There is never a lack of something to do in Paris.
Whether it be an exhibition, visiting one of the 200 or more museums, exploring something new and hip, ticking off things on my extensive, ever growing list, or simply walking around, photographing and discovering what is around the corner, there is always something to do.
The winter days are short and the nights long, most establishments do not open until around 10am but the city comes alive as the day progresses.
Unlike the city I live in, where I am restricted to restaurant kitchens that close by 9.30pm, in Paris, I can do what I want, when I want.
It doesn’t matter what time I get up or what time I go to bed, I can eat when I am hungry, rather than being dictated by stringent rules. After all, I am on holidays.
Paris has a different rhythm to where I come from and when I am in Paris, I seem to slip into it’s rhythm.
Quite a number of museums and iconic sites have at least one night, where they stay open late.
For example The Louvre stays open late on Wednesdays and Fridays until 9.45pm, The Pompidou Centre until 10pm, and 11pm on Thursdays. The late night openings can help plan your visit.
You could for example, walk around the city, soaking up the atmosphere by day and save the museums until the evening either after dinner, before dinner or dine in the museum cafe.
This is what I did tonight.
The Palais de Tokyo is somewhere I had been putting off for a while, no reason, perhaps except laziness and once due to renovations.
The Philippe Parreno exhibition however, is what piqued my interest and took me across to the 16th arrondissement.
It is the first time that the museum, sitting near the banks of the Seine, has been completely taken over by one artist.
Philippe Parreno was given carte blanche; to do whatever he wanted, including changing the front desk, for a genuinely unique experience.
Before you even step foot into the wonderful space that is the Palais de Tokyo, your journey begins.
A perspex awning graces the entrance of the old building. Something you would find at the entrance to a Hollywood theatre, except it is transparent, no names, no title.
From the moment I stepped inside, the glowing, backlit white reception desk, already had me excited before I even purchased my ticket.
You might call me a little crazy but even the vestiaire – the cloak room got me excited.
Instead of lining up to hand over my coat in exchange for a docket, I was able to efficiently do this myself.
Clear perspex, numbered lockers, where I could place, at my own speed what I wanted to ‘check in’, place a one euro coin in the slot and voila! I had a key and could retrieve my belongings whenever I found fit.
The giant, cinema sized screen, in a massive open space made up of tiny coloured lights, erected on a stark metal structure is the next phase of the exhibition, displaying a number of quirky and interesting short films.
What I didn’t realise at the time, as I watched the films and the gallery guests move closer to the screen to investigate how it operated as they moved through the Palais de Tokyo, to the next room, is that we, the viewers, become a part of the exhibition. Our silhouettes enhancing the visual effects.
Pianos dotted throughout, eerily playing automatically, with sound systems booming through the bare open spaces, echoing into the surrounding rooms.
I stood in front of a bookcase half filled with books.
A woman takes a book about to explore it’s contents, the bookcase begins to move and swivel to reveal another room behind, with what appeared to be gallery guests trapped inside and then without warning, the room is plunged into darkness, just as my eyes are attempting to adjust to my surroundings, images are flashed on an adjacent wall.
Multimedia, sound, light, large open spaces and participation is what makes up this extraordinary exhibition, the viewer has a presence. Even the explanation cards flickered on and off. The stairwells boomed with sound and light.
I have never experienced anything quite like it. Unfortunately I don’t quite have the words or language to explain how incredibly amazing it was, except that it was mesmerising and captivating with a surprise at every corner and yet I completely trusted the exhibition, not to be afraid but to be taken on the journey through darkened rooms and booming noises.
Surprised to realise that the funky see-through lockers returned my one euro coin to me after inserting the key made me all that little bit happier. With my coin tucked in my pocket and still beaming from the experience, I decided to lash out and have dinner in the very trés cool cafe, Le Tokyo Eat.
Sitting amongst an arty bunch of Parisians, the atmosphere was warm and inviting, funky, yet relaxed and the food superb!
Now, I don’t like to mix toilet stories and food together but I really can’t resist.
After enquiring where the toilets were, I felt silly when the waiter pointed to the stairs, there was only one place they could be and that was up. It gave me a great opportunity to take some snaps to share with you but venturing along the gang plank to only find some very funky basins and taps, I was confused.
The couple who were dancing in front of the mirrors were not perturbed at all to find me aimlessly wandering around. I ask them, where are the toilets. The kind man takes me to a large plastic panel that appeared to be a wall and pushes it open. Oops he says, that is the mens. A toilet and a urinal. Hmmm. … but he finds another panel that opens and guides me in.
This is difficult to explain, a wide diffused, white panel, probably measuring around 2.5 metres wide, when pushed in reveals twin toilets.