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Out and about around the Pompidou

When I walk southeast from my apartment along Rue Rambuteau, I quickly approach the huge exoskeleton of the Georges Pompidou modern art museum, first opened in 1977. The long escalator snakes up the museum’s west side (see the three views below). But the Pompidou itself isn’t my destination this morning. It’s the area around the Pompidou.


This week it’s been colder in the mornings, so I’ve been going inside the cafes instead of sitting out on the sidewalk. The waiter turns on the hanging propane heaters, but even with the awnings reflecting the warmth, I prefer a table inside.

I pay my 5 euro 10 for the cafe creme and buttered bread and walk further along Rambuteau, looking at the news agent’s display. Then I pass the Pharmacie Beaubourg, Leroy Merlin with plants and furniture (a small French version of Home Depot), Chocolat Rouge with crepes and paninis, the MK2 movie theater, Vit’halles Fitness Club, a sculpture high on a pedastal by Max Ernst, Flunch buffet restaurant, the Tout Chaud (everything hot) food stand featuring “maxi croques” (large grilled cheese sandwiches), the Movie Store where they’re playing Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow,” Marissal Bucher which sells German books, Beaubourg Optic, GAME store, Travelex Change, Flunch again, and  a Rambuteau metro stop portal. As I turn right, I see the coloring of the Pompidou’s inside-out systems: blue for air conditioning, green for liquids, red for communications, and yellow for electricity.


Crossing Rue Renard, I pass La Station Beaubourg brasserie and saladerie, a dentist’s office, Mystic Tattoo (and piercing), another pharmacy, the “Ed” food store where I go in to buy bananas and cheese, and two anonymous residential buildings. It takes three steps to cross tiny Rue Simon le Franc, and then I pass Revendeur Agree (an Apple computer store); Marais Luxe clothing; Gildo which sells dragees (sugared almonds) and chocolats; Delices de Beaubourg which is a combination boulangerie, patisserie, and viennoiserie (seller of Vienna-style pastries); and then L’Excelsior brasserie.

I swing across Renard again past a poster shouting Prix inbattable! (unbeatable price!) on a CD bin and around Beaubourg Souvenirs to my favorite space near the Pompidou: the Place Igor Stravinsky.


Each of the figures in the Homage to Stravinsky fountain represents a composition by the Russian composer. Facing the fountain on the south are more restaurants, the Restaurant Beaubourg, Le Jardin de The (the tea garden), Le Brise Miche (Breaking Bread), Dame Tartine (Lady Open-faced Bread), and Creperie Beaubourg.

West of the fountain about 100 school kids are sitting on steps of the St. Merri cloisters eating chips and fruit. A knot of little boys plays soccer with an empty water bottle, kicking it dangerously close to some sitting adults. Another group of boys chases some pigeons. Mothers stand together, ignoring the misbehaviors. Along Rue St. Merri is the Cafe Beaubourg ice cream and crepes shop, then the Poste de Police with an old mosaic sign above reading Bains-Douches Municipaux (Municipal Baths and Showers).

As I come back around to the west side of the Pompidou, I hear the activities of the buskers on the huge patio where people stand in line to buy museum tickets. Suddenly a very loud young man starts marching back and forth in front of his small white gym bag, projecting his voice, taking advantage of the acoustics, and throwing his long hair around.

The old gypsy sawing away at her violin stops playing. Some teenage girls stop laughing. We all watch the pacing man warily, silently. He is either a brilliant thespian, a poet, or a madman. He does not put out a cup for money, and no one approachses him. Although we are used to the street theater at this cobbled square, the shouting man is in overwhelming auditory control and contrasts in a very adult way to the whimsy and childish play over at Place Igor Stravinsky.

To the west of the piazza are Le Parvis cafe, Images de Beaubourg and DF Kado for souvenirs, Voyages Wasteels travel agency, Amorino gelatos, Centre Culturel de Servie, Souvenier Contemporaine, Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles exhibition space, the alley Rue de Venise, Le Mont Lozere tea shop, L’univers de Leo for wild home furnishings, Un Instant de Reve (An Instant of a Daydream) for hats and sunglasses, Images de Demain (Images of Tomorrow) with gifts and souvenirs, and Le Cavalier Bleu (the Blue Knight) tea shop.

Then I’m back to the news agent on Rambuteau and the row of gray Velib’ rental bikes. This area around the Pompidou almost qualitifies as a quartier (neighborhood) in itself. With the bananas and cheese from Ed in my backpack, it’s time to wander back to my own quartier to pick up a baguette for lunch.

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  1. idiot » Out and about around the Pompidou on Sunday, December 9, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    […] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptMerri is the Cafe Beaubourg ice cream and crepes shop, then the Poste de Police with an old mosaic sign above reading Bains-Douches Municipaux (Municipal Baths and Showers). As I come back around to the west side of the Pompidou, … […]

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