After leaving London, my friend and I met up with another friend in Paris. As with London, I’ve visited Paris before, but the size of the city makes it impossible to see everything without living there for months on end. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that if one is tired of London, one is tired of life; Paris is the same way. The parks, the shops, the markets, the museums, the history, the art, the food, the range of ethnicities…there’s something for everyone.
We stayed in the 10th arrondissement along the Canal Saint Martin, a neighborhood I’d been wanting to explore for a while. Those of you who have seen the movie Amélie will probably recognize its vibrant green.
The boulangerie Du Pain des Idées was just a few minutes by foot from our apartment, but is a must visit no matter where you are staying in Paris. It’s been around for over 100 years, and they still bake their viennoiseries and pastries traditionally (something that sadly has become hard to come by).
There was also an exceptional design bookstore near our apartment. This little guide to visiting Provence had just been released by an author who has published similar guides for London and New York. They made a mini exhibit out of the Provence guide’s illustrations for the window of the bookstore.
Tickets to the Eiffel Tower were hard to come by (if you’re planning a trip to Paris, buy them in advance. Far in advance. We looked a month ahead online and all of June was completely booked. I think there are day tickets though so if you want to try to get there early and wait in line, that’s probably an option for day-of tickets.), so we went to the Sacre-Coeur to get a view over the city. After climbing 300 steps to reach the top, we were looking out over the different neighborhoods circling Paris, trying to guess which gothic spires belonged to the Notre Dame, and which roof could have belonged to a train station that was now the Musée d’Orsay. The location of the Eiffel Tower, at least, was unquestionable. I’ve also enjoyed the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but the Sacre-Coeur was much less crowded; I highly recommend it.
Views from the Sacre-Coeur
I made more of an effort to spend time outside because (1) the weather was nice, (2) my friends weren’t that interested in visiting museums, and (3) I’d spent a lot of time in museums when I traveled in the past, and I realized that I wanted to balance those visits out with conversations with people who lived where I was traveling and trying to learn about. The two museums I limited myself to were the Musée d’Orsay and the Picasso Museum. The Orsday had a great Pierre Bonnard exhibit. The artist drew inspiration from Impressionism and Japanese scrolls. My favorite painting they had on display was one of a picnic table in a forest at which a woman and black dog sat. Only the dog’s eyes were visible above the table, and they were directed at a cherry tart. I’ve known a number of dogs guilty of similar or worse behavior (i.e., eating the food without hesitation). The Picasso Museum had just reopened. It’s a good size: I was able to see all the artworks in the museum without running out of energy, so I didn’t have to leave worrying I’d miss something I’d have really enjoyed seeing.
La Musée d’Orsay
Following my mom’s suggestion, I went to Fauchon for some fancy Parisian tea and a fancy madeleine. By fancy I mean very elegant, very particular…very Parisian. The teas are organized into incredibly orderly rows, as are the jams, the biscuists, and all their other products. My mom had also encouraged me to visit Merci in the Marais. Merci not only has beautifully designed and unique clothing, it also has three places to eat: a café, a canteen and a restaurant. The café doubles as a second-hand bookstore, which is absolutely brilliant, if you ask me. I loved being able to pull books off of the shelf next to me while I chugged multiple carafes of water out of miniature glasses. I ordered an espresso and a piece of pistachio cake (though I would have called it more of a bread), too, but it was the water I really needed. I’d forgotten my water bottle and drinking fountains are scarce so I was getting dehydrated from all the walking in the sun.
Jams and cheeses at Fauchon
Walking home from Merci, I ran into a friend from school who I’d also ran into at the Orsay. Random encounters like that are wonderful: their arrival in spite of their unlikelihood makes me feel as though I’m filled with good luck. It turned out that another friend from school was also in Paris while I was. In fact, she’s spending the summer interning there. We were able to meet up at the Luxembourg Gardens! I’d been anxious to visit that place after so much of a book that I read (Les Incorrigibles Optimistes) takes place there.
Though public transportation in Paris is quite affordable, especially in comparison to London, I ended up walking a lot because I like to give myself the opportunity to stumble across areas with which I’m unfamiliar and would miss if I traveled underground.
I wandered into this passageway that had some great shops, including an antique store with small wooden frames I was really tempted to buy. I’ll have to keep my eye out for something similar once I get settled into my new apartment.
I also walked by a bunch of galleries near the Picasso Museum, one of which was having an exhibit about various artists interpretations of a book.
I know I’ve fallen a bit behind in keeping my blog up to date with my travels, but these last few days I should be able to write more because I’m now traveling alone and there seem to be stormy weather approaching.
Next will be Giverny & Vernon, then Dijon and Beaune!