Friday, September 14, 2012

Paris: Day Twelve (Friday)

Friday was our last full day in Paris.  For the end we had saved two activities that, though unrelated in concept, were a fine way to end our trip.

Our first stop of the day was the Centre Pompidou, or Beaubourg as it is still known by Parisians, to see the modern art museum.  When Beaubourg was built back in the mid-70's, it was a radical architectural statement and a social experiment all in one.  It was not only the home for the new modern art that no one knew what to do with at the time, but also home to the first open-stack public library in France.

Naturally, the Parisians hated it and reviled it, predicting that it would fail within a short time.  But those predictions (like those for the Tour Eiffel) were false, and after nearly forty years, I was impressed by the fact that it was not only still there, but thriving in the way it was meant to.  Of course, it was still a tourist destination, and as such we had it on our agenda.  Fortunately, it was certainly far from the type or quantity of tourists that we encountered in other places in Paris on this trip.

The tour of the Modern Art museum was a brief one, not just because it was our last day and after many trips to museums, but mostly because I have less affinity for the art of my own time than I do for art of earlier times.  It was important, however, after all we'd seen, to put a final touch on the art we'd seen in the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay, and we did just that.  For her part, Maddie was again patient and inquisitive, but I fear that my prejudice was influential.  In any case, we saw a few things that amused us all, and after a stop for a photo-op at the top, we headed down to eat lunch.

We stopped at a little corner bistro just a few blocks from Pompidou, and enjoyed a wonderful, if by now typical, lunch.  I had the steak-frites, while Maddie had a sandwich and Valery had a salad.  We shared a bowl of onion soup, and after a few minutes of watching the tourists take pictures of the street right next to us, we got up to attend to the final task of our trip: shopping.

Since we had arrived a bit before the museum opened, we had a chance to do a bit of window-shopping beforehand.  This area, although a bit touristy because of the proximity to the museum, is also quite chic and full of clothes shops in addition to the usual souvenir boutiques.  After lunch, I ended up buying a sweater for myself here, as well as a few scarves for friends back home.

Scarves are the fashion accessory that all Parisians, young and old, men and women all seem to be wearing.  We had found a wonderful scarf vendor, with a wide variety of styles and colors, right outside the Gare Montparnasse when we came back from Chartres, and actually bought a few for friends that day, so when we finished with the modern art in Pompidou we headed back to Montparnasse to round up a few more gifts.

Then, with that out of the way, we tackled our very last activity of the trip: shopping.  Now, we had been getting little trinkets and treats for ourselves and others all along the way, but this was meant to be an opportunity for Maddie to shop at one of the big Paris department stores.  Fortunately, one of the biggest stores, the Galleries Lafayette, was right there in Montparnasse, so we dived into the world of high fashion and bright lights without hesitation.

Of course, it looks fancy and there's lots to look at, but not for me, so I quickly found a place to sit and waited while Valery and Maddie made their way around the store.  Eventually, Valery got tired of the process and returned to sit with me.  Finally, Maddie picked something out--a very nice and chic dress. It was just a beginning, though, as most of the stuff in the big store was either too expensive, the wrong size or just not her style.  While waiting, I managed to sneak in a little internet search for 'shopping streets in Paris' so when she was ready to go, we had a destination picked out.

This was the rue du Commerce, just a few blocks away.  We took the Metro and emerged just as a light rain was beginning to fall.  I managed to keep out of the boutiques, somehow, leaving Valery in charge of her daughter as they went from shop to shop, browsing and picking through the clothes.  Soon, Maddie found a cute little shop where she bought several things.  Valery even picked up a jacket and a shirt.  I have to say, that while this was not the high point of the trip for me, it was very important for Maddie and I am glad we were able to do it.  Maddie has a very good 'fashion sense' and I was delighted by her tenacity and willingness to do it in spite of the language barrier.  Of course, I went in to pay the bill when all was said and done.

Exhausted by now, we headed back to the apartment.  We stopped at the butcher and bought some veal chops, at the wine store for a last bottle of wine and the bakery for a last baguette.  Valery prepared a delicious dinner and we went to bed fairly early, readying ourselves for a long day of travel on Saturday.

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