“It’s just that I feel so sad these wonderful nights. I sort of feel they’re never coming again, and I’m not really getting all I could out of them.” — This Side of Paradise // F. Scott Fitzgerald
One week left in the city of light.
A few weeks ago, I realized that I spend about 3/4 of my time in the same areas in Paris — the traditionally chic, bobo, touristy ones, unfortunately — and that I had neglected to even ride the metro through half of the city. So I furiously researched suggested walks / things to see / places to eat in the areas I hadn’t visited yet, and I came up with a long list. These areas around the periphery are more “popular” in the sense that this is where you’d find your “average Parisian” — the one that doesn’t necessarily wear a Hermes scarf, Louboutins, and chignon everyday.
Surprisingly, the more I walked, the more I realized that this is the side of Paris I truly enjoy. Even though I explored some of these parks, streets, and neighborhoods on my own, I never felt lonely. This might be extremely trite, but I felt like the real charm of the city is the one gained from discovering it through your own eyes, reflecting while wandering, and finding beauty in the less-gentrified streets. Instead of seeing the Paris that others have created for you, you create your own impressions and your own appreciation….not exactly a completely successful way to describe the feeling, but it will suffice.
I became obsessed with street art. I’ve always been very interested in it, especially after learning about artists like Shepard Fairey and Banksy in high school, but I’ve never been able to really dig into the scene. Here, for one of my final papers, I’ve decided to write about art squats in Paris, which give rise to street art/graffiti. Squats are essentially abandoned / reconverted buildings that have been occupied (illegally), usually in response to high rent. Many of these locations have been converted to studio spaces for artists, thus the origin of art squats. Many of the art squats in Paris have been closed by the government, but some have gained “legal” status, so that they receive some support from the municipal government and are allowed to exist but only as work and not lodging spaces (such as 59 Rivoli). In all of these places, you will find a treasure chest of art — dancers, musicians, actors, painters, sculptors, graffiti artists, etc.
Today I ran to an abandoned warehouse-turned-lodging-and-studios in search of a graffiti exhibit, where I met 3 street artists — Maxime Aum, Codex Urbanus, and Shadee.K — who showed me around the exhibit and introduced me to the pieces of graffiti. Some of them were familiar motifs that I had seen around the city, and it was really exciting to finally meet the mysterious faces behind the characters and words that decorate Paris.
With so much to discover, so much to inspire, so much to absorb, Paris is a haven for anyone who has ever tried to create something. I wish I had a few more weeks, even a few more free hours to spend here, building relationships with interesting people from all walks of life and letting the enchantment of the city mold me into someone more reflective and appreciative.