A perfect morning in Paris

September 28, 2013

Get up early and enjoy the best part of the day; 
as Paris awakes take a walk to the nearest Boulangerie to pick up breakfast.

Tuck into a heavenly croissant, and the fruit that you couldn't resist picking up from the greengrocers with his inviting stalls of fresh, colourful, and temptingly scented fruit.
Time to get ready, hop on the metro, and get yourself into the centre of Paris. Get off at the stop Hotel de Ville to enable a little stroll on the way to Notre Dame de Paris. You will pass the majestic Palais de Justice on the way.

Next stop, Shakespeare & Company: An Anglophone bookshop opened in 1951 by George Whitman who originally named it Le Mistral. After Sylvia Beach's death he renamed his shop to Shakespeare & Company as a tribute to her and the bookshop she had opened in 1919. Sylvia Beach's bookshop had been an important centre for the the literary world- particularly for writers and artists of the Lost Generation, ( the generation that came of age during World War I.) Many Modernist thinkers gathered here such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. Famously, Beach published Joyce's book Ulysses in 1922, which had been banned elsewhere. Whitman's store was the perfect place to continue Beach's legacy since he had the same principles that a bookshop should be for lending, borrowing, reading, writing, and sharing ideas- not just a means to earn a living. Both Beach and Whitman believed in the importance of keeping writers and readers 'on the same creative continuum. 'Writers are not reduced to small-time semi-celebrities, and readers are not patronised as consumers.'

Wander around the bookshop trying to take everything in: from the towering piles of books comprised of an eclectic mix of genres, your fellow book lover tourists from all areas of the globe, to the unique imprints that Whitman has left all around. On your way upstairs, don't miss the wonderful quote above the doorway. Upstairs you will find the children's collection. In Sylvia Beach's memorial library you're invited to stay and read, and you can certainly feel that you are absorbing some literary heritage from the walls, and through the pages of books in this old bookshop that continues to progress and hold its own place in the modern literary world whilst maintaining its unique identity.

Once you have finally torn yourself away, it's time to go for an aimless(ish) wander. Shakespeare & Company is far from the only bookshop around, and not even the only Anglophone of them. The Latin Quarter is an area in which it is easy to lose yourself in amongst the small side streets dotted with independent shops and restaurants.

Having wandered around the latin quarter, it's time for a change of scene. Nearby is le Pont de l'Archevêché. It would be a challenge to try to prevent yourself from smiling as you see all of the besotted couples, old and young and from around the world, attach their lockets to the bridge.

If you continue following this road you will end up at le Musee D'Orsay, (presuming you don't get distracted by too many of the sites on the way.) The building is an impressive old train station and warmly invites you in to see the impressionist and post-impresionist art collection.

If you were tempted to enter, it could be any time of the day that you exit- and almost definitely past lunchtime. So that is the end of your morning wandering around Paris, and the last of my posts on the city. I think it is fairly evident that I had a wonderful time and I have so many places to explore further and areas that I didn't get anywhere near seeing even after a week of staying in Paris.

My previous posts document the other areas of Paris that I explored: 

A week in Paris: Champs-Elysees, Louvre, La Défense

September 13, 2013

My week in Paris was spent living in the suburbs, in Sèvres. I was staying at my Uncle's house, but I had the opportunity to pop into the centre of Paris on a few different occasions. The first morning I woke up to the beautiful Parisian skyline and watched the sun radiate a warm good morning to all of its citizens.

I can certainly think of worse ways to start my day; the only problem was trying to convince myself that it wasn't all my day was going to consist of!

Having dragged myself out of bed I got myself ready, got my things together, armed myself with a map, and began my mission to tackle the tourist sites of Paris. I started off with the obvious destinations and took the metro to The Champs-Elysees. I walked up from the metro station, followed the stairs towards the signs indicating 'sortie'. As the sunlight soaked the exit, I walked a couple of paces before being faced with the imposing Arc de Triomphe. It's safe to say I didn't have trouble finding my first destination, and nor had all the other tourists. Predictably busy, I didn't choose to enter into the museum, but walked around it admiring the arch, and its intricate design, nonetheless.

After observing my surroundings I followed the avenue of the Champs- Elysees. It was bizarre seeing these famous monuments and tourist attractions for the first time in the flesh having seen them so many times in photos. The amazing thing I found about Paris is how easily accessible and navigable everything is. Following the avenue introduced me to so many museums and buildings along the way. Every few steps I felt as if I was consulting my map to work out what the grand buildings were that I could see in all directions. 

Eventually, after a few diversions on the way, I arrived at the Tuileries Gardens. 
It wasn't long before I recognised the famous Louvre and its older buildings that surround it.

It was a wonderfully sunny day so I made the most of it sitting by the fountains whilst having some lunch, soaking up the atmosphere, and admiring the wonderful view in every direction. That's another thing about Paris, it almost seems like it was designed with the greatest amount of foresight and the most efficient and thorough planning officers; I never looked up, crossed the street, or walked round a corner to be hit with an aesthetic anomaly.

After my first sample of Paris' delicious lunch, and perhaps a little ice cream, I consulted my map once more. I decided to explore a slightly different area that I hadn't heard much about. La Défense is the business district of Paris and probably the equivalent to Canary Wharf. It, too, has impressive modern architecture, but not solely new...

The fountains were beautiful, but one of my favourite things about La Défense was the view. I find it incredible how Paris is essentially built around one long avenue, (Champs-Elysees.) The symmetry is really impressive; when standing by the arch in this financial district you can see the Arc de Triomphe. The same applies from the other direction, if you stand behind the Louvre you can see the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the Arc de Triomphe. The way that old and new have been seamlessly incorporated was something that I very much admired.

And I left it at that for my first day of exploring Paris. 
Part 2 to follow, and my first post exploring Versailles is linked here.

Have you been to Paris? Did you visit all of the popular tourist attractions, or did you find some other areas off the beaten track?

The Palace of Versailles, Paris

September 02, 2013

Recently I had the good fortune of spending a week in Paris; I took so many photos that I hardly know how to begin retelling my adventures. I have finally decided upon defying any chronological and logical order and beginning with my most anticipated and possible favourite place in, (or just on the outskirts of) Paris- which I actually enjoyed on my very final day. I'm not sure when I became convinced that I wanted to visit Versailles, and why I was always adamant in my conviction that I would adore it, but I can safely say I wasn't misguided. It surpassed all of my expectations. 

I got up early, hopped on a bus, and the next thing I knew I was faced with the majestic architecture of the imposing palace. Now I'm not exaggerating here: everything about Versailles exudes wealth, some might say ostentation, but certainly skill as well as aesthetic understanding and mastery. Before your eyes even have time to observe the grandeur of the palace, they are stunned by this grand gate. I later found out that this was a very fitting entrance to the Palace that certainly had its fair share of gold-leaf embellished decor.

Another recurring theme is aptly demonstrated by this statue of Louis XIV, that greets you on your walk towards the palace; its size acts as an indication of what is waiting inside the gates with relation to excess and splendour...

After my initial observations, it was time to begin my wander through the house. I was impressed anew by each room and its decor, as well as the intricate detail on every surface.

With colour schemes from lime, to gold, teal, to scarlet, everything seems to be designed with the utmost thought. It also occurred to me that leaving a ceiling to itself- without embellishing it with some gold leaf and a few paintings that were lying around, or sculpting it into symmetrical patterns with arches, and of course adorning it with a chandelier or two- was a crime, based on the absence of any minimalism or blank undecorated surface.

The Hall of Mirrors is a pretty good example of this attention to detail.
Strangely, what really captivated my heart was not the splendour of the rooms, nor even the dramatic chandeliers whose glass prisms played with the light, but the hallways with their marble checkerboard floors.

Having had a good look in the palace apartments, and learnt a little on the way,
 it was time to move on to another area.

After a leisurely walk, I reached the Petit Trianon. This area was meant as a retreat for the King and his maîtresse en titre, a place to invite guests without the strict etiquette and formality of the court. Next time, and there will be a next time, I will make sure to see the Grand Trianon and Marie Antoinette's hamlet that are just around the corner from this building.
The Petit Trianon almost felt subtle in comparison with the grand palace. The architecture is beautiful and, of course, symmetrical. The wonderfully designed gardens were just a taster of what I was to see at the main gardens. After a little walk, I returned to the main palace where I began to explore.
The gardens are all perfectly manicured with a selection of colour schemes, a mixture of seemingly wild flowers, and of course the obligatory box hedge or two.

I also saw the musical fountains show. During the day, classical music emanates from the hedges helping to transport you atmospherically elsewhere, but for several hours during the day they turn the fountains on and also have a musical display. The fountains, synchronised with the music, are truly impressive.

...And that was the end to my first taster of Versailles. There is so much to see that I can't imagine you would ever get bored of visiting. Next time I would love to hire out some bikes to make my way around the vast grounds. There is also a fireworks display alongside the fountains that I imagine would be magical.

Have you visited the palace? What did you see and what did you enjoy best?