I had no idea Cristobal Balenciaga was so cool. Before today I could have spotted a Balenciaga bag, but not much else. I spent my first hour after class getting things done, and decided to reward myself with a ticket to the Balenciaga exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. The fashion exhibits are on constant rotation, and this is the first exhibition of Balenciaga designs since the 1970s. It was pretty crowded:
Coco Chanel used to say Balenciaga (1892-1972) was the only true couturier in Paris – the rest were just designers. In the truest sense of the word, she was kind of right. There aren’t many fashion houses whose founders not only design the clothes, but sew couture pieces themselves.
I spent more than an hour skulking around behind a group of fashion students and ended up getting a great tour from their professor, learning more than I ever thought I’d know about Balenciaga’s signature fabrics, lines and cuts. It was really cool. I was so pumped up when I left that I accidentally spent 11 dollars on British Vogue so I could read the Balenciaga article advertised on the cover. I say accidentally because I thought it was American Vogue and read the 3.60 on the cover as euros, not pounds. Well 3.60 in pounds turns into nearly 9 euros, which becomes about 11 dollars. I didn’t realize how much I’d paid until I got my change back.
Before the exhibit I finally succeeded in opening my French bank account. There have been about 5 banks actively soliciting the business of the new Sciences Po students and I had no idea how to choose one. I ended up going for Société Générale because they gave me 80 euro for opening an account and a waiver for the cost of my SciPo sport. That means my 100 euro yoga class will be free free free all semester long!
I felt pretty cool right outside the bank when two Parisian women stopped me and asked for directions to Rue du Bac. I felt even cooler when I realized I knew where it was and successfully pointed them toward the street they wanted.
After setting up my bank account, I headed for the Louvre to buy my “carte des jeunes,” a yearlong membership for only 15 euro – this is also exciting because, ahem, those of you who may be visiting will get big discounts if you go with me. Alas, though the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is technically in the Palace du Louvre, it has its own admission prices. I really don’t mind paying a measly 6 euro to check out couture collections every so often – especially since I get the tariff réduit until I hit the age of 26. Paris is a really accessible city for young people – movie theatres, museums, restaurants, most kinds of businesses offer discounts for everyone under 26 – it’s been a long time since I got a price reduction just for being young.
•• Outside the Louvre I saw the funniest sight of my day – apparently there’s a tour company that leads Americans around Paris on Segway scooters. When I saw this group motoring through the Jardin des Tuileries I could not stop laughing.
••• So a French boy invited me to spend the weekend in Normandy with him to meet his family – I can’t go though, Saturday’s move-in day. Don’t worry dad, I’m still not getting married. If I never come back from France it won’t be because I fell in love with someone – it’ll be because I’m trapped in French jail for strangling a (different – American) boy in my French class. He’s in a fraternity and a notable quote might give a better idea of his personality: “Yeah, let’s get CRUNKED!!! Show them how we do it American-style!!!”