14th April Doisneau & Lafayette

Today was the last day I could see Kat before returning home, and having missed Museum Friday yesterday, we decided to do one last cultural thing together and visit the Doisneau photography exhibition at Hotel de Ville. Every time I’ve been past the town hall the queue for the exhibition has almost circled the entire building – and today was no exception. Luckily it wasn’t cold or rainy (and after previous mistakes we’d learnt to come prepared armed with baguettes) so the hour we had to wait outside wasn’t too torturous.

By some happy co-incidence, today also marks what would’ve been Robert Doisneau’s 100th birthday. I didn’t learn this until after I’d been to his exhibition but it’s a nice fact to know all the same. Doisneau was born in 1912 and is famous for his photographs of regular Parisians going about their daily lives. He took most of his pictures between World War II and the 1970s, capturing many eccentric characters and busy locations around the French capital city. The photos that are currently on display at Hotel De Ville (until 28th April 2012) show his work in Paris Les Halles – the once bustling marketplace employing more than 5000 people and with about just as many stalls. The images show the transition Les Halles made from a market pavilion in the early 1900s to the shopping centre that currently stands in its place today. It was an interesting exhibition to walk around and it’s easy to see why Doisneau’s photographs remain so popular today – he did a great job of effortlessly capturing all those tiny moments and details of history that usually go amiss.

After having satisfied our cultural hunger, (and had a caffeine fix at Starbucks) we then headed onwards to do a bit of shopping. We spent a good hour in the Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville looking at French kitchen paraphernalia, art and craft materials and buttons and then Kat showed me towards Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussman. Galeries Lafayette is an enormous 10-floor department store in the 9th Arrondissement of Paris and is like the French version of Harrods or Selfridges in London. Once you’ve waded through floors and floors of designer shoes, clothes, perfumes and handbags you come across an entire floor of tourist souvenirs and the staircase up to the rooftop. At the top is an (almost) panoramic view over Paris. We sat down on one of the plastic benches on the plastic grass and talked for a little while in the sun.

I had a really nice day with Kat – it’s so lovely to have a friend from the same country to talk about things with. I suppose she’s been like a little piece of home away from home! Luckily we come from the same country so it won’t be too hard to visit each other in the future – and I’ll certainly look forward to it.

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