Saturday, July 5, 2008

Le Centre Pompidou

Paris_Pompidous-1, originally uploaded by david_stirling.

Today I made my way across town to Beaubourg and the Centre Pompidou, which is a very pleasant three miles from my apartment. Three miles, as long as you don't get lost. My system of navigation tends to involve gradually circling my target in decreasing radii until I finally crash into it. Part of the problem is that Paris is filled with one-way streets. And not one-way streets like they have in New York, where this one goes one way and the next one goes the other way. I was riding down rue Rivoli, homing in on my destination. There on my right is a sign for Centre Pompidou pointing up a one-way street in the wrong direction. OK, so I'll take the next... huh, that's one's the wrong way, too. Repeat above times four. How is this possible?

By the time I had zig-zagged my way up the constantly changing one-way streets, I wasn't sure I was even in the same arrondissement any more. Fortunately, I have a city map I bring with me. Unfortunately, it does not indicate one-ways in most cases, so I'm often prevented from taking my initial planned route. This is when it's extremely good that I travel alone. As long as I'm not in a hurry, I'm perfectly happy to wander toward where I think I'm supposed to be going, trusting my non-existent sense of direction to guide me. However, if I was trying to guide someone, say someone who wasn't fond of wild goose chases, things could get tense.


The Centre Pompidou is the national modern art museum of France. It is also one of the prime hang-out spots in Paris, despite the somewhat uninviting stone courtyard. There's actually a decent amount of the building you can see without paying admission. You can take the escalators (which famously lie outside the main structure of the building) to any of the floors; there is a ticket taker in the lobby of each floor. There's even free wifi in the ground-floor lobby. Even so, I decided to spring for an annual pass, with the plan that I will spend a little time there as often as possible, in an attempt to get a grasp on some of this crazy modern art. I think modern art is best ingested in small quantities, rather than in a five-hour gorging. Sort of like olive tapenade.

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