing Van Gogh’s Japanese-inspired work with Hiroshige, an amazing Japanese wood block print artist. The museum is actually housed in two buildings, next to each other, and each of the exhibits is in one of the buildings. It’s a unique chance to really see the Japanese influences on Van Gogh and you will be amazed by both artists. My suggestion is go to Hiroshige first, then with those images in your mind, go across the street to the Van Gogh exhibit. For Hiroshige, you’ll find you want to stand as close as you can to really see the incredible detail in his block prints. For Van Gogh it’s the opposite. Standing back brings the images into focus through the broad paint strokes. We went about 11:00 in the morning, so it felt like we had fewer people (maybe because it was around lunch hour)? It let us spend an hour or so with each artist. I was never a wood block fan, but came away totally hooked. Peter was not a Van Gogh fan, and came away totally mesmerized. It’s a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours, and then go sit and have lunch at one of the multitude of cafes around that area to discuss what you’ve seen. Incredible!! www.pinacoteque.com