Postcards from Paris: { La D é f e n s e}

La Défense, a separate city northwest from the Champs-Elysées, a clump of modern architecture that resides next to Paris. It’s tying element to the city of light is the grande arche that aligns with l’arc de triomph. For the first year or so, I avoided such modernity like I avoided eating at Mc-Do; but these things end up getting a hold on you. Before I submitted to La Défense the entire aesthetic of it all did not quite fit into my ideas of Paris. Such tall buildings tainted and overwhelmed my charming view of the city. When seen from the top of Montmartre I could not understand why anyone would want to break up the skyline of terra cotta chimneys and zinc roof tops with glass and concrete rectangular towers.
There wasn’t anything I was as strongly against, but as I continued to check off all of the many charms on my Things-to-do-in-Paris list, La Défense lingered on the bottom, and a curiosity surfaced. What is life like in La Défense?
What sort of people go there when they could stay in Paris?
Is it overwhelmingly fast-paced?
Is everyone dressed in business suits with Bluetooths and Starbucks to-go cups?
After some convincing, I opened my closed- mind and took line 1 out to La Grande Arche. The moment I resurfaced from the metro I was staring straight at the Arch. There is nothing ornate, elaborate in detail, feminine, or really Parisian about it. White and constructed with horizontal and vertical lines, it’s grand and to the point, minimal and completely conceptual. There was a silence in the scene, and it’s possible that I allowed the grand arch to encompass my senses, but in all actuality all was calm. There is a large bronze sculpture of a giant thumb adjacent to the arch, and for me it defines La Défense, sticking out from Paris like a sore thumb, but this quartier of modernity was not what I had expected. There were plenty of people around, but everyone seemed more casual and laid back than what one would find even in Le Marais or off Saint Germain-des-Prés. It was surreal seeing this huge, overwhelming square arch with people completely at ease on its steps, sunbathing and people watching. A few guys were playing acoustic guitars; two guys were smoking hookah and playing cards. Where am I? Then I realized this is still France, you can take the French out of their leisure setting and place them in an atmosphere that is assumingly fast paced, and they will still be French, completely at ease with themselves.
I now see La Défense as part of Paris, just with a slightly different backdrop.


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