Thomas Jefferson got it right when he said, ““A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.”
While I’m not sure I have learned the “point of life” from walking around Paris, I’ve certainly seen a lot of history and beauty. It’s the best way to spend time in the City of Light even on a rainy day.
This blog post is a series of snapshots of random sights and scenes from walks around Paris during September 2017. I hope to capture and convey the spirit of this marvelous city and why I love it so.
Quintessential Paris: The Sidewalk Cafe
As I wander the cobblestone streets of Paris I often stop at a sidewalk cafes. Paris has 20,000 side walk cafes, made possible when Baron Haussmann tore down much of the city and built wide boulevards with expansive sidewalks making the outdoor cafe a fixture and part of daily life.
Whether taking time to sip a glass of wine or enjoy a meal that awakens dormant taste buds, it’s all part of the experience. So…walk, walk, walk, but be sure to slow down, sit down and watch the world go by .
Street Performers captivate me
I never tire of the street performers. The fellow with the electric guitar captivated me for quite a while. We often see the same performers trip after trip. The fellow pictured below in the colorful garb hangs out near Place Vosges, my favorite Paris Park. His operatic voice is memorable. We bought his CD to bring the sound of Paris home.
Lunch at Le Train Bleu for authentic French dining experience
One has to eat and this time we enjoyed a travelers lunch at Le Train Bleu. The elaborate restaurant pictured below can be found in the Gare de Lyon. Yep, a train station. When Le Train Bleu opened in early 1900’s, it was the epitome of elegance. Recently restored, it evokes an era gone by when train travel was especially posh.
Our experience was authentically French, including the slightly snobbish waiter.
Stylish Construction Site
I love scenes like this. A huge mural covered construction site delights the eye while the work progresses behind the screen. Makes me smile. I particularly like the bell man. I assume the mural is hiding a hotel. Will check it out on my next trip.
On my walk I headed to the Palais Royale, a park and a historic area of Paris with a high end shopping arcade, gorgeous garden and gobs of history. This is the scene I encountered–an exercise class staged around the fountain. Not a shabby site to work those abs, huh? After the class moved on, I took a closer look to make a different kind of photograph.
Passages in Paris
I’m a little obsessed with the Passages in Paris. These are interior walkways with shops and restaurants, built in the late 1800s and early 1900s on the Right Bank. The Passages made it possible for folks in their Paris finery to shop, lunch and meander without getting wet during frequent Paris downpours. They were the precursor to shopping centers, don’t you think?
At one point there were over 100 Passages but now one can meander about 20. I try to find one or two each trip. Here’s one in the neighborhood where the Indians live. Just having spent three weeks in India in March, I was drawn to the colors and food and culture of this Passage.
I took a few minutes to capture the graphic roof detail.
Many of the Passages are marked with sidewalk signs like this one. For more about Passages check out blog posts: Paris Passages: A Touch of Glass and Paris: Five New Discoveries. Many tourists sadly miss the Passage experience. I try not to.
I also like to find restaurants not frequented by tourists. You know, the little hole in the wall place where only French is spoken. This is one that a friend recommended and it did not disappoint. It is right around the corner from the Centre Georges Pompidou–a major tourist destination. Nearby I spotted the sign for Musee de la Poupee. We didn’t have time to visit, but I am curious about it. Next trip?
MUSÉE DES ARTS ET MÉTIERS
Speaking of interesting museums, we did visit the MUSÉE DES ARTS ET MÉTIERS for history of design and innovation. I was drawn to the camera displays. If you are intrigued with the history of the world’s major inventions, this vintage Paris museum is one to add to your list of places to visit.
Center of Paris: The Seine
I always expect to see something new by the Seine. This time a small soccer field covered with a cage to keep the ball from flying into the water drew us to get close to watch the active folks. What a great use of a tiny piece of land.
Shopping in Paris
Fortunately it doesn’t appear that the Internet has taken over the shopping scene in Paris. Window shopping is a national pastime. I think this shop is for those who know that wearing athletic shoes in Paris screams “Tourist” and for those impossibly chic Parisian women I aspire to look like.
This stunning church is new to the Paris skyscape. Located not far from the Eiffel Tower, this Russian Orthodox Church stands out with seven dramatic gold domes. Makes me think of Hersey Kisses. We didn’t go in. Visiting this building is another “next time” item. I’m sure they offer tours or at least a spot for a quiet moment of contemplation. For more about this new structure, read this article from the Guardian.
Top Paris Tip
Speaking of quiet moments, my Number One recommendation for something special to do in Paris is to attend a concert in Saint Chapelle on Ile de la Cite for serene contemplation of the gorgeous historic windows while savoring beautiful music. Going there never fails to calm and inspire my spirit. For more about this experience click on these links. Repeat Visit: Concert at Sainte Chapelle or Saint Chapelle is a Stunning location for a concert.
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