Last Day in Paris: Dynamo, Macaroons, Riverside Picnic

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We said goodbye to our couchsurfing host Fabien and headed back to Julien and Michelle’s apartment, having packed up all of our stuff again (for the third time in Paris). This was our last day in Paris, so we wanted to accomplish a few final things on our wishlist, and hang out with Sheila one more time before leaving the City of Lights.

Multiple friends had recommended that Nathan see the Dynamo exhibition at the Grand Palais, so we made that our first item on the agenda for the day. Billed as “a century of light and motion in art”, the art exhibit was quite fascinating and outside the box. Typically when you think of the “Op Art” movement, you think Victor Vasarely and optical illusions. While there was some of each in this show, there was much more as well. Lots of artwork based on flourescent lights, transparent materials, reflection, and interesting arrangements of 2d objects in 3d space. Lots of pieces mess with or challenge your perception in some way, including via flickering lights; those pieces come with well deserved warnings, as they are hard to look at for more than a few seconds.

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IMG_3670One of our favorite pieces was an installation by Belgian artist Ann Veronica Janssens. It was the only place in the show where you had to get in line to see the art, but it was worth it. The installation was a room filled with mist and colored light. The fog was so dense that you couldn’t see past a few inches in front of you – all you could see was colored light. It felt like being inside of a sunset. It was beautiful and disorienting.

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There were too many pieces to see in the amount of time we had, unfortunately. Nathan could have stayed a lot longer. We hopped on the metro to meet Sheila near Laduree, a restaurant and patisserie famous for their macaroons. Having never tried real, fresh macaroons, we decided to splurge and do it right. Laduree’s macaroons are expensive, but worth it. They were recommended to us by our couchsurfing host in Antwerp, whom we would be meeting tomorrow. We decided to get a few more than the three of us needed so that we would have some to share with him.

Before we sat down to enjoy the macaroons, we had a quick errand to run. Sheila had promised a friend that she would pick up a clothing catalog featuring the friend’s child. A simple task, a few minutes out of our way – but with the three of us, it never is that simple! It was really hot (another theme) and we had Sheila’s hand-drawn map to go on, cross-reference by the iPhone. It really seemed like we walked around for an hour, but it might have only been 15 minutes.

Finally we found the correct address and went inside to the fanciest mall we’d ever been to. There was a man in a dark suit near the door, who asked us what we wanted. Sheila quickly explained in French that we were looking for the children’s clothing store. And after giving us a once-over, the man sent us to the elevator to go up to the third floor.

Once on the third floor, Sheila went off in search of the catalog, leaving us to try and look cool as we browsed tiny children’s clothing that cost a small fortune. A t-shirt: 75 euro. A jumper, on sale: marked down to 65 euro. A nice rain jacket: 250 euro. And very nice sales people that seemed quite eager to find out why we were there.

When Sheila returned empty handed, we were all quite puzzled. It turns out that it’s not quite a normal thing for random adults to ask for a children’s clothing catalog. Something about protecting the rights of children. With our endeavor failed, we went to the toy section before descending back out into the heat. Oh yeah – we forgot to mention that this mall had central AC. Something about designer clothing and high prices being able to pay for such a luxury in Paris.

There was a nice little park nearby and we got coffee to go. We sat down and pulled out the macaroons and savored the magic that is the macaroon. Salted caramel, Argentinian chocolate, raspberry, orange blossom, pistacio – all delightful. Each of us took a bite of each flavor and begrudgingly saved a few. We had a great time just hanging out and talking about life and getting to know Sheila better.

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We’re not sure where the time went, but we needed to get down to the riverside for a picnic and swing dancing (we were just watching the swing dancers). There were loads of people down by the river, and little mini amphitheaters with different dancing groups occupying them. Random freestyle rap battles were occuring further up the hill, and we were in the middle of it all. Classic Paris: sunset on the Seine. So much better being on the shore than on the tour boats that blared by with their strangely bright spotlights. We were in the action, not just looking at it.

IMG_3688It was a great last day in this beautiful city, and it was a perfect way to end our time here. But we weren’t quite ready to go home yet. A group of us decided to try and go find a drink and hang out just a little bit longer. We started out a pretty big group (mostly swing dancers, and us). It was pretty late, so most places were closed, so people kept on leaving. As our group dwindled in size, we finally found a place that had awesome beer on tap (and was open!). It was hard to believe that our time in Paris was done. All we had to do tomorrow was get on the train.

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