Flâner [French; verb]: The act of wandering or strolling down the streets, with no particular aim in mind, always with an air of cultural and intellectual curiosity but never without a Parisian kind of cool detached nonchalance.
Only in Paris is it entirely acceptable to forever indulge in the pleasures of life, so much that August has unofficially become the vacation month of the year, whereby every family (regardless of one's economic situation) all leave for at least two weeks of proper vacation.
And so August in Paris is a quiet time (minus the tourists) of nothing but sunshine, cafés, brunches, cinemas, and of course, musées and soirées.
Friday night, we went to a close friend of W's for some drinks. After climbing up an elegant wooden staircase with sultry red carpeting (typical of most Parisian residences), we entered an intimate setting of dim lights and light chatter. It was a small gathering of about ten people. A few guys were whisking up drinks, while by the large window sat the girls on a big red couch, puffing smoke elegantly from their bright red lips. They appeared to be in midst of some discussion, occasionally raising their eyebrows and shrugging while speaking rapid French. French girls have this way of making you curious about their conversation yet at the same time timid about approaching them.
T and M introduced me to their friends, which meant exchanging kisses with each of them on both cheeks. After some brief introductions, I grabbed a stick with tomatoes, cheese and sausage, and started munching on it. Conversation was light, and I managed to produce some basic French, noting happily that no one has yet elected to switch to English. Someone handed me a cocktail, and then it was just nothing but quiet, intimate talk. We climbed up to the roof a bit later (which felt sneaky because it's forbidden). With a beautiful view of Paris' lights at nightfall, we sat there slightly tipsy in relaxed conversation.
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Despite our love of soirées and flâner-ing, W and I woke up the next day bright and early, with a list of scheduled (fun, cultural, foodie) activities I had already scouted out during the week (W is actually very unFrench in his way of sharing my obsessive needs to plan and be productive, much to the perplexity of his friends).
So we checked off the list one-by-one: tennis, swimming, museums, brunch, furniture shopping, and more...museums (and expos).
Paris is a capital of art and museums, everything from the traditional to contemporary, eclectic to the avant-garde. Arts and culture is so heavily subsidized by the government (unsurprisingly) that museums are free the first Sunday of the month (or otherwise a mere 10 euros for most places), and sport activities are equally cheap (4 euros for swimming, 7 euros for an hour of tennis court time!!). And..there are more discounts for people under 26. Yup, it's ridiculous.
So we went to:
- The "Motion Factory" Expo at Gaité Lyrique, which gave us awesome behind-the-scenes footage of how short animated films are made.
- Musée de Quai Branley, an architectural masterpiece with a wonderful collection of artifacts from all around the world: Asia, Oceania, Americas, and Europe. We were also in time for the "Tiki Pop" expo, which displayed in a richly explained timeline of how the wave of tiki culture obsession swept through California in the mid 20th century.
- The "L'Etat du Ciel" Expo at Palais de Tokyo, another architectural inspiration. The expo itself was pretty dark with topics such as the end of human civilization. It was different, unexpected, and all very thought provoking.