Being a cow in a city

I took off on Friday to head to the city of lights for the weekend. First stop: Fondation Louis Vuitton. This museum, which just opened at the end of October, is designed by the architect Frank Gehry. It is composed of huge panes of glass that are shaped to look like the sails of a sailboat. The architecture is filled with an elegant fluidity, from the lofty ceilings to the reflection ponds, to the seemingly légère glass windows.

Outside Fondation LV
Fondation LV

Following this lovely visit, I climbed to the top of l’Arc de Triomphe for a great view of Champs-Élysées.

Saturday morning, I made my way to Angelina, as Buzzfeed told me that they make a mean cup of hot chocolate. It was the richest, creamiest hot chocolate I have ever tasted…but then again, it was probably 3 deciliters of pure cream. As you can imagine, I went from a normal level of happiness to extreme happiness in about 0.28 seconds.

Sorry I'm not sorry for taking picture of my food
Sorry I’m not sorry for taking a picture of my food

Following my divine eggs benedict + hot chocolate breakfast, I visited Musée de l’Orangerie to admire Monet’s water lilies. What I didn’t expect was to end up in stitches upon seeing a painting by Matisse titled Femme au violon.

I felt as if this was a portrait of me any time I attempted to practice violin. (Sorry Mrs. Richardson…)

In the afternoon, I window shopped along Rue Saint-Honoré and in the Marais district before visiting Musée des arts et métiers, a history of science museum.

Sunday morning, I once again woke up early. As I made my way to Phillipe Gosselin to buy croissants to bring back to my flatmates, I realized how much I liked Paris in the morning. Scratch that. How much I like all cities in the morning. Before the cities truly “wake up.” I had this sigh-of-happiness moment while I stood in the pale light of the morning outside the Louvre. The immensity of the silence in such a vast space brought a sense of calm: that all was somehow right in this moment. Maybe the following picture can explain my sentiments better than words:

Louvre before the crowds
Louvre before the crowds

Well, I’m standing in the square, tout seul, breathing in the silence–no people, no cars–when a thought interrupts the calm. “That is one ugly triangle.” Bam. There it is. The thought just tumbled out of my mind before I could filter it. But thinking back on this moment, I still agree with my unfiltered thought. You have this beautiful palace, dating back hundreds of years (1546 as Wikipedia tells me), trying to impose its timeless elegance and beauty upon the square. But its effect is rudely interrupted by these ugly glass triangles. It is a living anachronism and my mind refuses to accept it. That is, it refuses to accept the modern and wants only to keep the Louis XIII style architecture that is so intertwined with my ideas of Paris.

After processing these thoughts, I make my way over to la Tour Eiffel. When I get there, I see the line for the elevator is already massive and rapidly increasing. Looking for an alternative, I spot a measly group at another base of the tower. As I head over, I see a queue of possibly 20 people, max. It’s the line for the stairs. This isn’t even a question. I take the stairs. At about the 550th step, I’m out of breath and questioning, “who even lets this girl make any decisions??” before my brain retorts, “you dummy, you do, or else you wouldn’t be able to get anything done.” Six hundred and sixty-nine steps later, I finally make it to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.


I worked hard for this view
I worked hard for this view

Following my trip up the Eiffel Tower, I made my way to le Jardin du Luxembourg. I wander around and watch the numerous groups of old people doing Tai Chi (strange combination, I know) before heading back to Switzerland, home sweet home.

So now, you may be wondering why this post is titled, “Being a cow in a city.” Well, Ivan (and Arthur) just came back from SfN (hosted in D.C.). But before coming back to CH, they took a side trip to NYC. Ivan said Manhattan was extremely fast-paced and it felt overwhelming. I tried to explain that I see constant movement in cities as a kind of challenge–as in, how “still” can I feel when I’m amidst a tornado?” He replied, “It’s like in Mumbai. There are people, motorcycles, rickshaws–all on the same road. Pushing and shoving. But there can be a cow in the middle of the road and everything stops around it. No one dares to move it and no one disturbs it.” So the game I like to play in cities is like being a cow in the city. How still can you be? I admit, I played this game while I was in Paris too. Paris is a big, big city. The hugeness of the city seems amplified when you travel alone. But I think to enjoy a trip to any large city, you have to take on this cow-mentality. How much of a cow can I be in the city? How much of a cow can you be in a city?


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