the fall of paris

I think I got a sunburn in Paris. The sun is out an awful lot here despite what you might assume about winter in northern Europe! The weather in Paris was divine. Since it is further south than Dublin, the sun held some heat and it still felt like fall. The light was nearly pale pink and it cast everything in a beautiful glow, despite the occasional rain on our wanderings. With such banalities in mind, it is hard to imaging doing justice to any recollections of my recent trip there.

As the grand dame of culture, when you write about Paris you fraternize with creative genius. Hemingway decrees that… “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” It certainly shall stay with me, but Paris in 2008 is a changed place. I feel like I could spend a year there and still not know the city at all. My good friend from high school happens to be studying there this fall and we have been planning reciprocal trips. So I feel lucky enough to have had a week with friends to explore its charms.

First port of call was the Eiffel Tower of course and for the low price of 3 euro, we were allowed to walk up to the first level. Between the height and the exercise, I didn’t want to go any higher than we did! Paris is fairly flat so it was great to get up high and see the view. The only natural height to be had is at Montmartre, which we also managed to ascend.

Some of the more exciting sites I got to visit were fairly non-traditional. My Parisian architectural history tour, part 1, included the Bibliotheque St. Genevieve, the Ville Savoye, and Hausmann’s interventions. So many great designers flocked to the Ecole des Beaux Arts from all over the world at the turn of the century. My favourite California architects, Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan, both trained there in the fine arts of watercolour drawing, cutting edge building technologies and classical planning. It is arguably still the most famous architectural school in the world, and as an architecture student I also wanted to see the source of its legacy!

I tracked down the campus near Quai Voltaire and was able to view a student exhibition- no photography allowed- which offered interesting perspectives on contemporary design problems; I can only conclude that it is still a very elegant institution. In fact, all the schools we walked by were absolutely beautiful. I sneakily followed two groups of secondary school students inside their buildings, the Ecole Saint-Jacques (or something like that) being particularly breathtaking. Obviously, there are limits to the influence of the environment upon character but I wish my own pre-K education had been so inspiring… Now I’ve been sidetracked! It is as hard talking about Paris as it was to walk around it. Isn’t it delightful when your travels never go to plan?

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