Sunday, June 25, 2006

Paris is meant for grown-ups

After struggling through Israeli customs and a very turbulent flight, I made it to Paris safe and sound and caught the train into the city. I checked into Hotel Claude Bernard Saint Germain, near the Pantheon in the Latin Quarter, to be greeted by friendly and helpful staff. When I went to Paris during my first trip to Europe at age 13, it was my least favorite spot on that trip. There was nothing about the city that left me enchanted in the ways other spots such as Amsterdam, Berlin and London had at that age. This trip proved to be a completely different experience, being able to appreciate the beauty of the architechture, the amazing amount of art available for viewing throughout the city, the smells of the food and strong men's cologne, and the noise of music in the metro stations and streets and the cars and people throughout the city. I loved being here alone and having the opportunity to skip to main tourist sites I had already seen and taking time to see some things a little less visited. Nights were a little different and it felt a bit isolating to be sitting in a bar and not understanding a word of what was being said aroud you, but it was all part of the experience.

This was my first view.

But there were some appliances that didn't work. . . Ok, it was the TV, which I shouldn't need while in Paris, but I was travelling alone with no Ipod and need a little noise. Plus, I needed to be able to see the football recaps every night!

So, I got moved to another room and this was my view! But I was promised by the very nice hotel staff I would be moved into a room on a higher floor with a view the next day. There was a little confusion with that but I was moved back to a room along the street the next day with once again a nice view for people watching from above.

I showered and headed out Wednesday afternoon, strolling aimlessy in the general direction of Maison Europeene De La Photographie. And what neighborhood did I end up in first? The Jewish quarter, of course! With aromas of falafel wafting through the air for me one last time.

I made it the the Maison for their free admission after 5p. I don't like to take pictures of photography or paintings in museums, even without the flash, but I did take a pic of this installation project. The artist had it arranged so that the light adjusted on this piece in conjuction with various news bulletins that came through every 30 seconds or so. The purpose and theory was interesting, but I found the arrangement of it a bit superficial.

After the musuem I roamed the streets for a few hours, stopping to listen to various groups and artists. It was the Fete De La Musique, which is a celebration of music held each summer solstice and there was music every corner you turned throughout the evening. This orchestra is playing on the stage in front of Hotel de Ville.

In the Latin Quarter, near my hotel, there were a lot of harder rock and alternative sounding bands playing. Some were really good. This band was French Death Metal- which didn't work for me so much but I was fascinated and watched them for awhile. I had to smile at the thought that I was standing on a street corner in Paris listening to the same crap metal I would have listened to at the Emerson in Indy as a teenager.

Thursday morning I caught the metro to Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, one of the most visited cemetarys because of the many famous people buried here. For a lot of Americans that are not familiar with the others, they come just to see Jim Morrison. This is one of the entances to the cemetary.

Oscar Wilde's Tomb


Jim Morrison

A few others I found interesting either due to the design or the antiquity. I strolled through the cemetery for most of the morning. It was quite a beautiful and peaceful place with an amazing amount of history and people of note.

This one does not even have any visible markings remaining.

After the cemetary I hopped back on the metro towards Pigalle and Montmartre. The sex shops along Blvd de Clichy in Pigalle.

The Indiana Bar! Right next to a KFC and Mc'Donalds of course!

A side street in Montmartre, on my way gradually up toward Basilique du Sacre Coeur.

An accordian player outside a street cafe among the motorbikes.

Basilique du Sacre Coeur. I did go inside and it was beautifully decorated. But again, this was a place of prayer still used so I did not linger long.

The view from in from of Sacre Coeur.

I made my way to the bottom, being stopped to be swindled into buying a bracelet that is meant to bring good fortune and love/marriage. My second marriage blessing in one week! I'll believe it when I see it!

Thursday evening I met with the tour group at the Eiffel Tower to go on the Fattire Night Bike Tour.

We rode through the streets of Paris, stopping now and then for pictures and for David our tour guide (a cute young American fresh out of college who spoke with the enthusiasm of a camp counselor) to give us some bits of history about the areas. That is Notre Dame at the right.

We stopped on the Pont des Arts, a bridge with beautiful views and the bridge (for you Sex and the City fans) where Big professed his love to Carrie in the season finale. Along the bridge was an exhibit by the artist Francis Gazeau, whose beautiful prints combined photographs blended with variant colors and earth textures.

Along the bridge in the evenings, groups of friends gather with wine and food and sit and watch the sunset.

Just after the bridge we turned a couple corners to come upon the Louvre pyramid.

Arc de Triomphe down the Av des Champs Elysees

We made our way to the River Seine and took a boat cruise. As soon as we set off, the Eiffel Tower lit up for the first time of the night. It's not my favorite bit of Paris, but it still was pretty lit up, as much as I hated to admit to it.

David, our tour guide, gave a toast and we all enjoyed the cruise with a few glasses of wine as the sun gradually disappeared for the night. Following the cruise, we rode are bikes (a little more crooked after the wine) back toward the tour office and ended the tour for the night. I was exhausted so I headed back toward the room, picking up some fresh crepes with fromage and frites along the way.

Thursday morning I grabbed some coffee and pan au raisin and headed toward Ste. Chapelle. I entered with the rest of the tourists through security but some how ended up in the courts connected. It looked as though there was some family court going on- something I want no part of while on holiday! I found my way back eventually to the chapel though. This is just outside Ste Chapelle before entering.

The ceilings of the lower chapel.

The upper chapel. Following from the entrance on the left and around, the amazing stained glass (most the original from the 13th Century) follows all of the books of the bible. It was amazing home the glass overpowered any other structures in the room and a beautiful sight as the sun began to shine through.

The one unnamed apostle along the chapel without a beard.

The gargoyles along the outside of the chapel.

Notre Dame. I didn't go inside because it was one of those sites I have seen before. But I did spend about twenty minutes taking pictures of the outside, mostly of gargoyles, oh which I will share a few.

I came back to the Pont des Arts in the afternoon to look at Francis Gazeau's art in more detail and possibly buy a print. They did not have a lot of prints available, so I settled for a catalogue of his work.

This is the only time I attempted to get a picture with me in it while in Paris, and this was the best I could do- a little squinty in the sun.

I spent the afternoon at the Musee d'Orsay, roaming the works of Degas, Seurat, Edmond-Cross, Gauguin, Rousseau, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Klimt, Matisse, Rodin, and many others.

Inside the Musee d'Orsay, which was originally a train station in early 1900's.

Friday evening I walked up to the Pantheon, which was just a few minutes from my hotel and where there were quite a few nearby bars I planned to perch at to watch the France match. This is the street view from the Pantheon.

The Pantheon with some boys playing football in front.

I only had a few hours Saturday before I had to head to the airport. I headed to Rue Mouffetard, one of the markets well known to tourists for breakfast and a little stroll.

Yes, I'm a tool. But how could I not take a picture of this perfect breakfast. At that moment, it couldn't get better than cafe au lait, juice, croissant, newspaper and The Economist, sitting along a Parisian street.

A few more pictures of the market and streetside shops.

On my way back to the hotel I also strolled through the market at Maubert, just down the street from where I was staying. The mixture of odors of cheese, seafood, meats, breads and flowers in conjunction with the noise and chaos of tourists blending with locals trying to do their shopping was both oppressive and exhilirating simultaneously.

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Leslie said...

The TV didn't work?... Did the fire alarm go off in the middle of the night too? : )

Could you imagine riding bikes after a glass of wine in Amsterdam?

Cute tour guide!!!!!

Julia said...


Now you know I am a Canadian social work student working on my BSW & MSW and am married to a Brit who in all likelihood will transport me back to England when I am done my studies...

So this is why I LOVE YOUR BLOG. It shows what might be down the road for me... side trips to Paris, croissant at a sidewalk cafe, picking up some fresh fleurs at the market...

Oh -- not to mention we get NO WORLD CUP coverage here. I tell you, this country is not fit for inhabitation!

The only thing about Paris that confuses me is what Mouffetard means. I know "tard" is late, but qu'est ce-que une "mouffe"? Late muffin?

Ah -- good blog. Thanks!