I arrived to Paris close to high noon on the 1th of August 2007. I took RER-train from Charles de Gaulleairport. RER was hard to locate at first because all signs are in french and there wasn’t any RER-logo at the gate of arrival flights. I thought that it was because they wanted more customers for taxis. Ignorant turists who is first time in Paris (like me) can easily get a taxi and blow away good hard-earned money. Taxi fare is about 45 euros from airport to center of Paris and on comparison ticket to RER was only 8,5 euros. I luckily found station just by accident. When I got out of arrivals gate number two I went to the left. I walked about 100 meters and found the station for RER and metro on a lower level.

Notre Dame seen from Cité

Puplic transport is quite complicated because there are like 14 metro lines and five RER lines going criss cross all over the town, but color coding and numbers of different lines help a lot to figure out which line to take.

The trip was quite long and on top of that I left off on a wrong station (Gare de Lyon) – closest would have been the Hôtel de Ville. I just walked the rest of the way to the Cité Internationale des Arts. I arrived to a big iron gate which was locked and beside the gate there was a buzzer with a loundspeaker and a sign on which readed: ”Cité Internationale des Arts” I pressed the buzzer and listened to the loudspeaker… No sound. Nobody sayed anything. I pressed again. Nothing. Then someone came outside and I got in at the same gate opening. I went to the desk and informed my arrival to the clerk. Later I found out that visitor just presses the buzzer on the gate and walks in – no questions asked! In similar situation in Finland there would be someone in the other end asking: ”Who are you here to meet?” I guess french take security more lightly that finns.

A nice guy by the name of ”Joseph” told me about the Cité in plain english – which was a nice surprise because I’ve heard that french don’t like to or can’t speak english. He showed me the room 1546 which would be my living quarters for the next month. The Room was quite spacious – roof was about at the height of 3,5 meters. Ventilation was good thinking of hot days or painting with oil colors – which I planned to do. Standards weren’t the same as in Finland especially in the kitchen area – but still place was good enough. View opened to the backyard – you could see rustic old walls and a couple of trees. Notre Dame’s roof was visible only partially. It was very exiting to be finally in Paris.Small kitchen in Paris

Tamarind

I went to this small Thai-restaurant called Tamarind. At the time (21:00) place was crowded and there was just one table available. I addmire the french way of dining out at late evenings. Downside to this charming phenomena is that everyplace is full of people. Well.. still I like the french way better than he finnish way – which is to stay in doors while drunken teenagers take over the streets.

This was the first time I had thai food (mainly because there is no thai-restaurant in Finland – not that I have heard of) and I declare that it was good. I’ve heard that it would be spicier than nepalice food, but it wasn’t. I can say that if you order from nepalice menu something with three chillipeppers sign then you will have a acute numbness in your lips and tongue for about 1 hour – so that food is damn hot!

The main course was a salmon in a curry sauce with some nice jasmin rice. Starters were pomerora (exotic fruit) with shrimps and dessert was roast pudding with blueberry ice cream. Starters were delicious and I noticed that decoration of the food was very nice. I usually don’t like shrimps because they taste salty,cold and watery – but not this time. Perhaps the reason why these shrimps tasted unusually good was the fact that they were spiced and warmed. The main course was just perfect. If I have to say something negative then I would say that for a big man that amounth of food is not enough, but I still didn’t starve when I walked out of that restaurant…

So, this little thai-restaurant was superp. Go try it out when you are next time in Paris and on Marais district.

WiFi for free!

I have my laptop with me here in Paris. I write texts with it (like this one) and watch DVD’s and video files and use various programs, but without internet connection the usage of computer feels limited. When ever I want to check the spelling of some word or if I want any kind of up-to-date information (wiki, message boards, news feeds etc.) or just to keep in touch with relatives and friends – it can’t be done! Now you say there is another ways of doing all of those things – the old way. You want information – go to library. Wanna hear how are things in home country – use the phone. Well, but the old ways are the old ways (not to mention they are slower, difficult and expensive) – I need my internet! It has become important part of my daily life – I am a web addict. So to keep my addiction going strong I went looking for Wifi (preferably for free).

First of all. There is this firm called ”WiFirst” which is selling a wireless network access at the prise of 14 euros for a 20 hours surfing. Thing works through these connection points called ”tipi” and every WLAN card at the area is automaticly contacted. When I opened my browser it loaded up a WiFirst addverticing page – other pages couldn’t be contacted – and through that page getting a connection is easy. As I am used to have internet open all the time and would be using it about 3 to 4 hours daily that 20 hour limit comes up quite fast – in one week. In comparison, the ADSL connection which I have home costs me only 23 euros per whole month without trafic or time limits – so in that perspective the WiFirst is expensive and frustrating. I don’t want to check my watch every now and then to see do I still have connection time left. It would be like going back in time in the age of 56 kbps modem and pay-per-hour surfing. One page would load about 10 seconds and if you would like to read a long article then you had to cut the connection to save money and only connect again when you would load something on to your machine. One hour would cost something like 50 cent and in one month the total cost could rise to big numbers. No more those time, thank you!

Totally free option is to look for a newly opened WiFi point from the city or look out internet cafes that provide WiFi for free (Hotspot Locator. Look the end of this article). The city of Paris has build up a free WiFi hotpoint system in various parks, squares and office buildings around Paris. I used the one in the Hôtel de Ville’s square. Later I found out that also the Pompidou Center provided free Wifi connection. There you can be indoors and a good point is also that there is electricity sockets in the walls – which you can use to power your laptop (battery doesn’t last that long). Guards and personel of Pompidou center don’t always approve the usage of those power sockets, but you should do it so that they don’t notice.
Links:

Paris
Hotspot Locator http://www.hotspot-locations.com/

Pompidou Center
WiFirst:  https://www.wifirst.net/corporate

Tents in Paris

I have been hear now one week. Everything has been great and I have seen lots of interesting art, architecture and other tourist attractions. I went to the Eiffel tower on the first day. Lines to ticket booths were long and I didn’t have patience to wait in line so I just looked at the tower and took some photos of it. Striking phenomena was that there was a wave of beggars in the area. I got at least seven beggars asking if I speak English. When I admited speaking english they would hand me a piece of paper where was written a short text about them beeing from Serbia and that they don’t have any money. They were sad looking in their dirty worn out clothes. I gave to the first one 2 euros, but when the other ones came asking then I just shook my head as if I didn’t understand English. That worked pretty well. Later on I saw some beggars on the streets and they were located close to each other – in a group of 4 – 6 persons. Perhaps that gives them security – or could it be that they are just too well organized – like some form of suspicious organized crime! I don’t know about welfare system in France, but these people don’t seem to be involved in it – are they illegal imigrants or what’s the story with all the beggars?

I remember hearing about homeless problem in Paris which was solved by giving all the homeless people a free tent. Apparently there wasn’t enough over-night lodgings so the tent gave a little bit shelter against the chilly winter nights. Soon after that banks of Seine were populated by the hundreds of tents. This didn’t do good for the image of Paris. Today I don’t see any tents at banks of Seine – I saw couple of tents back at the Pompidou center, but there they were tought as a part of the exhibition seen through the gallery windows. All are caustic comments on an ailing society.

I have made some sketches for couple of paintings. Other one called: ”W.S. Rollenes” I started yesterday – it’s small – only 33cm x 24cm in size. I am painting on a small canvases which are attached to cardboard for better durability. It’s because that way they are easier to transport back to Finland. This new painting will illustrate an old man who has sailed on a boat called ”W.S. Rollenes” or his name is W.S. Rollenes – I am only sure about the name.

About the daily things.

Bottle of milk in Paris

Here the milk is sold in plastic bottles.

I’m not sure, but it seem that recycling is not very common in France. Here in Cité there is no trash container for a biological waste, paper or cardboard. However there is a glass collection point, but does one suppose to throw there also the glass bottles which are usually returned in store for refund of the bottle (about 10 – 20 cents). I haven’t seen bottle return points in stores – isn’t there one?

Pompidou Center

From the outside the center looks like a oil refinery – it’s turned inside out. All air and water ducts, lifts and escalators are visible on the outside. Building attracts attension and can’t be bypassed unnoticed. In the environment where everything dates back in to the same period of time – the most save way of building something new is to make it totally different. I guess it was one of the ideas when Pompidou Center was designed. To make it really stand out – because it would be tasteless just to imitate architectural style of surrounding buildings. My favourite from all the art museums that I have seen by my own eyes is still Museum of Modern Art in Graz, Austria.

Pompidou Center

Go check it out! It’s really weird – in a positive way.

To go through all the exhibition rooms in Pompidou Center takes time – I think that I used something like 5 hour all together. On upper floors there was a exhibition called ”Airs de Paris”. The theme was urban city and it’s variable environments. Exhibition included photographies, video installations and many other mediums of art. The title ”Airs de Paris” takes its inspiration directly from the last ready-made work by Marcel Duchamp, dated from 1919. There was interesting section of industrial desing in one room. Apparently there are plans to make underwater research center and a motor vehicle for the moon. I was taken by the detail and desing of these models – and there was even a great introduction 3D-animation of these projects. Beautiful work!

Annette Messager – ’les messsagers’ exhibition was very surprising. Her medium is stuffed animals, soft toys, fabric, wool, photographs and drawings. Messager rips teddy bears and other sweet fluffy animals in pieces and hangs them on a rope from the roof. There was one room full of movement and hissing sound of engines. Movement was caused by the stuffed animals going up and down or just traveling around route in a floor and on the ceiling. Sound came from the small motors that were pulling the strings which were moving the animals. Exhibition included works from 70’s to present day – so the presentation of Messagers works was quite broad.

On entering Philippe Mayaux’s exhibition I saw a sign on the wall which warned of the explicid nature of the exhibition. Some of the works were grotesque displays of food servings made out of human body parts – mainly from fingers, eyes and genitals. Without thinking about what they were made of – these foods looked quite pretty and decorative. Only little detail was bothering me and that was the small plastic flies that were placed on a foods. They were cheap looking and took idea away from seeing these decorative body parts as something else than they were. Mayaux had also painted thirteen small pictures of a bark of different trees. He had included the name of the tree which bark was represented in the painting. Letters looked like they were engraved to the skin of the tree. Mayaux’s works are very detailed and they can be looked from a close distance – if you don’t feel disgusted of various elements in his works.

And one sidenote: if you want to see beautiful ladies then go to a art exhibition! You will never see so much beauty in anywhere else than in the art exhibition. Nowadays art is ugly but the spectators are beautifull. How paradoxical!