Monday, March 25, 2013

Sick Alexandra & La Defense - the Business District of Paris

Shadows by Lindsey Stirling on Grooveshark

Pardon the absence.  I have been incredibly sick for the last two weeks and I am hardly ever in my life sick so when it finally hits me, I'm crawling-on-the-floor-too-weak-to-get-out-of-bed-sick.  I am one of those girls who buys hand sanitizer in bulk at Costco and uses it 24/7, manaically wiping everything down, turning the handles of public restrooms with my elbow...and here I am beaten by bacteria.  Hand sanitizers are generally never seen in Paris, stores barely carry them.  And maybe it's true that they are counterproductive.  Who knows.  Every time I hack my lungs up these days I shake my fists balefully at my bottles of hand sanitizer...que paso amigos??! This relationship is over!

So onto this post.  Are you as fascinated by the architecture of modern business buildings as I am? This title is misleading, it implies that there is a separate business district in Paris where corporations are exclusively located and that is incorrect.  For example, international law firms like DLA Piper and Latham & Watkins are housed in gorgeous Parisian mansions in upscale arrondissements:

Latham Paris.  My fellow law-firm lackeys:  I know I KNOW.  The same thought was in my head when I saw it too - for non-law firm lackeys, Latham is always, *always* located in the best-looking buildings.  
I had been avoiding the land of the living while I was sick - my nose was constantly running miles of mucus, I couldn't stop hacking up crap and I just felt run-down.  Finally, BB came over, took one long look of disgust at my used-tissues-overflowing bedroom and snottily informed me he was taking me out of my hellhole.  "You can't stop living life just because you are this soup [a Basque soup that was delicious], get in the shower, get into some clothes that do not consist of sweats and let's take you somewhere new for your blog."  Take a lesson folks, this is how you help a sick friend who's sick of being sick.

I had been dying to go to La Defense ever since I saw its famous square arch while on top of the Arc de Triomphe so we headed over there.  The number 1 metro line ends at La Defense and it is the most utilized line by tourists, servicing the Louvre and Champs Elysees.  It is a nicer train and one of the few that is fully air-conditioned (a nicety you will appreciate in the summer with deodorant-challenged passengers).  It is also high-speed and driverless, a fact that is endlessly fascinating to me as we whip fearlessly through narrow the U.S., some bozo would hurt himself on this automated train, sue the transit for millions and bring back the drivers.  Oh France with your litigant-unfriendly laws!  This is actually very true of France, they don't even salt down the sidewalks when it snows.  I've seen so many people faceplant while walking on slippery pavement and they just suck it up and go on about their day.

This was the ONLY time that BB agreed to accompany me on the subway.  Actual Parisians refuse to get on the subway.  They say it is full of diseases.  I'm not even kidding.  It's not just BB being elitist, I've heard the same thing from numerous locals.  They'll only get on for their morning commute and they will do it sullenly and hatefully.  The others ride bikes, motorcycles, carpool or if they are rich, use a car and driver.  La Defense, however, is located pretty far from Paris center and BB acknowledged it would take a while to get there so he deigned to get on the metro with me.  The whole time his nostrils were pinched as he breathed in the stench of the great unwashed (I am exaggerating here to mock BB) and he staunchly buttoned up his leather gloves.  I laughed at him the whole way in my sick bacteria-immune glory.

We get there and the La Defense train station is a mecca of shopping malls, restaurants, carousel rides...and then we step out and I see:

I was blown away.  Isn't the Grande Arch breathtaking??! You can see it from afar in these pictures.  

The Dutch architects of the building - Johann Otto von Spreckelsen and Erik Reitzel - won a national competition (courtesy of then-President Mitterrand) to design this monument and they stated that the ideals of humanitarianism and humanity were the inspiration.  It currently houses government offices and is closed to the public. Irony.  

View of the esplanade from the steps of the Grande Arch...Arc de Triomphe far away dead center
La Defense is the largest planned business district in Europe and encompasses 72 high-rises.  I am in heaven here.  If I worked here, my scalp would tingle every time I came to the office...I am in love as much as my flu-drug-addled mind will let me!

Look at these buildings, they are beautiful (we came here on a Sunday so it was empty of the more than 180,000 daily workers):

Stunning! My time in Paris is rapidly coming to a close so I especially enjoyed my foray into this modern take on Paris.  

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