I first visited Beaubourg on a trip to Paris with my brother, in the late 70s when it was just newly opened.
Back then it was the architecture of the place that was the big talking point. The team who designed it - including Italian Renzo Piano and Brits Richard and Su Rogers (he later married Ruth of River Café fame) - had 'turned the architecture world upside down', according to the NY Times in 1977, by creating a public arts building in which all the innards - plumbing, heating ducts, electrical wiring - were visible on the outside, painted in bold primary colours.
What I remember being most struck by on that early trip, though, apart from the startling exterior, was the people-friendliness of the interior. In the massive public libraries, galleries and research centres it housed there was not a trace of the stuffiness, deathly quiet and lingering boredom that you expected of places like that. Instead it was filled with students my age, kids and older people comfortably lounging on the floor or wherever, chatting about new discoveries. A space for the people. I loved it instantly.
Going back there last week it wasn't much different, though we had a more specific mission - the musée d'art moderne -
(ok, I have to admit this guy was kind of stuffy)
to satisfy the curiosity of a thirteen-year-old with a love for Kandinsky
and help - whose car smash is this again?
Zooming up the escalators (also on the exterior - naturellement, to give one the best view) ...
we watch the street artists outside become ant-like and are greeted with higher altitude sights ...
At the very top we are headed - since an excess of art is exhausting, bien sûr, and one is gagging by now for a drink and some nibbles - for the rooftop café with the best views in Paris
and this, um, plant pot
But sadly it is possible to die before your order is taken here, so off we go on the vélibs stacked up outside, headed for cafés greener ...
(How will London's very own Boris Bikes match up to these beauties I wonder?)