|Outside Paris' Pompidou Centre, you can see blue air ducts, green pipes for liquids, yellow electricity conduits, and red escalators and elevators.|
The Pompidou Centre was not on my original itinerary for our Paris trip last June. My daughter was the one who suggested it. Since I gave my kids the Lonely Planet Not-for-Parents Paris Everything you ever wanted to know book prior to our holiday, I should have suspected that it may inspire them to make requests.
"Well, why are you interested in the Pompidou Centre?" I asked.
She replied, "The book says it's inside out and upside down."
A Building Turned Inside OutWhat in the world does that mean? All the service pipes, ductwork, and wires are color coded and attached to the outside of the building, not hidden between walls and above dropped ceilings as is common with most buildings. The escalators are in a transparent tunnel snaking its way up the exterior of the building, too, thus freeing up the interior for an abundance of other uses. The colorful pictures in the Not-for-Parents Paris book that she shows me do indeed look fascinating. Just look at the photo at the top of this post to see what I mean.
Whimsical Stravinsky FountainThe Not-for-Parents Paris book also suggests the Stravinsky Fountain next door. There, sixteen mechanical sculptures move and squirt water and was inspired by the music of Igor Stravinsky. So, of course, we go there, too. Pursed, red disembodied lips shoot water out of its mouth. A rainbow hued firebird presides over the chaos.
|Whimsical kinetic sculpture fountain next to the Pompidou|
This light-hearted and very modern architecture is such a contrast to the traditional, classical designs for which Paris is known. You can certainly see why it appeals to children.
National Museum of Modern ArtThe Pompidou Centre houses the largest modern art museum in all of Europe. As long as the kids brought me here, I figure we should go in and take a look, too. What transpires after that is an interesting discussion on what constitutes art. "I don't get it. I just don't get it," is the refrain my younger son repeats over and over again throughout our visit.
The Children's Gallery is the obvious place to visit with kids. The installations there are interactive and creative. Binoculars dangle from a garden gnome who is spouting instructions from a speaker for a little game of visual hide-and-seek. As we peer through the lens in the direction the gnome tells us to look, we see an unexpected object perched above the display screens in the entrance foyer. Much to my kids delight, we also find a hamburger-shaped wallet dangling from the ceiling. It's like a little secret between us and gnome as all the other visitors stroll beneath the hamburger wallet, never noticing that it's there.
|Pssst... look through the binoculars. What do you see?|
In an age where almost everyone carries around some sort of camera on vacation, whether its a big DSLR or as part of the smartphone in their pocket, another exhibit requires the observer to take a flash photo. The artwork is not the arrangement of reflectors suspended overhead, it is the picture of it that you take.
|What the naked eye sees versus what the camera sees|
Another fun activity that we find is Stacking Cups. This entertained my boy as a toddler, and it still entertains him now, albeit with more sophisticated structures.
|Proud picture taken just before a very small museum patron knocked it down.|
I get all excited because I can identify artists.
The visit to the Children's Gallery goes so well that I continue with my plan to visit the museum collection. Famous artists like Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock and Salvador Dali along with many others are represented here. I think there's something special about seeing art in person with your own eyes instead of merely on a computer screen or in a book, so I'm kind of excited. The kids do not share my enthusiasm.
|The Bridal Pair with the Eiffel Tower by Marc Chagall|
I seem to have cropped out the Eiffel Tower... and there's ginormous rooster behind the couple.
In an effort to get the kids to really look at the art instead of wrestling with each other in the middle of the gallery, we pause in front of a Pablo Picasso work.
"Pose like the people in the painting, and I'll take a picture," I tell them in my hushed, we're-behaving-properly-in-an-art-museum voice.
"What?!" says one of my sons. "I can't even tell which way they're facing."
"Exactly," I reply.
|My kids attempt to re-enact Picasso's Cubist period Harlequin and Woman with Necklace.|
Things get a little weird
The confusion builds as we come across paintings that the kids think they could easily duplicate. According to my oldest boy, there were multiple canvases painted in nothing but a uniform shade of white. He was probably thinking, "I could totally do that. How is that worthy of a museum?" Interestingly, he brings up the topic of these monochrome, white paintings a few months later and concedes that perhaps we were to focus on the brushstrokes and texture without getting distracted by color. Is he learning something after all?
|It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.|
My girl decides that she can add a little something to one gallery room that has nothing but chairs and a table. (I think my neighbor had one of these chairs when I was growing up.) What's her contribution? An invisible bench, of course.
|Whatcha doin'? Sitting on an invisible bench|
Most of the exhibits continue to puzzle the kids. However, one large room catches my daughter's eye, and she runs towards it eagerly.
|A work by Yaacov Agam,|
"It changes when I move around," she tells me. And she's right...
According to the description, artist Yaacov Agam designed this pictorial space on the scale of a room following the principles of polymorphic painting. Colored, prism-shaped elements produce abstract compositions that change with point of view.
|Yaacov Agam's salon through different points of view|
Restaurant with a View
The Pompidou Centre has a few cafes and restaurants if you get hungry during your visit. Although it's the priciest option, Le Georges on Level 6 has an amazing view across the rooftops of Paris. We waltzed in at lunchtime and had a delicious French-fusion meal that even the kids enjoyed. The scene outside the windows aren't the only attraction; the free-form walls of the industrial chic interior proves to be a fine setting for our meal.
|Dining at Le Georges|
- Definitely a must-see if you are a lover of Modern Art and Architecture
- If you have limited time (because you are in Paris after all with so many things begging for attention), you could spend 30-40 minutes looking at the exterior that it is indeed cool and unique, visiting Stravinsky fountain and enjoying the buskers in the square outside the entrance. You can also enter and take the transparent escalator tunnel up to Level 6 to see the view for 3 euros.
- For kids: Kids will enjoy the "limited time" option above plus a visit to the Children's Gallery. How long you want to spend wandering through the other galleries is dependent on your kids' love of art and the amount of patience you have on this particular day. The collection is on multiple floors, so you can easily do one floor and then leave. Or you could push your luck like I did and drag the family through the entire museum.
- Included in the Paris Museum Pass
- Nearest recommended Chocolatier: Francois Pralus at 35 rue Rambuteau, practically on the way to the Rambuteau Metro Stop. Oh my goodness deliciousness! Also try their out-of-this world brioche studded with sugar-coated nuts called a Praluline.
Stravinsky Fountain Place
Kids and Nintendos at The Louvre
Parc de la Villete: A Kids' Paradise in Paris
Looking for Mary at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris