On Sunday, the jet lag hit us a little and we slept in until almost noon. My only goal for the day was getting to the weekly outdoor lindyhop event on a quai next to the Seine by 4pm-ish. Taking a meandering path there, Mom and I did a little walking around that area — specifically the lovely small islands in the middle of the river, also the site of Notre Dame cathedral.
We had some trouble finding the right spot for the dance until we crossed paths with some helpful officials, who pointed us in the right direction. I then spent a couple sweaty hours dancing and chatting with locals while Mom did some reading nearby.
After the dancing, we walked over to the Marais neighborhood on the other side of Rue de Rivoli and I popped in to a few (disappointing) vintage shops. We stopped for an “early” dinner at a Chinese restaurant with cafe seating… understand that in Parisian summer, us showing up for dinner at 7pm is like seniors showing up for the earlybird at 4:30 in Boca Raton.
We headed home before 10pm. It was a relatively short and easy day. And that was (first) Sunday.
After a couple of days acclimatizing over the weekend, Serious Tourist Business Time started in earnest on Monday.
Monday’s itinerary included the Centre Pompidou and environs, including the Jewish history museum, plus a quick hop through the Marais neighborhood.
I was very eager to revisit the view from the top of the Pompidou, which I remembered vividly from my college-era visit. It’s a view so great, they actually sell “view only” tickets. It’s a lot of fun to take an outdoor escalator along the side of this wacky building and then suddenly clear the rooftops and get a ~300-degree viewpoint that includes Eiffel Tower, all the way around to Sacre Coeur. I vividly remember being on that escalator, age 21, my first morning in Paris, and seeing the Eiffel Tower with my naked eye and realizing OH MY GOD I AM IN PARIS FOR REAL RIGHT NOW. I was adorable.
The exhibitions that day focused on Corbusier and Mona Hatoum, which was a very interesting juxtaposition and compare/contrast opportunity. In addition to the obviously excellent permanent collection.
The Brancusi Atelier has been added since my visit in 1995.
“Constantin Brancusi, a major artist in the history of modern sculpture, was born in Romania in 1876, and went on to live in France from 1904 to 1957. He created most of his works in workshops which he occupied in the 15th arrondissement. In his will, he left his entire workshop, reconstructed on the piazza of the Centre Pompidou in 1997, to the French state. It features a unique collection of 137 sculptures, 87 pedestals, 41 drawings, 2 paintings and more than 1,600 photographic glass plates and original photos by the artist.” More here
This is super cool — literally probably the chillest AC in Paris, open 6 afternoons a week and always free entry. (This might be important to you if you’re overheated and in the neighborhood!)
After the Bracusi Atelier, we went over to the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism, a priority for both of us on principle if for no other reason.
This collection takes a different approach than many others, in that it attempts to show Jewish culture/ influences from diaspora through art — mostly decorative art and religious relics and implements, not classical arts.
The museum doesn’t so much tell “the story of the Jews” and not even “the Jews of France” — which we would have found interesting. Basically, in every society Jews establish or join, our contemporary histories keep getting wiped out with every recurring event of attempted genocide, so we mainly have records of our religious traditions, since that’s what the ancestors prioritized. (I speak most certainly of the Ashkenazi Jews, my people.) Like, when the village went up in flames, they grabbed the Torah, and the silver judaica, plus maybe a few heirlooms, but not the ordinary clothes, household items, garments, etc. And any artistic impulses were encouraged to be exercised in practical (decorative or functional arts) ways, not so much fine art.
What was really most interesting here was that the institution includes a lot more emphasis on the Sephardic branch and its traditions, which I don’t know much about. The Sephardim are a distinct minority-within-minority here in the U.S. because American Jews’ ancestors, for the most part, come from Eastern and Northern Europe and, in the 20th century, fleeing from western Europe. Sephardic Jews’ ancestors are in Southern Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East (which also includes a third group, the Mizrachi Jews). There are dramatic differences between the three major flavors of Jew and I was happy to learn a bit about the others.
The museum’s collection is interesting if erratic and with some gaps. And it’s in a very impressive former home of a wealthy family, with a central courtyard and adjacent garden. I think the whole facility has promise and I certainly encourage other Jewish people to go.
However, goyim and gentiles, you can skip this one. There are much better ones in the States that would better suit your academic, historic or cultural curiosity. (Keepin’ it real here at amywinns.)