Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Le Weekend

The most eventful thing that has happened so far is the "Nuit Blanche" which took place in Paris on Saturday night. For those not in the know, La Nuit Blanche is a night dedicated to art and culture, where firstly large museums stay open until 1 or 2 in the morning, and are free for the night. Secondly, there are lots and lots of small exhibitions and installations dotted around the city. Some of them were in public places, like this one which was by the Pont d'Alma:

Some were hidden away inside buildings, like this giant rotating robot:

This was inside the courtyard of an old building somewhere in the Marais. I could give you the name of the artwork, or the artist, but really for me the interest wasn't the artworks themselves so much as the incongruency of seeing them at 4 in the morning, off a side street somewhere with hundreds of other people milling around. 

Here's some more artworks that we saw - aside from the museums, which included everything from small galleries to the Louvre - all of the art on display veered towards the modern and surreal. I didn't "get" any of it, really, but I don't know much about art. Here's some more:

This was probably the most memorable. A room filled with hundreds of those plastic alarm clocks which were apparently all timed to go off at 7am. We didn't stick around to hear it, but the effect of having so many versions of the same object was quite disconcerting. Here is a picture without flash:

And with:

The Hotel-Dieu was covered in coloured lights. Each of them spelt out "Love difference" in about 20 different languages.

Sunday was a lazy day. I really wanted to try out the vélib, and go for a bike ride around the Bois de Vincennes, but the station wouldn't accept my debit card. For those not in the know, the vélib scheme is a public bicycle hire scheme available to anyone with a Navigo pass (vélib = vélo (bike) + liberté). Here is a picture of a cycle station with most of the bikes gone. As you can see, they are heavy, utilitarian things, all coloured beige. There are stations like this literally all over the city. After paying a small subscription fee (5 euros per week, or 30 euros per year), the bikes are then charged by the hour: the first half hour is free, then the second costs 1 euro, the third 1/2 hour costs 2 euros, the third costs 3, and any subsequent half-hours cost 4 each. The ascending charges are designed to keep the bikes in circulation, but seeing as there is a station nearly every 300m in Paris, it is easy to swap bicycles every half hour and thus pay nothing but the subscription fee.

 Anyway, I sadly couldn't get it to work, so instead I decided to buy myself an apricot tart and sit on the roof of my building to do some reading. The weather this weekend was bizarrely warm for October.

Here is my book (Flaubert's Parrot), and the rest of the rooftop. It's a lovely place to sit.

Here are some more shots from the top of our building. I think it's most picturesque during twilight. I don't think I could ever get bored of this view.

I have Mondays off, and yesterday, again, I didn't do much. I ran a few errands and ended up walking to Bastille - a good few miles away. There are currently lots of posters up protesting the proposed increase in the retirement age. I know it's a cliché, but France's political system is very noticeably to the left of the British one, as shown by these posters below.

They benefit
They get fat
They pollute
They lie to us
They exploit us
They "spoil us"
They give us nothing, they give in!
Striking is a tool of both defence and conquest.
It's a right!

Do not interfere with retirement at age 60!
The cartoon shows (I think) a working person telling a financier "Stock market money/a grant for retirement! Quickly!" (La Bourse referring both to the Paris Stock Market and a grant or bursary (source of funding)) 
This one says "Save retirement at age 60! Let's tax finance revenues!"

Although it seems crazy to me that people can protest having to retire at age 61, yeah let's tax some finance revenues.

Finally, here are some pictures of the Place de la Bastille.

Well, I had my first day teaching today, but that's a story for another day. I feel like it went pretty well. Beforehand I was terrified, but knowing that I just had to do it somehow stopped my worry. Sometimes it can seem there is a thick glass wall between what you imagine yourself doing and what you actually do, but, in my case, it seems like the nearer I get to the wall the more gauzy it appears, and when you get really close (like 3 seconds), it melts away. The secret is there is no barrier; this goes for everything from moving to a foreign city to jumping in front of a train. Or standing up in front of 15 French high school students saying "Hello, my name is Eden and I'm your English Assistant for this year..."

Oh, a little slapstick anecdote from this morning. I have a key to the staffroom that I hadn't used before today. As soon as I turned it in the lock, a really loud bell went off (obviously, of course, it was the school bell). In my confusion and nervousness, I thought I had managed to set off an alarm by turning the key the wrong way - Shona will know what I'm talking about here. Anyway, someone ran up to me and I started saying "Desolée, umm.... je sais pas ce qui se passe" and generally panicking like a mad person until realising what was actually happening. How embarrassing.

I'll leave you with one more classic Paris picture.

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